In Greek, the word bema meant an elevated step or platform that orators would speak from or courts of law would be held. This is very similar to our courts where you stand before the judge who’s seated on an elevated platform.
The Bema is the Judgment Seat of Christ, when all believers after being taken up to heaven at the Rapture will stand before Christ to give an account of what they’ve done to further the kingdom of God using all the spiritual gifts, talents, resources, and abilities that Christ through the Holy Spirit has given to them and empowered within them. This has absolutely nothing to do with saving salvation for you are already saved and in heaven and all your sins are fully forgiven at the Cross. This is all about your sanctification and what you’ve done with all that Christ has given to you to use in His service. You are not penalized at the Bema, but you do risk losing additional rewards that Christ has prepared for you if you were a faithful servant doing the Master’s business here on earth.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). But if anyone builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, The work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done. If the work which any person has built on this Foundation [any product of his efforts whatever] survives [this test], he will get his reward. But if any person's work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss [of it all, losing his reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:11–15 AMP
If your good works for Christ and the kingdom are “gold, silver, or precious stones,” they will survive Christ’s test of fire and you will receive additional rewards. If, however, the best that you have done in the Master’s service only equates to “wood, hay, or straw,” then your works will be burned in the test of fire and not be worthy of additional reward. You are still in heaven’s glory, but you will realize all the opportunities that you missed in your willingness to serve the Lord. You have arrived in heaven, in other words, scathed by the test of fire, but you made it by the skin of your teeth. Still a better place to be than the alternative lake of fire!
Jesus makes all this quite clear in the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11–26) and the Parable of the Talents (Bags of Gold) as seen below. This parable is quite lengthy, but your success at receiving your reward at the Bema may depend upon reading and understanding it.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. 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!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two 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!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matthew 25:14–29 NIV
It’s your choice. Make the best of what God’s given you and take advantage of every opportunity to serve Him and others. What words will you hear at the Bema standing before Christ, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” or “You wicked, lazy servant!”?