2 Corinthians 5:9-10 "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."
The Bible speaks of a time when every believer will appear before the Lord to "give an account". This event, its timing and it explanation are depicted in the Bible. A thumbnail sketch and explanation of this event is given below.
The event of believers having to stand before the Lord to give an account
The Apostle Paul gives a fly-over of the Christian life that is lived in the "nasty here and now" (2 Corinthians 5:1-8) and the "sweet by and by" (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Concerning the statements made in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, we see the fuller explanation of what Paul means in his earlier letter of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
Let the reader note 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 - "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 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. 14 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."
We see then in these two passages that every Christian will stand as it were before the Lord to have the works they have done, post-conversion. The reader may had noticed that I underlined the little phrase "for the day". In the Greek and English texts the phrase specifies a particular period of time. The question is: which day? Its not referring to the day of the believer's death, otherwise this event would be an ongoing event in heaven right now. Clearly Paul is thinking of a particular timeframe in which all Christians will stand before the Lord to have their post-conversion lives evaluated. The question of course is: When?
When believers will stand before the Lord to give an account
Romans 14:8-12 gives the reader a clue about when this particular event may occur:
"for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God."
The late prophecy Bible scholar Dr. John Walvoord notes about this text: "Paul gives further explanation of the Judgment Seat of Christ in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 5:10. The matter of judgment or evaluation of a brother's ministry is committed to Christ. Inasmuch as all Christians will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to be evaluated, believers should concentrate on their own problems instead of on the problems of others." Walvoord writes on: "Scriptures are clear in both the Old and New Testaments that every individual will stand before God as his Judge, not necessarily at the same time or for the same reason. The judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ is for those who have been saved who will be evaluated then as to their contribution to the Lord's work."1
As we explore the New Testament even further, we come to Revelation 19:7-10, wherein we read: "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. 9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Commentator Steve Gregg gives this observation in his helpful commentary, quoting some other Bible scholars: "The 'marriage of the Lamb' is certainly figurative of the ultimate union of Christ with His people." Gregg later writes: "Dispensationalists take the timing of the marriage to be immediately after the rapture of the church....".2 Prophecy Scholar Dr. Tim Lahaye aids us in tying together the timing of this event to the rapture of the church and Revelation 19 - "Immediately after the rapture, every Christian will stand before Christ to be judged by Him. This judgment has nothing to do with salvation, for only the saved will be there."3
1. John Walvoord. Prophecy Knowledge Handbook. Victory Books. Page 456.
2. Steve Gregg. Revelation - Four Views - A Parallel Commentary. Nelson 1997. Page 445.
3. Dr. Tim Lahaye. Charting the End Times. Page 55.
Dr. LaHaye lists Revelation 19:7-9 in his chart, noting that the passage represents the judgment seat of Christ event concluding in that passage.