The Judgment Seat of Christ


Romans 14:10,

"But why dost thou judge thy brother?
why dost thou set at nought thy brother?
For we shall stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ".



The Meaning of the
Judgment (Bema)(
βημα) Seat



Transliteration                              bēma

Pronunciation                              bā'-mä (Key)

Part of Speech                           neuter noun

Root Word (Etymology)              From the base of βάσις (G939)

Dictionary Aids


Vine's Expository Dictionary: 


primarily, "a step, a pace" (akin to baino, "to go"), as in Act 7:5, translated "to set (his foot) on," lit., "foot-room," was used to denote a raised place or platform, reached by steps, originally that at Athens in the Pnyx Hill, where was the place of assembly; from the platform orations were made. The word became used for a tribune, two of which were provided in the law courts of Greece, one for the accuser and one for the defendant; it was applied to the tribunal of a Roman magistrate or ruler, Mat 27:19; John 19:13; Act 12:21, translated "throne;" 18:12, 16, 17; 25:6, 10, 17.


In two passages the word is used of the Divine tribunal before which all believers are hereafter to stand. In Rom 14:10 it is called "The judgment seat of God," RV (AV, "of Christ"), according to the most authentic mss. The same tribunal is called "the judgment seat of Christ," 2Cr 5:10, to whom the Father has given all judgment, John 5:22, 27. At this bema believers are to be made manifest, that each may "receive the things done in (or through) the body," according to what he has done, "whether it be good or bad." There they will receive rewards for their faithfulness to the Lord. For all that has been contrary in their lives to His will they will suffer loss, 1Cr 3:15. This judgment seat is to be distinguished from the premillennial, earthly throne of Christ, Mat 25:31, and the postmillennial "Great White Throne," Rev 20:11, at which only "the dead" will appear. The judgment-seat of Christ will be a tribunal held "in His Parousia," i.e., His presence with His saints after His return to receive them to Himself.

Outline of Biblical Usage

1.      a step, pace, the space which a foot covers, a foot-breath

2.      a raised place mounted by steps

1.      a platform, tribune

1.      of the official seat of a judge

2.      of the judgment seat of Christ

3.      Herod built a structure resembling a throne at Caesarea, from which he viewed the games and made speeches to the people

KJV Translation Count — Total: 12x

The KJV translates Strongs G968 in the following manner:

 judgment seat (10x), throne (1x), to set (one's) foot on (with G4128) (1x).

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

, [fr.Hom.(h.Merc.), Pind. down];

1.  a step, pace:  the space which the foot covers, a foot-breadth, Acts vii.5 (for  Deut. ii. 5, cf. Xen. an. 4, 7, 10; Cyr. 7, 5, 6).

2.  a raised place mounted by steps; a platform, tribune: used of the official seat of a judge, Mt. xxvii. 19; Jn xix. 13; Acts xviii. 12, 16 sq.; xxv. 6, 10, [17];  of the judgment-seat of Christ, Ro. xiv. 10 (LTTrWH   ); 2 Co. v. 10; of the structure, resembling a throne, which Herod built in the theatre at Caesrea, and from which he used to view the games and make speeches to the people, Acts xii. 21; (of an orator's pulpit, 2 Macc. xii.26; Neh.vii.4.  Xen.mem. 3,6,1; Hdian 2,10,2 [2 ed. Bekk.])"

Word Study on The Bema Seat βῆμα

1) a step, pace, the space which a foot covers, a foot-breath

2) a raised place mounted by steps

a) a platform, tribune

1) of the official seat of a judge

2) of the judgment seat of Christ

3) Herod built a structure resembling a throne at Caesarea, from which he viewed the games and made speeches to the people"

The bema is an elevated platform.
In ancient Athens, it was used an orator's podium.

In synagogues, it is also known as a bima or bimah and is for Torah reading during services.
In Orthodox churches, a bema is the raised area around the altar, or the sanctuary.
In antiquity it was made of stone, but in modern times it is usually a rectangular wooden platform approached by steps.


Interior of the Amsterdam Synagogue:
 the bema (or tebáh) is in the foreground,
 the Hekhál (Ark) in the background.

In synagogues it is also known as the almemar or almemor among some Ashkenazim (from the Arabic, al-minbar, meaning ‘platform’).

“almemar (ælˈmiːmɑː)

n   (Judaism) Judaism (in Ashkenazic usage) the raised platform in a synagogue on which the reading desk stands. Also called: bema, bimah or bima”

The post-Biblical Hebrew bima (בּימה), ‘platform’ or ‘pulpit’, is either derived from the Biblical Hebrew bama (בּמה) which means ‘high place’, or  from the Ancient Greek word for a raised platform, bema (βῆμα); however, the Ancient Greek may itself be borrowed from the Semitic root, via Phoenician).  Among the Sephardim, it is known as a tevah (literally ‘box, case’ in Hebrew) or migdal-etz (‘tower of wood’).


