Answer: There are five heavenly crowns mentioned in the New Testament that will be awarded to believers. They are the imperishable crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory, and the crown of life. The Greek word translated “crown” is stephanos (the source for the name Stephen the martyr) and means “a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally.” Used during the ancient Greek games, it referred to a wreath or garland of leaves placed on a victor’s head as a reward for winning an athletic contest. As such, this word is used figuratively in the New Testament of the rewards of heaven God promises those who are faithful. Paul’s passage in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 best defines for us how these crowns are awarded.

1) The Imperishable Crown – (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate [disciplined] in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (NKJV). All things on this earth are subject to decay and will perish. Jesus urges us to not store our treasures on earth “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). This is analogous to what Paul was saying about that wreath of leaves that was soon to turn brittle and fall apart. But not so the heavenly crown; faithful endurance wins a heavenly reward which is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

2) The Crown of Rejoicing – (1 Thessalonians 2:19) “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice always in the Lord” for all the bountiful blessings our gracious God has showered upon us. As Christians we have more in this life to rejoice about than anyone else. Luke tells us there is rejoicing even now in heaven (Luke 15:7). The crown of rejoicing will be our reward where “God will wipe away every tear . . . there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

3) The Crown of Righteousness – (2 Timothy 4:8) “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” We inherit this crown through the righteousness of Christ which is what gives us a right to it, and without which it cannot be obtained. Because it is obtained and possessed in a righteous way, and not by force and deceit as earthly crowns sometimes are, it is an everlasting crown, promised to all who love the Lord and eagerly wait for His return. Through our enduring the discouragements, persecutions, sufferings, or even death, we know assuredly our reward is with Christ in eternity (Philippians 3:20). This crown is not for those who depend upon their own sense of righteousness or of their own works. Such an attitude breeds only arrogance and pride, not a longing, a fervent desire to be with the Lord.

4) The Crown of Glory – (1 Peter 5:4) “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” Though Peter is addressing the elders, we must also remember that the crown will be awarded to all those who long for or love His appearing. This word “glory” is an interesting word referring to the very nature of God and His actions. It entails His great splendor and brightness. Recall Stephen who, while being stoned to death, was able to look into the heavens and see the glory of God (Acts 7:55-56). This word also means that the praise and honor we bestow to God alone is due Him because of who He is (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11; Galatians 1:5). It also recognizes that believers are incredibly blessed to enter into the kingdom, into the very likeness of Christ Himself. For as Paul so eloquently put it, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NKJV).

5) The Crown of Life – (Revelation 2:10) “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This crown is for all believers, but is especially dear to those who endure sufferings, who bravely confront persecution for Jesus, even to the point of death. In Scripture the word “life” is often used to show a relationship that is right with God. It was Jesus who said, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Just as things such as air, food, and water are vital for our physical lives, Jesus provides us what is required for our spiritual lives. He is the One who provides “living water.” He is the “bread of life” (John 4:10, 6:35). We know that our earthly lives will end. But we have the amazing promise that comes only to those who come to God through Jesus: “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

James tells us that this crown of life is for all those who love God (James 1:12). The question then is how do we demonstrate our love for God? The apostle John answers this for us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). As His children we must keep His commandments, obeying Him, always remaining faithful. So, as we endure the inevitable trials, pains, heartaches, and tribulations—as long as we live—may we ever move forward, always “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and receive the crown of life that awaits us.”

“The Twenty-Four Elders. The scene is definitely set in heaven in the following verses.

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats [thrones]: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold (Revelation 4:4).
The controversy about the twenty-four elders involves the question: Do they represent the church, and if so, do they represent a raptured church? I will follow a different (and easier) line of argument here than is usually taken. I will not try to prove that they are the church, I will only try to prove that they are men. This is easy enough to prove from their characteristics.

Elsewhere in the Bible only men are “elders.”

Only men sit on thrones (except God and Satan).

Only men wear white raiment (hi-ma-ti-on in Greek).

Only men wear crowns. This is fitting because the Greek word means a “victorious crown” rather than a “kingly crown.” The Greek distinguishes between the two types of crowns. A heavenly being may wear a kingly crown, but no heavenly being has gone through the battle of life on earth in order to earn the victor’s crown. (Revelation 9:7 is unique because a figurative creature is involved. Even here, though, these locusts are not heavenly beings, and it is expressly stated that their faces are as “men.” Revelation 14:14 also fits the pattern because Christ as “the son of man” is a man as well as God.)

