Are You Looking Intently Toward the Inheritance?
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.’”—Matt. 25:34.
1-3. (a) Why is the inheritance that we have opportunity to look forward to more important than money or property? (b) What inheritances does the Bible show are ahead for those serving God?
DO YOU know that you can have an inheritance to which to look forward? Not an inheritance of mere money, which can bring trouble with it. Not the kind of inheritance that often causes relatives to become enemies. No, rather, this inheritance is one that all the prospective heirs try to help one another to obtain fully.
2 The apostles of Jesus Christ often spoke of the inheritance ahead for the spiritual brothers of this Son of God—an inheritance in the heavens with Christ. These are to share in his kingdom reign. As such, their inheritance includes the gifts of incorruption and immortality.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; 15:50; Eph. 1:14; 1 Pet. 1:4.
3 Then there is an inheritance ahead for others. In one of his illustrations Jesus spoke of those who would show loving-kindness to his spiritual brothers, the heavenly heirs. He said to these kindhearted persons: “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” He stated that this would mean everlasting life for them. This inheritance would not be as that of heavenly heirs, but as that of those sharing in the earthly realm to be ruled over by Christ’s kingdom during his thousand-year reign.—Matt. 25:34, 46; Rev. 20:4, 6.
4, 5. What is the sense of the Greek word translated “inherit” in the Bible?
4 The Greek word the Bible uses for “inherit” is kle·ro·no·meʹo. In the above-mentioned usage it does not refer to something that one receives as a right merely because of relationship, as a son receiving an inheritance from his father. Rather, it means something that is given as a reward, a gift bestowed because of things done in faith toward Jehovah’s provision through Jesus Christ.
5 All those who have approached Jehovah God on the basis of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and who are living dedicated lives are in line for such an inheritance. What a fine prospect to which to look forward! It is an inheritance with which no earthly inheritance from parents can compare.
THOSE WHO LOOKED CENTURIES AHEAD
6-8. (a) Describe how faithful men of old viewed the inheritance. (b) Where and when did these men expect to receive the inheritance?
6 What would you undergo to receive the inheritance, the reward of everlasting life? The apostle Paul describes the way faithful men of old, centuries away from the inheritance, viewed it. Of Abraham, he writes: “By faith Abraham . . . obeyed in going out into a place . . . although not knowing where he was going. . . . For he was awaiting the city [the Kingdom] having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” “By faith [he] . . . as good as offered up Isaac.”—Heb. 11:8-10, 17.
7 Of another man who prized the godly inheritance above all other things, Paul says: “By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, . . . for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.”—Heb. 11:23-26.
8 These men, and many others like them, were zealous, not for an earthly inheritance in this system of things, but for an inheritance in God’s new order. Paul says: “They did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them . . . Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city [the Kingdom] ready for them.”—Heb. 11:13-16.
9. Though Jehovah’s witnesses are nearer to the realization of the reward than were those ancient faithful men, are they more sure of receiving it?
9 All those who are Jehovah’s witnesses know that there is the wonderful inheritance, the reward, ahead, and all desire to enter into it. In fact, we do not have to look so far ahead—we are now on the threshold. But is there a danger that one might look down upon the inheritance, despise it and lose out? There is. It requires constant attention to keep the love of the inheritance in the proper place, because it must be not only in our minds but also in our hearts. That each of us may examine ourselves, it will be good to review a Bible account that emphasizes the importance of the inheritance. It is the record of the twin brothers Jacob and Esau.
10. What inheritance of great value was possessed by Isaac?
10 We break in on the account when the boys were growing up. Both were raised by their father Isaac and their mother Rebekah to know about the promised “seed” that would bless all families of the earth. (Gen. 3:15) Both knew that their grandfather Abraham had been told that the “seed” would come through his line of descent, through Isaac, and that the blessing of God had been on their father Isaac. (Gen. 21:12; 22:15-18; 25:11; 26:24) This was an inheritance of tremendous significance. Isaac was also a materially wealthy man. This wealth the boys would also inherit, the firstborn receiving a double portion. But which boy would qualify to receive the inheritance, particularly the promise of the “seed” through the family line? Esau, the firstborn, stood in the favored position from a human point of view.—Gen. 25:25, 26.
