Judgment Seat of Christ
Arlen L. Chitwood
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.
And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:1-4, 10, 11)
The book of Revelation opens in chapter one with brief statements concerning Christ, which center on His return and subsequent reign (vv. 1-8). The book then continues with events surrounding John being removed from Man’s Day on earth and placed in the Lord’s Day in heaven. This is followed by a revelation of that which John saw in heaven — the complete Church in Christ’s presence, represented by all seven churches in chapters two and three. And Christ, seen in the midst of these seven churches, appears as a Judge, not as a Priest.
The complete Church, all Christians — shown by the number “seven” (pointing to the completion of that which is in view [i.e., the Church]) — is seen in Christ’s presence in a judgmental scene. Only one sequence of events could possibly be in view.
It is evident that John, along with being removed from Man’s Day and being placed in the Lord’s Day, was also moved forward in time. He was moved to a time at the end of the present dispensation, for not only is the removal of the Church from the earth seen in John being removed from the earth, but that which will occur immediately following the Church being removed is shown by that which John saw in heaven — the complete Church in Christ’s presence, with Christ appearing as Judge.
Thus, following introductory remarks concerning Christ (which are Messianic in nature), the rapture, followed by the judgment seat, is clearly revealed to be the subject set forth in Revelation chapter one. And this, in turn, introduces the material that follows.
Chapters two and three then continue with that which was introduced in chapter one, providing information concerning each of the seven churches seen in Christ’s presence in chapter one. This information is given in seven short epistles, directed through an angel to each church, with all of the epistles structured exactly the same way.
Each epistle is introduced by a reference to Christ’s description, as Judge, from chapter one (either from something stated in this description or from something directly related to that which is seen in the description). This is followed in each epistle by the statement, “I know your works”; each church is then dealt with on the basis of works, with a view to Christians overcoming or being overcome. And the overcomer’s promises are, in turn, millennial in their scope of fulfillment.
Thus, insofar as the main message of the book is concerned — judgment — chapters two and three simply present a continuation from chapter one. That is, these two chapters (through that which is stated in each of these seven epistles), detail events relating to each of the seven churches at the judgment introduced in chapter one.
Christians have been saved to “bring forth fruit.” They have been created in Christ Jesus “for good works” (John 15:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-10). And the entire matter concerns “overcoming” during the present day with a view to occupying the “throne” with Christ during the coming day. Christians who are to ascend the throne and rule and reign with Christ must be overcomers, for only by realizing that which has been promised to the overcomers in chapters two and three will Christians be properly equipped to occupy this high office.
Then, chapter four of this book begins the same way in which matters surrounding the Church are introduced in chapter one — by a reference once again to the removal of the Church from the earth. And the reference is apparently repeated to show another facet to that which was previously dealt with in the seven epistles to the seven churches in Asia.
Even though John was moved forward in time, to the end of the present dispensation (over 1,900 years removed from his time), and saw the Church in heaven at the end of the dispensation, the Church was actually still back on earth near the beginning of the dispensation. And the seven epistles to seven existing churches in Asia, along with providing details surrounding the actual judgment of Christians at the end of the dispensation (continuing from that which had been introduced in chapter one), also provide a history of the Church during the course of the dispensation.
It is evident that the seven epistles in these two chapters have been structured in a dispensational framework of this nature, beginning with the church in Ephesus (which left its “first love” [2:4]) and ending with the church in Laodicea (described as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” [3:17]). At the beginning of the dispensation, Christendom could be seen in the state described in the message to the church in Ephesus; but, at the end of the dispensation, Christendom will be seen in the state described in the message to the church in Laodicea.
And the repetition of John being removed from Man’s Day and placed in the Lord’s Day provides additional information pertaining to that which will occur in heaven following the removal of the Church but preceding the Tribulation on earth (seen in chapters 6-19a).
