Our Conditional Inheritance

One of the greatest blessings of being called a child of God is what comes with being His child: an inheritance. It is amazing enough that we who once “were enemies” (Rom. 5:10) could even “be called children of God” (1 John 3:1), but to have an inheritance, too? As hard as that may be to believe and comprehend, it is true!

      But the concept of Christians being heirs is sometimes a cause for confusion or even outright error. Some, bent on propping up a false doctrine, twist the whole concept of Christians being heirs and further their false teaching by twisting the Scriptures “to their own destruction” and the destruction of those who hear them (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16). Let us heed the warning of Peter and be aware of such ones and then ensure we “beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked,” and then “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:17, 18).

      Who Are Heirs? The rest of this article will take the common truths about heirs, wills, and inheritances and make some points about God’s word regarding these things. We do not have to ignore these truths to prop up some erroneous idea, nor do we have to twist the meaning and/or application of the terms God uses to describe the reward of the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us begin with the heirs; who are the heirs?

      Well, as with almost every situation common to man, the heirs are so designated by the one writing the will — the testator. Anyone can certainly make a claim to an inheritance, but if the testator did not designate them as such, the claim is invalid and worthless. In this case, Jesus Christ is the testator. This should be apparent, for we know the Scriptures given to the disciples of Jesus as “the New Testament of Jesus Christ.” [Check the title page in your Bibles, right before Matthew begins.] Of course, it would not be until after He died that this testament [will] would take effect, but that, too, is how the concept of wills, heirs, and inheritances work. This was an obvious truth used by the first-century writer of the book of Hebrews to make the point about how Jesus was the Mediator of the New Covenant (cf. Heb. 9:15-17).

      Since Jesus is the one who determines who is or is not an heir, we must see what He has said. Within the New Testament, we find the apostle Paul wrote to the early disciples in Galatia, reminding

them, “you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” and this fact led to another truth: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29). Earlier, in his letter to the brethren at Rome, Paul reminded them, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God,” and, consequently, “if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:14-17). The heirs of which we speak today are Christians — children of God who have been baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins and who faithfully follow His will.

      The Inheritance. Having established God’s children [disciples of Jesus Christ; Christians] as the heirs, the next logical question is, What is the inheritance? Jesus revealed this when, after noting the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom, told the disciples, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:24-29). Eternal life is the inheritance of the children of God — not earthly riches.

      Peter added to our knowledge of the inheritance when he wrote of how God “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” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4). Not only do God’s children inherit eternal life, but that reward — that inheritance- — awaits us in heaven.

      Unfortunately, there are abundant preachers in pulpits and on the TV who tell their audiences that God has promised material blessings, good health, and all the riches one could imagine, and people flock to hear these charlatans because that is what they want to hear. But it is not what God’s word says. Don’t be misled by the preachers of the ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ message, or what is sometimes called ‘the prosperity gospel’; it is not from God.

      Can One Lose The Inheritance? A major divide amongst those who profess to be believers is the question of whether or not one can lose that inheritance, once they become a child of God. Those who preach the ‘once saved, always saved’ message will point to the truths we have already noted about the heirs and the inheritance and argue, “Once a child of God, always a child of God. You never stop being one of His children,” and from that then argue that since we are always His children, the inheritance will never be taken away or lost.

      But let’s consider that argument for a minute, and let us go back to the basic truths about heirs, wills, and inheritances. If we remember that the testator [the one who writes the will] has the sole authority of determining who is the heir, we might also remember the testator can [and often does] have stipulations before the heir receives the inheritance. If the potential heir does not meet the stipulations of the will, then it does not matter if he did most of what was required. If a will stipulated the heir must be married, it will not matter that he once was married, but is now divorced; he no longer meets the stipulations. No inheritance!

      And so it is with the will of Jesus Christ. He has stipulated that the inheritance is for the faithful disciple — not just anyone who claims to be a disciple and not even for the one who was a disciple for a while, but who turned back to the world. Peter, in fact, said that those who had “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” but are “again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20). This certainly does not sound like ‘once saved, always saved’ to me!

      And if one tries to say that since we are always God’s children, even when we sin, let’s not be fooled by this sophistry. Yes, we are still God’s children, but consider this truth: Can a child be written out of a will? Can even a child and potential heir fail to meet the stipulations required by the testator? We know those things are not only possible, but happen occasionally. Potential heirs fail to meet stipulations or anger the testator to the point they are removed from the will altogether.

      Now, Christ’s will is already written, so there won’t be any changes, but He has included stipulations of faithfulness that must be met before the inheritance can be claimed. It was He who said to the church in Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). What if they were not? It is this plea for faithfulness the writer of Hebrews made to the early disciples after noting the failure of the Israelites (Heb. 3:16-19), admonishing them, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:1-11).

            Yes, our inheritance may be lost, so let us live accordingly.             — Steven Harper