Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: inheritance

A believer's biggest choice, this side of Heaven

A key to understanding Revelation is to keep in mind that John assumes his readers know their Old Testament.  Oftentimes when a new concept or symbol is presented, an interpretation is immediately provided (like the explanation of the seven stars and seven lampstands in Revelation 1:20).  However, when describing the throne room of God in Revelation 4:3, John states that a rainbow…surrounded the throne.  He doesn’t interpret the rainbow’s significance; he expects that you already understand it from knowing Genesis 9:8-17.

Last time we started to look at this verse:

Revelation 21:7
The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.

Since this is the only time the word inherit is used in Revelation, to understand what is going on here, we’ll take a look back to the Old Testament.

Throughout the Old Testament there were two kinds of inheritance – an inheritance of God himself (e.g. – Psalm 16:5) or an inheritance was the right to a possession.  However, with this possession-inheritance, the ownership wasn’t automatic, there were conditions involved.  The land of Canaan was the nation of Israel’s promised inheritance.  However, the ability of a particular Israelite generation to actually inherit, or physically own, the land was dependent upon their obedience to God’s commands.

After God rescued the Israelites from slavery and bondage to Egypt, they rebelled and grumbled when they got their first look at the work to be done in order to possess the promised land of Canaan.  They even claimed that the Lord hated them and that they were better off back in Egypt.  Moses recounted this event:

Deuteronomy 1:34-38
“When the Lord heard your words, He grew angry and swore an oath: ‘None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh.  He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land on which he has set foot, because he remained loyal to the Lord.’

“The Lord was angry with me also because of you and said: ‘You [Moses] will not enter there either.  Joshua son of Nun, who attends you, will enter it.  Encourage him, for he will enable Israel to inherit it.’

The easy response to this passage would be to say that the generation of Israelites that died in the desert must not have been “saved”, or they weren’t “true believers”.  But…that can’t be the case, because these were the same people that trusted God and performed the first Passover.  They took the blood of a perfect lamb and spread it on the doorposts of their homes – doing so demonstrated their trust in God’s promise that they would be passed over when the destroying angel came by to take the life of the firstborn son.  The Passover prophetically foretold of Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice for mankind on the Cross.  This was also the same generation Paul later used as an example for other believers:

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness.

According to Paul, the people of the Exodus generation of Israelites were right (positionally) with God, on the basis of their faith in the foreshadowed Christ.  However, their disobedience later in life marred their relationship with God and prevented them from physically inheriting the Promised Land. 

Now that we have the Old Testament context for the word inherit, we can see that God takes possession-inheritance very seriously.  Fortunately, a believer’s potential inheritance is also discussed in the New Testament.  While there are many passages we can look at (and perhaps that’s a future study), the following selections help us understand what God is talking about in Revelation.

1 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

Notice that Peter says God the Father has given us new birth into two things – a living hope and an inheritance.  Some have argued that heaven will be a Christian’s inheritance; however, Peter is indicating that this inheritance is something found in heaven.  So this means that the inheritance can’t be heaven itself…either it is a part of heaven or something else, in addition to heaven.

Jesus also gave similar instructions during the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-20
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.”

Jesus states that the treasures are in heaven, and not heaven itself.  Also important is the contrast Jesus presents here (store up treasures on earth OR store up treasures in heaven).  He wouldn’t give us these directions if they weren’t necessary.  So from this we can conclude that it is possible for a believer to not store up treasures in heaven, and whether or not we have treasures in heaven is dependent upon our choices here and now.

So what is this inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade and these treasures in heaven that cannot waste away or be stolen?

Revelation 21:6-7
I will give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Having a relationship with God can be had without cost to us because Jesus already took the punishment for our sins.  Remember that to inherit these things refers back to the New Jerusalem.  And from looking at other scriptures, we understand that inheriting New Jerusalem is dependent upon the choices we make here and now.

Choose wisely.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Owning a slice of Heaven

Throughout the Bible, God continually talks about the general and then gets to specifics.  An example of this is seen in the broad, sweeping creation account in Genesis 1 being further explained with more specific details during creation starting in Genesis 2:4.  Another example can be seen during the Sermon on the Mount, where several times Jesus taught principles and then gave focused examples of how these principles were to be fleshed out in our daily lives.

We see a similar narrowing of focus in this section of Revelation 21 also.  As we saw last time, God begins verse 6 proclaiming that he is both the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  Then He states that a relationship with Him begins with the acceptance of His free gift, and that this gift is available to anyone.  In verse 7, God gets even more specific:

Revelation 21:6-7
Then He said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

In order to fully understand what God is saying in verse 7, we need to remember the context of both the situation at hand, the book of Revelation as a whole, and the historical context of the original recipients.

