Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, February 9, 2020 

Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin (God’s Judgments – Part 2)

By Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In the February 2 RR, I began this series of God’s judgments. Some judgments (example: fallen angels) will not affect you. In today’s RR, I discuss two end-time judgments, one or the other of which will affect all persons who now live or have ever lived. Since you will be commanded to appear at one of these judgments, you should be interested enough to read more. Repeating from last week’s RR, you cannot escape judgment (Hebrews 9:27): And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,…. 

BEMA JUDGMENT (JUDGMENT SEAT OF HaMASHIACH): The verdict (result) is established before the actual judgment. This judgment is reserved for persons who will eventually spend eternity in Heaven. Yeshua’s ministry may be distilled into three commandments, all of which are based on love: (1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; (2) love your neighbor as you love yourself; and (3) love other Believers as Yeshua loves all who follow Him. (See Mark 12:28-31 and John 13:34.) If all persons follow these commandments perfectly (no one can, unfortunately), there would be no sin. Sin is a failure, manifest in thought or action, to love God and neighbors as perfectly as Yeshua would love.  A Believer’s final judgment evaluates how well he/ she kept the commandments of love during life.

The Apostle Paul was apparently a sports fan. Many first century sports involved racing. Starting at one line of the race course, athletes raced toward the finish line. Placed to the side of the finish line was a bema. (Greek bema, pronounced BAY-mah in the original Greek = “judge’s seat.”) A judge sat on the bema to determine the order of finish of the athletes so that prizes could be awarded. Paul pictured our Divine Judge Yeshua, as He sat on His bema (judgment seat) to determine how well each Believer finished his/ her race in life– that is, how well he/ she applied the commandments to love God and others in daily life.

Paul, in his final imprisonment, knowing his execution would come soon, summed up his own life’s race (2 Timothy 4:6-8): For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Here, Paul anticipated his own Bema Judgment (“laid up for me the crown of righteousness”). Paul died as an impoverished prisoner. All he had to offer the Lord was his life (“fought the good fight… finished the race… kept the faith”). At the end of life, God only requires His child to do the best he/ she can with the life entrusted to him/ her (Micah 6:8): [The LORD] has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? At my age, I do not have many days or years of life left. Sadly, I cannot honestly repeat for my life what Paul said of his life. Can you? Have I (have you) effectively fought “the good fight?”

Paul explained what a Believer can expect after death. Yeshua would tell us, as He told the newly converted malefactor on the cross next to Him (Luke 23:43): And [Yeshua] said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Paul similarly taught this instantaneous passage from mortal life to immortal life (2 Corinthians 5:8): We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 

If I understand Scriptures correctly, it seems a Believer’s eternal life progresses in this manner (although some would suggest a slightly different order):  

** Mortal life on earth (you are presently at this point) >>> 

** Death or rapture (depending on timing of Yeshua’s return in the clouds) >>> 

** Resurrection of dead Believers or translation (rapture) of living Believers, with both groups ascending to join Yeshua in the clouds >>> 

** Admittance to eternal life of reward and joy, if the Believer’s name is inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life >>>

** Bema Judgment (Judgment Seat of HaMashiach) / award of crowns >>>

** Marriage to Yeshua / Marriage Supper of the Lamb >>> 

** Return to earth in the Army of the Lord to defeat the Unholy Trinity >>>

** Celebration, as the Antichrist and False Prophet are cast for eternity into Hell, and as Satan is bound in the Bottomless Pit (the Abyss) “for a time” >>>

** Establishment of Yeshua’s thousand-year reign, the Millennial Kingdom, in the entire world / Believers and angels mentor innocent humans who survived the Tribulation (“sheep” in Yeshua’s Parable of the Sheep and Goats) >>>

** Satan loosed from the Abyss for final temptation of mankind (humans from the Millennial Kingdom who never overcame Satan’s temptation) / Second War of Gog and Magog / Satan finally defeated and cast into Hell / all sin forever banished from tempting mankind / God’s righteous creations– sanctified humans (saints) and loyal angels– live eternally with God in God’s original plan for the world (the Garden of Eden, before being corrupted by man’s rebellion) >>>

** God’s creation of a New Heaven and a New Earth >>>

** Descent from above of New Jerusalem, the New Earth’s centerpiece, a place we commonly call Heaven / as a Believer, your dwelling place awaits you now.

SIDELIGHT 1: In John 14:2, Yeshua promised to go and prepare dwelling places for His followers. These dwelling places have been translated “mansions” (King James Version). Yeshua used a form of the Greek mone (pronounced mo-NAY) = “a dwelling place.” This is not the time to quibble over accommodations (mansions versus dwelling places). Whatever you receive will be wonderful and will exceed by far any alternative accommodations in Hell. END sidelight.

SIDELIGHT 2: Read Revelation, chapters 21 and 22 for a brief overview of Heaven in the vision given to John.  Paul glimpsed Paradise (the first step to Heaven) in his near-death experience (discussed in a previous RR; see 2 Corinthians 12:1-6). He was so overwhelmed that he did not even try to describe its grandeur. END sidelight.

