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Delivered by Given O. Blakely at the Eleventh annual Refreshing Waters Renewal, St. James, Missouri, 8/3/2000
2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 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, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-7, NKJV
What God has accomplished in Christ Jesus has no parallel, either in time or principle. It is so great that even those identified with Christ have scarcely touched the borders of the "garments of salvation" (Isa 61:10).
THE GLORIOUS TRANSITION
The transition that is made by those who are born again is staggering. They have "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14), alienation (Eph 4:18) to reconciliation (Col 1:20), and enemies (Rom 5:10) to sons of God (1 John 3:1-2). They are shifted from NOT being a people to being the people of God (1 Pet 2:10a), and NOT obtaining mercy to obtaining it (1 Pet 2:10b). Believers are "delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of Gods dear Son" (Col 1:13), and from darkness "into His marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9). Once they were "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1), but now they are made alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5). They were "enemies in their minds by wicked works" (Col 1:21), but now serve the law of God with their minds (Rom 7:25). Formerly their ways and thoughts were not those of God (Isa 55:8-9), but now His law is written on their hearts and put into their minds (Heb 10:16). They were once as sheep going astray, but have "now returned to the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of their souls" (1 Pet 2:25). In the past they had "no hope" (Eph 2:12), but have now been begotten to a "living hope" (1 Pet 1:3). In prior times they "without God" (Eph 2:12), but now God dwells within them (1 John 4:15). Those in Christ were once "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," but are not "fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God" (Eph 2:19). Think of it! Before, we were "afar off," but have now been "made nigh" (Eph 2:17). We were "cursed" (Gal 3:10), but are now "blessed" (Gal 3:9). The wrath of God was abiding upon us (John 3:36), but now we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6). We were "children of disobedience" (Eph 2:2), but have now "obeyed from the heart the form of the doctrine delivered to us" (Rom 6:17). The "prince of the power of the air" once worked in us (Eph 2:2), but now it is God who works within us to will and do of His own good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
BELIEVERS MUST BE TOLD
The people of God must be subjected to the proclamation and affirmation of who they are in Jesus, and where they have been brought! The spirit of institutionalism has too long deprived them of hearing these things. The royal recruiters and motley motivators have diverted our attention from such things. Sectarian sophists and purveyors of pride have plundered the church of the living God, causing it to feel at home in this world. This is a most tragic circumstance.
There are at least three approaches to this dilemma. First, an attempt can be made to reform the institution. Very few have ever been successful in their attempts of reform. Second, an effort can be made to convert the preachers and teachers. Although it has a sound of nobility, no such effort is ever mentioned in the Word of God. Third, those who know the truth can shout louder than all the others. I suggest the latter is the God-ordained way. The proclamation of the truth of the Gospel is the revealed remedy for sin and all it has caused. It is Gods power to accomplish salvation (Rom 1:16). The Scriptures do say "Reform the church," but "Preach the Word." In the powerful proclamation of the Gospel, any reform that is possible will be accomplished. Any recovery that can be achieved will be set in motion.
THE FIRST AND FOREMOST ACTIVITY
The first and foremost activity in this world is the building up of the body of Christ. Every spiritual gift was given for this purpose (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Cor 12:7). The Scriptures themselves are given for this intent (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is the thrust of the Holy Spirits intercession (Rom 8:26). It is also the exclusive focus of Christs intercession (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25). The most precise expression of Christs love relates to the church: "loved the church and gave Himself for it" (Eph 5:25). Only the church has unreserved access to God, to obtain mercy and find grace in the time of need (Rom 5:2; Eph 2:18; 3:12; Heb 4:15-16). Jesus is the High Priest for the church (Heb 3:1; 6:20). Only the church is "the body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:23), the "people of God" (Heb 4:9), "heirs of God," and "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). They alone are being saved "by His life" (Rom 5:10). They alone will "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess 4:17).
This by no means deprecates preaching the Gospel "to every creature" (Mk 16:16) or making"disciples of all nations" (Matt 28:19). But when it comes to the emphasisthe thrustof heavenly activity, it is toward the church! Every spiritual gift is "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11-12). Holy angels minister to the "heirs of salvation" (Heb 1:13-14). The "inheritance" is "reserved" for them in heaven, and they alone are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet 1:5). These are "the people of God" (1 Pet 2:10), "the children of God" (Gal 3:26), "the sons of God" (1 John 3:1-2), and "the beloved of God" (Rom 1:7).
