The Judgment Seat of Christ

“Harvest to me my godly ones; ones who cut a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

(Psalm 50:5)

One thing that many Christians misunderstand is the idea of judgment. And here, I am not speaking about the judgment of the ungodly under God’s wrath, but even of the believer. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Does that imply that there are works expected as part of our salvation? No, absolutely not. When works are included in salvation then grace is no longer grace (Romans 11:6). Christ has paid the penalty of our sins, bought we who are God’s elect as his own and there is nothing that we can do to add or detract from that reality — we are clothed in Christ’s righteous, not some kind of blended material.

At the same time, we are accountable as to how we live and the words, “well done my good and faithful servant…enter into my joy” are words that every believer should desire to hear more so than any other words that our Savior could offer. And Scripture sets that idea before us when it speaks of the judgment seat of Christ. And so, in the context of this passage, with God calling the earth and heavens as witness as God testifies against them. Notice how, that when this verse is taken out of its context, it sounds like a wonderful thing; in its context, it is very much a fearful thing.

The idea of harvest is found throughout the scriptures and here as well. The Hebrew word which begins this verse speaks of how the farmer would go and harvest the sheaves of grain from the field and gather them into the barn. This is a task that we are called to enter into (Matthew 9:37-38). At the same time, it is a task that God also commissions his angels to work in the end times (Matthew 13:49-50).

What does the psalmist mean, then, by those who are “godly” or those who are “faithful”? The Hebrew word that is employed here is חָסִיד (hasiyd), which is derived from the Hebrew word חֶסֶד (hesed). The root word refers to keeping faithful to the covenant even when those with whom we are in covenant are unfaithful. It is often translated as mercy, grace, lovingkindness, or loyalty. And while we humans are the ones who fall short of the covenant, the 

חֶסֶד (hesed) of God is something that we are called to love (Micah 6:8). So, how are the godly defined? It is those who love and cherish the mercy of God in such a way that they are inclined to show mercy to others. 

Yet, חֶסֶד (hesed), in its Hebrew context, always has to do with the Covenant of God toward his people. God does not just bubble away and show mercy indiscriminately, but he does so in the context of his covenant — a covenant that is sealed with blood. In the Old Testament, this was the blood of animals that anticipated the blood of Christ to come. In the New Testament, the Covenant of Grace was fully ratified by the sacrificial blood of Christ being poured out — a once and for all time sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10) that is effectually applied to the elect of God.

So, who are the godly being harvested and brought before God’s judgment seat? It is believers. And that should cause all of us to take a pause and evaluate or re-evaluate or own lives. Is the way we are living the basis of the way we would like to see ourselves judged? Sobering, isn’t it?

Author: preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

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