“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. “
Not only are we begotten again into a living hope, as we called it to your attention in our last Meditation; but we are begotten again also into an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance.
The object of the Christian’s hope is therefore an inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and which fadeth not away!
Begotten again into an inheritance!
And inheritance in Scripture as well as in our text carries within it especially two ideas. First of all, it is gratuitous! This means, negatively speaking, that it cannot be merited. Generally this is true of any inheritance. Though sometimes a testator of a will in the case of an earthly inheritance may recognize some past favor on the part of the heir, generally speaking an inheritance is freely given. In Scripture this is always the case. The heirs merit absolutely nothing. The inheritance is simply given out of mere grace, and by the sovereign free choice of the God Who prepares and gives it. In the second place, an inheritance implies (and that is certainly the case here) that it is exceedingly precious, and therefore most desirable.
Indeed, the inheritance of which the apostle speaks is most gratuitous and very precious!
It is important here to consider exactly the relation of this inheritance to the hope of which the apostle spoke in the preceding verse. And we should keep in mind that the relation is such that the inheritance is the hope—only in anticipation. We have shown before that the living hope into which we are begotten again is absolute, and very real, not only as an activity, but also as to content. However, if we have that which we hope for, hope is no longer necessary. Hope knows its object, but it does not yet attain unto it. It has therefore its object only in anticipation. But the inheritance is hope realized! We are not only begotten again into a living hope, but we are also begotten again into an inheritance. The living hope stretches into the inheritance; not simply “unto” or “towards,” so that it is a question whether it reaches. Nor, of course, “in,” because that isn’t so yet. We are still in this world. But “into,” that is, to within the inheritance does the hope stretch.
What then is that inheritance into which we are begotten again and into which the hope stretches?
In answer, we ought to notice, first of all, how the text describes it. Strikingly the apostle describes it using three negatives: not corruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. The idea of these three negatives is, of course, to compare our inheritance with our present estate. All that is here in the world of our experience is corruptible, defilable, and fades away. And, though all three descriptions seem to emphasize the same thing, there is nevertheless a fine distinction to be observed between them.
Not corruptible! This looks at the inheritance as being unaffected by anything outside of it. In contrast to this, all that we may possess in this world is affected by corrupting influences and powers that will eventually destroy it. Not so the inheritance of which the text speaks. There will be no moth or rust, no germ or pestilence to destroy it. It is incorruptible!
Not defilable! This looks at the inheritance in the moral and ethical sense of the word as being beyond any moral defilement. How different this is from our present state. Every step we take is characterized by moral defilement. Our first father was created undefiled, while he was also defilable. And he became defiled by the immoral suasion of the devil. And all his children are by nature defiled. But not so is our inheritance. It is undefilable!
Not fadeable! This is almost the same as incorruptible, but with this difference: whereas that which is incorruptible cannot be corrupted from without, that which is not fadeable cannot be corrupted from within. And what a contrast this is to that which we now possess. Not only can it be destroyed by corrupting influences from without, but it is also of such a nature that it has no enduring substance from within. It is like the beautiful rose bush laden with flowers and growing in your yard. Today you see it covered with beautiful and fragrant roses. Tomorrow it may pass under the rain storm that causes all the petals to fall. But if no rain storm attacks it from without, you have only to wait long enough and the flowers of themselves wither and die. It has not enough inner power to continue. Our inheritance, on the other hand, is of an enduring substance. It cannot fade away!
The positive implications of all these negatives is that the inheritance is everlasting. It transcends all that which is temporal. And the reason for this must be found in the fact that this inheritance has its center in the incarnated Son of God Who died and rose again. Through the resurrection of Christ, that is, through the power of that resurrection we are born again, and possess therefore immortality and eternal life. And through the power of that resurrection the eternal inheritance stands. Christ Himself is the life principle of that incorruptible, undefilable, and unfadeable inheritance. And because the whole creation together with the church will ultimately be united in Christ, and Christ with His resurrection life will pervade all things in heaven and on earth, therefore that inheritance must be everlasting.
But again we ask: What then is that inheritance?
