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Inheritance: Incorruptible, Eternal
1 Peter 1:4
1 Peter Lesson #022
August 13, 2015
“Father, we’re so grateful we can come together to reflect upon Your Word, reflect upon our lives in light of Your Word, reflect upon our thinking, our motivation, and the direction of our lives. Father, help us to be reminded and focus on the fact that we are living today in light of eternity. Our life today is not focused on just meeting needs and fulfilling hopes and dreams for this life but focusing on that which has eternal significance and eternal value. Father, we pray that You would help us to understand the significance of what Peter is saying in these opening verses of 1 Peter and how they impact each one of us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re in 1 Peter 1:3. The backdrop for so much of this is a doctrine we’ve studied in the past. We haven’t focused a lot on this in a few years. We spent quite a bit of time in our study of Hebrews. We also spent some time in James, which was long before I came to West Houston Bible Church. Those audio lessons are up on the Dean Bible Ministries website and they provide a lot of backdrop as well as in studies in the Upper Room discourse in John 15 as well as in 1 John. There’s a lot of material out there. One of the nice things about the Dean Bible Ministries website is all the transcripts which I use all the time. You can search for key phrases and words through those transcripts and find just a wealth of material.
Like I usually do when I study anything I go back and I look at what I’ve taught before. I always try to look at it from a fresh perspective and drill down on some areas I might not have looked at quite so much in the past. This is a key verse. In all the different times that I have done a study of inheritance we always come back to 1 Peter 1:4 that says we have an inheritance that is reserved for us in Heaven, an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and fadeth not away, as the New King James version says.
You know what they call the New King James version? The Bible. I always like that rhythm and the cadence of the King James and the New King James. The reason for that is because when the King James was translated it was intentionally translated by the translators so that it could be read out loud. They paid attention to the rhythm and the cadence of the language. Sometimes it is not always translated as correctly or as precisely, let me say, as we would like but it has that rhythm and cadence. That is why so many people find it easy to memorize. You read in some of the modern translations like the NIV or even the New American Standard and they don’t quite have that rhythm. They don’t have the beauty of the English language. Of course, the King James Version was translated at roughly the same time as Shakespeare. It was when English was really coming into its own as a language so there is just a beauty to the language that is there. But we always have to understand it in the English. Reading it is so important. Just reading your Bible over and over again and reading in large chunks. I hope that one of the things you can develop as we’re in 1 Peter which we’ll be in for a while, as you know, and also our study in Samuel, is reading these books over and over so that you can get a good grasp of the flow of events and what is taking place in both of those books, as well as in Matthew on Sunday morning.
As we ha’ve looked at this, we’ve looked at the opening salutation and then the first part of 1 Peter down to at least verse 17. I haven’t convinced myself where the break occurs but somewhere around verse 17 to 21 is where we’ll have a break to our introduction to this epistle. Peter is emphasizing a major theme. The major theme is how we, as believers, are to handle suffering and adversity. I think the suffering that his recipients are receiving is not persecution. Time after time when I read these various commentaries they all talk as if they’re facing persecution. I think they’re just facing personal opposition. Not an empire or government-sponsored persecution but just the rejection from friends and family. It’s primarily a Jewish audience that has accepted Jesus as Messiah. Just as we saw in our study in Acts Paul and his companions experienced quite a hostile reaction from the Jewish community although many trusted in Jesus as the Messiah, those who didn’t reacted in hostility towards Paul. He was beaten. He was thrown in prison. He was run out of town. He was reviled and slandered many times. These are the same kind of things we can see taking place among these Jewish-background believers that Peter is addressing.
So we looked at this in the opening sessions. (Slide 3) I’m going to read this one sentence. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
(Slide 4) As I pointed out last time, we have three phrases here: living hope, reserved in heaven, and revealed in the last time. These focus our attention away from the here-and-now to God’s ultimate goal in our lives. God saved us for a purpose. He didn’t save us so we could have a happy and meaningful life. There was a tract that came out back in the 70s called “How to Have a Happy and Meaningful Life”. So often, Christian evangelism tracts often use happiness and meaning as a catch but God is not saving us so our lives can be happy and wonderful right now. Although, if you’re oriented to the Word, no matter what your circumstances are you will have maximum happiness and joy in your life.
