The Judgment Seat
By Samuel Clough
Jesus gives the beatitudes as His introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. These heart values overshadow the entire sermon and they are the foundation on which the rest of His teaching is built.
Tragically, many have considered the Sermon on the Mount to represent some type of perfection that is unobtainable but that was not Jesus’ intent in giving us the sermon and the beatitudes. Others have sought a “deeper meaning” rather than simply taking the text as it is written. In reality, the beatitudes are quite clear and plain and therefore it is important that we read them with a simple, literal hermeneutic. They are not difficult to understand; they are difficult to live.
The Beatitudes serve as a measuring stick or “litmus test” for our hearts by revealing the character of God that should be formed in our own hearts. Not only is it a measuring stick for our own hearts, but it is an evaluation tool for our ministry as well. Our ministry should produce the fruit of the Sermon on the Mount in those we minister to.
Jesus was intentional in the Sermon on the Mount to directly correlate a reward with each of the beatitudes. Therefore, each of the beatitudes not only produce fruit in our own heart, but they have significant rewards attached to them. It is critical to understand that the beatitudes have a direct correlation to your future because of the significance of the rewards Jesus offers in association with each of the beatitudes. If we take Jesus’ offer of reward seriously, we will take the beatitudes seriously.
It is my personal conviction that the Beatitudes, together with the letters to the church in Revelation 2-3 were both given by Jesus to clearly and directly prepare us for the Judgment Seat. The Judgment Seat can be a terrifying reality, but Matthew 5, Revelation 2-3, and all of Scripture were given so that we could prepare ourselves to receive great reward when Jesus evaluates our life. We do not have to approach the Judgment Seat passively. We can aggressively prepare because Jesus has already given us insight into how He will evaluate our hearts on that day.
As we approach the Beatitudes as preparation for the Judgment Seat, there are several conclusions we can draw from Jesus’ offer of specific rewards in Matthew 5:
- Often we don’t take the beatitudes seriously because we don’t take Jesus’ promise of rewards seriously and because we fail to interpret His rewards literally which is the way He intended us to interpret them.
- Jesus correlated each beatitude with a significant reward in order to give us the requirements for that specific reward in the age to come. The Beatitudes are a list of “job requirements” for the age to come.
- Jesus plainly offers us rewards for each of the beatitudes because He desires to motivate us to pursue each of the beatitudes. He knows that the beatitudes are in opposition to the spirit of this age and so He offers significant reward to us to help motivate us to go against the spirit of the age and pursue the culture of His kingdom.
- Because Jesus rewards the beatitudes so significantly in His kingdom, we should likewise rewards these beatitudes in our own ministries. Jesus is giving us the values that we should value in ministry. When you build ministry teams and set a leadership culture, you would be wise to value the same things that Jesus does. He is going to invest significant authority in the age to come for those who cultivate the beatitudes in their own heart. In light of that, we should also develop ministry cultures that value those who embrace and demonstrate the beatitudes over and above those who have gifts or talents.
- Jesus desires to rewards us for these heart values. Therefore, we must see the beatitudes are being actually obtainable. Many approach the beatitudes as if they were ideals that are impossible to actually live out. Jesus intends us to pursue the beatitudes are realistic goals for our life. He longs to release strength to us through the power of the Holy Spirit to empower our weakness to actually live the Sermon on the Mount. Many completely miss out on the rewards Jesus desires to give them because they do not believe the beatitudes are realistic. All the while Jesus longs to release strength to our hearts to live them out.
- To neglect the Beatitudes is to position ourselves to suffer great loss at the Judgment Seat. The positive side of that is that embracing the Beatitudes will position our hearts for great reward on that day.
The downloadable teaching notes associated with this post look at each of the Beatitudes in light of the rewards offered to them. I would encourage you to look over these notes and pray through them. Jesus offers massive rewards for the Beatitudes and we are wise to examine each of them so that we may position our hearts to receive the rewards that Jesus wants us to received. Let’s prepare actively for the Judgment Seat by receiving the character of God in this age and positioning our heart to receive His rewards in the age to come.
This is a companion to the post “Preparing to Overcome” that examines preparing for the Judgment Seat through the messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. You can read that post here.
By Samuel Clough
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10
The Judgment Seat and Rewards
The judgment seat of Christ is a terrifying reality. Paul also tells the Corinthians that the fire will test their work and that, in that testing, there is the possibility of very real loss (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Sadly many disregard the judgment seat entirely, living lives that are not intentional and either hoping for a reward or presumptuously expecting one. Others live in fear of the judgment seat and how their lives will be evaluated. They hope for reward, but live in fear of the evaluation of their lives.
While we must understand the reality of great loss that is possible at the judgment seat, Jesus does not intend it to be a place of loss for us. His heart’s desire is that we will be rewarded on that day. He is looking forward to that day as a day that He can show His appreciation for lives of obedience and faithfulness. The evidence of this is that even a cursory study of the rewards mentioned by Jesus will reveal that Jesus offers very substantial rewards. His rewards are not small and He longs to give them.
He is not stingy, nor is He only looking for the few that are the strongest. He longs to reward all the saints for the way they responded to His love and lived their lives. He understands the measure each one of us has been given and will reward us appropriately.
If we are going to receive rewards, we must take Jesus seriously by examining both the rewards He is offering and the qualifications for those rewards. He has made both the rewards and the requirements for the rewards clear because He wants to give them to us. It is our part to search out these things in the Scripture and then respond so that we might share His joy on that day as He rewards us.
When studying the topic of rewards, two passages must be seriously examined. The first is Matthew 5 and the second is Revelation 2-3. In both of these passages Jesus is very clear both on the rewards being offered and various qualifications for those rewards.
Applying Jesus’ Instructions to the Seven Churches
The progression of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches is unique and, I believe, significant. Jesus is giving us a clear road-map on how to keep our heart and position ourselves to receive rewards at the judgment seat in the progression of the character issues Jesus addresses. The issues Jesus addresses, and the order He addresses them in, are significant.
He identifies very clear issues that will keep us from earning rewards at the judgment seat. Conversely, if we address these specific issues, we are positioning ourselves to receive great reward at the judgment seat. If we perceive it, Jesus’ letters to the seven churches are an invitation to prepare ourselves for the judgment seat. If we “hear what the Spirit is saying” we will be positioned to receive great reward. If we neglect these heart issues, we will suffer loss.
Attached are teaching notes that work through each of the messages to the seven churches clearly, showing the progression of heart issues that must be dealt with if we are to receive reward. These are the issues that will steal our reward and cause us to suffer much loss, but used wisely, the content Jesus gave the seven churches will position us for great reward.