Our Victory CrownHe was the best. It was a long grueling race but he finished first. It was now the award ceremony, and he bowed before the magistrate as the crowds cheered. The trumpets sounded and the magistrate placed a woven garland of olive branches on his head as a victory crown. It was his moment of glory. He had worked long and hard for this. He had endured aches and pains, heat and exhaustion. It was quite an achievement. It was not the value of the material out of which his crown was made that had made it such a coveted prize, but what it symbolized to everyone. It was a crown of victory.
The general and his army were greeted by cheering throngs and the victory fanfare of trumpets as he headed the long column of warriors. The enemy had been vanquished and the captured standards of the enemy were on display, but the standards of the victors waved high in the air. The general approached the viewing stand of the emperor and knelt as the crowds cheered. The emperor placed a woven garland of olive branches on his head as a victory crown. It was his moment of glory. His leadership and tactics, combined with the courage and might of his army, had won the battle.
The Greeks had two different words for "crown." There were two vastly different kinds of crowns. The "diadema" was a crown of rule, such as a king would wear. "stephanos" was a victory crown, such as would be worn in the two examples we noted. The Bible uses both of these terms in a metaphorical sense. For example, it uses "diadema" to refer to Jesus' rule over His spiritual kingdom and "stephanos" to refer to His victory.
The Most Unusual Victory Crown of All
A Crown of Thorns probably constituted the most unusual victory crown of all time. It was the crown placed on Jesus' head by the soldiers shortly before the crucifixion (Matthew 27:27-31). It is interesting that Jesus would be dressed an mocked as a king, but then the word for "crown" which the Bible uses would not be "diadema" but "stephanos." See the text (John 19:1-6).
The brutal fact is that not only is Jesus' kingship being mocked, but also His opportunity for victory and success. Everyone believes that battle is over and Jesus has lost (Matthew 27:41-43). But Jesus won many victories, one after the other, on that Friday and the following week end. He fulfilled prophecies, including the most difficult to be fulfilled prophecies of all time (Isaiah 53:4-6; 10-12). He also accomplished His mission for which He had been sent to this world (John 12:27-28; Matthew 20:28). He defeated death (John 10:17,18; Revelation 1:17,18).
This is one of the reasons why I believe Jesus is coming again, and that He will call forth the dead, and take the faithful with Him. He always wins. Even when everything seems lost, He wins the victory. The soldiers meant to mock and torment Him by giving Him a "victory crown" of thorns. But soon, He would be wearing a heavenly crown, following His victory which they, nor any other enemy could stop. Note the apocalyptic, visionary description of the victory of Christ over His enemies: "Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, 'Come.' I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer." (Revelation 6:1-2).
An Imperishable Crown
The apostle Paul uses a victory crown for winning a race as a parallel to running and winning the race of life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The English words "wreath" (NASB) and "crown" (KJV) are used to describe this prize. The crown is made of a wreath as earlier discussed. It is both a crown and a wreath. How long would the victory crown of a winning athlete remain fresh and green? Not very long. Soon it would shrivel, and the winner might perhaps place the remnants in a container where they would be saved. But the prize for which we reach is eternal. It is based on God's own eternal word (1 Peter 1:22-25). What is your crown? What do you want to be successful at? For many, it is riches, but riches soon fade in glory. (James 1:10-12). There is a victory which can last forever.
Paul also says "Run in such a way as you may win" (vs. 24). It is possible for a runner to lose! How does one ensure victory? By exercising self control (vs. 25). He has a goal he is aiming for (vs. 26). He practices self discipline (vs. 27) knowing he could be disqualified if he does not. To preach/teach the truth but then not to live by it will result in losing the race and the imperishable crown! (1 Peter 5:4)
Our "People" Victory Crown
The friends, brothers, sisters, loved ones that each one of us have been able to influence for good become another type of victory crown (Philippians 4:1). Those with whom you serve the Lord and whom you encourage become your victory crown as they grow in the faith. We become one another's crowns; it is a very special prize, or reward, to see someone you love do well in the faith. It is a reason to rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
The selfish and conceited will not see nor understand this concept. They are only happy when they receive good things, not when they give. Its all about them. That does not depict at all the attitude of Christ nor of His people (Philippians 2:1-5). And this crown will never be more radiant than at the coming of the Lord Jesus when you see those you have helped and been helped by along the way rise with you to meet Jesus as the faithful are wondrously changed and begin to share the glory of the Son (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). There will be redeemed people making up your crown, won't there be?
A Crown of Righteousness
For running a righteous race Jesus will award us with the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul, as he wrote these words, was himself nearing life's finish line. Though he would be put to death, he did not see it as a defeat at all. He knew better. His race would end with an unending victory.
Always keep this goal, or aim, in mind. The high calling of God includes receiving the crown from Jesus. The Book of Hebrews tells us to "fix your eyes upon Jesus" and we need to, when temptation mounts, or when tragedy strikes, or difficulties appear ready to overwhelm. Focus on the race's end and run with endurance. Don't grow weary. (Hebrews 12:1-3). And what happens if we stumble? Don't drop out of the race. Deal with it, then forget it and press on (Philippians 3:12-15).
A Crown of Life
For the faithful, even death brings life (Revelation 2:10). Who has the right to make such a promise? And on what basis? It is none other than Jesus, the Son of God, who has just been described in the context as "The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life" (Revelation 2:7,8). Eternal life itself is a victory crown. Death loses its victory in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:25,26; 55-58).
"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12) To those that persevere; to those that love Him; to those "loving God" means keeping His commandments, and it this kind of faith that overcomes the world. (1 John 5:3,4). Jesus suffered death so we might live eternally (Hebrews 9:15). He is our salvation! A victory crown plays a major role in discussing the victory faith brings. From the cruel crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head in jest to the eternal victory crown He now wears to the one He will one day give to His people, the message is the same. As the old hymn proclaims, "O Victory in Jesus, My Savior forever. He sought me, and bought me, with His redeeming blood." That's it... so we could have victory. So we could overcome the world. So we could rejoice forever with crowns that do not fade.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.4, April, 2004