Where is the “Holy Spirit of Promise?” Where is the Lord God of Paul? Ephesians 1:13

Ephesians 1:13

phs3I am not sure whether it was Calvin or Charles Finney that said, “We must understand that the New Covenant sustains the same relation to the Abrahamic Covenant that the fulfillment of a promise does to the promise itself.  The Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are not identical, but the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.” (I have the statement in an old notebook of mine and so I am not sure of its source).

 

The New Covenant, that is quoted so often and dwelt on so much, is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant to those who receive it.  It is manifested by the Holy Spirit taking up His home in the human heart and having the human recipient literally immersed in all that the Holy Spirit is, and engrafting His law there in the spiritual DNA of the recipient.

 

Methinks, prophetically and realistically, the time has come when we should feel utterly compelled to consider these promises in the present tense, and only to pray for them as an overdue and unclaimed reality. We need to take hold of them for their glorious intrinsic worth, and for the winning of the nations of the earth. God only blesses us in order to bless others. The fullness of the blessing of the gospel is only seen in the immersion of God’s people in the power of the Spirit. These promises were not due in Abraham’s day.  They were promises made to Abraham and to all the Old Testament saints concerning the world’s future good, and the future good of Abraham’s descendants, i.e. ethnic Israel.

 

phs4Concerning Abraham and the Old Testament saints, the Bible informs us that they, “all died in faith not having received the promises but having seen them afar off”.  (Hebrews 11:13)  And again in Hebrews 11:39, 40, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”  It is clearly declared to us in the infallible word that these promises are due to us and available to us in a higher sense than they ever were or possibly could be to Abraham and the Old Testament saints. The Kingdom needs to be taken by force, and taken now.

 

The Abrahamic covenant is not abolished.  The Abrahamic covenant has not been completely fulfilled to date.  Some silly folk think that the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled when Christ came, and thereafter complete, and/or therefore abolished, inferring that Israel has no future purpose in God’s plan. How quaint!  This means that God wasn’t being serious when He used the word forever. Tosh to that one! The Abrahamic covenant is not done away with, set aside or fulfilled. The Abrahamic covenant cannot be set aside until all the nations of the earth are blessed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 

We need to add that this universal outpouring will then continue till the end of time in this world system as we know it.

 

This brings me to todays offering.

 

May I tread on a few toes? Please? Not that I want to tread on anybody’s toes at all – and I am not trying to be confrontational about stuff.  However, I know I will go where some will not want me to go, in as much as what I want to say is not commonly agreed to in the Christian world. I have a personal deep conviction to share today. Some will love it and shout “Hallelujah!” because they profoundly agree, yet I suspect some might stop half way down the first page and vow never to read my stuff again. Some may read it and think, “Tut! What on earth is the fuss about?” So; May I take the risk? Pretty please? Most Christians will agree with the body of my thoughts, but the qualifying introduction is the bit that might upset a few.

 

My opening gambit, you see, is this:

 

phs5Every true Christian is born again, from above by the Holy Spirit. That cannot be doubted. Most of my readers will “Amen” that opener. Also, and this is where some of you might hold your breath, I believe that every individual Christian, without exception, is divinely promised and is qualified to receive through faith, the promise of the Father, the “promised Holy Spirit,” i.e. the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Master said, “You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” The baptism in the Holy Spirit is stated to be all about spiritual fire, power and authority. This Holy Spirit baptism is every believer’s inheritance. John the Baptist cried, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Baptist’s statement explicitly indicates that Jesus Christ would literally immerse believers into the living water of the Holy Spirit. That’s the good news.

 

However, I believe that it is clearly and self-evidently not factual to say that every Christian has received the Holy Spirit in the way and the manner He is promised in the passages of Scripture concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit. That’s the bad news. Many Christians have a practical status quo in the spiritual life that is contradicted by the perspective that we are about to negotiate.

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If it is argued by any that, “It all happened at conversion,” I will as graciously as I can step back and leave my protagonists to their sad and very mistaken delusion.  Of course, I need to insert a caveat and say; I believe that it is possible to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the same moments of conversion. I know quite a few who received their baptism in the Spirit in that manner.  That would be, however, the rare exception and definitely not the common rule. (The need for Peter and John to visit Samaria after Philip’s series of meetings makes that clear.)

 

There are still huge swathes of Christians, and many denominational niche’s where the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the elephant in the room and remains a mere academic Bible College debate and an intellectual exercise.  I am talking of the practical need and the divine provision and I promise I am not even attempting to be doctrinally swanky or supercilious. The baptism in the Holy Spirit should be the normal experience of all Christians. That is my conviction.

 

The separation of “Tongue Talkers” (as they were initially called) from the main body of believers, they having been ejected from churches of all denominations a century or so ago, has in these days completely reversed itself. Not that the intellectual study of the subject has been settled and agreed by all – far from it. In these early days of the twenty-first century we now have the “Tongue Talking rejects of orthodoxy” sitting generally in the driving seat of evangelism, church building, and world winning aggressive and robust spirituality. There are of course exceptions, as there are to every rule. The all-round solid theology and church building praxis of Pentecostalism in general has long killed off the superficial “Tongue Talker” epithet, and the situation is so reversed in the passing of a century that today “Full Gospel” Christians, whether they are wrapped under the Pentecostal packaging or fly under the charismatic pennant, are the folks who have been more successful in keeping the message pure as ever whilst adapting their church praxis into twenty first century acceptability.

 

ph8For anybody out there who thinks I am talking “tosh” let me put the whole stack of cards on the table and disabuse the non-charismatic masses that, by strict definition, “tongue talking” is only a tiny drop of icing on the top of a huge mountainous cake of spiritual enduement for what God imparts in the mighty Holy Spirit baptism. I will not and dare not trivialize the “tongue talking” in any way whatsoever, it is one of the vital organs of the indwelling Spirit – but there is much more than that. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is one of the paths of access into walking like Jesus walked. An “Acts 10:38 lifestyle” is what we are talking about and aiming for.

 

The real point of my thoughts today is a practical one. And this is where I might upset a few folks. It is this writer’s conviction that many Christians have never received the Holy Spirit in any higher sense than the Old Testament saints who had actually been justified by grace through faith and experienced, to some degree, the presence of the Spirit.

 

There! I’ve said it and feel I cannot retract it.  Many Christians, experientially, have nothing more than some of the Old Testament saints. I feel it in my bones that some of my readers will want me taken out at dawn to read the last rites over me before having me shot for those words. I am talking about the real O.T. saints, of whom the Bible says, “They all died in faith not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13).  Many Christians have not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit – or many other God given promises – that are part of their inheritance because of ignorance. By that I mean lack of knowledge and understanding. I do not mean that anybody necessarily has a bad attitude as the word “ignorant” can sometimes mean in today’s usage of the word. It may be bad biblical teaching, or even no teaching at all that precipitates the “non-desire” for the Holy Spirit baptism.

 

phs1The New Testament experience should have us all walking where the likes of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and Daniel, along with many others never walked. However, many Christians do not even walk near the places those men walked. New Testament blessing should take us well beyond Old Testament extremes. The prophets told us that there was a “New Covenant” coming; a new kind of relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, and a new commonality where the weakest member of the Kingdom of God would be even greater than John the Baptist whom Jesus taught us was the greatest among men.

 

The apostle Paul noted that, “after we believed we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).  Most evangelical and non-charismatic or non-Pentecostal Bible teachers, preachers and writers refer to this “sealing of the Spirit” as if it was the new birth. I believe that explanation to be a complete error.  I promise I am not referring to mental gymnastics to prove, “My theology is better than yours! Tadaa!”  What I am talking about has down to earth practical ramifications that can transform one’s spiritual experience and perceptions. I am talking of an enduement of the Holy Spirit and power. I am talking about the anointing of the Spirit.  I am talking of something that would make Daniel and Elijah jealous. A quiet, sedate walk with the Master with no outward manifestation of anything supernatural is not justified. We each need to know, understand, believe and apply the teaching of the baptism in the Holy Spirit (and all the promises of God) in order to take a firm hold on what God wants for our lives both individually and corporately.

 

Once converted, the baptism in the Holy Spirit needs to be a priority. See what Paul said when he met the “about twelve” disciples he met in Ephesus (Acts 19). It was his first primary thought there: “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” The baptism of the Holy Spirit is only one of those promises. Some would say it is the most vital promise for any Christian to appropriate. Others would say that it is the one promise that opens the whole bank of God’s purposeful promises. It can, indeed, be logically taught that the Baptism is the umbrella promise that has many more promises embedded within its outworking.

 

I insist that believers in the Old Testament possessed the Holy Spirit. I also believe that they had the anointing of the Spirit that fell upon some in order to bring the miraculous and the divinely supernatural into this time space world.

 

Watch this:

 

phs01We need to understand that the Spirit of God is stated as being “in” the believers throughout the Old Testament. There is the classic verses of 1 Peter 1:10 -11 (NASB) that says, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (The Bold font and italics are my action of course). So clearly, we know that all Old Testament prophets had the Spirit of God dwelling within them. I have been taught nearly all my Christian life that the Spirit of God was “within them” while they prophesied, but was not “within them” at any other time. For me, that is not a biblical proposition made plain by the text.  The Old Testament prophets had what Christians hold dear. There is further evidence below.

 

“And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? (Genesis 41:38. KJV).  Some may argue that a heathen idolatrous Egyptian Pharaoh may have used the terminology with a different meaning; nevertheless it is how Joseph was perceived by the Egyptian monarch. It suggests that there was much more to Joseph than his ability to dream his own dreams, and interpret other’s. He had a demeanour of character and gifting that spoke of the presence of Almighty All-knowing God to those that knew him. This presence was part of his character. That screams “indwelling Spirit” to me. From what we know of Joseph, it would seem that, indeed, the Spirit of God did actually dwell within him. He could interpret the butler and baker’s dream at the drop of a hat. The anointing is seen to be at his beck and call when necessity required. That’s what I call an “indwelling.”

 

phs 20“You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. (Exodus 28:3 (NASB)) A large body of men who worked on building the Tabernacle were “filled with the Spirit” in order to facilitate their task. That is what I have always been taught. But the Spiritual wisdom they were given is nowhere suggested to have been given only for this single task. It could just as well have been their lifelong gifting and occupation.

 

“I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” (Exodus 31:3 (NASB)). Bezalel was a greatly blessed man. He was filled with the Spirit. Exodus 35:31 states the same phenomena, adding that God actually called Bezalel by name to the task. Again, I add that I have always been taught that this gift was given to Bezalel just for the building of the Tabernacle and then rescinded when the Holy Tent was completed. And yet, again, I add; why should that be a valid conclusion when it is not stated anywhere in the biblical text? I think evangelicals have always made that presupposition to differentiate and make clear that the Holy Spirit experience of New Testament believers is “superior” to and separate from that of Old Testament believers.

There are, however, a good number of statements of scripture that ensure the understanding of the Holy Spirit presence being different after Acts 2 in the life of all believers that totally preclude the need to “make up some differences.” If, as I suspect, the men who worked on the Tabernacle in the wilderness with Moses were Spirit filled in a very practical way all their lives through, that fact – presupposing it to be a fact – in no way prejudices the superiority of the New Testament faith experience when compared with the Old.

 

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“So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” (Numbers 27:18 (NASB)). Can anything be clearer? The Spirit of God was “in” Joshua. Joshua was a man of faith. Added to the Spirit being “in” Joshua, we have “Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; …” (Deuteronomy 34:9 NASB). Joshua the son of Nun was actually “filled” with the Spirit that was “in” him. That filling, we are told, was because Moses laid his hands on him.

 

Ezekiel 2:2 (NASB) says, “As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me,” And 3:24 (NASB) adds “As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.” I Peter 1:10-11 above refers to a continual indwelling of the Spirit with the Old Testament prophets, suggesting to me, that these two statements of the Spirit “entering” Ezekiel are referring to a supernatural experience for a particular moment.  Ezekiel 11:5 referring to Ezekiel’s experience of the Spirit of God “falling” on him has echoes very much of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as referred to in Acts 10:44 and 11:15.

 

From 1 Peter 1:10-11 we would understand that Micah had the Spirit of God dwelling within him, but when Micah 3:8(NASB) says: “On the other hand I am filled with power— with the Spirit of the LORD and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin,” It sounds to me to be the language that acknowledges an external anointing that has imparted power to the prophet, giving him power and courage in ministry. Micah was conscious and clearly aware of the external anointing of the Holy Spirit on his life and prophetic activity.

 

Nebuchadnezzar knew no better when he referred to Daniel as the man “… in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.” (Daniel 4:8, 4:9 & 4:18). Belshazzar used the same terminology in 5:11 and 14. Even though Nebuchadnezzar was a self-deifying person with deep anger and mental problems. And Belshazzar was a mindless hedonist till his last hours of life, their understanding of Daniel, having met him, speaks loudly.

