Jesus - The Heir
Fr. Thomas Hopko · May 29, 2010
In this next episode of The Names of Jesus, Fr. Tom talks about the inheritance that God promises to his people that comes to us through Christ.
As we continue our meditations on the names and titles for Jesus found in Holy Scripture, and of course used in the Church’s liturgy and the Church’s prayer, we want to think today about the teaching that Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, is the Heir; that the inheritance that God promises to his people, [comes] to his people through Christ; that as the Firstborn, as the only Son, that he is the Heir of everything that belongs to God. As we hear in the parable of the prodigal son, when the father says to the [elder] son in the parable, “All things that I have are yours. All things belong to you.” That is clearly one of the teachings of the Holy Scripture: that God has given all things to his Son, Jesus Christ. He has made him the Heir of all the promises to Israel.
When we think of that, we have to think that the inheritance or the heirs of God, the ones to whom God wills all things, he gives all things, God’s own portion, so to speak, are the people of Israel themselves as a whole, which, according to Christianity ultimately, they are reduced to that one Person, David’s son, who is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in whom everything is recapitulated, everything is fulfilled. In some sense, even, you might say everything is reduced. The only real human being is Jesus. The only real Jew is Jesus. The only real seed of Abraham—one seed, singular, according to St. Paul—is Jesus. He is the Son, and being the Son and the firstborn and the only Son, he then is God’s Heir.
That term, “heir,” is found very often in the Holy Scripture, and the terms that go with it. The Greek term for heir is “klēronomos.” The word for “inheritance” or “heritage” is “klēronomia.” The word for “portion” or “lot” or “the one that belongs to [a] selected group” is “klēros.” It’s where we actually get the word “clergy” from; we’ll speak about that in a minute. And then, to be chosen as an heir, to receive the inheritance, there are verb forms of that very same [word], “[klēronomeō].” That “klēronomos,” “klēronomia,” “klēronomeō,” those words are made up of two words: “klēros” which means “portion” or “part” or “lot,” and then “nomos” means “law.” It means “law” or “the rule.” So the inheritance is the rule of the inheritance, the portion, to whom it belongs.
These words—heir, inherit, inheritance, heritage—they occur hundreds of times in Holy Scripture. Certainly in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, you just find these words all over the place. They’re just there, because you have the issue, not only of Israel being the heir of all of God’s promises and the promises were made to Abraham and to his children, but then you have this whole saga all the time of who inherits what and who is the main inheritor. Here we see that there’s plenty of texts that speak about the children of Israel, the twelve tribes: which tribe inherits what; what is their portion. Or, for example, the Levites who have no portion, they have no inheritance of the land. They don’t get anything from God, so to speak, as far as the land is concerned, because God is their portion, and then they receive their allotment from all those others who have received the allotted inheritance that God has promised.
We can begin a kind of a biblical meditation of all this, simply by beginning with Abraham and knowing how God chose Abraham and promised to him that in his seed all of the families of the earth would be blessed, and that it was to them that God gave his promise to give all things. And then he promises to Abraham and then Isaac and Jacob and through Moses he promises many things. He promises the inheritance of the land: they will inherit the land; they will inherit the earth; they will inherit God’s kingdom; they will inherit all the nations; they will inherit the Gentiles, and then the Gentiles will also enter themselves into the inheritance of God. And then by the time you get into the New Testament, you have the eternal life, the inheritance of eternal life, the inheritance of all the blessings that are promised, the inheritance of everything that was promised. In fact, the inheritance of everything, period; the inheritance of all things, the heir of all things.
It’s interesting to note also that the term “inheritance” in the Old Testament Scriptures is never in the plural. There are not many “inheritances”; there is the inheritance that is given to… that God gives to his people. And you have this line in the psalms, not only the line that has become the Great Prokeimenon in the Lenten season in the Orthodox Church: “Thou hast given thine inheritance to those who fear your name.” That’s a Great Prokeimenon; it comes from the psalter. “Thou hast given thine inheritance to those who fear thy name.” It’s Psalm 61:
Hear my cry, O God. Listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I, for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in thy tent forever. O, to be safe under the shelter of your wings! For you, O God [have] heard my vows; you have given me the inheritance of those who fear your name.
