So far in our Kingdom, Power and Glory study, we have learned that the way we live our lives here and now will have dramatic consequences in the coming Millennial Kingdom. In other words, what we do after we have been born again affects our role, our position and our place in the future reign of Christ. This coming kingdom is not heaven, but a literal kingdom that will exist back on earth for a thousand years where Jesus Christ will rule and reign.
(Be careful not to confuse what happens in the Millennium with what occurs in heaven at the end of the thousand years, because they are two different realms.)
All believers will be “with” Christ in the coming Millennium, but only the “overcomers”—only the ones who constantly recognize their choices and choose to turn around and follow Christ (1 John 1:9)—will inherit “levels of responsibility” in that kingdom. So not only our rewards, but also our place of responsibility in the future kingdom will be won or lost according to our faithfulness in this life. Our life here is simply the training ground for the next life there.
Consequently, there is an urgent need in the Body of Christ for a renewed recognition of our own accountability and a refreshed understanding of the reason for our salvation—not only to be conformed to the image of Christ here for a witness to others, but also our “inheritance in Christ” in the future. Philippians 3:12 tells us we need to apprehend (or understand) that for which we have been apprehended by Christ.”
Two Kinds of Inheritance
The subject of our “future inheritance” in the Millennial Kingdom is one of the major themes of the Bible. There are 1518 verses in the Old Testament and hundreds in the New that speak about this “coming kingdom” and the importance of our being able to inherit it. What makes the subject of “inheritance” rather confusing, however, is that the Bible uses the word inherit or inheritance in several different ways.
1) First of all, the Bible speaks of an “inheritance by birth,” or a “sonship inheritance.” (Strong’s #2816, kleronomeo) This is an inheritance that belongs to us simply because we are sons of God and we are heirs. It means that because we are “born again” (“justified” and have the Spirit of God in our hearts), we have God Himself as our inheritance. Galatians 4:6-7 confirms this: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”1
This sonship inheritance is unconditional and automatic, such as something you might receive in a will.2 Once you are a son, you will always remain a son.3
So, inheritance by birth is a “free gift” (no works are needed). It guarantees us “eternal Life” and is open to absolutely every-one who will accept it. (Ephesians 1:11, 14) Again, it’s an unconditional inheritance.
2) The second type of inheritance that the Bible speaks about, is called an inheritance from the Lord. (Strong’s #2817, kleronomia) This is an inheritance given by the Lord because of faithfulness, obedience and perseverance.4 In other words, it’s an “earned” inheritance and it entitles one to positions, rewards, authority and blessings in the Millennial Kingdom. Colossians 3:24 calls this “a reward of inheritance.” So this type of inheritance is conditional because there are requirements:
Here are some Old Testament Scriptures that deal with the requirements for an “inheritance from the Lord.” (Keep in mind that inheriting the land in the Old Testament is symbolic of inheriting the kingdom in the New Testament.) Deuteronomy 6:18 tells us that, “If they [the Israelites] do what is good and right,” then they will not only go into the land, but also possess it. And Deuteronomy 19:9-10 confirms this: “If they shall keep the commandment, then they will inherit the cities and the land.” And finally, Deuteronomy 11:22-23, “If ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave unto Him, then will the Lord drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.” (Exodus 15:26)
Here are a few New Testament Scriptures that speak of some of the requirements for this second type of inheritance: Matthew 24:43 and 47 say, “...if we are faithful, [then] He will make us ruler over all his goods;” 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “...if we suffer, [then] we shall reign with Him;” and James 2:5 says, “...if we love Him, we will be heirs of His kingdom.” (See also Hebrews 10:35)
“Inheritance from the Lord,” both in the Old Testament and in the New, is always conditioned upon behavior.
All Christians are “sons of God” and therefore, possess the “free gift” of an inheritance by birth that they can never lose. But, not all Christians will receive an inheritance from the Lord because this position is earned by faithfulness, obedience and perseverance.5
Just like a slave cannot pass straight from the slave market right into the royal palace and the throne, so a one-time par-don of a sinner doesn’t entitle him to become a king or a sovereign. Much is required to prepare and fit such a person for that blessing and that total change of life.
Christ pardons and purchases us in a moment of time—He imputes His righteousness to us at our justification—but then He spends the rest of our lives cleansing, renewing and sanctifying us for positions in the coming kingdom.
This second type of inheritance is something that is in addition to “sonship inheritance,” and it’s obtained by obedience, faithfulness and perseverance. It includes not only entering the kingdom, but also inheriting different levels of responsibility and authority there. It means to take possession of some-thing that is already assigned to us.
The Thayer Greek Lexicon of the New Testament says that “to inherit means to be a partaker (of Christ’s Life).”6 This second type of inheritance is promised to those who are “sanctified by faith” and to those who overcome.7 Colossians 3:24 calls this second type of inheritance a “reward of inheritance.”8 It means that we will, in some way, have ownership of the kingdom in the Millennium, rather than just being a resident there. (Matthew 6:20)
Again, this is the hope of our salvation in Christ!
Tony Evans, in his book What a Way to Live, says: “There are Christians who have been set free from spiritual bondage, but who will never enjoy the full rights and privileges they could have inherited in the coming kingdom. That’s because these benefits accrue to believers based on their faithfulness to Christ here on earth.”9
In other words, “inheritance from the Lord” (co-reigning with Him) is earned; whereas, “sonship” is not.
Huge Difference Between Entering & Inheriting the Kingdom
Another way of saying all of this is that all Christians are heirs of God (they are assured of eternal life and a place in the kingdom of heaven), but not all Christians will “inherit” the kingdom from Him (and receive positions of authority in that kingdom).
Being an heir is unconditional, but being a co-ruler with Christ is conditioned upon our spiritual obedience and faithfulness. We cannot lose our eternal life, but we can lose a position of authority in His kingdom. This is the basic difference between a Christian who will only dwell in the kingdom of heaven and one who will inherit or rule over it.10 The latter will actually participate in the coming glory of Christ.
So, there’s a huge difference between simply entering the kingdom and inheriting it. They’re not the same thing at all! We enter (Strong’s #1525, to come into) the kingdom because of our new birth and because we have received God’s Spirit. But, we inherit that kingdom (Strong’s #2816, obtain, receive or possess it) as a “reward” for an obedient and faithful lifestyle here on earth. It’s the prize for being an overcomer and for making choices to live Christ’s Life.
Again, we won’t do this perfectly, but at least we will be recognizing our choices, repenting of our sins, and choosing to fol-low Christ as best we can.
He who receives God’s Spirit (through Jesus Christ) enters the kingdom; but he who partakes of Christ’s Life and over-comes the world, the flesh and the devil will inherit that kingdom.11 Thus, the Millennial Kingdom will be inhabited by born-again Christians, but ruled over by faithful and obedient overcoming Christians.
To be continued next month: “Not all Christians will Inherit.” This article has been excerpted in part from Chuck and Nan’s new book The Kingdom, Power and Glory.