A consistent theme in the New Testament is the suffering of believers, along with the rich rewards for those who persevere under suffering because of their identification with Christ. Later in life, Peter addressed this topic:
1 Peter 4:12-19
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when His glory is revealed.
If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name…so then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good.
Throughout his letter, the type of suffering Peter says is commendable before God is the suffering we encounter because we are identifying with Christ. Within this context, the phrase “God’s will” would be that believers are conformed to Christ’s example through suffering. Peter is encouraging his readers to remember that as they are insulted (or worse) for being a Christian, they are to persevere through…so that this suffering will make them more like Christ.
Then Peter turns his attention to the church elders. Not only do we hear the echo of Christ’s teaching, but we see how the concepts of suffering, serving, and perseverance all come together in eternity future:
1 Peter 5:1-4
I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Crowns in the ancient world were symbols of authority and of rulership. When one was bestowed, certain rights and privileges were obtained – whether it was the victor’s crown in the Olympics or the Caesar’s crown in Rome. The crowns that Christ will reward to believers who have served will likely represent a level of authority in Christ’s future kingdom. What we do know for sure is that these crowns will be used as symbols of worship as they are removed and placed at Jesus’ feet (Revelation 4:9-10)…and this fits with the eternal concept of all authority in Heaven and on Earth being subject to Christ.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will worship Him…and they will reign forever and ever.
Those who have served, suffered, and persevered in this life…who else would be qualified to reign in Christ’s kingdom? Who else would be most likely to rule like Jesus?
Only His Servant Kings.