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What is the Christian's Inheritance?

Robert F. Wall

In considering any subject brought before us in the Word of God it is important that we take our thinking about it from the Scriptures. The writer has come to the conclusion that this has not always been done in relation to the question at the head of this article, and the result is that there is some confusion about it.

Christ is Himself the heir of the inheritance.1 The Lord pressed this point in the parable of the unfaithful husbandmen. "But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance" (Matt. 21: 38; Mark 12: 7; Luke 20: 14). His claim upon the inheritance was repudiated and He was cast out of the vineyard (Israel) and slain. That is the point at which the Epistle to the Hebrews begins. Could this rejection of the rightful heir overturn God's purpose? Of course not. "God... has spoken to us in the person of the Son, whom He has established heir..." (Heb. 1: 1). The matter is fixed and inviolable. The inheritance is Christ's and shall never be wrested from Him.

1 The Greek for heir is kleeronomos, and for inheritance is kleeronomia.

The inheritance of which Christians are heirs is this same inheritance of Christ. We are children of God and "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8: 17). And it is by reason of our identification with Christ that we have title to it, for He it is "In whom... we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1: 11).

This really brings us to the point where we can begin to answer our question. The verse in Hebrews 1 which tells us Christ is the established heir, goes on at once to tell us what the inheritance is: "... the Son, whom He has established heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds" (v. 2). And Hebrews 2 shows us that it is as the Son of Man that Christ will inherit everything He has created as the Son of God: "Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him" (Heb. 2: 8).

Is Christ in possession of His inheritance at the present time? No, He is not. The verse just quoted from Hebrews 2 makes that very clear. The same point is noted in Ephesians 1: "in whom (Christ) also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession..." (Eph. 1: 12-14). The purchased possession is the inheritance, and at the appointed time Christ will redeem it by His power. Meanwhile He and His people

wait in patience. So far as the saints are concerned, they have the "Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until" the waiting time is over. This statement of the Scripture is very clear. It is not said that the Holy Spirit gives the earnest of our inheritance but that He is Himself the earnest of our inheritance. He is the guarantee that when the appointed time comes we shall possess the inheritance with Christ. The appointed time is referred to in verse 10 of Ephesians 1: "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him."

This is consistent with the other references to the inheritance in the New Testament.2 For example, Colossians 3: 24 and Hebrews 9: 15 speak about the (future) reward of the inheritance and the present promise of it respectively. 1 Peter 1: 4 and 5 speak of the reservation of the (heavenly side) of the inheritance for the saints, and of the preservation of the saints for the inheritance. They are kept "unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." That "last time" marks the point of transition to the "fulness of times" already referred to in Ephesians 1.

2 The references are-Matt. 21: 38; Mark 12: 7; Luke 12: 13, 20: 14; Acts 7: 5, 20: 32; Gal. 3: 18; Eph. 1: 14, 18, 5: 5; Col. 3: 24; Heb. 9: 15, 11: 8; 1 Peter 1: 4. The references in Acts 26: 18 and Colossians 1: 12 in the King James are a translation of the Greek word "kleeros" which Mr. Darby translates "portion" in Colossians 1: 12.

Why then should there be any difficulty in relation to this subject? In the opinion of the writer the confusion arises because the inheritance is sometimes confused with our present spiritual blessings in Christ. It should be noted, however, that while verses 11-14 of Ephesians 1 bring the inheritance before us, verses 4-7 speak of the present spiritual blessings which belong to us as Christians. The two things are not mixed together indiscriminately, but carefully distinguished from one another.

It may also be found helpful to bear in mind that the earthly Canaan is for us a double-type. We, like the children of Israel, are traversing a wilderness and "the Land" is the goal, the ultimate end, that we have before us. In Hebrews 2 that is "the world to come, whereof we speak" (Heb. 2: 5). This point of view is developed very fully in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 where the inheritance is connected with the rest, God's rest, that we are moving onto.

The other side of this double-type is that once in the land of Canaan the children of Israel had to fight in order to possess what God had given them. That is where the figure changes. The land is then a type of our present spiritual blessings in Christ, and there is conflict involved in really entering into the enjoyment of them. Joshua in the Old Testament (typically) and Colossians in the New, speak of the entry into these blessings. Ephesians, especially chapter 6, shows us how to stand the ground once it has been gained.

It will be seen therefore that we need to distinguish things that are distinguished in the Scriptures.