THE REWARD SEAT OF CHRIST  


 

THE REWARD SEAT OF CHRIST


The concept of the reward seat is taken from the Greek, BEMA.
It was a place where justice is administered. Humanly speaking - a tribunal or judicial bench. Mt. 27.19; Jn.19.13; Acts 12.21;18.12,16-17; 25.6, 10,17.
BUT - in our interpretation, perhaps more is being made of the PLACE, the TIMING and the FORMALITY of rewards than should be. The BEMA is Paul's vocabulary (only 2 times) simply as a symbol to illustrate the FACT that God will evaluate the life and deeds of every believer; rejecting what is unacceptable in His eyes, and praising what is acceptable in His eyes.
It will not be a collective affair. Nor will it be a formal tribunal.
Each individual believer will be evaluated immediately and privately in a second of time by God and Jesus.
And at that time the believer will agree with God's evaluation and then "each one will give a word (statement) concerning himself to God." Rom. 14:12

It seems difficult to imagine that those who have died and are in the presence of Jesus are there without having had all their works evaluated.
Likewise can all the OT saints who are now in heaven, as "the spirits of righteous men made perfect," (Heb. 12:23) reside there without having had their lives and deeds evaluated?
In the story of Lazarus and the rich man at Luke 16, both Abraham and Lazarus are in a place of comfort.
This suggests that any evaluation of their life would have already been completed.
The place of comfort is called PARADISE, which strongly suggests that any "bad things done in life" would have been judged and rejected by God, and the "good things done in life" would have been praised.
It is not reasonable to think that the raptured saints would reside in heaven after the rapture without having their evaluation completed.
The evaluation of works is certainly completed before the wedding feast of Rev. 19 takes place.
And it seems strange to have more than one "formal" reward seat.

Is it possible that whenever a believer dies, it is at that moment of time that he/she receives an evaluation of life and deeds at his own personal bema?

THE FACT OF EVALUATION
The fact of evaluation is stated several times in Scripture without reference to a specific TIME.
Rom. 14:10-12, "we shall all stand before the bema of God."
(More on this passage later).
But this is simply the CONCEPT of the bema being utilized by Paul to illustrate the FACT that every believer will have his life and deeds evaluated by God and Jesus. He does not indicate WHEN this evaluation with occur.
1 Cor. 3:10-15, "each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire."

This passage deals more with the MECHANICS of evaluation.
The issue of good vs. bad is light vs. darkness; pure vs. impure.
Thus, "the DAY will show it" (light), because it is to be revealed by FIRE to test the QUALITY and show what is pure and what is impure. At 2 Cor. 5:10, the word for "bad" is phaulos, which means USELESS or worthless.
And it is the very nature of God's essence that will do the purifying. And it will occur in an instant of time and does not require a formal tribunal. Immediately upon the results of the evaluation, the believer will acknowledge that God is righteous (the "word" or statement of Rom. 14:12), and accept the results without question.
The results of the evaluation will be "receive a reward" vs. "suffer loss." (that is, suffer loss of reward).
Reward involves praise (accolades), glory (perhaps reigning with Him) and honor (perhaps the crowns). 1 Peter 1:7.
And again, Paul establishes the FACT of the evaluation without indicating the TIME of the evaluation.

2 Cor. 5:10, "For we must all appear before the bema of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad."
Here we have the second and last usage of the word, bema.
Compensation is mentioned and corresponds with the reward/loss factor at 1 Cor. 3.
The word for good is agathos and indicates good of intrinsic value, thus acceptable to God.
The word for bad is phaulos and indicates something that is useless, unusable, and thus, worthless and unacceptable to God.
We again see a general statement of fact with no mention of the TIME of the evaluation.

EVALUATION AT CHRIST'S RETURN
The evaluation of works is also connected to the return of Christ. But these passages seem to focus on evaluation of LIVING believers at the time of Christ's coming (parousia, presence).
1. Those who had previously died will have already received evaluation of life and deeds.
2. Those raptured at His arrival will receive their evaluation - either instantaneously as they meet in the clouds, or immediately upon entrance into the third heaven.
3. Any saint who dies after the rapture will receive evaluation immediately upon entrance into the third heaven.
4. Any unbeliever who dies after Christ's return, either before or during the mil kingdom, will go to Hades and not be judged until the great white throne. "the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed," Rev. 20:5, 7, 11.
5. Any saint who dies during the mil kingdom will be evaluated immediately upon entrance into the third heaven.