The focus is where God is taking us in the long game, preparing us to rule and reign with Christ in His future kingdom and preparing us to have the capacity for enjoying the eternal life we’re going to have forever and ever with Him. What Peter is doing here is taking people’s focus off of the problems of the here-and-now, the fiery trial that is coming upon them, and to focus their attention on where God is taking them.
This is what I captured in the phrase that we have to have a “personal sense of our eternal destiny”. It is not a sense of our destiny because a lot of people think that orients them to their destiny in this life. It is the eternal destiny that the Lord has for us. Hope does that because hope focuses on the future. It is a certain conviction of the end game, reserved in Heaven, which means that we’re not going to realize this inheritance until we are in Heaven, until we are glorified, and until we are face-to-face with the Lord. And it is revealed in the last time.
Now another key word which we see cropping up in verse 5 is the word salvation. I have to warn you that we have to be careful with this word because it does not always mean justification. Sometimes it has to do with glorification. The word saved is used in three senses as I have pointed out many times. We are saved from the penalty in sin when we trust Christ as Savior and we are justified. We are saved from the power of sin when we live out our spiritual life and we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, putting to death the sin nature. Then we are saved from the presence of sin when we are glorified. So there are those three tenses of salvation, as some people have called it, three phases of salvation. Three ways that word is used. So we have to ask what Peter is talking about in verse 5, this salvation that is revealed in the last time. That seems to be oriented us toward phase three glorification, not phase one justification.
(Slide 5) So we’re looking at this next verse in 1 Peter 1:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away reserved in heaven for you.” That first word that we see there translated as “to” is the Greek preposition EIS and that indicates a direction. It often indicates God’s plan or God’s purpose, what God is directing us to and so it is translated as “to” or “toward” something. That is the direction God is taking us. Toward might be a better way of translating that to capture that idea, toward this inheritance.
This word inheritance in this context is the Greek word KLERONOMIA which is a noun (Slide 6). It is usually translated inheritance but it also has the idea of possession. This is important to understand because when we think of the word inheritance people think of the fact that is something that someone receives upon the death of someone else. Someone dies and their property, their possessions are then passed on to their heirs. So clearly, in English it even has this idea where it focuses on property or possession and that is really the primary idea that we have in the Biblical term, both in terms of the Greek and in terms of the Old Testament terminology. The focus is on a possession, something that is owned, and something that is the property of an individual. It focuses more on this ownership idea, this possession idea, than it does on the idea of something being transferred at the time of death of another person.
As we go through this we see that we are saved to or toward this inheritance and this possession that is ours is then described by three adjectives. We sort of lose this in the wonderful, thundering diction of the King James which translates the third word with a prepositional clause, “that does not fade away”. There’s a certain rhythm in the way it is written in the Greek. It is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading. You have three adjectives linked by conjunctions so it has a rhythm to it in the Greek. It’s incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading.
(Slide 7) Each of these words in the Greek begins with that letter “a” which is the negative prefix you have in Greek. It’s like the English prefix “un”, so if you think something is not something, you put that prefix “un” on it. If the word is “necessary” and it is not necessary then it is “unnecessary”. So that’s the English equivalent to that alpha privative, that “a” at the beginning. The first word basically refers to something that is imperishable. It is ascribing our future incorruptible body. In 1 Corinthians 15 there is a contrast between this body of corruption and the incorruptible body, which we get in our resurrection body. It is also used to describe God in His eternal state. He is imperishable or immortal.
(Slide 8) It’s used in 1 Corinthians 9:25 in a similar context to what we have. That’s the passage where Paul is using the metaphor of racing, of a foot race to characterize the Christian life. We are all in a race and we are running to get a prize, just like an Olympic runner runs to get a prize, but in the ancient Greek world they would win a prize that was an oak wreath or a laurel wreath. This was something that would quickly perish in a few days. It would begin to wilt and turn brown and die. The contrast is between the perishable crown we get in any kind of contest we are in today, whether it is achieving a goal at work or achieving an academic goal or achieving any kind of financial goal; not that these are wrong but those are just temporal and temporary and have no eternal significance. But the Christian life is focused on receiving an imperishable crown. This is something we are given as an award or a reward for obedience and for spiritual growth.