Thus, I am going to declare what the Lord has done in those who are in the Son. I will affirm where we have been placed, and the One with Whom we are now identified. I will announce we have been elevated to a place Satan cannot enter, where an abundance of grace is realized and enjoyed.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH BEING MADE ALIVE
"2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."
A proper assessment of salvation requires a correct evaluation of where we were when the Lord found us. And, make no mistake about it, we were "found." Our blessed Lord said, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lk 19:10). Of old time, God affirmed seeking the lost is a Divine attribute. "I will seek that which was lost" (Ezek 34:16). In what condition did He find us? It is essential to know this if we are to appreciate where we have been brought in Christ Jesus.
Our text will affirm we were all in the same category. While men are prone to classify flesh, assigning various grades to it, from the standpoint of our text, it all falls into the same class. Salvation is common because it addresses a people in a common condition: "for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:22b-23).
WE WERE MADE ALIVE
"And you HE made alive . . . " Before a change of location could be realized, we had to be "made alive." This involved making us sensitive to the Lord, aware of His provisions, and desirous of His blessing. This is life deep within men, in their heart and spirit. It brings with it a discontent with life in this world and a deep sense of sin. We are awakened, as it was, by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, who works through the Gospel of Christ, and in strict concert with the purpose of God.
Life began to evidence itself with the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). This is the kind of life that must eventually be "born" delivered from one realm into another realm. When I speak of being "made alive," I am referring to a process that begins with conviction, has its official beginning in the new birth, and is maintained in what the Spirit calls "heavenly places" or realms.
We were not "quickened," or "made alive," independently of Jesus. Rather, by Divine purpose as well as in our experience, we were "made alive together with Him," the resurrected Christ (Col 2:13). In fact, our text strongly affirms this to be the case. After proclaiming the power that is "toward" us was primarily authenticated in the resurrection of Christ (Eph 1:20-23), the Spirit begins the next phrase with "And YOU . . . " That is, God raised Christ AND those accepted in Him.
The life of which we speak, therefore, is resurrection lifethe life of the resurrected Jesus. It is not institutional life or fleshly excitement. It is not mere religious animation, so common in our day. This is the kind of life found in the risen and enthroned Son of God.
We Were Dead
" . . . who were dead in trespasses and sins . . . " Our condition before being made alive was a dreadful one. We were "dead," destitute of life and separated from God. We were the opposite of Jesus, Who is "the Life," and is "alive forevermore" (John 14:6; Rev 1:18).
The realm, or domain, of our death was "trespasses and sins." This involved alienation from God, and placed us under the wrath of Almighty God. "Trespasses and sins" are a realm that is both personal and collective. Individually we had sinned and were thus dead toward God. We also occupied a realm that was characterized by death and cursed by God. It was an utterly hopeless situation requiring Divine intervention. Although men debate about the extent of this death, nothing could have been done about it if God did not do it. Far better to acknowledge that "salvation is of the Lord" than to wrangle over the degree to which we were dead.
There came a point in time when we, as those who were dead, heard the voice of the Son of God. With shattering power, it penetrated the dark domain in which we found ourselves. Jesus referred to this awakening when He said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live"NKJV (John 5:25). Jesus was speaking of a spiritual resurrection, for He later refers to another resurrection which would also be accomplished by His voicethe resurrection of the body from the grave (John 5:28).
We Were Under Satans Dominion
" . . . you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air . . . " Our condition was not a static one. Even though we were "dead," we were still active. "Dead" does not mean extinct, but separatedseparated from God. We were walking dead men, living in loving harmony with "the course of this world." Our leader, whether recognized or not, was the devil, aptly described as "the prince of the power of the air." We were in his territory, and were living in accordance with his agenda. We were his slaves, taken captive "to do his will" (2 Tim 2:26).
We Were Characterized by Disobedience
" . . . the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. . . " Satan is not a metaphor, but a "spirit." He is a personality with character and an agenda. He is intensely active, always working. We were among those in whom he worked, called "sons of disobedience." This is a term denoting obstinance toward God, driven by unbelief, and evidenced by insubordination and lawbreaking.
