Our Precious Heritage—What Does It Mean to You?
“Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.”—MATTHEW 25:34.
1. What sort of things have people received as an inheritance?
ALL humans have things that they inherited. For some the heritage may include a materially comfortable way of life. For others it is a life of poverty. In some cases, former generations, because of what they had experienced or heard, passed on a legacy of intense hatred toward another ethnic group. All of us, however, have one thing in common. We have all received from the first man, Adam, an inheritance of sin. That inheritance eventually leads to death.—Ecclesiastes 9:2, 10; Romans 5:12.
2, 3. What heritage did Jehovah originally make possible for the offspring of Adam and Eve, and why did they not receive it?
2 Jehovah, as a loving heavenly Father, originally offered humankind a far different heritage—eternal life in perfection in Paradise. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given a perfect, sinless start. Jehovah God gave planet Earth to humankind as a gift. (Psalm 115:16) He provided the garden of Eden as a sample of what the entire globe could become and set before our first parents a wonderful, challenging assignment. They were to bring forth children, care for the earth and all its varied plant and animal life, and extend the borders of Paradise around the globe. (Genesis 1:28; 2:8, 9, 15) Their offspring would share in this. What a marvelous inheritance to be able to pass on to them!
3 If they were to enjoy all of this, however, Adam and Eve and their offspring would have to have a good relationship with God. They owed Jehovah love and obedience, but Adam and Eve failed to appreciate what God had given them and disobeyed his commandment. They lost their Paradise home and the glorious prospects that God had set before them. Therefore, they could not pass these on to their offspring.—Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:1-24.
4. How can we obtain the heritage that Adam forfeited?
4 Mercifully, Jehovah made provision so that the offspring of Adam and Eve could have the opportunity to receive the heritage that Adam forfeited. How? At God’s appointed time, his own Son, Jesus Christ, laid down his perfect human life in behalf of the offspring of Adam. By this means Christ purchased them all. However, the heritage does not automatically become theirs. They need an approved standing with God, which they can gain by exercising faith in the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice and by demonstrating that faith by obedience. (John 3:16, 36; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; Hebrews 2:9; 5:9) Does your course of life show appreciation for that provision?
An Inheritance Passed On Through Abraham
5. How did Abraham show appreciation for his relationship with Jehovah?
5 As he carried out his purpose for the earth, Jehovah dealt in a special way with Abraham. He directed that faithful man to leave his country and move to a land that God himself would show him. Abraham willingly obeyed. After Abraham arrived there, Jehovah said that Abraham’s offspring, not Abraham himself, would receive the land as an inheritance. (Genesis 12:1, 2, 7) How did Abraham react? He was willing to serve Jehovah wherever and however God directed so that his offspring could receive their inheritance. Abraham served Jehovah in a land not his for 100 years, until his death. (Genesis 12:4; 25:8-10) Would you have done that? Jehovah said that Abraham was his “friend.”—Isaiah 41:8.
6. (a) What did Abraham demonstrate by his willingness to sacrifice his son? (b) What precious inheritance could Abraham pass on to his offspring?
6 Abraham had waited many years for a son, Isaac, whom he dearly loved. When the boy had evidently grown to young manhood, Jehovah instructed Abraham to take the boy and offer him up as a sacrifice. Abraham did not know that he was about to demonstrate what God himself would do in giving his Son as a ransom; yet, he obeyed and was at the point of offering up Isaac as a sacrifice when Jehovah’s angel stopped him. (Genesis 22:9-14) Jehovah had already said that his promises to Abraham would be fulfilled through Isaac. Hence, Abraham clearly had faith that, if necessary, God could bring Isaac back from the dead, although such a thing had never been done before. (Genesis 17:15-18; Hebrews 11:17-19) Because Abraham did not withhold even his son, Jehovah declared: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:15-18) This indicated that the Seed mentioned at Genesis 3:15, the Messianic deliverer, would come through Abraham’s line. What a precious inheritance to pass on!
7. How did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob show appreciation for their inheritance?
7 Abraham did not know the significance of what Jehovah was then doing; neither did his son Isaac nor his grandson Jacob, who became “heirs with him of the very same promise.” But they all had confidence in Jehovah. They did not attach themselves to any of the city-kingdoms in the land because they were looking for something better—“the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16) Yet, not all of Abraham’s offspring appreciated the preciousness of the inheritance that was available through Abraham.