First we have the general statement of resurrection-grace that the church age believers we receive at the arrival of Jesus.
1 Peter 1:13, "Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober {in spirit,}
fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought
to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

This is a promise to the church. The "grace to be brought" in context refers to the resurrection body as explained in verses 3-5. At the rapture of the church all believers will receive a resurrection body, which is described at Romans 8:23 as the "redemption of the body." This is the second stage of our salvation and will occur at the last day (John 6:39-40, 44, 54), which refers once again to the second coming of Jesus at the Day of the Lord.

Then we have passages about receiving evaluation and rewards.

1 Cor. 4:5, "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of human hearts; and then praise will come to each person from God."

This certainly sees an evaluation of works at the time of Christ's coming. But it does not seem to refer to an event beyond their lifetime. It is stated with the idea that Christ's coming could occur within the lifetime of the believers in view.
In other words, leave this in God's hands and He will evaluate all the works at the time that He returns.

Mat. 16:27, "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds."

This statement by Jesus reflects Isaiah 62:11, "Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation is coming; Behold His reward is with Him, and His compensation before Him.”
Jesus uses this reference to teach the principle of future accountability and the specific assessment and judgment of both believer and unbeliever.

In Isaiah, this is a proclamation to be made to the living Israelites that God will come to rescue and to reward.

Isaiah 40:10-11,
"Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His compensation is with Him,
And His reward before Him.
11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in the fold of His robe;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes."

Again, this is a promise to be realized specifically by those who are alive at the time of the Lord's coming. It has in view both judgment on the unbelievers and rescue of the believers, which rescue results in their entrance into the mil kingdom.

Rev. 22:12, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to reward each one as his work deserves."

This is a general statement that when Christ returns, He will evaluate and reward "each one." This is in fact what will happen, but it does not negate the concept that all saints who have died prior to that return will have already been evaluated and rewarded.

THE 24 ELDERS
Hebrews 12:22-24 tells us WHAT is in heaven at the time of writing and accordingly at this present time in history. In the order listed there, we see -
angels, deceased believers of the church, God the Father, OT believers, and Jesus.
This is who we would see were we to be shown a vision of the heavenly setting.
This is what John was shown when within his VISION he was taken to that heavenly setting and saw SYMBOLS to represent things in heaven.
God the Father, angels, the 4 cherubim, the Holy Spirit, 24 elders.
But there is no specific mention of the millions and millions of believers who reside in heaven.
Except there is a SYMBOLIC mention of those believers.
The 24 elders - 12 to represent the OT saints (who were transferred to heaven at the ascension of Jesus) and 12 to represent the NT saints who have died (absent from the body and face to face with the Lord).
And this symbolic group of believers is seen as dressed in white and having crowns.
They have thus, already had life and deeds evaluated and rewarded.

ISSUES that I am aware of
1. The pre-trib camp sees the rapture portrayed by John going into heaven at Rev. 4:1.
Some from among that camp see the 24 elders as the raptured church and see their "bema" having occurred at that time. Thus, the white garments and crowns. Some see the 24 as angels so that becomes a non issue in this study.
2. Others regardless of their rapture view see the 24 as angels, so that likewise is a non issue.
3. Some who see the 24 as the church, restrict it to the church and do not have OT saints evaluated until after Armageddon.

THE MARTYRS OF THE 5TH SEAL
Another SYMBOLIC part of John's vision.
He sees a specific gathering of souls that is a SYMBOLIC representation of a group of martyrs who died because of God's word and their testimony.
Revelation 6:9-11
"When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?” 11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also."
1. They are seen in heaven BEFORE the 6th seal arrival of Jesus and the rapture.
2. They are at rest: "rest a little while longer."
3. They ask God how long before He brings justice. That means the specific time of judgment is still future within the time line of John's vision.
4. It also seems likely in the mind of these martyrs as they call out to God for Justice that the persecutors are still alive on the earth. They are seen within the time line of the seals as dying AFTER the red horse rider, which probably represents the rise of the beast.

