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2ND GIFT: “THE CROWN OF LIFE”
by Philip Owen

            Our wealthy society is storied for giving lavish gifts.  One of the concerns that many believers share is that Christmas has become dominated by too great an emphasis on receiving gifts; children, in particular, can lose focus on the true significance of Christmas in their excitement to open presents.  And many parents are guilty of over-indulging their children and destroying godly values by catering to the whims of the flesh.  Godly parents and other givers of gifts must remain wary about the propensity of gifts to distort what is important and the power of gifts to indulge lusts.  But when He returns, the Lord Jesus will lade His own with gifts—many and of inestimable value—without any concern about corrupting or perverting us because we will be perfected and be beyond sin or even temptation to sin.  And so, we who know the Lord are promised a second gift:  “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. . . .  He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:10, 11).

            This gift was initially promised to the church at Smyrna, a church that endured great persecution, even martyrdom in some cases, for refusing to worship the Roman emperor Domitian.  As such, its pertinence and poignancy can be readily recognized.  But the promise should be no less precious to members of the body of Christ since that time.  If truth be told, eternal life is the longing of every human heart.  Some have gone so far as to have their bodies preserved cryogenically in the vain hope that at some future time they might be restored to life.  For although there are many people who are indifferent to God, some who fear or hate Him, and some who have no desire to know Him or be in His presence, only an insane person or one who has been grossly deluded by Satan feels no longing for eternal life.

            And it is just this gift that the Lord bestows on those He redeems.  Had we no other gift, this one would be worth exchanging all the wealth in the universe to obtain.  But it must be a gift of God, for no one has the wherewithal to afford it. Think for a moment just in terms of the text about the significance of this gift.  The eleventh verse offers an interesting synonym, or at least a partial explanation of what the “crown of life” is, namely, escape from being “hurt by the second death.”  Revelation 20:14 and 21:8 reveal the second death to be the lot of sinners who are thrown into the lake of fire to experience eternal punishment and eternal separation both from God’s presence and from any hope of mercy.  This gift, then, bars those who have believed from the place of eternal damnation and brings them into the presence of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to enjoy eternal fellowship and unfathomable blessing.

            That this gift is called a “crown” is also wonderfully significant.  This crown (Gk., stephanos) speaks of the crown given to a victor, for example, one who had won an Olympic competition.  It may be distinguished from other crowns promised to believers:  the crown of righteousness given to those who live a godly life (II Tim. 4:8), the crown of glory for godly pastors (I Pet. 5:4), the crown of gold evidencing our relationship with God (Rev. 4:4), the crown of rejoicing for those who have faithfully ministered to others (I Thes. 2:19), and an incorruptible crown (I Cor. 9:25).  Whether the crown is literal, as the gold crown, for example, appears to be (cf., Rev. 4:10), or a metaphor for the ultimate blessing (as we might speak of a “crowning achievement”), we will not be disappointed.  The glory and radiance of that crown of life, however it may be manifested, will glisten with the redemptive glory of our wonderful Lord and Savior who died in order to purchase it for us.  As a bride in our culture proudly displays her diamond engagement ring that proclaims she belongs to only one person—the man who gave it to her, so we will wear the “crown of life” as an eternal testament to the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us.  Whether like Polycarp and others in Smyrna who were martyred for the Lord or like David, who fell asleep after a long life, we will wear the crown with joy, knowing that it was given to us by One who loved us and washed us in His blood. 

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