By: Dr. Hank Lindstrom
The word “crown” in the Old Testament is a translation of two Greek words. The two Greek words are “diadema” and “stephanos”. They are both translated in our New Testament by the same word “crown”, but their usage is different. W.E. Raffety, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, summarizes the uses of the crowns throughout the whole Bible as follows: “There are five uses of the crown as seen in Scripture references studied, viz. decoration, consecration, coronation, exaltation, and remuneration.” Coming back to the two Greek words for crown, “diadema” and “stephanos”, we find that “diadema”, translated in the revised version more accurately “diadem: is symbolic of sovereignty and power, and is used exclusively for denoting honor and exaltation. ‘Stephanos’ is different in appearance and not so limited in its usage. It is a garland or wreath twisted out of leaves, pine-shoots, or olive branches, or even an assorted growth of the field. A garland weaved this way made the symbol more noticeable, more intricate, and more meaningful than if it were wreathed out of plain fillet, such as gold. Figuratively this crown (stephanos) is used in Scripture largely in the realm of remuneration, as a reward for the approved Christian life and service.”
The five crowns that can be earned as rewards by the Christian for faithful service are all described by the Greek word “stephanos”. The “stephanos” of rejoicing (I Thessalonians 2:19), the “stephanos” of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8), the “stephanos” of glory (I Peter 5:4), the “stephanos” of life (James 1:12), and the “stephanos” of incorruptible (I Corinthians 9:25).
Salvation is received strictly as a gift from God. Eternal life in heaven is a gift, but the rewards are earned. The reward is not for being on the Foundation of Christ (I Corinthians 3:11-15), but for what is built thereon. Notice Dr. C.I. Scofield’s distinction: “Salvation is a present possession (Luke 7:50; John 3:36; 6:47), while rewards are a future attainment, to be given at the coming of the Lord (Matthew 16:27; II Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12).”
Do not confuse salvation and rewards. They are two distinct things. Forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life can never be earned by any of our works. They are the undeserved, unmerited gift of God to all who definitely accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope for reaching heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:5; Titus 3:5).
We can be assured that the rewards that God offers to the saved for faithful service, will be valuable, and therefore, well worth striving for with all our might. Moses esteemed the rewards “greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Here is a list of the five crowns:
1. THE INCORRUPTIBLE CROWN: (I Corinthians 9:25). This will be given to those who “keep under the body and bring it into subjection”, running the race faithfully.
2. THE CROWN OF REJOICING: (I Thessalonians. 2:19). This is the soul-winner’s crown.
3. THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: (II Timothy 4:8). This crown will be given for those who love His appearing and who live their lives anticipating Christ’s soon return.
4. THE CROWN OF GLORY: (I Peter 5:4). This crown is for faithful teaching of the Word of God. This will be given to those instructing others in God’s Word.
5. THE CROWN OF LIFE: (Revelation 2:10). This is sometimes termed the “martyr’s crown”. It is for those who suffer for the cause of Christ. This crown, like the others, is given personally by Christ. “I will give.”
In contrast to these five crowns given out by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul makes mention of the corruptible crowns that the world (ruled by Satan) offers. Unfortunately, most people seem to make the “corruptible crown” the object of their ambitions.
Worldly crowns are indeed “corruptible” and will not last. Here are some:
1. THE CROWN OF FAME: There are those that are possessed with a craving to be recognized, to be esteemed, to be influential, to be remembered.
2. THE CROWN OF WEALTH: Many are seeking after the crown of wealth and money as their chief concern in life. And we could go on and on.
I suppose that the corruptible crowns could be summarized in I John 2:16-17. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).” As a believer in Jesus Christ knowing that you will go to heaven according to His promise (John 6:47), are you actively seeking after the crowns which are “incorruptible” (will never pass away). Do you consider yourself WISE AND YET ARE QUITE FOOLISH because, you are not laboring for the rewards that are eternal? Have you done anything worthy of remuneration from the Lord Jesus Christ?
There is no better time than NOW to make a DECISION to start WITNESSING and LIVING for Christ. Remember, salvation is received by faith and is a present possession. Rewards are a future attainment based on your works.