The Inheritance of a Believer
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 1:4
About 2,000 year ago, a baby boy was born in a little town called Bethlehem. Despite the emotions involved with a firstborn son, to most people it was something very ordinary. His mother and his adoptive father knew differently. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that this child was going to be great. He would be called the Son of the Most High. And He would be given the throne of David to rule forever.
So, no matter how ordinary it might have all looked, this Child was honored as a King from the moment He was born. That’s what the wise men understood when they showed up in Jerusalem looking for Him. They asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”
We don’t experience it much in our culture, but whether you’re thinking about Prince William or Simba, we have some understanding of what it means to be born into royalty. This baby is supposed to be king one day.
Coming to earth was a veiling of Christ’s kingship. It was an act of humility. And the supreme humiliation of Christ came in His crucifixion. But that death led to His glory. On the third day, He rose again and then about 40 days later He ascended to the right hand of the Father. And we know that one day He will return to take His place on David’s throne and rule over Israel and the world. That is Jesus’ future role. That is His destiny, we could say, as the Messiah—as God’s Anointed One.
One of the words the Bible uses to describe that future is “inheritance.” Hebrews 1:2 tells us that Jesus has been appointed by God as the heir of all things. He made this world, and He is going to inherit it. That inheritance includes, not just the physical world, but His faithful followers. Ephesians 1:18 speaks of Christ’s glorious inheritance in the saints. Christ has a glorious inheritance awaiting Him. And from the moment He was born, it was His. In fact, it was His even before He was born. It has been His inheritance from eternity. Christ will inherit all things.
Now, that is a significant statement for a number of reasons, but the specific significance for us today is this: Christ’s inheritance paved the way for our inheritance. Christ’s inheritance paved the way for our inheritance.
Christ was recognized as the King from the moment He was born into this world. And in a similar way, we become heirs of the kingdom at the moment we are born again. We become heirs of the kingdom at the moment we are born again.
First Peter 1, verse 3 says God has caused us to be born again. And that new birth, according to verse 4, is “to an inheritance.” We have been born again into an inheritance. This is part of the package of the salvation we get in Jesus Christ. Romans 8:17 says we are heirs of God, and we are fellow heirs with Christ.
What does that mean? It means that when Christ inherits this world, we get to take part in that too. We will reign with Him in a new world. We don’t become gods. We don’t become equal to Christ. We’re not His peers. But, in His sovereignty, the Bible teaches that He will delegate authority to us. First Corinthians 6 says we will judge the world, and we are going to judge angels.
Our personal resurrection doesn’t just mean we get a new body on a new earth, it means we get a new authority within that world. And we have a wonderful new experience of our intimacy with Christ. That’s all summed up in what it means to have an inheritance. And we have been qualified for that inheritance by God the Father, who gave it to us in Christ through the new birth, which is part of our salvation.
Now, one of the major doctrines that comes up with regard to salvation is the doctrine of perseverance, which asks the question, “Can you lose your salvation?” In terms of an inheritance, the question would be, “Can someone lose their inheritance?” or “How certain is this inheritance.”
From a human perspective, we know that an inheritance can be lost. You might get cut out of the will. But for the family of God, the emphatic message is that no one gets cut out. No one who is truly part of God’s family can lose his inheritance.
And in First Peter 1, verse 4, Peter highlights that truth in four ways. He reminds his readers that they have been born again “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
So, you’ve got four descriptions of our eternal inheritance in Christ, and the first three tell us about what this inheritance is not.
The first word there is “imperishable,” which means that is will not be destroyed. We live in a world where everything gets destroyed; it goes bad. Speaking of earthly treasure, Jesus says it’s destroyed by moth and rust.
Fresh produce can go bad in a week or two. It perishes. It makes your refrigerator stink. A brand new car eventually gets old. Your body will eventually die. That’s the way of this world. Everything in this life has a limited life span. And it generally doesn’t get better with age; things get worse. They get corrupted.
Our heavenly inheritance, though, is incorruptible. Our bodies will be incorruptible. The world will be incorruptible. And the guarantee of our salvation is incorruptible. It can’t be destroyed.
Secondly, Peter says our inheritance is undefiled. “Incorruptible” says it can’t be destroyed, and “undefiled” means it can’t be tainted. It can’t be ruined.
Originally, this word meant to dye something—to stain it a different color. Over time, though, the word began to be used in a metaphorical sense of something becoming defiled. It’s no longer pure in a spiritual sense. That can’t happen to our inheritance though. It’s perfectly undefiled. Free from any kind of stain, and even any possibility of a stain.
