The apostles strongly encouraged believers to strive for a crown, which is the biblical symbol for a badge of victory. Notice that we’re not told to strive for a perishable crown that rusts and fades. We’re told to strive for an imperishable crown that lasts for all eternity. In other words, we are to strive for rewards in heaven that last forever rather than just trying to make ourselves richer and more comfortable on earth.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that not everyone who runs the Christian race obtains an imperishable crown. Only those who are disciplined in righteousness and exercise self-control can receive one (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-25). This indicates that not everyone who thinks they’re saved have actually gained salvation because receiving salvation requires self control.
Jesus illustrated this truth in the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Luke 6:46-49). And also when He said “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
I’m eager to receive an imperishable crown. How about you? Keep in mind that if you obtain just one of them and hold onto it until the end of your life or until the rapture of the church, it means that you’ve made it into heaven and you’ll be with Jesus forever. The cool thing is, you can obtain more than one crown.
Let’s take a look at the imperishable crowns that you can obtain.
Crown of life
This crown is given to those who never relinquish their saving faith in God. We can obtain the crown of life by not giving in to the sinful temptations of the flesh and by loving the Lord. This means that we must submit to His will for our lives.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Jesus said that if we suffer persecution (and stay faithful to Him) even to the point of death, He’ll give us the crown of life (see Revelation 2:10).
Crown of righteousness
The apostle Paul made it clear that the reason he would receive the crown of righteousness is because he had given his all to living a righteous life and had not lost His faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV)
Notice that Paul says that even those who long for Christ’s return (appearing) will receive this crown. I think this is because those who are longing for Christ’s return are practicing righteousness in anticipation of His return. After all, when you’re expecting the boss to return at any moment, you make sure you’re at your best, don’t you?
Crown of glory
After Jesus was resurrected from the dead and before He returned to His father in heaven, He told Peter three times to feed His sheep. Those who faithfully shepherd the flock (the church of Christ) as elders, overseers, teachers, or pastors will receive the crown of glory.
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
1 Peter 5:1-4
Notice that there are conditions with earning this crown. Not only do you need to shepherd the flock, but you also have to do it with the right motives. You have to serve Christ’s church willingly, eagerly and without making a dishonest profit. Finally, you must live your life in a way that reflects Jesus.
Friends, we’re only on this earth for a short time. So, let’s run the race with endurance and stay faithful to the end so that we can win an imperishable crown.
I’ve been a Christian for more than 40 years. In 2013, I began growing in a closer relationship with God as I turned over more and more of my life to Him and asked Him for wisdom. Since then, I’ve been strongly compelled to share God's word and to warn others that we need to get ready because Jesus is coming soon.
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