The Victor’s Crown

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  
Romans 14:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
2 Corinthians 5:10

In ancient Greece, athletics played a pivotal role in life and culture. The Panhellenic Games served as a collection of sports festivals showcasing the greatest athletes and drawing crowds from across every city-state. The Pythian, Isthmian and Nemean were prestigious games but no tournament was greater than the one held in Olympia! The Olympic Games were king.

The apostle Paul seems to be an avid sports fan with athletic metaphors and images proliferating his writings. He knew his audience would have been inspired by the games and familiar with the inner workings of each event, especially those involving running. Verses like Hebrews 12:1 – “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” and Philippians 3:14 – “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” are a pair of verses written to encourage and charge followers of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Romans 14:10, he once again looks to the Olympic games and uses a powerful term to describe the future event when Christians will be judged for our life on earth. This term is Bema Seat.

Central to every athletic event was a throne where the Olympic official would sit and preside over the games. This chair, referred to as the Bema Seat, resided on a raised platform and provided the greatest perspective of the finish line. At the conclusion of the games, the judge would rise from his seat and conduct the award ceremony, decorating each champion with varying levels of awards based on their performance.

Paul borrows this term Bema Seat to describe the final judgment of those who profess faith in Christ, accept God’s free gift of salvation and finish the race of life well. The greek term, Bēma refers to a judgment seat where the grand official would observe that each athlete was abiding by the rules before announcing the winner. Every Greek athlete desperately wanted to win! Champions not only received an olive leaf wreath but would be set financially for life. Winning was huge but it wasn’t everything! The only thing worse than losing was to cheat and bring shame upon the games. Losing honorably was completely acceptable but no man wanted to be disqualified because he failed to follow the rules.

The judges’ role was twofold. First, to watch the race and ensure that every runner competed according to the rules. Second, to bestow glory and honor upon the champion. Men, lean into this. The judge’s primary role was not to reprimand or punish but to celebrate and bestow crowns of honor upon each rightful champion. With pomp and circumstance, the victor would be announced and a crown placed upon his brow.

When you think of Jesus, our Judge, do you think of an angry magistrate anxious to drop the gavel and sentence punishment or an excited and engaged Father who’s eager to celebrate and crown you a champion? Judgment is coming. Coming for us all. But for those who profess Jesus, this judgment is a heavenly award ceremony! A time of rejoicing and celebration that will continue for all eternity.

A victor’s crown is awaiting (2 Timothy 2:5). If we confess Jesus and are proud to declare Him as Lord, we will receive the gift of heaven along with the heavenly crowns. But if we deny Jesus on this earth and fail to acknowledge Him before others, a much stricter judgment lies ahead.

Men, the race has already been run perfectly by Jesus. Run your race well and overcome. Be the man God’s called you to be. Live in victory and claim your crown so you can return it back to King Jesus.

Grant Giesler, RTM