 

phs2So; we have clear evidence that to some degree, no matter how less and no matter how different the relationship to the Spirit of God, Old Testament believers did indeed have the Spirit of Yahweh within them. Any discussion about the Spirit only being in a chosen few and “not in all,” have no biblical justification for their opinion.

 

Note also, that as well as “The Spirit indwelling,” we also have the “Spirit coming upon” Old Testament believers. That anointing of the Spirit that caused ordinary men to do things that were extraordinary and supernatural.

 

For instance:

 

Judges 3:9-10 (NASB) “When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”  An anointing that raised Othniel into Judgeship, and precipitated him supernaturally winning battles.

 

Judges 11:29 (NASB) “Now the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon.” Each Judge was raised up by Yahweh Himself. Sovereignly and –as far as human sight is concerned, seemingly totally random, yet, we understand that nothing Yahweh does is random.

 

ph6Judges 13:24-25 (NASB) “Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.” Samson was often moved by the Spirit of God throughout his life. I often pray, “Oh that You, Holy Spirit, would stir me as you stirred Samson!”

 

Judges 14:6 (NASB) “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.” It was the anointing of the Spirit of God coming upon Samson that gave him whatever was necessary to tear a Lion in two.

 

Judges 14:19 (NASB) “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house.” In 14:6 the Spirit of God helped Samson kill a lion, here he was inspired to kill 30 Philistines.

 

1 Samuel 10:6 (NASB) “”Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.” It was, of course, the Spirit of God that inspired Saul to prophesy when he was in the same atmosphere of the prophets and musicians of the School of the Prophets. This prophetic word of Samuel’s was fulfilled in 1 Samuel 10:10.

 

1 Samuel 16:13 (NASB) “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” There was no killing of the bear or slaying of the lion by David until the symbolic anointing of Samuel which precipitated the real anointing, i.e. “the Spirit of the LORD coming mightily upon him. Note also that the Spirit of the LORD came upon David mightily, from that day forward. That phrase informs us that this one off anointing never left him throughout the rest of his life.

 

phs 301 Samuel 19:20-23 (NASB) “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, but when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing and presiding over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul; and they also prophesied. When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. So Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came as far as the large well that is in Secu; and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” He proceeded there to Naioth in Ramah; and the Spirit of God came upon him also, so that he went along prophesying continually until he came to Naioth in Ramah.” It almost suggests that Saul was prophesying involuntarily. The atmosphere of music and the prophetic dance greatly influenced the moving of the Spirit in those first days of the schools of the prophets that were mentored by Samuel.

 

2 Kings 2:9 (NASB) “When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”  Elisha’s unique and classic request of Elijah was in reality a cry for a double anointing of the Spirit of God. His request was granted. It is a wonderful study into the rationale of Elisha’s request, and the biblical meditation as to whether Elijah granted Elisha’s request or whether it was Yahweh. The conclusions from such a study are more than edifying.

 

2 Chronicles 15:1 (NASB) “Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded,” And Azariah thereafter prophesied very forcefully.

 

1 Chronicles 12:18 (NASB) “Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was the chief of the thirty, and he said, “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, and peace to him who helps you; Indeed, your God helps you!” Then David received them and made them captains of the band.” This was a soldier, not a “professional” prophet. The Spirit anointed whom He willed for prophecy just as He does in the New Testament and in the church today.

 

What does all the above show us? It exemplifies the fact that Old Testament believers had the Spirit of God dwelling within them, and it also shows that the anointing of the Holy Spirit was a “common” occurrence in the prophetic activity of the Old Testament.

 

Having stated my conclusions concerning the relationship of the Spirit of God to believers in the Old Testament, we now want to seek out the biblical explanation and definition of how and why a New Testament believer has what the Old Testament believer’s – even the prophets and men like Elijah – did not have, nor could have.

 

phs40We start at Abraham. A fuller biblical appreciation of the promises given to Abraham can illumine our hearts on this issue making us open to take more of the Spirit of God in our lives and to step more easily into the baptism in the Holy Spirit which is the inheritance of every true Christian and always has been since Acts 2.

 

The concept of being “saved,” as in being “born again,” is not used in the Old Testament, however, faith is. Justification is never mentioned in the Old Testament, however, Genesis 15:6 says that “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” That is as clear a biblical commentary on the definition of justification without the word being used that one can think of. It may say in the New Testament that faith is the gift of God, but that does not mean it was not the gift of God in the Old Testament. God Himself gives people the faith that saves them. It may not say that Noah repented of sin, and claimed Yahweh as his salvation, but I defy any bible reader to even suggest that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” to mean anything else but that he went through the dynamics and experience of what we call “conversion” even if Noah would have thought we were talking a foreign language if we suggested that word to him. The fact, Enoch walked with God,” could not have been possible without Enoch exercising faith that gave him access to fellowship with God, in exactly the same manner as it does with the New Testament believer. Hebrews 11 and the “Hall of faith and fame” tells us that these things are so. Faith activated Enoch, Noah, Abraham and many others. Faith is a gift of God that can only be exercised by willful choice. One cannot exercise faith ignorantly or unconsciously.

 

So I ask: If Enoch could, by faith, walk with God and not see death, if Noah could find grace and know that final judgement was coming for his generation, and if Abraham could know clearly that it was right that he should leave “the culture of civilization” and set out to create a whole new culture and civilization, how “insane” does it sound to an unbelieving cynic when Christians say, “We have more than the Old Testament believer’s had?”

 

Is there anybody left out there reading these lines? Or have I lost you all?

 

phs 70I believe the New Testament is superior to the Old. I believe the New Covenant is a spiritual ministration of life while the Decalogue of Sinai was and still is a ministration of death. I seriously believe the New Testament Christian has more than the mightiest Old Testament prophet, but …!  And it is an extremely large “BUT!”  Jesus said to the woman at the well that the day was coming, “and now is,” when folks would worship God in Spirit and in truth.” It is statements like that in John 4, as well as Christ’s remarks about the kingdom members being greater than John, and not forgetting the promise of Jeremiah 31 that settles the issue as an incontrovertible fact. The “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is what separates the very nature of the New Testament believers’ relationship with God from the people of faith in the Old Testament prior to the first advent of Christ.

 

I am, however, not sure that the commonly held explanations of the distinction between Old Testament and New Testament believers is sustainable in the light of close inspection.  I really believe we should re-examine our convictions about what this difference actually is.

 

“I live with the indwelling Spirit. I have what Elijah, Isaiah and even Moses never had” is what many non-Pentecostal charismatic Christians declare. But is that really true? And for the millions upon millions that have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, surely we are vastly under valueing, misunderstanding, and under utilizing what God has given to us.

 

Old Testament saints were “saved,” (i.e. made righteous in the eyes of God) not by works of law, but by faith as in the covenant Yahweh made with Abraham. There has NEVER been any other way that a human being could be received as righteous before God other than “by faith,” meaning “faith alone.” In other words Abraham, together with all that were saved (i.e. those that were “in faith”) before and after him in the days of the Old Testament, were declared righteous before God because of their faith in Yahweh, and the expectation of Messiah’s coming.

 

Let it be understood that the ceremonial law was a continual rehearsal and a practical demonstration of the New Testament message. It was quite literally a shadow of the Gospel, and it clearly says in that, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’”  Paul literally calls the words of the covenant with Abraham, “the Gospel.”

 

phs 60The difference then between the old dispensation and the new, does not lie in the fact that under the old dispensation the saints were saved by works, while under the new they are saved by grace. It is essential that it be noted and kept as a fundamental key to understanding the entire Bible: Everyone who was, is and in the future will ever be “saved” was, is and will be only and ever be saved by grace through faith in Christ.  But, in the days of the Old Testament, prior to Christ’s first advent, the Holy Spirit was neither promised nor enjoyed to such an extent as He is promised and enjoyed under these Gospel days.

 

What Abraham and the Old Testament saints did not receive was that measure of the Holy Spirit that constitutes the New Testament Gospel message, and produces the sanctification of the whole person, body, soul and Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  Those promises cascade down through the millennia, from Abraham, and through Abraham to Christ, and through Christ and by Christ to the whole Church of God.  Now remember the Holy Spirit is to be received by simple faith in these promises.  “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). “As it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17).

 

In the 12th chapter of Genesis, we have the first mention of the covenant that God made with Abraham, even though the word covenant is not mentioned.

  • “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
  • “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.” (Gen 17:4)
  • “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” (Gen 17:7)
  • “Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”. (Gen 18:18)
  • “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:18)

There were two things promised concerning the covenant made with Abraham.

  1. Earthly Canaan or Israel was promised to the natural descendants of Abraham, i.e. ethnic Israel, vis a vis the Jews.
  2. There was also a blessing promised through Abraham to all the nations of the earth.

This covenant was not only made with Abraham, but as we shall see, this covenant was also made with all the nations of the earth through his seed. This is the blessing that has now come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. We are assured this is true by consulting Romans 4:

  • “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13)
  • “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure o all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)

To detail the situation further, the apostle Paul says that those Gentiles who had faith are of the seed of Abraham, and that he is the father of us all.

  • “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” (Gal 3:7)
  • “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Gal 3:9)
  • “…that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:14,29)
  • “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29)

Language could not be clearer. Paul clearly includes gentiles in the blessings imparted by the covenant made with Abraham. Paul confirms that if they are Christians, then they are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Further in Galatians 4:28, he says;

“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise”.

 

Here Paul affirms that the Gentiles are as absolutely within the promise made to Abraham as Isaac was.

 

Ephesians 2:12-22 declares that the Gentiles inherit all the promises of spiritual blessings made to Abraham and the fathers.  Here, there is absolutely no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.  All who have faith are entitled to all the promises, apart from the land being promised solely to ethnic Israel.

 

The real point to note is that this promise of blessing is not merely that Christ should be of Abraham’s seed, but that the promise was made to Christ through Abraham.

 

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and his seed.  He did not say, ‘and to seeds’ as of many, but as of one, ‘and to your seed’, which is Christ.  What purpose then does the law serve?  The law was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”  (Galatians 3:16 and 19)

 

“That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:14)

 

This blessing, then promised, was not Christ himself, but the promise was first given to Christ, and then through Christ to all the nations of the earth. This means that we can soundly declare that this promise to Abraham and to his “seed,” and through Christ, (i.e.Abraham’s seed) to all the nations of the earth, is the Holy Spirit Himself.

 

Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets seem to have had their prophetic eyes focused on this all the time.  The scriptures, when scoured for these promises of the Spirit, reveal the promises as one unbroken chain pointing out this particular blessing everywhere, starting with Abraham right through to Christ Himself.  Sometimes, it was promised in allegorical language, where the Spirit of God is represented as water, wind or fire.  But in most situations, the prophets promised the Holy Spirit by name.

 

“Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest.”  (Isaiah 32:15)

 

For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”  (Isaiah 44:3)

 

“As for Me”, says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants”, says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore”.  (Isaiah 59:21)

 

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  (Jer 31:33)

“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.”  (Jeremiah 32:40)

 

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.”  (Ezekiel 11:19)

 

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

 

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”.  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38-39)

 

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  (John 14:16-17)

 

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”  (John 16:7, 13)

 

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  (Acts 1:4-5)

 

“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  (Galatians 3:14)

 

We can now plainly see what the great blessing under the eye of divine inspiration was. The great issue of an outpouring promised to Abraham is avowed in the passages notated above. And the list above is by no means an exhaustive one.  These passages demonstrate that the gift of the Holy Spirit in the process of Salvation was indeed the “promise of the Father.”  This was the promise to all nations who followed the words and believed the promise of Yahweh. Messiah was coming, and He would appear in the power of the Holy Spirit. In His death and resurrection, the people of faith would become the body of Christ, and as He was in the world with full access to the sensitivities of the Holy Spirit, so would His body, the church do and be likewise.

 

This is why Ephesians 1:13 clearly refers to the Spirit of God as the “Holy Spirit of promise”. This is verified in other places.

 

“That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14)

 

“He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” But this Jesus spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” (John 7:38-39)

 

 

We conclude that the Holy Spirit can only be received by faith.  Seeing and knowing the truth is not faith in  itself.  Acknowledging truth is not faith per se.  These things might assist us to have faith, but are not intrinsically faith itself. Faith is an act.  Faith is believing in, divulging to, and compliant with our whole being to the influence of God and His Word.  Faith is actively feeding our voluntary powers to the direction, tuition, stimuli, and rule of the Holy Spirit. On the authority of the whole of scripture I assert my belief that this is the only potential route to receive the Holy Spirit, and to continually be the recipient of the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  Knowing truth about Him is not faith, nor is it receiving Him.  We can know all kinds of truth about the Holy Spirit and still reject Him.  This happens often.  No matter how profound or concentrated our understanding is, simply apprehending the truth about Him is neither faith nor receiving Him.  Only when we perceive and realize His offers of guidance, it is faith that grabs a holds the offer and yields up our absolute total being to His Lordship.

