The Greek word for “judgment seat” is bēma which refers to a raised platform from which, among other things, a ruler would render decisions on important legal matters. It was no small matter to stand before the bēma of a judge, governor, or the Roman Emperor. Verdicts there were weighty, binding, and final. Thus, a bēma usually referred to a tribunal such as when Jesus stood before the “judgment seat” (bēma) of Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:19; John 19:13, NASB) and Paul stood before Caesar’s bēma (Acts 25:10-11, KJV).
However, the Judgment Seat of Christ (bēma) perfectly blends His justice and His mercy, bringing our lives on earth into the light of eternity. Consequently, God will evaluate our lives in light of the cross at the Judgment Seat of Christ and test the works of Christians. Even though His disciples are exempt from His judgment of condemnation, we are not exempt from His judgment of evaluation.
Interestingly, there was also a bēma at the Greek Olympic Games. However, this “judgment seat” was not for legal matters, but for rewarding athletic competitors. After each contest, the winners would stand before a judge’s bēma to receive the awards for their performances. Just as in the Olympics today, losers do not receive medals and everyone who stands before the bēma, contended for the prize, and is a winner. If, as a believer, you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, it means you have been saved and will spend eternity with Jesus — that makes you a winner.