Some Who Despised the Inheritance
8. How did Esau show that he did not appreciate the preciousness of his inheritance?
8 Esau, the eldest son of Isaac, failed to prize his birthright as firstborn. He did not appreciate sacred things. So one day when Esau was hungry, he sold his right as firstborn to his brother, Jacob. For what? In exchange for one meal of bread and lentil stew! (Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:14-17) The nation through which God’s promises to Abraham would be fulfilled descended from Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel. What opportunities did that particular inheritance open to them?
9. Because of their spiritual inheritance, what deliverance did the offspring of Jacob, or Israel, experience?
9 During a period of famine, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. There they multiplied and became very numerous, but they also became slaves. However, Jehovah did not forget his covenant with Abraham. At God’s appointed time, he delivered the sons of Israel from bondage and notified them that he was going to bring them into “a land flowing with milk and honey,” the land that he had promised to Abraham.—Exodus 3:7, 8; Genesis 15:18-21.
10. At Mount Sinai, what further extraordinary developments took place in connection with the inheritance of the sons of Israel?
10 When the sons of Israel were en route to the Promised Land, Jehovah assembled them at Mount Sinai. There he said to them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) After the people voluntarily and unanimously agreed to this, Jehovah proceeded to give them his Law—something he had not done to any other people.—Psalm 147:19, 20.
11. What were some of the precious things included in the spiritual heritage of the sons of Israel?
11 What a spiritual heritage that new nation had! They worshiped the only true God. They had been delivered by him from Egypt and were eyewitnesses of awe-inspiring events when the Law was given at Mount Sinai. Their heritage was further enriched as they received through the prophets additional “sacred pronouncements of God.” (Romans 3:1, 2) They were designated by Jehovah to be his witnesses. (Isaiah 43:10-12) The Messianic Seed was to appear in their nation. The Law pointed forward to him, would identify him, and should help them to appreciate their need for him. (Galatians 3:19, 24) Moreover, they would be given the opportunity to serve in association with that Messianic Seed as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.—Romans 9:4, 5.
12. Though they entered the Promised Land, what did the Israelites fail to experience? Why?
12 True to his promise, Jehovah led the Israelites to the Promised Land. But as the apostle Paul later explained, because of their lack of faith, that land did not prove to be truly “a place of rest.” As a people, they did not enter into “God’s rest” because they failed to perceive and work in harmony with the purpose of God’s own day of rest, which began after the creation of Adam and Eve.—Hebrews 4:3-10.
13. For failure to appreciate their spiritual heritage, what did Israel as a nation forfeit?
13 Natural Israel could have supplied the full number of those who would share with the Messiah in his heavenly Kingdom as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But they did not appreciate their precious heritage. Only a remnant of natural Israelites accepted the Messiah when he came. As a result, only a small number were included in the foretold kingdom of priests. The Kingdom was taken away from natural Israel and “given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) What nation is that?
An Inheritance in the Heavens
14, 15. (a) Following Jesus’ death, how did the nations begin to bless themselves by means of the “seed” of Abraham? (b) What do members of “the Israel of God” receive as an inheritance?
14 The nation to which the Kingdom was given is “the Israel of God,” spiritual Israel, made up of 144,000 spirit-begotten followers of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:16; Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1-3) Some of those 144,000 were natural Jews, but most were from the Gentile nations. In that way Jehovah’s promise to Abraham, that through his “seed” all the nations would be blessed, began to be fulfilled. (Acts 3:25, 26; Galatians 3:8, 9) In that initial fulfillment, people of the nations were anointed with holy spirit and adopted by Jehovah God as spiritual sons, brothers of Jesus Christ. Thus, they too became a secondary part of that “seed.”—Galatians 3:28, 29.
15 Before his death, Jesus introduced to prospective Jewish members of that new nation the new covenant, which would be validated by his own blood. On the basis of their faith in that validating sacrifice, those taken into that covenant would be made “perfect perpetually.” (Hebrews 10:14-18) They could be “declared righteous” and their sins forgiven. (1 Corinthians 6:11) Thus, in that sense they are as Adam was before he sinned. However, these are not to live in an earthly paradise. Jesus said that he was going to prepare a place for them in heaven. (John 14:2, 3) They give up their earthly prospects in order to have an ‘inheritance reserved for them in the heavens.’ (1 Peter 1:4) What do they do there? Jesus explained: “I make a covenant with you . . . for a kingdom.”—Luke 22:29.
