Does God Shame Us at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

It is sometimes taught in Christian circles that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, God will replay all of our sins and mistakes before the entire mass of other Christians who are there as well.

I have heard the judgment seat of Christ described as though there will be a big movie screen and as we are all gathered together on judgment day, God will show a movie of all our sins, mistakes, and failures for everybody to see.

Have you ever heard something like this taught about the judgment seat of Christ?

I was reminded of this idea recently when I saw this picture:

shame at the judgment seat of Christ

This guy cheats on his girlfriend, and so to teach him not to do this anymore, she makes him stand at the mall wearing this sign. He shouldn’t have done what he did, but at the same time, I am not sure that this is going to get him to love his girlfriend more…

Some people view God this way. We sin. He gets angry. So He tries to punish and shame us into obedience. Ultimately, when we all get to heaven, the first thing we have waiting for us is the worlds longest horror movie ever of everything bad we have ever said, done, or thought. Not every sin is sexual, but the sexual sins alone would make a XXX-Rated movie millions of hours long. Then you have all the violence, murders, anger, slander, gossip, greed, hate, jealousy, etc., etc., etc.

I cannot imagine a worse way to start eternity….

We Must All Appear Before the Judgment Seat of Christ

I suppose the idea is that since none of us want our deepest secrets and darkest sins revealed to the whole world, this sort of idea is to keep us from committing sins. There are even a few verses which seem to back up this idea. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an answer for the things done in the body, whether good or evil.

So the teaching is that at the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus is going to call us one by one before His throne and replay our life for us, pointing out in excruciating detail all the things we did–both good and bad–during our life. And since everyone else is going to be there too, well, they are going to overhear what Jesus says or be able to watch the movie of our life along with us.

Again…. this is NOT a good way to start eternity…

Thankfully, I don’t think this is the best way of understanding these sorts of texts, and more than that, I don’t think that this type of explanation fits well with the God revealed in Jesus Christ or everything else we know about how God treats us as our loving Father.

Let’s put it this way. If you have friends over to your house for dinner, and you pull out some family videos about your children, are you going to show clips of all the times they misbehaved, threw fits, wrecked the car, got in fights, failed classes, came home drunk, and every other bad thing your children did while they were growing up?

I hope not!

This is not what good parents do.

Good parents, parents who are proud of their children and who love them, show the highlights of their children’s lives. They show the winning shot at the buzzer. The ballet recital. The times of laughter and hilarity. The smiles, the joy, the beauty, the kindness, the fond memories, the vacation trips, the best of show. Proud parents show love by boasting about their children.

So also with God.

I think that if there is some sort of public broadcast at the judgment seat of Christ, it will be similar. God is proud of us. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. He is the best father and the proudest parent. He has no desire to shame us in front of others. There is shame, for sure, but Jesus already bore all that on the cross into death. Shame has been done away with.

So what does a verse like 2 Corinthians 5:10 mean? I can think of three possible explanations.

The Judgment Seat of Christ might be Private

First, maybe the accounting of what we have done in the body will be an intensely personal and private discussion with Jesus. Note that 2 Corinthians 5:10 does not say the accounting will be public.

If this is the way of reading this verse, it would be like Jesus pulling Peter aside after Peter had denied Jesus six times, and having a personal one-on-one discussion (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5). It would be like in the movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia” Aslan takes Edmund off to the side to speak privately and quietly to Edmund about his betrayal. Afterwards, it was never to be spoken of again.

Sins at the Judgment Seat of Christ will remind us of God’s Grace

Second, maybe the bad things will be publicly broadcast, but they will no longer appear “bad.” Oh, I know… we all think of the terrible, evil things we have done and think, “That’s not possible. I did some bad things. I don’t want anybody to see them.” Right. But remember that in our redeemed, glorified bodies, we will also have redeemed minds. We will see sin and rebellion against God in a different light. Those things will still be terrible, but they may not invite shame and sorrow into our lives as much as they will inspire wonder, awe, and worship at the grace and forgiveness of God.