So here it’s in the singular—“you have given to me”—and this is applied to, all these texts are applied to Christ, because every word is applied to Christ. But there’s another translation. Not only “You have given me the inheritance of those who fear your name,” but “You have given your inheritance to all who fear your name.” And then, of course, the immediate [reaction to] that psalm, it immediately speaks about the king: “Prolong the life of the king. May his years endure forever. May he be enthroned forever before God. Bid steadfast love and faithfulness watch over him.” And that king, of course, ultimately is Jesus, the King of Israel, the King of the world, the King of glory, the King of God’s kingdom.
Another very well-known line in the psalter which is used in Orthodox liturgy lots of times, in various ways, is the expression from Psalm 28: “O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance.” And in the psalm itself, it says, “Be thou their shepherd. Carry them forever. The Lord is the strength of his people. He is the saving refuge of his christ,” of his anointed. Now that expression, “O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance,” any Orthodox Christian, any member of the Orthodox Church knows that that expression is used very often in the Liturgy. First of all, it is used as the main hymn of all the festivals of the holy Cross, the precious and life-creating Cross.
And that was kind of the imperial anthem of Byzantium, also. It was kind of like the, you know, in the Byzantine Empire that was allegedly Christian and living under Christ, the Cross was like the flag, and it was elevated [on] September 14 in the Exaltation, lifted up. And then, when the Cross was lifted up, the hymn was sung, “O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance. Grant victory to Orthodox Christians over their adversaries”—actually, in the original text, it said, “Over the barbarians”—“and by the power of your Cross, preserve your klēronomia, preserve your politevma, your portion.”
So, “O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance,” it was “Sōson, Kyrie, ton laon sou—O Lord, save your people and bless, give the blessing, evlogia, to your klēronomia, to your inheritance.” And then there’s many prayers that begin that way: “O Lord, save your people, bless your inheritance, visit your world with mercy and kindness, exalt the state of Orthodox Christians, send down upon us your rich mercies…” And even the Byzantine Empire imperially thought of itself as God’s portion, God’s heritage in the world, kind of the successor of Israel.
Of course, that’s a theological error. No kingdom on earth, no people, can be the inheritors. The real inheritors, according to Scripture, and this would be St. Paul’s absolute conviction, are those who believe in God. The faithful people who fear his name, they are his [inheritors]. And those [who] receive the inheritance receive it by faith, not by law. That’s what St. Paul will speak about. We’ll quote a few texts in a second. But that it’s a gracious gift.
Here we should notice that sometimes, in fact, many times, maybe most times, in the Holy Scripture, there’s a sense in which God himself doesn’t follow his own laws. He doesn’t always give his inheritance to the firstborn, for example. He gives it to whomever he wills. He gives it according to his providential plan for the salvation of the world. So, for example, you have in the Scripture where the firstborn son of Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel, is not Isaac; it’s Ishmael. But the Christians… and the Jews and the Christians believe that the promise of God to Abraham was given through Isaac. He was the son of the promise. He was the son of the free woman, as St. Paul says in Galatians. It was not given through Ishmael. Ishmael was the outcast. And, of course, the modern Muslims believe that they are the successors of Abraham’s promise through Ishmael. They are the Ishmaelites, and the Jews are the Judah-ites or the Isaac-ites, from Abraham.