The locus of our lives was the desires of our own sinful naturethe "desires of the flesh and of the mind." We had no heart for God, and our minds were nailed to the earth like Siseras head (Judges 5:26).
We Were Children of Wrath
". . . and were by nature children of wrath, just like others." Not only was the indignation of God our just deserts, we were living with it hovering over our heads. In us the word of Jesus was fulfilled, "the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). We were children destined for Divine wrath "by nature"that is, from the moment of our entrance into the world. Although we did not personally commit sin when we entered, we came into the world with a sinful nature. This was the aftermath of Adams transgression, which bent the human race away from God. As it is written, "through the offence of one many be dead . . . for the judgment was by one to condemnation . . . Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation . . . For if by one man's offence death reigned by one . . . For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners . . . " (Rom 5:15-19).
I have taken the time to briefly delineate our condition prior to being in Christ in order to show the greatness of what the Lord has done.
THE GRAND DISJUNCTIVE
" 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5a even when we were dead in trespasses . . . " Because of who He is, and His rich mercy and profound love for "us," God reached into the abysmal depths we occupied. It was no small effort, and involved sending His "only begotten Son into the world." The Son, volunteering for the mission of mercy (Heb 10:5-10), laid aside the prerogatives of Deity, emptying Himself, and entered into the realm of hostility and death with a sheathed sword and a frail frame (Phil 2:6-8). His entrance into the graveyard of humanity constituted the appearance of "the grace of God which brings salvation" (Tit 2:11). It is when "the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared" (Tit 3:4).
The Lord had "looked," so to speak, to see if there was any that could assist in the recovery of fallen humanity. As He surveyed the entirety of the race, He found "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him" (Psa 49:7). When it came to the reclamation of mankind, there was a staggering impotence that dominated the offspring of Adam. They were all "without strength" (Rom 5:6). However, the Lord was not dismayed by the circumstance. Speaking of the situation, Isaiah prophesied the matter declared in our text. "And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me, and my fury, it upheld me" (Isa 63:5). He wrought the salvation for men and decimated the powers of darkness by His own power.
The phrase "rich in mercy" describes salvation from a general viewpoint, showing that it took an abundance of mercy and a willing God to save us. "Mercy" involves compassion, pity, and sympathy. It is kindness and goodwill toward miserable and afflicted people. Mercy is also wrapped with the chord of faithfulness. It is not sporadic or inconsistent. The Living God not only has the capacity and ability to lavish His mercy upon men, He has an inclination to do so. Our new birth was "according to His ABUNDANT mercy" (1 Pet 1:3). The point at which we were changed was the point where abundant mercy was lavished upon us.
This is the grand disjunctive"BUT GOD!" It is what turned things around ushered hope into the world, and announced the doom of "the prince of the power of the air." It is the line of demarcation in history, when futility was toppled from the throne by faith and hope.
RAISED UP TOGETHER WITH CHRIST
" 5b . . . made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together . . . " In order for anything or anyone to be received by God, it must be connected with Christ, His only begotten Son. There is no independency in the Kingdom of God, but everything DEPENDS upon the exalted Christ. Where He is not in the equation, there is no Divine recognition, acceptance, or blessing. The best of mentheir "righteousnesses"are nothing more than "filthy rags" (Isa 64:6). All of mans wisdom, regardless of its lofty appearance, has been reputed by God and counts for nothing (1 Cor 1:20; 3:19). Men could not extricate us from sin, and therefore nothing else they do in their own strength is honored by God. Were this to be unreservedly received by the professed church, it would have a staggering effect on what they do. Overnight there would be a mass purging of leaders presently held in high regard, and methods and techniques would be scrapped that are being successfully hawked by religious charlatans.
Everything is contingent upon Jesus. When God made Him alive, raising Him from the dead, He also quickened, or made alive, all that are in Him. That is, the resurrected life of Christ was imputed to them, so that their life is really not their own, but that of Christ. As Paul confessed, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Our death in trespasses and sins was so thorough and extensive, that only unity with Christ could change our condition.
Furthermore, this could only be done by the grace of God. It could not be accomplished by a moral code, or by adherence to a law of commandments. Men could not be made alive by DOING something, anymore than the dead can be raised from their graves by following a procedure. The grace of God involves a desire on Gods part as well as a need on ours. He raised us because He wanted to! But even then, He could only do this by uniting us with the Son IN His resurrection. God does not deal with us directly, but through His Son.
