God's Promise of an Inheritance
At Matthew 5:5 we read that Jesus said:, 'The meek are blest, for they will inherit the lands.' What does this mean?
First, let's take a look at the meaning of the Greek word that Jesus used here, when he said inherit (kleronomesousin); for it means, to receive by lottery. The term reminds us of the way things were handled after the IsraElites entered the Promised Land. Some sort of 'lots' were cast to determine which family would receive each portion of land as their inheritance (see Joshua 21 as an example). We don't know how this was done, but it was obviously a form of chance that allowed for Divine intervention.
Also, that we have quoted Jesus as saying 'the meek will inherit the lands,' at Matthew 5:5, rather than 'the earth.' 'Lands' is actually the correct translation here, because, although the Greek word gen (pronounced gain) can be thought of as describing the earth, the ancients had no concept of the earth as a globe in space (see the Note The Heavens or Sky, the Earth or the Land?).
Notice how this point is emphasized at Proverbs 2:20-22:
'But, smooth are the roads that the righteous have found;
For, the meek will inherit the lands,
And the honest will be those that remain.
Then, the upright will camp in the lands,
And those who'll be left are the holy.
Disrespectful ways will be gone from the lands,
And those who break laws will be banished.'
And again at Isaiah 57:13:
'But, those who choose to hold onto Me,
Are those who'll acquire [the] lands,
And they will inherit My Holy Mountain.'
And again at Isaiah 60:21:
'Then, all your people will be righteous,
And through the ages, inherit [the] lands.
They will keep all the things that they plant,
And the works of their hands will be their own glory.'
So, what Jesus was clearly saying at Matthew 5:5, is that the 'meek' (gr. praeis – gentle) would receive an inheritance of land here on the earth, which will be chosen for them in a lottery.
However, notice that at Matthew 5:3, Jesus had just said,
'Those who are spiritually starved are the blest,
For, the Kingdom of the heavens (gr. Ouranon or, skies) belongs to them.'
So, what is the 'inheritance' of righteous mankind? Is it to live here on the earth, or to live in heaven with God and Jesus? Also, was Jesus really speaking of two different destinies here (as some claim), or was he speaking of the common inheritances of all the righteous?
Although it would seem as though the hope of righteous mankind should be so obvious that it needs no discussion; in our translating, we have found that the more we learn, the less we know to be absolute facts. And although all religions seem to have reached their own conclusions about the destiny or destinies that God promised, too many scriptures contradict the common teachings. Understand that we are just showing what the scriptures actually say, and offering some suggestions for your consideration.
Almost all Bible commentaries agree that what Jesus said at Matthew 5:5 was a direct quotation of the words of David as found at Psalm 37:11
(for, much of what Jesus said was quoted from OT prophecies). But to provide you with some frame of reference to all that David was saying in Psalm 37,
let's also consider the surrounding verses (10, 11, 28, 29), which say:
Verses 10, 11:
'In just a short time, the sinners will be gone;
You'll look where he was, and not find him.
But, the meek will inherit the lands,
And find great delight in the abundance of peace.
Verses 28, 29:
'The righteous will always be guarded,
As those without law are driven away.
The seed of the Godless will perish,
But, the righteous will inherit [the] lands,
And camp upon it through ages of ages.'
In Greek, verse 29 reads: δικαιοι δε κληρονομησουσι γην και κατασκηνωσουσιν εις αιωνα αιωνος επ' αυτης, or, the/righteous but inherit the/lands and camp into ages of/ages upon it.
As the result, we would have to conclude that 'the meek' who 'inherit the lands' will live on their own piece of ground for a very long time.