Or, take another example: Jacob himself and Esau. You know, [Joseph’s sons] Jacob and Esau. Esau was the firstborn, but the firstborn’s right was kind of stolen, according to the story of Esau. It was stolen by Jacob. And then you have other kinds of similar-type things. I think, for example, of King David. Jesse, when they were looking for the one to be the king, Jesse had seven sons, and God chosen the youngest, the seventh, to be the heir of the promise. Jesse’s son is David who becomes the king, and then the Messiah, the Messianic king, Jesus, is the son of David, who was not the firstborn of Jesse’s son. It didn’t go by primogeniture, so to speak. God decides. It’s a kind of a gracious gift.
Here, that would be a very classic teaching in Holy Scripture, that the inheritance… that those whom God chooses for his inheritance, certainly they are those who fear his name, who believe in him, but they are the ones whom he graces, also. And sometimes in the Old Testament, they’re not very faithful, but he keeps his promise. He makes his promise. As it says in the psalm, “The Lord swears and doesn’t change his mind.” He chose Abraham and the seed of Abraham, and he is faithful to that promise forever, and they will be the inheritance. And the Christians believe that all of that, ultimately, is fulfilled in that one Person of Jesus. He is the Heir. He is the one and only Heir.
But before we get to that point, a couple other things about the Old Covenant should be mentioned, beside the fact that it’s gracious, that God gives to whom he will; he chooses whom he will. But he does that for the sake of the whole world; he does that for the sake of all of humanity. So if Israel is God’s portion, if Israel is God’s inheritance, his heritage, the one whom he has chosen by grace, not by any merit of their own, they are chosen as an instrument for the salvation of all. And it says in the Scriptures of the Old Covenant that the nations will come into God’s inheritance. The nations will stand as children of Abraham; that the inheritance will ultimately be given to everybody.
But still, it’s only given to those who believe and who have faith and who have fear of God and the awe of God and glorify God. The inheritance is given to all, but not all receive it! Not all accept it. It’s given to all, but it’s given providentially, so to speak, to those who fear his name, to those who keep his commandments, to those who do his will. So Israel is the portion of God; salvation is from the Jews, but it’s for the sake of the salvation of all.
But another thing that should be mentioned is this: if the children of Abraham—Isaac, Jacob, Israel—if they are God’s portion, God’s chosen people, God’s inheritors in this world, so that all could enter into the inheritance through their Messiah, who is Jesus, we have to see that in the Old Testament also, not only was Israel the portion or the inheritance of God on behalf of all people, but within the people of God, there was a portion, a klēros, of the priesthood, who had no portion of the land but whose main portion was God alone. It says of the house of Levi, “God will be their portion.” They won’t have any land or territory or powers, but they will be God’s portion for the sake of all of the people, first of all, all of the people of Israel themselves.
So you have a kind of a portion within the portion. Israel is the lot, the chosen lot, the allotted people, the chosen people, the heirs, those who receive the inheritance of God, but within them are the Levites, the priests who offer the sacrifices, who make intercessions, who mediate, who care for the holy places in the Temple and so on. When you have such an expression as “O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance,” the laos (that’s “people”; it’s where you get the word “laity” or “laymen”) are all of the people.
All of the people belong to the people, so to speak. So the Levites, the priests, are part of those people, but the whole people are the klēros, so there’s a sense in which all Israel is both the people and the clergy, the laity and the clergy, if you use modern terms. Everyone belongs to the people, and everyone is a member of God’s portion, God’s inheritance. But then when you look at it within the people, you have the portion within the people who are the klēros, the portion within the greater klēros, and those are the priests. So you have then, so to speak, the clergy.
The same thing takes place in the final covenant, in the new covenant in Christ. All of the Christians are God’s portion. All of the believers are God’s inheritance because of Jesus, because Jesus is the Heir. All become sons of God because Jesus is the Son of God. All become children of the promise because Jesus is the Promised One to whom all is given. Everyone has the status of an only-begotten son, including women, Gentiles, slaves. Everyone has the status of a son of God in Christ, because he is the Son of God. Everyone has the status of a firstborn, because he is the Firstborn. Everyone has the status of being a firstfruit of God’s salvation, because he is the Firstfruit.