 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit needs to be sought after and received immediately, by faith, by the worldwide body of Christ.  All preparation on our part to receive Him and all delay, no matter how serious we may think we are in seeking and preparing to receive His fullness, is self-righteous and rebellious.

 

Sorry it is so long today. But …”Here endeth the lesson.”

phs 50

 

 

Post Script:

I have many note books that I have gathered into my library. They are filled with notes of people I have met, sermons I have heard, books I have read and quotations I have never forgotten. Occasionally I insert a few thoughts of my own that – to me at least – are original. Some of the above has been cooking within me for over 30 years.

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What on earth does Ezekiel 37 have to do with Ephesians 2?

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Have a read of Ephesians chapter 2, and then browse through Ezekiel 37.  Ephesians 2 is Saul of Tarsus aka Paul the Apostle, defining God’s saving dealings with humankind through Christ.  Ezekiel 37 is Zeke’s famous chapter on the valley of dry bones.

 

The thrust of what Ezekiel writes is that Judah and Israel will become one under the divine leadership of a certain “David” (clearly a reference to Messiah. David had died 470 plus years previously), with God being loved and obeyed by what was a split and divided couple of Hebrew nations, restored into a single new nation. The restoration of the two nations (who truly should never have been split) is to be a miracle of God’s grace that will lead Israel to be fruitful and to take its place amongst the community of nations worldwide.  The parallel thrust of Ephesians 2 is that Jewish and Gentile Christians have become one as a new creation, through the redemptive work of Christ. Ezekiel then foresees Israel walking in obedience to the law.  Paul exhibits the redeemed created and motivated to walk in grace, with the Law superseded and transcended by life in the Spirit.

 

However, I promise you the parallels of these dual sections of scripture quilled by these two highly esteemed field marshals in the kingdom of God go much deeper than this opening cursory observation suggests and is truly quite astonishing.

 

As a by the way, for the uninitiated Ezekiel and Paul both lived with a 600 year gap between their lives.  That is an important note on my thoughts. It hooks me in more firmly to wonder if Paul had any deliberate motive in paralleling Ezekiel 37 when he wrote what we refer to as Ephesians 2.

 

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Ezekiel 37 is one of those well-known and intensely graphic passages of Hebrew scripture. If this writer had a five-pound note for every lecture and sermon, I have heard on “The Valley of Dry Bones,” I would be quite a wealthy man. The divided, dispersed, disconnected, destroyed and dissolved nation of Israel is predicted to expect a miraculous restoration in some future time.  This restoration is portrayed in an excruciatingly vivid manner through Ezekiel’s awesome and terrible vision of the valley full of dry bones.  The dreadful sight was a mass of separated and disconnected skeletal components representing the globally scattered and separated Jews.  The opening vista of Ezekiel’s vision is of a demised and “lost cause.”  Suddenly, after Ezekiel’s prophetic instruction to speak to the bones, however, they make a thunderous noise and begin to come together.  Tendons and flesh appears on the reconstituted skeletal frames, and after Ezekiel calls for the “Ruach” of God to come from all corners, the breath of life enters into those regathered yet lifeless cadavers, still lying horizontally. Immediately a multitude of living breathing people, a veritable army of the reconstituted stood up before the prophet. He saw it he heard it and had spoken it into being. God then speaks and says that the image and allegory of Ezekiel’s vision was exactly how He would revive the nation of Israel and resurrect the entire race into statehood.  Furthermore, the day of restoration would also be a day of reunification for Israel and Judah. A phenomenal prediction.

 

At the time Ezekiel delivered this message, Israel (as opposed to Judah) was scattered all around the Middle to Far East having been dispersed some 130-40 years earlier. Their whereabouts has always been a mystery, hence “the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.”  Judah, though only more recently dispersed into Babylonian exile by God’s judgement, were generally in a state of confusion, depression and despair trying to handle the seeming loss of the rationale for their very existence. Their exile seriously suggested that it was “the end of civilisation, as they knew it.”

 

Ezekiel then goes even further. There is God’s promise  of cleansing, to be followed with the announcement of David’s heir as their king, obedience to God’s ordinances and statutes (37:24), and the establishing of “a covenant of peace” (37:26) as “an everlasting covenant” in a “sanctuary” (37:26, 28), which will be God’s “dwelling place” with them (37:27).

 

02We are finally given a second striking graphic, the likes of which are rife and rampant throughout the whole book of Ezekiel. To illustrate the reunification of Israel, Yahweh told Ezekiel to take two sticks – one representing the northern kingdom of Israel and the other the southern kingdom of Judah.  The prophet was instructed to hold them with the ends joined out of sight within his hand.  By this “hands on” dramatic illustration came the word of the Lord.  Yahweh was not only to bring the exiles of both Israel and Judah back to the land, but He would make them into one single and united kingdom again.  He was also to raise up a new “son of David” (Messiah) to lead them and to establish a new covenant with them. Once more God would be visibly dwelling in the midst of the Jewish people as the nation of Israel.

 

So we have the prophetictic promise of 1. Resuscitation, 2. Resurrection, 3. Restoration, and 4. Reunification.

 

What I find incredible is that Ephesians 2 recounts an exactly parallel story, yet in a completely different context. The pattern of the writing of both chapters is so similar as to scream to the reader that Paul wrote it deliberately as a sort of applied commentary on Ezekiel’s thirty seventh chapter. Paul’s Ephesians 2 (Of course Paul did NOT separate his letters into chapters and verses) begins by describing the human condition as “dead in transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  People were cut off from hope, having no spiritual life. Image them as a world, instead of a valet, heaped to congestion with dry bones. “But God, who is rich in mercy, on account of his great love with which he loved” them, made them alive together with Christ. They were a global valley of dispersed dry bones of humanity, as dead in their sins as the Jews were in the statehood and unity.  For it is by grace that they are saved, through faith, which is not of their own doing, but it is the gift of God.  Undeserved and unasked for, Ezekiel spoke to the dry bones and gave them oneness, unity, breath and sinew and finally turned them into a fighting marching union of humanity. Ephesians 2 then moves on to speak of reconciliation, particularly the reconciliation of Gentiles.  However, it does not stop at the coming together of gentiles into the kingdom of God. The enmity, and racial and religious separation of Jew and gentile has been completely broken down in Christ. Just as Israel and Judah were to be unified into one single state of Israel, so Jew and gentile are unified in Christ to be a reconciled body of Christ – the church of the first born from the dead. Jesus Christ has not only made peace, but he himself has become the substance of peace. Gentiles of faith are not without hope any longer. They are not strangers anymore. Jews and Gentiles in Christ are no longer two different peoples; they have become one new humanity in Christ, in whom they are “being built together into a dwelling of God” (Ephesians 2:22).

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By these remarks the reader will understand the direction in which I am going. The ties that unite these two chapters, however, goes much further than the above. There are verbal and structural similarities of logic as well as the above mentioned conceptual and thematic narrative parallels.

 

Upon close examination, I find it remarkable to see that Paul uses exactly the same words in Ephesians 2 that are used in the Greek Septuagint translation of Ezekiel 37.  To this writer this seems too amazing by far to be coincidence. I see in it a divinely created twinning in order for us to draw certain conclusions concerning the dynamics of God’s purposes and plans for redeemed humanity.

 

 

 

 

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Like Saviour Like Saint. (Ephesians 1:18-23)

1Jesus was fully human. He never ceased being the fullness of the Godhead even when he was a microscopic egg fertilised by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary while she was still a virgin. However, from the moment of conception onwards He was – and still is – fully human. There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Yes indeed! There is a man in the glory. “This man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who has built the house has more honour than the house” (Hebrews 3:3). It is God that builds the house that Hebrews is talking about. The moment He ceases to be man, He ceases to be head of the church. “This man, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). He is a man who will never die again, and lives forever in the power of an indestructible life.

 

This man became flesh like all humankind, excepting that the egg in Mary’s womb was fertilised miraculously from the direct action of the Holy Spirit. The egg became a child in the womb just like the readers and the writer of this article. He went through the bloody mess of human childbirth, just like people do.  He became a toddler. He learned how to talk, walk and make Himself understood. He grew. He developed. He learned things. Luke 2:51-52 educates us to Doctorate level about Christ’s humanity when it tells us about his growth from the age of 12 onward: “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued to be in subjection to Joseph and Mary, remaining always obedient to them. His mother was carefully storing, keeping and treasuring all these incidents and sayings in her heart. And Jesus grew and kept advancing and increasing in wisdom, grace and stature, becoming wiser and more mature, and in favour with God and all the children of men.” (My own translation cum paraphrase)

 

Jesus did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, yet he humbled Himself throughout His life as any man who submits to God would humble himself. He consciously and wilfully submitted to His mum and His supposed earthly father.  He never leaned on or exercised His omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence throughout “the days of His flesh.” Even during and after His baptism in the Jordan and the descent of the Holy Spirit, He was human and fully identifying with fallen man.  Many in the crowd who saw Him in the Jordan with the Baptist could not tell who He was because He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” That phrase simply means that He was not shining with glory and/or heavenly light. Outwardly He looked like any other person. John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Christ and remain on Him. Even the son of God, deity incarnate, could not and would not preach or heal any sick person without being endued with power by the Holy Spirit. But Luke 2:51-52 above, as well as the Gospel account of what happened after His enduement with the Holy Spirit reveals to us that His actions and responses are all those of a human being finding His way through life.  There was no change made in the nature of Christ at the baptism. His entire existence since conception has never altered. He has always been and will always be totally human concurrent to Him being the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in a body. His enduement of power had the same dynamics and purpose as that of the redeemed 120 in the upper room in Acts 2. Throughout the pressures of the temptation in the wilderness, like all people, He had to bring to His mind the teachings of scripture and fight the devil armed with His faith in those inspired and inerrant words. Why would He who was God need to bring the scriptures into the fray if He was not fully human? All His quotes against Satan comprised of His own command for Satan to leave, with that command substantiated with the statement and logic of scripture. He was man, dependent on His practical knowledge of the Bible. In the gathering of many and the selection of the twelve disciples, He shows Himself as fully man in the process of decisionmaking. In the healing of the sick, as well as the wisdom He imparted to all He ministered to, the whole body of the biblical text showing His thoughts and actions leads us to conclude that His life was filled with the questions and challenges that is the lot of all humanity.

 

2My point in all this is that the Lord Jesus, living in this time space world with a linear existence needed to understand and be motivated by a sure and certain knowledge of what He was doing “tabernacling” among men, and the full purpose for which He had come. He needed to know the full details of his relationship with God His Father, and the nature and extent of the power and grace that was granted Him in order to fulfil whatever the plan and purpose for His life was. These three issues are fundamental to all human life no matter what terminology we use. The why, what and how of life comprises everything.

 

And the personal “what, why and how of life” is exactly what Paul is praying for in the last verses of Ephesians 1. For these reasons the prayer of Ephesians 1 has to be one of the most powerful sequences of thought and spiritual logic in all of the epistles. The straightforward lucidity of its content and the goals for which the apostle prays seem to this writer also to have fitted the life and motivation of the Saviour.

 

Paul told the Ephesians that he was praying that they would see clearly three things.

 

  1. 3The “why” of their life in Christ. All Christians need to know and be aware of the certain hope of what they were called to be.  I do not mean simply: “We live with God forever.” We cannot ignore that thought, but we need to have some vision of our destiny in time as well as in eternity. In plainer English, the prayer was that they would see their future destiny as plain as could be possible, both, in this life and the next, to the degree that would content and mobilise us. The clearer human beings are with their goals and their sense of destiny in this life and their reception in the embrace of Christ in the hereafter, the more productive they obviously become at whatever it is that they are called to. Paul prayed that the eyes of their understanding would be opened to see and grasp what was “the hope of their calling.” It is all about an understanding of life in Christ with a mature outlook and expectancy in the process of serving Him.

 

  1. The “what” of their life in Christ. The defining of who and what they are in Christ and the overall grasp of their relationship with God greatly pours action and strength into a person’s faith. Paul wanted the Ephesians to know what were “the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints.”  Whether that phrase refers to the pleasure that God has in those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, or whether it refers to God Himself being the riches of the Christian’s inheritance, the overriding issue is that Paul wants them to be in tranquillity of heart and peace of mind as they revel in the rock solid relationship of love and acceptance with their heavenly Father.

