By H. Forbes Witherby.
The Lord's hand fashioning his own for the inheritance before the glory is entered — God has made his children heirs — God will inherit all things in his children — the character of the kingdom — the hope of eternal life — God and the word of his grace.
The child of God is an heir of God. The glories of the kingdom await him; weak and suffering on earth though he be, no lower destiny is his, than being glorified by God, together with His Son. Because we are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son in our hearts; hence we now approach God as the Father in the spirit of adoption, and because sons we are also heirs of God, and hence shall possess glory. An heir to a great estate, an heir to a throne and mighty kingdom, would be stirred, when anticipating his entry upon his possession; that exceeding weight of glory which awaits the sons of God is commensurate with His character and kingdom whose heirs they are; the honors of their anticipation are worthy of their God.
What eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor heart of man at any time conceived of the things God has prepared for them who love Him, He has revealed to us by His Spirit. The heart takes in and tastes that which the senses cannot apprehend, the spiritual affections of the child of God already feed upon things which are inexpressible. The apostle could not utter the things of the third heavens, which, when caught up there he heard, but the eye shall see, the ear shall hear, and the sons of God rejoice in, what God has prepared for them. Previous to this fulness of blessing, the bodies of the children of God will be made glorious like to Christ's present glorified body. To enter that kingdom in these frames of weakness and of earthly mould would be impossible "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 15:50.) It will be in our resurrection glory that the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, will be entered upon.
The crowning act of the Saviour's grace will therefore take place before the heir of God comes into his inheritance. The Lord the Saviour will deliver His people from the coils of their mortal frame, He will Himself "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." (Phil. 3:20, 21.) Already, by His work of redemption, we are fit for the kingdom, we have been made meet by the Father to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. (Col. 1:12.) But as the Saviour, Jesus, has saved us from wrath, from judgment, from sin, so He will save us from weakness, suffering, death, and all the frailty of humanity, removing from each the image of the earthy. "We shall all be changed"; the circumstances of glory will be fitly entered; robes of glory will be worn; we ourselves shall be rendered, spirit, soul and body, fit for the eternal future. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:49.)
How the glory of that hour stirred the apostle's soul. To him it was not as if he had already obtained the prize; he was not already perfected, made like Christ in heavenly glory; but as Christ had laid hold of him for the glory of that day, he must needs lay hold of the glorified Christ. (Phil. 3.)
The joy of the love of God is our present portion, the hallowed relationship of children with the Father our daily pleasure, but the future beams before us, and with increasing brilliancy, as life shortens: "Beloved, now are we the children (lit.) of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2.) "Glorified together," "conformed to the image of His Son," "like Him"!
As our present portion, "We now that we are of God" . . . "We know that the Son of God is come" . . . "We know that; we have eternal life." (John 5:19, 20, 13.) As our certain future portion, "We know that we shall be like Him" — the Son of God in glory.
The most exquisite comfort lies in this prospect. We will not say simply for our own personal blessings, for the prospect is of such a kind that we cannot limit it to our mere individual selves. Heavenly joys and coming glory will be shared in common by all the family of God; "we," who are alive and remain to His coming; "we," who are absent from the body, present with the Lord, who have gone out of this poor world to the Father; "we," the whole family of God, shall be like the Son.
The chords of our hearts are moved as we utter such words, for the dearest ones greatly beloved, who have left us, are present to our thoughts. Their flesh failed, and their poor frail bodies yielded to the touch of death; it was our lot to see their outward man perish day by day, and their inward man renewed; we watched and wept till at length we listened to the last long sad sigh, and then, so far as this world goes, all was over. "But we know that when He shall appear" God will bring our loved ones with His Son from the heavens. They are now in paradise, their spirits are with the Lord, but He will remove their dust from this earth, He will give them their bodies of glory, their corruptible will put on incorruption," and they and "we shall be like Him."
The Lord's crowning act of grace to His own, their initiation, as it were, into the glory of God, is a theme for the affections, of the most endearing kind. Jesus Himself, the glorified Man in heaven, is the witness of what we shall be, and His glories as man, declare to us the character of the glories awaiting us when we shall be "glorified together."
God Himself has made His children heirs, we are "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17.) Christ being the Son of God has of right the inheritance (Heb. 1:4), and as risen Man in glory God has appointed Him heir of all things. (Heb. 1:2.) His own essential dignity, His eternal Sonship, and His effected work on the earth, require for His honor, the throne of the whole universe, and in infinite grace, yet for the pleasure and the joy of His beloved Son, God has made poor, weak, dying men co-heirs with His Christ. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" (Psalm 8:4.)
The kingdom of God will be full of happiness, glory and power; not a disappointment, nor regret, will he known there. In resurrection we shall receive the complete honors of sonship; this is the common glory awaiting all the children; the weakest and the youngest on earth will be like Christ, and all are heirs of God.
