When in the future will Christians be judged?
When in the future will Christians be judged? When in the future will the Bema Seat Judgement occur? The Bema Seat is also known as the judgement seat of Christ. It is the judgement of Christians. There are five options that will be presented in this article and then a conclusion will be reached. The five options are 1) upon death, 2) after the rapture, 3) after the second coming, 4) during the kingdom and 5) before the Great White Throne Judgment.
Bema Seat Judgment — Immediately After Death
The first option or time the Bema Seat judgment might occur is immediately after a believer dies. The apostle Paul states that “absent from the body, present with the Lord.”
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6 (NASB)
. . . we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8ths (NASB)
That is, when a believer dies, they are immediately with Christ. Therefore, it could be possible a believer stands before Christ immediately after death and receives their rewards.
But this option has serious problems because people will become believers during the millennial kingdom and never die. Then they would never stand before the Bema Seat, unless we suppose that these believers are judged at the end of the kingdom. Therefore, this option is rejected.
Bema Seat Judgment — After the Rapture
The next option or time the Bema Seat judgment might occur is after the rapture when Christ descends and raptures the church. Then during the tribulation believers stand before the Bema Seat judgment and receive their reward. This option has more problems than the first option because those people who become Christians during the tribulation and the kingdom would not be included. When would they have the opportunity to be judged before the Bema Seat? Therefore, this option is rejected.
Bema Seat Judgment — After the Second Coming
The third option or time the Bema Seat judgment might occur is after the second coming of Christ. This option has almost the same problem that the preceding option has. That is, when will those people who become Christians during the kingdom stand before the Bema Seat for judgment?
Bema Seat Judgment — During the Kingdom
The fourth option or time the Bema Seat judgment might occur is during the kingdom. This means that the reward ceremony would be a continuing activity throughout the millennial kingdom as people continue to become Christians and some die. However, this option will still require a Bema Seat judgment after the kingdom because there will be some believers still alive at the end of the kingdom. At the end of the kingdom, the universe will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:9-13; Revelation 20:11). The last remaining mortal Christians will die and then stand before the Bema Seat. Therefore, this option is rejected. Discover “What happens to those with mortal bodies who are in the millennium?” and “What happens to Christians who die in the kingdom?”
Bema Seat Judgment — Before the Great White Throne Judgment
The fifth and last option or time the Bema Seat judgment might occur is after the universe is destroyed and before or after the Great White Throne judgment. This is the only option that seems to best fit the biblical information. However, it seems best to place the Bema Seat judgment before the Great White Thone judgment. To understand why this is the correct option, consider Luke 11:29-32.
In Luke 11:29-32 Jesus warned a crowd of people that at the judgment, the Queen of the South would condemn the nation of Israel for rejecting Christ. Then He said that men of Nineveh would stand up and condemn the Israelites at the judgment. In both statements Jesus is clearly referring to the Great White Throne judgment.
As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:29-32
But what is revealing is that the Queen of South and the men of Nineveh, who repented at Jonah’s preaching, are believers who are allowed to speak at the judgment. They are allowed to condemn the unbelievers at the time each individual will be judged. Luke 11:29-32 reveals that believers and unbelievers will be at the Great White Throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15.
Since all judgment has been given to Christ (John 5:22; Acts 10:42), He will be the judge of believers and unbelievers.
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42 (NASB)
It is very possible that the Bema Seat and White Throne judgments will occur in sequential order – the Bema Seat judgment first, with every human watching. Then the judgment of unbelievers at the White Throne judgment with everyone watching and believers allowed to speak. Since Scripture does not provide complete information about what happens at the judgment, this conclusion is tentative. But this conclusion seems to be the best one given the biblical evidence. That is, the Bema Seat judgment will occur after the universe is destroyed and before the White Throne judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15.
Option 5 is the best conclusion given the biblical evidence. Christians will be given rewards at the Bema Seat judgment before unbelievers are judged at the White Throne. We cannot fully understand the anguish of the unbelievers when they realize that the believers are being given rewards and their judgment will send them to the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15). But finally the justice of God will be revealed when believers are rewarded and unbelievers are condemned for their ungodly behavior and rejection of Christ.
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