The first mention of a crown in the New Testament is a crown of thorns, representative of the curse of thorns and thistles that was placed upon the earth when man sinned (Genesis 3:18). This crown of thorns was placed upon the head of Jesus (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17, John 19:2, 5), but sadly it was not a crown to acknowledge His kingship, but a crown that was intended to mock Him. Just as the nails in the Lord's hands and feet drew blood, so also did the crown of thorns, pressed down upon His head. It brought forth the redemptive, pure blood of the spotless Lamb of God. The crown of thorns was placed upon the Lord's head by men, but after the resurrection, when the Lord ascended into Heaven, He received a crown of glory for the work He had done on this earth. He had lived a sinless life, according to the will of His Father, even unto death.
The next mention of a crown in the New Testament is very different. Paul speaks of a race and the victor's crown –- the crown that all believers will receive in glory:
And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (1 Corinthians 9:25)
In his epistles, Paul compares the Christian life to a race -- one we are entered into the minute Jesus saved us and a race that has a finish line at the border of life and eternity. How we run this race will determine the crowns we receive when we cross the finish line.
What does the Bible teach about the crowns?
Rewards are given based upon our work for the Lord.
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." (Matthew 6:20)
"For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Hebrews 6:10)
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." (Revelation 22:12)
Rewards are not given for all of our works.
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)