D. M. Panton, B.A.
before in our lives was there a more urgent need to realize, vividly, what is
at hand - namely, the kingdoms of the whole world changed into an Empire of Christ,
and our own almost incredible possibility of sharing the throne with our
Lord. The world is plunging into deeper darkness and grosser wickedness:
it is for us to be radiant with the
The central fact is that our Lord returns as a King. As the crown of thorns was literal, and a studied mockery of the crown which David and Solomon wore, and which Christ inherited - "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?" (Matt 2: 2), asked the Wise Men from the East - so Christ’s crowns - for He returns with many crowns, of which the Papal Tiara (a triple crown) is an imitation - are as literal and human and royal as the crowns of all ages. "His eyes are as a flame of fire, and upon his head are many crowns; and he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19: 12, 16). So the crowns of the Angels are equally literal, for we read: "They shall cast their crowns before the throne" (Rev. 4: 10). We need to realize fully that while His birth as David’s heir involved royalty, throughout His years on earth Jesus was not even remotely a king - all His royalty was postponed: in His first advent everything centred on His being a Saviour: in His second advent everything will centre on His being a King.
A CROWN is a wreath set upon a brow to distinguish that brow from others; and to confer royal rank and power. It may or may not be of great value in itself. The crown of the Sultan of Johore is worth £2,000,000. The British crown, originally valued at a quarter of a million, is now enormously richer by the addition of the Cullinan diamond, far the largest diamond in the world. On the other hand, a crown of small intrinsic value may be priceless for other reasons. In the Isthmian Games, the ancient world’s mightiest athletics, the crown - sought by the most accomplished athletes of the world - was merely a handful of bay-leaves or olive. So its associations may make a crown wonderful. The writer will not easily forget the thrill with which he saw the Crown of Charlemagne in the Louvre in Paris: the oldest and most royal crown in the world, yet plain and dimmed - a crown doubtless yet to rest on the brow of Antichrist.
Now we arrive at the extremely critical nature of our possible crown. Second Advent crowns are granted, not on the ground of inheritance - that is, not on the ground of our rebirth as sons of God - but solely on the ground of achievement. The word which the Holy Spirit always selects for our crown is not diadema, a royal inheritance, but stephanos, a wreath granted solely for personal victory.* So Paul sums up once for all: "A man is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully" (2 Tim. 2: 5). While our Lord’s crowns are mainly ‘diadems’ (Rev. 19: 12), or crowns inherited, as both Son of God and Son of David, His also is a ‘victory wreath’: "We behold him because of the suffering of death crowned" (Heb. 2: 9). Achievement sometimes also applies to modern crowns. When Roumania became a kingdom in 1881, King Charles, as there was no crown, said: "Send to the arsenal, and melt an iron crown out of captured cannon, in token that it was won upon the field of battle, and bought and paid for with our lives." Exactly so our Lord says to the Sardian Angel: "Be thou faithful unto death" - to the point of death, that is, a martyr’s death - "and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rev. 2: 10).
[* In the eternal state beyond the Millennium it would appear that, based as it is on Grace alone, all believers are crowned; for of all whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life we read, "They shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 20: 4).]
So now we reach the extremely practical point of the achievements for which, and for which alone, our crowns can be won. (1)The first crown is for shepherding the flock of God. "Make yourselves ensamples to the flock; and when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 5: 3). (2) The second crown is for unceasing fidelity. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation [testing]: for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life" (James 1: 12). Mere suffering, [for Christ, righteousness, and for the truth's sake;] endured triumphantly, wins the crown. This crown therefore is supremely granted to the martyr. "Be thou faithful unto death" - a violent death - "and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rev. 2: 10). (3) The third crown is for squaring all life to the Second Advent. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to me, but" - to all believers? NO! - "to all them that have loved his appearing" (2 Tim. 4: 8).
Thus our ‘stephanos,’ or chaplet of victory, has a double value: backward, it is a record of the achievement for which it was granted; and forward, it is the passport to the Kingdom, a symbol of the rank and power which it confers. A crown in all ages and among all nations has ever been the signal of royalty: to gain a crown is to gain a kingdom, and to lose a crown is to lose its kingdom: we possess both, or we possess neither. Christians would be far more passionately devoted if only they knew how enormous are the issues at stake. How literal is the coming royalty our Lord put beyond challenge in a word to the Apostles: "Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19: 28). So at the opening of the Thousand Years’ reign we read: "and I saw thrones, and they sat upon them; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. 20: 4). At a British coronation the Archbishop of Canterbury says to the King: "Receive the crown of glory, honour, and joy"; but the glory, honour, and joy are the exercised royalty rather than in the circlet of gold on the brow: it is merely the symbol of Empire.*
[* It is a royalty that will never know an abdication, a crown "that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 5: 3). "The bit of parsley, or olive, or laurel - the crown in the Olympian Games - soon turned into faded leaves. When yon sun grows pale, and yon moon reddens into blood, then shall your crown be as resplendent as ever." - C. H. Spurgeon.]
