4-13 Heirs of the World 4-10-05
MBC – 4.10/2005 – Pastor Doug Thompson
“Heirs of the World”
Ø ROM 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Ø ROM 4:14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
Ø ROM 4:15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
Ø ROM 4:16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
This morning we are going to focus on this phrase: “the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world.” If you know Jesus Christ this morning, or if you come to know Him before the time of your death, this describes you: you are a descendant of Abraham, and you are an heir of the world. You will inherit the world—not this world as it is right now, but this world, gloriously renewed, restored, Jesus Himself called it, “regenerated”—born again. It will be given to you by God Himself, it was purchased for you by the blood of Jesus Christ, and it will be yours for the rest of eternity.
It’s a major theme of the Bible. Just listen while I read these passages from the NT:
Ø ACT 20:32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Ø ACT 26:18 that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
Ø ROM 8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,
Ø GAL 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
Ø EPH 1:11 we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
Ø EPH 1:14 [the HS] is given as a pledge [or promise] of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
Ø COL 1:12 the Father . . . has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
Ø COL 3:24 from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Ø TIT 3:7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Ø HEB 6:12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Ø 1PE 1:4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
Ø HEB 9:15 those who have been called [will] receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
And I’m not going to keep you in suspense, I will read a portion of the will to you right now—
Ø REV 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
Ø REV 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Ø REV 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
Ø REV 21:4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
Ø REV 21:5 ¶ And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
Ø REV 21:6 Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Ø REV 21:7 "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
To be an heir of the world means that you will inherit the new heaven and the new earth, with all the saints for all of eternity!
Is that your hope and the deepest desire of your heart this morning? I’ll just bet that if you were in line to inherit a billion dollars in the future, you would think about it day and night. But that’s a dream, and this is not, and it’s far more valuable. It is incomparably greater, and will last infinitely longer.
What we said on Easter Sunday is true all year long: the reality of the next life should shape our thoughts, actions, priorities and decisions during every waking moment of this life. Peter wasn’t exaggerating when he said: “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet.1:13.
This morning is going to be another time of digging into the Word, it’s going to take concentration. But I pray that the result would be that nothing on this earth would be exciting to you than knowing that you are an heir of the world!
I. What is the promised inheritance?
Paul says that the promise to Abe and to his descendants is that they would be heirs of the world. What does this mean? When you die do you get handed the pink slip to planet earth? We have already jumped to the end of the story, but now I want us to go back to the beginning. We need to put ourselves in the place of the Jewish-Christians hearing this letter being read in one of the house churches in Rome. They knew exactly what Paul was talking about—and they were probably whispering to their Gentile brothers, trying to explain it to them.
- GEN 12:2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;
- GEN 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." [This is a promise of salvation that will come through a descendant of Abe—Jesus Christ—and extend to some from every nation, tribe, and tongue. And one more thing is promised as part of the inheritance--]
- GEN 12:7 And the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." [Canaan, Palestine, Israel, the Promised Land]
- GEN 13:14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward;
- GEN 13:15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.
- GEN 13:16 "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.
- GEN 13:17 "Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you."
- GEN 15:5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
- GEN 15:6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
- GEN 15:7 And He said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess [or inherit] it."---
- GEN 15:18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land,
- GEN 17:4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
- GEN 17:5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
- GEN 17:6 "And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.
- GEN 17:7 "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. [Heb.13:20 talks about Jesus shedding His blood for the “eternal covenant”—the NC is the fulfillment of this covenant God made with Abe and his kin.]
- GEN 17:8 "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession [lit. everlasting inheritance;] and I will be their God."
What stands out in the promise God made to Abraham? He’s going to give him a whole lot of descendants, He will be their God, and they will get the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession! That is the gist of the promised inheritance.
It’s a promise of salvation, as we saw last week: Those who are of the faith of Abe, whether Jew or Gentile, are the true people of God, they get eternal life, they get the inheritance. Now the salvation, we understand. But what about the real estate?? That was a huge part of the promise to Abe. No—it’s actually the central feature of the promise—we could go on and on looking at Scriptures that promise the land as an eternal inheritance for Abe’s descendants.
II. Who are the heirs?
Now before we see what this real estate is that was promised—or where it is—we need to know who gets it. To whom was the promise made? It was made to Abe and to his seed—[spermati] his descendants. The seed would be the heirs. So--
Who is the seed of Abraham?
Well Ishmael was the seed of Abraham, wasn’t he? He was his firstborn, by Hagar the surrogate, he was circumcised, and the firstborn was usually the heir. But that wasn’t the way God worked it. God told Abe that the seed would come through Sarah, Abe’s wife. She would have the son who would be the heir. Abe cracked up when he heard it—Sarah was the president of AARP of Palestine! So he says, “No, seriously God, Ishmael will inherit the promise—right?”
- GEN 17:19 But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
- GEN 17:20 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.
- GEN 17:21 "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year."
Ishmael and Isaac are both the physical seed of Abraham, but the promise would come through Isaac—the miracle child—the child of God’s mercy and grace. Why does God do this? To show His sovereign, electing grace. Remember what we saw last week--
- ROM 9:6 . . . For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
- ROM 9:7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named."
- ROM 9:8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
So we have to make distinctions when we talk about the seed or the descendants of Abraham:
Ø 1.) Physical seed: Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Barbara Streisand and Howard Stern—i.e., ethnic Jews. (Remember, we called this “Big Israel.”)
Ø 2.) Physical/spiritual seed: ethnic Jews who are also believers: Isaac, but not Ishmael, Jacob, but not Esau, and every other believing Jew to this day—since Christ, it would be every ethnic Jew who is a Christian. And remember, Scripture calls this group—the remnant according to God’s choice. (“Little Israel”)
But what we saw last week is that we need to add a third category of seed:
Ø 3.) Non-Jewish spiritual seed. This is all believing Gentiles (OT and NT).
Paul was speaking to Gentile-Christians in Galatia--
Ø GAL 4:28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Now do you get it? Who are the heirs of the promise made to Abraham?
Ø GAL 3:9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. [i.e., Gentiles like you and I, living in N.Cal. in 2005, stand in line to inherit this ancient promise made to Abraham 4,000 years ago!]
If you trust in Jesus Christ, you are the seed of Abraham, and you are an heir of the promise God made to him.
So we have physical seed, physical/spiritual seed, and spiritual (non-physical) seed, but there is one more category, the most important of all:
Ø 4.) Jesus Christ is the ultimate seed of Abraham.
Ø GAL 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.
He is saying that ultimately, everything that God promised to Abe and His descendants, would be summed up and fulfilled in his most important descendant of all—the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the focal point of the promise. Every blessing of God flows through His Son--
Ø 2CO 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes;
He is the ultimate First-born Son of God, Colossians says. And He is the one who is the true heir of all things:
Ø HEB 1:2 . . . His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,
Ø PSA 2:8 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
Ø COL 1:16 . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Ø COL 1:18 . . . He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Ø PHI 2:10 at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
So it’s like this: Jesus is the ultimate seed of Abraham, and the ultimate heir of the world, but if you are in Christ, through faith, you become an heir along with Him of everything God promised to Abraham—
Ø GAL 3:14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Ø GAL 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring [seed], heirs according to promise.
Ø ROM 8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ
Paul even seems to grope for the words to express this idea that all things belong to Christ, and if we are in Him, all things belong to us too—
Ø 1CO 3:21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you,
Ø 1CO 3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,
Ø 1CO 3:23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
I know this might sound complicated, but I’m explaining it so that when you are reading your Bible, you can see the bigger picture of what is going on from Genesis to Revelation. And even if you aren’t following every detail, I hope you see that if God has called you to Himself—if you are a Christian, you are very much involved in the whole story line of the Bible: God choosing Abe, and making Him an incredible promise; narrowing down the line of the promise, through Isaac instead of Ishmael, then through Jacob instead of Esau, then through Judah, down through David, finally to Jesus the Messiah—the ultimate seed of Abraham. And then when you trusted Christ, you became a joint-heir with Him.
When you read Gen.12, 15, 17, 22, you can see yourself in those promises God made 4,000 years ago to Abraham. You are one of those stars God pointed to!
Ø “If that’s true, what about the real estate I was promised??” You’re thinking, “The property values have probably gone up since you started speaking!”
