“But when the benevolence and philanthropy of God our Savior appeared, not because of works of righteousness which were produced by us, but according to his mercy, he saved us through the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, in order that, being justified in that grace, we became heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
What does it mean for us to be “heirs according to the hope of eternal life”? Certainly, those of us that have spent most of our lives in the church are familiar with the language of eternal life — that which Jesus promises us as his people, yet many in the church still think of eternal life in the context of floating around in a spiritual realm, not in terms of a physical resurrection and new creation as the Bible presents to us. And hoping for that eternal life is again an idea that we talk about, recognizing that the Biblical idea of hope carries with it an assurance that the things for which you hope are promised to you in Christ…in other words, these are not pie-in-the-sky dreams, but real and tangible promises in which we can rest our hopes.
But what about being heirs according to this hope? An heir is one who will receive an allotment from his or her father at such a time as either the father dies (as in the case of an ordinary will) or at such a time as that the father wishes to disperse that inheritance. In the case of the Christian life, that take place as God (who cannot die) disperses the promises made through the completed work of Christ (Christ being the vehicle though which all of the promises come — 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 — which is one reason that any form of universalism is a fraudulent notion!).
The real question and application of this idea is do we live like heirs to this hope? Sadly, very few professing Christians live any differently than than non-believers in the world around them. We grieve as they do, often, without taking into account the eternal hope that we have been given in Jesus. We live in worldly ways, concerned about worldly things, pursuing worldly goals — often with no discernible difference from the unbelievers in our midst. That, my friends, is something of which we need to repent…and that, too, my friends, is something of which our churches, which function no differently than the secular organizations around us, need to repent.