5. Each was given a white robe. This can indicate positional righteousness or it can indicate they have already received an evaluation of life and deeds, which is why they would be at rest.
The fact that they are specifically martyrs focuses on their faithfulness in the face of death. But evaluation of faithfulness includes evaluation of every aspect of their life and deeds and will have already been completed at this time. And it is difficult to imagine that these believers are residing there in heaven "at rest" without having already been evaluated and rewarded.
6. It seems that these are not in a resurrection body as they are seen as "souls beneath the altar."
So from a pretrib perspective, they would be considered martyrs who die at the hand of the beast after the rapture.
From a prewrath perspective, they would be considered martyrs who die during the tribulation and before the arrival of Jesus and the rapture at the 6th seal. They will be seen later at Rev. 7:9ff in resurrection bodies who come out of the great tribulation after the 6th seal rapture.

THE MULTITUDE OF REVELATION 7:9
It is clear that the great multitude at Rev. 7:9ff are in a condition of peace and comfort. Thus, evaluation and rejection of "bad" works will have been accomplished at that time or rather BY THAT TIME -
The pretrib camp sees these believers as converted during the tribulation and resurrected at some time after the end of the 70th week. In that case the evaluation of life and deeds will occur at the time that they are brought into the presence of God.

The prewrath camp sees these believers as those who will be raptured at the 6th seal arrival of Jesus in the clouds of the sky. In that case, since the rapture raises dead and living saints -
(1) For those who had previously died, the evaluation would have occurred immediately after their death and upon their arrival in heaven.
(2) For those who were living and then raptured, the evaluation will occur immediately upon their arrival in heaven.

Thus, all the saints at Rev. 7:9 are seen as "clothed in white robes" (righteous), strongly
suggesting that the evaluation of life and deeds had already taken place. Also the fact that no mention is made of any evaluation of life and deeds, indicates that the evaluation had already occurred.

EXHORTATION TO RIGHTEOUS LIVING
2 Peter 3.10-18
Verse 14, "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found spotless and blameless by Him, at peace."

This exhortation concerning the coming of the Lord is addressed to those who expect to be alive on the earth at the time of His coming. The issue is to have their life in order at the time of His arrival. Exactly what John wrote at 1 John 2:28.
"Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not draw back from Him in shame at His coming."

This refers to the possibility that the believer will be out of fellowship with God when Christ returns. In that instant, there will be initial shame and regret. It is after that initial "connection" with the Lord that the evaluation of life and deeds will occur. It seems that this passage deals only with that initial connection with Jesus rather than shame after the evaluation. That is because after the evaluation, there will be total agreement with the Lord and acknowledgement of His righteousness, resulting in peace and joy - regardless of how much "stuff" is burned up and how much is left to be rewarded - for "he himself shall be saved." 1 Cor. 3:15.

1 Peter 4:13

but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ,
keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.

Again, the church is being addressed and is promised the possibility of great joy when Jesus comes back. This great joy is based on consistency of endurance. If the believer is "in fellowship" with God (1 John 1:5-7); enduring the pressures and hardships of this life while focused on the character and plan of God, "fixing our eyes on Jesus," (Hebrews 12:2), and abiding in Him (1 John 2:28), then that believer will have confidence and joy at His coming (parousia) and not shrink away in shame.


James 5:7-9, "Therefore be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brothers and sisters, against one another, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."

Again, this is clearly directed to those who expect to be alive at the time of Christ's coming.
We see the same exhortation to live as a faithful believer so that our evaluation will be positive and not a negative - "so that you may not be judged."

1 Thes. 3:12-13, "and may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones."

This is a concern for those believers who will be alive at the time that Christ returns. Paul's desire seems to be expressed as a prayer, "may the Lord cause." As God works in the life of the believer through spiritual growth, the character of beneficent love grows and increases. This will result in consistency of fellowship (blameless in holiness) with God and promote the strong possibility that the believer will be that way when Jesus returns. The implication is that it will be at that time that the evaluation of life and deeds will occur.
But as previously suggested, those who have died prior to "the coming of the Lord Jesus" will have already received evaluation.