Just give me one more minute. Before we see what physical ground we will inherit, we need to have our feet on solid theological ground! To whom were the promises made?
Only to believers--the spiritual seed of Abraham—whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
So what about category #1—ethnic Jews? The promises have nothing to do with unbelieving Jews. They have no part in the inheritance at all. They are not mentioned in the will. People ask the question, “Does God have a future for ethnic Israel?” Yes, heaven if they believe, hell if they don’t.
Remember the promise comes through the Lord Jesus, and only if you are related to Jesus, through faith, is your name in the will!
Ø A lot of Christians today seem to think that unbelieving Jews have a God-given right to the land of Palestine. Absolutely not. However you think the Jew/Palestinian controversy should be resolved, don’t appeal to God’s promises to Abraham. God never promised His land to anyone who rejects His Son!
What about the Promised Land?
Well we get a surprise when we come to the NT—the promised land just isn’t mentioned! It’s not in Rom.4, it’s not in Gal.3, where Paul talks about believing Gentiles being the true sons of Abe and “heirs according to the promise.” Even when Paul is specifically talking about “Big Israel” and “Little Israel,” in Rom.11, he never says a word about the promised land of Canaan. We don’t even see it in Revelation.
But what we do see is this: Where the OT talked about “the land,” meaning the land of Israel, the NT talks about the whole earth:
Ps.37:11 says that “the humble shall inherit the land,” but Jesus paraphrased it in—
Ø MAT 5:5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Look again at our passage in—
Ø ROM 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world . . .
Do you see what has happened? The fulfillment of what God promised Abe is far more than what Abe imagined. We have to remember that the OT is a book of shadows and types—things that point to something bigger and better in Christ.
1.) God promised Abe a seed—it was fulfilled in Isaac—but it really pointed to Jesus Christ.
2.) God promised Abe a nation—it was fulfilled in Israel—but ultimately in the church: believing Jews and Gentiles from all over the globe!
3.) God promised Abe a land—it was fulfilled in Palestine:
Ø JOS 21:43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.
Ø JOS 21:45 Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.
But Palestine was just a foreshadowing of the ultimate blessing which is the whole earth. I.e., the land of Canaan was just a pledge, pointing to the ultimate fulfillment which is the new heavens and the new earth!
You say, “Did Abe know this?” When I get to heaven, I want to ask him, “What did you know, and when did you know it?” Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, he saw it was glad!” Abe had to figure that the fulfillment of the promise was going to lie beyond his lifetime, right? God isn’t a liar. Abe had to believe in the res.—we know that he believed that God could raise Isaac—so he had to believe that at the res., he would finally get his land—and the writer of Hebrews tells us that he knew that it was going to be more than just dusty little Palestine--
Ø HEB 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Ø HEB 11:9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;
Ø HEB 11:10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. [Abe realized that God had promised something way beyond this little place.]
Ø HEB 11:13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Ø HEB 11:14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
Ø HEB 11:15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
Ø HEB 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
Where is that city and the country that Abe was looking for, and how will God ultimately fulfill His promise to give us the whole earth?
Ø REV 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
The new heaven and new earth is the fulfillment—this is the inheritance! That’s what they were truly longing for. And God will keep every promise in a way greater than what Abe ever imagined at the Second Coming, when all the dead in Christ are raised—including Abe and Isaac, and Jacob, and we all rule and reign on a restored planet earth—forever!
- P.E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews: “The promise of an eternal possession and an innumerable posterity receives its ultimate fulfillment in the consummation of all things when the great multitude of the redeemed which no man can number will everlastingly praise and serve God in the perfection of the new heaven and the new earth, thus bringing the divine purpose of creation to the fullness of fruition.”
* * * *
But it all comes through Jesus Christ. The world mocks Jesus now. They mock His res., they mock His Word. And His followers are mocked, and persecuted, and even killed.
But on the day He returns, all of that will be reversed, and the humble shall inherit the earth with their King. Listen to what Jesus says to His church—
- REV 2:26 'And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations;
- REV 2:27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father.
Ø REV 3:21 'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
- 1CO 3:21,22 For all things belong to you, whether . . . .the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,
Are you living like that is true?