Giving An Account To Jesus Christ

The New Testament teaches all believers will appear before the judgement seat of Jesus Christ after death (see Matthew 25:14-23, Luke 16:1-12, Romans 14:10-12, 1 Corinthians 3:10-13, 4:3-5, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Hebrews 4:12-13, 13:7 and James 3:1). John 3:18, 5:24 and Romans 8:1 show this will not involve sentencing any of them to eternal condemnation in hell or the lake of fire. John 5:24 declares: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life.” In Chapter             “Being loved and accepted by God”, we saw how God totally accepts believers through Jesus Christ.

Some Christians, however, emphasise the Biblical truth about their acceptance by God so much they wrongly neglect or even completely ignore the New Testament teaching on them giving an account to Jesus Christ of their every motive, thought, word and action. They are extremely confused about the difference between God accepting us in Christ through unmerited undeserved grace and our having to please Him in our daily practical living in order to receive rewards in heaven from Him.

 

The time of Jesus’ judgement of believers

 

There is debate about when Jesus’ judgement of believers will occur. One view argues 1 Peter 4:17 reveals Jesus will judge believers before He judges unbelievers. Another view says the judging of believers and unbelievers will occur at the same time. Holders of the latter view quote passages such as Matthew 13:24-30, 13:36-43, 13:47-50 and 25:31-46 as supposed proof.

 

Three judgements for believers

 

There are three types of judgements taught in the Bible in relation to believers:

 

         The first relates to Christ suffering God’s furious judgement we deserved because of our sins (see John 5:24, Romans 3:21-26, 8:1, 8:31-34, Hebrews 10:1-17, 1 John 1:7-9 and 2:2).

         The second relates to God disciplining us as His sons and daughters while we are here on Earth (see Hebrew 12:5-11 and 1 Corinthians 11:31-34).

         The third occurs at the Judgement Seat of Jesus Christ when we will be rewarded on the basis of things mentioned in this chapter. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 states: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Paul here includes himself and the Corinthian believers in those who will appear before Jesus Christ's Judgement Seat. Paul says we as believers must aim to please Jesus in every area of our lives because of our appearance before His Judgement Seat. The word “For” at the beginning of verse 10 shows the link between pleasing the Lord and our appearance before Him. Romans 14:10-12 says: “…For we shall all stand before the judgement 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.”

 

Nothing can be hidden

 

God knows everything about every believer. Psalm 139:1-4 says: “O Lord, You have searched me and know me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.” So it is foolish for us to think we can hide anything from Him.

 

Believers are held accountable for their motives

 

Hebrews 4:12-13 shows that we as believers will have the thoughts and intentions or motives of our hearts judged by the Word of God: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” [1]

1 Corinthians 13:1 shows that if our seemingly good outward actions are not based on the motive of love towards God and others, such actions will be regarded as of little or no value in Jesus’ estimation: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” Jesus Christ’s Words in Matthew 6:1-5 and 16-18 confirm the same principle.

Therefore, our prayer, fasting, helping the poor, our desire to understand God’s Word, our faith for miracles and everything else we do in our lives will be judged on the basis of whether it was motivated by Holy Spirit-inspired love for Jesus Christ and others.

 

 

Believers are also held accountable for their actions and words

 

Some Christians may believe Jesus will only judge believers for their motives, but not their spoken words and actions. This is totally wrong. Godly character and motives are not merely internal, but also express themselves in words and actions. In John 15:1-8 and Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus stressed that true godly character in the lives of His disciples will express itself in fruit others can see.

Godliness is not an internal quality alone. Neither is it just external. The New Testament teaches true godliness and Christ-likeness manifest themselves both inwardly and outwardly.

The fact Jesus will also look at our outward actions is seen in 2 Corinthians 5:10 when Paul speaks of believers being judged on the basis of their doings. In John 14:15, 21 and 23, Jesus emphasised true love for Him expresses itself in obedience to what He commands. Love is not merely an internal characteristic or motive alone. True love also expresses itself in actions of obedience to Christ’s many different commands in the New Testament.

If a person has the good motive of witnessing about Jesus Christ to his next door neighbour but steals some money while at his neighbour’s house, Jesus will not say, “Your motive was good, so I was not the least bit displeased with your action of stealing.” Both our motives and actions are important to the Lord.

