Preparation

"...there is but one preparation for Christian dying, and that is Christian living." ~ Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward



The Bema seat.  A term borrowed from the ancient Olympians.  A judge sitting at the finish line of a race.  I grew up hearing about the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is what our old-school commentators called it in the study notes of my King James Bible.  That time when you walk up to your Father, Christ, the one who paid for your sin with the shedding of His own blood in a torturous, horrific crucifixion.  You walk up to Him, and you go over your life with Him, and you talk together about what rewards are fair for the life you lived.  I remember a Gospel tract I read as a child that showed the Christian standing before a gigantic big-screen TV as the events of his life were played for everyone to see.  And since then I have to admit I have lived in abject horror of my inexorable approach to the Bema seat.

Kind of like this guy.  I guess I picture this awesome, fear-inspiring God holding a gun to my head and dragging me toward that screen, where everyone will finally know for sure the errors and character flaws I've downplayed for my entire life.  Can you imagine anything much more humiliating?

I've been thinking about the Judgment Seat of Christ as I grieve my grandparents.  Three of them, all three of them now done with this last glimpse of the old world before entering the glories of God's house forever.  Yet, I also have recently come to realize that a lot of my preconceptions about heaven may have more to do with the new heaven that is created after this world is destroyed by God (Revelation 21).  This passage is the famous one we quote about heaven: "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  I wonder what heaven is like, now?  Before the new heaven and the new earth?  I wonder, in Luke 16, if Lazarus could see the rich man who begged him to dip a finger and come cool his burning tongue? I wonder if John, who wept in Revelation, only did so because he was still mortal, and not glorified? Would he have wept if he had his new body, his new mind, his new understanding of all the ways of God?


The fear of hell has been forever lifted from me, because I have believed, and therefore I know I am saved that destiny.  Yet I still...at 31 and living sold-out for Christ...fear the day that I face my Savior.  What could I possibly do, in the intervening time, that would allow me to lift my face to the One who did so much?  And how much I will do that will cause me shame on that day!  I keep pondering...and yes, it motivates me to try harder.  To live in preparation for my death as a Christian.  To keep the specter of the Bema seat before my eyes when things of this world surround and crowd out the great Truths I hold so dear.  I imagine I will look much like the man on this painting, although I guess I think I will probably be on my knees.  Hard to imagine a day when Jesus puts His holy hand on my shoulder.

Right now there is difficulty in my walk alongside other Christians.  It is so important to remember that this is what we are all walking toward...we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:13-14)  Someday, we will all come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  (a word on fellowship in heaven from Hebrews 12:22-24)