Last week we looked at the “heavenly realms,” a phrase Paul uses five times in Ephesians. We talked about it being 1) different than heaven, 2) the realm of spirit activity, 3) a place of both good and evil spiritual powers and 4) as real as the earthly realms where we live.

  1. People of the first century understood these truths better than we do today. It’s easy to think we are at the pinnacle of human knowledge. After all, through the Webb telescope we can see into parts of the universe no one has seen before. We can split an atom and map the human genome. Sometimes the only thing we lack is… humility. After all, we still can’t cure a cold or stop a microscopic virus from wreaking havoc on our planet.
    In the matter of evil spirits, demons, angels and the like, the people of the first century have an edge on us: Many of them saw and experienced these things. It’s clear from the gospels and Acts it was God’s will to allow this activity on earth during that time as part of showing Jesus’ dominion over all powers. “Sophisticated” people today wink and nod as they hear these texts and think about the poor, superstitious people of the first century. They’re not enlightened like us who know that we came from a cosmic explosion of some sort — though we can’t say where the mass came from or what caused it to explode — we just know that something was swimming in the sea, started swinging in a tree and now it’s me. And we’re sure this is all somehow more respectable to believe in than angels and evil spirits!
  2. Jesus is Lord over the heavenly realms. Now we’re back to 1:20-21. As God’s representative, Jesus demonstrated this power on earth. As the enthroned Lord of all, He reigns over everything.
  3. We have been seated with Him in the heavenly realms. Paul says, “And God raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (2:6). This speaks to a spiritual reality. We’re on earth but we experience all the blessings of the heavenly realms (1:3) because they are available through Jesus who resides and reigns there. In Hebrews this is pictured by Jesus entering through the veil on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24, 10:19-22). He is in the heaven part of the heavenly realms as our representative, so we are there experiencing these benefits through Him. Normally we think of Jesus being with us (and that’s correct), but it’s also true that we’re with Him!
  4. We need to rely on His strength as we do battle with the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. We are in a spiritual battle (6:12ff). We can survive and be victorious only if we stand in the strength of the One who overcame everything. As we do so, “the manifold wisdom of God” is made known to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” 3:10. God is bringing the alienated, fractured cosmos together in and through Jesus. The chasm created by Satan and fostered by the spiritual forces of evil has been overcome by the redemptive work of Christ and the church is the outworking of that victory. It shines its light in the darkest of places as it bears witness to the manifold wisdom of God.
    I hope this brief look at “heavenly realms” will provide you with a little more traction as you read through Ephesians and think about God’s eternal purpose in the church.

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