The Tribunal of Christ (Bema Seat)
Rewards (and Loss of Rewards) Ceremony for Believers
NOTE: Biblical scholars often disagree on the specifics of many things related to this topic. So be a “Berean” and prayerfully study scripture yourself for what God is telling you.
1) There are two main judgments after this life ends – one for non-believers and one for believers
The Great White Throne
This deals with unbelievers.
The Bema Seat / The Tribunal of Christ (sometimes translated "The Judgement Seat of Christ" in some versions:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaidfor what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
The Tribunal of Christ deals with rewards for obedience, crowns, and the call of the Bride to the Marriage of the Lamb which occurs in the Father’s house. 1
The word “Bema” was taken from Isthmian games where the contestants would compete for the prize under the careful scrutiny of judges who would make sure that every rule of the contest was obeyed.2
2 Timothy 2:5 Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
The victor of a given event who participated according the rules was led by the judge to the platform called the bema. There the laurel wreath was placed on his head as a symbol of victory.2
Paul was picturing the believer as a competitor in a spiritual contest. As the victorious Grecian athlete appeared before the bema to receive his perishable award, so the Christian will appear before Christ's bema to receive his imperishable award. 2
1Taken from “The Bema Seat, Our Final Exam” by Dr. Chuck Missler, Koinonia House.
2Taken from the article on www.Bible.org – reprinted with full permission in DTI Lesson 3-14) See full article for scripture references and additional information.
2) The Tribunal of Christ has nothing to do with salvation, nor with punishment-- that was all taken care of at the cross. 3
Nor does it have to do with what I as a Christian can do for God. God does not need anything I can do.
Rewards will be based on the fruit that I have allowed the Holy Spirit to produce through my life here on earth, as I by faith in His promises, have abided in fellowship with Him.
I cannot compare heavenly rewards with earthly rewards, but I need to understand that they will somehow affect the quality of my life in eternity.
A Christian should not conclude that the Rewards Ceremony is unimportant because there is no associated punishment. If God says it’s important, it is.
3) WHO? Every Christian is going to appear at the Tribunal of Christ.
1) Every Christian is going to appear at the Tribunal of Christ.
Romans 14:10-12 But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (Paul wrote) Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 (Paul wrote) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.
Revelation 22:12 (Jesus said) “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.”
4) When will the Tribunal of Christ take place?
Matthew 16:27 (Jesus said) “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done.”
Luke 14:13-14 (Jesus said) “On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Revelation 11:18 The nations were angry, but Your wrath has come. The time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear Your name,…
5) What will be the nature of the Tribunal of Christ?
1 Corinthians 3:8-15 (Paul wrote) Now the one planting and the one watering are one in purpose, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.… I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, [see note below] but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.
1 Corinthians 4:5 … before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God.
NOTE: “loss” refers to the forfeiture of God’s intended rewards for the believer.
a) There will be no punishment for a believer.
John 5:24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.”
Romans 4:8 How joyful is the man the Lord will never charge with sin!
Romans 8:1 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 10:17-18 He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts.…
Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.
b) But each one needs to be aware of the potential for “loss” of rewards. Loss is not punishment.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
2 Timothy 2:5 Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
2 John 1:8 Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward.
Revelation 3:11-12 (Jesus said) “I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown.…”
c) For what will believers be rewarded? (This is just a sampling of fruit that we should expect to see, as the Holy Spirit is allowed to work.)
Proverbs 19:17 Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and He will give a reward to the lender.
Matthew 5:11-12 “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.…”
Matthew 5:44-46 (Jesus said) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, … For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?”
Matthew 10:42 “And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple—I assure you: He will never lose his reward!”
Matthew 19:27-30 Then Peter responded to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You. So what will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, … “And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Colossians 3:22-24 Slaves [employees?], obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
James 1:12 A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
Revelation 2:10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
d) We should seek eternal rewards, not earthly rewards.
Matthew 6:1-6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. … But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16-21 ... “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Philippians 3:7-16 … I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, … Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way.…
Colossians 3:1-2 So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.…
1 Peter 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence.
e) His rewards are eternal (forever.)
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 … Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.
1 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
- We each have three resources: Time, Energy, and Possessions.
- As I allow the Holy Spirit freedom to manage and use my resources, He is building for me eternal rewards, using gold, silver and precious stones. As I deny the Holy Spirit use of my resources, I am using those resources to build for myself a temporary investment of wood, hay and straw.
- Is the Holy Spirit the ORIGIN of what I do?
- Works done in my own strength are not rewardable and won’t go into heaven. Only the perfect works I have allowed the Holy Spirit to do through me will be rewardable.
- Everything done in my own strength will be burned up.
The BEMA is a fictional dramatic production inspired by the biblical principle in II Corinthians 5:10 that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body. Based on the novel, The Bema: A Story About the Judgement Seat of Christ by Tim Stevenson, The BEMA Drama was initially performed by Pete Briscoe as part of a sermon series in 1999.
In 2000, Bent Tree performed the drama a second time and created a VHS video with the hope of sharing this life-transforming message of living for THE day beyond the walls of Bent Tree.
In the Fall of 2011, Bent Tree reproduced The BEMA once more and recorded the services to create a DVD that will hopefully continue to take the love of Christ into homes all around the world. Watch video below. For more information: www.thebema.org.