6

In Eph 1:11-14 (CSB) we read:

11 In him we have also received an inheritance,[Or In him we are also an inheritance] because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory.

13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.

In v. 14 it's clear that we receive the Holy Spirit NOW as a "down payment of our inheritance" (NLT=" God's guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised", NIV="a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until ..."). What's not clear is the full scope of "inheritance" and the part that we already received:

  1. Is the Holy Spirit part of the inheritance or a token guaranteeing the inheritance itself?

  2. What IS this inheritance that we are anticipating?

  3. The tense in v. 11 is present perfect ("have received") while in v. 14 it implies future receiving; thus implying that part of the inheritance has been received. So what exactly we HAVE received and what exactly we STILL anticipate?

I would like the answer to provide a good exegetical basis on what Paul meant by "inheritance" instead of a Biblical theology answer (such as this GotQuestions article), thus prioritizing the letter's context, and ONLY if necessary, by bringing in the meaning of "inheritance" from other Pauline letters. References from scholarly technical (instead of pastoral) commentaries preferred.


Rationale for this question. Prosperity gospel modus operandi is either over-realized eschatology (fullness of inheritance enjoyed NOW) or claiming Abrahamic covenant inheritance NOW. By carefully interpreting the meaning of "inheritance" I hope to counter prosperity gospel preachers who misuse this text.

2
  • Does this answer your question? What is the earnest of the Spirit?
    – C. Stroud
    Aug 19, 2023 at 10:20
  • 1
    @C.Stroud Not quite, since my question is about the inheritance itself, while the Spirit given to us is a "down payment" (v. 14), one of the basis for our hope for future fulfillment of the whole inheritance. Aug 19, 2023 at 20:14

3 Answers 3

2

I bear in mind those two helpful links provided at the end, and hope to tie in a relevant application by the end of this answer. To start with, the Greek word for 'inheritance' in Ephesians 1:11 is kleronome / kleroo. According to Young's Analytical Concordance, in that verse it means "To obtain (by) lot, possess.

What is this inheritance Christians are said both to have as a present reality, and to possess in full later on? The opening verses of Ephesians begin to explain, so looking at verses 3 to 10 will be helpful.

Verse 3 states that they are heavenly blessings, in heavenly places in Christ. Verse 4 shows that this involves being able to stand before Christ in holiness and love. Verse 5 uses the word huiotheesian to show that the inheritance applies to those who have been placed in the condition of sons. Verse 6 speaks of being accepted in the beloved [Christ]. Verse 7 assures them of redemption through Christ's blood, (paraptoma is a mortal fall - death. Ptoma - a corpse. There is no recovery possible. That is the condition Christ came to deal with.) Redemption does not adjust the old man. The old humanity is crucified with Christ - dead, finished. Verse 8 says wisdom and prudence are part of this inheritance (in abundance, mark you). Verse 9 adds that God has made known to them the mystery of his will. Those are all parts of the inheritance enjoyed in this life, with some of them to be experienced more fully in heaven (such as standing before Christ in holiness and love, and wisdom and knowledge).

Then comes verse 10 which speaks of the future inheritance, in full - that at the latter end, "the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him." A.V. That awaits.

This quote from scholar John Calvin might be helpful. Writing about "Christ Jesus the Only Mediator" (1 Timothy 2:5,6) he refers to another part of Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. Ephesians 2:12-15. Thus the discord which was between the Jews and Gentiles was abolished. ...it was requisite for our Lord Jesus Christ to make an atonement for our sins; and that by his death he hath purchased our redemption." As quoted in The Ministry of the New Testament, Vol 34 No. 3, page 12, The John Metcalfe Publishing Trust

As a Last Will & Testament cannot come into effect until the death of the Testator, so when Christ died, his shed blood caused the promised inheritance to open up and it started to come into effect. An immediate effect was the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in faith of Christ. Already, these things have been received by those to whom the inheritance applies: forgiveness of sins, peace with God, their understanding opening up to the mysteries of the will of God (and other points in my paragraph 3.) What is yet to be received is mentioned in my paragraph 4. Verse 10 states the full inheritance "at the end".

Another helpful and scholarly writing on this subject is by Augustus Toplady (1740-1778). On the topic of "The Joyful Sound" (Psalm 89:15-16) he writes:

"Blessed be God, our salvation is a finished work. It neither needs, nor will admit of, supplement... Every individual of mankind for whom Christ bled, shall most certainly be saved by his death, not one of the redeemed number excepted; seeing as Christ has paid, completely paid, the debt of penal suffering, so that divine justice must become unjust, ere it be possible for a single soul to perish for all or any of those debts which Christ took upon himself to discharge, and which he has absolutely discharged accordingly...