This ties in and will connect with the same idea Peter is talking about here, that we will receive this reward for our spiritual growth and our spiritual service in this life. That is given to us and it is going to be different for every believer. There are different rewards for different believers, usually under this metaphor for a crown. The first word that is used is incorruptible, that is that it also has the idea that it goes on forever.
(Slide 9) The second word that is used is that is it undefiled. This is a fun little word. It’s the Greek noun AMIANTOS and it comes from a Greek verb MIAINO meaning to be defiled. That is really how it is used. There are some other ways in which it is used and I don’t always find references to this as I comb through article after article. Everyone agrees that this is a ritual term. It is the difference between that which is holy and that which is common. That which is common is defiled. It is tainted by sin. It is defiled. It is not set apart to the use of God. That which is holy is that which is set apart to God. That is the Biblical connotation here. The idea of this noun AMIANTOS is that it is not defiled. It is therefore something that is oriented and consistent to the character of God and His righteousness and justice. This word AMIANTOS is used to describe the purity of the Lord Jesus Christ in Hebrews 7:26. It is used to describe the purity of sexual relations in marriage in Hebrews 13:4 and it is used to describe that in James “pure and undefiled religion” in James 1. It is the true accurate application of the Word in the spiritual life.
Like I said, the root of this word refers to that which is defiled. It is used interestingly in a couple of passages in Scripture. (Slide 10) I thought I would just take a moment for us to look at these. One is Titus 1:15. Now I want you to think about this and see if you can think of any examples in our contemporary culture related to this. “To the pure all things are pure.” That is talking about a believer when you are oriented to doctrine you think in terms of that which is related to God. You think of that which is true and honest and righteous and virtuous. You think in terms of that which is best in a person. “But to those who are defiled [MIAINO] indicating that which is corrupted or stained by sin. That’s the primary meaning of the word MIAINO, that which is stained. We can think of a stained glass window or we can think of something if you’re working with furniture you put certain chemicals on it and it permanently stains that wood a particular color so it has to do with something that is stained. “To those who are stained [corrupt by sin] and unbelieving [those who are not believers] nothing is pure.” They think only within that corrupt, fallen mindset. Paul goes on to say, “But even their mind and conscience are defiled.”
Here you have people who we often see today. They are not believers. They are cynical. They are skeptical. They are hostile to believers so whenever they hear of someone who is talking about their Christianity or emphasizing the importance of their relationship with God, they are scoffers. They ridicule it. They can’t understand it because it is so foreign to them. They have perverted their own thinking. It is become corrupted by sin and so they can’t understand people who do have a conscience. We are seeing this more and more in our society. We have seen it really flare up with the result of this same-sex marriage issue that has developed in the last month.
Those who agree with this are just caricaturing those who disagree with them. They are hostile and angry towards Christians. You have the same kind of things in relation to the abortion debate. In fact, Hillary Clinton in a speech back in April, in relation to abortion, says that people who have firm religious conditions against it just need to change. Doesn’t that make you feel warm all over? To have politicians say, “You can’t believe that. You can’t believe differently from me.” There’s an innate hostility to the 1st Amendment there. People who believe differently from Hillary Clinton need to change. Of course, my response was, “Why doesn’t she change? Why do I have to change?” People don’t think that way when they get polarized that way.
So for the person who is defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure. They can’t understand it because even their mind and conscience is so defiled. They are thinking within a framework of reverse polarity. What is good for them, is bad; what is bad for them, is good. That is how they think. We need to understand that whenever we are talking with or trying to evangelize or witness to people like that. We need to understand where or what the dynamics of their thinking is all about so we can then use that in the way we ask questions of them in order to expose how they can’t live consistently with their own perverted conscience. Ultimately as we talk to people those kinds of inconsistencies are going to be exposed.
