At the Judgment Seat of Christ

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By David A. DePra


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.  (II Cor. 5:10)


The above verse from II Corinthians is pulled from a larger passage that contains much related Truth.  It is Truth that not only has application for the last judgment and eternal ages, but also for our life in Christ for this age. 


To begin with, let’s look at some of the words in this verse.  We need to realize that the KJV English words that are in italics are NOT in the original Greek manuscripts.  They are words put into the text by the translators because they believe that adding those words will bring out the intended meaning more clearly.  That is a common tool in any translation -- and most often those added words DO make what is written more clear as to the intended meaning.  But this method also puts the translation at the mercy of the understanding and interpretation of the translators – which is some cases is lacking.


In the case of this verse, the intended meaning is actually a bit muddled by the addition of those words in italics.  Not only that, but one key Greek word in this verse is actually translated with an English word that tends to lead us in a direction other than that which was intended by the apostle Paul.


The key word in question is, “appear.”  Paul says that, “we must all APPEAR before the judgment seat of Christ.”  The word translated, “appear,” is PHANEROO.  The word means, “to make manifest; make known; show…to reveal; take the lid off.  It means the act of divine revelation (about someone or something).”  (Hebrew-Greek study Bible, page 1737, Strongs 5319)


That certainly changes the meaning conveyed by this passage.  When we read the phrase, “APPEAR before the judgment seat of Christ,” we quite naturally think in terms of simply being PRESENT at the judgment seat of Christ – and perhaps nothing more.  But in actuality, we are being told that WE MUST BE MADE MANIFEST before the judgment seat of Christ – WE must be REVEALED.  The word is in the PASSIVE voice, which means that this revelation is not of something other than us that is then given to us.  NO.  It is a Divine revelation OF US.  Paul is declaring the fact that we must all be MADE MANIFEST at the judgment seat of Christ – that is, the Truth about us is going to be fully exposed.  “The lid” – all that hides or bottles up the Truth about us -- is going to be, “lifted.”  The REAL us will be brought out into the light.


What is being described here IS judgment.  The word most commonly used in the NT that is translated, “judge, or judgment,” is KRINO.  It means to DISCERN – “to divide, separate, make a distinction.”  In other words, this, “judgment,” brings out the Truth.  “To judge,” in the sense of this word, KRINO, means to, “separate Truth from error” – and to allow only the Truth about us to stand.


So we see that KRINO does not mean to pass sentence.  It simply means to bring out the Truth.  Sentence will be passed, assignments made, or action taken, will follow once the Truth is revealed.


If the word KRINO means to discern the Truth, then KRINO is describing the impact of LIGHT.  Indeed, LIGHT always brings judgment – LIGHT always brings out the Truth.  God always begins judgment with LIGHT. 


We are apt to think of this judgment as a fearful, negative thing.  But it is not necessarily that at all.  Paul is simply telling us that we must be made manifest – have the Truth about us brought out – before the judgment seat of Christ. 


As an aside, we must see the difference between, “discernment,” and, “condemnation.”  While the word translated, “judgment,” is KRINO, the word for, “condemnation,” is KATAKRINO.  As noted, KRINO means to discover the Truth.  But KATAKRINO means to bring a judgment against; to condemn – because the Truth that is discovered is bad.  In fact, when Jesus said, “judge not,” He was not forbidding discernment.  No.  For if we are in Christ, we are going to discern.  We must.  But Jesus was saying that we must never condemn (katakrino) – must never play God; must never decide what someone deserves. 


So at the judgment seat of Christ we will all BE MADE MANIFEST.  Sure.  By definition, the JUDGMENT SEAT is the seat of Light and Truth – it represents standing face to face with the One who said, “I AM the Light; I AM the Truth.”  So when we stand face to face with Jesus Christ then judgment will happen because it will be the result of being in His presence – the Truth about us will be brought out.  WE will be made fully manifest.