It is typically elevated by two or three steps, as was the bimah in the Temple. At the celebration of the Shavuot holiday when synagogues are decorated with flowers, many synagogues have special arches that they place over the bimah and adorn with floral displays. The importance of the bimah is to show that the reader is the most important at that moment in time, and to make it easier to hear their reader of the Torah. A raised bimah will typically have a railing. This was a religious requirement for safety in bimah more than 10 handbreadths high, or between 83 and 127 centimetres (2.72 and 4.17 ft). A lower bimah (even one step) will typically have a railing as a practical measure to prevent someone from inadvertently stepping off.


The bimah became a standard fixture in synagogues from which a portion (parashah) from the Torah and the haftarah are read. In Orthodox Judaism, the bimah is located in the center of the synagogue, separate from the Ark. In other branches of Judaism, the bimah and the Ark are joined together.

Ancient Greece

The bema, or speaker's platform, at the Pnyx in Athens

The Ancient Greek bema (βῆμα) means both ‘platform’ and ‘step’, being derived from bainein (βαίνειν, ‘to go’). The original use of the bema in Athens was as a tribunal from which orators addressed the citizens as well as the courts of law, for instance, in the Pnyx. In Greek law courts the two parties to a dispute presented their arguments each from separate bemas.

By metonymy, bema was also a place of judgement, being the extension of the raised seat of the judge, as described in the New Testament, in Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13, and further, as the seat of the Roman emperor, in Acts 25:10, and of God, in Romans 14:10, when speaking in judgment.


The Bema Seat at Corinth








Bema is a Greek term meaning "judgment seat." In the city of Corinth, a stone platform was constructed to support the Bema seat (judgment seat) of the local officials. The seat was used to give out awards to athletes for their competitive performances (usually a crown wreath of leaves), but also to address legal charges brought against individuals. The great Apostle Paul was quite familiar with this seat. This is where he was brought before Gallio, who was the proconsul of Achaia at the Bema seat (Acts 18:12). This seat was also what Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 as the "judgment seat of Christ." In this context, Paul explains to us that this is where the Christian will receive an evaluation for works done in the body, whether good or bad.

"Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 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. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." 2 Corinthians 5:9-11.


File:Gorskii 03982u.jpg

Bema in an Eastern Orthodox church, with three steps leading up to it. Assumption Cathedral in Smolensk, western Russia


The ceremonial use of a bema carried over from Judaism into early Christian church architecture. It was originally a raised platform with a lectern and seats for the clergy, from which lessons from the Scriptures were read and the sermon was delivered. In Western Christianity the bema developed over time into the chancel (or presbytery) and the pulpit.


In Eastern Christianity bema remains the name of the platform which composes the sanctuary; it consists of both the area behind the iconostasion and the platform in front of it from which the deacon leads the ektenias (litanies) together with the ambo from which the priest delivers the sermon and distributes Holy Communion. It may be approached by one or several steps. The bema is composed of the altar (the area behind the iconostasion), the soleas (the pathway in front of the iconostasion), and the ambo (the area in front of the Holy Doors which projects westward into the nave). Orthodox laity do not normally step up onto the bema except to receive Holy Communion.


Again, Chafer writes concerning the Bema, “It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the judgment is unrelated to the problem of sin, that it is more for the bestowing of rewards than the rejection of failure.”


This judgment cannot be confused with either of the other judgments because the Holy Spirit used a Greek word to describe the Judgment Seat of Christ that is peculiar and different from the Greek words used in connection with other judgments. Here the word used is bema. It appears in classical Greek to identify the judge’s seat in the arena of the Olympic games. The bema was the seat whereon the judge sat, not to punish contestants, but to present awards to the victors. When Christians stand before the bema of Christ, it will be for the express purpose of being rewarded according to their works. There is no idea of inflicting punishment.

It is a graduation ceremony where awards and honors are given and achievements are acknowledged. It takes place soon after the rapture or taking up of the church.

Thus the Bema judgement is not for punishment on the basis of sin.  It is an assessment of our servanthood – how well we have executed our responsibility as heirs to the Kingdom.

  1. Subjects—Believers as to “WORKS.”
  2. Time—After The Church is caught out.
  3. Place—“Judgment Seat of Christ” (in the Air).
  4. Basis of Judgment—Their “WORKS.”
  5. Result—Reward or Loss.

The Time of the Bema

The Bema event takes place immediately following the rapture or resurrection of the church
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Arguments in support of this view:

(1) In Luke 14:12-14, reward is associated with the resurrection and the rapture is when the church is resurrected.

(2) In Revelation 19:8, when the Lord returns with His bride at the end of the tribulation, she is seen already rewarded. Her reward is described as fine linen; the righteous acts of the saints—undoubtedly the result of rewards.

(3) In 2 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, rewards are associated with “that day” and with the Lord’s coming. Again, for the church this means the event of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

So the order of events will be (a) the rapture which includes our glorification or resurrection bodies, (b) exaltation into the heavens with the Lord, (c) examination before the Bema, and (d) compensation or rewards.

The Place of the Bema

It will occur somewhere in the heavenlies. This is evident from 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Revelation 4:2 and 19:8.

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 Because of this every believer is justified and there is no further judgment for those who trust in Jesus.  Therefore the Bema judgment is not really a Judgment seat but an award ceremony.