 

  1. Then “how” of their life in Christ. The third thing Paul prayed for was that the Ephesian Christians would know and fully understand the greatness of God’s power that was available to the believer both within their mortal frame and in the surroundings of their circumstances and pressures in this fallen world. He goes on to explain clearly that all Christians are walking in and with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. The inference is, of course, that even though they were walking in love to all people and proving their faith to the point that the population could see Christ in them, nevertheless they were living beneath their full privilege in Christ as far as the resurrection power of God was concerned.

 

4The wisdom of the prayer is startlingly perceptive. It is all about seeking the God initiated plan for each of us as individuals. It is a prayer that is asking that the joy both divine and human for all parties involved in this relationship is filled with the pleasure and long-term purpose of their mutual existence together. It is a prayer for them to see and understand the active and available resurrection power that is “running the show. It is the manifestation of the resurrection power that leads the Christian on in triumph.  The power that has fallen on the Christian, just as the dove alighted on Christ at the Jordan River, reveals a comprehensive motivational and edifying series of factors that enables a Christian to walk with God and take authority over evil. It is all there in the substance of the prayer.

These three key motivational factors that need to fill the Christian’s life, whether they aware of it or not, are basic to human existence. Even though these three factors may not be seen as succinctly and as authoritatively as Paul sees them, nevertheless they are aspects of knowledge and understanding that are basic for all Christians.  Every Christian who is truly born again should have some grasp of these three issues no matter how small. I think it is possibly because Paul understood how these three issues were vital for the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus that caused him to pray this way for the Asian church – and possibly for every Christian that he ever prayed for.

Jesus also made much of these three issues in His own life, and when they are mentioned they are not only motivational in the mind of Christ, but they comprise the very gospel that Christ preached.

The “Why?” of Christ’s life.

Jesus Christ plainly stated, and was heard to say, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). How’s that for knowing the equivalent of the hope of His calling. Some would say, “But it is Christ that does the calling!” Yes! But the Father’s will was His calling. Jesus was crystal clear and pointedly detailed in explaining why He was here. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 was asking Heavenly Father to open the eyes of the understanding of the Asian believers so that they could talk in such equally concrete language concerning the hope of their calling.

When it comes to knowing His own destiny and calling, Jesus said in the early days of His 3 years of activity, “Destroy this temple and in three days I shall raise it up.” He knew what He had come for and what He was to do. He was on a mission, the details and goal of which were clear to Him. Paul prayed for the same kind of revelation to come all Christians in Asia.

I don’t know whether it is right and sober to expect to see our future direction and mission as clear as Jesus did, but if I could see my own call and future with just a minimal of Christ’s own perception, I would consider myself blessed.

The overriding point is that Jesus knew by revelation where He was going. Do we? We can, by prayer have a taste of that kind of revelation, even if it is only a few crumbs that we taste.

He told the disciples plainly what His “end” was to be like. I put the word “end” in inverted commas simply because it is the world’s normal perception that death is the end. For the Christian, it is actually the beginning.

The resurrection was part of the intelligent revelation Jesus had to motivate His actions. He plainly said that He had power to lay His life down and then take it up again. He also said that He had to die and then return to the Father in resurrection power and that if He did not go through such experiences He would not have been free to send the Holy Spirit.

“I am come that you may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” Yes indeed! The Master knew exactly why He was amongst us and why He was sent. He definitely felt an imperative about His mission and purpose, for as a 12 year old He explained to Mary and Joseph that He had to be about His Father’s business.

5The “What?” of Christ’s life.

Jesus Christ was enveloped and clothed with the sure and certain knowledge of who and what He was. “I and my Father are one,” He said. Around the table of the last supper He was recorded as saying, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” In John 17 Jesus talks of the glory He had with the Father previous to His incarnation. His food, He said, was just to do the will of He who sent Him. In the intimacy of His knowledge of His Heavenly Father, He was aware He had been sent.  “As my Father sent me, so I send you,” is what He declared in the upper room discourse. He knew He was sent and absolutely so.

The “How?” of Christ’s life.

By what means was He to bring into being the hope of His calling out of the riches of His inheritance in the Father? After the descent of the Holy Spirit that remained upon Him, and immediately thereafter led Him into the wilderness to be tempted, Jesus later stood up at the synagogue in Capernaum, read the opening verses of Isaiah 61 about the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him, and definitely claimed that the verse referred to Him.  His filling and anointing of the Holy Spirit was the how to the entire kingdom of God, and the entire ministry and life of Christ. Jesus said, “If I am casting out demons by the power of God, then know that the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Luke 11:20).

Jesus Christ was tempted in every way such as us. He never faced anybody’s crisis for healing, deliverance or the need for some prophetic guidance without having to trust in Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit to provide the means, the word, the healing and/or the insight. He never drew on His deity, that is, His pre-existent omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence as a man in the days of His flesh prior to His death. He was fully God, but came as a man. For that reason He came to identify with us, and live fully with all the restrictions that humanity lives with.

Christ Himself knew the hope of His calling. He knew fully all the whys and wherefores of His mission.

All this is to affirm that the the desire of the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1 is relevant to all believers today, and fascinatingly enough, was a prayer for factors of life that were also relevant to Jesus Christ Himself.

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Open Your Eyes to the Light (Ephesians 1:18)

“… a spirit of wisdom and revelation… the eyes of your understanding being opened.” (Ephesians 1:17b-18a)

OK! OK! This is a big one!  And it is something we need to understand thoroughly in order to understand ourselves as Christians and how a spirit of wisdom and revelation functions.

eye1In the same way that the human body has two eyes to see things physical, so the human spirit has eyes with which to perceive things spiritual.  The eyes in the head, of course are part of the five senses of the human experience; touching, tasting, feeling, hearing and seeing.  There are parallel spiritual senses that assist us in our experience of, as well as our engagement with God who is a Spirit.  This writer is convinced that this is not just metaphorical concepts and language to help us understand a few “abstract” spiritual concepts, but the literal language of the spiritual world that helps us to see invisible realities.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).  “We are the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) “The hand of the Lord was upon me” (Ezekiel 37:1).  “Unless a man is born from above He cannot see the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:3). “Having ears, they hear not” (Psalm 135:17).  In the account of Dives (the rich man) and Lazarus that Jesus shared in Luke 16, even though both the characters were dead and had left their respective physical bodies, they could see each other, hear  and speak dialogue. We know also, for certain, that the concept of touch and taste is explicit in the rich man’s request for Lazarus to touch Dives’ lips with cold water. All that is missing in the account is anything to do with smell. All this helps us to make sense of Paul’s phrase; “the eyes of your understanding being opened.”

 

When things physical, like the five physical empirical senses were created, they were modelled on already pre-existent spiritual senses such as are intrinsic to the angelic nature and the realm of the spirit in general. These senses, even though to angels they are also empirical, yet not physically tangible to us, are not things that we could do a test tube analysis with in order to prove or disprove them. Beings in the spirit realm may well be able to prove or disprove spiritual realities.  The cosmos of the realm of the spirit was there before anything physical was created. The physical came out of the spiritual. For that reason I hypothesize that the five physical senses are modelled on life and existence in the realm of the spirit.

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The self-evident presupposition that Paul makes in Ephesians 1:18 is that there are spiritual truths and realities that the recipients of his letter, no matter how advanced they may be as Christians, do not understand. There are things that they cannot see, hear, taste, touch or feel in the kingdom of God, in the realm of the spirit, and they need to have their spiritual eyes opened in order to grasp them.  The ability to hear with the physical ears and yet be utterly deaf with the spiritual senses is a phenomena I fully acknowledge in myself continually, and plainly see in many other Christians.  I take great comfort in the fact that I see this involuntary closure of the eyes of the understanding in the original twelve apostles.  Even when they were “under-graduate ministers” under the tutelage of the Master Himself, the eyes of their understanding were horrifically closed and oblivious to the most important revelation that Christ shared with them. It was only via Christ’s resurrection, His breathing on them, and then the mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit  that they were catapulted forward with a visionary understanding that facilitated a whole new world of revelation becoming plainly visible to them.

I am not referring to their interpretation of the cryptic apocalyptic visions of certain parts of the Old Testament. Neither am I referring to their insight or lack of it in interpreting Christ’s parables. I am referring to the numerous times that Jesus explained that He was going to die and rise again on the third day. There were a few cryptic moments when a little thought was needed in order to grasp the Master’s prophetic predictions, but on the whole, Jesus told them plainly in simple language. In fact it was so simply stated that even a child would need assistance to know how to misunderstand it or fail to see it. The disciples heard of His passion and resurrection both in parabolic form when the scribes and Pharisees were about, and in plain language when they were alone with Jesus. Two or three of them heard it in strange situations where it was confirmed from outside sources. For instance Peter James and John heard Elijah and Moses discussing His departure from this life in the moment of Christ’s transfiguration.

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We all need to increase our vision of God and the salvation He has given us. No matter what you have seen yesterday, you need to have your eyes open even wider today – and you will still need those same eyes open the next day if you are walking in new places. Even the places visited many times have different people and obstacles to engage with and we always need to see as Christ sees. Constant vision of the spiritual eyes works with the same dynamics as the physical.

To have walked through life over many years, and then to see something so clearly that would have changed one’s life for the better if one had seen it in one’s youth or many years before can be seriously traumatic. To realise one’s blindness to something that is later seen to be so simple and straightforward can be shocking.

When I suggest that the death of Christ and the effecting of the atonement for the sin of mankind is conceivably one of, if not the most important event that has ever taken place on planet earth, I am sure all readers would agree. The revelation of the naked Christ nailed to the cross was more revelatory of the full character of God Almighty than the earthquakes, the fire and the trumpets at Sinai, as well as the deafening voice that shook the ground when He spoke to Moses. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was even more important than His own world transforming teachings.  Yes!  Indeed!  What He taught has left the world spellbound for two thousand years and has influenced people of all cultures and religions, yet, what He achieved when He shed His blood in His Passion changed the face of the divine dealings with humanity throughout all eternity.  My biblical understanding of who Christ was and what He accomplished in Gethsemane, Pilate’s hall, Calvary and the open tomb leads me to declare that the passion of Christ was the peak of all history and future, and the highest mountain of influence that impact on every human being that has ever lived or  ever will. When Jesus Christ cried, “It is finished,” – one word in the original; “Tetelestai”- it eclipsed not only the physical world but changed the layout of the spiritual landscape too. The entire universe was forever changed.

 

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Faith in Christ’s atonement for sin saves people, whether they fully understand it or not. It is not the highbrow philosophical and academic teaching of the atonement (wonderful though that may be), but the physical fact in this time-space world that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and then rose again and ascended to heaven sending its tidal wave of cleansing and renewing right around the globe transforming those who believe in Messiah Jesus.  Understanding the depth of atonement or not, when a person of any intellectual status or none asks Christ to save them, the fullest extent and impact of the atoning work of the Saviour begins to work to its fullest extent within their lives and without.  The atonement, as well as being organic to the entire Christian lifestyle and outlook, is profoundly organic throughout the whole of the scripture. It is in the warp and woof of both Testaments whether it be in type, in allegory, parable, or straightforward declarations of New Testament teaching. It is in the DNA of all that God’s Word teaches.  Atonement is everywhere in the book and not just highlighted in the best “proof texts” for preachers.  The atoning work of Christ, as per His absolute deity, smothers the entire New Testament series of biblical presuppositions.  The truth of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice seeps inveterately from the law, the prophets and the psalms – and then is made plain, and flows freely in the gospels and the epistles.  It is even sung about in heaven throughout all eternity in the book of revelation.

See it this way: We have anecdotal legends of how Peter and Paul died.  Nobody has bothered to tell us a single word as to how Paul’s protégé Timothy died.  We do have legends about the death of the apostle John and other biblical martyrs.  We have treasured historical documents telling us how a thousand and one heroes in the world died.  However, with Jesus Christ it is more than a little different.  What He did in his death and resurrection, and how He died, as well as the reasons why He wilfully entered into His passion are even more important than what He taught by precept. And that is saying something huge! Jesus Christ was not a martyr. He wilfully gave His life to save people.

Why am I prefacing today’s thoughts with these various declarations?  Simply because from Christ’s own lips came the defining statements with unmistakable clarity of what He had come to do, and how He was to achieve it. He explained it so simply, and yet, when it finally occurred, how is it that the disciples did not seem to have the slightest clue?   And this, even though they had heard it and must have discussed the issue many times over previously.

We are pursueing this on the grounds that we are talking about receiving revelation from heaven and practically, how we get it – as well as, what to do with it when we receive it. I am about to explain to you how the greatest revelation ever given to man was uttered to twelve or so men, who heard it clearly enough to repeat it and write about it at a later date. However, in those early days as they walked with Christ, they heard this truth with profoundly deaf spiritual ears. I apologise if that sounds bizarre, but you will see as I explain how they heard the truth, and how they sometimes responded to what they heard in a way that proved that they truly heard it – yet it is also concurrently provable that they did not understand a single syllable of Christ’s plain language. It is a phenomena that continues to this day in the likes of you and I.

