“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
In verses 1-12 Paul is talking about “us”, which seems to be the Jews, as God’s chosen people, chosen before the foundation of the world to be a holy people set apart for Him as a witness and testimony to the nations. The Divine plan was that they would become sons (Israel is my first born son – Exodus 4:22). This was not achieved under the old covenant and it wasn’t until the Christ, full of grace, came and died that, a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, those having been called might receive (take hold of) the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). So now Paul’s generation of Jewish believers have the redemption through His Blood. This evidently, was always the plan of the Father.
Christ’s coming also is to attend to the fulfilling or completion of the seasons, bringing together all things, both in heaven and on earth, in Himself, in Whom, Paul says, the Jews, being the first to hope in the Messiah, were chosen and set apart, as God’s chosen people, from the beginning.
Verses 13-14 seem to now be referring to the gentiles in Ephesus. These people heard and received the truth and, as a result were sealed by the Holy Spirit as a sign that the price for their redemption has been paid and that they have an entitlement to claim their eternal inheritance when the time comes to redeem them.
Redemption and Inheritance are two different things; redemption is a claim made by a third party to a possession that has been pledged to another; in the case of man, he is the property that has been pledged, Satan is the one to whom that pledge has been given and who thus, has a perfect right to keep man in bondage to sin and darkness, and Christ is the One redeeming the pledge by paying the price of redemption; in this case, His Blood. Redemption therefore means that Satan no longer has any authority to keep us in hock to him. It doesn’t mean that we can now claim our inheritance.
Inheritance, on the other hand, is a prospective possession, and can only be claimed when certain conditions are fulfilled. One condition, of course, is the death of the testator and that took place at the Cross. Another condition is legal capacity, that is, only mature sons may make a claim for their inheritance, but if the heir remains a child, they are not legally competent. As Paul wrote;
“Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father” (Galatians 4:1).
So one of the conditions precedent to a claim for inheritance is proving maturity.
Another condition is proving sonship;
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:6-8).
Illegitimate children, that is, those who reject the discipline of the Lord, have no claim; only those who can prove that they are sons are able to gain the inheritance.
In the light of all this, let’s look at what happened to the Church at Ephesus.
In Paul’s farewell to the elders at Ephesus, he said;
“Be watchful to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you guardians to shepherd the gathering of God whom He purchased with His own blood; for I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in amongst you, not sparing the flock, and out of yourselves men will rise up speaking things being distorted to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years night and day I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I entrust you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to strengthen and to give the inheritance to all those having been sanctified” (Acts 20: 28-32).
This is a prophetic warning to the elders at Ephesus and Paul’s concerns were subsequently borne out as we see from the message to the angel of the Church at Ephesus, where John tells them that they have lost their first love and have fallen from the place where they were pleasing to God (Revelation 2:4-5).
It is also a prophetic warning to the people of God in every generation; the Father “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12); this imperishable undefiled and unfading inheritance has been reserved in heaven for those who are able to fulfill the testator’s requirements (1 Peter 1:4). Not only is our inheritance in Christ, we are His inheritance, too. Paul’s prayer is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago; he prayed;
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your hearts having been enlightened in order for you to know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
Faithful saints are Christ’s inheritance.