Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
We understand an inheritance to be something: that is precious and valuable. An inheritance is a precious possession that a person has no right to of himself; it is something freely and graciously bestowed upon an individual. An inheritance is a legal matter; it has its basis and protection in law. And before one can enter into the possession and enjoyment of his inheritance, the death of the testator must occur. The Hebrew word for inheritance (and related words) means to distribute, to give as a possession, to cause to inherit. Most of the Old Testament occurrences of these words are found in context with the words “land” and “by lot.” The Greek for inheritance is a compound word, the parts of which mean: a pebble or polished bit of wood used in casting lots, and to distribute, apportion or assign.
The land of Canaan was given to the children of Israel as an inheritance. “This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot” (Num. 34:13). After the land was surveyed for each of the twelve tribes, the lines were drawn for each individual family within each tribe, and lots were cast to determine each one’s inheritance. The salvation of each elect Israelite was inseparably connected to the exact piece of ground that the Lord gave him. Thus, the Israelite could look over his possession and sing, “Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; Yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Ps. 16:5, 6). This explains the godly concern of the daughters of Zelophahad, who died without a son (Num. 27:11), and the refusal of Naboth to sell his vineyard to King Ahab. Their salvation could be enjoyed, not in the land of Canaan generally, but on the precise piece of ground God gave to them. So our salvation also is not to receive heavenly glory in some vague way, but to receive a definite, God-ordained place in heaven, a place prepared for us, a place for which we are being prepared and that will fit us.
That which we inherit is described in Scripture with wondrous beauty and endless variation. We will inherit the throne of glory, the earth, the nations, the Gentiles, life everlasting, the kingdom prepared for us, the kingdom of God, the promises, a blessing, even all things. But the richest expression of inheritance is that we will inherit God! Not only did the Levites do so (Num 18:20), but He is the portion of our inheritance (Ps. 16:5); we partake of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4); the treasures and pleasures that are at His right hand are ours to enjoy now and forever. That God is our inheritance means that we know Him as He really is, know His amazing virtues as they are displayed in Jesus Christ, and knowing Him enjoy Him as the God of gracious salvation.
In a very striking way, Scripture turns this around and reveals to us that we are also God’s inheritance. Moses prays that God will not destroy His people and His inheritance which He has redeemed (Deut. 9:26). David sings, “Save thy people, bless thine inheritance” (Ps. 28:9). We are a people chosen for His inheritance (Ps. 33:12). Thus we can understand why the Lord takes pleasure in His people (Ps. 149:14), views them as His peculiar treasure (Ps. 149:4), and counts them His jewels (Mal. 3:17). Since we have no value or beauty in ourselves, this can only be understood in Christ. In Christ we are given beauty for ashes, in Christ the image of God is restored to us, in Christ is God always well pleased. Through the work of Jesus Christ for us,in us, and through us, God inherits and possesses a people unto His praise! Give thanks unto the Father who “hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12)!
We inherit God and a place in His kingdom only because we belong to Christ through eternal election. All of God’s promises are spoken first of all to Jesus Christ. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:8). Christ is the seed out of Jacob, the inheritor of God’s mountain (Is. 65:9). By inheritance, the Son hath obtained a more excellent name than the angels (Heb. 1:4). Because we have received the Spirit of adoption, we are children. And if we are children, then are we heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:15-17). All that Christ has been promised, and all that Christ receives, is ours because we are members of His body, one plant with Him. And we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glow (Eph. 1:14).
In the opening paragraph, we stated that there are certain things we understand about an inheritance on the earthly level. Bad things can happen to an earthly inheritance. A person may change his will; lawyers’ fees may greatly reduce it; taxes may eat into it; inflation may render it all but worthless. This heavenly inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and never fades away (I Pet. 1:4). It is reserved in heaven for us by the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Will we actually receive the precious inheritance? Not only is the inheritance reserved for us by God, but we are kept by the power of God through faith for that inheritance (I Pet. 1:5)! The inheritance and the inheritors will come together. Of that we may be sure!