“6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
The Corinthians had been infiltrated by false teachers and didn’t have proper perspective on their standing with the Lord. They did not understand the Christian’s profound hope to be with the Lord, and how they should behave. While we wait, whether through death or rapture, we have our mind focused on heavenly things. Christians understand the gift they have been given in salvation by grace through faith, and through indebtedness strive to be well pleasing to the Lord.
There is a poem that goes “You have only one life and it will soon be past, only what you do for Christ will last.” The biblical writers, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, often drew parallels to concepts the ancient Israelites would understand. Everyone under Roman influence understood the Olympic games. Christians understood then, and now, the Olympic games and the symbols associated with winning. In addition to the white stone referenced in the book of Revelation, we frequently see references to the winners crown, which was a literal laurel wreath placed on the Olympic winner’s head.
The Holy Spirit, via the biblical writers, makes at least five references to these laurel wreaths, winners crowns, to be awarded when we die. These include:
- The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) – “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 only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Love Jesus and long for His return.
- The Crown of Life (James 1:12) – “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.” This word is “steadfastness.” Just as an Olympian trains for the Olympics, enduring the pains, Christians strive to be steadfast under the trials of life.
- The Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:1-2) – “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.” If you have responsibility as an elder, shepherd the flock of God properly.
- The Incorruptible Crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) – “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Just as an Olympian in training, every Christian must constantly strive, training themselves in the Word and applying it in subjugation of our lives and bodies.
- The Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) – “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” At Jesus’ coming, either the rapture or second coming, we celebrate salvation’s victory. Christians celebrate having any part of another’s salvation.
It often feels wrong to strive for these crowns. Jesus Himself said in Mathew 16:27 – “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works.” In Revelation 3:11 He tells us “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” This is an imperative that we are to strive to obtain and hold onto these crowns. We don’t do it out of selfish gain, but in response to what He has done for us on the cross. In the end we will likely cast them at His feet, as we strive to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”