All four characteristics constitute sufficient evidence that the twenty-four elders are men. It might be possible to discount one or two of them if that were all there were. But four characteristics all at once is too much to get around. To try to explain these away, or to try to get around them one by one, is like trying to hold down four jack-in-the-boxes with one hand. The same hand that holds down one lets the other three jump up. A comprehensive and unified explanation is impossible unless we understand that these are men. (Not the church necessarily, just men.)

It may be objected, “We cannot be certain who the twenty-four elders are.” (They cannot be angels, Revelation 7:11. If not men or angels, what other possibilities are there?) But remember Revelation is an unsealed book (22:10). Maybe some minor points in Revelation we do not understand yet, but the twenty-four elders are major. They are the first feature focused on in the heavenly scene after God Himself. They figure prominently no less than four times in chapters four and five. Later in the book they reappear several times at strategic events. Can we not understand a major item in an unsealed book? Obviously, God intends for us to know who they are.

God has made their identification clear, not only from their characteristics, but also from the previous context. In Revelation 2 and 3 He promises “I will give thee a crown of life … white raiment … to sit with me in my throne.” In light of these promises in the previous context, to see the elders sitting on thrones, wearing white raiment and crowns, it is impossible to miss their identity. What can Revelation 4 be if it is not the fulfillment of these promises? The promises (in chapters 2 and 3) match the fulfillment (in chapter 4) as perfectly as a glove fits on a hand. Or would God fool us by giving us a host of false and misleading clues in a book that is unsealed? If so, the title of the book should be changed from “Revelation” to “Obscuration.”

After establishing that the twenty-four elders are men, the second step in our line of argument is to notice that they have crowns on their heads.

Third, the time for men to receive crowns is at the coming of Christ, not before (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4). (Exceptions occur later in Revelation in the more symbolic visions of John. However, for real men this is the rule. Of course, in 14:14 Christ wears a crown because He is resurrected and glorified as we will be at the rapture. The rapture and crowning occur simultaneously. This accounts for John’s seeing the elders with crowns the moment he was caught up to heaven.)

Fourth and finally, if men’s crowns are received at the coming of Christ, and if these twenty-four men have crowns, then there must have been a coming of Christ prior to this. If all three previous points are correct, then we are committed to a pre-trib rapture. (If this scene of the twenty-four elders comes at the beginning of the seven years, then this rules out a mid-tribulation rapture.)

Now we went through this entire argument without once assuming that the twenty-four elders represent the church. After finishing the argument, however, I can safely conclude that they represent New Testament saints only, because the resurrection of Old Testament saints occurs after the tribulation (Daniel 12:2).

Let us pause here to catch a glimpse of the amazing privilege God has given us. The thrones of these elders surround God’s throne. This indicates that we will be associated with God as co-rulers with Him in the judgments of the tribulation! We will be on top instead of down under. What an encouragement to remain patiently under our problems just awhile longer. We also learn from the elders’ attitude of praise that prayer is a high privilege. We do not have to wait to enter into this privilege, but we can live now like the kings and priests God has called us to be by offering intercession and praise.”

READ MORE: 7. Revelation
“…Step back, then, and survey this scene. Chapters two and three of Revelation hold out numerous promises of future reward to the overcomers. In those chapters we see them laboring in the midst of poverty, temptation, toils, and persecutions. But suddenly the scene changes. John has given his testimony concerning“the things which are,” and he is called up to be shown “the things which shall be after these things.” (Rev. 1:19 & 4:1, Greek). He is rapt away to heaven, and who does he see there, but those same overcomers—-the redeemed from every kindred and tongue and people and nation—-WITH THE VICTORS’ CROWNS UPON THEIR HEADS! They have overcome, and have received their crowns.

The question immediately presents itself, when did they receive those crowns? To that question there can be but one answer: at the rapture of the church, at the coming of Christ.

Paul says, “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.” (II Tim. 4:6-8).

Peter says, “And WHEN THE CHIEF SHEPHERD SHALL APPEAR, ye shall receive a CROWN OF GLORY that fadeth not away.” (I Pet. 5:4).

Christ says, “And behold, I COME quickly, and my REWARD is WITH ME.” (Rev. 22:12).

