The Judgment Seat Of Christ


Many Christians believe that the Day is coming when Christ will return to ‘judge the world in righteousness’, Acts 20:31. For those who are ‘in Christ’, i.e., those who have obeyed the Gospel, Mark 16:16 / Acts 2:38, this is not a Day to fear because they have already been judged.

Having already been judged and acquitted in the person of the Lord Jesus as righteous, John 3:18, they will not again stand trial for their life, Romans 8:1. This verse quite literally says, ‘There is no sentence or condemnation to be served’ ‘katakrima’, for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

As long as Christians continue to walk in the light and confess their sins to God, 1 John 1:5-7, and as long as they remain faithful to death, Revelation 2:10, Christians have nothing to fear on Judgment Day, Psalm 103:10-12 / Micah 7:19.

A Different ‘Day’

Near the end of Paul’s life, He says that Jesus the righteous Judge will award him with the crown of righteousness on that day, 2 Timothy 4:7-8.

Is he speaking about judgment day or another day?

When we consider the ‘Day’ mentioned in Acts 17:31, ‘Judgment Day’ and contrast it with the ‘day’ that Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, we soon discover that the word ‘day’ is used in two very different contexts.

There is a difference between the two days which is important to understand. The ‘day’ mentioned in Acts 17:31 relates to sin and salvation, and therefore, concerns ‘those who are not in Christ’.

The ‘day’ mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 specifically concerns the saints, and only the saints, believers, and the relationship they have with their Lord.

The Judgment Seat

There was a ‘bema’, that is, a judgment seat in every Roman city, and it would be a place where the Roman authority in charge would judge the day-to-day matters brought before him.

Pilate sat on the judgment seat when Jesus was on trial, Matthew 27:19 / John 19:13. The apostle Paul was taken to the judgment seat of Gallio when the Jews complained against him, Acts 18:12. See also Acts 25:6 / Acts 25:10 / Acts 25:17.

The Judgment Seat Of Christ

There are two times in the Scriptures where we read about the ‘judgment seat of Christ’, Romans 14:10 / 2 Corinthians 5:10, and as we shall see, on both occasions when taken in their context, they are not dealing with non-Christians or salvation.

“So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” Romans 14:12

I’m sure you would have noticed that the context of Romans 14, is all about Christians judging other Christians. They were judging people because of what they ate, and because some kept special days, Romans 14:1-9.

The reason we cannot judge our brethren in such matters and are encouraged to stop doing so is because Christ Himself is the judge, Romans 14:10-13.

Notice that Paul is not addressing non-Christians but Christians. This cannot be applied to all matters of judging and it cannot refer to sinful practices or doctrinal differences, for it would contradict Jesus, John, and Paul himself, John 7:24 / 2 John 9-11 / 1 Corinthians 5:10-13.

It will be Christians who will stand before God’s judgment seat. Note that some translations have ‘Christ’s judgment seat’. The judgment will be conducted by the Lord Jesus, Matthew 25:31-46 / Acts 17:31. All judgment is committed to the Son, John 5:22 / John 5:27.

It is true to say that we will give an account to God, since Jesus is God, John 1:1 / John 1:14. Romans 14:11 is a quote from Isaiah 45:23. See also Philippians 2:9-11.

Christians, in some sense, have already bowed down to the Lordship of Christ and declared Him Lord of their lives, Romans 10:9-10.

Only Christians will stand at the judgment seat of God. Non-Christians will stand before an entirely different judgment, the judgment where all non-believers will be judged for rejecting Jesus as their Saviour, Revelation 20.11-15.

Remember Christians have already been judged, the text doesn’t say we must all be ‘judged’ before the judgment seat of Christ. It says we will stand before God’s judgment seat, and we will give an ‘account’ of ourselves to God, Hebrews 4:13.

‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad’. 2 Corinthians 5:10

In the context of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Paul says that the faithful Christian is ‘confident’ because while we live in these earthly bodies, we groan in pain, but we are not without hope, 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.

We will be resurrected from the dead one day, stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and live with the Lord forever if we have lived faithfully. Such hope motivates us to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ 2 Corinthians 5:6-7.

The Holy Spirit is given to us as a free gift at our baptism, Acts 2:38, and stands as God’s promise of eternal salvation and an eternal spiritual body, 2 Corinthians 5:5.

