Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:6c “. . .in heavenly places. . .”
When “quickened” we are removed from a spiritual cemetery. “Raised up,” we are transferred past the “air,” the domain of demons. When “seated” we take our place in the throne-room of the cosmos, “in heavenly places.” “Heavenly places” is the world above this world, the unseen kingdom, the God-dimension, the present, at hand, home of believers.
Every believer has two addresses. We dwell in this world, but converse with, and live in expectation of, another. Our five natural senses keep us ever conscious of Earth, and often drown out thoughts of Heaven. “We trust the naked eye, and therefore miss the grand astronomy” (Parker).
By faith, our sixth organ of sense, we can enjoy Heaven here and now. In “heavenly places” we find all spiritual blessings (1:3). Here Jesus sits next to His Father (1:20), and here, most precious thought of all, believers while yet on earth sit with Jesus. “Heavenly places” is the location of wisdom (3:10), “where God opens up His heart” (Boice), and the sphere of spiritual warfare (6:12), the place where we overcome forces of evil.
Our mansion in Heaven is prepared. We will someday possess it wholly. For the time being, enjoy the heavenly piece of furniture available to us, the seat of blessing, royalty, acceptance, wisdom, and victory.
Eph. 2:6d “. . .in Christ Jesus:”
All we enjoy in “heavenly places” flows from our union with Jesus. In knowing Jesus ever more fully, we enjoy increasingly wonderful foretastes of glory here and now. At times Heaven seems to explode among us. Ruth, in preparing for last Sunday night’s mini-concert, was practicing alone one night in this auditorium. I came to give her a ride home and quietly slipped in the auditorium to listen a while. I finally spoke, and asked, “How did practice go?” She replied, “It doesn’t get any sweeter than me being alone with my sweet Lord.” This epitomizes life in “heavenly places.” It is intimate, ongoing, sweet, ever increasing enjoyment of our Savior. “Every day with Jesus is (truly is) sweeter than the day before.”
My dad began preaching just before I was born. Being in the father’s waiting room and hearing me give a loud birth-cry, he immediately named me John in honor of John the Baptist, “one crying in the wilderness” (MT 3:3). At my ordination, Dad delivered the charge and used as his text, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” (JN 1:6). Dad challenged me to use John the Baptist’s ministry as the pattern for my own.
Named for a preacher, and being the son, grandson, and nephew of preachers, I included preachers among my boyhood heroes. Idolizing Mickey Mantle and Billy Graham, I wanted to be a professional baseball player and a famous preacher. My lack of talent ended the baseball fantasy, and years of ministry have mellowed the “famous preacher” dream.
I am still proud of being named for John the Baptist, but I more and more dwell on John the Beloved. To baptize Jesus and herald His coming were astounding honors for John the Baptist, but John the Beloved was the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” (JN 13:23) at the last supper. I envy the intimacy he enjoyed with Jesus.
This may be one reason Jesus had to leave Earth. Once the disciples began to understand fully what Christ meant to them, and all He had done for them, they might have in envy trampled one another to share John’s place in the precious bosom of their cherished Lord. “Heavenly places in Christ Jesus” allows each of us access to this type of intimacy.
Eph. 2:7a “That. . .”
Paul will now explain why God has done the wonderful things described in 2:4-6. Rich mercy, great love, saved by grace, quickened, raised up, seated, heavenly places in Christ Jesus–How do we explain such goodness? Paul will now take us into the depths of deity to show us the deepest motivation behind God’s greatest acts. Remove your shoes, our next steps will be on holy ground. We are entering the inner sanctum.
Eph. 2:7b “. . .in the ages to come he might show the exceeding
riches of his grace. . .”
Why does God save sinners? To make them in all ages to come monuments to His grace. Raising Christ from death to the seat of exaltation is the supreme demonstration of God’s power. Raising sinners from death to a seat of exaltation is the supreme demonstration of His grace. In the limitless future, all creation will glorify God for what He did for sinners.