(Slide 11) Another way this word is used is in Hebrews 12:15. This is a warning to believers in a warning passage in Hebrews 12 that we are to “Look carefully lest anyone should fall short of the grace of God.” That doesn’t mean we can lose our salvation. It means that we depart from grace orientation in our thinking. When we depart from grace orientation and humility, the result is that we are going to give in to sin and let the sin nature control. As soon as we quit thinking in terms of the framework of grace, we are thinking in terms of some sort of works. We are thinking in terms of arrogance so there is an illustration that comes out of this in relation to Esau. But in this particular verse it just says, we’re to be careful “lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” That is to fail to be gracious and grace oriented in their behavior.
A result of that is when we shift away from grace we start treating people in terms of works. We can react in anger and bitterness and resentment toward someone who does not behave the way we think they ought to behave. Mental attitude sins, then, become the root sins of all kinds of overt sins. We get into passages like Galatians 5:21 and we discover that a lot of sins are not just mental attitude sins but they are sins of the tongue such as slander. There are sins that cause division and divisiveness and all kinds of trouble. What does this do? One individual’s sins start conspiring with others. As you ridicule, slander others, as you spread gossip, this causes others to be brought into that network of sin. That is one of the dangers of the sins of the tongue.
(Slide 12) So the inheritance is first of all it can’t be corrupted. Second, it can’t be defiled. That means it is totally oriented to God and is consistent with God’s integrity and God’s righteousness. Third, it is unfading. It “does not fade away.” That is the word AMARANTOS, which simply means not to fade. It is the negation of the root that means something that fades. This is the only place where it is used in the New Testament and so it just indicates it has an eternal value to it that is as important and significant and valuable 10,000 years from now as it is now. You can go on through eternity and it will never become diminished at all.
(Slide 13) This is the same kind of thing that Jesus refers to in Matthew 6:20, that we are to “lay up [or store for ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys.” See it is incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading. “And where thieves do not break in and steal.” We cannot lose it. It is always ours. Jesus refers to that as a priority. Not that it is wrong to make sure you can provide for your family and have savings and insurance policies and all those things that take care of temporal needs. That is important but that is not the ultimate controlling priority of life. The controlling priority of life is that we have an inheritance that will be ours forever. That is related to the spiritual life.
(Slide 14) Matthew 5:11–12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you.” So this too relates to the situation in 1 Peter where he’s dealing with believers who are going to be reviled and persecuted by their friends and families and co-workers. Jesus says, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My name’s sake.” There is a lot that is being said negatively about Christians in some papers and some contexts and some news media outlets because “those horrible Christians just won’t let us get away with whatever kind of perversion that we want. They are always saying that something is wrong.” It is very interesting that when you think about how the secularist approaches things. The secularist in business says, “Well you Christian, you just need to get rid of this false morality that you have.” You might ask how much of that false morality you have to get rid of? What about that part of my morality that makes me handle the company’s money in a manner that has integrity and that I don’t steal or mismanage the company’s funds? Do you want me to get rid of that morality, too? What about the morality that keeps me from slandering and gossiping about other people and co-workers and creating division and breaking down the morale of the company? Does that mean I need to get rid of that part of the morality, too? We have a package morality here so you choose what part of that I’ll keep and what part I won’t? Why don’t I just keep the whole morality? See, we need to learn to think in those kinds of terms when we’re being pressured by a secular culture to throw away the kinds of things they think should not be there. Help them to understand that morality is necessary for a culture to survive. There has to be a system of morality based on something outside that culture. Otherwise you’re going to see the economics of a company or the economics of a nation just fall apart.
When Jesus says when people are persecuting you “Rejoice.” How many times have you seen Christians rejoicing over the hostility towards Christianity that we are seeing developing in this country in the last month or so? We ought to be rejoicing over that. This is going to give us a great opportunity to witness. You know, some of us may end up having a tremendous prison ministry. We never know how it is going to work out. Great opportunities. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Too often I think we’ve gotten sucked into this thinking in our culture that we are just living the American dream and it is all about pursuing our own prosperity and significance and security. Somehow the angelic conflict and the development of persecution from a government just is not part of it. We have gotten so focused on the here-and-now that we have forgotten what the long game is.
