Bema Seat – What Is It and When Is It?
The concept of the Bema Seat comes from the ancient Olympics, where a judge would sit on the Bema Seat at the finish line. The judge’s purpose was to determine what position the runners came in-first, second, and so on-and then to give out the appropriate rewards. That is the imagery behind what is known as the Bema Seat.

Also known as the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema Seat is described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 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. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Your gold, silver, and costly stones are works done for the glory of God, with the right motive, and in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is some debate as to the exact timing of the Bema Seat. Some understand it to occur at the moment of death for each believer. Others believe the Bema Seat to occur during the end times, with all believers being judged at that time. It does not truly matter when the Bema Seat occurs. It is far more important that we be prepared for the Bema Seat.

Bema Seat – What It Isn’t
The Bema Seat judgment does not determine salvation. Rather, it is when believers must give an account of their lives to Christ. It is very important to not confuse the Bema Seat with the Great White Throne judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 describe this judgment, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The Great White Throne is where those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are judged and condemned.

In contrast, the Bema Seat is for believers whose salvation has already been secured by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). We should not focus on the Bema Seat as Christ judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us according to our lives. Yes, we will surely have to give an account of our lives. Romans 14:10-12 explains, “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Part of this judgment is answering for the sins we committed. At the same time, I do not think judgment is going to be the focus of the Bema Seat.

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul gives the Corinthian church an illustration of the Bema Seat, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Paul is teaching us that all Christians will stand before the Bema Seat of Christ. At the Bema Seat, Jesus Christ will bring to light every deed-good or bad-that each believer has done on earth since he or she became a Christian. Every Christian will be rewarded based on his words, deeds, and faithfulness.

At the Bema Seat – What Will Our Judgment Be Based Upon?
At the Bema Seat of Christ, believers will be rewarded according to how faithfully they served, obeyed, and followed Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 9:4-27 for a detailed explanation.)

Some of the things we will likely be judged on are:

  • whether we fulfilled our role in the Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”
  • how victorious we were over sin. Romans 6:1-4 reminds us, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
  • whether we were successful in controlling our tongue. James 3:1-9 says, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
  • whether the fruit of the Spirit was manifest in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

The Bible mentions Christians receiving crowns for various aspects of the Christian life and they are described in 2 Timothy 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.” James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” In response, believers will cast their crowns before the Lord’s throne saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11).Bema Seat – What is a Believer’s Response?
Are you prepared to stand before the Bema Seat of Christ? In Revelation 22:12, Jesus Christ declares, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Do you live your life out of gratitude for what Christ has accomplished for you? Our motivation for serving Christ is not the rewards in heaven, but rather a grateful and loving heart that sacrificially gives back to God. As a result of your love for Christ and appreciation for His of death on your behalf, serve God with all your heart and you will be rewarded at the Bema Seat. May the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 be true of us all! “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.



From the

Greek, like English, uses the word “judge” in two senses. One sense in condemnation, while the other sense is the giving out of rewards. The Bible says unbelievers will be judged in the first sense – condemnation, while believers will be judged in the other sense – rewards.

Judgment Seat

The Bible speaks of a special judgment that God will hold for believers only. It is known as the judgment seat of Christ, or the judgment seat of God. Paul wrote.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what we have done whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

All believers will stand before God and be individually judged.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10).

What will happen at this judgment seat? Who will be judged? The Scriptures have the following to say.

Church Only

The participants in the judgment seat of Christ are members of the New Testament church. These are people who have trusted Christ as Savior from the Day of Pentecost, until the coming of Christ for His church. It does not include the Old Testament believers. They will have a separate time of judgment and reward.

Our Actions Will Be Judged

The Bible says that God will reward the actions of believers.

and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely You will reward each person according to what He has done (Psalm 62:12).

Jesus said.

For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what He has done (Matthew 16:27).

Paul wrote.

Knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free (Ephesians 6:8).

At The Rapture Of The Church

At some time in the future, the Lord will come back for those who have believed upon Him. He will change their bodies from corruptible to incorruptible.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord Himself, with a shout, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

After this event, those believers will go to the judgment seat of Christ. Judgment always comes after resurrection.

Not Judged For Sin

This is not a judgment to determine who will enter heaven. The sins of believers will not be an issue at the judgment seat of Christ – they have already been forgiven. The Bible says.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12).

Our sins have been removed. Micah wrote.

He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Destiny Of Christian Has Been Settled

With the death of Christ on the cross, the destiny of the Christian has been once-and-for-all settled. There is no condemnation for those who have believed in Christ. Paul wrote.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Have Eternal Life

Those who have trusted Christ now possess eternal life.

I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; He has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

Curse Removed

The curse against believers has been removed.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

Price Paid

Jesus has paid the price for our sins.

He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).

Sin Offering

He presented Himself as a sin offering on our behalf.

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The believers judgment, with respect to sin, is long past.


Therefore, the judgment seat of Christ is not designed to punish believers, but rather to reward them for their faithful service. All of us will give an account of what we have done after trusting Christ as Savior. Therefore, the judgment seat of Christ is a judgment of believers works after salvation. Paul gave this analogy.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it . . . Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and fire will try each one’s work, of what sort it is (1 Corinthians 3:10,12,13).

