The other day, someone in my church asked me what the Bible teaches about believers in Jesus Christ and God’s judgment.
The most important thing to grasp is that for those who are in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The good news is that Jesus became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). God has promised that He will remember our sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34). Those who are in Christ, do not come into judgment (John 5:24). So, whatever judgment believers face, it will not be in order to punish them for sin. That judgment has already taken place when Jesus bore our sins on the cross.
But, what about the Scriptures that speak of believers in Jesus standing before the Judgment Bench of Christ or God. There are a few key passages that discuss this:
- Luke 14:14. This passage speaks of our being repaid for our acts of righteousness at the judgment.
- 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. This passage is addressed to believers. It discusses our works being tested or evaluated by God. He is evaluating them to see if they focused on advancing the message of the gospel. If they did, they are lasting and we are rewarded. If they did not, they burn up (as something worthless), and we suffer loss, but are still saved (3:15). There is no punishment in view here, simply a loss of potential reward.
- 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. In this passage Paul focuses on the need not to judge others, because the Lord is the one who knows our hearts and will examine us. The only result of that examination that is mentioned is praise.
- 2 Corinthians 5:10. This is perhaps the most difficult passage. It speaks of being recompensed for our deeds, whether good or bad. While this verse seems to imply a negative punishment, I believe it must be understood in light of the Scriptures that clearly affirm all our sin has already been dealt with at the cross. It is also set in a context of hope, longing to be present with the Lord. It is unlikely that Paul would speak of longing to be with the Lord if he feared punishment. So, it seems best to take this passage as referring to an evaluation resulting in reward or loss of reward.
These passages lead me to believe that the Judgment of Believers is solely for the purpose of evaluating their life and ministry with the prospect of gain or loss of rewards.
This raises the question, what is the reward? Let’s look to the Scriptures again.
- Matthew 25:19-23 and Luke 19:16-19 indicate some authority over things in the Kingdom and sharing the Lord’s joy.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:19 indicates that people we have ministered to will be a “crown.”
- 1 Timothy 4:8 indicates that there will be a crown of righteousness.
- 1 Peter 5:4 speaks of a crown of glory.
The rewards are not fully defined, but we can be confident that God is and is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Sharing in the Lord’s Joy, seeing people who we ministered to in Heaven, righteousness and glory are amazing rewards. I hope this encourages you to rejoice in your relationship with Christ, minister with confidence, and long for the day of His coming.