The word homologeō, often translated confess, is found quite regularly (23 times in the Majority Text) in the New Testament, but it may be surprising in what sense it is used most often.
We are accustomed to thinking of confession in relation to confessing sins. But surprisingly confession of sins is mentioned only three times in the New Testament (Matt 3:6; Mark 1:5; 1 John 1:9).
In fact, the Greek word homologeō, which is usually translated confess, is occasionally translated give thanks (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21; Heb 13:15). And a few times it has the sense of promise (Matt 14:7; Luke 22:6). But most of the time it is rendered by the simple word confess or confession (about 75% of the time).1
In addition to the verb homologeō, there is also the related verb exomologeō, (11 uses) and the noun homologia (6 uses). Though it is very imposing to contemplate, I personally will give a confession of my life before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10-12). And even more astonishing is the fact that Jesus Himself promises that He will confess (or acknowledge) some believers before God the Father and His angels. For example,
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32–33, emphasis added).
Similarly in Rev 3:5 the Lord Jesus promises, “I will confess his name [i.e., the name of him who overcomes] before My Father and before His angels.”
In both contexts it is very clear that Jesus is speaking to and about believers. So the setting in which Jesus will confess some believers can only be the Judgment Seat of Christ (Luke 19:15-26; Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:9-10).
Also, it is clear that not all believers will be confessed (openly acknowledged and praised) by Jesus, for He also says “whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:33; 2 Tim 2:12b). In fact, the context in Matthew and also Revelation strongly suggests that those whom Jesus denies at the Bema will not be eligible to rule with Him.
In fact, in his own commentary on Matt 10:32-33 Paul said both “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” and “If we deny Him, He will also deny us” (2 Tim 2:12). Endurance in confession of Christ results in reigning with Christ. Failure to endure in confession will result in a denial of the privilege of reigning with Christ.
Sadly confessing Christ is exactly what many believers in Jesus’ day were unwilling to do:
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42, emphasis added).2
For me, I have decided that I want to be a confessing believer that I might be confessed at the Bema.
1. Whether it should be translated that way so often is open to question. Possibly translations like acknowledge, profess, praise, or declare might better convey the sense in some contexts.
2. See also John 9:22.