Returning to the Biblical Bema: 2 Cor. 5:10

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. asterisktom

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    Returning to the Biblical Bema
    The Judgment Seat of Christ

    There are two main ways in which erroneous teachings are introduced into Christianity:

    A. Non-biblical evidence is used to support the novel concept.
    B. The Biblical truth on the subject is suppressed or fragmented.


    Dispensationalists have done both with this modern notion of the Bema seat award-judgment. The Biblical information on "Bema" (the Greek word) is suppressed. And appeal is made to non-biblical "evidence" to make the concept seem biblically valid. There is no such thing as the Bema award-judgment, as presented so often today in pulpits, books and web sites of today. There is a Bema judgment, but it is quite different from what is presented to us.

    1. DISPENSATIONALISTS DEFINE "BEMA" AS...
    "Thus, associated with this word ["bema"] are the ideas of prominence, dignity, authority, honor, and reward rather than the idea of justice and judgment" - Dwight Pentecost

    “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.” - Lewis Sperry Chafer

    “Paul was picturing the believer as a competitor in a spiritual contest. As the victorious Grecian athlete appeared before the Bema to receive his perishable award, so the Christian will appear before Christ’s Bema to receive his imperishable award. The judge at the Bema bestowed rewards to the victors. He did not whip the losers.” - Hoyt

    "[The "bema"] was a seat or raised platform where a judge sat as he made his decision regarding a case." ...
    "This word was also used in connection with the platform on which the umpire or referee sat during the Olympic games or the Isthmian games at Corinth. This was the place where the winners of the various events received their rewards." ....
    "The apostle Paul seems to have this idea of reward in mind as he speaks of the 'judgment seat of Christ.'" - Paul Benware

    The "bema seat judgment" is an "investigative probe into a believer's lifetime of works..." "[E]very Christian must meet God for an investigative judgment of his entire life. This moment will be a time of jubilant victory for some." ... and "a time of weeping for others." "' Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."" - Jack Van Impe

    "Judgment Seat of Christ. The place or occasion for the divine evaluation of the faithfulness of Christians' lives resulting in the giving or withholding of rewards (2 Cor. 5:10)." - Paul Enns

    Charles Ryrie says of this time of the Bema that "individual believers will be judged for their works done as Christians (1 Co 3:11- 15). Salvation with its assurance of heaven is not in question, only whether heaven will be entered with or without rewards." - Charles Ryrie


    Notice these recurring themes in the above definitions:
    A. It is for Christians only.
    B. It is for rewards (or loss of rewards) only. There is no punishment.
    C. It can be illustrated by sporting contests award ceremonies (as opposed to Bible cross-references).
    D.The terror or shame involved here is merely that of disobedient or unproductive Christians.

    Now let us turn to the Bible to see if what the experts above say matches with scripture.

    2. THE "BEMA" ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE (WITH COMMENTS)
    Occurrences: Matt.27:19, John 19:13, Acts 7:5; Acts 12:21; Acts 18:12, 16, 17; Acts 25:6,10,17; Ro.14:10; 2Cor.5:10.

    "When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him." (Matt. 27:19)

    If the Bema was only a place for rewards, as the Dispensationalists insist, we would expect Pilate to answer back to his wife,

    "Silly woman, don't you know that I am seated at the Bema? Giving out punishment is the farthest thing from my mind."

    But what did Pilate actually do at this Bema? He released Barabbas - and gave over the Prince of Life to be crucified! See also the next verse.

    "When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha." (John 19:13)

    Hoyt insists that "the judge at the Bema bestowed rewards to the victors. He did not whip the losers.” Tell that to Pilate, Mr. Hoyt. He not only whipped the "Loser", he had Him crucified! Why do people blindly follow the experts in defining scriptural terms when the Bible is quite clear in defining many of it's own terms? The Bema is clearly a place of awesome judgment, and not a mere award ceremony.

    "And he gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on : yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child." (Acts 7:5)

    "Set his foot on" is the translation here for "bema", an idiomatic rendering. At any rate, there are no rewards here.