Revelation 21:7
The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Exactly what God is referring to by saying these things can be understood from the immediate context.  John has just witnessed the arrival of the New Jerusalem – the Holy City, the city Abraham was looking forward to.  This is this place that will be inherited by the one who conquers.

Let’s consider that statement for a minute. 

God is telling us that it will be possible to obtain actual “ownership” within the New Jerusalem.  With inheritance comes possession, and there is certainly a difference between living in a city and possessing property in a city. 

So what does “inheriting” consist of?
And who is it that “conquers”?

Those are excellent questions.

For the moment, though, it’s pretty exciting to think about inheriting/owning part of this magnificent future God has planned.  God says that He will look at certain believers and say, “This belongs to you.  You own it.

The New Jerusalem – Heaven on Earth – will obviously be more than just showing up and being happy to be there.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The superior message of a Superior Messenger

Jesus taught His disciples that there will be significant rewards for those believers who prepare themselves for His return.  One of the best places in all of the Bible to understand what these rewards will be like is found in the book of Hebrews.  But for us to fully understand the implications of living and investing our lives the way God has intended us to, we must start at the very beginning of the letter.

The letter to the Hebrew believers doesn’t start with your typical Biblical greeting and stated occasion for writing.  The author pulls no punches and gets right to his point, almost as if he were giving a thesis statement for the entire book.  He then spends the next 11 chapters fleshing out what he meant by the first verses, before he gets to how it looks when it is lived out.  Once we understand his thesis main point, we will have the correct lens in order to see the author’s intended life-application for his readers.

Hebrews 1:1-2
Long ago God spoke to the [Israelite] fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways.  In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe.

The first thing we are to know is that God has upgraded his message-delivery system.  God had previously sent messengers to reach out to the Israelites in a variety of ways – prophets with a wide range of backgrounds, visions, dreams, a talking donkey (seriously!), clouds, a burning bush, even angels – all to get Israel’s attention.  What should really get their attention now is Who has been sent in these last days…the very One that made it all in the first place, the One that owns it all.

For further emphasis, they are reminded of exactly who Jesus is…

Hebrews 1:3
[Jesus] is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature and He sustains all things by His powerful word.  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 

His qualifications far exceed that of any messenger previously sent by God, and, on top of that – Mission Accomplished.  Christ fulfilled the mission God the Father gave to Him.  Jesus brought the good news of reconciliation with God through His sacrificial death on the cross.  Jesus announced that new life was available in Him and proved it with His resurrection.  After charging His disciples to spread the word, Jesus left Earth, and rightfully sat down in the place of highest honor in Heaven.

Hebrews 1:4
So He became higher in rank than the angels, just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs.

Wasn’t Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, already higher in rank than the angels?  God the Son was always superior in his identity (his essence as God); BUT NOW, His humanity has inherited a superior rank.  While Jesus was living in the flesh as the God-man, we was inferior…he joined us in our inferiority.  But by His faithfulness, Jesus fulfilled the words of the angel Gabriel, when he announced Jesus’ birth to Mary:

Luke 1:32
He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.

The author of Hebrews then presses his point:

Hebrews 1:5-6
For to which of the angels did He ever say
You are My Son, today I have become Your Father
(Psalm 2:7),
or again,
I will be His Father, and He will be My Son
(2 Samuel 7:14)? 

And again, when He brings His firstborn into the world, He says
And all God’s angels must worship Him
(Psalm 97:7).

Christ – in His humanity and through His faithfulness to complete His work – inherited the title of Son, and has been appointed heir of all things.  And as such, He is the Superior Messenger with a message that is superior to all previous messages.

The author states this upfront, because it is the key point to understanding the rest of his letter.  If you boiled it down to one sentence, I’m sure he’d say:

DO NOT FORGET WHO IT IS YOU’RE DEALING WITH NOW.

Have we?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Practical application: work (part 2)

I’ve often wondered why work is just so difficult some times.  Despite the best intentions and efforts of the people around me, the work to be done always takes more effort than it should, is never produced as quickly as it could be, and the full potential of a given project never seems to be fully realized.  When I take a moment to consider these short-comings, it leaves me rather frustrated with thoughts of what could have been if certain issues had not gotten in the way.

