The Bible is replete with talk of crowns, both literal and metaphorical. We see them in the Old Testament, e.g. the crown of glory…
“She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will deliver you with a crown of glory.” -Proverbs 4:9
A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness. – Proverbs 16:31, NASB
… and the New Testament, wherein we find mention of five specific crowns.
Over the years, I have heard many Christ-followers make loving mention of these crowns that are presumably presented by Jesus as rewards for faithful service when we stand before his judgment seat.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10, NASB
Though the New Testament speaks from the multiple-crown viewpoint, most believers who revel in crownlology seem to be speaking of a single crown, and usually with reference its enhancement due to the endurance of some struggle in their life – “Oh, it’s not so bad. Just another jewel in my crown.”
New Testament Crowns:
The Incorruptible Crown
“Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10, NASB
This crown brings us face to face with the reality that we are participating in an eternal adventure, that we need to employ Long-View Living as we trod through life.
The Crown of Righteousness
“In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:8, NASB
Prior to saying this, Paul has spoken of hardship and endurance. Yet, through all struggle and difficulty, he hangs on with love for the Lord, and a longing for his parousia.
The Crown of Exultation or Rejoicing
“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” – 1 Thessalonians 2:19, NASB
In this case, the crown is clearly metaphorical and seems to make reference to the people of the church in Thessalonica. Some have speculated that this crown makes reference to specific men and women that Paul taught and converted, but that is not clear from this specific verse.
The Crown of Life
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12, ESV
“Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”
The Crown of Glory
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” – 1 Peter 5:4, ESV
This is the only New Testament mention of the crown of glory, though we see it repeatedly in the Old Testament. There the crown of glory is portrayed as a presentation from wisdom (Proverbs 4:9), as the grey hairs of one’s head if acquired through a life of righteousness (Proverbs 16:31). In Isaiah 28, the crown of glory is contrasted with the crown of the drunkards of Ephriam, and there the crown of glory is the Lord of Hosts himself, the diadem of beauty. Later, in Isaiah 62, the new Jerusalem herself is a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord. That’s a beautiful picture.
So, what exactly is going on with these crowns. When they are granted, do we all strut around with our crown(s), comparing their size and bejewelment? “I have 17 sapphires, and Theodore only has 12. Ha!” Really? Is that what these crowns are about?
It reminds me of those universities that reward their football players with special little stickers to slap on their helmets as a reward for simply doing their job. I guess the player with a head buried in stickers is the one to be feared, as though he may earn another little sticker by pasting a solid hit on me!
It will not be this way at all with the crowns the Lord gives us. No. No strutting. No comparing. Instead, we will take those crowns and reverantly put them where they really belong – at the feet of Jesus – as we proclaim..
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” – Revelation 4:11, ESV
“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” – Luke 17:10, ESV
Victoriously in Christ!