SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
There are three major judgments in the prophetic timeline of God: the Sheep and Goats Judgment, the Bema Seat Judgment, and the Great White Throne Judgment. Some of these judgments take place on earth and some in heaven. But there is only one that you should be worried about. And that is the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.
So what is the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ and why is it such a big deal?
The Bema Seat Judgment of Christ takes place after the Rapture of the church and before the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven. This judgment does not determine salvation. At this time, believers are rewarded for how faithfully they served their Lord. Some will receive rewards (and be invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, etc.), and others will obviously not receive rewards (or suffer loss). It will be a time of great rejoicing for some. And for others, a time of immense sadness, regret, and shame.
Therefore we make (labor) it our aim (to make our ambition, to aspire to), whether present or absent, to be well pleasing (acceptable, that which one wills, recognizes, and approves) to (who) Him. For (why) we must all appear (to show openly) before the judgment seat of Christ, (for what reason) that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad – 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.
Some will receive a reward. But others will “suffer loss” or not receive a reward and the benefits that come with it. Consider the following.
Now if anyone (what) builds on this foundation (Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s (what) work will become clear (to shine, to make manifest, become evident); for (when) the Day will declare it (to make known), (how) because it (one’s work) will be revealed (to remove a veil or covering to expose to open view) by fire; and the fire will test (approve as worthy or not) each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s (what) work which he has built on it endures (abide, to remain, dwell, live), 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 – 2 Corinthians 3:12-15.
But what are some things Christ will judge at the Bema Seat Judgment?
Often it is difficult for us to visualize Jesus as King, because we are pretty much clueless as to what life is like under a king? All we know about kings and kingdoms come from Netflix mini-series or old British movies. But the Scriptures clearly state that Jesus is King. And it also makes it abundantly clear that Jesus, our King, has a kingdom. But what does that mean? How do we begin to understand the King of Kings and His coming Kingdom?
What do we know about all kings and their kingdoms? Because if what we know about human kings is true, it would be reasonable to assume the same is also true about Jesus and His Kingdom.
Consider the following.
A king must have a kingdom.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” – John 18:36-38.
And within his kingdom, a king sovereignly rules.
Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, (to what extent) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also (where) in that which is to come – Ephesians 1:20-21.
As sovereign king, he has absolute power over life and death, over justice and punishment, over blessings and rewards, over wealth and poverty, over sickness and health, over order or chaos, over everything in his kingdom.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, (which means) so that you do not do the things that you wish – Galatians 5:16-17.
This means that any freedom the king grants to his subjects is granted to them by the merciful grace of the king.
But there is so much more. It gets even better.
One of the most sobering truths you can discover about your salvation is that it is not all about you. That’s right. Your salvation is actually about the Kingdom of God. We just happen to be the beneficiary of a great blessing from God in our salvation, but the overriding purpose of our salvation is not just about us, but about the Kingdom of God.
It seems, when we think of salvation today, it always begins with our justification and ends with us spending eternity in heaven. And it always seems to center on us.
Think about it.
Salvation begins when we ask the Lord to forgive us of our sins and ask Jesus to come into our lives as Lord and Savior. We usually follow this with the believer’s baptism. Then we try, to the best of our ability, to live according to the profession we made in Christ, but often fall short on a daily basis. And when we die, we go to heaven to be with the Lord and all those in Him who have died before us.
And what happens when we get to heaven?
We get a new, glorified body that doesn’t age or have any of the problems our old bodies had. We can fly like angels. There is something about a supper we are invited to. We get a really big house, a mansion, and we get to travel down streets that are paved with gold. All our needs and wants are taken care of. We are pretty much rich and live like kings.
Also, there is no sadness or sorrow or pain or suffering or tears or death or anything like that. So, I guess we’ll be happy all the time. And we’ll be surrounded by other believers who have also died and are happy all the time just like we are.
Does this view of heaven seem a bit narcissistic?
When you survey the subject of popular, contemporary preaching and compare it to the content of the message of Jesus and His disciples found in the New Testament, you will clearly see there is something missing. Jesus and His disciples and the early church almost exclusively preached about the Kingdom of God or the Gospel of the Kingdom. And today, we preach about getting our felt needs met by the Lord. How He is going to hold us, calm us, bless us, heal our boo-boo’s, and make our life in this world better. Really? What happened to the forgotten gospel of the kingdom?
If we look at the flow of the New Testament, some patterns quickly emerge. Consider the following:
Gospel – presents the Message (Gospel) of the Kingdom
Acts – from the Message (Gospel) of the Kingdom to the Church (the earthly manifestation of the Kingdom)
Revelation – from the Church to the Establishment of the Kingdom
And again, the message of both Jesus and John the Baptist were identical at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There were both preaching about a coming kingdom as they revealed to the people the King standing before them.
John the Baptist – “Repent, (why) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 3:2
Jesus – “Repent, (why) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17
But this is only the beginning of the forgotten gospel of the Kingdom of God.
There is an old saying that goes, Success Breeds Success. And this is true. But the opposite is also true. Failure Follows Failure. In other words, if we do the same thing we have failed in the same way, yet expect it to be successful, we are fools. This also goes for how we do church today. The book of Acts shows us what church should be like and yet we fail to heed its advice. Why is that? And what can we learn about church from the early church?
How did the early church “do” church, as we call it today? What was their worship service like? The following are some things they incorporated into their time of corporate worship. When you read these, ask yourself this, What are we doing that they didn’t do? And what have we added to our worship service that they did not? Your answer may surprise you.
• There was a time of singing.
• There was a reading of His Word.
• There was an exposition of His Word.
