When I was a boy, my granddad and dad loved to play checkers under the oak tree in the front yard. All checkers started off equal. But when Granddad was able to move one of his checkers all the way across to King Row, his tenor voice would ring with joy as he said, “Crown me!” Dad would place a captured checker on top of the common one to promote it to royalty because it had reached King Row. The royal checker’s power doubled: it could move forward or backward. Dad and Granddad won equally but always with intensity and joy.
Similarly — but different — chess has pawns as the lowliest pieces with a value of 1. The queen has a value of 8 as the highest value. The unique king isn’t given a value number because the king is the game — win or lose! If a pawn makes it all the way across the board, the player may transform the mere pawn into any of the other pieces except the king; and the transformation changes a mere pawn into royalty. So the chess player too may say — in a way — “Crown me!”
The 2012 Olympics start on July 27 and end on Aug. 27, and there are 302 events. Though awards have changed over ancient times to the present, a laurel wreath crown used to be awarded to the winner of Olympic events. Now, each winner receives a gold medal instead of a crown for first place — including team first-place winners. Even without crowns, Olympic gold medal winners take on a kind of royalty for themselves and the country they represent.
The Bible has a lot to say about crowns. Generally, a crown may refer to the head or top of anything or even a characteristic to describe someone or something — though a golden crown was the most common biblical reference. We may refer to the crown of a tree or a crown on a tooth. I used to have a dentist who “crowned” me over 20 times, and I said his theme song was “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The Bible speaks of a drunkard having a “crown of pride” (Isaiah 28:1,3). And mockingly, Jesus’ crucifiers plaited a crown of thorns on Jesus as the “King of the Jews.” That inscription was placed over Jesus’ cross in Hebrew, Latin and Greek (John 19:2-5,19-22). Ironically, some of the crucifiers objected to this inscription. They didn’t have a clue that Jesus really was who He said he was. When Paul spoke of the revelation of God’s wisdom, he said about the religious rulers: “None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:8, HCSB).
Later, Stephen became a martyr (Acts 6—7). Interestingly, Stephen means “crown” in Greek. And our word “martyr” came from the Greek word “martus,” which means witness. Stephen gave a full witness, and then he too was put to death. At that time, we might say that Stephen received the fullness of his spiritual crowning. Each of us needs spiritual crowning by the King of Kings.
Getting crowned spiritual is essential for all of us. I’ve heard people say about games like checkers and chess, “When the game is over, all the pieces go back into the same box.” The common checker or pawn that achieved royalty in a game goes back in the box with the king and queen and others. Perhaps some people are referring to death as the great leveler that removes any status human beings are born with, achieve, or are given. In that sense, there’s an element of truth. But the Bible teaches us that though we are all the same in being born as mere human beings, we all sin and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible teaches us the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And the Bible teaches us that at death or upon our Lord’s return, there is a great divide between heaven and hell (Matthew 25; John 3). All the pieces do not go back into the same box. It’s heaven or hell.
When the eternal Christ came as the expression of God’s love to save the world, it became both possible and essential for all sinful mankind to be crowned with the grace of salvation (Ephesians 2:1-10). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). In the Christ Event, Jesus temporarily wore a crown of thorns to enable us to become members and coheirs of the royal family of God (Romans 8:12-17). Once we confess our sins, trust in Christ as Lord and Savior and become members of the family of God, we are new creatures in Christ forever (II Corinthians 5:17). Though our salvation is secured and guaranteed in the Spirit, we are still being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). And God has crowns for members of His royal family.
The Bible describes the crowns God gives us. Our crown is imperishable. Paul used athletics like the Olympics as an illustration (I Corinthians 9:24-27).
The history of ancient Olympics to the modern Olympics is interesting. But at one stage, a laurel wreath was the prize for winning an event; and there was only one winner. Interestingly, Paul spoke both about qualifying by following the rules and not being disqualified. He spoke about the discipline essential to run the race to win the perishable laurel wreath. But he departed from the temporal prize to refer to the imperishable crown God has for a Christian. The Bible specifically identifies the nature of crowns for Christians:
(1) When the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14) or chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the unfading crown of glory (I Peter 5:4).
(2) Paul knew that for himself and all other faithful Christians, that a crown of righteousness was reserved (II Timothy 4:8).
(3) Our Lord promised for those faithful unto death that He would give us the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). And that completes what the psalmist shared: “He redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion” (Psalm 103:4, HCSB).
Will there be any stars in your crown? Pastor Courtney Wilson loved to sing “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?” And that’s always been a favorite of mine. But I tend to think broader than just what I’m singing or hearing. So a long time ago — when we were singing that song — I thought to myself, “First of all, you have to have a crown for there to be any stars in it.” In other words, you have to get saved first.
At age 7, you might say I got crowned because I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Ever since then, I’ve been studying about salvation that comes only by the gift of God’s grace upon trust and repentance and about spiritual rewards (see Revelation 14:13). Besides the joy of knowing about my salvation, I’ve enjoyed pondering about the stars in the crown. The song ends with these words: “It would sweeten my bliss in the city of gold,/Should there be any stars in my crown.”
The oldest participant in the 2012 Olympics is 70 years old. His name is Hiroshi Hoketsu, and he’s entered in an equestrian event. I hope he wins. Even if he does, his medal will only be temporary. I’m confident that my crown of life is eternal, from which there is no dying. I have eternal life now, but I’m waiting for the full crowning and awards ceremony. Then we’ll all glorify God in it all.
— © 2012 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author at email@example.com.