We, the believers, regardless of religious backgrounds, race, creeds, sex, nationality, sin, or sins committed, or otherwise, are all God’s people through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There are no distinctions! In fact, I believe that all of us, that is humanity, are God's inheritance, it is only that some of God's inheritance is yet not received! God inherits the living that are in Christ Jesus and he in them. God will not inherit the spiritually dead, as we saw in Israel, a nation, a people, that was as good as dead spiritually in the world. Any who make the life altering choice to enter the Kingdom through the arms of the savior are part of God’s people, God’s inheritance; and even more, we also gain an inheritance.
What do we inherit? Mansions? Precious metals or stones? Crowns? Streets of gold? I believe that God’s inheritance gives us a clue into these questions. As I said earlier, much of Christianity has some idea that we will inherit objects, a city, a mansion, and crowns. It is what we have been singing about in some traditional hymns for many decades. There are probably countless sermons, books, and papers on this subject, our eternal inheritance.
Ephesians 1:13-14 NRSV
(13) “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; (14) this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.”
Paul says the moment you believe the gospel of your salvation- the death, the burial, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ- you are marked or sealed with promised Holy Spirit. The mark is a sign of your guaranteed inheritance.
Eugene Peterson’s book, Reversed Thunder, on page 126, describes a custom of the people of Israel regarding a “mark” of sorts. Israel, at least some of them I imagine, wore a small box on their forearm or forehead. This box is called a phylactery and in it was placed on whatever type of paper was used at the time Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5. Verses 6 through 9 gives instruction on what to do with these words.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NRSV
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (6) Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. (7) Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. (8) Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, (9) and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Jesus mentions these boxes, still being worn, at least by the religious leaders of his day, in Matthew 23:5. We also can find note of this idea in Proverbs chapters 3 and 6. Jesus was using these phylacteries to say the Pharisees made the very fancy, to show off. Leave it to this crowd to take something meant to be a humble reminder of who they were to God and use it to puff up their pride. In Moses’ day, the boxes were to be used as a reminder of their separation from the other nations, who also may have used markings of various types. Being marked for God was and is important, at least to God. We are not any different though we do not wear boxes with bible verses written in them. We are also marked as God’s people, marked with God’s Spirit and the Spirit of Christ. We are marked regardless of religious background, sex, creed, or anything else that we use to separate ourselves from others. We are marked and we are one in God’s eyes. This mark guarantees or inheritance, our identity. We do not need any other marks, nothing for others to see, only the fruits of God’s Spirit working in us. Of course you can chose to wear jewelry such as cross necklace, or wear apparel that shows your beliefs, some even tattoo themselves, and I see nothing wrong with any of these, but only one mark matters and that mark dwells within us!
Our Part or Growth INTO inheritance.
This idea of being marked, and having an inheritance, takes some work on our part. Not work in any sense of making it happen, Jesus Christ made sure this was possible for us. The work we need to do involves understanding the ramifications of being marked. We can believe and then, over time, after the newness wears off, go about life as usual, and we are still marked. But is that God’s desire for us? I do not think so. I am sure you do not think so either.
Ephesians 1:17-18 NRSV
(17) “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, (18) so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,…”
Paul is praying we would grow into this inheritance! Therefore, we need a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to, over time, know him. We know that nothing happens instantly regarding growth, it takes time, experience, study, reading, living in the Spirit, to eventually come to understanding. We need prayer for each other to get this going which is what Paul is doing. Prayer is for encouragement; it is also for communication with our savior and the Father. Prayer lets God know that we desire revelation and understanding, living life in the Spirit lets God know that we are active in searching for understanding. If we seek, God will show, and this is what Paul is praying for; not a sudden flash of light that opens our minds and we instantly know everything! Paul is praying that we live and search, actively, and that God would bless us with knowledge as we mature in Him.
The other interesting piece of this passage is that we can not know exactly what the riches of our inheritance is, among the saints, without experience, living, and seeking. We cannot know it without the revelation of God. It is a process and we must not be discouraged but have faith in this process. Faith here is not a simple belief, faith is actual working and doing; more accurately it is letting the Spirit work through us. This faith is powerful and this power that is working in us, is the same power as the resurrection. Do you believe it? Let it work. Paul continues in verse 19 by describing this power which is needed for us to receive revelation and growth into our rich inheritance.
It is apparent through this passage that our inheritance is complete. The inheritance is ours, nothing we can do will make the inheritance better or fuller. There is nothing I can do that would give me future bragging rights in heaven, or on this earth, over any other believer. The only difference is that one works to live and seek, and so might understand more fully than the next. But the work of the inheritance has been completed by God and Jesus Christ. It is universal.
Ephesians 1:19-23 NRSV
(19) “…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (20) God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, (21) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. (22) And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,
(23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Can we know fully what the inheritance is, or fully appreciate its riches in our earthly life? I think Paul indicates that it is probably very unlikely. We still reside in fleshly bodies, fought over by the old nature, and therefore we still see through this vision. The learning, revelation, and understanding, is on going but will one day be made complete. How can we know that we are gaining revelation and understanding?
Colossians 1:3-6 NRSV
(3) In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
(4) for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, (5) because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel (6) that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.
In verse twelve of the same passage, Paul says it is God who enables us to share. In this passage, Paul is saying that the evidence of the understanding and revelation is seen in these believers because of how they live and speak. It is showing in their continued experience as believers. This is how we know. It shows in our character, it can be seen by you, others, and God.
We are in a kingdom, that of Christ Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, to me thereby putting us in God's overarching kingdom, but ONLY through God's son, who is currently in resurrected flesh, seated next to God, and us in him. It is the same Kingdom that we are to seek first. Meaning to live and operate within. Paul and Jesus, in his earthly ministry, both spend a lot of time teaching us how live after the Kingdom; and it is life within this Kingdom that will bring us further revelation and understanding.
In Philippians, Paul tells us to ‘work out our own salvation’. Working out is an important key towards this understanding of our inheritance. Paul also says in chapter three of the same letter that we should be seeking out the things of heaven, the things of the Kingdom. If we are seeking for the above, the above will manifest in us for the world around us to see. I believe our inheritance is tied up with what others see and how God, through us, is pulling the unbeliever to Him! We become each other’s inheritance along the way, as more enter God’s Kingdom, so God’s inheritance and our inheritance grow. It is a rich inheritance! It will someday be full.
I also believe our inheritance that Israel’s inheritance was to be. We say that their inheritance was earthly, and this was true in a sense, but only as it was necessary that hey had a land through which to grow in the LORD and through which other nations would see this growth and so desire to obtain the same. We have no “land” because our land is God’s heavenly Kingdom which fully came to us through Jesus Christ. We have the same purpose as Israel, to manifest the purposes and love of God! How do we manifest? We do not, God does it through the work of His son in us. This happens in our everyday lives, through what we often call the mundane chores and work of life. But, it is anything but mundane to God, it is so important as Paul tells is in Colossians 3.
Colossians 3:23-24 NRSV
(23) Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, (24) since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.
Unlike an inheritance you might receive from a family member our close friend here on earth, this heavenly inheritance requires effort and work in its very nature. What kind of inheritance is that you ask? The best possible kind of inheritance; the kind that allows us to be part of God’s plan to restore creation. This inheritance is all about a relationship with God, and in relationships we develop with our heavenly family which is continuously growing in Christ. There remains another aspect of our inheritance to explore and we will do this next time.