For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The Glory of God's Inheritance
It is not only us that has an inheritance in Christ, but rather, God has an inheritance in the saints.
Reading: Ephesians 1:9-11 & 15-23
The End of all things and the Mystery of God’s Will
What is the mystery of God's will? We see it very clearly in God's Word. These words are not only spoken in signs, not just presented in pictures, but in Ephesians 1 and 3, the Holy Spirit tells us very clearly what is the mystery of God's will. That is, that in the fullness of the times, all things in the heavens and all things upon the earth will be summed up in Christ.
But Paul did not end there. He continued to speak so that we understand what is the substance of the mystery of God's will. Ephesians 1:11 tells us that, in Him, we also have obtained an inheritance. When it talks about the summing up of all things in Christ, it also tells us that we have also obtained an inheritance in Him. It also says that the Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance. The Holy Spirit lives in us today, as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God's own possession to the praise of His glory (1: 14).
In the passage Eph. 1:10-18, there are two points of thought on the word “inheritance”. One is our inheritance, the others is God's inheritance. Many times when we read the Scriptures, we think of our inheritance, that we have been saved and gained salvation. Salvation and everything that comes with it become our inheritance. After we are saved, we have joy and peace. God is our own inheritance. Where God is, there is heaven. Heaven is heaven because God is there. Hell is hell because God is not there. So, once we are saved, although we are still on earth, we feel like we are in heaven. We can all see and experience that our inheritance is very good. Once we are saved, our first thought is: what a great inheritance we have inherited. On earth, some are poor, and some are rich. But once we are saved, we are all millionaires, because our inheritance is so abundant.
The Inheritance of the Earthly People of God
In the Old Testament, we read about inheritance too. But, if we read through the Old Testament carefully, we will see that two different words in Hebrew are used to mean “inheritance”. One word says that this inheritance is a gift, a free gift. God gave the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants as a free gift. Abraham did not have to do anything. The land of Canaan is a land flowing with milk and honey. Milk is the essence of animals; honey is the essence of plants. When you combine these two together, you have the essence of life. The word “inheritance” appears in the Old Testament 273 times: of these, 188 times it refers to the land of Canaan. So, you can almost equate this word to the land of Canaan. If the people of Israel typify us, then when God gives them the land of Canaan to be their inheritance, then, in the language of the New Testament, to the people of Israel, that piece of land is earthly, but our land is heavenly, as Paul has said, we have obtained an inheritance in Him.
Why is the land heavenly? At the time of Abraham the whole earth had already been polluted. Many nations gathered together to build the Tower of Babel. The fall of man, which began in Genesis 3, continued on until Genesis 11 had three stages. Genesis 6 shows us the flesh, and Genesis 11 shows us the world. In the beginning, when Adam sinned, only one man fell in sin. But when we come to Genesis 11, we see that the whole world united together to rebel against God. Then , the whole world became polluted. Finally in Babylon, there were idols all over. Abraham originally lived in Ur of Chaldean. According to the archaeologists, just in this one city of Ur there were over 2000 different types of idols. God called Abraham to come out of Ur and moved to the other side of the great river.
Because Babylon was full of idolatry, God decided to judge that land. Because of God's judgment on that land, the amount of rain in Canaan started to increase. On this earth, we can tell where there is rain, and where there is no rain. In the northern hemisphere, there are two areas with lots of rain; one is close to the equator, and the other close to the North pole. But during winter and spring, these rain belts will move. If we view the land of Canaan through the eyes of this world, and see that God called Abraham to go to Canaan, we think that Abraham had to leave a good land and to go to a very poor place. But archaeologists tell us today that the land of Canaan at that time had a higher temperature. They can also calculate where the areas of rain were. We know the Garden of Eden was around the area of Ur of Chaldea. But because of man's rebellion and sin, God judged that land. And because of this change in temperature, very amazingly, the rain belts moved southward. As a consequence, the land of Canaan became the best land of that time. So, God called Abraham to move from one side of the river to the other.
At that time, the land was absolutely a land flowing with milk and honey. Many times, when we look at that land with the eyes of the world today, we think Canaan was not a beautiful place. We think it was just a spiritual land. But no, in history, when God brought Abraham from the other side of the river, He gave him the best possible land. Because of the pollution of the world at that time, this piece of land was like heaven on earth. If Abraham and his seeds really followed the Lord and became a good testimony among the nations, to witness to all men that idolatry was wrong and there is only one God, then where these people are, that is where heaven is. Wherever the soles of their feet tread, that is where heaven is. The calling that God gave Abraham was a heavenly calling. Yet, many times, we feel sorry for the people of Israel, we feel that the land they have is just a very small, narrow strip of land and that all the petroleum belongs to their enemies. At school, I have a number of Christian colleagues with whom I always have fellowship. One professor teaches chemistry and he loves God's words, but he does not understand one thing. He knows the process that petroleum goes through under the ground, and the earth is so big. Yet, he does not understand why all the oil ores are given to the Israel’s enemies. Other places have oil too, but the areas around Canaan are especially abundant with oil.