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JOHN 1:29

To start gently we have those two disciples who stood with John the Baptist when he pointed at the Master and declared, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the whole world” (John 1:29). Any Jewish mind knew that when “lambs” were mentioned in connection with the removal of “sin,” nothing but sacrifice and death could have been meant. Nothing but physical torture and death are in the offing for a lamb that is taking away sin. Yet John was pointing at a human being. A sudden statement “out of the blue” like that may have stunned the two disciples of John, who immediately left the Baptist to follow the man at whom John was pointing. We may forgive them at this point for not letting those significant words penetrate their hearts and minds. Perhaps the sacrificial aspect of John’s declaration was superceded by the thought that the man the Baptist prophet pointed at was “Messiah” Himself. For that reason we will not be too hard on the first couple of disciples for not making a mental note of “The lamb … that takes away the sin,” as uttered by Elizabeth’s only son. It was, after all, the first time that any such remark had been spoken so directly. However, there was more to follow.

 

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JOHN 2:19-21

A little later, in John 2:19-21, we hear Jesus uttering those gloriously cryptic words, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.”  Once more, we gladly forgive the disciples for not grasping the nettle of Christ’s words in the grip of their thought processes.  The twelve later remembered it and understood it after the resurrection and their receiving of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  For that reason, I think they heard Jesus’ words clearly and just wrestled with what they heard for three years or so as to what He meant in His angry cry.  For the disciples in those arly days of being tutored, it was like struggling with the hardest of cryptic clues that accompany the Times crossword. Destruction of self by the hands of the Jews was inherent within Christ’s words.  However, whilst people were trying to perceive of the vast temple being destroyed and raised again in three days, nobody’s mind could see what the Master truly meant.  Something dead and buried is what He states, referring to Himself, but all that heard Him were staring at the mammoth stone structure and trying to image its fall. “Razed to the ground” as it were, is intrinsic to the interpretation that the understanding of the audience was striving to take hold of in their translation of His declaration. Resurrection was startlingly explicit in His thrust.  “Get rid of me if you will, but I shall rise again.”  To you and me, reading the story in the twenty first century, it is a no brainer.  We need help not to see the true meaning of His words. However, His words were not understood by those who were present with Him, no, not even his trainee students – the disciples. They remembered Christ’s words for over 36 months without knowing what He meant.

 

 

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John 3:14

Later, we have to assume that the disciple John, must have been nearby, or perhaps he had discussions with Nicodemus that we are not told of, as it is clearly recorded what Jesus said while He was alone with the Pharisee from the Sanhedrin.  ”As the serpent was lifted in the wilderness, so shall the son of man be lifted up.” (John 3:14)  It may have been getting clearer and clearer with every reference that Christ made to His passion, but this one was even more cryptic that the one in John 2. The serpent He was referring to was the brass serpent attached to a pole that Moses quite literally hoisted up on a pole.  I have noticed through the years, that most artists who draw the scene of the brazen serpent for books and art galleries present the serpent as hanging on a cross and not just an upright pole.  People who were dying of snakebites at that point of time in the wilderness were instructed only to see the brass snake and they were immediately healed of their poisonous bites (Numbers 21:9). Just a look at a brass serpent held up on a pole seems so fantastically unreligious, especially to Jews of the days of Moses. The statement of this account referred to by Christ gives us an almost bottomless depth of understanding for us in the days of a 66 volume bible. It is a Christ authorised phenomenal piece of typology. Sin came via the serpent in Genesis 3.  Christ became sin for us says Paul (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ only became sin for us when He was nailed to a cross for all to see. The look of faith to the crucified Christ saves sinners and justifies them as righteous before God.  There it is! A perfect picture of atonement accomplished! Atonement from the mouth of Christ, implicit in His teaching as early as John’s third chapter. There really is no other way to understand the Lord’s language. (Although, I am aware that there are some academics who propound Christ’s lifting up in order to draw all men to Him is referring to His resurrection and ascension. This writer considers that perspective to be a violent travesty of this biblical historical analogy. The typology of the serpent points to the crucified Christ as opposed to the resurrected Christ).

 

We have then, in the first three chapters of John’s gospel, one statement by John the Baptist, and two made by Jesus Himself, that clearly point to Christ knowing why He had come to tabernacle amongst men, and how He would affect the saving of many through His death and resurrection.  When we try to read these accounts in “real time,” as it were, it developes into an astonishing display of spiritual deafness and blindness on the part of the disciples.  Oh! How we need the Holy Spirit to show us this stuff. Our issue, and the important observation to make, is that the disciples who were present heard the words but were completely lost as to the meaning of Christ’s prophetic explanation. The “eyes of their understanding” were tightly closed. Having ears, the heard not. Jesus talks of His death and resurrection, yet have not the slightest clue as to what He is talking about.

 

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JOHN 6:51-56

In John 6:51-56 there is an amazing public address that Jesus gave in the synagogue where He says quite clearly, “I am the Bread of life.” In His address He states “The bread I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Paradoxically, this being the clearest of his comments so far is also the one that was so much more hidden from their eyes that many disciples and followers left Him because of it. The sermon about drinking His blood and eating His flesh so shocked them that they just refused to get to grips with any other interpretation but the horror of cannibalism. How blind they were!

 

It seems that thus far in the life of Christ, His use of analogy, parable or prophetic crypticisms is the real reason that His statements concerning His passion, abuse, death, burial and resurrection were not so much misunderstood as plainly not listened to. Nobody seemed to have the slightest clue as to the weight of what Jesus was predicting. To put it plainly, the eyes of their understanding were closed tight. They seemed to have a spirit of foolishness and blindness as opposed to the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that Paul was praying the recipients of his epistle to Ephesus would receive.

But then, as I try to check the chronology of my several copies of various scholar’s “harmony of the Gospels,” it gets ever more astonishing as Jesus talks ever more clearly as the days passed by.

 

eye10MATTHEW 16:16-21

In Matthew 16:16-21 revelation flows so rich and free, so thick and full that the thoughtful Bible reader cannot be but somewhat shocked at what the disciples heard with their ears, thought with their minds, but were blind to in their spirits. To cut it short, Jesus had pushed the disciples to meditate on the question of who He was.  Peter cries out,” You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  The Master confirms that Peter’s words were an absolute bona fide revelation directly received from heaven.  Revelation does not come any deeper than this one. He even tells Peter that the future church itself would be built on that rock i.e. the power structure of Holy Spirit revelation. Yes! It was the rock of the revelation of the deity of Christ! However, it was also the rock of revelation itself; revelation from God that nourishes the faith and understanding of the believer’s spirit. We all need revelation concerning the character and nature of Christ. We all need revelation. Full stop!  His church is built on revelation.

 

 

Some revelation somehow begets more revelation, and this was one of those occasions.  On the basis of Peter’s momentous opening of the eyes of his understanding, the scripture tells us more. From the rock of this revelation of the essential deity of Christ, Jesus announces that the “keys” of the kingdom would be given into the hands of man.  That is, keys of revelation and understanding.  Immediately after having been traumatised with such a promise, Peter is told by the man who is God, that with the heavy metal armoured jacket of relationship with Christ,  that there will be given him revelatory keys that will open the doors and prisons allowing people into the kingdom of God. He was also told, in the context of the whole twelve, that authority in the realm of the spirit would be given so that whatever they, together, bound on the earth would already have been bound in heaven, and whatsoever was released in the earth would already have been released in heaven. The jaws of the twelve must have dropped, and the quizzical scratching of the head with twisted faces must have made the scene quite humourous. This momentous moment that the twelve would each remember for the rest of their lives was not the end of this revelatory feast.

Incredibly, having just told the twelve, truths they would have wanted to shout aloud to everybody they met, Jesus then “strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ” (Matthew 16:20). The day would come when they would be sent into the world to tell the nations and the entire planet; but for now they were to remain quiet about the factual truth of Christ’s character and nature.

Now we get to the main thrust of our subject in these pages. By that I mean that we are discussing “the eyes of our understanding being opened,” and how desperately illogical it seems when the eyes of the understanding just do not see.  “From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  No parable!  No cryptic play on words!  No prophetic analogy or mystic saying!  At last the word comes straight, true and to the point.  “Jerusalem … suffer many things … be killed … on the third day be raised.” Language could not have been plainer. One would have thought that the trauma of such news would have made its mark on the memory of the twelve forever. Would it be at all possible that this information could be forgotten?  Could it even have been put on their mental backburner?

What makes their blindness even more chronic is that the text does not say that Jesus explained it all once, and then left it.  It says in Matthew 16:21 that from that time Jesus began to show them how he must…” Why is this important? For several reasons.

  1. “He began” tells us that His explanation was repeated and explained His death multiple times. From that moment, now that they believed He was the Christ, they were ready for the “full monty” of the gospel message. Christ came to die for the world in a most excruciating manner. He knew it and He told them.
  2. “He began to show them.” He began to demonstrate and illustrate to them the rationale behind His death. What can this mean apart from the sharing of the scriptures. I cannot even begin to believe that He showed them by drama or story. He would have done, over a prolonged period of time, exactly what He did on the Emmaus road in Luke 24. He began to show them from the scriptures everything that was going to happen to Him, just as in Luke 24 He interpreted for them what had already happened to Him.
  3. One cannot but conclude that over a none-specific period of time, possibly a day or two, or equally possible until the night before He died, Jesus repeated and repeated, over and over again, exactly what was going to happen to Himself.

The point of this entire thought is that they seemed clueless immediately after the death of Christ as to what to expect. Why was that?

I am aware that no academic has ever put together an authoritative and incontrovertible chronology of the gospel accounts. I have several on my shelf. Each of them differ. The one I am using, arrived at by a Catholic Priest (Monsigneur Enrico Galbiati of MIMEP),  helps me to perceive how bizarre is the ignorance and fear of the disciples as they hid between Calvary and the morning of the open tomb.

Piecing all the scriptures together where some or all of the disciples were present to hear the prophetic explanation of the path Christ was to walk down  just read through the following:

eye11LUKE 9:30-32

“And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.” (italics and underlining mine)

 

MARK 9:9-10

“As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.…”

 

MATTHEW 17:22-23

“While they were going about in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is going to be turned over to the hands of men, and they will kill Him – and He will be raised again on the third day. And they were deeply grieved and distressed.”

 

JOHN 10:11, 15, 17, 18  

“The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

“Even as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I am giving my life and laying it down on behalf of the sheep.” John 10:15

“The Father loves me …because I lay my life down for the sheep.” John 10:17

“No one takes it from me, on the contrary I lay it down voluntarily. I have authority to lay it down and have authority to take it back again.” John 10:18

 

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We are promised that there is no special effects in this photo. Utterly intrigueing.

 

On His route to Jerusalem He takes them aside again.

 

MATTHEW 20:17-18

“As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

 

 

LUKE 18:31-34

“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. “For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

 

Here at last we have a profound, yet mysterious explanation as to their incomprehension at the death and burial of their Lord and Mentor. The various versions have it as:

“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” (NIV)

“But they didn’t understand any of this. The significance of his words was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about.” (NLT)

“But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.” (NASB)

 

eye13Should we conclude that the disciples’ prejudices were so strong, that they could not – or would not understand the things that Jesus said as literal? Were they were so intent upon the prophecies which spoke of Christ’s glory, that they overlooked those which spoke of his sufferings?  We all have presuppositions and biases that prevent clarity of understanding and perception – and not only to do with things spiritual and biblical.

 

Or was it that they listened all dazed and confused and could not absorb what the Master had said?

 

I believe it was Pascal who said, “We must learn to love Divine truths before we can understand them.” Another writer states: “Toward everything which is contrary to normal human desire, there is produced in the heart a Blindness, which nothing but a miracle can heal.”  Was this the issue that caused the eyes of the understanding of the disciples to be closed?

 

The Syrian and Persian translations say that, “Not one of them” understood what was said. It is a phenomenon. Catastrophically it is a phenomenon that, if one was subject to ithe syndrome, one would not be at all conscious of the frailty that submitted to the principle. If every aspect of his passion was unintelligible to them, it suggests that they did not understand Him in any one point of His many repeated explanations.
It tests our own understanding and powers of perception. We are told that they neither knew the things which were spoken, nor the very meaning of them.
It seems that Luke was unable to say strongly enough how entirely hidden from them at that time was the sense of these straightforward and plain statements.

 

I used to have a problem with the thought that God could by the power that is His, cause truth to be hidden from anybody at all. But there are clearly spiritual things that are hidden from millions of people no matter how diligently. In this I do not only mean that truth is hidden from those who wilfully choose not to have faith in Christ, but even in zealous and prayerful Christians. Revelation is a spiritual issue, not a mental or academic one. I think it more likely that satanic power hid the meaning of Christ’s words from them. However we see the phrase that the “meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about,” we need to forcefully appreciate that spiritual blindness is a phenomenon in the realm of the spirit, and nothing to do with any academic learning difficulty.