A UNIVERSAL OFFER
this prize of our high calling is
open to every runner in the race. Coronation
is possible to all: no sex is excluded, nor age, nor race, nor class, nor
temperament. And it is possible for a believer to win all the crowns, if
only he will be set over a
A LOST CROWN
Our Lord’s negative warning therefore demands our whole soul. "I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown" (Rev. 3: 12); or as Paul puts it: "Let no man rob you of your prize" (Col. 2: 18). The crown may be won today, and lost tomorrow. No one warns of the lost crown more than Christ. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord" - however truly and vitally he may say it - "shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will" - he who fulfils the conditions of the crown - "of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7: 21); and in the judgment He will say, "Take ye away therefore the talent from him and give it unto him that hath ten talents; for unto every one that hath" - he who has used his gifts - "shall be given, and he shall have abundance" - even multiple crowns; "but from him that hath not" - who buried his talent - "even that which he hath shall be taken away" (Matt. 25: 28). As an old writer puts it: "The history of Christ’s Church is one long tale of gifts forfeited and privileges transferred. The crown is not lost, but with a little alteration is made to fit another’s brow.* There is no empty space either in the arena of conflict below or in the palace of victory above."
[* Or, to put it another way: The history of Christ’s church is one long tale of prizes forfeited; and God’s warnings to the regenerate being ignored by some, but believed, and acted upon, by others.]
So we close on our Lord’s golden counsel. "HOLD FAST THAT WHICH THOU HAST." The promise to the Philadelphian Angel immediately preceding is extraordinary apt for us probably on the threshold of the Advent. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world." The Angel’s squared life to the Advent had already won the crown: see to it, says the Saviour that the first does not become the last. Our crown can be costly, but it will be infinitely worth the cost. The crown worn by the Prince of Wales at his father’s coronation in 1902 bears a tuft of feathers from the periwan, the rarest species of the birds of Paradise. The bird has to be caught and plucked alive, for the feathers lose their lustre immediately after death; it frequents and haunts the tigers, involving great danger; and the Prince of Wales’s crown took twenty years to collect, and cost the lives of a dozen hunters. All that you have already achieved grip for your very life.
VISION OF THE KING
Dr. Wilbur Chapman writes: "I was sitting one day beside an old English soldier who had been in the Crimean service, and while we were talking he put his hand in his pocket. He told me about one of his friends who was in the same battle. A cannon-ball came and took off his leg, but, springing up, he balanced himself on one leg, ready to fight to the death. Then came another ball and took off his second leg. They carried him into hospital, but he did not die. ‘When the day came for us to get our medals,’ he said, ‘they took us into the presence of the Queen. Other people gave me my medal, but when her Majesty saw my friend carried in on the stretcher, with his face so thin, and both his legs gone, she took his medal in her hands and pinned it on his breast, and as she bent over him her tears dropped on his upturned face. He opened his eyes, and she said, ‘My brave soldier! My brave soldier!’ 'Do you know, sir,’ said he ‘that to the end of his days my friend never mentioned his reward or his medal, but when we old soldiers would get together, he would say, ‘I saw the Queen! I saw the Queen!’ That is the reward. Oh to see Him, just to see Him! See that YE receive a full reward. The Lord help you. Amen."
"Our crown can be costly, but it will be infinitely worth the cost."
It is one thing to suffer from the ungodly for the sake of Christ; it is quite another, to suffer from those whom we love: the following short note is by R. J. Cambbell, D.D.
Be Thou Faithful Unto Death
Well did the Master say "a man’s foes shall be those of his own household." If the warfare we had to wage were only with the un-disguisedly wicked, we could enter upon it without misgivings: but the sharpest pains we suffer, the deepest wounds we bear, are seldom those inflicted by the open enemies of our Lord and Saviour. It is those we respect, honour, and love whose thrusts are most deadly and whom in return we are at times compelled to hurt by doing what we feel to be right. To a sensitive spirit it is a fearful thing to encounter the coldness, the aloofness, or the outspoken censure of the circle in which we move, and the temptation is great to win its approval when we can. No true Christian can go right through life without sooner or later, on a small scale or a great, finding himself misunderstood and opposed by fellow-Christians, some of whom we may be personally dear to him. Faithfulness to one’s vision is sure to involve a trial of this kind, and it is no light one. Sweet friendships are often sundered thereby, tender affections wounded to the quick; it is a heart-piercing thing to see a beloved face turned from you, to perceive cordial trust alienated at the very moment when you are in greatest need of it; it is hard to keep silence on the subject that is first in your thoughts, because it happens to be just the one subject that has divided you from your circle or your closest friend. Seldom are such breaches thoroughly healed in this world.
Be vigilant therefore lest you be seduced to betray your soul or be less than true to what the Spirit of all truth requires of you. Neither by silence nor by speech seek to win commendation by seeming to agree where you do not agree or to admire what you conscientiously feel to be wrong. The temptation may be sore to win an advantage by concealing your true convictions when the temper of your company is hostile to them, but to yield to it is to be guilty of the sin of quenching the Spirit, which none can do without harming others as well as himself.
To speak the truth in love is often hard, but grace is afforded to him who makes the effort in faith and humility. It is hard to blame when you long to praise, to point out a shortcoming or wound a proud man’s self-esteem; but when it has to be done, do it without fear of falsity as though you stood before the judgment seat of Christ, and leave the outcome to Him. Be gentle, modest, and strong, and your Lord will sustain you. Let there be no similar trace of self-seeking or self-righteousness in any difficult thing that you have to say or do in the name of Jesus, and you will have no cause to regret the stand you take whatever you have to suffer for it. For in the long run it is better to hold the respect of Jesus than that of fallible man, and even in the sadness of a lonely hour His whispered word of peace is worth more than all the adulation of the world.