Present: Heirs of an Inheritance
“To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith.” (1 Peter 1:4-5 ESV)
We also have been born again “to” an inheritance. We are probably familiar with the concept of an inheritance. An inheritance is something that comes to us by virtue of a relationship, normally a family relationship. When a person dies, there is a reading of the will where the deceased explains how they want their assets distributed. If your name is in the will, you have an inheritance.
What is true about inheritance? They can be very slippery. Your name may be on the will but it can be removed. So be careful what you say at family Christmas gatherings. An inheritance can shrink in value. Grandma spent a hundred thousand dollars on collectible Cabbage Patch dolls in 1981. She has given you the whole collection. It used to be worth something, but not anymore. Your sister got the diamonds and you got the dolls. Thanks Grandma.
People can steal inheritances. There is a story or two in my family tree of inheritance stealing. Unscrupulous lawyers can diminish an inheritance. Thieves can steal grandma’s jewelry—your inheritance.
Massive inheritances can be squandered. A series on the History channel entitled The Men Who Built America got me interested in the family story of the famous Vanderbilts. The family was once worth $300 billion in today’s money. Bill Gates is only at $70 billion. If you’ve toured the Biltmore mansion, there was just one descendant who built that. The Vanderbilt fortune dwarves anything the world knows today. Yet in 1973, just 75 years from the height of Vanderbilt wealth, there was a gathering of 120 direct descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt and not one of them was even a millionaire. Even the greatest material inheritances in history can simply disappear.
Contrast that with the four indestructible qualities of our inheritance as Christians:
To perish is to die. Decay and death is part of everything we know in this world. We can hardly conceive of something that doesn’t ultimately die. But our inheritance is imperishable.
This speaks to its moral quality. It won’t be tainted by sin. There is nothing unseemly or deceptive about it. It is eternally pure and good and beautiful.
The flowers fade and the grass withers. Human beauty, fame, and accomplishment fade. The stars of today are forgotten tomorrow. Everything fades. But our inheritance experiences no fading. Time has no corroding effect.
Our inheritance is God and all the eternal blessings which are ours as children of God. Eternal life. Heaven. New Earth. Rewards for the quality of service on earth. Bliss. Beauty. And most importantly, seeing and savoring Jesus and experiencing the fullness of his presence and love.
Guarded by God
The verse goes on, “kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith.” (1 Peter 1:4-5)
This inheritance is located in heaven. Jesus described it as “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20) That’s a pretty good bank vault, isn’t it?
There is a subtle shift here. “Kept in heaven” is our inheritance. The next word is “who.” So he is no longer talking about keeping our inheritance but keeping us. The inheritance is kept in heaven; we are kept on earth. How? “By God’s power…being guarded through faith.” (1 Peter 1:5)
The word there for guarded means garrisoned. It’s used of guarding the city walls from within. It also can refer to protecting from escape. God’s power does both. It keeps us from attack and it keeps us from fleeing.
Here we have a clear statement of the doctrine of preservation. How do Christians stay saved? We are preserved in our salvation by the power of God.
We are exiles by the choice of God. We are born again by the mercy of God. We are kept saved by the power of God. Our faith is guarded. The tense of the verb means this is an ongoing activity of God. Always guarded, 24/7.
An example of this in our culture is the Secret Service guarding US presidents. You’ve seen this. Dark-suited men walking near the president. Talking into their hands. Wearing sunglasses. Looking ultra-cool and dangerous. Why are they there? To provide 24/7 protection. They have incredible power at their disposal. Firepower. Technological power. Air Force One. Agents, money, and missiles. America goes to great effort to guard the life of the president. But as history shows, they can’t guarantee it. Even the best of the best can’t perfectly protect the life of the president.
What does Peter say here? Our salvation is kept by the infinite power of God. It’s like we each have our own spiritual secret service detachment. She’s about to speak to Ms. Gossip, move in. He’s leaving on a business trip with Mr. Skeptic and Mrs. Temptation, all units, code red! He’s in church but not listening, taze him! God’s power is at work always to sustain our faith. Every day. All the time. 24/7. God has marshaled all his power to ensure that our faith, more precious than gold, will remain alive within us.
“God keeps the inheritance for us, and he keeps us for the inheritance.” (Daniel M. Doriani, 1 Peter, p. 17)
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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