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Assurance of Eternal Rewards

The Doctrine of the Bema

A prominent doctrine of the New Testament concerns the Doctrine of Rewards and the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is a doctrine often ignored or, when taught, it is misrepresented because of the term “judgment” that is used in translating the Greek text. Commenting on this Samuel Hoyt writes:

Within the church today there exists considerable confusion and debate regarding the exact nature of the examination at the judgment seat of Christ. The expression “the judgment seat of Christ” in the English Bible has tended to cause some to draw the wrong conclusion about the nature and purpose of this evaluation. A common misconception which arises from this English translation is that God will mete out a just retribution for sins in the believer’s life, and some measure of retributive punishment for sins will result.18

As will be shown below, though it is tremendously serious with eternal ramifications, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a place and time when the Lord will mete out punishment for sins committed by the child of God. Rather, it is a place where rewards will be given or lost depending on how a believer has lived his life for the Lord.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, the Apostle Paul drew courage and was motivated by the fact of rewards at the return of the Lord for the church which he mentions in every chapter in this epistle and which becomes the primary subject of 2 Thessalonians. The Lord’s return and what this means, not only to the world but to us individually, is a very prominent subject of the New Testament.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 For who is our hope or joy or crown to boast of before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not of course you? 20 For you are our glory and joy!

It is significant that among the final words of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we find these words of the Lord: “Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!” (Rev. 22:12).

While salvation is a gift, there are rewards given for faithfulness in the Christian life as well as the loss of rewards for unfaithfulness. Rewards become one of the great motivations of the Christian’s life or should. But we need to understand the nature of these rewards in order to understand the nature of the motivation. Some people are troubled by the doctrine of rewards because this seems to suggest “merit” instead of “grace,” and because, it is pointed out, we should only serve the Lord out of love and for God’s glory.

Of course we should serve the Lord out of love and for God’s glory, and understanding the nature of rewards will help us do that. But the fact still remains that the Bible promises us rewards. God gives us salvation. It is a gift through faith, but He rewards us for good works. God graciously supplies the means by which we may serve Him. Indeed, He works in us both to will and to do as we volitionally appropriate His grace, but the decision to serve, and the diligence employed in doing so, are our responsibility and contribution, and God sees this as rewardable. Note the following passages:

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Colossians 1:29 Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.

Romans 14:10-11 But you who eat vegetables only—why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything—why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.”

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.

Revelation 3:11-12 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one can take away your crown. 12 The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well.

The Meaning of the Judgment ( Bema) Seat

Both Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 speak of the “judgment seat.” This is a translation of one Greek word, Bema. While Bema is used in the gospels and Acts of the raised platform where a Roman magistrate or ruler sat to make decisions and pass sentence, its use in the epistles of Paul is more in keeping with its original use among the Greeks because of his many allusions to the Greek athletic contests.

Romans 14:10 But you who eat vegetables only—why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything—why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

This word 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. 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 Timothy 2:5 Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. 25 Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.

In all of these passages …

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. The judge at the Bema bestowed rewards to the victors. He did not whip the losers.19

We might add, neither did he sentence them to hard labor.

In other words, it is a reward seat and portrays a time of rewards or loss of rewards following examination. But it is not a time of punishment where believers are judged for their sins. Such would be inconsistent with the finished work of Christ on the cross because He totally paid the penalty for our sins. Chafer and Walvoord have an excellent word on this view:

With reference to sin, Scripture teaches that the child of God under grace shall not come into judgment (John 3:18; 5:24; 6:37; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:32); in his standing before God, and on the ground that the penalty for all sin—past, present, and future (Col. 2:13)—has been borne by Christ as the perfect Substitute, the believer is not only placed beyond condemnation, but being in Christ is accepted in the perfection of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10; Heb. 10:14) and loved of God as Christ is loved (John 17:23).20

Again, Chafer writes concerning the Bema, “It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the judgment is unrelated to the problem of sin, that it is more for the bestowing of rewards than the rejection of failure.”21

The Time of the Bema

The Bema will occur immediately following the rapture or resurrection of the church, after believers are caught up to be with the Lord in the air as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

13 Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Arguments or Reasons in Support of This View:

(1) In Luke 14:12-14, reward is associated with the resurrection and the rapture is when the church is resurrected.

Luke 14:12-14 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. 13 But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

(2) In Revelation 19:8, when the Lord returns with His bride at the end of the Tribulation, she is seen already rewarded. Her reward is described as fine linen, the righteous acts of the saints—undoubtedly the result of rewards.

Revelation 19:8 She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen” (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).