Then, notice how this idea dovetails with Jesus' words at Matt 25:34-36 (where he was talking about 'the last days' and the separating of 'the sheep and the goats'); for, when he told of the reward for 'the sheep' (at Matthew 25:34-36), Jesus said: 'Then the king will say to those on his right: Come, you who've been praised by my Father; inherit the Kingdom that's been prepared for you since the founding of the arrangement (gr. Kosmos or, world, system, or arrangement). '
Notice that the promise to 'the sheep' was that they would 'inherit the Kingdom,' because they had done good things for Jesus' brothers. Doesn't this mean that 'the sheep' will receive a heavenly inheritance? Not necessarily; for, if you look at the context, you'll see that they had just been separated from 'the goats,' whom we would logically assume to be here on the earth (not in heaven). And thereafter, there is no mention of the sheep being taken to heaven. So, it appears as though 'the sheep' are the same as 'the righteous,' and that 'inheriting the Kingdom' amounts to the same thing as 'inheriting the lands.'
However, there does seem to be a Biblical contradiction to the thought that the 'sheep' who 'inherit the Kingdom' will inherit lands here on the earth. For, notice the words of Paul that are found at 1 Corinthians 15:49-54: 'Therefore, as we've worn the shape of the one who was made from the dust of the ground, we'll also wear the image of the Heavenly One. I tell you this, brothers: Flesh and blood can't inherit God's Kingdom; nor can [something] that's corruptible inherit something that's incorruptible. Look… I'm explaining a mystery to you: Not all of us will be laid to rest, but we'll be changed in a moment – in the twinkling of an eye – during the last trumpet! For, the trumpet will blow and the deadwill be raised incorruptible… and we will be changed. Then, that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality. But when that which is dying puts on immortality, the words that were written are fulfilled: Death, which prevails, will be swallowed.'
Where is the contradiction? Well, these words of Paul – that Christians will 'wear the image of the holy one,' that they will be instantly 'changed,' and that they will 'put on immortality' (gr. athanasia, or, undying) – have always been thought of as proving that those whom Paul was addressing were being promised life in heaven. But if so, then the 'sheep' of Matthew 25:34-36 must also have a heavenly calling. For, as Paul said, 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit God's Kingdom.' So, the sheep cannot possibly inherit the Kingdom as flesh-and-blood, if Paul was talking about a heavenly calling at First Corinthians Chapter Fifteen.
But, could it be that Paul was writing about something other than being taken to heaven at 1 Corinthians 15:35-54?
While not being dogmatic, let's take another look at what Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:35-54, to see if those scriptures could have a meaning other than people being resurrected as spirits into heaven:
Notice Paul's words at 1 Corinthians 15:42-44: 'And that's how the resurrection of the dead is. It's planted in a decaying condition and it's raised clean. It's planted without honor, but it's raised in glory. It's planted as weak, but it's raised in power. It's planted as a human body, but it's raised as a spiritual body… so, if there's a human body, there's also a spiritual one. As it is written: The first man (Adam) became a living soul. However, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.'
Look at the words that we have translated as spiritual body in this scripture. In Greek, they are, soma pneumatikon, or, body spiritual, not spirit body.
So, what the words imply is that the thing which dies is the imperfect (fleshly) person, and it will be resurrected not as a spirit, but in the perfect body of a spiritual person. That this is the correct understanding, is verified by what Paul had just said (at 1 Corinthians 15:42), 'It is planted in a decaying condition and it is raised clean.' So, the faithful are resurrected clean and spiritual… not in a decaying or aging condition. They will no longer be living as fleshly people, but as spiritual people.
Also notice that the 'soulical' (natural) body and the spiritual body seem to exist together. For, Paul concluded verse 44 by saying, 'ei estin psychikon, estin kai pneumatikon, or, 'if there/is body soulical, there/is also spiritual.'
Then, notice how Paul's words, 'Death is swallowed in victory,' match with the promise of an earthly resurrection found at Revelation 20:13, 14, where we read, 'Death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire.'
Why, Paul wrote just a few verses earlier (in 1 Corinthians 15:35-38): 'Now, some [are sure to] ask, Just how will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they return in? You senseless person! Those who plant [seeds] know that the [seeds] can't live unless they die first. And what you are planting isn't the body that it's going to become – it is just a naked grain of wheat, or whatever. God will give it whatever body He wishes, the same as He gives each seed its body.'
So, Paul was saying that the types of bodies we will receive won't be known until the resurrection. And realize that his was not a discussion of the resurrection of just those whose hope was to be taken to heaven, but of the resurrection in general. For notice what he wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:42: 'And that's how the resurrection of the dead is. It's planted in a decaying condition and it's raised clean.'
