Looking Beyond this World’s Obsolescence
Alexander Nisbet (1623-69) was a Covenanting minister and Bible expositor in and around Irvine in Ayrshire. He was ordained in 1646 and was removed from his church in 1662 for refusing to comply with the re-establishment of Episcopacy.
10 Aug, 2018

Many products we buy have been designed with planned obsolescence. They have an artificially limited useful life so that when it becomes obsolete you have to buy a new one. Such are the empty and lying promises of consumerism. It’s not just man-made products, all material creation is wearing out and passing away: including us (1 Corinthians 7:31). The things on which we spend so much time literally perish with the using (Colossians 2:22). While we value what God has given us richly to enjoy, we recognise that this points us beyond. The more that we are conscious of the change and decay around us, the more we value the things that will never deteriorate or end.

In contrast to such decay Peter points us to “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled”. This cannot wear out or fade away. It is an inheritance “reserved in heaven” for those that are united to Christ by faith (1 Peter 1:4). As Alexander Nisbet observes, this is “a matchless inheritance to look for beyond time, which is both excellent in itself and made very sure for them”. There are three ways in which it excels any earthly inheritance by far.

  1. It has nothing in itself which makes it liable to any decay.
  2. It cannot be affected by any outside source that would stain its beauty and excellence.
  3. It keeps the same perfection throughout all eternity.

These excellences are sweetened further by the fact that it is safely kept for the regenerate in a place beyond all danger. Nisbet draws these thoughts out further in what follows.

1. Heaven is Difficult to Describe

That blessed state which the regenerate have good ground to hope for is so matchless and excellent that it cannot be described by anything in the here and now. The best inheritance here is liable to decay, it is still defiled and fading one way or other. But this “inheritance is incorruptible, and undefiled” and does not fade away”. Even if we many words we cannot commend it sufficiently. A number of words are used here and they are all metaphorical and negative. This tells us that we may more easily conceive and express what it is not and what it is like, than what it is.

2. Heaven is Useful Here and Now

Thoughts of heaven are necessary if the Lord’s people want to keep their hearts in a spirit of praise. If they want to be constant and cheerful in holding fast to the truth of Christ, despite sufferings they need this. They must have their hearts greatly taken up with considering the excellence of the inheritance which is made sure for them beyond time. This will enable them to undervalue afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17,18) and even rejoice in going through them (Romans 5:2,3). This will help them despise the pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25). It will help make their painstaking efforts in the requirements of holiness sweeter (2 Corinthians 5:8,9). The apostle Peter seeks to put those who read into this frame of spirit. He commends the excellence of their inheritance, that it is “incorruptible, and undefiled” it does not fade away.

3. Heaven is Enjoying Christ

The regenerate are born again to receive this inheritance and they have good reasons to hope for it. The inheritance is nothing else except the Lord Himself who is blessed forever. They enjoy Him as their inheritance for all eternity. The qualities of this inheritance as described here are elsewhere in Scripture attributed to Him. He is the inheritance of His people (Psalm 16:5,6), incorruptible (Romans 1:23), undefiled (Hebrews 7:26), and He does not fade away (Psalm 102:27).

4. Heaven is Freely Given

This heavenly inheritance of the saints does not come to them by their own purchase. It is by virtue of their sonship (Romans 8:17). They have this inheritance immediately on receiving and believing on Christ (John 1:12). It is something purchased for them by their father (Ephesians 1:14), who has left it to them as a legacy (John 17:24). He lives forever as the executor of His own will and testament (Hebrews 7:25). Rather that being merited by any of them, it falls to them by lot, as with Israel’s inheritance in Canaan. The apostle alludes to that in using the word inheritance. He speaks of everlasting blessedness by this word inheritance, which means something received by heirs, left in legacy or by lot.

5. Heaven is Guaranteed for Believers

This blessed state is made very sure for the regenerate. It has been decreed from eternity to be theirs (Matthew 25:34). It has been secured to them in time by the promise of the faithful God (John 6:40). It is now possessed by their Surety and Head in their name (Hebrews 6:19,20). Thus, the apostle says, it is reserved in heaven for them.

Find out more about Alexander Nisbet and read other articles featuring his work.

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