I am sitting in the judgment seat at the gate at the entrance to the ancient city of Dan. The tradition goes back thousands of years.
The king would go to the gate of the city and there decide who would enter the community and who would be refused. Often the survival of the city and all its inhabitants would rest on the right decision. A wrong decision could lead to the entrance of a spy who then ferrets out critical information about the water supply, the number of defenders and the capacity of their defence. Life and death of entire communities hung in the balance.
The tradition of the judgement seat at the gate of the city goes back thousands of years, predating the time of David by at least a thousand years, if not more.
In recent years the concept of a "judgement seat" has been subject to the cartoon's pen and jokes about St. Peter. The focus has been overwhelmingly individualistic.
Is a person deemed to be morally upstanding, righteous enough with the requisite number of good deeds and approved attitudes to gain entrance to "heaven"?
The king sitting in the seat of judgment had entirely different criteria than whether he approved of your hairstyle, bank balance or the tally of your moral credits. His prime criteria was the health of the city within. Would the person entering contribute to the health, well-being and culture of the community or would they carry the potential to diminish if not destroy?
When, in the Biblical literature, God is placed in the judgment seat the community emphasis seems more appropriate. So the criteria would then become: Does the character and actions of this person contribute to the preservation and building up of the community of which God dreams or do they hold the potential to diminish or distort that dream?
Judgement - then and now - becomes inescapable, necessary and far removed from the finger-pointing and scowls of judgementalism. The next question moves into the realm of Christian Ethics. What shall be the criteria upon which judgments are made?