Returning to the Biblical Bema

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Mar 19, 2012.

  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.

    Many modern teachers have done both of these with their 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 for each of us individually, Heb. 9:27, but it is quite different from what is so often presented to us in pop-Christianity.


    1. MANY MODERN TEACHERS 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 so easily just 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)

    (Continued in next post)
     
    #1 asterisktom, Mar 19, 2012
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  2. asterisktom

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    Returning to the Biblical Bema, Part two

    Returning to the Biblical Bema
    Part Two

    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 an event which involves ALL of creation,

    "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 bows at this Bema. Everyone will have this experience at the end of our lives, 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 will be a universal experience for 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 spiritual, symbolic description in a spiritual, symbolic book.

    4. EVERYONE GETS REWARDS AT THE BEMA, BUT....
    Jesus had promisedthe 1st century Christians and unsaved alike (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 do indeed 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 only unprofitable servants? (Luke 17:10)

    No, 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 what we know of God and the Gospel of His grace.
     
    #2 asterisktom, Mar 19, 2012
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  3. kyredneck

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    #3 kyredneck, Mar 20, 2012
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  4. HankD

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    Not 100% sure of your point Tom, but...

    Though "bema" is not used in this passage following, but as you have said "We should allow the Bible to use different terms for the same concept"


    1 Corinthians 3
    9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
    10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
    11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
    12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
    13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
    14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
    15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.​

    Even the saved ("yet so as by fire") who lose all "shall be saved; yet so as by fire".​

    There is loss here but not eternal separation.​

    But that the Bema Seat and the Great White Throne are one and the same is not new to Christianity. This discussion was had some time ago here at the BB. Not sure if was weeks, months or years ago (it could be worse).

    HankD​
     
  5. John of Japan

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    Tom, you are apparently not a linguist. Therefore you make several mistakes here.

    (1) The word bema (bhma) in koine Greek does not have only one meaning as you would have it. In fact, most words have more than one meaning.

    (2) Lexicographers determine the meaning of a word by examining its contemporary usage. NT scholars do not use just the NT to determine the NT meaning of a word. So for you to prove your point you need to examine the usage of bema in documents other than the NT: the papyri, the LXX, the Greek fathers, etc.

    (3) But let's say you are right, that the meaning of bema should be determined from only its NT usage. You still have a problem, since the word in Acts 7:5 does not mean judgment seat.

    (4) You evidently did not consult any lexicons. If you had you would have learned that the basic meaning is not "seat" but "step" (as in "He took a step."). Thus by extension the meaning becomes "platform" or even "judment seat" as the NT translates it usually. (See A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures on the various passages.) The word was used in various contexts in extra-Biblical Greek writings: a platform for oratory, the platform on which the judge at the Olympics sat (yes, this is a valid meaning), etc.

    This is enough for me. You've not proven your point at all. I'm not even going to go into your exegetical and theological errors. I'm sure others will do that better than I can.
     
    #5 John of Japan, Mar 20, 2012
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  6. asterisktom

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    You are half-right in your assertion, John, that I am "not a linguist". I used to be much more of a linguist than I am now. I could show you a wide array of lexical works that I was in the habit of using - overusing, in fact.

    But then two things happened.

    One was that I noticed that those linguistic experts (like your beloved Robertson, whose books I also had thoroughly marked and studied from) had led us astray. They put too much emphasis on contemporary usage, at the same time downplaying Biblical cross-reference. If interested, you can look up Wallace (his Beyond the Basics, I think it was) for discussion on the first part of my assertion.

    The second thing I noticed - a growing conviction, to be more precise - was that a thoroughgoing understanding of God's Word was not solely in the hands of linguistic scholars (with their ever-changing theories), but was readily available to serous students of God's Word.

    In short, I stand by my assertion that the best source to understand about "Bema" is how the Bible uses the word. And, yes, (though you seemed to have overlooked this) we still discount anomalous occurrences like Acts 7:5 (which you brought up as if I hadn't already done so).

    It is understandable that that my study would get poor marks from you. This is not a problem for me. I would much rather be a Biblicist than a linguist. Linguistic theories change (and they have dramatically in the 70s, as I think you are aware) but the Bible doesn't.

    There is more I want to say here, but this should do for now.
     
    #6 asterisktom, Mar 20, 2012
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  7. asterisktom

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    I want this point to stand alone. You apparently did not notice, John, that I was careful not to give any definition to the word "Bema" I just gave all the occurrences of the word. Biblical occurrences. And then I commented on those verses, according to their pertinence.

    No, it is the part of the linguist to provide definitions. And, as you helpfully pointed out, I am no linguist.
     
    #7 asterisktom, Mar 20, 2012
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  8. asterisktom

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    I do believe we are. You have good taste in music!

    It is an interesting thread there. I will revisit it later when I get back from my little outing.

    A nearby wooded hill intrigues me and it is now warm enough to do a little exploration. It will only cost me a bus ride (about 17 cents) and some walking.
     
  9. John of Japan

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    You haven't proved your point, and now it appears you are saying you can't prove it. But I have shown conclusively how there is more than one meaning in the NT for bema. So why can't there be three meanings?

