There’s something important that you should remember as you begin to read the following. This article is part of a series. So, even though I try to review each time, it’s impossible for me to re-define every term in every article. Consequently, if you find yourself confused about something, you might want to lay your hands on some of the previous Personal Updates, or simply get the book The Kingdom, Power and Glory.
So far in this series, we have learned that the way we live our lives here and now will have eternal and unchangeable consequences in the coming Millennial Kingdom. In other words, what we do after we have been born again will dramatically affect our role, our position and our place of responsibility in the future kingdom. All believers will be with Christ in the coming Millennium, but only those who constantly recognize their choices and choose to turn around and follow Christ (repent), will inherit that kingdom.
Last month, we reviewed the two different kinds of inheritance that the Bible talks about: 1) An inheritance by birth, which will be given to all those who have been born again and are “sons of God”; and 2) An inheritance from the Lord, which is earned because of faithfulness, obedience and perseverance in this life. All Christians are sons of God and therefore will 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. Something is required of us. 2 Timothy 2:12 validates this second type of inheritance: “If we suffer with Him, [then] we will reign with Him.” And James 2:5: “If we love him, [then] we will be heirs of His kingdom.”
What we are saying is that we cannot lose our “eternal life,” but we can lose our “rewards” and our positions of authority in God’s future Millennial Kingdom by our lifestyle here and now. 2 John 8 warns us about this: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” This Scripture hints of a variation in rewards and tells us that they are not all the same, as many of us have supposed.
Tim LaHaye comments about this passage in his book, The Popular Bible Prophesy Book. He says, “2nd John warns us that it is possible to lose those things we have worked for. Although we will not lose our salvation (our justification), it is possible to forfeit our rewards by indulging in temptation.”1
Consequently, “inheriting the kingdom” is conditioned upon our spiritual walk here and now, not just our beliefs. To “believe” something is very easy. It means to mentally ascribe to something or assent to something. (Strong’s #5219, hupakoue) Whereas, to be obedient, faithful and persevering means seeing that belief acted out in our lives. It’s not only hearing God’s will, it’s actually doing His will. It’s “putting feet” to our be-lief, which is the crucial test of our faith.
The more we understand this message, the more we will appreciate James, who said all along: “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)
To be obedient, then, not only means hearing God’s will, but also choosing to do His will. Luke 6:46 tells us, “Why call Me Lord, if you don’t do the things I tell you.” We must actually make the choice to: be sanctified in our walk with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:3),2 be partakers of His Life (Hebrews 3:14) and be faithful overcomers (Revelation 21:7) in order to inherit the kingdom. It’s not automatic! It’s God’s will; but only our continual choice will make it a fact in our lives.
(Now, we won’t ever be able to live God’s will “perfectly.” An “overcomer” is not perfect! He is not someone who is always good or someone who is religious. He is simply one who recognizes his choices, recognizes when he blows it and chooses to turn around (repent) and follow Christ. A perfect Old Testament example is David. David blew it big time, but he recognized his sin and self, repented of it and then chose to follow God. In the New Testament, David is called “a man after God’s own heart.” David, in spite of all his failures, was a faithful and obedient overcomer.)
So, the second type of inheritance—inheritance from God—is a very precious commodity because Scripture tells us it can be lost. (Revelation 3:11; Matthew 10:42)
Examples of Forfeiture of Inheritance
The Old Testament gives us some graphic examples of those believers who inherited the Promised Land and those who did not. It very clearly shows us the distinction between simply being in the land and inheriting or owning the land. Owning the land was a reward for faithfulness and obedience. As we said in our last article, “owning the land” is often compared to the “rest of God” (or the Millennial Kingdom).
Abraham, for example, was guaranteed the land by an oath (Genesis 15:18), but he only obtained (possessed) that land by spiritual obedience. (Genesis 17:1-2) The appropriation of that blessing was conditioned upon his obedience. Joshua and Caleb were given the land because they obediently followed God and had finished the work that had been given them.3 We, too, must be diligent to finish the work God gives us to do here on earth so we can enter into His rest and possess the kingdom.4
The Old Testament also gives us many examples of those who forfeited their inheritance. Esau, for example, forfeited his birthright and his blessings because of disobedience (but, not his sonship).
Genesis 27:35-40 tells us the whole story. Isaac told Esau, “...your brother [Jacob] came subtly and took away your bless-ing.” The only blessing Isaac had left for Esau was recorded in verse 39: “...thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above...”
He went on to predict that Esau would live by his sword, which, of course, he does. Esau is the father of the Muslims. He is an example of one who forfeited his birthright and his blessing, but not his sonship. (Hebrews 12:16-17)
Then there’s Reuben in 1 Chronicles 5:1 who defiled his father’s bed, and thus, his birthright was taken away from him and given to the sons of Joseph. Nevertheless, again, he still retained his sonship.
And, of course, there’s Moses in Deuteronomy 4:21-22 where God expresses His anger at him for striking the rock and misrepresenting His character. As a result, the Lord disqualifies Moses from entering into the land of Canaan and from obtaining his inheritance.
Finally, there were the two million Israelites believers who were supposed to inherit the blessings of the Promised Land, but they failed to do so because of their disobedience and “lack of faith.” They were saved (they had put the blood on the door-posts of their home), but they were unable to receive their inheritance and go into the Promised Land (which, again, is a foreshadow of the Millennial Kingdom) because of doubt, dis-obedience and unfaithfulness. Only Caleb and Joshua of that generation actually inherited the land and the blessings from God.
The warnings throughout the book of Hebrews are about the possibility of believers losing not their sonship, but their “re-ward of inheritance” from God. You might want to read He-brews 3:7-14; 4:1, 11; 10:26-39; 12:25-29.
Forfeiting Our Inheritance
The above Scriptural examples infer that we, too, can forfeit our inheritance from God and be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (speaking about the Judgment Seat of Christ) tells us, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. But if any man’s “work” shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” This refers to believers who made it to heaven—they had that eternal security—but, they lost their reward of inheritance. (Colossians 3:24)
Paul takes this even a step further and in 1 Corinthians 9:24 he says: “Know ye not that all run in a race, but [only] one receiveth the prize. And then Paul exhorts them: “So run, that ye may obtain (that prize).” Remember Philippians 3:14 which tells us that the prize is “the mark of the high calling of God.” It’s co-reigning with Christ. It’s inheriting the kingdom! It’s the “reward of inheritance.” It’s enjoying the blessings, the intimacy and the “rest” that God has planned all along for us.
The New Testament tells us that a “gift” and a “prize” are two different things. A gift is something that is bestowed freely upon someone, like our justification before the Lord;5 whereas, a prize is something that is gained through some performance, like our sanctification.6
This prize then must be sought after with all our effort, or we too can miss it.7
Next month: “Sons of the Kingdom.” (Matthew 8:11-12) This article was excerpted in part from Chuck and Nan’s new book The Kingdom, Power and Glory.