The Goal of the Ministry:
The Presentation of Believers at the Bema
The Bema Seat
1. Seat: (bema)
a. In the ancient games in Athens, the Bema was a raised platform on which the judge sat and from which he rewarded the winners of the games.
b. In the Athenian games, the bema was a seat of reward, and was not used as a judicial seat.
2. Judgment: (criterion) the rule by which one judges.
a. The contestants in the games stood before the bema, and the judge scrutinized their performance on the basis of his criteria…
b. The winners were given rewards.
c. The judgment seat of Christ is a place where believers will stand before the Lord… and rewarded… for all those who believe are overcomers… winners.
3. The Bema seat is to be distinguished from the Great White Throne which is for unbelievers exclusively.
4. WHO: Only true believers will be present at the Bema Seat… judgment seat of Christ.
5. WHEN: The bema takes place between the rapture and the Second Coming. It is associated with the believer’s resurrection at the rapture… (Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me) and it is completed by the time of the Second Coming.
6. WHERE: Occurs in heaven… for the church is raptured TO heaven… and is seen in heaven crowned before the throne.
a. Has nothing to do with eternal destiny. The issue is not whether a man is saved or not. (It occurs in heaven.)
b. It has only to do with rewards for faithful service.
8. The Bema Seat is a judgment seat: a judgment does occur there.
a. But WE are not being judged.
• For US (for true believers) there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.
• It is not our PERSON who is being judged at the Bema.
• That is because our old man was already judged and condemned to death… at the cross.
• Our old man was crucified.
• As a person, believers have already been judged, condemned, and executed. There is no double jeopardy with God.
b. Our SINS are NOT being judged at the Bema.
• Our sins were also already judged on the cross.
• “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.”
• Our sins have already been forgiven at the moment of saving faith… all of them: past, present, and future.
• There is no punishment being dealt out for our sins at the Bema. The Bema is not a Protestant purgatory.
• Jesus Christ has already borne ALL of the punishment and condemnation for our sins.
• Christ already died FOR our sins. The issue of our sins has been dealt with at Calvary… and settled once and for all and forever by the precious blood of Christ.
» I Cor. 15:3 – For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
» Gal. 1:4 – Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world.
» I John 2:1-2 – we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:? 2?And he is the propitiation for our sins.
» For this reason, as a Christian, we can experience a PURGED conscience… when we realize that our sins have already been judged and condemned… we can experience God’s rest because we KNOW our sins have been paid for and God has been eternally satisfied.
» And as we continue to live on earth, we can continue to experience this rest of mind and heart KNOWING that we will never have to face a penalty for our sins.
c. It is our WORKS as new creatures that are being judged…
• II Cor. 5:10 – “the things done in our body… whether it be good or bad…” worthy of rewards or worthless…
» Appear = be made manifest.
» The Bema seat is going to REVEAL God’s estimate of our lives and our works.
» Man has one estimate… God has another.
» The TRUTH about our works, our thoughts, our motives, and the intents of the heart will be made manifest in that day.
• I Cor. 3:13 – Our works are judged to determine their quality (what SORT) of work we have done…
» flesh or Spirit
» for self glory or the glory of God
» in humility or pride
» whether we did our best or just did a sloppy job
• Col. 3:24-25 – we will be judged and rewarded for the good and for the wrong. (rewards or loss of rewards)
• That which is the result of the Spirit of God manifesting the indwelling life and character of Christ is rewarded. It is GOD working in us.
• Those works which are the efforts of the flesh is burned up as wood, hay, and stubble.
• When God judges our works as new creatures, there will be lots of surprises… because man can only judge by outward appearance… a very shallow and superficial means of judgment.
• Heb. 4:12 – God judges much deeper. He judges the heart… the motives and intents of the heart. He digs deeper and distinguishes between the soul and spirit… that which is emotional and truly spiritual.
