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Wednesday, August 18

The Five Crowns of Heaven and Christian Tradition

In the Christian tradition, we read of five crowns given as "rewards" in heaven. These are often known as the crown of incorruption or victory, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of life, the crown of glory, and the crown of righteousness. Now, crowns play an interesting role in Scripture. Historically, "The more general name in Hebrew for a crown is 'atarah, meaning a “circlet.” This is used of crowns and head ornaments of divers kinds, including royal crowns. Such was the crown taken from the king of Ammon by David (2 Sam. 12:30). The crown worn by the Assyrian kings was a high mitre, sometimes adorned with flowers. There are sculptures also representing the crowns worn by the early Egyptian and Persian kings. Sometimes a diadem surrounded the royal head-dress of two or three fillets. This probably signified that the wearer had dominion over two or three countries. In Rev. 12:3; 13:1, we read of 'many crowns,' a token of extended dominion."[1] (Photo credit to: Dallas Vintage)

Before examining these "five crowns" and what the Scriptures say about each, it is important to view the role of crowns within Christianity. In Eastern Orthodox churches, we find that the nuptial crown is worn by a bride at her wedding. This practice is a very ancient practice, going back to the early days of the Eastern Orthodox church. The marriage ceremony has a section known as "the crowning." During this section of the ceremony, both the bride and the bridegroom are crowned as "king" and "queen" of their household. This practice is also common in Greek and Slavic weddings, where crowns are made of flowers and pearls (Greek) or ornamented metal (Slavic). In Catholicism, the Virgin Mary is depicted as wearing a crown following her assumption into heaven - a visual depiction of Revelation 12:1's description of the lady crowned with stars. Further, in Sweden there is a symbol of the Three Crowns, which are representative of the three magi (wise men) from the gospel of Matthew. There are also many other ways in which crowns have been used throughout Christian artwork, practice, and history. Thus, crowns play a prominent and sometimes under-appreciated role. But what does the Scriptural corpus have to say about these five crowns?

Within the Scriptures, the first major "crown"is the crown of incorruption or victory. This crown is given to those who live a disciplined life. It is mentioned in 1st Corinthians 9:25, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last [corruptible crown]; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever [incorruptible crown]." The simple truth: only those who strive in life will get this crown, those who do not, will not. Historically, the Greek term stephanos referred to a victor's crown, given to victors at the Greek games or after winning a contest. This same term is applied by St. Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians, implying that this "crown" is for those who have "run the race" and lived out their faith. There are many scripture references to that fact that crowns and rewards in heaven are for those who overcome, who are victorious (Philippians 3:12-14, 1st Corinthians 9:24-27, Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7).

The next crown, the crown of rejoicing, is given to those who joyously express their faith. 1st Thessalonians 2:19 says, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes..." Other translations explicitly say "crown of rejoicing." This may also be found in Daniel 12:3, which says, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Many scholars believe this implies that if you lead others to righteousness by expressing your faith, you will receive a crown that will shine like the "brightness of the heavens."

A third crown, and perhaps the most well-known, is the crown of life. James 1:12 says, "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (emphasis mine). The crown of life is given to those who are patient, who endure the trials and tribulations in life. Revelation 2:10 says, "...Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." This crown is also referred to as the "Martyr's Crown" (although the crown of thorns is also called the "Martyr's Crown"). The fourth is the crown of glory. This crown is given to those who are faithful in ministering to the world. 1st Peter 5:2-4 says, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it 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 will never fade away."

The fifth and final crown is the crown of righteousness. 2nd Timothy 4:8 says, "Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing." Evidently, this crown is for all those who long for the return of Jesus. Revelation 3:11 says, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown." In other words, we are to guard ourselves and to continue in faithfulness. Other early writings speak of crowns as well. In a late 2nd century Gnostic text, the incomplete manuscript of the Gospel of the Savior 42 says, "The elders, seated on [their thrones], cast [their] crowns [down] before the Father’s [throne]." This is reminiscent of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:4, which says, "...They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads." On another note, Jesus himself wore a crown at his death - a crown of thorns, likely the nabk from the area around Jerusalem - which later became a symbol of martyrdom for early Christians. However, when Jesus returns, St. John tells us that "on his head [are] many crowns" (Revelation 19:11-19). When Christ returns, he shows his true glory.