Paul and his preaching companions made it their ‘aim’, in life to live by the divine standard of truth and thereby be well-pleasing to the Father, 2 John 9. Paul’s consciousness of being a ‘citizen of heaven’, Philippians 3:20, is so deep that, as long as he is in his ‘physical body’ he is ‘away from home’! And he speaks about dying as ‘coming home’ to the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:6-9.

2 Corinthians 5:10 is very often mistakenly applied to the life of the ordinary Christian, when, in fact, a correct understanding of the problem with which Paul was dealing, was one which was affecting the church in Corinth at that time.

The words ‘good or bad’ conveys a mistaken impression. The word good is ‘agathos’ which means ‘benefit’ and the word for bad is ‘kakos’ which is more accurately translated, ‘worthless’.

The contrast isn’t between actions that are morally ‘good or evil’ but between that which abides in time of testing i.e. ‘of benefit’, and that which perishes i.e. ‘is worthless’. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he referred to work as being ‘tested’, 1 Corinthians 3:9-13.

Paul says that there will come a time when the work of every teacher and preacher will be tested. Here, the truth that is brought out primarily relates to the teachers and preachers. On that Day, the effectiveness of their work, i.e., the work of the preachers and teachers will be tested ‘as by fire’.

If a teacher’s work has been effective and has produced lasting results, it will be as though it has survived the fire and he will receive the Lord’s ‘Well done’, Matthew 25:23. But, if his work is shown to have been ineffective, he will receive no commendation. God will not be able to commend him.

This testing time will not affect a teacher’s salvation, because ‘works’ have nothing to do with salvation, since salvation does not depend on works of any kind, but on faith in the grace of God, Therefore, regardless of what happens to the work that has been done, those who serve God will still be saved, 1 Corinthians 3:15.

It’s very important to remember that Paul isn’t discussing the salvation of Christians or the destiny of the non-Christian, but service.

And it’s equally important to remember that in this section of his letter, he’s dealing particularly with the responsibility and accountability of those who along with himself, share the office of ‘apostle’.

Notice how in 1 Corinthians 3, he makes use of the personal pronouns, ‘you’ and ‘your’ when referring to the Corinthians themselves, and ‘we’ and ‘us’ when referring to the apostles and other preachers. He also reveals this distinction when he says, ‘You’ are God’s Field’, ‘We’ are His co-workers’, 1 Corinthians 3:9, etc.

Paul is saying that it’s the work of these servants of God, that will be tested. The passage isn’t discussing the service of the ordinary Christian but preachers and teachers.

In the context of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, he uses the word ‘we’ again and he uses the word to speak about himself and the other apostles.

So, he’s speaking about those who have the responsibility of preaching and teaching, however, as all Christians are commanded to teach others and preach the good news to others, Matthew 28:19-20 / 2 Timothy 2:2, the overall application applies to Christians.

Again, we must note that 2 Corinthians 5:10, doesn’t say we must all be ‘judged’ before the judgment seat of Christ. It says, “for we must all ‘appear’ before the judgment seat of Christ”. Appear ‘phaneroo’ means to show, declare, manifest. This means that the Lord will make us see our lives as He sees them.


Romans 14:10-12 clearly implies that the judgment seat of Christ will be an occasion of accounting. 2 Corinthians 5:10 provides even more insight into this future accounting.

Standing and appearing before the judgment seat of Christ in both passages has nothing to do with being judged for salvation, it has nothing to do with non-Christians being judged. They both speak about Christians and Christians only giving an account.

The judgment seat of Christ will be an occasion where the Lord Jesus Christ will hold all Christians accountable for the things we have done in the body, whether good (benefit) or bad (worthless).

Different Christians have different gifts, and different opportunities to serve others, but each one of us is expected to be faithful, 1 Corinthians 4:2. Good works are works of righteousness and bad works are works of unrighteousness, Matthew 6:1-2 / James 2:17-26 / 1 John 2:29 / 1 John 3:7.

When we do our works here on earth, people can see what we have done, but they may not know why we did these works. Our heart, which is the source of our motive and attitude, is hidden from them.

At the judgment seat of Christ, the ‘motives of the heart” will be brought to light. That which might have been hidden before men will then be fully seen and known, 1 Corinthians 4:5.