 

Jesus Christ will reveal our true character

 

2 Corinthians 5:10 seems to teach that all the sins and any hypocrisy of believers will be exposed by Jesus Christ at His Judgement Seat. [2] This can be seen by the usage of the form of the Greek word “phaneroo” translated “appear” in this verse. Vine says “phaneroo” means “in the passive voice, ‘to be manifested’…To be manifested in the Scriptural sense of the word, is more than to ‘appear’. A person may ‘appear’ in a false guise or without a disclosure of what he truly is; to be manifested is to be revealed in one’s true character; this is especially the meaning of ‘phaneroo’.” [3]

Note the form of “phaneroo” used in 2 Corinthians 5:10 is in the passive voice in Greek. The passive voice signifies another person does the action to us of revealing or manifesting ourselves. In this context, this other Person is Jesus Christ Himself. He reveals or manifests our true character at His Judgement Seat.

Another form of the word “phaneroo” is used in 1 Corinthians 4:5 and is translated “reveal”. 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 states: “but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the councils of the hearts; and then each one’s praise will come from God.” This passage says the Lord will reveal what is our real thoughts and purposes.

One view argues 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 shows that at His Judgement Seat, Jesus will expose publicly every hidden sinful thought and motive. A second view suggests these verses mean He will expose every sinful thought or purpose privately to each believer individually. But note whatever is the case, all these sins have been totally forgiven.

Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17 mention God remembering our sins no more. An alternate view claims these two verses mean Jesus will not expose our sins at His Judgement Seat. But then again, it is also possible Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17 refer to God not remembering our sins in the sense of not eternally condemning us to the lake of fire.

 

Believers rewarded partly on stewardship

 

Matthew 25:14-23 and Luke 16:1-12 reveal Jesus Christ will also hold believers accountable for everything He has given them. These things include their mind, body, time, money, job, material possessions, children and everything else. It is not the amount of gifts we have that is important but whether we use them in ways approved by God. Some others may have more gifts than you, but the key is what they and you do with them.

 

Held accountable also for what we have not done

 

James 4:17 teaches believers will also be held accountable for the things they knew God wanted them to do, but did not do: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” These are the things that mostly only the individual and God know. Outwardly the person may appear to be doing God’s known will. But God and the person know otherwise.

 

Teachers will be judged more strictly

 

James 3:1 shows teachers in the church will be judged more strictly than others: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgement.” Those who write Christian books, teach in churches and on television or radio need to be very careful about what doctrines they teach. They will be held accountable for any false doctrine they clung to, contrary to the conviction of the Holy Spirit within them about these.

 

All church leaders will be held accountable

 

Hebrews 13:17 shows all church leaders will be held accountable before Jesus Christ: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account…” So if you are an apostle, prophet, evangelist or pastor or a lay leader (assuming Hebrews 13:17 includes lay leaders), know Jesus Christ will hold you responsible for what you preached and taught or how you lived. See also 1 Timothy 4:16.

Note Galatians 1:9 shows some church leaders may even end up eternally condemned if they knowingly continue to preach a seriously wrong gospel: “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” 2 Peter 2:1-3 and Jude 4 confirm this. All preachers, including myself, lack perfect understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will not fall under eternal condemnation for minor errors about it. But it is very dangerous for any person deliberately to preach year after year a version of the Gospel which is full of extreme errors.

 

Must be based on Jesus Christ in order to receive a reward

 

In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Paul expresses some other features of the Day of Christ on which believers will be rewarded: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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 the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Only those things that have Jesus Christ as their foundation will receive a reward from Him. Motives, goals, thoughts, feelings, character features, words and actions which do not glorify Him and are not centred on Him will not be rewarded.

The written Word of God is an expression of Jesus Christ – the living Word of God. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 also means anything that is not in agreement with the written Word of God in our lives will not be rewarded on the Day of Christ. Unbiblical teachings and practices will be exposed on that Day.

Some churches are in for a rude shock. They will find many of their activities will not be rewarded at Jesus’ Judgement Seat. The Lord will not be interested in whether a church was greatly applauded at church growth conferences for their programme and numbers if many of their members were not truly converted and the church’s activities were based on worldly religiosity and compromise with sin. Joshua 1:8 shows God relates true success to obeying His will.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 shows anything in our lives that is not built on the foundation of Jesus Christ will be burnt up by the consuming fire of God on the Day of Christ. Hebrews 12:29 says: “for our God is a consuming fire.” Revelation 1:14 and 2:18 say that in His resurrected form, Jesus Christ's eyes are like blazing fire. On the Day of Christ, the fire of His Presence will burn up everything not based on Him.

