[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Does the Judgment Seat of Christ have a Punitive Aspect?

by Antonio da Rosa

To ask this question is to answer it. How can it be a judgment seat of Christ (GK: Bema) if there is no punitive aspect to it?

Is the Bema Seat of Christ only a rewards platform or is it an actual Judgment Seat? Some people have a hard time accepting the fact that unfaithful Christians will be punished at Christ's Bema. They scoff at my use of the term "punitive" to describe consequences at the Bema.

I am a father. I have three children. My children are liable to be punished when they are caught in wrongdoing. They are still a part of my family. Breaking the rules of the house have consequences! These usually take the form of loss of privileges. This morning I awoke to a note from my wife that stated that my daughter is not to watch any of her alloted weekday television time today for breaking a rule.

Is my daughter still a part of the household? Yes. Is she forgiven? Yes. Do these facts sheild her from the punitive consequences for breaking the rules? No.

What is the definition of punitive?

Of our pertaining to punishment.

What is punishment?

Any pain, suffering, loss, or penalty inflicted on, or suffered by a person because of a crime, offense, or wrong-doing.

Is it wrong to state that there will be a "punitive" aspect to the Bema of Christ when it states things such as:

2 Cor 5:9-11
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 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 he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;

Q: Why was Paul making it his aim to be well-pleasing to the Lord?
A: Because he knew that he would stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Q: Why was that such an important consideration?
A: Because he would receive the things that were done in his body -- both the good and bad.

Q: What is Paul persuading men to be?
A: In the context, he is persuading them to be well pleasing in the Lord.

Q: Why is he persuading men?
A: Because of the terror of the Lord in having to receive the things done in the body if those things are bad.

What is receiving the due of the bad we have done in our bodies if it is not punitive?

1 Cor 3:14-15
14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Q: Why is someone "suffer[ing] loss" at the judgment scene here?
A: As a penalty for his unfaithfulness.

Loss of glories, honors, and privileges in the kindgom are the penalties for those Christians who do not overcome in this life.

How is this not punitive?

Shouldn't you now rethink your insistence that there are no punitive aspects to the Bema of Christ?


  • Realizing that some may take exception with my use of 1 Corinthians 3, here is something I wrote some years ago:

    It is essential to note that Paul is addressing the Corinthians carnality (which he has been doing, actually, from the very beginning of this epistle), particularly in this passage, which is expressed in their sectarianism. This problem that Paul is addressing was causing "envy, strife, and divisions" within the body of Christ (the church) at Corinth. It is wise to note here that envy, strife, and divisions are elsewhere in the Bible referred to as sin. The Corinthians were sinning!

    Paul has not alluded to or expressly stated, in the least, that this is the responsibility of the planters or the waterers. He has squarely placed the blame on the members of the church.

    Paul describes these divisions that were being perpetrated by the general congregation as men grouping themselves into factions, saying, "I am of Paul," and "I am of Apollos".

    Since this is the case, Paul, in the midst of his discussion of the church member's carnality, wants to make a point that the expression of this carnality (whereas they church has divided itself into separate groups) is completely off base in doing so.

    This point Paul makes in 4b-11. I do not agree with the NKJVs paragraphs allocation here. 4b-11 should be considered a paragraph, then 12-15 its own. Vs 12 will resume Paul's discussion of the Corinthians sin and carnality.

    In 4b-11 Paul makes the point that he and Apollos are merely men serving God, who is everything. He also notes that they are fellow-workers, in unity, striving for the same ends. Therefore, there is no reason to align under them, disparaging the others, for Paul and Apollos are engaged in service for God, with the same ends in mind, yet too, it is God who gives the increase, that it is God and not Paul or Apollos they should be aligning under in unity.

    Paul then states that he laid the foundation in Corinth and that others build upon it. These others are any and all Christians. The Corinthians themselves, Paul states, are creating the factions, and not those in whom they say they align with (Paul, Apollos, Cephas). This sectarianism, their envy, their strife, their divisions are what the Corinthians themselves have built on this foundation. It doesn't matter who you are, whether you are a pastor or just a member. This is general here. If you cause divisions, you are sinning, breaking apart the body of Christ.