(3) In 2 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, rewards are associated with “that day” and with the Lord’s coming. Again, for the church this means the event of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

2 Timothy 4:8 Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.

1 Corinthians 4:5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

So the order of events will be (a) the rapture which includes our glorification or resurrection bodies, (b) exaltation into the heavens with the Lord, (c) examination before the Bema and (d) compensation or rewards.

The Place of the Bema

The Bema will occur somewhere in the heavenlies in the presence of the Lord. This is evident from the following passages:

1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Revelation 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was standing in heaven with someone seated on it!

The Participants at the Bema

All the passages dealing with the Bema are addressed to believers or pertain to believers of the church. Note the emphasis on good works.

Romans 14:10-12 But you who eat vegetables only—why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything—why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” 12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 For who is our hope or joy or crown to boast of before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not of course you? 20 For you are our glory and joy!

1 Timothy 6:18-19 Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. 19 In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.

Titus 2:12-14 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.

The resurrection program and thus the rewarding of Old Testament saints occurs after the Tribulation, after church age saints are already seen in heaven, rewarded, and returning with the Lord to judge the earth (cf. also Matt. 24).

Revelation 19:8 She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen” (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).

Daniel 12:1-2 At that time Michael,
the great prince who watches over your people,
will arise.
There will be a time of distress
unlike any other from the nation’s beginning
up to that time.
But at that time your own people,
all those whose names are found written in the book,
will escape.
2 Many of those who sleep
in the dusty ground will awake—
some to everlasting life,
and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.

All believers, regardless of their spiritual state, will be raptured and will stand before the Bema to give an account of their lives. At that time they will either receive rewards or lose rewards. Some believe in a partial rapture theory which says that only those in fellowship with the Lord will be raptured as a form of punishment for sin. As mentioned above, this is not only contrary to the finished work of Christ who once and for all paid the penalty for our sins, but it is contrary to the teaching of 1 Thessalonians 5:8-18:

8 But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation. 9 For God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that whether we are alert or asleep we will come to life together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing. 12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all. 15 See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 16 Always rejoice, 17 constantly pray, 18 in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Please note verses 9 and 10. The context suggest that Paul has in mind the return of Christ for the church—the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The rapture is the means of our deliverance from the wrath he discusses in chapter 5:1-3. Further, the words “alert or asleep” of verse 10 refer to a spiritual or moral condition, not whether one is alive or dead when Christ returns as in 4:13-14. This is clear from both the context of 5:4-8 and by the fact he changed the Greek words he used for sleep. In 5:10 he used the Greek katheudo rather than koimao, the word he used metaphorically in 4:13-14 of physical death. Though katheudo was used of physical sleep and even death, it was also commonly used of spiritual apathy or indifference to spiritual matters, and this is clearly the context of chapter 5. The point, then, is this: Because of the perfect and finished nature of Christ’s death (note the words “he died for us” of verse 10), whether we are spiritually alert or not, we will live together with Him through the rapture to face the examination of the Bema.

The Examiner at the Bema

The Examiner is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who is even now examining our lives and will bring to light the true nature of our walk and works when we stand before Him at the Bema. In Romans 14:10 the Apostle called this examination time the Bema of God while in 2 Corinthians 5:10 he called it the Bema of Christ. The point is that Jesus who is God is our examiner and rewarder.

1 Corinthians 4:5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.

Romans 14:10 But you who eat vegetables only—why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything—why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

The Purpose and Basis of the Bema

The purpose and the basis is the most critical issue of all and brings us face to face with the practical aspects of the Bema. Some crucial questions are: Why are we brought before the Bema? Is it only for rewards or their loss? Will any punishment be meted out? Will there be great sorrow? What’s the basis on which the Bema is conducted? Is it sin, good works, or just what?

Within the church, there exists a good deal of confusion and disagreement concerning the exact nature of the Bema. The use of the term “judgment seat” in most translations, ignorance of the historical and cultural background concerning the Bema, and foggy theology regarding the finished work of Christ have all contributed to several common misconceptions which, in one way or another, see God as giving out just retribution to believers for sin, or at least for our unconfessed sin.

Three Views of the Bema

For a summary of three major views, let me quote Samuel L. Hoyt from Bibliotheca Sacra.

Some Bible teachers view the judgment seat as a place of intense sorrow, a place of terror, and a place where Christ displays all the believer’s sins (or at least those unconfessed) before the entire resurrected and raptured church. Some go even further by stating that Christians must experience some sort of suffering for their sins at the time of this examination.

