I am interested in detail as to what constitutes the judgment seat of Christ, the rewards of and the suffering of loss of with the fire that shall try our works of what sort it is and does the Lord already know what the governmental positions are that we are going to occupy in the heavenlies and what they are constituted of. How are we going to know what we are to do and what we are to know to fill these positions since everything will be new to us?
There is a lot to what you have asked, and I will set before you my understanding to the best of my ability. First of all, my understanding is that the judgment seat of Christ exists, and all of us as members of the body of Christ will stand before it, because of who God has made us to be “in Christ” when He not only justified us unto eternal life, but also sanctified us unto functional life and made us members of His “new creature” the church the body of Christ in connection with His plan for reconciling the heavenly places unto Himself. In so sanctifying us and making us members of His “new creature,” God has made it so that we can now live unto Him and serve Him by bringing forth “fruit unto holiness,” and He has made it so that we can be used by Him to replace the present occupants of the positions of governmental rule in the heavenly places when He reconciles those positions unto Himself. Since by sanctifying us and making us members of His “new creature” this exists, there is the need for there to be a time when God will evaluate how we have responded to our sanctified and vocational position “in Christ,” and for us to receive from Him the results of that evaluation. This, in essence, is what the judgment seat of Christ is all about. If the only thing God did for was to justify us unto eternal life when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as our all-sufficient Savior, then there would be no need for the judgment seat of Christ. But since God also sanctified us and gave us a vocational position “in Christ,” there is a need for the judgment seat of Christ for God Himself to respond to how we ourselves have responded to the grace He has given to us in so sanctifying us unto His service.
My understanding is that our sanctified and vocational position “in Christ” is part of the issue of God dealing with us as “sons.” In dealing with us as “sons” God is dealing with us as ones whom He expects to labor together with Him in what He is now doing, and in doing so to look forward to eventually entering into His business with Him. This is what receiving “the adoption of sons” is all about. When a father adopts his own children and puts them into the position of “sons” it is the issue of him taking them out from the position of being under “tutors and governors,” bringing them into a more personal relationship with himself, and in so doing providing them with the opportunity to be educated by him in his ways and work, to also work with him, and to do so with the intention of them eventually entering into his business with him. And this is just the way it is with us with God having given us “the adoption of sons.” God has brought us into that more personal relationship with Him; He is educating us in His mind, ways, and His work; He is enabling us right now to labor with Him in things that He is doing; and He has done all of this with the intention of us eventually entering into His business with Him of reconciling the heavenly places unto Himself. And just as a father evaluates his “sons” response to his desire to educate them in his ways and work when it comes to determining how well they can enter into his business and how much responsibility they can handle in it, so also is it with us. The judgment seat of Christ will be the time at which God evaluates our response to His desire and provision to educate us in His mind, ways, and work, and on the basis of the evaluation He will determine how much responsibility we are qualified to handle in His business of the reconciliation of the heavenly places.
The basic nature of the evaluation will be one of us “giving an account” of ourselves to God in connection with what He has said that He wants us to do in view of Him having sanctified us “in Christ.” And having sanctified us, the essence of what God wants us to do is to be “godly”: i.e. to think like God does, live like He wants us to live in this dispensation, and labor with Him in the things He is doing in this dispensation. God has provided us with all the doctrine we need to educate us in “godliness,” and when we do educate ourselves in and with the doctrine set forth to us in Romans through Philemon “godly edifying” is just what does take place with us. We get educated by God so that we can think like He does, live like He wants us to live in this dispensation, and labor with Him in things that He is doing in this dispensation.
In II Corinthians 5:1ff Paul deals in more detail about this by describing each of us as “God’s building” in connection with God’s provision for, and plan for, our “godly edifying.” And we are “God’s building” with the “foundation” being who God has made us to be “in Christ Jesus,” as Paul laid down and set forth to us in Romans 1–11; with the rest of the blueprint for the structure of our “godly edifying” that is to be built upon the “foundation” being what God has Paul set forth beginning in Romans 12 and on through Philemon. When we build upon the “foundation” of who God has made us to be “in Christ” following the blueprint given through Paul, we build with the “gold, silver, and precious stones” type building materials that are fitting to the nature of the foundation, glorify it, and are enduring to its glory forever. However when we do otherwise, either by not specifically following Paul’s blueprint as the “wise masterbuilder” for us today, or by educating ourselves with “the wisdom of this world” instead of with the knowledge of God, then we build with the “wood, hay, stubble” type building materials that are contrary to the “foundation” upon which they rest, dishonor it, and will not be permitted to remain to dishonor it forever. The “work” that we are to do, being “God’s building,” and that “shall be made manifest” by “the fire” that “shall try every man’s work of what sort it is,” is “the work” of taking the provision God has made for our “godly edifying” and building “godliness” upon the foundation of who we are “in Christ.” If we do so, we “shall receive a reward” in that day. If we do not do so, our “work shall be burned” and we “shall suffer loss”; i.e. no reward because the work was not proper, along with the loss of what had been built.