But, when we come to Genesis 15, we realize that the piece of land that God gave to Abraham is from the River of Egypt to River Euphrates. If the people of Israel had been faithful to God, this land would have been the best piece of land. All the ore of petroleum would be under their feet. But when the people rebelled against God, judgment came upon the land. At that time, one single cluster of grapes had to be carried on a pole between two men. But, you will not be able to see such clusters of grapes in Israel today. Only recently have the peop1e of Israel begun to experience the former and latter rain. So you see, this land has really been through judgment. Formerly, when I read the Bible, I could not understand how these things could have happened. But now, we understand that the change of temperature and weather have a lot to do with it. Through these changes upon the earth, God's judgment came upon His people. However, remember that when God gave that piece of land to Abraham, it was truly a land flowing with milk and honey.
As we have mentioned before, in the Bible there are two Hebrew words meaning “inheritance”, in one of these words, we see that it is all a gift from God. If Canaan typifies Christ and all His riches, then we are already in Canaan. We are already stepping on Canaan. We are already in Christ. In Him, we have already gained an inheritance. This inheritance is our gift. But, in the Hebrew text, there is another word that is used for inheritance that shows up 255 times. Out of these 255 times, 210 times it speaks of military action. So the question to ask is when does the Holy Spirit use this word? It is used right before the Israelites were to enter Canaan and conquer the land. This shows us that in God's thought, inheritance on one hand is grace; on the other hand, it is reward. So we read in Colossians 3:24 that we receive the reward of the inheritance from the Lord. We now see that the inheritance is a reward. We have to possess it. We have to conquer it. Do you remember what God said to Joshua? “Wherever the sole of your foot treads, I will give it to you as an inheritance.” Yet, when Joshua and the people of Israel stepped on this land, they noticed there were other footsteps. They had to drive these out. . They had to conquer that land so that at the end they could possess it. Therefore, in the Old Testament, the word “inheritance” has these two meanings. At the end, many times this word “inheritance” is translated into “possession” in English. The emphasis is that we have to conquer to possess. This is therefore a reward.
In God's eyes, therefore, an inheritance is a gift and also a reward. On one hand, we are already in Christ; on the other hand, Paul tells us that we have to race toward the goal so that we may be in Him. We do not understand these words until we read the Old Testament when God gives us picture after picture to show us what an inheritance is. In the fullness of the times, all things in the heavens and on earth will be reunited into One, in Christ. Because of Christ's work, we have already obtained the inheritance. We are in Christ. Praise the Lord. Yet He continues to work in us. Upon His return, not only is the land of Canaan ours as a gift, but by God's mercy, we also must strive to enter into the kingdom of God. When we are saved by grace, we do not have to strive; everything is by grace. But, because we have received so much grace, we can deny ourselves and bear the cross to follow our Lord. Then we can gain our Lord as our inheritance. When I was young, I wondered what kind of crowns I would receive. We often hope to receive the crown one day. But, sooner or later we will see that the greatest crown we can get is our Lord Himself. If we can gain our Lord, no reward is greater than that. So, we see that in Him we have obtained an inheritance.
Therefore, in II Peter chapter 1, we learn we have to be diligent. We already have this inheritance, but we still have to add to this as if we have not yet gained it. It is not that we have not gained it. Yes, we have already gained it; we are already in Christ. But there is anther side to inheritance; we have to conquer the land of Canaan and to possess it. This is what Paul meant when he mentioned to obtain an inheritance in Christ. We all know Christ is our inheritance, in the Old Testament, the land of Canaan typifies the unsearchable riches of Christ, as elaborated in the book of Ephesians. But in the book of Hebrews, we see that this inheritance is a reward.
If we are to find out how the Spirit uses the word “inheritance” in its first meaning as mentioned above, we start from the book of Genesis, then go on to the books of Exodus. Deuteronomy. Joshua and Judges and to the book of Ruth, and we will find that nine out of ten times, it refers to the land of Canaan. But when we reach Psalms and go on to the Prophets, it seems as if the Spirit changes the direction. The same word is used, but it seems to be speaking of something else. In those earlier books , it tells of how the people of Israel have obtained an inheritance. But when we come to Psalms and the latter part of the Old Testament, the Spirit changes direction and no longer speaks of it meaning Canaan when this same word is used. It’s as if God has another part of the work to carry out. Then it begins to shows us God's inheritance. But, who is God's inheritance? Very clearly the Bible shows us that God's elect is His inheritance.