In addition, notice that the Greek word used at 1 Corinthians 15:55, athanasia, does not really mean 'incapable of death,' as many have preached. The prefix 'a' in Greek means means, 'without.' And 'thanasia' means, 'death.' So, it appears as though Paul wasn't really talking about the hope of a special class that would be resurrected as 'incapable of death' in the heavens. Rather, notice what the outcome is: 'Death, which prevails, will be swallowed.' As you can see, the point is that death (due to Adam's sin) would be gone. So, those who are raised will no longer be dying.
Therefore, it appears as though Paul was not discussing a special heavenly hope; but rather, he was saying that all those who are resurrected will be raised in a non-aging and undying condition. And this doesn't mean that they can't be put to death if they later choose to be unrighteous. He was just saying the same thing that he wrote at Romans 6:7: 'Because, he who has died has been acquitted of his sins.'
But, how would it be possible for humans (as Paul said) to be 'wearing the image of the Celestial One?' Don't those words imply that faithful humans will be given bodies like God and live in the heavens?
No, for notice the words that were once used to describe Adam at Genesis 1:27: 'So, God created mankind. He created mankind in the image of God'
As you can see, Adam started out by wearing the image of the Celestial One (God) as a human here on the earth. And he lost this image for future generations by his sin in Eden. So, it appears as though 'wearing the image of the Celestial One' is a gift that men will regain here on the earth. For, notice that the word we have translated as 'Celestial' (epouranios) does not necessarily refer to a heavenly reward. However, Paul's words (that the faithful dead will be 'raised as a spiritual body') seem to imply that the faithful will be raised as something we have never known before… with a type of spirituality and life that is much greater than anything most of us have ever conceived.
Then the question arises: 'Isn't the reward for the sons of God, life in heaven?' Well, notice what Paul wrote about who the true sons of God are:
Galatians 3:26-29: 'The fact is; You're all sons of God because of your faith in the Anointed Jesus. All who were baptized into the Anointed One have put on the Anointed One. So, there aren't any Jews or Greeks, slaves or freemen, males or females; because, you're all in the Anointed Jesus. And if you're in the Anointed One, you're really the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise.'
Then John wrote a 1 John 5:1, 'Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Anointed One has been fathered by God.'
So, regardless of what some may teach;
Are there any who claim to be Christians that would deny faith in Jesus? We would hope not.
Understand that the Greek word which is commonly translated as resurrection, is anastasia… which simply means, to stand erect; thus, it implies that that people who are resurrected will stand erect as humans once again. So, the resurrection that Jesus (and the entire the Bible) speaks of does not imply being taken as a spirit into heaven. In fact, even Jesus was first resurrected on this earth (he stood erect) before being taken into heaven!
But, wasn't Jesus resurrected as a spirit? Yes, all the scriptures indicate that he was. However, he was resurrected on the earth and he could walk it as a man, before he was taken into the clouds, sky, or into the heavenly presence of God.
A Bible Chapter that is usually simply rejected and ignored by most (due to the fact that it is a favorite of a particular religious group) is Revelation Seven. However, to understand the meaning of the inheritance better, and to determine whether that promise refers to life in heaven and/or on the earth, we must consider this important Bible prophecy, because the answer appears to be found there.
Notice that Revelation 7:9, 10 reads: 'After all this, I saw a crowd so large that nobody could count them. They came from all countries, nationalities, ethnic groups, and languages; and they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were all wearing white robes, they carried palm branches in their hands, and they were shouting, We owe our salvation to our God who is sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb.'
Whom does this group represent, and what is their hope? We find the answer at Revelation 7:13-17, which says: 'Then one of the older men asked me, Just who are these that are dressed in the white robes, and where did they come from? And I replied, My lord, you're the one who knows. Then he told me, They are the ones who have come out of the great time of difficulty and who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they're before the throne of The God, serving Him day and night in His Most Holy Place. He who is sitting on the throne will spread His tent over them, and they won't be hungry or thirsty anymore, nor will the sun beat down on them with blistering heat; because, the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them. He will guide them to the springs of the waters of life, and God will wipe all the tears from their eyes..'
