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Intro: Is there a heaven on earth? Many have spent their lifetime looking for the perfect place to live. If you are a Christian you are sitting in a heavenly place right now.
This morning we studied from Paul’s words in Ephesians 2, and noticed the powerful image of a resurrection in his description of our salvation. Paul speaks of our profound connection and identification with Christ as we are made alive with Christ.
- Ephesians 2:5-6 – 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
- One of the mot intriguing phrases in these verses is Paul use of the term “heavenly places”. What does this mean, and how does it describe the position of the Christian?
I. The phrase “in heavenly places,” is literally translated “in the heavenlies“. The original word means “above the sky”, of heaven or spiritual.
- The word “places” has been added by the various translations in an attempt to make sense of the term. This does seem to be a good perspective for the word, but others suggest that Paul uses this word to signify a different idea in each context.
- “The heavenlies” are not bounded by time or space limitations. They cannot be measured in terms of days or years. They are subject to no material system of measurement. We find it difficult to think of places apart from a physical or material context.
- The heavenlies is not heaven as we perceive of it in the Bible. Some suggest that Paul uses this term to speak about things or places that look forward to heaven, or prepare us for heaven.
What can we learn from this term? – An examination of the five occurrences of the phrase should contribute to our understanding of the heavenlies. Besides the text in Ephesians 2, Paul uses the same phrase 4 other times is Ephesians.
I. Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
A. In this place, “the heavenlies” is the realm of spiritual blessings. In Christ, one can enjoy every spiritual blessing which the heavenlies afford. How are we to understand this?
1. Who is blessed with physical blessings? All those who live in the physical world. God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust,” ( Matthew 5:45.) God provides these blessings within a realm or place. He “gives to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). The “earthlies” is the realm of these blessings; they are available to everyone who is “of the earth, earthy “.
2. In the same context, all spiritual blessings are in the heavenlies. These blessings are spiritual and correspond to the provision of spiritual life.
3. It seems evident from this verse that the heavenlies is synonymous with “in Christ”. All spiritual blessings are in Christ.
a. This signifies the source of those blessings as coming from the work and grace of Christ.
b. It also seems to signify that access to these gifts is only available to those who are “in Christ” or in “heavenly places”. In this sense, “heavenlies” references the church of body of Christ as a spiritual place or position. Macknight translates heavenly places as “in the Christian church”. This is certainly included in the meaning, but not limited to it. There are no spiritual blessings apart from a relationship with Christ.
II. Ephesians 1:20-23 – 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
A. This passage locates Christ in the heavenlies, or heavenly places. After His ascension Jesus occupies the chief place at the “right hand” of God. Again we must avoid the temptation to think of a material place. (God is omnipresent and cannot be confined to a place).
1. The passage simply teaches the supreme position of Christ at (God’s) “right hand“. This position is not visible or tangible in a physical sense. Jesus rules on a higher plane than the physical. (a major flaw of the millennial view)
2. Paul also tells us that “Christ is head over all things to the church which is his body.” When asked about His rightful position as King, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” That did not mean that He had no jurisdiction on the earth, but that His power was exerted in the spiritual realm, and those who fought for His cause would not do it with swords, or tanks. His people (church) submit to His headship spiritually, and their minds are changed through the words of His Spirit.
III. Ephesians 3:10 – 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places
A. “The principalities and the powers” here would include the angels who are genuinely interested in the welfare of humanity. Peter refers to such angels in connection with the salvation of men’s souls – 1 Peter 1:9-12 9 receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls. 10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into.
1. God has something to prove. His power and wisdom are put on display to all those in the heavenly places. There is a realm that is not visible to those who live only in the physical world. They are blinded to the power and wisdom of God.
2. Where can this power and wisdom be seen – in the church. Again we must avoid the temptation to think physically (of an institution, building, or a religious organization). The church in the NT are the saved. God has exhibited His wisdom by saving sinners through the sacrifice of Christ. The events of Jesus’ life are significant and powerful in the spiritual realm. Our atonement was a spiritual transaction carried out before the presence of God.
- Heb 9:11-12 – 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
- Heb 9:23-24 – 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
3. The wisdom of God is viewed in the spiritual salvation of sinners. When angels see repentant spirits they rejoice. God gets the glory. Fausset calls the church the theater for displaying God’s wisdom.
IV. Ephesians 6:10-12 – 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
A. The phrase which, in the King James Version, is translated “in high places” is the same in the original as in all the other places in which it appears in the letter. The phrase is descriptive of the spirit world, i.e., the realm of spirit beings and things of the spirit, both good and bad.
B. Heavenly places are a battleground for good and evil. The thought in Ephesians 6:12 is expressed in different language in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,”For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
C. In Ephesians 6:12, the apostle is distinguishing between the sort of armor (weapons) which would be effective against “flesh and blood,” but of no value against the “spiritual hosts of wickedness” which populate the heavenlies. Neither human philosophy, science nor any other thing which is produced by the wisdom of the world can effectively defeat sin.
1. Everyone depending on the wisdom of the world, for guidance in the spirit realm is attempting to walk by sight rather than by faith. The grace of God provides the strength when the faith of man responds with obedience. Paul prayed in chapter 3 that the Christians “be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man. . . .” (Ephesians 3:16),
2. Conviction of the nature of the Christian warfare is essential. Too many professed Christians fail to realize that “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood,” and thus neglect the armor designed by God. Successful battling the “spiritual hosts of wickedness, in the heavenlies” is accomplished only by the one who is diligent in putting on the whole armor of God and actively attacking the ideas that stand against the knowledge of God.
V. We return to the words of Ephesians 2:5-6 – 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
A. AS we noticed earlier, Christ was raised to sit in heavenly places, at the right hand of God. (1:20) Paul declares that God also raised “us” (saints) up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenlies in Christ. So all who are “in Christ Jesus” are in the heavenlies now. Christians are physically alive are still “in the world.” but they are not “of this world.” (John 17:11-16).
1. The “raising” in view here, is a spiritual raising that God makes happen. We noticed this morning that Paul relates the occurrence to the baptism of the believer. Colossians 2:12, “. . . having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead”. This tells how one gets into the heavenly places. But my position in this place demands a character & mindset.
2. Colossians 3:1, 2 – “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth.” Do you seek the spiritual things that cannot be catalogued in a physical realm? Philippians 3:20 – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- As citizens of heaven we acknowledge the existence and significance of spiritual (heavenly) realities, spiritual influences, and spiritual goals.
Conclusion: Can you see what is unseen? Can you see in the heavenly places? Paul’s words in Ephesians are designed to lift us up to a higher spiritual plane, taking our focus off of this earthly existence to see life from God’s point of view. To live our lives in view of God’s eternal plans for us.
“In the heavenlies” are
- “all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1:3)
- the risen Christ at God’s right hand(Ephesians 1:20)
- all those who are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:6)
- the “principalities and powers” who look interestingly at the salvation men (Ephesians 3:10)
- and “spiritual hosts of wickedness” that engage the Christian in battle.(Ephesians 6:12).