(Slide 15) In Ephesians 1:18 Paul is praying that God would “open the eyes of your understanding.” That’s just talking about enlightenment of the soul to the truth of Scripture. “That you may know what is the hope of His calling.” There is that word we studied in Ephesians 1:3, hope. Hope is focusing us on a long-term confident expectation, the hope of His calling and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. There is an eternal wealth that is ours if we walk with the Lord and pursue spiritual maturity in this life.
What we learn about this inheritance is that it is three things: incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading. It is permanent. It is ours forever. There is one other thing we learn about this. (Slide 16) It is reserved in Heaven for us. This is the Greek word TEREO. What is significant about it is that it is in the perfect tense. Now I know a lot of folks get a little confused over grammar, kind of like some folks get confused over numbers and mathematics. The perfect tense refers to something that is completed action. That means it is already secured. It is not something that is on-going action or on-going action in the past, but something that is completed and determined. So this inheritance has already been reserved. It has been set aside for each of us in Heaven. That means God has already set aside that which He desires to distribute to us when we come to the Judgment Seat of Christ. The problem is that for those who fail to persevere in obedience, some of those rewards are not going to be distributed. They are ours but they are not going to be given to us because we did not develop the capacity for them. They will ultimately be destroyed in the Lake of Fire which is another part of this doctrine.
Because this connects back to really understanding the whole framework of this section, we need to understand what the Bible teaches about inheritance. We haven’t gone down this road in a while. I’ve changed up a few things just to try to clarify this a little more but this idea of inheritance is found throughout both Old and New Testaments. (Slide 17) Basically what this is teaching is that we are going to possess certain things for eternity. There are some things that every believer is going to possess in common. We are all going to have a resurrection body. We are all going to have an unbelievable capacity for happiness and joy. There is going to be no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain, and the old things are passed away. We are going to be with the Lord in Heaven, in the Kingdom and on into eternity.
There are going to be some differences as well. Some people are going to have a greater capacity for their relationship with the Lord. They are going to have a closer communion with the Lord in Heaven. Others will not experience that same closeness. Some of the best ways to describe it is that every person’s cup is going to be filled; some people are just going to have a larger cup than other people. Everyone will be filled to capacity and no one will be aware of any kind of sense of absence or loss of something that is not quite totally full. Everyone’s cup will be completely full.
This doctrine of inheritance is also a motivator for us. It is to teach us that we do have a reason to live the spiritual life because there is an end game that is going to give us certain privileges and responsibilities for serving the Lord when we get to Heaven. That is why we must develop this in this life. The more we learn to honor and glorify the Lord in the difficulties of life, the more that capacity is going to be developed for when we get to be with Him in eternity.
(Slide 18) It’s always fun to start off by looking at words, defining terms is really important. When we begin we look at this we are going to look at this whole word group in the Greek. We will talk about the Hebrew a little later on. The root is KLER. KLEROS and KLEROO are root nouns. Then the four key words related to this doctrine in the New Testament are KLERONOMEO which is the verb meaning to inherit. KLERONOMIA is a noun meaning inheritance. KLERONOMOS is a noun that refers to the heir, the one who receives the inheritance. SYNKLERONOMOS means a fellow heir or a joint heir. We are joint-heirs with Christ so that word comes into play.
(Slide 19) KLERONOMEO, the verb, is used 18 times in the New Testament. It refers to a birthright in Galatians 4:30 and Hebrews 1:4 which one enters by virtue of sonship—that when that when are adopted into the Royal Family of God there is an inheritance that is ours. When we are adopted, there is an inheritance that is ours that is common to every believer. We become heirs of eternal life. We are given eternal life that cannot be taken away from us. So that is part of what we have as an inheritance as a son. That really buys into the whole imagery there. It talks about sonship, not because that is some sort of sexist term and there is nothing like daughtership, but because this is the way it was described in the Roman Empire. It was the son who receives the property and the title of the parent. This can come through adoption, as well, and there is a whole doctrine of adoption.
The word KLERONOMEO also described property that is received as a gift. There is a difference between something we get as a gift, like eternal life, and something we receive as a reward. One of the things we have to learn is that salvation is a gift and is freely given but rewards are earned. I go over that again and again every other year when I go to Kiev because I teach on the doctrine of rewards and judgment. That is what I am going to be covering again this next January. It is important to understand that rewards are given for service but salvation is a free gift. Salvation is freely given and rewards are earned.