At the other end of the spectrum another group, which holds to the same eschatological chronology, views this event as an awards ceremony. Awards are handed out to every Christian. The result of this judgment will be that each Christian will be grateful for the reward which he receives, and he will have little or no shame.

Other Bible teachers espouse a mediating position. They maintain the seriousness of the examination and yet emphasize the commendation aspect of the judgment seat. They emphasize the importance and necessity of faithful living today but reject any thought of forensic punishment at the Bema. Emphasis is placed on the fact that each Christian must give an account of his life before the omniscient and holy Christ. All that was done through the energy of the flesh will be regarded as worthless for reward, while all that was done in the power of the Holy Spirit will be graciously rewarded. Those who hold this view believe that the Christian will stand glorified before Christ without his old sin nature. He will, likewise, be without guilt because he has been declared righteous. There will be no need for forensic punishment, for Christ has forever borne all of God’s wrath toward the believer’s sins.22

This last view I believe to be the one that is in accord with Scripture. Reasons for this will be set forth and developed as we study the nature, purpose, and basis for the Bema. But for now, lest we draw some wrong conclusions, we need to be ever mindful that God’s Word clearly teaches there are specific and very serious consequences, both temporal and eternal, for sin or disobedience. Though we will not be judged in the sense of punished for sin at the Bema because the Lord has born that for us, we must never take sin lightly because of its consequences.

The Present Consequences of Sin

While the following is not exhaustive, it demonstrates that sin in the life of a believer is no small issue.

1. Loss of Fellowship With the Lord

Known sin in the believer’s life causes a loss of intimate fellowship with the Lord with the consequent loss of His joy and peace.

Psalm 32:3-4 When I refused to confess my sin,
my whole body wasted away,
while I groaned in pain all day long.
4 For day and night you tormented me;
you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. (Selah)

2. Divine Discipline From the Lord

We should not think of discipline as punishment. Discipline from God is the gracious work of a Father to train and develop His children. Sometimes this comes in the form of various kinds of testing, trials, failure, and predicaments which He uses to correct us and to train us, and if we have been going our own stubborn way, to increase our misery. The goal, however, is always to bring us back to Him. If the believer remains unrepentant, this can lead to the sin unto death as with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and some of the believers at Corinth who were failing to confess their sin and get right with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?
“My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”
7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. 9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.

1 Corinthians 11:28-30 A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.

1 John 5:16-17 If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.

3. Loss of Power and Production

When we fail to deal with our sinful ways through honest confession, we grieve the Spirit’s person and quench His power in our lives. This means that rather than operating by faith in God’s provision, we end up operating in the energy of the flesh. We turn to our personal bag of tricks by which we seek to handle life. This results in the works of the flesh and their awful and fruitless consequences. Without the abiding life, the life of faith and obedience to the Savior, we can do nothing.

Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so many things for nothing? —if indeed it was for nothing. 5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

Galatians 5:1-5 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. 2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! 3 And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.

Galatians 5:19-21, 26 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!… 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.

Jeremiah 2:12-13 Be amazed at this, O heavens!
Be shocked and utterly dumbfounded,”
says the Lord.
13 “Do so because my people have committed a double wrong:
they have left me,
the fountain of life-giving water,
and they have dug cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.”

John 15:1-7 “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. 2 He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. 3 You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.

4. Loss of Opportunities

When we are in control of our lives rather than the Lord, we become insensitive to people and opportunities for ministry—we lack vision. Carnal believers have no vision other than their own personal agendas and selfish goals.

John 4:34-38 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Don’t you say, ‘There are four more months and then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, look up and see that the fields are already white for harvest! 36 The one who reaps receives pay and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together. 37 For in this instance the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”

5. Loss of Desire and Motivation for Service

Carnal believers are occupied and controlled by their own self-centered desires. Perhaps this is a good place to discuss the concept of selfishness and rewards for some see an appeal to rewards as selfish and therefore carnal.

Galatians 5:16-17 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.

Zane Hodges has some good thoughts on this concept:

Scripture does not teach us to be uninterested in our own happiness or well-being. The very desire to escape eternal damnation is a legitimate and urgent self-interest. The instinct to preserve our lives is the same. Nor are pleasure and enjoyment illegitimate experiences.

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, He furnished them with “every tree … that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 2:9). They could enjoy themselves freely provided they abstained from eating from the one forbidden tree. Similarly, Paul tells rich people that “God … gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17; italics added).

