Our New Covenant Inheritance: What It Really Looks Like
Our New Covenant Inheritance: What It Really Looks Like
Two weeks ago I presented a poll asking my readership to share what topics they wanted me to write about. There was only one topic I had yet to address: Our new covenant inheritance. So I’m going to do that right now. I think you’ll be surprised to find what it really looks like. So, without further adieu, I’m pleased to address this topic, which is so fundamental to our Christian faith.
What is an Inheritance?
First, let’s define a biblical inheritance.
For those of you who think you know, please be mindful that we must reference the biblical model in the context of our discussion, because it’s rather different from what we practice now. So what is an inheritance? An inheritance, in biblical times, was passed strictly from Father to son, and was bequeathed only upon death. Therefore, because Christ has died, we now have an inheritance in Him as believers.
The topic of inheritance is referenced only eighteen times in the New Testament, yet it is one of fundamental importance. In biblical times the ability to bequeath an inheritance was a great honor for any family in society. Those who did not have an inheritance to pass on, and those who never received an inheritance were dishonored. Such circumstances were not only shameful, but they were grave. They left families penniless and struggling to survive. Society relied upon an individual’s economic wealth to be passed down so that a family’s lineage could continue. Families therefore accrued wealth in two ways: through a son via his inheritance, and through a daughter via her dowry. Society was classed in this way. Matching families according to wealth was important if that lineage would continue. Wealth was accumulated over time and passed on. Life was viewed and regarded as generational. The idea of legacy, heritage and honor was of primary importance. Therefore, lifestyles were not lived merely for the moment for selfish pleasure or gain. Such living was condemned (see Luke 12:13-23).
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or an divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment, (Luke 12:13-23, KJV).
There are many lessons in Christ’s parable. His teaching put the idea of inheritance in perspective. Wealth in the kingdom is what is important to God.
Inheritance is not found merely in the accumulation of earthly riches or monetary gain. It is also found in the spiritual blessing, and it is the means by which a family earned its name or reputation in society. The heir, therefore, must be found worthy of receiving the inheritance.
In the parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11-32) we see a man who demands his inheritance from his father and then recklessly squanders it with selfish living. This was the ultimate dishonor any child could render toward their parent. And although the father prematurely bestows that allotted portion to his son, his son was found unfaithful. In this parable, Christ chooses the concept of an inheritance to paint the picture of a prodigal. Let’s keep that in mind as we continue to define the biblical weight of inheritance, because it is truly enormous. The significance of the inheritance is central to a father-son relationship. This is why the sin of Esau is so despicable in God’s eyes. He sold his birthright (inheritance) for a bowl of porridge. God found this act grossly insulting, and therefore Esau was despised (hated). He had no appreciation, reverence, or respect for his birthright which God bestowed upon him as the firstborn. In this despicable and irreverent act, Esau shunned the prophetic promise of God-given to Abraham. Therefore, because Esau despised his birthright, he was despised by God. Although he repented, he was deemed unworthy of receiving it and was denied that redemption (see Hebrews 12:16, 17). In this example we see that God would prefer a zealous man who deceptively obtained the birthright (Jacob), over the one who so blatantly despised it (Esau). And so we see that Jacob was so extraordinarily zealous for God’s blessing that he was willing to fight God for it. That is the kind of faith God rewards. He pursued the blessing of God for the sake of the promise. He understood the birthright. Therefore, Jacob was found worthy of the inheritance and in that very night God changed His name to Israel.
These examples from scripture teach us the fundamental importance of inheritance. Let’s discuss how the principle of inheritance applies to us today as believers.
For the purpose of this post, let us understand that an inheritance is virtually worthless without an heir. One may be very wealthy, but without a son on whom it can be bestowed, that wealth is without purpose. Therefore, an heir is required. The prospect of having no heir to which you could bestow your wealth was a great loss, shame, and dishonor that made life appear meaningless; without promise or posterity. For this reason alone, having a son was of primary importance.