1 Timothy 6:14, "that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This is an exhortation to Timothy concerning what he can do DURING his life in anticipation of the Lord's return. Based on the overall context of Scripture, it should be clear that this has in view the evaluation of life and deeds.

1 Thes. 5:23, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Paul's desire/prayer is for believers who will be alive at the time of Christ's coming. It is the same exhortation or warning that evaluation will come and a positive result depends on spiritual consistency during your life. Obviously, once they have died, there is no concern about whether you will be kept "without blame."

For completeness, we need to recognize the reality of positional righteousness and blamelessness.
Because the believer is righteous in union with Christ, he is viewed by God as blameless and above reproach.  1 Corinthians 1:7-8, "awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, WHO SHALL ALSO CONFIRM you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The word means, above reproach, without blame or guilt due to one's character flaws.
Character flaws are not an issue once we are placed into union with Christ and possess His righteousness.

This is not a prayer for the believer to be blameless. It is a statement of FACT that the believer will indeed be confirmed as blameless at the time that Jesus returns.
We are thus made aware of two spheres of holiness.
(1) The believer is blameless and holy in position. Because the believer is in union with Christ, he shares Christ's perfection, righteousness and holiness. And it is God Himself who will confirm the believer as blameless because "God is faithful through Whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Cor. 1:9. 1 Thes. 5:24 "faithful is He who called you Who also will do it (the calling)."

(2) And the believer is exhorted to LIVE here on earth as blameless and holy. This is accomplished through learning and using God's word to promote sinless consistency and fellowship with God.

At Jude 20-21, believers are exhorted to pursue growth, prayer and character consistency (love) in order to stand before God blameless and happy.
The promise of verse 24, "
Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy,"  is BASED on the believer's consistency in growth and fellowship.
This is not the same as the promise at 1 Cor. 1:8. There is is as statement of fact that God will confirm the believer blameless. Here the condition of blameless and happiness is clearly based on the believer's life and deeds.


1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

This is a specific promise to all believers, but Peter clearly has in mind, those who are alive on the earth and suffering at the time of His coming. Here we see the three classifications of reward (1 Cor. 3:14).
It seems kind of pointless for the believer of 2000 years ago to reside in the third heaven with Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8) and STILL to have not received any praise, glory or honor.

Philip. 3:8-14
This simply explains Paul's goal to receive accolades and rewards from God based on faithful adherence to the divine value system.

V. 10-11, the attaining to resurrection is not the FACT of resurrection, but the condition of a BETTER resurrection; that is, one that is characterized by accolades and rewards.
Heb. 11:35
I don't think Heb. 11:35 negates the concept of evaluation at the time of death for the OT saints. The results of such evaluation (reward or loss of reward) will apply to the quality of resurrection ("better") when their bodies are transformed.

2 John 8, "that you may receive a full reward."
This does not answer the WHEN the reward will be given.
It simply indicates the possibility of having LESS THAN what is possible. As at 1 Cor 3:15, "he shall suffer loss."

Rom. 14.10-12
Statement of fact: "we shall all stand before the bema of God."
As suggested earlier, this seems to be a symbolic use of bema to illustrate the spiritual evaluation of life and deeds.
Paul then references the OT, "for it is written."
However, the phrase, "Every knee shall bow to Me and Every tongue give praise to God ," is not a direct quote from Isaiah 45:23, either in the Hebrew or the LXX.
But the doctrinal principle is represented accurately. The context is salvation provision during the Day of the Lord judgments and ultimate accountability to God alone.
Paul's quote is used to express the ULTIMATE and FINAL acknowledgment by all of creation that God is perfectly righteous, which will occur at various times before and at the time of the great white throne judgment.
Paul then makes a temporal application to the believer and the point in time when after the evaluation of life and deeds, that believer will "give a word (logos) concerning himself to God" (make a statement), totally agreeing with God about the results of the evaluation. Verse 12.
This is not giving an explanation for failures or successes. It is a confession - accepting the verdict of Divine justice and giving glory to God.
This passage does not indicate the specific time of evaluation.
I think the other passages support the theory that it will occur -
(1) For those who experienced physical death prior to Christ's return, the evaluation will have occurred at that time.
(2) For those who will be raptured, the evaluation will occur at that time.
(3) After the rapture:
(a) For those who will be resurrected after Armageddon, the evaluation will occur upon their entrance into the presence of God.
(b) For those who die during the mil kingdom, the evaluation will occur as soon as they are in the presence of God.
(c) And for those who are resurrected at the end of the mil kingdom, their evaluation will occur at that time.