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Paul likens this process to a refining fire. Paul categorizes into two groups. 

1 Corinthians 3:11 – 13  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one, which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man'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 man's work.  If any man's work, which he has built on, it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.



The first group consists of gold, silver and precious stones, which not only will survive the fire but also actually are refined in the fire.  These are the works built upon the foundation of Christ ( Mt 7:24-25; Lu 6:47-48).  The next group consists of wood, hay and stubble, which burn up with fire.  These are actions taken independent of God ( Psa 127:1-2, Mt 7:26-27; Lu 6:49)


 It is simply an award ceremony where the believers give account to God of their faithfulness in stewardship on the use of the gifts and talents.  ( Mt 25:14-23; Lu 19:12-19; 1Cor 4:1-4; Lu 14:12-14; Ro 12:9-21; 14:10-13; Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:16 – 4:1; He 6:10-12; 1Jn 4:17).  This would imply every second of the believer's life in the light of his or her responsibility and commission within the society and family. Every thought, word, deed, acts, their character, their motives, their attitudes, their work and their ministry.

Ecc 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil

 Romans 14:10-13 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:"' As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,' every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

1Cor 3:11-15; 4:5; 2Cor 5:10; Eph 6:1-9; Col 3:16 –4:1; Jas 1:2-4, 12, 19, 21; 2:1-4, 9; 1Pe 1:3-7, 17; Rev  22:7, 11-12 ; 2 Cor. 5:9f; 1 John 2:28; 1 Thess. 2:19-20; 1 Tim. 6:18-19; Tit. 2:12-14

Where the emphasis on good works as the standard for this judgment.

Chart 14


The Judge. 


Jesus Christ is the Judge of All the Earth (Genesis 18:25), since He has been given all authority or power. "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).

It is extremely certain that the Jesus will be the Judge seated upon the throne.

John 5:22 "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son". 

Philippians 2:10-11. "10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father".

 “God hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained (Jesus); whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

When Jesus comes, every Christian dead or alive, will be included in the great throng that will stand before the bema of Christ. 

“He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25).

Judgment of Works

By faith we are saved.  But the faith is expressed in our works.

           By God's grace and your faith, you are be saved to eternal life in Heaven, By faith, your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Because of that we are given a new un-decaying body and are given the right to the heavens in the divine dimension.

           But our lives are the expression and realization of the faith in us.  (James 2:24, 26): You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. ... For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

(James 2:14): What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

 (James 2:17): Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.


“Dr. H.L. Wilmington has done a good job of gleaning the truth about the things upon which Christians will be examined at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They are as follows:

1.         How we treat other believers: Hebrews 6:10, Matthew 10:41-42

2.         How we exercise our authority over others: Hebrews 13:17, James 3:1

3.         How we employ our God-given abilities: 1 Corinthians 12:4, 12:12, 12:2, 2 Timothy 1:6;

          1 Peter 4:10

Add to this Scriptures Jesus' teaching of the parables of the ten pounds (Luke 19: 11-26) and the talents (Matthew 25:14-29).

Each believer has at least one talent (1 Corinthians 7:12, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Peter 4:10).
There are 18 of these gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4).
It's up to each believer to find/discern his or her gifts.

4.         How we use our money:2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

5.         How we spend our time: Psalm 90:12, Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5, 1 Peter 1:17

6.         How much we suffer for Jesus: Matthew 5:11-12, Mark 10:29-30, Romans 8:18,
          2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 4:12-13

7.         How we run the particular race God has chosen for us: 1 Corinthians 9:24,
          Philippians 2:16, 3:13-14, Hebrews 12:1

8.         How effectively we control the old nature:  1 Corinthians 9:25-27, 2 Timothy 2:15,
         1 Corinthians 16:3, Philippians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4

9.         How many souls we witness to and win to Christ:  Proverbs 11:30, Daniel 12:3,
         1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

10.       How we react to temptation: James 1:2-3, Revelation 3:10

11.       How much the doctrine of the rapture means to us: 2 Timothy 4:8

12.       How faithful we are to the Word of God and the flock of God: Acts 20:26-28,

           2 Timothy 4:1-2, 1 Peter 5:2-4 “


Matthew 6:1-6

1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-18

16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Romans 2: 15-16

15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

There is no doubt as to the meaning of Christ's startling words. He declares that there are two places to be rewarded, here upon earth as one seeks the praise of men or later in heaven when the Father who saw the works performed in secret without notoriety and rewards those who did the job simply out of love for Him. When Jesus returns to call His people unto himself in the twinkling of an eye and the judgment begins, what will your motives have been in the Christian race?

1 Corinthians 4:5 states “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God”. This teaching is also found in 1 Corinthians 3:11, 15:11 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames”.

Again, there is no doubt about the explicit teaching within this portion of scripture. It states, the fire shall try every man's work and show what it is.

By faith we have received the Holy Spirit within us, which strives to change our spirit, soul and body into the likeness of the Son of God.  Bema is the measure of this growth into the fullness of the stature of this growth within us.

The Testing Process by Fire


 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, describes the testing process as follows.  It is based on the simile of building



10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.


It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.

14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

5 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss;
he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.