We ought to notice that the text speaks of salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Undoubtedly, therefore, our inheritance consists in our final and perfect salvation. Now we have only the beginning of it, having been begotten again into a living hope by the power of Christ’s resurrection. But when that hope will be stretched out into its object, we shall behold the perfection of our glorious salvation. In this final and glorious salvation all creation shall take part. For there shall be a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness shall dwell. In the very center of this glorious and perfect creation shall be the God of our salvation as He shall appear in the face of Christ Jesus. We shall see God as He has purposed to reveal Himself in His Son, our Mediator and Saviour; and we shall abide in His presence forever. We shall abide in His glory and fellowship, and never go out. We shall be like Him when we shah see Him as He is. That undoubtedly is the inheritance which is now the object of the Christian’s hope!
That object is absolutely sure!
It is sure, first of all, because it is reserved in heaven! This means, in the first place, that it is there. It is there centrally in Christ Who is gone into heaven to prepare for us a place. And from Christ it will be revealed in the last time. It means, secondly, that it is not yet universal in the cosmological sense of the word. It must yet be revealed, and will be in the last time. That it is reserved means, in the third place, that it is safely kept. The powers of evil, corruption, and darkness cannot reach it. It is impossible for the powers of destruction to ever touch that inheritance. It is safely kept in heaven!
Moreover, that inheritance is doubly sure! Not only is it reserved, safely kept in heaven; but the apostle also informs us that we also are kept. Literally he tells us that we are garrisoned, that is, hidden safely as in a fortress. That in which we are garrisoned is the power of God. God, you understand, is omnipotent, that is, all powerful. All power is His. There can be no dualism, that is another who has power to withstand Him. Even the devil has no power, or it is given him of God. And that power of God in which we are kept and which leads us into our inheritance is operating through faith. Believers, therefore, do not ride as it were asleep on a Pullman train to their inheritance, to be awakened then by the angels when they arrive in heaven. Not so does this power of God keep us. God wants us to know and to be fully aware of our salvation and the way to that final and glorious salvation. Therefore the power of God operates in them through faith, which is the power as it is the gift of God’s grace. Never is it a condition which you must fulfill; but it is that power of God that works in our hearts enabling us to cling in hope to that God of our salvation Who will never let us go. Thus God preserves not only our inheritance, but also us; and we persevere until we attain our glorious inheritance.
Which is ready to be revealed in the last time!
That it is ready to be revealed means that it is already prepared, and this makes it objectively real, and this idea is in harmony with the rest of the text which emphasizes that the inheritance is reserved in heaven.
That it is to be revealed means that at the present time it is hidden from our view. It is behind the curtain of the heavenly, as it were. This revelation may be compared to the unveiling of a statue. One moment the statue is hidden under a veil; but when the veil is removed, the thing hidden is suddenly revealed. Revelation differs from manifestation, another term often used in the Scripture, in that the latter is the more active term. For example, the sun manifests itself when it pierces the dark clouds, and you see it in its brilliant rays shining upon the earth. Revelation, on the other hand, is the more passive term, and informs us that something is done in respect to the thing that is revealed. In the case of our text it is our inheritance; which is now hidden, but which is to be revealed, that is, unveiled.
Our inheritance, our final and glorious salvation is ready to be unveiled! And what an unveiling that will be! The thought stirs in us eager anticipation. That which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive, is that which God has laid away for those who love Him. In one word, no words are to be found that can begin to describe it.
In the last time!
Time here must be understood not from the point of view of its being the succession of moments, though it is undoubtedly true there is such succession at the end of which shall be the last moment of time as we know it. Yet time, according to the text, must not be viewed as we watch it develop on our time pieces. Rather, time must be conceived of here as the opportune occasion. The very last event that will occur in time.
To that last occasion in history all other occasions work!
The entire eternal counsel of God has as its central and final objective the revelation of this inheritance. And all history is but the unraveling of this plan and counsel of God. The very last event that fills up this purpose of God is the final and glorious salvation of His people, when they shall be united with Him in an inseverable bond and abide with Him in His glory.
Then time, as we know it, shall cease! Then the counsel of God shall be finished. Then with all of God’s redeemed creation we shall enter into and abide in our glorious inheritance.
That will be glory for me!
So it will be glory for you, too, my born-again reader!
With me let us say—Amen, and amen!