So often we think that it is enough as long as we are saved. We have now been saved. God has given us grace. We are joyful; we are so much better off than the unbelievers. We are on earth as if we were in heaven. We think it is everything. That was what Abraham thought at the beginning. At first, he had nothing, but then God gave him Isaac. Everything was grace. He had whatever he wanted and he was satisfied. “Isaac” means 'laughter'. Abraham could now laugh. Before, Abraham felt empty regardless of all the herds he had. But now God gave him Isaac; he could laugh now. However, he had forgotten to ask himself; did God gain what He had wanted to gain?
When God first called Abraham, He said, “I shall bless you.” Isaac was the total sum of the blessing. When Abraham laid his eyes on Isaac, he saw all the blessing God had given him. Without God's blessing, we cannot live. Abraham now had God's blessings; he could live now. He could follow God's will. But God's words did not stop there. God's main goal was to make Abraham a blessing to all nations. All nations will be blessed through Abraham's seed. Abraham thought Isaac was his goal. But he failed to see that God desired to use him to become a blessing to all nations.
How could Abraham be a blessing to all nations? He could not bless them on his own. But praise the Lord, he bore Isaac. Isaac bore Jacob, and generations after generations came until Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Now, we understand that “Abraham's seed” refers to Jesus Christ. This is what Paul shows to us. So, Isaac was not the goal. He was just a means to an end. Why did God want Abraham to offer up Isaac? If he had not offered Isaac, he would have made God's blessings his sole purpose. Abraham would have gotten his inheritance, but God would not have gained His. One day, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, all nations would be blessed through Jesus Christ.
Many times we just ask if we have an inheritance. We think that the mystery of God is that we shall get an inheritance. But God has an inheritance to gain. Unless God obtains His inheritance, He cannot end the revelation of the Old Testament. Not only that, He also gives us the New Testament so that our eyes can be opened.
When we talk about the inheritance, invariably our mind turns to the land of Canaan. When we talk about types, we think that the land of Canaan typifies our inheritance. But, as we have already mentioned, God has an eternal purpose. Yes, it is God's purpose for Abraham to have Isaac. But Isaac was not that eternal purpose. The only eternal purpose is Jesus Christ. So Abraham must offer up Isaac in order to see that Isaac was for the purpose of bringing out Jesus Christ. If the Lord blesses us, and if He gives us an inheritance, the purpose is for Him to gain His inheritance in the end. Today we have to ask; has the Lord gained His inheritance? Praise the Lord we have already gained our inheritance; we shall not perish. Today, if it is His will for us to be with Him, we will have no fear. However, if we do see God’s full purpose, we dare not to leave this world even a minute earlier than when He has reached His goal in our life. We have to ask constantly if the Lord has gained His inheritance. If our inheritance brings such joy to me, is the Lord's heart satisfied with His?
So, when Paul shows us about our inheritance, he prays that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened so that we may know what is the hope of His calling. Then the following sentence is a great surprise to us; he prays that we may know what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.
Heir of All Things
Now there arise a number of questions. What is His inheritance? How is He going to obtain His inheritance in the saints? The Old Testament shows us pictures of the things to come so that when we come to the New Testament we then can understand. Otherwise we see only a part, not the whole picture. As a result, when we read about the land of Canaan, we think only of ourselves. When we read about Abraham's seed, we think of ourselves. But when Paul read the Old Testament, he realized that Abraham's seed is singular in number. It is true that the land of Canaan is our inheritance. But Paul enabled us to see that Abraham's seed is singular in number, referring to our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does “Abraham's seed” mean? Here it means specifically “to inherit an inheritance”. God gave Abraham a piece of land, but he had no son. Ishmael could not receive the inheritance. The other sons by Abraham's concubine could not receive the inheritance. Only one could inherit the inheritance, and that was Isaac. So, “Abraham's seed” not only refers to his descendant but also the one that will inherit the inheritance.
So it is Paul who shows us that in this universe God has only one heir of all the things. Why did God create all things? Hebrews 1:2 tells us that God has long appointed His Son heir of all things. All the things created in the universe have been given to our Lord. He is heir of all things. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were the heirs of the land of Canaan. But in the New Testament, we see that Christ is the heir of all things. Just as God gave the land of Canaan to the people of Israel, He has also given all things to His Son Jesus Christ. It is truly amazing!
