The Word of God contains many promises that are, in effect, prophecies of what will come about when time and certain conditions are met in this world. The fact that people are getting saved today is fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
Another prophecy is the building of "the church," stated in Matthew 16. The "church," which is to be the "Bride of Christ" and consists of all believers, is being built today by the power and will of God.
As I see it, the next phase in God's plan for the Believer is the "Rapture," followed by the "Judgment Seat of Christ" in heaven where the works of the Believer in Christ will be evaluated and judged as to their eternal value. 2 Corinthians 5:10: ďFor we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or worthless.Ē
This is not a matter of our salvation or of sin but of the eternal worth of our service for Christ in this life. God promises that our labor for Him is going to be rewarded.
Before we take up the activities at the Judgment Seat of Christ, letís look at what Scripture has to say about our works for the true church as believers.
1 Corinthians 3:8-11. ďNow he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9: For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10: According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11: For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Verse 8 relates to working for God, and the Lord Jesus Himself could say, in John 5:17, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." He was indicating that His work on earth was to raise the dead, deliver the captives, set the prisoners free. He would die on the cross to defeat sin and death and Satan, and establish a way for the believer in Him to spend eternity in an everlasting rest. That is the work His Father sent Him to do. John:17:4, He said, ďI have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.Ē
In connection with spreading the gospel and building the church, Paul says, in verse 9, "for we are laborers together with God." It is a joint venture and our present time on earth is not a time of rest. Paul is making known the fact that the believers in Christ Jesus are to work together with God to build His church. Philippians 2:13, "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The Holy Spirit is our Motivator and we must realize that it is to be done in Godís will and in His power. It will not be acceptable if itís done in our will alone. We must work together with God and with other Christians to spread the Gospel. From verse 8 we see that "He that planteth and he that watereth are one.Ē
We are going to be rewarded for works well done. The motivation for our service should be our love for Christ. There is a day coming when "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." (verse 8)
A Christian who is walking in fellowship with God will be serving God, not simply for the hope of reward, but for the opportunity of showing the Lord that we love Him and want to serve and honor Him in our lives. Works that God will consider wood, hay, and stubble can be found anywhere. Works that God considers as gold, silver, and precious stones are those honoring the Lord and producing fruit for the kingdom.
Every believer in Jesus Christ is saved eternally so it is a question of what we have done after we are saved that is regarded as worthwhile. The issue of salvation is not in question at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Any reward we fail to receive will be because of a neglected opportunity to serve God. Scripture calls these rewards crowns but doesnít tell us exactly what these crowns are. Each person will be judged and rewarded on what was done with his opportunities to serve God. Believers will not all have exactly the same gifts, opportunities, or responsibilities. Revelation 22:3 simply states ďhis servants will serve him.Ē
If we serve the Lord sincerely we will be rewarded. God is the Judge of what is of eternal value. It comes down to this; itís not quantity, itís quality. Itís not effort, itís motive. God will appraise the motive and effort each one of us put into our service for Him. It may seem that someone got the credit for another man's work, but God knows who to credit.
Paul likens our service to planting a crop and tending it until harvest. Planting and watering seem rather unspectacular when compared to the harvest, but God knows the proper value of service. The Judgment Seat of Christ will declare every motive, every act of service. Christ will make it known to whom the credit is due.
Christian men and women are wonderfully privileged to be workers together with God and to be workers together with one another in spreading the plan of salvation that frees mankind from the power of Satan. The foundation work for this so great a salvation was laid at Calvary's cross where the Lord alone was the Worker. Jesus said, in John 19:30, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit."
In verse 9 of our Corinthian text, Paul writes: "ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." Each believer in Christ is Godís worker and is to work with other believers in building this magnificent structure made of ďliving stones,Ē and every believer is a ďliving stone.Ē We are God's building.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15. "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13: Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14: If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15: If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
I believe that in a general way, there are four judgments of God. I believe the "Judgment Seat of Christ" is often not clearly understood by many of the Lord's people.
The first of these judgments is the judgment of God against sin. That took place when Godís wrath passed over Christ in judgment for the sins of the world there on the cross of Calvary. That judgment was borne completely by Christ and those who are sheltered by His precious blood will never face judgment, according to our Lord's promise in John 5:24: "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life."
God's judgment against sin was complete and the penalty for sin was paid in full by Christ on Calvary's cross. There is no fear of a coming judgment for any sin for the believer.
The second judgment is in 1 Corinthians 3, namely, the "Judgment Seat of Christ," but Iíll come back to that after I cover the third and fourth judgments.
The third judgment is made up of a series of judgments as spelled out in Revelation 6 through 19. It includes the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of God which are poured out upon the living nations of the earth during "The Great Tribulation," the time between the rapturing of God's people to meet the Lord in the air and the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ to set up His kingdom on earth. These judgments cover approximately seven years.
The fourth and final judgment will be the "Great White Throne Judgment" which will occour at the end of the 1000 year earthly reign of Christ and only the wicked dead will be there. All the people, of all time, that have died in their sins will be there for the last judgment, and Christ Himself will open the books. Those whose names are not found written in the "Lambís Book of Life" will be cast into the lake of fire. There will be no believers in Christ there, only those who, in their lifetime, refused God's offer of salvation. Those who rejected Christ will be banished from God's presence forever.
