For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?1 Thessalonians 2:19(NASB)
Paul had a great affection for the Christians in Thessalonica. They were a young Church, who were growing in grace, maturing in the faith and making steady progress in their Christian walk. And although there were a few dissenters who tried to undermine Paul's authority and others who had regressed in their spiritual growth, their enthusiastic response to the gospel of Christ was a great joy and encouragement to Paul, and his fellow-labourers in Christ.
Paul's letters were designed to strengthen their faith, encourage them towards holy living, correct any false doctrine, remind them of his apostolic authority, and further instruct them in Church-age doctrines and principles of godly conduct. Sadly, Paul and his companions had to leave Thessalonica before the Church was fully established, because they were met with strong opposition from the Jewish community, and the apostle did not want the fledgling believers to be persecuted, because of him.
There were certain teachings that needed to be more firmly established in Thessalonica when Paul had to leave. His letters needed to reaffirm certain doctrinal issues. We see him reestablishing his teaching about the return of the Lord Jesus for His Church-age saints, together with the circumstances surrounding the Rapture of the Church.
Paul and his companions were obviously pleased with the spiritual development of these believers, and referred to them as 'OUR hope; OUR joy; and OUR crown of rejoicing.' "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation?" was his rhetorical question. His immediate answer was, "Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For YOU are our glory and joy."
Paul not only taught these new believers about the return of the Lord in the clouds for His Church, at the Rapture, but also mentioned the spiritual rewards that will be given to believers at His coming. Paul described these believers, who had been born again through his ministry as his hope, his joy and the "Crown of Rejoicing" he would receive at Christ's return.
"The Crown of Rejoicing", is one of five 'crowns' that are mentioned in the New Testament. Each crown is given for a particular reason. They are tributes that are awarded to steadfast servants for a task that was carried out faithfully. They are rewards, given to saints, after we have been raptured into Christ's presence. Gold, silver, precious stones and crowns are identified as the rewards which are given to celebrate the work of faith, the labour of love or the steadfastness of a believer's hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, and each crown is received in the presence of God the Father.
In Corinthians, we read of "the Imperishable Crown", which is given to those who have run the race of life and obtained this award because of their obedience to God's Word, as they looked to JESUS the Author and Finisher of their faith. Unlike a wreath of leaves that is given to athletes in an earthly race, this crown is incorruptible, and will never fade or pass away. "The Crown of Righteousness", is given to all those who long for the soon return of the Lord Jesus, and cry out 'Maranatha' - COME Lord Jesus. It is given to those who do not rely on their own righteous covering but on the righteousness of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus came to give us life and to give it more abundantly, and "The Crown of Life", is awarded to those who have patiently endured persecution, and undergone unjustified sufferings and trials, during their life, while "the Crown of Glory", is given to pastors and teachers who have been faithful in shepherding the flock of God. They are ones that acted as under-shepherds, who teach the truth and adhere to the authority of Scripture and the commands of Christ - the Chief Shepherd of the flock and Good Shepherd of the sheep.
Here in 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes about the "Crown of Rejoicing." He identifies the Christian men and women to whom he and his fellow-labourers had brought the gospel, as THEIR Crown of Rejoicing. "YOU are our crown of Rejoicing!" Those who were saved through Paul's preaching are identified as his Crown of Rejoicing.
Not only is there rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, but there will be rejoicing in heaven when the pastors or evangelists, who faithfully preached the whole counsel of God, rejoice when they see the people that have been saved, because of their faithful witness. Paul rejoiced greatly when a lost sinner heard the gospel, and turned from sin to Christ for salvation. It seems that the Crown of Rejoicing, is the reward for the soul-winner - the one who wins souls for Jesus.
It is not only Christ's apostles who will receive this amazing Crown of Rejoicing, but all who have been instrumental in pointing a lost sinner to Christ. Those who faithfully ministered to US will rejoice at our salvation and we will be part of their Crown of Rejoicing. Together we will be part of a great company in heaven that are rejoicing because of our salvation and the salvation of others. We will also rejoice, with exceeding great joy, when we see men and women, boys and girls, who responded to our ministry, standing in that heavenly throng of rejoicing saints.
Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day that we can minister to lost souls and point people to Christ. May we be diligent to tell others of the good news of the gospel of grace and rejoice with them in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we cast our crowns before HIS feet.
Heavenly Father, what rejoicing there is over one sinner who repents and turns to Christ, for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. How I rejoice in my great salvation and thank You, Father, for the people in my life, who faithfully shared the gospel with me, prayed for my salvation, ministered to me, and pointed me to the Lord Jesus Christ, my God, and my Saviour. I pray that I would take every opportunity to testify to the truth of the gospel to people in my life, so that they may become my "Crown of Rejoicing", and I will join the heavenly throng in casting my crown at Your feet, for You alone are worthy of all honour and praise, both now and in the ages to come. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.