 

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My conclusion is that they heard the statements with their physical ears, and retained Christ’s statements in their memory, yet ignored and unconsciously rejected what they heard as unnecessary and superfluous because of the life, the power, and the vibrant aggressive grace that overshadowed the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. How could a man that changes the weather by His order, raises the dead by His call, and expels leprosy by his touch ever have to face death? It must surely be some parable, or cryptic heavenly symbol that we do not have to know!  How could He who has power over death be subject to the very same medium of death?  His words referring to Him dying and rising again must be something secret and mystical known only to Him. For that reason, we disciples will carry on and follow Him as if we had not heard anything. Those statements do not seem to have any meaning to what we are seeing and experiencing with Him while we live in His presence and follow Him. See how He rises in popularity and significance! What has death and burial to do with all this life and attraction of the people?

 

And so, the words of the most important revelation given to man was buried, ignored and consciously forgotten as it sunk deep into their subconscious. The words drifted away into forgotten insignificance until He rose from the dead and thereafter sent the Holy Spirit in Person to nudge and whisper and provoke all the words of Christ into their full grandeur and prophetic significance.

 

Luke 18:31-34 was not the final count of His explanation to the twelve. We also have:

 

MATTHEW 26:2

“”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Is it possible that Jesus could have spoken any plainer. I think not!

 

MARK 14:8

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for the burial.”  This verse from Mark gives us insight to the strong probability that the crucifixion occupied Christ’s mind continually. The thought of it incessantly overshadowed Him. He lived constantly under the darkness of His oncoming Passion.

 

What is strange that the cynical unbelievers knew and remembered exactly what He said about resurrection.  Matthew 27:62-66 shows us this:

 

“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers, go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.”

 

Unbelievers were hard at work attempting to prevent Christ’s statements from coming to pass, while His devoted followers, at that moment of time seemed to have utterly blank recall concerning His predictive prophecy.

 

We need to earnestly pray the spirit of Paul’s prayer that God would grant us all a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, the eyes of our understanding being opened. God save us from spiritual eye blindness.

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Wise, Full of Insight and Knowing God yet Paul Asks for more in their lives.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you might grow in your perfect and thorough knowledge of God.  (Ephesians 1:17)

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This verse is a suitable case for dissection and analysis. Paul lived and breathed in the realm of Holy Spirit revelation. What he was writing has been received and been declared as divine revelation for two millennia. The context of the prayer he discusses from verse seventeen through to the end of the first chapter explains a lot about His motivation and drive in the area of prayer and his logic that perceives what needs to be prayed for. This is indeed revelation of the dynamics of things in the spiritual realm. So; I suggest some sermonic bullet points and relevant explanations for the headings.

 

PAUL  ASKS

Hey! Hold on! Just a few verses earlier in this chapter, verse eight to be precise, Paul had said that God had already abounded toward them (and, as fellow Christians  it means that God has also abounded to us) in all wisdom and prudence and that He had actually made known to them and to us the mystery of His will. Now he is praying that the recipients of his letter would receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  It is for this observation that many have asked; “Doesn’t that make this statement of verse 17 somewhat contradictory of what has gone before?” Not at all!

 

It is true that all true born again Christians already have the wisdom and prudence of God seeded in our spirits. These things came as part of our package deal of salvation when the Christian repented of his or her sin and exercised faith towards Jesus Christ.  Here, Paul is praying that what has already been seeded and planted in our spirits will become the dominating and ruling factor in our mental and attitudinal disposition as that seed is cultivated by the washing of water by the word and the renewing of the mind as the Christian positively engages with the word. The apostle is praying for a release and manifestation into the realm of the visible, temporal and physical world what is already present and alive in our spirit. It is that “Deep, Deeper and Deepest” principle raising its head again. There are degrees of growth, measurable levels of development that differ in us all, yet the seeding in the human heart of the Spirit of God makes a level playing field for us all to journey in.  In plain English, there is no variableness in what God gives the believing heart, but there are huge variations on the hearts of believing humanity when considering hunger and desire for more of God. What God does to and for man is absolute and uniform. Man’s response to His word however has as many degrees and variations as there are Christians who have ever lived.

 

So the apostle is asking God for something. This is interaction with God. This is a fervent seeking of a personal Divine transaction. This is a one to one, face to face exchange with the Almighty. This is the occupation in which Christians should by rights be world leaders.  Those who say they love God and believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that the Holy Spirit dwells within them should be effortlessly proving to a watching world how alive and personal God is by their dialogue with Him, the answers to prayer that they enjoy and the radiance of the light of Christ in their entire demeanour.

 

Notice that Paul does not pray that God will give them more and more temporal “things” such as affluence, physical strength, and all things visible. That is without doubt the ultimate manifestation, of the gospel in a person’s life, and indeed these things were lavishly seen in the life of the apostle Paul. There is, however, the incredibly sure and solid foundation that needs to be placed in a person’s life and faith in order to bring out such fruit, i.e. a spirit of revelation and wisdom in the knowledge of God Himself. What Christians have received in their hearts from God when they were converted needs deepening, chewing over, meditating on and absorbing.  Paul is asking that these people will have an ever-deepening experience of understanding more of their relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

 

It should be made plain. The Christian life is not a continuous life long struggle to get more faith or more anointing, or to get closer to the Lord. We already have these things in their glorious fullness as per Romans 12:3.  We just need a fuller and more comprehensive revelation of what is already ours. If we could only see clearly what we have in Christ  there would be no holding any of us back. But what we have in Christ is infinite and widespread in one’s spiritual vision and constantly needs to be expanding.

 

Understanding this aspect of biblical truth takes a lot of frustration and doubt away from the hungry heart.  It is much easier to release within us something we already have than to try and attain something we don’t have. Through Christ, we are already blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. All we have to do is appropriate what is already ours through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-3 ). Peter also tells us the same thing when he stated that God has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. We have it absolutely, but we need more of it. It is a paradox most glorious!

 

PAUL HAS HEARD OF THE LOVE AND FAITH OF THE PEOPLE TO WHOM HE IS WRITING

Paul is not praying blindly. “Somebody I know in Asia needs prayer, Paul. Could you pray please?”  No! It is simply not that sort of general, blanket praying.  Whether we are talking of small numbers or huge crowds that need prayer, the principle is the same. Whether it is a group of twelve meeting in the catacombs somewhere, or whether it is the Christian population of thousands worshipping in  many churches in a widespread area, Paul has absorbed certain facts about the Asians (assuming it was not just the Christians in Ephesus). This facilitates and enables the apostle to  pray intelligently, prosecuting their case before the throne of God. The apostle informs us that he has heard of their faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ and love towards all of God’s people. These facts, together with anecdotal accounts of how their love and faith were being expressed induced him to unceasing thanksgiving on their behalf. He thanked God for these people because he owned them as a father to their faith. He is excited at the fruit of the gospel in their lives that has birthed such practical love. For those reasons he continually makes mention of it in his interaction with the Almighty to the end that God might give these people more of what they already are experiencing.

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PAUL KEEPS ON ASKING

Repetition and persistence are basic to a true life of prayer.  Paul continually gives thanks for their testimony, and he also continually prays for them to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  Some prayers can be uttered once and left in His almighty hand, but Jesus also encouraged us to ask and keep on asking, to knock and keep on knocking, and to seek and keep on seeking. Character is built through persistent prayer. I am not referring to vain repetitions. I am referring to diligent heartfelt faith filled prayer. Intimacy with God does not just happen, it is built. Power in prayer does not happen it is built by consistent perseverance.

 

PAUL KEEPS ON ASKING GOD

It is not that there is any virtue in the “saying of prayers”. There is a difference between “saying prayers” and “praying.” The point to be made here is that prayer is dialogue and engagement with God Himself. If it is not an exchange between God and the one praying, biblically speaking, it isn’t prayer. It isn’t the saying of a learned prayer per se. It may be a heartfelt cry of the heart that is read from a page, but it must be a confrontational eyeball to eyeball period of time with God Almighty Himself. This is how we are taught to pray in scripture. Whether it is spontaneous outbursts of words, or long rehearsed phrases, or even written prayers is a total irrelevancy. It needs to be the whole person meeting with God. The more fully we put our body, soul and spirit into engaging with him, the more fully we will see in the spirit and have things revealed.

 

PAUL ADDRESSES GOD THE FATHER IN THE NAME OF CHRIST

Prayer is approaching Heavenly Father through the mediation of Christ our Savior by the power and intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The biblical idea of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not something just to debate in the classroom or lecture hall. There are practical applications in the revealing of the Godhead. Nowhere does it impact more than in the approach of the believer to God Himself.  Paul addresses his prayer to Him who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his prayer is for manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

 

PAUL KNOWS THAT HEAVENLY FATHER IS THE SOURCE AND INTRINSIC FOUNTAIN OF ALL GLORY

With this thought, we see something that is profound in Paul’s understanding of the nature of the Character and Being that is God Almighty.  His descriptive language in verse 18 of God the Father is that He is the “Father of glory.”  He is not merely “the glorious Father,” but the Father who is the origin and infinite fountain of all that is meant by “eternal glory.”  Compare the words, “the Lord of glory,” in James 2:1 that are used concerning Christ. The verse suggests to me that the “glory” in this verse involves the thought of Christ being the true Shekinah presence of God, in whom the true glory of the Godhead shines forth and who is intrinsically within Himself the true “Glory of God.” However, no matter how beautiful and true that inference may be, its inference appears far-fetched to be applied here in Ephesians 1. Paul is referring to the Person of the Father rather than the Son. It is yet another component of the engaging issue of dividing the word correctly when considering One God yet three Persons.

 

The Father of glory, or better still “of the glory,” is a unique phrase. We have, indeed, other such phrases as “Father of Mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and “Father of Lights” (James 1:7). One does not necessarily need a degree in theology to unmistakably recognise that those verses are referring to our Father who is in heaven. On the other hand, “the King of Glory” in Psalm 28:5, “the God of Glory” in Acts 7:2, and, “the Lord of Glory” in 1 Corinthians 2:8 and James 2:1 are when studied  phrases where “the glory” seems certainly to be the Shekinah of God’s manifested presence, and in all cases but this one, that glory is a direct reference to Christ the Son. Nevertheless “the Father of the glory,” seems a phrase different from all these phrases referred to above.

 

I see this terminology as having a dual meaning. Firstly, that Heavenly Father is glorious and magnificent in His own person. I do not mean that Christ and the Spirit of God are not glorious, God forbid, yet I do mean that the term “the Father of Glory,” refers to Heavenly Father’s personage.  To this writer the term “glory” must mean something mysteriously visible in the “appearance” of the Father.  The visible manifestation of God as a cloud, or as fire is referred to by the Hebrew word, “Shekinah.”

 

Secondly, I also see an inference of meaning that I do not insist upon, yet I confess it also dominates my mind as I read the verse.  I see in Paul’s statement that, “the Father of glory,” is Heavenly Father being referred to as “the Father of the glory that is manifested in Christ.”  I am suggesting that the “Father of Glory” means that He is the Father of the glory of the incarnate Deity in Jesus Christ (see John 1:14).  This visible Shekinah and weight of the glory of God is, in 2 Corinthians 4:6 referred to as “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” I have noticed in reading Jewish commentaries and articles both old and new that they often identify God’s Word with the Shekinah glory of God.  The prayer that continues through to the end of this chapter quite clearly connects the knowledge of the glory of God that is part of the believer’s inheritance with the exaltation of our Lord in glory.

 

 

ZZZZZ jesus feetPAUL ASKS GOD THE FATHER FOR MORE OF GOD’S SPIRIT IN PEOPLE’S LIVES

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all seen in initiating the activity within the human heart that bursts open with Paul’s prayer, and they would be seen to be active in the divine activity of deity when Paul’s prayer is answered. Paradoxically the desire and goals of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 are the same as the reason and ground for him making the prayer.  The grounds and rationale for Paul to be bowing the knee and making the prayer is that the recipients of the letter have reportedly experienced God the Father enlightening their minds with his Holy Spirit. This has caused and motivated the people to embrace Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel message. This, in turn, leads towards a more solid understanding of their obtaining everlasting life, and the setting forth of God’s glory.   Those grounds for prayer are identical to the goal and purpose of the apostle’s intercession. It’s a dynamic circle of logic.

 

 

 

PAUL KEEPS ASKING FOR THE INCREASE OF GOD’S BLESSINGS UPON OTHERS

Wherever the reader is in God – there must be more than what you have. There is always more. God is infinite, His love and power is infinite, and I read nowhere in the Bible of a limitation set upon humankind restricting what the grace of God can do in a person’s life. Whatever blessings one has received, even when referring to the most blessed person on the planet (whoever he or she may be) there is always more. Paul the apostle is driven to earnestly pray for more in the lives of the people to whom he wrote this letter.