Going back now, the second judgment is the "Judgment Seat of Christ" as it is described in 1 Corinthians 3 and elsewhere. It is not a scene of condemnation; it is a scene of appraisal and reward. Our service for God in our lives as Christians will be reviewed there. That service will be tested by the fire that is symbolic of the righteousness of God. Each believer's work must stand upon its own merit. All the things we have done to gain manís rewards or approval and not the approval of God will be judged as wood, hay, or stubble, and be cast aside and burned. The things we have done because we wanted to truly serve the Lord and that are of lasting value will be judged as gold and silver and precious stones, and will remain for eternity.
There is not the slightest hint we might lose our salvation at the judgment seat of Christ. The Lord has been very careful to tell us, in verse 15, "but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." We will not be judged on account of sin; that judgment was made at the cross. We shall stand before God as a new creation in Christ and we will enter the eternal state as sons of God and as joint heirs with His Son, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Earlier, Paul has been setting forth that he and Apollos and other servants of the Lord had "worked together with God" building the Temple of God. Together they had been laying "the foundation which is Jesus Christ."
The temple of God is centered in the hearts of men and in the church, and Paul cautioned those who came after him to be careful how they built upon the foundation that had been laid.
There is a day coming when God will display the church as a finished structure and the wood, hay and stubble will be gone, consumed by Godís righteous fire, while the gold, silver and precious stones will stand the test and will remain for all eternity.
Paul brings us back to the reality of the practical issues with this; "know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
God is building in the hearts of men. Letís look at the Apostle Paul as an example. Paul, known as Saul of Tarsus, stood by and watched with indifference as Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony of faith in Christ. When Stephenís face shone like the face of an angel, Paulís determination to stamp out the name of Christ increased. He made threats against all Christians and set about to have them killed. God struck him down on the Damascus Road and it was there in his weakness that he realized he was persecuting the Living God and he cried out "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
In Damascus, the Lord said to him, in Acts 9:15-16, ďGo thy way: for you are a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.Ē
Later on Paul would stand before his Christian brethren at Corinth "in weakness, in fear and in much trembling." Spiritual values had been built into his soul and pride and self confidence were gone. Godís construction work went on in Paul day by day through dangers innumerable, through trials unspeakable, but his soul was devoted to the Lord he loved. God had promised He would reveal Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, kings, and Israel through Paul, but the devotion to Christ had to be built into Paul before it could be displayed. This construction program is going on in the believer now the same as it was in Paul.
Every true believer is the object of the constructive work of God. It is not some grand cathedral that God considers His temple, it is the believer in Christ Jesus that is His Temple. The Holy Spirit has taken a place in our hearts and we have become the dwelling place of God here on earth. Together, all the believers in Christ make up the church of God. Everyone who is born of God has received the gift of eternal life and is a living stone.
After we get saved, Christians are left in this world to show forth the grace of God who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. The Lord Jesus personally is absent from this world, but the testimony to His grace shows forth through His people.
When the Lord Jesus was here, men could look at Him and see in Him the Godhead bodily in all fullness. Men can see the Lord Jesus today portrayed in His people. We are Godís temple and God's temple is set apart exclusively to display God here in this world and every believer is considered by God to be a part of His temple.
Verse 17: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." Scripture warns us to be very careful to keep God's building holy and undefiled. The truth of this verse canít be overestimated, and it is a verse over which there has been some difficulty. Notice it does not say, "which temple ye ought to be." It says, "which temple ye are."
Paul warns us here that God will destroy those who defile His temple. The difficulty here usually involves the word "destroy." Some believe that to indicate that a person can be once saved and then lost.
This is not a question of losing oneís salvation. God will not go back on His promise. After having saved a soul, He will not then condemn that soul to a lost eternity. God is doing constructive works in the hearts of His people and anyone who hinders or frustrates that work will suffer the consequences God sees fit to put upon him.
This was illustrated in scripture when the Corinthians indulged in sinful practices. 1 Corinthians 11:30. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and some have fallen asleep." God took them out of this world and to be with Himself. That took away their privilege to continue as witnesses for Christ on the earth because their sinful lifestyle defiled them as His temple.
In our endeavor to work for Christ we sometimes see what we are doing as an isolated work that is too unproductive to be worthwhile. If we only see our own little corner we have a very limited outlook. We need to take a look at the finished structure and God has graciously given us a word picture of that building as it will look when it is finished.
Revelation 21:2. ďAnd I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.Ē It will be a city of gold.
We are not simply laying bricks, we are building His church, a magnificent spiritual edifice that will stand throughout all eternity as a witness to the handiwork of God who, in infinite grace, has chosen to use human instruments to do His building. If we keep this in mind, it may change our outlook on our Christian service.
Here are some words of encouragement for us:
Romans 5:1. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..."
2 Timothy 4:8. ďHenceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
Our salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and is not based on any works on the part of the believer. Believers are already forgiven of sin, justified, and declared righteous. However, God wants the good works of the believer, and God has trusted us with the responsibility of serving Him effectively.
Ephesians 2:10. "You are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained
that we should walk in them."