Are these crowns intended to be literal "crowns" given to the faithful in God's presence? One cannot say definitively either way. But the notion of getting a "crown" following life should not be taking as an "extra credit" motivation for living a just and moral life. Although we are told to "store up our treasures in heaven," our primary reward is finally beholding the beatific vision: finally entering into the divine presence of the One who is more beautiful, more precious and more wonderful than all of the treasures this world has to offer. Perhaps we can view these crowns along the longs of ancient Christian bridal mysticism. We see in the Song of Songs, this notion of unity between the bride and the bridegroom, a theme later echoed in the gospels and in Revelation. This theme was picked up by later Christian mystics, but it essentially expresses the communion between the Creator and creation. Thus, along the lines of the Eastern Orthodox marriage ceremonies, in heaven, finally united with the Beloved, we are both crowned to share in a reciprocal, deep and loving relationship for eternity.

Troy Hillman
Sources
[1]"Crown." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network. Web.  

20 comments:

  1. This really cleared my mind up about what the five crowns are, I was in a bible study at church and it came up so I wanted some clarification this is a great site.
    God Bless

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  2. Glad to have been of help. It is certainly an interesting topic. God bless,
    Troy Hillman

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  3. Hey, I used to think we had 120 years left as well, but if you look into it doesnt actually say that... It says 70.. Im pretty sure.. not exactly tho but yah

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  4. I am glad I read this thing, I am a born again Christian for a year but never heard of this so called crowns. All I know is that all those who will go to heaven will wear a crown. Thanks.

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  5. Thank you Troy, great clarifications and research.

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    1. You are most welcome! Glad to have helped.

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    2. The Blood of Jesus on altar before the Father when sealed with the Father will release all things pertaining to Life & Godlyness as sons under the reign of King Jesus. bro hugh

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  6. I was sitting down and talking to my spouse about rewards in Heaven. He stated there is no reward system in Heaven. We were in disagreement about crowns but not rewards. This site help to explain to us that both are in Heaven.

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    1. Anonymous,
      I suppose that does indeed happen among couples, but I am glad that the information was able to help you both out!

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  7. So are you saying that just like here on earth Heaven has a class system? If so will the crown wearers be the upper class? I don't total understand.

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    1. Anonymous,
      First off, I apologize for the delayed response. Now, I suppose in some ways it can be considered a class system. I do not know if the crowns will make much of a difference, but there are a few things from Scripture regarding heaven and future events that may clarify for you:
      - Revelation 4:4 mentions the Great White Throne of God, and "surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their head." This suggests that the twenty four "elders" are in a position of high authority compared to other individuals, implying a class system [*It has been thought that these are the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve disciples of Jesus, minus Judas Iscariot possibly replaced by Paul or another - see Matthew 19:28 for the reference on that]
      - Isaiah 66:17-24 and Revelation 21:24, 26 and 22:2 implies the presence of different "nations," which also suggests a class system.
      - An example of a non-human class system is that of angels. There are different classes mentioned in Scripture, such as cherubim (Genesis 3:24) or a guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:14, 16), seraphim/seraphs (Isaiah 6), the archangel (possibly only one canonical angel - Michael; 1st Thessalonians 4:16, Jude 9), so forth.

      But does this represent a "class system," per se, or does it simply recognize in God's eyes that we are all different individuals, with different personalities, backgrounds, lifestyles, and individual lives? Is it His way of recognizing our individuality?

      Hope this was able to somewhat answer your question. I apologize again for the long-delayed reply. Take care and God bless you, Anonymous!