Now, notice some specific features of this prophesy that help us to understand who they are and what their hope is.
First: They 'come out of the time of great difficulty' (that Jesus spoke of at Matthew 24:21)
Second: They are seen standing in front of God's throne; they aren't seen sitting on thrones
Third: They aren't raised to life in heaven; rather, they are '[guided] to the springs of the waters of life.'
It's interesting that throughout the Bible book of Matthew, Jesus is quoted as saying that 'the Kingdom of Heaven' is the hope of righteous mankind. Therefore, (since most people quote Matthew) many have come to believe that the hope they should be reaching for is life in heaven. But notice that the words Kingdom of Heaven (although wildly popular) don't seem to be what Jesus actually said. Rather, they appear to be a corruption that entered the texts early in the Second Century when Matthew was translated from its original Aramaic into Greek. For, we find Mark and Luke quoting Jesus as calling it 'the Kingdom of God' throughout their Gospels. And although these word choices aren't that different; realize that reaching for the Kingdom of God doesn't necessarily mean that they will to go to heaven. Rather, it can mean that men were just trying to attain salvation via God's Kingdom.
Notice, for example, the question that Jesus' Apostles asked him shortly before his ascension to heaven, as found at Acts 1:6: 'Lord, are you going to return the Kingdom to IsraEl now?' As you can see, their understanding of the meaning of the Kingdom was not the hope of life in heaven, but the removal of Roman domination and the reestablishment of God's Kingdom of IsraEl on earth under the line of Davidic kings.
So, the many references to the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Heavens) and people reaching out for it, don't necessarily mean that Christians hoped for, or were promised to go to heaven after their deaths. Rather, they understood it to mean there would be an earthly Kingdom that was under the rule of the Heavens.
Yet, there does still seem to be a group of people who have a heavenly reward. Notice how Paul described a special destiny that he was striving to reach at Philippians 3:12-14: '[I’m not saying] that I’ve made it yet or that I’m already perfect, just that I’m chasing after it… I’m trying to grab hold of that for which the Anointed Jesus grabbed hold of me! Brothers, I don’t think of myself as having achieved it yet, but I am doing this one thing: [I’m] forgetting the things in the past and stretching out to reach for the things that are ahead… I’m running toward the goal, the prize of the higher calling from God, through the Anointed Jesus.'
So, can we assume from this that Paul was reaching out for a calling to heaven? Possibly.
And we find Paul speaking of a similar hope at 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2, where he wrote: 'We know that whenever our earthly house (this tent) is done away with, we have a building from God that lasts through the age… it's a house in the heavens that isn't made with hands. We groan over this, because we long to put on that house from heaven.'
However, it's the description of another group that is discussed in Revelation Chapter Seven, which appears to speak of people receiving the reward of life in heaven as kings and priests. However, it's a scripture that most people find hard to accept at face value.
This scripture is Revelation 7:1-3, where we read: 'After this, I saw four messengers who were standing at the four corners of the earth. They were hanging onto the four winds of the earth so the winds wouldn't blow on the earth, the sea, or the trees. Then I saw another messenger who was coming up from the sunrise. He had the seal of the living God and he shouted aloud to the four messengers who were allowed to harm the earth and sea, saying, Don't harm the earth, the sea, or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads. And I heard how many of them had been sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand from every tribe of the sons of IsraEl.'
Is this 144,000 a symbolic or a literal number, and is their hope life in heaven?
Well, a second scripture mentions this same number. It's found at Revelation 14:1-5, where we read: 'Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard noise coming from heaven that sounded like a lot of water and loud thunder. Well, the sound that I heard was that of people who were all playing harps and singing. They were singing a new song in front of the throne and in front of the four animals and the old men. And nobody could learn that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand who were purchased from the earth. These didn't dirty themselves with women. In fact, they are virgins who keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. They were bought from mankind [and offered] as the first fruitage to God and to the Lamb. No lies are found in their mouths and they don't have any defects.'
