What is a…
judgment seat

also known as: tribunal

Greek: βῆμα —transliteration: béma or bema
βήματος —transliteration: bēmatos


This was a seat, throne or raised platform for judges. It was placed at the direction of the magistrate. It was from here that judgment was pronounced. Speaking of Pilate the governor, the apostle John records that,

“Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement [Greek: Lithostrotos], but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.” John 19:13 NASB

In the above case, the judgment seat (tribunal) was portable.

The apostle Matthew states:

“While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.’” —Matthew 27:19 NASB

In this case it was placed on a tesselated pavement, probably in front of the procurator’s residence.

Paul at Gallio’s judgment seat in Corinth

“…while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters.” And he drove them away from the judgment seat. And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things.” —Acts 18:12-17 NASB

Paul before Festus at Caesarea

Festus then, having arrived in the province… went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal [judgment seat] and ordered Paul to be brought. After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, while Paul said in his own defense,

“I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.”

But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said,

“Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?”

But Paul said,

“I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal [Greek: βήματος —transliteration: bēmatos], where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered,

“You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.” —Acts 25:1-12 NASB

Herod Agrippa I on his judgment seat fatally struck by God

On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum [or judgment seat] and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out,

“The voice of a god and not of a man!”

“And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” —Acts 12:21-23 NASB

See: Pride vs. Humility and Blasphemy

Judgment seat of Christ

The Apostle Paul states:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat [Greek: bēmatos] of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” —2 Corinthians 5:10

“…we will all stand before the judgment seat [Greek: βήματι —transliteration: bēmati] of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.’” —Romans 14:10b-11 NASB

More information

Article Version: June 10, 2021