I love street interviews. For those who aren’t aware, street interviews are when an investigator approaches several random strangers, usually equipped with a camera and maybe a microphone, and questions them about a certain subject. The inquirer then typically records and compiles their answers and reactions. The purpose of street interviews is usually to learn the public’s overall opinion of a specific topic.
I remember a particular street interview about Heavenly rewards. The interviewer was staked outside of a church. When congregants emerged from the service, he asked, “Do you know about rewards in Heaven? If so, what are they, and how do you get them?”
Most interviewees were completely dumbfounded. They had no idea what a Heavenly reward was, much less how to get one.
The Bible, especially the New Testament, mentions Heavenly prizes several times. Consider the following two:
(Jesus speaking) Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12, emphasis mine)
(Jesus speaking) For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:27, emphasis mine)
From these two verses, we learn we will be judged and repaid according to our deeds.
If we’re honest, unless we’ve done a deliberate study, most of us are also unaware of Heavenly rewards. Pastors rarely teach about them. Sermons usually emphasize salvation, not rewards. Thus, many of us are unsure what we’re supposed to do once we’ve been saved. We’re headed for Heaven, but now what? What is between our moment of salvation and our trip to Heaven?
Contrary to popular belief, Heaven will not be the same for everyone. Although every believer will gain entrance to Heaven, not every believer will receive an award.
So what are the potential Heavenly rewards?
The Crown of Righteousness. This crown will be awarded to those who long for the return of Christ and actively watch for signs of His return. This is substantiated by 2 Timothy 4:7-8:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. And now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have longed for His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8, emphasis mine
Every few years or decades, there seems to be a wave of Rapture Fever. World events or circumstances will converge on a certain date or period of time, and some speculate it must be the much-anticipated Rapture of the Church. Just within the last few years there were several Rapture speculations: the 2012 phenomena, Blood Moon speculation led by Mark Biltz and John Hagee, and Seven-year Shemitah theory spearheaded by Jonathan Cahn.
While some may wish to capitalize from rapture speculation, others are genuinely interested because they yearn for Christ’s return. They authentically desire Christ to make things right again. They ache for justice, comfort, and to be with their Savior. These people will be awarded the Crown of Righteousness.
Rightfully so. After all, Jesus instructs us a total of twelve times throughout the Gospels to watch for His return. Obviously, He doesn’t want us to be surprised.
The Crown of Life. There are two passages which describe the Crown of Life:
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 unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10, emphasis mine)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, emphasis mine)
There is some misunderstanding surrounding the Crown of Life. Because of the verse in Revelation, some scholars believe it will be given only to those who are martyred for their faith. However, James 1:12 indicates it will be given to all who endure trials or love Jesus, regardless of whether or not they are martyred.
Crown of Rejoicing (A.K.A. “Soul-Winners Crown”). The crown of rejoicing will be given to all those invested in bringing the lost to Jesus. This is confirmed by First Thessalonians chapter two, Paul’s letter to the church in Thessaloniki. Paul was instrumental in the church’s conversion to Christianity; therefore he referenced them when speaking of his Crown of Rejoicing.
(Paul speaking to Thessalonians) For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, emphasis mine
Some Christians have been given the Spiritual gift of evangelizing. They are supremely concerned with unbelievers and their eternal fate. For those who operate fully in this area of gifting, the Crown of Righteousness awaits.
Crown of Glory. The Crown of Glory is the only crown which is accompanied by a tip on how to get it. First Peter signifies the crown will be awarded to pastors, overseers, and teachers. However, Proverbs chapter four gives us a hint on how to obtain this crown: by getting wisdom.
Shepherd the flock which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as 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 5:1-4, emphasis mine)
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you. (Proverbs 4:7-9, emphasis mine)
Imperishable Crown. This crown is outlined in First Corinthians chapter nine.
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.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25, emphasis mine
This crown is given to those who excel in their area of gifting. I believe this will be the rarest crown in Heaven, since only those who live exemplary Christian lives will receive it. Those who subjugate everything in their lives to serving Christ successfully will receive this crown.
Heavenly rewards may include more than these five crowns. However, we know for sure these crowns will be awarded. In addition, the Bible doesn’t indicate if these crowns represent something else, such as Heavenly responsibilities or duties. The crowns may be representative of additional prizes.
The wise person will invest his/her life in the attainment of Heavenly rewards rather than the acquisition of earthly possessions. Earthly belongings are capricious: they can wear out, be stolen, break, or simply become unsatisfying. Heavenly treasures, however, last forever. They provide eternal joy and are perpetually durable. Jesus Himself advised us to store up treasures in Heaven which last for eternity. (Matthew 6:20)
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great. (Matthew 5:12)