Thus, the new birth is said to be accomplished by God begetting us again "to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet 1:3). In fact, the resurrection of Christ is what validated our baptism, the point at which we are "born" (John 3:5). As it is written, "baptism doth also now save . . . by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 3:21).
Let it be clear: we are not saved by a procedure, but by the grace of God. That grace is made effectual in raising us up together with Christ out of the depths of death in trespasses and sins and alienation from God. Obedience is surely involved in obtaining this salvation, and faith is the engine that drives it. But in the end, God is the One who does the saving, and it is His marvelous grace and mercy that moves Him to do so. Even then, His resurrected Son remains supreme to Him. The explanation for our salvation is here traced to Divine activity. In its essence, salvation is initiated and culminated by the Living God. He begins the work, and He brings it to its intended culmination (Phil 1:6).
MADE TO SIT WITH CHRIST IN HEAVENLY PLACES
" 6 and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Here we come to grips with the extensive nature of Gods "great salvation." Not only did God, according to His "rich mercy," raise us from death in "trespasses and sins," He put us into a new realmone conducive to fellowship with Himself and spiritual growth. Here also, the transaction is in direct association with His Son: "in Christ Jesus."
Notice the strength of the statement. He "MADE us sit together in the heavenly places." Accentuating the fact that this is a work of God alone, other versions read, "and seated us with Him," NASB,NIV and "made us sit with Him."RSV I understand the "Him" to refer to Jesus Christ specifically, and God Himself generally. In salvation, we are joined to the Father and the Son. From the subjective viewpoint, they both come to us and make their "abode" with us (John 14:23).
From the objective view, we are in the Father and in the Son. This is the view declared in our text. Both the Father and the Son are in the "heavenly places." Because our salvation centers around the Lord Jesus, "heavenly places" are explained in view of Him. Paul prayed that believers would be granted the "spirit of wisdom and revelation" in order to comprehend the greatness of the transcendent power that "is for us that believe."
In describing the nature of this "power," the Spirit directs our attention to the resurrection of Christ. This is the very power "which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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" (Eph 1:20-21).
WHAT ARE "THE HEAVENLY PLACES"?
The NIV translates the word "heavenly realms." An alternative translation is "heavenlies," used in Darbys translation. The precise Greek word is evpourani,oij, and is used five times in the Bible. They are all in the book of Ephesians: 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12. The KJV translates the word "heavenly places" four times, and "high places" once (6:12).
The statements made about this realm are all central, and conducive to much thought. They are not presented as a sort of creedal statement, but are all pertinent to our daily lives in Christ Jesus.
"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" (1:3). Here is an area of blessing for the inner mana realm of spiritual benefit and advantage. These benefits are only accessible in Jesus Christ, and come from the hand of the Living God Himself. There are no spiritual blessings that are not in this realm. They are ALL there. If men choose to live in the flesh, or apart from fellowship with the Son, into which we have been called (1 Cor 1:9), there are NO spiritual blessings to be hadno lasting benefits. Further, these blessings are intended for the saints, belonging to all who are in the Son.
" . . . which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 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" (1:20). This is the realm into which Jesus ascended. It is where He is presently enthroned, mediating the New Covenant, interceding for the saints, and administering the affairs of the Kingdom over which He presides. The place occupied by Jesus is described as "at His (the Fathers) right hand." By being "far above all" all forms of delegated authority, we are to understand He is not subject to competing influences, and His will is invincible.
" . . . and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (2:6). Not only has the Lord Jesus been elevated to these lofty realms, all who are in Him have also been placed there. Their presence is currently in the first fruits sense, with the fulness yet to come, when God unveils the Son in all of His glory (1 Tim 6:15). This place is experienced by faith, yet is replete with advantages and profound experiences for the saints.
" . . . and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 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, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (3:10). There are other personalities in this realm. They are presently being taught how abundant, diverse, and effective the marvelous "wisdom of God" is. This is being made known through the church, which is the appointed repository for all the "fulness" of Christ (1:23).
" . . . 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" (6:12). At the lower extremity of these unseen realms, a fierce conflict exists. There are adversarial powers engaged in an aggressive effort to subvert the purpose of God in the saints. We are to understand that they are engaged in an effort to keep us from obtaining "all spiritual blessings" now, and the eternal inheritance "then."
