...I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. (Acts 25:10)
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to appear before the judgment seat. This was not the first time he appeared before a ruler's judgment seat. In Acts 18:12, he appeared before the judgment seat of Gallio in Corinth. In this 25th chapter of Acts (verses 6, 10 & 17) "the judgment seat" is mentioned three times. Paul is commanded to appear before the judgment seat of Festus at Caesarea. But Paul claims his legal right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar and to stand before Caesar's judgment seat.
Paul experienced a similar situation to the Lord Jesus Himself who stood before the Judgment seat of Pontius Pilate (John 19:13).
But, what is the judgment seat?
It is a "raised platform used for public proclamation. Winners of Olympic games were announced from [it]... Civic officials pronounced judicial sentences and public commendations from such a platform." (Revell Bible Dictionary)
The record of this is told in Acts 21:30 - 22:23 and 23:1-9
Paul faces the murderous hatred of the Jewish mob.
He faces the hostile Jewish Sanhedrin Council who were likely to pull him to pieces, when the Roman soldiers rescued him.
In verse 2 of Acts 25 "the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed Festus against Paul." After 2 years their hostility had not cooled!
In verse 3, under the guise of requesting his summons to Jerusalem, they again planned an ambush to kill him.
In verse 7, these Jewish leaders charged Paul with many serious complaints which they could not prove.
No, Paul could not expect a fair trial under the Jewish Judgment.
Ananias ordered Paul struck on the mouth (Acts 23:2-3) This was contrary to the law of God. (Leviticus 19:35)
The problem with the Jewish Law of that day was that they had distorted the clear teaching of the Word of God, with thousands of man made distorted interpretations of God's Law, that it was unrecognizable as God's law.
For example, in Mark 7:9-13, the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honour your father and mother.' [Exodus 20:12] ; and 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' [Exodus 21:17] But, you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"' (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."
No wonder Paul could not get justice from them. They invented loopholes to sin.
In verses 6, 10 and 17 of Acts chapter 25. Paul faces the Roman Judgment seat of Governor Festus, in Caesarea.
One of the principles of Roman law was that an accused person could not be delivered to destruction before being given the opportunity to meet his accusers face to face and being able to answer for himself. (verse 16)
But "it was illegal to try a man the second time for the same offense, who had not been found guilty the first time." (G.A. McLaughlin)
"Thanks to Felix's neglect to pronounce his acquittal and discharge him" (F.F. Bruce) the whole case against Paul was now able to be re-opened.
Felix, the previous governor, had left Paul in prison for 2 years, delaying to make any decision on his case.
So, even though Roman law has some degree of fairness and personal rights in the system, it was not correctly implemented by those responsible.
It is no wonder that Paul could not look to the Jews in Jerusalem or the Romans in Caesarea for true justice. The Jews were utterly biased against him, and the Romans in Caesarea lacked the moral courage to make the right decision.
It was the same when the Lord Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate. Pilate had no moral courage to do what he knew to be right.
So, Paul makes his final appeal to the Roman Emperor, Caesar - thus taking his appeal out of the hands of the Jews and of Governor Festus.
Paul had witnessed to the previous Governor Felix, about "the judgment to come." (Acts 24-25)
Paul's testimony was "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." (Acts 23:1) Paul was prepared for God to be the judge of his good conscience.
Paul was confident to face the judgment of God, because all of his sins had been forgiven, and because he was made right with God.
God does not judge as man does. Because God knows everything, and because He is holy and merciful, we can expect totally fair judgment.
Twice Paul reminds us (Romans 14:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:10) "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."
The Lord's judgments are true and righteous - according to Revelation 16:7, 19:2 & Psalm 19:9
In Psalm 119, verse 39, speaking of the Lord's judgment: "Your judgments are good."
The Lord's judgment is trustworthy because of His holy character, and because He knows the whole truth.
If you repent and turn to the Lord, as Paul did, you can have confidence as he did to face the judgment seat of Christ.
As the Apostle John proclaimed, "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." (1 John 2:28)
The way to stand before the judgment seat of Christ is to go to the mercy seat of Christ first.
Under the Old Covenant, the mercy seat was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, where once a year the High Priest sprinkled blood for the people's sins. Under the New Covenant, Christ is our Great High Priest who cleanses us by His blood. (Hebrews 9:11-14)
Like the repentant tax collector who prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner," (Luke 18:13): we, too, need to prepare to stand before the judgment seat of Christ by repenting of our own sins: because He delights to show mercy to all those who repent and believe. As Paul testified to Festus, we "should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." (Acts 26:20)
Then, as the Lord Jesus Himself also said to the repentant woman caught in adultery: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (John 8:11)
Mercy triumphs over judgment when you repent and believe.
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life