Do the crowns given to the saints as rewards signify some hierarchy?
Most of what I have written on the crowns can be found at the following links:
*The Judgment of the Church and Christian Rewards (in CT 6)
Peter #18, "The Doctrine of Crowns".
To sum up, all believers who survive
the crucible of life with faith intact receive a resurrection body and
the other basic rewards of eternity (which are immense and ineffable in
their own right). They are also rewarded for all legitimate
production. Crowns do represent a hierarchy of upper-level
rewards. Those who reach spiritual maturity and thus fulfill the
potential of the righteousness that comes by faith receive the crown of
righteousness; those who demonstrate the hope they have in eternal
rewards above earthly considerations, mature believers who endure
significant testing successfully by preferring eternal life to this life, receive the crown of
life; and those who successfully complete the missions and ministries
they were assigned, reciprocating consistently the love of Jesus Christ
through loving Him and His Church, receive the crown of glory. As the parable of the
talents (among other passages) makes clear, there are different levels
of production, and we should expect that there are degrees of rewards
for these different levels as well. Nothing we do will go unrewarded
(even a cup of water offered in the Lord's Name: Matt.10:42). The Lord
will also take into account the circumstances of our lives and the
abilities we were given (more being expected of those who were given
While it is true that the crowns represent different types of rewards, they are in a sense hierarchical since they are progressive (i.e., perseverance is necessary for maturity, solidity of faith is necessary for endurance of severe testing, and such proven hope is necessary for effective production). But it seems likely from what scripture has to say about this subject that there are many more types and levels of rewards and honors which are not comprised in the crowns. All believers should aspire to the Christian "triple crown", but even within this category of those who fulfill the will of God for their lives in gaining all three it appears that there will be wide variation of status and additional rewards. And based upon  what we know of the reshuffling of the angelic hierarchy (see the link: “The Angelic Elders”), and  the ultimate inclusion of all believers into the organization of Israel (see the link: “Israel the Ultimate Measure”), this will probably be tribal in its implementation. One thinks of the special honor accorded to Moses and Elijah (see the link: “The Two Witnesses”), as well as that given to the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev.21:14), and that given to the 144,000 (Rev.14:1-5) - to name but three special categories of individuals who will have preeminent status in eternity (see also the specific rewards mentioned in the messages to the seven churches of Revelation 2-3). There is much that we do not know about that future time, but everything we do know encourages us to put the Lord and our service to Him in first place of all that we do with our lives, for only this will last forever.
(6) Let him who receives instruction in the Word share in all good things with him who gives instruction. (7) Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (8) For the one whose sowing is directed to his own [sinful] flesh from that [sinful] flesh will reap corruption, but the one whose sowing is directed toward the Spirit, from that [same] Spirit will reap eternal life. (9) And [so] let us not grow weary of doing the good [work of God], for at [the appointed] time we will reap [our reward], provided that we do not give up. (10) So then as long as we have this opportunity, let us keep accomplishing the good [work of God] towards all [people], and especially to the family of faith.
In the Name of the One we love and serve, our dear Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
I am being told that the use of given names with pagan origins is un-Christian (as well as the celebration of originally pagan holidays like Christmas). Could you comment on that?
Well, I know plenty of good Christians whose names are not biblical, and that is something that is paralleled in scripture. Daniel and his three friends were also given pagan names in addition to their Hebrew names, and while under Daniel's leadership they did make a point of not defiling themselves with Babylonian food, they didn't seem to think that the use of these names was anything to be distressed about. I think the key distinction here is between worshiping or celebrating a pagan god versus an unemotional understanding that these names are in common use (and that there is no need for believers to get upset about something they are not personally acknowledging the truth of). For instance, to take an extreme view, one should not refer to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday etc. (as these are all pagan names designed originally to honor the pagan gods for whom they are named), but instead talk about "day-1", "day-2", etc. This strikes me as the worst sort of self-righteous legalism, and very pointless too. When I teach my Greek and Latin classes, the names of pagan gods inevitably come up for all sorts of obvious reasons. We mention them and treat them as any other cultural artifact (but that doesn't mean for a moment that we believe they exist or that we are in any way worshiping them). For while I am very aware of Psalm 16:4 and like passages, for me such scriptures are referring to genuine acknowledgment, celebration, and worship, that is, acting as if these gods were real and due some honor. This is certainly not any part of the average American's celebration of Christmas (for example), even if there is some original connection with ancient pagan holidays. Christmas is a cultural thing, not really a biblical thing, but that doesn't make it any more blasphemous than, say, the 4th of July, and to the extent that it promotes a genuine interest in Christ, I'm not sure what any humble servant of Jesus who is willing to be all things to all people if only to save a few could possibly say about that.
You might also see the following links:
The Name "Jesus"
The Name "Christ"
The Names of Jesus Christ
What does the Name "Christian" mean?
Divine Names in the Bible
The "New Name" Christians receive in eternity
What is the significance of biblical name changes?
Names of Antichrist.
Names of the Devil.
In our Lord Jesus,
At John 18:27, since this was clearly well before dawn (sometime between midnight and three in the morning), this couldn't be a real rooster, could it? Is this a reference to some sort of night watch signal, or what was it?
The first thing I would say is that
although I have no experience on the farm, one of the places my parents
lived for years was near a farmstead that had several roosters, and they
would crow very, very early in the morning, well before dawn as it is
officially calculated in our culture.
Secondly, in the language and manner of expression of that day, “cock crow” is a period of time which, while it includes dawn, actually begins before dawn:
“So stay awake! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late (i.e., “at evening”), or in the middle of the night, or during cock crow, or early (i.e., “first thing in the morning”).”
Thirdly, the time of Peter's betrayal
was almost certainly much later than 12:00 - 3:00 AM. In John, this
betrayal takes place not only after the trial of our Lord before Annas
and the Sanhedrin, but also after Jesus is taken to His second of the
six trials, namely, His trial before Caiaphas, the sitting high priest
at that time (Jn.18:24). It is in the high priest's (i.e., Caiaphas')
courtyard that Peter betrayed Jesus three times (Jn.18:25-27). Since
Peter does not change his location during these two trials, it is clear
that both take place in the same general area, the estate of the high
priest. Luke further tells us that after the third denial and the crow
of the rooster, Jesus "turned and looked at Peter" (Lk.22:61). The fact
that Jesus was visible to Peter at this time most likely means that our
Lord was in the process of being led out of the house when Peter
committed his third denial - which means that this second trial in front
of Caiaphas had been completed. Finally, it is very shortly after this
that Jesus is judged by the entire Sanhedrin. All four of the gospels
indicate that this third trial, coming very shortly after the second and
with Peter's denials sandwiched in between them, took place at day break
(Matt.27:1; Mk.15:1; Lk.23:1; cf. Jn.18:28). Thus the evidence suggests
that the three denials occurred in the hour just before dawn - a not
uncommon time for roosters to crow, unless I am mistaken. I think we can
therefore say with certainty that this was indeed a rooster, as the
Greek text says (alektor = rooster, and only rooster in Greek).
There is some more information about this event in a previous e-mail response posted to the site: "Simeon and Simon, and the two crows of the rooster". and also "The Date of Christ's Crucifixion".
In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,