    That this is no little sin, basically corrupting the unity and well-being of the church, should go without refutation.

    Verse 12 starts a new paragraph and addresses generally ANYONE who builds (all Christians are building on the foundation), not particularly any group. The Greek for anyone is "tis", or any man. Even more specific is the genetive of "ekastos" (x 2) in vs 13, which means "everyone", the work of everyone (generally!), not just the planters and waterers, will be tested by fire.

    The building materials refer to the quality of work done by the Corinthians. The building materials are either useful for a strong edifice, to make a strong tower, impervious to fire, or are worthless to make a strong tower, which the winds and fire can easily consume, thus showing the carelessness and temporality of their work.

    It should go without saying that the sins of sectarianism, envy, strife, and divisions are a type of "work" that these Corinthians were contributing to the edifice. And as I mentioned before, these are no mean transgressions. They were fracturing and disabling the church! A house divided between itself cannot stand, says Jesus. They were corrupting the church!

    Thus it can be shown that every Christians "works" either are useful to build up faithfully upon the foundation of Jesus as the Christ, or sow corruption upon it.

    The Corinthians, were carnal, which displayed itself in their sectarianism, envy, strife, and divisions, and these sins were corrupting the church. Their actions Paul likens to building materials. These actions will be tested by fire to see of what nature they are. Whatever remains merits reward, whatever is lost, brings one a suffering of loss.

    In vs 17 we see the word "ftheirw" used twice. The NKJV translates it first as "defiles" then as "destroys". The word is only used 8 times in the NT and the word, in its context is never translated "destroy" except here in vs 17 in its second occurrence. It is interesting to note as well that the 1st and second occurrence of the word in vs 17 have the exact same parsing but the translators chose to translate them differently.

    The Corinthians by their sectarianism, envy, strivings, and divisions were defiling or corrupting, or as Moulton and Milligan state "injuring" (pg 667) the church, which would be my preferred translation. Therefore Paul would be saying "He who injures the church God will injure".

    That this is the temporal discipline of God should be made clear when we look at 1 Cor 11:29-30 (the same book).

    1 Cor 11:29-30
    For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

    The carnality of the Corinthians was also being manifested in their sins of selfishness and drunkenness at the Lord's Supper celebrations (11:21). Because of their sin, they were incurring injury (discipline) from the Lord: some were weak, others sick, and still others met a premature death.

    In conclusion, the passage of 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is the judgment seat of Christ, where works, service, and the things done in the body are examined for the purpose of showing faithfulness or lack of faithfulness and for the ascribing of honor and glory, or the loss of such resulting in shame, remorse, and sorrow.

    See of course:

    Rom 14:10-13
    But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:

    "As I live, says the LORD,
    Every knee shall bow to Me,
    And every tongue shall confess to God."

    So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

    Were not the Corinthians also showing contempt for their Christian brothers (envy and strife), and also judging their Christian brothers as well (In essence saying that they were better than their other brothers because they were from "Paul" or "Apollos")? This passage is saying the same thing as 1 Cor 3:11ff

    See also 2 Cor 5:9-11 which is a corollary of these two passages.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, November 28, 2007 2:23:00 PM  

  • Well argued.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, November 29, 2007 1:20:00 AM  

  • Antonio,

    Tis indeed a sober thought and something rarely preached in the Church these days.

    By Blogger Jim, at Thursday, November 29, 2007 11:23:00 AM  

  • I am surprised no one has answered this, seeing everyone has stated that to understand the Bema of Christ punitively is in error. That included at least one contributor to this blog



    By Blogger Antonio, at Friday, November 30, 2007 8:46:00 PM  

  • No one except good ol Matthe and Jim.

    Thanks guys!