9. We must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (II Cor. 5:10)
a. There are no exceptions.
b. Every one of our thoughts, words, deeds, motives, and even the intents of the heart shall be scrutinized by the Lord Jesus.
c. Rev. 1:13-14 – standing in the midst of the 7 churches is the Son of Man… observing everything… and His piercing eyes are as a flame of fire… penetrating…
d. Rev. 19:7-8 – The purpose of this judgment is to prepare us for the Marriage of the Lamb… to remove all dross… and robe us in white linen… fit for eternity with Christ.
e. The purpose of the ministry is to prepare men, women, and children for that day… to be presented before the Bema Seat… and ultimately to be presented before the Marriage of the Lamb…
• The reward believers receive is only for that which remains AFTER the fires of the Bema seat burn away all dross, wood, hay, and stubble.
• Note that it is not the believer who burns, but his works done in the flesh.
• This is not punishment or purgatory. Actually, it is a blessing—to have the dross removed… purifying the gold that remains… pure and white for the Marriage of the Lamb.
1. The Term.
a. Defined: to place beside or near; to set at hand; to place a person or thing at one’s disposal
• Acts 27:24 – Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar.
• Luke 2:22 – ?And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.
• Rom. 6:13 – neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin…
• Rom. 12:1 – present your bodies a living sacrifice…
• Rom. 14:10 –we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (be presented before it… made to stand there…)
• Eph. 5:27 – ?That he might present it to himself a glorious church…
• Col. 1:22 – to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.
• Col. 1:28 – that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
c. One day we ALL shall be yielded over to the Lord… made to stand before Him… yielded over to Him… presented to Him… turned over to Him… to be placed at His disposal…
• A day of presenting is coming for us all as believers.
• A day of standing before His judgment seat…
• Are you ready? The purpose of the ministry of the local church is to help GET you ready!
2. Paul’s point in Col. 1:28 is that the PURPOSE of the preaching, warning, and teaching ministry is to get men prepared for that day!
a. He preaches and teaches SO THAT he might have the privilege of presenting believers PERFECT before the Lord…
b. Nothing thrilled the apostle Paul quite like the JOY of thinking about those he won to Christ, discipled, taught, and brought them to maturity in Christ… and thinking of them being presented before the Lord! (I Thess. 2:19-20)
c. As a minister of the gospel… a teacher of God’s Word, this was Paul’s real joy.
3. Heb. 13:17 – BUT, there are also some believers who will NOT bring their spiritual leaders joy, but sorrow in that day!
a. They too will be presented before the Lord… but they will NOT bring great joy to those who watch for their souls… to their earthly shepherds… they will bring sorrow and grief.
b. The wayward sheep who refuses to respond to the care of the shepherd, breaks the shepherd’s heart.
c. If they are born again (real sheep) they will all be presented before the Lord… but instead of being presented as perfect, they will be presented as babes in Christ who SHOULD have progressed… who should have gone on to perfection, but did not… who should have grown up and produced much fruit…
d. But instead of going on to perfection, they stagnated… they regressed… became carnal, self-centered, worldly, lazy, and lived for themselves.
e. There have been quite a few such folks I have dealt with over the years. In my earlier years in the ministry, I used to get upset at them. Now, the anger has turned to grief, pity, sorrow… for them… because they are missing out on God’s best for their lives… and on rewards.
f. The shepherd grieves not for himself, but for the sheep! That sheep lost out on some valuable years of his spiritual life… ruined, wasted, never to be retrieved… wood, hay, and stubble.
g. Life is too short and too precious to waste. Use it for God! Give your all to the Lord. Put your all on the altar… whatever the price.
h. Only one life; will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.
