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.2 Corinthians 5:10
The judgment seat is the revealing of the accomplishment of Christ through his death and resurrection. It is the making apparent to man that which God already sees. The time factor is immaterial. The religiously created perception of a literal future throne only obscures the true judgment of God in Christ because it takes man's basis of judgment and projects it onto God. In doing so, the religious mind has established the idea that God allows entrance based on Christ and rewards based on performance! Fleshly wisdom will go to any lengths to claim to be God's wisdom! But God has already destroyed fleshly wisdom through Christ, yet the facade persists through the perception that temporal reality - this vapor, this mist, this life that passes as the grass that withers in the heat - is the definition of life. But when the temporary is stripped away the eternal is seen for what it is, and the facade will be seen as having no substance after all. True judgment is the revealing of what something really is. A friend of mine recently shared a thought about the Bema Seat (the judgment seat). At the conclusion of the Olympic games the victors would stand before the Bema to be rewarded before all with a crown of laurel. The ceremony had nothing to do with a public exposure of any faults in those who received the crown. But there is no mistake in the wording, "whether good or bad". Our problem with it comes in refusing to judge things according to reality! We judge according to appearance thinking we see things the way they are, and yet we balk at the suggestion that the way God sees us has any bearing on who we really are. That's why we have found that comfortable description known as Positional Truth. After all, we all know that it's just a position and not the REAL truth about us ... don't we? But what if it is? Paul's ongoing testimony was one of sincerity:
For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God ... Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.2 Corinthians 2:17; 3:1-2
Sincerity means genuine or real. It has nothing to do with the attempt to APPEAR genuine, for that is the nature of hypocrisy. What came out of Paul corresponded exactly with what was IN him. He was not testifying of his OWN goodness, he was describing a life whose goodness was Christ. He was controlled by the love of Christ, but he was misjudged by man. And in context with the perceptions of the Corinthians his mention of the judgment seat made perfect sense. You must realize that the misjudgments we read in Paul's writings didn't come from pagans per se, but instead they were the criticisms of moral men ... it was from those who APPEARED among men to be godly, righteous, religious, god-fearing, pious, etc. Remember? It was the same as with those who persecuted Jesus and put him to death. But it was not REAL! They were only acting!! Those who APPEARED righteous were NOT righteous; those who ARE righteous do not APPEAR so. But it will not always be so, because the removing of the facade causes the flip-flopping of all things so that all things will APPEAR as what they ARE. This is the judgment - the true revealing - of the finished work of Christ, and Paul calls it the judgment seat of Christ.
...that each one may be recompensed for the deeds in the body, whether good or bad.2 Corinthians 5:10
Those who stand before God do so because of the righteousness of Christ. They are rewarded by God in the revealing of their true nature, which had been misjudged by those who measure by their own fleshly standards (often disguised as GOD's standards). The true good is shown to be absolute good for it is produced by the life of God. Remember, "there is none good, but God"? John's writings declare the same thing
For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices (literally - does, performs, accomplishes) the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifest (shown for what they are) as having been wrought (done, worked) IN GOD John 3:20-21
The light exposes the nature of all things. The evil of evildoers cannot be hidden any more than the performance of truth is able pass itself off as anything other than being the miraculous work of God in former evildoers. Now, could it be just a coincidence that this passage in John 3 was spoken to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night with a message from the counsel whose ultimate purpose was to determine if Jesus could be bought? The Sanhedrin (Counsel of the Pharisees) was the pinnacle of man's judgment according to appearance. THEY were right because THEY POSSESSED THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD, and no one dared to dispute them (Of course, you have to ignore the fact that they didn't agree with each other on many specific interpretations, but they didn't tolerate those outside their group to do so). Is it possible that Jesus was mainly exposing the HYPOCRISY of those who appeared righteous versus the GENUINENESS of those who would never be considered righteous by man's judgment? Because according to everything Jesus said there were those who PRETENDED to love, honor and obey God and yet, did not. But Jesus also spoke of a new reality - the promised reality - in which those who were made new in him WOULD love, honor and obey God. And the light shows all things for what they really are.
