Crown of Righteousness: For Love of Christ's Return
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's second letter to Timothy, as we remind you that we have been bringing you messages on prophecy. Some of those prophetic messages have been related to the judgments which are yet future. One of those judgments is the Judgment Seat of Christ. Involved in the Judgment Seat of Christ are rewards. As we considered that subject, we discovered that those rewards are represented under the figure of crowns, and the Word of God brings to our attention five crowns. We are told in the Word that we should be anxious to receive whatever crown God has for us. We are also told that we should be very careful that someone else does not get the crown that we ought to have.

When we make those statements, even though we make them on the basis of the Word of God, individuals are inclined to say that is selfish. “Why would anyone want all the crowns he could possible get? That sound like an awfully selfish thing!” Well, I would agree with you that it is terribly selfish if you plan to take those crowns and pile one of them on top of the other until you get a great big stack of them and walk around Heaven strutting and showing off the crowns you have. As I pointed out to you from the Word of God, that is not what we are going to do with the crowns.

At the proper time we are going to lay every crown that we receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ, at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, to show Him how much we love Him, how much we adore Him, and how glad we were to be of service to Him. I see nothing selfish in wanting as many crowns as I can possibly carry to lay at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. I think that is what the songwriter had in mind when he said, “Must I go in emptyhanded? Must I meet my Saviour so–not one soul with which to greet Him? Must I emptyhanded go?” He could just as well have put the word “crown” where he put the word “soul,” because the Soul-Winner's crown is one of five that are available. We might search our hearts and ask ourselves the question, “Am I going to meet the Lord and not have one crown with which to greet Him?”

The Easiest Crown to Receive

I am saying that, as a preparation for the passage of Scripture at which we are now going to look. Please turn to II Timothy, chapter 4, verse 1. This is one of the crowns that I love to talk about, one of the crowns that I thrill to think about because it is the easiest crown of all to receive. Really, there is no excuse for anyone's not receiving this crown. In the strictest sense of the word, there might be no excuse for a person's not receiving the Soul-Winner's crown, because you ought to win souls. Maybe you have not had the opportunity; maybe you do not know how. There are a lot of “maybes.” But I see no reason why anyone should fail to receive this crown. Notice:

II Timothy 4

1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8Henceforth 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.

Notice verse 8 again particularly:

An Appeal to Timothy

This is the Crown of Righteousness. Before we can understand the real reason why everyone may receive it, I think it will be necessary for us to examine the context in which the verse is found. You will recognize the first five verses as being an appeal to young Timothy, the son in the faith of the Apostle Paul, to be faithful–to be faithful and get the message out. Certainly, Paul wanted him to be faithful because there was a tremendous need. But the urgent reason he wanted him to be faithful is found in verse 6, where he says, “I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand.” What he is saying in so many words is, “Timothy, I cannot stay here any longer. I have to go on, and I want the message to continue to go out. I do not want it to slow down. I want the story to go forth. Pay attention to what I am saying, Be instant in season and out of season. Reprove. Rebuke. Exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”

Then Paul began to talk about his death; he began to talk about his life; he began to talk about what awaited him. Three words can pretty well summarize this paragraph and I offer them to you this evening as mental pegs upon which you might want to hang some of the thoughts that I leave with you. The first word is “realization;” the second word is “summarization;” the third word is “inspiration.”

Realization That Death Was Near

The realization to which I refer is that realization to which the Apostle Paul came at the time that his departure was at hand. There is a sense in which all of us know that someday we are going to have to die if the Lord Jesus Christ tarries. But not many of us have the opportunity of knowing so specifically and so definitely as did the Apostle Paul that the time was immediate. I wonder, if you did know that the time for you to die had come, how you would feel about it. I wonder, if you did know that the time of your departure were at hand, how you would talk about it. I love the way the Apostle Paul talks about it. Notice verse 6:

II Timothy 4

6For I am now ready to be offered,……

If you look at that word “offered” you will recognize it as a word that describes a drink offering which was poured out, as many drink offerings were poured out, in an act of worship to God. The Apostle Paul had been in prison. He had stood before Nero once. Nero had granted him about a week of reprieve in prison; at the end of the week, he had called him and sentenced him to death. His head was cut off, and his blood was literally poured out. Paul says, in this verse 6, “My life is being poured out as a sacrifice to the Lord.”