The account of John’s removal from the earth in chapter one shows that which will occur in heaven immediately following the Church’s removal at the end of the dispensation — judgment. And the same account repeated in chapter four shows that which will occur in heaven immediately following the judgment of Christians (seen in chapters 2, 3) — twenty-four elders arising from their thrones and relinquishing their crowns to the One who had originally placed them in the positions that they occupied, seated on thrones, and crowned.
Crowns Cast before the Throne
Though the same beginning point is seen in both chapters one and four (John’s removal from the earth, his removal from Man’s Day, his being placed in the Lord’s Day, and his being moved forward in time), revelation in chapter four immediately moves forward to a time following events of the judgment seat (chapters 2, 3) but still preceding the beginning of the Tribulation on earth (chapter 6).
The first thing that John saw in heaven in chapter four, following a repetition of the same beginning point previously seen in chapter one, was a rainbow-encircled throne, surrounded by twenty-four other thrones. God was seated on the central throne, and twenty-four elders were seated on the surrounding thrones. The twenty-four elders were clothed in “white robes,” and they “had crowns of gold on their heads” (vv. 2-4).
Then, following a description of the throne of God and “living creatures” who resided “around the throne” (vv. 5-9), attention was directed back to the twenty-four elders. They removed themselves from their thrones, fell down before the throne of God, worshiped God, cast their crowns before His throne, and expressed adoration to the One worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (vv. 10, 11).
Events surrounding the twenty-four elders removing themselves from their thrones and casting their crowns before God’s throne have been recorded at this particular place in the book for definite and specific purposes. These events, contrary to that which is often taught, do not at all depict the actions of Christians following issues of the judgment seat. Christians are not to sit on thrones surrounding God’s throne. Rather, they are to sit, at a later time, with Christ on His throne after the fashion revealed in Revelation 3:21.
Nor will Christians possess crowns at the time of the events seen in chapter four. Christians coming into the possession of crowns will result from issues and determinations made at the judgment seat, but Christians will not actually receive crowns until after Christ returns to the earth and overthrows Gentile world power (which rules under Satan and his angels [Daniel 10:13-20]).
When Christ returns to the earth at the conclusion of the Tribulation, He will have many crowns upon His head (Revelation 19:12); but these crowns, by comparing this section in Revelation with other Scriptures on the subject, are not crowns that Christ will wear during the Messianic Era. Christ is destined to wear the crown that Satan presently wears; and at the time Christ returns to the earth, Satan will still be in possession of his crown. Satan’s crown will have to be taken from him (by force) and given to Christ before Christ can actually sit upon the throne and occupy, in its fullest sense, the position depicted in Revelation 19:16: “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
1) Saul and David — Satan and Christ
Certain things concerning crowns, especially relative to the crown that Christ is to wear, can possibly best be illustrated by referring to the typology of Saul and David in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel.
Saul had been anointed king over Israel, but Saul rebelled against the Lord and was rejected (as king) by the Lord (1 Samuel 10:1ff; 15:1-23). David was then anointed king in Saul’s stead (1 Samuel 16:1-13). However, Saul did not immediately relinquish the throne; nor did David make an attempt to immediately ascend the throne. Saul, even though rejected and his anointed successor on hand, was allowed to continue his reign.
Affairs continued after this fashion in the camp of Israel until David eventually found himself in exile, living out in the hills (e.g., in the cave of Adullam). During this time, certain individuals who were dissatisfied with existing conditions in the camp of Israel under Saul gathered themselves to David (1 Samuel 22:1, 2). They separated themselves from affairs in the kingdom under Saul and lived out in the hills with David. He became “a captain over them”; and they were faithful to him, anticipating the day when Saul would be put down and David would take the kingdom.
The day eventually came when this occurred. Saul, following a battle and an attempted suicide, was slain by an Amalekite. His crown was taken and delivered to David (1 Samuel 31:1-13; 2 Samuel 1:1-10). Then, David and his faithful men moved in and took over the government (2 Samuel 2:1ff).
The entire sequence of events depicting Saul and David typifies great spiritual truths concerning Satan and Christ.
Just as Saul was anointed king over Israel, Satan was anointed king over the earth.