Selfishness ought not to be defined simply as the pursuit of our own self-interest. Instead, it should be defined as the pursuit of our self-interest in our own way, rather than in God’s way. Since “love” is a preeminent virtue in Christianity, true selfishness often involves a pursuit of self-interest that violates the law of love.23

Self-interest in God’s way is legitimate. Self-centeredness or selfishness is preoccupation with self at the expense of others and God’s will in one’s life. When Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they acted in self-centered independence which was idolatry and sin. When they enjoyed each other and the fruit trees and blessings of the garden, they acted in their self-interest but they did so in dependence on and in obedience to the Lord.

6. Broken Relationships and Disharmony

Carnality causes broken relationships and pain to those around us—our families, friends, associates, and co-workers in the body of Christ.

Galatians 5:15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.

Hebrews 12:15-17 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled. 16 And see to it that no one becomes an immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that later when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no opportunity for repentance, although he sought the blessing with tears.

7. Loss of Physical Health and Vitality

Of course all sickness, weakness, or suffering is not a product of sin, but it can be and often is.

1 Corinthians 11:29-30 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.

1 John 5:16-17 If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart brings good healing,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 A tranquil spirit revives the body,
but envy is rottenness to the bones.

8. Loss of Rewards at the Bema

There will be the loss of rewards as seen in the following passage:

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The Purpose of the Bema Developed

The Bema is not punitive. It is not to judge believers for sin of any kind, confessed or unconfessed.

Scripture teaches that for the believer God’s justice has already been fully and forever satisfied at the Cross in relation to the believer’s sins. If God were to punish the believer judicially for his sins for which Christ has already rendered payment, He would be requiring two payments for sin and would therefore be unjust. Such a concept (punishment for sin) erroneously disparages the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross.24

Christ paid the penalty for the believer’s pre- and post-conversion sins. The believer will forfeit rewards which he could have received, but he will not be punished in the judicial sense of “paying” for his sins.

Scripture teaches that all sins, both confessed and unconfessed, have been forgiven and taken care of by the work of Christ on the cross, so the Christian will never face those sins again at the judgment. The following verses demonstrate the basic principle of the complete and finished nature of Christ’s Work.

Romans 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous.

Colossians 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Hebrews 8:12 “For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.”

Hebrews 10:14, 17-18 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy…. then he says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer.” 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Isaiah 38:17 Look, the grief I experienced was for my benefit.
You delivered me from the pit of oblivion.
For you removed all my sins from your sight.

Isaiah 44:22 I remove the guilt of your rebellious deeds as if they were a cloud,
the guilt of your sins as if they were a cloud.
Come back to me, for I protect you.

Psalm 103:12 As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.

We cannot come into judgment. Why? Because Christ has born our judgment by being made a curse in our place.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

John 3:18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.

John 5:24 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.

Then why do we have to confess sin? And why does God judge believers for unconfessed sin as with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and some of the believers in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:28f? Because this is a completely different matter.

Unconfessed sin relates to fellowship in this life, not to our relationship or standing with God. Unconfessed sin stands as a barrier to fellowship and His control over our life. As Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together without having met?” Obviously the answer is no.

Confession means we agree with God concerning our sin and want to get back under God’s control. “Daily forgiveness of those who are within the family of God is distinguished from judicial and positional forgiveness which was applied forensically to all of a person’s sins the moment he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Hoyt, p. 38). We need to distinguish between fellowship forgiveness and legal or forensic forgiveness that justifies us and gives us a standing before God through Christ.

Key Scriptures:

Hebrews 12:5-11 And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?
“My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”
7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. 9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.

1 Corinthians 11:28-32 A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. 31 But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

These passages explain the nature of God’s judgment of believers in this life. It is discipline designed to train and bring us back to a walk with God. They also teach us the basic cause of discipline is failure to examine and confess known sins because they hinder our fellowship with God.

In 1 Corinthians 11:32, “condemned with the world,” most likely refers to the judgment of Romans 1:24f, moral degeneration and the gradual breakdown in the moral fiber of men when they turn away from God. The same thing happens in the life of believers, but God brings discipline to stop the process.

1 Corinthians 11:32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Romans 1:24-31 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.

God does not judge us for our sin in the sense of making us pay the penalty for that sin.

Scripture teaches that Christ’s death was all-sufficient, completely satisfying God’s wrath toward sin in the believer. The question of sin in regard to God’s justice has been forever satisfied in the mind of God by the all-sufficient sacrifice of His Son. The penalty for the believer’s sins has been fully paid for by Christ, the believer’s substitute. The Christian has been in court, condemned, sentenced, and executed in his substitute, Jesus Christ. God cannot exact payment for sins twice since payment has been fully and forever paid. The believer is seen by the Father as clothed in the righteousness of Christ. God can therefore find no cause for accusing the Christian judicially any more than He can find cause for accusing Jesus Christ. Therefore, at the judgment seat of Christ forensic punishment will not be meted out for the believer’s sins.25

Rather, God disciplines us as a father disciplines his sons to bring us back into fellowship that we might be conformed to His Son. It is a family matter.