THE CROWNS
Whether the crowns are literal or symbolic is not an issue for this study.
Crown of righteousness: 2 Tim. 4:7-8
"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing."

This is the reward for consistent faithfulness in following the faith throughout one's life. cf.1 Cor. 9:24-27; Rev. 3:11
At 2 Tim. 4:8 - on that day refers to the day of evaluation.
And in the context, it is the day of Paul's death ("time of my departure").
This very clearly supports the idea that the evaluation of the believer's life and deeds will occur at the time of death, at the moment that they are face to face with the Lord.

The crown of life
James 1:12, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."

The TIME of "once he has been approved" is not indicated.
Being consistent with 2 Tim. 4:8 (Paul's departure), that TIME would be the moment the believer is face to face with the Lord - either at the time of physical death or right after the rapture.

Crown of glory: 1 Pet. 5:2-4
Reward to recognize fulfillment of one's spiritual gift. The gift in view is pastor-teacher, but the principle should apply equally to everyone who fulfills his spiritual gift. And if not - it does not change the TIME of reward that is in view.
Verse 4, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."

This is simply stating the fact of reward to be expected when Christ appears. This is not necessarily anticipating death, but if death comes first, then the evaluation of life and deeds will be done at that time.

Hebrews 11:13, "all these died in faith without receiving the promises."
The promises refer to the physical promises of the covenant with Abraham. It does not refer to spiritual life or their "status" after death. Hebrews 12:23 indicates what their status after death is, "the spirits of righteous men made complete."
They are "made complete" because they were taken from Hades in the heart of the earth, and transferred to the third heaven. It is reasonable to think that these all received evaluation of life and deeds at the point of their death during the OT period. This was indicated earlier by reference to Lazarus and the rich man; comfort and paradise.

But when Jesus arrives for His second parousia (presence), it is also to bring an immediate conviction on all the unbelievers who are alive on the earth at that time.
Jude 14-15
“Behold, the Lord has come with many thousands of His holy ones."
Notice that the focus of this arrival is judgment on unbelievers.
It is included in the GENERAL judgments of Mat. 16:27, "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds."
Jude 15, "to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

That "conviction" upon the unbelievers is experienced immediately as the cosmic signs appear and they see Christ's arrival in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. Mat. 24:30; Luke 21:25-27; Rev. 6:15-16.
It is at that time that He will begin to repay with distress upon those who distressed believers during the tribulation.
2 Thes. 1:6-9

In this same context of the coming of the Lord, believers are exhorted to pursue growth, prayer and character consistency (love). Jude 20-21.
The promise of verse 24, "
Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy,"  is BASED on the believer's consistency in growth and fellowship.
This is not the same as the promise at 1 Cor. 1:8. There is is as statement of fact that God will confirm the believer blameless. Here the condition of blameless and happiness is clearly based on the believer's life and deeds. This then is what I previously showed in the section on exhortation to righteous living.

RAISING THE DEAD

There are about ten incidents when people were brought back to life after having died. In most of these cases the "raising" seems to have occurred within the same day that they died, and in two cases it was almost immediately (Paul and Eutychus). For other examples it may have been 1 to 3 days after death.
In the case of Lazarus of John 11, it was 4 days after his death and in the case of the saints of Mat. 27:50-54, it was many days after their death that they were raised.
The question of when an evaluation of life and deeds occurred gets quite interesting.
Following the pattern of evaluation that I have proposed, certainly the bema of Lazarus and the Mat. 27 saints would have occurred upon their entrance into paradise. And it seems that having experienced the evaluation of their past life, there would certainly be a strong motivation for righteous living during the rest of their live.
In the case of the others, who were probably raised on the same day of their death, and Eutychus who was raised immediately, their personal bema might have been delayed. There is also the possibility that their soul did not go immediately into paradise, God knowing that He was going to shortly bring them back to life. This aspect must simply remain undetermined.

