“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and will” (Eph. 1:11).
Paul speaks of very many things which we have received from God in Christ: spiritual blessings, of a life holy and blameless in love, of adoption, redemption, and forgiveness of sins. Now he adds yet another such gift, namely an inheritance.
Some of the gifts of God are things we have here and now, such as the adoption and redemption. Our “inheritance,” however, is something which we have not yet received in full. An inheritance implies the passage of time; it implies the necessity of death for the inheritance to be received. But in this case, as I understand it, is not the death of our Father, which is impossible; rather the death to be waited upon is our own death, as well as the death of this world in its current way of being.
Christian theology talks of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). It talks of a world which will be inherited by the meek (Matt. 5:5) and a creation to be set free from its bondage at the revelation of the sons of God (Rom 8:18-23). It talks of Christ, who came into the world to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He does this by healing that which the evil one had destroyed or harmed, and by restoring the human being, body and soul, but also the created order in which the human being necessarily lives.
If we have an inheritance, that means that we have something to look forward to. There is something beyond this life and this world which I can look forward to, namely the inheritance that I have in Christ, as an adopted son of God through my union with Christ — eternal life in harmony with God and myself and all of God’s people from every tribe and tongue in the Kingdom of God, where every tear will be wiped from my eyes and “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6).
Of course, the inheritance is not unconnected to the other gifts and blessings we receive from Christ. On the contrary, I should think rather that they are all connected, since they are all connected to Christ and in Christ. Christ is the only-begotten Son of God and the world to come belongs to Him, since all things were created for Him (Col. 1:16). Through our union with Christ, we become adopted children of God and therefore co-inheritors of this world alongside Christ. Indeed, Christ shares everything that He has with us, in order to bring us up to where He is. As Paul says elsewhere, “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
And Paul also encourages us to have faith in God. Sometimes talk of an inheritance doesn’t mean anything, especially when we are overwhelmed with the imposing desires and needs of the present life. An inheritance sounds great, but what we’d really like is to see some resolution of the problems with which we are confronted now, so that we can go on living this life. This attitude, I think, betrays a lack of faith, and perhaps even fear; perhaps there is a bit of fear that this life is all there is, and if this life is not good, then we will have lost our only chance to be happy.
Paul insists on the contrary that God works all things according to His counsel and will. Nothing escapes the control of His providence. This means we can be confident that we will not be lost forever at death and that we will gain this inheritance which we have in Christ, if we believe in Him. But Paul does not ignore our earthly cares either: “He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will he not with Him also give us everything else?” (Rom. 8:32) It falls to us only to live in faith, trusting in God. As the Apostle says elsewhere, “the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).