So in the New Covenant, Jesus is the Heir. All people enter into his inheritance who believe in him, who become members of Christ, but then, within that community, within that qahal, within that assembly, within the people, all of whom are God’s people, the chosen nation, the royal priesthood, the kingdom of prophets and priests, within them you have the bishops and the presbyters, the klēros. And so the clergy, there’s a sense in which all Christians in the entire Christian Church act as the clergy on behalf of the whole world, on behalf of the whole humanity.
As we would say in the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church, who stand together with Christ before the face of God, filled with the Holy Spirit; the Spirit is the one who guarantees that the people are this allotted portion, that they are the heirs. But then they stand [on] behalf of all and for all. They offer the sacrifice and praise and glory to God, the reasonable and spiritual worship, on behalf of all; the worship in spirit and truth on behalf of all. The entire body of the Church does this.
But then, within the Church, you have the clergy, the klēros. And, by the way, it’s interesting to note that the place in the church buildings where those who serve stand and do their service, it’s called a kliros. In Orthodox modern parlance, the stands, for example, from which the singers sing and the readers read, it’s called a kliros. They say, “Go stand on the kliros.” And that’s the portion of those who are called apart for service.
So in one sense, the same way that all Israel is called apart as the chosen people for God’s service, and within them you have the Levitical priesthood, so in the New Testament, all the people are called apart to be the klēros of God, the klēronomia of God. They are all klēronomoi; they are all heirs and synklēronomoi, joint heirs, together with Christ on behalf of all and for all.
But within those who are the total portion, the total inheritance, there are the particular people—and here, in the Orthodox Church, they are only men, not women—once-married men or celibate men, not twice-married; with a good reputation, not recent converts, [with] a blameless life, having all their bodily parts and so on; you can read about this in the letters of Timothy and Titus in the New Testament, how certain members of the Church have a second laying-on of hands after their baptism, to be that portion within the portion, so to speak, the clergy within the people, the klēros within the laos. But they first are members of the people themselves, of course, and they’re not apart from the people; they’re within the people, of the people, for the people.
Still, they are a distinct group of people within the people: the clergy, as we would say nowadays. So this is scriptural; this is in the Holy Scriptures. And then, of course, in the New Testament, those people who were called apart within the people to stand forth and to lead and to preach and to teach and to head the worship, who had to have special qualifications for holding that particular position within the inheritance as a whole, that those people came to be called the clergy, but they also acted [on] behalf of all and for all, within the total body.
When we think about these things, we could put it in a wonderful form that Bishop Kallistos Ware once used, I heard in a talk, Metropolitan Kallistos, where he said when it comes to the inheritance, when it comes to the activities of the Church, the priesthood, the prophetic life and so on, the kingship, there’s one and one alone for Christians: that’s Jesus Christ himself. He alone is the Priest; he alone is Adam; he alone is Israel; he alone is the seed of Abraham; he alone is the Son of God; he alone is the Firstborn; he alone is the only-begotten; he alone is the Son of God; he alone is the Son of man. So there’s just one, but in him, it’s everyone!
So you have one and then you have all—all the people, all the baptized, all who are anointed—they become joint heirs with him. And then, within them, you have some: some with particular qualifications, who are the portion within the portion, the clergy within the people, who then have a very particular ministry in and for and on behalf of all before the face of God.
Let’s see how all of this is presented to us in the Scriptures of the New Testament, because everything that I just said is a kind of a summary of what you find in the New Testament. And in the New Testament Scriptures, you very clearly have the teaching that the Heir is Jesus Christ himself alone. The inheritance is his. All belongs to him. All is given to him, and to him alone. And then by faith and grace, those who believe in him and fear God in and through him and with him, God the Father, and receive of his Spirit, they enter into that same inheritance; they become God’s [inheritors] and joint-heirs together with Christ of all of the gifts of God.
