The Bema-Seat Judgment
The English word bema is a transliteration of the Geek word “bema.” Literally, it means a step or an elevated platform. It came to be used by the Greeks to mean a dais from which orations are made, usually in an amphitheater. Later the term was used by the Romans to designate a magistrate court or tribunal.
At the Bema-Seat judgment, the resurrected saints of all ages are judged. This is a trial, of their works for the purpose of reward, not whether or not they will enter into Heaven; for they are already in Heaven. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote:
“for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”(2 Cor.5:10).
In Romans 14:10-12, Apostle Paul wrote:
“but why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, as I live saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God”( Rom.14:10-12).
However, it in the book of 1 Corinthians that Paul gives a vivid and somber picture of what the Bema-Seat judgment will be like.
“… I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth therein. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 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. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet as by fire”(I Cor.3:6-15).
Our works shall be judged on whether they are good or bad, and if good on their motives, whether they are based on the love of God or selfish motives, self-aggrandizement or in order to gain control of the lives of others. Those who are saved by fire are the compromising Christians who are untaught and unprepared for the fiery testing of the antiChrist. Because they have not kept God’s instruction concerning perseverance, they cannot enjoy the protection of God during the fiery trial by the antiMessiah. They shall bear the full brunt of the persecution by the antiChrist, but nonetheless shall be saved “yet as by fire”(1 Cor.3:15).
The Timing Of The Bema-Seat Judgment.
The scripture is very clear as to the timing of the Bema-Seat judgment. It is pinpointed as occurring after the blowing of the seventh trumpet, during the 30-day Reclamation Period of the kingdom following the close of the seventieth week of Daniel. Because the seventh trumpet is sounded on day 5/6 of the 30-day Reclamation Period of the kingdom, the Bema-Seat judgment must occur within the 24-25 days between the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the battle of Armageddon; for Christ must of necessity come back to the Earth for the final showdown at Armageddon.
“and the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this World are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, we give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servant the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the Earth”(Rev.11:15-18).
When the seventh trumpet sounds, rule over the Earth is returned to Almighty God. The rulers of the kingdoms of this World would get angry. God responds to their anger by pouring the remaining wrath of God, the seven bowls on the living wicked earth-dwellers, and desroying those who destroy the Earth. At this time also He rewards His servants the prophets and the saints, and all those who fear His name, in preparation for His retaking physical possession of the Earth. Whilst the Bema-Seat judgment is taking place in Heaven, God will begin the destruction of those who destroy the Earth in final seven bowl judgments.
At the Bema-Seat judgment believers are rewarded with crowns. Because the twenty-four elders wear crowns, pretribulation rapturists identify them as representatives of the church who wear crowns received at the Bema-Seat judgment. The twenty-four elders are seen wearing crowns before the seals are broken(Rev.4:4; cf Rev.6:1-12). They reason therefore that the Rapture must have taken place before the seals were broken. In other words, the Bema-Seat judgment must have taken place before the start of the seventieth week inasmuch as the breaking of the first seal marks the commencement of the 70th week of Daniel, and the Rapture therefore pretribulational. The elders’ crowns(Rev.4:4,10) are taken to be Bema-Seat rewards, and therefore prove that the Bem-Seat judgment has already taken place.
As we have seen, the Bema-Seat judgment occurs after the blowing of the seventh trumpet, which occurs on day 5 or 6 of the 30-day Reclamation Period of the kingdom, after the end of the seventieth week of Daniel, thus making that interpretation biblically inaccurate and impossible. Besides, there are two Greek words translated crowns, “diadem” and “stephanos.” (Stephanos) refers to a crown more elaborate. It is the crown worn by the twenty-four elders and the locusts that emerged from the shaft of the abyss(Rev.4:4; 9:7,8).
Whilst Jesus Christ the Son Of God holds court over the church at the Bem-Seat judgment, God the Father Himself will hold another court where an immeasurable and more severe punishment will be meted out to Satan, the antiChrist and the Final Beast Empire, and other wicked kings and inhabitants of the Earth.
“and I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient Of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheel as burning fire, and a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousands thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set and the books were opened. And I beheld then because of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame”(Dan.7:9-11).
The Marriage Of The Lamb
The execution of the sentence handed down by the Father’s Supreme Court in Heaven, will be meted out by the seven avenging angelic reapers. This final wrath of God is contained in the final seven bowl judgments. Whilst God’s angelic reapers administer the final punishment of God on His enemies, the antiMessiah and the final beast empire, the saints of God will receive their rewards at the Bema-Seat judgment, being made ready to become the bride of Christ at the Marriage of the Lamb.
The second great and glorious event that will take place in heaven while the wicked inhabitants of the Earth are being punished by the last avenging angels is the marriage of the Lamb. It will be stupendously glorious. It is another great event which both the church and Christ are eager to witness. All the heavenly dwellers look forward to it.
