Medal Ceremonies and the Judgment Seat of Christ

I love watching the Olympics! Even though I don't understand all the winter sports and have only participated in a handful of them, I love watching athletes from around the world competing for their countries. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 9:24 are very appropriate: they all compete, but only one wins the gold medal.

Whenever I watch the medal ceremonies, I compare them to the judgment seat of Christ. Some have confused the judgment seat with the Great White Throne where the unsaved will be judged and condemned for their disobedience and rejection of Jesus Christ. Yet no one at the judgment seat of Christ will be condemned to the lake of fire.

Others have transformed the judgment seat of Christ into a sort of Christian purgatory, where the shame and embarrassment of God exposing our sinfulness and failures sort of burns away those sins. I must reject that kind of thinking, because in Christ I am justified. My sins have been paid for in full. The words of Romans 8:33-34 ring out with comfort and assurance here: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died---more than that, who was raised---who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." No, we will not stand trial for sins already judged by God at the cross.

What then of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 5:10? "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." I believe in the context of 2 Corinthians 5, this verse is an encouragement, not a Pauline scare tactic. In chapter five, Paul claims that he and all Christians are not afraid of death because we are expecting perfect bodies (vv. 1-5). Furthermore, Christians do not fear death because it is the event that will allow them to finally be at home with the Lord (vv. 6-9). The key to all of this is found in verse seven: "for we walk by faith, not by sight."

To the human eye, dying looks like losing. Serving the Lord for one's whole life is certainly not monetarily rewarding. It will not garner one fame or notoriety. Death looks like the end of any hope from a human perspective. However, to the eye of faith, death is merely a doorway. It is in death that we receive perfect bodies, and it is at death that we go home to be with the Lord.

The final benefit of death that we see through the eye of faith is found in verse ten: we will be rewarded for what we have done here on this earth. We may never get rich by serving the Lord, we may never become famous, but God will fairly and justly reward each one who has sacrificed and served him on this earth. The judgment seat of Christ will be that award ceremony.

The emotions at the medal ceremony run the gamut: there is the joy of the winner, the disappointment of those who fell just hundredths of a second short of winning, and the frustration of those who did not perform up to their expectations because of injury.

I am sure that if you asked any gold medal winner on the podium if it was worth it, he would respond with an immediate and enthusiastic yes! All the hours, months, years of preparation, of torturous workouts, of denying themselves things they wanted are now vindicated. They would not take back one second of that work for the achievement of their goal.

On the other hand, there is disappointment for those who have not won. Perhaps thoughts of regret are running through their minds: regret for not working just a little bit harder, for not giving up something that could have made them just a tiny bit better, or for not running the race a little faster.

The judgment seat of Christ gives us encouragement to continue persevering in our Christian lives. We will be rewarded for our service to the Lord. We will be accountable for what we do. If we squander the opportunities God has given us, we will miss out on the rewards that God has prepared for those "who have loved his appearing" (2 Tim 4:8).

Don't give up! It is worth it! Continue working, continue enduring, continue denying yourself and following Christ, "for we will all stand before the judgment seat of God" (Rom 14:10).