“BUT GOD, BEING RICH IN MERCY, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 2:4-6 (ESV).
Did you get that? We were raised up with Jesus and seated with Him in the heavenly places.
“God… made us alive with Christ” is our assurance of eternal life. However the significance of “God … raised us up with Him” is much more than just having eternal life.
What trips most Christians is thinking that this refers to the heaven we go to after we die. So we conceive this as something still in the distant future, as a reality that has not yet taken place.
Yet, look carefully at these Scriptural phrases. They are all in the past tense: “made alive”, “raised up with Him and seated us with Him in the Heavenly places”. This means that the moment we confess Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, these promises are ours to experience now in the “Heavenly places”, the world of spiritual realities.
Here on earth, where we live, we are aware of this world which our physical bodies can see, touch and feel. But at the same time, we also exist in another world that is invisible. This “other world” is in a heavenly place, and it is as real to our spiritual senses as the visible world is to our physical senses.
These two worlds co-exist, and for those of us who are in Christ, we live in these two worlds.
Understanding this has tremendous implications in the way that we live our lives. First, we must look at life and the world differently now. Even as we enjoy the created physical world around us, we should also open our spiritual eyes to see, and enjoy, the other realities.
What are some of these spiritual realities? “Love” is an example. There is physical love, often referred to in Greek as eros. This is the erotic kind that we see in Hollywood movies between a man and a woman who just met at a party and in the next few scenes are in bed having sex.
Then there is agape – a higher kind of love which the Bible talks about. This is a love that is demonstrated by the selfsacrificial love of the Son of God for the world.
It is these kinds of spiritual realities that we are to pursue, as Paul exhorts the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1, Esv).
Another example of a spiritual reality is the presence of angels. These heavenly beings are there, when good things happen or when we seemingly escape potentially dangerous situations. Angels bring blessings to us, and they also guard us. Sometimes they are visible, other times not.
In this world of spiritual realities, Paul refers also to “rulers, authorities … the cosmic powers over this present darkness … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, Esv). These are the “bad guys” compared to the angels who are the “good guys”.
In living in these two worlds, we also need to realise that the world of spiritual realities is far superior to our present physical one. We know that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Heavenly eternal things will replace earthly material.
The challenge of Christians’ resurrected life: Remaining in the physical world while enjoying our position in the heavenly places. – Picture by Jason Mael/Bigstock.com
Living out our ‘resurrected life’
With the resurrection of Jesus, the victorious eternal possessions in the heavenly places are now ours. These “possessions” are powerful and superior to those that are temporal. We must learn to identify them, and know what they are. Read our Bibles with this perspective in mind, because it pays to be familiar with what these are, as this is the first step to living victoriously here on earth.
Next we need to apply this knowledge. And to do that, we are required to exercise faith, hope and love, another set of spiritual realities that Paul writes “last forever” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
For example, on the topic of love, Jesus made it clear that we are to love our enemies. Now, what if someone treats us as his enemies? Even then we do not respond as people do in this temporal world. Here they would exact revenge, “an eye for an eye”.
But as people who inhabit the other better world, we inject its reality here by acting the way Jesus instructs: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, NKJV).
Paul has an additional dimension when he said:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20- 21, NKJV)
These are habits that are not natural in this world. To practice them calls for an out-of-this-world lifestyle. But when we do, we are living out our resurrected life.
For the next few weeks, we will be in the season of Easter. It is the season to celebrate resurrection.
It is through the resurrection of Christ that we have secured victory. Yet while our position in the “heavenly places” is that of being more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), our challenge is still in the temporal physical world. It is natural for us to respond to the immediate physical sensory environment simply because we have not trained our “spiritual senses” to respond as victors.
The writer of Hebrews rebuked his hearers for being dulled. There were a lot more insights regarding what Christ had already achieved for them that he had wanted to share with them, but he felt that they were not ready to receive the teaching being still immature. “But” he wrote, “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14, Esv)
To be able to celebrate and live the resurrected victorious life more would require us to train our powers of discernment to distinguish between the good that our risen Lord has won for us, and the evil that would seek to deny us the joy. The first lesson on the curriculum is to know where we stand.
Imagine standing on a peak with the two guides who have brought you up there. As you survey the sight around, one guide describes the wonders of the scenery. When you ask questions about what you see, the other guide answers and explains everything to you.
The Bible is our Guide when we stand in the heavenly places. As we read our Bibles and delve deep into understanding God’s Word, the privileged position on which we stand in Christ will come into sharper focus. On aspects that may not be clear to us, the Holy Spirit will explain and help us in our understanding.
Now, carry on with the next lesson.