The Positive Aspects of the Bema
To Evaluate the Believer’s Work

The Bema will be a time to evaluate the quality of every believer’s work whether it is good or bad, i.e., acceptable and thus worthy of rewards, or unacceptable, to be rejected and unworthy of rewards. Actually an evaluation is going on every day by the Lord (cf. Rev. 2-3).

To Remove Unacceptable Production

The Bema will be a time to remove and destroy unacceptable production portrayed in the symbols of wood, hay, and stubble. All sinful deeds, thoughts, and motives, as well as all good deeds done in the energy of the flesh will be consumed like wood, hay, and stubble in a fire because they are unworthy of reward. Why? This will be answered as we consider the basis on which rewards are given or lost.

To Reward the Believer

The Bema will be the time believers are rewarded for all the good they have done as portrayed by the symbols of gold, silver, and precious stones, that which is valuable and can stand the test of fire without being consumed because they were works done under the control of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

“plainly seen” is phaneros which means “known, plain, visible, revealed as to its nature.” “The Day” refers to a day well known and refers to the day of the Bema after the rapture of the church. “Be revealed” is apokalupto meaning “to unveil.” “Test” is dokimazo and means “to test for the sake of approval.”

1 Corinthians 4:5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

“Bring to light” is photizo, “to bring to light, make visible.” The issue should be extremely clear from these two verses: The Lord will evaluate the quality and nature of every person’s work.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

Revelation 22:12 Look! I am coming soon,
and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!

The Negative Aspects of the Bema

There are a number of passages that refer to the negative aspects of the Bema which need to be mentioned and explained. In these passages we read such things as “give account of himself,” “suffer loss,” “shrink away from Him in shame,” and “recompense for his deeds … whether good or bad.”

Will believers experience shame, grief, remorse at the Bema? If so, how do we reconcile this with passages like Revelation 7:17, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” and Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist,” or with Isaiah 65:17, “For look, I am ready to create new heavens and a new earth! The former ones will not be remembered; no one will think about them anymore.”

The negative effects involve the following terms or ideas:

The Forfeiting of Rewards

The loss suffered in 1 Corinthians 3:15 refers to the loss of rewards and not salvation as the verse goes on to make clear. Please note that the clause “he will suffer loss” would be better rendered “it (the reward) shall be forfeited.”

1 Corinthians 3:15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Disqualification

The disqualification mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:27 means disqualified from rewards, not loss of salvation. This is clear from the context and the analogy to the Greek athletic games.

1 Corinthians 9:27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.

Recompense

The “paid back” of 2 Corinthians 5:10 refers to the dispensing of rewards or their loss. The verb used is komizo and means “to carry off safe,” “to carry off as booty.” In the middle voice as here, it meant “to bear for oneself,”26 or “to receive back what is one’s own.”27

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

Matthew 25:27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest!

Ephesians 6:8 because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord.

That dispensing of rewards is in view is also evident from the Greek words in 2 Corinthians 5:10 translated “good” ( agathos—valuable like good fruit) and “evil” ( phaulos—unacceptable like rotten or spoiled fruit).

This is no more a punishment than when a student turns in a worthless assignment and receives an F or a D. His poor work results in a just grade or recompense. This is what his work deserves. When I was at Dallas Theological Seminary there was a sign in the registrar’s office which read, “Salvation is by grace … Graduation is by works.”

Shrinking Away

Another term used of the negative aspects of the Bema is found in 1 John 2:28. This verse undoubtedly refers to the Bema and shows there will be both boldness as a result of abiding, and shame before the Lord as a result of failing to abide.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.

“And now, little children” is John’s term of endearment for his readers as born again people.

The phrase “remain in Him” is a synonym for fellowship which is the subject of the book (1:3-7). It means to remain in Him from the standpoint of drawing on His life as the source of ours and then to obey Him out of that relationship of dependence. This is the basis of rewards, or if absent, the cause of their loss. The abiding, Christ dependent life is the issue.

“So that” points us to the purpose, the return of the Savior and what it will mean.

“When He appears.” “When” points to the imminency of the return of the Lord. It is literally “if He appears.” The conditional clause does not question the reality of Christ’s coming, only the time of it and thereby points to its imminency. “Appears” refers to the rapture which leads quickly into the Bema.