What Do We Learn from This?
We learn from this that "heavenly places" are an exceedingly large realm, and teeming with activity. At the upper extremity, we have Jesus seated at the "right hand" of God, ruling with great power and effectiveness. At the lower extremity, believers engage spiritual hosts that are thoroughly adversarial. Although these have been "spoiled" or plundered by Jesus, they have sufficient strength and authority to engage the saints of God in fierce battle.
The heavenly realms are above the flesh-and-blood order. From the standpoint of earthly vision, they are invisible. From the standpoint of touch and fleshly experience, they are inaccessible. There is no science or area of human knowledge that is able to plot the path into this realm. There is no facet of earthly wisdom that can enable a person to enter these "places." We occupy this domain by Divine placement alone. Everyone who is in Christ Jesus is placed there, and given the advantage of receiving "all spiritual blessings."
This is a realm of acute consciousness. It is not a theoretical domain, but one of lofty experience and activity. It is accessed by faith and through the Holy Spirit. Being there is another way of saying we are in fellowship "with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
Here is where the benefits that are integral to the New Covenant are passed from Deity to those who are a "new creation" in Christ Jesus. Here is where we are "filled with all joy and peace in believing," and come to "abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). This is the place where prayers are answered, victory over the world is realized, and change from glory unto glory takes place.
From the height of this domain angelic hosts are dispatched to minister to the "heirs of salvation." Within its lower parts the saints of God do battle with the armies of darkness, who function under the "prince of the power of the air." This is the area of true spiritual activity.
Here is where growth is realized and the flesh is crucified. The reservoir of grace is here, together with every good and perfect gift that comes down from above. The "spirit of power, love, and of a sound mind" is here (2 Tim 1:7). Here is where we are "filled with all joy and peace in believing" (Rom 15:13), and where we "go on to perfection" (Heb 6:1). Divine fellowship is realized in this domain.
Not only to we "wrestle against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph 6:12), in "heavenly places" we triumph over them and neutralize their power.
This is the realm of God-awareness, where mercy is obtained, and grace is found to help in the time of need (Heb 4:16). It is where spiritual vision is clarified, understanding becomes fruitful, and participation in the Divine nature is realized. This is where fellowship with the Son is enjoyed (1 Cor 1:9). It is where we can put to death the "deeds of the body," putting off the "old man," and putting on the "new man" (Col 3:5,9-10; Eph 4:22-24).
THE IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENT
God has always stressed the environment in which closeness to Him is realized, and communication is made. When He created the world, perfect and flawless, and good in every way, He chose a garden in which to place man, for fellowship and responsibility.
When He commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, it was to be done in a special placein the land of Moriah, "upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Gen 22:2).
When He tutored men in matters pertaining to God, He chose a tabernacle in which service was to be done. Within the confines of this sacred citadel, righteous decisions were made, and Divine communications were experienced. He also had a Most Holy Place where atonement was made. The place made a difference!
When God cultured a people in His ways and commandments, He removed them from other lands, giving them one of their own. Within that land, He chose a specific city, Jerusalem, and placed His name there. It was the place of the Temple, and the High Priest, and the Divine service. When He summoned the people to gather with singular devotion to Him, there were specific places to which they were gathered. The place made a difference.
Even the ministry of the Lord Jesus was noted for special places. It is said of Him, "And in the day time He was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives" (Lk 21:37). There was a garden over the brook Kidron where Jesus often spent time with God. It is written, "Jesus often met there with His disciples" (John 18:2). The place made a difference.
In This Day of Salvation
In this "day of salvation," the place to be occupied has been elevated. This is because sin has been removed, the devil destroyed, principalities and powers plundered, and the door of access to God and grace opened. The "heavenly places" are where we are put upon entrance into Christ. We are "made to sit" there, or placed there by God Himself. This is what gives us the advantage in life. Furthermore, there is no possibility of pleasing God or doing His will outside of this realm. That is why we have been placed there.
Every spiritual benefit is realized here. All inner strength is administered here. The blessings of the covenant are mediated to us by the glorified Christ in these places. These are the realms where we can "draw near" to the Lord with a true heart, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:22). There are NO spiritual benefits beyond the circumference of the "heavenly places." Faith cannot survive outside of this domain.
