Rev. Miersma is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
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.
I Peter 1:4, 5
An inheritance for the people of God, strangers in this world because of their election by God. They are citizens of another country, an heavenly country. For it they live and labor, strive and suffer, willing to lose their life for it. All because they have been begotten unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
To them Peter gives encouragement and comfort with the hope of the eternal, incorruptible inheritance that fadeth not away. They are in the fiery furnace of affliction and they long for the realization of their hope. They know that the inheritance is theirs and that there is nothing that can take it away. Their hope stretches into the inheritance.
A glorious inheritance it is. No human words can adequately describe its beauty. The future inheritance cannot be compared with anything here below. It is heavenly and cannot be adequately described in language that is of the earth. The only thing that we can do is speak of it in negative terms.
Incorruptible. Corruption is the destruction of anything by forces external to it. A thing is corruptible when it is exposed to these forces that tend to destroy it, its power and beauty, its life and being. In this world all things are corruptible and corrupted. In our bodies we carry these forces in our blood, bones, and flesh. They are in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. We in no way can resist them. In contrast, our heavenly inheritance cannot be attacked by any such destructive forces.
Fadeth not. Corruption is from the outside; fading away is from the inside. Something fades away because of a lack of vitality, a lack of proper strength to endure forever. All things on earth possess a certain power to be and to live, but that power is limited, so that sooner or later they fade away. A flower dies when the wind blows over it, but it also dies because it has limited strength. No matter how beautiful, it will soon wither and fade away. So we also quickly fade away. Threescore and ten or fourscore years measure the limits within which our vitality is consumed. We bend our head, incline to the grave, and pine away. But that inheritance possesses an inexhaustible strength, so that its beauty never fades, for it is inseparably connected to Christ, to the everlasting God.
Undefiled. The object of our hope, that inheritance, is not subject to the defiling influences of sin. This cannot be said of the first Paradise. Even though it was created righteous and holy, it was subject to defilement. Since the moment of the Fall, all things are defiled, and we defile all things. By the words of our mouth, by the sight of our eyes, and by the touch of our hands we defile. As we walk through the world we leave a trail of defilement. But the inheritance to which we look forward in hope is beyond defilement. No sin enters there; it is eternally righteous. Indeed, for it is rooted in Christ, the Righteous One.
Of this glorious inheritance we are assured, for it is eternally reserved in the heavens for us. Already it is prepared. Already it is real. It only awaits to be revealed in all its beauty and to be given to its rightful heirs. This inheritance was prepared in God’s sovereign and immutable counsel. We, as objects of His grace and mercy, are foreordained in that counsel to be heirs of that inheritance. The apostle Paul reinforces this truth in Romans 8:29, 30.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
The ultimate reason why this inheritance is already prepared is that it is centrally realized in Jesus Christ. By His death on the cross He merited the inheritance for His brethren, thus making us co-heirs with Him. The beginning of His exaltation was His resurrection and His being received into that inheritance. Then, having ascended into heaven, and being seated at the right hand of God, He was filled with the Spirit and all the gifts necessary to realize our final salvation.
As that inheritance is reserved for us, so we are preserved for it. We “are kept by the power of God.” While on earth we have plenty of enemies. The powers of darkness, that triple alliance of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, would seek to destroy us. As a roaring lion the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour. He does not seek to be in the public eye, preferring to work behind the scenes, unnoticed, yet always active. Oh you may ignore him, forget all about him, or deny that he exists. He does not mind. In fact, he much prefers that, because he attacks us when we least expect it and where our protective armor seems to be weak.
Helpers he has aplenty. There are a host of demons at his command. As prince of darkness he also has all wicked men at his disposal, and they are only too eager to do his bidding. All the while he is working he is corrupting. He knows how to twist the truth, corrupt the Scriptures, and pervert the facts. As long as the church is on earth the devil will not rest. He is out to destroy us. Until our dying breath this battle will rage on.
