“Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
(Colossians 2:12, ESV)
At Easter, we celebrate not just the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but ours too.
In 1 John 5:12 (ESV), the apostle writes: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” We do not wait till we die to have eternal life; we have it when we have Jesus. Eternity begins at the point of faith in Jesus as our Saviour. Our resurrection was obtained through Jesus when He rose from the dead.
Let me repeat: if you are in Christ, you have been raised from the dead. Often when we talk of resurrection, we think of the bodily form. That indeed is something which will take place when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). But there is a resurrection in the realm of the spiritual that has already taken place.
“Heavenly places” is mentioned a few times by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). That is also not referring to something in the future. John Stott describes it as the “unseen world of spiritual reality.”1
It exists in the here and now. Perhaps another way to explain it is to conceive of a parallel universe where the realities are spiritual, rather than the material and physical we are more familiar with.
This world view can make a lot of difference in how we live now. When Jesus promised us the abundant life, I believe He intended us to experience it in this present world, where the spiritual and the physical co-exist. There is a dimension of life that we tend to forget because we do not see it with our physical eyes. Paul tells us that there are rulers, the authorities and cosmic powers over this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12, ESV): these are the unseen realities that also are present in the heavenly places. There are wrestling matches often between them and us.
When we are ignorant of their reality, they easily defeat us, and deny us of the joyous victory of the abundant life Jesus promised. “When? How?”, you may ask.
Paul describes them as spiritual forces of “evil”. In the original language, it has the same root from where we get the English word “pornography”. Another translation uses the word “wickedness”, as in twistedness of virtue and moral principles from their purposes to evil ends. We do not have to look far to see that there are lots of these around us, in human relationships, business, and international relations.
It must be added that this evil also exists in the carnal nature of human beings, even born-again ones; so we cannot always blame these forces for our wickedness while overlooking the darkness within. We are told to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24, ESV).
In the heavenly places however, we are seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), a position of authority. Hence Paul’s instruction in this struggle is to “stand” (Ephesians 6:11, 13-14). That is the posture of a victor, who is determined to uphold and exercise all that he has learned and practised through disciplined training in relying upon the strength of the risen Christ, and not on himself.
When we carry such a perspective with us, we will not look at our “enemies” the same way as before. Human beings are not our enemies. There are spiritual forces bearing their influence that may affect how people behave. This does not absolve us of our responsibility. We just do not have to respond to their influence.
Besides divine power, there are also cultural and moral influences that can guide us to conduct ourselves kindly with one another, away from what these spiritual forces may try to do. In Christ, we have the power of the resurrection to rise above them and live the eternal and meaningful life He has obtained for us.
“Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” We declare that in our Holy Communion. Easter reminds us that we can also affirm for ourselves: “We have died with Christ. We are risen with Christ. We will be with Christ when He comes again.”
1John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), 35
Picture by enterlinedesign/Bigstock.com (above) and GD Arts/Bigstock.com (below)
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for more than 30 years.