Now, you will note that the JUDGMENT seat is a picture.  It isn’t as if there is some actual judgment seat that DOES SOMETHING TO US -- and brings out the Truth about us.  No.  Rather, this is a picture of what is going to happen when each of us encounters Jesus Christ HIMSELF.  In a sense, HE is the judgment seat of God, Who, when encountered, brings out the Truth about everyone and everything.


Even in this age, when we are indwelt by Christ through the Spirit of Truth, there is an ongoing work to lead us into all Truth – there is a continual work that brings us into an inward realization of Jesus Christ.  But as we realize Christ, all else will be made manifest – because HE is the Light and Truth.  For example, the more we see Christ, the more we will see in ourselves all that is contrary to Him.  That is because it is the revelation of HIM that sheds light and brings out the Truth.


 It is the purpose of God, and the destiny of believers, that we spend all eternity fellowshipping with Jesus Christ.  But to what degree are we able to do that?  This will be revealed at the judgment.


Glorified Body


That brings us to the second part of our verse – the part in which we find the italicized words.  To review, this is what the KJV says:


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.  (II Cor. 5:10)


So far, we have seen that it ought to read:


For we must all be made manifest by the judgment seat of Christ…


Now, let’s add the second part of the verse the way it ought to read:


…that every one may receive THRU BODY according to that which he hath done, whether good or bad.


There is no question that there is a correspondence between our relationship with Christ HERE and what is carried through and received into the glorified body -- at this judgment of Christ.  Who we are to Christ NOW is going to be the basis for who we are to Christ THEN.  Note that word:  Basis.  Or, if you prefer:  Foundation.  In this age, there is the foundation being laid of Christ, but then there is that which is built in us upon Christ.  Both the foundation and what is built in Christ is that which is received through the glorified body.  Who Christ is to us NOW is going to be the basis for who Christ is to us THEN.  This is the entire point of this passage, and of other passages. Of course, our understanding of how that works, and what that means, may be blurred or even incorrect.  But the fact remains.


What we see here is that death does not erase the Truth about our relationship with Christ.  Rather, death SEALS it as the BASIS.  Upon that basis much will be built through the eternal ages.  But it is nevertheless the basis for all.


In His inspired Word, God gives us a number of passages on this matter of what happens at the resurrection of the body, and the judgment seat of Christ.  These passages serve to clarify what Paul is getting at in II Corinthians 5:10.  One of the best if found in I John:


Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

This verse contains more Truth than is evident in the KJV translation.  It could be paraphrased:

It has never yet been made manifest what we shall be, but we know that when who we are in Christ is manifested, that who we are in Christ will be out from His likeness, and that this will enable us to see Him as He is." This is based on the original Greek (per M.R. Vincent).

John is speaking to the same Truth as does Paul.  He is telling us that in this age the glorified body cannot be seen – it will only be made manifest through resurrection.  This agrees with Paul – who wrote that only at the judgment will the believer be made fully manifest.  But John adds that the believer will be made manifest, “from out from Christ Himself.”  In other words, the glorified body of the believer is going to carry an  expression; a manifestation of Jesus Christ Himself.

This expression of Christ through the believer is the outcome of this life, the resurrection of the body, and the judgment of Christ.  That expression of Christ will be the TRUTH about each of us – it will reflect, in a living way, our relationship with Christ.

Of course, our relationship with Christ is dependent upon the light we have received.  Thus, it is not how MUCH we have done for the Lord, or how MUCH light we have received, but whether we were faithful over the light we were given.  For those who are given much – much will be required.  For those who are given little – little will be required.  Our faithfulness to God in what light He has given us determines the quality – good or bad – of our relationship with Christ NOW.  This determines the degree to which we are able to experience Christ, and be an expression and extension of Him as we pass into the eternal ages.


You will note that the reward of the saints is not THINGS.  It is not first of all, “positions.”  Rather, the reward if a full release and experiencing Jesus Christ.  Any things or positions that follow will be based upon who He is to us.

God is perfectly just.  This is not a contest.  It is not a race to do as many good works as possible so as to increase our reward.  No.  Rather, it is a matter of walking by faith in that which the Lord has given.

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