When we read Isaiah 53, we know the chapter speaks of our Lord Jesus, even though the Jews do not believe this. Jewish Rabbis say the servant of God does not refer to the Messiah but to the people of Israel. They say that the suffering of the servant of God refers to the suffering of the people of Israel. They just do not recognize that the servant of God mentioned in this chapter refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. On Sabbath days when the Jews read the Book of Isaiah in their synagogue, after reading chapter 52, they will skip to chapter 54 in the following weekend. Why? Because they simply cannot accept what is said about the Messiah in chapter 53.
If they will read this chapter 53, they would be able to see that the servant of God, the Messiah, is our Lord Jesus. Actually, the Book of Isaiah speaks of two servants of God. Both of them are called Israel. The people of Israel are called “Israel”. The Messiah is also called “Israel” in Is 49. For when the people of Israel failed God, our Lord became the true Israel. His name is “Israel”. In the same way that God originally allowed the people of Israel to inherit the land of Canaan, He now pronounces to the whole universe that what He has failed to gain in the people of Israel, He has now finally gained in His Son, Jesus Christ to be the heir of all things.
Canaan of Canaan
The whole universe is like the land of Canaan. God has given it to Christ as His inheritance. Yet, when we read about the land of Canaan, especially in the Book of Joshua, can we find a particular piece of good soil within the land of Canaan? After the people of Israel entered the land, they began to inherit this land which flowed with milk and honey. But there should be a piece of this land that is the very best. If the land of Canaan is like heaven, then that very best piece would be the heaven of heavens. The possession of this best piece of land would then allow people to gain glory. Ephesians 1:18 tells of “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”. So the inheritance given to the Son of God is all things, like the whole of Canaan. But in Canaan there is a Canaan, of Cannan in heaven, a heaven of heaven.
In the Old Testament, Caleb, when he was 85, said to Joshua. “Give me this mountain.” The land he asked for was a land flowing with milk and honey, but there were giants in it. The people of Israel were so scared that they had turned away from this portion of land 45 years ago. Now Caleb asked for that particular piece of land which was the most difficult to get. This piece of land represented the whole of Canaan, because that was the same place where the twelve spies had spied on 45 years ago.
One time when I was visiting the land of Canaan, I personally hired a private guide to take me to Hebron; It is truly a hill country full of grape vines. The tour guide said to me, “Do you know that this piece of land represents the whole of Canaan? This is the most fertile piece. When you come here, you have truly come to the land of Canaan.” It is indeed a land flowing with milk amid honey.
When you read the Bible carefully, you will realize that, when Jacob came to the land of Canaan, he came to Hebron. Indeed, in the Scriptures, Hebron represents the land of Canaan. In the whole of Canaan, Caleb obtained the best piece of land. When the soles of his feet stepped on that land, he conquered it. He was able to drive out all the enemies and gained that piece of land as his inheritance.
Hebron is indeed a place full of mountains; full of difficulties. The word “Hebron” means “fellowship”. There you can have the most intimate fellowship with the Lord. So, in Canaan there was this best piece of land, i.e. Hebron. If translated into New Testament language, we can go to the Book of Ephesians, and there all the pictures mentioned above will come to mind; they are the explanations of Ephesians 1 and 3. This Canaan of Canaan is the very piece that God is going to obtain in His saints. In all creation, like in the whole of Canaan, there is one best piece, which God will obtain in the saints. What is then His inheritance? The answer is given to in the last verse of Ephesians Chapter 1: the Church, “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”.
Praise the Lord! The Father has given all things to His Son. But, when will we see an inheritance that is not only full of glory, but also the riches of the glory, so that our hearts will be satisfied? At that time when God will receive His inheritance, because His Son will not only be heir of all things but He will also obtain His glorious Church, just as the people of Israel not only conquered the land of Canaan, but Caleb conquered also Hebron of Canaan. When we finish reading the Book of Ephesians, if the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, we will cry out, “What glory!” Christ in glory has filled all in all. The Church is the body of Christ. The Church is but a vessel to be filled by Christ.
What does it mean, “to be filled”? It means, “to possess all”. When Christ fills all in all, He becomes heir of all things. When the Church truly expresses the fullness of Christ, then God obtains His inheritance. He will then declare what riches of the glory of His inheritance in the midst of the universe.
