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Revelation 21:7-8 by Robert Dean
Topically this lesson is linked with 2005 - Hebrews 203
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins

Inheriting the Kingdom. Revelation 21:7-8

When we look at these verses seven and eight in Revelation 21 there is an apparent or surface problem, and that is it appears to present a view of salvation in the gospel that is based on morality, on behavior, on works. Revelation 21:7, 8 NASB "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving [unfaithful] and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part {will be} in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." This is one pf the primary passages in the Scripture that talk about the fact that God has stated in His Word that there is a definite punishment for the wicked, for those who have not accepted His plan of salvation. We see that down through the ages God has always had a plan of salvation from different things. This is the plan of salvation in terms of eternal salvation. There was a plan of salvation from the judgment of the world-wide flood at the time of Noah; there was only one way to escape that. There was a plan of salvation during the time of the Jewish exodus and their redemption from slavery in Egypt, and from the tenth plague where death was brought upon every household there was only one way to escape death and that was to apply the blood of the sacrificed lamb to the doorposts. There are other situations that have occurred down through the Old Testament and into the New Testament period where God said that He was going to bring judgment on the nation or individuals and there was one way to escape that, otherwise there would be judgment because God's righteousness has to be satisfied. In righteousness he must bring judgment but as a loving God He always provides a way of escape, a way of salvation and a way of deliverance. And that plan of salvation is always based on grace; it is not based on what we do.   

Isaiah 55:1 NASB "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost." This is speaking of the kingdom period, which relates to Revelation 21:6-8. The waters are literal waters but they represent salvation; it is life that comes through drinking water. You can't buy if you don't have money; it is given freely. God gives freely, the issue is: do you want to accept the free gift of God? This is reiterated when we come to the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:6 "Then He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.'" This is the voice of God the Father, the one who sits upon the throne. Salvation is free; the word "give" where God is the subject is the verb of grace. God gives freely, we simply accept it. The word to "accept" a gift from God is used as a parallel to faith many times in the Scriptures. In Revelation 22:17 the same imagery is used: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." It is not a gift if you have to do something in order to possess it.

The reason it is given freely is because man has an inherent problem. In the Old Testament are passages such as Isaiah 64:5, 6 NASB "You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, {We continued} in them a long time; And shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." Isaiah has a universal view of human sinfulness: all are unclean. Our righteousness, the best that we do, is like filthy rags. Jeremiah 17:9 NASB "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" So the Old Testament makes it clear that man has a problem and he can't solve it on his own, it has to be accepted freely from God. Titus in the New Testament writes NASB "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." God does the work; man accepts it. Ephesians 2:8, 9 NASB "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Does that mean that works are not important and that obedience to God is irrelevant? It is for salvation, but the purpose for salvation is in the very next verse: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

But then there are these other passages in the Scripture that seem to indicate that if we are engaged in certain sins then we are not going to get to heaven—at least that is how it appears to read. We come now to two of those verses and we have to read them in context, which is very important. Revelation 21:6 NASB "Then He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.'" The emphasis here is that it is free; you don't do anything to earn it. Then verse 7, "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." Verse 8, "But for the cowardly and unbelieving [unfaithful] and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part {will be} in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." At first glance it seems that what that means is that if you are one or more of these things you are going to end up in the lake of fire.

In order to understand this we have to realize that there are key phrases that must be understood in the context not only of Revelation but in the context of the New Testament and the teaching of the whole Bible. What this verse is teaching is not a salvation by works; that would contradict so many things in both the Old and New Testaments. It is talking not about salvation but inheritance. Inheritance has to do with what a child in a family inherits from parents, the disposition of property from one generation to another within a family. In order to be in the family you have to be saved. Inheritance can never have as its focus salvation, which is getting into the family. So we understand that this is talking about inheritance here, not salvation. Verse 7 establishes that clearly: "the one who overcomes shall inherit all things." Verse 8 cannot be taken out of that context; it is talking about inheritance in relationship to overcoming.

What does it mean to overcome? Then we have to understand the phrase "shall inherit all things." Third, we have to understand the word "part," which is a poor translation because we think of "part" as having a role in something; that is not what it means at all. The word has to do with receiving a share: meros [meroj] was a technical word used in legal documents at the time to indicate the share or portion that was designated to an heir in terms of his inheritance. It is not talking about the person; it is talking about his share. In this case the share is not going to go to the believer, it is going to the lake of fire.  