God loves his jewels too well, and Christ bought them at too dear a rate, and the Holy Spirit polishes them with too much attention, either to throw them away, or to lose them at last... and every period of time shall recompense thy covenant-sufferings, with an increasing revenue of converted souls, until as many as are ordained to eternal life are gathered in." (Ibid. p. 20)

Note the jewels, and the revenue spoken of - not earthly gem-stones, not any financial values that can be bought with money or gold! Only a gross distortion of God's word could lead anyone to suppose that they can get material things building up in this life as part of their "inheritance in Christ". In no way, shape or form, can Christians today suppose the Bible encourages them to seek material wealth as part of their portion on earth. Paul was not speaking of any such things in Ephesians, nor in what he said about Abraham.

Finally, the Holy Spirit indwelling us guarantees the spiritual blessings in Christ that are our inheritance now, as well as giving us that glorious vision of the totality of our heavenly inheritance at the end, when all things are gathered into Christ. (Romans chapter 8 through to 9:1 inclusive.) He leads and guides believers into all truth, and in walking in the pathways of righteousness. That is active help we receive from him in the here and now. The Holy Spirit is not just a formal legal statement. He, in his Holy Person, is the active portion of all believers through our lives, and one day, in the glory, we will be dumbstruck in amazement at just how much he has actively helped us - until we then burst out into praise!

1

Sometimes it is a simple common sense that is all that is needed in interpretation of such passages, and a criterion for the interpretation is not primarily a grammar - Greek syntax and morphology - but alongside with them one’s own life in Christ, which if one does not have, then this site is completely useless for such, unless one wants to shorten one’s lousy idle times in futile quibbling on matters that deserve awe and earnestness.

Since you aren’t such a one and have the life in Christ, then it must be very, very easy for you to crack the question you yourself posed. The inheritance we get at baptism, at reception of Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, Ibid. 11:16), but in a manner of a capacity and dynamism, for unless we co-act with the presence and action of the Spirit in us, we can make Him be quenched in us, which Paul warns us not to do (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

On the contrary, if we co-act with the Spirit, He will lead us “to the land of uprightness” (Psalm 143 (142):10), that is to say, dynamically and processually to the great conquest of the sinfulness in us, of all consequences of Adamian+Evian fall. And when this is done or, better, fully accomplished through our life in Spirit entailing prayers and deeds of faith, He will be fully enthroned and reign in our hearts together with the Son and the Father.

Thus, we get inheritance both a) as initial reception of the Spirit and b) as the telos or accomplishment of this reception - the full conquering of sinfulness and death in us, when we are crowned by God as citizens of Heavenly Jerusalem and given new names as tokens of our victory over sin and death (Rev. 2:17).

As analogy from Hellenic mythology: we are given inheritance of god of marriage Himenaeus already when we fall in love with a right woman, but telos of this grace of falledness into love is to engage in multiple datings, sighs, poem+letter-writing, present-giving, etc. which will culminate in the consumed inheritance of the god Himenaeus - the being crowned by the crowns of marriage.

8
  • This is a good candidate for a correct Biblical theology answer that highlights the already but not yet perspective governing our present era. But I'm looking for what Paul himself meant by "inheritance" based solely on the book's context, and if it's still ambiguous, based on other references in Pauline letters. In other words, I'm aiming for precision here, not for a general meaning of "inheritance" that is (as you say) quite obvious. Aug 17, 2023 at 20:35
  • @GratefulDisciple Thanks for reading and the feedback. In fact what else could Paul mean? Did not he also adduced examples from sports (1 Cor. 9:24-27), and a sportsman gets the inheritance already by becoming a member of club and attending training sessions and competing in official pro competitions, but complete inheritance he will get with winning the Olympic 🥇. Aug 17, 2023 at 20:42
  • In 1 Cor. 9:24-27 he uses the word "prize" (brabeion). The meaning of "inheritance" (eklērōthēmen in v. 11 and klēronomias in v. 14) may overlap, but bring other senses too, such as the OT promised land. Aug 17, 2023 at 20:46
  • @GratefulDisciple Yes, I agree that both klēronomia and brabeion are semantically overlapping earthly metaphors for a mystical reality of our inner life in Christ, metaphors are necessary for it is impossible to put this reality directly in a grammatically expressed speech, for it mystical means unputtable in words and respected by silence, as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite rightly says. Aug 17, 2023 at 20:59
  • But I'm not primarily talking about the grammar here (including the tense), but referent-identification of the noun "inheritance", which must meant something in Paul's mind. If it is mystical reality as you say, then I want some evidence that it is truly the case. For example, I recently find out about Paul's "thorn in the flesh", for which I wrote an answer here based on a WHOLE book by a Bible scholar to make a convincing case. Aug 17, 2023 at 21:02
0

The inheritance we receive is the everlasting kingdom of Christ.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Eph. 1:1, YLT)

Paul wrote this letter to the assembly of the saints in Ephesus while he was in prison in about 61-62 AD.1 The Ephesians were living in the first century AD and were those who having believed the command to be immersed into Christ (Eph. 1:13) were sealed (anointed) by the Holy Spirit, and became fellow heirs in Christ.

