Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
— 2 Timothy 4:8
At the time that the apostle Paul wrote Second Timothy, he was imprisoned in Rome, awaiting the moment of his own execution, which would be death by decapitation. However, when we read his final words in Second Timothy 4:8, we discover that Paul wasn’t focused on his own death, which would indeed be gruesome. He looked beyond that event to that glorious moment when Jesus would personally step forward to give him a “crown of righteousness” as a reward for his faithful service.
Today I want us to look at this word “crown.” The New Testament mentions five different types of crowns that will be given to Christians as rewards for the various ways they ran their race of faith. But before we look at all five different types of crowns, first let’s look at the word “crown” to see exactly what kind of crown the New Testament is talking about. In each instance where it is mentioned, it is the same Greek word. The Greek word for a “crown” in these verses is not the word for a royal diadem, as a king would wear. Rather, it is the Greek word stephanos, which describes the crown given to athletes — most notably, runners — after they had run their race or finished their contest victoriously. It was generally referred to as a victor’s crown.
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At the conclusion of a contest or race, a winner was declared, and a “crown” was placed on the champion’s brow that was made of pine or olive branches and leaves. Although the crown wasn’t made of expensive material, it was highly valued as a public recognition of the skill, commitment, discipline, endurance, self-control, self-mastery, and training that had enabled the athlete to win the competition. Being awarded the victor’s crown brought a person great acclaim, honor, and respect in the eyes of an adoring public. Therefore, it was every athlete’s chief aim to obtain this crown.
For Christians who ran their race of faith, wholly giving themselves to pursuing God’s plan for their lives, there could be no greater reward than Jesus Christ Himself personally placing this victor’s crown on their brow. This is in fact the promise that Christ makes to Christians who have endured to the end and victoriously finished their race of faith. A day is coming when Jesus will step forward, dressed in the regal splendor of the exalted King of kings, and He will place a victor’s crown upon the heads of those who had steadfastly run their race to the very end. The Savior Himself will personally place this priceless reward upon the brows of the faithful.
As noted previously, there are five different types of crowns mentioned in the New Testament. Each of these crowns is a specific and distinct reward for Christians who have faithfully fulfilled God’s call on their lives.
- First Corinthians 9:25 refers to a crown of incorruption. Paul described this as a special crown given to believers who practiced physical self-governance and therefore ran a successful race in Those who practiced self-discipline and refused to let the flesh hinder their race of faith can look forward to receiving this precious reward.
- First Thessalonians 2:19 refers to the crown of rejoicing. Theologians often refer to this as the soul-winner’s crown, as it is a crown given to those who brought others to Jesus. Oh, think of the joy those who have brought others to Christ will experience when they receive a crown of rejoicing or a soul-winner’s crown.
- Second Timothy 4:8 refers to the crown of righteousness. This crown is specially designated for those who longed for Jesus’ appearing and lived holy lives in anticipation of His return. This is the crown that Paul referred to when he wrote about his own death and the crown that Jesus would give to him.
- First Peter 5:4 refers to the crown of glory. This is often called the pastor’s crown because it is a special reward that will be given to shepherds who faithfully pastored and taught God’s people. You would do well to read First Peter 5:4 and to personally see this special crown that will be given to faithful pastors.
- James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 refer to the crown of life. This crown is often referred to as the martyr’s crown because it is given to those who suffered for their faith, those who died for Christ, or those who were committed to finishing their race of faith regardless of the difficulties they encountered in this life.
Athletes who prepared, trained, and won their competitions were highly regarded. Likewise, Christ will give special honor to those who victoriously ran their race of faith to its conclusion. On that day in our future, Jesus Christ will stand, step forward to us as we bow before Him, and place one of these respective crowns on our brows if He has found us faithful to the task that was assigned to us.
There are believers who are still in that fight right now, and their struggle has been great. Paul was still in his race when he wrote Second Timothy 4:8. But rather than focus on his imminent execution by decapitation, Paul chose instead to focus on the crown of righteousness that the Lord would soon be placing upon his brow.
Similarly, if you are running in a fierce race of faith that is requiring every ounce of your spiritual, mental, and physical strength, I encourage you to lift your eyes to Heaven and see Jesus with your crown in His hands. One day your race will be finished, and if you made it all the way to the end, He’ll place that crown on your head — a victor’s crown for one who finished his race of faith!
To be honest, sometimes I am tempted to yield to weariness or to wonder if the fight has been worth it. Other times I know I’m looking at difficult times on the road directly before me. In these vulnerable moments, I often lift the eyes of my faith and focus on the moment when the King of kings will place a victor’s crown on my own head because He found me faithful. Thinking of that makes me want to stay in the race and finish it all the way to the end! How about you?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, Your Word clearly teaches that when we see Jesus in Heaven, He will have a special “reward” in His hand — a victor’s crown — to place upon our heads. But more important to me than receiving a crown is that I please You. To receive a crown from You will be a blessing, as it is Your recognition of what I have done, and it will be a treasure that I can lay at Jesus’ feet on that day. But the greatest reward for me will be knowing I have run a race that brought You pleasure!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare that I will run my race of faith all the way to its final conclusion. There will be no dropping out of the race halfway along the God-ordained course of my life. I’m in this to finish it and to bring glory to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful that because I will be faithful to the end, on the day I see Jesus, He will give me a victor’s crown. But most of all, I want to see the satisfaction in His eyes that I’ve run a race of faith that has brought glory to His name. His glory is my highest goal and the reason I am running in this race of faith!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you envision running your race of faith in a way that will take you all the way to the finish line? Are you giving it all the spiritual, physical, and mental strength you can muster to run that race like a champion?
- By looking at the five different types of crowns that Christ will give to faithful champions, which crown do you think you will receive when you see Jesus face to face? Which crown would you like to receive? What decisions are you making to ensure that you do receive it?
- When you think of seeing Jesus face to face, what thoughts immediately come to your mind? Is this an event that brings joy to your heart and mind, or does it cause you to be fearful? What reasons are behind your reaction to this very important question?