Let’s say you had a perfectly delicious meal waiting for you. It had been specially prepared just for you. If you let it sit long enough, it would get cold, and then eventually it would spoil. It would corrupt.
Now, another sad possibility would be if you saw a group of bugs crawling walking around on the plate. The food didn’t spoil, but it’s been tainted now. It’s been defiled. That’s what this word is saying can’t happen with our eternal inheritance. It’s imperishable and undefiled.
Third on this list, Peter says our inheritance is unfading—unfading. Lots of things in this life fade, right? Metaphorically, we might say that a memory fades. Literally, a photo can fade, or text on a page.
This word here is most connected to the idea of a flower fading—not just in the sense that it dies, but in the sense that it’s no longer beautiful. It’s like the shine on a brand-new quarter. The coin won’t use value over time, but it’s just not as pretty. It’s not as impressive.
Some people have that idea about heaven. If it’s so perfect, then won’t it be perfectly boring? Isn’t it possible that after enough time, we’re just going to get tired of it all—the same way we get tired of a pair of shoes after some time? Is the joy and the beauty of heaven going to fade?
The Bible tells us, “No.” This life is filled with stuff that amazes and delights us. How much more so in heaven. Revelation 21 tells us that in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no more pain and no more death. But heaven is much more than the absence of pain, and verse 7 of Revelation 21 says, “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be His God and he will be My son.”
Heaven is an eternal, intimate relationship with the glorious and infinite God. And the description of what we see is unending beauty. There is the holy and glorious new Jerusalem with precious stones as its foundation.
And you have the tree of life, bearing a different kind of fruit every month, which the Bible says is for the nations. I believe that means there are going to be nations and culture in the new earth, similar to what we see today, but without any kind of corruption or sin. Our inheritance is going to be amazing—more than anything we can expect. And we will never grow tired of it. It is an unfading inheritance.
There’s one final component of that inheritance that First Peter 1:4 shows us, and this is what we’ll close with. The first three descriptors all talked about the inheritance in terms of what it isn’t. It doesn’t perish. It doesn’t get defiled. And it doesn’t fade away.
This last descriptor looks at it from the positive perspective. Our inheritance is protected. It’s protected. First Peter 1:4 says it’s “kept in heaven for you.”
Peter doesn’t use an adjective in this case. He uses a verb. And it’s in the passive voice, which means it’s something that someone else does it. Who is the One who keeps it? Who is the one who protects it? It’s God Himself. He’s the one in heaven guarding it for us, reserving it.
Jesus spoke of our reward like this: “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus reminded us about the Father’s faithfulness. He has guaranteed to fulfill His eternal plan. He chose us for salvation, and He will bring it all to pass.
The opening verse of Jude says Christians are “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.”
We do the best we can to protect things in this life, but we can’t guarantee it, right? And living in any time of difficulty highlights that for us. Think about all the stuff that is being lost right now with COVID-19. People have lost their lives. People have lost their jobs. People have lost their retirement. Some of us are losing our sanity. We lose so much in this world. But our heavenly inheritance can never be lost because its protected by God who created it and destined us for it.
In fact, the reason Peter described the inheritance the way he did was because it’s an expression of who God is. The inheritance is imperishable because God is imperishable. It’s undefiled because God is undefiled. And it’s unfading because God is unfading. God is eternal.
Take some time this week and think about what’s being lost right now by people all across the world. Let that sink it. And then let it serve as a reminder that what matters most for us and for all eternity can never be taken away, if you love and serve Jesus Christ.
And if you’ve never taken that step, God is calling you to do it today. Your ultimate hope isn’t in anything this world can give you. Place your trust in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross as the sacrifice and the substitute for sinners. He rose from the dead in absolute victory over sin, death, and this entire world. And if you will place your faith in Him, and call out to Him for mercy, He will forgive you and guarantee for you an eternal inheritance. Sadly, the only alternative to an eternal inheritance is eternal judgment.
God will be glorified in the judgment of sinners. But He will be more glorified as the Savior of sinners and the eternal Protector of their inheritance.
Father, this world is filled with reminders of how transient everything is. And that’s because of the curse we live in because of sin. But how grateful we are to have and to be reminded about Your gifts that transcend everything in this world.
Fill us with hope and joy, Lord, and help us live in light of what is unseen rather than by what is seen. Thank You for taking care of us in this time. And we continue to pray that You will use these circumstances so that more people will come to know Christ more deeply. We ask for His glory, Amen.