Some think Jesus' words will be fulfilled literally. They think the meek will receive either large portions of land in this world or when Christ comes again, a home on a rejuvenated earth inhabited only by the righteous. Such an interpretation ignores the true nature of the kingdom. God's kingdom is spiritual, not material (John 18:36), and the "new heavens and new earth" promised to the righteous (2Peter 3:13) is not earth renovated; it is heaven, our eternal abode with God (Matthew 5:12; John 14:1-3; Colossians 1:5; 1Peter 1:4).

Jesus' promise is rooted in Old Testament language and history. At first, the Old Testament expression, "inherit the land", referred to the land of Canaan that was promised and given to Israel by God (Joshua 21:41-43). Later it became a proverbial statement denoting any and all great blessings (Isaiah 60:21). The psalmist used the phrase to assure the righteous that God's favor was upon them and that they would be blessed; he used it to encourage the righteous not to fret, fear, or envy the wicked, but to be at peace (Psalms 37:11). Jesus' purpose here, as in all of the beatitudes, is to announce the nature and character of the citizens of the kingdom and the blessings they will receive. His disciples must be meek, and while many might think the world will take advantage of the meek, defeat them, and leave them with nothing, Jesus proclaims, "the meek shall inherit the earth"; the meek are the real winners— in this world and in the world to come!

The relationship that the meek in Christ have to the world and its possessions allows them to have "life more abundantly" (John 10:10; 1Timothy 4:8). The meek know the true meaning of life— "fear God and keep His commandments" (Ecclesiastes 12:13)— and are not disturbed or burdened by the vanity of "life under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). They will receive "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven" (1Peter 1:3-4). The New Testament uses Canaan of old as a type of this eternal inheritance. Jesus could have easily had this figurative use of Canaan in mind when He said, "the meek shall inherit the earth."

Perhaps, the meaning of Jesus' statement, "the meek shall inherit the earth", is best summed up in Paul's words to the Corinthians: "For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come-- all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's "1Cor. 3:21). The world and the fullness thereof belong to God. In the kingdom, the meek belong to God, and the earth belongs to them.

By Harold Hancock

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