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Will We Be Punished In Heaven?

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

A guest blog post from Chip Ingram

The Bible tells us that in Heaven, all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

But, does this mean we will be punished for the bad things we’ve done? Many Christians seem to think so.

I can understand why this is the case. Usually, the term “judgment” does not fill our heads with warm, fuzzy thoughts. Instead, the word strikes fear in us. So it’s understandable that when we hear judgment, we think “punishment.”

Consequently, there are many people who grew up believing that when they got to Heaven, their entire life would be shown on a huge heavenly movie screen and everybody in Heaven would watch every secret sin they had committed and every impure thought they ever had. They would only get to enjoy Heaven after they endured the shame and humiliation of this judgment.

But this isn’t what the judgment seat of Christ is about at all. If you know Christ as your Savior, all your sins have been forgiven and will never beheld against you.

The truth is the judgment seat of Christ is an “awards ceremony,” not a time for punishment.

It will be about honor, not humiliation. It will not be a time of “shame on you,” but rather a time to say “thank you!”

But, if it is a judgment of rewards, then what does Paul mean when he says that each “will receive what is due him for the things done, whether good or bad”?

Much misunderstanding comes from this verse. The Greek language has two words for “bad” or “evil” and neither of those words is used here. The word that is used here is the word that means “worthless” or “no lasting value.” Paul is saying that when all our motives and deeds are revealed, those that were “worthless” won’t receive any kind of reward or commendation.

We won’t receive punishment or condemnation, but our reward will be less than it might have been.

God’s judgment will be absolutely perfect and accurate, because God knows everything and nothing escapes His notice. He will not only look at our actions, but the Bible says He will also examine our motives.

I think that there will definitely be some big surprises in Heaven. Those unknown on earth will be known in Heaven. Those who labored behind the scenes will be heroes in Heaven. Those who never heard the cheers of men will hear the cheers of angels. Those who missed the blessing of a father will hear the blessing of their heavenly Father.

We get more insight into this great event in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15:

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Paul challenges each one of us to be wise builders, or “build with care.” Why?

Because life is a stewardship. It is a sacred trust. It is not to be taken lightly.

Whatever years you have on planet earth were a gift given to you by God. They were given to you to fulfill God’s purposes in your life. And someday He’s going to ask for an accounting of what you did with what He gave you.

In verse 11 Paul talks about the most critical part of any building project—the foundation. He says that there is only one foundation upon which we can really build. That is the foundation of Jesus Christ.

All your plans, all your achievements, all your successes, all your titles don’t matter if you have built your life on the wrong foundation.

Paul then speaks about the building materials of life. He says you can use gold, silver, and costly stones or you can use wood, hay, and straw. These materials are representative of your time and your actions — how you spent your life.

For instance, did you invest your life for the purposes of God? Did you invest in the things that have eternal value? Were spiritual realities the focus of your time, talents, treasure, and dreams? If so, then you built your life with gold, silver, and precious stones.

Conversely, if you built with wood, hay and straw, then you spent all your time pursuing self-interests and temporal, material things.

At the judgment seat of Christ our “building projects” of life will be tested by fire.

In other words, all of our works will be examined. Those things done out of pride or impure motives will burn like wood, hay, and straw. Whatever is left is what we will be rewarded for.

What a tragic day of regret to stand before Jesus, the lover of your soul, and realize that you squandered the one and only life you had here on earth.

For many believers, this judgment will be a time of loss. Even though we’re not being judged for our sin, it will be a time of regret for many, because we will realize we wasted the life that God had entrusted to us.

As a Christ-follower, what you do in this life determines the reward of your life in eternity. I like what Russell Crowe, as Maximus said in the movie Gladiator: “What we do in this life echoes in eternity.”

How following Jesus works in real life.

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