4. All true believers will be presented before the Lord in absolute positional perfection.
a. Heb. 10:14 – For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (positionally)
b. Eph. 5:25 – ?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.
c. Jude 24 – Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy
d. Col. 1:22 – to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.
e. This is all because our sin and our sins have been eternally judged and condemned once and for all and forever at the cross.
f. Forgiveness has already been granted and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. None.
g. The believer today is robed in the very righteousness of God. (Rom. 3:22) – “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ and is unto all and upon all them that believe…”
h. This is entirely to be attributed to Christ’s work for us on the cross. He saved us to the uttermost; He perfected us forever; we have been positionally sanctified once and for all; God sees us IN His Son… robed in the righteousness of God.
i. This is entirely by grace through faith. God’s work on our behalf.
j. Positionally, we will be presented before the throne of God faultless… blameless… unreproveable in His sight.
5. But NOT every true believer will have many rewards for his life’s service on earth.
a. I Cor. 3:15 – For some believers MOST of their works will be burnt up…
b. They will have wasted most of their Christian lives… wasted on pursuing the world’s air bubbles, and the cheap trinkets and pleasures of this life… It is not necessarily evil things… just wasted… not done in the power of the Spirit of God.
c. They will be saved, but so as by fire… rescued from the world, the flesh, and sin, but by the skin of their teeth… with precious little to show for it.
d. They blew their opportunities for rewards by living for SELF rather than living for the Lord.
e. No believer will be presented before the Lord in absolute conditional perfection
f. Hence, the PURPOSE of the ministry is to goad us all along that pathway… to exhort one another daily lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin… to provoke one another to love and good works… and to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together…
The goal of Paul’s ministry: Preparing Men for the Bema
1. Paul preached Christ… that lost, condemned men might be saved.
a. The gospel ministry first seeks to bring the saving message to EVERY MAN… to the uttermost parts of the earth. (Salvation)
b. The purpose of the ministry is ultimately, that every man might be presented before the Lord… perfect in Christ. (Glorification)
c. But in the meantime… in the interim, the purpose of the ministry is to bring men to maturity in the faith—unto a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (sanctification)
2. Paul’s goal was not to get believers ready positionally to be presented before the Lord. That work was done by Christ on the cross… once and for all… and at the moment of saving faith, a man is placed IN Christ… and IN that glorious heavenly position in Him.
3. The goal of Paul’s ministry was rather to get believers prepared CONDITIONALLY to stand before the Lord… so that they would be presented as:
a. spiritual (as opposed to carnal and fleshly)
b. mature/perfect (as opposed to immature and childish)
c. complete (as opposed to having things lacking in their faith)
d. fruitful in every good work, (as opposed to barren)
e. consistently faithful (as opposed to occasionally faithful)
f. heavenly (as opposed to earthly)
g. filled with Christ-like character as opposed to being filled with self.
4. The goal: to prepare men, women, and children for that day… when we will be presented before the Bema Seat of Christ… and thus prepared for the Marriage of the Lamb.
a. There is a HUGE gap between our perfect position in Christ… and our very imperfect condition on earth…
b. Hence the need for the believer to be striving towards perfection… maturity… Christlikeness… all throughout this earthly sojourn.
c. Bridging that gap is the goal of the ministry… slowly, but steadily, consistently, and surely… from glory to glory!
d. Paul knew that he had not yet arrived at absolute perfection. He had arrived at maturity in a relative sense, but not in an absolute sense. There was still so much more ground to go!
e. If this was true of the apostle Paul, it is certainly true of the rest of us.
f. Since we have NOT yet attained absolute perfection… maturity… perfect Christlikeness… hence, there is the NEED for the ministry…
g. The goal of the ministry is NOT:
• just to fill a building with people; (reading the church growth manuals one might make that conclusion!)
• to keep folks happy and entertained; (to observe what’s going on across the country one might assume this is the goal of the ministry)
• to provide lots of social activities;
• or to provide food, clothing, and shelter;
• to provide a platform for social or political activism;
• The goal of the ministry is not to help make life on earth more comfortable. The goal of the ministry is to prepare believers for eternity in heaven!
• The goal of the ministry is to get you ready to be presented before the Bema Seat of Christ… and ultimately that formal and eternal consummation of our relationship to Christ—the Marriage of the Lamb.
h. Col. 1:22 – Paul knew that ultimately, every true believer will be presented positionally perfected.
