Despite the Colossian Heresy (described in my previous blogpost), a core group of believers in Colossae were described as being chosen and faithful (Col. 1:2,4; 3:12). Paul acknowledged that this core group of believers demonstrated a love in the Spirit (Col. 1:8), and they had a love for all of the saints (believers) (Col. 1:4). Paul also noted that this core group of believers had a hope for something reserved for them in Heaven (Col. 1:5). Then, Paul gave thanks to God, the Father, “who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). What is reserved for the believer in Heaven? And what is the believer’s inheritance?
We discussed the believer’s inheritance in an earlier blogpost. It is important to remember that our New Testament vocabulary is built on the Old Testament disclosure of ideas. As previously discussed, in the Old Testament, most of the references to the believer’s inheritance referred to an inheritance of land in the Promised Land of Israel (Exod. 32:13; Deut. 19:14; Num. 16:14). It was God’s intent to bring His people into a land of great blessing and prosperity. The Promised Land was called a land of milk and honey (Exod. 3:8, 3:17, 13:5). However, it was acknowledged that one’s inheritance could extend to things beyond geography, like inheriting honor and good (Prov. 3:35, 28:10). Further, there was an important association between the inheritance of land and a prosperity of the soul (Ps. 25:12-13). However, on the other hand, those who brought trouble upon their own household would inherit the wind (Prov. 11:29) or foolishness (Prov. 14:18), and still others would inherit falsehood, futility, and “things of no benefit” (Jer. 16:19). Please notice that the idea of the “inheritance” expanded from the concrete to the abstract, and from things like “land” to things like “honor.”
Israel was warned that God’s promise of blessing was contingent on their continued obedience (Deut. Chs. 6,7, 9, and 11). The Israelites were required to do “what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, so that it may go well for [them] and that [they] may go in and take possession of the good land which the Lord swore to give [to their] fathers” (Deut. 6:18). The Israelites were required to listen and obey (Deut. 6:2-3), and they were required to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5). God’s promise of special blessings to His people is contingent on their obedience. Of course, our obedience is possible only because of God’s grace. We are dependent on God’s Word, Spirit, and Providence. The Providence of God is His protective care and provision for us in time and eternity.
King David said, “Who is the person who fears the Lord? He [God] will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will dwell in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land” (Ps. 25:12-13). David also said, “[T]hose who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land” (Ps. 37:9), and, [t]he righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever” (Ps. 37:29). Finally, David said, “Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land” (Ps. 37:34).
As the reader may recall, the vast number of Israelites who escaped from Egypt did not enter into the Promised Land. Because of their stubbornness and disobedience, their bodies were strewn across the desert wilderness (Num. Ch. 14). As Paul wrote, “But as for Israel, He [God] says, ‘I have spread out My hands all day long to a disobedient and obstinate people’” (Rom. 10:21). The Exodus Generation had only a few who were exceptions to the general description of being “disobedient and obstinate.”
However, Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites and asked for God’s forgiveness for the Israelites’ disobedience (Num. 14:11-38). He petitioned God to allow the Exodus Generation to enter the Promised Land. God told Moses that He would forgive the Israelites, but He (God) would not allow the guilty to go unpunished (Num. 14:18). Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Num. 32:12). The Scripture says that Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord fully (Num. 14:24, 32:12; Deut. 1:36; Josh. 14:14). God had performed many incredible miracles for the Israelites. However, the Israelites did not listen to the voice of God, and they disrespected God (Num. 14:22-23). As to Caleb, God said, “But as for my servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring him into the land which he has entered, and his descendants will take possession of it” (Num. 14:24).
The Old Testament provides us a pattern as to how God will judge us Christians. However, in our case, we are not potentially inheriting a small sliver of land in the Middle East. Rather, Christians who remain faithful will inherit the Kingdom of God. Spiritually, the Kingdom of God is described as a place of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). However, the Kingdom of God is not just a present spiritual reality, but also a future political reality. The future political realty includes ruling with Christ. Paul asked the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world,” and “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
Ruling with Christ in the future political Kingdom of God is a part of what it means for believers to be “chosen.” The potential for inheriting fantastic blessings awaits every believer in Heaven. However, we must continue in our walk of faith. The New Testament still uses the language of receiving an “inheritance,” and we are, once again, told that receiving one’s inheritance is conditioned upon the believer’s requirement of obedience. As the Apostle Paul taught,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
(1 Cor. 6:9-11)
In my opinion, none of the aforementioned sins disqualify a believer from going to Heaven after he or she dies. However, if we continue to practice disobedience, we will be disqualified from receiving many wonderful blessings associated with inheriting the Kingdom of God. To inherit the Kingdom of God, we are required to practice obedience.
As described above, the New Testament idea of obtaining an inheritance in the Kingdom of God was built on the Old Testament idea of obtaining an inheritance in the Promised Land. In my opinion, the blessings associated with the Kingdom of God can include both the concrete and the abstract, like both material blessings and immaterial honor. Of course, God, in His sovereignty, is the source of all blessings to us, individually and collectively. Just like the Israelites’ inheritance in the Promised Land, our inheritance in the Kingdom of God is something that we can receive both now and in the future. Paul told the Ephesians, “And now I entrust you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Paul explained to King Agrippa that God had sent Paul to the Gentiles “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive the forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). Paul explained that the Holy Spirit is the first installment and guarantee of the existence of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). Paul prayed that our hearts would be enlightened so that we would know “the hope of His calling, [and] what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). At Ephesians 5:5, The Apostle Paul reiterated, “For this you know with certainty, that no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, which amounts to an idolator, has an inheritance in the kingdom of God and Christ.”
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul struck a similar cord. Paul said that we should give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints (Col. 1:12). Every believer is qualified, but we must continue in our walk of faith to fully share in the Kingdom of God. We must not retreat from our spiritual life. Paul also instructed the Colossians,
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For the one who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
We will be held accountable for our decisions and our priorities, and the ramifications for those decisions and priorities will be experienced both in this life and the next. Yes, “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in mercy, forgiving wrongdoing and violation of His Law, but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished …” (Num. 14:18). And yes, He will do all of the forgoing when He judges mankind. Entering into and remaining in the Promised Land is a powerful Biblical Image of the believer growing to spiritual maturity and remaining faithful to God.