The Inheritance and Worship
If a loved one dies, then at some date after the funeral the last will or testament of the one who has departed is read. This is an important and solemn occasion, an occasion no one of the family wants to miss out on. The inheritance is being divided.
Proclamation and Inheritance
In a real way, our worship services on the Lord's Day are like that. After all, does the proclamation of the Word not tell us the riches that are ours because of Christ's death? He has died and therefore his will or testament can now be read and the inheritance he left be distributed! That is one of the reasons that makes our public worship an event we would not want to miss. The riches of the New Testament or covenant, which has superseded and displaced the old covenant, are here proclaimed. And we may rejoice in these riches!
Christ Jesus has died and that is, in the context of the inheritance, good news. For as Scripture points out, before a will can take effect, the one who made the will has to die. Well, Christ has died and as a result we have a great inheritance coming our way (Heb 9:15-17). He laid down his life, for he had to die – not only according to the normal rule governing wills or testaments, but also especially according to the rules governing the testament and will God made with man. According to the old covenant (the Old Testament), blood had to be shed for the atonement of sin (Ex 24:8); and according to the new covenant, it is the same. The blood of the covenant had to be poured out and it was poured out in Jesus Christ (Matt 26:28; Heb 9-10).
This is why Christ's death is so carefully documented in Scripture; without that death, the will could not go into effect. Yes, without that death the covenant cannot be executed. One senses that there is a very close relationship between "will," "testament," and "covenant." Indeed, they are all the same word in the Greek original of Hebrews 9:15-18, which deals with our topic, but this word is translated into different English terms according to the context.
Christ's death means that the riches of the new covenant are ours. The new covenant - for it is no longer the death and blood of animals that put the covenant into effect. Now the fulfillment of all these Old Testament shadows has come! The Son came to fulfill the role of testator, maker of the will. He "was made a little lower than the angels … so that he might taste death for everyone" (Heb 2:9). With his death he put the new testament or covenant into effect!
Celebrating the Death
Christ's death forms the heart of the gospel and it is therefore a central focus of the preaching of the good news of Christ. It makes the Lord's Day a time of joy and celebration. Besides the proclamation of the Word, Christ also commanded that we remember and celebrate his death in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. It may seem paradoxical to celebrate a death. To be sure, the Lord's Supper is a sober remembering of solemn facts: the horror of Christ's agony and suffering and death – a death is remembered. But, yet, it is also a joyous remembering! For the blood of the covenant has been poured out for forgiveness! Yes, but there is more. It is celebration and not a subdued gathering as when an estate is being split up. He through whose death the inheritance became our lives! The testator who died lives! "It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24).
After all, he died in order to put into effect the provisions of his testament regarding our redemption. Therefore he laid down his life and therefore he took it up again (John 10:17-18). That is why remembering his death can be a celebration! He lives! He is himself the guarantee that those riches of the inheritance are ours. No one can prevent the benefits of the new covenant to come our way, for he who made the will and desires us to be rich through and in him, he lives! He lives to distribute his gifts of love! And no devil or demon can stop that distribution of his grace! Therefore we can be of good courage.
A Rich Inheritance
The riches flowing from Christ's death are many. There is first of all, as mentioned, the forgiveness of all our sins (Heb 9-10). This enormous and priceless treasure makes us right with holy God and qualifies us for sharing in the inheritance laid up for us as children of God (Col 1:11-14). As we read in the letter to the Romans: "If we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). It staggers the imagination to comprehend what that means - co-heirs with Christ. Let me just mention the following.
Christ is the heir of all things (Heb 1:2). With Christ we will therefore inherit the kingdom (Matt 25:34).
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?James 2:5
The kingdom that is coming in all perfection will encompass this world because the children of God, the meek, will inherit the earth on which we now live (Matt 5:5). It is this world, now in darkness that will one day be renewed (cf. Rom 8:19-23). Then we will rule with Christ (2 Tim 2:12).
But our inheritance is even greater than an earthly kingdom. When we are co-heirs with Christ then not only do we receive the kingdom, but God himself is our portion, our inheritance. This was the inheritance that the Old Testament believers could already look forward to. As articulated in Psalm 73: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (vv. 25-26). And as the one struggling with the ruin of Jerusalem could confess: "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him" (Lam 3:24). The most beautiful part of the inheritance is to be with God for ever in glory to enjoy communion with him in perfect peace and bliss. All this boggles the mind. We will not only inherit the kingdom but we shall even be in perfect communion with God himself and see him (Ps 17:15; Rev 22:4). This is possible by being co-heirs with Christ who reveals the glory of the Father (John 1:18; 17:24; cf. Rom 8:17).
A Sure Inheritance
The wonder of worship on the Lord's Day is that this glorious gospel of the inheritance is proclaimed. Through the regular preaching of the Word, God the Holy Spirit confirms this message so that we are strengthened in our faith and can daily benefit from the tremendous encouragement and comfort this gospel gives. In his grace, God also uses the sacraments for that confirmation, especially in this context, the Lord's Supper. The inheritance is sure. The testator has died and he lives to give his continued blessing (cf. Luke 24:50-51). For that is another wonder of going to church to worship on the Lord's Day. We receive the blessing, such as
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.2 Cor 13:14
Heirs of the kingdom who even have God as their inheritance do not want to miss worship services.
Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'Heb 12:28-29
And as we worship, God in his grace confirms the inheritance through proclamation, sacrament, and blessing! Would you want to miss any of that?