    "And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne ["bema"], and made an oration unto them." (Acts 18:12)

    "And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat" (Acts 18:12)

    "And he drove them from the judgment seat." (Verse 16)

    "Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things." (Verse 17)

    "And when he had waited among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought." (Acts 25:6)

    "Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as you very well know." (Verse 10)

    "Therefore, when they came here, without any delay the next day I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth." (Verse 17)

    (More in the second section below)
     
  2. asterisktom

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    Returning to the Biblical Bema (2nd part)

    (Second part of previous post on the Bema)

    Each one of these "Bema" passages from Acts involve a civil magistrate making a judicial decision, some involving matters of life or death. There are no rewards spoken of here. No Olympic games or any such thing.

    - Romans 14:10. "But why do your judge you brother? or why do you show contempt for your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."

    At first glance this might be used to hold up the modern notion of Christians only being present at the Bema - only you read on to verse 11, and read the cross-references of Isaiah 45:23 and Phil. 2:9- 11. Clearly this is the time when ALL of creation will be present,

    "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father."

    Every knee will bow at this Bema. Everyone will be there, Christians as well as every unsaved person. The fact that Romans 14:15 connects the Bema with Phil. 2:9- 11 makes this absolutely certain. Who do we believe then, the inspired Apostle Paul or these modern writers and their imagined scenario of athletic awards? Shouldn't the biblical evidence be given first consideration?

    "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad." (2nd Cor. 5:10.)

    Once again, this is a convocation of everyone who exists or has existed, saved and unsaved. Don't take my word for it. Read the verse in context and you will see, if you are willing to let the Word explain itself, that the passage speaks of Christians as well as unsaved.

    3. THE BEMA IS THE GREAT WHITE THRONE.
    Part of the method of faulty expositors of the Word of God is to assign non-cooperating puzzle pieces to another part of the puzzle. This is what is done with the Great White Throne Judgment.

    Does it make sense to you that something as awesome as this would only be mentioned once in scripture? No. In fact it is mentioned several times in scripture. Many of these other occurrences were covered earlier in this article. We should allow the Bible to use different terms for the same concept. For instance, in Revelation there is no mention of "justification", "sanctification", etc. Yet we do read of the ones whose "robes are washed in the blood of the lamb", of the "overcomers" and of those who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes". It is the same with the Bema (Judgment Seat of Christ) and the Great White Throne. The latter is a poetical, symbolic description in a poetical, symbolic book.

    4. EVERYONE GETS REWARDS AT THE BEMA, BUT....
    Jesus promised (Rev. 22:12) "I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work." Everyone will get rewards. But look at the wider context (verses 11- 15 The unsaved will get their reward - judgment and eternal doom!). Consider these verses:

    "And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time." (2nd Peter 2:13)

    "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." (Jude 11)

    "Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she has filled fill to her double." (Rev. 18:6)

    5. RETHINKING THE BEMA
    It is certainly hard to unlearn something we have been taught. The idea of being rewarded for our righteous acts (works, actually) goes contrary to the Gospel itself.

    If it is not right that any flesh glories before God, how is it possible that we should be rewarded over against other Christians for accomplishments that we have no right to claim credit for? Or do we not believe that it is Christ who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure? (Phil. 2) And why would He reward us for something that was really His doing?

    How can we expect rewards for our obedience, seeing that even if we obey perfectly in everything we are still unprofitable servants? (Luke 17:10)

    The modern notion of the Bema award-judgment is a concept that is foreign to Scripture. It is foreign to the Biblical use of the word. And it is foreign to the Biblical definition of the Gospel and to what we know of God.
     
  3. kyredneck

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    Hello Tom. Thanks for posting this. I generally learn something or am made to think from each of your posts. Just curious what your thoughts are on Mt 25:31-46.
     
  4. asterisktom

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    Thanks. To me this is a very fascinating and worthwhile subject to get into. All the more so for me because I have had to erase what I used to believe.

    For that matter, Matt. 25:31-46, likewise, is a section that I have had to rethink. But I don't have time to write about it just now. Let me get back to you later, OK? Maybe later tonight, but probably tomorrow.
     
  5. zrs6v4

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    Tom I really enjoyed this, I always had a problem with being rewarded. It never quite made sense to me. I have not done to much looking into this topic, but it had sparked my interest. I cant imagine what it will be like.
     
