By Bill Feist
Have you ever travelled a long ways and finally reached your destination where you have a reservation only to have a clerk, with a blank look on his face, after searching through some computer terminal, say, “I don’t see your name on the list”? It is shattering to think that your name is not on the list, even though you know you made a reservation. You can be sure of one thing if you are a Christian, you have a reward reserved for you. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4). This is one reservation that is going to be honoured. Each of us needs to be sure to get there and claim it.
Men are interested in and have a desire for a life beyond this one. Man longs for immortality. Paul expressed this longing in 1 Cor 5:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” The children of the world have no inheritance awaiting them at the end of this life. The Christian can say with assurance, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).
Scripture uses the word “inheritance” to refer to a settled and secure possession. Inheritance in the Old Testament Scriptures referred not only to an estate received by a child from his parents, but also to the land received by the children of Israel as a gift from Jehovah. To Israel the great inheritance was the “Promised Land” which “flowed with milk and honey.” God even identified Israel as a “people of inheritance” (Deut 4:20).
The Christian’s inheritance is far greater than any physical heritage.
The greatness of the Christian’s inheritance is most difficult to depict. This is due to the fact that our heavenly inheritance is so unlike our earthly existence that we have to be told what heaven will not be like. Thus, Peter uses three negatives to impress upon us the fact that heaven is not like anything which we know on this earth. No man has within his power the ability to alter the reality of what Peter states. Consider the comparable excellences of the inheritance.
The heavenly inheritance is “incorruptible.” Observation informs us that the greatest achievements of man give way to the ravening touch of time. Many have returned to the old homestead only to find it in a state of decay and deterioration due to neglect and the passage of time. Scripture says that heaven is a place that shall never decay. Corruption is a change from better to worse. There will be no corruption in heaven. No destructive force can in any way injure this eternal inheritance as they do the inheritances of the earth. Rust, moth and thieves (Matt 6:19) can harm this material inheritance. They cannot touch the eternal one. Why strive to attain earthly rewards which must ultimately fade and perish, when there is within your grasp an incorruptible inheritance?
This inheritance that God offers his people is alone incorruptible. In this respect it is like its Maker who is called by Paul in Romans 1:23 the “incorruptible God.” Heaven is without change, as it is without end.
Our inheritance is also identified as being “undefiled.” Being “undefiled” our inheritance is not subject to contamination. The things that spoil our world or mar its beauty will have no place in heaven. Sin, misery, death, separations, loneliness, physical handicaps, mental pains and all tears will be gone. Nothing impure can enter it. Deterioration is thus impossible. It is pure and lofty. It is an inheritance we can desire without any reservations. Material inheritances may corrupt the heart (Luke 12:13-15). They may tempt us to extravagance, covetousness or lust. The heavenly inheritance will never tend in any means to defile. Heaven is like our great High Priest, even Jesus, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled” (Heb 7:26).
Peter’s final negative describing our inheritance is that it “will not fade away.” The word translated here is properly applied to that which does not fade or wither, as a cut flower. It denotes that which is enduring. Our inheritance will not lose anything as a result of age, illness or familiarity. It will not be marred by impurity or through damage by our enjoyment. Such suggests our inheritance will be kept in its original brightness and beauty. In view of this thought, the figures used in Scripture to describe heaven would roughly translate into these thoughts: the streets will lose none of their lustre, the crown of life will not need elbow grease to polish it up, nor will the flowers on the banks of the river of life ever fade. Man has searched for the fountain of youth where all things are able to remain in their prime. This picture of our inheritance offers a perpetual fountain of youth.
Here is an inheritance appointed for us who are kept by one who cannot lie and can bestow all that he has promised. It is not available in this life. The people for whom this heavenly inheritance is reserved are described, not by name, but by character: “for you” or “for us.” It is for those who have been begotten again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) and have remained faithful unto death (Rev 2:10). The inheritance is reserved for such as these. All others will be shut out forever (Matt 25:10). This inheritance is reserved in heaven and is not to be expected on this earth (2 Peter 3:10-13). Our inheritance is in heaven where Jesus has gone to prepare us a place (John 14:1-3). He keeps it safe. Earthly inheritances may be lost by careless or unscrupulous guardians. Our inheritance is as sure as the God who offers it.
Having an eternal inheritance gives us perspective. Perspective is what helps us determine what is really important in life. This is illustrated, without the use of the word inheritance, in Heb 10:34, “for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.” This is what gives direction in our lives. This is our hope for when this life is completed.
Going to heaven is not the natural result of simply having lived. It involves a choice. When Jesus taught concerning the foolish virgins (Matt 25:1-13), he was trying to impress upon our minds that everybody who anticipates going to heaven isn’t going to go there. The foolish virgins were not foolish because they were immoral, they were virgins. They were not foolish because they were in the wrong company, they were with the wise. They were foolish because they had a vain expectation of seeing the bridegroom. They had not been willing to prepare for him. They counted on others to have their preparation for them. Finally it was too late. They were on the outside looking in, as the door was shut.
To go to heaven takes time, prayer, thought, planning, discipline and perseverance.
1 Peter 1:3-4 combines the beginning of our spiritual life with its consummation. Daily life lies between these two extremes. Living in a world that is often hostile to us, our hearts ought to be filled with longing for the inheritance set before us. What a weighty incentive to faithfulness is our eternal inheritance! The “…inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” is an appeal to the aspiring. Why seek earthly distinctions which must pass away, when within your reach is the unfading inheritance of God? This is stimulus to endure the combat of daily life. Why grow weary, why sink fainthearted in the strife, when there is stretched forth before and above you, the Divine and imperishable inheritance of heaven?