    Why can't the two passages in Paul's writing be a judgment for rewards like the Olympics? The answer from a linguistic perspective is that it certainly can be. Note that different Biblical writers sometimes use a word in their own meaning, rather than a concordance meaning, one meaning for every usage in the whole NT. Notice also that Matthew used the word once, John used the word once, then Luke uses it eight times with two different meanings in Acts. But the two meanngs where it is the Judgment Seat of Christ are both Pauline usages. So it would be perfectly natural for Paul to use the word in its good judgment sense, especially since he was noted for his sports metaphors.

    You are making your point from the meaning of bema, right? And your point is all wrapped up in the NT usage of the word, right? Well, then, it is up to you to prove wrong the belief that the two occurances of the word taken to mean that the Judgment Seat of Christ is a good judgment, like the Olympics. If you can't do that, then I say your whole OP is meaningless.

    By the way, interesting to see you are in China nowadays. Welcome to Asia. I like the Chinese verse in your signature. It has Christ as being in "your heart."
     
    #9 John of Japan, Mar 20, 2012
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  10. John of Japan

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    I believe I answered this sufficiently in my other post. But I want to say one thing further. You appear to be taking the view that a word in the original language in the Bible can only have a meaning that other Bible passages give it. This is linguistically naive to the extreme. It is almost exactly what such radical KJV-Only people as Gail Riplinger say. She actually believes that every word in the KJV is defined by the KJV, and all lexicons are wrong.
    Um, are you saying I'm not a Biblicist? Just for the record, my BA was in Bible with close to 40 credits, and my MA is in Biblical Studies, with 40 or so grad credits. Not to mention the many credits I've taught as a Bible teacher in various Japanese schools and once in a Bible school in a Muslim country. Being a linguist is secondary with me. I'm a student of the Bible first. (And I do mean "student" even more than teacher.) And before someone accuses me of pride for writing that :rolleyes:, I haven't said how good or bad a student or teacher I am. My point is only that I truly love the Word of God and am constantly trying to learn from it.
     
    #10 John of Japan, Mar 20, 2012
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  11. J.D.

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    Tom, I just wanted you to know that as I drop in for my daily lurk, I really enjoy your posts. Agree or not (and it's more agree than disagree for me), they are at the least thought-provoking and insightful.
     
  12. thomas15

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    A little off topic but one thing I'm learning from this thread is that one should be careful not to overdo the vitamin E supplements. Sorry for the interruption.
     
  13. John of Japan

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    Yes, I admit I missed this. Here is what you said.

    This misses the mark entirely. Acts 7:5 is not anomalous, it is the core meaning of the word. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with judgment. It is also not "idiomatic," but the original usage. Check out usage in Deut. 2:5 of the LXX. The idiom is that of a judgment seat, not setting foot somewhere, which is the core meaning.
     
  14. asterisktom

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    Short answer for now: No, I am trying to appeal to the Biblicist in you.

    Thank you for the welcome to Asia. I am so glad to be here.
     
  15. saturneptune

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    Tom, I really enjoy your posts. They make me think deeper than usual, and really, I wish I understood the original words better. If left on my own, I would have thought bema was the Italian accent version of the verse, "Get the bema out of your own eye.........." God bless your ministry in China, and please keep up the posts.
     
  16. asterisktom

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    This is my basic point, Hank, that the Bema and the Great White Throne are the same. It is the same judgment that Hebrews 9:27 speaks of:

    "It is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgment."

    I agree that this teaching is not new to Christianity. A new teaching, obviously, would be a highly suspect teaching.
     
  17. asterisktom

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    A Biblical punster? I thought I was the only one!

    Thanks - and not just for the pun. Prayer is always appreciated. Solomonic wisdom is often called for here.
     
  18. asterisktom

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    Thanks a lot, J.D., for the encouragement. Provoking thought and getting feedback (agreeing and disagreeing) is one of the real strengths of this forum. I have weeded out my involvement in several different forums - and even largely neglected my own group of fifteen years - in order to concentrate more on boards like BB.
     
  19. HankD

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    Surely you (a full preterist) jest.

    HankD
     
  20. asterisktom

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    Two points I would like to address here.

    The first is that, no, my point is not "all wrapped up in the NT usage of the word". That is a part of it. But I also used cross-reference. Cross-referencing, especially when both passages are from the same author, as is the case here, can be very helpful.

    I compared Paul with Paul - and then referred back to Isaiah, going to the very verse that Paul cited. This is what I wrote, underlining added:

    ----------------From the OP----------------------​

    "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 an event which involves ALL of creation,

    "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 bows at this Bema. Everyone will have this experience at the end of our lives, 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."
    ------------------End of Quote---------------------

    My second point is, well, the same as my first point. The above comments should show, answering your challenge, that Paul's Bema is not an awards ceremony - at least not in the sense meant by most today.

    However Christ does indeed come with rewards. His reward is with Him, as it says in Revelation. But the rewards are only two, when it comes down to it: eternal life for the believing redeemed, retribution for the unrepentant. This, too, is taught in that last chapter of Revelation.
     

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