We have obtained an inheritance (Eph 1:11). That entire phrase is a single word in the original Greek. More important, though, is the tense which Paul uses. It’s not exactly past tense, but it’s not really present or future tense either. He writes in what we call the aorist tense. In the Greek language, when someone wanted to refer to an inevitable future event, they would describe it as though it had already happened. They would use the aorist tense.
For example, Paul makes a similar statement in Ephesians 2:6: “God has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Even though we’ve not yet entered that glorious place where Christ is currently seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Paul writes about it as though we’re already there (Heb 1:3). The aorist tense is used to express the certainty of it. No, we haven’t yet received our eternal inheritance—a fact that Paul makes clear in Ephesians 1:14—but we absolutely will.
How can Paul be so sure? Maybe I’m abiding in Christ right now, but what if I lose my head and turn back to my sin? What if I live in rejection of the Savior and his righteousness?
Here’s what Christ himself had to say about it:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
Any questions? According to Paul in Ephesians 4, we can grieve the Holy Spirit of God, but God’s Spirit has sealed us for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30). To the Philippians, he said, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6).
There’s no going back. You may struggle with sin until you’re dying day like King Solomon, but God has sealed you with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Eph 1:13-14). It’s not a matter of if we acquire it, but when we acquire it.
Having said that, we should never tempt God. Paul told the Corinthians:
I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
He also told them, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2Co 13:5). Paul did not give these warnings to suggest that eternal security is a myth. But the sad truth is, not everyone who claims Christ is actually saved. To be in church is not the same as to be in Christ.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
My point is, those whom God has chosen and Christ has redeemed have obtained an inheritance (Eph 1:11). It’s absolutely certain. But what isn’t certain in our world of sin and depravity is the true identity of every redeemed person in Christ. The wheat and weeds are growing together, making it impossible to gather the weeds without rooting up the wheat along with them (Mt 13:29). So Paul simply advises, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2Co 13:5).
What is this inheritance that God has promised us in Christ? I suppose that term may encompass a lot of things: peace, wisdom, joy, strength, victory, power, spiritual discernment. The possibilities are nearly endless because we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Ro 8:16-17). Ultimately, though, our inheritance is glory itself, a place in God’s eternal kingdom.