So let’s begin where you have the term “heir” [when it] is used very specifically, and that is in the parable that is found in Matthew and Mark and in Luke. It’s Matthew 21; it’s Mark 12; it’s Luke 20, and basically the parable is the same in the synoptic Gospels, in those three Gospels. And the parable goes like this. I’m looking now at the King James version as I speak (Matthew 21:33-41).
The Lord says, “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder who planted a vineyard and hedged it round about, and [dug] a wine press within it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen…
In [the] RSV, it says “tenants.”
...and went into a far country. When the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. The husbandmen…
Or the vinekeepers said to the tenants, to the servants, they took the servants and beat them, killed another, stoned another. A Christian interpretation, of course, of this parable is that those servants who are sent to the tenants who are running [the] vineyard, they are the prophets. They are the holy ones of the Old Testament, the ones that God raised up to teach his people and to bring the word of God to them, but they reject them, they beat them, they kill them, they stone them.
He sent other servants, more than the first; they did the same to them.
And then here’s the line we want to hear now:
Last of all, he sent unto them his son, his own son, saying, “They will certainly reverence my son.” But when the husbandmen…
The geōrgoi, the vinekeepers, the tenants who were doing the vine.
...when they saw the son, they said among themselves, “Houtos estin ho klēronomos—this is the heir.”
“Ho klēronomos—this is the heir.”
“Come, let us kill him and let us seize his inheritance—schōmen tēn klēronomian.”
“This is the klēronomos; let’s kill him and we’ll take his klēronomia. This is the heir; let’s take him and we’ll seize his inheritance.” But then, of course, according to the parable… Well, certainly the heir in the parable means Jesus. He is the Son, and he is the Heir. All things belong to him. He will own the vineyard. He will own the whole of creation. He will inherit the land. Everything will belong to him. So they caught him in the parable, they cast him out of the vineyard, and they kill him.
Then the parable continues: When the lord therefore comes, the one who owns the ampelos, the vineyard, when he comes, what’s he going to do to those geōrgoi, what’s he going to do to those keepers of the vineyard, the tenants who don’t own it? It’s owned by the lord; they’re only supposed to produce the fruit, but they don’t produce the fruit. They killed the servants that God sends, and then they kill God’s Son himself. What’s he going to do? The Lord [said]. And they say to him,
“He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and he will let out his vineyard to others who shall render him the fruits in their season.”
So he’s going to give the vineyard to other people. The one to whom it belongs, the heir, when the people try to seize the inheritance, he isn’t going to give them that inheritance. He’s going to give it to those who bring the fruit of it. And, of course, you have in the entire Scripture the image of bearing forth fruit in the vineyard of Christ. We won’t speak about this again, but we know how that is so. In that parable, you have very clearly the teaching that Jesus is the Heir.
You have it also in other places in the New Testament. For example, the Letter to the Hebrews, the very beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews, you have the term in the very first chapter of that letter, that it is used three times. This is how it goes. Again, I’ll read the King James version:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the ages.
Let’s hear that in the RSV. It’s a little bit more—how can you say? The wording is a little bit more modern. This is how it reads in the RSV, Revised Standard Version:
In many and various ways, God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son whom he appointed the heir of all things...
“Klēronomon pantōn,” and that’s clear: everything. Heir of everything, all things.
...through whom also he created the world.
Actually, what it really says is “through whom also he created the ages.” And I think it’s important to mention here, a little diversion. Some people emailed me and said they like my diversions better than my talks. That’s okay. You know, I’m not a very orderly person. But in any case, the diversion here would be: very often, when we hear in English the term “world,” in Greek the term “aiōn” is used, not “kosmos,” and that means “age.” And that’s true in the Creed; that’s true in the Divine Liturgy. When we say, “the world to come,” for example, actually it means, “the age to come.” It has to do with time. There is no “new world.” There’s a new heaven and a new earth, that’s renewed, but that is in the new age, the coming age.
