It is quite amazing that it is “the grace (undeserved favour) of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” (Titus 2:11). With salvation there is the gift of the Holy Spirit is for us to understand salvation (1Corinthians 2:10) and the power to live for God (Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”). So without God’s gifts and power we could not live for Him. However when we die God is going to reward us with crowns for living our lives for Him. This shows something of God’s wonderful character. The five crowns that various believers can receive are as follows:
1. A crown of rejoicing for the soul-winner (1Thessalonians 2:19)
2. An incorruptible crown for the winner in life’s race (1Corinthians 9:25-27)
3. A crown of righteousness for those whose love His appearing (2Timothy 4:8)
4. A crown of glory for the faithful shepherd or elder in God’s assembly or church (1Peter 5:4)
5. The crown of life for those that endure temptation, some unto death. (Revelation 2:10; James 1:12)
1. The Crown of Rejoicing
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming” (1Thessalonians 2:19). – The Soul Winner’s Crown
Paul and Titus, with Timothy, had been faithful in their presentation of the Gospel to the Thessalonians (Acts 17:1-9) which had been fruitful “And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas” (Acts 17:4). Paul and Timothy are considering the Thessalonians, who through their service in the Gospel had trusted in Christ, and so would be their “crown of rejoicing” when the Lord returns to the earth. Therefore this is the soul winners crown.
2. The Incorruptible Crown
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1Corinthians 9:25-27). – Maintaining self-control. So everyone who wants to win a contest must bring in self control. Certain ordinary desires must be put aside as he lives for the contest. Is this how we live for Christ? You could never think of an athlete indulging in alcohol, or smoking, or generally taking life easy. Are we indulging in pleasures that will not help us to live to please Christ? This incorruptible crown is the crown for believers who have disciplined their body and get the victory over the ‘sinful fleshly nature within’. This is the daily struggle that believers have. It is the victor’s crown for those who deny themselves not for an earthly reward but for a heavenly reward. We must not let fleshly lust, nor worldly pleasures or interests distract us from the prize of, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant”.
3. The Crown of Righteousness
“I have fought a good (spiritual) fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8). – Faithfulness in the Lord’s Matters
Paul is not speaking about fruit, which he saw in Crete (Titus 1:5) and Corinth (Acts 18:10) etc nor about the extent of his labours (Romans 15:19 “Illyricum” being modern Albania). Instead he speaks about faithfulness and love to the Lord which no doubt resulted in these labours. Consequently he will receive a crown of righteousness which could be a crown consisting of righteousness or a crown because of righteousness. Paul then adds “And not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing”. So Paul was saying that this crown is not for me only but for “all them who love His appearing” i.e. they are really looking forward to the Lord’s coming again to this earth.
4. The Crown of Glory
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, … v2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; v3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. v4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away…” (1Peter 5:1-4). – For Elders Good Shepherding the Sheep
This crown is for those elders who have been faithful, willing and good shepherds in God’s local assembly or church. They lead godly lives that others wish to emulate and provide spiritual leadership in the assembly. They are not motivated by monetary rewards nor through pride to wrongly dominate God’s flock and heritage.
To such elders they will receive a particular crown of unfading glory. Glory is an attribute of God but also may be described as “manifested excellence” or “radiant splendour”. This will be received at the Lord Jesus’ second coming.
5. The Crown of Life
“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.” (James 1: 12). “… behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) – For Those That Endure Temptation
This reward is mentioned twice. In James 1:12 the believer, with or without this world’s goods, will have various trials about whether they are about to sin because of their circumstances. However the ones who are blessed are those that face them and do not give in to them but who endure them. The success of overcoming in the trial receives a greater reward (Romans 8:18; 2Corinthians 4:17) i.e. the crown of life. In Revelation 2:10 those who are faithful unto death will be given the crown of life. As a crown is the symbol of success, joy and glory so the crown of life is the deeper experience of the success, joy and glory of the heavenly life. Therefore while everyone’s cup will be full in heaven people will have different experiences of enjoying heaven.
Are These Promised Crowns Literal Crowns?
Will these crowns be literal crowns that we can cast at the Saviour’s feet (Revelation 4:10) or are they figurative?
In Hebrews 2:7 we read about created man in his state of innocence, “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour …“. In Hebrews 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour …” So both Adam and the Lord Jesus were crowned with glory and honour. “Glory” is not easy word to define. It sometimes describes the character and actions of God. Or it can be described as “manifested excellence”. “Honour” would be value or esteem given to someone.
So the “crowning” in Hebrews c2 is not a physical crown but the manifested excellence and honour that God gave to man and the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it seems that the four crowns of rejoicing, righteousness, life and glory would seem to be symbolic of what will characterise us in eternity. Consequently the other, i.e. incorruptible, crown could very likely be the same but may not be so.