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  8. I search for a good sunday school topic and i found it.Its a great lesson I love to share it to others. thanks God bless.

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    1. Anonymous,
      Glad to hear it! Warms my heart. Take care and God bless you!

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    1. Jim,
      Excellent question! Unfortunately, I cannot provide Biblical reference either way. If I had to reason through it, however, I venture to guess that crowns are not traded in Heaven. Why? Well, crowns are giving out individually based on the deeds and actions of a person while on earth, so to trade a crown to someone else is essentially saying that your deeds and actions were meaningless, as is theirs, so you take the aesthetic value over the spiritual value. Does this answer your question, Jim?

      God bless!

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  10. Thank You for getting Back with me Troy.
    May I tell you way I wonder about this?

    #1 Jacob and Esau, Esau sold his birth right for a bowl of pottage.
    #2 Rev 3:11.

    Now I tell You about me. I have Gods gift of Giving,
    I have had it all My life, anytime any body ask anything from me i will most always give them. And also I most never get paid back, I have ask God about this, I say God, I feel this is a curse , not a gift.
    And it just came to me to ask people for one of there crowns as payment. I will just say something like : just give me your crown and we not worry about the $100.
    Does this make any since of am i just crazy,
    Best regards Jim



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  11. Troy , your teaching is great. It kind of summarize for me all the crowns at one glance . But there is something I would like to point out, I once heard from a preacher George annadorai , the east gate keeper from Singapore that the 12 elders can't be 12 disciples becos John cant be seeing his own clone sitting there. John is one of the 12 disciples, He saw this vision of 24 elders, if he has seen himself sitting there , surely he would have exclaimed , ' oh , I saw myself sitting there????' I saw the 24 elders, one of them was me? I saw myself sitting there ?

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    1. Anonymous,
      Thank you for commenting! George Annadorai may very well be correct. Revelation does not tell us either way who these 24 elders actually are - that comes down to a matter of interpretation. While it is entirely true that John may have said "I am one of the 24 elders!" if he saw his future self, it is also entirely possible that he did not for a number of reasons. First of all, he may not have recognized his future self, and as these elders were on the ground worshiping (Rev. 4:10), he may not have actually seen their faces. It is also entirely possible that God did not want him to reveal his identity as a heavenly elder, because if he did it would clue the reader in to the fact that the twelve disciples (minus Judas) are likely twelve of the elders, and he may have wanted it to remain another Biblical mystery (he is indeed noted to be a God of surprises).

      So, Annadorai may be entirely correct in his interpretation or his point, but it is worth noting that there are other considerations as well. Thank you kindly for sharing!

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  12. I remember reading something in the Bible in regards to robes in the reward system. I asked a friend but she had no idea. This is so interesting yet so incredibly delicate and can be controversial. I would love to know more, I need to know more. As it is stated in the Bible I have the right to know, and I feel as though it is this secret that no one wants to share. I know that as a Christian I go to heaven because of Jesus. I love Him, I know there is a bit more to learn though. I'll just have to keep reading. Your never done reading the Bible! Thanks for shedding light on what you could.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Anonymous! I apologize for not responding to you sooner. Although I am unsure of what Scriptural basis a robes reward system there is, what immediately comes to mind is Revelation 7:9, "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands." Also, Revelation 3:4 says, "However, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy." Further, Isaiah 61:10 says, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

      So although there is not a very substantial theology of rewards present in these passages, we may be able to infer that there is some kind of robe system present. In Christianity, the saints are often seen wearing white robes - to symbolize victory. But some of that may have to do with symbolism inherent to a region. For example, in Islam, the Qu'ran speaks of those in heaven as wearing green robes (18:31). These robes may have a green color as green symbolizes the lushness of the Arabian desert, and are thereby psychologically associated with goodness and blessing.

      So, one could argue that there IS a kind of reward system, but it seems that all individuals wear robes. The color may vary, however. I hope you find these comments a bit more helpful, and again, my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. God bless!

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