The Berean Expositor
Volume 30 - Page 134 of 179
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"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the
righteous JUDGE, shall give me in that day" (II Tim. 4: 7, 8).
Here the Apostle does not hesitate to bring in the title of "Judge", and yet we know
full well that he rejoiced in the wonderful teaching of Rom. 8: 1. This naturally brings
us to the enquiry, What is the nature of this "judgment seat"? The word so translated is
bema, which has twelve occurrences in the N.T., of which nine refer to the "judgment
seat" in connection with Pilate, Herod, Gallio, Festus and Cęsar.
There is one occurrence of bema, in Acts 7:, which needs perhaps a word of
"And He gave none inheritance in it, not so much as to set his foot on" (Acts 7: 5).
The words "set . . . . . on" are the translation of bema here, the word being taken by
Stephen from Deut. 2: 5, where it occurs in the 70: The reader who is not acquainted
with the growth of language may fail to see how such a word can be so translated. An
illustration from our own language may help. We all know that a "cathedral" is the
principal church in a diocese, but we may not all know that cathedra means "a chair". A
cathedral is so called because the Bishop's "throne" or "chair" is there, and when he
speaks "ex cathedra", he is speaking not as an individual expressing his private opinions,
but as the Bishop. Here, then, is a word that in some contexts could mean simply a chair,
but which in course of time has come to indicate a cathedral church. So bema, a word
derived from baino, "to tread", became in course of time limited to one particular
standing place, and the only other occurrence of the word in the O.T. uses it in this sense:
"And Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden stage" (Neh. 8: 4).
Here it is equivalent to our "pulpit", while by the time the word is used in the N.T. it
has become a "judgment seat".
It should be noted that the word bema was used with a certain amount of latitude. It
could mean the judgment seat of Pilate or Cęsar, or alternatively, the raised stand
erected for the purpose of adjudicating at the Greek sports. The latter meaning occurs in
Acts 12: 21:
"And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an
oration unto them."
We learn from Josephus and others that Herod attended some sports that were in
progress at Cęsarea. He was not trying a case, but, as we read, "he made an oration to
the people".
In the two occurrences of bema that refer to the Lord, the word is used in this latter
sense. There is "no condemnation" for the believer. His trial has already been made,
sentence has been pronounced, and, in the person of Another, endured.