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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 our Lord’s judgment of each Christian’s life, and what each will receive as 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?

Two distortions

First, let’s remove two misunderstandings about these rewards.

1.     One of these is the idea that getting rewards gives a person 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 of these dwellings is that

“you also may be where I [Jesus] am.” 

2.     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

Two types of crowns

It appears that the rewards at the Judgment Seat come in the form of crowns. 

There are two Greek words translated as “crown”: diadema and stephanos.

The diadema is the imperial or royal crown worn by the king. In Revelation 19:12, it is worn rightly only by the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The other word is stephanos. This a crown or wreath awarded historically 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? 

What are these crowns? 

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 sets himself as an example for the Christians at Corinth. In verses 24-27, he introduces a metaphor from the world of athletics. 

Here is what he says in 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. Paul strives for God's glory and his people's blessing— 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.       Crown of soul winning: 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. 

It appears that this crown is manifested in or as those people we have been instrumental in leading to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Do you delight in telling the gospel and winning souls for Christ? 

3.       Crown of righteousness: 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.       Crown of life: 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 is promised release if she converts to Islam— but she remains faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ in her captivity. Many have suffered and died alone for the sake of Jesus Christ. Our God sees and remembers the suffering of his people. 

5.       Crown of glory: What of those who willingly, diligently, and sacrificially care for God's people? They serve not out of duty, greed 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. 

What to do with a crown

If you receive one or more of these crowns, you may possess them for a short time, but then you will do something extremely important with them.

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 the future by reading 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 our lives as Christians. What do we do with our 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) 

Receiving and laying down crowns in the future is a direct result of your life of faithfulness and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present.

Is this not a motivation to live for Christ now?

In the future, as an act of worship, I hope to 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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