When I Get To Heaven, Have I Earned Any Crowns? A Brief Study Of Rewards In Heaven
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one gets to the Father but through Me." The Bible also says that heaven is "by grace through faith [in Christ] not of works lest anyone boast." All Christians know that nothing we can do can earn our eternity with Jesus because nothing but Jesus' blood can wipe our sins clean. So what does the Bible mean when it says that we earn crowns in heaven?
Let me say right off that there are crowns for five different types of obedience. The very first crown is given to anyone that responds to the call of Jesus to open their hearts and let Him in. They are given promptings by the Spirit, convictions that they are sinners and the only chance they have to have their sins paid for is to turn to Jesus. I suppose this is an act of obedience, even though it seems like self-preservation and common sense to me. These people are ready for death should it come before Jesus' return in the clouds. The Bible calls this the "Crown of Righteousness." Every saved person gets this crown. It is not earned by works or any act of the sinner in any sense of the word, but strictly based on faith and God's grace. Yet in the context of the verse, it is in response to Jesus' call so is also considered an "earned" crown.
"Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give [given to all on the merits of Jesus, not earned] to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8)
God, being the kind of loving God He is, grants far more reward (in my opinion) than any sinner deserves. But He has made it clear we enter heaven on the merits of Jesus and not our own so He is able to take note of the small things we do here and grant us rewards based on obedience in this life. We are in charge of our minds and we have choices to make every day. Even if we choose this day to serve God, we will still have temptations of the flesh and trials of the spirit to face and refuse. We will choose to follow Jesus on some days and on others we will fall far short of what we should do. Based on how God grades our life and the value He puts on our service to Him, we can earn up to four more crowns. Because these crowns are awarded from God we will feel gratefulness that the God of the universe has been pleased with us. We will see this as the total real value of our life of obedience to God.
Please understand that we all will understand on one level or another that being in heaven at all is a great mystery. We will know that all this is undeserved and intrinsically know more details of our lives than we know now with our flawed fleshly sin-laden eyes of self-analysis. We will know that even though God told us to obey His voice and work for Him, He is the one that will actually accomplishes the feats. He lays the path, arranges the situations, gives the increase. He actually did all the work, we just obeyed and went along for the ride. In the face of this reality all around the throne will reflect that the crowns do not really belong to them at all but to the one who actually earned them, Jesus. So they begin to throw the crowns of the value of their lives at the feet of the one true God.
Imagine getting to heaven and seeing that the reward for our life was the one crown that all receive for simply believing in Christ and making through the portals of heaven. Imagine not having one other for obedience of any kind. You had no actions that would make God say, "In this you have done well." This person will realize that they turned to Christ but then never did one thing to share their faith or grow in the Lord. They skittered through life on a pseudo-busy schedule and the fact that they were a saved soul on earth was barely seen. When they get to heaven the value of their own lives will have a stench in their own nostrils. The following poem is about such a person. He sees the life he led had nothing of note, worthy of reward. He sees at that moment with sad realization, that in a very real way, He failed his Father, his King, his God, his Savior.
Only by the Lord's faithfulness, in wiping tears away,
I'd be crying (that I'm sure), to this very day,
I had a life, that was fully blessed
My parents both were Christians, and were the very best,
My grandparents too, knew Jesus as their Lord
They traveled and spoke to me, when they could afford,
So it was no surprise, to my parents one day
When I ran to their room, to ask them the way
To get to heaven, and they told me to truth
So I was saved early, in the midst of my youth,
But like Lot I was affected, by all those around
Of my heart being different, I made not a sound.
I remember once, when I was just a kid
A little boy, a friend of mine, ran away and hid,
I got to him first and, as I sat at his side
He told he his Grandma, had "just up and died."
He said he was scared, that it may happen to him
And he was scared of the box, they would put him in,
And I remember that God, wanted me to tell him the way
To get to heaven like I was told, when I knelt down to pray,
But instead I just let, the little boy cry
I was scared to tell, I guess that's the reason why,
And many years later, in a crash he was killed
With no way to Jesus, never knowing his will,
It seemed my life, was always that way
There was not one person I told, how to kneel down and pray,
There were people I knew, great friends of mine
I wanted to tell them, it was never the "right time,"
I was always quick, with other things though
Like stuff in the news, and how much it would snow,
I kept feeling the Lord, poking me to speak
And each time I was silent, my conscience He'd tweak,
I did marry, and we had two beautiful kids
One was an artist, the other a math whiz,
Because my wife was lost, and I used not my speech
My kids grew up hard, impossible to reach,
I was part of the bowling team, chess club, and Elk,
But I never shared Jesus, with those He could help,
I just stood and smiled, sitting on a treasure
Giving up rewards, and blessings without measure,
The Lord was good to me, giving me many years of life
I outlived most of my friends, I outlived my wife,
And 'round my deathbed, friends and family stood
My daughter crying, my son's face made of wood,
I saw on their faces, that they really loved me
But they had no hope, in what came after you see,
This was my fault, I realized, but it was too late
It all just hit me, my regret was so great,
I told them I loved them, and said my goodbyes
And the next thing I saw, was my Lord Jesus' eyes,
But the feeling of regret, stuck with me still
How I'd never done any, of God's holy will,
He looked at me with eyes, accepting and clear
He loved me in spite, of every trickling tear,
Reunited with my parents, truth cut like a knife
I saw all the saved friends, that I knew in my life,
It seemed they knew, the regret in my heart
They spoke not a word, nor criticize start,
They just wrapped me up, in all their love
And it seemed to fit me, like a hand in a glove,
