This passage describes the testing of works with fire.

The question regarding the fire is what day does it take place on? At the point of trials here on earth in the fleshly body or on a specific day of judgment after death?

“each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” ‭‭1 CORINTHIANS‬ ‭3:13‬

5 Answers 5


Now. Also if you aren't born again in the land of the dead. If while in the land of the dead you reject the Messiah than during the second death in the lake of fire. If you receive the holy spirit in this realm or the land of the dead than your fire baptism is when you look Yahweh in the eyes, since he is an all consuming fire and it is painful for people to see who they truly are in the light of truth, but there is forgiveness and you become as he is. The baptism by fire in this world involves over coming the world and the great tribulation of the great and terrible day, denying your self everyday through altruistic love and rejection of evil. Really everyone receives the baptism of fire at some point but only those with the holy spirit of God can survive it through Yahwehs comfort and power. Good Luck.

  • So you are conflating the testing of faith with the testing of works. That which is different is not the same. But maybe you can show how these two are equivalent Apr 1, 2019 at 10:41

I believe this will happen at the second coming of Christ, Mathew 25:31 onwards. Where on the judgement day he will separate the sheep from the goats. But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.

  • The question isn’t when will he make his pronouncement as judge based on the results of the fire, the question is when will the fire do the testing? Can you see the distinction? Apr 1, 2019 at 10:35
  • Mathew 25:34-40, at this point the Messiah is talking about works when he talks about visiting the prisoners, the sick, and feeding the hungry. I believe there are other works, but if the intention of all those works is not for the saving of souls and the glory of God, they are dead works. NLT Mathew 7:22 On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' This is all the testing of works Apr 4, 2019 at 9:59
  • See also NLT REVELATION 20:13, The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. So I believe it will happen at the second coming of Christ, whether we be asleep in the flesh or not. Apr 4, 2019 at 10:05

Jesus gave the timing and described the scene of the judgment in the previous chapter:

[Mat 24:34 KJV] (34) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

He could not and did not reveal the precise hour or day or even the season of his arrival because God does not set days for judgment:

[Job 24:1 NIV] (1) "Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?

However, it did occur within 40 years of the resurrection, just as Jesus predicted.

The separation of the sheep and goats takes place in the midst of the nations but is not a judgment OF the nations; it is the judgment of the shepherds of Israel:

[Eze 34:1-31 NLT] (1) Then this message came to me from the LORD: (2) "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn't shepherds feed their sheep? (3) You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. (4) You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. (5) So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. (6) They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. (7) "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: (8) As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn't search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. (9) Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. (10) This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey. (11) "For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. (12) I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. (13) I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. (14) Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. (15) I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. (16) I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes--feed them justice! (17) "And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to his people: I will judge between one animal of the flock and another, separating the sheep from the goats. (18) Isn't it enough for you to keep the best of the pastures for yourselves? Must you also trample down the rest? Isn't it enough for you to drink clear water for yourselves? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (19) Why must my flock eat what you have trampled down and drink water you have fouled? (20) "Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. (21) For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. (22) So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. (23) And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. (24) And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the LORD, have spoken! (25) "I will make a covenant of peace with my people and drive away the dangerous animals from the land. Then they will be able to camp safely in the wildest places and sleep in the woods without fear. (26) I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing. (27) The orchards and fields of my people will yield bumper crops, and everyone will live in safety. When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD. (28) They will no longer be prey for other nations, and wild animals will no longer devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will frighten them. (29) "And I will make their land famous for its crops, so my people will never again suffer from famines or the insults of foreign nations. (30) In this way, they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them. And they will know that they, the people of Israel, are my people, says the Sovereign LORD. (31) You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!"

So this judgment occurred circa 70ad when Jesus returned and judged Israel's unfaithful shepherds and set up the one true shepherd of the sheep:

[Jhn 10:10-14 KJV] (10) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (12) But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (13) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. (14) I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

I think we can view the 40 years from Pentecost until the Lord's return circa 70ad as the period of "proving" the people:

[Jas 1:12 KJV] (12) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

IE: The judgment is a judgment by ordeal. The hopeful is tested by fire and if they endure the come forth as gold and receive the crown at the end of their race.

