Surprised by Hope: The Downpayment and Inheritance

And so we were talking about Surprised by Hope in class on Sunday and someone brought up the idea that the Holy Spirit is a “deposit.” For example —

(2 Cor 1:21-22) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Also 2 Cor 5:5; Eph 1:13-14.

The word translated “deposit” in the Greek is arrhabon. In modern Greek, it means “engagement ring,” which is pretty cool when you remember that the church is the bride of Christ!

In First Century Greek it refers to a downpayment, earnest money, or a deposit.

Now ponder this a bit. If you buy a Christmas present on layaway, you pay a deposit, maybe 10% down and you sign a layaway contract. You later come in just before Christmas and pay the 90% balance. The deposit is cash and so is the pay off at Christmas.

The deposit is the Holy Spirit indwelling each of us but, more especially, all of us as the church. In fact, in all three “deposit” verses, Paul is speaking of Christians in the plural, consistent with —

(Eph 2:22) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

And so, if the deposit is paid in the form of divine presence to the church, what’s the pay off? What does God pay the balance off with? Well, obviously enough, divine presence.

(2 Cor 5:8) We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

As John shows us in Rev 21,

(Rev 21:3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

In other words, the Spirit is a down payment of God himself. At the resurrection, we’ll have all of God! God will live in and among the church in unlimited presence and fullness.

But the Spirit is also a guaranty of our “inheritance” —

(Eph 1:13-14) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.

Our “inheritance” is a major theme of the New Testament, and is rarely explained. We usually assume that it’s an abstraction — salvation. And it is, but it’s not being explained to us in abstract terms and so is better understood if understood it in more concrete terms.

“Inheritance” in First Century Palestine referred to land — the land your father owned when he died. But it particularly referred to your family’s piece of the land God gave the Israelites in Palestine. “Inheritance” is a piece of the Promised Land, of Holy Land.

(Isa 61:1-7) The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. … 7 Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.

Thus, “inheritance” was understood by First Century Jews as the fulfillment of prophetic promises of the Holy Land freed from oppressors and existing in its ideal state (there are LOTS of prophecies along these lines).

And Jesus speaks of Judgment Day concluding with an inheritance —

(Mat 25:34) “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

In Rev 21, after describing the new earth, the new heaven, and the Jerusalem, John is told,

(Rev 21:7) He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

“All this” is the new earth, new heaven, and new Jerusalem. We will receive our inheritance in the true Holy Land, the true Promised Land.

Hence, in the Beatitudes, Jesus is promising a fulfillment of these promises —

(Mat 5:5) “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

The meek won’t inherit this earth but the purified, new earth!

You see, the “kingdom” is only partly realized in this age. But in the age to come, the entire earth, indeed, the universe will be God’s kingdom because everyone there will we honor his reign.

And so, yes, it’s still about salvation, but it’s a salvation expressed in terms that are at once familiar and foreign. They are Israelite terms. Indeed, while Jesus fulfilled many “Messianic” prophecies, he brought to fruition far more prophecies of the new earth, new heaven, and new Jerusalem. And all these New Testament passages make more sense — are deeper and richer — when read in light of their Old Testament antecedents.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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