“and I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thundering, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints”(Rev.19:6-8).
The Bema- Seat judgment is over, the saints are wearing their star-studded crowns, arrayed in fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints. The marriage of the Lamb to His bride has come. It is an occasion of magnificent splendour. The Father will spare nothing in the marriage of His Only Begotten Son. To attend earthly wedding, men put on their best. So also at the marriage of the Lamb, the heavens blaze forth their glories.
As for the bride, it will be something else. Washed in the blood of the Lamb, spotlessly clean, arrayed in fine linen, and decorated with star-studded crowns, we shall stand in His glorious presence faultless with exceeding joy(Jud.24).
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless”(2 Pet.3:14).
Out of deep-seated and heartfelt gratitude to God, every believer should live in purity, in doctrine and in our manner of life in order that he or she might be blameless in the Day Of Our Lord Jesus Christ(1 Cor.1:8). Sadly enough, many of us fail in this regard. For this reason, the last days will be a time of great trial, and testing. During this time, the compromising believers who have not heeded Christ’s instruction concerning perseverance shall undergo the great persecution of Satan’s wrath at the hand of the antiChrist, in order to refine and purify the church for her exalted status of becoming the pure and spotless bride of Christ.
Who Is The Bride Of Christ?
It is commonly taught and generally well accepted that the church is the bride of Christ, and I share that view. However, there are some that believe and teach that the bride of Christ will consist of the saints of all ages, and go through a lengthy argument, with all the mental, and scriptural gymnastics to prove it. I believe that the bride of Christ consists only of the saints of the church age for the following reasons:
(1) Jesus said, ” Of all those born of women, none is greater than John the Baptizer, but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he(Matt.11:11).
(2) John the Baptist himself said that he that has the bride is the bridegroom. By that we understand that he was referring to Jesus. But the bridegroom’s friend stands beside Him and hears His voice. In this my joy is fulfilled. If John the Baptist were the friend of the bridegroom, would he also be part of the bride?
(3) If the saints of all ages were part of the bride of the Lamb, all the other attendees would be angels only. In all probability, the multitude spoken about at the marriage of the Lamb, other than the bride are not only angels(Rev.19:6-8).
(4) The classic NT passage teaches that as the husband is the head of the wife, even so is Christ the head of the church and saviour of the body.
“for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle,or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”(Eph.5:23-27).
(5) The OT refers to Israel as the wife of God, estranged from her husband but not divorced, and will be reconciled to Him at the end of the ages.
“thus saith the Lord, where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold for your iniquities have you sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away”(Is.50:1).
“For thy maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is His name; and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: The God of the whole earth shall He be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou was refused, saith thy God. For a small moment I have forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee”(Is.54:5-7).
(6) Ezek.16:6-14 shows us when the Lord entered into a marriage covenant with Israel. The prophet Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is a graphic illustration of the same marriage relationship. But Israel played the harlot, became estranged from her husband but not divorced. All the prophets are unequivocal in speaking about the reconciliation of Israel to her Maker and husband( Ezek.16:60-63; Is.54:7-10). If the OT saints are part of the bride of Christ, they would be married to God twice. And there is no reason for that. The prophet Hosea wrote:
“Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an an adulteress, according to the love of The Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love flagons of wine…… For the children of Israel will abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without a teraphim: afterwards shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days”(Hos.3:1-5).
(7) One of the reasons adduced to prove that the OT saints are part of the bride of Christ is that both the OT and NT saints are the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem that cometh down from Heaven, and rests atop The Millennilal Temple on Mount Zion. The fact that both the OT and NT saints are dwellers of the new and heavenly Jerusalem does not prove the OT saints are part of the bride of the Lamb, neither does the fact that we have all one spiritual father, Abraham, the father of the faithful. Not everyone who lives in the same house with the head of the house is married to the man of the house. In the same manner, in the new and heavenly Jerusalem, there are many inhabitants but only one wife of the Lamb, the NT saints.
(8) The other reasons, there no two classes of believers, we are citizens of the same kingdom, are begging the question.
(9) Incidentally, those who teach that the OT saints are part of the bride of Christ, also teach that the OT saints will be raptured with the church at the same time. If this is the case, what shall we do with the scripture that says many OT saints rose from the dead and appeared to many in the city of Jerusalem at the resurrection of Christ(Matt.27:52,53)? Did their eternal immortal resurrection bodies return to their graves after they rose with Christ from the dead? We conclude therefore that the OT saints are already risen from the dead. They have received their eternal immortal resurrection bodies. They now reside with Christ in Heaven, where they play angelic roles.
The two classic Rapture passages, 1 Thess.4:13-18 and 1 Cor.15:50-52, teach that the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then we that are alive and remain shall be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air, so shall we ever be with the Lord. Moreover, when the raptured saints arrived in Heaven, they were described as those who came out of the great tribulation(Rev.7:9-17). The OT saints will in no way go through the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist.