THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

by D. M. Panton



Chapter Four

THE DAY OF JUSTICE

We now observe a fact of critical importance. The strictly judicial nature of the Age to Come is the decisive revelation of reward. For "that Day" is revealed, in contradistinction to this Age, as an era, not of grace, but of justice: "the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous JUDGMENT of God; who will render to EVERY MAN according to his works" (Rom. 2:5-6). Therefore within the sphere of the coming Age all judgment falls, and by its triple tribunal it exhausts judgment. For (1) at the Bema the Lord’s reckoning with His servants (Matt. 25:19) inaugurates the process of judgment (1 Pet. 4:17) ; (2) the Throne of Messiah’s glory sifts the nations alive on earth at His return (Matt. 25:31, 32); and (3) the great white Throne (Rev. 20:11) accomplishes the mighty assize of the dead. Thus all judgment falls within the Age to Come; and though eternal judgment (Heb. 6:2) rests upon Hell (Rev. 14:11), no acts of judgment appear to take place in the Eternal State. Nor is this all. The Day of God (2 Pet. 3:12), opening immediately on rapture, the signal for the closing (not of all grace, but) of the day of grace, embraces the Day of the Lord, or the Great Tribulation (2 Thess. 2:2, R.V.), during which judgments rain upon an earth in open revolt against God; and also includes the Day of Christ (Phil. 2:16), or the Millennial Reign, which continues throughout as a dispensation, not of mercy, but of justice. For of the saint who reigns with Christ it is written - " He shall rule them with a ROD OF IRON, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers" (Rev. 2:27); and judgment, given to the co-heirs of Christ on the threshold of the Kingdom (Rev. 20:4), continues throughout to cut off sinners (Is. 45:20), and too afflict whole nations (Zech. 14:18). The epoch is solely judicial. Thus the close of mans day, the Day of Grace, is the signal for a prolonged Day of Justice; within the scope of which all judgment falls; in which appears the harvest of all previous sowing; and the essential characteristic of which, throughout, is the recoil of conduct upon destiny.

Now it is this return and reign of Justice which inherently and of necessity provokes reward. Mercy postpones the recompense of the righteous because it is prolonging grace to the sinner: it is grace which, for the world’s sake, involves the disciple in suffering, and blocks reward. But the moment the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16) is replaced by the Throne of Judgment (Rev. 4:2), Justice must visit the wicked, and reward the righteous. So the Apostles said to our Lord : - " Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee; what then shall we have? And Jesus said, IN THE REGENERATION when the Son of Man shall sit on the Throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones" (Matt. 19:27); for "the time of the dead to be judged" is also "the time to give their REWARD to Thy servants" (Rev. 11:18). Judgment over the nations is the signal for the enthronement of God’s saints. "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them" (Rev. 20:4). For God’s children to be enthroned now, to be crowned with the wealth and splendor with which God ultimately intends to endow them, is evil: "ye have reigned without us," is Paul’s gentle reproof to the merchant princes in the Church of Corinth; "yea and I would that ye did reign, that we also might reign with you " - the Kingdom would have come: whereas "we apostles are made as the filth of the world, the off scouring of all things" (1 Cor. 4:8). Since, therefore, Justice reigns from end to end of the coming Age, all appeal to the principles of Grace as dominating that Age falls to the ground: "for the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His father with His angels; and then shall He render unto every man ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS" (Matt. 26:27; 2 Thess. 1:6): "and thou shalt be RECOMPENSED at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14).

So into the Apocalypse (the Book of Judgment) our Lord has inserted, with exquisite appropriateness, a photograph of Church judgment, which, though in progress now - for Churches are judged in this age, disciples mainly in the age to come - yet displays action peculiarly characteristic of the Bema, for it is consistently judicial. Thus the Seven Epistles - letters of extraordinary value, not only as our Lord’s last words to us, but as samples, given beforehand in the Day of Grace, of our share in judgment - reveal the kind of investigation we must meet at His Judgment Seat. WORKS alone appear on a foundation of faith which is assumed - " I know thy works"; each angel’s conduct, in its component parts, good and bad, is exactly diagnosed; each assembly is divided into overcomers and overcome, with appropriate promises for the overcomers, and solemn warnings for the overcome; and all these issues at the Advent, woven into a mosaic of universal Church truth, are pressed home on all - " he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith TO THE CHURCHES." For the rewards and perils on which our Lord casts all the emphasis belong wholly to another Day. He makes it no question of praise or blame, glory or disgrace, in the present Age; it is no matter of unbroken communion or perfected grace or endangered sanctification or spiritual dry rot; it is not loss of usefulness, or eclipse of testimony, or an uneasy conscience, or even present chastisement, however truly all these are involved : - all the issues named by our Lord are made contingent on His return and judgment. Every promise and every warning is set to strike at the crisis of His return. "BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY": (Rev. 22:7): "and ALL THE CHURCHES SHALL KNOW THAT I AM HE WHICH SEARCHETH THE REINS AND HEARTS: AND I WILL GIVE UNTO EACH ONE OF YOU ACCORDING TO YOUR WORKS" (Rev. 2:23).

For even in grace, in this life, judgment can cut off a believer. "For this cause many among you are weak " - or invalided - " and sickly " - or consumptive - " and not a few sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30): while saving faith delivers forever from eternal judgment (John 5:24), nevertheless the severest sentence known to human law, even in the day of grace, God is sometimes compelled to inflict upon His own. "But if we judged ourselves " - so analyzed our own conduct, so dissected our own actions, as to square all to holiness; for it is possible in some degree to take the pruning knife out of the hand of the Great Husbandman - " we should not be judged": self-examination, self-condemnation, a self-erected judgment seat within can deliver from all condemnation, here or hereafter. "But when we are judged " - a master-revelation is now made concerning all chastisement now or before the Bema - " we are chastened of the Lord, THAT WE MAY NOT BE CONDEMNED WITH THE WORLD." In the words of Calvin : - "We either avert or mitigate impending punishment if we first call ourselves to account, and, actuated by a spirit of repentance, deprecate the anger of God - punishing ourselves instead of waiting till He puts forth His hand to do it; for believers too would rush on to everlasting destruction, were they not restrained by temporal punishment." Thus, so far from the judgment of believers being such an undermining of grace, or such a forfeiting of standing and privilege, as to be incredible and impossible, it is precisely one means (as here explicitly stated by the Holy Ghost) whereby that standing is made sure, safe, irrevocable, and eternal.

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)