I like to think that Paul was not a castaway, though we do know that Moses and the whole first generation of Israel except 2 likewise were rejected. And the people celebrated idols and died in the wilderness.

Hence Paul was ever worried about his converts:

[Phl 2:16 NLT] (16) Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ's return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

Paul is worried that even though he was faithful, his hearers might be unfaithful and he gain a crown but lose his joy. In fact, he calls the saints his "joy and crown":

[Phl 4:1 NKJV] (1) Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Jesus compared his brief trip to Heaven to a man with several slaves to whom he committed his goods, to trade with them so he could afford to pay them:

[Luk 19:11-48 NLT] (11) The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. (12) He said, "A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. (13) Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, 'Invest this for me while I am gone.' (14) But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We do not want him to be our king.' (15) "After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. (16) The first servant reported, 'Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!' (17) "'Well done!' the king exclaimed. 'You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.' (18) "The next servant reported, 'Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.' (19) "'Well done!' the king said. 'You will be governor over five cities.' (20) "But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, 'Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. (21) I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn't yours and harvesting crops you didn't plant.' (22) "'You wicked servant!' the king roared. 'Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I'm a hard man who takes what isn't mine and harvests crops I didn't plant, (23) why didn't you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.' (24) "Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, 'Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.' (25) "'But, master,' they said, 'he already has ten pounds!' (26) "'Yes,' the king replied, 'and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. (27) And as for these enemies of mine who didn't want me to be their king--bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.'" (28) After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. (29) As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. (30) "Go into that village over there," he told them. "As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. (31) If anyone asks, 'Why are you untying that colt?' just say, 'The Lord needs it.'" (32) So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. (33) And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, "Why are you untying that colt?" (34) And the disciples simply replied, "The Lord needs it." (35) So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on. (36) As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. (37) When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. (38) "Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!" (39) But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, "Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!" (40) He replied, "If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!" (41) But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. (42) "How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. (43) Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. (44) They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation." (45) Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. (46) He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves." (47) After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. (48) But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.

Again, he is describing his brief going away and his soon return:

[Jhn 14:1-4 KJV] (1) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (2) In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (4) And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

It all went down circa 70ad.

  • Your answer seems to reflect an extreme unorthodox preterist view rather than a partial orthodox preterist view. This would suggest to me that there is no bodily second return of Christ and yet the Scripture says that as he ascended so will he return. I’m struggling to reconcile your response about the fire being only prior to 70AD. What purpose then does anyone’s work currently have if the judgment has already occurred and the rewards are already handed out? Thank you for your response I did find some other gold nuggets mixed in with your response which I did appreciate. Apr 1, 2019 at 13:50
  • @Autodidact When peeling an onion most of the peels are very thin but some are pretty thick. Preterism was a very thick peel that made a lot of stuff make sense that never made sense before. But of course it immediately raises new questions! More and more peeling to do!
    – Ruminator
    Apr 1, 2019 at 17:12
  • Partial preterism makes sense to me, extreme preterism does not. Apr 1, 2019 at 17:36
  • 1
    @Autodidact That's good because I don't trust anyone who has all the answers! :)
    – Ruminator
    Apr 1, 2019 at 17:42

Context matters, and determines which "fire" is / was being used. The word "fire" was a metaphor in the OT for God's fury and judgment.

"3 He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about..... he poured out his fury like fire." (Lam. 2:3-4, KJV)

"... lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings." (Jer. 4:4, KJV)

"6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him." (Nah. 1:6, KJV)

When we see the word "fire" in the Bible, we need to know it speaks of God's judgment. When used in prophesy, you can substitute "judgment" for "fire".

As Ruminator detailed in his answer, there was a specific day of judgment coming upon that generation that was appointed for Jerusalem, and all Judea for crucifying the Messiah and persecuting His saints. That judgment came in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple, which was the second coming of Christ in that same generation (Heb. 9:28).

But, the judgment (fire) of 1 Cor. 3:13 is for each individual man or woman. This text in 1 Cor. 3 begins in vs. 12 with "Now if any man...", which brings this particular "fire" down from the national level to the personal.