Property, though, in passages like Hebrews 1:14 and Hebrews 6:12 is received as a gift in contrast to a reward. Again, emphasizing that some aspects of inheritance are a free gift and related to every believer. A third thing is that property is received on condition of obedience to certain conditions in 1 Peter 3:9. That means there are some aspects of the inheritance that are given only when we are obedient. There is a condition placed upon those. So some aspects of inheritance are a free gift and some aspects of the inheritance are a reward for obedience and service.
Then the fourth point is that reward is based upon meeting certain conditions and following certain activities. There can be a loss of reward, not a loss of all inheritance but a loss of some inheritance. This is just doing a basic word study. There are a couple of passages we will talk about a little more. (Slide 20) Passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 and Galatians 5:21. In both of these passages we have a list of various sins. In 1 Corinthians 6:9 Paul talks about the unrighteous. These unrighteous are described as fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners. All of these are different sins. Some are sins of the flesh, some are sins of the tongue, and some are mental attitude sins. The person who continues living in and having a life characterized by these sins runs the risk of not inheriting the kingdom.
Now we have to ask: what does that mean “to inherit the kingdom”? A lot of people think inheriting the kingdom means entering into Heaven when you die. Verses like 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 and Galatians 5:21 are verses that are often on placards outside courtrooms dealing with same-sex marriage and some of these gay pride [notice the key word there, pride, showing the arrogance of the homosexuals] events you will see Christians standing out there holding up plaques with these verses on them. What they come across as saying is: if you are committing these sins you cannot be saved. That is how they are interpreting that passage. They are dead wrong and that is just legalism because they misunderstand the concept of the kingdom and the concept of inheritance. They think inheriting the kingdom means that if you do these things, you are not going to get saved. Well, if doing these things means you cannot get saved, no one should have a prison ministry because there you have thieves and murderers, those who commit fraud and other things. If they cannot inherit the kingdom, why go have a prison ministry? The gospel of grace means that Christ paid the penalty for sin. That sin penalty is paid for so they can have eternal life but if we do not grow to maturity then we won’t have an inheritance in the kingdom. We will be present in the kingdom but there won’t be an inheritance. There won’t be property. There won’t be these rewards of responsibilities and various other functions in the Kingdom.
(Slide 21) The same kind of thing is found in Galatians 5:21 where we have a list of sins of the flesh starting with verse 20 and concluding with the fact where Paul says, “Envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like, of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It is not those who do those things. It is those who PRASSO, or practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. It does not mean they cannot have eternal life because Christ paid the penalty for those sins. Therefore, they can be justified. It means that this is going to impact your inheritance at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
(Slide 22) 1 Peter 3:9, “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” When someone is just ripping you up, you need to respond with something positive, a blessing statement. A EULOGETOS, a good statement. You do this so you may inherit a blessing. See, it is conditional there. If every time you are reviled, you revile in return then you won’t inherit a blessing. It is conditioned upon how you respond. We need to understand that that is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
(Slide 23) The second key word as I pointed out earlier is the noun, KLERONOMIA. It is used 14 times in the New Testament. It is used two times in Hebrews related to the promise of the eternal inheritance in Hebrews 9:15 and Hebrews 11:8, the promise of the land as an inheritance to Abraham. Now that is important because Abraham never owned the land. He was given the land as an inheritance but the only thing he owned was the Cave of Machpelah, where he was buried and Sarah was buried and Isaac, and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah are buried there. You can go to there today. It is located down in Hebron. This word talks about that property. Abraham will realize it in the kingdom.
(Slide 24) It is used this way in Ephesians 5:5, Galatians 3:18, and Hebrews 11:8. What I want you to notice from these verses is that in Galatians 3:18 and Hebrews 11:8, it is connected to promise. Promise is something that is guaranteed to take place in the future. Again what we see is that God wants us to get our minds off of the here-and-now, quit worrying about this week, next week, next month, or next year but focus on the fact that we are living our life today in light of eternity. We are living for the long game and focusing on how we are going to rule and serve with the Lord Jesus Christ in the kingdom and on into eternity. So there is this connection between realizing the promise and our inheritance.