 

PAUL ASKS THAT THEY MAY HAVE MORE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

There are gradations in the receiving of and utility within the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the desire of this writer that he may experience an ever increasing manifestation of the Holy Spirit in his life.  There is always more of the Holy Spirit to explore, be guided by and thus to experience. The word of God and it’s revelation to the heart always has precedence over any experience.

 

PAUL ASKS FOR THEM TO RECEIVE A PARTICULAR MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

We are talking of character building wisdom and revelation. Yes! There is natural growth and character development. There is natural understanding and insight. That is the sort of wisdom and understanding that comes to even the most Godless person with the passing of time. However, here we are talking of divinely imparted gifts and characteristics that are communicated by the Spirit of God. Whether this impartation of gifting comes chronologically before character, or vica verca, or whether they are both given and developed concurrently is something I will leave for the psychologists to conclude. There is one Holy Spirit, but there are many manifestations and ministrations  of that Spirit. He is, after all, omniscient, omnipotent and infinite in the variety of His own operation. Paul asks that these people be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation. That is only a narrow choice of the awesome variety of Holy Spirit manifestations. It is what is needed to build character that would be fitted to face and cope with the onslaught of persecution and physical temptation similar to that which Paul endured whilst he was in the vicinity of the folks whom this letter was sent to.

 

PAUL ASKS FOR THEM EXACTLY WHAT ISAIAH 11:2 STATES RESTED UPON MESSIAH

Isaiah 11:1-3 is an amazing description of what facilitated Christ to meet all the satanic onslaughts and temptations  that militated against Him in His life and during His passion. The NIV expresses it this way:

 

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears (Emphasis mine)

 

It is these lines that teach us that when Paul states he is praying that the readers of the Ephesian letter will receive a “spirit of wisdom and revelation,” he is clearly referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul was using the same phrase that Isaiah used and it was clearly referring to the same person of the Holy Spirit that is referred to in the previous line. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him.” That line is self evidently referring to the Holy Spirit. The next line is dealing with an expansion of what has just been written; “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding.”

 

Paul is asking that there will be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the same manner as He was manifest in the life and dealings of Jesus Christ. This is deep and expansive praying, the results of which would have impacted the readers.

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PAUL ASKS FOR A SPIRIT OF WISDOM

Paul desires that God would give to them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him. Despite my own explanation above that Isaiah 11:2 fully justifies Paul’s usage of the phrase as referring to the Holy Spirit, it is a fact of life that when properly received the wisdom and revelation that comes to people  seems very much to become part and parcel of the warp and woof of their character. In other words, even though  the phrase refers especially to the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that Paul refers to, in terms of its result in people’s hearts and understanding, I fully understand why many claim that the phrase refers to the human spirit being dominated by wisdom and revelation. The dominant usage in scripture of the word “spirit” is to refer to either the Spirit of God (as in Romans 8:10, or the spirit of man as referred to in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.  However, the word spirit can also describe a mental disposition or a settled attitude of mind. This is the same kind of thing that we mean when we refer to “team spirit,” or to “School spirit,” or the “spirit of a game.”  Although Isaiah 11:2 forces us to conclude that the term specifically refers to the Holy Spirit, the verse makes perfect sense with all three of the above meanings of the word.

 

PAUL ASKS FOR A SPIRIT OF REVELATION

It is illogical, and, dare I say,“Impossible” to receive a revelation of something that does not already exist. The Greek word that is translated “revelation” here is “Apocalupsis” which means “a disclosure.” It comes from a root word that means, “to remove the covering,” or “a revealing of something that was hidden” and “an opening of a curtain that previously hid something from view.” Paul is not praying for the Lord to give them something new, or anything that they did not, at that moment, already have in their possession. The apostle is praying for them to receive a revelation of what is already theirs in Christ. The presupposition is that they have received more than what they are aware of at that moment. A fortune of spiritual wealth has been deposited in their account, and even though their lives are plainly expressing love and faith, they are utilising pennies when God has developed a huge fortune.

 

For the recipients of Paul’s letter to receive “A spirit of revelation” meant that there would be an act of the Holy Spirit, as well as activity of the human spirit that would receive the God dispensed understanding, insights and ever deepening revelation that both opens up the true meaning of the scriptures, and facilitates the renewing of the mind for Godly living.  The Spirit of God accomplishes this by the removing of the covering, or veil of natural ignorance (Psalm 119:18. Luke 24:45), shining into the receptive human mind, and allowing it to see what before it saw not. This process would be facilitating an understanding of what was previously non-perceptible. The Spirit of God continually wants to reveal what is sometimes new objects of spiritual value, sometimes new excellences in objects before known. Thus the Spirit works not only in the beginning of faith and spiritual knowledge, but in its further progress he lets in new light into the mind, and removes some remaining degree of natural darkness.

 

 

THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION WOULD BE THE MEANS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

The point of the letter and the prayers within the letter is, of course, ministry that would be a causative factor of growth in Christ.  All ministry of the word, and all true ministry by men of God is first and foremost to bring the unsaved to faith in Christ, and to bring the converted person toa deeper understanding of God’s wisdom and revelation.  When every other motive and purpose for preaching and teaching the gospel  has been discovered and explained, these two purposes are the ultimate source of motivation for a person’s ministry of the word.

 

 

PAUL ASKS THAT THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM & REVELATION WILL LEAD TO A DEEPER KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

God can be known by man. God wants the whole of mankind to know Him. I do not mean to “know about God” like one knows “about the moon, or the sun.” I mean that one can know God in the same way that one knows their spouse, or their children or friends.  It is an engagement of friendship, dialogue and purpose. This is what Paul is hungry for in the lives of the Christian people to whom he was writing. This knowledge of God is personal and intimate. It should be the desire if one who has their human spirit illumined by conversion to know God ever increasingly better.

 

Would that I could consistently pray with the insight power and wisdom of the Apostle Paul. Would that others would pray for me as Paul did for the Ephesians.

 

 

reflections on Christ - crucifixion

“Heavenly Places” and “The Heavens”

aaa2I have a picture I need to share.  In fact, it’s more of a video cum movie than a picture.  It’s a running video scene that in my heart and in my mind’s eye is as clear and succinct as anything could be. However, I have a problem.

 

Have you ever read Ezekiel’s first chapter?  It’s obvious that what the prophet saw was clear, clean and, to him, well perceived and  easily understood.  He knew what he saw.  And, he knew that what he saw was a clear statement to mankind as any could be.  No problem!  Until he puts quill to parchment!   We then have a mysterious cryptic 28 verses to unravel.  It’s the chapter of the “Wheels within wheels,” and the living beings going straightforward in different directions, with four faces, yet never separating because their wings were touching each other continually. There were eyes in the wheels, and the spirit of the creatures was in the wheels.  Draw a pencil sketch of that if you can!  I have seen, through the years, something like half a dozen attempts at a pictorial presentation of Ezekiel’s vision. They have all been wonderful, yet each of them, to my mind, failed in some aspect of the whole of Ezekiel’s text.  Ezekiel saw it, and I am convinced that he was satisfied with the description as he wrote it. However, it seems that without some heavenly revelation, we can’t seem to get to grips with all that he saw that day by the River Chebar.

 

Ezekiel leaves us with a description that we cannot properly image. It is like describing the colour red to a blind man who has never seen.  It is comparable to explaining in sign language to a profoundly deaf person, the difference between a C major chord and a C minor. We need some deep revelation.

 

I am in no way comparing my visionary insight with the weight and inerrancy of Ezekiel. God help us!  What I am saying is that seeing something so clearly, and writing these words after having written what is below, I have edited and discovered that I have not painted my word picture clearly, yet it is what I see.

 

To plot my route from the start, I leave you with the nine hooks that I want to hang my thoughts on.  Nine hooks that will let you in to where my heart and eyes have been in my hunger for revelations of the invisible. It is all about each time that “the heavens” or the “heavenly places” is mentioned in Ephesians:

 

  1. Ephesians 1:3    The Locus of the Glorified Christ
  2. Ephesians 1:10  The Prophesied Future  Harmony of the Heavens and the Earth
  3. Ephesians 1:20  The same Heavenly Power that Enthroned the Risen Christ reigns in the Christian
  4. Ephesians 2:6     Christ and the church are in the same Locus in Heavenly Places
  5. Ephesians 3:10  The Universal Display of the Wisdom of God Displayed Cosmically Through the Church
  6. Ephesians 3:15  There are Family’s in Heavenly Places just as there are on Earth
  7. Ephesians 4:10  The exaltation of Christ is such that His Glory is Higher than the Heavens
  8. Ephesians 6:9    The knowledge of things in the Heavens should Govern our conduct on Earth
  9. Ephesians 6:12  The struggle of life is primarily won or lost in the Heavenly places

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There is no such place as a singular “heaven” in Ephesians!  No!  I am not going heretical!  Heaven, and/or its environs appear nine times in the epistle that we are at present trawling through, but it is always stated as a plural!  “The Heavens” is the truer translation, even though, because of western mindsets it is often translated as “heaven.”  It is  used sometimes in the singular in the New Testament, and centuries of religious tradition in Europe have nailed it into our psyches.  “Heaven” and “Hell” seem more stark and better understood when expressed in the singular.

 

The word in the original Greek is “ouranous” when it is singular and “ouraniois” when its plural. “Ouraniois” is in Ephesians three times.  But then there is “epouraniois,” translated as “heavenly realms” or “heavenly places,” suggesting a view of “the heavens” that is differentiating the areas of its “real estate.”  Perhaps the plural noun and adjective is referring to different dimensions or levels of heaven.  Paul said he was taken up “to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2).  What is the significance of three heavens?  Are there only three?  Without doubt Paul wrote Ephesians after the experience he refers to in 2 Corinthians 12, and perhaps that is what influenced him in using the plural terminology. Revelation can change the language of a person.

 

There are times when we read scripture and accept, almost as a cliché, some of the most remarkably profound and revelatory statements. I am talking specifically about one area of these profundities today.  What should we think and believe about heaven?  It has always challenged my conceptual thinking whenever I have had to engage with the phrase, “in heavenly places” in Ephesians.  What are “heavenly places?”  Is it geographically located?  How is it that I am here as well as there? (i.e. “at Ephesus,” “in Christ”(1:1).  See also Ephesians 2:6)   And how should this dual locus impact my life?  I have often wondered if I even understand the phraseology of “heaven” correctly.  Follow my trail of questioning thought as I engage and grapple with the scriptures on this issue.

 

I have chosen to use the word “locus” on this page simply because even though I personally am convinced of a physical dimension in the heavens, I quite understand that many of my readers might not.  To ensure I do not lose you on my journey I am using “locus” as opposed to “location.” Locus meaning  a centre of power  or activity of control that may or may not be geographically physical.

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Ephesians 1:3    The Locus of the Glorified Christ

As first mention of the “heavenlies” in the epistle  at only the third verse, this phrase seems simple enough; elementary even:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”

 

What is this statement all about.  One would not have thought there was any issue or struggle in getting hold of this line. First of all the phrase, “who has blessed us” in the original Greek is in the aorist tense which means that there was a point in time when all the blessings that he refers to were given to us. Not bit by bit, but the whole package was given in one moment.  As we read on in the first chapter we will see that it was given at the believer’s moment of conversion.

 

This means that Paul is discussing blessings that need to be understood, discovered and enjoyed. They are definitely not to be asked for. They have already been given. Christians are not heading for victory but coming from victory.   I believe that “in heavenly places” in 1:3 is referring to the very place from where believers receive the grace and specified gifts that comprise “every spiritual blessing.”  This is the entire point of this opening statement of Paul’s missive.  This is logical also when seen in the light of the New Testament in general.  “In heavenly places” is where the ascended, exalted Christ is at this moment, and where believers are also as per Ephesians 2:6.  The Christian is incorporated “in Christ.”  No problematic mental gymnastics are needed!  It makes total sense. “In heavenly places” carries the meaning of actually being in the spiritual realm. Christ is there. We are there because we are “in Christ.” The fullness of the blessing that is in Christ is given from heavenly places and landed in our spirits, in our lives on planet earth.

aaa7 The Believer is in Christ

In contrast to the present earthly realm, which is the locus that human beings are sentiently aware of, the “heavenly places” are declared to be the experiential reality of the believer’s environment whether we sense it or not. There are four times “In heavenly places” occurs in Ephesians. When each statement is seen in its context and in their combination, it is clear that Paul is speaking about real places which are beyond earth’s atmosphere and/or in a parallel dimension to where we physically exist.  We know for certain that the region designated as “heavenly places” is the very locus of the ascended Christ in His present state of exaltation.  The “heavenly places” are an authentic reality in which believers currently share a throne along with the Saviour.

