What Is the Significance of Rewards and Crowns in the Bible?
- Dr. David Kyle Foster Mastering Life Ministries Director
- 2019 30 Dec
Isn’t it amazing that those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not only go to heaven, but will be rewarded for things that they’ve done for Christ? This, of course, is subject to conditions that only God knows...possibly because He knows our heart’s motivations.
In some cases, intended rewards might be lost due to matters such as inattention, fears about the character of God, a greater love for worldly things, sloth, or unbelief.
Nevertheless, rewards and crowns are promised in the Bible. In Matthew 6:19-21, Christ exhorted believers to “store up treasures in heaven,” not the treasures of earth. In Galatians 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul speaks of the harvest that we will reap if we do not give up doing good.
So with all this doing good, at some point, everyone wants to know what is going to happen to them when they stand before Jesus during the final judgment. For believers, this judgment involves rewards (or lack thereof) in heaven for how they lived after they were saved.
What Are Biblical Rewards and Crowns?
Might they include ongoing, closer proximity to the Lord or perhaps greater positions of responsibility? And are the rewards the same as the crowns that will be awarded?
Notice that the criteria for some of the rewards are the same as for some of the crowns. By that, one could make the case that crowns and rewards are the same thing. However, it is more likely that crowns and rewards would share criteria, though being different.
Why would God not tell us what they are and how to get them? The answer may be the same as to why He doesn’t tell us many other things this side of heaven. Perhaps in the not knowing, we become motivated to give more attention to the matter.
Perhaps God’s silence is meant to encourage us to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, who wrote about pressing on “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me...to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward” (Philippians 3:12-14). The King James Version refers to it as “the high calling of God.”
As fallen creatures, our set point is to manipulate people—even God (as if that were possible). If He were to reveal all the criteria for receiving rewards, our tendency might be to perform such criteria as a way of manipulating God’s decision rather than being motivated to do so by a genuine love for Him.
It’s like when a child cleans up their act just before Christmas as a way of maneuvering his/her parents into being positively disposed toward giving them everything they want. Once again, the focus is on the rewards rather than the One who rewards.
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14 Rewards Promised in the Bible
1. For saving faith
Reward: God Himself (Genesis 15:1)
2. For keeping God’s statutes
Reward: a great reward (Psalm 19:21)
3. For conducting ourselves well
Reward: an unnamed reward (Psalm 62:12; Jeremiah 17:32; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12)
4. For sowing righteousness
Reward: a sure reward (Proverbs 11:18)
5. For being kind to the poor
Reward: an unnamed reward (Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 25:22 )
6. For being persecuted because of Him
Reward: a great reward (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:5)
7. For welcoming true prophets or righteous men
Reward: an unnamed reward (Matthew 10:41)
8. For doing acts of righteousness for the praise of God rather than men
Reward: an unnamed reward (Matthew 6:1)
9. For loving your enemies, lending to and doing good to them without expectation
Reward: a great reward (Luke 6:35)
10. For actions found to be of good quality in God’s sight
Reward: an unnamed reward (1 Corinthians 3:8, 1 Corinthians 12-15)
11. For doing good wholeheartedly
Reward: an unnamed reward (Colossians 3:23)
12. For standing your ground during persecution and suffering with confident perseverance
Reward: an unnamed reward (Hebrews 10:32-39)
13. For choosing to suffer mistreatment for God’s sake
Reward: an unnamed reward (Hebrews 11:6)
14. For faithfully continuing in the teaching of Christ
Reward: rewarded fully (2 John 8-9)
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13 Crowns Promised in the Bible
1. For those who delight the Lord by being humble
Crown: a crown of salvation (Psalm 149:4)
2. For those who esteem wisdom
Crown: a crown of splendor (Proverbs 4:9)
3. For those who lead a righteous life
Crown: a crown of blessing (Proverbs 10:6)
4. For the ransomed of the Lord who walk in the way of holiness
Crown: a crown of everlasting joy…and gladness (Isaiah 35:10 and Isaiah 51:11)
5. For the poor, brokenhearted, captives/prisoners, mourners who are oaks of righteousness
Crown: a crown of beauty (Isaiah 61:3)
6. For those who compete (for the sake of the gospel) in the game (of serving the Lord) after strict training
Crown: a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25)
7. For those who act like a “brother” to other believers
Crown: a crown of joy (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19)
8. For those who have “fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith,” as well as for “all who have longed for His appearing”
Crown: a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8)
9. For those who have persevered under trial and stood the test
Crown: the crown of life (James 1:12)
10. For those who have remained faithful unto death during trials and persecutions
Crown: the crown of life (Revelation 2:10)
11. For those church elders who have been faithful as godly examples over their flock
Crown: an unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4)
12. For elders (the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles) who are seated before the throne of God
Crown: crowns of gold (Revelation 4:4)
13. For running the race
Crown: a victor’s crown (2 Timothy 2:5)
In 2 Timothy 2:5, the Apostle Paul gives an example of an athlete, who after having endured hardship and running the race according to the rules, receives a “victor’s crown.” Then in 2 Timothy 2:12, he completes the thought by saying “if we endure, we will also reign with Him (Jesus).”
So the purpose of at least one of the crowns is for “reigning with Him.” This may be related to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 that at least some of us will judge the world—even angels.
Why Cast Our Crowns before Him?
In his vision of the throne room of heaven, the Apostle John sees 24 elders falling down before God in worship, casting their crowns before Him (Revelation 4:10).
The scene is picked up by songwriter Reginald Heber in one of the greatest hymns of all time, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”
In one line, he writes:
Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.
There are two possible reasons we will cast our crowns before Jesus:
1. According to Colossians 1:18, Jesus is our head and we are His body, so that in everything He might have supremacy. Thus, all that we have done in righteousness will have been done by Him by means of His guidance, power and inspiration. He is the source of our crowns.
2. Similarly, as God of glory and Creator of all that is, (Colossians 1:15-16; Ephesians 3:9; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 10:6), He deserves the glory for it all! Casting our crowns before Him is an acknowledgment that ultimately God alone is the source of all that is praiseworthy.
It wouldn’t surprise me, however, that based on His unfathomable generosity, once we have cast our crowns before Him, He will return them to us. He is abundantly loving with His rewards.
In Revelation 3:11, Jesus says that for those who have endured persecutions patiently and have thereby overcome them, “I will keep (them) from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.“ He then indicates that for having thus held on to what they have, their crown will not be taken away from them.
Crown Him with Many Crowns!
In his vision, the Apostle John saw in heaven, “one like the son of man” (a Messianic title used by Jesus) seated on a cloud, with a crown of gold on His head (Revelation 14:14; Mark 8:31; Mark 14:62; Revelation 1:13; Daniel 7:13-14).
Similarly, in Revelation 19:12, Jesus is described as having eyes like blazing fire, with many crowns on His head.
The rewards and crowns that we receive upon meeting the Lord will be ours for all eternity. Though you may have earned them on earth, they are gifts of loving gratitude, shared by the One who made it possible to earn them—the glorious One from whom comes everything (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-20; Romans 11:35-36).
In 1852, Matthew Bridges paid tribute to this fact by penning the hymn, “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” In praise of the King of Kings—our Lord Jesus Christ—let us meditate on his words.
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne; Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns all music but its own! Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee, and hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
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Dr. David Kyle Foster is the host of the Pure Passion Podcast and author of Transformed Into His Image and Love Hunger. He is also the founder and director of Mastering Life Ministries. Read more of his take on sin and brokenness in his newest book, The Sexual Healing Reference Edition.