• Col. 1:28 – But he also knew that we sheep are often lax in striving to be conditionally perfect…
• Col. 1:29 – this was the goal towards which Paul labored his entire Christian life.
5. Paul and the other apostles always kept the Bema Seat in mind as they ministered. Any faithful Bible teacher should.
a. I Thess. 3:10 – he desired to perfect that which was lacking in their faith.
b. II Cor. 13:9 – He longed for their perfection.
c. II Cor. 13:11 – He exhorted them to be perfect.
d. II Cor. 5:8-11 – knowing the terror (a sobering reverence) of standing before the Lord motivated Paul his whole life long.
• Because he knew he would one day be with the Lord, he labored… he strove… to be accepted before him, conditionally.
• He reminds the Corinthians (and us) that we must ALL stand before the Bema one day… and that we must give an account!
• Knowing this should motivate us all.
• Our present life is God’s university for His children.
• Today is the day of preparation.
• The Bema Seat is our time final exam.
• In a sense, everything we do in this life is working toward that day… when our lives will be examined by fire. It is a sobering thought. It put the fear of God in Paul. It should in us too!
e. Phil.1:9-11 – And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment?; ? 10That ye may approve? things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; ? 11Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
f. I Thess. 2:11-12 – As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,? That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
g. Heb. 13:20-21 – the apostle prayed for their perfection.
h. I Pet. 1:7 – Peter’s goal was for the suffering saints to “hang in there” during their times of trial, because he knew that at the Bema Seat, it would bring rewards to them, and praise, honor, and glory to God.
• Peter was also aware of how easy it is in a time of trial to throw in the towel, capitulate to the enemy, the test… and thus LOSE the reward we could have had.
• Peter wanted something better for his readers at the Bema Seat. He wanted them all to come forth as gold… so that they would be presented as pure gold before the Bema… rather than full of dross.
i. With respect to the world, they had the Great WhiteThrone in mind… and the salvation of the lost. With respect to believers, they had the Bema Seat in mind.
j. The apostles strove to teach God’s Word so that they might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus in that day.
6. II Cor. 11:2 – to present them as a chaste virgin to Christ
a. But Paul FEARED… because being presented to Christ in perfection… maturity… is NOT a given.
b. Though the Corinthians started off well, Paul feared that they might not end well… like Solomon.
c. He feared that they would listen to the false teachers and that their progress towards maturity and Christlikeness would be hindered… as he feared for the Galatian believers.
d. He wanted to present them before the Lord as a chaste virgin, but he feared that it might not happen.
e. He feared that MUCH of their lives would be burnt up as dross… worthless… carnal… what a waste!
7. I know exactly what Paul means.
a. I have often feared for the spiritual well being of many believers who have passed through these doors over the years.
b. I have watched believers disintegrate spiritually right before my very eyes… regress spiritually… drift away… slowly, gradually… refusing help… refusing to respond to the Word.
c. Some drifted back to the pleasures of the world… like Demas. Some drifted into false teaching like Hymenaeus. Some allowed their spiritual lives to be choked out by the riches and cares of the world. Some through neglect, just lost interest in spiritual things. Some drifted away because someone offended them. Some drifted away because they were unwilling to put away a particular sin. Others drifted away because they came under the sway of some radical and extremist teaching. Some drifted away because they were no longer the center of attention.
d. For the shepherd and the rest of the sheep observing such drifting… it is heart breaking… but that is part of the ministry. Jesus too was grieved when He observed how men in His day neglected spiritual things.
e. But we don’t quit exhorting. We continue… because God says so… and because God speaks to His children THROUGH His children… as they use the Word to exhort and admonish.
f. Jas. 5:19-20 – by exhorting a brother, we might be used of God to “convert” him… bring about repentance… and perhaps save him from the misery of a multitude of sins… and perhaps save him from many wasted years… and loss of rewards…
g. Write letters. Send cards. Send emails. Include Bible verses. Visit the brethren. Have them over your home for fellowship and encouragement.
h. One little word of encouragement or challenge… just speaking a Bible verse to a brother might be all it takes to cause a brother sitting on a fence to fall over on the right side.
i. You and I can influence the spiritual lives of members of the Body… for good.
j. God can use us to prepare them to stand before Him… and receive a well down… rather than have years go up in smoke.
k. That’s the goal of the ministry in Col. 1:28.
