What does the Bible Mean by Calling Us Heirs?

Series: Question Box

by Rick Phillips July 28, 2002

Finally, and more upliftingly, one writer asks, “Would you please explain the use of terms such as ‘heirs,’ ‘co-heirs with Christ,’ ‘inheritance,’ and ‘coming into your inheritance.’ Does this not suggest we are waiting for God to die to gain our inheritance?”

 These expressions describe our relationship to God through union with Christ. The apostle Paul, in particular, uses it to describe, first, that God has great blessings that await us; second, that we are to promote the interests of the family business, that is the kingdom of God, through godliness and evangelism; and third, that all our blessings in Christ belong to us by right as a family heritage and not as an attainment that we have to acquire and protect. The point is the nature of our relationship to God and his blessings. Unlike servants who receive their wages, we are sons who take possession as heirs (Gal. 4:7).

The metaphor is not intended to be perfectly technical, however. Mainly, Paul sees us entering into our inheritance after our deaths. This is how he uses the term in Romans 8:17, where we are heirs with Christ as we share in his death and resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:50, our inheritance is linked with our future bodily resurrection. Jesus passed through his death and entered into his maturity, as it were, and hence into his inheritance, we likewise will do the same in him.

There is one reference that speaks of us inheriting because of God’s death. Hebrews 9:15 says that Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, so that by the ransom of his blood we “may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” The idea is somewhat different here than in the apostle Paul’s writings. The writer of Hebrews means that just as the death of a benefactor provides an inheritance to those who are named in his will, Christ’s death also provides forgiveness for sinners who are joined to him through faith.

That reminds us that the great treasure we receive from God is the forgiveness of our sins and acceptance into his loving presence. I think of Jesus telling his disciples not to rejoice that they received power to cast out demons, but rather to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20). That is our great inheritance, full possession of our membership in God’s royal family and a place in his love, and from this greatest and most costly treasure imaginable every other heavenly blessing flows.

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