“We may have confidence.” “Confidence” is parresia and means “courage, boldness to speak.” Though none of us are perfect or ever will be, still, faithfulness to abide and obey the Lord will give confidence of rewards.

“And not shrink away from Him in shame when he comes back.” Please note several things here. The verb is what we call in Greek an aorist subjunctive, and with the basic meaning of this verb, the grammar points to a future act, but not a continuous state. This in no way suggests a permanent condition. The voice of the verb is passive. The subject receives the action, that is, he is made to feel shame. But how? There are two views:

(1) The believer who does not abide is made to feel shame by the Lord, i.e., the Lord puts him to shame. This would be somewhat punitive and does not fit the concept of the Bema or the promises of the Lord that we will not come into judgment.

(2) The believer who does not abide is made to feel shame by the revelatory nature of the event caused by his own awareness and realization of what his own failure and sin has caused him in terms of the loss of rewards and loss of glory to the Lord. But this will only be momentary at best in view of passages like the following:

Revelation 7:17 because the Lamb in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.

Hoyt has a good summary of what this passage is talking about and involves:

The Bible suggests that there will be shame at the judgment seat of Christ to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the measure of unfaithfulness of each individual believer. Therefore it should be each believer’s impelling desire to be well-pleasing to the Lord in all things. Although Christians apparently will reflect on this earthly life with some regret, they will also realize what is ahead for them in the heavenly life. This latter realization will be the source of boundless joy. English strikes a proper balance on this subject.

Joy will indeed be the predominant emotion of life with the Lord; but I suspect that, when our works are made manifest at the tribunal, some grief will be mixed with the joy, and we shall know shame as we suffer loss. But we shall rejoice also as we realize that the rewards given will be another example of the grace of our Lord; for at best we are unprofitable servants.28

The elements of remorse, regret, and shame cannot be avoided in an examination of the judgment seat of Christ. But this sorrow must be somewhat relative because even for the finest of Christians there will be some things worthy of unceasing remorse in the light of God’s unapproachable holiness. This would mean that the finest of Christians could be sorrowful throughout eternity. However, this is not the picture that the New Testament gives of heaven. The overwhelming emotion is joyfulness and gratefulness. Although there is undeniably some measure of remorse or regret, this is not the overriding emotion to be experienced throughout the eternal state.

The emotional condition of the redeemed is that of complete and unending happiness. Emotion proceeds from the realization of facts in personal experience. Hope will at last become reality for all those who are delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:18-25). Elimination of the curse, pain and death will also remove sorrow, tears and crying (Rev. 21:4).

The judgment seat of Christ might be compared to a commencement ceremony. At graduation there is some measure of disappointment and remorse that one did not do better and work harder. However, at such an event the overwhelming emotion is joy, not remorse. The graduates do not leave the auditorium weeping because they did not earn better grades. Rather, they are thankful that they have been graduated, and they are grateful for what they did achieve. To overdo the sorrow aspect of the judgment seat of Christ is to make heaven hell. To underdo the sorrow aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential.29

The Nature of the Rewards

What are these rewards? How are they described in Scripture? What we learn about rewards from Scripture is in terms that are more general than specific. These are:

(1) The promise of crowns. This seems to be used as a symbol of victory, authority and responsibility.

(2) The promise of heavenly treasure. This stresses their eternal value and security.

Matthew 6:20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

1 Peter 1:4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you,

(3) The promise of accolades or commendations. This is seen in those passages where a reward is administered in the form of something like “well done good and faithful servant …”

Matthew 25:21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Luke 19:17 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’

1 Corinthians 4:5 So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.

(4) The promises to overcomers. These could refer to special blessing of rewards to those believers who overcome special trials and tests rather than a general promise to all believers.

Revelation 2:7 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will permit him to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.’

Revelation 2:11 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will in no way be harmed by the second death.’

Revelation 2:17 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give him some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on that stone will be written a new name that no one can understand except the one who receives it.’

Revelation 2:26 And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations

(5) The promise of special responsibilities and authority over the Lord’s possessions.

Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 24:45-47 Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.

Matthew 25:21, 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’… His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Luke 19:17-19 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ 18 Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

Luke 22:29-30 Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Revelation 2:26 And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations

Analogies to Consider

(1) A Thanksgiving dinner. At a Thanksgiving dinner, each person eats a different amount, but each is satisfied. After our glorification, there will be no sinful nature to produce envy, or jealousy, or resentment, or feelings of dissatisfaction. We will each be enthralled with God and our glorified state.

(2) A bat boy at the World Series. Any young man who loves baseball would be thrilled to be a bat boy in the World Series, and he would not be jealous or resentful because he was not one of the stars of the game. He would just be delighted to be there doing what he was doing.