The fact of the believer being "a son, and if a son, then an heir of God" (Gal. 4:7), was used by the apostle to rouse those whom he addressed from the mean religiousness they had adopted. An heir of God, knowing that he is such ponder over the words, not an heir of earth's royal houses, but an heir of God — turning to "the weak and beggarly elements, whereby ye desire again to be in bondage" was such an unnatural sight, that said he, "I stand in doubt of you." (Gal. 4:20.) Let us in these days of like temptations consider our future, and by it regulate our present religion.
The exceeding meanness of that religiousness which permits to any man a hold over another's conscience, or dreams of angels and departed saints as intermediates between the soul and God, may well be shamed out of the heart by the light of the bright rays of the coming glory. The child of God, knowing the purpose of his God, could not turn to things or notions which dishonor the character of God. God is traduced by that system of so-called christianity, which is really a great plan for lowering His Christ in the eyes of christians, and of setting up men, and departed spirits or angels in His stead.
Since God's love is ours, the glory is secure; but let us remember it is God's love and God's glory of which we speak so confidently. The question is, Who and what God is; not what am I? We once heard a christian say, "Oh! if I could be sure of one of the back seats in heaven, behind the angels, I should be satisfied." But God would not be satisfied with having His child in such a place; our destiny is, by His grace, not a whit less than conformity to the image of His Son, that His Son might be the first-born among many brethren. (Rom. 8:29.)
Not even an angel's place is that of a son of God. The angels, mighty and excelling in strength, have their place as servants, the child of God is heir.
God will inherit all things in His children. In the fulness of times, when ages and dispensations shall have run their course, God will set His Son as head over all things in the heavens and on the earth; and the vast multitude of the sons of God will be associated with Him in His reign and glory. The apostle prayed that the people of God might know "what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, is; and deeply wonderful is the consideration of the truth, of God as having riches of glory in His people. Yet may we with reverence, form an illustration, from our earthly homes; what greater joy could a father have in his sons, than seeing them in positions of honor, carrying out all the purposes of his heart!
There is vastly more than the bare fact of getting to heaven before us in such prospects as these. God is God, and has wrought for His own glory and joy. Let not a jot of all the favor of God to us be surrendered by our souls. Lost or forfeited, naught can be, for we are heirs by the divine will; but the enemy would cheat us, if possible, from enjoying by faith what is ours.
The holy character of the kingdom is frequently enforced in the word. Evil works and fleshly activity will be barred out of it: "The unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9.) The kingdom will be after the character of the King, and the heirs of God should now walk worthy of the coming kingdom. That which may never enter the glory should be kept out of our lives on earth. The future should govern the present; the future is secure in God; the present is our responsibility. Prospects of glory have a reflective strength, and evidence their existence in the walk and ways of the child of God. We do not in this world expect a king's son to do mean things or to think low thoughts. His heirship and position govern his condition before men; how much more so should this be true of the children of the God of glory!
Any dishonest or mean behaviour, or any of the low practices of Satan's world, should be abhorred by the heir of God. Deception, falsehood, and the whole circle of unrighteousness, are obnoxious to the coming kingdom. Thoughts, words, and ways worthy of that glory should be found in or at least be sought after, by those who speak of such prospects as belong to the child of God.
The hope of eternal life is glory. "Being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:7.) As we read again: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27.)
Until the hope be realized, the child of God must, of the necessity of his new nature, long for its fulfilment; and we believe every possessor of eternal life has this hope. The intensity of the hope will vary, no doubt, according as the lamp is well or feebly supplied with oil. The more communion there is with God the Giver of life, the more pure will be the hope of the life in the child of God; and the more fully the life is practically lived out on earth, the more earnest will be the hope for glory in heaven. The apostle who said, "To me to live is Christ," said also, for Him I have "suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." (Phil. 1:21; Phil. 3:8.) Living Christ in his daily life made him long to win Christ in glory, and knowing Christ in glory was the spring and vital force in him of his living Christ on earth.
God and the word of His grace are our support on the way to the inheritance. Ten thousand adverse things still beset our path; it is not intended that the heir of glory should reach the inheritance without hardship and conflict.
The path of the Lord on earth is set out by Him as that of His people. The servant is not above his master. Suffering on earth and reigning in heaven are linked together: "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." (2 Tim. 2:12.) There is in the ways of God a necessity for His children to learn what trial and suffering are. The path of His Son on earth is the path to which they also are called.
Sin has brought death and misery into this world, therefore the path of men going to glory must of necessity be contrary to the world. Righteousness must occasion loss in a world of iniquity. The people of God belong to the kingdom of God now as much as ever they will, but its glories are to them yet future. Holy living and eternal glory are morally associated, even as evil living and eternal darkness are connected together.
The believer is, however, not only exhorted to abstain from evil because of the glory, but he is cheered by the prospect of overcoming: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son." (Rev. 21:7.)
In the sense of our responsibility it is joy to repose our feebleness on God: "I commend you to God," said the apostle, "and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32.)