THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

by D. M. Panton



Chapter Seven

CROWNS

The judicial character of the Judgment Seat has thus become thoroughly obvious: we next pass to the objective consequences of the investigation; and it at once transpires that crowns are conditional on approved service. A crown is a chaplet wreathed about a brow to signalize that brow from others, a symbol of rank, a seal of inherited or achieved distinction, valued quite apart from its own intrinsic worth. Sometimes it is of great value. The crown of the Sultan of Jahore is worth two million sterling; the British crown, originally valued at a quarter of a million, is now enormously richer by the addition of the Cullinan diamond, far the largest diamond in the world. He Who builds the very foundations of their palace with precious stones is not likely to give His kings worthless insignia. On the other hand, a crown may be of little or no value in itself, like the Iron Crown of Lombardy, or the oaken crown of Scotland. The Isthmian crown, for which the finest manhood of Greece struggled - a handful of bay-leaves or of olive - was of no value at all; it was not the leaves they ran for, but the glory which the leaves conferred. So a crown of small intrinsic value - and this is a vital point for elucidating the Scriptures - may be of all crowns the most priceless because of its associations. No prophetic student can forget the thrill with which he gazed on the crown of Charlemagne in the Louvre in Paris; the oldest and most regal crown in the world, yet exceedingly plain and dimmed with age; a crown which, doubtless, will one day rest on the brow of Antichrist. A crown is of value for what it implies rather than for what it is. "Know ye not that they which run in a race all run, but one receiveth the prize?" Of what prize is Paul speaking?

“Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." And to whom is Paul speaking? "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2). That is, the Church is invoked to race for the crown. The sanctified by blood are exhorted to achieve rank in glory. Second Advent crowns are granted, not on the ground of birth, but on the ground of achievement: the word the Spirit uses for "crown" means a chaplet granted for personal victory. Paul makes it peculiarly clear by fastening it all upon himself. Paul was a converted soul. He had worshipped the risen Lord. He possessed the indwelling Spirit consequent on the new birth. He held in his grasp God’s irrevocable gift of everlasting life. Nevertheless the apostle expresses himself as uncertain of the crown. "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected [for the crown]." The crown worn by King George at his father’s coronation in 1902 bears a tuft of feathers of the feriwah, the rarest species of the bird of paradise. The bird has to be caught and plucked alive, for the feathers lose their luster immediately after death; as it frequents the haunts of tigers its capture involves great danger; and the Prince of Wales’s crown took twenty years to collect, is worth £10,000, and cost the lives of a dozen hunters. What a wonderful parable of the martyrs’ crowns! "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee THE CROWN of life " (Rev. 2:10).

Paul therefore reveals the conditions of the coronation to which he summons the whole Church.

  1. Self-mastery is an essential for crown-winning. "Every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all things...I therefore...buffet my body, and bring it into bondage." The foe the believer fights is inside. As God saves only the wounded soul, so He crowns only the bruised body. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness" (Col. 3:5). The athlete, in training, not only cuts off poisons; he abstains from things doubtful. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race” (Heb. 12:1).
  2. The glory of the crown is to be the conscious incentive of the soul. The ten months’ agonizing of Corinthian athletes won a chaplet of parsley, or a crown of wild olive: the glory was as fading as the crown. "Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." Ours is the crown "that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 5:4), which all eternity cannot dim, nor any hand pluck from our brows. It is ensured to him who contends lawfully. "I therefore run, as not uncertainly: so fight I, as not beating the air." If this stated Paul’s certainty of the crown, it would only mean that he already knew by revelation (as he did later, 2 Tim. 4:8) that he was a prize-winner, as distinct from the "many" (ver. 24) who fail: but this is not the meaning; for immediately after (ver. 27) he asserts his own insecurity: what he indicates is that for all who fulfill the conditions no accident or umpire’s partiality or any conceivable miscarriage can rob them of the prize. An athlete, no matter how perfect his training, might be outstripped in the Isthmian games; but crowns sufficient exist for all who pass the standard of God.
  3. Disobedience forfeits the crown. "Hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown" (Rev. 3:11). This incentive held Paul’s soul as in a grip of iron: "lest by any means, after I have acted the herald [for the lists], I myself should be disapproved [for the prize]."

Thus it is certain that all crowns are conditional on works done after faith, and all are attainable by achievement. Our Lord Himself comes back crowned with many crowns: therefore that cannot be a senseless adornment, or an improper distinction, which clothes the Son of God, and which God regards as the final seal set upon His suffering, His character, and His royalty. Exactly as we approach our Lord in grace, so shall we approach Him, and so should we aim to approach Him, in glory. For "upon His head are MANY DIADEMS," or crowns (Rev. 19:12); a tiara, of which the Papal tiara is a counterfeit; a composite crown, tier above tier, consolidated of many crowns. Four crowns are used at the British Coronation of a king and queen - the crowns of St. Edward and St. Edgitha, and the two crowns of State; the two latter, as the personal property of the sovereign, may be re-made for each coronation.

  1. The crown of incorruption : - "In a race all run, but one receiveth the prize. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible" (1 Cor. 9:24,25). Can that racer be crowned who failed in the running? "Even so run, that ye may attain."
  2. The crown of rejoicing : - " What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at His coming?" (1 Thes. 2:19). Can he be crowned for turning many to righteousness (Dan. 12:3) who never turned one?
  3. The crown of glory : - "The elders therefore among you I exhort...Tend the flock of God, and when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory" (1 Pet. 5:1-4). Can a disciple be rewarded for shepherding the flock of God who never did it?
  4. The crown of righteousness: - "I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, ...and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7,8). Can the crown for watchfulness be given to him who never watched?
  5. The crown of life : - “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life" (Jas. 1:12). Can he be crowned for resisting temptation who succumbed to it?

That a crown may be lost to a believer is as certain as any truth in Holy Scripture. "Hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown" (Rev. 3:11). For crowns are rewards, not given unless the conditions are fulfilled. "If also a man contend in the games, he is NOT CROWNED, except he have contended lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5). As God has made holiness the passport to the crown, so the crown is only the manifestation of the holiness. A crown is given, not at the beginning of a race, but at the end; it is a circlet of glory granted only to the successful runner; and a successful runner is an athlete who has carefully observed the regulations of the race. "If I can be thus crowned, can I be otherwise than a fool if I am not prepared to sacrifice all to win it?" (Preb. Webb-Peploe). When Romania became a kingdom in 1881, King Charles, as there was no crown, said, - " Send to the arsenal, and melt an iron crown out of the captured cannon, in token that it was won upon the field of battle, and bought and paid for with our lives."



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And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)