Do we receive crowns in Heaven? Is that our eternal reward
(This article is part of our series on Eternal Rewards.)
Scripture describes our eternal rewards in terms of an inheritance and responsibility. These rewards are symbolized in Scripture as crowns. Since we do not receive our actual rewards, it seems we are awarded crowns as tokens of our reward for the time we spend in the throne room awaiting Christ's Second Coming to earth to establish His Kingdom.
The Bible says these crowns will be our badges of honor reflecting glory upon Christ, Who worked through us to achieve the good works if our life. We will acknowledge His sovereignty by casting our crowns at His feet while we worship Him in Heaven:
Rev. 4:9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,
Rev. 4:10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev. 4:11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
Altogether, the Bible mentions five crowns promised to believers for our obedience to Christ while on Earth:
The crown of victory
1 Cor. 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
1 Cor. 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
1 Cor. 9:26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
1 Cor. 9:27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
This reward will be given to all believers who run the race to win. Who discipline the flesh to make it their slave so they will be able to serve the Lord. Again, note that we can only achieve this by the power of the Holy Spirit, so the reward is ultimately accomplished in God’s power, not ours.
The crown of rejoicing
1 Thess. 2:19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?
1 Thess. 2:20 For you are our glory and joy.
Phil. 4:1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
This reward will go to those who have witnessed to others and who have built up the church (eg. by teaching, service, etc.).
The crown of life
James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Rev. 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
At first glance, it may appear that the “crown of life” refers to eternal life. That cannot be the case, however, as that would contradict many other Scriptures that clearly state that eternal life comes by faith alone in Christ alone, and which is given as a gift and not by works (eg. Ephesians 2:8-9). Instead, this crown is given to those who faithfully persevere trials the Lord will put them through. Once again, we can only persevere such trials and tribulations by God’s power in us (1 Peter 1:5-7).
The crown of righteousness
2 Tim. 4:8 in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.
This verse does not refer to righteousness we achieve by works, as Scripture makes clear that our righteousness is found only in the imputed righteousness of Christ (eg. Romans 5:19). Rather, this reward is given to those who eagerly await the appearing of the Lord. As believers, we should always be expectantly looking for the return of our Lord.
John Calvin put it this way:
This is a singular mark which he employs in describing believers. And, indeed, wherever faith is strong, it will not permit their minds to fall asleep in this world, but will elevate them to the hope of the last resurrection. His meaning therefore is, that all who are so much devoted to the world, and who love so much this fleeting life, as not to care about the coming of Christ, and not to be moved by any desire of it, deprive themselves of immortal glory. Woe to our stupidity, therefore, which exercises such power over us, that we never think seriously about the coming of Christ, to which we ought to give our whole attention.
The crown of glory
1 Peter 5:1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
1 Peter 5:3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5:4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
This is a reward for the elders the Lord has placed in authority in His church. It’s an exhortation as well as an incentive for the elders to rule as the Lord has directed.
These crown collectively represent our tangible rewards, which we receive in the Kingdom:
Treasures in heaven. This was mentioned earlier from Matthew 6. The treasures are not described for us, although they definitely would include the crowns previously mentioned.
Ruling with Christ. There will be rewards for our obedience that will include ruling with Christ in some capacity. Several Scriptures mention this (eg. Luke 19:17-19, Revelation 2:26-27). Matthew 25 is representative of these passages:
Matt. 25:19 Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
Matt. 25:20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’
Matt. 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
We are merely Christ’s slaves, meaning we are to do the will of our Master. We can only do His will in the power of the Spirit. In doing so, God promises He will reward our obedience of being faithful now, by giving us even greater responsibilities when we rule with Christ later.
To get up to speed on this important area of Biblical truth, please read the following series of articles:
6. What are the "crowns" given to believers as reward?