Stars in the Crowns of the Redeemed?
By Dirk Anderson, March 2022
In 1846, Ellen White published a "vision" in which she saw stars in the crowns of the redeemed:
Some crowns appeared hung [heavy] with stars, while others had but few.1
Throughout her career she repeatedly taught that these stars were obtained by saving souls:
It is their privilege to have stars in their crown because of souls saved through their instrumentality.2
According to Mrs. White, those who save many souls will have bright crowns that "glitter with many stars," while those who do little to save souls will have crowns "lighted by few gems."4 Thus, some souls will have the pride of displaying many stars throughout eternity, while others will carry the shame of dimly lit crowns for eternity. Mrs. White assures us that "there will be no jealous thoughts in any heart among the redeemed. Each one will be perfectly satisfied" with their reward.5
Not a Biblical Teaching
The Bible says nothing about stars in the crowns of the redeemed, and nothing about those stars being based upon the number of souls saved. There will be a "crown of life" rewarded to the faithful (Rev. 2:10; 3:11; 22:12; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Peter 5:4). However, the Bible teaches that it is not only those who reap, but those who "plant" and those who "sow" who share in the reward (1 Cor. 3:8). Saving souls is not a competition where believers attempt to "outshine" each other, but rather it is a collaborative effort.
Sometimes a passage in Daniel is used to justify this teaching:
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Dan. 12:3).
This verse says nothing of stars being awarded in crowns for souls saved. In fact, the reference to stars refers to the longevity of stars, with the obvious meaning that the righteous will live "for ever and ever." In Revelation 12:1, the Church of God is described as a woman wearing twelve stars as a crown. It is important to note this has nothing to do with saved souls. Furthermore, the stars are not in a crown—they are the crown. She is also clothed with the sun and her feet stand upon the moon. This verse gives us no information on the crown of the redeemed. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talked about running a race and receiving an incorruptible crown (vs. 25-27). The crown (Greek stephanos) was "the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in the public games."6 Many other New Testament authors mention the "crown of righteousness" or "crown of life" or "crown of glory," but none mention stars in the crown (2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev. 2:10, 3:11).
Origin of "Stars in Crown" Teaching
It is possible Ellen White got the teaching of stars in the crown from her Methodist upbringing. Methodist leader Phoebe Palmer's book, Entire Devotion to God, first published in New York in 1845, discusses stars in crowns being the reward for saving souls. Palmer makes it abundantly clear that "stars" in the crown are the reward of those who work diligently for the Lord. A lack of stars indicates one who did not do much work for the Lord. As proof of her theory, she quotes a man who supposedly had a heavenly vision:
He noticed the crowns differed greatly in brilliancy. Some were beautifully set with stars, while others were almost or quite starless.7
It appears Mrs. White was familiar with Palmer's writings because she had a later version of Palmer's same book in her personal library.8
The idea of stars in the crown corresponding to one's work for the Lord can be traced as far back as 1787, to a magazine John Wesley edited. The author chides a believer's spiritual inactivity with the words, "many fewer stars in your crown of glory."9 In 1806, in a Methodist magazine, an individual is mentioned whom "...the Lord gave him some souls for his hire, who will be stars in his crown of rejoicing."10 In 1818, Peggy Dow wrote, "many precious souls be [will be] as stars in his crown in that day when the Lord will make up his jewels."11 In subsequent decades there are a number of other instances where "stars in the crown" terminology was used by early Methodists when discussing the salvation of souls.12
The phrase "stars in the crown" was used by some Methodists in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. It appears Mrs. White picked up the phrase, used it frequently, and even made it a part of her visions. However, there is no Biblical basis for the idea. It would be best to follow the Biblical advice: "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:6).
1. Ellen White, Day Star, Jan. 24, 1846.
2. Ellen White, Testimonies vol. 3 (1872), 94.
3. Ellen White, Testimonies vol. 6 (1901), 451. See also RH Dec. 19, 1878 and Oct. 14, 1884 and Jan. 6, 1885 and Jun. 23, 1885 and May 22, 1888 and May 7, 1901; ST Sep. 16, 1886 and Nov. 4, 1886; AUCR Jun. 1, 1990; 1T, 197; 3T 198; 4T 52, 358; 6T 30; GW 466, PH123, 52; PH159, 113; T12, 22; T21, 142; T21A 113; T22, 108, T28, 150; Letter 2C, 1874; 4BSG 38.
4. Ellen White, Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 1895.
5. Ellen White, Signs of the Times, Feb. 10, 1888.
6. Thayer's Greek Lexicon, G4735.
7. P. Palmer, Entire Devotion to God (NY: 1853), 114. Note: The book was first published in 1845.
8. Warren H. Johns, Tim Poirier, Ron Graybill, A Bibliography of Ellen White's Private and Office Libraries (Ellen White Estate: April, 1993), 52. The bibliographic entry is as follows: "Palmer, Phoebe, Present to My Christian Friend on Entire Devotion to God (NY: Foster, 1865)."
9. John Wesley, ed., The Magazine of the Wesleyan Methodist Church (United Kingdom: J. Fry & Company, 1787), 344.
10. The Methodist Magazine vol. 29, Jan. 1806, (London: G. Whitfield), 342.
11. Peggy Dow, Vicissitudes in the Wilderness 4th edition, (United Kingdom: W. Forsham, 1818), 135.
12. "May he have souls as seals of his ministry, and stars in his crown!" - Thomas G. Allen and Gregory Townsend Bedell, Memoir of the Rev. Benjamin Allen, Late Rector of St. Paul's Church (Philadelphia: Latimer & Company, 1832), 443. "...many more will be converted...as...stars in his crown in the day of the Lord Jesus" - Methodist Review (US: G. Lane & P. B. Sandford, 1819), 467-468. "...many through his instrumentality were saved, and will shine as stars in his crown of rejoicing for ever and ever." - Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Years 1773-1881 (US: 1840). "In the day of eternity, they will have souls as stars in their crown of rejoicing." - The British North American Wesleyan Methodist Magazine (Canada: 1843), 94.
Category: Bible vs. EGW
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