"Discipling the Nations Series: Man's Inheritance
of the Earth"
by Dr. Patti Amsden
As Both story arcs in scripture – the Genesis 1-11:9 arc of garden to fallen city following the lineage of Adam and the Genesis 11:10 to Revelation 22 arc of promised land to glorious city following the lineage of Abram (Abraham) – are presented in the context of a family line and earthly dominion. These two through lines in each story arc should serve to set the biblical reader into a mental framework or grid from which to view God’s purposes. The earth is the inheritance; the seed line is identified as the heirs. The earth is the prize; the seed line is revealed to be the winners.
Many believers have another view of the inheritance or the prize. When questioned about the goal to be attained, Christians often reveal that they have their eyes set upon heaven. The earthly realm is viewed as a temporary home and as a place of preparation for the day when death opens the doorway into eternal bliss. That view of the endgame is both accurate and inaccurate. It is accurate because the bible communicates that every person has a limited time upon the earth and that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (I Cor. 5:8) is a promise for those who are in right standing with the Lord. So, taken at face value, heaven is a glorious inheritance and prize. Yet, no passage stands apart for the rest of the body of scripture. Each truth must be “rightfully divided” (II Tim. 2:15) or examined in context of or compared to other verses. Therefore, the idea of the prize being heaven as opposed to the prize being the earth needs some consideration.
Reflecting back to the garden and the biblical introduction to mankind, the reader discovers that God fashioned a section in Eden to be the dwelling place of Adam and Eve. Earth was their home. They were perfectly fashioned to draw life and substance from the earth and it was perfectly fashioned to provide all that mankind and all living things would need. That symbiotic condition between the creation and the creatures did not seem to have an expiration date. Man was created with the potential to live forever and the earth was created to sustain man’s ‘forever’ nature. If that were not so, God’s warning to Adam about death ensuing should he eat of the forbidden fruit would have been an empty threat. It is not hard to draw the conclusion that had Adam not eaten, death would not have resulted.
In the scenario just postulated, earth was the prize. Without the presence of death, man would not have departed the earth to go to heaven. In fact, heaven and earth were closely intertwined in the beginning and interdimensional connectivity was the norm. A cursory glance at the end of the Bible causes the reader to see that the New Jerusalem comes down upon the earth. One could say that heaven and earth become united. Or, perhaps it could best be said that heaven and earth are re-united. The breach or break in heaven on earth that was caused by sin is completely restored at the end of redemption’s story.
But – Adam did sin and death was introduced. Man’s body would return to the dirt from which is was fashioned (Gen.3:19) while his soul would go to another home. A man of faith in right standing with God was and is ushered into a paradisiacal afterlife. A man in rebellion to or denial of the ever-existing Creator God was and is ushered into an afterlife of judgment and punishment. Because physical death is unavoidable, believers have the hope of a good finale, unending peace, eternal joy, and all other metaphors associated with heaven. Certainly, belief that heaven is a reward or an inheritance is correct.
Yet, considering heaven to be the totality of blessing misses a greater point. Adam would not have inherited heaven because he had heaven on the earth. The scriptures end with heaven returning to earth. Therefore, the thought that heaven is a keeping or waiting station – glorious as it may be – is more in line with the overall narrative of the Bible. Scripture states the following:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess 4:13-18 – ESV).
In the above I Thessalonians passage, the company of believers who have died, whose earthly bodies have returned to dirt, and who entered into the heavenly afterlife in a spiritual body are returning to the earth along with the Lord Jesus. “God will bring with him (Jesus) those who have fallen asleep.” It could be stated that heaven’s holding compartment is seen as releasing the dead-in-Christ to return to earth with the Lord. Why would this occur? “And the dead in Christ will rise first.” That great company of the faithful is returning to earth and ready to receive their resurrected body. The earthy body, which remained in the earthly realm at the time of death, is ready to be resurrected, transformed into the likeness of Christ’s resurrected body (Phil.3:21; I Jn. 3:2; I Cor. 15:20-23), and then will serve as the believer’s eternal house or garment (I Cor. 5:1-4). A new or renewed body suited to dwell in re-united heaven on earth is awaiting each believer in the grand event called the general resurrection. (Jn.11:23-26)
The passage continues to state that believers who are yet living on the earth at the time of this resurrection will also receive new bodies. They will be caught up – Greek word harpazo, meaning to seize – which describes that they will be instantaneously resurrected out of their earth body and into their eternal body. Both dead and living receive this renewed earth suit in which they meet the Lord in the clouds – a biblical metaphor for His glory.
Why is this all occurring? The Lord, His presence, and His saints are returning to the glorified earth. What is the prize? The earth! To be sure – the earth realm is transformed to be heaven on the earth, but the prize is the earth! Scripture forms the mental framework or grid from which to view God’s purposes. The earth is the inheritance. The earth is the prize.