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Let’s make the distinction by looking first at the judgment seat of Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  This is only for believers on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Notice that it is Christ, Himself, that sits on this seat.  The very one that suffered and died for our sins, the one that was raised again for our justification; it is He that will judge.  However, He will not judge His own work; His work has satisfied God and needs no judgment.  Since Christ has paid for our sins completely, why is it that we appear before Him at His judgment seat?  Let’s read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 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.  If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

At this judgment seat of Christ, we see that it is not the believer that is being judged; rather it is the works of the believer that are being judged.  As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are beyond judgment or condemnation as we read in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  We also read in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

While our salvation is completely the work of the grace of God, the believers will have greater or lesser rewards according to the works they do for the Lord after they are saved.  We read in Ephesians 2:10 that, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been created to serve the Lord, doing the particular works He has for us to do.  At the judgment seat of Christ, the works we have done will be tried to determine if they were truly done to honor the Lord.  In 1 Corinthians 3:11, we see our works are made of gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble.  In the trial by fire, those works done to glorify the Lord will be manifest as precious.  These are made of gold, silver, and precious stones.  Those things that were done for reasons other than the glory of the Lord will be manifest as useless.  These are made of wood, hay and stubble and will be burnt up by the fire.  Can we do good things for the wrong reason?  We certainly can, and it is so easy to do.  It is easy to become like the men of John 12:43 who, “…loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”  We might make great sacrifices to witness to others about the Lord, when we really just do it because we like to be praised for our efforts.  The Lord may use the words we say to bring others to salvation, but if we only witness to be noticed for our works, there will be no rewards for our efforts.

To appear before the judgment seat of Christ is not something of which we should be afraid.  Nothing should cause us to dread standing before our precious savior.  When we see our Lord, we will be glad to get rid of those things that were done for our own selfish reasons.  We will only want those things to exist that were done to honor our Lord.  It’s amazing to realize that those things that were done for the glory of the Lord were really done by the Lord working through us.  Philippians 2:13 tells us, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  Yet, the Lord will reward us as if we had done the works ourselves.  How far-reaching is the grace of God!

Now let’s consider the great white throne judgment that we read about in Revelation 20:11-15, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

This judgment involves the “dead, small and great.”  The dead here are the spiritually dead, or those who have never accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior.  This is the day when all these will stand before a sin hating God to be sentenced for their works.  Notice here that these people are judged according to their works.  While the believer’s works are judged, the unsaved are judged according to their works.  This is the day we read about in Matthew 12:36 which says, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”  Nothing will escape the searching eye of God: every work, every word, even every thought will be judged and condemned by God.  Those who are not saved, or those whose name was not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire where they “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” according to Revelation 20:10.

How extremely harsh this is!  I’m sure this is not how you want to spend your eternity.  It is certainly not how the Lord wants you to spend eternity.  2 Peter 3:9 tells us that, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  The Lord wants to save you from Hell.  He wants to save you so that you can spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  The Lord Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Won’t you, by faith, come to the Lord Jesus Christ and take him as your Lord and savior before it’s eternally too late?