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OUR HEAVENLY CROWN

I want to go to heaven when this life is over.  It is my hope that you want the same thing.  But we realize that in order to spend eternity with God in heaven, we have to: 1) Obey the gospel (Act 2:38, Mark 16:16, etc.)  (Rom. 10:16, 2 Thess. 1:8, 1 Pet. 4:17 – all of which describe the condemnation that awaits those who do NOT obey the gospel) and 2) Remain faithful until we die (Matt. 10:22, Rev. 14:13, 2:10, etc.)

While in this life we face many struggles, trials and tribulations.  We know that the way to heaven is not easy (Matt. 7:13-14) and we are engaged in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Cor. 10:3-5, etc.).   BUT, we are promised that if we endure to the end we will be rewarded.

One of the ways that reward is described is as a crown.  In the English language the crown is usually associated with regal rulership (such as a king or queen), or one who reigns (i.e. a pageant winner).   However, in the New Testament Greek language there are 2 different words translated crown.  One has reference to this regal rulership (only used 3 times – Rev. 12:3, 13:1, 19:12), but the other word has reference to a prize, (i.e. the victor’s crown) or reward or honor given as the result of outstanding performance (Louw-Nida, 57:121, Vine’s).  [Or mockingly in the case of our Lord as He was mocked while on trial – Matt. 27:29, John 19:2, 5]  The latter is used far more often in the New Testament and has bearing on our subject of discussion.  

In fact, there are at least 5 different descriptions of this crown we hope to receive.  These descriptions give us an understanding of how great it will be AND the effort we need to exert to receive it.  Let us take a few moments and discuss these descriptions.

1 Corinthians 9:25, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”  In this text Paul is challenging his audience to faithfully endure to the end.  He is describing how our life is like an endurance race that one does not take lightly.  To us this would be the equivalent of the Olympics, where the best athletes in the world devote their lives in preparation to win a medal.  In the Roman Empire, sporting events were very popular and those who won were treated with high honors.  But in reality, all they received was a perishable crown, often times, nothing more than some type of plant shaped into a wreath.   But Paul is challenging us as Christians to “compete” to finish the race of life.  We do it, not for some glory in this life, or for something that will wilt, but for our eternal reward in heaven.  Paul here described it as, “an imperishable crown.  Heaven is described as an eternal place where there will be no more sorrows, tears, sickness, etc.  (Matt. 25:46, Rev. 21:4)  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, “Where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt.6:19)  The disappointments we face in this life ought to “motivate” us to run this race to win.

1 Thessalonians 2:19, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”  While absent from the brethren of Thessalonica because of persecutions associated with the gospel, Paul writes to encourage these brethren.  He lets them know that he earnestly desires to come and see them, though “Satan hindered us” (2:18)  Nevertheless, that did not change his disposition concerning these brethren.  He spoke of the hope that he and they had of being in “the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming.  To Paul, and them, this was a source of joy or a “crown of rejoicing.”  In other words, the thoughts of being in heaven with them caused him to smile and keep going on.  In this expression, we find in heaven a place of rejoicing.  We are told that we will sing and praise God. (cf. Rev. 14:3, 15:3, etc.)   Thinking of heaven as a field with great pleasure, caused the one who stumbled across it to with joy go and sell all that he had. Let the thoughts of heaven bring joy to our weary souls in this life as we consider the even greater joy that awaits us on the other side. 

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  James writes a very practical letter dealing with the conduct of the godly.  In encouraging us to resist and overcome temptation there is the promise of reward.  The reward promised is described as, “the crown of life.”   This is our hope of living eternally with God.  Throughout scripture we are warned of the consequences of sin.  Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”  That death is separation from God.  When we sin, we are separated from Him (cf. Isa. 59:2).  IF we do not take care of our sins, that separation will be eternal and in torments (Matt. 25:46).  Thankfully, Jesus died to pay the price for our sins.  Rom. 6:23b says, “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Thus, if we remain faithful until death, we will receive the crown of life.  And that is exactly what Revelation 2:10 says.  Thus the crown of life is eternal life with God.  In James 1:10 it is contrasted with the temporary nature of man and the things of this earth.  We often hear of those who are fearful of death and of those who want to live forever (or at least much longer than our allotted time upon this earth). Such is not possible on this earth, BUT what awaits us beyond this life is LIFE eternal (1 John 2:25).   But, it only comes to those who endure and overcome.

1 Peter 5:4, “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”  Speaking of elders fulfilling their responsibilities toward the flock (local congregation) over which they have been entrusted to oversee, Peter addresses the example of the Ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  The promise is made that if they do their job properly, they will receive a “crown of glory.”  We all cannot be shepherds, but we all have abilities and responsibilities (cf. Matt. 25:15, 1 Pet. 4:11, etc.) and if we are faithful in the execution of whatever we are able to do we too can anticipate that same crown.  It is described as glorious which means something of honor.  When we think of glory, we think of that which is awesome and of the highest quality.  The greatest example of glory is that of God Himself and His Son (Rev. 1:6, Eph. 3:21, etc.)  As to our reward, this description reminds us that what we do on this earth will NOT go unnoticed by Him.  He will exalt us and our treasure will be wonderful.  2 Cor. 4:17 says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  As we strive to think of heaven, we cannot possibly comprehend how grand it will be.  But we can rest assured, that if we are faithful and make it to heaven, the wonder will be greater than anything we could imagine in this life.  It will be so glorious that all we have endured will seem as nothing.

2 Timothy 4:8, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  As Paul’s life was reaching its conclusion, Paul was ready to go and be with the Lord.  The reason is because he had been faithful to the end.  Therefore, he was ready to receive his “crown of righteousness.”  The idea of righteousness is that of being right.  To the Christian the word is a challenge, because in one sense we CANNOT be righteous – our sins prevent that from happening.  BUT Jesus, in His death, offered a sacrifice which appeased the wrath of God and can blot out our sins when we come in contact with His blood by obeying the gospel (2 Cor. 5:21, Eph. 2:13, 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Heb. 9:14, Rom. 6:3-4).  Because of His righteous sacrifice, we can be forgiven (do NOT mistake this for imputed righteousness).  On the other hand, we are expected to be faithful to God.  And when we are, we will do works of righteousness which will be the basis of our receiving that crown (cf. 1 Cor. 15:34, Eph. 5:9, 6:14, Jas. 5:16, etc.   Considering all that Jesus did for us, let us strive to do all we can for Him, though it will never be enough (Eph. 2:8-10).

In each of these illustrations we see a description of the crown we anticipate to receive when this life is over.  But it will only be bestowed on those who belong to Him and are faithful until the end.  What about you, will you be receiving a crown when this life is over?  This is one you DON’T want to miss out on.  Think about it.