Throughout history, crowns have been the primary image for authority and honor. In the Bible, it is clear that God is the one who crowns kings. All earthly authority comes from him (Rom 13:1-2). In David’s psalm describing the king, we read that God “welcomed him with the blessings of good things and set a crown of fine gold on his head” (Ps 21:3). The king’s crown was a symbol of his representative rule of the kingdom that was ultimately ruled by God, God is the only true authority, the everlasting King. One day we will see Christ with many crowns on his head, an image of his ultimate authority (Rev 19:12). This carries through in the crown imagery when we read that “the LORD of Armies will be like a glorious crown for his few remaining people” (Isa 28:5). Later on we learn that God removes the crown if a king fails to uphold the covenant (Ps 89:39; Prov 27:24).
CROWNS OF BLESSING
The Bible often uses the same figure in a number of contrasting ways, and the image of a crown is no exception. In a stunning reversal of the crown image, God bestows upon Jerusalem the honor of being his crown: “Then you will be a beautiful crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal crown in the hand of your God” (Isa 62:3). Jerusalem has gone from being a desolate city in rebellion against the true King’s authority, to being Almighty God’s adornment. God has raised his people up so that they are jewels in his crown (Zech 9:16). What a beautiful picture of the redemption God works in the lives of those who love him.
The image of a crown also denotes God’s blessing on his people. For example, Isaiah promised that after the Israelites returned from exile “everlasting happiness will be on their heads as a crown” (Isa 35:10). God will crown his people with the blessings of children (Prov 17:6), old age (Prov 16:31), and wisdom (Prov 4:9). These blessings of God will be external and visible to all, just like a crown.
In addition to being a symbol for literal kingship and for God’s favor, crowns serve as an image of the eternal rewards for those who serve as God’s favor, crowns serve as an image of the eternal rewards for those who serve as God’s ambassadors. Paul spoke of his congregations as his crowns (Philp 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19). Here the reference is to a victor’s crown, like the one awarded to the winner of an athletic competition. Paul did not have much in the way of earthly treasure, but the souls of those he served were reward enough. In addition, his work on their behalf was storing up for him crowns in heaven, as he awaited the “crown of righteousness” God would give him in return for his faithfulness to the gospel (2 Tim 4:8).
Like Paul, all Christians anticipate the crowns that await us in heaven. As coheirs with Christ, we inherit the royal blessings of Christ. We are urged to “be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Rev 2:10). Not only has God allowed us to he jewels in his crown when we become part of his chosen people, he has given us our own imperishable crowns as we share in his glory: “Everyone who enters an athletic contest goes into strict training. They do it to win a temporary crown, but we do it to win one that will be permanent” (1 Cor 9:25; see also James 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4).