Just as Saul rebelled against the Lord and was rejected, Satan rebelled against the Lord and was rejected.
Just as David was anointed king while Saul continued to reign, Christ was anointed King while Satan continued to reign.
Just as David did not immediately ascend the throne, Christ did not immediately ascend the throne.
Just as David eventually found himself in a place removed from the kingdom (out in the hills), Christ eventually found Himself in a place removed from the kingdom (heaven).
Just as David gathered certain faithful men to himself during this time (anticipating his future reign), Christ is presently gathering certain faithful men to Himself (anticipating His future reign).
Just as the day came when Saul was put down, the day will come when Satan will be put down.
Just as Saul’s crown was taken and given to David, Satan’s crown will be taken and given to Christ.
And just as David and his faithful followers then moved in and took over the government, Christ and His faithful followers will then move in and take over the government.
2) Purpose for the Present Dispensation
A principle of divine government set forth in the type of Saul and David shows the necessity of an incumbent ruler, although rejected, continuing to reign until replaced by his successor. The government of the earth is a rule under God through delegated powers and authorities. In this respect, Satan rules directly under God (though a rebel ruler), and a great host of subordinate angels rule with him.
Even though Satan and his followers have been rejected, they must continue in power (as Saul and those ruling with him) until replaced by Christ and His followers (as when David and his faithful followers took the kingdom). God will not, at any time, allow conditions to exist upon the earth in which there is no divinely administered government by and through delegated powers and authorities. Even though the government of the earth is in disarray today, because of Satan’s rebellion, it is still under God’s sovereign power and control (Daniel 4:17-34).
The present dispensation is the time during which the antitype of David’s faithful followers being gathered to him occurs. As during David’s time, so during the present time — there must be a period, preceding the King coming into power, during which the rulers are called out.
David’s men were the ones who occupied positions of power and authority with him after he took Saul’s crown. Thus will it be when Christ takes Satan’s crown. Those who are being called out during the present time are the ones who will occupy positions of power and authority with Him during that coming day.
Satan will be allowed to continue his reign until God’s purpose for this present dispensation has been accomplished. Then, he and those ruling with him will be put down, and an entirely new order of rulers will take the kingdom. Christ will enter into the position previously occupied by Satan, and Christians will enter into positions previously occupied by angels ruling under Satan.
Since Christ (replacing Satan) will wear the crown presently worn by Satan, it only naturally follows that Christians (replacing subordinate powers and authorities) will wear crowns presently worn by angels ruling under Satan. All of these are crowns that neither Christ nor Christians can come into possession of until Satan and his angels have been put down at the end of the Tribulation.
3) Angelic Rule About to End
The originally established angelic rule over the earth has continued uninterrupted since the beginning, preceding man’s existence on the earth. However, with the creation of Adam, God announced that a change was in the offing. Man, an entirely new creation, made after the image and likeness of God, was brought into existence to take the governmental reins of the earth (Genesis 1:26-28).
But the first man (the first Adam), through sin, was disqualified, necessitating the appearance of the second Man (the last Adam) to effect redemption and the ultimate realization for man’s creation. The price has been paid, but redemption includes far more than that which presently exists. Redemption includes the complete man (body, soul, and spirit), it includes the earth (presently under a curse), and the goal of redemption will be realized only when man has been brought into the position for which he was created (ruling over a restored earth).
Scripture clearly attests to the fact that the “world [‘inhabited world’] to come” will not be placed “in subjection” to angels (Hebrews 2:5). Man is the one to whom power and authority will be delegated; and the action of the twenty-four elders removing themselves from their thrones and casting their crowns before God’s throne in Revelation 4:10 can only be with a view to the fact that the government of the earth, at this point, is about to change hands.
These twenty-four elders can only be heavenly beings (angels) who, up to the time of their action in Revelation 4:10, held positions within a sphere of governmental power and authority relative to the earth.
