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1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NASB)

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

What does the word “inherit” (κληρονομήσουσιν) mean in the context of these verses? Does it simply mean receive salvation, or does it refer to a special place in heaven (i.e. where one would rule with Christ)?

I understand the most common interpretation is probably that it means salvation (given that Paul talks about those in the church formerly being these things but now are sanctified/justified by Christ in the next verse), but I’d like to know if this is correct or if another interpretation is to be preferred.

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    The word translated as "inherit" means to receive one's rightful share of something. In this scripture, whether that inheritance means living in Heaven, or ruling on Earth, or something else, is a matter of doctrine and interpretation. (E.g. the question's reference to a place in heaven where one would rule with Christ is a specific doctrine, a doctrine not accepted by many Christian denominations.) This sounds more like a question for Christianity.SE. Mar 22 at 17:11
  • κληρονομέω βασιλείαν Θεοῦ - see also 1 Cor 15:50, Gal 5:21
    – user33515
    Mar 22 at 17:14

2 Answers 2

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Only particular people can inherit that which has been legally assigned to them to inherit. An inheritance typically is given once the person who named them in their will has died, and the portion of their estate designated for that named person is then handed over. Exceptions might be made by a living testator allowing a person to encash what would have been their share of the inheritance while both parties are alive. Jesus spoke of that with the younger son asking his father to give him his [future] share of the estate so that he could go off and enjoy the money there and then.

"The younger of [the two sons] said to his father, Father give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living..." (Luke 15:11-32)

At the last verse, when the son had repented and returned to his father, the father said to the indignant elder son that it was good to rejoice at his return to the household, "for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

This has a direct bearing on the text you ask about, for it relates to spiritually dead people, spiritually alive people, and which of them will be given an inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

The point is made in the book of Hebrews that Christ is the mediator of the new testament, which is "a covenant for a Kingdom" (Luke 22:20 & 29, & Matthew 26:28 & 34). But this covenant had to be ratified by the death of Christ:

"And for this cause he is the mediator of a new testament [= covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Hebrews 9:15-17)

Now that Christ has died and has risen, those who are brought to spiritual life by faith of and in Christ become inheritors of the Kingdom.

"God has chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those that love him" - James 2:5

Now the text in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 becomes clear. It speaks of those who were not saved and, therefore, who would not inherit the Kingdom of God (location being beside the point here). Then it speaks of some of the Corinthian Christians who used to be in that 'prohibited' list of people who would not inherit, but "ye are washed, ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

Once a believer in Jesus is spiritually alive, having been spiritually 'washed' (cleansed), sanctified and justified, they are children of God - part of the family of God - and thus heirs of the Kingdom. Their portion in the Kingdom is secured because the testator (Christ) had died in order to effect the covenant for the Kingdom. They are legal inheritors due to the will of God who has 'named' them as his spiritual children. Alas, all the unrepentant sinners listed in verses 9 and 10 are not spiritual children of God, and so they are not heirs - they have no share in the spiritual inheritance due the children of God. They are not 'named' as heirs and inheritors of the Kingdom.

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  • A substantial answer. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 4 at 17:09
  • Very helpful answer, thank you, Anne!
    – Gremosa
    Apr 8 at 15:09
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The verb κληρονομέω (kléronomeó) occurs 18 times in the NT. According to BDAG, it means:

  1. to be an inheritor, inherit, eg, Gal 4:30
  2. acquire, obtain, come into possession of, ... especially participation in the Messianic salvation, ... eg, Matt 5:5, 1 Cor 6:9, 10, etc.

Of the second meaning, we have two main uses:

(a) Inherit the kingdom of God

  • Matt 25:35 - Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
  • 1 Cor 6:9 - Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts,
  • 1 Cor 6:10 - nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • 1 Cor 15:50 - Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
  • Gal 5:21 - and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

(b) Inherit eternal life

  • Matt 19:29 - And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
  • Mark 10:17 - As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up and knelt before Him. “Good Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
  • Luke 10:25 - One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
  • Luke 18:18 - Then a certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

(c) Other uses

  • Matt 5:5 - Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Heb 1:14 - Are not the angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
  • Heb 6:12 - so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
  • 1 Peter 3:9 - Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
  • Rev 21:7 - The one who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.

Therefore, apart from a very few literal senses (Gal 4:30, Heb 1:4, 12:17), the word is used in a salvific sense of participation in Messianic, eschatological rewards for the righteous. Whether this is heaven or something else depends on one's theology of eschatology; however, the point remains that "inheriting salvation" is the same as "inheriting eternal life" or "inheriting the kingdom of God" or "inheriting the blessings", etc.

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