In the Old Testament, God deemed Israel to be His "son" (see Deuteronomy 14:1; Psalm 82:2; Jeremiah 31:20) and made a promise to Abraham to give his descendants all the land of Canaan (Genesis 13). Over 600 years later, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River and into that Promised Land. Joshua Chapter 13 records God’s command to Joshua “divide this land as an inheritance” among the tribes of Israel (13:7). Two tribes and half of another had chosen to make their home on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Nine tribes and a half received their inheritance in the Promised Land of Canaan. But the Hebrew word for inheritance, “nachalah” embraces a meaning beyond just an inheritance in the land. It can refer also to a cultural or spiritual heritage. In Psalm 16:5, David proclaimed that God Himself was the inheritance of His people, O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup. In fact, there was one tribe, the tribe of Levi that never received an earthly inheritance. The tribe of Levi was given no land because the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance (Genesis 13:33; Numbers 18:23,24; Deuteronomy 18:1-2; Ezekiel 44:23).
In Ephesians 1:11, we learn that New Testament believers also receive an inheritance. The apostle Paul, wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, also we have obtained an inheritance. In Galatians 4:7 he wrote, You are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. So what is our inheritance? In a sense, we are like the tribe of Levi, we have no worldly inheritance, and like Abraham, we are but sojourners here on earth (Genesis 23:4). Our inheritance is in Christ (Ephesians 1:11), the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death…, so that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). It took Christ’s death to acquire it, but He rose again and we receive our inheritance in Him (Ephesians 1:11) because He lives. And as we have been seeing in Ephesians 1, we are experiencing a portion of that inheritance here and now through our spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ (1:3). We have seen so far that those blessings include being chosen, predestined, adopted, graced, redeemed, forgiven, and the ability to know the mystery of God’s will. Those blessings are all part of our inheritance in Christ.
Beyond that, our inheritance includes eternal salvation and the kingdom of God. Hebrews 1:14 speaks of angels as ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation, and in speaking of His second coming and the judgment, Jesus told His disciples, “Then the King will say to those on his right hand ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34). 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:21, and Ephesians 5:5 also confirm that our inheritance includes the kingdom of God.
There is so much to be learned about each of these blessings included in our inheritance that whole books have been written about each, but the apostle Peter tells us there are four things we can be confident of knowing about our inheritance (1 Peter 1:4):
- Our inheritance is imperishable - another word would be incorruptible. Peter writes in verse 23 that we have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable through the living and enduring Word of God. Our inheritance is exactly what God designed it to be and nothing can or will ever change that.
- Our inheritance is undefiled - it is not impacted in any way by earthly corruption or weakness. Like Christ, our inheritance is holy, innocent, undefiled [pure], separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26).
- Our inheritance is unfading - which means it is permanently perfect, whole, and complete! It will never fade away.
- Our inheritance is reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God through faith. When I was a little girl, my parents always hid my Christmas presents in their closet on a shelf they thought I couldn’t reach. But I knew how to move a chair over to that shelf, climb up, and take a peek. So I always knew weeks ahead what I was getting for Christmas. I knew those gifts on the shelf were mine and they were being kept there for me for Christmas morning. You and I have an inheritance from God and we can be sure of it because by His sovereign power it is kept in heaven for us who believe.
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says, “The concept of the believer's inheritance highlights the dignity of the family relationship of the believer in Christ. No higher position or greater wealth can an individual acquire than to become an heir of God through faith in Christ.” Therefore we do not lose heart, for though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Our inheritance is a gift, a promise, and a blessing from God through Christ. We can be sure of it and we should be thankful. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28). Next time we will see how God gives us assurance that we will receive the promised inheritance.