11, 12. Describe the attributes of the boys Jacob and Esau as they grew up.
11 The Bible record reads: “And the boys got bigger, and Esau became a man knowing how to hunt, a man of the field, but Jacob a blameless man, dwelling in tents.”—Gen. 25:27.
12 How do these words shed light on the attitude of the boys? They reveal what was in the heart of each. Esau was a man of hunting prowess. He spent his time out in the field learning the art of the hunter. Jacob, on the other hand, was concerned with the family household. The Hebrew word here rendered “blameless” means “sound,” “innocent,” “complete.” Jacob, though not making a show of his strength or ability as Esau likely did, was nonetheless no weakling, for Jehovah later spoke of him as having “dynamic energy.” (Hos. 12:3) The fact is that Jacob prized the covenant promise to Abraham above everything else and devoted all he had to learning about the promise from his father. He devoted himself to taking care of the interests of this family that God had designated as heirs. He wanted to stay close to those whom God was blessing, although he did look on Esau as the one ahead of him, since Esau was the firstborn.
13. How, later, did the boys give a very strong evidence of their attitudes toward the inheritance?
13 Later the two boys gave stronger evidence of their attitudes. We read:
“Once Jacob was boiling up some stew, when Esau came along from the field and he was tired. So Esau said to Jacob: ‘Quick, please, give me a swallow of the red—the red there, for I am tired!’ . . . To this Jacob said: ‘Sell me, first of all, your right as firstborn!’ And Esau continued: ‘Here I am simply going to die, and of what benefit to me is a birthright?’ And Jacob added: ‘Swear to me first of all!’ And he proceeded to swear to him and to sell his right as firstborn to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he went to eating and drinking. Then he got up and went his way.”—Gen. 25:29-34.
A QUESTION OF APPRECIATION
14, 15. Was Jacob taking selfish advantage of Esau in buying the birthright, and how was Jehovah’s judgment vindicated by the transaction?
14 Was Jacob selfish, taking wrongful advantage of Esau? It might appear so. But consider: Did Esau really appreciate the wonderful things for which his birthright stood? He was not actually near death, as he said. This is shown by his getting up after eating and going his way. The Bible says, “he was tired.” Why was Esau motivated to do what he did? The account tells us: “So Esau despised the birthright.” The apostle Paul corroborated this statement when he called Esau one “not appreciating sacred things, . . . who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn.”—Gen. 25:34; Heb. 12:16.
15 All this proved God’s judgment right when, foreseeing the characteristics of the boys, he had said to their mother Rebekah before they were born: “The older will serve the younger.”—Gen. 25:23; Rom. 9:12.
16. Why did Jacob have the right to receive the blessing of the firstborn from his father, but why, apparently, did he not take the initiative to ask for it?
16 Jacob possessed the right of firstborn now by two things: by the promise of God, and by right of purchase. But he did not yet have Isaac’s blessing upon the firstborn. Still Jacob evidently was acting unselfishly, not making any moves to get ahead of Esau in this. Undoubtedly he was waiting on Jehovah. Isaac was now blind, and not fully aware of the events occurring. No doubt moved by Jehovah to act, Rebekah, remembering God’s words to her before the boys’ birth, instructed Jacob so as to get the blessing for him.
17, 18. Show that Rebekah and Jacob were not dishonest, and that Jehovah’s hand was in the matter of Jacob’s getting the blessing.
17 In what followed, some Bible readers charge Rebekah and Jacob with trickery and dishonesty. But is it so? Who at this point really occupied the position of firstborn by every right? Who cared for the inheritance? Why did Esau withhold from Isaac knowledge of the fact that Jacob had bought the birthright, but instead tried to get the blessing for himself? Isaac, it is true, blessed Jacob, mistakenly thinking he was blessing Esau. But later he recognized that the action of Jacob and Rebekah was right. He saw the hand of Jehovah in the matter, again blessing Jacob, this time knowingly, with a prophecy concerning the “seed.” Then he gave Jacob instructions and sent him away for safety from his angry brother Esau. Additionally, God himself blessed Jacob with the promise that the “seed” would come through his line of descent.—Genesis chap. 27; 28:1-4.