The keys to understanding what this group represents and what their hope is, are the words, '[they] were purchased from the earth,' 'they were bought from mankind,' and they are offered as 'the first fruitage to God and to the Lamb.' So, it appears as though:
1. They are taken to heaven
2. They are no longer 'mankind'
3. They are a small group, because they're just the 'first fruitage.'
This is interesting, because the Law that God gave to Moses demanded that all the first fruitage of the IsraElite's crops, animals, and children were to belong to God. So, perhaps we should look at portions of that ancient Law to see what parallels it can provide.
Parallels of Ancient IsraEl
Recently, as the result of translating the Bible books of Leviticus and Numbers, we noticed some interesting parallels among the people who were first promised an inheritance, the children of IsraEl. We know that many of the events and Laws having to do with the pure worship of God in ancient IsraEl picture what will happen in the future, which Paul pointed out throughout the Bible book of Hebrews.
The particular Laws that we noticed and focused on were those having to do with the establishment of the priesthood in IsraEl. Surely, these Laws must have significance when it comes to the inheritance, because the promise to the righteous in Revelation was that they would serve God as 'kings and priests.' – And it is in those first laws that we can see what position the ancient priests were to hold.
Modern Bible scholars have chosen to use the words 'type' when speaking of the first symbolic Law or event, and 'antitype' when speaking of a greater fulfillment of that Law or event, to make connections between the things described in the Ancient Scriptures of IsraEl and events in Jesus' day, as well as with events that could possibly happen in our day.
While it's true that all healthy male members the tribe of Levi were priests; those who were referred to as the Priests (note that we differentiate these special Priests with a capital P) came from just the lines of Aaron and Moses. In fact, as the father and firstborn of most of that line, Aaron was the 'type' that pictured Jesus, God's High Priest in heaven (the 'antitype'), because, Aaron was spoken of as 'the anointed' (or as that word means, 'the christ') and he was made 'perfect' (see Leviticus 4:5 as an example).
It's interesting that Moses, who descended from the same father as Aaron, was also a 'type' picturing Jesus in his role as the mediator of the New Sacred Agreement and the Leader of God's people. So, the two together (Moses and Aaron) pictured Jesus in each of his roles. In fact, their sister, the Prophetess Miriam, may have also pictured Jesus in his position of being a Prophet, since she was the descendant of the same father as Moses and Aaron (see Micah 6:4).
So, Moses' descendants (by his two sons Gersam and EliEzer) were also counted among the family line of Aaron as 'anointed' Priests (see 1 Chronicles 23:14). And the two lines represented a single group.
So, where does the promise of an 'inheritance' tie into this scenario? Well, apparently Moses and Aaron (and possibly Miriam) were the only ones to picture Jesus. But the position of Anointed Priest was passed on to Aaron's and Moses' sons and descendants. For, we read at Exodus 28:37: 'Then you must dress your brother Aaron and his sons, and anoint them [with oil]. Empower them and make them holy, so they can serve Me as Priests.'
What was so special about this Priestly position that they had to be 'anointed?' Well, once each year (just on the Day of Atonement), the High Priest had the privilege of entering the Most Holy place where the Chest of Proofs was kept, and into the presence of God Himself. However, the entire line of Aaron had the unique privilege of:
· Entering the outer 'Holy Place'
· Offering the sacrifices on the Altar
· Being allowed to dismantle and carry just the most holy of the Tent's parts and furnishings when they traveled in the desert.
But, the rest of the Levites (who were also priests) weren't allowed to do these things.
What did these special services at the Holy Place picture? In the case of Jesus (the antitypical Aaron), it meant that he went into the actual presence of God in heaven after his resurrection, carrying the blood of his own sacrifice. So, the Holy Place was the 'type,' and Jesus' presence before God in heaven was the 'antitype.'
However (as in the 'type,' the sons of Aaron), apparently there are and have been 'Anointed Priests' who will have the privilege of entering the Holy Place (the 'antitype,' or heaven) as did Jesus. Who are these? Jesus' faithful Apostles are surely numbered among this group, because they did offer up their lives in violent deaths (or die after great persecution and suffering, as in the case of John) for their faith.