Now in the case of Paul who apparently died at Lystra, his raising was almost immediate. (Acts 14:19-20).

 

THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION

Revelation 2:5, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lamp stand out of its place - unless you repent."

This is not a reference to the second coming, but to the VISITATION of Christ in discipline upon those believers who will not change their minds about proper Christian living.

Revelation 2:16, "Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth."

This also refers to a VISITATION in discipline rather than the second coming. Although the language is similar to what we see at Revelation 19, this does not refer to the arrival of Jesus at the battle of Armageddon, for the church will be long gone via the rapture, when Jesus comes in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. The only thing that seems reasonable in this warning is the visitation of judgment through discipline on believers who do not change their minds (repent) about their disobedient life style.

Revelation 2:25, "Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come."

In this case, it does seem to refer to the second coming. And in fact, here and the next two references in the letters to the churches, the second coming is in view. As seen previously, throughout the New Testament, we have several warnings and exhortations to remain faithful UNTO the coming of the Lord, for such faithfulness will provide great blessing through reward. Those who do not "hold fast," are those who do not "abide in Him," and will "shrink away in shame at His appearing" (1 John 2:28), and "suffer loss" of reward (1 Cor. 3:15).

Revelation 3:3, "Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore, you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you."

The verb for "come" here is hāko, where erchomai occurs in each of the other passages. However, there is no apparent reason for the change; both words mean the same thing.

This could refer to the same idea of coming in discipline, that we saw at Revelation 2:5 and 16.
But it is more likely that here we look beyond temporal judgment through discipline to the possibility that in the midst of erring from the truth, the Lord could come and catch that believer off guard as is suggested at 1 John 2:28.

The language of "like a thief" is used, and although that does not mean that it has to refer to the second coming, each of the other four occurrences refer to the second coming (1Thes. 5:2, 4; 2Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15).

This idea is supported based on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8, where even though, the believer will not be JUDGED at the Day of the Lord, he can still be caught off guard and the arrival of Jesus be like a thief to him, if he does not WAKE UP and walk in the light instead of in the darkness. But because of the believer's security IN CHRIST, the arrival of Jesus unexpectedly will not threaten their salvation, but bring shame and embarrassment as per 1 John 2:28.

Revelation 3:11, "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have,
in order that no one take your crown."

As I have shown previously, this refers to the possibility of losing reward by failure to maintain consistent fellowship with God and obedience while living here on earth.
John reflects this same idea at 2 John 8, "Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what you have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward."

The possibility exists for the believer to live an unfaithful Christian life and as a result lose all or part of his reward for service. However, as Paul teaches us, this has no effect on the status of one's salvation, for no matter how minimal his reward may be, "yet he himself shall be saved" (1 Cor. 3:15).

The word, "quickly," is tachus, which means either in a RAPID manner, or SOON. The idea of SOON in the apostolic writings always sees the coming of the Lord as a possible event within the context of the required events that must precede the rapture as per 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the revealing of the man of lawlessness and the apostasy of the church.
And here as in most of the other passages, the warnings are given with the idea that the Lord would indeed come in the lifetime of the readers.


THE EVALUATION BEFORE THE WEDDING FEAST
Rev. 19:7-8
"the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."
There are two factors here.
1. The PAST preparation:
The verb "has prepared herself" (aorist middle indicative) indicates that the preparation has already happened. In other words, the evaluation that results in being clothed with fine linen has taken place before this scene occurs. The symbol of the bride preparing HERSELF is part of the cultural ceremony. It does not detract from the fact that it is God who actually prepares the saints by burning away the useless deeds and rewarding the good deeds. I suppose one could make a case that the bride preparing herself refers to the "good" that believers in general had done during their lives.
This preparation of the bride does not look at each individual believer, but the entire body of saints as one collective whole; each individual contributing whatever they did, with the least of which would be simply saving faith in Christ; for although a believer might indeed "suffer loss" of reward, "yet he himself will be saved." 1 Cor. 3:15.

