How will you come away from the Judgment Seat of Christ?
In the previous post, “Things you should know about the Judgment Seat,” we learned about this future event in the lives of followers of Jesus. It is a time when each Christian will be accountable for how he or she lived for Christ. It is not an issue of whether they belong to Christ, rather it is whether each will receive reward or loss of reward (1 Corinthians 3:13b-16).
We now ask two questions:
1. What are these rewards?
2. How shall we use these rewards?
First, let's remove a couple of misunderstandings about these rewards.
One of these is the idea that getting rewards gives us more prestige before God. Recently, this concept was put to me in the following terms:
“I have come to understand that even though your works can't on their own take you to heaven, it can help in making you get the choicest place in heaven with VIP treatment.”
While I acknowledge that Jesus spoke of preparing dwelling places for his followers (John 14:1-3), there is no sense that one is a shack and the other a mansion of gold. The purpose for these dwellings is that “you also may be where I [Jesus] am.”
The other mistake came to light in a conversation when a pastor stated he was not interested in a reward or crown. He added that he was “not in it for what he could get out of it. After all, what would he do with it? Mount it on the wall or mantle to collect dust?”
Both these distortions presume that the rewards are for ‘me, myself, and I’. As we will see, that is not the case.
It appears that the rewards at the Judgment Seat come in the form of crowns.
There are two Greek words translated “crown.” The diadema and the stephanos.
The diadema is the imperial or royal crown worn by the king. In Revelation 19:12 it is worn rightly by the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The other word is stephanos. This a crown or wreath awarded for several reasons, including:
1. a wreath of victory (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5) akin to laurel wreaths awarded to successful athletes;
2. a festal or celebratory ornament (Proverbs 1:9; 4:9; Isaiah 28:1); and,
3. a public honor granted for distinguished service or private worth.
By nature, the crowns awarded by Christ are enduring or eternal. This contrasts with the perishable or temporary nature of the rewards offered by everyone else whether those rewards or accomplishments are medals won in the Olympics, degrees awarded by universities, or attainments earned elsewhere.
What are these crowns that will be awarded by Christ to his people?
Here are no fewer than five crowns (stephanos) mentioned in the New Testament as rewards for Christian life and service. You will want to read the context for each of these texts to get a better understanding of the reasons they are awarded.
1. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul puts himself forward as an example for the Christians at Corinth. In verses 24-27 he introduces the metaphor from the world of athletics.
Here is what he says at verse 25:
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
The athlete’s life is one of discipline and sacrifice with a single aim. For Paul, that aim is the glory of God and the blessing of his people – everything he does is for that purpose.
What is your purpose in life? Does it take hold of you to the extent you are focused intensely and sacrificially on the glory of God and the blessing of his people?
2. To the Thessalonian believers, Paul writes (1 Thessalonians 2:19; also Philippians 4:1):
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
Paul had taken the gospel of Jesus Christ to that city and many had become followers of Jesus. His love for winning souls to Christ was something for which he anticipated a crown with joy before the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Do you delight to tell the gospel and win souls for Christ?
3. Do you look forward to, even yearn for, the return and physical presence of the Lord Jesus?
It appears that longing for his presence not only has a purifying effect upon how you live (1 John 3:2-3), but also has promise of being rewarded.
Here is how Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 4:8:
Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.
4. What of those hardships, trials, even martyrdom endured by followers of Jesus?
Here is what James writes for those who remain faithful through trials (James 1:12):
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
John also records the words of Jesus Christ spoken in Revelation 2:10:
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
I have learned recently of a young woman who is being held prisoner by Boko Haram in West Africa. She will be released if she converts to Islam – but she remains faithful to Christ in prison. Many have suffered and died alone for the sake of Jesus Christ. Our God sees and remembers the suffering of his people.
5. What of those who care for Christ’s people willingly, diligently, and sacrificially? They serve not out of duty, or greedy for money, or a desire to control – but as “examples to the flock.”
Peter continues (1 Peter 5:4):
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
More churches need to be led by people like this.
If you receive one or more of these crowns, you may wear it for a time, but then you will do something exceedingly important with it. If you do not have any crowns, I suspect you will be mightily embarrassed.
Let's get a glimpse of the throne room of heaven in a future day. Take a few moments to read Revelation 4-5.
Following several Bible scholars, I propose the twenty-four elders represent the followers of Jesus. If you are a Christian, you will be there. Note their intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, their closeness to him, and the way they worship.
Crowns represent all that is valuable to God in life as a Christian. What do they do with their crowns?
They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:10-11).
On that day, I hope I will lay at least one crown at the feet of my Lord Jesus Christ.
What about you?
Write to me about what you are thinking as you conclude this post.
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