“Heavenly realms” or “heavenly places” (ESV) is a phrase unique to Ephesians. It comes from the Greek word, epouraniois. This word is found in other places in the NT, but only in Ephesians is it translated this way. Paul uses it five times in the letter, so it’s an important term to understand if we want to get a grip on the scope and span of what Paul wants to talk about in Ephesians.

  1. The heavenly realms are not the same thing as heaven. The heavenly realms include heaven, but they contain more than that (see 6:12ff). In 1:20-21 we’re told that God “raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and do-minion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
    We know Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3; Acts 2:33-34). Paul tells us here He is in the heavenly realms. We could lazily equate the two, but it wouldn’t be accurate. Heaven is God’s holy dwelling place (Deu-teronomy 26:15) and as we’ll see in 6:12ff, there are some unholy things in the heavenly realms that certainly aren’t part of heaven. So even though the heavenly realms contain heaven, they are not to be equated with it. The heav-enly realms are like our solar system and heaven is like the sun, but we shouldn’t equate the two.
    Heaven represents the pinnacle — it is “far above” everything else in the heav-enly realms. Paul alludes to something like this in 2 Corinthians 12:2 when he talks about “the third heaven” or when the phrase “the highest heaven” is used in 1 Kings 8:27. You may want to think of it like this: Mt. Elbert is the highest point in the state of Colorado — it is above everything else. But there’s more to Colorado than just Mt. Elbert. So, the heavenly realms contain heav-en, but they are much more than that.
  2. The heavenly realms are the dimension of spirit activity. Chapter 3:10 speaks of “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” I don’t think there’s any way we can stretch that to mean earthly rulers and authorities. We don’t need to because Ephesians 6:12 speaks of “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Daniel 10:1-11:1 gives us a peek at the same kind of thing.
  3. The heavenly realms contain both good and evil powers. In Daniel 10:1-11:1 we have an angel who has been delayed 21 days in getting a message to Dan-iel because the “prince of the Persian kingdom” “resisted” and “detained” him, and the arch angel Michael (Jude 9) had to come to his aid (v. 13). Later he speaks of conflict with the prince of Greece (v. 20) and how he supported and protected Darius the Mede (11:1). Here we have both good and evil powers contesting each other.
  4. The heavenly realms are as real as the earthly realms. Of course, they aren’t perceived the same way. We know about the earthly realms through our physical senses. We know about the spiritual realms because God has re-vealed it to us through His word.
    Next week we’ll finish our look at “the heavenly realms.”

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