16. What wonderful assignment of service lies ahead for anointed Christians?
16 From the heavens, those who will rule with Christ will, among other things, help to remove from the earth all traces of rebellion against Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Revelation 2:26, 27) As a secondary part of the spiritual seed of Abraham, they will share in bringing the blessing of life in perfection to people of all nations. (Romans 8:17-21) What a precious inheritance they have!—Ephesians 1:16-18.
17. What aspects of their heritage do anointed Christians enjoy while still on earth?
17 But the heritage of Jesus’ anointed followers is not all future. In a manner that no one else could, Jesus helped them to know Jehovah, the only true God. (Matthew 11:27; John 17:3, 26) By word and example, he taught them what is meant by ‘trusting in Jehovah’ and what obedience to Jehovah involves. (Hebrews 2:13; 5:7-9) Jesus entrusted them with knowledge of the truth concerning God’s purpose and assured them that the holy spirit would lead them to a fuller understanding of it. (John 14:24-26) He impressed upon their minds and hearts the importance of the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:10, 33) Jesus also entrusted them with the assignment to witness and to make disciples of people in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the most distant parts of the earth.—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8.
A Precious Heritage for a Great Crowd
18. In what way is Jehovah’s promise that all nations will bless themselves through Abraham’s “seed” being fulfilled today?
18 Likely, the full number of spiritual Israel, that “little flock” of Kingdom heirs, has been selected. (Luke 12:32) For decades now, Jehovah has directed attention to the gathering of a great crowd of others out of all nations. Thus, Jehovah’s promise to Abraham that through his “seed” all the nations would bless themselves is being fulfilled in a large way. Joyfully, these blessed ones likewise render sacred service to Jehovah and recognize that their salvation is dependent on faith in the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. (Revelation 7:9, 10) Have you accepted Jehovah’s gracious invitation to be a part of that happy group?
19. To what heritage do those of the nations now being blessed look?
19 What precious heritage does Jehovah offer to those who are not of the little flock? No, it is not an inheritance in the heavens. It is the heritage that Adam could have passed on to his offspring—the prospect of eternal life in perfection in a paradise that will gradually encompass the globe. It will be a world in which “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:4) It is to you, then, that God’s inspired Word says: “Trust in Jehovah and do good; reside in the earth, and deal with faithfulness. Also take exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will give you the requests of your heart. And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:3, 4, 10, 11, 29.
20. How do the “other sheep” enjoy much of the spiritual heritage of anointed Christians?
20 Jesus’ “other sheep” have an inheritance in the earthly realm of the heavenly Kingdom. (John 10:16a) Although they will not be in the heavens, much of the spiritual heritage enjoyed by the anointed ones is passed on to them. It is through the collective body of anointed, “the faithful and discreet slave,” that the other sheep have had opened to them an understanding of the precious promises contained in God’s Word. (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:34) Together, anointed and other sheep know and worship the only true God, Jehovah. (John 17:20, 21) Together, they thank God for the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice. They serve together as one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ. (John 10:16b) They are all part of one loving, global brotherhood. They share together the privilege of being Witnesses of Jehovah and of his Kingdom. Yes, if you are a dedicated and baptized servant of Jehovah, all of this is included in your spiritual heritage.
21, 22. How can all of us show that we cherish our spiritual heritage?
21 How precious is this spiritual heritage to you? Do you prize it sufficiently to make the doing of God’s will the most important thing in your life? As evidence of that, are you heeding the counsel of his Word and his organization to be regular in attendance at all meetings of the Christian congregation? (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Is that heritage of such value to you that you continue to serve God in spite of hardship? Is your appreciation of it strong enough to fortify you to resist any temptation to pursue a course that might lead to forfeiting it?
22 May all of us cherish the spiritual heritage that God has given us. While we keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Paradise ahead, let us share fully in the spiritual privileges that Jehovah is granting us now. By truly building our lives around our relationship with Jehovah, we give convincing evidence of just how precious to us our God-given heritage really is. May we be among those who declare: “I will exalt you, O my God the King, and I will bless your name to time indefinite, even forever.”—Psalm 145:1.
How Would You Explain?
• If Adam had been loyal to God, what heritage would he have passed on to us?
• How did Abraham’s offspring treat the inheritance that was available to them?
• What is included in the heritage of Christ’s anointed followers?
• What is the heritage of the great crowd, and how can they show that they truly appreciate it?
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Abraham’s offspring received the promise of a precious inheritance
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Do you appreciate your spiritual heritage?