So we actually should say, “I look for the resurrection of the dead and life of the age to come.” We should pray, “Give us in this age the knowledge of the truth and in the age to come life everlasting.” That’s a prayer from the Divine Liturgy.
Anyway, it says very clearly here [in] the Letter to the Hebrews that Jesus, the Son of God, is the heir of everything, and it says, and I continue reading from the RSV:
When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited.
It says “obtained” in the RSV, but it says “inherited”—“is more excellent than theirs.” And then it ends:
Are the angels not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve for the sake of those who were to inherit salvation?
It says in the RSV “obtain.” In the King James it says, “Being made so much better than the angels as he hath by inheritance (or inherited) more excellent name than they.” And then that last verse of that first chapter says, “Are not the angels all liturgika pnevmata—ministering or liturgical spirits?” Ministering spirits, for those who shall be heirs of salvation, to those who shall be heirs of salvation—dia tous mellontas klēronomein sōtērian.” Because of those in the future who will or who shall or who are about to be made to inherit sōtēria, salvation.
The point here is, again: Jesus is the Heir, the Son is the Heir, but through him everybody [becomes] heirs, and they then receive the heir of salvation and receive everything that Jesus has. This same teaching is in other letters of the Apostle Paul, and I’ll just read them in no particular order, but I’ll begin with Romans. In Romans 8, this is what we read. I’ll start at the 13th verse:
If you live according to the flesh, you shall die, but if through the Holy Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh (the deeds of the body, actually, it says) you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption (or the status of sons—huiothesias—whereby we cry, “Abba, Father!” to God.
Then it says:
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.
Then it says: “And if children (tekna theou, children of God), then heirs—ei de tekna, kai klēronomoi. If children, then heirs, klēronomoi.” Then it repeats the word: “Klēronomoi—heirs of God, and joint-heirs—synklēronomoi de Christou.” I love that! Jesus is the Heir, and we are co-heirs, “syn-” in Greek as a prefix means “co-” or “joint-”: joint-heirs. So it says if we then become children of God in Christ, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, but then it continues:
If it be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together with him.
And in Greek it’s more beautiful, because it says, “eiper sympaschomen hina kai syndoxasthōmen,” so we become synklēronomoi when we synpaschomen in order to be syndoxasthōmen: co-heirs, because we co-suffer that we may be co-glorified. And that “co-” is a wonderful thing, and you find it many times in the letters of Paul: we have to co- live with him; we have to co- die with him; we get co- glorified with him; we are co- buried with him; we are co- reigning with him; we co- suffer with him; we co- endure with him. You have that “co-,” that prefix “syn-” in Greek, “so-” in Slavonic: “together with.” And in English it’s often “suffer together with, die together with, be buried together with,” but that “together with” belongs to the very verb in the original language, certainly in Greek and Latin and Church Slavonic; it’s a verb form.
So this is what we have in the Letter to the Romans. In the Letter to the Galatians, we have almost exactly the same teaching. Well, it’s in content it’s exactly the same, but my point here is not just in content, but actually the words themselves that are used are almost exactly the same. And these should be familiar to Orthodox Christians because these are read in church very often and sung in church, particularly on the birth of Christ; it’s the epistle reading is coming with these words. So what does it say in the Letter to the Galatians? This is what we find in the Letter to the Galatians. It says this:
As many [of] you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And that sentence is sung at a baptism, when the newly-baptized walk around the baptismal fount three times, indicating that they now belong to the unending kingdom of God. It’s sung at the Divine Liturgy in place of the Trisagion Hymn on great festival days like Pascha and Epiphany and Christmas and Pentecost, Lazarus Saturday.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female, but you are all one in Christ Jesus, and if you are Christ’s, then you are the sperma of Abraham (Abraham’s seed, and then it says), heirs according to the promise.