Abraham is perhaps the best example for this terminable situation. As an incredibly wealthy man, he desired to pass his riches onto a son. Yet Sarai was barren. Consequently, they had no heir. This was a grievous situation that could not be remedied. We need to understand the devastating outcome of this situation. This meant an end to Abraham’s existence both monetarily and spiritually. Without an heir, Abraham’s lineage would stop cold. His flesh would return to dust, and his possessions would be scattered to the wind. Without and heir (a son) there would be no continuum of his line in the earth. Therefore, his only possibility for an heir was a covenant with Eleazar, a mere servant to whom he had no relation, yet judged to be faithful. Therefore, to be wealthy without an heir was nearly worse than being poor.
The inheritance enabled individuals to live far beyond their earthly years. David is an excellent example of the power found in a godly inheritance. David’s inheritance to his son Solomon was for the provision of building God’s Temple, and a governing seat upon his throne. The earnest desire of David’s heart was to build God a Temple. That desire burned within him. Yet God spoke to David, making it clear that this task would be passed to his son, Solomon. And so we see an extension of David’s life expressed through his heir.
Abraham’s inheritance given to Isaac was the promise of nations and the abundant monetary wealth he possessed. Isaac went on to bless the patriarchs (the twelve tribes) from whom the whole of Israel was birthed. Through that line Christ was born, and today every believer is a partaker of Abraham’s blessing – the promised inheritance.
The inheritance was given for this purpose: to bless and multiply an individual’s lineage extending throughout generations, in the fulfillment of God’s command to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth. The inheritance was all about honor, legacy, blessing, and heritage. Without an heir, the inheritance was worthless. Without an inheritance, the heir was dishonored.
A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children, (Proverbs 13:22, KJV).
Therefore, a man who had no inheritance either to give or receive, was dishonorable and dishonored. Such a life was not only shameful, but viewed as terminable. And the man who had no heir upon whom to bestow his wealth was equally poor.
Christ, as the Son of God, has an inheritance from His Father. And for those of you who may not know this – we are His inheritance. The Father has given all believers to Christ. In the prophetic Psalm He says this:
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill in Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession, (Psalm 2:6-8, KJV).
For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance, (Psalm 94:14, KJV).
Jesus made it clear that none can come to Him unless the Father first draws him (see John 6:44), and that the Father has given those chosen into His hand (see John 10:27-30). What a beautiful thing when you understand that your very soul is a part of Christ’s eternal inheritance.
Therefore you were the joy set before Him. You were the very inheritance He would obtain through His sacrifice. The promise of you is what enabled Him to endure, as we see so beautifully depicted in this verse:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, (Hebrews 12:1-2, KJV).
The eternal inheritance has been passed from Father to Son
and through Christ’s death it has been passed to us.
The Believer’s Inheritance
First, let us not confuse the inheritance with the reward. They are entirely different. Christ speaks candidly of both. All will be rewarded according to their works. A reward is therefore, earned, and governed based on the works we perform in obedience to Christ. But an inheritance is governed based strictly upon sonship. It is freely bequeathed unto the son or daughter for whom the Father as established it. The father alone has the power and authority to give, distribute and withhold the inheritance according to his sovereign will. As God’s one and only Son who is both worthy and honorable, Jesus Christ has received the inheritance of His Father’s kingdom.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise… For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father, (Galatians 3:16-18 & 26-29; 4:1-2, KJV).
However, the scriptures make it clear that those who have an inheritance in Christ must be found worthy of receiving it.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them, (Ephesians 5:5-7, KJV).
For those who believe in Him, we are partakers of that inheritance as well, because we are His children. When we beget children in the kingdom by leading them to salvation in Christ, we have an inheritance in them as well.
When Christ called Paul on the road to Damascus, He spoke these words to him:
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me, (Acts 26:16-18, KJV, emphasis mine).
