James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.
The word crown has a multitude of meanings. It can be the highest point of a mountain, the top part of a hat, an arched shape or position, the top of the head, or an enameled cap placed on a tooth. However, it is most often used to describe an adornment worn on the head, such as a garland or wreath, which is usually made of floral items or designs. This type crown is usually worn as a sign of honor or victory, especially as it relates to athletic games. It is also frequently used for an ornamental head covering generally made of, or decorated with, precious metals and jewels. This type crown is almost always worn by a king, queen or other royal monarch, and signifies a ruling position of power or sovereignty.
The Old Testament refers to crowns a number of times. Exodus 29:6 and 39:30 tell about the crown made and worn on the head by the High Priest, signifying the highest religious position in the Jewish nation. Crowns were also worn by Jewish kings. 2 Samuel 1:10 tells about the crown taken from King Saul and being given to David. Also, a royal crown was placed on the head of the young King Joash by Jehoiada, the High Priest. This is recorded in 2 Kings 11, and 2 Chronicles 23. Others noted as being given crowns to signify their high position were Esther, when she became Queen, and her uncle, Mordecai, when he was given a place of honor in the government of King Ahasuerus, as noted in Esther 6:8, and 8:15 respectively.
In the New Testament, the word crown was often used in a figurative way, as a symbol of a reward for spiritual achievement, success, or victory. In the lesson text, a crown of life is promised to those that endure temptation. The crown of life referred to in this verse is eternal life in heaven - the highest reward available to mankind. This is the blessing, the crowning glory that is promised by God to those that truly love Him, and are successful in overcoming the temptations of life - to those that strive to win the battle against sin, when faced with earthly temptations. This verse tells us that there is a definite connection between love for God and the ability to overcome such temptations. To those that love God, He has promised that He will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are not able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13b).
This same crown was promised to the church in Philadelphia, by God, through the writings of the apostle John. They were instructed to hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Rev. 3:11b). What were they to hold fast? Verse 10 tells us it is obedience to God's word that will keep thee from the hour of temptation in which the entire world dwells. To the church at Smyrna, God said, I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, to which he adds, ...but thou art rich (Rev. 2:9). The tribulations for some would include being cast into prison. To those who remained faithful to God through the trials of life - to those that win the battle against temptations; those that are victors over Satan, God promised a crown of life (Verse10).
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, Paul refers to the heavenly inheritance as an incorruptible crown and contrasts it to a corruptible crown, given to the winner of games of strength, speed and endurance, such as the Olympic Games. Such crowns, or wreaths were made of olive, laurel, or similar leaves of trees or ornamental bushes, which fade, wither, and lose their beauty in a very short time. Heaven is a crown that will never fade - it is eternal - it is an incorruptible crown. It is the crown of glory, that fadeth not away which Peter said would be given to the faithful, by Jesus Christ, at His second coming (1 Pet. 5:4). Paul refers to it as a crown of righteousness, which he would receive as well as all them that love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). To the Thessalonians, Paul called it a crown of rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:19).
There is no greater gift offered to mankind than eternal life in heaven. It is indeed a crown of life, an incorruptible crown, a crown of glory, a crown of righteousness, a crown of rejoicing. It is very humbling to realize that it was necessary for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to wear a crown of thorns (Matt. 27:29), so that we would have the blessed hope of receiving a Crown of Life.