There are myriads of redeemed men in heaven now, but NOT ONE OF THEM HAS RECEIVED HIS CROWN. Paul, in the passage just quoted, knew that he had finished his course, and that the time of his departure was at hand. He expected to depart immediately to be with Christ, BUT HE DID NOT EXPECT TO BE CROWNED. His crown he expected to receive “at that day”—-in the resurrection, at the return of Christ.

Now then, the presence of redeemed men, singing the praises of their redeemer in heaven, and in full possession of their promised crowns, is PROOF CONCLUSIVE that CHRIST HAS COME. The rapture of the church has taken place already, and that before one seal is opened of the tribulation judgements.”

READ MORE: “The Crowned Elders”
by Glenn Conjurske
“Both Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:9 speak of the “judgment seat.” This is a translation of one Greek word, the word bema. While bema is used in the gospels and Acts of the raised platform where a Roman magistrate or ruler sat to make decisions and pass sentence (Matt. 27:19; John 19:13), its use in the epistles by Paul, because of his many allusions to the Greek athletic contests, is more in keeping with its original use among the Greeks.

This word was taken from Isthmian games where the contestants would compete for the prize under the careful scrutiny of judges who would make sure that every rule of the contest was obeyed (cf. 2 Tim. 2:5). The victor of a given event who participated according to the rules was led by the judge to the platform called the Bema. There the laurel wreath was placed on his head as a symbol of victory (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-25).

In all of these passages, “Paul was picturing the believer as a competitor in a spiritual contest. As the victorious Grecian athlete appeared before the Bema to receive his perishable award, so the Christian will appear before Christ’s Bema to receive his imperishable award. The judge at the Bema bestowed rewards to the victors. He did not whip the losers.”2 We might add, neither did he sentence them to hard labor.

In other words, it is a reward seat and portrays a time of rewards or loss of rewards following examination, but it is not a time of punishment where believers are judged for their sins. Such would be inconsistent with the finished work of Christ on the Cross because He totally paid the penalty for our sins. Chafer and Walvoord have an excellent word on this view:

With reference to sin, Scripture teaches that the child of God under grace shall not come into judgment (John 3:18; 5:24; 6:37; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:32); in his standing before God, and on the ground that the penalty for all sin—past, present, and future (Col. 2:13)—has been borne by Christ as the perfect Substitute, the believer is not only placed beyond condemnation, but being in Christ is accepted in the perfection of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:6; Col. 2:10; Heb. 10:14) and loved of God as Christ is loved (John 17:23).3

Again, Chafer writes concerning the Bema, “It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the judgment is unrelated to the problem of sin, that it is more for the bestowing of rewards than the rejection of failure.”4

The Time of the Bema

This event will occur immediately following the rapture or resurrection of the church after it is caught up to be with the Lord in the air as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Arguments in support of this view:

(1) In Luke 14:12-14, reward is associated with the resurrection and the rapture is when the church is resurrected.

(2) In Revelation 19:8, when the Lord returns with His bride at the end of the tribulation, she is seen already rewarded. Her reward is described as fine linen, the righteous acts of the saints—undoubtedly the result of rewards.

(3) In 2 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, rewards are associated with “that day” and with the Lord’s coming. Again, for the church this means the event of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

So the order of events will be (a) the rapture which includes our glorification or resurrection bodies, (b) exaltation into the heavens with the Lord, (c) examination before the Bema, and (d) compensation or rewards.

The Place of the Bema

It will occur somewhere in the heavenlies in the presence of the Lord. This is evident from 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Revelation 4:2 and 19:8.

The Participants at the Bema

(1) All the passages dealing with the Bema or rewards are addressed to believers or pertain to believers of the church (Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:12f; 2 Cor. 5:9f; 1 John 2:28; 1 Thess. 2:19-20; 1 Tim. 6:18-19; Tit. 2:12-14 [note the emphasis on good works]).

The resurrection program and the thus the reward of Old Testament saints occurs after the tribulation, after church age saints are already seen in heaven and rewarded and returning with the Lord to judge the earth (cf. Rev. 19:8 with Dan. 12:1-2; Matt. 24).

(2) All believers, regardless of their spiritual state, will be raptured and will stand before the Bema to give an account of their lives and will either receive rewards or lose rewards. Some believe in a partial rapture theory which says that only those in fellowship with the Lord will be raptured as a form of punishment for their sin. As mentioned above, this is not only contrary to the finished work of Christ who once and for all paid the penalty for our sins, but it is contrary to the teaching of 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11.

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.

The context suggests that Paul has in mind the return of Christ for the church—the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The rapture is the means of our deliverance from the wrath he discusses in chapter 5:1-3. Further, the words “awake or asleep” of verse 10 refer to a spiritual or moral condition, not whether one is alive or dead when Christ returns as in 4:13-14. This is clear from both the context of 5:4-8 and by the fact he changed the words he used for sleep. He used the Greek katheudo in 5:10 rather than koimao, the word he used metaphorically in 4:13-14 of physical death. Though katheudo was used of physical sleep and even death, it was also commonly used of spiritual apathy or carnal indifference to spiritual matters, and this is clearly the context of chapter 5. The point, then, is this: Because of the perfect and finished nature of Christ’s death (note the words “who died for us” of verse 10), whether we are spiritually alert or not, we will live together with Him through the rapture to face the examination of the Bema.”

READ MORE: “The Doctrine of Rewards: The Judgment Seat (Bema) of Christ”
By J. Hampton Keathley, III…/doctrine-rewards-judgment-seat-bema-chr…
“Eternal Rewards From Jesus Christ”
by Britt Gillette
“Where is “the Church” in Revelation 4-19?”
Dr. Robert Gromacki…/where-is-church-in-revelation-4-19
“Bema Seat of Christ”
Believers Judgment by Christ…/bema/bema.htm
“Who Are the 24 Elders of Revelation?”
Dr. Thomas Ice…/who-are-24-elders-of-rev…
Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

This is the first mention in Revelation of the redeemed “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” here in chapter 5. This is in a group of singers who are singing about the redemption of humans. Included in this choir are these twenty-four elders. Their description is in chapter 4, where they are seen wearing crowns. Interesting that they should already be wearing crowns, as the promise of crowns was given in Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Then, in Revelation 3:11- “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”

So, part of this choir singing about redeemed humanity is a group of crowned elders.

Revelation 4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
“Not all musical arrangements involve everyone singing exactly the same words as every other singer. A common antiphonal arrangement involves men singing one part with the women
singing a response.” – Dr. John Niemelä
More of what the elders do:

Revelation 4:9-11

9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
See what Dr. John Niemelä concludes about the choir in which they sing:

“Internal and external evidence leads to the conclusion that the passage is antiphonal.

Elders sing:
You have redeemed us to God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Living Creatures respond:
You have made them kings and priests to our God. They shall reign on the earth.

With this understanding, the passage teaches the following eschatological sequence:
1. Rapture: Revelation 4:1,
2. The Bema (after 4:1, but before the twenty-four are called elders: 4:4),
3. Singing about the declaration at the Bema that the elders will rule as kings (5:10),
4. Christ opens the first seal (6:1).

Revelation 5:9–10 is a wonderful demonstration that the rapture precedes Daniel’s seventieth week. The twenty-four elders will be rewardable church-age believers, who will reign as kings and priests in the Millennium. ”

By Dr. John Niemelä…/…/Niemela-Revelation5TheTwenty.pdf
The prayer in John 17 (verse 24) has reference to our being there in Heaven with Him to to see His glory –where the redeemed humanity will be giving Him their praises as they watch His glory in successfully taking back the title deed to the earth. There is good reason to believe that the crowned elders are humans wearing what has been awarded to them at the Bema seat, and they are there to witness His glory — and worship Him as they see it, and sing with understanding in response, as part of this choir. The other creatures that join in are supporting the antiphonal arrangement of this song of worship in which is the very praise our Lord of glory wants from His redeemed.

Did He die so that He could receive honor and glory from non-humans? Well, they might give Him honor as they witness our redemption and our response of worship, but He mainly gave His life to redeem a people from all nations for His own name; humans to share His glory, and to sing praises — to praise and worship Him.
John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (compare to John 14:1-3).
He is about to conclude a Dispensation which began at Pentecost, and which will end at the Rapture, the purpose of which is to call an Heavenly people home to receive their rewards and to witness His glory together, and sing, and worship, and learn from what they witness there, how to share in His glory in reigning over the nations.
Romans 9:22-24

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Ephesians 1:13-15

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.