Personal Responsibility and Cooperation
1. The pastor and teachers in the local church can provide the most nourishing food for the sheep… food which promotes spiritual health and spiritual growth.
a. But it does no good unless the sheep EAT the food… take it in… receive the Word.
b. Believers have a responsibility to RESPOND in faith and obedience… or they will be ashamed at the Bema Seat of Christ.
2. The shepherd and the sheep have a responsibility to exhort such drifters… but ultimately, it is up to the individual to RESPOND to the exhortation.
a. We are only watchmen. Our job is to blow the trumpet and warn of danger. If we remain silent, we are guilty if the sheep are destroyed.
b. But if we sound the trumpet, and the sheep refuse to respond… God holds them accountable.
c. Those sheep will experience great LOSS at the Bema Seat…
d. The GOAL of the ministry is to prepare men, women, and children for the Bema.
e. Thus, we are to keep after one another… in love… provoke one another… exhort one another…
f. We don’t want to see believers ruin their spiritual lives… or waste time… or become ensnared by the tricks of the devil. We want to see believers go on to perfection… grow up… mature… become fruitful… Christlike… and thus be presented perfect in Christ Jesus at the Bema.
g. If folks don’t respond in faith and obedience, they will NOT be prepared to stand before the Lord. They will find themselves ASHAMED at His coming.
3. The goal of this minister and this ministry is to present every man here perfect in Christ Jesus at the Bema Seat. Consider YOUR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY in that process:
a. The sheep hear the Word in the local church, but unless they are DOERS of the Word… it is not accomplishing God’s will for sanctification in their lives. (James 1:22)
b. The sheep have a responsibility to have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. (Heb. 5:14)
c. Chastening is designed for our spiritual growth, sanctification, and perfection… but it is useless unless we are EXERCISED thereby. (Heb. 12:11)
d. It is the believer’s responsibility to go on to perfection. (Heb. 6:1) God expects him to be making progress rather than regress… by implementing that which is learned.
e. The branch is required to abide in the Vine or it will bear no fruit. Apart from abiding in a close relationship to Christ, we can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
f. The believer/priest is required to give diligence to be continually adding Christian virtue to their lives. (II Pet. 1:5)
g. God expects the believer to continually press toward the mark… (Phil. 3:14)
h. God expects us as believers to minister one to another… and to function in the Body according to the ability that God gives. (I Pet. 4:10-11)
i. God expects us to be in the Word and beholding the glory of the Lord… if we want this perfection/transformation process to occur. (II Cor. 3:18)
j. God expects us all to be continually walking in the Spirit… and we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16) This is OUR responsibility. This involves walking by faith; reckoning self to be dead and yet alive; yielding our members to God; and walking in the good works that He has ordained for us.
k. God expects us to be continually examining our hearts…and dealing with sin. Confessing it and forsaking it. Ask the Lord to reveal areas in our hearts that need changing… repentance. (Psa.139:23-24)
4. One day we will all be PRESENTED before the Bema Seat of Christ… placed at His disposal.
a. We ought to be presenting our old man over to the cross by faith on a daily basis… reckoning him to be dead.
b. We ought to be yielding our members over to Him today… we ought to be presenting our bodies to Him TODAY… in preparation of that final exam!
c. If we are faithful in presenting our old man to the cross, presenting our members to God, and presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, then WE will be ready to be presented before the Bema.
d. Ready or not… Christ is coming… so be ready. Be prepared. Occupy till He comes!