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds, to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment John 5:28-29
Before you force the hour that is coming into a yet unfulfilled event, consider that John's whole account was pretty consistent when it came to this hour - it was the time, beginning with the events of the crucifixion, where Jesus was glorified (see John 12:23,27; 13:1,31&32; 16:32; 17:1-5). It, in effect, is the finished work of Christ in his death and resurrection. The good deeds (literally, "good") are nothing short of the workings of God being exposed as such in those who are in Christ. The evil deeds (literally, "evil") are none other than that which comes out of man apart from God. Once again, would it come as any kind of surprise that the whole passage (John 5:19-47) was Jesus' ANSWER to religious men who claimed that the miracle he performed was actually a sin? They used the WRITINGS FROM GOD to support their wild accusation, which was based upon an interpretation of keeping the Sabbath holy. What do you suppose was the obvious insinuation of his answer? Do you think he was saying, "You are going to burn forever for this"? If so, it would sure miss the whole point of EVERYTHING he said here! The suggestion behind the coming out of the tombs is the same thing that Paul addressed. When everything we hold to as real is stripped away then all is exposed for what it is. Our religious theology takes these sayings to derive literal applications from them instead of letting the literal pictures used by Jesus and Paul speak of the reality that cannot be seen or understood with the natural mind. The mind of Christ within you should be reacting against literal interpretations that make sense to the religious mind of man! For years I had no problem conceiving a place called heaven where good people would be rewarded for their efforts, nor with a place called hell where bad people would suffer for what they did. Why not? Because from my own experiences I had ALREADY been making these judgments based upon what seemed right or wrong TO ME or to those I respected. My suggestion? Stop spiritualizing the literal in order to literalize the spiritual, or vice versa. Though that may sound deep the only deep part about it is the fact that THIS is the game our religious mind plays! Simply put, let the literalness of the Roman Bema Seat conjure up the picture of the revealing of the victorious without forcing the human performance standard on God. Because man was made in God's image there are millions of pictures that hint of the invisible reality. But the wisdom of man will take every one of these pictures and bend it to its OWN image. To you students of the Bible, distinguish the picture from the thing it pictures, you will always find it clearly stated in the context of the writing. Let me sum up. When the temporary is removed, the obviousness of the life of God is revealed. We see it NOW through our union with God in Christ with the eyes of faith. When the body dies there will be no contradiction between what something IS and what it LOOKS like. Those fools who trusted the illogical, irrational righteousness of somebody else (Christ) and APPEARED as losers and failures in the visible world (just like Jesus did) are shown to be the ones in whom true goodness was produced. The fact that these are ones who struggled with the appearance factor only validates their case. Their recompense is the actual validation of God that had been there all along, but is seen at the stripping away of the temporally seen. At the same time, those who stood on their own APPEARANCE of righteousness are left without their deceptive cloak as they witness the revealing of the sons of God. There is nothing more to be said, for the loopholes in the system vanish with the temporal. Their deeds are shown for what they are: evil, and not of God as they boastfully claimed. The light is on and they cannot deny the fact that their hand has been in the cookie jar the whole time. Their recompense is found in the praise of the system obviously seen as destroyed. Conclusion: If we suppose that Paul wrote this to support our Judgment Day teachings, then we have missed the obvious! He wrote this to those who had been given the mind of Christ, but who found themselves taken in by the logic of men who appeared as spiritual. Considering the fact that you are also in this same predicament, listen carefully to Paul's words explaining why he wrote this:
We are not again commending ourselves to you but are GIVING YOU AN OCCASION TO BE PROUD OF US, THAT YOU MAY HAVE AN ANSWER FOR THOSE WHO TAKE PRIDE IN APPEARANCE, AND NOT IN HEART 2 Corinthians 5:12
The message was the same to the Corinthian believers as it is to YOU: Stop listening to those who demand that you follow their principles of doing God's will. Stop playing their game of arguing the merits of right vs. wrong. Those who boast of doing God's deeds will eventually be shown to have been only acting. On the other hand, expect those who speak to you of Christ and of him ALONE - not of their own performance standards - to be condemned, despised or denounced by the self-righteous, religious teachers, as well as by the whole system. Don't you know that those who speak to you of Christ speak from the sincere heart created within them by the Spirit? Those who preach principles, or laws, or programs are preaching THEMSELVES! How? Because they are establishing a SYSTEM OF MEASUREMENT so that those who follow it may show themselves as spiritual. If you are one who is in Christ then you also have been given the ears of the Spirit (along with the mind of Christ). Listen with THOSE ears and you will discover that the religious system also questions the working of the Spirit of Christ within YOU. Paul had determined to speak of Christ and only Christ. What did he get for it? He was judged by the religious mind as weak, in error, as preaching license. And he was hated, despised and rejected by them. If you want to boast about something, boast about weakness. It doesn't make a lick of sense to the religious mind, but it is the very place that God's grace reveals itself!