Winning a Stephanos :: by Nathele Graham

“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (Revelation 4:4).

What a glorious sight that will be. The Rapture will have just happened and we will be in the presence of God Almighty. Our human minds have no possible way of grasping what it will be like as we stand (or fall down in worship) in the presence of our Lord.

Around the throne we will see twenty-four elders who have crowns of gold on their heads. There are two Greek words that are translated crowns and the one used here is “stephanos.” This crown is not a king’s crown, but a crown that is awarded, as in a prize at the end of a race. The elders are representative of people who serve God, and the crowns they are wearing are the “stephanos” that have been won.

The New Testament makes it clear that salvation is a free gift and there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. Once a person accepts Christ’s free gift a change should be evident in the life of the new Christian; there should be a desire to serve Jesus. We are truly saved by grace through faith alone, but James says:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

It’s the works we do in service to Jesus that will earn our stephanos (our crowns).These works won’t make us more saved than we were before we did them, but when standing before the Bema Seat after the Rapture and my works for Christ are judged, I want a crown to place at the feet of my Redeemer.

The blood of Jesus paid the price for the entry fee to enter the race and the competition is not against other Christians. The prize is given as a reward for your own effort in the race. Crowns can be lost, but salvation is eternally sealed.

Most of the congregations to whom Paul wrote were facing struggles and he encouraged them to come away from the world and live to glorify Christ.

There was no letter more filled  with admonitions of turning from worldly ways than his first letter to the Corinthians. This congregation was corrupt, but Paul didn’t say they were lost. He encouraged them to get back on the right track and talked about running the race to win an incorruptible crown.

“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 mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Athletes train in order to run the best race they can, but their reward for winning is something that will not last. On the other hand, there is an incorruptible crown of victory for the Christian who trains for a life which honors Christ. The race begins when we accept Christ for salvation.

After that we need to study our Bibles and learn what God sees as sin. We will face many obstacles in our walk with Christ, but through prayer and determination we will overcome.

“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 9:27).

Study God’s Word, pray, and live to show others that Christ lives in you.

Paul is an example of a man who was dramatically changed by Jesus Christ. His desire was to spread the Gospel and win souls for Christ. He loved the people he met and brought to salvation through Christ.

“Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved” (Philippians 4:1).

Paul didn’t just bring them to Christ then abandon them. He prayed for them and wrote letters of encouragement. He found great joy in salvation of others.

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

Brothers and sisters, take joy in each soul who has come to Christ because of your example. Encourage them as they learn to walk in the Christian way. Help them to stand fast in the Lord by also standing fast yourself.

When Paul knew that he would soon be beheaded because of his faith in Jesus, he could look back on many hardships. He suffered beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, rejection, and much more. Did he feel sorry for himself? No. In what was his last letter he told Timothy:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth 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” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Paul wasn’t bragging but was being honest. He knew, and we should know, that we are righteous only because of our faith in Jesus Christ. This crown isn’t awarded because you’ve lived a perfect life, there is no way possible for anyone to do that.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Then, if you truly seek His righteousness instead of your own glory, you will yearn for His appearing.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”  Matthew 6:10).

Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Although Paul wrote about crowns he isn’t the only one to do so.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

Temptations will come. Every Christian will face any number of temptations in this life, but there’s always a way out. James even said:

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3).

If we turn to God in prayer when temptation comes our way, He will show us how to turn away from it. Overcome the temptations you face in order to receive the crown of life. Temptations are no surprise to Jesus.

“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, but answered each challenge of the enemy by quoting Scripture, and He is our example. When John was in exile at Patmos, Jesus dictated seven letters and one was directed to the ekklēsia in Smyrna. This letter told of the persecution that would come and Jesus said He knows their works, tribulation, and poverty. These persecuted Christians, represented in the letter to Smyrna, would face many temptations to deny Christ, but Jesus said:

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Many Christians today are being severely persecuted because of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In many countries our brothers and sisters are being brutally murdered or put in prison and tortured. The temptation to deny Christ may be strong, but a crown is waiting for those who are faithful.

Peter wrote encouraging words to the elders. He had no false pride and knew that he was a man just like those to whom he wrote. Peter is famous for his rash opinions and actions during the time he followed Jesus and he also saw the miraculous things He had done. Time had mellowed Peter and he was no longer jumping out of boats to walk on water.

He had come to the point in his life that he was able to pass on the wisdom he had gained through his devotion to serving Jesus. Just as Jesus had encouraged Peter to feed the flock, Peter now encouraged the elders to do likewise.

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).

This crown will be awarded to those faithful shepherds who nurture their congregations. False teachers who twist Scripture will not receive this reward, but those who feed the flock nourishing food stand and firm on God’s word will receive this stephanos of glory.

It isn’t too late to earn crowns. This may not be important to you right now, but one day very soon Christians will be called Home. We will hear a voice like a trumpet calling us Home in the Rapture. After that our works will be judged and crowns presented for those things we did for Christ.

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:11-13).

When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ it will be our works that are judged. The works we did in order to make ourselves look good will burn up, but even the most menial task done with no thought for our own glory but for Christ’s glory will be rewarded. Jesus Christ will call us Home soon and we will stand before God’s throne along with the twenty-four elders.

“The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”  Revelation 4:10-11).

On that day you will want a crown to cast before Him. Now is the time to start working to earn one or more. There is no reason to only strive for one crown. Jesus wants to award these crowns so don’t use false humility to say you’re not worthy to receive one. Live to serve Christ and you might be pleasantly surprised as to the crowns you’ve won.

Jesus said “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11). Time is running out. Start today to win a stephanos.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).