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What Is the Bema Seat of Christ? Where Rewards Are Given to Believers

The Bema Seat of Christ is also known as the Judgment Seat of Christ. The word bema is a Greek word that means altar or “raised part.” It is associated with the official seat of a judged that has been “raised up.” Scripture depicts Christ’s throne as being set high. There is where He will judge His Church and hand out the rewards for how we built up His Kingdom discussed in Daniel 12 and 1 Corinthians 3.

Bible Verses About the Throne and Bema Seat of Christ Being Raised Up 

Revelation 4:1

  • “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’” (emphasis added)

Isaiah 6:1

  • “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” (emphasis added)

Isaiah 63:15

  • Look down from heaven, and see from Your habitation, holy and glorious. Where are Your zeal and Your strength, the yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained?” (emphasis added)

Isaiah 66:1

  • “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (emphasis added)

The Word Bema

The word bema had strong cultural implications when Paul used it in his writings to the church in Corinth. Read what Paul writes about the Bema, or Judgment, Seat of Christ: 

  • “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”—2 Corinthians 5:9-11 (emphasis added)

To the readers of these letters, their minds would have been drawn to a large Greco-Roman amphitheater where Olympic-like games, matches, and races were won. The winners of these games would be raised up onto a platform (bema) to receive their medals.  

Giving an Account on the Day of Judgment at the Bema Seat of Christ

The Bible is clear that we will give an account for all we have done. 

  • “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”—Romans 14:10-12

God is a just God who will judge us according to our work (see Revelation 20:12-21:8). Let’s be wise about what we are building. Let’s be ready for the coming judgment (see Hebrews 9:27) and to hear the words of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The only way we will be prepared to stand before the Righteous Judge is if the righteous blood of Jesus Christ has covered us. 

So then, in Christ, let’s refocus and work heartily for the Lord, anticipating the crowns we will receive at the Bema Seat of Christ—the only rewards that will matter for eternity.  

What Happens at the Bema Seat of Christ?

The Bema Seat of Christ is where Jesus will examine all we have done for Him—all we have done to build His Kingdom on earth. When it comes to building God’s Kingdom, we need to consider… 

  • What are the right plans?
  • What is the right foundation? 
  • What are the right materials? 

When we stand before the Bema Seat of Christ on the Day of Judgment and have built His Kingdom using the right plans, foundation, and materials, we will receive the right rewards. More on this below. 

Receiving a Refining Judgement 

We will be purified, made white, and refined. The judgment that takes place at the Bema Seat of Christ is not a judgment for how we responded to Christ for salvation—that is, the Great White Throne Judgment. Rather the Bema Seat of Christ, or Judgment Seat, is for examining what we did for Christ after coming to salvation. This is a refining judgment.  

  • “Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”Daniel 12:10

Christians will be judged on…

  • How they built their lives
  • How they used their spiritual gifts
  • The motives of their heart

3 Things You Need to Know About the Bema Seat of Christ

 The word bema in a black frame mounted on a wall.
  1. It’s not for salvation. 

First 1 John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” We do not need to fear or feel ashamed about the rewards we will receive but have confidence because, as Believers, we are hidden and abiding in Christ. 

  1. It’s for Believers.

Romans 14:10 says, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

A common misunderstanding about the Bema Seat of Christ is that this is where Jesus will distribute retribution or punishment for the sins in a Believer’s life. But remember, the punishment that was ours was put on Christ. There is no condemnation in Jesus (Romans 8:1). 

Isaiah 35:5-8 is clear that He was wounded for our transgressions. He took our sin upon Himself so that we are credited with His righteousness. 

The Bema Seat is not for nonbelievers (those who did not receive Him) but for those who have, and they will receive only rewards, not punishments. 

  1. It’s for rewards.

Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Revelation 22:12 says, “‘And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.’”

Church, hear this: In one hundred years, the only thing that will matter is what you’ve done for Jesus. The only thing that will matter is how you helped build the Kingdom of God. 

The Things That Stand in the Way of the Rewards Jesus Wants to Give Us

  • Not being diligent in our journey
  • Destroying God’s Kingdom through gossip, arguing, and division
  • Being distracted by things that don’t matter 

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, which was suffering from great division and strife, wanting to help them refocus on Jesus. He told them that some weren’t being diligent. Others he told to stop destroying God’s Kingdom by arguing and living in a way that wasn’t God-honoring. Others, he said, were distracted. They fell into the trap of getting focused on things that didn’t really matter. 

Building Something That Lasts for Eternity

The rewards that are given at the Bema Seat of Christ reflect building something that lasts for eternity. To build something that lasts, you will need the right plans, the right foundation, and the right materials

You are God’s building. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He wants to do something personal in and through you, so He is evident to a watching world. 

  1. The right plans 

“…You are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.”—1 Corinthians 3:9-10

God’s grace leads you to have the right plans in life. You must have a vision and a purpose, which is what God reveals in His plans for you. God’s will is in God’s Word, the Bible. And His Word is the plan you need to live a fruitful life. Know Christ, make disciples, and work diligently for the Lord. This is a great starting point in the plan. 

  1. The right foundation

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”—1 Corinthians 3:11 

Everything we do must come back to our foundation—Jesus Christ. Everything else will be burned up. We can’t think of Jesus as a spiritual supplement or self-help idea. He is to be our foundation upon which all things are to be built. 

  1. The right materials

“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”—1 Corinthians 3:12-13

Paul continues by describing the right materials to build a building. He uses the metaphor of materials that will be refined through fire (gold, silver, and stones) and materials that will be burned up (hay, wood, and straw). 

One reflects the right materials that last—teaching about Jesus, growing in your spiritual walk with Him, and sharing His message with others. The other materials are useless, cheap, and don’t last. 

The Takeaway

  • The Bema Seat of Christ is where Jesus will give rewards to Believers based on what they did to build His Kingdom. Paul used the word “bema” in his writing to give Believers hope for the “crowns of glory that will not fade away” when Christ comes for His bride (1 Peter 5:4). 
  • Paul describes how Believers are in a spiritual war or contest and will receive rewards that are imperishable. The Judgment Seat of Christ is not related to the problem of sin but to giving the right rewards. 

Do you want to know more about these end-time events, prophecy, and ways to navigate an ungodly culture as a child of God in these last days?

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