This is a pretty awe-inspiring statement. I don't know about you, but I always wished that some long lost relative would pass an amazing inheritance to me so that I could enjoy the fruits of my predecessor's labour. I realise that is a very lazy and selfish wish to have, but an inheritance is not something that you have to personally work for... you just accept it, and along with accepting the inheritance, you are accepting that you a part of that family.
The other night, our small group was looking at the beatitudes and we started to wonder what exactly 'inherit the whole earth' would look like. Obviously, the idea of inheritance implies that someone has died and has left property or legacy to be passed on to you, but what does our inheritance look like for those who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Jesus himself isn't even the only one who mentions our inheritance, because Paul speaks about it several times in the New Testament in a few different ways, yet they all seem to tease a future hope that comes from being children of God.
To begin with, what makes us children of God that we can be promised this inheritance (whatever it is) in the first place? Thankfully, the Apostle Paul did an amazing job of explaining the answer to that question saying that 'all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God' (Romans 8 verse 14) and that 'the Spirit is God's guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people' (Ephesians 1 verse 14).
So the answer in a nutshell is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what makes us children of God. When we accept Christ as the Saviour and king of our lives, the Holy Spirit makes his home inside us, identifying us to God the Father as his very own people, chosen and set apart by God himself (Ephesians 1 verse 13). So, because we are his children, we are also treated as God's heirs - entitled to all that God possesses and promises. So with all that in mind, let's see if we can discover what this inheritance actually looks like!
First, we are promised that we will inherit the earth - the whole earth to be exact. While this certainly didn't make any sense to me to begin with, here's some insight that really helped me out from John Piper. He argues that because we are heirs of God, we will inherit what belongs to Him. According to Psalm 24 verse 1, 'The earth is the Lord's and all it contains'. So if we are heirs with Christ, then we will inherit the nations. Piper also points to the Apostle Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 3 verse 22 that says 'all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.' But what does that mean? It means that everything that God has created will - in the end, will serve our everlasting joy as God originally intended; we will rejoice in the inheritance of the world.
Second, we will inherit God himself. More important and infinitely more valuable than inheriting the things that God has created, the greatest joy and biggest hope of our inheritance is that one day we will see and savour the glory of God himself,' (John Piper). The promise that is described in the last book of the Bible is a profound statement of God's original intention and future inheritance for mankind, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God,' (Revelation 21 verse 3). If we can look forward to the gifts of God in our inheritance and be excited, how much more should we be amazed and overjoyed at the inheritance we have in the giver - in God himself! We were made to be with him - how we should seek his fellowship daily to be ready for that great inheritance!
The final part of our inheritance involves our bodies being glorified. In Romans 8 verses 22-23, Paul says that 'we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons - the redemption of our bodies.' In our final inheritance, our bodies will be glorified much in the same way that Christ's body was glorified - in essence we will be conformed to the image of the Son so that all our experiences will be from him, and through him and to him.
So how should this affect the way that we live the here-and-now? Well, it should certainly give us a new perspective by which we view our lives. It should make our journey towards that inheritance unencumbered by complaints, or idolatry, or selfishness - because we have so greater joy to look forward to.
John Newton put it like this: 'Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his [carriage] should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we should think him, if we saw him wringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, "My [carriage] is broken! My [carriage] is broken!"
Let's not get bogged down with the state of our worldly carriage, all the while forgetting the amazing inheritance that we have in God.
(Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. 1, p. 108)
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html