The first mention of a crown in the New Testament is a crown of thorns, representative of the curse of thorns and thistles that was placed upon the earth when man sinned (Genesis 3:18). This crown of thorns was placed upon the head of Jesus (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2, 5), but sadly it was not a crown to acknowledge His kingship, but a crown that was intended to mock Him. Just as the nails in the Lord’s hands and feet drew blood, so also did the crown of thorns, pressed down upon His head. It brought forth the redemptive, pure blood of the spotless Lamb of God.
The crown of thorns was placed upon the Lord’s head by men, but after the resurrection, when the Lord ascended into Heaven, He received a crown of glory for the work He had done on this earth. He had lived a sinless life, according to the will of His Father, even unto death.
The next mention of a crown in the New Testament is very different. Paul speaks of a race and the victor’s crown–the crown that all believers will receive in glory:
1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
In his epistles, Paul compares the Christian life to a race–one we are entered into the minute Jesus saved us and a race that has a finish line at the border of life and eternity. How we run this race will determine the crowns we receive when we cross the finish line.
What does the Bible teach about the crowns?
Rewards are given based upon our work for the Lord.
Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Rewards are not given for all of our works.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 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. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Rewards can be lost.
2 John 1:8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
What crowns will believers receive?
The works of all believers will be tried by fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ (referred to by some with the Greek word: Bema seat). This will take place in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:10) after the Rapture (see, What is the Rapture?) The works that were not God-honoring (wood, hay and stubble) will burn away quickly. The works that were done in service to God and for His glory (gold, silver and precious stones) will remain and will be rewarded.
The Bible speaks of five crowns that will be given. Remember, these crowns are not for salvation. These crowns are rewards for the works done in the body. They are also not crowns of rulers, as indicated by the use of the Greek word “stephanos.” A stephanos was a crown of victory awarded in ancient athletic games (e.g. the Greek olympics). For the Greeks the crown was a braided wreath, made of leaves from a wild olive tree. In the Pythian games, the crowns were of laurel leaves; in the Nemean games, they were made of parsley and in the Isthmian games, of pine.
When Christ returns, He will wear not wear a “stephanos.” He will wear a “diadem”—the crown of a ruling, sovereign monarch (Revelation 19:12).
Five Crowns Promised to Believers
The Incorruptible Crown / The Victor’s Crown
1 Corinthians 9:25 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.
Crown of Rejoicing / The Soul Winners Crown
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 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? For ye are our glory and joy.
Crown Of Righteousness:
2 Timothy 4:8 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.
Crown Of Glory / Crown For Service:
1 Peter 5:2-4 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; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Crown Of Life:
James 1:12 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.
Revelation 2:10 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.
What can we expect?
Because the crowns are given based on the works done here on earth and the intent of the heart in doing those works, there will be differences in the rewards that we receive. There will likely also be surprise and sadness at all the opportunities we missed, opportunities we let pass by—opportunities to serve the Lord, to share His love and to bring honor and glory to His name. We were created for His pleasure, but all too often we live for our own. We do not want to stand before Jesus with sadness for all the missed opportunities.
However, while we should understand that we will receive rewards, we should not live our lives striving for the rewards. We are not to be motivated to do good works by the rewards that we might receive. God wants us to serve Him, fueled by our love for Him. Let us live our lives loving Jesus and growing in knowledge of Him and His Word. Let us learn of His will and ways, so we can trust Him and willingly surrender to Him. Then His Holy Spirit will work in us and through us to be the guiding force in all we think, say and do.
We do know that some will receive more rewards than others (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Some will receive the honor of reigning with Christ in the Kingdom to come, others will not (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21). Some will have more treasures and riches than others (Luke 12:21,33;16:11). However, while there may be differences in rewards, there will be no jealousy or envy when we receive our rewards. Jealousy and envy are sin, and we can be assured that, in Heaven, our salvation is complete. In Heaven, we will have been saved from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin and even from the presence of sin. Plus, all who are in Heaven will have received the praise of God (1 Corinthians 4:5). It’s safe to say, whatever rewards we receive, however many jewels there might be in our crowns, we will not be jealous or envious.
Remember, even our good works are all because of the Lord Jesus Christ’s presence in our lives. So what will we do with those crowns? We’ll give them back to the One who deserves all honor and glory. In love and adoration, we’ll cast our crowns at His feet. Perhaps that’s why the Lord will return wearing many crowns!
Revelation 4:10-11 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 19: 11,13, 16 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True…and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself…The Word of God…..KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
What is the Judgement Seat of Christ?
What is the Crown of Righteousness?
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