If Christians are already saved, then why are Christians to give an account to God? The fire of Christ’s judgment will determine the quality and durability of each Christian’s service, not for the purpose of punishing sin but for the purpose of determining the reward to be given.

The judgment seat of Christ does not determine whether we are saved or not, but rewards believers based on their service for the Lord, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.

Dr. Constable’s Expository Notes says the following:

‘The idea is not that God will reward us for the good things we did and punish us for the bad things we did. He will rather reward us for the worthwhile things we did and not reward us for the worthless things we did, Matthew 6:19-21 / 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The worthwhile things are those that contribute to the advancement of God’s mission and glory in the world. Worthless deeds are those that make no contribution to the fulfilment of God’s good purposes, Matthew 25:14-30 / Luke 19:11-27.’

When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ on that day, the work we have done will become clear i.e., evident, known. God will test each one’s work and reveal, i.e., uncover, unveil, every aspect of the work to determine what sort it is.

Any work that endures will be rewarded. Any work that is burned up will not be rewarded, and thus the person will ‘suffer loss’ of that reward, he would suffer the loss of joy and glory, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 / Galatians 4:11, but the person himself will be saved.

Jesus Himself in the Sermon on the Mount tells us over and over again that Christians will be rewarded, Matthew 5:11-12 / Matthew 6:1-6 / Matthew 6:16-18 / Matthew 6:20.

Jesus also tells us that He will reward each person according to what He has done, i.e., based upon what Christians did while they were still alive, Matthew 16:27.

In Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the Tenants, Jesus clearly tells His followers that the Kingdom of Heaven would be a place where individual saved believers would be rewarded according to their deeds.

If Christians do a lot with what God has given them, then they will get a greater reward in Heaven. If Christians don’t do anything with what God has given them, then they shouldn’t be surprised if what they have is taken from them, Matthew 25:29.

Paul knew his work here on earth was important because it produced believers who would then someday join him in Heaven, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20. Paul understood what Daniel taught hundreds of years before, the more people you bring to Christ, the greater your reward in heaven will be.

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3

Wayne Jackson says the following:

‘Note the term “many,” as compared to fewer. There clearly is implied a level of reward commensurate with one’s evangelistic labours.’

Albert Barnes, in his commentary, says the following:

‘The suggestion is that the righteous will “be honoured in proportion to their toils, their sacrifices, and their success.”

H. C. Leupold, says the following:

‘The glorious reward of the righteous “is in proportion to the works that are done.”


When we take everything, we’ve looked at into consideration, it’s clear that God loves to reward His children for their faithfulness and the rewards which He gives appear to be different roles of responsibility.

Jesus told His disciples that their reward would be increased, and they would have more responsibilities. He told them they would be rewarded with roles as the ‘judges’ over the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:28-30.

In the parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus says the rest of us Christians will also earn greater responsibilities as the result of our efforts here on earth along with the ‘well done’. Since we have been faithful with a few things, we will be put in charge of many things, Matthew 24:21 / Matthew 25:23.

If God has given us different gifts and responsibilities while we are still alive, Ephesians 4:11 / Romans 12:3-8, then it shouldn’t surprise us if God wants to utilise those gifts in heaven to serve Him, Revelation 22:3.


‘Judgment Day’ will be the day when those who are not ‘in Christ’ will be condemned but those who are ‘in Christ’ will appear before the judgment seat of Christ for commendation.

In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul wasn’t referring to Judgment Day, as he, like all Christians had already been judged and saved in Christ, but the day when he would stand before the judgment seat of Christ at his death to give an account of his work and deeds.

As we have shown in this study, the judgment seat of Christ has nothing to do with salvation and nothing to do with non-Christians, it is the place where saved Christians will give an account to God for judging any other Christians inappropriately and they will give an account concerning their good or bad acts of righteousness, Matthew 6:1-2. Note that we will answer for what we have done, not for what others do.

We must learn to keep things in their context so that we don’t use these texts to mean something they don’t mean or to apply to people, they weren’t meant to be applied to, that is non-Christians, 1 Corinthians 4:6.

Many Christians have built up a great reward in heaven, but we must ensure that we don’t forfeit those rewards, 2 John 4-10. John does not want anyone of us to lose our ‘full reward”.

He doesn’t want anyone to get to heaven and receive only a portion of what could have been theirs. He wants us to get all the rewards God wants us to have.

“Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” 2 John 4:8