Crown Rewards for the Life of Virtue & Righteousness
Life of virtue and righteousness is one of struggling against the self, the world and material things, and against Satan. Those who overcome will receive crowns in eternity. The Lord Christ, in His messages to the seven churches in Asia, says to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia, "Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown." (Rev 3: 11)
What are these crowns, and what crown or crowns you will receive?
The crown of righteousness:
St. Paul the Apostle says: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me alone but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Tim 4: 7, 8)
What then is the crown of righteousness and what does it signify?
It signifies a life of continual righteousness in eternity, where we shall sin no more; where our human nature will be crowned by righteousness and will have no relationship with sin. We will be like the angels who passed the trial and conquered, who received the crown of righteousness, and no more sin, unlike the devils who fell and are still sinning.
The righteous will no more commit sin in eternity. Even the knowledge of sin will be wiped out from their memory! Adam and Eve in the Garden were righteous, simple and chaste, and knew no evil. When they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their human nature became corrupted, and they began to know evil, to desire evil, and to love sin.
Sin will not prevail forever, of course, for the righteous in eternity will know nothing but good only. Sin will no more exist in their mind or memory. They who overcome will restore the first simplicity of the human nature when it was in the image and likeness of God before sinning. They even will attain a more sublime simplicity and purity than that which Adam and Eve had, for although they were in complete purity and simplicity, they were subject to falling because of the freedom they had. The righteous in eternity will not be subject to falling, because they will have "the glorious liberty of the children of God" by which the creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption (Rom 8: 21) and be crowned by righteousness.
Deliverance from the bondage of corruption extends to the heart, the mind, the thoughts, the intention, and even to one's whole life. With such, righteousness we shall be able to enjoy continual life with God, a matter which represents another crown.
The crown of life:
It is the crown promised by the Lord to the angel of the Church in Smyrna: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev 2: 10) It is eternal life in the Lord, in which sin will no more exist and likewise death, as the apostle, speaking about resurrection, says, "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death." (1 Cor 15: 26) Indeed, for since "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6: 23), when sin will no more exist in eternity death likewise will not exist. However, the crown of life is not mere immortality or continual life, which everybody desires, nor the mere end of death, which everybody of any rank fears!
The crown of life rather is life with God and in Him, for, "In Him was life" (Jn 1: 4); for as He says, He is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him, though he may die, shall live (Jn 11: 25). Beautiful indeed are the words of the apostle, "For to me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1: 21), "Christ lives in me" (Gal 2: 20)!
Life in eternity is an extraordinary life, a crown which secret is not yet revealed to us, but which "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor 2: 9)
It is a life for those who labored here and endured, as St. James says, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (Jas 1: 12)
The crown of life is for those who love the Lord.
Those who are always delivered to death for the Lord's sake, and death is working in them (2 Cor 4: 11, 12). They die here for His sake, and will live there forever with Him. Their names will not be blotted out from the Book of Life (Rev 3: 5). They will eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Rev 2: 7).
The crown of glory:
God from the beginning, intending to give man glory, made him in His own image, and gave him dominion over the creation (Gen 1: 26). This is clear in the words: "You crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet." (Heb 2: 7, 8; Ps 8: 5) All the creation feared Adam, and feared Noah afterwards in the ark.
The honor which man lost by sin will be restored to him by God in eternity. God will restore to man his first rank and the divine image in which He had created him, and will crown him with glory.
Some would object that honor belongs to God alone, as we say in our prayers, 'Yours is glory and power', but the glory that belongs to God is different. It is unlimited and inexpressible, but God in His love for man bestows glory on him, as clear from the words: "Whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." (Rom 8: 30) More beautiful and wonderful are the words of the Lord Christ to God the Father, "The glory which You gave Me I have given them" (Jn 17: 22)!
Yea, "We suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." (Rom 8: 17) "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Rom 8: 18) "For our light affliction … is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor 4: 17) The pledge of such glory was on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mk 9: 3- 5).
Another glory is that of resurrection and eternity.
In the resurrection, "We are sown in dishonor, and raised in glory … The body is raised a spiritual body, a heavenly body," (1 Cor 15: 43- 50) "that it may be conformed to His glorious body." (Phil 3: 21)
It is the crown of glory that does not fade away which St. Peter the Apostle described to the shepherds (1 Pet 5: 4) Furthermore, the Scripture says, "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." (Da 12: 3) The righteous in heaven will be like stars, and "One star differs from another star in glory." (1 Cor 15: 41)
An aspect of the glory God gives to those whom He loves is sitting with Him on His throne in glory!
The Lord said to His holy apostles, "When the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you … will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Mt 19: 28) St. John in the Revelation saw the Son of Man sitting on the throne, with twenty-four thrones around, on which sat twenty-four elders, clothed in white robes and with crowns of gold on their heads (Rev 4:4). How wonderful are these crowns of glory! Yet, let nobody think that such glory is only for the apostles and those of their level, for the Lord says, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Rev 3: 21)
This glory will be in the Second Coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Mt 24: 30), and all the holy angels with Him (Mt 25: 31), also with ten thousands of His saints (Jud 14). The saints will be clothed in white garments, as a symbol of their righteousness (Rev 3: 5). To the glory of eternity shall apply the words, "You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory" (Ps 73: 24)!
The crown of splendor and beauty:
Those who had no beauty on the earth will receive it in eternity, where everything is beautiful: beauty of the spiritual heavenly bodies, and beauty of the spirit. Even on the earth the Lord gives beauty as He did to the sinful Jerusalem, "I put … a beautiful crown on your head … You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you." (Ezek 16: 12, 13)
How wonderful that God's splendor be bestowed on man!
This reminds us of the wonderful words of Isaiah the Prophet, "In that day the Lord of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people." (Isa 28: 5) We also recall the garments which the Lord commanded Moses the Prophet to make for Aaron the high priest, "You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty," (Ex 28: 2) and also for Aaron's sons, "you shall make hats for them, for glory and beauty." (Ex 28: 40)
Paul the Apostle for instance received many crowns, like that of apostleship, of priesthood, of virginity, of martyrdom, of struggling, in addition to the crown of righteousness. He considered his ministry another crown, saying to his congregation in Philippi, "My brethren, my joy and crown." (Phil 4: 1)
The first crown we receive in baptism, from which we come out in righteousness, having put on Christ (Gal 3: 27). The priest says to the baptized in prayer, 'Crowns of gold, crowns of silver, crowns of precious stone the Lord has put on the holy baptized …'
Yet, the most beautiful crown is that of thorns put on the Lord's head (Mk 15: 17). All our crowns are bestowed on us through this crown of suffering and sacrifice.