Heirs according to the promise. Let’s look at it here in Greek again. It says, “If you be Christ’s,” if you’re baptized into Christ and put on Christ, “if you be Christ’s, then you be Abraham’s seed.” See? It says, “Ei de ymeis Christou—if you are of Christ—ara tou Abraam sperma este—then you are Abraham’s seed.” And then it says, “Kat’ epangelian—according to the promise—klēronomoi—heirs.” Then it continues, and this is Galatians 4:1. We should remember, by the way, that the letters originally did not have chapters and verses; there were no chapters and verses. So we shouldn’t say it’s a new thought. It’s a continuation of the same thought, even though in the English Bibles it begins a new chapter. So it continues:
Now I say, therefore I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing from a slave, though he be lord of all.
So when the heir is still a child, he might just as well be a servant. He might just as well be a slave. It says:
But when the fullness of time had come…
And this, of course, is the Christmas epistle.
...God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that they might receive the status of sons.
“Huiosethia,” adoption of sons, it says.
And because you are sons, all of you who are baptized into Christ, male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free, because you are all sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”
In Romans 8 you also have the “Abba, Father!” You have the Holy Spirit coming, making us Christ’s, making us to be what he is, heirs together with him, children and sons of God. So it says, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” So through God you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir, a klēronomos. If you are a huios, you are a klēronomos dia theou—through God.
It sounds like this in Greek; it’s just fun to hear it: “Hōste ouketi ei doulos alla huios—you are no longer doulos, slave—alla huios, son. Ei de huios—and if son—kai klēronomos dia theou—then you are an heir of God.” Through Christ, or that’s what the King James version says; a better translation would be “then you are an heir through God.” God has made you an heir through his Son, Jesus Christ. That would be a better rendering.
One more example of this in the New Testament. There are several, but one more would be the Letter to the Ephesians. You have the Letter to the Ephesians where you have all of this also told again. Let’s take a look at the Ephesian letter here. You have exactly the same teaching: Jesus as heir; we as joint-heirs together with Jesus; the inheritance being ours through him, because he’s the one who receives the inheritance. So this is what we have in Ephesians; this is what it says. In the very beginning of the Letter [to] the Ephesians, you have, in the RSV it says in the eleventh verse of the first chapter:
In him (that’s Christ) according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.
That’s what it says in the RSV, but if you read it originally… Well, I’ll read the King James version here. It says (Ephesians 1:10-11):
In the dispensation of the fullness of time, that he (God, that is) might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth even in him (in Christ) in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will.
And here it’s a verb form in Greek: “En hō kai eklērōthēmen—in whom we were chosen as an inheritance.” In Jesus we are chosen as an inheritance. And then you have, a few verses above, it says that those who were chosen as the inheritance were sealed with the Holy Spirit of this promise, the promise that we would inherit all things; the promise that was first made to Abraham: now it’s made to all of us through Jesus Christ that we will inherit everything that the heir has, and the heir alone is Jesus Christ.
So it says we were sealed by the Holy Spirit (by the Spirit) with the promise of God. And the Holy Spirit is the aravon in Greek. “Aravon” means “pledge, guarantee, token, foreshadowing, assurance, certitude.” It means all those things: that there is a kind of a promise. But what is this token? What is this earnest? It’s the aravon tēs klēronomias. It’s the guarantee of the inheritance. “Until the redemption of the purchased possession, that which is given unto the praise of his glory.” And then it continues; I will skip down here now to the 18th verse:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what [are] the riches of the glory of his inheritance (his klēronomias) in the saints.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation and the knowledge of him, that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, you may know what is the hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.
Let’s hear it again in the RSV. See how it sounds in the Revised Standard translation. It sounds like this:
That you may know, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe…
... in Christ who has been raised from the dead. So it’s exactly the same teaching.
I’d just like to read a couple other texts here. In Titus, for example, you have this term again used. I’ll read it to you. It’s in the third chapter of Titus. It says this. This is read in church, by the way, on Epiphany, on the liturgical celebration of the Epiphany, the baptism of Christ, and the revelation of Christ on the Jordan; this is what is read.
