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I would like to ask what does the “Crown of Life” means in the context of James 1:12 (NLT):

”God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

What is God’s view of “crown of life” that He wants to give? Is it an eternal life with Him? Thanks.

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The key to understanding this and related verses is to understand the two Greek words translated "crown". They are:

  1. στέφανος (stephanos) which is not strictly a "crown" but a garland (usually laurel leaves) of honour given to the victor of a races, most commonly at the Olympic games for the winner of the foot races. Thus, it is a sporting allusion. See below.
  2. διάδημα (diadéma) which a true crown and symbol or royalty. It only occurs in Rev 12:3, 13:1 and 19:12.

The στέφανος (stephanos) occurs 18 times in the NT including:

  • Matt 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2, 5 - the mock crown of thorns foisted upon Jesus. This mocked his claims to Messiah-ship by equating Him with the Caesars who wore a στέφανος (stephanos) (see their carved busts).
  • 1 Cor 9:25 - "Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable." This verse explains the stephanos well as a sporting allusion to the winner of the races; but the eternal (imperishable) "crown of life" is awarded to victorious Christians on "that day".
  • Phil 3:20-4:1 - But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you must stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. This shows that the Christian victory crown will be awarded to victorious Christians on the day our bodies are transformed (see 1 Cor 15:50-54). Paul also suggests that those he has worked to convert will be his crown of glory.
  • 1 Thess 2:19 - For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? The message here is very similar to that in Philippians above.
  • 2 Tim 4:8 - Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. Again, the crown of life is awarded when the Lord appears, ie, at His second coming.
  • James 1:12 - Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. Again, the crown is likened to the reward of those who have "persevered under trial", having "stood the test". That is, those who have been victorious.
  • 1 Peter 5:4 - And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Again, the crown of life is awarded to those victorious Christians when the Chief Shepherd, Jesus, appears, that is, at the second coming.
  • Rev 2:10 - "Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." This is another allusion to crowns given as a reward for the victorious who endure testing.

There are several more in Revelation but the above well illustrates the meaning of "crown of life". Thus, "crown of life" is a NT metaphor for eternal life with Jesus.

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The crown in James 1:12 cannot be a metaphor for eternal life because eternal life is a gift, not something that you earned.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

What if you fail the test, would you lose your eternal life? No, but you would not win the crown. It is literally a crown that you earn after some hard work. But it is not an earthly laurel-leaves crown but a real crown in the spiritual realm. Similar crowns are mentioned else where.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

2 Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

1 Peter 5:4 when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown.

Revelation 6:2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

What do we do with these crowns besides wearing them on our heads?

Revelation 4:10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

We can worship God with these hard-earned crowns.

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