Heirs inherit wealth and property at the death of their parents or other family members according to a will that lists specific items or benefits and is a legal promise recognized by the courts of men. God’s promise to Abraham is the promise/blessing (or legal will) spoken of in the letters of the New Testament and given by His oath.

and if ye [are] of Christ then of Abraham ye are seed, and according to promise--heirs. (Gal. 3:29, YLT)

The promise is that which God gave to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-7 that all nations would be blessed through the promised son; that through Isaac would God raise up a savior for His people, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The promise involved blessings to Abraham himself, and to his offspring, as well as a promise of a land to live in (Gen. 12:7), and to bless all nations through Abraham.

”23 'Of this one's seed God, according to promise, did raise to Israel a Saviour--Jesus,… 32 And we to you do proclaim good news--that the promise made unto the fathers, 33 God hath in full completed this to us their children, having raised up Jesus,… 38 'Let it therefore be known to you, men, brethren, that through this one to you is the forgiveness of sins declared, 39 and from all things from which ye were not able in the law of Moses to be declared righteous, in this one every one who is believing is declared righteous;” (Acts 13:23, 32-33,38-39, YLT)

God told us that the earthly land promise had been completely fulfilled (Josh. 21:45). The land promise was conditional upon their obedience to His statutes and laws (Deu. 7; 20:17). God gave the Israelites a bill of divorcement because of their spiritual adultery in following after idols (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8; Exek. 36:17-19). Their disobedience nullified the earthly land promise. But, the rest of the blessings promised to Abraham for righteousness, forgiveness of sins, and salvation were still to come.

13 For to Abraham God, having made promise, seeing He was able to swear by no greater, did swear by Himself, 14 saying, 'Blessing indeed I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee;'

15 and so, having patiently endured, he did obtain the promise; 16 for men indeed do swear by the greater, and an end of all controversy to them for confirmation [is] the oath,

17 in which God, more abundantly willing to shew to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, did interpose by an oath, (Heb. 6:13-17, YLT)

8 By faith Abraham, being called, did obey, to go forth to the place that he was about to receive for an inheritance, and he went forth, not knowing whither he doth go; 9 by faith he did sojourn in the land of the promise as a strange country, in tabernacles having dwelt with Isaac and Jacob, fellow-heirs of the same promise, (Heb. 13:8-9, YLT)

5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit--6 that the nations be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in the Christ, through the good news, (Eph. 3:5-6, YLT)

Hearken, my brethren beloved, did not God choose the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the reign that He promised to those loving Him? (James 2:5, YLT)

What reign do the heirs of Abraham now receive? It is not a bounded land-based nation. It is now a spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:21), the new spiritual promised land of the spiritual nation of Christ’s everlasting kingdom. 2)

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 3:5, KJV)

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 4:17, KJV)

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3, KJV)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33, KJV)

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 8:11, KJV)

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 10:7, KJV)

The kingdom of heaven is the new promised land. It was legally established at the death of Christ in about 30-31 AD, but the will/promise had to be legally probated, the will had to be read throughout the lands (Matt. 24:14) and the conditions met before the kingdom would be fully established in that generation (Matt. 5:18; 24:34).

Christ told those who heard Him speak in the first century AD that the kingdom was coming but was not yet with them.

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:28, KJV)

So, some of those standing there with Christ in about 30 AD would still be living when Christ returned to completely establish His kingdom. In the prophecy of the destruction of the temple, the Olivet Discourse, Jesus told them when His kingdom would come.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matt. 24:35. KJV)

Heaven and earth was the phrase the Jews used for the temple. It was also the phrase God used for the Mosaic Covenant (Deu. 4:26; 31:26). At His return, the will would have been probated and preached throughout the nations (Rom. 15:19; Col. 1:23)), all the word of the old Roman empire, and only then would that earthly temple fall, and that old Mosaic covenant would pass away (Heb., 8:13). The kingdom was fully established in AD 70 when that earthly temple fell.

So, the promise of the inheritance into the kingdom was still ahead of those saints living during the days of Christ’s ministry, and during the days the Apostles and disciples were teaching the gospel news in the first century AD. The gift of the Holy Spirit was their down payment or earnest money, or escrow for the fulfilled payment/blessing of the coming inheritance they were promised to receive when the kingdom was fully set in place.

The benefits of the inheritance of Christ’s everlasting kingdom were and still are forgiveness of sins (2 Cor. 5:19), being clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Isa. 61:10; 2 Cor. 5:21), immortality (1 Cor. 15:53) eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9), and eternal life with our Father in heaven (John 3:15)

Today, we who have been immersed into Christ are counted for the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-29), are clothed with Christ’s righteousness when we rise up that new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), our names are written into the book of life (Phil. 4:3) and we are entered into Christ's everlasting kingdom. If we remain faithful unto death (Rev. 14:13), we will receive the full blessings of our inheritance when we enter into heaven itself.

Notes:

  1. Dating the New Testament: The Letter to the Ephesians

  2. The Promised Land: Between the Cross and the Kingdom

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.