Notice how Ezekiel (at Ezekiel 42:14) prophetically indicated that their position was to serve in the Holy Place (heaven), and that they would not be allowed to defile themselves by going into the outer courtyard (the earth).'
Then, what is the position of those represented by the rest of the tribe of Levi… those who were also priests (small 'p'), but who served outside of the 'Holy' compartment of God's presence (antitypically, the earth*), and who aren't 'the anointed?' Well, notice that those priests were given the special privilege of being judges and teachers in the land (see Deuteronomy 17:8-10). So, does the Bible ever speak of Christians who are offered such a privilege of service today?
Yes it does, but most people wrongly assume that these scriptures have to be talking about those with a heavenly destiny. They are the faithful individuals who have taken the lead in feeding the sheep of God and Jesus through the ages… the 'faithful and sensible slave,' the two (out of three) faithful slaves, and the five wise virgins of Matthew 24, 25. To see why we think this to be true, consider the linked document, 'The Faithful and Sensible Slave.'
Then, where does the rest of the nation of IsraEl (those of the non-priestly tribes) fit into this picture? Well, in the antitype, they appear to be those who are baptized, partake of the emblems of the New Sacred Agreement, and are judged as righteous by the Anointed Priests.
So, what is the hope of Antitypical IsraEl? Well, at Psalm 111:6 we read:
'His powerful deeds, He's announced to His people;
And they will inherit the nations.'
Remember that God's promise to IsraEl under His Sacred Agreement with them was that; if they remained faithful to Him, they would become a nation of kings and priests (see Exodus 19:5). Kings and priests over whom? The words above provide the answer. The inheritance to faithful IsraEl was that they would not only inherit the earth or land, but they were to become kings and priests over the nations (those who are not spiritual IsraEl).
However, IsraEl as a nation didn't remain true to their God; so, the opportunity was thereafter opened to all peoples to become a 'spiritual IsraEl.' And especially after the New Sacred Agreement was inaugurated by the death of Jesus, people were chosen from all the nations to be kings and priests because of their faith (see Romans 4:16-22). So, all those who prove faithful to the New Sacred Agreement are promised a kingship and priesthood.
So, the question logically arises: Then, who are the nations (or ethnics) over whom the Priests (both large P and small p) of God are to rule?' If you research the Greek word ethne, from which we translate the word nations or gentiles, you will see that it usually implies those who are not in a covenant relationship with God (for more information, see the linked document, 'Gog of Magog'). So, they appear to be the billions of 'unrighteous' people who will be raised in the resurrection, as well as any who aren't under the New Sacred Agreement and aren't destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon (see Zechariah 14:16-19).
So, in the 'type' there was:
1. The High Priest (Aaron)
2. Other 'Anointed and Holy' Priests (sons of the lines of Aaron and Moses)
3. The rest of the Levite priesthood who served outside the Holy Place and away from the Altar
4. The 'Children of IsraEl'
5. The nations.
And in the 'antitype,' they may picture:
1. Jesus (the firstborn)
2. The 'firstborn' or 'anointed' who are given life in heaven
3. The 'faithful slaves' who have been found worthy of life and are appointed as priests on the earth
4. Other righteous people, such as the large crowd of Revelation 7:9 who survive 'the time of great difficulty,' as well as all other faithful Christians and IsraElites, who will serve as kings on the earth
5. The 'unrighteous' dead who are resurrected and ruled by symbolic 'IsraEl.'
Are these suggested conclusions accurate? We will all know in time.
We realize that simple people prefer simple answers, such as: 'All the good go to heaven.' However, no simple answer makes any sense when you consider all the scriptures. And yes, our suggested conclusions could change even tomorrow, as we continue to do Bible research.
The term, 'inherit the land,' or 'inherit the earth' doesn't necessarily mean that people will live on planet earth forever; because, the Greek word ges (which is often translated as 'earth') doesn't really refer to the planet; it just refers to the land, or the ground… and this description could apply to any place in the universe where God chooses for men to live.
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