5. And if you are NOT yet saved…
a. What are you waiting for? Swallow your pride and BELIEVE!
b. If you continue to postpone getting saved, one day soon you will be presented before the Great White Throne.
c. In that day, it will be too late to be saved. ALL those at the Great White Throne are cast into the Lake of Fire… no exceptions.
d. Today is the day to be saved. Today you are either completely and eternally saved… or you are completely and eternally lost and on your way to Hell.
e. The only escape is by being born again… you need NEW LIFE. And Christ offers it to you freely… by faith.
f. But you must RECEIVE Christ by faith. Do it today.
The Sphere of Perfection: In Christ (Col. 1:28)
1. Perfection (maturity; spiritual growth) comes ONLY through our position in Christ…
a. One must KNOW his position… be taught in his position.
b. He must BELIEVE these truths about his position in Christ.
c. He must then REST (abide) in his glorious position…
d. By abiding in our position… Christ’s life flows through us… His fulness becomes ours… His strength, wisdom, grace, holiness, purity… REAL fruit…
2. Eph. 4:15 – grow up into Him… growth is connected to our relationship to Christ… resting In Him… abiding In Him… communing with Him… worshipping Him…
a. Spiritual growth comes as a result of our relationship to a Person… not through our efforts or merit.
b. Justification is by faith… so is sanctification by faith: FAITH in Christ… trusting in Him… resting in Him…
c. As we trust in Him… rest in Him… abide in Him… that relationship has an enormous effect on us! His LIFE is manifested through us… the fruit of Christlike character is manifested through us…
d. As we spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus, beholding His glory… we are gradually changed INTO that image, from glory to glory.
e. We grow INTO HIM… perfection (maturity) comes from being IN Christ… and abiding there!
f. The branch that is NOT abiding in Christ will never bear fruit… for without Christ, we can do nothing.
g. And when genuine Holy Spirit produced fruit IS borne by us, even that is HIS work in us… not merely our work for Him.
h. Any work that we do for Him that is of any value is a result of His work in us. The branch produces NOTHING on its own. In our flesh dwells NO good thing.
i. But IN CHRIST… that branch is exceedingly fruitful!
j. IN CHRIST that branch bears complete, mature, full grown fruit… perfection is the result of our relationship to Christ. Period.
k. The believer does not grow spiritually nor does he become mature (perfected) in the faith by drawing up or following a checklist of rules and checking them off one by one.
• Music: I have all the right CDs
• Clothes: all my clothes have been approved by the board
• Words: my vocabulary has met all the requirements
• Entertainment: I only participate in the approved forms of entertainment.
• Therefore: I am mature!
• Not so! That kind of living results in self righteousness rather than spiritual maturity.
• That kind of living results in flesh glorying in its own accomplishments…
l. True Christian living is Christ in us. The Holy Spirit produces His character in us as we YIELD to Him… surrender our will to His… walk in FAITH (resting; trusting)… and are willing to follow His leading wherever it takes us…
• The end results are changes that are heartfelt…
• This results in internal changes in behavior because we want to honor Christ… we truly desire to manifest Him… we want to display HIS grace, holiness, purity, love, righteousness…
• It is not FORCING behavioral changes against our will in order to “fit in” with the expectations of men… but rather, it is a WILLING submission to the yoke of Christ… listening to music that honors Him… willing to sacrifice self in order to attend church services because we WANT to… choosing clothing to please the Lord, not self (dressing up to come to church; modest clothing; avoiding outlandish styles; etc.) refusing to support questionable Hollywood movies, NOT because they are on a taboo list, but because they dishonor Christ!
• Convictions that are our own… not someone else’s… and those are the only kind of convictions that stick.
• Changes in lifestyle that is sourced in the Holy Spirit rather than the flesh…
vi. And a life that glorifies God, rather than our own accomplishments…
3. Present every man perfect in Christ: Perfection comes from position… knowing, believing, resting, and abiding in Christ…