What is your first emotional reaction when you hear or read, or even see the word "judgment"? Perhaps the range of feelings would be as varied as there are humans to react. There could be flashbacks to childhood when we were called before a parent to account for something we had done. Maybe in school, we were called to the front of the class to be critiqued concerning the pros and cons of our performance on an assignment or test score. For those of us who were once part of military service, there were times when an "in your face" drill sergeant dressed us down (it seemed like into the ground sometimes...) in what was considered part of our training and, in the long run, for our good. In all these instances, it was less than pleasant.

In the Bible, judgment and judgments are referenced many times. What we will discuss here is one in particular, among two of the greatest importance for the human race. There is universal judgment of all humanity - everyone who has ever lived, referred to by Jesus specifically (John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-13)), a judgment that includes consideration for condemnation. Those in Christ, who truly belong to Him never come into this judgment (Romans 8:1).

However, there is a another judgment - just for us who are in Christ. It is not a judgment for salvation and eternal life. That has been bought and paid for by Jesus Himself. But it is a judgment none the less. It is most often referred to as a judgment for our rewards. Rewards will be given, but it is not only for rewards. It is to make a determination of the relative relationship between "good" and "evil" of what we have done in the temple of the Holy Spirit - our bodies. If Jesus just wanted to pass out X-number of rewards without any determinations being made, there would be no need for a judgment. Our "Judgment" will be a judgment for rewards and/or the reduction of rewards (Matthew 16:27). Also, it is us who must give an accounting. The record of our life has been written, now we must account for it - even for every idle word we have spoken (Matthew 12:35-36).

This judgment will not be negative, but it will be open, honest, and truthful. Again, why an accounting if it is only a rewards ceremony? Sometimes we are reluctant to talk about this judgment - sometimes, this judgment has been drawn into a context involving competitiveness, or showing a lack of humility, etc. This Judgment involves neither. Sometimes this judgment is presented in analogy to the game of golf. Although many participate in the game in competition, it is mostly considered a "competition" within each individually. However, even this is not the basis for our rewards, as we will see:

"For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing]." - 2 Corinthians 5:10 (AmpBible)

No masks or pretense allowed here. Everything about us has always been open and clear to Jesus. At this judgment it shall be for us, too. Some things have been obvious, some things have remained hidden until then. Nothing can remain hidden forever. We will appear exactly as we are (1 Timothy 5:24-25).

We can see that a determination (a "judgment") is going to be made, a measuring of good and evil. There can be an adjustment in "pay" depending upon the fruit born by each. Verse 9 in this passage seems to indicate that Paul was somewhat apprehensive in anticipation of this judgment, and hence he strove to please Jesus all the more in all that he did. Our judgment is for "rewards" - plural. For each there are apparently a number of rewards available for each of us. The words used in this passage are important. The words "good" and "evil" for instance. "Good" can mean any type of good in God’s sight, not specific good. "Evil" can mean intrinsically worthless in its effects - all of course, as determined by God. This provokes the question illustrated by the "straw man" and the judge who says the straw man is wrong, to which the straw man retorts, "...as according to who?". This should also cause us to pause and ask, is there a standard by which we can personally determine the "good" or "evil" of what we do in our body? What comes to your mind first...?

Jesus speaks explicitly of rewards of rulership in His parables (Matthew 25:13-30). There will certainly be other rewards and responsibilities in the Kingdom of God. There will be eternity to explore in ways we cannot remotely imagine at this time. Rulership rewards are connected to the amount of responsibility involved. We will be kings and priests. Priests seem to imply a possible responsibility corresponding to the pattern pictured by the temple in Israel, especially applicable during the one thousand-year millennium of Christ’s rule over the earth prior to the "new heavens and new earth" (Revelation 20:4; 21:1-6).

In our lives now, Jesus Christ has positioned all of us to use our bodies, led by the Holy Spirit, to glorify Him in a two-fold responsibility (Luke 19:13-25). First we are to grow and bear fruit unto righteousness personally. This is the bottom-line purpose for the grace that has been extended to all of us. We are given "grace to grow" up into Christ in every way (2 Peter 3:18). Secondly, we are placed where we are by grace to serve and influence others for Him. These are the "works" that he has created beforehand for us to walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10). It does not matter what others think about where, how, or in what He has placed us. Even the smallest deed done by Jesus in us will be rewarded (Mark 9:41). There will be special rewards for those who bear different types of crosses (Matthew 5:11-12). There are rewards for doing good in secret, and withdrawal of rewards because of a vain show of them (Matthew 6:2). Christ does not see as man sees, as was discovered concerning David. If you belong to Jesus, if the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you have a divine appointment for which you must give account to Him. We must consider these things seriously, but not fearfully - at least with man’s kind of fear. We will not be of much service to Him if there is no awe of Him before our eyes. One major aspect of our accounting to Jesus must surely be, did we glorify God through our bodies - whatever it may be (1 Corinthians 6:20). If we are to enjoy God forever, we will glorify Him forever. We cannot enjoy God focused upon ourselves. We lose ourselves in Him, then there can be eternal joy and peace. Are we doing this while in our physical bodies...?

This is a question for us now - and at our judgment.

At our judgment there will be no recriminations such as "you could have done better", or "why didn’t you do this or that". Jesus accepts what we have done at face value. After all, what has been done, is done. It cannot be undone or redone. Jesus does not compare us with someone else, but only with what we have been given to do with. As we give account, He does not bring up another brother or sister in Christ for comparison with us. There can be no competition (at least there should not be) between any of us anytime. We are all called in and into different settings, and formed for different rewards (1 Corinthians 3:8-14; Hebrews 10:35). As we have seen, there are many types of rewards for many works that we do. Christ wants us to have a "full reward" - the most we can receive according to our calling (2 John 1:8). Regardless of the rewards - the ones we could have had, or the ones we receive - Jesus is completely positive with all. He loved us and does love us freely, without partiality. Differences in rewards, yes. Differences in love, no.

Perhaps there will always be a kind of dread of our judgment - even if it is not a judgment for condemnation. Perhaps this is as it should be. Otherwise, we could fall into arrogant religious presumptuousness - something that David feared very much (Psalm 19:13). We know what some of his rewards will be. In his words there is a warning for all of us. If there is someone who, on balance - as determined by Christ - has produced nothing of essential good, even that which he thinks he has, will be taken away (Luke 19:26).

But when we see our great Creator and Savior, the joy will be so intense, eternal life so exhilarating, the love so all encompassing, there will never be a thought of regret regarding our reward(s). All will love and be loved in perfection and holiness. Whatever we shall be doing for eternity, surely we will not regret what at the time seemed like a lack of rewards - how could there be? Shall we regret for all eternity something that will disappear into eternity past? We will give account before Christ only once.

Perhaps this is one reason Paul ended his life without mention of his rewards - only his inheritance - a "crown of rightousness", which will be ours as well (2 Timothy 4:8). A lack of rewards is not sin. Like our sin, perhaps our judgment will never be mentioned again...there will be only joy, peace - and loving acceptance: "Well done good and faithful servant...enter into the joys of your Lord!' (Matthew 25:23)

"Look!...I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done!" - Revelation 22:12