An Unfading Inheritance
When I turned thirty-five my mother gave me a treasured family heirloom: a gold diamond ring that had belonged to my great-great-grandfather. From the Greek island where he was born, my ancestor had brought it to Australia where I was born decades later. It means a lot to me to wear his ring, a ring that’s now been handed down through five generations. I feel intimately connected to my family history through it.
But when I wear my great-great-grandfather’s ring, it also reminds me of his death. And the death of my great-grandfather. And grandfather. And my mother. Family heirlooms are precious reminders of our roots, but they also remind us that our lives are limited. They are passed down because this life doesn’t last forever.
Aging is a harsh reality. When I was young, I was in a hurry to get older. But, seemingly out of the blue, there came a point when it all switched around, and I began desperately trying to stay as young as possible. For me, this mental switch happened in my thirties. I woke up one day and thought, How did that happen? One moment I was in my twenties, blissfully oblivious to aging, and then, suddenly in my thirties, the full reality started to hit home.
So I decided to get fit. I started lifting weights and training hard in the gym. And at the end of my thirties I was in better shape than I was at the end of my twenties. But now, at age forty-one . . . I’m still getting older. My hair is rapidly going gray. My joints get stiffer and more painful than they used to. There are more lines on my face. No one mistakes me for a twenty-something anymore. Despite my best efforts to slow down the process, the reality remains that I’m aging, which means drawing closer to my own death.
What does our hope as believers mean in the face of that grim reality? We’ve considered how 1 Peter 1:3 describes our salvation: that through the resurrection of Christ, we have received a new spiritual birth into a living hope. But the next verse tells us that our spiritual rebirth is not the only thing we’ve been born into. It explains that we’ve also been born into an incredible inheritance—one that, unlike my family’s heirlooms, which I will eventually pass on to the next generation, is mine forever.
Just as at birth we join a family, in our spiritual rebirth we join God’s family. And, like an inheritance from our earthly families, our heavenly Father has promised an inheritance to those who join his family.
The promise of an inheritance from God is a rich theme in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the inheritance that God promised to his people Israel was the land of Canaan. Moses summarized this well when we reminded God of his promises: “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever’” (Exodus 32:13, emphasis added).
Here the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) are promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance. But we also see in the Old Testament that the ability of God’s people to enjoy this inheritance was far from perfect. Their sin and rebellion against God often kept Israel from either receiving or enjoying the land. Eventually, sin caused the Israelites to lose their inheritance, when their ongoing rebellion against God led to the exile. First the northern tribes were carried off to Assyria (722 BC), and then the southern tribes to Babylon (586 BC).
Exile is the loss of the inheritance. And though the Babylonian exile came to an end after seventy years, the land of Canaan was never again fully the possession of Israel.
All of this is to say that the inheritance in the Old Testament—a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17)—was wonderful, but it was not perfect. It could be spoiled by sin, bent out of shape. It could be lost.
But the heavenly inheritance that Peter describes as a gift for God’s people is entirely different. This inheritance is the promise of a new life in the new, fully restored creation. And it’s an inheritance that lasts forever (1 Peter 1:4).
Is it hard to grasp a future, an inheritance, like this? Here on earth, we’re all too familiar with how painfully perishable our treasures can be. Take technology for example. I like gadgets as much as the next guy; it’s fun to be dazzled by new technology and its ever-increasing capabilities.
Despite the way technology tantalizingly promises to be new and exciting, it’s really only new by also being always old. The newness of technology always replaces yesterday’s newness—and quickly! When I bought the original model iPhone it was an amazing piece of technology. But today that original model would be considered by most people to be a piece of junk.
The only inheritance we can share beyond death is the one Peter describes, our inheritance in Christ. It’s the only inheritance that will mean anything at all in the end. Instead of focusing on an inheritance that will at most last a few generations, wouldn’t you want to place your hopes on our eternal inheritance?
Yet, oddly, most of us struggle to live this way. I truly believe that I’ve been born into an incredible, eternal inheritance. Though I don’t know the details, I know it will mean sharing the gloriously transformed creation with God. Not jewelry or trinkets from a dead relative—however meaningful they may be to us—nor an outdated piece of technology—but the entire universe for all eternity! Yet somehow I keep forgetting to focus on what God has promised to us. Can you relate?
If we really believe an amazing inheritance is coming to us, why do we keep forgetting about it? Why do we revert to living for the treasures of this world?
1. How can knowing that we have an inheritance in the future, change our present?
2. What part of your inheritance do you wish you could have more of now?