This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2005 vol. 162 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
The Believer’s Payday: Why Standing before Christ Should Be Our Greatest MomentAMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN April 1, 2002
Benware, professor of Bible and doctrine at Philadelphia Biblical University, believes that appearance at the Judgment Seat of Christ is the “second most important event for Christians.” His major premise is that a believer’s life impacts the results of “payday”—eternal gain or loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Therefore understanding the subject of eternal reward or loss is critical for developing a “two-world view”—living in the present world with the next constantly in focus. Benware sees a “guaranteed first inheritance” of eternal life for all believers and a “conditional second inheritance” of eternal reward for the obedient believer. He argues that the conditional inheritance can be lost, but not the first inheritance.
Benware offers three reasons why the Judgment Seat of Christ is not emphasized among Christians today—(a) the myth that all believers are and will always be equal, (b) disregarding the importance of the “two-world view,” and (c) neglect of the truth that eternal rewards are related to obedience and faithfulness.
“Entering God’s rest” (Heb. 3–4) according to Benware is reward “that comes to a believer because he has obediently lived for Christ in this world.” He introduces “alternatives” to “living by the book,” a phrase he uses to summarize the requirements found in the Word of God for eternal reward. The alternatives include psychological counseling rooted in humanistic thinking, basing one’s Christian life on experience and not on the authority of the Bible, living by religious traditions, and acceptance of doctrinal error (e.g., denying Jesus’ resurrection).
Benware says unconfessed sin and disobedience will result in loss of rewards and corulership with Christ in eternity. For Benware the phrase “partakers of Christ” refers to a personal relationship with Christ, specifically companionship with Christ as a coruler in the millennial kingdom and throughout eternity, a position not all believers will share. He then interprets the five warning passages in Hebrews to support his view that believers can lose reward and placement in the millennial kingdom and in eternity. Other views of these passages are only briefly considered. His concluding chapters on being a good bondslave of Christ and preparation for “Payday” support his premise.
The strength of the book is also its weakness. It is a good uncomplicated introduction to the subject of eternal rewards and eternal security, but it often reiterates unconventional ideas and is limited in its interactions with mainstream evangelical interpretations about eternal rewards and reigning with Christ in the millennial kingdom. The book will appeal mainly to those who agree with the author’s view. However, some sections can be beneficial to the readers who want to preach or teach on such subjects as eternal security, found in the appendix. Also the questions at the end of each chapter may be useful in study and discussion groups.
—Larry J. Waters