It seemed only days, moments from that time
When the trumpet blast blew, and all met in the sky,
Looking through the millions, of faces that were there
I didn't see my children, 'round anywhere,
It really didn't surprise me, though I'd hoped they'd found
The way home to Jesus, 'fore the trumpet would sound,
And though it was joyous, to see friends of mine
Not having all of my family, was what stuck in my mind,
I always thought myself, willing to die for my kids
While all the time, from them the gospel I hid,
During the Marriage Feast, great tears I did cry
Wishing all the while, 'twas me that had died,
When the feast was over, we were assembled as one
And presented with crowns, by God's own dear Son,
And the crowns represented, what we'd done in our life
I remembered my kids, I remembered my wife,
He presented the crowns, for ministries worked
To those that God knew, His will didn't shirk,
When it was my time, for God to present
He gave me one crown, for what my life meant,
This one was not reward, for work that I'd had done
But was totally based, on the life of His Son,
While others could throw, many crowns at His feet
I remembered my life, as one of defeat,
I gratefully added to the pile, my one crown
But my spirit wasn't bouyed, my face still a frown,
I wept to myself, and tears steadily flowed
Suddenly, I realized I was not alone,
Jesus reached out, and with the touch of His hand
He wiped tears from the eyes, of a pitiful man
The touch of His hand, stopped the flow of the tears
And brought joy to a heart, of such wasted years,
"I proclaim you my son, every whit whole
To torture you son, was never my goal,
I now heal your spirit, with the strength of my heart
Go now my son, for you are a part
Of the family of God, and you're part of Me
For in Jesus the Son, you are totally free."
This will be the story of too many people 'round the throne of God. Jesus will wipe away tears from eyes that realize that in terms of a Christian life they had done nothing. They will see some with two or three or even four more crowns and see their happy, fulfilled faces of triumph of a life well lived.
"Imperishable Crown" - given for living a disciplined life, for respect for their body, for for denying of self, for living for God.
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified [from getting that crown]." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
"Crown Of Life" - given for faithfulness while enduring trials
"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."(Revelation 2:10)
"Crown Of Glory" - Given for being, in God's mind, a leader to others in ministry, in motivation, in encouragement. (Pastors, teachers, etc)
"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion, but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly, nor being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." (1 Peter 5:2-4)
"Crown Of Rejoicing" - Given for soul-winners who share their joy in the Lord with others who then receive Christ.
"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" (1 Thessolonians 2:19)
"Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever."(Daniel 12:3)
I know of so many people that should have heard of Jesus from me. I have worked alongside many precious souls that never knew I was Christian. I was scared to say something. I was afraid that they would have a good argument I couldn't rebut. I had a whole list of reasons- but now, looking back, none of them were of solid reasoning. I wonder if I would have a made a difference to any one of them. I know none of their destinies depended totally on me or on what words I may have said to them, but still, I know what the one or two individuals that presented me with the gospel meant to me. One person in particular took pains to help me see through so much darkness and confusion. What really hurts is the idea that maybe children could have been reached or relatives or very dear friends that debated with God. I expect there will be many tears shed in heaven until that healing touch from the Lord happens, some from me.
Perhaps reading this story in verse left some of the readers wondering about exactly what was meant by pain in heaven. The pain is in the knowledge that people you know will never get to heaven but be separated from God for all eternity. There is a sense of being responsible for them even though you are not in charge of their minds or their decisions. There is a sense of regret that maybe the opportunity you passed over was their last chance to see the logic in turning to Jesus to save them. I have also had regrets as to all of the pieces of writing I have written that never had an invitation to Jesus within its lines. So I now include this impassioned request for all to come to Jesus before it is too late.
For those who have never asked Jesus to be their personal Lord and Savior, I offer it to you now.
It is possible to know for sure that when you die you will go to heaven.
"These things have I written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:13)
Believing in the name of the Son is believing in everything He is, that He stands for, and that He has done for you.
First, He came to earth as God in human flesh that was sent by the Father to die for all of mankind's sin.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1,14)
"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed...Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief, when You make His soul an offering for sin." (Isaiah 53:5, 10)
Why did Jesus have to come to earth? Because we are born sinners. We inherited sin from our progenitor Adam.
"Just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
We had no choice but to be born into sin but we do have a choice whether or not to accept God's way out of the punishment for our sin. We do not have to pay for it because it has been paid for at the cross. But if you do not come to Jesus, you will die in your sin and the payment already paid for your sin will go to waste. Jesus offers you life, if you believe and come to Him for salvation.
"Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20)
It all depends on what you believe about Jesus. Do you believe that Jesus is God that came to earth in human flesh to die for your sin? Do you believe that Jesus was buried and then rose from the dead in three days? Do you believe that you are a sinner incapable of saving yourself? If you believe these things you can come to Jesus with a repentant heart and ask Him to save you.
Pray this: Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I deserve hell because of my sin but I ask You to forgive me of my sin and save me. I believe that you died and were buried and rose from the dead. I am sorry and I repent of my sin and turn to You, Jesus as the only way of salvation. I throw myself into Your arms and I know You will hold me up. Thank You Jesus for saving me. For I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
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