Scripture makes it clear that our inheritance is in the kingdom of God. It has nothing to do with earthly riches or monetary wealth. There will always be the rich and the poor while we dwell upon this earth. It is for this reason that ministry among the saints in the word of God was so necessary, and very much encouraged in the churches among saints. Christ made it clear that he gives to each according to his several ability (see Matthew 25:15). There are those who are entrusted with great riches, and those who are not. Yet we find that many times the poor are endowed with a far greater treasure – the joy, wisdom, and anointing of Christ’s presence and power. These are the true riches. Christ teaches us not to seek earthly riches or to put our trust in them. In fact He teaches not to give one thought to our lives in their regard. He teaches us to seek His kingdom first with the promise that He will supply our every need. That is part of the new covenant provision which is promised to every believer unconditionally, which alleviates the worry which He so expressly tells us not to entertain. As for the poor, in the early church they had all things in common. This brought unity among the brethren, and an abundant provision for the Gospel (see Acts 4:31-37). So we see that not everyone will be wealthy during their time of sojourning here on earth. Christ has taught us to give and share liberally, for it is more blessed to give than to receive. Therefore, it’s very important that we do not confuse monetary wealth here on earth with our eternal kingdom inheritance. Nor are we to confuse earthly riches with the true blessings of God. Not everyone will enjoy earthly riches, yet every believer has a part in Christ’s kingdom inheritance. That eternal inheritance is our true wealth.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, (1 Peter 1:3-5, KJV).
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: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ, (Ephesians 1:10-12, KJV).
Being Found Worthy
It is clear from our previous examples that one must be found worthy of the inheritance. God reserves the right to give, withhold, and distribute our inheritance at His will. We see in the example of Esau that one who despises his inheritance, is despised by God. We see that one who squanders it prematurely is indeed a prodigal who was dead to his father, in which he says to him:
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son, (Luke 15:21, KJV).
Although that son was mercifully restored to life, it’s important to note that he knew the consequences for dishonoring his father and squandering his inheritance. He was no longer worthy to be called a son.
In contrast, we see Jacob who fought for his inheritance, and although he obtained it through deception, was blessed by God and received it.
This issue of being found worthy is still valid for us as believers.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me, (Matthew 10:37-38, KJV).
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man, (Luke 21:36, KJV).
To this end we look to Christ Jesus as our example, who was found worthy before the Father.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Christ prepared for the sacrifice as our Lamb of God, we see a battle of wills taking place. The Son of Man and the Son of God were clearly wrestling. Christ plainly asked His Father to take the cup from Him.
His Father said NO. That was not an option. And although Christ knew that, He asked anyway. In this I find a peculiar intimacy between them which speaks to us as well. And the lesson I find here is this: It never hurts to ask.
Although the Father’s answer was no, Christ surrendered His life willingly, even sweating great drops of blood. That intense anxiety was not merely because of the physical pain he would endure – it was in anticipation of carrying the weight of the sin of the world and being separated from His Father. As we saw earlier in Hebrews 12, the hope of His eternal inheritance is what held Him together and enabled Him to endure. Let us understand, that had He not surrendered to God in that moment, He would have lost His inheritance. We must realize that Christ also had free will. He chose every day to obey Him, and on this day He had to choose to lay down His life for us.
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him, (John 8:29, KJV).
Obedience is no different for us. We must choose whom we will serve every day. In following Christ’s example, we see that sacrifice is part of the Christian life. Our Father will call us lay down our lives for Christ – both in life and death, empowering us to perform His will when we say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Therefore, it’s important to understand the necessity of being found worthy of Him to receive His inheritance as sons and daughters of God, which is exemplified through our obedience. Christ made it clear that those who are worthy of Him LOVE him more than any other person, including their most intimate family members, and even more than their very own life. The inheritance we have in Him is much greater than anyone or anything the world could possibly offer us.
He is the joy set before us. Christ is our eternal reward (see Genesis 15:1). He is our inheritance, even as we are His.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son, (Revelation 21:7, KJV).
When He comes, may you find Him saying:
Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy LORD, (Matthew 25:21, KJV).
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: Courtesy of www.theswordbearer.org