Questions From Readers
● To what does “the crown of life” mentioned at James 1:12 refer, and who can be said to gain this crown?
James 1:12 reads: “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.”
The expression “the crown of life” has been explained to mean the highest form of life, immortal life, such as Christ’s anointed footstep followers receive at the first resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:53, 54; Rev. 20:4, 6) There is no doubt that such life will be a crown to those possessing it and that it is the highest form of life. But did James, in using the word “crown,” mean such superlative form of life?
It does not seem that we must attach the thought of something superlative to the term “crown of life.” The Greek word is stephanos. It is taken from a root meaning “to encircle,” and so it is used to refer to a crown, wreath, prize or reward that a victor in a race receives. Thus the apostle Paul at 2 Timothy 4:7, 8 writes: “I have run the course to the finish. . . . From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day.” He was not referring to superlative righteousness, but to the prize, the reward of righteousness that he would receive. (Compare Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20.) And so at James 1:12, “the crown of life” is the prize or gift of life received because of enduring tribulations. It can be said of the “great crowd” of tribulation survivors that, if enduring faithfully, they will gain “the crown of life,” theirs being eternal life on earth.—Rev. 7:9, 10.
At Revelation 2:10 we have a similar expression that refers to the prize of life. Those receiving it are persons who have endured faithfully until death. In this instance, though, the ones being addressed are the anointed Christians who can gain immortal life in the heavens. (Rev. 2:26, 27) The words at James 1:12 might be said to state a general principle rather than referring to a specific class of people as does Revelation 2:10.