So if the bad things are publicly declared at the judgment seat of Christ, our response will not be, “Ugh! You did that! Disgusting! How could you, you sick bastard!” Instead, it might be, “Wow. You did that and God STILL forgave you? Incredible! His love and grace truly is amazing!”

I have a real hard time imagining that this is what will happen though…. I just cannot see it. So I go with the third option….

There will be no Sin at the Judgment Seat of Christ

The best option seems to be that when the accounting is done, there will be no bad things to report. When it comes time to give an account for the things done in the body whether good or bad, it will be discovered that there is no bad to report. Those pages in the book have been wiped clean. Those scenes on the movie of our life have been scrubbed, deleted, washed away.

This fits with what Paul says later in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Jesus was made sin for us. He took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness. So maybe, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the only thing left to report is all the wonderful things we have done. It truly will be the “highlights reel” from our life, so that all other believers can celebrate with us in the kind words we have spoken, the sacrificial love we have shown, the generosity we practiced.

If we tell God that He missed a few things from our life, He will look at the books and say, “Hmmm…. I don’t see anything else here. There was something written here, but Jesus erased it. Hey, Jesus, what do you know about this?”

And Jesus will smile back with a twinkle in His eye and say, “There was a minor recording error there, but I took care of it. Now shush! I love this next part in the movie. Watch how she defends her neighbor to the religious leaders. It is so loving! Her actions remind me of Someone….”

Though we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an accounting for the things done in the body, there will be no shame; just glory, love, and celebration. Though we have all done things in our life we are not proud of (and we will all do many more), when we stand before Jesus we will discover that we have nothing to hide.



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Comments

  1. Vince Latorre says

    Psalm 103:12 ” As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”. Also Hebrews 10:17 quoting Jeremiah 31:34 “And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more”. These and many other promises would be meaningless and false if God replayed our sins and shamed us publicly in heaven. He is our advocate now, why do people teach that He will be our accuser later? For the unbeliever,those who reject and mock God’s forgiveness, they will condemn themselves by refusing the only gift that could save them.

    The word for “bad” in 2 Cor. 5:10 means “worthless”. In other words, we as Christians do some works that are worthless and unrewardable (the wood, hay and stubble of 1 Cor. 3:12), and some that are praiseworthy (the gold, silver, and precious stones). I don’t see it talking about our sins here, they were dealt with on the cross. And I love the promise in 1 Cor 4:5: “and then every man shall have praise of God”. So all of us will have praiseworthy works done through the Holy Spirit to rejoice in, because we will have done God’s will. I’ll bet the thief on the cross probably thought he wouldn’t have much of a highlight reel, but how about all the people who come to faith at the very end of their life because of his story and testimony?!

    • says

      Excellent insight, Vince! Love the connection with 1 Cor 3:12. Yes, our sins have been dealt with at the cross! Gone forever, as you point out.

      I don’t know what sort of praiseworthy items God will find in deathbed conversions, but maybe He will praise things they did before they were believers?

      • Vince Latorre says

        Maybe some of those things would be final acts of the heart rather than specific deeds. From their hospital bed maybe they decide to forgive and love someone against whom they held a grudge all their life. Or like the thief who answered the other thief who was cursing and attacking Jesus,, they might stick up for what’s right when they may never have had the courage to do that before.

        • says

          Very true.

          I also wonder if there is some ongoing benefit in the lives of others we influence before death. So maybe if a doctor hears or sees the change in the person on their deathbed, and then that doctor later becomes a believer, and then they support missionaries, or something like that, maybe the person who believed on their deathbed is someone seen as helping the doctor.

          Who knows? But thankfully, we know God will work it all out.

  2. John Jude Farragut says

    I know my comment is a stretch, but I wonder if even our “worthless” and “bad” works are cast as far as the east is from the west when we repent, so that we never have to worry about being ashamed of them or lose any rewards at the end. I definitely think so. Based on what I’ve read in the Bible, the root of worthless works is sin. I think worthless works are sins, too. It seems like the wood, hay and stubble in 1 Cor 3:10–17 are all about wrong ways people could minister to others. Things like bad doctrine, arrogance, judgmental attitudes, misinterpretations of God, and so on. They’re either sin or rooted in sin, which means they can be forgiven and recycled by God Himself, remade into good and precious works.

