By Mike Willis
There has never been a Christian who has not become discouraged at some point in his life. Sometimes life throws us such a curve that we begin to feel that everything which we have worked to accomplish has gone for nought. We see our dreams destroyed and, therefore, have no will to live in the future. It is precisely at this time that we need to be reminded that our affections and aspirations are centered, not in this world, but in that which is to come.
We are children of God. Because we are God’s children, we are “heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). We have been born again to a living hope. When we were born of the water and the Spirit, we became sons of God with the hope of sharing in the inheritance prepared by God for his children. Our hope in sharing in this inheritance is a living hope, not a dead hope. The hopes that we have in this life, being dependent upon our own abilities to obtain, are frequently thwarted. I can still remember the depression I felt when I was unable to enter graduate school because we did not have the money to afford it at the time. Hopes based on this life are frequently thwarted and become dead hopes. Our hope for inheritance, however, does not depend upon the energies of man; they are guaranteed by God and, therefore, can never be thwarted. So long as I remain faithful to God, my inheritance can never be taken from me. My hopes for receiving it can never be dashed.
In the opening verses of First Peter, the apostle wrote concerning our hope; he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 :3-5). A remainder of what we hope to receive at the end of this life should be a stimulus to revive our faith when it starts to wane. Let us, therefore, think about our inheritance for a while.
Nature of Our Inheritance
Each of us is aware that our inheritance is the eternal life with God in heaven after the judgment day. Yet, Peter mentioned four characteristics of that inheritance which I would like to consider with you.
1. It is imperishable. The word aphthartos means “uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable.” Our inheritance is not destined to fall apart and rot. One of the most beautiful seasons of the year is the fall when all of the trees begin to radiate the beautiful colors of autumn. I doubt that there is any place on earth where this is more beautiful than in Brown County, Indiana with its rolling hills. On the peak of one of these hills, a person can see the beautiful sights of autumn for miles as the trees glisten with oranges, browns, yellows, etc. Yet, even as one sees these beautiful sights, he is reminded that these are but the products of death. The tree is going into a dormant stage for the winter, so the leaves have to die.
Our inheritance in heaven will not be touched by the process of corruption and decay. Whereas moth and rust consume the treasures of this earth, our treasure in heaven is unaffected by moth and rust (Mt. 6:19-20). Whereas the living embraces of a man and wife are interrupted by death and the subsequence corruption of, the body, our eternal inheritance cannot be affected by corruption; it is imperishable.
2. It is undefiled. Amiantos means “not defiled, unsoiled; free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased, or its force and vigor impaired.” Few things in this world are undefiled; almost all of them have a flaw in them. Some years ago, I bought my wife a diamond ring (it was her engagement ring which she got five years after we were married). Shortly after we got the ring, we noticed a flaw in it. It was a defiled stone; it was not perfect. Sometimes when I hang wallpaper, people comment on how pretty the wall is after I have finished with it; however, I know where the flaws in the job are even if they escaped the notice of our visitors.
Our inheritance in heaven will be flawless. The things which defile matters here below will not have affected heaven. “Nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come” (Rev. 21:27) into the city which God has prepared for His saints. Since it will be unmarred by things which can defile it, heaven, or inheritance, will be undefiled.
3. It will not fade away. Though there is some similarity in the ideas expressed by this characteristic and “imperishable,” there is also some difference. Amarantos means “not fading away, unfading, perennial.” Flowers are beautiful but, oh how quickly they fade away! On rare occasions, I have given my wife a bouquet of flowers. Though she quickly puts them in a vase filled with water, not many days have passed when the petals began to fall on the table. Soon the beautiful flowers have become an ugly brown which we are anxious to remove from the house. The beauties of heaven will not be like that. They will never get old to us. Unlike the child who plays with his new toy for a few days after which he puts it in his closet and forgets it, the person who inherits heaven will never tire of its beauties. It will never “fade away.”
4. It is reserved in heaven. In recent months, I have heard some say that we are presently in possession of eternal life. Peter did not think so. Our inheritance is reserved in heaven. At the present we only have access to it through our “living hope.” Jesus said that we receive eternal life “in the world to come” (Mk. 10:30). Yes, my brethren, our inheritance is not a present possession; it is reserved in heaven.
Peter also said that our inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you.” There have been some occasions when I was traveling that I needed to make reservations in advance. The motel at which I planned to stay would reserve a room for me. Regardless of who else might come with the money to rent that room that night, they could not have it because it was “reserved” for me. I have a similar place reserved for me in heaven. God has prepared it for his saints; there is a place in it for me.
Our Hope Sustains Us
Peter continued, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, Jthat the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:6-7). My hope for eternal salvation is what sustains me at the times in this life when there seems to be no reason to live.
Those who have gone through some of the world’s most trying times have come through it to write that one’s goal in life was the only thing that kept them alive. “Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search For Meaning, out of his own struggle for survival in the Nazi prison camps, at the end of World War II was able to write, ‘There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life. There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: “He has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” In the Nazi prison camps, one could have witnessed that those who knew that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill were most apt to survive’ ” (Batsell Barrett Baxter, America, It’s Not Too Late, p. 26).
Of all men, the Christian should have a goal in this life–to live pleasing to God in order that he might have the inheritance which God has prepared for him when he dies. Regardless of what circumstances one may face in this life, that hope for eternal reward should be alive. He should never give it up.
Our hope fades in proportion to how involved our lives become with the things of this world. When our lives are wrapped up in the things of this world, we are high or low in direct proportion to how successfully the affairs of this world are operating. For this reason, Peter admonishes us to live as “pilgrims” and “sojourners” (1:1, 2:11). A pilgrim and sojourner is an alien in a foreign land. Sometimes aliens have to undergo severe affliction; at all times, they are away from their home. We who are Christians need to learn to visualize our lives in this world as only temporary so-journeyings as we hasten toward heaven where our citizenship- is. F. B. Meyer wrote concerning this idea as follows:
“Do we cultivate enough the spirit of the stranger? We know what it is to turn from the attractions of a foreign city, with its wealth of art, its churches and its picture galleries, its antique buildings, and the glitter of its modern boulevards, towards a tiny box of brick in a grimy street, which is endeared to us as home. We may not linger longer; we are going home. Or if we stay on from day to day, we hardly unpack our portmanteaus, and certainly do not secure a settled abode, because it is not our home. Nor are we too much troubled by the discomforts and annoyances of our hotel, or by the risings of popular excitement around. Of what consequence are such things to those who may indeed bestow a passing interest on events transpiring around them, but whose interests are elsewhere, in the place which, however humble, differs from all the world beside in being home?
“Oh for more of the tent life amongst God’s people! But it is only possible, when they catch sight, and keep sight, of ‘the city which hath foundations’ ” (Tried By Fire, p. 12).
Yes, we do need more of the pilgrim attitude in our hearts.
Last fall, my parents went out west with my brother. After twenty-one days on the road, they came by my house to visit me. Within a day of the time that they arrived, they were already talking about going home. If we Christians could develop the same love and affection toward heaven which each of us have toward our home, the major decisions in this life would be much easier to make. Our primary concern would be whether or not any given decision would alter my hope for receiving an eternal inheritance with God. Should you die this day, would you be an heir of God, one who would receive the inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, that fadeth not away, and is reserved in heaven?
Truth Magazine XXI: 24, pp. 371-373
June 16, 1977