(Some Bible students, on the basis of the pronouns used in Revelation 5:9, 10 — “us” and “we” [KJV] — have understood the twenty-four elders to represent redeemed men, not angels.
However, the majority of the better Greek manuscripts render the pronouns in v. 10 as “them” and “they” [ref. ASV, NASB, NIV, Wuest, Weymouth], giving rise to the thought that the pronoun “us” in v. 9 is probably a scribal insertion, being spurious [ref. Alford, Lenski].
But the matter is really not left to manuscript evidence alone. That the pronouns “them” and “they” are correct is evident from the context. Note that the song in vv. 9, 10 is apparently sung not only by the “twenty-four elders” but also by the “living creatures” as well. Then, other angels join them in vv. 11ff, with all of the angels together voicing additional, related statements.
Aside from the preceding, it would make absolutely no sense whatsoever to understand these twenty-four elders as referring to a segment of redeemed mankind. Man couldn’t possibly be crowned at the time of events in Revelation 4, 5, else he would be crowned before Christ is crowned [note that Christ is to wear the crown that Satan presently wears, which Satan will still be wearing at this time]. Also, man is to wear the crown he receives, not relinquish it before God’s throne as seen being done by the twenty-four elders.
Also, the Greek word translated “elders” in Revelation chapter four is presbuteroi, the same word used for “elders” in the Church in the New Testament epistles. The word refers to older ones [relative to that being dealt with]. In the Church, the reference is to older ones in the faith; in Revelation chapter four, the reference is to older ones in the governmental structure of the earth [evident since they are crowned, seated on thrones, with the government of the earth being the only government which could possibly be in view].
The preceding alone would prevent the twenty-four elders from being viewed as men, necessitating that they be viewed as angels. Man, at this point in the book, has yet to even come into such a position; angels, on the other hand, have held positions of this nature since time immemorial.)
And at this point in the book, through the action of the twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne, the way will be opened for God to transfer the government of the earth from the hands of angels to the hands of man.
(These crowns are cast before God’s throne [cf. 4:1-4; 5:1-7] because the Father alone is the One who places and/or removes rulers in His kingdom [Daniel 4:17-37; 5:18-21]. He alone is the One who placed those represented by the twenty-four elders in the positions which they occupied; and He alone is the One who will place individuals in particular positions in the kingdom of Christ [Matthew 20:20-23].
These crowns cast before God’s throne, as previously seen, can only have to do with the government of the earth. And, at this point in the book, they can be worn by angels alone, for the Son will not yet have taken the kingdom [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15].
These crowns are relinquished to God [with a view to man, rather than angels, ruling in the kingdom] so that God can appoint those who had previously been shown qualified at events surrounding the judgment seat [chapters 1-3] to positions of power and authority; and those whom God appoints will wear these crowns in Christ’s kingdom.)
The transfer of the government of the earth, from the hands of angels to the hands of man, in reality, is what the first nineteen chapters of the book of Revelation are about; and, as well, this is what the whole of Scripture preceding these nineteen chapters is also about. In this respect, these twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne forms a key event that one must grasp if he would properly understand the book of Revelation and Scripture as a whole.
Christ and His bride, in that coming day, will rule the earth in the stead of Satan and his angels. And, in the process of ruling in this manner, they will wear all the crowns worn by Satan and his angels prior to his fall.
Thus, that which is depicted through the action of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:10, 11 is, contextually, self-explanatory. This has to do with the government of the earth, it occurs at a time following events surrounding the judgment seat but preceding Christ breaking the seals of the seven-sealed scroll, and it occurs at a time when Satan’s reign is about to be brought to a close.
After events in Revelation chapters one through three have come to pass, for the first time in man’s history, the person (the bride) who is to rule with the One (Christ) to replace Satan will have been made known and shown forth. And events in the fourth chapter reflect that fact.
Only one thing could possibly be in view at this point in the book, for the bride will not only have been made known but will be ready for events surrounding the transfer of power to begin. The twenty-four elders casting their crowns before God’s throne can only depict the angels who did not go along with Satan in his rebellion; and they willingly relinquish their crowns, with a view to those comprising the bride wearing these crowns during the Messianic Era.
