Jann asked: Do Christians face judgment from God when they die?
There are two main judgment events in understanding Christian eschatology, or end-times theology. They are known as the Great White Throne Judgment and the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is also known as the Bema Seat. Here’s the heart of your question as it applies to believers in Jesus Christ, what judgment do Christians face?
According to the Bible, Christians will not partake in the Great White Throne Judgment, a condemnation judgment. Instead, they will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, a judgment for rewards based on their earthly works.
The Great White Throne Judgment: A Judgment of Condemnation
The Great White Throne Judgment is described in Revelation 20:11-15 (ESV). It's a judgment of the unsaved dead. In other words, it’s for those who did not receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It's a judgment leading to eternal separation from God. The end result is the 'second death', the eternal lake of fire.
This judgment is not applicable for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Apostle John writes in John 5:24 (ESV), "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."
The Judgment Seat of Christ: A Judgment of Rewards
While believers escape the Great White Throne Judgment, they will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. This event is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV): "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."
Unlike the Great White Throne Judgment, this judgment is not about salvation or condemnation but rather rewards. It is an evaluation of a believer's works during their lifetime.
Eternal Rewards, Not Salvation
It's important to understand that these rewards are not equivalent to salvation. Salvation is a free gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV). The judgment at the Bema Seat is about how believers have lived out their faith, the ways they have served Christ, and the motives behind their actions.
In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, Paul describes how our works will be tested by fire. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved.
A Call to Faithful Service
This understanding of the Judgment Seat of Christ should inspire and challenge us to live faithfully. We should serve Christ wholeheartedly, not out of legalistic duty, but out of love and gratitude. As we sow seeds of faith here on earth, we look forward to the day when we stand before Christ, not for condemnation but potentially for rewards that reflect His grace and our faithful response to it.
So, Christians can have assurance that they will not face the Great White Throne Judgment. However, they will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, which calls for an earnest reflection on how we steward our time, talents, and treasures for God's kingdom.