In many churches, those members who study Bible prophecy are relegated to the ‘lunatic fringe’ politely, and sometimes not so politely, dismissed out-of-hand for wasting their time trying to divine the future.
Not so. Christians that study prophecy are not trying to “divine the future” – they are earning the “Crown of Righteousness” promised to all those that love His appearing, 2 Timothy 4:8.
The Bible says that there are other rewards, or crowns, set aside for those who dedicate themselves to Christ in a number of different theological disciplines.
The Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema Seat) is the place where all of the deeds that individuals have done after they have become Christians are revealed and examined to determine whether they be good works or not.
Not being ‘good’ doesn’t refer to sin, but to deeds that are worthless according to His purpose. Whether or not they were sin is irrelevant – all sin is forgiven at the Cross — but every deed has consequences.
The Bema Seat evaluation, therefore, is based upon whether the works that have been done are worthwhile or whether they are worthless, of eternal spiritual value or temporary worldly value. The Greek word translated as the ‘judgment seat’ of Christ is the Greek word ‘bema’.
During the Greek Olympics of Paul’s day, the judge would sit on the ‘Bema Seat’ situated along the finish line. His judgment was to determine who won the gold, who won the silver, who won the bronze, who came in fourth, fifth, etc.
Note that the only ones judged at the Bema Seat are those who cross the finish line. The Bema Seat is reserved for believers — those who successfully completed the ‘race’ and specifically to determine their running order and to award their prizes.
Unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne.
Scripture teaches that after these works are judged, rewards will be given for the works that are worthy (of eternal value). There will be no rewards if the works were unworthy — but that is not the same thing as being condemned.
“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire” 1 Corinthians 3:15. Emphasis added
The New Testament speaks of Five Crowns:
1. The Crown of “RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Love for His Appearing)
This is the crown of those who “love His appearing” and will be given in “that day”-the Day of His Appearing, 2 Tim. 4:8.
Those who study prophecy, those who dedicate themselves as watchmen on the wall, ready to give the warning of His soon appearing, will receive the Crown of Righteousness from the Righteous Judge at the Bema Seat.
Literally, the Crown of Righteousness means ‘a crown for doing right.’ Paul is saying, “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.”
Note what Paul did NOT say. He did NOT say, “If you keep the faith, you will receive the Crown of Righteousness.” Instead, he says, “If you love His appearing, you will.”
2. The Crown of “REJOICING” (Soul winner)
Paul was happiest when he thought of all the people who had come to the Lord through his teaching, writing, and church planting. And the harvest of his labors has continued unabated throughout the entire Church Age. Since there’s no number stated as a qualifier we don’t have to be intimidated by Paul’s unbeatable results. We just have to make the most of every opportunity the Lord brings across our path. And remember, we’re judged here by our effort, not our results.
Each person bears the responsibility for his or her own choice regarding salvation. So we don’t have to be argumentative or coercive, we just have to make a clear and concise presentation of the gospel and then pray that it’s received. This is the model Paul established for us.
3. The Crown of “GLORY” (Pastor)
This is the “Elder’s” or “Pastor’s” crown, given by the Chief Shepherd when He shall appear. But it is not for those who serve for “filthy lucre” or “lord it over God’s heritage.” 1 Pet. 5:2-4.
Not every pastor or under-shepherd will receive this crown, either. There are those who will fail the test of ‘willing service’ or those who set themselves up as ‘lords over God’s heritage’ instead of being examples to their flocks, or those who fail to feed their charges with God’s Word.
The requirements are clear, and many loyal shepherds of the Lord’s flock will finally get the recognition they so richly deserve. Others, who have lorded it over believers entrusted to their care, or strapped heavy yokes of legalism to their necks, will be forced to stand to the side and watch as the Lord rewards those who have stayed true to His word.
4. The Crown of “LIFE” (Martyr)
This is the “Martyr’s” crown, and is mentioned twice. “Blessed is the man that endures temptation (testing), for when he is ‘tried’ (at the judgment Seat of Christ), he shall receive the ‘Crown of Life’ which the Lord has promised to those that love Him” James 1:12.
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried (tested) and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful ‘unto death,’ and I will give thee a ‘Crown of Life”‘ Rev. 2:10.
The Lord Himself also speaks of the Crown of Life reward. Notice it does not say “until” death, but “unto” death. They were not to recant but to remain faithful unto a martyr’s death. To recant was to lose the crown. This refers to the martyrs of the Tribulation Period.
Also, ‘Faithful unto death’ is not a condition of salvation — salvation comes by grace through faith in the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin at the Cross. Keep in mind that the only ones that will stand before the Bema Seat are ALREADY saved by grace.
5. The Crown “INCORRUPTIBLE” (Victory/Self-Control)
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
If we do not want to be “ashamed at His Coming,” 1 John 2:28, let us see to it that we keep our body “under” and so live that we shall secure a crown. Achieving victory means putting the flesh to death; getting rid of our selfish desires, our bad habits and attitudes, and any behavior that puts the Lord to shame. One of the places where the Bible has much to say about what it takes to win this crown is Ephesians 4-6.
In fact every one of Paul’s letters to the Church exhorts us to compete for this crown, out of gratitude for what we’ve been given. Gaining victory over the flesh is the best thing we can do to show the Lord how thankful we are that He saved us.
As in all competitive events there’s no penalty for losing, only a reward for winning. And failing to win in one event does not mean that we forfeit rewards legitimately won in others. But we have to win fair and square, (2 Tim. 2:5) and more than anything else, our attitude has to be right. Any thought of recognition or personal gain, or even of making points with the Lord will disqualify us. The only acceptable motive is bringing glory to God. (1 Cor. 3:12-15 & 4:1-5)
If we’re in Christ, we’re a new creation in God’s eyes. (2 Cor. 5:17) We’re now royalty in training. Our challenge is to live up to what we’ve already become by acting like who we are in Christ. Those who succeed will receive the Crown of Victory.
Casting our Crowns at the Feet of Jesus
Revelation 4:9-11 “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 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.”
Compiled by Editor from the writings of:
“Dispensational Truth”, Clarence Larkin
Jack Kinsella: Omega letter.com July 1, 2011
Jack Kelley: GracethruFaith.com.