But the crowns worn by Satan and those angels presently ruling with him are another matter. These crowns will have to be taken from Satan and his angels, by force when Christ returns to overthrow Gentile world power at the end of the Tribulation (a power exercised during Man’s Day under Satan and his angels [Daniel 10:13-20]).
The identity of the twenty-four elders is shown not only by their actions and the place in which this occurs in the book but also by their number. Comparing Revelation chapters four and twelve (4:4, 10, 11; 12:3, 4), it appears evident that the government of the earth — originally established by God prior to Satan’s fall — was representatively shown by three sets of twelve, thirty-six crowned rulers. “Three” is the number of divine perfection, and “twelve” is the number of governmental perfection.
Those angels who did not follow Satan in his attempt to exalt his throne would be represented by the twenty-four elders — two sets of twelve, showing two-thirds of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan. And the angels who did go along with Satan, presently ruling with him, would be represented by a third set of twelve, showing the other one-third of the original contingent of angels ruling with Satan (Revelation 12:3, 4).
In this respect, these three representative sets of twelve would show divine perfection in the earth’s government. And, also in this respect, this same perfection in the structure of the earth’s government has not existed since Satan’s attempt to acquire a position of power and authority above that which had originally been delegated to him.
But, this structured perfection will one day again exist in the earth’s government. When Christ and His bride ascend the throne together, crowns worn by those represented by all three sets of twelve will be brought together again. Then, divine perfection will once again exist in the government of the one province in God’s universe where imperfection has existed for millennia.
Two Types of Crowns
There are two words in the Greek text of the New Testament that are translated “crown” in English versions. The first and most widely used word is stephanos (or the verb form, stephanoo), referring to a “victor’s crown” or a crown denoting certain types of “worth” or “valor.” The other word is diadema, referring to “regal authority,” “kingly power.”
Stephanos (or the verb form, stephanoo) is the only word used for “crown” in the New Testament outside the book of Revelation. This, for example, is the word used referring to the “crown of thorns” placed upon Christ’s head immediately preceding His crucifixion (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5). This is also the word used throughout the Pauline epistles, referring to “crowns” awaiting faithful Christians (1 Corinthians 9:25; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 2:5; 4:8). James, Peter, and John also used stephanos in this same sense (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; 3:11). The writer of Hebrews used this word (the verb form, stephanoo) referring to positions that will ultimately be occupied by Christ and His co-heirs in “the world [inhabited world] to come” (2:7, 9). Then John used the word six additional times in the book of Revelation in several different senses (4:4, 10; 6:2; 9:7; 12:1; 14:14).
Diadema, the other word used for “crown” in the New Testament, appears only three times; and all three occurrences are in the latter part of the book of Revelation (12:3; 13:1; 19:12). The first two references (12:3; 13:1) have to do with power and authority possessed by incumbent earthly rulers immediately preceding and within the kingdom of Antichrist, and the latter reference (19:12) has to do with power and authority that Christ will possess at the time He returns and takes the kingdom.
The way in which these two words are used in the New Testament relative to the government of the earth must be borne in mind if one is to properly understand the Scriptural distinction between the use of stephanos and diadema. Diadema (referring to the monarch’s crown) is used only where one has actually entered into and is presently exercising regal power. Stephanos is never used in this respect; it appears in all other occurrences, covering any instance where the word “crown” is used apart from the present possession of regal power. The possession of such power at a future date (or a past date) can be in view through the use of stephanos. Then, diadema is used when one actually comes into possession of this power.
In this respect, overcoming Christians have been promised a stephanos (victor’s crown), never a diadema (monarch’s crown); but the promised stephanos will become a diadema at the time overcoming Christians assume positions on the throne with Christ. There can be no such thing as either Christ or His co-heirs wearing a stephanos in that day. They can only wear the type crown referred to by the word diadema.