Final Act of Worship On Earth

You know that Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” The presentation of our bodies to the Lord is an act of worship. It is a sacrifice. But here is another act of worship–the Apostle Paul's laying down his life for the cause of Christ. “I am an offering,” he says, “in behalf of the cause of Christ in worship of our God.”

Time of Departure

Then you will notice how he describes it again:

II Timothy 4

6…….. the time of my departure is at hand.

Look at that word “departure.” It is a good word. It is a translation of a Greek word which has several pictures back of it. One of them is of a man taking down his tent, rolling it up, getting ready to march. Another picture is of an individual untying a boat which for some time has been moored to the wharf, and letting the boat begin to sail forth across the waters. I like to think of death as being like that. You see, there is nothing horrifying about it; there is nothing gruesome; there is nothing awesome. Paul says, “The time is come for me to let loose the mooring; the time is come for me to set sail for the other side.”

Do you know the reason why the Apostle Paul could look upon death so calmly? Do you know the reason why he could talk about death in such a natural way? It was because of the life he had lived. I am not suggesting to you that he earned salvation by the life he lived. It is an established fact that he was a Christian. So what I am saying is that he could talk about death in the manner in which he did because the Christian life that he lived was such as it was.

Summarization of Paul's Life

That leads me to the second word–“summarization.” Paul summarized his entire life in three figures of speech. Notice verse 7:

II Timothy 4

7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Wrestling With the Enemy

Notice the first statement, “I have fought a good fight.” The word for fought here is not a word that speaks of a soldier who has fought a battle. It describes a wrestler who contended in the games of Rome and wrestled well. The Apostle is saying, “I have done a lot of wrestling in my life, and I have wrestled well. I am not ashamed of the way I have wrestled.” Of course, you are aware how the Apostle felt about wrestling. He was not thinking primarily of wrestling matches with people, but he was thinking of a wrestling match with his enemy and ours. He said in Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 12:

Ephesians 6

12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

He recognizes that no matter how the front of the battle looks, the battle is actually against the Devil; and he wrestles well.

Every one of us is going to have to enter into a wrestling match with Satan at some time or other, and perhaps as you meditate with me on this passage of Scripture, you can already say, “I know what you are talking about. I have wrestled.” Did you wrestle well? Did you give up too soon? Did you yield? When you get to the end of the road and talk about t he time of your departure, are you going to be able to talk about it calmly because you can say, “As I look back over my life, I have fought a good fight. I have wrestled well. I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Running With Patience

Look again at verse 7:

II Timothy 4

7…………. I have finished my course,…….

Here is the picture of a runner in a race, for the word “course” is a translation of a word which describes a race track, a cinder track, as we would say today, which was set out before him. He says, “I have run the race. I have not only run the race, but I have finished my course.” In the light of the previous statement, it is not too much to assume that he finished his course well. It is one thing to finish the course; it is another thing to finish well. Some of us may not finish the course, but if we do, are we going to finish the course well? It would behoove us to remember the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 1 and 2:

Hebrews 12

1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…..

One of the reasons why some folk do not run the race well is because they do not run it with patience. They get tired before they get to the end of it.

