The apostle Peter was not shy theologically. In 1 Peter 1:3-5, writing to intensely suffering Christians, he paints an enviable picture of the invincibility of our inheritance in Christ. He describes our inheritance in a multitude of ways in these three verses, but there is one particular string that stands out for its staccato structure of phrases describing the security of our inheritance. He says that the Father’s inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith.” In this string alone there are at least six ways that our inheritance is utterly safeguarded. There are dozens of implications that flow from the reality of this imperishable inheritance. One is that you can choose out of love to die freely and happily today precisely because you have an invincibly glorious future in the life to come.
1. Our inheritance is “reserved.” By definition a reservation (e.g., at a restaurant) is (1) promised and (2) protected. If your table is promised but unprotected, it will quickly be taken by anyone who is unaware (or unconcerned about) the promise. And if your table is protected but unpromised, it will quickly be taken by anyone who can persuade the protector. But our inheritance is both promised and protected. God promises that it will be ours in Christ and He guards it Himself.
2. Our inheritance is “reserved in heaven.” The security of something that has been reserved is dependent on the location at which it is reserved. It is meaningless to reserve something precious at an unprotected, unrestricted, unhidden location. But our inheritance is not reserved on the side of the road with a sign saying, “reserved — please do not take.” It is not reserved at an eschatological self-storage unit located somewhere in the lower forty-eight states in the hopes that no one finds it before we do. It is reserved in heaven where the unrighteous cannot go, where the righteous must go, and where nothing ever fades.
3. Our inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you.” A reservation — even a reservation promised by God and protected in heaven — is only guaranteed to you if it is reserved for you. Nameless reservations are worthless, except for the person who shows up first or works his way to the top or can manipulate his way around. But our Father does not distribute His inheritance on a first-come, first-served basis. We are not on a waiting list. We are not working to fulfill a list of conditions. And we are not even competing with each other for a portion of the inheritance, because our Father’s resources are not limited. The inheritance that we have in Christ is reserved in heaven specifically for the people of God, and if you belong to Christ, specifically for you.
4. Our inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you who are protected.” Although it is comforting to know that our inheritance is invincible, on our better days we are all well aware that we ourselves are the opposite. We are tiny specks of life putting around on a blue-green sphere hurtling through space attached to an invisible string keeping us in an orbit which physicists can barely explain much less see. We have rebelled against an infinitely good, perfectly just God who created us and gave us His world to inhabit and enjoy. And we have been given a rightful sentence of eternal death because of our treasonous, self-seeking, cosmic mutiny. We are not invincible. We are actually very vulnerable. We need protection. Pondering this backdrop of helpless vulnerability is one way to appreciate the glorious significance of the death and resurrection of Christ and our adoption as children of God. In the gospel we find protection. So not only is our inheritance utterly safeguarded, but we ourselves are utterly safeguarded.
5. Our inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God.” The quality of protection and one’s sense of security are directly proportional to the strength of the protector. We are protected by the power of God. Ultimate power guarantees ultimate protection. And ultimate protection is nothing less than invincibility.
6. Our inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith.” The quickest way to see and feel the power of this truth is to ask this question: What if Peter had said “through works”? What if we were protected for our inheritance through the leaky, clanky, rusty, halting mechanism of human effort? What if the inheritance promises of the New Testament said that we would receive the Father’s promised gift on the condition that we performed perfectly as His people, behaved flawlessly as His children, and persevered tirelessly as His followers? Certainly there is a sense in which we are called to perfection (Matthew 5:48), obedience (1 Peter 1:14-16), and perseverance (Hebrews 10:36). In a passage that should astonish Western Christendom (and a passage that has troubled me personally), we are even told that suffering is in some sense a condition of inheriting (Romans 8:16-17). But none of these pursuits happen apart from the one-time act of redemption at Calvary (Hebrews 10:10-14), the daily washing of sanctification (John 13:8-10), and moment-by-moment dependence on the living Christ (John 15:4-5). In other words, none of them happen apart from faith. Guarding ourselves for our inheritance by sheer teeth-gritting willpower is not a Christian option. Rather, we are protected for this future gift through the relentless, persevering, grace-fueled act of forward-looking faith. Peter goes on to expand on the dynamics of faith that he’s talking about: We are protected through faith as we allow our faith to be purified in the fiery trials heated by our divine refiner (1 Peter 1:6-7). We are protected through faith as we cultivate our unspeakable love and inexpressible joy toward the unseen Christ (1 Peter 1:8-9). And we are protected through faith as we tie down the distractions flowing around in our minds, discipline ourselves into spiritual sobriety, and “set our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). We are protected by the power of God through the divinely-enabled act of grace-anticipating, Christ-expecting, hope-filled faith.
Peter leaves no stone unturned in his search for ways to communicate that our inheritance is absolutely invincible. It is (1) reserved (2) in heaven (3) for you (4) who are protected (5) by the power of God (6) through faith. It is deadbolted, guarded, lashed down, hidden, stored away, infinitely protected, eternally secure. When all else is uncertain, this is certain. Though friends disappoint and circumstances waver, this is unchanging. And as your body and your belongings and your home and your investments and your family and your dreams and your plans and your ambitions and your earthly hopes falter and fade and ultimately fail, this stands firm. You have an inheritance awaiting you. God has promised.