To illustrate the matter, note how stephanos and diadema are used relative to the Antichrist and his kingdom. Stephanos is used of the type crown worn by the Antichrist when he is first introduced in the book of Revelation (6:2), but later diadema is used relative to his exercise of delegated power and authority (12:3; 13:1, 2).
The Antichrist is seen wearing a “crown,” as he goes forth “conquering, and to conquer” in Revelation chapter six. He is crowned and moves after the described fashion in view of ultimately attaining regal power over the earth; but, at this time, as shown by both the context and the word stephanos, he has not attained such power.
Then, in chapter twelve he is once again seen wearing a “crown” (all seven heads are crowned at this point in the book. The Antichrist will be the seventh head [seventh ruler] in a succession of rulers), and in chapter thirteen those ruling with him (the ten horns) are also crowned. As shown by both the context and the word diadema, the matter is entirely different at this point in the book. The Antichrist is seen to have attained regal power over the earth, and he will have subordinate rulers exercising power with him. Thus, diadema, not stephanos, is used in these passages.
The use of stephanos relative to crowns in connection with Israel in Revelation 12:1 illustrates the same truth. Israel today is not occupying the position for which the nation was called into existence — “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Israel is to one day rule upon the earth at the head of the nations, and the nations are to be blessed through Israel; but Israel will not occupy this position until after the time of Revelation 12:1. Thus, stephanos is the only word that could be used relative to crowns in connection with Israel at this point in time. The use of diadema in connection with Israel in this respect awaits events of the coming age, not seen in the book of Revelation until chapter twenty.
Then note the type of crowns on Christ’s head — past and future — in Matthew 27:29; Revelation 14:14; 19:12. Matthew 27:29 refers to that past time when Christ was arrayed as a mock King. The word used for “crown” in this verse is stephanos. Diadema could not be used in this instance, for this word would show Christ actually exercising regal power and authority, wearing “a crown of thorns.” And this, of course, was something that He did not do at this time, particularly wearing “a crown of thorns.” Rather, the opposite was shown by the “crown [stephanos] of thorns” — shame and humiliation, relative to the government of the earth.
Then, in Revelation 14:14, Christ is seen once again wearing a stephanos (though not “a crown of thorns” this time). And, again, there is no display of regal power, though that future time when he would wear a diadema is anticipated by both the time (near the end of the Tribulation) and His actions (anticipating His treading the winepress at the time of His return (cf. Isaiah 63:1-6; Joel 3:9-16; Zechariah 14:1-9; Revelation 19:11-21). This is the last time in Scripture that the word stephanos is used relative to a crown resting upon Christ’s head.
But, when that time arrives — anticipated by Christ seen with a stephanos on his head and a sharp sickle in His hand in Revelation 14:14 — Christ will come forth wearing “many crowns [‘diadems’]” (Revelation 19:12). He can come forth in this manner at this time, for the Father will not only have delivered the kingdom into His hands but He will now have a consort queen and be ready to ascend the throne, wearing these “many diadems” (cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 19:7-9). And because of this, when He comes forth, the announcement can be sounded for all to hear: “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
He, at this future time, will have entered into His long-awaited regal position; and the first order of business following His dealings with Israel will be the putting down of the Beast, the kings of the earth, and Satan and his angels (Revelation 19:17-20:3). They cannot be allowed to reign beyond the point Christ assumes regal power. Their crowns (diadems) must, at this time, be taken and given to others — those to whom they will then rightfully belong.
An understanding of the distinction between stephanos and diadema will also reveal certain things about the twenty-four elders that could not otherwise be known. They each cast a stephanos before the throne, not a diadema. This shows that they were not then occupying regal positions, though crowned and seated on thrones.
At one time they would have occupied such positions (wearing diadems); but with the disarray in the governmental structure of the earth, resulting from Satan’s rebellion, they ceased exercising regal power (for, not participating in his rebellion, they no longer retained active positions in his rule). Their crowns could then be referred to only through the use of the word stephanos; and these crowns would, of necessity, have to be retained until the time of Revelation 4:10.
