As was previously stated, all Christians will experience a judgment of our works. The gospel of our salvation is to believe that Jesus died for our sins and that he was resurrected. If it was necessary that he die for our sins, then it is a fact that all men are sinners and that this sin incurred a death penalty. In order to be saved, man must first acknowledge the fact of his sinfulness and agree with God that he is deserving of judgment. The judgment that will be measured out to those who refuse the gospel will finally be the eternal lake of fire. We must judge ourselves guilty and admit that this is what we deserve, and when we do, we are saved and delivered from that same lake of fire. Why? Because we have agreed with God that his standard of righteousness is just and perfect and have accepted the remedy, the blood of Jesus, that God himself provided.
The simple definition of sin is to miss the mark. The law gives us Godís standard of perfection, it establishes the mark that we are to aim for, and Jas. 2:10 says to keep the whole law (which consists of six hundred thirteen separate commandments) yet to offend on one point is to be guilty of all. Other than Jesus, no man could keep the law perfectly because all of us humans have a sin nature dwelling in us.
There is one major difference between Jesus and all other humans, and that is the identity of our fathers. All of mankind has inherited a sin nature from our father Adam, but Jesusí father was God. When it is necessary to establish the paternity of a child, the doctors do not check fingerprints or skin, hair or eye color, they check blood type. Why? Because the blood of a pregnant woman never comes in contact with the blood of her unborn baby. While a womanís body produces eggs every month, those eggs never develop into a baby, or are made alive, unless they are fertilized by the fatherís sperm. Lev. 17:10 states that the life of the flesh is in the blood. The blood type, then, of the developing unborn child is determined by the father.
All of mankind has inherited our blood from our father Adam (Acts 17:26) but Jesus received his blood from his Father, which was God. Therefore the sin nature which all humans (including Paul - Rom. 7:15-25) struggle with is contained in our blood. In order for us to become heavenly creatures, fit to live in Godís perfect, holy heaven, that sin nature, which is in our blood, will need to be destroyed.
This will happen at the rapture. I Cor. 15:50 states, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and BLOOD cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." I John 3:2-3 says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." We do know some things about Jesusí resurrection body, particularly that it does not have any blood in it. He shed his blood on the cross, and in Luke 24:39 he said, "Öhandle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." We see here a reference to flesh and bone as opposed to the flesh and blood mentioned in I Cor. 15:50.
All living humans have a sin nature dwelling in our blood, Christians are sealed in our hearts with the Holy Spirit which counteracts but does not override this sin nature, and we are only sealed with the Holy Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession (the body of Christ) which will happen at the resurrection/rapture. This sin nature will have to be destroyed at the resurrection: like Jesus, our resurrection bodies will not have blood in them. I personally believe the blood will be removed by fire: fire represents judgment and fire consumes. Will it hurt? Probably about as much as having a particularly annoying splinter pulled out of your finger!
IF the shroud of Turin (click here for more information) is in fact the burial cloth of Jesus, it is interesting to note that scientists have determined that the markings on that cloth were made by HEAT and/or light, probably at the moment of his resurrection. (This raises some very interesting possibilities regarding markings that may be left wherever a Christian was at the moment of the rapture.)
I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Sins are those things in our lives for which we have experienced Holy Spirit conviction. Those things are forgiven when we confess them. But the verse goes on to state that at that same point God also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Because unrighteousness is a falling short of the mark of perfection set by Jesus, it is just as sinful as known sin, but God does not hold us accountable for those things of which we are unaware.
This is not to say that a person can be saved yet continue living as he pleases so long as he remains in ignorance. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, "IF ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Disciples are those who continue in the Word of God, this in turn educates us and convicts of sin, this causes us to repent for those things of which we are convicted, and this brings freedom from those sins. Eph. 5:26-27 says that Christ gave himself for the church "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." This presentation happens at the rapture.
Nevertheless, no human will perfect the Christian life this side of the resurrection because we are finite beings who have a sin nature dwelling in our blood. This sin nature causes us to commit unrighteousness, or dead works, which will have to be cleansed out of us before we may enter heaven, and this is the fulfillment of the moed of Atonement for Christians.
I Cor. 3:12-15 teaches that our works will be burned, those that are wood, hay and stubble will be consumed away while those that are gold, silver and precious stones will remain. Each Christian will receive a reward based on what remains after his works are burned, and in Rev. 22:12 Jesus said, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." For Christians, Jesus is coming at the rapture.
This judgment of our works should not be seen as a punishment because it is in fact the final, total, complete cleansing of the church. Thank God! As for me, I donít want to carry around dead works for all eternity. I understand it like this: the works will be burned (a flash fire?); the wood, hay and stubble (dead works) will make the fire hotter and will consume away; the gold and silver (good works) will be purified (the dross will burn away) by heat which will also soften the metals. They can then be formed into crowns with the precious stones (representing those we have led to the Lord, Mal. 3:17) set into them.
Scripture designates several incorruptible crown for believers: I Thes. 2:19 speaks of a crown of rejoicing at the appearing of Jesus; Jas. 1:12 (+ Rev. 2:10) speaks of a crown of life promised to those who love the Lord; II Tim. 4:8 speaks of a crown of righteousness to be given to all those who love his appearing; and I Pet. 5:4 speaks of a crown of glory promised to elders when the chief Shepherd appears. Notice that three of these crowns are to be awarded at the rapture. Significantly, when we first see the elders in Rev. 4 they are all wearing crowns.
II Cor. 5:10 says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Rom. 14:10-12 says, "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God."
A judgment seat (Greek: bema) is occupied by a judge, not an accuser. When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ we will already have been changed or glorified. We must be because our first meeting with him will be in the air and these mortal bodies are subject to gravity. Our glorified resurrection bodies will be like Jesusí body, will not be subject to gravity, will have no blood (thus no sin nature) in them and the dead works will have already been consumed away. I do not expect anyone to be changed then caught up into the air only to be told to return to earth because they arenít good enough.
While Satan may try to accuse us before this judgment seat in the air, our King Jesus will be holding a scepter of righteousness (Heb. 1:8) which he will point at us thus declaring our righteousness IN HIM. We will be found not guilty and Satanís objections will be overruled. Itís possible that any last minute Satanic accusation is the reason why the resurrected/changed believers will be seized from the earth. This could also be the explanation for the archangelís pronouncement (I Thes. 4:16). He could say to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you" (Jude 9).
There is no description of this judgment seat of Christ in scripture, but the passage in Romans quotes Isa. 45:23. The following verses (24-25) tell us what those tongues will confess. "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." While the concept of a judgment seat can be scary, understanding Christian judgment and looking at the full passage in Isaiah lets us know that this judgment seat will occur after the judgment of our works: there will no longer be any dead works to confess.
Lev 23:23-25 "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD." In this passage of instruction regarding the moed of Trumpets we again see a reference to living a Sabbath life (no servile work, i.e. sin) and the offering made by fire is the purification prior to the giving of crowns to the resurrected believers.
As for me, I want to live as sinless a life as possible because I would like something to remain after the burning of my works. I see in Rev. 4 that while the elders already have crowns when we first see them, as part of the worship in verse 10 they cast those crowns before the throne, literally giving all the glory (something visual, seen) for their good works, which have been purified by fire, to God.