“Can you go into greater detail about the ‘Bema Seat’ or judgment throne and explain the judgment of Christians?”
To answer this question, I want to quote 2 Corinthians 5. Many people will refer only to verse 10, but I always want to get more context than one verse so that we can glean the actual meaning of the passage and see Scripture for what it is rather than misread it. Context is always so important, and I might encourage anyone to really pay attention to context. If anyone pulls random verses together, please be skeptical and explore the context of each of those verses independently to see if a person’s argument actually matches the claims in Scripture.
2 Corinthians 5 (HCSB)
For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. And the One who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight, and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord. 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.
Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people. We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may have a reply for those who take pride in the outward appearance rather than in the heart. For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.
From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In this passage, Paul is working to persuade believers to put themselves aside, not condemn the world around them, and to take part in the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is simply a restoration, specifically regarding relationships. Have you ever had a really good friend and, after something happened, you no longer considered this person to be a friend? Do you have a family member that has abandoned your family? Reconciliation would be this friend becoming a friend again or this family member being restored to the family. Reconciliation requires forgiveness and forgiveness requires love.
Paul states here that Christ has reconciled us to God in His sacrifice on the cross and that we are to be in the business of offering the reconciliation of Christ to the world.
Part of Paul’s argument that we should be involved in the ministry of reconciliation is that all of our deeds, good and bad, will earn us some sort of compensation (5:10). The Greek word κομίζω (komizo), which is translated “to receive”, is used to refer to God’s provision, preservation, restoration, the receiving of a blessing or to recover what was once in one’s possession. It seems that each believer will give an account of his good and bad deeds. At that time, God will finish his work of reconciliation in our lives with great forgiveness and reward us according to what we have done in the ministry of reconciliation that we are called to.
The judgment, for believers, then, is not a negative judgment where we will be reprimanded for all we did that was wrong. God dealt with that punishment in Christ. He may give us over to the consequences of our sin on this earth, but has already forgiven our sin in the person of Christ. This forgiveness is eternal.
It would be inconsistent for God to then eternally judge us for sin when that judgment was carried out in the person of Jesus. This is the great news for someone who has placed his or her faith in Christ. We will give an account of what we do (good and bad), specifically for the purpose of reconciliation and reward giving.
As children of God who have been restored to God, we then offer God’s reconciliation to everyone we know and everyone we meet.
According to Revelation 21, those who are dead will be judged eternally according to their works and when their name is not found in the Lamb’s book of life they will suffer eternal judgment because they have not declared Christ as their Lord. Romans 10:9 even states that we will be saved if we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess that Jesus is Lord. There is no other person by which we can be saved and receive eternal life; because every other “way” requires that we receive the punishment for our sin (which is death).
Christ is the only one in whom sin was dealt with once and for all. If we do not trust in Christ, then we choose to trust in our own works and not be reconciled to the only God.
So, the simple answer is: Yes and no. We will give an account of our works. Did we act according to and share the message of reconciliation or not? We will not, however, suffer any condemnation because that punishment was entirely dealt with in the person of Christ, who is our only savior. Therefore, let us go and, in everything we do, share the message of reconciliation to God through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.