The Bible talks about different kinds of death. The first is spiritual death, describing the separation that occurs between God and a human being because of sin. Second, there is physical death which is separation from the immaterial part of man, his soul, from his body at the time of physical death. There is sexual death which is referenced in Romans 4:16-21; Hebrews 11:11, 12 in reference to Abraham who was too old to have children. There is production death—the man who has faith but no works. He is saved but isn't producing anything that has eternal value, James 2:16. Similar to that concept is carnal death—Romans 8, 13; Ephesians 5:14; 1 Timothy 5:6; James 1:15; Revelation 3:1; Luke 15:24, 32. Carnal death describes the Christian who is living on the basis of his sin nature which is often referred to as the flesh in the Scripture. Then there is positional death, Romans 6. This is the believer who is at the point of salvation identified with Christ in His death on the cross and it is related to his legal justification. The seventh is the second death which is for all those who have rejected God's plan of salvation.

The term is used four times in the New Testament, all in the book of Revelation. The first is found in Revelation 2:11: "He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." This is being addressed to Christians, believers. The promise of the gospel is that it you trust in Christ you have eternal life; you can't lose it; you have it, and it means you won't go to the lake of fire. John 3:18. What we see from Revelation 21:7, 8 is that the way one is hurt is not because he is hurt by going to the lake of fire but that if he is a failure in the spiritual life he will end up losing potential rewards that are not given but are destroyed in the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14 NASB "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." This comes at the end of the great white throne judgment, the final judgment that comes in history. Cf. Daniel 12:1.

Two key passages must be looked at n order to understand this whole doctrine. Revelation 20:6 NASB "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death [no risk of losing salvation] has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." The word translated "part" is the Greek word meros [meroj] which is a technical term for the share or portion of an inheritance. So here we have a reference that the one who has a part or an inheritance in the first resurrection; it is not talking about everyone in the first resurrection but it is talking about the ones who receive an inheritance. These are the believers who have something rewardable at the judgment seat of Christ. For those who don't have a reward they will be harmed in the sense that they will lose their reward in the lake of fire. This does not say that a person who does not have rewards are not going to be in the kingdom. There are some who have taught that but it is not what this is saying. The second verse that is important in relation to these things is Revelation 21:8 which talks about those in the list given—there are about 20 or more different sins that are listed in similar passages, and basically it covers anything that might be thought of as a sin; it is an open-ended list and not meant to be a definitive list—and refers to those who continue to sin without ever having any cleansing of sin in their life.

What God freely gives is one thing; inheritance is something else. We earn a reward but we are given a gift. Inheritance is related to obedience. Another place where this word is used is in John 13:8 NASB "Peter said to Him, 'Never shall You wash my feet!' Jesus answered him, 'If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.'" This is at the Passover meal the night before Jesus goes to the cross. Jesus points out that this is a teaching moment, He is going to do something physical in order to illustrate a spiritual truth. Here we see the word "part" again that we have seen in Revelation 21:8—meros. Jesus isn't saying, If you don't let me wash your feet I'm not going to let somebody with dirty feet be part of my team. What He is saying is something much more profound, He is talking about an inheritance. Paraphrase: If you don't let me cleanse you in an ongoing way you are not going to have an inheritance with me.

What we are seeing in the lists of sins in these passages is that we all commit a lot of those sins, and there are others not on the list that we commit but they are still part of the package. Once we sin we are out of fellowship and there has to be a cleansing, and it is based upon the fact that Jesus has already paid for those sins at the cross and there has to be a cleansing. That cleansing comes through confession. It is depicted in the Old Testament when the priest would come into the temple he would wash his hands and feet at the laver. But when the priest was initially cleansed and established in the role at his inauguration he takes a full bath and is washed clean from head to toe. That depicts the believer's salvation. John 13:9 NASB "Simon Peter said to Him, 'Lord, {then wash} [louo, louw, a full bath] not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.'" Then Jesus responds, [10] "Jesus said to him, 'He who has bathed [louo] needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all {of you.}'" There was one there who wasn't saved, and that was Judas. But the contrast being developed by the Lord is full bath versus partial washing. To wash the feet was nipto [niptw], partial washing, indicating forgiveness of ongoing sin in the life.