The Power of Resurrection and Ascension
Paul's prayer mentions the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. But how can we obtain that? How can we see a glorious church before the Lord returns? God wants to obtain His inheritance, which is full of the riches of the glory. If we have obtained the whole universe, we would feel very glorious. But our Lord has gained all. No one is more glorious that He. Praise the Lord, in this abundant inheritance, the Holy Spirit points out that His inheritance in the saints is not only glorious but full of the riches of the glory. What a glory! Ephesians I gives us such a glorious picture.
But how will God obtain this inheritance? How can He gain a glorious church? The answer is found in Paul's prayer: the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. To obtain this inheritance, to conquer this land, we need that power. We do not have this power. Paul prays that our eyes be opened so that we can see how great this power is. What is this power? This power is originally operated in Christ. It is a great power. In this universe, the nuclear power is great. God's power of creation is particularly expressed in the nuclear power. But this is not the greatest power in the universe. Two thousand years ago, there was a power manifested in Christ. This power, which is operated in Him, raised Him from the dead. How great is this power? Someone described the sky we see is like the top of the inside of a coffin, and the earth is like the bottom of the coffin. No man has ever been able to get out of the coffin. No one has the power to leave the coffin. But, praise the Lord, 2000 years ago, after our Lord accomplished the work of salvation on the cross, the power operating in Him raised Him from the dead. He was the first one to leave the tomb.
How can God obtain His inheritance? There is this surpassing greatness of God's power toward us who believe. This same power, which is operated in Christ, will also operate in us. Why is there resurrection from the dead? Because the universe is dying. Everything is moving to the direction of death. But when we receive salvation, this power of resurrection then operates in us, and the dying direction is reverse. This power is in us today, not only allowing us to live better, but also leading to the completion of God's eternal plan. This is such a great power. This is how God can obtain His inheritance.
The power of death is very great. We are told that, in some of the coffins unearthed in the cemetery, people found hand marks on the inside of the coffin. This tells us that some of the dead may not have died when they were buried. They tried to get out from the coffins but could not. This is the power of death. But the power of resurrection is greater. It can get us out of death. If God obtains His glorious church, it is because of this great power of resurrection operating in us. Then God will obtain His inheritance.
The process of resurrection is a process of reversal, enabling all things to be reunited into one. This process has already begun today, and will operate until the Lord returns. Praise the Lord! What great power it is! What surpassing power! This power is not only a power of resurrection, but also a power of ascension. God can obtain His inheritance not only by His power of resurrection but also the power of ascension. This power of ascension is so great that it is above all things. When we come to Ephesians 4, we read that Christ had to be lifted up to fill all in all. Just as Joshua was promised by God that he would obtain the land of Canaan on which the sole of his foot tread, when Christ ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives (Ephesians 4:8). The whole solar system and the other part of our outer space is saturated with evil powers. Now the Lord has led captive a host of captives. Wherever our Lord has stepped, it became His. He ascended on high so that He can fill all in all. The higher He ascended, the more He could fill. He ascended on high until He reached the Father. The Book of Revelation lets us see that, when Christ ascended to the throne of God the Father, He was given all the title deeds of the universe. Only He was worthy to open the Book of seven seals. This is how our Lord became heir of all things.
The Mystery of God’s Will
Now, we also have this power of ascension in us. This power will bring us into glory. All creations are at His feet so that He became head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22). The Spirit shows us what is the Canaan of the Canaan. The church is the body of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. How He obtains His inheritance, is the same way He obtains His glorious church. So we see the Lord is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And the Church is the body of Christ. What glory! This is the glorious church.
Ephesians 1 reveals to us this glorious church and tells us how God obtains His inheritance. Ephesians 3 tells us this great power of resurrection and of ascension is already in us. This has happened on earth. We are living on earth. God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20). So, “to Him be the g1ory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21). This church is a glorious church. What is the mission of the church? Ephesians 3:10 says that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers amid the authorities in the heavenly places.” So now men can see in the church the wisdom of God. This is the glorious church and “was in accordance with the eternal purpose” which God carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What is the mystery of God's will? We find the answer in Ephesians 1 and 3. In Ephesians 1:9. it says, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” This is Christ. And what is the will purposed in Christ? This is the Church. In Ephesians 5, we see that there is a great mystery throughout the universe. That is the Christ and the Church. May the Lord have mercy on us. Through Ephesians 1 and 3, we may now see the glorious church. We praise the Lord. Why do we have to look forward? Because we have fallen and have many failures and we try to use our own strength to accomplish the heavenly will. We want to use our way to reach the glorious church. It is no wonder we have failure after failure. But our Lord never fails. We will see that one day the glorious day will arrive. May the Lord edify us through these words. May we wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God.