The word co-heir (sugklēronomos) only occurs four times in the NT: Rom 8:17; Eph 3:6; Heb 11:9; 1 Pet 3:7. While a common NT theme is that believers should strive to be Christ’s co-heirs in the life to come, different Greek words are used to convey that thought most of the time (metochos = partner in Heb 1:9; 3:14; sumbasileuō = reign with in 2 Tim 2:12; exousia = authority [given by Christ] to rule in Luke 19:17; Rev 2:26). Only in Rom 8:17 is this specific word used concerning being a co-heir with Christ (though 1 Pet 3:7 implies this).
If a husband and wife are both faithful believers, then they will be co-heirs in the life to come (1 Pet 3:7). That is, they will each have a share in Christ’s rule.
Ultimately, Jesus is the heir, and we can share in His inheritance. Heirship (not to be confused with airship) requires endurance, overcoming. That is understood in Rom 8:17 and 1 Pet 3:7. It is clearly stated in 2 Tim 2:12; Heb 3:14; and Rev 2:26.
To be a member of a family does not guarantee that one will receive an inheritance. I have a relative who was disinherited. Yet she continued to be fully accepted and welcomed at all family functions.
All believers are children of God (John 1:12-13). But in order to be one who will share in Jesus’ kingdom rule, we must endure. We must live victorious (overcoming) Christian lives. We must confess Christ by means of our church involvement and our words until He takes us home (Matt 10:32-33; 2 Tim 2:12).
You should be certain that you have everlasting life and that you can never lose it. That is the promise that the Lord Jesus makes to all who simply believe in Him (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35; 11:26). But you cannot be sure that you will reign with Christ because you cannot be sure that you will persevere in the faith. As one Calvinist pastor and seminary professor once told me, “If the Apostle Paul was not sure that he would persevere (1 Cor 9:27), then neither can we be certain that we will persevere.”
Thank God that our eternal destiny does not depend on our perseverance. Instead, it depends on His perseverance. He must remain faithful to His promise of everlasting life in order for us as believers to remain secure. However, He cannot lie. His promises are certain. We should rejoice every day for that.
When I first arrived at Victor Street Bible Chapel in 1992, I thought that at the Bema the Lord Jesus would select as co-rulers all whose Christian lives had been characterized by faithfulness. So, I thought that if someone served Christ faithfully for 49 years, and fell away in his last year of life, then he would be 98% faithful, and he would be chosen to rule, since 98% faithfulness seemed like endurance to me. I learned from Zane Hodges that one must be faithful at the time of death or the Rapture. Ending well is vital to becoming co-heirs with Christ (cf. Matt 24:45-51).
How I long to hear Him say, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17). Wouldn’t that be great! May we live each day in light of the knowledge that He may return at any moment and that He will approve of us if He finds us faithfully serving Him!