We cannot get very far into our study of “crowns” without realizing that the five crown mentioned in the epistles of the New Testament were preceded by one crown in the gospel records— Jesus’ crown of thorns. What an act of incredible grace that Jesus bore the crown of thorns so that we might bear an incorruptible crown of life, glory, righteousness, and rejoicing!
Much has been stated as to how Heaven will be affected by all of these crowns, yet how could we not assume that there is only one reasonable thing to do with them— we shall cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet! (Revelation 4:10)
The Crown of Rejoicing
The Bible says, “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?” (I Thessalonians 2:19)
Ancient Egyptians were known for their elaborate tombs and burial practices. One of the more remarkable characteristics of Egyptian burial is what was placed in their tombs. Archaeologists have found food snacks, clothing and jewelry, chariots, oils and ointments, weapons, games, and protective amulets. You never know what you might need in the afterlife…so they thought.
The Apostle Paul knew exactly what he was taking to Heaven. He would not need food, clothing, or protection where he was going. The Egyptians were going to the underworld: Paul was going to the Glory World! There, he would be cared for by the Lord Jesus.
His bags were not packed, so to speak, but he was ready to depart. And departing, he would certainly have one thing to take with him— people. Paul understood that the thing that we take to Heaven with us are the men and women we have led to Christ. That is all, and that is all that matters! The things of this earth will vanish, but one thing remains— the soul of man and those who seek to win them.
The prophet Daniel noted, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
If you departed for Heaven today, who would you meet there or hope to be following you there because of your Christian witness? This is the crown of rejoicing, and you and I can win it. Let’s share the Gospel with someone today. Selah!
The Crown of Life
The Bible says, “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)
The word James uses here is peirasmos. The English word is “temptation.” The word literally means, “a putting to proof, an experiment, or a trial.” “Blessed is the man who through obedience proves his faith through its trial.” In other words, when storms come and sins knock at your door, does your faith pass the test?
For these believers, their faith was tested, not by losing their parking spot in the church lot but the threat of death if found to be a Christian. They were going to receive the crown of life if they remained faithful to Christ when their faith was placed on trial by a pagan culture.
We view temptation as the test itself, but how does the Lord who purchased us feel? When we say “no” to sin we are saying “yes” to Him! When we boldly proclaim Christ in our witness, rather than cowering to the pressures of silence we tell the Lord we are not ashamed of Him. When we live for Him, we say more through our life than our lips. If we are faithful and pass the test, to us will be given the crown of life.
To the church of Smyrna John the Apostle wrote, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: 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) This is the martyr’s crown. This is the faithful’s crown. Selah.
The Incorruptible Crown
The city of Corinth lay on a four-mile-wide isthmus that separated the Mediterranean Sea from the Aegean Sea. Of cities of greatest importance during the times of the Apostle Paul, only Rome and Alexandria exceeded Corinth.
Every two years the Greeks celebrated the olympic games in Olympia, Greece, and beginning in the sixth century BC, every non-olympic year, games were also held in Corinth. Known as the Isthmian Games, these games were held in the Caesar’s honor, and participating male athletes not only competed for national pride, and financial reward, but also to receive a reward from the Caesar himself.
In our text today, Paul uses this sporting analogy for spiritual purposes, supposing that every Corinthian was well-aware of his application. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 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 Cor. 9:25-25)
We, too, as God’s people, have entered the arena of time to appear before the Lord Jesus Christ. These spiritual games, held in every county, town, and municipality world over, are designed for the glory of God, and like the Greek athletes of old, we compete whole-heartedly for the prize. We, like they, should lived a disciplined life and run with all of our might so that we may please the Lord Jesus Christ!
They did it for a wreath of celery or pine leaves. We, if we are faithful, will receive an incorruptible crown, which will never know corruption! So, strive! Run! Give it all you have today! The games are short and life is but a vapor! “Only one life will soon be passed; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Selah!
The Crown of Glory
One of these days the Great Shepherd, the leader of our souls, shall return for His own, and among His populace of sheep are under shepherds. These are the men God used to help guide us on our journey towards Heaven. Called pastor, bishop, or elder, the man of God who has preached unto you Jesus will receive a crown of glory if he feeds the sheep and lives a faithful life.
The life of the shepherd and the life of the sheep are indelibly linked. Have we not all as sheep been drawn closer to the Great Shepherd because of the ministry of our pastors? As he has fed us the bread of life, prayed for us, encouraged us, exhorted us, and loved us, he was also equipping us to enjoy the journey and to endure the struggles that endanger the sheep.
Pray for your shepherd. Encourage him. Bless him, for it might just be that as you empower him towards his crown of glory that he empowers you towards your crown of glory, life, rejoicing, and righteousness.
The Crown of Righteousness
It is quite typical for men and women looking death in the eye to say the truest things. Life, both retrospective and prospective, seem to come into clearest view when seen at the very end. George Best, considered by Pelè to be the greatest footballer of all time, died at the age of 59. Womanizing and drinking all but sealed his early fate. His final message to the world? “Don’t die like I did.”
It is little wonder that the Scriptures record, “ Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15) There is nothing in the world like seeing a believer slip from the bonds of earthly suffering into the glory world of God’s delight! Said John Quincy Adams at death, “This is the last of earth. I am content.”
The Apostle Paul had now reached the end of the line. He who had traveled throughout the world sharing Christ knew that he was about to see Christ. The Lord that he longed for would not much longer delay.
He said, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a 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.” (II Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul lived longingly— longingly to see the Lord Jesus. Of all New Testament writers Paul gives us the clearest picture of Christ’s return. Every time he wrote these truths down he must have said in his heart, “Even, so, come. Lord Jesus, come!”
You can win this crown of righteousness! Begin today praying in your heart, “Lord Jesus, I long to see you! Even so, come! Amen.” Selah!
Daniel & Marie Cox are best friends, soulmates, and co-laborers in the ministry. They and their four children live in Florida, where they have established a church, a private, Christian school, and a fun-loving family!