Many of us in the West are aware these days that we have entered intense and increasingly difficult times (just catching up to Christians in various other parts of the world), and when one is in the midst of very trying things there is little appetite for a teaching. At the same time, we must be solidly grounded in truth; we must be standing on the sure foundation of Christ, and our prayers must go up from prayer’s foundation. Otherwise we are incapable of fighting the battle of the Lord; we will soon go under. That need never happen: God has given us all the provision we need to triumph in what is more and more becoming a very evil day. So let me share with you something my Teacher is teaching me these days—right in the midst of the battle.
Paul five times in Ephesians uses a phrase which in the King James Version is translated, “in heavenly places.” (Actually one of these is translated, “in high places.”) The Greek for this phrase is en tois epouraniois, which some versions translate “in the heavenlies.”
The first reference (using in the heavenlies) has to do with blessings:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
The second has to do with the immeasurable power God wrought in Christ in raising Him from the dead and setting Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies. He prays that we might know:
…What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:19-23).
The third passage has to do with how what God accomplished in Christ affects those who are in Christ:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through (in) Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).
The fourth has to do with how the church is to impact spiritual beings in the heavenlies:
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Eph. 3:8-12).
And the fifth has to do with how the wicked beings among those spiritual beings are completely brought to nought by those in Christ who are equipped with the whole armour of God.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:10-12).
The third passage is in the centre of these five, and is central to what we want to emphasize. Let’s look at it. It is built upon the second reference about what God, with illimitable power, accomplished in Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension into the heavenlies. This, Paul says in the third reference, is the very heritage of those to whom he is writing this epistle. They are quickened (made alive) together with Christ, and are raised up together with Him, and are seated together with Him in the heavenlies. The question remains, when did this happen? When did the Ephesians join Him in this heavenly heritage? When did it happen that they were quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies? It happened when they were baptized into Christ. For, Paul is writing this epistle to those “in Christ” (Eph. 1:1). It is those in Christ whom God has quickened together with Christ, and has raised them up together with Him, and made them sit (enthroned them) together with Him “in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.”
Is not this astonishing? To be baptized into Christ is to be made one with His accomplishment in the cross and resurrection and ascension (see also Rom. 6:3, Col. 2:12, Gal. 3:27). By being baptized into Christ—it is not water baptism but Spirit baptism that accomplishes this—one is baptized into His death, and is consequently made alive with Him in the power of His resurrection life, and is enthroned with Him in the heavenlies “far above all principality and authority…” I am not talking about theory. I am talking about participation in Christ by His Spirit.
I used to view the first reference (about the spiritual blessings) as one who with neck craned upward was looking into the heavenlies trying to figure out how I could get those spiritual blessings down. That is entirely wrong thinking. They are “spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.” If I am in Christ I am with Him in the heavenlies; the blessings are my heritage in the heavenlies.
And I used to view the last reference as a soldier who was warring against these forces of darkness in the heavenlies from an earthly vantage point—a rather intimidating prospect. But that too is entirely wrong thinking. “We wrestle… in the heavenlies…” That is the sphere of our warfare—the heavenlies; we are there in the heavenlies, in fact in Christ are above these forces of darkness.
Dearly beloved in Christ, this—what God wrought in Christ at Calvary and in His resurrection and ascension—is the foundation, the bedRock, upon which we walk, and testify, and pray, and fight the good fight of faith. Baptized into Him we are dead to sin as He is dead to sin; baptized into Him we are alive unto God as He is alive unto God; baptized into Him we are enthroned as He is enthroned above all the forces of darkness in the heavenlies. This, the heavenly realm, is the sphere of our life and walk and warfare. We are baptized into it. Let us fight the good fight of faith from thence. It means inevitable triumph.