When the goodness and lovingkindness of our savior appeared (epephanein: appeared), he saved us. Not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal in the Holy Spirit…
Baptism and chrismation, right?
... which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ, our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
Become heirs in him in the hope of eternal life. This same teaching is not only in St. Paul; it’s in James. It’s in the Letter of James. Here’s how it’s given in the Letter of James, second chapter:
Listen, my beloved brethren: has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?
So the kingdom is given to those—it is promised to those—who love him, who fear him. Those who fear God are the friends of God; they love him. There’s no—how can you say?—there’s no contradiction between fear of God and love of God. If we fear God, we love the one whom we fear; we hold him in awe. And if we love God, then we hold him in awe and we fear him. Those two things definitely go together.
This inheritance which is given, it’s also called in the Holy Scripture incorruptible, undefiled, indestructible, eternal, everlasting, in the saints, of the kingdom. This is what we find in the Holy Scripture. Let’s hear another text; two other ones we’ll hear. We heard Paul, we heard James, now let’s hear Peter. In the letter of Peter, you have exactly the same thing being spoken of. Let me find it here. It’s in I Peter 3:7. It speaks about those who are married, the husbands and the wives in the Church, that they belong together, and the same word is used that is used between the Christians and Christ, is used for the husband and the wife. It speaks about the husband and wife being synklēronomois charitos zōēs: co-inheritors, joint heirs of the grace of life, together with Christ. So the men and the women together are the joint heirs of Christ.
But also we want to hear a text also from the Book of Revelation, because in the Book of Revelation you have this very same teaching being given. Let’s take a look at that. It’s in Revelation 21. [In] the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, you have the same words being used. Here it is for you. It says this: “He who conquers together with Christ…” Christ is the one who conquers and is conquering and then there are those who conquers in him. The letters to the seven churches speak about those who are victorious or conquer together with Christ, all the different things that they receive as the heirs. It lists them in the beginning of the seven letters in the Book of Revelation. But at the end it says, “He who conquers shall have this heritage (this inheritance): I will be his God and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7). So that heritage or that inheritance [is] inherited, [belongs] to those who belong to Christ.
There is that one other text that I want to find that speaks about this inheritance being undefiled, indestructible, incorruptible. In the Colossian letter you have:
Whatever your task, work heartily as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord, Christ.
So those who serve Christ receive this promise, this award, which is incorruptible, which is indestructible, and which is undefiled. The inheritance of the saints is what is called.
This is definitely our teaching: Jesus is the Heir and we become joint-heirs together with him. Jesus is the Heir and we become the joint-heirs together with him. Let’s just look here one more time how this would be put in the [First] Letter to the Corinthians. In the [First] Letter to the Corinthians, this is how we find it. It says (I Corinthians 6:9-10):
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither immoral, adulterous, perverts, sexual, greedy, drunkards, [they] will not inherit the kingdom of God. But you—and such were some of you—but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
So then at the end of that Corinthian letter, you have these words:
I tell you, brethren (brothers and sisters), flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
But you are sown perishable and you are raised imperishable, indestructible, undefiled, and in that sense, you become everything that Christ by grace. So it’s not by law; it’s by grace, it’s by faith. It always has been, even in the Old Testament. God does say if you keep the Law you will inherit, but nobody keeps the Law; everyone has gone astray, “each to his own way,” as it says in the Prophets. And only Christ, the Heir, has done all things properly, all things rightly, and that Heir is Jesus Christ himself alone.
Israel is God’s inheritance. The nations are God’s inheritance, through Israel; through Christ, we are all joint-heirs together with Christ, but it’s all because of Christ. Christ and Christ alone is the Heir. As it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, “God spoke in many ways in different times through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son, by whom all things came to be, and has made him the Heir of all things.” And we have received that inheritance in and together with him: Christ the Heir and we the joint-heirs, together with Christ.