A Beautiful Crown

A Beautiful Crown

There are two words in the Greek Bible for crown—diadema and stephanos.

The first word, diadema, always describes a crown of authority and rulership, such as a king would wear. Strangely, while this concept is mainly what we think of when we see the word “crown” (unless we’re at that moment visiting the dentist!) this word is never used to describe what the saints wear. Only sovereigns, like Jesus, wear this crown. The NASB and ESV translate this word “diadem” in order to keep it distinct, though that outdated word probably just causes confusion. John says of Jesus in Revelation 19:11-12, “I saw ... a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True ... and on His head are many diadems...”

The second word, stephanos, describes a crown of success, such as a first-place athlete would wear. While we give out gold medals or plastic trophies for such accomplishments, these don’t quite communicate the full concept. For in the ancient world, stephanoi were also placed on the heads of happy wedding couples or valiant military commanders. It is a crown that marks victory! This garland of celebration and overcoming is the one given to saints in many passages. Consider all the ways God describes this crown.

An Eternal Crown. All my high school soccer trophies and college archery medallions are in a box somewhere gathering dust and getting brittle in the attic heat. So what? Who cares that I could kick a ball in 1982?

But the crown of eternal life is worth winning and keeping! Paul compares the athlete’s crown to the Christian’s crown in 1 Cor. 9:25, and the Christian’s crown is far more valuable. Paul says, “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.” If an athlete will deny himself fattening foods and practice diligently in order to achieve a cheap trophy, which is soon broken or forgotten, how much more worthwhile is the Christian’s effort, to obtain a crown that will never fade or be surpassed!

A Crown of Righteousness. Paul, knowing his execution loomed, looked forward to the reward, saying in 2 Tim. 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 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.”

Roman emperors and human judges can condemn or acquit what they want—it is the verdict of God that concerns us! And if He should give us the crown which declares us to be righteous, the same crown He will give “to all who have loved His appearing,” then we shall celebrate it forever! Our crown of righteousness indicates that we belong in heaven, with those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the blood of Christ.

A Crown of Life. James 1:12 says, “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.” After overcoming the struggles of persecution (which “proves” the genuine- 

ness of his faith), God gives him an emblem of spiritual success, representing the eternal life that he will enjoy in God’s

presence forever. The second death awaits the lost, but eternal life awaits the saved.

Still, receiving the crown requires patiently enduring until the very end. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

A Glorious Crown. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” While this is found in the context of shepherds who devote themselves to leading God’s flock, all servants of God can expect an equally glorious crown waiting at the end of the race. Neither elders nor deacons nor any Christian should work for power or wealth or distinction in this life, but rather for the special reward that God Himself will place upon our heads, when we gather before Him at the last day.

What must we do to receive a brilliant crown like this? Love, trust, and obey God, and understand that the Day of Judgment is just around the corner. Jesus says in Revelation 3:11, “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”

When we do receive it, we will rejoice and thank God for His great mercy. We don’t achieve the crown; it is a gift. For this reason, they “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” (Rev. 4:10) in a demonstration of where the credit belongs—to Jesus and His salvation. Thanks be to God, who bestows such honors upon frail, fallible people, who come to Him in humble faith.

–John Guzzetta