Crowns Awating Believers
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Will you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 7:

Revelation 3

7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
8I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
9Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
10Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
13He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The thing that I trust you will hear with your spiritual ear is designated in verse 11:

Judgment Seat of Christ

We have learned from the Word of God that Christians must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ that we might receive a reward for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be bad. We emphasized that that the Judgment Seat of Christ is not related to the revelation of some secret sin, that the Judgment seat of Christ is not related to the revelation of some hidden fault, but rather, the Judgment Seat of Christ is related to the manifestation of all of the deeds that individuals have done after they have become Christians, whether they be good or whether they be bad. We pointed out that the word “bad” in the text refers not to something sinful, but to something worthless. The evaluation is based upon whether the works that have been done are worthwhile or whether they are worthless.

We learned that after these works are judged, rewards will be given if the works are worthy. There will be no rewards if the works were unworthy; but we did encourage your hearts by reminding you that even though many of us may lose the rewards which we might have had, there will be something for which God will be able to praise us. We are told in I Corinthians, chapter 4, that we should judge nothing before the time, until the day. Let the day declare it when God will reveal the motives, the secret thoughts, the hidden thoughts of men in regard to their service and then shall every man have praise of God.

Crowns as Rewards

The rewards which are promised to believers are described in a number of different ways in the Word of God. One of the ways is the use of the word “crowns.” That is the reason we are beginning this discussion with the book of Revelation, chapter 3, reminding us that you and I should be very careful that no one take our crowns.

I want to suggest to you that that message was addressed to the church at Philadelphia. You who are familiar with the book of Revelation will remember that in chapters 2 and 3, the entire history of the church is presented in the names of the seven churches contained in those two chapters. The church at Philadelphia is that church which is typical of all true believers, in the midst of the Laodicean church age. The Laodicean church, the seventh church, is the church that is well organized and has great wealth, but God in the person of His Son has departed from it; whereas the church at Philadelphia represents all of the true believers regardless of the name of the building in which they might worship. The church at Philadelphia existed right along with the church at Laodicea; but of special interest to us is that it was to that church, symbolic of the church which was to be living at the very end of the age, that the Lord said, “Be careful that something doesn't happen to your crown.”

Importance of Reward

Well, certainly that should indicate that crowns are important. Are they important to you? Someone may say, “You know, I don't think we ought to talk about our rewards. We ought to serve the Lord just because we love Him.” Well, we certainly ought to serve Him because we love Him, but we have every right and reason in the world to talk about our rewards. We have every reason to seek the very best reward that we can when we stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There is nothing selfish about that; it is thoroughly Scriptural.

Moses as an Example

Turn, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, which is the great faith chapter in God's Word. You will notice that in verse 23 our attention is called to a man by the name of Moses. We do not have time to think about everything we could say about him, but here in verse 23 we are introduced to a very brief history of him:

Hebrews 11

23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.
24By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Notice these words especially:

Notice the last statement there in verse 26:

Hebrews 11

26………. for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

He had a chance to go with God or to go with the enemy of God and he chose to go with God. You say, “Well, why did he?” Because he loved God. There is no question about that, but the reason which is given in the text is that he loved the reward; he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. Phillips translates that statement, “…he looked steadily at the ultimate,not the immediate reward.” He weighed the reward. Oh, that is getting mercenary, isn't it? It is getting materialistic, but no more materialistic than the Word of God is. He weighed the two. Pharaoh held out his reward to him and said, “Come along.” God held out a reward to him and said, “Come along.” Moses weighed the rewards and he said, “I think God's reward, even though I am not going to get it right away, is something to wait for.” He had respect unto the recompense of reward.

A Gauge for Christian Living

So I do not want to hear anyone say, “Well, I do not think we ought to work for rewards: I think we ought to work just because we love the Lord.” It is evident you love the Lord or you would not be serving Him, but there is no reason why you should not keep your eye on the reward. Now the reward should not be the goal of service, but it should be the gauge of Christian living. Your entire life should be gauged by your interest in the reward.

Turn please, to II Timothy, chapter 2, and notice what the Aposlte Paul has to say about the child of God:

II Timothy 2

3Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
5And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

Now notice that fifth verse particularly:

The suggestion of the verse is that no man who enters the athletic games can expect to win the prize unless he abides by the rules of the game. Beloved, we have got to face the truth that in our Christian experience we have entered a race.

Security of the Believer

No, the object of the race is not eternal life. Eternal life is God's free gift. You either have it or you do not, and there is not anything you can do about that one way or another, after you have accepted it or rejected it. If you have accepted it you have it, and there is no change in that.

Someone says to me when I make a statement like that, “I do not like to hear you talk like that, because what incentives are people going to have to live the way they ought to live? If you tell them that salvation is God's free gift, what incentive do they have to live the way they ought to live? What is going to keep them from going out and sinning all they want to?”

Beloved, my preaching is not going to keep anyone from going and sinning all he wants to. One thing is true. If you are a child of God and you go around sinning “all you want to,” then there is a loose connection somewhere. You had better examine that and see what the trouble is. If you are genuinely born-again, you sin more than you want to. A person who is genuinely born-again has a new nature; the Bible says he cannot sin. If you read I John carefully you will find, thrice emphasized, that he that is born of God doth not commit sin. That does not suggest that a Christian never sins. It suggest, if you read it in the original text, that the person who is born-again does not continue in sin because God has given him a new nature. There is something wrong if you had rather sin that live right–something wrong with you relationship to God.

An Incentive for Living for Christ

What is the incentive, then, for doing the best you can? What is the incentive for “putting it all out for Christ?” What is the incentive for abiding by the rules of the game? What is the incentive for striving lawfully? The crown; that is the incentive. “Oh,” you say, “I personally do not think a crown is that important. I do not really care whether I get a crown or not. If I just get there, that is all I care about.”

Well, Beloved, If that is the way you feel about it, you do not have the conception of the Judgment Seat of Christ that you ought to have.

Turn back with me for a moment to Paul's II Corinthian letter, where he describes, in the fifth chapter, how he felt about appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ without having done everything that he possibly could do in faithful service to the Lord. Look at II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 8:

II Corinthians 5

8We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
9Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

Notice that. He said, “We labour; I work at it; I work at being accepted of Him while I am in this body and when I stand in His presence; I work at being accepted of Him.” someone may say, “Oh, you mean you work for your salvation?” No! Salvation is settled. We are talking about whether we are well pleasing in His sight, and the Apostle said, “I work at it.”

II Corinthians 5

10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

The Terror of the Lord

Someone may say, “I know that. I am not too concerned whether I have any reward.” Well, we stopped reading too soon. Look at verse 11:

II Corinthians 5

11Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
12For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Notice this next verse:

If you read these verses in their context, you will see that the Apostle Paul was so terrified at the thought of appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ empty-handed that he could not abide the thought of being idle. He went out and worked as though it was the only thing he had to do, commending himself to God and to men, persuading men because he knew the terror of the Lord. He said, “As a matter of fact, some of you think I have lost my mind. You think I have lost my mind because of my sense of urgency; but I want to tell you that it is the love of Christ constraining me, in the light of the fact that someday I am going to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.”

I say to you, Beloved, if you catch a glimpse of what it means to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ without anything for which to be rewarded, it will do more to encourage you to live the way you ought to live than the fear of Hell. You do not need to hold people's feet to the fire to get them to live the way they ought to live. If they are genuinely born-again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have a glimpse of what it means to stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, then there will be incentive enough.

Strive Lawfully

If you get the crown, you are going to have to strive lawfully, I ask you, as a gauge for your Christian experience, are you abiding by the rules of the game? You know what they are. They are laid down in the Word of God. I want to say to you, no matter how well you run the race, if you do not abide by the rules of the game, you will be disqualified and there will be no crown for you.