18 Further proving that Jacob’s action was not for selfish gain is the fact that he left home, not taking charge of the household property. And there is no evidence that he ever claimed his double portion. What was of surpassing value to him was the inheritance to come. He wanted God’s covenant to stay with the family. His appreciation of Jehovah and His promise overshadowed every other consideration.
19. (a) How did Jacob feel when he was about to meet up again with Esau? (b) What very unusual circumstance occurred before Jacob met Esau?
19 In contrast with the lack of appreciation that Esau had shown, the great regard that Jacob had for the inheritance of God was again made evident by something that took place when Jacob returned home twenty years later to visit his father. Jacob had reason to believe that Esau might harm him, and for this reason was somewhat fearful and cautious. He sent a gift to Esau ahead of his migrating household. If Esau accepted it, this would mean that there was peace between them. But before the meeting took place, a very unusual circumstance occurred. The Bible reports:
“Later during that night [Jacob] rose and took his two wives and his two maidservants and his eleven young sons and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. So he took them and brought them over the torrent valley, and he brought over what he had. Finally Jacob was left by himself. Then a man began to grapple with him until the dawn ascended. When he got to see that he had not prevailed over him, then he touched the socket of his thigh joint; and the socket of Jacob’s thigh joint got out of place during his grappling with him. After that he said: ‘Let me go, for the dawn has ascended.’ To this he said: ‘I am not going to let you go until you first bless me.’ So he said to him: ‘What is your name?’ to which he said: ‘Jacob.’ Then he said: ‘Your name will no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for you have contended with God and with men so that you at last prevailed.’ In turn Jacob inquired and said: ‘Tell me, please, your name.’ However, he said: ‘Why is it that you inquire for my name?’ With that he blessed him there. Hence Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, because, to quote him, ‘I have seen God face to face and yet my soul was delivered.’ And the sun began to flash upon him as soon as he passed by Penuel, but he was limping upon his thigh.”—Gen. 32:22-31.
20. Why did Jacob grapple with the angel all night?
20 Here is revealed the great difference in the attitudes of Jacob and Esau as to the inheritance. Whereas Esau would not suffer even a little hunger for the birthright, Jacob wrestled all night with an angel of God who had materialized as a man. This Jacob did in order to get a word of blessing from Jehovah through the angel. Doubtless Jacob knew that the angel appeared for a purpose, and he was aware that in past appearances of angels they had brought a blessing or a command in confirmation of the Abrahamic covenant. (Gen. 28:10-15; 31:11-13) He therefore was so desirous of God’s continuing with him, just as God had been with his father and grandfather, that he exerted himself in vigorous, exhausting wrestling with the angel, holding onto him. Jacob thereby demonstrated his great heart desire for God’s favor.—Compare Genesis 28:20-22.
21. What was the angel’s reason for throwing Jacob’s thigh joint out of place?
21 Of course, Jacob did not actually overcome or overpower the angel of God. The incident served as a test of Jacob’s desire with all his heart to be found pleasing to God. Actually, with just one touch the angel, with superhuman power, caused Jacob’s thigh joint to be thrown out of place so that he limped thereafter. This served as a humbling factor, a protection to Jacob. It was a reminder to teach Jacob that it was through God’s undeserved kindness, and not through any strength or merit on Jacob’s part, that God had blessed and used him. Compare the apostle Paul’s experience, recorded at 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.
22. What blessings then came and will come to Jacob because of his great respect for the inheritance from God?
22 The outcome for Jacob and for Esau provides us with a very strong incentive to be faithful, to hold onto the hope of the reward. Jacob was blessed with being the progenitor of a great nation. But more importantly, it was the nation that Jehovah used in his working out of salvation for the human race. The “seed,” the Messiah, came through Jacob’s line of descent. Because of his strong faith Jacob ‘lives’ in God’s eyes, and his resurrection to the inheritance, a share in the earthly realm of God’s kingdom, is sure to him. He will doubtless be one of the “princes” that Jesus Christ will appoint as an overseer and shepherd of his people.—Luke 20:37, 38; Ps. 45:16.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE INHERITANCE?
23, 24. What questions can we ask ourselves, and can we make the inheritance sure to ourselves?
23 Viewing the lives of Jacob and Esau, each one of us can ask, ‘What am I doing with my life? How much do I appreciate the promised inheritance of life in God’s new order? Am I willing to put myself to inconvenience in behalf of the inheritance? Do I want to hold onto it with all my might?’
