Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘is there a judgment seat in heaven’

What Happens in Heaven

Last week, I shared the scriptural truth about what happens when saints arrive in Heaven.  Though some folks misquote 2 Corinthians 5:10 and insist that we must all be confronted with our sins at the judgment seat of God, that’s not what the Bible actually says.  Instead, the Greek language is clear that Paul has the awards ceremonies of the Greek Games in mind.  We will all stand before God’s platform in Heaven where the impact of our ministry will be evaluated.  What did we do that resulted in lasting fruit?  What did we do that was simply wasted?  A prize will be awarded to every saint who has sacrificed, made a difference, and brought glory to God.

Paul has the very same scene in mind in 2 Timothy 5:8, when he writes, “And now the prize awaits me- the crown which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return.”  The Apostle isn’t worried about being confronted with his sins and shame once again when he arrives in Heaven.  Instead, he’s looking forward to sharing in a grand awards ceremony with all the saints of all the ages.

A friend has asked, “But what about 1 Corinthians 3:9-15?  Paul is writing to Christians and he clearly teaches our works will be tried by fire, right?”  Of course, that’s the point.  Our performance of ministry will be evaluated.  Some things we’ve done won’t endure. Other things we’ve done are priceless and timeless.  The eternally significant sacrifices will be rewarded.  But this has nothing to do with sin, condemnation or being rebuked.  It’s all about the Lord God judging our performance at the Finish Line of life.  Verse 8 in that context is clear: each Christian servant will receive his own reward for his labor.

Have you ever experienced one of those awful moments when your life flashes before your eyes?  Years ago, my Jeep hydroplaned as I was driving one rainy day.  Within seconds, my vehicle was rocketing out of control, sliding across the median and into lanes of incoming traffic.  As the automobile spun, I literally experienced my life rushing through my mind.  Everything was in slow motion! Even as I watched my hands gripping the steering wheel, I saw images from childhood and teen-aged years.  Happily, no other vehicles struck mine, and the Jeep finally came to rest atop a fence by the highway.  Later I learned others have had similar experiences.

Why is it so common when we are in peril of death to experience that sensation- life flashing before our eyes?  And why is so much space in the human brain set aside for stored memories which are otherwise irretrievable?  I believe this is God’s mechanism for preparing us for Eternity.  At the moment of my death, I will suddenly have the opportunity to review my life one more time.  Instantly and perhaps in slo-mo, I can relive all those moments of my life when I refused God, turned from his plan, refused to accept him, hurt other people, and lived for my self.  All my sins and transgressions are apparently stored there along with everything else, all waiting the day of my departure from the Earth.

I believe the purpose is this: at the time of my death, I will quickly be able to evaluate my whole life; the race I’ve run.  In doing so, I will be reminded of the fact that I never deserved Heaven.  Not only did I never do anything to earn it, but my life is littered with corruption that should disqualify me altogether.  Only because of Jesus will I arrive on those splendid shores.  Only through his death and resurrection will my sinful eyes ever behold the Kingdom of Heaven.  Only through his pierced and resurrected hands and feet will my sorry soles ever tread the streets of that Eternal Kingdom.  So when I finally stand at those golden gates, all my sins and transgressions fresh in my mind, I will have no trouble falling down on my knees and pouring out my gratitude to the Lamb of God.  Psalm 100 reminds us we must “enter into His gates with thanksgiving;  his courts with praise.”

God really does have a tape recorder with all the disgusting moments of my life safely preserved.  But the Lord will never replay that tape.  All my sins have been removed as far from his mind as the East is from the West.  In the privacy of my own mind, I will be able to rapidly replay my life one last time.  And I will tearfully confess once again that Jesus Christ is Lord.  And I will thank Him through all Eternity.

Lift up the Cross!

Will We be Judged in Heaven?

Forgiveness must be permanent.  When you offer another human being forgiveness, you cannot drag that same offense back out a few days later when your mood is different.  Temporary forgiveness is unacceptable among human beings, and yet some Christians suggest God’s grace works that way.

There are church people, some of whom I respect, who believe that God’s forgiveness has an expiration date.  They are convinced that people who turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance are instantly forgiven of all their sins.  But once those saints arrive in Heaven, we’re told that everything changes.  Their sins are back on the agenda and every new arrival must appear before an angry judge who has a tape recorder with all the evidence!  You might wonder where people get such an idea about God.  In fact, they base it on a statement written by Paul.

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, it does say, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  But the context for this verse is Paul’s exclamation that he is eager to finally reach Heaven.  Do you really believe he looks forward to Heaven because all his sins will be exhumed and thrown back in his face by a disappointed God?  Think again!  The Greek word that is translated “judgment seat,” actually has several shades of meaning.  Basically, it denotes a platform with stairs. In one context, it describes the place where a judge sits.  In other contexts, it refers to a royal platform where the King rests on his throne.  But in other legit circumstances, it speaks of a winner’s platform where Olympians are awarded the trophies they have won.

I am convinced Paul is looking forward to a heavenly awards ceremony where God rewards lives of service and surrender.  I believe that because it fits the context of 2 Corinthians 5.  I also believe it because Paul confesses the same sentiment in other texts that are not in dispute.  For example, just before his execution in 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul expresses his confidence that he has fought the good fight and finished the race.  “And now the prize awaits me- the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return.”

Paul is not looking forward to having an angry judge review his old, dead sins.  Rather, he can’t wait to arrive in Heaven and experience the Awards Ceremony where God acknowledges lives of faith poured out for the glory of God by the saints of all the ages.  2 Corinthians 5 speaks of  the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics; not the return of a verdict in a courtroom.

Elsewhere in the scriptures, it is clear that God’s grace is permanently bestowed.  Psalm 103:12 reminds us, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”  Do the East and West ever meet?  Of course not!  Romans 8:1 contains Paul’s assurance, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  Because of Christ, we will never again be condemned.  For believers, that happened when the Holy Spirit convicted us of sin and led us to faith in Christ.

My life could never compare to Paul’s amazing life, and yet I think I know how he felt.  I can’t wait to experience the splendor of Heaven.  From everything I read, there will ultimately be this amazing Awards Ceremony in that Kingdom of Light.  And there will finally be a moment when I stand before the Heavenly Father, who will express his approval of sacrifices I made and ministry I accomplished for Him.  Scripture suggests there will be some kind of laurel or crown presented to me.  And that will allow me to express my endless gratitude one more time- by placing that crown at the feet of the One who rescued me from destruction.

In closing, I do believe there is something like a “divine tape recorder,” where all the sins and failures of life are recorded.  I’ll share it with you next time, because this blog is already too long.  I think you’ll be surprised and inspired.  So come back next week for the rest of the story.  But in the meantime, if you go to Heaven before we’re together again, don’t be anxious.  God doesn’t have a guilty verdict or a lightning bolt to hurl your way when you finally arrive.  Rather, there will be an Awards Ceremony that will take your breath away- figuratively speaking, of course!  I don’t know if we actually need to breathe in Heaven, but there will be much to celebrate.

Lift up the Cross!

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