1 Corinthians 3:15 shows that some Christians will lose many of the rewards they could have received on the Day of Christ. This is even though they will still be saved. They will lose these rewards because of their many self-centred instead of Christ-centred activities.

Note also the word “loss” is not used in 1 Corinthians 3:15 in the specific sense of the total loss of all rewards. This verse just mentions some loss of rewards without specifying how much. 2 John 8 says: “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” The above verse mentions the possibilities of receiving a full reward or losing some of this reward.

I do not believe there will be any believer who receives no rewards at all from the Lord at His Judgement Seat. Every true believer in Jesus Christ manifests Him and the fruit of His Presence in their lives to some degree. Any person who expresses absolutely no fruit of Jesus Christ in their lives year after year but claims to be saved, is deceived.

 

Final important comments

 

Believers who receive few rewards at Christ's Judgement Seat will still experience His wonderful inheritance by God’s unmerited grace. These believers will experience God’s wonderful Presence, joy and peace, and will know Him deeply and intimately. They will also experience His love, perfect acceptance and many marvellous blessings. These believers will be perfectly happy in heaven despite their small number of rewards.

Also note if we are doing things for Jesus Christ only because of the desire to obtain rewards from Him, this in itself will limit our rewards. This is because our motive is based on self-centredness and not Jesus Christ. It is best to serve Him out of love without any major desire for rewards, while remembering such rewards will occur.

Let us every day live with the wonderful awareness of the fact we will in future give an account of our lives to Jesus Christ.

 

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         Will true believers in Jesus Christ be condemned to eternal punishment?

2.         Will true believers have to give an account to Jesus Christ of their every motive, thought, word and action?

3.         What are the three different types of judgement taught in the Bible in relation to believers?

4.         What does Hebrews 4:12-13 teach us?

5.         Explain what 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches about which aspects of believers’ lives Jesus will hold them accountable.

6.         Explain what James 4:17 teaches.

7.         What warning does James 3:1 give teachers in the Church?

8.         In what ways does Hebrews 13:17 and Galatians 1:9 apply to church leaders?

9.         For what things will believers receive rewards at Jesus’ Judgement Seat?

10.     What do 1 Corinthians 3:15 and 2 John 8 teach about the possibility of some believers losing some of their rewards in heaven?


 


[1] It is possible that the phrase “the Word of God” found in Hebrews 4:12 also refers to Jesus Christ. But it is wrong to teach that it does not refer to the written Word of God. This is because of the following reasons:

          Hebrews 4:12 refers to the Word of God as “sharper than any two-edged sword”. Revelation 1:16 says that out of Jesus Christ's mouth “went a two-edged sword”. In Revelation 2:16, Christ refers to “the sword of My mouth”. Revelation 2:12 draws a distinction between Christ and the two-edged sword which He has: “…He who has the sharp two-edged sword.” Jesus Christ is not the two-edged sword, but the Word He speaks is.

          In Greek, the word “Word” in Hebrews 4:12 is “logos”. The writer of the Book of Hebrews uses “logos” to refer to the spoken and/or written Word of God (see Hebrews 2:2, 4:2, 5:13, 7:28, 12:19 and 13:22). The only exception to this is Hebrews 13:7 which may refer to the spoken Word of God or to Jesus Christ. Note when the writer of Hebrews does refer to Jesus Christ as the Word, he uses the Greek word “rhema”. Hebrews 11:3 and possibly 1:3 are examples of this. Hebrews 6:5 uses “rhema” also, but we can debate about whether it means the written Word and/or Jesus Christ in this verse. I am not suggesting that all New Testament writers use “logos” only to mean the written or spoken Word. For example, John uses “logos” in John 1:1 to mean Jesus Christ. But I am saying the writer of Hebrews uses “logos” in certain ways. The New Testament authors do not contradict each other. But anyone, who has studied the usages of Greek by the various New Testament authors, knows these God-inspired writers had their own writing style and usages of words.

[2] Matthew 10:26 and Luke 12:2-3 may also suggest all our sins and/or hypocrisy will be revealed at the Judgement Seat of Christ. Luke 12:2-3 says: “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”

[3] Vine, pages 31-32.


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