A “reward” is compensation for work done that has pleased the one who gave you the opportunity to work for him or with him. The exact nature of the reward is not specified in this passage, but it gets defined later on in I Corinthians 9:25 when Paul says, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” A crown is associated with being in a position of authority or rulership or privilege over others. And in view of the fact that in God’s plan and purpose for us, as Paul states in I Corinthians 6, God has purposed that we “shall judge the world” and “that we shall judge angels”; and in view of the fact that being the church the body of Christ we are “the fulness of him that filleth all in all” in connection with the governmental positions in the heavenly places; the reward of the “incorruptible” crown has to do with the particular position of authority and rulership we are worthy to occupy. And since the positions of authority and rulership in the heavenly places are particularly spoken about with names such as “principalities,” “powers,” “mights,” “thrones,” and “dominions,” and “every other name that is named,” my understanding is that these are the specific positions of authority and rulership God has purposed for us to occupy, with the reward at the judgment seat of Christ being the issue of being granted the worthiness to occupy and function in one of these positions.
The issue of what constitutes these positions of governmental rulership in the heavenly places and how we are to understand them is something that is contained in the “names” themselves. Since the same “names” are used for these positions in the heavenly places as are used for such governmental positions of rulership on this earth; and since in Colossians 1:16 the parallel that exists between the ones “that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible” is clearly stated; the way God expects us to understand what constitutes the heavenly positions is to look at the ones we can see on the earth with men occupying them and realize that the same thing exists in the heavenly places, but with angelic beings occupying them. As such, therefore, there are “principalities” in the heavenly places just as there are here on the earth; along with “powers,” “mights,” and the rest. In order of rank, so to speak, my understanding is that the “principalities” would be the high, or highest, rank of governmental rulership, along with the term designating a particulary large place/territory ruled over or governed by them. This is the way the term is used on the earth, so I understand it to be the same in the heavenly places. Likewise, in accordance with the way in which the other terms are commonly used, under each “principality” and within its place of government would be “powers”; ones under the prince of the principality, who rule for him over the various zones or provinces that make up the overall principality. Within each of them would be other “names” or titles like “thrones,” “mights,” and “dominions.” These terms are used in various ways in governments on this earth, but in general they designate smaller/lower forms of the governmental rule within the larger “powers” that make up the “principality.”
Regarding the issue of ‘how are we going to know what to do and what are we to know to fill these positions since everything will be new to us?’ my understanding is that our present education in “godliness” is the very thing that trains us, so to speak, for occupying and functioning in those positions. In connection with this it is interesting to note how that in I Corinthians 6:1ff when Paul sternly reproves the Corinthians for going to law one with another and for not exercising their own wisdom and judgment among themselves to settle the matter, the fundamental basis of his reproof is that they are not exercising right now the very same kind of wisdom and judgment God is going to expect them to exercise in the future when they as saints “judge the world” and “judge angels.” In view of Paul’s reproof they are supposed to look upon their present ability to make godly decisions and judgments regarding these “smallest matters” and “things that pertain to this life” as training and practice, so to speak, for the godly judgments to come. Again my understanding is that God has built into the doctrine for our “godly edifying,” (which includes the issue of us laboring together with Him in things that He is doing right now), the very issues of training, practice, and equipping for the future, that furnishes us with the knowledge and ability to function in one of the positions of governmental rulership. And in connection with this my understanding is that the further we progress in our “godly edifying,” the more those issues of training, practice, and equipping for the future develop and progress within us.
Regarding the issue of ‘does the Lord already know what the governmental positions are that we are going to occupy in the heavenlies’; my understanding is that the answer to that issue is most likely the same as what is involved in the Lord’s response to James and John in His program with Israel when they asked the Lord to grant “that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” (Which issue you also made reference to in your questions.) The Lord, in functioning as the Christ, took upon Himself the form of a servant, and in so doing left both the knowledge of and the resolution of a number of issues pertaining to His kingdom glory solely in His Father’s hands. One of those issues is the placement of the positions of His 12 apostles, (Israel’s restored judges), around Him when they sit upon their 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. As the Lord said to James and John, “but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” In saying this, my understanding is that the Lord knows that His Father has “prepared” a criterion for determining which ones will be placed at the Lord’s right and left hands, and so on from there. That criterion has to do with how they respond to what would be taking place in the final installment of Israel’s program, when they too ‘drink of the cup that He drinks of and are ‘baptized with the baptism that He is baptized with.’ Depending on how they respond will determine where they are placed. And undoubtedly the two that respond the best, will be positioned at the Lord’s right hand and at His left. Again, in like manner do I think it is with us in this present dispensation of God’s grace. The Father has established the criterion for us when it comes to the issue of worthiness to occupy the position of “principalities,” and so forth. The Lord is still functioning as the Christ and that issue He has also left solely in the Father’s hands. It will be determined and manifested in connection with the judgment seat of Christ.
Keith R Blades