1 Peter 1:4
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you,
The reference to the inheritance is especially appropriate, as following the designation of Christians as "strangers of the dispersion," homeless wanderers in a foreign land. The prospect which made Abraham dwell in tabernacles, and which shone before Israel during the weary years in the desert, is held forth to them here. They have been "begotten... unto an inheritance." Regeneration points to and issues in the possession of it. If children, they are heirs. The new life from Christ makes them "strangers," throwing them out of harmony with the existing order, and it makes them "heirs," giving them a present possession and future heritage in the unseen.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE INHERITANCE. There is, no doubt, a reference to Canaan as the promised possession of the wandering Israelites. The true meaning of the word is that of a portion obtained by lot. There is no reference to bequest or succession. No doubt the inheritance is here represented as future, but not exclusively so. The next verse obviously takes "salvation" as equivalent to the "inheritance "of this verse. The two words represent the same reality in two different aspects - the one mainly under the negative idea of deliverance from evil, healing from sickness, safety from peril, though it does not altogether exclude the positive element; the other, under the positive idea of a possession which enriches spirit, heart, mind, and all tastes and faculties of a perfected humanity. The underlying reality which brings about both is God. He himself is become our Salvation. He is our Portion, the only Heritage which enriches the soul. We are "heirs of God." Possibly that deepest thought is not to be pressed here, but certainly it is not to be omitted. To keep it ever clearly before us saves us from murmuring at the darkness in which the glories of heaven are wrapped, and from degrading them by taking the emblems - such as pearly gates and golden streets, harps, and crowns - as more than symbols. Both the inheritance and the salvation belong alike to the present and the future. The one is represented here and now by an earnest; the other is begun to-day, though perfected in heaven. The earnest is of' the same nature as the inheritance. The partial salvation of to-day is essentially the same as the complete salvation of eternity. The faintest streak of morning twilight is the same light from the same sun which at noon floods the sky.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INHERITANCE. Our means of forming conceptions of what it is are analogy and contrast with the things of earthly experience. If a chrysalis could think of its butterfly state, it could only picture it as like or unlike its present. So we can only paint the future with colors supplied by the present. And to paint it as the negation of all imperfection, transiency, and limitation, makes it brightest to eyes which smart with weeping, and ache with looking for a good which comes not, or after a vanished joy. It is" incorruptible." All outward possessions have the seeds of dissolution and decay in themselves, or can be decomposed and destroyed by external forces. Perhaps Peter remembered "where moth and rust do not corrupt." Our true treasure, which is truth, righteousness, a full influx of God himself into our hearts, cannot decay. It is" undefiled." Some spot of evil is on all beauty, some flaw in every precious thing, some taint of imperfection or at best some limitation which is a blemish on all that we have or love here. But this is whiter than the driven snow, and purer than the sunlight which flashes on it. It "fadeth not away." The sad stern law that it must droop and shed the glory of its petals rules each fair flower which we gather, and some of them fade all the faster because of the grasp of our hot hands. "But this is a flower which cannot wither." What of God we possess is not parted from its source, but lives his life still, though it dwells in us. Therefore it is woven into an amaranthine garland (Ver. 4), which makes the brow on which it is twined immortal as itself.
III. THE RESERVATION OF THE INHERITANCE. It is - or rather it has been from of old - laid up in the heavens. A remarkable expression, evidently implying that future blessedness is more than "a state," and that it has objective elements which are already in existence in the heavens, even while we who are one day to possess them are toiling and moiling here. We cannot think without incongruity of our "salvation" as being thus stored with God, but we can naturally regard the objective constituents of our future blessedness as being so. The metaphor would be too violent unless the inheritance is a real something which is now in existence, and which is in so far separate from ourselves that we shall one day have it as well as be it. The main idea is that of the security of the inheritance. The Divine hand is working on that side of the veil to keep the inheritance for the heirs, and on this, as the next verse tells us, to keep the heirs for the inheritance. Guarded by his hand, it is safe. "Being in heaven, that calm abode of peace, where changes never come, nor foes climb, nor thieves break through and steal," it is safe. The heirs of earthly inheritances have not seldom found their patrimony wasted when they came to claim it, and their treasure-chests empty when opened. But kept by God, and lodged in heaven, our riches cannot perish. He himself is our Portion. So if we have him for our Treasure, and count his knowledge, his love, his likeness, our heaven on earth and our heaven in heaven, we shall not be without a sufficient allowance to live on as the earnest, nor fail to be "satisfied," when we pass into the higher life, with the wealth which will pour into our souls in the full possession of God. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,