(3) A graduate at commencement. All the graduates are there and excited about graduating, yet at the time of rewards, some sorrow might be experienced, but it is quickly overcome by the joy of the event.

(4) Our spiritual gifts. Our rewards may be likened to our spiritual gifts. Our rewards seem to be primarily a matter of responsibility and maybe opportunities. They will not be like badges or medals worn in the military. Remember that all of our crowns will be cast at the feet of Christ, for only He is worthy. Also, Matthew 25:21, 23 and Luke 19:17-19 show us our rewards consist of authority over either many things or many cities. They may include galaxies of the universe. All believers will live in the millennium and in eternity with the Lord. Some will reign with Him, but, because of loss of rewards, evidently some will not.

Revelation 4:10-11 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
since you created all things,
and because of your will they existed and were created!”

Matthew 25:21-23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Luke 19:17-19 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ 18 Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

(5) In Scripture, the church is viewed as the heavenly kingdom and a universal priesthood. This may indicate something of our authority. We may rule over galaxies, celestial bodies, the heavens, and definitely over angels, and the world.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters!

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you are satisfied! Already you are rich! You have become kings without us! I wish you had become kings so that we could reign with you!

(6) Israel is the earthly kingdom … and will undoubtedly have authority over portions and sections of the millennial kingdom and the eternal kingdom as emphasized in Matthew 25:21; Luke 19:17-19 (see above).

Daniel 7:18, 22, 27 The holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will take possession of the kingdom forever and ever.’… 22 until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was rendered in favor of the holy ones of the Most High. Then the time arrived for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom…27 Then the kingdom, authority, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be delivered to the people of the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; all authorities will serve him and obey him.’

Crowns of the New Testament
Words Used for Crowns
Stephanos

This was the victor’s crown, the wreath given to the victorious athlete before the judge at the Bema. It is the word used of the crowns promised to believers for faithfulness in the Christian life.

Diadem

This was the royal crown, the crown of a king. It is used of the seven diadems of the Beast in Revelation 12:3 and 13:1. To stress that Christ is King of kings, this word is also used of the many diadems the Lord will wear at His return.

Revelation 19:21 The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh.

The Lord Jesus is the Victor, and our victory is really His victory which is appropriated by faith. Crowns are given as rewards for faithfulness to appropriate God’s grace and Christ’s victory in the Christian life. They remind us of our responsibility to abide in the vine.

Significance of the Crowns
The Crown of Thorns

The crown of thorns speaks of Christ’s work on the cross and stands for His victory over sin, Satan, and death.

Matthew 27:29 and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!”

Mark 15:17 They put a purple cloak on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on him.

John 19:2, 5, The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe…5 So Jesus came outside, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Look, here is the man!

The Incorruptible Crown

This describes all the crowns. It contrasts our crowns with the temporal and temporary treasure of this life. It is also a special crown given for faithfulness in running the race and exercising self-control in order to serve the Lord and finish the race.

1 Corinthians 9:25 Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.

The Crown of Exultation or Rejoicing

This crown is a reward given for witnessing, follow-up, and ministry to others. In one sense, the Thessalonians will be Paul’s crown, and the effect at the Bema and throughout eternity will be rejoicing or exultation over their presence in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For who is our hope or joy or crown to boast of before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not of course you?

Philippians 4:1 So then, my brothers and sisters, dear friends whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand in the Lord in this way, my dear friends!

But what did Paul mean that the Thessalonians will be his crown? In view of his use of “crown” ( stephanos, the victor’s wreath) in other places, and the fact believers will cast their crowns before the Lord, Paul may also have in mind a personal crown or reward that he will receive because of their presence at the return of the Lord. Though, in this passage the Apostle does not say he would receive a crown, this is suggested, if not here certainly in other passages. Though some of them were not living as they should, looking ahead and seeing them in glory brought joy and would bring great rejoicing.

Revelation 4:10 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying:

The Crown of Life

This crown is given for enduring testings (trials) and temptation (Jam. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). The crown is not eternal life which is a gift through faith alone in Christ alone, but a reward for enduring trials and overcoming temptation.

James 1:12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.

Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Romans 3:24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:15-17 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!

Romans 6:23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;

The Crown of Righteousness

This crown is a reward given for faithfulness to use our gifts and opportunities in the service of the Lord and for loving His appearing. Note that these two things go together. To love His appearing is to live in the light of it.

2 Timothy 4:8 Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.

The Crown of Glory

The crown of glory is a reward promised to elders for faithfulness in the discharge of their responsibilities in shepherding the people.

