The Believer's Inheritance
by William Nicholson, 1862
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy 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 for you!" 1 Peter 1:3-4
The mind of Peter was greatly impressed with the preciousness of Christian privileges, and filled with lively emotions of gratitude to their Divine Author. Here he contemplates the glorious inheritance reserved in Heaven for all the saints, and also the work of grace upon the soul, to prepare it for the enjoyment of it. And surely every Christian ought to be thankful for such rich and distinguishing grace!
When we arrive in Heaven and realize the sublime effects of Divine grace in the full enjoyment of celestial bliss, we shall be astonished at our feeble praises and our defective love while sojourners upon earth.
I. The Object of The Christian's Hope."An inheritance."
An inheritance signifies an estate whether it comes by family succession or donation, Numbers 26:53, 54. In the text there is an allusion to the land of Canaan, promised to the Israelites as the land they should inherit. It is called an inheritance. Psalm 79:1.
Canaan of old was distinguished by many glorious properties.
It was to be to the Israelites a land of rest. So will Heaven be.
Canaan was a fertile land — a land of abundance. So will Heaven be.
It was a land of happiness as compared with the wilderness. So will Heaven be.
It was a land freely given them, Deuteronomy 9:4-6; Ezekiel 36:22. So is the heavenly inheritance.
But the abundance, beauty, and glory of the earthly Canaan — are but faint types of the heavenly inheritance.
There was no perfect happiness there.
Sin and its bitter fruits were there.
Afflictions and troubles were there.
Sickness and death were there.
How different then from the heavenly inheritance, as the following properties of it declare:
1. It is incorruptible, incapable of decay. Its splendor and glory shall forever abide. It shall be imperishable, immutable, like its great Architect, Hebrews 1:10-12. It is "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ," the "kingdom that shall never be moved."
2. It is undefiled. The earthly Canaan was defiled by its inhabitants.
All the inhabitants of Heaven,
all its employments,
all its enjoyments
— are holy.
There is no sin there to contaminate.
There is no Satan tempts there.
There are no evil communications corrupt there. Revelation 21:27.
God is perfectly holy. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" therefore all who see and enjoy him are holy. They are "like him, and they see him as he is." 1 John 3:2.
3. It fades not away. The allusion may be to fading flowers, which exhibit their beauties and yield their fragrance only for a short time, and then perish.
Or the metaphor maybe a comparative one, alluding to those flowers that for a long time retain their hue and fragrance. But we have our flowers called amaranths, because they preserve their hue and fragrance for a long time. But they ultimately fade and decay.
But this heavenly inheritance cannot wither; it is always in bloom. How different from the things of earth! Riches make themselves wings and flee away. The bloom of health, the strength of the body, the enjoyments of life — all fade away. All human glory is transient.
But in Heaven all is characterized by an endless perpetuity. 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18; 1 Peter 5:4. O blissful prospect! Delightful and soul-thrilling hope! The Christian's crown will never be tarnished by time, or annihilated by age.
4. It is reserved in Heaven for all believers. It is beyond the reach of all enemies. Such an inheritance is not to be expected on earth. It is in Heaven, where God dwells and displays his glory. There it is "prepared," and there it is "laid up." Heaven is God's habitation, and there glorified saints, holy angels, and the brightest intelligences, dwell. Of that happy region, Jesus says to his disciples, "that where I am, there you may be also." It is reserved for you there until you die, and when you die you shall enter the joy of your Lord.
II. All True Believers Have a Saving Interest in this Inheritance."Begotten again unto a living hope."
Naturally they have no title to it — no disposition to enjoy it — no fitness for it. But all these advantages can be realized. The Gospel received by faith, and the operation of the Spirit, produce in the soul of the believer "a living hope" of the inheritance.
1. They have been begotten to a living hope, and received a title to Heaven, by faith in the finished work of Christ. A guilty sinner can never enjoy that inheritance. But a saved sinner can. What was the design of Christ's commission? "He came into the world to save sinners." To save them from guilt, from impurity, and from condemnation. Hence he perfectly conformed to the law — he died as the Surety of guilty man, Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7. "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification."