God’s system of government (an incumbent remaining in office until replaced by his successor) would necessitate the twenty-four elders retaining their crowns until their successors were on the scene and ready to ascend the throne. And at this point in the book, for the first time in man’s history, the one who is to rule with the second Man, the last Adam — Christ’s bride — will have been made known and shown forth. This will have occurred at events surrounding the judgment seat (chapters 1-3); and these elders can now cast their crowns before God’s throne (chapter 4), for their successors will be on the scene and ready to ascend the throne with Christ.
(For additional information on the action of the twenty-four elders in Revelation chapter four, refer to the author’s book, The Time of the End, Chapter 7, “Crowns Cast Before God’s Throne.”)
Five Different Crowns
There are five different crowns mentioned in the New Testament that are possible for Christians to win. Crowns worn by Christians during the coming day, it seems, will depict more than just the overcoming and reigning status of individuals. These crowns will apparently reveal certain things concerning the Christians’ victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil that qualified them to be recipients of crowns.
First, there is “the crown of life” (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). This is a crown given for enduring the trials and testing of life, even to the point of dying, if necessary. The man “that endures [patiently endures]” the present trials and testing of life will be awarded the crown of life after he has been “tried [approved].” This approval will occur through a testing of one’s works at the judgment seat, and the crown will be awarded at a point following this testing.
Second, there is “the crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:2-4). This is a crown that will be given to those individuals faithfully exercising their calling as undershepherds of the flock. God has called certain individuals (e.g., pastor-teachers) during the present day to tend, lead, and nourish the flock, “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28); and those who have been placed in this position can earn the crown of glory through faithfulness to their calling.
Third, there is “the crown of rejoicing [boasting]” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20). This is a crown that appears to be peculiarly related to soul-winning in its true sense, i.e., winning the saved to a life of faithfulness in view of the coming kingdom, rewards, etc. (cf. Philippians 3:20-4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:11ff). “The crown of rejoicing [boasting]” is closely associated with “the crown of glory” in the sense that the primary thought behind both is soul-winning.
The primary duty of a pastor-teacher, for example, lies in this realm; and he can win “the crown of glory” through faithfulness therein. This crown though is not just for pastor-teachers. Rather, it is for any Christian who ministers in this realm (cf. James 5:19, 20), making the task of the pastor-teacher that much easier.
Fourth, There is “the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). This is a crown that will be given to those who “love his appearing.” The text in 2 Timothy has to do with Christians being victorious in the present race of the faith (cf. 1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 3), looking ahead to the promised “glorious appearing [appearing of the glory] of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Fifth, there is “the imperishable (KJV: ‘incorruptible’) crown” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). This is a crown that will be given to those who run the present race of the faith in the correct fashion. It is described in the text as a race in which one strives for the mastery over the fleshly desires and appetites of the body. The word in the Greek text translated “competes (KJV: ‘striveth’)” is agonizomai, from which the English word “agonize” is derived. The thought is that every muscle of one’s being is to be strained, if necessary, to obtain the mastery over all fleshly desires and appetites. A Christian so running the race in which he is presently engaged has been promised this crown.
Actions depicting the transference of regal power and authority first come into view in the book of Revelation following God’s righteous dealings with the Church and preceding God’s righteous dealings with Israel and the nations. The shift away from God’s dealings with the Church to His dealings with Israel and the nations is a shift away from the sphere where power and authority will lie into that sphere where power and authority presently lie (i.e., with the Gentile nations ruling under Satan during both the times of the Gentiles and Man’s Day).
Thus, once the overcomers have been revealed through issues of the judgment seat, there is then an act by the twenty-four elders showing a transference of power that is about to occur. This is then followed by God focusing His attention upon the earth-dwellers, with the same end in view. Satan and his angels will be put down, the Times of the Gentiles will end, Man’s Day will end, and those to whom the kingdom rightfully belongs will receive diadems of varying types and be elevated into their proper positions, seated on the throne with Christ.