28 June 2022

Inheritance of the Saints

The possession of the land of Canaan was a preliminary stage in God’s redemptive plan, one that always envisioned something larger than Israel or a plot of land in the Middle East. With the arrival of the Messiah, the covenant promises find their fulfillment in the “true seed of Abraham,” Jesus, including the resurrection and new creation.

The receipt of the promises is based on his death and resurrection, and not on biological descent from Abraham, and their future consummation is attested in the present by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Scriptural passages that promise land to Abraham employ words like “inheritance” and “heir,” including the Hebrew word translated “possession.

These terms are linked to the Abrahamic covenant and originally referred to the “possession” of Canaan. “I will give to you and to your seed after you the land of your so-journeys, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession” - (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-16, 17:1-8).


In the New Testament, “inheritance,” “heir” and “possession” are reapplied to what God has accomplished in Jesus. He is the true heir of Abraham, and therefore, the heir of all things - (Matthew 21:38, 28:18, Mark 12:7, Luke 20:14, John 13:3, Romans 8:17, Hebrews 1:2).

Following his resurrection, Christ was appointed as the ruler of all nations, and through him, God is providing the coming inheritance for his saints:

  • (Colossians 1:12) - “Sufficiently for our share in the inheritance of the saints.”
  • (1 Peter 1:3-5) - “He has regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead for an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you…ready to be revealed in the last ripe time.”
  • (Romans 8:16-17) – “The Spirit confirms that we are the children of God and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”

Thus, Jesus is the true “seed” of Abraham, and his followers become the “heirs according to promise.”


The Greek noun rendered “possession” in the passage from 1 Peter is used in his quotation from the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, a promise given originally to the nation of Israel. “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession.”

Thus, the inheritance of Abraham has been bequeathed to those who belong to Jesus, the saints who “are no longer slaves but sons, and if sons, then heirs through God” regardless of ethnicity or national origin - (Exodus 19:5, Galatians 3:29).

And the gift of the Spirit received by believers is the “earnest of their inheritance for the redemption of the possession,” and it is the “blessing of Abraham” for the nations promised by Yahweh to the Patriarch.

Because Abraham believed the promises of God, it was “reckoned to him for righteousness.” And those men and women who are likewise of faith are the true “sons of Abraham,” both Jew and Gentile.

When Yahweh promised that “in you will all the Gentiles be blessed,” He proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham. Therefore, anyone who is of the same faith is “blessed with the faithful Abraham” - (Galatians 3:4-9).

And because of the gospel, believers are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession.” The gift promised in the Hebrew Bible has become reality in the church, and it is the guarantee by God of our future possession of the inheritance – (Ephesians 1:14).

Moreover, if the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead “dwells in us,” we are assured that God will raise us from the dead and give us immortal bodies. Not only is the Spirit the “earnest” of the full inheritance, but it also is the “first fruits”” of the coming harvest, namely, the “redemption of our body” - (Romans 8:10-23, 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 5:5).


At the end of the age, Jesus will declare to all who respond to him in faith, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” No longer is the inheritance limited to Israel or confined to the small territory of Palestine. And the plea in the Lord’s Prayer for the will of God “to be done as in heaven, so on the earth” looks beyond Palestine to the entire world.

Jesus did not abandon the original promises but expanded and universalized them in accord with the purposes of God - to make Abraham a blessing to “all the nations of the earth” - (Matthew 6:10).

And according to Paul, the original land promised to Abraham has become a universal reality, for Abraham is now nothing less than the “heir of the world,” the kosmos - (Romans 4:10-13).

In Christ, Jewish and Gentile believers become children and heirs, a reality affirmed and guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit. The coming resurrection and New Creation will be nothing less than the culmination of the covenant promises to Abraham.

The tiny territory of Canaan assigned to Israel was only an early stage in God’s plan of redemption, one that has been put into motion by Jesus Christ, confirmed by the gift of the Spirit, and is now awaiting its consummation in the resurrection of the saints and the New Creation.