Turn please, to the second Epistle of John and notice verse 8. The second Epistle of John contains only one chapter, so we look at verse 8:

II John

8Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

Look at the words again. Let them sink into your hearts and lives:

Another translation reads, “Don't throw away all the labor that has been spent on you, but persevere until God gives you your reward.” Keep a watchful eye on all the things that are about you, in order that you may receive the reward that God wants you to have–that God will be able to give you a full reward. May I repeat, it is interesting that those words were addressed to the church at Philadelphia, the symbol of the church which is existing in this Laodicean Age just before the Lord Jesus Christ comes. I find it of great interest that this bit of advice in II John is given to people who are face to face with what we today call liberals, or modernists.

Importance of the Doctrine of Christ

Notice verse 7:

II John

7For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

This verse is describing the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. People say today, “It does not make any difference whether you believe in the virgin birth or not.” Well, it does make a difference! Notice verse 9:

II John

9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
11For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Reason for Withholding Fellowship

Beloved, there is not a plainer way of saying it: If you are keeping company with individuals who do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, if you are keeping company with individuals who deny the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are a partaker of their evil deed. If you are bidding them God speed, if you are inviting them into your home, if you are showing them any semblance of support at all, then you are a partaker of their evil deeds and you could very well lose the crown that God has for you.

This is a serious thing to me. I can understand why a person would expect to lose the crown if he does not abide by the rules of the game. If he lives out of fellowship with the Lord consistently and constantly for a period of time, I cannot understand why he would expect to win a reward. Do you realize that there are Christian people in our churches all over the land who are supporting clergy who deny the deity of Jesus Christ. These Christians themselves are sincere people; they are born-again; but for any number of reasons they are associating with those who deny the truth. I am afraid that, in spite of all the good things they think they are doing, the labor is going to be lost. They are going to lose a full reward. This is a gauge for Christian living: check your associations; you might miss the crown that God has for you.

A Vital Part of Christian Experience

Please turn back with me for just a moment to Revelation, chapter 3, verse 11. Here impressed upon us is the truth that these rewards are something that should be a vital part of our Christian experience:

Revelation 3

11Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Look at that word “take.” It is a translation of the Greek word which can be translated “receive.” It also involves the idea of taking something that does not belong to you. It involves the idea of defrauding.

Why in the world would anyone want to steal a crown that belongs to me? How in the world could anyone defraud me of the crown that God says I have the opportunity of receiving? Turn, please, to Paul's letter to the Colossians, chapter 2, verse 16:

Colossians 2

16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Notice this verse especially:

Guard Against Being Defrauded

These are weighty words, but go back to verse 18 and notice this statement:

Colossians 2

18Let no man beguile you of your reward…………

Let now man defraud you of your reward. Let no man take your crown. How can a man defraud you of your crown? How can a man rob you of your reward? The answer is found in the context. We do not have time to examine everything that is suggested, so let me sum it all up by saying that in Paul's day there was a cult known as Gnostiscism. The modern counterpart of Gnostiscism is Christian Science. Christian Science emphasized much that the Gnostics emphasized. Cults such as Seventh Dan Adventism emphasize some of them; and other cults, such as Mormonism, emphasize some of the things which are here. Russellism, or Jehovah's Witnesses, whose tenets are related to those Gnostics, are described in this very paragraph.

Don't let anyone rob you of your crown by getting you mixed up in things which are not true teachings of the Word of God–teachings that do not hold Christ as the sole Head of the Church. You see where the danger lies. It does not lie in the temptation to go off and do something evil and wicked and immoral. It lies in getting involved in things which detract from the grace of God and keep you from growing in your Christian experience as you should Consequently, you lose your reward.

Programs to Glorify Christ

Do you see why I say that the desire for a reward can be a gauge for your Christian living? Are you abiding by the rules of the game? If you are not, you are going to lose your reward. There is no question about it. Are your associations right in regard to the basic fact of the deity of Christ? Are you mixed up and involved in various movements that are abroad in these times, which have just enough of the Scripture in them to lead you astray but not enough to glorify the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ? If you are in such company, you are in danger of losing your reward.

One Result of a Carnal Nature

There is one last thing I would like to comment on. One of you may say to me, “Well, if we do get those rewards you know what it is going to do to us when we get to Heaven. Here is Mr. Joe; he is walking down the street and he has a tower of crowns a mile high; he will look down on me because I have only three. Everyone else says, 'Boy, look at those three crowns–he does not have very many.'”

Well, there are two things you are forgetting. One of them is you will not have that carnal nature that you have now, when you get to Heaven. See, the reason that you envy people now, the reason that you criticize people now, the reason you act like the old world from which you came, is that you still have the old nature. It is full of jealousy. You criticize. You complain. You are envious. You know what the carnal nature is, for you have it. You may not be aware of where all those feelings come from, but they are natural; they are born in you. When you get to Heaven you are not going to have that carnal nature. If you see someone with a great big stack of crowns and you don't have any, you are not going to be envious. There is no room for envy in Heaven. You lose that old nature when you get your glorified body, so do not be worrying about that.

Crowns Not Meant to Last

These rewards are not given to you with the intent that you keep them. These rewards are not given to you with the intent that you carry them with you throughout all eternity. That is indicated in two ways. One is in the use of the word. There are two words in Greek for the word “crown.” one of them is the word from which we get our word “diadem” and it refers to a crown which is lasting. The other is the word which is used in the text and which we are using in this discussion. It refers to a little garland of wreaths–a wreath of leaves–which was never meant to last. It was just something to indicate approval; it was something to indicate that you had run a race well and it was not meant for permanence. The Holy Spirit has very wisely chosen the word for crowns which are available to all believers. Since they were never meant to last, what in the world are you supposed to do with them then?

The Use of Our Crowns

In the book of the Revelation, chapter 4, we have a scene which I believe illustrates why we get the crowns and, since we cannot keep them, what we will do with them:

Revelation 4

10The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

We know this fourth chapter describes the Throne Room of Heaven which John saw as soon as he got to Heaven. It is typical of what we shall see as soon as the Church is raptured. As the chapter progresses, the scene is set for the Judgment Seat of Christ. The four and the twenty elders here in the book of Revelation, whether they are creatures of Heaven as we have taught you, or whether they are only representative of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ as others teach, are setting an example. These four and twenty elders cast their crowns at the feet of Him who sits upon the throne. I am quite sure that when we stand there with our crowns, we are not going to be holding on to them. We will get into the spirit of the activity and we will cast our crowns before the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ and we will cry out as they did, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for they pleasure they are and were created.” No, you won't be wearing your crowns throughout all eternity to show how many you have received. You will cast them all before the feet of the Saviour almost as soon as you get them and you will be praising Him for His wonder and His glory. Your carnal nature will have been eradicated by this time, and there will be no room for envy.

Grieved By Wasted Effort

There will be room for sadness, because sadness and grief, you will remember, are not related solely to the carnal nature. The Holy Spirit (and nothing can be holier than He) is grieved at the way we sometimes act. I believe that when we stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and realize that we have few or no crowns which we may cast before the Saviour's feet, our hearts will be grieved. Our hearts will be grieved to realize that we have wasted our lives, and we have nothing with which we may show our gratitude to Him. That is why there is a need to covet the crowns. That is why there is need to make sure that you strive lawfully, so that the crown will be yours. You may say, “Well, I don't quite understand how Heaven could be Heaven if there is going to be some grief there, some sadness there.” We are now in chapter 4 of the book of Revelation, and you do not find the Lord Jesus Christ wiping away tears until chapter 16. When He wipes away the tears, they are wiped away for the last time.

Now why do you suppose those tears were in Heaven? Where do you suppose they come from? Well, we cannot be dogmatic about it, but I am inclined to think that those tears are because we realize how utterly wasteful we have been with the opportunities God has given us, how careless we have been about receiving the crowns that He extended to us. Be careful that no man takes your crown. There are five of them. We will think of them in successive messages as the Lord permits.


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