Does this scripture mean that we will receive some kind of punishment when the Kingdom of God is fully consummated at the return of Jesus?
Let’s first see what the Bible says about judgement at the consummation of the Kingdom. There are two judgements and two “judgement seats”.
Judgement Seat for Believers
2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The translation of "judgment seat of Christ" is better translated by the term, "Reward Stand" from the Greek word, "bema" which can also be translated as "throne." The "bema" was the award stand at the Greek Olympics. All winners stood before the "bema" to receive the laurel wreath that encircled the winner's head. All Christians "win" as they appear at the "Bema" of Christ.
The terms "good" and "bad'', in 2 Corinthians 5:10, in Greek have more of the idea of "profitable" and "unprofitable". Our sins are not brought up. The issue is how well we furthered the Kingdom of God on earth. In other words, the rewards we will receive (or don't receive) in Heaven are based on the profitable or unprofitable things we did for the kingdom.
The kind of lives we build determines the rewards we receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If we build lives of gold, silver, and costly stones we will receive many rewards. Those who waste their lives building with wood, hay, and straw will receive few, if any rewards.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
The profitability or unprofitability of our lives is determined by fire. Wood, hay, and straw are consumed and destroyed by fire. Gold, silver, and costly stones withstand the onslaught.
Even if all we build is burned in the fire, because of God’s grace we still get forgiveness and Heaven because Jesus is the foundation of our lives, and He remains unscorched no matter how hot the fire.
The Other Judgment Seat, "Great White Throne Judgment"
Revelation 20:10-15 NIV And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Emphasis mine)
This is where Jesus will judge Satan, his demons and everyone who failed to surrender to Christ and become Christians. Only non-Christians will appear before this judgment and they will be judged out of the books, which record everything they ever did.
No one appearing before this throne is good enough for heaven. Jesus has the Books containing all their works on earth and no one lives up to the perfection of Christ. They, along with Satan and his demons, are all thrown into the Lake of Fire.
These rewards are symbolized in Scripture as crowns.
- The Crown of Joy for those who lead others to Christ or demonstrate fruitfulness by influencing others towards righteousness.
Philippians 4:1 NIV Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Emphasis mine)
1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? (Emphasis mine)
- The Victor's Crown for those who persevere and refuse to give up during persecution
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (Emphasis mine)
2 Timothy 2:5 NIV Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. (Emphasis mine)
- The Crown of Glory. The scripture reference is speaking to pastors who finish their work faithfully, but this crown is not only for pastors. It is for anyone who finds and fulfills their assignment God has given them.
1 Peter 5:4 NIV And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (Emphasis mine)
- The Crown of Life for the believer who moves forward in God’s call and assignment in the face of difficulty, even martyrdom.
James 1:12 NIV Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (Emphasis mine)
Revelation 2:10 NIV Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Emphasis mine)
- The Crown of Righteousness to those who live righteously in this world while they look forward to Christ’s return. They are those who are not captivated by this world, but hunger and thirst after righteousness.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (Emphasis mine)
By the way, we don't keep all the rewards. We will lay them down at Jesus' feet because He alone is worthy to receive glory, honor, and praise. A crown will seem but an insignificant gift to present to the One who gave His life for us.
Revelation 4:10-11 NIV the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Although the Scriptures do not state it specifically, it is likely that we will all follow the example of the twenty-four elders in casting our crowns at Jesus’ feet. We will be so overcome with gratitude because of what He has done for us that worship will be spontaneous. Regardless of what we endured on earth, a priceless crown will seem a paltry offering, but it will be the best gift we can give Him.