Question: If our sins are forgotten once we are saved, what is the purpose for Christians to appear before the judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10)?
2 Corinthians 5:10 reads: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
This verse teaches that 1) Christians will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” and (2) that the purpose of this judgment is to “receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In other words, how we as believers use the time, talents and resources God entrusts to us in this mortal life prepares us for the responsibilities God will entrust us with in heaven.
Jesus taught about this frequently, often in terms of being rewarded for our actions in this life, whether good or bad:
Matt. 6:1 Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
On the other hand, doing good to others unselfishly carries an eternal reward:
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
The concept of “rewards,” however, should not be misunderstood as some form of payment or trophy. As Jesus taught in many of His parables, His followers on earth will be rewarded in the Kingdom of God with responsibilities in heaven—in proportion to how faithful we were with the responsibilities entrusted to us in this life:
Matt. 25:20-21 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
“His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!
But what about the time, talents and resources we wasted in our earthly life? This too will be revealed at the judgment seat of Christ, and, according to 1 Corinthians 3:13-15:
…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
God does not “remember” our sins against us in terms of condemnation once we accept Christ’s forgiveness purchased for us on the cross. But every action we take—or don’t take—still has consequences for eternity.
Since that is true, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:23).