Read Time 13 Minutes
What is the BEMA? The Bema to which Paul refers, was the podium for awarding prizes to competitors in an athletic competition. In our current Olympic games we call it the “medal stand” where prizes are awarded and honor bestowed. Many current translations have chosen the word Judgement Seat of Christ and thus the BEMA is seen as a place of judgement. It is judgement for the life you have lived for Christ and the awards you receive for the things you have done for others. All judgement for salvation has already been paid in full by Christ on the Cross.
The rewards given are our qualifications for responsibilities and opportunities in the Kingdom, they are not badges or medals warn to impress or to establish a caste system of Believers, one better than another. The Joy of the Event is the acknowledgement of those things we have done well on earth, the kind word to the struggling Mom, the encouragement to the young trainee or the love and care for aging parents. This only adds to the greatest reward of all – for we will be home with Jesus and the Father.
The Bema event will occur immediately following the rapture or resurrection of the church after it is caught up to be with the Lord in the air. Scripture is clear the rewards are given at the resurrection and the resurrection of Believers in Christ occurs at the Rapture. The Resurrection and rewarding of Old Testament Saints occurs after The Tribulation. When the Bride returns with Yeshua at the final stage of the Second Coming, she is already found robed in Bright, Clean Fine Linen, a reward and clothing of those at the Bema.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV (Bold and Underline Emphasis Mine)
17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
THE REVEALING OF REWARDS
Paul speaks specifically of “building on a foundation” which is Jesus Christ, This is the work which he, himself or others have begun in order to build the Body of Christ. It is the works or the fruits of our labor after salvation which will be revealed whether for gain or loss of reward, but not for punishment.
The disclosure by fire should remind you of the Old Testament acknowledgment of the acceptance of an offering. Thus, we bring an offering of the “works” based on our love for Yeshua and the fire will test to see if it is burned up or remains in order to garner a reward. Valuable things (gold, silver, precious stones) remain, for those are things that cost us something whether money, time, prayer or spirit and are done at the direction of the Spirit. The things done in the flesh or those done for ourselves or for the praise of others will be burned as wood, hay and straw. These are the good ideas – not the God ideas. The term “saved, but only as through fire” is a reference to the evaluation of our works in the fire of the Judgement Seat of Christ.
Phaneros = Manifest – Be Revealed, to Make Evident, Clear
Photizo = Day – The Light of Day, To Bring Light in Order to Make Visible
Phaneroo = Disclose – To Manifest or Reveal or Disclose
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest (phaneros), for the Day (photizo) will disclose (phaneroo) it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Paul used the Greek “Bema”, translated judgement in the English. The translation is unfortunate, for it brings to the western mind a place where sin is judged and penalty ascribed. Paul often spoke in terms of athletic competition, striving to win the race and receive the victor’s crown. The Greek athletic competition to which Paul refers, the Isthmian Games, would be most similar to our modern day Olympic games. This is the Believer’s opportunity to receive the reward for those things done in the body.
This is the purpose of the Bema Seat and portrays a time of rewards or loss of rewards after an examination. It is not a time where believers are judged for sin or adjudged punishment. This would be inconsistent with the finished work of Christ on the Cross. He paid the full penalty for all our sins; past, present and future. This has nothing to do with punishment, but there will be “loss of rewards” for those who did not persevere until the end of their time on earth or for others who did things “for” Yeshua, but with wrong motive. If the purpose was to gain notoriety, money or self-aggrandizement there will be no reward at the Bema.
The Doctrine of Rewards must never be confused with the free gift of Salvation. The Bema is in heaven, thus those who are being rewarded have already received Eternal Life based on their faith in Yeshua’s finished work on the cross. The rewards at the Judgement Seat of Christ or Bema are for those genuine acts of selflessness done on Yeshua’s behalf, freely and with a heart to encourage and magnify Yeshua while on the earth. The works are done only by and through the Grace given to us by the Holy Spirit lest any man should boast.
Bema Seat – Bestowing of Rewards on Believers in Heaven
Romans 14:10 ESV (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment (Bema) seat of God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
For we must all appear before the judgment (Bema) seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body (our Works) whether good or evil.
KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE IN JUDGEMENT AND REWARD
Once you understand the concept of the Bema this will enable you to fully see the point being made when we are chastised in Scripture for “judging” a brother and assured we will stand before the Bema for righteous judgement. Christians are not offered the privilege of criticizing another’s ministry or lack thereof on earth, for this judgement can only be rendered by Yeshua Himself, who knows “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
We are required as a Body of Believers to call those to account who are acting in direct disobedience to the written Word of Yeshua in Scripture regarding personal behavior or a teaching which is antithetical to Scripture. No question should remain whether the Believer is acting contrary to Scripture. This is not done for those who simply have a difference of doctrinal interpretation, but a very clear teaching or action opposed absolutely in Scripture. This is a very serious issue and, if appropriate, must be done strictly in accordance with the Biblical admonition of dealing with a brother or sister in Christ. In effect, you are disciplining someone else’s children, the Father of us all, Yahweh. If it is necessary, it must be approached prayerfully and exactly as we are instructed in Scripture by Yeshua Himself in this four step process spelled out in Matthew.
1. Go to your Brother or Sister and tell him his fault privately
2. If he does not listen, take 1 or 2 others along and speak with him again
3. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (Body of Believers)
4. If he refuses to listen even to the church do not associate with him any longer
Matthew 18:15-17 ESV (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
15 “If your brother sins against you, (Step 1) go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone (privately). If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But (Step 2) if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 (Step 3) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (Body of Believers you are submitted to – this is not the Internet). And (Step 4) if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (do not associate with him).
The purpose of this process is not to punish, control or embarrass a brother, but to bring them up short in their transgression and restore them to fellowship. Each individual Believer’s behavior in this process will be a subject to examination at the Bema so exercise care and prayer. There are numerous scriptural admonishments for how and when this is appropriate.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BEMA
There is ample evidence in Scripture Believers in Yeshua will not come under judgement. Therefore, it is essential we understand the concept of the Bema in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Yeshua spoke specifically about the lack of judgment for one who “hears my word and believes him who sent me”, they not only have eternal life through salvation, but they do not come into judgement.
John 5:24 ESV (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life (Salvation). He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Therefore, the Believer does not come into Judgment for sin, but there are rewards for those who have served faithfully and loss of rewards for those who have served with wrong motives. The judges at the games bestowed awards or rewards on the winners, they did not whip or punish those who did not finish first in the race – this is the key point to understand.
It is clear in Paul’s ministry he encouraged us all to “run the race” for the “prize”.
1 Corinthians 9:24 LEB (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
Do you not know that those who run in the stadium all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Paul also made it clear those who were brought to Salvation or Discipled in their walk of faith were his hope and “crown of boasting”. It was for the good done for others he hoped to be rewarded.
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 LEB (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
We can only imagine the emotions we will experience at the Bema for certainly there will be elements of remorse, regret and perhaps even shame. It is scarcely possible to imagine a review of one’s life before the Creator of all the world in all His majesty and perfection without an awareness of the wasted time, selfish endeavors and lack of holiness. However, this must surely be fleeting for the picture the New Testament paints of heaven is one of joy and gratitude. The graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ would surely find something worthy of praise in each of us.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE REWARD
What rewards are described in Scripture? The rewards are given in very general terms, but you can gain a sense of what can be anticipated for Believers.
- The Promise of Crowns – This seems to be used as a symbol of victory, authority, and responsibility.There are five (5) Crowns discussed for reward of Believer
- The Promise of Heavenly Treasure – Stresses their eternal value and security as those things which are imperishable, undefiled, non-fading and stored in heaven for you.
- The Promise of Accolades or Commendations – This is seen in those passages where a reward is administered in the form of something like “well done thou good and faithful servant …”. The precious words of praise from Yeshua would be a reward greater than any could imagine, yet these words of praise are followed also with additional authority in the Kingdom of God, Special Responsibility and Authority over the Lord’s Possessions. The Lord’s possessions will include everything.
- The Promise to the Overcomer – These could refer to special blessing of rewards to those believers who overcomer special trials and tests rather than a general promise to all believers. Those who overcome are promised access to the hidden manna (hidden knowledge), a white stone with a new name written on it giving us our permanent calling and identity, which no one knows and increased authority over the nations.
- The Clothing of the Saints (the Glorified Believers) – Fine Linen, Bright and Clean is given to the Saints for clothing.
Each person will be thoroughly happy with their rewards, for they will be totally just. There will be no sin nature to create envy, jealousy, resentment or dissatisfaction. The joy of being with our Father in our glorified state will be the reigning emotion. Our initial discouragement will be fleeting and only for the realization we could have and should have done more for His Kingdom.
During the Millennial Kingdom, many Believers will reign with him over nations and cities, perhaps even galaxies or universes. Others may not be in a position to reign for they will have lost those rewards. There will be further awards given at the Resurrection of the Old Testament and Tribulation Saints as well. Recall, we are not only dealing with rewards and positions in the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 years after Christ’s return, but also the Eternal Kingdom which will last for eternity with no end. There will be plenty to do and each Believer will be given responsibility in an area for which they are perfectly suited and for whom the work is a complete and total delight.