• There was a time of ministry to each other.
• There was a time of sharing for others in need.
• There was a time to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
• There was a time of prayer.
• There was a time of praise and testimony.
• There was a time of humility and confession.
• There was a time of verbal commitment to Him.
• And there was a time of fellowship and the sharing of a common meal.
Does this look like your Sunday morning time together?
One of the great things about the Lord is the fact He is slow to anger and abounds in mercy. In fact, Lamentations says “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They (His compassions) are new every morning; Great is Your (His) faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). Do you know what that means? It means no matter how bad yesterday was, we can always begin again tomorrow with our God. Always!
Do you believe that? Do you truly believe that?
If so, it means that no matter how great your sin, or failure, or disappointment, or bitterness, or unanswered prayer you suffered from yesterday, it is just that— yesterday’s news. And today it is all forgotten, all forgiven, all put to rest.
God promises His compassion is new, fresh, and in abundant supply every time we open our eyes and behold the new morning. They are new every morning. Not some mornings, but every morning. God provides His mercy and compassion to us each new day, regardless of how we defiled the day before.
Therefore, in wonder and appreciation, we cry out to our God, “Great is Your faithfulness!”
After all the chaos and upheaval we’ve seen in our country these past few weeks that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of our republic and the church, we have come to a place in our lives where we must ask ourselves the question, What do I believe?
That’s right. What do I believe?
• What am I willing to die for?
• What is the mission and calling of my life?
• What means the most to me?
• And what truth will I not compromise on?
Or, as Martin Luther said when commanded to recant his beliefs to save his life, “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”
So let me ask you, what do you believe about the times in which we live?
When we compare the church today with the example given in the book of Acts, we come up short and wanting. It looks like what life was like in the book of Acts and our church life now are not even related, like they were from different parents, from different planets. And if you are honest with yourself, you will see how much we have lost and how far we have fallen from the prototype God gave us in His Word. Which begs the question: How can we recover what we have lost?
What do we know about the early church? Consider the following:
• They lived in communities, like one large, extended family.
• They met in homes or rented facilities. There was not a million-dollar building on every street corner that sat empty six days a week.
• Their key distinctive was worship and evangelism. Or, worship expressed as evangelism.
• They were led by lay leaders. You and me. The guy next door. There was nothing of the clergy, laity divide. There were no hired holy-men. Everyone was obedient to the command of Christ, individually.
• They were guided by Scriptures. Not tradition, nor public opinion, nor vote of the congregation. God and His Word was the final authority.
• Everyone was a priest. Each believer had direct access to the throne of God. Hence, they were all equal in His sight.
• They had all things in common. This is probably the hardest concept to get our heads around since we are happy living in a narcissistic world.
• They were known, both within and outside of the church, as holy men who lived sanctified lives.
Looks a bit different from any church I have ever been a part of. Can you say the same?
One of the most important things we can do to combat the coming apostasy, as we have shared before, is to develop an intimate relationship with both God and His Word. In essence, to have an experience with Him through His Word. And we do this by slowing down and asking questions of the text, just like we would if we experienced it, first-person. As if we were actually there. Today, being close to Christmas, we will briefly look at the birth account of Jesus through Luke’s eyes and see if some questions arise when we read Luke’s words. Maybe some questions we would want to ask Joseph about the trip to Bethlehem.
And why is that so important?
To begin with, the first step in learning how to experience God through His Word is to slow down and take your time. In essence, give God time to speak to you. Remember the points we discussed earlier?
• Take your time. After all, this ain’t no race, and the prize doesn’t go to the one who finished first. The winner is the one who hears from God.
• Therefore, you must wait for God to speak to you wherever you are reading. Slow down and take your time. Remove the yoke of bondage you have placed on yourself with your agenda or Bible reading plan that is more important than experiencing God in His Word.
• Again, slow down and take your time.
• Wherever you are at in His Word, read the passage over and over again, out loud. Emphasize each word or phrase. Let your ears hear what your lips are reading. Use dramatic effect in your voice if necessary. Become the characters. Feel what they feel. And think what they must have been thinking.
• Then ask the obvious questions or wait for questions to arise. They will if you don’t rush your time with Him. And when they do, watch what happens.
As an example, today we will look at Luke 2:1-21 and see if we can experience God in this account of Jesus’ birth by waiting for our questions to arise.
As we see the church beginning to bend to the whims of our culture we struggle to ask how we, as the church, have let this happen on our watch? How did things in our society go so wrong, so fast? If the church is the light of the world and the salt of the earth, we have gone AWOL and abandoned our posts. And the reason is simple, we have a crisis of Godly leadership in the church, in our marriages, and in our families. Where did all our leaders go?
Part of this crisis is found in our assumptions about the church and the expectations of the Christian life. Consider the assumptions we, as men, constantly make regarding church and our responsibilities to lead our wives and children in the things of the Lord.
• There will always be a church on every street corner so I can freely church-shop without having to make a commitment to any in particular.
• There will always be paid staff to do ministry for me so I won’t have to.
• Praise and worship will always be what I enjoy. And if not, “I’m outta here, bub!”
• There will always be a preacher/pastor/teacher, my personal hired holy man who will do the heavy lifting for me and my family so I can spend my time doing other things that I enjoy more.
• There will always be good study materials available for free so I won’t have to spend my money on learning the Bible but can spend it on what I want.
• Church will always be about me.
• I can come when I want, late or not, no matter.
• I can do what I want, no matter how it affects others.
• I can live the type of life I want, sin and all, and if someone has a problem with that I can always leave and go to another church of my choosing.
But these are all just assumptions. And church life is quite different on the front lines.