As an estate planning attorney, I have the opportunity to observe the transfer of worldly wealth following death. From this perspective, I wish to contrast the benefits of any earthly inheritance with how Peter describes our eternal inheritance in 1 Peter 1:3-5.
Peter writes, “According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Our Inheritance is Unmerited. By law, you are considered a “default” beneficiary of your parents’ remaining assets, to the extent they do not specify otherwise. In contrast to any entitlement you might have to your parents’ assets, Peter says that we have no such entitlement to God’s family. Only according to his great mercy have we been adopted into God’s family. We no longer stand as a debtor, but as a beneficiary of God’s boundless and matchless estate, enjoying the riches of his glory as vessels of His mercy.
Jesus is the Executor of Our Salvation. The trustworthiness and abilities of the executor is a key factor in whether a decedent’s wishes are properly carried out after death. While an inheritance can be squandered by an unscrupulous executor, we have every assurance that our promised inheritance now stands secure. We have a living executor, who through the resurrection from the dead, publicly defeated sin, triumphing over sin through the cross.
Our Inheritance is Imperishable. Any depreciation in the value of your investment portfolio or increase in future living expenses will reduce the inheritance to your children. While many of my clients (rightfully) plan for these risks, what is sometimes the end result of this worry? One study found that the average financial inheritance is spent in just 18 months following a death. Peter makes clear that by reason of our adoption, our own long-term legacy is not dependent upon the size of the pot of our perishable goods, but in Christ. Later in 1 Peter 1 we read, “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” In the blood of Christ, our inheritance will stand for all eternity.
Our Inheritance is Multiplicative. Any earthly inheritance can only be a “zero-sum” game; that is, in order for you to receive more, other beneficiaries must receive less. In contrast, the benefit of sharing our heavenly inheritance with others is to multiply, not divide, our joy and enjoyment of that inheritance. In Christ, we find a never-ending well of living water that satisfies all who drink of His infinite goodness.
Our Inheritance is Unfading and Kept in Heaven for Us. We experience in our souls and spending habits the law of diminishing returns. That means that we need more and more “stuff” in order to feel the same level of enjoyment. In contrast, our eternal adoption provides us with exponentially increasing returns, for our inheritance will not fade, and is stored for us in heaven to enjoy for all eternity. In heaven, we will revel in God’s unique and unparalleled attributes and the ways he has befuddled scientists and cynics for thousands of years, worship the power by which He formed the universe, and marvel at how He controls the course of all human events, from humbling Nebuchadnezzer to eat grass like an ox to orchestrating the birth of our Savior in a cattle stall.
The Holy Spirit As God’s Advancement. Some parents give lifetime gifts to children as an “advancement” towards their inheritance. The flashy car or house becomes a means of showing off, as if to say to friends and neighbors “do you know the wealth of the family to which I belong?” In Ephesians 1, Paul says that after receiving Christ, we were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” As a member of the richest household in the universe, how much more should we be showcasing the identity of the family to whom we belong?
What an inheritance we have in Christ! Even in comparison with the implementation of the best-laid legal estate plan, our eternal inheritance is far superior. We, as redeemed members of Christ’s family, can place our ultimate and complete trust in this promise.