It is sometimes taught in Christian circles that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, God will replay all of our sins and mistakes before the entire mass of other Christians who are there as well.
I have heard the judgment seat of Christ described as though there will be a big movie screen and as we are all gathered together on judgment day, God will show a movie of all our sins, mistakes, and failures for everybody to see.
Have you ever heard something like this taught about the judgment seat of Christ?
I was reminded of this idea recently when I saw this picture:
This guy cheats on his girlfriend, and so to teach him not to do this anymore, she makes him stand at the mall wearing this sign. He shouldn’t have done what he did, but at the same time, I am not sure that this is going to get him to love his girlfriend more…
Some people view God this way. We sin. He gets angry. So He tries to punish and shame us into obedience. Ultimately, when we all get to heaven, the first thing we have waiting for us is the worlds longest horror movie ever of everything bad we have ever said, done, or thought. Not every sin is sexual, but the sexual sins alone would make a XXX-Rated movie millions of hours long. Then you have all the violence, murders, anger, slander, gossip, greed, hate, jealousy, etc., etc., etc.
I cannot imagine a worse way to start eternity….
We Must All Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ
I suppose the idea is that since none of us want our deepest secrets and darkest sins revealed to the whole world, this sort of idea is to keep us from committing sins. There are even a few verses which seem to back up this idea. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an answer for the things done in the body, whether good or evil.
So the teaching is that at the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus is going to call us one by one before His throne and replay our life for us, pointing out in excruciating detail all the things we did–both good and bad–during our life. And since everyone else is going to be there too, well, they are going to overhear what Jesus says or be able to watch the movie of our life along with us.
Again…. this is NOT a good way to start eternity…
Thankfully, I don’t think this is the best way of understanding these sorts of texts, and more than that, I don’t think that this type of explanation fits well with the God revealed in Jesus Christ or everything else we know about how God treats us as our loving Father.
Let’s put it this way. If you have friends over to your house for dinner, and you pull out some family videos about your children, are you going to show clips of all the times they misbehaved, threw fits, wrecked the car, got in fights, failed classes, came home drunk, and every other bad thing your children did while they were growing up?
I hope not!
This is not what good parents do.
Good parents, parents who are proud of their children and who love them, show the highlights of their children’s lives. They show the winning shot at the buzzer. The ballet recital. The times of laughter and hilarity. The smiles, the joy, the beauty, the kindness, the fond memories, the vacation trips, the best of show. Proud parents show love by boasting about their children.
So also with God.
I think that if there is some sort of public broadcast at the judgment seat of Christ, it will be similar. God is proud of us. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. He is the best father and the proudest parent. He has no desire to shame us in front of others. There is shame, for sure, but Jesus already bore all that on the cross into death. Shame has been done away with.
So what does a verse like 2 Corinthians 5:10 mean? I can think of three possible explanations.
The Judgment Seat of Christ might be Private
First, maybe the accounting of what we have done in the body will be an intensely personal and private discussion with Jesus. Note that 2 Corinthians 5:10 does not say the accounting will be public.
If this is the way of reading this verse, it would be like Jesus pulling Peter aside after Peter had denied Jesus six times, and having a personal one-on-one discussion (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5). It would be like in the movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia” Aslan takes Edmund off to the side to speak privately and quietly to Edmund about his betrayal. Afterwards, it was never to be spoken of again.
Sins at the Judgment Seat of Christ will remind us of God’s Grace
Second, maybe the bad things will be publicly broadcast, but they will no longer appear “bad.” Oh, I know… we all think of the terrible, evil things we have done and think, “That’s not possible. I did some bad things. I don’t want anybody to see them.” Right. But remember that in our redeemed, glorified bodies, we will also have redeemed minds. We will see sin and rebellion against God in a different light. Those things will still be terrible, but they may not invite shame and sorrow into our lives as much as they will inspire wonder, awe, and worship at the grace and forgiveness of God.
So if the bad things are publicly declared at the judgment seat of Christ, our response will not be, “Ugh! You did that! Disgusting! How could you, you sick bastard!” Instead, it might be, “Wow. You did that and God STILL forgave you? Incredible! His love and grace truly is amazing!”
I have a real hard time imagining that this is what will happen though…. I just cannot see it. So I go with the third option….
There will be no Sin at the Judgment Seat of Christ
The best option seems to be that when the accounting is done, there will be no bad things to report. When it comes time to give an account for the things done in the body whether good or bad, it will be discovered that there is no bad to report. Those pages in the book have been wiped clean. Those scenes on the movie of our life have been scrubbed, deleted, washed away.
This fits with what Paul says later in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Jesus was made sin for us. He took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness. So maybe, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the only thing left to report is all the wonderful things we have done. It truly will be the “highlights reel” from our life, so that all other believers can celebrate with us in the kind words we have spoken, the sacrificial love we have shown, the generosity we practiced.
If we tell God that He missed a few things from our life, He will look at the books and say, “Hmmm…. I don’t see anything else here. There was something written here, but Jesus erased it. Hey, Jesus, what do you know about this?”
And Jesus will smile back with a twinkle in His eye and say, “There was a minor recording error there, but I took care of it. Now shush! I love this next part in the movie. Watch how she defends her neighbor to the religious leaders. It is so loving! Her actions remind me of Someone….”
Though we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an accounting for the things done in the body, there will be no shame; just glory, love, and celebration. Though we have all done things in our life we are not proud of (and we will all do many more), when we stand before Jesus we will discover that we have nothing to hide.