Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Heavenlies" in Ephesians 1:3

The phrase "heavenly realms" in Ephesians 1:3 (NIV) is from one Greek adjective ἐπουρανίοις or epouraniois. This adjective that stands alone without a noun at the beginning of the longest sentence in all of known ancient Greek (verses 3-14) means "above the sky, celestial, in heavenly, high." Nouns like "realm", "places", "world" are often added in the English translations to make sense of this Greek adjective so it say "heavenly realms" or "heavenly places."
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
A little study and investigation of this word gives us insight into the spiritual dimension that so often we dismiss or are unaware. In the Jewish understanding of the "the heavens" there was an upper part of this earth's atmosphere (as they understood the atmosphere or the sky) that was the realm of spiritual activity concealed from human view but directly involved in it. This may be similar to many ancient theologies that understood the upper levels of the sky to be the home of the gods. The gods were believed to be aware and involved in human events.

Paul refers to the "heavenlies" five times in Ephesians. In fact, this adjective is only used in Ephesians.

In Ephesians 1:3 we are said to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. Paul is saying that in Christi the believer has every spiritual advantage available in this spiritual dimension. Remember, this spiritual dimension is not future but currently active and effecting the natural world.

In Ephesians 1:20 we are told that Jesus was seated at the right hand of God who is himself seated in the "heavenlies." Paul then says that Jesus' position at the right hand of God in the heavenlies is far above all the other spiritual forces (or, gods) that occupy the heavenlies. This verse identifies these spiritual beings in four classes: rule, authority, power, dominion.

In Ephesians 2:6 we are told that believers have been seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This once again demonstrates an incredible truth concerning the depth and extent of our complete salvation in Christ.

In Ephesians 3:10 God's intention for the church is that his wisdom should be made known to the spiritual powers (rulers and authorities) in the heavenlies. God is demonstrating his varied and multi-dimensional wisdom today to these spiritual beings who occupy the heavenlies.

In Ephesians 6:12 we are told that our struggle today is not against the natural realm "but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies." Because this is our struggle we are told to put on the armor of God.

From these verses we see that the heavenlies is the location of spiritual forces and oppostion to God who himself is seated with in the heavenlies but at the head of all the powers in the heavenlies. Jesus is seated with God and we are seated with Christ. In this position (with Christ or in Christ) we have been blessed with every spiritual advantage available in the heavenlies. During our time on earth God is demonstrating his wisdom to these powers in the heavenlies through our lives and the evil spiritual forces in the heavenlies are opposing us as God continues to demonstrate his wisdom through our lives (the church) in our times.

With this understanding Ephesians 2:2 receives some light for understanding:
. . . in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
And, also in Daniel 10:12-13 when the angel Gabriel said:
Do not be afraid,Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen . . .
Join us for our Tuesday night Bible study through Ephesians in West Des Moines or online.

Galyn Wiemers

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