Q. Not too long ago I sat under some teaching about the Bema Seat judgment. The teacher said that if we weren’t “redeeming the time” we won’t lose our salvation, but we would not receive any rewards. He said that according to Hebrews 10:31, it was a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God and that is exactly what we will be doing if we aren’t redeeming the time. He also said that the Lord won’t wipe every tear from our eyes until after the 1,000 year reign of Christ. So until then we will feel sorrow for lost loved ones and friends we fell short on preaching the gospel to. That is our punishment for not redeeming the time like we should have. Is this teaching true?
A. This interpretation really plays into people’s fears, but a study of the relevant verses shows there’s no Biblical support for it. It is true that some of our “works” will be burned up in the fire at the Bema Judgment (1 Cor. 3:10-15) but the Bema Judgment is where winners receive their rewards (1 Cor. 4:5), not where losers receive their punishment.
The works that will qualify for rewards are the things we’ve done at the Lord’s direction and in His strength. In John 15:5 He told us that apart from Him we can do nothing. The works we do on our own initiative and in our own strength are like the branches that are pruned and thrown in the fire (John 15:6). So the basis for the judgment will be the motives of our heart, not the outcome of our actions.
The phrase “redeeming the time” comes from the King James translation of Ephesians 5:15-16. The idea is if we just continue living our life the way we always have, the time we spend on Earth as believers will be wasted. But if we’re careful how we live and make the most of every opportunity we’ll be redeeming time that would otherwise be wasted. In Ephes. 5:18-20 Paul gave some examples of how to do this, and they’re all about expressing the gratitude we feel for being saved.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 10:31 the writer was referring to people who “trample the Son of God under foot, who treat as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctifies us, and insult the Spirit of Grace” (Hebr. 10:29). As is true through out the Book of Hebrews, this verse is meant as a warning to people who think they have to add their own effort to the Lord’s death in order to earn or maintain their salvation, and has nothing to do with rewards.
The setting for Rev. 21:4, where John said the Lord will wipe every tear from our eyes, is at the beginning of the Millennium, not the end, and is a promise to the Church that the old order of things has passed away.