The Bema Seat Judgement for the Believer

Sunday we dealt with the Bema Seat Judgement, the Throne of Rewards and Recompense for the Believer. This is a message that is part of our Last Days Series.

Here are the notes posted from that sermon. You can hear the sermon here:

THE BEMA SEAT DEFINED: 2 Cor 5:9-10  For 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 bad. (Note: In this second verse, the Greek word that is translated into English as “bad” is probably better understood as “worthless” or “useless to God’s kingdom”.)

Now the word Judgement here is not "krino" verb or "krima" which means condemnation, or even "katakrima" which is even a stronger word.  It is not damnation, condemnation, judgment, or punishment.  But, the word is "bema."  And it is the "bema" that was speaking of a reward. 

The Judgment Seat of Christ is reserved for the judgment of Christians only--born again believers in Christ Jesus. If a person is unsaved and dies in sin, he will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment following Christ's millennial reign on earth. Many times the Judgment Seat of Christ is referred to by Biblical scholars as “The Bema Seat”. The reason for this is that the phrase “judgment seat” is taken from one Greek word, “bema” which translated from Greek means "judgment seat". During the time of Christ, this word could refer to the platform on which a ruler or judge decided if a person was guilty of a crime. But in light of Paul’s many references to athletic competition in the New Testament, he was likely using the term as it applied to Greek sports. If the winner of a particular contest had followed the rules of competition and won, he was honored at the bema. There he was crowned with a laurel wreath.

In the city of Corinth, a stone platform was constructed to support the Bema seat (judgment seat) of the local officials. The seat was used to give out awards to athletes for their competitive performances (usually a crown wreath of leaves), but also to address legal charges brought against individuals. Seen used: Acts 18:12;   The bema was also a place to hear court cases and make legal decisions. A Roman magistrate, acting as judge, sat in a designated chair on the bema or tribunal, with the defendant and plaintiff standing before him. Paul stood before the judgment seats of Festus in Cæsarea (Acts 25) and Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17). Archaeologists have unearthed the bema in Corinth, and it can be seen today. In numerous places the bema was located, not in the region of the forum, but at the place where the Roman official decided to execute justice. In those cases, temporary platforms were erected with ceremonious chairs placed upon them (see Josephus, Wars 2.14.8). The most well-known biblical example of the bema is when the Lord Jesus stood before the bema of Pilate, placed in front of the Prætorium (Mt. 27:19; Jn. 19:13).

The Roman tribunal was not just a place to mete out judgment. It was also a place to distribute rewards. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus set up his tribunal, commended all of his troops, and rewarded those soldiers who had served with valor (Josephus, Wars 7.1.2-3)
  • The Judgment of believers will occur immediately following the rapture:
  • The rapture which includes our glorification/resurrection bodies
  • Exaltation into the heavens with the Lord
  • Examination before the Bema
  • Compensation or reward 


2 Tim 4:8; " Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. & 1 Cor 4:5 " Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." These two verses refer to rewards That Day

It is important to emphasize that the Judgment Seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ's sacrifice on behalf of the blood bought believer (1 John 2:2), and the believer's faith in Him (John 3:16). All confessed sins are forgiven and believers will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). To say otherwise would deny the completeness of the death of Jesus Christ, and nullify God's promise that "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17). 

The Bema Seat is a place of reward only - 2 Cor 9:4-27; 2 Tim 2:5 Paul tells us, in his letter to the Corinthians, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The Greek word translated as "bad" in this phrase, is based upon the Greek word Phaulos. According to Strong's dictionary (#5337), the primary definition of Phaulos is "easy, slight, ordinary, mean, worthless, of no account.


Key Verses on Rewards: Rom. 14:10-11; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 3:11-12.  3 Basis For Reward:
  • This things done motivated by God's Agape Love
  • Those things done by faith
  • Those things done in obedience to the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says that: "12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

1 Cor 4:5: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts:and then shall every man have praise of God.”

12 Things we will be rewarded by:
  1. How we treat other believers:  Hebrews 6:10, Matthew 10:41-42
  2. How we exercise our authority over others: Hebrews 13:17, James 3:1
  3. How we employ our God-given gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:4, 12:12, 12:2, 2 Timothy 1:6, 1 Peter 4:10 Add to these Scriptures Jesus' teaching of the parables of the ten pounds (Luke 19: 11-26) and the talents (Matthew 25:14-29). Each believer has at least one talent (1 Corinthians 7:12, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Peter 4:10). There are 18 of these gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4).
  4. How we use our money: 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  5. How we spend our time: Psalm 90:12, Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5, 1 Peter 1:17
  6. How we suffer: Matthew 5:11-12, Mark 10:29-30, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 4:12-13
  7. How we run the particular race God has chosen for us: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 2:16, 3:13-14, Hebrews 12:1
  8. How effectively we live in co-crucifixion with Christ: 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Corinthians 16:3, Philippians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4
  9. Our heart and vision to reach the lost: Proverbs 11:30, Daniel 12:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
  10. How we react to temptation: James 1:2-3, Revelation 3:10
  11. How much His Appearing means to us: 2 Timothy 4:8
  12. How faithful we are to the Word of God and the flock of God: Acts 20:26-28, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 1 Peter 5:2-4 
Also our motives will be rewarded: Mat 6:1-6: Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them:otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are:for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly

  • Ephesians 5:16-17 "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." 
  • 2 John 8: Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward  
  • 2 Corinthians 9:6 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”.  
 Thanks to Tom Steward for some of the content in this article