As mentioned, the second enemy is the world of wickedness. God has called His people out of the midst of the world as a separate people to tell His praises. It is for this reason that we are strangers in the world. We have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; we are in the world, but not of the world. For this reason the world seeks to destroy us, for our very presence in her midst condemns her in her wickedness. The world hates us and tries to make our existence upon the earth impossible. Sometimes she does this in a very subtle way. She welcomes us into her places of entertainment, and in every other way will suggest a little tolerance and compromise. But her compromise always and only means that we completely sacrifice our principles to join her ranks. The world never gives up anything, but expects of us that we give up everything.
When the believer stands firm against these attacks, he can expect open hostility. Already present in the world is the ever increasing power of the Antichrist. When this power reaches its height, there will be one last attempt to wipe out the cause of Christ from the earth.
Then there is our worst enemy of all, our own sinful flesh. The devil and the world could not be a threat to us if it were not for our old, sinful nature that is prone to all evil. The one access that the powers of darkness have to us is our own inclination to sin. We expose ourselves to temptation, often even invite it, and play with it, even though we are fully aware that our flesh is weak. No wonder that the apostle Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
From every human aspect we could never resist that triple foe. Left to ourselves we could never remain standing. Peter knew this from his own experience. Our daily experience teaches us that we not only can fall into sin, but actually do. We deserve by our constant unfaithfulness that God should give us over to our sins and cast us away forever.
Yet, in the midst of all these threatening dangers, we are encircled by an armor that no weapon of the enemy can penetrate. We are invincible, indestructible, always victorious. Positively, we are kept in the power of God. He surrounds us with His protective care, for we are His cherished possession. He has redeemed us unto Himself by the death of His own Son on the cross. He has exalted Christ to heaven, where He intercedes for us and prepares a place for us that we may be where He is. God has committed to Christ the preservation and salvation of the saints. That is Christ’s chief concern, so that He exercises the power of God whereby we are kept.
That power is God’s power, therefore, an almighty power. Since all power belongs to Him, even the devil and wicked men are dependent upon Him. In spite of themselves, they can only carry out His purpose. So while, on the one hand, we have an enemy that we ourselves can never resist or conquer, it is equally true, on the other hand, that we are kept by the power of God in perfect security.
Peter describes the manner of this preservation as being “through faith.” Faith certainly is not the work of mere man. God’s protection is not dependent upon our believing and continuing in the faith, as if God’s power were active in us only if and when we believe and stand in the faith. No, faith is the gift of God apart from which the Holy Spirit does not work. God does not treat us like robots, which respond only mechanically to the will of God. Nor does God protect us while we sit serenely by, unaware of the dangers that threaten us. No, God wants us to be confronted by the enemy. He wants us to realize our danger and experience the terrors of our battle against spiritual powers of wickedness that threaten to destroy us. He wants to prove and strengthen our faith through these afflictions.
Thereby we realize our own weakness and our dependence upon Him, so that we cry to Him for help, and He hears us. He gives us grace to stand in the evil day. And even when we through weakness do fall into sin, God makes us sincerely sorry for our sins, brings us to repentance, and assures us of His pardon. Thus we grow in grace and become strong in the faith, even as an oak tree forces its roots deeper into the ground to resist the raging storms. We are kept by the power of God, enduring even to the end.
Does this make us careless and lax, so that we do not resist evil because we are confident that we will be saved anyway? The truth can never make us careless. How can we love sin, when we have learned to hate it? How can we become friends with Satan and the world, when we have become spiritually separated from them? Faith causes us to be enemies of all that is of darkness, even as we are made friends of God and heirs of salvation.
Thus Scripture urges us to put on the whole armor of God, for our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against all the powers of darkness. In that battle we need an armor that can only be supplied to us out of the spiritual arsenal of God. We need the power of God working in us and through us, that we may stand in the evil day. We need a living faith, that can meet all the onslaughts of darkness.
Stand, therefore, not in your own strength, but in the strength of God, following the Captain of your salvation to victory. For our salvation is ready and waiting. Soon we will leave this battlefield with all its anguish and trials. Then we will enter into the glory of Christ with the saints who have gone before. The day will soon be here in which Christ will return upon the clouds of heaven, and then the final glory will be revealed in all its perfection.
Now we suffer for a time, in order to be glorified with Christ forever. We know that nothing can separate us from His love. God is for us. Who can be against us? In all these things we are more than conquerors. In that faith we stand. We watch and wait. For faith is the victory that overcomes the world.