The Bema Judgment is not meant to determine admission to or exclusion from Heaven. That decision, made during a person’s earthly life, is based on faith in Yeshua as Savior. All persons at this Judgment have secured eternal life in Heaven through faith and have their names inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Through this judgment, God has created a means to reward His children for meritorious demonstration of love (service) and to compensate suffering.

In Paul’s time, all athletes crossing the finish line were credited with completing the race. The judge who sat on the bema merely awarded prizes for best performances. At the Bema Judgment, Yeshua does not rule whether a person should be in Heaven, but He awards recognition for works in life.

The Scriptural basis for this Judgment comes from Paul’s writings:

** (Romans 14:10c, 12): For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of [HaMashiach]. |…| So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.

** (2 Corinthians 5:10): For we must all appear before the judgment seat of [HaMashiach], that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

** (1 Corinthians 3:9-15, summarized to conserve space): Believers are God’s workers. The Master Builder (Yeshua) laid a foundation for us, and we workers (Believers) build on that foundation. The Day (Bema Judgment) is coming, when works will be judged. Some workers build with precious materials (gold, silver, gemstones– good works), and their works will endure. Other workers build with worthless materials (wood, hay, straw– no or poor works), and their works will be consumed by the fire of judgment. The source of this fire might correlate with Yeshua’s appearance at His return (Revelation 19:12a): [Yeshua’s]  eyes were like a flame of fire,…. When Yeshua symbolically views Believers’ works, His eyes of flaming fire could have opposite effects:

… Good works: The fire could melt the precious metals to remove impurities. Earthly gold workers/ silversmiths melt precious metals to remove impurities (the dross). Even our best works may be contaminated with impurities (pride, for example). A crown can be made from purified gold, silver, and gemstones.

… Bad works: The fire could burn unworthy works (wood, hay, straw), reducing them to worthless ashes. A crown cannot be made from ashes. The Believer whose woks are burned will be sorrowful that he/ she cannot present a worthy  gift to Yeshua (1 Corinthians 3:15): If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Paul’s description reminds me of television news coverage of a family who has lost a home from fire. The soot-covered family huddles under blankets, and the reporter asks the inevitable question: “How do you feel that your home has just been destroyed by fire?” A parent answers, “We lost everything in the fire, but thank God we are all alive.” If reporters were present in Paradise after the Bema Judgment, an unproductive Believer might answer, “I lost my opportunity to serve God and show that I love Him, but thank God I am admitted to Heaven.”

At this Judgment, good works are awarded as crowns (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 3:11). Saints (Believers) may follow the precedent of the twenty-four elders and cast the earned crowns before the throne of God (Revelation 4:10-11). This act would re-create an ancient practice of subjection, when a servant king removed his crown to lay at the feet of a more powerful king.

Bema Judgment rewards may include the following:

** Crowns: Up to nine crowns are mentioned in the Bible (although there may be more), including:

… Crown of Rejoicing for the Soul Winner (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20); 

… Righteousness Crown for One Who Loves Yeshua’s Return (2 Timothy 4:8);

… Incorruptible Crown for Victorious Life of Purity (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27);

… Believer’s Crown for Martyrdom (Revelation 2:10);

… Faithful Servant’s Crown (1 Peter 5:4);

… Crown for Endurance of Temptations for Love of Yeshua (James 1:12);

… Crown of Joy for Converts (Philippians 4:1);

… Crown for Faithful Perseverance (Revelation 3:11); and

… Elder’s Crown (Revelation 4:4, 10). 

A Believer has no earthly possessions upon entering Paradise. In Paradise, he/ she has only a crown or crowns to show how much he/ she worked for and loved God and others. God owns everything in the Universe. The only thing a Believer really owns and God will not take for Himself is the Believer’s free will (whether to obey or disobey God). A crown reflects righteous use of free will.

** Bridal gown (clothing) preparation: Immediately after the Bema Judgment, Believers will be wed to the Bridegroom Yeshua (Ephesians 5:27-29, Revelation 19:7-8). This most sacred moment re-creates the first covenant given to mankind– the marriage of one man (Adam) to one woman (Eve), a model that should continue even today. All other “partnerships” mock God’s will for our lives. We are told Believers (“brides”) should present themselves to Bridegroom Yeshua free of spot, blemish, or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27). We will want to be properly attired. Our good works (righteous acts) on earth weave the fine linen for our gowns (Revelation 19:8).