  6. Allan

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    Not only are you overly biased but your above is 'at best' woefully inaccurrate in your caricatures of dispensationalism and very poorly researched.
    First, provide this 'non-biblical evidence'. 'Bema' simply mean seat or raised platform refering to one who judges. What is in dispute is not that this, as you misinform others, refers to the judgement seat but what transpires AT this judgement seat regard the two different people groups being judged.

    Secondly, please provide evidence for the dispensationist trying to suppress the truth.

    Like here for instance in your attempt to state "Dispensationist define 'bema' as..". Are you REALLY going to go on record stating that the Greek term 'bema' does not nor has it ever had 'associated with it the ideas of "prominence, dignity, authority, honor, and reward rather than the idea of justice and judgment"? I will await this answer.

    But what IS noteworthy is that you willfully ignore Pentacosts statement that the term 'bema' "has associated with it...", NOT that this is the definition of the word. He does not deny the defintion but he also does not pretend the other is not part and partial to it.

    Like many other words in scripture it is defined first in how the CONTEXT uses it, and second in it's cultural and historical meaning.
    So your contention is that Christian still must pay for their sins at the judgement seat?

    Scripture teaches that the child of God under grace shall not come into judgment (John 3:18; 5:24; 6:37; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:32) as he stands before God. Let us not forget the ground that the penalty for all sin—past, present, and future (Col. 2:13)— has been borne by Christ as the perfect Substitute. Ths the believer is not only placed beyond condemnation, but being in Christ is accepted in the perfection of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10; Heb. 10:14) and loved of God as Christ is loved (John 17:23). Now this is NOT to say that we can live however we wish but that those who have a changed nature are not under the judicial hand of God for their sins, but under the loving hand of their father whos examiniation of their lives will reflect in the rewards He brings with Him (Rev ) All discipline from the Father is given in this life to bring us to a closer walk with Him and to being conformed to the image of His dear Son.


    Does this not meet with the historical and illistrative understanding of the word of which was known ESPECIALLY since Paul uses this word in that very compacity?

    Historically the Greek word 'bema' was taken from the Isthmian games where individuals would compete for the prize before the judges and according to the rules. The winner (of whatever the event) was then led by the judge to the platform called the Bema. There the wreath was placed on his head as a symbol of victory.


    It is imporant to first note that each of these men are referings a particular passage of scripture not that Bema at all times in all places means just this and this alone. To post them as meaning such would be dishonest at best.
    Now I'm not saying this what you are contending but I certainly hope this is not your point.
    Reoccuring regarding the passage in question, not that Bema means at all times in all places this. Again to post them as meaning such would be dishonest at best.

    Now let us turn to the Bible to see if what the experts above say matches with scripture.

    You apparently do not understand 'what they spoke to', only 'that' they said something about it. Apparently ARE being dishonest.

    This is not even remotely accurate. You should be ashamed of yourself. If anyone actually agrees with you on this it is because THEY are blindly listening and not doing any kind of real study on the matter.


    Not yet because he is patiently waiting for it, which is why 'not so much as to set his foot on'. You will only 'set your foot on' as it applies to recieving the reward :)
     
  7. Allan

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    That is because Bema in an of itself only means seat but HOW it is used determines what it references. That is 101.
    And if christians will not have to pay for their sins/transgression and if the atoning and sanctifying work of Christ is as complete as God says, then what is the purpose of beleivers standing before the 'bema' to receive according to our works?
    IMO - your wrong.
    Context determines 'who' is being spoken to here and thus what is being done.
    We (believers) are not to judge other 'believers'. The weaker is not to judge the stronger and the stronger is not to dispise the weaker. For just as all mankind will stand before the judgement seat, so to or a better rendering is so also shall EVERY ONE OF US (beleivers) give an account (vs 11-12).
    Please don't forget to continue on to the next passages that sums up Pauls points. Just as all mankind will stand before Him so shall we also.

    I agree, IF one lets context determine what is being said.
    Who is the immediate group Paul is speaking to in Chapter 5, and to whom is Paul still speaking in relation to verse 10 - answer - Believers only. There in NOTHING in the context which even alludes to the lost surrounding passages.
    Here is a small piece from Calvnist A. R. FAUSSET on this passage whom, if I'm not mistaken held to Covenant theology:
    Well, that's one view and I don't of necessity disagree but it can and is easly debatable.