God’s motivation in this is not selfish, but to demonstrate the extent of His grace. How else can God show the limits of His love apart from loving the unlovable? The only way He can show He cares is by caring.
God can be touched, God has feelings, God wants to love and be loved–these truths will be demonstrated forever through the way God treated undeserving sinners. As eon rolls over eon, believers will be ultimate spectacles, chief exhibits, trophies of God’s grace.
Eph. 2:7c “. . .in his kindness toward us. . .”
“Kindness” is love acting gently. God’s grace operates tenderly. Grace can be shown in ungracious ways. People often give undeserved favors with a lecture or a scowl, but God’s grace is kind, kind enough not only to forgive sin, but also to forget it. He did not quicken us and then keep us at arm’s length. He saved us and enthroned us. God sent Christ down to us, and sends us up to Christ. God neither deems me a burden nor begrudges my presence. I am His son, welcome in “heavenly places.”
One more thought here–we saved sinners will forever be monuments to the grace of God. Lost friend, let us be this for you in the present age. Let what God did for us encourage you to seek in Jesus what we found.
Eph. 2:7d “. . .through Christ Jesus.”
The Greek preposition here is the same as used elsewhere and should again read “in” Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, phrases like this one often pass glibly over unthinking lips. Paul repeated certain phrases many times because they held extraordinary meaning for him. We treat them often like well-worn coins, of less value because use has worn the luster off them.
Do not pass quickly over words repeated often in Scripture. The repetition denotes importance. The words are Holy Spirit inspired. Each is more precious than volumes of any other writings known to man.
“In Christ Jesus” is not vain repetition. It meant everything to Paul. He was a man in love. One relationship he could never escape. He was enthralled by his union with his Savior. Jesus was the center and circumference of everything in Paul’s thinking. Jesus is ever the great center of Paul’s epistles, the point toward which all the rays of thought converge.
Jesus is the circumference, the brim over which the reservoir filled with God’s blessings spills to us. From Jesus alone the water of life flows into a thirsty world. Jesus is the river of God which is full of the waters of life. Jesus is “the molten splendor into which have been dissolved gold and jewels and all precious things” (Maclaren).
God’s grace is enshrined only in Christ. From Jesus all blessings flow. Lest we forget this, Paul constantly repeats, “in Christ Jesus.”
Herein we discover the total picture of the spectacle which creation shall adore through the ages. Angels, demons, saints, and unbelievers will revere the way, the Person, in which God wrought triumph for sinners.
When God created our world, He saw “it was very good” (GN 1:31), but an enemy ruined it. In wreaking havoc and utter devastation, Satan was not primarily concerned with hurting human beings. His main interest was to besmirch the majesty and glory of God. He desired (the words are difficult to say) to make a fool of God. Before all the Universe, Satan defied God and laughed, “What happened to your perfect world?”
God had to do something to vindicate Himself. He could not walk away, ignore the problem, and let Satan appear to be supreme. God chose to send a dread champion to thwart Satan. Everything Satan tore down, Christ restored. Where Satan planted death, Jesus sowed life. To everyone who dies in Adam, the offer is made to live in Christ. This undoing of Satan on behalf of sinners, accomplished by God through His Son, shall be the never-ending phenomenon of eternity. Jesus shall forever evoke awe.
When the nobles of England forced King John to sign the Magna Charta in exchange for their allegiance to him, the fires of liberty were lit among English speaking people. (I take pride in knowing one of those nobles bore the surname Marshall.) Generations later, in a foolish outburst, the King of England rashly demanded his assembled nobles to declare by what title they held their lands. At this implied threat upon cherished liberties, a hundred swords leaped from their scabbards. Advancing on the frightened monarch, the nobles replied, “What title? By these we won, and by these we will keep them.” This is the manner of Earth, but not of Heaven. When the question is raised there, “By what title do you hold these lands?” all thoughts converge “in Christ Jesus.” All eyes fasten on Jesus. Every gaze is gratitude; every look is love. Songs of praise begin to swell, and crowns are cast in one glittering heap before the nail-scarred feet.