The phrases “inherit the kingdom,” “inherit the earth,” and “inherit the land” occur several times in the New Testament (NT). Many readers assume that these phrases are referring to entrance into heaven. Theologian Joseph Dillow, in his book The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Destiny of Man
, argues that this is a mistake.
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Speaking of the phrase “inherit the kingdom,” Dillow writes:
We find the phrase in Mt. 25:34; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; and Eph. 5:5. In addition, the phrase “inherit the land” is found in Mt. 5:5. In each instance we find that, in order to inherit the kingdom, there must be some work done or certain character traits, such as immorality, must be absent from our lives.
The fact that such conditions are necessary suggests that the term is not to be equated with entering the kingdom which is available to all, freely, on the basis of faith alone but with something in addition to entering. Indeed, the very use of the word “inherit” instead of “enter” in these passages suggests that more than just entrance is meant.
Let’s take each of these passages and see what is being discussed in context with inheriting the kingdom.
Matthew 25:34-36 – The clear conditions for inheriting the kingdom are caring for others by feeding, clothing, and visiting them in prison.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – The clear conditions for not inheriting the kingdom of God is having the following character traits: immorality, idolatry, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, thievery, greed, drunkenness, or being a swindler.
1 Corinthians 15:50 – The kingdom is inherited by those with resurrection bodies.
Galatians 5:19-21 – The conditions for not inheriting the kingdom of God is engaging in the following acts: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
Ephesians 5:5 – The conditions for not inheriting the kingdom of God is being an “immoral, impure or greedy person.”
Matthew 5:5 – The meek will inherit the earth.
So, inheriting the kingdom and inheriting the land, at least in these verses, cannot refer to entrance into heaven. If that was the meaning, then we would have a massive conflict with the clear teaching that entrance into heaven is by faith alone. Dillow offers an alternative meaning which makes much better sense of all these verses we just examined.
In conclusion, “to inherit the kingdom” is a virtual synonym for rulership in the kingdom and not entrance into it. George N. H. Peters is correct when he says, “To inherit a Kingdom, if it has any propriety of meaning, undoubtedly denotes the reception of kingly authority or rulership in the Kingdom.” All saints will enter the kingdom through faith alone (Jn. 3:3), but only obedient saints who endure, who overcome, and who perform works of righteousness (e.g., ministering to Christ’s brethren) will inherit it, i.e., rule there.
“Inherit the kingdom” is referring to rewards in heaven, not entrance into heaven.
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