A CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Near the end of Paul’s life, just before he was martyred, he had the assurance that he would receive the reward. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul said that he was ready to be offered. This means he was ready to be offered to God as a martyr. He realized that the time of his departure was at hand, and he had the assurance that he had fought a good fight and had finished his course. In 1 Corinthians 9 he said he was running the race, but in 2 Timothy he said he had finished his course. Because he had kept the faith and had run the race he had the assurance there was laid up for him not eternal security, nor a crown of grace, but a crown of righteousness. He was assured that the Lord Jesus as the righteous judge would give him a crown of righteousness at that day. He went on to say the Lord Jesus would also give such a crown to all those who loved His appearing. In these verses Paul does not consider the Lord as the gracious judge but as the righteous judge. The crown of righteousness has nothing to do with our salvation. Our salvation has been settled once and for all even unto eternity. But whether or not we will receive a crown of righteousness as a prize depends upon how we run the race.
A CROWN OF GLORY
The Apostle Peter also had the same concept. In 1 Peter 5:4 he said, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." The crown of glory is something in addition to salvation. We have received salvation. But whether or not we will receive a crown of glory depends upon how we conduct ourselves and how we work for Him.
The harvest of the seed of the reward is in Revelation 22:12. "Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to render to each one according to his work." The seed was sown in Matthew 16; it grew and blossomed in the Epistles, and now it is harvested in Revelation 22:12. The Lord Jesus said that He was coming, not with salvation, but with a reward. Do not think that if you die or if the Lord comes back all your problems will be solved. If you have not learned the proper lessons and if you have not matured in the Lord, you will still have problems, and the Lord will deal with you. If you do not feed on the Lord today and let Him saturate you, you will have problems when the Lord comes back; He will deal with you. You must be matured and learn the lessons either before you die or after you are resurrected. Whether you learn today or you learn in that day is up to you. If you learn the lessons today and you mature in the Lord today, you will be qualified to enter into the manifestation of the kingdom, the joy of the Lord. If you do not learn the lessons today, you will miss the manifestation of the kingdom because you will not be qualified to enter. At that time you will still have to be matured, but it will be too late for entering into the manifestation of the kingdom. If a student does not study, he will not graduate. If he studies well, he will not only graduate but also receive a prize. In school if you do not pass your courses this semester, you must take the same courses next semester. Eventually, you must pass all the courses in order to graduate. I beg you to drop the concept that everything will be okay when you die, as long as you believe in the Lord Jesus. Do not think that by your death you will graduate. You still must be qualified.
According to the pure Word of the Bible, we are told clearly that we must be saturated with the Lord, and we must be matured. If we are not matured and saturated in this age, we must be matured and saturated in the next. Although the Lord does not give us the details of how He will deal with us at that time, He does give us the clear principle. The principle is that after we are saved we must go along with Him, enjoy Him, be saturated with Him, and be matured in Him. If not, we can be sure that we will suffer something. We will miss something, and we will suffer something. But if we will cooperate with the Lord, when He returns we will receive something in addition to our salvation as a prize. This will happen at the time of the manifestation of the kingdom, and this is a part of the manifestation of the kingdom. If we are not qualified, we will have no participation in the manifestation of the kingdom. If we would participate in the manifestation of the kingdom, we must live today in the reality of the kingdom. Only those who are living today in the reality of the kingdom will be transferred into the manifestation of the kingdom in that day. May the gracious Lord grant us to cooperate with Him, to let Him saturate us so that when He comes back we may enter into the manifestation of the kingdom for the top enjoyment of Christ as a reward.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 38, by Witness Lee)