1 Peter 5:4 Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away.

The Casting of Crowns

Because Christ alone is worthy and because we can only be fruitful when we abide in Him allowing His life to fills ours, we will all cast our crowns before Him in recognition that all we have done is by His grace.

Revelation 4:10-11 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
since you created all things,
and because of your will they existed and were created!”

The Many Crowns (Diadems)

These are the crowns of royalty which stand for Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords who alone has the right to rule and judge the world.

Revelation 19:12 His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself.

Conclusion

This concludes our study on the various ways God has assured us of His infinite care and complete love. God’s assurance extends from that past assurance of our salvation in Christ, through the present and all the various needs of life—security, daily provision, forgiveness, victory over sin, and guidance through the maze of life. But by His grace, it doesn’t even stop there. As this last lesson has shown us, His assurance extends beyond to the eternal future. In this we see His blessed assurance that our labors are never in vain in the Lord because it is His plan to reward faithful believers for their service to Him as they overcome by faith in His matchless grace.

Is it any wonder that the author of Hebrews referred to our salvation in Christ with the words, “such a great salvation” (Heb. 2:3)? But it is also fitting that we close this study by reflecting on his warning with regard to our “so great salvation.” He wrote:

Hebrews 2:1-4 Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, 4 while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Since under the Old Testament Covenant, instituted through angels, Old Testament saints received severe judgments for disobedience, we must never imagine that we, as members of the New Covenant, shall escape the consequences of ignoring our so great salvation accomplished by none other than the Son of God Himself. With this salvation has come the assurance of God’s perfect provision past, present, and future. As good stewards of the blessings God has given us, we have an awesome obligation to act upon our new life in Christ as faithful recipients of such a great salvation.

In regard to this warning Zane Hodges explains:

If the readers lost sight of the ultimate victory and deliverance that was promised to them in connection with the Son’s own final victory, they could expect retribution. What its nature might be the writer did not spell out, but it would be unwarranted to think he was talking about hell. The “we” which pervades the passage shows that the author included himself among those who needed to pay close attention to these truths.

The “salvation,” of course, is the same as that just mentioned in 1:14 … and alludes to the readers’ potential share in the Son’s triumphant dominion, in which He has “companions” (cf. 1:9). The Lord Jesus Himself, while on earth, spoke much of His future kingdom and the participation of His faithful followers in that reign (cf., e.g., Luke 12:31-32; 22:29-30). But this salvation experience, which was first announced by the Lord had also received confirmation through the various miracles and manifestations of the Spirit which His original auditors, those who heard Him, were empowered to exhibit. In speaking like this, the writer of Hebrews regarded these miracles as the powers of the coming Age (cf. Heb. 6:5) and, in harmony with the early Christians in the Book of Acts, saw them as expressions of the sovereignty of the One who had gone to sit at God’s right hand (cf. “signs,” “wonders,” and/or “miracles” in Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12; also cf. 2 Cor. 12:12). That the author was indeed thinking throughout of “the world to come” is made clear in Hebrews 2:5.30

The concern is not for the loss of salvation, which is eternally secure in Christ, but for failure to live by faith, sharing daily in His glorious power and life, and doing this always with a view to the eternal rewards of His coming kingdom.

Part Two:
The Transformed Life

18 Samuel Hoyt, “The Judgment Seat of Christ in Theological Perspective, Part 1,” Bibliotheca Sacra, January-March, 1980, electronic media, p. 32.

19 Hoyt, 37.

20 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes: 52 Vital Doctrines of the Scripture Simplified and Explained, revised by John F. Walvoord, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1974, p. 282.

21 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 4: Ecclesiology-Eschatology, Dallas Seminary Press, Dallas, TX, 1948, p. 406.

22 Hoyt, pp. 32-33.

23 Zane C. Hodges, “We Believe in: Rewards,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 4, No. 2, Autumn 1991, p. 7.

24 Hoyt, pp. 33-34.

25 Hoyt, p. 38.

26 G. Abott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed., T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1937, p. 252.

27 Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, ed. Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., Regency, Grand Rapids, 1976, p. 468.

28 E. Schuyler English, “The Church At the Tribunal,” in Prophetic Truth Unfolding Today, ed. Charles Lee Feingberg, Fleming H. Revell Co., Old Tappan, NJ, 1968, p. 29.

29 Samuel Hoyt, “The Judgment Seat of Christ in Theological Perspective,” Part 2, Bibliotheca Sacra, electronic media, p. 131.

30 Zane Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Scripture Press, Wheaton, Illinois, 1983, 1985 p. 783.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Rewards