    It's isn't mentioned only once. Also we shouldn't assume that different terms necessarily are the same concept. Many times they are different concepts but some people unrealistically lump them together.

    Ah! Here we go, here is your problem is assuming the Great white throne judgment is poetical and symbolic of which you have no reason contexually or grammatically to make such an assumption.

    NO, look at the context and to WHOM it is written.
    The lost don't get rewarded they get condemnation/damnation and eternal seperation. Words have meaning and that meaning is derived from context.
    The 'wider' view is that to those believers who life is Christ and death is gain, even in the midst of trials, He is bringing with Him their reward. It is promised over and over again.
     
  8. Allan

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    Part 3 -

    This verse is not in view nor is it alluded to by John. You are supperimposing various aspects relating to something totally different to make a case for your view. You are cutting scripture up and trying to make it fit where it was never intended. While I do agree that in Peters usage he is illistrating the reward of the unrighteous, John and the context in which he states Jesus is coming with His reward does not have the negitive in view.

    Thus in considering them, I must by context disregard them.

    No sorry, your mixed up on this. Here is a snipet By: J. Hampton Keathley, III from his work - The Doctrine of Rewards: The Judgment Seat (Bema) of Christ:
    See, there is quite a bit.

    First, you have misunderstanding about what scripture is refering to in stating "any flesh glories before God".
    Secondly, scripture states we WILL receive rewards according to our works. Either this is a lie or it must be true.

    So all believers, at all times, before they die will be exactly in the same place regarding obedience to God and Godly living, and fellowship with Him?
    If not then I guess His 'to will and do' is still contengent upon OUR obedience and thus rewards for those who obey.

    Why would He reward us? Because we are not puppets and still can choose to obey our God or not. Though He is the one who places such desire in us we still must choose to live, love, and obey the Lord our God.

    I think you might want to recheck you understanding here. It isn't saying doing your duty has no profit, else Jesus, John, and Paul were mistaken when they speak of recieving our rewards for what we do/have done. However it is speaking to the attitude of the servant who is just doing only that which is required. It is akin to my child taking out the garbage while he is resentful or agry about it (and I know it) what real profit is there to him or me in mindless obedience.

    I would say you need to study this a bit more :thumbs:
     
    #8 Allan, Jan 8, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 8, 2010
  9. Allan

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    Oops, my bad ......
     
  10. asterisktom

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    1. This is why I hardly ever use those smileys. It tries to soften previously typed snideness and condescension - unsuccessfully.

    2. I believe you are the one who needs to look more carefully into this. I have already believed and taught (basically) most of your views above for about 20 years. No, I don't need to go back to that unbiblical view. If you are happy with it, well, have at it.

    There were so many problems in your reply - I just don't want to bother getting into it with you.

    Or do you think that your calling me dishonest and blind would me take you seriously, or look forward to any meaningful discussion?
     
    #10 asterisktom, Jan 8, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 8, 2010
  11. Zenas

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    Great post, Asterisktom. I made this very point in a post on BB exactly one month ago, although with a lot less documentation and scholarship than you have provided here. Thank you for putting this up.
     
  12. sag38

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    Yes, he did a great job of documenting his scholarly opinion.
     
  13. kyredneck

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    By all means, take your time brother. :)
     
  14. Allan

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    Take it however you 'wish' to take it, but I was honestly telling you that you are not only incorrect in your assumptions but inaccurate in the information you give concerning those whom you quoted.

    I have extensively studied this and can come to no other biblical conclusion. However if you taught this subject as you are giving it, it is no wonder you no longer maintain it when you started seeing all your inaccuracies.

    That is fine you don't need to as I was only giving a brief defence of your many misconceptions, misunderstandings, and mischaracterizations.

    Or do you think that your calling me dishonest and blind would me take you seriously, or look forward to any meaningful discussion?[/QUOTE]
    I first stated; "It is imporant to first note that each of these men are referings a particular passage of scripture not that Bema at all times in all places means just this and this alone. To post them as meaning such would be dishonest at best.
    Now I'm not saying this what you are contending but I certainly hope this is not your point."