When will the believer’s crowns be received? The believer’s crowns will be given at Christ’s judgement seat (Bema). “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2Corinthians 5:10). This judgment seat is not the same as the judgment of the living nations (Matthew 25:31-46) which is after the great Tribulation period and before the Millennium. It is also not the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15), which is after the earth had finished and where the unbelieving dead will receive their final judgment for eternity i.e. the everlasting existence after death.
At the judgement seat of Christ, which is mentioned in 1Corinthians 3:11-15; Romans 14:10-12 and 2Corinthians 5:9-10. This judgement has to do with the believer’s service and not his sins and is a time of review, reward and loss. The apostle Paul, was looking forward to the rewards, which, he said, motivated him in three ways:
1. 2Corinthians 5:9 “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” Youngs Literal Translation translates it as: “Wherefore also we are ambitious, whether at home or away from home, to be well pleasing to him.” The fact that he would be “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (5:8) and appear before “the Judgment seat of Christ” (5:10) made him determined to please God in every situation with a single eye towards the Lord Jesus.
2. 1Corinthians 3:12 “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; v13 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.” The judgment seat of Christ is going to test the quality of the teaching put into God’s assembly/church and so was part of Paul’s motivation to give faithful teaching that honoured God and helped the believers. While not all the believers have the gift of teaching we can all inspire, encourage or warn one another with thoughts from God’s Word.
3. Romans 14:11-13 “For it is written, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” v12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. v13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Here the individual believer that is being addressed. The certainty of our appearing before the judgment seat of Christ is reinforced by the quotation from Isaiah 45:23, where the Lord makes the confirmation that every knee should bow before Him to acknowledge His absolute authority. We will personally “give account”, not “an account” of how we live our lives. We often judge others without necessarily fully knowing all that is going on in the other person’s life. But giving account to God prevented Paul from judging others.
So this brings the judgment seat of Christ into every aspect of life. This covers my life in God’s assembly or church, in marriage and the family (and God gives the best rules for the marriages that He approves of i.e. one man to one woman), or at work, or in my leisure time. Also through times that are easy or hard. The apostle Paul was often saying to the believers “Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” So Paul wants God’s grace in all its power and being sufficient for the circumstances, and peace in all its restfulness to be the believer’s enjoyed life.
In View Of These Rewards From God How Can I Further Live A Better Spiritual Life?
Part of it is to live in obedience to God’s Word, the Bible. If God says it then I will do it.
Another thing is worship, praise and prayer … but what type of worship, praise and prayer. That which is found in the Bible. There are a number of verses with worship, or praise or prayer, or a combination of them, especially in Paul’s letters. If we were to regularly pray earnestly at least some of these prayers, they could make a good long term difference to our lives. We will never be perfect in this life but we can live better.
Romans 15:13 May “the God of hope fill me/us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Galatians 5:16 May God help us to “Walk in the Spirit, and … not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”
Ephesians 1:17 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”
Ephesians 1:12 “That we should be to the praise of his (God’s v3) glory.”
Ephesians 3:19 “to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
Philippians 3:10 “That we may know him (the Lord Jesus v9), and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
Colossians 3:16 May “the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom.”
1Thessalonians 3:8 Help us to “stand fast in the Lord.”
Please help us to: love righteousness and hate iniquity (Hebrews 1:9); living an overcoming life (1John 4:4), stand fast in the Lord (1Thessalonians 3:8); know more of the “joy of the Holy Spirit” (1Thessalonians 1:6), “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2Peter 3:18), live more in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13).
Then there are personal prayers like: Please give me/us a deep love for your Yourself, Your Word, Your people and the lost. That I might know more of Your truth, love, joy and will. Then there are your own personal difficulties that you need to bring to God.
How Many Believers Will Gain Rewards In Heaven?
1Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
‘Judge nothing before the time” as we are likely to think that we have come to the right conclusion about something. All such judgment must be based on partial and faulty knowledge and therefore very likely not come to correct conclusions. The “time” is when the Lord comes and sets up His Judgment Seat. Then the Lord will bring into the light the hidden things of darkness, those deep inner motives that are unseen and maybe also things of which we were not conscious of. And will make noticeable the counsels of the heart, that is the inward desires and motives which were concealed but were the basis of decision and action. Then everything will be “named and open”. However the “hidden things of darkness” will include any brother or sister who maybe under special spiritual attack and which others do not know. Then each shall receive the praise that is his due from God, which is the only praise that really matters and the only judgment that possesses true value.
May God help us to live so that we will gain crowns in the future and eternal day in heaven.