Earnest of the Inheritance
Believers are the heirs of Abraham, and the possession of their inheritance is secured and guaranteed by the Gift of the Spirit. The possession of the land of Canaan by Israel was a preliminary stage in God’s redemptive plan, one that always envisioned something larger than the nation of Israel or the relatively small plot of land in the Middle East. With the arrival of the Messiah and the outpouring of the Spirit, the covenant promises found their fulfillment in the “true Seed of Abraham” and his “brethren” and “coheirs.” This inheritance included the future bodily resurrection and the New Creation.
The receipt of the promises is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, not on biological descent from Abraham. Moreover, the future consummation of the promises is attested and guaranteed by the Gift of the Holy Spirit received by the followers of the Messiah.
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Scriptural passages that promised land to Abraham employ words like “inheritance” and “heir,” including the Hebrew word translated as “possession.” These terms are linked to the Abrahamic covenant and originally referred to the “possession” of the land of Canaan - (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-16, 17:1-8).
In the New Testament, “inheritance,” “heir” and “possession” are reapplied to what God accomplished in His Son. 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, he was appointed as the Ruler of all the nations of the Earth, and through him, God now is providing the coming inheritance for his saints, an inheritance secured by the receipt and possession of the Gift of the Spirit, the “earnest” and “down payment” of the promise:
- (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 COHEIRS with Christ.”
Thus, Jesus is the true “Seed” of Abraham, and his followers become “heirs according to promise” along with him. All men and women who have faith in him become the real “children of Abraham” and heirs of the covenant promises.
The Greek noun rendered “possession” in the passage in 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.”
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 their ethnicity or national origin - (Exodus 19:5, Galatians 3:29).
The Gift of the Spirit received by them is the “earnest of their inheritance for the redemption of the possession.” Moreover, the Spirit is the “blessing of Abraham” for the nations promised by Yahweh to the Patriarch.
Because Abraham believed in the promises of God, it was “reckoned to him for righteousness.” Those men and women who are likewise of faith are the true “sons of Abraham,” both Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Nazarene.
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 as the Patriarch is “blessed with the faithful Abraham” - (Galatians 3:4-9).
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 Body of Christ. It is the guarantee by God of our future possession of the inheritance, especially the resurrection and life in the New Heavens and New Earth – (Ephesians 1:14).
Furthermore, 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” or down payment 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).
When he returns, Jesus will declare to all who have responded 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 and the biological descendants of Abraham or confined to the territory of Canaan. The plea in the Lord’s Prayer for the will of God “to be done as in Heaven, so on the Earth” looks beyond the Middle East to the entire planet.
Jesus did not abandon the original promise but expanded and universalized it in accord with the original purposes of God - to make Abraham a blessing to “all the nations of the Earth” and the “heir of the world” - (Matthew 6:10).
According to Paul, the original land promised to Abraham has become a universal promise and reality since the Patriarch is nothing less than the “HEIR of the world” of Kosmos. This promise will be actualized in all its fullness in the New Creation when the saints inherit all things - (Romans 4:10-13).
In Jesus, Jewish and Gentile believers become children and heirs, a reality and promise affirmed by the Gift of the Spirit. The coming resurrection and New Creation will be nothing less than the culmination of the original covenant with Abraham.
The 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, confirmed by the Gift of the Spirit, and now awaits consummation in the resurrection of the saints and the arrival of the New Heavens and Earth.