Crowns for the Saints
2 Timothy 4:
6. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8. 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.
12. 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.
1 Peter 5:
1. The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2. 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;
3. Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
5. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
It is time to start tying everything together. Few are called to be Christians, so I have shown through multiple passages of scripture over the course of this chapter. However, those not called will be judged to lower standards on the Day of Judgment. Faith has a price. Predestination is not a free pass to Paradise.
Why create a world in which few believe correctly? Why allow Christians to suffer at the hands of unbelievers? Why subject those who Believe to a higher standard of morality? Why require faith?
I can but speculate, but here follows a reason that makes sense to me:
A Training Ground for Kings
5. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
8. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
9. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
10. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
11. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
We who walk the Christian Way are preparing to be kings and priests, to rule with Jesus for a millennium, and perhaps beyond. If we were preparing to live forever in an eternal country club, trials of this life would be almost pointless, on the order of fraternity hazing. But kingship is another matter entirely! An unqualified or uncaring king can do great damage, especially over a thousand year reign. And it is one thing to reign poorly in your own name, quite another to rule poorly in Jesus’ name. Training and testing is quite appropriate.
12. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
17. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
18. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
19. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
20. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21. For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
22. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23. Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
24. And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
25. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
26. For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
27. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
4. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The stakes are high. In several places the Bible promises that some will be made children of God [Matthew 5:9, John 1:12]. Jesus reinforced the point when he said we should pray to “Our Father.” Suppose we take this promise at face value. Animals bear children of their own kind. Trees bear fruit of their kind. Should the pattern hold, those who are chosen are to become of the same kind as God, to become like gods! Such power should not be granted lightly.
What are the qualifications for such power? Consider these qualities for kingship:
- Willingness to follow orders. Jesus is to be High King; we hope for a role underneath.
- Understanding and appreciation of those orders. An underling who just robotically follows order to the letter can be harmful to an organization.
- Understanding of those to be governed.
- Love of those to be governed.
- Proven willingness to exercise the above without supervision.
- Leadership ability.
- Experience in governance.
Make sense? Now how might you train people to have these qualities? Moreover, how to you test? How can you test for love? How can you test for willingness to obey without supervision? How do you train people for leadership before you grant them high office? Consider these questions in light of the following Biblical patterns:
- The importance of following orders is one of the very first lessons in the Bible. Adam and Eve were given a very simple rule: don’t eat the fruit of a particular tree. They allowed themselves to be convinced the order was unimportant – with dire consequences. This lesson is repeated throughout the Bible.
- Of course, most of the orders given are more than mere tests of obedience. The Law offers us a great body of wisdom iwe study, practice and meditate upon it. True appreciation requires following the Law side by side with societies which do not. Ancient Israel was surrounded by heathen nations. Christians are tasked to practice their faith surrounded by non-Christians. Under such conditions we get to see the benefits of living God’s way and the consequences of living other ways.
- A king who was once a peasant will view peasants rather differently than a king who grew up in a palace. Perhaps this is why Jesus said that few of the rich and powerful will be allowed in the Kingdom, why the least will become the great.
- We live in a world with consequences. How else could love be exercised? Love often carries a price. How else could it be tested?
- We live under very light divine supervision. Indeed, we must take it on faith that our works will be rewarded. Our true character gets thus exposed. Do we behave well; do we love, purely in the hope of future reward? If so, we are selfish beings unworthy of the gifts to be granted. With doubt, we must have love and true appreciation of God’s laws to complete our assigned tasks.
- One of the great features of democratic government is that our leaders must campaign to achieve high office. They must learn to persuade before they can rule with power. Electoral campaigns are thus good leadership training. Likewise, evangelism is leadership training for Christians. If all were called, evangelism would be too easy, and opportunities to evangelize too few.
- How are the poor and the weak to learn how to govern? One answer is within the family. Another is within the Church. Spiritual gifts are divided up so that few if any have them all. This provides opportunity for all to actively participate. And church participation once meant far more than singing in the choir or organizing potlucks; Paul called for Christians to govern themselves.
1 Corinthians 6:
1. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
2. Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3. Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
4. If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
5. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
Treasure in Heaven vs. Unearned Grace
12. And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13. On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
14. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
28. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Now we return to a central mystery of the New Testament: grace vs. works. Paul wrote extensively on faith and grace vs. works and the Law. Jesus spoke of earning treasure in Heaven and people being judged according to their works. How do we resolve this apparent conflict?
Some would say that we live under a new dispensation, that works and following the Law were required in the past, but now we live under new rules. This idea bothers me greatly, as it renders 90% of the Bible moot, a bad joke even. The idea also contradicts the writings of the other apostles, writings done after the Crucifixion, after the new dispensation was supposed to go in effect. Indeed, even some of Paul’s writings go against this interpretation. Taking Paul out of context is a dangerous game, as he employed lengthy complex arguments.
This passage inspires a cleaner interpretation, one more in tune with the rest of the Bible:
17. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Here, Jesus affirmed the Law, including the least bits. But he also offered hope for the many future Christians who would teach/act otherwise: many of them will also be in the Kingdom; however, they will be called least in the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Heaven will not be a democracy, nor will it be a communist utopia. It will be hierarchical. Jesus will be at the top, the King of Kings. Twelve apostles will be kings over the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Some will rule over a single city, some over multiple cities. Keep in mind that the term “king” in the Bible can refer to rather petty rulers, barely over the rank of small town mayor; note the number of kings in Canaan alone during the days of Abraham.
Some will be priests. And like kings, priests range from high priests down to minor priests. In the days of the Levites, few served in the innermost parts of the Temple. Somebody had to polish the silverware.
Getting into the Kingdom is more important than rank within the Kingdom. Love and charity might be more important than obeying the lesser commandments correctly. Jesus declared charity to be a salvation issue [Matthew 25:31-46]. Perhaps this is why Paul emphasized love and charity over the Law. To legalistically follow the Law without love can lead to being a bitter nit-picker, unworthy of leadership, or possibly any position, in the Kingdom.
But why settle for being least in the Kingdom? A thousand years is a rather long time to polish silver or rule over a small remote village. Rank in the Kingdom is valuable. Jesus said so. He said it was a hundred times more valuable than keeping one’s earthly possessions. It’s more valuable than retaining important body parts.
At least, that is how I read these passages today. Please meditate on these scriptures yourself, including those below, and come to your own conclusion. Get a modern literal translation for those passages where the King James is unclear.
And when you are done, I invite you to continue on to the next article, where we will explore the Kingdom as it relates to the world today, before the Second Coming. Though the Christian Way is a narrow path, , we can still have a taste of the Kingdom now , if we follow Jesus’ call to be salt of the earth.
1 Corinthians 3:
11. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13. 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.
14. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
2 Corinthians 9:
6. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2 Timothy 2:
20. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
Copyright© 2007-2009, Carl S. Milsted, Jr. All rights reserved.
Quotations from the NET Bible®, copyright© 1996-2006 Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from http://bible.org. (The NET Bible is available in its entirety as a free download or online use at http://netbible.org)