“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV)
When I attended college, I excelled on the rifle team. There I won trophies five years in a row for various skills. The league would present trophies for the highest individual score and highest individual average score for the season. There were also team awards for first, second, and third place in the league. At the end of the year, there was an awards presentation. where various awards were presented. The names were announced and they would walk up on the platform to receive their award.
As I look back on this, of all the awards for rifle shooting, I think the team awards were the best. The reason was that we could all rejoice together. Those who had the lowest average scores for the season and those with the highest all received the team trophy.
Paul in this section wrote that all will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body.” There is a time coming for every believer in Jesus when they will receive something for what they have accomplished in their earthly body. Here the “judgment seat” is translated from the Greek, bema. The bema refers to an elevated place ascended by steps (Thayer pg. 31). This bema “of Christ” is not to be confused with the final judgment before the “great white throne”(Rev 20:11-15) where the unsaved will experience a judgment of condemnation. The bema “of Christ” is the place where the works of believers will be judged.
This bema judgment will take place in heaven. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about this judgment in another letter (1 Cor 3:10-15). In this letter he explained that the reward would be based upon the quality of the works done. The result of the judgment would be one of either reward or the loss thereof.
“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:14–15, KJV)
What will differentiate the good work from the bad? Paul indicated several things. first the good work must be built on the correct foundation, “which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Second the good works will be built upon this foundation using precious materials, “gold, silver, precious stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12). Now, there are many interpretations regarding what these precious materials represent. They may represent the lasting quality of the work, the proper doctrine being preached, the proper motive of the builder to glorify God, or those who have genuinely believed.
In applying Paul’s words, “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him” (2 Corinthians 5:9, KJV), perhaps it is best to consider the precious materials as it relates to what we can do. We must have a proper motive to glorify God and we must preach and teach solid biblical truth. Only the Lord can truly change the heart of a man for He is the Savior, but we must be faithful messengers who will preach truth for the glory of God.