Peter says, "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The certainty of Christ's resurrection is the great seal of the Gospel. Without this, what is hope, what is prophecy, what are the promises, what are miracles, what is the agony and death of Christ — without his resurrection? But the resurrection of Christ from the dead, is an absolute confirmation of God's acceptance of his mediation, by virtue of which the sinner is pardoned and justified, and receives peace, and joy, and hope.
The believer may say, "Christ paid the penalty due to my transgression, by shedding his precious blood. He was arrested by the law instead of me, and put to death in the flesh for me. For me he was buried, and for me the Almighty Captive burst the fetters of the tomb, and rose up to everlasting liberty and glory. This is the ground of my hope. Christ has taken that away from me, even the guilt and condemnation of sin, which would have forever excluded me from Heaven. His resurrection is the basis of my justification. Because be was accepted, I also shall be accepted. Because he rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven, I also shall arise from the grave and ascend to glory!" Romans 8:11.
2. All believers have been begotten to a living hope of the inheritance by the regenerating influences of the Spirit. "Begotten again; sometimes called "born again," John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23.
None can inherit eternal life, except those who are children in the heavenly family, and none are children but those who are born again — born into it by the power of the Spirit. "If children, then heirs." If not children, then not heirs. Peter here lays the foundation of the hope of eternal life in the regeneration of the soul; for none can legally inherit it but the children, and none are children of God until they are spiritually begotten, or born again.
The death and resurrection of Christ give both a title and a fitness for Heaven; regeneration by the Spirit, and his continued operations give a disposition, a relish for, and an anxious desire to enjoy the inheritance. Thus hope is implanted in the breast. "By whom, also, we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:2.
3. The hope of the Christian is a living hope. Not a dead hope; not a languid and languishing hope; but a living, vital, active principle.
The object of it, Heaven, is sufficient to make it lively. Heaven . . .
makes us joyful in tribulation,
comforts us in distress,
eclipses the glory of this world,
gives us real enjoyment,
purifies the soul,
creates ardent and sometimes transporting expectations of eternal glory. Hebrews 6:17-20.
III. The Author and Source of the Believer's Hope of the Eternal Inheritance."The God and Father," etc.
1. The Author is God. The offended Creator and Lawgiver devised a plan for the salvation of rebels against his government. "God so loved the world."
2. Its Source is Mercy. Eternal mercy moved him to pity transgressors. He foresaw their fall — and his mercy provided a remedy, even Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
Abundant mercy. Think of the plan of redemption — of the dignity and condescension of the Sufferer — of his unparalleled sufferings as man's substitute — of the vileness and unworthiness of man the sinner — of the vast, innumerable, and eternal blessings which the mercy of God, through Christ, bestows. The mercy of God is a deep, unfathomable, boundless, and inexhaustible ocean. "Where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded."
In salvation nothing can be ascribed to human merit — for sin cannot merit — and all we have is sin. All must be ascribed to Divine goodness, the fountain of it all. Hebrews 8:12; Jude 2; 2 Timothy 1:18.
3. Christ is the medium or channel through which this mercy flows. Let it not be forgotten that to enrich us with the hope of eternal life, he died, he rose, he ascended, and now he intercedes. Hebrews 7:25.
IV. The Grateful Emotion with Which the Mercy of God Should Be Regarded. "Blessed be the God."
It is the language of experience. I have the living hope of immortality, I feel its enlivening and supporting influence. "Blessed be the God," etc.
It is the language of humility. I am not worthy of it. I deserve wrath — but "blessed be the God," etc.
It is the language of adoring love. I love him, because he first loved me. I love my Surety, my Ransomer, Jesus my Righteousness and Strength.
It is the language of praise. Vocally, when he sings the songs of Zion — when to his brethren he tells what God has done for his soul. Mentally, when he contemplates the vast ocean of redeeming grace. "Blessed be the God."
It is the language of devotedness. "I am yours, for you have redeemed me." I am not my own, but yours, to glorify you in my body and spirit. All I have I consecrate to you.
It is the language of Heaven. Praise here, is akin to praise there. Praise begun here, shall be continued there. In the heavenly temple they rest not day nor night in praising God for salvation, saying, Revelation 5:12, 13.
How blessed are Christians — how cheering their prospects!
Do you feel this hope cheer you? "For we are saved by hope."
Hopeless sinner, how wretched your state!