The truth of the matter is that these constant issues in our work are part of the consequences for Adam’s sin against God:

Genesis 3:17-18
The ground is cursed because of you.  You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you

The biggest thorns and thistles we deal with at work typically fall into these categories: motivation, appropriate pay, politics, or management issues.  Any one of these thorns can cause major problems, but our daily experience usually combines several of them together. 

While Paul was instructing slaves on how they were to view and conduct their daily responsibilities, his directions are something that we can also apply as we deal with our own responsibilities:

Colossians 3:23-4:1
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.  For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, supply your slaves with what is right and fair, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.

Did you notice how Paul addressed each one of our major thorn categories?

Issues with our own motivation really comes down to who we believe we’re responsible to.  Are we working for our boss, our co-workers, or just trying to make some money to support our families?  If that’s the case, remember that at some point, our boss, co-workers, or family will let us down.  When that happens, our work will suffer because we’ll begin to believe that our efforts aren’t worthy of the person we’re working for.  Instead, we need to remember that our daily work is something done for the Lord and not for men.  We honor God and His reputation when we enthusiastically give our best in the task at hand.

Whether our earthly boss is fair or not, do we trust God to give good rewards?  If anyone is going to be cutting checks, wouldn’t you want God to do it?  Not only is he able to evaluate the finished product, but He knows all the details of how the project work was done…all the way down to the moment-by-moment motivation of the workers.  Even if we don’t receive an immediate payoff for our efforts, we must keep in mind that we will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord and the quality of this reward is based upon what we accomplish and how we accomplished it.

One of our major thorns has to do with injustice and favoritism in the workplace.  However, do we believe that the person who wrongs us will be held accountable by God?  Our desire for fairness is real and justified.  However, when office politics and favoritism muddies up a situation…do we trust God when He says He’ll take care of it?  Even if we have to wait for Him to do so?

Lastly, we have all experienced the pains of ineffective, or even incompetent, management.  Paul’s point here is that if we find ourselves in a position overseeing the work of others, it is imperative that we remain humble and do what is right by the people who work for us.  After all, isn’t that how our Master in heaven treats us?

Thorns and thistles and painful labor will continue to be part of our daily lives until Jesus returns.  Until then, whenever the issues are dragging us down, we just need to remember Who it is we’re truly working for.

Colossians 3:23-4:1
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Finding strength in joy

Ever notice that feeling “blah” often goes hand-in-hand with feeling “weak”?

I’ve never had a moment where my mood was kinda “eh” and I was also feeling strong, or empowered, or engaged in life.  Instead, when I’m discontented or feeling a little down…it seems like everything takes additional effort – thinking, handling routine responsibilities, or just moving my body all seem to be a chore.

As he opens his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul tells them what he has been praying for them.  He’s been petitioning God for three specific things – first, that God would fill them with the knowledge of His will; second, that God would strengthen them with His power, so they could have both endurance and patience; and now, we’ll take a look at Paul’s third request.

Paul is still asking God to give the believers strength; however, this time, Paul wants them to find strength in joy.  We can all recognize that a lack of joy usually accompanies a lack of strength, but the idea of joy actually giving us strength might seem a little strange.  To fully understand his reason for connecting both strength and joy, take a look at where Paul says that our joy should come from:

Colossians 1:11-12
May you be strengthened…with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

The Colossians’ joy, and ultimately their strength, was directly tied to their perspective.  If they were looking only at their present circumstances, their own failings, or the hopelessness in the world around them, they would not be able to find any lasting enjoyment. 

Instead, Paul prays that they would recognize the benefits the Father bestows on His children.  He is the one who made it possible for them to share in the saints’ inheritance.  There was no way for any of us to merit eternal life, or to merit becoming part of God’s family.  Eternal life and the opportunity to share in the family inheritance are both gifts of God to us; all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. 

Think back over the other gifts that God has given you…if He is able and willing to bless His children in so many ways while we still wrestle with our sinful desires, imagine how great our inheritance will be when our sin-natures have been left behind!

Thinking about such big ideas and big topics leads us to wonderment and thankfulness for what the Father has done.  Whenever we stop and honestly thank someone, we are shifting the focus off of us.  We look at the gift and the giver in full appreciation; we stop looking at ourselves.  It is in this attitude of thankfulness that we find joy, because being thankful towards God puts Him in the proper place in our lives.

As we joyfully thank God for who He is and what He has done, we are strengthened.  We can deal with the sin-soaked world that pulls us down, because we see more than just the circumstances and difficulties that are momentarily in front of us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken