A reader wondered:
I thought of Revelation 4:10-11, where it says the 24 Elders will cast their crowns down before the feet of Jesus. The Grace New Testament Commentary doesn’t say much on this. I looked at another commentary and it said that maybe we will be so full of gratitude that we will be overwhelmed and realize only God is worthy of glory, honor, and power. That whatever we did on Earth to earn rewards will pale in comparison to being in the presence of the Lord Jesus who alone is worthy. Crowns will seem an insignificant gift to present to the One who gave Himself for us.
I remember seeing a video put out by Dallas Theological Seminary on eschatology. On one of the lessons the three famous Dispensationalist speakers, Drs. John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, and J. Dwight Pentecost, discussed the Judgment Seat of Christ and eternal rewards. One of them brought up Rev 4:10-11 and the casting of crowns at the feet of Jesus. They all agreed that meant that any rewards we receive we will immediately give back, laying them at the feet of Jesus.
Despite the fact that I much look up to those men, I concluded they were wrong. The Scriptures clearly contradict that view.
In Luke 19:17, 19 we read of one servant of Christ who will rule over 10 cities and one who will rule over 5 cities. Those rewards cannot be given back. The Lord gave those men commissions.
In Rev 2:26 the Lord said that He would give authority, rulership, over the nations to those who overcome. Again, those positions cannot be abdicated.
Here are some contextual observations regarding Rev 4:10-11 which help us understand it:
- Verse 10 is part of a sentence that begins at verse 9 with the words, “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him…” According to verse 8, “they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” Thus the crown casting is not a one-time event. The 24 elders keep on casting their crowns at the feet of Jesus every time the living creatures give God glory, which they do night and day incessantly. This drama goes on continuously for the seven years of the Tribulation.
- What the elders are acting out is that all glory and honor and power flows from the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not denying that men will have glory, honor, and power. What they are saying is that all glory and honor and power is delegated from the Lord.
- There is nothing in the context to suggest that the crowns represent all eternal rewards. Even if one of the rewards given out at the Bema were literal crowns, and even if Rev 4:10-11 says we give them back in a one-time event where we give back our crowns (which it does not say), that would still not deny the many rewards which faithful believer are guaranteed to receive.
- Eternal rewards are spoken of later in Revelation, in the section dealing with the eternal kingdom on the new earth (Rev 21:7; 22:14). If Rev 4:10-11 means that humans will give back all rewards, then Rev 21:7 and Rev 22:14 contradict that earlier claim.
In an excellent article entitled, “Degrees of Rewards in Eternity: Sanctification by Works?” Douglas Bozung says this about crown casting in Rev 4:10-11, “However, as can be cogently argued, the casting of crowns is an act of worship that continually acknowledges the One to whom all glory belongs. Therefore, it does not by itself negate the very real possibility that some will enjoy a greater capacity to worship God or other privileges in eternity” (click here to see the entire article).
Bozung cites Ken Quick’s Doctor of Ministry Dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary as agreeing with his understanding. Quick writes:
“[T]hough they cast their crowns before him, they do not cast their thrones, nor do they give up their position and proximity to Him. The casting of the crowns before the throne is symbolic of the words they say, “Worthy art thou…to receive glory and honor and power”… But this action in no way changes the glory or honor He has bestowed on them. They keep it permanently” (Kenneth B. Quick, “Living for the Kingdom” [D.Min. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1989], 234, emphasis original) [cited by Bozung on pp. 38-39, note 25].
Revelation 4:10-11 does not say that we will give our rewards back to Christ.