    However since you continued making the erroneous statement over and over it only becomes apparent you were not honestly conveying neither the proper understanding of their argument nor the intent of the of the quotes you were quoting but was indeed 'misapplying' their statements to errect your own house of cards to knock down.

    However I don't recall ever calling or insinuating you were 'blind'. But I must say do you really think anyone who hold the biblical understanding of the view you trying to belittle, will take you seriously after reading such..stuff?
     
  15. AnotherBaptist

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    With this argument, Tom, you are relating the judgment of a wicked man against a righteous one for the purpose of an unjust punishment. How exactly would this relate to a Just God Judging either the Righteous or the unrighteous? And if He is judging the Righteous, then why are they called that and what would be the purpose of punishment?

    No where in Scripture do I see judgment of the Righteous involving punishment. It's always about rewards. Even from a one time, final literal resurrection, a-millennial viewpoint those who take part in the "first" spiritual resurrection of Revelation 20 are not punished at that final literal resurrection.

    The more I read your posts, you seem to have an obsession with dispensationalism. I totally understand your bitterness about it, as I have either read or heard from many through the years who express the same sentiments. But your choice to abandon one form of hermeneutics for another has placed them at odds. They are not reconcilable.​
     
  16. asterisktom

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    Thank you. You have hit upon one of the core issues underlying this current misunderstanding - that of rewards = credit = merit. Ultimately, whether one conscientiously does so or not, one who argues for meriting rewards is really taking credit for some part in their salvation. Yet Paul tells us that it is all of God. It is of Him that we are wise and righteous and sanctified and redeemed (1 Cor. 1:27-31). He works in us to will and do of His good pleasure, Phil. 2:14.

    Should He reward us in varying degrees for a workmanship that He has wholly planned for us to walk in it? Rhetorical question : )

    Thank you for the encouragement. Topics like this are bound to build us up and keep us spiritually sober.
     
  17. asterisktom

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    Thanks, Zenas. I was looking for that post of yours but couldn't find it. Was it the purgatory one?
     
  18. asterisktom

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    I was going to give a "sort-of" answer to this today, but maybe I will put it off - most of it, at least - until tomorrow. The reason is that I have noticed something else about this that I hadn't seen before, but I want to study it out a little more if you don't mind.

    I'll be honest with you, this is a challenging passage. But I do know that I can never see it again as a merely futurist prophecy. But neither would it fit - though Russell tries hard on this - totally in a preterist framework (More in that later).

    Short answer for now, as far as I can see, is that:
    1. It has a significant application to Israel, coming after it does after those several Jerusalem/Kingdom parables.
    2. It describes - at least partially, if I'm not mistaken, something that is ongoing right now in this kingdom age. There is a similarity between the goats' not recognizing Christ's presence in His people and Christ's rebuke of Paul, "Why are you persecuting Me?" I started a series on the heavenly Jerusalem/Israel of God in Isaiah 40-66 a couple of years ago at Xanga, and this seems to be along those lines.

    So much for now. I hope that wasn't too murky!
     
  19. webdog

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    Amen :thumbs:
     
  20. asterisktom

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    I hope that you will see that my posts are not from obsession or bitterness (and how does one even go about clearing oneself from that?) but from Scriptural grounds. Yes, in tackling this topic I have to necessarily confront the views that I feel are erroneous. And quoting those views - if I am going to be accurate - require bringing up actual expounders of those views. But I do all that to get back to the Bible and to what I believe is a return to Scriptural footing.

    With all due respect I don't think you understand my "bitterness" or you would have seen it is not bitterness but, rather, relief and exasperation.

    "Relief" because, after years of thinking one way, teaching and preaching it, I had now found the framework that makes for a much better biblical fit. It accounts for a whole bunch of passages that, under my old dispensational years, remained disturbing unsolvable puzzles.

    "Exasperation" because, desiring to share these things with other Christians, we very often see a knee-jerk defensiveness rather than a serious examination of the arguments.

    I didn't get to the other parts of your post, because this part seemed even more important. Feel free to repeat or rephrase.

    Thanks for writing.
     

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