What about that Crown of Righteousness? :: By Tom Tillman  

  Paul wrote to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim 4:6-8).

Why is it called the Crown of ‘Righteousness’? I thought we all (true children of God) have been imputed the complete Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ… “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:20-21).

If every true believer has been imputed the complete Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, then this special Crown must represent some other extra Righteousness in addition to the ‘regular’ Righteousness we all received at the moment of Salvation, not that there’s anything at all regular about the absolute, perfect Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Maybe the Crown of Righteousness is for those who are extra good Christians… for extra righteousness. But I thought the Bible says that none of us do good, that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags… I’m confused….

Let’s look for clues in another letter from Paul: Romans 4:2-3, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness….”

Ahhh… now we’re getting closer… Does Paul mean that this Crown is reserved for those who believe God? Believe what? Maybe the Crown of Righteousness has to do with believing something other than our belief unto Salvation. Paul says that it is reserved for all who have believed in His appearing, but even more, all who have loved His appearing.

‘Big deal,’ you say… ‘Everyone believes that, don’t they?’ No, actually not… many don’t and possibly most don’t. This Crown appears to be reserved for those who love His appearing, for those who anxiously watch and wait for His coming, in the clouds, at any moment in the Rapture.

Why should a Crown, one of God’s most precious rewards, be reserved for believing fervently in the Rapture? Because believing in the Rapture often results in persecution. Think about it. Those who believe in the Rapture are tempted to keep that information to themselves because not only do unbelievers mock and insult belief in the Rapture, but often, even more so, other believers disbelieve and even hate the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.

Belief in the Rapture, actually loving His appearing, is something additional to our Faith unto Salvation. One does not need to believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture to be saved. Our faith unto Salvation was a gift from God. Most of us would agree that at the moment God put that saving faith into our hearts, the moment He turned the light on, in our hearts, we couldn’t not believe… we couldn’t help but believe, any more than we could disbelieve our own existence.

But regarding belief in the Rapture, that particular faith is not taught in Scripture to have been a gift from God. After we were saved, we had to choose to believe in the Rapture, sometimes against an onslaught of mocking persecution, even though, to us who recognize it, it is as clear as day.

The truth of the Rapture is found throughout Scripture. Therefore, God considers that specific belief in His Word, that faith, in the face of persecution, to be worthy of a special reward, the Crown of Righteousness.

Abraham chose to believe God, in His promises of land, an heir and a future Kingdom, and it was accounted to him as righteousness. When we choose to have faith in God’s Word, regarding the Rapture, when we love His appearing and watch anxiously for Him, living our lives in such a way that we know we will stand before Him at any moment, He accounts that belief in Him, to us, as righteousness but it is a righteousness that is different, additional to the imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ according to the gift of faith He gave to us which caused us to believe unto Salvation.

That we believe what God has said is precious to Him. He is glorified when we believe Him and act on that belief. Acting on that belief means looking daily for His coming, walking in a manner worthy of the calling with which we’ve been called and always being faithful to share the Gospel with all to whom we come in contact.

James wrote, “faith without works is dead.” In other words, he is saying that true faith always leads to good works but not that faith is created or sustained by good works.

Recall what Paul wrote: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” God will not be a debtor to anyone. That is why every good work done for His glory, no matter how small, will eventually be rewarded.

“And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matt 10:42).

Doing good works is one thing, but choosing to believe God’s Word regarding the Rapture, something which Satan has created such confusion and controversy over, and then to act on that belief by confessing so and living accordingly… that is a whole different level to God and why He considers it worthy of a special Crown.

When we truly believe that the Lord Jesus will come for us at any moment, we will be looking, waiting and watching for His coming, in the clouds, every day and every hour. But there is more; if we really believe so, that faith will lead to certain works: just before Paul tells Timothy of the Crown of Righteousness (in verse 8), he tells Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). If we really believe in the Rapture, the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds, we will diligently seize every opportunity to tell friends, family and others the Gospel, the true and full Gospel, including the Rapture because time is so short.

Imagine what the five different Crowns in Scripture will be like; obviously, we can’t really. He said, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). Imagine the beauty, the workmanship of His Crowns… perhaps they’ve been crafted by angels.   

Five Crowns are specifically mentioned in Scripture, and maybe there are even more that God has reserved for different works of faith that are special to Him. The five are: The Crown of Life, for those who endure temptation (James 1:12);  The Crown Imperishable, for those who faithfully run their own race (1 Cor 9:25); The Crown of Glory, for all those who faithfully shepherd those under their care (1 Pet 5:2-4); The Crown of Rejoicing, also known as The Soul Winner’s Crown (1 Thes 2:19-20); The Crown of Righteousness, the Crown reserved for Paul and for all who ‘love’ the imminent  appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Tim 4:5-8).  

Some of us will have earned one or two Crowns; others, three or four, while some will have gained five and even more.  When we stand before Him, all of us, the true Church will have received at the moment of Salvation the complete Righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ but we will not all have received the Crown of Righteousness

Suppose you are a grandparent with several grandchildren, and you must go away for a time, but you have promised to return one day soon. Suppose most of the grandchildren are always off doing whatever kids find to do, oblivious to your coming or going, but there are two little precious ones who choose to spend every day standing on the couch, in front of the window, just watching and anxiously waiting for your return because they love you and want you. Which of these children would hold a more special place in your heart? Which ones would you desire to reward even more when you return, as those two are first to quickly run into your arms? God feels the same way about His children. Some children love Him more than others do… all are saved, and loved, but some of us will be rewarded more than others.

Obviously, in light of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, nothing we could ever do could merit any kind of reward whatsoever; we are eternally indebted to Him while anything and everything we could ever do are only filthy rags by comparison. However, because of God’s love for us, His children, He has chosen to reward us with unimaginably magnificent rewards. That’s just the way it is. We should spend eternity in dungeons as His slaves but He has chosen to adopt us as His children: priests, princes and princesses unto God, ruling and reigning with Him for all eternity, wearing crowns of such stupendous beauty, they could only have been designed by God Himself.

Are you anxiously watching, waiting and looking for His coming in the clouds? Have you set your mind on things above and not on things of the Earth? Are you walking in a manner worthy of the calling with which you’ve been called? Are you going out into all the World to preach the Gospel?

He said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev 22:12). I want to be found serving Him with a loving and grateful heart and to earn as many rewards, as many Crowns, as possible… don’t you? I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you’ve been faithful over a few small things; I’ll put you in charge over many great things. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

Keep looking up; your redemption draweth nigh!

Tom Tillman

Hearts of Love Ministries