    Same for 2 Cor. 5:10. If we ask God to show us if we’ve done anything for Him that may be worthless and bad, I believe He is willing to point it out, forgive us, recycle it, and work everything for His glory in our lifetimes (Rom. 8:28). And He blots out the original sin for His own sake and will never think of it again (Isaiah 43:25), so the only thing on the record is everything good God did. Some preachers would say this kind of belief would inspire people to sin. I disagree. It encourages me to obey and serve Him, filling me with joy, love and peace.

    God’s Spirit empowers His people to do great things—things made of gold, silver and precious stones. He never calls us to do things that will be burned up and considered worthless. We can ask God to get rid of anything in our hearts that could lead to bad, worthless works: It’s just a simple heart check He performs day by day. When God’s Spirit lives in a person, He wants to shape our lives so dramatically and powerfully that He makes every little thing we do precious and eternal. All we need to do is ask, obey His leading, and enjoy His love, and we become more like Him every second of every day. We’ll still drop the ball, though—we’re human, after all. When we make a mistake or do something worthless or bad, we can repent, receive His forgiveness, and trust Him to do what the song says: “make beautiful things out of dust.” And we get back up again and do what is good and precious.

    I don’t know what judgment will look like exactly, but I truly believe Jesus died so that there would be positively, absolutely, infinitely no reason for a believer to lose rewards or be ashamed of anything at the judgment seat. I believe Jesus has called us all to be gold medalists, and He longs to help us all be gold medalists.

    Again, I know this comment is a stretch (and a huge blot on the comments page). Whether or not I’m off on my comment, I still want to say: Great post! Really great post. I can’t tell you how much your illustration of a highlights reel has encouraged me.

    John

    • says

      I don’t know if it’s a stretch. I think you might be right.

      I used to think that we would be shamed at the judgment seat, but in recent years have begun to rethink my old position, and am coming to something much like what you have presented here. I like your idea that Jesus wants all of us to gold medalists.

  3. grasshopper says

    Thanks for this encouraging word. I have been both good and bad and now I am struggling with many sins. I know Christ is my best hope. He is the One true Son that brings redemption. Such a great love as the love of God causes me to think that the Judgement Seat of Christ is “present” when I sin. I always stand before Him and I suffer because I love Him, like when I fail a friend.

    • says

      That’s right! When we understand Middle Easter Mediterranean culture, this would have been a shameful thing for the father to do, but he did it out of his great love for his son. It was shocking and outrageous, but this is the way God is toward us! Truly amazing.

  4. Doug says

    Hi Jeremy!

    Great article and I pretty much agree with your perspective. However, I was wondering how 1 Cor. 4:5 would square with this view. This one verse seems to indicate that our sins may be brought up at least to God Himself, if not made entirely public. Just curious about your thoughts on that. I enjoyed reading this!

    Doug

    • says

      Great, great question. I also think that the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as mentioned in Matthew refers to profound regret at the Judgment Seat of Christ (not to hell). That also sounds like shame, right?

      I think maybe the difference is between public shaming and being personally ashamed. I am ashamed of much that I have done, and I am sure there are some things I have done which I am not ashamed of, but maybe I should be. I think maybe 1 Corinthians 4:5 is referring to some sort of private conversation with Jesus where we go off and we talk about some things….

      I am not certain though. What do you think?

      • Doug says

        That certainly sounds like a strong possibility…similar to the scene in ‘The lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ as you mentioned. I do believe it would seem uncharacteristic of God to publicly display all our sins on one big screen. But I also look at verses like the one I mentioned and Gal. 6:6-7 which seem to indicate a ‘payday‘ for those believers who live in persistent sin. I think your solution seems like a definite possibility. Also, even if sins aren’t the issue at the JSC per se, there’s no doubt sin would keep a person from serving and at least indirectly lead to forfeiture of rewards & shame. Interesting topic that I’m finding out a lot of ‘free grace’ people disagree on.

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