Believers often question the mention of rewards as a basis for motivating us to live faithfully/ victoriously. However, remember in Revelation 4:4, 10–11, the twenty-four elders, who represent those believers who have gained crowns, cast them at the Savior’s feet. When they do, they say, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power ….” These crowns were not gained for the sake of the crown, but rather for the privilege of demonstrating gratitude for the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It is not a question of being motivated by either the love of Christ or the desire for the crown. It is the desire, out of love for Christ, to have something to lay at His feet—a token of our thankfulness for all He has done for us. “Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11)

Special crowns are offered for different kinds of service. Click on a highlighted title below to see that short video specifically:

  • The Imperishable Crown for self-control and discipline (1 Cor. 9:24–27),
  • The Crown of Joy for effective witness (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19),
  • The Crown of Life for enduring suffering (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10),
  • The Crown of Righteousness for those who live in light of Christ’s coming (2 Tim. 4:6–8), and
  • The Crown of Glory (1 Pet. 5:1–4), often called the “pastor’s crown.”

The Imperishable Crown

In 1st Corinthians 9:25–27, we have what Paul calls the Incorruptible Crown. You remember he talks about how he kept his body under self-discipline. And he said, “lest after I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” It’s a word that means to be disapproved for the reward. And he talks about how the physical athletes discipline themselves in every area of their life: their training, their diet, their rest. Everything is aimed toward the winning of that crown at the Olympic Games. But the crown that they won was just a little wreath of ivy. Paul says they do it for “a perishable crown.” But he said, we do it for “an imperishable crown.” And so the idea of the incorruptible crown or the imperishable crown is the fact that you and I, through the exercise of self-discipline (i.e., without self), as the Spirit of God disciplines us and conforms us to the character of Jesus Christ, are we going to be able to walk the path that He has set before us and to win that Incorruptible Crown?

The Crown of Joy

Now the Bible talks a lot about rewards, and I think we have to keep a balanced attitude toward rewards. We never do what we do just to gain a reward. It can actually become sort of a self-centered, self-promoting idea. I simply do this in the hope that it’ll encourage you and that you’ll realize some of what’s available to you, some of what God desires to give you. The Crown of Joy is a crown that is given for faithful witness. Here in First Thessalonians 2:19, as Paul suggests here that the Crown of Joy may be nothing more and nothing less than those that we’ve won to Christ, who are going to be there because of our witness. We also have mentioned in Philippians 4:1, the Crown of Joy. As you and I are faithful, not again just with our words, but by our lives, to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ and to touch the lives and the hearts and the souls of other people—we have the potential of winning that Crown of Joy.

The Crown of Life

The Crown of Life is spoken of in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been tried [approved], he will receive the crown of life ….” Also mentioned in Revelation 2:10, “… Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The Crown of Life is the crown that is given for endurance—faithful endurance in times of trial. We never understand why some Christians go through the trials that they go through, while others seem to breeze through life relatively untouched. But I am convinced that in every life, whether visible or unseen, whether physical or spiritual, all of us come into this world broken. All of us have trials and tests that we’re going to have to face. And the question is: Can we face those tests, those trials of our faith, those temptations that come to us, and overcome them by faith? As we endure those tests, we can win the Crown of Life.

The Crown of Righteousness

The Bible teaches us about eternal reward because it should be a stimulus; it should be a motivation. It should give us a desire, after all that Jesus Christ has done for us in dying for us, giving His life for us, bringing us into a right relationship with God through faith. He doesn’t stop there. He continues to offer more and more. He holds in front of us the offer of delights in eternity—things that go above and beyond, as Paul says, anything that we could think or ask. The Crown of Righteousness is given to those who live in light of eternity. Second Timothy 4:8, as Paul wrote his last letter to his understudy and disciple Timothy, he was ready to depart from this world and enter into the presence of the Lord. And he said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give not only to me, but to everyone who has loved His appearing.” To live with the coming of Jesus Christ and the eternal perspective in mind, that’s the Crown of Righteousness.

The Crown of Glory

The disciples were always arguing over who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. When they entered into the Upper Room—the last night that they would spend with the Lord Jesus Christ—Luke tells us that the discussion that went on before they entered was, “Which of us is going to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” (Luke 24). Jesus didn’t rebuke their desire to be great. What He did rebuke was the wrong attitude about how it was going to be achieved—the wrong motive for achieving those things. He said if you want to be first, you have to make yourself last. And I am convinced that if we really believed that, among Christians there would be a race for last place! There would be a race to promote others before ourselves. As Paul says (in Philippians 2:3), to think of others more highly than we think of ourselves. In 1st Peter 5:4, it’s often called “the Pastor’s Crown.” I’m not so sure that it’s only reserved for pastors. In the context, that’s what Paul is talking about, but he says that if these serve faithfully in their ministry, when the Chief Shepherd appeared, they would receive the Crown of Glory. Since all of us have ministries, all of us are gifted. I would have to say that this is simply for faithful ministry in doing what God has given us to do in the life that we live.

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