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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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HEIR.—The heir (κληρονόμος) is one who enters on a position of privilege different from that of servants (Matthew 21:38), through no personal exertion of his own, but as the result of filial relationship. This position is a thoroughly right and legal one, and absolutely valid. The thought of succession to a title upon the death of the present holder is not insisted upon. The son is naturally the heir, and the title is one of present privilege as well as the assurance of fuller possession in the future.

Christ, the Son, is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2; cf. our Lord’s application of the term to Himself in the parable of the Wicked Husbandman, Matthew 21:38). The complete lordship over Creation was given to Adam (Genesis 1:28, Psalms 8:6). The land of Canaan, again, was promised to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 13:14-15). These assurances given to Adam and to Abraham were absolutely fulfilled in Christ, who, as the firstborn of all creation, Himself both the Agent of the Creator’s work and summing up in His own Person all created objects (Colossians 1:15-17), enjoys an eternal and incorruptible inheritance. ‘The heirship of the Son was realised in the Incarnation, and in its essence is independent of the Fall (Westcott on Hebrews 1:2), though conditioned by it as to its circumstances.’ It was the sin of man which caused the suffering and humiliation through which Christ, after the work of redemption was complete, won a name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9). He had inherited in the eternal purpose of God (ἕθηκεν, Hebrews 1:2) a name more excellent than the angels (Hebrews 1:4).

The title of ‘heir,’ then, passes on to those who have obtained the blessing of Divine sonship in Baptism or Regeneration, corresponding spiritually to the promise made to Abraham. The Old Covenant (Testament) could not make men perfect, therefore God provided them with more strength, and in place of a worldly inheritance gave them a spiritual and eternal one. This title of heirship may be forfeited, if those who are called to it are not worthy of their inheritance. So Christ speaks in the Apocalypse: ‘He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will he his God, and he shall be my son’ (Revelation 21:7). We, then, being made children of God through faith in Christ, are heirs according to the promise made to Abraham, who was accepted through faith in God’s word against all appearances. No longer servants, but heirs, we are entitled to the Divine privilege of sonship through adoption. We are called to inherit a blessing as all true servants of God through Baptism.

It remains to be seen who are specially mentioned in the Gospels as heirs to this privilege: (1) ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5). (2) Those who have given up houses, lands, earthly relationships, etc., shall receive an hundred-fold and inherit eternal life, Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18. (3) The sheep in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:34), i.e. those who have shown mercy to the weak and suffering, and whose service has been accepted by Christ as done to Himself, shall inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world. But, on the other hand, no fornicator or unclean person or covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of God and of Christ (Ephesians 5:5). See also Inheritance.

C. H. Prichard.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Heir'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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