Saturday, March 1, 2014

Further thoughts on connecting the rapture and the judgment seat of Christ

Romans 14:12 "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God."

Yesterday we did an overview of what the scripture teaches on the subject of saints appearing before Christ to "give an account". We observed yesterday that this event, described in more detail in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and Corinthians 5:10, will occur between the rapture of the church and the second advent or coming of Christ to this earth at the end of the tribulation period.  Today I would like to expound further on this subject by considering how exactly the following events relate together:
1. The rapture
2. The judgment seat of Christ or what is also called "the Bema seat"

1. The rapture will begin the sequence leading believers to appear before the judgment seat of Christ
As we had mainly noted yesterday, when harmonizing the rapture event (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) with the judgment seat of Christ in heaven (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Corinthians 5:10), many Bible scholars connect the two events: with the rapture being the starting point and the judgment seat being the destination for Christians to occupy during the tribulation period.

Dr. Tom Lahaye writes: "We will be caught up (raptured) together (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will bee caught up in the clouds (where dead and living believers will have a monumental reunion (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Christ will receive us unto Himself and take us to the Father's house 'that where I am, there you may be also' (John 14:3). And so shall we always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17). 1

2. The purpose of the judgment seat of Christ
Dr. Lahaye explains next what will occur once Christians have been raptured at the beginning of the tribulation period: "At the call of Christ for believers, He  will judge all things. Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), described in detail in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15)." 2

Dr. Lahaye's thoughts aid us greatly in gathering our thoughts around the judgment seat of Christ. In thinking about why Christians would be taken up by Jesus into heaven to be examined by Him, we can note two main reward:

1. Reward.
1 Corinthians 3:14-15 states: "If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." What will be entailed in these rewards? Scripture describes the rewards in various ways. One way is through the notion of various "ornaments" or "crowns" that Christians will be given to cast at the Saviors feet as represented by the actions of the 24 elders in Revelation 4:10. Five such crowns are mentioned throughout the New Testament: imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25); crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4-5); crown of life (Revelation 2:10); crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) and a soul-winners crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19). These "good works" are those deeds done by believer's post-conversion up until the time of death. According to Dr. Tim Lahaye, examples of the kinds of works to be evaluated at the judgment seat would be witness (Matthew 5:16); worship (Matt 26:10) and generosity (1 Tim 6:18).3

2. Preparation

As we mentioned a moment ago, one of the terms used to describe the reward system at the judgment seat of Christ is that of "crowns" or "ornaments". Quite interestingly enough the word for "crown" in the passage listed above can refer either to an award received at an athletic competition or ornaments worn by a bride and groom in a Jewish wedding.4 As the church is brought up to heaven in the rapture to the Father's house (John 14:1-3), she appears before the judgment seat of Christ to be prepared and "decked out" in wedding garments befitting her completion of redemption won for her by her Bridegroom.

As Revelation 19:7-8 notes: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."  It would seem then that the church is raptured for the purpose of not only rewards, but also preparation for what will ultimately be the final wedding between Christ and His people at the end of the ages.5

Dr. John MacArthur explains what we have been discussing in striking detail: "Saints (are) raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation, with the Lord. For that period of time, (they) come back, reign with Him on the earth and at that time they're not only presented to those who are in heaven as they are in the time of the Tribulation but they're presented to the population of the world because the raptured and redeemed saints will come back with Christ and that presentation, in a sense, will continue through the Kingdom." Dr. Dwight Pentecost in his book "Things to Come" explains the sequence of events as being in short: rapture, judgment seat/marriage supper, end of tribulation, Christ's return and 1,000 year reign.

Application and conclusion:
Dr. Wayne Grudem in His Systematic Theology gives us the following wonderful application of everything we have considered today: "It would be morally and spiritually beneficial for us to have a greater consciousness of this clear New Testament teaching on degrees of heavenly reward. Rather than making us competitive with one another, it would cause us to help and encourage one another that we all may increase in our heavenly reward, for God has an infinite capacity to bring blessing to us all, and we are all members of one another. (1 Cor. 12:26-27).7
1. Dr. Tim Lahaye. Charting the Endtimes. Harvest House Publishers. Page 51

2. Dr. Tim Lahaye. Charting the Endtimes. Harvest House Publishers. Page 51

3. Dr. Tim Lahaye. Charting the Endtimes. Harvest House Publishers. Page 53

4. Some digging around in the Greek version of Solomon's recollection of his wedding day in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, confirms the use of the same Greek word described and translated throughout the New Testament by the word "crowns". Song of Solomon 3:11 states “Go forth, O daughters of Zion, And gaze on King Solomon with the crown With which his mother has crowned him On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart.”

5. We know from the background of Jewish weddings that an espoused or engaged bride was deemed "the wife" of the groom. Therefore what begins the process of getting ready for the wedding entails presenting the bride in heaven to Christ, and then at the end of the tribulation period, bringing the bride to earth, whereby in the wedding feast that will continue on following Christ's return, Israel may join in on the festivities, with the wedding proper taking place following Christ's 1,000 year reign here on earth.


7. Dr. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Page 1145

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