This evaluation can happen as a one time event at the rapture or at sometime afterwards. Or it can be the result of the evaluation that previously occurred for each individual believer right after their death.
2. It was given to her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and clean. This is the result of the evaluation and does not require that the linen be put on at that moment. It could refer to the fact that the linen had previously been donned.
3. It is possible and perhaps probable that "made ready" and "clothed" refers to the same action of having been purified after the evaluation of life and deeds.

THE LAST JUDGMENT
The last judgment presents us with a different scenario.
To this very present time in history, whenever an unbeliever dies, they go to the place of torments in Hades. They reside there until the great white throne judgment of Rev. 20:10-15.
Here it does appear to be a very formal and collective gathering of all unbelievers.
There is no indication that any saints appear there except for a couple witnesses called by God. These appear to testify in order to demonstrate to the unbelievers of the Messiah generation how serious was their failure to accept God's grace provision for salvation via the very PERSON of the Messianic promise; the Lord Jesus Himself. Mat. 12:39-42; Luke 11:29-32.
The men of Ninevah and the Queen of the South.
The greatest generation of all time to be recipients of God's grace is the generation that saw and heard the very presence of God's Messiah/Savior.
The witness of the Ninevites will be something along these lines. "We accepted the message of the prophet, Jonah, who faithfully proclaimed the Messianic promise. We cannot help but accuse you for rejecting the words and works of the Messiah Himself in the person of Jesus."

And the Queen of the South was so captivated with Solomon's wisdom, that she embraced the divine viewpoint and accepted the Messianic promise. She too, will stand as a testament to God's grace, and rebuke that "evil and adulterous generation" for rejecting the very Person of the Messiah himself.

Romans 2:12, 16, "For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law; and all who sinned in the sphere of the law will be judged by the law; (verses 13-15) on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."

Man will be judged at the great white throne at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Jesus (Rev. 20:7, 11-15). But often the DAY of judgment is closely associated with Christ's second coming, even though there are many years between that coming and the last judgment.


EVALUATION OF LIVING PEOPLE AFTER ARMAGEDDON
After the dust settles from Christ's defeat of the armies gathered against Him, there will be a 45-day period of time to prepare for the establishment of Christ's earthly kingdom.
At that time, all the people living on the earth will be separated into two groups; believers and unbelievers.
This will not be an evaluation of life and works for determining ultimate accolades and rewards in heaven. It will be a determination of who trusted in Jesus as the Messiah-Savior and who did not.
This will result in the removal of unbelievers from the earth and the confirmation of those who are believers, who then go alive into the earthly kingdom. Ezek. 34:17-22; Mat. 25:31-46.

DURING THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
Jewish and Gentile believers will enter into the millennial kingdom in normal, mortal bodies and live their lives under the jurisdiction of Jesus the king of kings and Lord of lords. The bride of Christ - all resurrected believers from all previous time periods - will reign with Christ from within the New Jerusalem and help govern the peoples of the world.
There will be marriages, births and deaths. We have no information about what will happen with believers who die or when they will receive a resurrection body for life throughout "eternity." But the pattern should still be in operation that every believer who dies will go into the third heaven and immediately have life and deeds evaluated. These will probably not receive a resurrection body until the mil kingdom is over, but reside in heaven until that time.
At the end of the mil kingdom, after the Satanic revolution of Rev. 20:7-10, all living believers will probably receive their evaluation of life and works and then a resurrection body. All unbelievers, both living and dead, will then appear before the great white throne judgment and be sentenced to the lake of fire for all of eternity. Rev. 20:11-15.

After that there will be no more sin and unrighteousness; no more curse and no more death.
All who had trusted in Christ (the Messianic promise) during their life on earth will live and reign with Christ throughout the years, ages, time periods of eternity; and only HE knows the details of that future eternity.

 

 
 

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