A POINT OF CONCERN
The trends of contemporary Christianity are of great concern to me. They appear to be closer to earth than to heaven, and to flesh than the Holy Spirit. Rarely does one encounter a spiritual environment in which heaven is dominant, and "spiritual blessings" are preferred and eagerly sought. Church leaders often receive their credentials from the world, and are greater experts in the things of "this present evil world" than in "spiritual blessings in the heavenly places."
All of this is in stark contrast with the real circumstance of the Kingdom. Let it be clear that God will receive nothing from His children that is conducted outside of the "heavenly places" in which we seated. Any worship that is not carried out in these realms is nothing more than simulated worship. It is not real. Any service or labor that is not expended in this domain is classified as "of the flesh," and is nothing more that sowing to the flesh (Gal 6:8).
Attempting to serve God outside of these "heavenly places" is like the Levitical priests trying to serve God apart from the tabernacle, in the periphery of the camp. It is like Abraham picking a mountain closer to home and more convenient upon which to offer Isaac.
As believers, our joint activities are to be conducive to maintaining our position in the "heavenly places." Our focus is to be on the blessings that are associated exclusively with that productive environment.
THE GRAND OBJECTIVE
" 7 . . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." There is a grand objective to our placement in these "heavenly places." There is a Divine purpose that extends beyond this time, into "the ages to come." These are "ages" that reach beyond human perception and present experience. They fade from earthly view and blend with eternity. The greatest of all experience, and the most prolific of all instruction will take place in those "ages." Everything we have now is but introductory to what is to come. Considering the greatness of the "unspeakable gift" we have already received, how our anticipation is whetted for things even grander. They will not be of a different order, but an enlargement of what we have now begun to receive.
THE GREATNESS OF GRACE
Although "the grace of God" is not frequently mentioned in certain circles, it will be the subject of Divine exposition in the world to come. What has, and will be, accomplished by the grace of God transcends everything else that has been wrought. The magnificent creation of "the worlds" recedes into the background when the grace of God is seen "in truth" (Col 1:6). Mount Sinai is overshadowed by the greater glory of the Divine benevolence brought to men in Christ Jesus. His dealings with Israel are but faint glimpses or the things grace has brought to the sons of men.
The grace of God has reached deeper, and extends higher, than any of the previous dealings of God with mankind. It is wider in scope, covering greater periods of time and a larger populous. It has a more profound depth, exposing our hearts and minds to more of Gods nature and a greater familiarity with his "eternal purpose." The "grace of God" carries a greater measure of Divine kindness, and is more replete with provisions.
God has "made us sit together with Him in the heavenly places" in order to prepare us for an even greater working. He has put us upon the heavenly "potters wheel" to shape and mold us in such a way as will unveil to heavenly intelligences how exceedingly wise and gracious He is.
What Gods grace has produced will be the subject inquiry throughout the "ages to come." Already it has solicited the attention of angels, who long to look into the message of the Gospel, which proclaims what grace has already done (1 Pet 1:12). What glories will be unfolded throughout the coming ages? What marvelous associations will be made between the sons of God and the grace of God? How our hearts will burn within us as the great God of heaven unfolds the abundant riches that are resident in His matchless grace! Here is a Divine repository that is unexcelled. Therein are provisions that our minds can scarcely conceive in this world.
In our thinking and doing, let us make much ofthe "heavenly places." Let us assist one another in seeing more clearly into these realms, and appropriate the blessings that are resident there. We will be the better for it. When performed here, our ministries will not only be received by God, they will be productive, and bring glory to God. Our souls will find great and lasting delight, and we will become better suited to sit with Jesus in His throne (Rev 3:21).
In our personal lives, and in our assemblies, let us be tuned into the heavenly frequency of these "places." There is a voice that is presently "speaking from heaven" (Heb 12:25). There are "blessings" that can be possessed now, in "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). There are advantages that will bring the experience of being overcomers to us. There are benefits to be enjoyed that gladden the heart, and bring grace and peace to the believer.
All of these things are in "the heavenly places," where God has made us to sit in Christ Jesus. I exhort you to do whatever is necessary to remain in those realms. Resist every influence that seeks to drag you from these holy places. Make friends of all who encourage you to remain there, and assist you in surveying the blessings residing there.
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