Are You Ready?
Prepare to meet your God. (Amos 4:12 GW)
The Lord called me to preach when I was 33 years old. My pastor told me that “a call to preach is a call to prepare.” So, I went off to seminary. I can still remember my first class, a summer intensive of The History of Church Music. On the second day of class, we were given a pop quiz on the 50 pages of assigned reading. While I had read the material, I certainly had not studied it. To say I was unprepared for the pop quiz that day would be an understatement. I was prepared, however, from that day forward.
When Jesus comes back to this earth for His own, He told us there would be a test, an evaluation for the child of God. This is certainly not a pop quiz, because He told us about it in advance. This is a major test, a final exam. Wise is the Christian who is prepared for the test, prepared to meet his God and give an account of his life.
The test of the Christian is called in Scripture, “The Judgment Seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is a special judgment reserved only for born again believers in Jesus. In this judgment, a Christian’s service and motives will be evaluated by the Lord and rewarded accordingly.
The word for “Judgment Seat” is Bema in Greek. The Bema was a raised platform on which the reigning magistrate would sit. Victorious warriors, winning athletes, and outstanding citizens would be brought before the Bema to be rewarded for their deeds. It was a place principally associated with commendation, not condemnation.
Note some important considerations regarding the Bema, the Christian’s final exam.
1. There is no condemnation at the Bema. When we stand before the Lord at His return, He does not play a video of all our sins. Those sins have been “paid in full” (the true meaning of “it is finished”). Jesus wouldn’t ask you about your sins because they have been removed from you “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). Paul makes it crystal clear, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). How awesome to know that when I stand before the Lord to give an account of my life, He is not going to remind me of or condemn me for the sins I so foolishly and wickedly committed even as a Christian. All those evil deeds have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb. Praise God!
2. There is no loss of salvation at the Bema. Don’t ever get the idea that this judgment is to determine who goes to heaven and who does not. God is not like Santa Claus. He is not making a list and checking it twice, so He can find out who’s naughty and who’s nice. Your eternal destiny is not decided at the Bema. That critical issue is decided in this life. Salvation is given freely to any and all who will see their sinfulness, turn from their sinfulness, and humbly receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Eternal life is not a reward for the righteous. It is a gift for the guilty. It is by grace through faith that we are saved (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Works have nothing to do with getting to heaven … but they have everything to do with rewards at the Bema.
3. There is righteous evaluation at the Bema. Jesus Christ, the righteous Judge, will examine the works of every believer. Those Christians who lived for Christ and His glory – who used their time, talent, and treasure to further the kingdom of God – will be rewarded for their service and devotion. Those Christians who lived for self, consumed with their own agenda and the passing pleasures of sin and personal recognition, will see all they invested in while on earth go up in smoke (see 1 Cor. 3:13-15). These Christians won’t lose their salvation, but they will lose the reward they could have had if they had only lived for Jesus.
TAKE THE PRE-TEST
If the Bema were today, how would you do? Be honest, are you really living for His glory? Do you really see all your possessions as belonging to Him? Are you truly focused on seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness? As the couplet from C. T. Studd so aptly states, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Maybe you need to make some changes to your life. Maybe you need to perform a course correction so that you prepare yourself to meet the Lord with confidence and not with shame (see 1 Jn. 2:28). Do it today. You won’t be sorry.
And maybe you’re not even sure you’ve been born again. I urge you to receive Christ before it’s too late. The judgment of the unsaved is indeed terrifying and horrific (see Rev. 20:11-15). Jesus died so you would never have to experience the wrath of God. Cry out to Him in repentance and faith. He will save anybody who will sincerely call on His name in spirit and truth.
The sign in a tree nursery said, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Do business with God today.
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