(Slide 25) Colossians 3:24 is a key verse here that connects inheritance with both reward and service. “Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Remember a reward is something that is earned. So if salvation is a free gift, it is not identical to a reward. A reward is earned but salvation is a free gift. So he is motivating, he is encouraging the Colossian believers to walk in obedience and to pursue spiritual maturity so they can receive that reward of inheritance and why do they get that? Because they serve the Lord. Our life needs to be focused on serving the Lord. Each day when we wake up we need to think how we are going to serve the Lord that day. We serve the Lord in a lot of different ways. You can work for a company and serve the Lord in whatever company you work for. You can serve the Lord in your business. You can serve the Lord in terms of ways in which you have a ministry in your local church. You can serve the Lord in your family. You can serve the Lord in any area of life where you are involved. You are to do all things for the glory of God. So we are serving the Lord in every single area and every capacity so that our life reflects the fact that we have this relationship with the Lord. When we walk with the Lord in the filling of the Holy Spirit, walking by the Spirit, then that is foundational to being rewarded. Then the passage we are looking at in 1 Peter 1:4 is another one.
(Slide 26) The third noun that is used is KLERONOMOS referring to the heir. (Slide 27) We see passages like Romans 4:13, “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Notice again we have this connection between promise and heir in Romans 4:13. God promised Abraham something but again, he has to live in light of that long game. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob owned nothing in the land. They never realized that land promise; that is the long game. Hebrews 4:14, “For those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect.” Paul’s argument there is that it is based on walking by faith. Now we walk by faith and not by sight but that walking by faith has to be connected to the command in Galatians 5:16 that we walk by means of the Spirit. It is not just saying I am going to do what the Bible says. I have to walk by means of the Spirit. It has to be spiritually empowered in this life.
(Slide 28) Then a passage we have looked at many times and this depends on how we punctuate it. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs.” But there are two kinds of heirs. First of all we are heirs of God and it is not conditional. But notice the second kind, joint-heirs with Christ is conditioned on suffering with Him. Some people have sort of truncated or odd ideas of suffering. Suffering merely means that you are not having the life of comfort you think you ought to have or when you are being opposed in the devil’s world for your walk with the Lord. So suffering with Christ may not involve something as huge and overt as government persecution. It just may mean you may have an environment with co-workers or friends and they may slight you a little bit because you are a Christian.
Every now and then you just sort of get that undercurrent where you are not quite as acceptable because you are, you know, a Christian so there are some things you do not really enjoy in life. Somehow you are a second-class person because you are a Christian and that comes across. Around the family table at Thanksgiving or Christmas you are the odd one out because you are the Christian. That is suffering under the way the Bible treats suffering.
When we are walking with the Lord and pursuing Spiritual maturity we are going to run into opposition. We are going to run into people who reject us, people who revile us, people who may take it to even greater extremes than that. That is a condition for being a joint-heir with Christ. Joint-heir with Christ and heir of God are not synonymous. That is the way it is usually punctuated, as if all children are both heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, but that is not how the grammar is structured.
What I’ve done here simply is just look at those three main words, the verb, the noun for inheritance, and the noun for an heir and just looking at that and what those words teach us about this whole idea of inheritance. (Slide 29) The second point in this (I have about 12 points total so we will be finishing this up next week) is that inherit has the core semantic meaning of possession, property, ownership. It is what we have as ours, what we own. Biblically speaking, property can be passed on with the death of a person but that is supplied with the context. It primarily refers to that which is owned by someone, So no one had to die for Abraham to be given the possession of the Promised Land. Many, many times you have the word used without the connotation of someone dying and passing on the property to family.
For example in Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance [if you translate that as possession you will catch the main idea there]. And he went out [when he left Ur of the Chaldees] not knowing where he was going.” Another verse is Hebrews 1:2, “Who has in these last days spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things.” Now no one had to die for Jesus to receive all things as an inheritance. It is His possession as a reward for having served in the capacity of the Redeemer of all mankind, according to the context. So He is rewarded with that possession.
