Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Re: XLT’s comments and questions on previous post.

I have many theologian friends who claim there is a difference between “inheriting” the kingdom and “entering it.” In their view, “entering” the kingdom has to do with receiving eternal life. “Inheriting” the kingdom has to do with rewards. All who believe in Christ enter, but only a certain few inherit. I agree with you that this “sounds like hair-splitting without biblical support.”

The phrase “inherit the kingdom of God” is only found in Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:30. The phrase “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” is found in Matthew 25:34 and is equated with entering “eternal life” in verse 46.

The phrase “inherit eternal life” is found in 3 places; 2 of which are parallel passages: Mark 10:17 = Luke 18:18; and Luke 10:25.

Interestingly the passage in Mark 10 seems to equate a number of phrases: “inherit eternal life” (verse 10); “enter the kingdom of God” (verses 23-25); “be saved” (verse 26); “in the age to come, eternal life” (verse 28).

It seems to me that all of these speak of present salvation and the guarantee of citizenship in the kingdom of God which is yet future. This seems the simplest understanding (Occam’s Razor?).

I believe that 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:16-21 are similar passages, though they speak to different problems.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”

This passage seems to be the clearest. This passage speaks of 2 different groups of people. Paul refers to the first group as “the unrighteous” and describes them in verses 9 and 10. These people will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” In other words, they are lost people. They have not received the righteousness of God in Christ. It is not their behavior that bars them from the inheritance. It is their unrighteous state.

In verse 11, Paul describes his readers, the Corinthian believers. Though some of them could at some time in the past have been described thus, they are so no longer. They have been “washed,” “sanctified” and “justified,” all words describing what had happened to them at conversion. The implied command is “STOP IT” – stop living like this, because you are not such persons any longer.

When we compare the Galatians 5 passage, we find a similar exhortation.

Galatians 5:16-21: “But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: fornication, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealously, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Paul is here speaking of the struggle that goes on in the life of the believer. Though the believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, he still has “the flesh,” in the sense that his old nature still is alive and well and has desires contrary to those of the Spirit.

Again, as in the Corinthians passage, Paul is speaking of 2 different groups of people: one group is those “under the Law,” who are “in the flesh” (see Romans 8:8). These are lost people, those who are attempting to please God by the works of the Old Testament Law. But all they can produce are “the works of the flesh” (verses 19-21a). They belong to the same group mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10. They “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

But the Galatian believers are of a different group. Two truths are mentioned about them. First, they “are led by the Spirit” (verse 18). Paul is not exhorting them to BE led, he is assuming that they ARE led (first-class condition in Greek). Notice Romans 8:14: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the Sons of God.” These are positional truths. They are led by the Spirit and secondly, they are not “under the Law.” Therefore, as Paul tells the Romans, they are able to please God (Romans 8:9-11). They are able to produce the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23, if they “walk in (or by) the Spirit” (verses 16, 25).

Josh, I hope I have contributed to answering the question.

Bill Ball

1 comment:

XLT said...

Thanks Bill, for addressing this. It is very helpful, I appreciate your insight on this a lot. Gotta go... Sunday's Coming!

Grace and Peace,