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Galatians 5:21

…envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Is Paul referring to eternal salvation here when he speaks of “inheriting the kingdom of God”?

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Galatians 5:21 comes in the middle of a list of things that identify characteristics of people who live in order to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, which show them to be in opposition to the Spirit.

Those people are then compared with people who show characteristics of the Spirit and who belong to Christ. All those ones are saved and are in the Kingdom of God.

All the people who do not show the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control) must repent of all deeds that stand in opposition to the Spirit if they are to saved.

Paul is contrasting the evidence of people who are saved (who display in their lives the good 'fruit' of the Spirit) with the bad 'fruit' of worldliness which unsaved people evidence by their lives.

This harmonises which what Jesus said about people claiming to be Christians but whom he disowns (Matthew:7:17-23). Jesus put it just as strongly in the vision given to the aged apostle John who was told that the fearful and unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, whoremongers, socerers, idolater and all liars would never get into heavenly Jerusalem, but would be in the lake fire of fire and brimstone, the second death (Revelation 22:8). All such would never be saved. Only people who once behaved like that, but who repentantly believe the gospel, get saved. This is clearly stated (again by Paul) here:

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers not male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers now will swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And this this is what you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Paul clearly shows the difference between those who are not saved, and those who are, in Galatians chapter 5, to avoid Christians becoming confused with false teaching that would keep them from obeying the truth (vss. 7-1o). See also 1 Corinthians chapter 6 which agrees with what Christ said about this matter in Matthew chapter 7 and Revelation chapter 21. Those who inherit the Kingdom of God are eternally saved. Those who will not repent of all the things shown to keep people out of the Kingdom of God will never be saved.

Actually, Galatians 5:21 speak of those who have not entered into the Kingdom of God. But to be saved is to enter into the Kingdom of God - vss. 23-24.

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The operative verb here is κληρονομέω (kléronomeó) almost always signifies something about eternal salvation, ie, inheriting eternal life in heaven, ie, to partake in eternal salvation in the Messianic kingdom of God. See appendix below. [The only exceptions are Gal 4:30 and Heb 1:4.]

Further, it is not difficult to show that the "Kingdom of God" refers always to eternal life, and the eternal Messianic kingdom of heaven, Matt 12:28, 21:31, Mark 4:11, 43, 14:25, 15:43, Luke 7:28, 8:10, 9:11, 27, 10:11, 25, 11:20, 14:15, 17:20, 23:51, John 3:5, Acts 8:12, 14:22, 28:23, 2 Thess 1:5, etc, etc.

The idea of "inheriting" salvation and the kingdom of God is rooted in the very Jewish idea of the adopted family of God (Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5) with the saved being "children of God" (Rom 1:7, 2 Cor 1:2, Eph 1:2, Gal 1:3, Phil 1:2, 4:20, Col 1:2, 1 Thess 3:11, 2 Thess 1:1, 2, 2:16, 1 Tim 1:2, etc.)

Indeed, God is frequently spoken of as the “Father” of the Israelites throughout the OT, Deut 32:6, Ps 89:26, Isa 63:8-10, 16, 64:8, Mal 1:6. In the NT writers frequently refer to God as “the Father”, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:3, 5:20, 6:23, Phil 2:11, 1 Thess 1:1, 1 Cor 15:25, 2 Cor 1:3, 11:31, James 1:27, 1 Peter 1:2, 3, 2 Peter 1:17, 2 John 3, etc; or “My Father”, Matt 11:27, 12:50, 18:35, 20:23, 26:53, Luke 10:22, 15:58, John 5:17, 8:19, 54, 10:17, 18, 29, 14:21, 23, 15:18, etc. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”, Matt 6:9, see also Gal 1:4, 1 Thess 3:11, 2 Thess 2:16, Titus 1:4, Col 1:3, Phil 1:2, 4:20, etc.

The metaphor of adoption is extended by the New Testament’s repeated idea of Christ being our brother (Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29) following adoption.

Special note:

None of this is to suggest that those who engage in "Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" are beyond salvation. Note what Gal 5:21 says:

... those doing such things will not inherit God's kingdom

That is, those who do these things and refuse to give them up. Note the sage remarks of the Pulpit commentary:

Shall not inherit the kingdom of God (βασιλείαν Θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν). The apostle uses the same words in writing to the Corinthians with reference to the sins to which they were the most prone (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). So Ephesians 5:5, "No fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, which is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." This "kingdom" is also referred to in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, "Walk worthily of God who calleth you into his own kingdom and glory" ("His own!" Astonishing prospect!); 2 Thessalonians 1:5, "That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer;" 2 Timothy 4:18, "will save me unto his heavenly kingdom." The like designation of the future felicity is given by St. Peter (2 Peter 1:11), "entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," and by St. James (it. 5), "heirs of the kingdom which he [God] promised to them that love him." It is derived from our Lord's own teaching, as, e.g. Matthew 25:34, "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you;" Luke 12:32, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." It is the manifestation and consummation of "that kingdom of heaven," or "kingdom of God," heralded by Christ and his forerunner as "at hand," which the Prophet Daniel had pointed forward to (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13, 14, 18). Bondage to "the flesh" in this life is constantly declared throughout the New Testament to form an insuperable bar to an entrance into that exalted state. And what is the alternative prospect? This the Apostle Paul does not here specify, though elsewhere he does so with awful emphasis; as e.g. Romans 2:8. Galatians 5:21

APPENDIX - inherit eternal life or inherit the kingdom of God

The verb kléronomeó occurs 18 times in the NT:

  • Matt 5:5 - Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Matt 19:29 - And everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for the sake of My name, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.
  • Matt 25:34 - Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, those being blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom having been prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
  • Mark 10:17 - And going forth on His journey, one having run up and having knelt down to Him, was asking Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I might inherit eternal life?"
  • Luke 10:25 - And behold, a certain lawyer stood up, testing Him, saying, "Teacher, what having done, will I inherit eternal life?"
  • Luke 18:18 - And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, having done what, will I inherit eternal life?"
  • 1 Cor 6:9 - And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, having done what, will I inherit eternal life?"
  • 1 Cor 6:10 - Or do you not know that the unrighteous ones will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals
  • 1 Cor 15:10 - Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood is not able to inherit the kingdom of God, nor does decay inherit immortality.
  • Gal 4:30 - But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will never inherit along with the son of the free."
  • Gal 5:21 - envyings, drunkennesses, carousing, and things like these, as to which I forewarn you, even as I warned before, that those doing such things will not inherit God's kingdom.
  • Heb 1:4 - having become by so much superior to the angels, as much as He has inherited a name more excellent beyond theirs.
  • Heb 1:14 - Are they not all ministering spirits, being sent forth for service for the sake of those being about to inherit salvation?
  • Heb 6:12 - so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those inheriting the promises through faith and patience.
  • Heb 12:17 - For you know that even afterward, wishing to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, although having earnestly sought it with tears.
  • 1 Peter 3:9 - not repaying evil for evil or insult for insult; but on the contrary blessing, because to this you were called, so that you should inherit blessing.
  • Rev 21:7 - The one overcoming will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.

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