Carefully Guarding the Word of God

Glance back at II Timothy, chapter 4, verse 7:

II Timothy 4

7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, then notice[ I have kept the faith:

That word “kept” is the Greek word which speaks of guarding, as a soldier guards a precious treasure that is committed to his care. So you have the third figure of speech–a picture of a Roman soldier guarding a treasure with his very life. You see he has just said to Timothy, “I charge thee, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing, preach the word.” Why did he feel so strongly about it? Because he had kept the faith himself. He had been a good soldier. He had guarded the faith. Oh, this is not a suggestion that he never once failed; this is not a suggestion that he remained at all time faithful; it is a suggestion that that good thing that had been committed to him, which he emphasized in the first part of this Epistle, he had kept and he had guarded well (II Timothy 1:9-14).

One of the reasons that liberalism has taken hold upon our world today is that certain individuals have not guarded the faith. They have not kept it. They have been willing to let anyone do anything he wants to, by way of injecting false teaching. When some of them reach the end of the course, they will not be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have kept the faith.” Have you kept the faith? Are you guarding it? Are you concerned about how liberalism is making its inroads everywhere you turn? The Apostle said, “I have guarded the faith.” How could he do it? He had a hard time. He lived a long time, and certainly he did not live in such pleasant circumstances as we live in today. It was difficult. How did he do it?

Inspiration to Do His Best

That brings me to the third word I want to leave with you–“inspiration.” He had an inspiration–an inspiration that enabled him to fight a good fight, an inspiration that enabled him to guard the faith. What was it? Look at verse 8:

II Timothy 4

8Henceforth…..

This word “henceforth” is an interesting word. It would amount to the same thing if Paul had asked the rhetorical question, “Now what?” That is really what it means. “The time of my departure is at hand. Now what?” He says:

II Timothy 4

8Henceforth 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.

Look at the words “crown of righteousness.” Literally translated, that is “a crown for doing right.” You see, righteousness has already been imputed to you if you have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. This crown is given to you for doing right. I think there is an interesting play upon words in verse 8, because he says, “which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day.” The righteous judge–he had just stood before an unrighteous judge, Nero. He had just stood before an unrighteous judge, who was not playing a fair game, who was not making his pronouncements in honesty at all. Nero was cutting off a life to silence a voice. Paul said, “I have stood before an unrighteous judge. I did not receive what I should have. I did not receive what was fair.”

Before Unrighteous Judges

May I digress long enough, Beloved, to suggest to you that you had better get used to that. As long as you are in this world, you had better get used to standing before unrighteous judges. I do not mean that you will necessarily be called to stand in a courtroom and hear some judge with an official title pronounce sentence; I am saying, you had better get used to being treated unfairly. You had better get used to facing an individual who is not rightly evaluating your time, your effort, your work. You had better get used to having people misjudge your motives. You had better get used to having people give you a rough deal, a raw deal. That is part of the world in which we are living. We stand before unrighteous judges. How wonderful it is to realize that one of these days we are going to stand before the righteous judge–the one who knows the motives of our hearts, the one who knows why we did what we did, the one who knows the difficult circumstances under which we were laboring that made us do some of the things that we did that caused other people to think we were less than we should have been.

Our Lord knows, and one of these days, as we stand before Him, He is going to give us a crown for doing right. Is it important to do right? It is if you want to receive a crown. Is it important to do right? It is if you want to stand at That Day (another phrase for the Judgment Seat of Christ) and have Him evaluate your work in the manner in which it should be evaluated. It is important to do right.

Inspired By Promised Return of Jesus

What has all this to do with inspiration? The only reason in the world that the Apostle Paul could do right was that he had the inspiration. Think back with me about what he said concerning the race. Do you remember? We quoted the words a few minutes ago, “let us run with patience the race that is set before us. looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.” Jesus is the inspiration. Not only He Himself is the inspiration, but if you glance down at the last part of verse 8, you will see that the coming of the Lord–the hope of the Lord's return–was the inspiration of the Apostle Paul.