    Your fg brother,


    By Blogger Antonio, at Friday, November 30, 2007 8:46:00 PM  

  • Somebody wrote reply on the Bluecollar blog.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 2:42:00 AM  

  • I never said it was an "error" ... I said it was not the best choice of words: "punitive"


    I was thinking it over and I still am. You make me think a lot, Antonio.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 4:52:00 AM  

  • What blog, Matthew?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 4:53:00 AM  

  • Quite so.

    They are not exactly Pyromaniacs.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 10:24:00 AM  

  • I don't go there anymore.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 12:16:00 PM  

  • This isn't an issue I've studied, to be honest, so I don't have anything to say (shocking, I know! ;-) ).

    However, since Antonio seemed to want comments on this blog, I DO have something to say. It's not really related to this specific topic, but to the topic of blogging in general and can be applied here. I mention this because, in an email my husband recently received from Antonio, it was clear that he was unaware of a particularly helpful function we have found. So I thought I'd share it with you all, although perhaps some (or most?) of you already know.

    If your mail client allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds, you can set it up to enable all new articles and all new comments on ANY thread (at least on blogspot) to be sent directly to your email inbox. For example, I am alerted to every single new comment on this blog. All I did was type the following into the "Feed URL" box in my mail client: http://www.unashamedofgrace.blogspot.com
    /feeds/comments/default (all on one line though, if I typed it that way here the end was cut off). For all new articles, it's the same pathway, but replace "comments" with "posts". You can do this for any blog at least on blogspot, just the change the name of the blog obviously.

    Anyway, just wanted to share, and couldn't think of a particularly good place to do it. I thought that since this was a group blog, it might be more widely read. Any questions, ask me and I'll find out the answers from my techie husband. :-)

    By Blogger Rachel, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 2:31:00 PM  

  • 1 Co. 3:15 & 2 Co.5:10 seem to me anyway, to imply a punitive aspect. But I agree with Rose, I am not sure "punitive" is the best term. To me, disciplinary would be better, but then that may be saying much the same thing. Discipline usually refers to training, & at the Bema all time for training will be over, so maybe punitive ain't so bad after all! I must say that I am still in the process of working out my understanding on this one!
    Did I just say "ain't?" Ain't that amazing!!

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 4:13:00 PM  

  • Rachel,

    That is actually some very good information. Thank you for sharing that with the readers!

    Your Christian friend,


    By Blogger Antonio, at Saturday, December 01, 2007 5:25:00 PM  

  • Antonio, this is probably the first doctrine I would erase if I could.

    I think it stands in complete contradiction to the doctrine of Perseverance, would you agree?

    By Blogger Jim, at Monday, December 03, 2007 7:43:00 AM  

  • The doctrine of the Bema judgment does stand at complete variance with Reformed theology.

    "A command that everyone keeps is superfluous, and a reward that everyone receives for a virtue that everyone has is nonsense."

    By Blogger Antonio, at Monday, December 03, 2007 1:23:00 PM  

  • Quite honestly, I haven't really studied this either.

    These are rather interesting passages of Scripture, Antonio, and worthy of chewing on. Think I'll print your article, along with your first comment, and ponder for a while.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, December 03, 2007 2:31:00 PM  

  • Hi Antonio

    Great Post!!! I notice the Calvinist so far aren't touching this one with ten-foot pole! ha! ha!
    Nice talking to you last night from my police cruiser! Remember now keep that speed down there could be punitive consequences! Ha! Ha!

    By Blogger alvin, at Monday, December 03, 2007 6:54:00 PM  

  • Yes, I should rethink that.

    I suppose one thing we can all comfort ourselves with is knowing that eventually He will wipe away every tear, even those we all must expect at the judgement seat over opportunities squandered and unfaithful, selfish behaviour.

    Yes, it is a sobering thought and one that is not brought to the forefront of our minds very often.

    It must be more comfortable somehow to scare people into thinking they may not be saved based on their behaviour than to give weight to the idea that saved people may have to answer for their behaviour.

    sobering indeed

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 4:39:00 AM  

  • BTW,
    I never knew this before - (I have been somewhat sheltered, I think) but 2 Cor 5:9-11 is thought of by some (amills, I think) as being all part of the White Throne judgement - IOW, there is only one judgement for all people - saved and unsaved. Weird, huh?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 4:40:00 AM  

  • "I notice the Calvinist so far aren't touching this one with ten-foot pole!