THE CROWNS AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
Crowns are given as a reward for specific types of faithfulness in the Christian Life. The faithfulness exhibited is our appropriation of the Grace of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit utilized in specific circumstances to enable each of us to rise victorious In Christ at the end of the age. Thus, by abiding in the vine we are rewarded for utilizing the tools at our disposal – all of which belong to and were provided by Yeshua.
There are two (2) types of crowns referred to in the New Testament.
1. Stephanos – The Stephanos is the victor’s crown, the wreath given to the victorious athlete before the judge at the Bema. It is the word used of the crowns promised to believers for faithfulness in the Christian life.
2. Diadem – The Diadem is the royal crown, the crown of a king. The Beast with Seven (7) heads in Revelation is said to wear Seven (7) Crowns representing the nations over which they have earthly authority. The focus in Revelation, however, is upon Yeshua at His return for He is King of kings and Lord of Lords, thus the word is also used of the Many Diadems the Lord will wear at His return.
THE CROWNS OF SCRIPTURE AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
The Crown of Thorns is worn only by Yeshua and speaks of His work on the cross. The thorns from which the Crown was woven represent the curse over which Our Savior triumphed. This crown stands for His victory over sin, Satan, and death.
Many Crowns – Diadems are the crowns of royalty which stand for Yeshua ha’Mashiach, Jesus the Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lord who alone has the right to rule and judge the world. These are worn only by Yeshua upon His return at the Second Coming.
The Crowns or Stephanos awarded to Believers for service are these;
1. The Incorruptible Crown – Although all crowns are incorruptible, this special crown is given for faithfulness in running the race and exercising self-control while serving Yeshua to finish the race.
1 Corinthians 9:25 LEB (Underline Emphasis Mine)
And everyone who competes exercises self-control in all things. Thus those do so in order that they may receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
2. The Crown of Exultation or Rejoicing – This crown is a reward given for witnessing, follow-up, and ministry to others. In one sense, the Thessalonians will be Paul’s crown, and the effect at the Bema and throughout eternity will be rejoicing or exultation over their presence in heaven. Though not stated explicitly, the implication is there will be a literal Crown of Exultation or Rejoicing, not solely the presence of the Believers at the Bema themselves.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 LEB (Underline Emphasis Mine)
For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming?
Philippians 4:1 LEB (Underline Emphasis Mine)
So then, my beloved and greatly desired brothers, my joy and crown, thus stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.
3. The Crown of Life or Martyr’s Crown – This crown is also referred to as the Martyr’s crown for it will certainly be awarded to those who died a Martyr’s death. Anyone whose life has been taken from them for their faith in Yeshua is considered a Martyr. This crown is also given to those who have endured testings or trials and temptation. The crown of life itself, is not eternal life but a reward for enduring trails and overcoming temptations. Eternal Life is a gift, by faith alone in Christ alone. The two are separate and distinct – Eternal Life (Salvation) and The Crown of Life (Reward).
James 1:12 LEB (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
Blessed is the person who endures testing, because when he is approved he will receive the crown of life that he has promised to those who love him.
Revelation 2:10 LEB (Parenthesis and Underline Emphasis Mine)
Do not be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and you will experience affliction ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Martyr’s Crown).
4. The Crown of Righteousness – This crown is a reward given for faithfulness in His service. It is given to those who have used our gifts and opportunities in the service of the Lord and for loving and praying for His appearing. To truly love His appearing, one will live in the light of His return and with an emphasis in one’s life on that goal.
2 Timothy 4:8 LEB (Underline Emphasis Mine)
Finally, the crown of righteousness is reserved for me, that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing.
5. The Crown of Glory also called The Shepherd’s Crown – This crown is a reward promised to Elders for faithfulness in their responsibility to shepherd the people of Yahweh.
1 Peter 5:4 LEB (Underline Emphasis Mine)
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
THE CASTING OF CROWNS
What could possibly be more glorious than the opportunity to cast our crowns at the feet of Yeshua? Without His righteousness, there would be no righteousness among any of us. Without His Holy Spirit nothing could have been accomplished for the Kingdom. Without the Father who regenerated us and called us to come to Yeshua there would be no salvation and thus no rewards. Yeshua alone is worthy for any fruitfulness in our lives by allowing His life to fill ours.
Finally, we will clearly see and understand this as we all cast our crowns before Him in recognition that all we have done is by His Grace and Only He is Worthy of All Praise!
Revelation 4:10-11 ESV (Underline Emphasis Mine)
10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
IN HIS ARMS I REST!
Thanks for taking time for me . . .
Sherry Driskell Griffin
P. S. If this was a Blessing to you . . . be a Blessing and pass it along!
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