24 Just as Jacob did, we can make the inheritance sure. His mind and heart were on the promises from his youth. He evidently spent his time learning all he could about God’s dealings with his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham. He was a man who prayed to God. He worked hard and endured many trials but, throughout, maintained mildness of spirit and strong faith.
25. What questions can we ask to determine whether we appreciate our spiritual need?
25 Jehovah has been very kind in providing for our spiritual need. Are you like Jacob in appreciating it? Do you read the Bible itself regularly? Do you read The Watchtower, not merely the study articles but also the other articles therein? There is much fine information there that you would not otherwise get.
26, 27. How was Jacob an example of patience in waiting on Jehovah for the inheritance?
26 Are you patient and unselfish, as was Jacob? Are you willing to serve wholeheartedly, waiting on Jehovah to bless you? Jacob did not chafe because, at the age of seventy-seven years, he was counseled by his father to leave home, taking nothing of the inheritance with him. In attitude he was the direct opposite of the prodigal son of Jesus’ illustration, who wanted to leave home and also wanted his inheritance, to spend it on his own desires. Jacob was ninety-seven years old when he started back home, not because of desire to claim an earthly inheritance, but at God’s command.—Gen. 31:3.
27 Jesus Christ said: “No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” (Mark 10:29, 30) Jacob felt this way.
28, 29. How does Jacob’s example show the constancy with which we should look intently toward the inheritance?
28 So it is a matter, not of serving with a time limit in mind, or of looking for material comforts and conveniences for ourselves or merely enduring under a few tests. It is a lifetime matter, a keeping of the inheritance constantly before our eyes.
29 It is a question of holding onto the inheritance, vigorously and exhaustingly doing what our hands find to do, just as Jacob wrestled all night with the angel. (Eccl. 9:10) And everything Jacob did he did well, with all his might. Also, he put the other person’s interests ahead of his own. Look how hard Jacob worked in the interests of Laban his relative and employer. He said:
“These twenty years I have been with you. Your female sheep and your she-goats did not suffer abortions, and the rams of your flock I never ate. Any animal torn to pieces I did not bring to you. I myself would stand the loss of it. Whether one was stolen by day or was stolen by night, you would put in a claim for it from my hand. It has been my experience that by day the heat consumed me and the cold by night, and my sleep would flee from my eyes.”—Gen. 31:38-40.
30. Why did Jacob work so hard for Laban for twenty years?
30 Now Jacob was not doing secular work just to help Laban, nor to build up material wealth. Jacob was building up his flock with a view to going back home in time with a household of his own. Why? Because he knew that both Abraham and Isaac were strangers in the land and that God would eventually give it to Abraham’s posterity. Jacob believed in this promise. His whole soul was wrapped up in it. He wanted to have a free household, one that could serve God wholly. And God blessed him so that his family, his twelve sons, really became the foundation for the great nation of Israel.
31. What work do Christians have today that resembles Jacob’s?
31 Christians today have a work to do that needs wholehearted attention. That work consists in taking care of the Kingdom interests. The good news is to be declared. Faithfulness is required. Shepherding work is to be done with the same zeal and vigor that Jacob exerted with the flocks of himself and Laban. Just as with Jacob, the inheritance ahead is worth looking intently toward. The Greek word translated “looked intently,” at Hebrews 11:26, means to look away from all else and at one object.
32. What does it mean really to look intently toward the inheritance or reward?
32 With that intentness on the inheritance nothing will stumble us. Nothing will turn us aside. We will be assured of the grand inheritance, whether that be in the heavens, as in the case of the spirit-begotten brothers of Jesus Christ, or in the earthly realm of the Kingdom. This latter hope is entertained by the great majority of Jehovah’s witnesses on earth today. Both groups have the attitude of the apostle Paul, who had the hope of the “upward” (heavenly) call. He wrote: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” Let all God’s people maintain that intentness.—Phil. 3:13, 14.
[Picture on page 496]
Jacob prized the covenant promise to Abraham, but Esau sold his inheritance for one meal. Do you appreciate sacred things, as Jacob did? Do you look intently toward the inheritance of life in God’s new order and show it by what you do with your life?