The book of 1 Cor. was most probably written just before the passover of 55 AD. (1) The national, or corporate judgment of Jerusalem / Judea was still about 15 years ahead of them, so each man (or woman) needed to be aware that their works would be judged at their deaths.

"and as it is laid up to men once to die, and after this -- judgment," (Heb. 9:27, YLT)

Some of these people would die before the second coming in AD 70. They needed to be aware of the individual judgment as well as that of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Everyone is judged at our bodily death. That has always been the case from the beginning. (2) Abraham was gathered unto his people (Gen. 25:8), just as was Isaac (Gen. 35:29), and Jacob (Gen. 49:33), and many others.

The judgment we face at our bodily death is the "fire" of 1 Cor. 3:13. Our works are revealed and proved in God's review and determination of our earthly lives, which is made more clear by letting the subject of vs. 13 continue on in vs. 14 - 15.

"14 if of any one the work doth remain that he built on [it], a wage he shall receive; 15 if of any the work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; and himself shall be saved, but so as through fire." (1 Cor. 3:14-15, YLT)

The issue in 1 Cor. 3 was the ego of those who were trying to elevate themselves by association with particular apostles or disciples, and boasting therein (vs. 4). Paul was bringing them back to realize that all were working on the same foundation (vs. 11), and all were therefore fellow workers of the same temple (vs. 9-10).

So, this particular "day" in vs. 13 is an individual "day" of judgment. The second coming of Christ was not the end of time, nor the end of all judgment, just the end of that Mosaic animal sacrificial temple in Jerusalem.

Judgment has been on-going since AD 70 (Rev. 14:13), as Christ is reigning at the right hand of the Father, then this "fire" reveals and proves our works as we each pass from this life to stand before our Father in heaven on that "day".


1) Dating the New Testament here

2) Frequent Mistakes - Part III; The Last Day ShreddingTheVeil

  • That was a great read. If I understood you correctly you are saying death itself, transistioning from this life out, is the fire. Apr 2, 2019 at 12:18
  • The second coming of Christ... you say it already occurred? When? Apr 2, 2019 at 12:19
  • Autodidact, the second coming of Christ was promised to that generation who saw His first "coming" in His manifestation on earth. 1st audience perspective shows that they were the ones who rec'd that promise of His return, & that return directly concerned the foretold destruction of Jerusalem (Ezek, Jer., Joel, Haggai, Isa. etc.) If every generation read that promise from Heb 9:28 to be applied to each generation, then how many returns would He have promised and not fulfilled? Is that not what confuses so many today, who keep trying to forecast a date of His return?
    – Gina
    Apr 2, 2019 at 14:54
  • When we die, the transition from mortal life to immortality is promised to those covered by His blood, by His sacrifice. The change in the twinkling of the eye is promised to His saints, to those who will be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:40ff). We get a pass (passover) when the angel sees the blood of the Lamb covering us. Those who are not covered by the blood of Christ are going to stand in judgment before our Father. That judgment is the fire. It is the same fire John warned the Pharisees of in Matt. 3:11. See my post Lake of Fire at ShreddingTheVeil.org.
    – Gina
    Apr 2, 2019 at 14:58
  • The word translated as generation can both in Hebrew and Greek mean age. And we are still in the age of the Church. Plus nothing in history, chronicles or records His second coming but yet every eye would see Him. I see you too have an extreme preterist view, and like I said I cannot reconcile extreme preterism with historical documentation or Scripture. I can partial preterism because some of it is orthodox teaching. Thank you for your response @Gina. Apr 2, 2019 at 15:10

As this question touches on eschatology you will get very significant differences in the various answers here because there are wide range of hermeneutical systems at work here. Many of the answers previously stated are dependent on a system of hermeneutics that includes some degree of either partial or full preterism. I hold to neither of those systems.

First of all, what is the event that is being described by Paul in this passage? The Event is the Judgment Seat of Christ that is also described here as well as Romans 14 and 2 Cor. 5.

When does the judgment seat of Christ take place? This is where there will be a great deal of disagreement between my answer and others answers.