(Slide 30) The third point is that certain categories of people lived in the land. This word has to be understood not only in terms of the Greek culture but really in terms of the Old Testament culture of Israel. How is it used in the Old Testament? While we see that every tribe had a possession. Read the last half of Joshua some time. It is like a real estate contract, which describes the borders and boundaries of every tribal allotment when each tribe received a certain amount of real estate that was theirs and was to stay within the possession of the clans and the families of that tribe. There was one group of people that did not have a possession in the land. They lived in the land, they had a blessing in the land but they did not own anything in the land.
One group was the sojourners, those who were strangers who were non-Jewish just living in the land. They were the Gentiles. A special group was the Levites. The Levites represented a tribe of Israel. Levi was the son of Jacob but the Levites did not have land allotted to them. This is described in passages like Exodus 12:48 and Numbers 18:30. It describes their presence in the land. (Slide 31) Exodus 12:48, “If a stranger sojourns with you and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised.” It just hit me today that according to the Law if you are not circumcised, you better not take up that invitation from your Jewish friends to come over to celebrate a Passover, a Seder meal. Just warning you right now but that’s according to the Law. So if you were a Gentile, you could not participate at a Seder meal unless you were circumcised. So there is a difference between a Gentile, a sojourner, who is an alien and not part of Israel.
(Slide 32) Numbers 18:20, “The Lord said to Aaron, ‘You shall have no inheritance.’ ” Here’s the Hebrew word nahal which means to inherit or possess. Aaron is a Levite, a descendant of Levi as we studied in 1 Samuel this last Tuesday night. The descendants of Aaron provide the high priests for Israel. “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor own any portion among them.” Who is the inheritance here? This is what is fascinating. God is our inheritance. So we talk about what all believers have in common. We all have God as our inheritance. He is our possession. That relationship with God is true for every believer. Here God says, “I am your portion” (heleq) [we also studied the word MEROS in the New Testament, which is a share or portion], “and your inheritance (nahala) among the sons of Israel.” Numbers 18:24, “For the tithes of the sons of Israel which they offer to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance.” So they did not have land but every year as part of the tithe, which was like a 10% tax on the nation which was a safety net for widows and orphans, but also took care of the finances for the priests and the Levites.
(Slide 33) In Hebrews 11:13 and Genesis 21:33 and 35:27 we realize that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had no ownership in the land. They lived in the land. They had blessing from living in the land, but they did not own the land. The same way there are going to be Church Age believers in the Kingdom who are in the Kingdom, enjoying all the blessings of the Kingdom but because of failure to live for the Lord in this life, they are going to lose rewards. They won’t receive any rewards and so they will miss out on the lot of privileges and responsibilities in the Kingdom.
I’ll wrap up with this last point, the fourth point. Inheritance, in relation to Abraham, can be related to either the land promise or the seed promise but it is always related to the idea of promise. Promise always focuses our attention on the end game. We see this usage in Galatians 3:18, “If the inheritance is of the Law, it is no longer a promise.” In other words, it is not something now. It is something that will be fulfilled later on the basis of faith. God gave it to Abraham by promise. The same thing is stated in Romans 4:13, “The promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or his seed through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.” I’m going to stop there and we will come back and start up with the fifth point next time in understanding this critical doctrine of inheritance. We have to understand that Old Testament concept so we can understand the New Testament concept. This is integral to our spiritual life. What are we living the spiritual life for today? Is it just so that somehow life is going to be better? Are we going to have a happy, meaningful life? Or are we living it today in the light of eternity and that we are doing today has eternal consequences? The volitional decisions we make today, how we order our time, how we order our finances, how we take care of our disposable income and the friends that we have and our social life, how we handle that is related to how things are going to go in terms of our rewards and inheritance in the Kingdom.
“Father thank you for this opportunity to reflect on these things this evening and to focus on the fact that we are living today in light of eternity. We need to get our eyes off of now and on to the future and let the end game impact our focus, our priorities, and that which is of value today. Father, we pray that You would help us to focus on this incorruptible, undefilable inheritance that will never fade away. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”