If you question that, when you have time read II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 9, where he says:

II Corinthians 5

9Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

He is not talking about “being accepted” in the sense of being saved. He had already been made accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6); he is talking about being approved. Then he explains why: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Do you know what an inspiration the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was to the Apostle Paul? It was such an inspiration that some people even thought he was crazy. He explained, “No, I am not mad, as you think. I am not crazy. It is the love of Christ which constraineth me and causes me to do what I do, leaving no stone unturned and no energy unexpended to accomplish the purpose that God has set for me. Someday Jesus is coming. That is my inspiration.”

John had the same inspiration. Do you remember what he said after he talked about the coming of the Lord? He said, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” That is the inspiration.

Promised to Those Who Love His Appearing

Now, look again t verse 8, where we read:

II Timothy 4

8Henceforth 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.

What the Apostle is saying is, “I have loved the appearing of the Lord. Because I have loved the appearing of the Lord, I have fought a good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith.” I love the way he mentions this. You see, he did not say to you, “Now, if you fight a good fight you will receive the Crown of Righteousness.” He did not say, “If you run a good race, you will receive the Crown of Righteousness.” He did not say, “If you keep the faith, you will receive the Crown of Righteousness.” He says, “If you love His appearing, you will.” Every man who loves the appearing of the Lord will receive the crown, because you cannot love His appearing without fighting a good fight. You cannot love His appearing without running a good race. You cannot love His appearing without guarding the faith..

Look at the phrase “love His appearing,” as I remind you that the word “love” is the divine word for love, the deepest, the highest. That is the reason why the Amplified Version, among others, translates the phrase “and not to me only, but unto all them also that love and yearn and long for his appearing.” The translators wanted you to know that it is not a mere matter of giving lip service to the truth of the coming of the Lord. It is not a matter of saying, as I heard a preacher say just the other day, “I believe Jesus is coming, but I do not think people ought to get so excited about it. I hardly even say anything about it,” he said. He gave lip service. He believed it. I said to him, “Friend, I cannot talk that way about it because I love His appearing. I long, I yearn, for the coming of the Lord.” Because I do, I am going to receive the Crown of Righteousness..

Certainty of Receiving This Crown

I can speak with authority on that. I do not know whether I will receive the first crown that I spoke to you about when we began this series–the Crown that is given for Self-Denial. I am not too sure that I keep my body under. I am not too sure that I do everything I ought to do with regard to this body. I am not too sure that I will get that crown. I am not certain as to how bright the Soul-Winner's crown will be which I will receive. I have doubts about it. I do not know for sure. We are going to talk to you about some other crowns, and I am not too sure I will get those. But there is one crown I know I will have, and that is the crown that I will receive because I love His appearing. That is the reason why I say to you, Beloved, that everyone can receive this crown if he wants to.

Learning to Love His Appearing

You may say, “Well, I do not understand how to love His appearing. How do you get to love it?” Well, one of the best ways that I know to get to love His appearing is to fall in love with Him. That is one of the best ways. Do you really love the Lord? Do you really love Him? I can't love someone and not want to see him. I can't feature loving someone and not wanting to be with him. One day, by telephone, I told my two girls who were 1800 miles away in school, “Do you realize how hungry our arms are to encircle you once again?” They wrote me a letter two days after that and said, “Daddy, we never realized the sacrifice you made.” I love my girls. It is hard on me not to be able to see them. Sometimes when they called me there were tears in their voices, and I would say, “What is wrong?” They said, “Nothing we are just talking to you. That is all.” Then there were tears in my eyes. We love one another.

I can't imagine people loving the Lord and not wanting Him to come. It is just beyond my comprehension. So, if you want to know how to love His appearing, fall in love with Him. It won't be long until you will be saying like the Apostle John said, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

I am going to be perfectly honest with you. There is not a thing in the world I am doing, there is not a plan I have, that I would not be willing to junk right now if Jesus Christ would come–not one! I have some plans and I am still making plans, but I would be willing to junk them all if He would come right now. I love His appearing. If I could instill in the hearts of most of you just a little bit of love for the appearing of the Lord, I would feel that I had accomplished something. Do you love His appearing? I hope you do.


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