There are three views generally held:

  1. This points in some fashion to 70 AD as either partial or full preterism. This is actually somewhat rare in broad evangelical and fundamentalist circles but it does appear here quite a bit as some of the answers indicate.
    1. Probably the most common view is that this takes place at a general judgment of both the lost and the saved in heaven and it is linked to the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20.
    2. Dispensationalists and Historic Pre-Millennialists put this event in heaven following the rapture. In this view, which is my own, this scene will only involve the Church and therefore everyone who participates in this Judgment Seat of Christ is Saved. That is important because it helps to understand the purpose and nature of the judgment scene.

One Bible passage that helps to set the timing is in Luke 14. The context was a wedding where some had exalted themselves while abasing others. They had wanted Jesus to come to the wedding and to have the place of honor at the wedding.

Jesus Said (Luke 14:11):

11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Jesus uses a parable to suggest that we should not seek recompense (glory) from men, instead seeking it from God. Then Jesus gives a short statement that seems out of place

Jesus Said (Luke 14:14):

14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee:for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

This indicates that recompense for works will take place at the resurrection of the just. To me it is quite telling that Jesus adds the phrase the just to the end of the statement. It is only in the third option above that you have a resurrection in which every person involved in the resurrection is already justified and therefore can be called the just.

The Purpose and nature of the Judgment Seat of Christ?

There are a couple of things to keep in mind about this judgment. If it only involves the just, and it takes place after the resurrection, then those present have already received glorified bodies as they were changed in the twinkling of an eye as part of the resurrection. Glorification involves the final removal of the sin nature and also the presence of sin in the believer forever removed. That means sin is not a question that is brought up at this scene.

What all three Judgment Seat of Christ scenes point out (1 Cor. 3:11-15, Romans 14:10, 2 Cor. 5:10) is that our works after we get saved will be the thing that is examined. It is what we did in submission to Jesus and what we did in service to Him.

Looking at 1 Cor. 3 is simple enough:

1 Cor. 3:11-15

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Notice a few key points from this passage:

  • Notice how many times Paul mentions a persons works. It is the believer's works that will pass through the fire to judge the quality of those works, not the person.
  • It is the quality of the works that are being judged based on how they added to the foundation that Christ laid. Precious stones in one case or things that will be burned in the other.
  • These works do not bring into question a person's salvation since this scene only involves those who are already saved.
  • There are two outcomes that are the result of this judgment: (1) those things that survive the fire will receive a reward (elsewhere spoken of as crowns, and as the righteousness of the saints at the marriage supper of the lamb); (2) those works that do not survive the fire will mean the loss of reward (the phrase they shall suffer loss). This last part is not a punishment, it is the sorrow we will encounter when the believer sees how much of their life was burned.

That it does not involve punishment is seen in the fact that God never punishes those He loves. In this life He chastises those whom He loves for the purpose of shaping the believer into the image of His Son. That is the work of sanctification and it is complete on they day they die or the day the Lord comes to gather His Church, whichever comes first. Since God's works of justification and sanctification are already complete at the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ there is therefore no work of chastisement that takes place at that scene.

The ultimate purpose of the judgment seat of Christ is to prepare His Bride the Church for their place at the marriage of the lamb, and later the marriage supper of the Lamb. The marriage of the lamb takes place in heaven and the marriage supper of the lamb takes place on earth.

The nature of the word bema which is translated as the judgment seat had many nuances in the first century. Remember that when He writes to the Corinthians later 2 Cor. 5:20 he uses this term. Remember also that Corinth was the site of the Isthmian Games where there was a raised platform in which the victors were given their rewards at the end of the games. Even though Paul does not use the word bema in 1 Cor. 3 the handing out of rewards and suffering loss was typical of the games. Certainly that is what Paul has in mind in the two uses of the bema

Lastly, Two very excellent books detail the events associated with the Judgment Seat of Christ. The first is PhD dissertation that was later published by Samuel Hoyt -- The Judgment Seat of Christ: A Biblical and Theological Study. The second is the short book by Theodore Epp Present Labor and Future Rewards

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