    Alvin, would you rather have us "make stuff up" about it? I, for one, am certainly not going to comment on something I haven't studied and know very little about.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 6:16:00 AM  

  • "It must be more comfortable somehow to scare people into thinking they may not be saved based on their behaviour than to give weight to the idea that saved people may have to answer for their behaviour."

    Rose, I think this is exactly the issue.

    By Blogger Jim, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 8:47:00 AM  

  • "Alvin, would you rather have us "make stuff up" about it? I, for one, am certainly not going to comment on something I haven't studied and know very little about."

    Gayla, the wise choice would be to spend some time studying this issue, for if there is any credence to this notion it would be foolish to ignore it.

    All we not to take the whole counsel of God? That includes everything from Genesis to Revelation. The idea of the judgement is not that abstract, Paul spells it out quite clearly in Corinthians.

    God bless,

    By Blogger Jim, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 8:50:00 AM  

  • Gayla,

    I would like to encourage you to continue thinking about these things.

    For all,

    Check out Free Grace Blog soon for an article that I have been working on for the last few days. It will be on a topic close to this one, in other words, the Judgement Seat of Christ.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:52:00 PM  

  • Rose, the interesting thing is, that if they consider the judgement seat of Christ to be a judgement of both the saved and unsaved, then they would have to say that Christians are let into heaven because of their works. Rememember, Paul says in 2 Cor 5 that we will receive what we have done in the body, whether good or bad. This is one of the Catholic proof-texts for heaven by works.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:55:00 PM  

  • Hi Antonio

    Gayla said:
    Alvin, would you rather have us "make stuff up" about it? I, for one, am certainly not going to comment on something I haven't studied and know very little about.

    Hi Gayla, I respect that I retract my 10 foot pole! Alvin shouldn't have said that I'm sorry.

    blessings alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at Tuesday, December 04, 2007 8:17:00 PM  

  • Alvin, that is very gracious of you. :)


    Antonio, yes, certainly I will continue to think on these things. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, December 05, 2007 10:48:00 AM  

  • Rachel, teach me ! :) Thank you for that tip, but I use outlook express.. how do I find that function?

    Hi Antonio. :)

    By Blogger Trent, at Thursday, December 06, 2007 1:35:00 PM  

  • Trent, I don't want to jam this topic with tech talk so I've posted some info for you and anyone else who's interested @ my blog..

    Defender of Free Software and Free Grace

    By Blogger knetknight, at Thursday, December 06, 2007 7:51:00 PM  

  • Hi Antonio

    I don't agree with Dillow on the atonement only being effective if one believes. But I believe that Hodges is right on.
    1 John 2:2 And He Himself IS the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours ONLY but ALSO for the WHOLE WORLD.
    These are parrallel statements so in the same way that He is our propitiation He is also the worlds.
    That is why sin as sin is not mentioned at the Great White Throne. Also I believe why at the Bema sin is not mentioned but works just as at the Great White Throne works are not the reason for eternal condemnation. So at both Judgements sin is not mentioned because Jesus paid it all.
    My thoughts on Romans 8:1,2 is that condemantion spoken of there is because the believer has died with Christ so is free from the law. But when he walks in the flesh he puts himself back under the law ( Gal 5:2-4; 5:18) and is condemned by it speaking experintial in this life. I believe a believer can and an unbeliever does die in their sins speaking of their experince.

    blessings alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at Sunday, December 09, 2007 9:17:00 PM  

  • Alvin,

    Dillow takes a mediate view between Zane and normative dispensationalism. The reason I pointed you to his chapter is that he has many good arguments in favor of Zane's view and also in favor of punitive consequences at the Bema.

    Take his writings with a grain of salt, but the 23rd chapter of his book is really excellent.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Monday, December 10, 2007 10:54:00 AM  

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