The Bema Seat

The judgment seat is known as the “bema.” The word is also translated court or tribunal. The platform could be either public (John 19:13) or private (Acts 25:22).

Tribunal For Rewards

The bema is a tribunal for rewards. In the large Olympic arenas, there was an elevated seat on which the judge of the contest sat. After the contests were over, the successful competitors would assemble before the bema to receive their rewards or crowns. The bema was not a judicial bench where someone was condemned; it was a reward seat. Likewise, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judicial bench. The Christian life is a race, and the divine umpire is Jesus Christ. After the race is over for each believer, He will gather every member before the bema for the purpose of examining each one and giving the proper reward to each.

Some Suffer Loss

Not everyone will receive the same reward. At the judgment seat of Christ, there will be those who suffer loss.

If anyone’s work is burned, they will suffer loss; but they themselves will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15).


The judgment will be by fire. Fire is used in Scripture as a symbol of judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah were judged with fire.

Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the LORD out of the heavens (Genesis 19:24).

The Bible describes the glorified Christ in this manner.

His head and His hair were white as white wool, white as snow; His eyes were like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14).

Fire often symbolizes the holiness of God.

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).

Without Shame

Believers want to appear without shame before this seat.

And now little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28).

Full Reward

Believers will receive a full reward for their deeds of faith.

Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we have worked for, but that we may receive a full reward (2 John 8).

Be Careful Not To Lose Reward

Scripture warns believers about losing their reward.

Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown (Revelation 3:11).

This is loss of reward, not of salvation.


We can illustrate the loss of reward in the following manner: Let us say you have recently built a new two story house. While on the second floor, you smell smoke. Looking downstairs you see that the first floor is on fire. You jump out the second story window to save your life. You then watch your new house burn to the ground. Obviously you will have mixed emotions. You’re thankful that you were able to jump and save your life, but you sad because your new house is destroyed. This is similar to those believers who are saved but have nothing to show for it. They squandered their opportunities to live for Christ yet they are enjoying the benefits of heaven with Jesus.

Position Of Honor

All who experience the judgment seat of Christ will possess the privileges and honors as children of God. Jesus said He will acknowledge those who have believed in Him before His Father, and before the angels.

Therefore whoever confesses Me before humanity, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

Gifts To Be Received

The Apostle Paul, speaking of God’s gifts, said.

But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:9,10).

Rewards Proportionate

The rewards that the believer receives will be proportionate to the faithfulness they show in this life. The key is faithfulness to the gifts God has given.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Different Degrees Of Rewards

Jesus spoke of different degrees of rewards in a parable that He gave.

Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities (Luke 19:17).

To another one he said.

His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities’ (Luke 19:19).


The rewards believers will receive are called crowns. Paul wrote.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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 (2 Timothy 4:7).

Book Of Life

Those who overcome will have their names written in the Book of Life:

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Revelation 3:4,5).

Believers will be clothed in white garments, having their names written in the Book of Life. In addition, they will be acknowledged before the Father and the holy angels.

After Rapture

The judging of believers will occur after the rapture of the church, but before the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. In the Book of Revelation we are told.

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8).

We are told that the bride is clothed with righteous deeds. The church, therefore, has already been at the judgment seat of Christ because they are ready for the groom when He comes. Hence the judgment takes place sometime before the Second Coming of Christ.


The judgment seat of Christ is a time of examination and reward. From Scripture we can conclude the following concerning the judgment seat of Christ, the bema.

1. The Lord will resurrect the bodies of the saints who have died during the church age, as well as change the bodies of those still alive.

2. They will meet the Lord in the air and proceed to the judgment seat of Christ.

3. This judgment will consist of rewards for faithful service. There will be no condemning anyone.

4. Rewards will consist of crowns given to believers based upon our faithful service to Him. The rewards will be proportionate to our faithfulness.


From J. Hampton Keathley …


The BEMA (Judgment Seat of Christ)

Does the fact that we are confident of our salvation because of the finished work of Christ mean we can be indifferent about our lifestyle? Does assurance of salvation promote promiscuous Christian living and faulty stewardship? No, not if one understands the whole counsel of the Word.

Every believer as a child of God is a steward to whom God has entrusted stewardships of time, talents (spiritual gifts included), God’s truth, and treasures. A steward is someone who manages the property or equipment of another. What does this mean? The apostle Paul teaches us “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” God holds us responsible for what we do with our stewardship, and a day will come when we will be held accountable for what we have done with the life God has given us. This is the point of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15:

12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Note the contrast here. The believer is in heaven because of what Jesus did, but accountable reward-wise for what he did with the life and gifts God gave him. Again, listen to Radmacher’s comments on this:

As I write these words, I stand in God’s sight faultless and perfect because God Almighty sees me through Jesus Christ. There is no compromise to that. No one who knows Jesus Christ will ever appear at the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20. Believers shall appear, however, at the Judgment Seat of Christ (the Bema) and will be judged by their works (2 Cor. 5:10). It is significant to note that both the unregenerate and the regenerate will be judged by their works. The unregenerate will be judged by their works at the Great White Throne Judgment and the results of that judgment will be degrees of eternal punishment in hell. The regenerate will be judged by their works at the Bema and the result of that judgment will be either be reward or the lack of it.12

In lesson 7 we will cover the Judgment Seat of Christ in detail, but for now, it is sufficient for us to realize that while we are secure in the Savior as far as heaven is concerned, we have a wonderful stewardship for which we are each responsible. Our need is to be disciplined through God’s grace unto godliness which has a promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. 8 For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.


