Words have failed each of us at one time or another: as we try and express how we feel about a situation, or in trying to describe something like a majestic sunset. When we talk of the great payday for believers, the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ, and the awesomeness of that event and the amazing consequences of that event, words are extremely inadequate. The words of the Apostle Paul probably cover the matter for us when he says,
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9)
And while our words surely cannot adequately describe this significant event, we have used many words over the past months in an attempt to discuss fully this great day for believers. It would seem helpful, at this point, to make sure certain key points will be fixed in our thinking. We offer these twelve truths (six this time and six next time) that relate to “payday” for our continued contemplation.
#1 – The original purposes of God related to fellowship and rulership will be restored in the future kingdom of God.
The future kingdom of God (Rev. 20-22) is best understood by looking at God’s original intentions in the creation account (Gen. 1-3). The restoration of fellowship through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is fairly well understood by most believers, but the restoration of rulership through the Son of Man is often overlooked. Rulership in the coming kingdom is a matter of focus at the Judgment Seat of Christ and beyond. Servants who endure in this life will rule in the next one. (2 Tim. 2:11-13). This emphasis on ruling and reigning with Christ is a theme found in the N.T. and is an issue that will be featured at the Judgment Seat.
#2 – Salvation is a free gift of God that once received cannot be lost, but rewards can be lost.
The New Testament distinction between rewards that are earned by good works and salvation, which is a gift from God with no human works involved, is one that must be maintained. Salvation is always viewed as a gift freely given by God based on the cross. This salvation is guarded and made secure by all three persons of the Godhead. Man does not earn salvation, nor can he lose it. Believers may, however, lose reward depending on whether their works are “good or bad.”
#3 – Sin does not affect our position as children of God but it can affect our present fellowship as well as our future rewarding.
All sin was fully paid for on the cross by the Lord Jesus. His work of redemption was absolutely complete. This includes sins we may commit today or in the future. While our sins as believers will not remove us from our position as God’s children, we are aware that they do have consequences. These sins, if not confessed, will not only hurt present fellowship, but they will also impact rewarding at the Judgment Seat. So it is unwise and unbiblical to say that since Christ paid for all of our sins, they will not affect what transpires at the Judgment Seat.
#4 – Rewards are presented as a legitimate and a primary motivation for living the Christian life, but are not the only motivation.
Too many Christians view rewards negatively, suggesting that they are a poor motivation for serving Christ. It is vital to remember that rewards are presented by Jesus and the Apostles as an important motivation for Christian living. The Apostle Paul informs us that he was motivated by rewards, by the fear of God, by a love for Christ and by the real needs of people. It is improper to suggest that rewards are an inferior motivation. If so, then Jesus and the Apostles got it wrong.
#5 – The criteria used at the Judgment Seat consists of the standard of Scripture, our faithfulness and our motivation.
We are not left in the dark as to the standard of evaluation that the Lord will use. The Word of God is central to this evaluation, because in it is revealed the will of God that a believer is to follow. Obedience to the commands and principles of the Word is at the core of our evaluation. Faithfulness is another key criterion, as each believer will be evaluated by what was given to him by the Master. The issue is being faithful, not being famous. Our motivations will also be part of our evaluation. The question will be why we did what we did as we lived for and served the Lord Jesus.
#6 – Believers who live carnally and selfishly have something to be concerned about.
The Judgment Seat is an event where faithful servants are rewarded by the King. But it is also a place where the unfaithful child of God will be confronted by the Master. Not everyone will hear “well done, good servant.” Unfortunately, some will hear “you worthless slave.” Believers who live in self-indulgence and who have not taken seriously living for and serving Jesus Christ face significant loss at the Judgment Seat. Furthermore, the Scriptures inform us that their time at the Judgment Seat will likely be one of shame and grief. Also, there will be ramifications of this in the future kingdom of God. These believers may presently wish to ignore this issue in their lives now but they will not be able to do so in the future.
As we conclude these summary thoughts, we again should reinforce the central truth of the New Testament that our future rewards and status are largely determined by our present living. Whether it is something we deem minor like “the cup of cold water” given to someone in need or that which is seen as highly important like sharing the gospel or teaching the Word, the Lord Jesus is well aware of what we do or don’t do. It should be our goal to live well for Him all the time, avoid the darkness of this world system and be diligent to “abide” (remain in fellowship) with Him. A great day is coming.
Six more summary thoughts will be given next time. (A copy of Dr. Benware’s book, “The Believers Payday”, is available at Paulbenware.com)