The point is that what we see in Revelation 21:7, 8 is that we are all going to commit a lot of sins. But the sin doesn't cancel salvation and it doesn't cancel grace, but it does cancel our own spiritual growth, spiritual life and spiritual production. The only way to recover forward momentum is to confess out sins, 1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins God cleanses us. We don't become a mature believer and have production in our life for inheritance and rewards if we never confess our sins and we are never cleansed, because everything we do is just the production of the sin nature and it has no value because we are doing it in our own energy rather than Gods.

This also relates to another verse, Romans 8:17 NASB "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with {Him} so that we may also be glorified with {Him.}" This has a punctuation problem. It talks about the fact that there are two kinds of believers. There are those who are successful or victorious and those who aren't and lose rewards. "If children, heirs also." We can't talk about inheritance without realizing it is a family issue. Salvation is about getting into the family; inheritance is about what you receive within the family. The way this verse is translated here makes it look as if it is a condition that you only become an heir and a joint heir or are saved if we suffer with Him. In the original Greek there was no punctuation or even spaces between the words. A comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence. The meaning in the Greek has to be determined by either grammatical structure or syntax or theology, or both. If we re-punctuate this" "and if children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him"—being joint heirs with Christ is conditioned on suffering with Him; that comes from spiritual growth. Salvation enters us into the family of God and we become and heir of God, but to be a joint heir with Christ and rule and reign with Him—Revelation 20:6—comes as a result of spiritual growth.

1 Corinthians 6:9 NASB "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals." In the context there is a contrast between the "unrighteous" and the "saints." The saints are believers; the unrighteous therefore are not believers. But in verse 9 the "unrighteous" is not talking about unbelievers. If inheritance is a family matter then why would an unbeliever care? An unbeliever knows he is not going to inherit anything so why is it a matter of significance to him if he is told that if he doesn't change his behavior he won't inherit the kingdom? The Greek word adikos [a)dikoj] means unrighteous or those who are disobedient, and there is a closer use of that word in verse 8: "you yourselves wrong [adikeo] and defraud." In verse 9 Paul says, "Do you now know that wrongdoers." That is another example of where the same word is used in two verses close to each other and one verse is translated one way and the next another way, and the whole point is missed. Paul is being very careful how he uses this word: You are a wrongdoer. Don't you know that wrongdoers don't inherit? He is addressing believers in verse 9.

The second question deals with the inheritance of the kingdom and the problem most people have is they want inherit the kingdom to mean entering the kingdom, and inheriting doesn't mean to enter. Inheriting has to do with ownership or possession. It means to have a share of the privileges and the possessions of the kingdom. This word is used in Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5. Is Paul saying that if you do these things you won't be saved? No, he is saying you'll be saved but you are not going to have an ownership, a privileged position to rule and reign with Christ in the kingdom. Then in verse 11: "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." The "you" there is all the saints.

The problem with the Corinthians was that they were just enmeshed in sin. They were divisive and fractious. Paul accused them of being involved in Greek pagan philosophy, 1 Corinthians 1:25. They were carnal, filled with jealousy and strife with one another, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. They were self-absorbed, 4:8; boasting, 1:29; 3:18; 4:7. He calls them arrogance in 3:6; 4:7, 18. They were licentious and morally permissive, chapter 5, sexually immoral, chapter 7; gluttonous drunkards, chapter 11; self-absorbed and pagan in their view of the spiritual gifts in chapters 12 and 14. When he says "and such were some of you" he is saying, Some of you used to be a bunch of drunks and ne'er-do-wells, because only some of you figured out that after you get saved you need to start moving in your spiritual life. The rest of you, most of you, are living like you were before you were saved, but some of you got the point; but all of you were washed or justified or sanctified; only some of you are going forward.

What the passage is saying in Revelation 21:7, 8 is simply that the overcomer, the believer who moves forward in his spiritual life, with obedience, confession of sin—not talking about works here—is the one who overcomes the world, and he will receive an inheritance. But the warning is that the one who doesn't, the one who gets saved and just goes on and lives his life as if nothing happened, is going to lose all of his rewards, and they go into the lake of fire.