** After the Marriage to the Lamb and Second Coming of Yeshua, Believers, with glorified, eternal bodies, will join angels for service in Yeshua’s Millennial Kingdom. We will mentor innocent humans, as they learn God’s ways and add to His kingdom. These “sheep” (Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Matthew 25:31-46), having not been tempted by Satan, are not yet worthy to enter Heaven because they have not proven they are “overcomers.” It seems that faithful service on earth is rewarded at the Bema Judgment by greater service in the Millennial Kingdom. For the template of future service, see  Matthew 25:29a and Luke 9:26. Yeshua taught about future service in three parables:

… Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Here, a virgin symbolizes a betrothed person awaiting the return of the Bridegroom Yeshua. Only virgins (Believers) who keep their lamp wicks trimmed and filled with oil can be ready to make the night journey to the marriage. Understand the Godhead symbolism: Light = Yeshua is Light of the world; oil = a repeatedly used symbol of the Holy Spirit. Yeshua warned (Matthew 25:13): “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

… Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30): A master (symbolic of Yeshua) left home for a time (Yeshua’s ascension to Heaven). He gave talents (money) to his servants (gifts entrusted to Believers). When the master returned (Yeshua’s return), he demanded (Yeshua will demand) an accounting of the use of the talents (God’s gifts). Some servants (some Believers) invested the master’s money (God’s gifts) and increased what they had, pleasing the master (pleasing Yeshua). They were rewarded (the Believers’ Bema Judgment). The lazy servant (lazy Believer) hid his talent (Believer’s unused gifts), causing the master great displeasure. The master’s– Yeshua’s – rebuke is harsh (Matthew 25:28-30). The unprofitable servant was stripped of his unused talent and cast “into outer darkness, [where] there will be weeping and gashing of teeth.”

… Parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27): Like the talent in the preceding parable, a mina is a unit of money. The two parables are similar. In this parable, profitable servants were given authority over cities, which may be a hint of Bema Judgment rewards for Millennial Kingdom service.

FAITH? WORKS? Lengthy arguments have followed the discussion of whether we are saved by faith, or by works, or by a combination of the two. It is not the purpose of this RR to open this can of worms.

However, the Book of James has much to say about the relationship of faith and works. Read James’ short epistle concerned with practical living for the Believer. This question (faith versus works) may be summed up in a few verses (James 2:14 -18, 24, 26): What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. |…| You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. |…| For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. 

GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT (JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED DEAD, UNBELIEVERS): The verdict (result) is established before the actual judgment. This judgment is reserved for persons who will eventually spend eternity in Hell. Persons who have rejected God’s grace– His gift of eternal life in Heaven purchased by Yeshua’s blood sacrifice or who have not repented of (have not overcome) sin– will be judged at the Great White Throne (GWT) Judgment. 

In the seven ages of Yeshua’s “called out ones,” commonly called “church ages” (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3), only “overcomers” will be allowed to enter Heaven. The Bible text does not elaborate on what must be overcome, but I presume it is sin that must be overcome. Unbelievers and unrepentant Believers stand before God’s GWT in judgment (Revelation 20:11-15): Then I [John] saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. 

SIDELIGHT 1: There is no word for “church” in the Bible. “Church” translates a compound Greek word, ekklesia (ek = “out” + klesia = “called”). Note the origin of our word “ecclesiastical.” A “church” is a congregation of persons called out from the world to worship and serve God (see Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Peter 2:9-10). Shomair Yisrael, a Messianic congregation, is a congregation of “called out ones” as much as any Baptist or Catholic Church. END sidelight.

SIDELIGHT 2: The Bible teaches two deaths. “First death” is death of the body, when human biological processes fail. All persons are subject to this death. “Second death” is death of the soul, when persons who have chosen in earthly life to defy the Holy Spirit’s gentle urging to follow (believe in) Yeshua and love God are cast into Hell to be separated eternally from Him. END sidelight.

There is no defense or pardon in the GWT judgment. The unbeliever has rejected the Holy Spirit’s invitation to believe in Yeshua and accept God’s pardon from the sin-caused second death. That is, he/ she has committed the unpardonable sin (see Luke 12:10, Romans 8:1). There is only one verdict of the GWT Judgment– guilty! This judgment will occur after the Millennial Kingdom ends, or slightly more than one-thousand years after the Bema Judgment.

HAVE WE MADE IT TOO SIMPLE? To avoid the GWT Judgment, a person must accept God’s grace and Yeshua’s sacrifice, thereby obtaining “salvation.” Many denominations have made salvation very simple. If someone prays a sinner’s prayer, acknowledges Yeshua as Savior, asks forgiveness for past sins, and is baptized, he/ she is “saved” and assured of being eternally admitted to Heaven. This once-saved-always-saved doctrine is called the “eternal security of the Believer.” There are Scriptures to support and to question this doctrinal belief. 

Other Scriptures suggest salvation may be more complicated. For example:

** (Matthew 7:13-14): [Yeshua said] “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

** (Matthew 7:21-23): [Yeshua said] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

We should hope that salvation can be easily received (by child-like faith), but continue throughout life trying to be worthy of that salvation (by faithful works).

CONCLUSION: God’s Word defines judgments. Every person is judged daily and at the end of time. All creations of God (man and fallen angels) are judged. Judgment is fair. Each person determines his/ her final destiny (Heaven or Hell). That is, God leaves the decision of eternal destiny to the person having control of his/ her own soul. How you live your short life now translates into how you live your eternal life. Shalom and Maranatha.