Scripture Queries and Answers: The Judgment Seat of Christ

2 Corinthians 5:10  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"A. B."-" C." ask:-Does the Scripture-2 Cor. 5:1010For 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)-contemplate believers and unbelievers I Will the sins of believers, previous to their conversion, be manifested at the judgment seat of Christ? Will this manifestation be to the praise of divine grace? Will it be only the service of Christians which will then be brought out? If the sins of believers, as well as the deeds which God can accept of, be manifested there, how does this agree with, " their sins and iniquities will I remember no more?" (Heb. 10) Is not judgment past for the believer?
A.-2 Cor. 5:1010For 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) is a I road general principle, which is applicable to all mankind, irrespective of what grace has accomplished in, and for, those who believe. It is however to be remarked, that when the apostle has • before his mind both saints and sinners, he does not speak of persons being judged, but of their receiving for things done in the body-retribution is his thought. Because, for the saint, judgment is past-Christ has borne it for him: he does not come into judgment. (John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24).) "Condemnation" there is incorrect. All must be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive of the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad. The thought is, the perfect manifestation of all that a person is, and has been, before a throne characterized by judgment, yet without the judgment of the person being in question. It does not say "judged," for then even the saints would be condemned. Yet, when the wicked "receive the things done in the body," they must be condemned.
The apostle has no sort of anxiety for himself as to this solemn thought of a judgment seat; instead of that, it has a sanctifying and practical effect upon him, as one now manifested to God (v. 11). While, when he thinks of the wicked, and knows that for such it is the "terror of the Lord," it-is an incentive to him to "persuade men."
God, who has wrought us for the glory and assimilation to Christ, works morally in our souls, preparing the vessel by a moral dealing thus for glory. When man fell he came to know good and evil for the first time. Good which he had no power to practice-evil that he had no power to avoid. God works in the sinner, convincing him of, and cleansing him from the guilt-whether of nature or practice, according to His knowledge of it, and through the work of Christ. He reveals Christ as one in whom was perfect good, outside and above the evil, as the light by which the Christian thus purged may judge all within Himself. Without the knowledge of grace, the soul fears the light. With it-it rejoices to have a perfect standard whereby to judge all in itself that is inconsistent with the light. God works by His Spirit in the conscience which He has purged, to produce this entire and unsparing judgment of self; those who have benefited by His working thus in them, will have gained. If they have not, and that the fruits which God would have produced in them, have been turned aside, they will bear the consequences of the neglect, and lose what they might have gained; and which, if gained, although produced by Him, is counted in grace to them.
When manifested before the judgment seat of Christ they will then be enabled fully to judge according to God's judgment, as being then divested of the flesh that hindered, all their past career. On one side will be seen all God's gracious care and painstaking wisdom, with which He deigned to deal with them all through their course; on the other, all their own frowardness and wilfulness-how here they lost by not hearkening to Him; and there they gained and grew in stature by profiting by His ways. Here, capacity, which they might there have had, was stunted to the measure they will have then attained. There, the soul, exercised by His workings, had grown in a capacity for enjoying heaven and Christ, which it never then can recover or regain.
When the sense of this tribunal is kept in the soul, which has been established in grace (for without it none could for one instant bear the thought of receiving of the things done in the body), it has a present sanctifying effect upon the Christian. He rejoices to judge himself, in the thought that one day he will be able to do so perfectly, in the full blaze of God's presence in the light. What he failed to do now, he will be enabled to do perfectly then. He thus keeps his conscience in the light; maintaining its rights and authority against all the subtle encroachments of the flesh. Holiness due to God governs his heart. The inward energy of holy grace which separates from all the evil within, connects the soul with God-binds the heart to Him, and rejects everything which is contrary to Him. When manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, the full sense of the divine grace, but imperfectly learned here below at best, will then—be seen. Grace as immeasurable and as perfect as the God Himself whom it reveals. It will be to the praise of divine grace in the believer indeed.
The statement, "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more," has reference only to condemnation. Christ having done a work which purges the conscience, and has perfected the believer forever, God righteously remits his sins; He calls them to mind no more forever. Divine working in the soul enables us to call them to mind, and produces that moral judgment of ourselves about them, which deepens as we know Him the more. This work of manifestation is true now, as far as we have realized the light. Having learned divine grace, cannot I look back upon my whole course now, in perfect peace with God; and wonder and adore my God? Cannot I look back at what I was before my conversion, and, while abhorring myself, adore His grace to me? Cannot I look back at my failures since my conversion-be humbled about them-and worship Him, as to how I have learned Him in His patient grace with me; convicting, rebuking, chastening, and restoring my soul; and thus permitting me to grow in the knowledge of Himself and His ways! God be thanked for the grace that enables us to do so in unhindered liberty, and in the unsparing scrutiny and judgment of self. I do not suppose that a period of time is the thought of this judgment seat. Certainly not an indiscriminate huddling together of righteous and wicked; than which no thought is more foreign to Scripture. It is, as I have said, a broad general principle applicable to saints of all times and dispensations to the end; and embracing sinners as well
I trust, beloved friends, that what I have said, may lead into some apprehension of its great principles, and have a present sanctifying effect upon the lives of my readers. While, also, that it may prove a spur to the energies of those who know the true grace of God in which they stand, to persuade men-the thought, that for sinners, it is the terror of the Lord, weighing upon the heart; and the deep, deep love of Christ constraining us to make known Him who died in grace for all!
God be thanked we go there in the likeness of Him who sits upon that judgment seat. He has come there and received us to Himself as He has said. (John 14) He has changed our vile bodies, and fashioned them like His own glorious body. (Phil. 3) He who sits there is the righteousness of those (believers) who are manifested before Him. (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).)