Our Final Exam

The Bema Seat

There are three principal judgments that are often confused: the Bema Seat Judgment, the Sheep and Goat Judgment, and the Great White Throne. They are each quite different.

They say experience is a hard teacher because it gives the test first and the lessons afterward. However, we have ample lessons in life well in advance of our final exam. Paul has given us numerous written guides to help us prepare for it.[1]

Yet we all do have a last “final exam” still ahead of us: “We must all appear before the Bema seat of Christ…”[2] And every day that our Lord tarries gives us an additional day to prepare for it.

What is the “Bema seat”? Where will it be held? When is it given? What is at stake? What are the grading criteria?

The Bema Seat

This judgment is often taught as simply an awards ceremony, but that is not entirely correct. It was the tribunal seat, the judicial bench, the judgment seat, or throne of the one in charge. Herod Agrippa I addressed the people of Tyre and Sidon from his Bema seat.[3] Jesus was brought before Pilate[4] and his Bema seat. Paul was accused before Proconsul Gallio;[5] and brought before Festus at Caesarea[6] facing a Bema seat. (A relic of one was found among the ruins in Corinth.)

There are three principal judgments that are often confused: the Bema Seat Judgment, the Sheep and Goat Judgment, and the Great White Throne. They are each quite different.

The Bema Seat[7] deals with rewards for obedience, crowns, and the call of the Bride to the Marriage of the Lamb which occurs in the Father’s house.

The Sheep and Goat Judgment[8] is on the earth. Three separate parties are involved, and mortals are judged on the basis of their “works.”

The Great White Throne[9] occurs at the end of the Millennium, deals with the unsaved dead, and ushers in the New Heavens, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem.

These are all highlighted in figure 1 below.


Figure 1

The Bema Seat Judgment is apparently the first order of business for the translated saints after the Harpazo. Everyone present will be “saved;” salvation is not the issue here. (That was concluded on a wooden cross erected in Judea about 2,000 years ago!) Everyone present will have been saved by the completed work of our Lord Jesus. The issue here is fruit-bearing, not salvation.

All are building on the same foundation, but with vastly differing results.

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. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

— 1 Corinthians 3:10,11 (KJV)

“Let every man take heed:” A solemn warning. We are God’s Building. We are only subcontractors.

The evaluation procedure is then detailed:

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, [or] wood, hay, stubble;

— 1 Corinthians 3:12 (KJV)

Notice that there are six commodities in two groups, in descending order of worth. Three are products of a God’s creative act, not growth or development; three are the result of natural growth and development (from our old nature?).

The first three are permanent. The last three will perish under fire. (The largest load of hay or wood would be worth less than the smallest diamond.)

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.

— 1 Corinthians 3:13 (KJV)

Also, notice that the “work” is being appraised, not the person. It is the work being tested by fire, not the individual. All are building on the same foundation, but the results are vastly different.

If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

— 1 Corinthians 3:14 (KJV)

Rewards, not salvation, are the issue. Among these rewards, five crowns may be included: the Crown of righteousness,[10] Crown of glory,[11] Crown of life,[12] incorruptible Crown,[13] and Crown of rejoicing.[14]

Salvation is invariably presented as a free gift;[15] rewards are earned by works (fruit-bearing).[16]

Salvation is a present possession;[17] rewards are a future attainment given by Him at His Coming.[18]

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

— 1 Corinthians 3:15 (KJV)

So you have been saved: what have you done with it?

That which is done for sake of personal gain, popularity, influence, or its impression on the world, will be for naught.[19]

Lot as an example

Lot was vexed daily[20]. Abraham was not vexed; he had separated himself from the world. God destroyed Sodom but saved Lot, “yet as by fire.” Everything he had lived for was burned up.

Tears in Heaven?

Why? (There will be no sin, no sickness, no death, nor lack of anything…)

“Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘it might have been.”

John Greenleaf Whittier

When I take my life under review, I will be deeply distressed. Not for the sins I’ve committed: they have all been paid for by my Saviour. I will be distressed for the time and opportunities I’ve wasted; for the time frittered away on foolishness; for the people I might have helped; for the moments I lacked the courage to exploit for Him; etc., etc., etc…

Every day our Lord tarries is another day in which we may repair our own report cards.

Our Final Exam is rapidly approaching. What are you doing to prepare for it?

That’s what the Koinonia Track within the Koinonia Institute is intended for. Let us help you where we can.

In His Name,


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