 

Wherever Christ is, so is the Christian.  If I place a photograph of myself inside a book, and then send the book to the moon with a NASA astronaut, wherever the book goes the photo goes, simply because the photo is in the book.  In exactly the same manner, the believer is, “in Christ.”  Wherever Christ goes, so does the believer.  Do not be fooled into thinking that because we are on planet earth and Christ is in the heavens that Paul must be using some poetical pink and fluffy statement to make us feel good and closer to Jesus.  The born again Christian is in a spiritual, nevertheless real way, conjoined to the living resurrected Christ. The Christian was crucified with Christ, died with Christ, buried with Christ and resurrected with Christ.  We shall also see that Ephesians 2:6 tells us that all Christians are now seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ.

 

In Ephesians 1:3, Paul is eulogising God the Father for all that we have received in Christ.  What we have he defines as “every,” or “all” spiritual blessings that have descended upon us from the heavens, and it is plainly described as every conceivable blessing that heaven has to give.  Therefore, we logically extrapolate that if Christ is in heavenly places, and we are in Christ, we are seated with Him, together in heavenly places.  This straightforward logical extrapolation is confirmed when we get to Ephesians 2:6.  Those multifarious blessings from heavenly places belong to us as an unearned inheritance, and they are given in order to impact our physical existence here on earth.

 

I find it difficult  to withhold from the ever growing conviction within me that these heavenly places are geographical, if not in time, at least in space – somewhere – somehow.  What drives me to push this?  When Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel and John saw into “heavenly places” none of them struggled to explain what they saw, heard and touched  – even tasted.  They simply “saw” it: and independently in different cultures and different generations saw the same things as each other.  When Moses was told to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness he was told to construct it “exactly” as he had seen it in heaven. What he saw he remembered, and what he remembered was a tangible measurable form of a tent.  He glimpsed it in heaven. It is a wonderful glorious mystery.  For these reasons it is wise to think long and hard before we simply cast a judgement that it was only spiritual language explaining invisible abstract spiritual concepts.  None of the Hebrew prophets talk abstractly.

aaa8 The Graphic Biblical Sketch of the Heavens

The biblical picture is plainly laid out for our carnal minds to chew on and assimilate.  The heavens are the eternal dwelling place of God the Father.  Jesus taught us to pray; “Our Father who is in Heaven” (better translated “in the heavens,” or “in heavenly places” (plural)).  “Heaven” is the English noun, “Heavenly” is the English adjective.  It is from this “place” that the Son of God descended to become incarnate (John 3:13, 3:31, 6:38 and 6:42).  Up to this point of the developing picture we may conceive it as something spiritual and non-physical.  However, the risen Christ was physically tangible.  He was touched and proven to be physical, and he ate in the presence of people.  The physical resurrected Christ left us.  In Christ’s ascension He literally “passed through the heavens” and into glory (Hebrews 4:14 Revised Version), and then, in sequence “ascended far above the heavens” (Ephesians 4:10) and was made even “higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). The risen physical flesh and bone Christ stepped into the heavens. At that point Christ sat down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1).  Peter tells us that Jesus is “on the right hand of God” having gone into heaven (1 Peter 3:22).  Since the day of Christ’s ascension into heaven, recorded for us in Acts 1, this has been the scenario of His intercessory life, activity and ministry (Romans 8:34.  Hebrews 9:24).  He lives there in the power of an indestructible life interceding for the church (Hebrews 7:16).  These heavenly places are the places from which the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost (1 Peter 1:12).  One of these places is where Paul was caught up to not knowing whether he was in the body or out of the body (2 Corinthians 12:2), which suggests that the “third heaven” was so literal and tangible, Paul wasn’t sure that he was out of the body.  This is the place from which the angels minister  to those who shall be heirs of salvation (Matthew 18:10.  22:30. Revelation 3:5.  Hebrews 1:14).  It is the place from which Christ will come to receive His saints at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16.  Philippians 3:20-21) and from where He will thereafter descend with His saints and holy angels at the moment of the second advent (Matthew 24:30. 2 Thessalonians 1:7).  It is, throughout the depths of eternity’s measurements, to be the dwelling place of the resurrected saints in glory (2 Corinthians 5:1).  Can we read these writings and not graphically picture a setting that seems geographical?

 

In Heavenly Places Now.

Yet even having said all this, it is now, at this moment of our earthly present that Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven – not future tense, but a present possession.  We are now citizens of heaven.  The Christian in the here and now is primarily and importantly a citizen of heaven – a citizenship that carries a greater priority over earth’s citizenship (Philippians 3:20).  Our conduct down here is to be modelled on our citizenship in the heavenly places, not the other way around.

man in praise

Reverting back to the text of Ephesians 1:3 then, it is from “heavenly places” that He dispenses the sum total of all the glorious blessings which He died to give us.  The major mental picture that I am struck with is that heaven is an alternative locus, physical or otherwise, (in another dimension?) where the believer possesses a literal stake and resides in the Spirit contemporaneously with Christ.  Whether it is physical in the sense of length, breadth and height, or, whether it is a physical world beyond our physical reality, we cannot be sure – yet.  The universe is governed both morally and physically from the heavens.  The heavens themselves are the serious, legitimate and very real  “engine rooms” serving the entire cosmos.  It is Yahweh’s “residence.” This is an incredible revelation of the invisible.  The physical cosmos was created and spoken into being from within the spiritual cosmos. It is the unseen eternal God, in the unseen heaven, who spoke the temporal earth and the temporal stars into being.  If the physical is therefore contained within the spiritual, the laws and requirements of the spiritual cosmos obviously have priority.  The physical is temporary. The invisible is eternal. Oh to know more of the “heavenly places!”

 

English Bible translators seem to struggle to achieve a definitive translation of this phrase into the Queen’s English.  “In heavenly places” is in the King James Version as well as the ESV, ASB, and NASB.  That is the most commonly used term probably because it has been in circulation since 1611, if not before.  Other versions vary the image with things like “in the heavenly realms” (plural) (NIV, NLT, NET Bible.), while the ISV has it “heavenly realm” (singular).  The Holman Christian Standard Bible just translates it, “the heavens”.  The authoritative Darby Literal Translation has it as, “The heavenlies.”  The Aramaic Bible in plain English calls it: “heaven,” as does God’s Word translation.

 

We are, therefore, by Ephesians 1:3 introduced to an incredible adventure of biblical revelation concerning the nature of the blessings in a Christian’s life that come to us from the heavens.  Indeed, the whole adventure concerns our very relationship with heavenly places in the here and now.

 

 

Ephesians 1:10  The Prophesied Future  Harmony of the Heavens and the Earth

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in the heavenlies, and which are on earth; even in him.”

 

In the use of, “in the heavenlies,” in Ephesians 1:10 one finds a conformity, as well as a contrast between “the things in the heavens” and “the things on the earth.”  The heavens are understood to be a part of the created reality (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth).  The things “in heaven” and the things “on earth” are to be brought together under the headship of the exalted Christ in the fullness of times.  “The dispensation of the fullness of times” is referring to the end of the present order of things when Christ will rule supreme for a thousand years, referred to by theologians as “The Millennium”.  Clearly, the heavens are as substantial as the earth, and are together to be brought into oneness under the authority and rule of Messiah.  Jesus Christ is Lord of the heavens and the earth.  In the fullness of time God the Father will bring all things together “in one” in Christ.”  This has always been God’s plan and purpose and it will be accomplished.  This means, to put it bluntly, that anybody who does not have Jesus Christ as the pre-eminent Lord of their life is entirely out of focus with the eternal purpose of God.

 

The Joining of Heaven and  Earth

This statement involves the marriage of the divine transcendent heavenly realm with the earthly material reality.  It is worth noting that what comes under Christ’s headship are “the things in the heavens,” implying that “in the heavens” refers primarily to living beings in the uppermost part of the created order (angels, archangels, as well as cherubim, Seraphim.), since it is the contents of the heavenlies which are involved. I understand this to mean that things will be as they were with Adam before the fall of man, when the heavens and the earth seemed to have met in those moments after Adam’s creation before the serpent interfered with the human existence.

 

God, will have all things volitional and non volitional, all life forms and non-life forms, everything that is animal, vegetable and/or mineral brought together under the influence and rule of Christ, whether in the heavens or on the earth. Then we will experience the heavens and the earth functioning in complete oneness and harmony. It cannot however happen until Christ has returned and is reigning on earth. The curse will then be removed from creation.  No more thorns!  No more sickness! The Lion will lie down with the lamb, and even the wild bears will become vegetarian along with the lions.  Children will play with the asps and be totally safe. The story of Isaiah is clear. The ravages of sin will be removed from both the physical as well as the spiritual cosmos.

 

It is not that God, or Christ is not the Lord at this moment of time.  Indeed Jesus Christ IS Lord, not just will be or was.  The statement of Ephesians 1:10 looks forward to the end of time as we know it when all final divine judgements are complete and the new heavens and the new earth will be in place; when the earthly and the heavenly will be in glorious harmony and symphonic interaction. The heavenly paces will still be heavenly places.  The earth will still be the earth; but all people and things in one will become harmoniously one with the angels and beings in the other. The resurrected human contingent will interact freely and gloriously with the eternal angelic society.

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Ephesians 1:20 The same Heavenly Power that Enthroned the Risen Christ reigns in the Christian

“Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

 

In the prayer of Ephesians 1:15–23, “in the heavenly places” is used to refer to the heavenly enthronement of the exalted Christ by Heavenly Father (1:20-21).  The prayer itself is offered by Paul on behalf of the recipients of the letter, that they may be granted spiritual insight and knowledge into three areas of their knowledge of Christ:

  1. The hope and expectation of God’s calling  on their lives(1:18),
  2. The glorious riches of His inheritance in and among the saints  already given (1:18), and
  3. The exceeding greatness of His power towards the believer (1:19).

The Same Power that Raised Christ from the Dead

The really exciting and inspirational contents of the apostle’s prayer concerns the power that God Himself exercised when Christ was raised from the dead, taken to heaven and enthroned in glory.  The point is that the power of heaven that worked in the resurrection, ascension and enthronement of Christ is exactly the same power that flows towards the Christian.  In order to express this accurately, the latter phrase of Paul’s prayer points are paralleled by a fourfold demarcation of this power, which God is now investing towards and within those that believe, with what He did for Christ:

 

  1. God “raised Him from the dead” (1:20) in the same way that He raised the Christian from being spiritually dead. It is the same action and the same power.
  2. God “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies” (1:20).  The Christian is empowered and given authority in the same way that power and authority was given to Christ. The same action and power was used towards us.
  3. God “subjected all things under His feet” (1:22 quoting Ps 8:6). All Christians have more authority and power in the Spirit than they could ever imagine, just as power and authority was given to Christ.
  4. God “gave Him as head over…the church” (1:22).

Separating 1 and 2 from 3 and 4 is verse 21, which contains a further insight into the Saviours exaltation and glorification.  This exaltation is described as “far above all rule, authority, power, lordship, and every name named, not only in this age but in that which is to come.”  There is nothing and nobody with more power and authority in the universe than Jesus Christ.

The LORD said to my Lord “Sit at My Own Right Hand

The allusion to Psalm 110:1 in the phrase “set him at his own right hand” full of revelation since this psalm was understood to be gloriously Messianic because of Christ’s own explanation. The phrase, both here and in Psalm 110:1 is to be understood as a statement of divine power and supreme authority invested into Messiah by Yahweh Himself.  According to the enthronement imagery of Psalm 110:1, this authority is given to Christ at His ascension, exaltation and His being enthroned in Heaven.  Simply because the phrase “set him at his own right hand” is understood as an investment of authority (being made both Lord and Christ), there is no necessity of a purely symbolic (i.e. non local) meaning for the following phrase “in the heavenlies.”  Thus, the phrase still maintains here the idea that emerged from its use in Ephesians 1:3 where the heavenly realm is contrasted to the earthly, but it is not “spiritual” in the sense of transcending the present “material” world.  Rather, “in the heavenlies” or “in heavenly places” carries a geographically local sense, in that it is the place to which the resurrected physical Christ ascended and where He now resides at the right hand of God where all power and authority is invested in Him. We have a physical and resurrected man in the glory – so why should not heaven be seen as geographical.

 

As an incidental, “By the way,” this is similar to the picture drawn also by 1:10 where the phrase “in the heavens” is in contrast to “on the earth.”  This similarity between the heavenlies and the earth is further supported by the fact that here in 1:20 a few manuscripts read “in the ouraniois” (the heavens) for “in the epouranos“  (“all heavenly places). This is the reason why this writer believes that “ouraniois” and epouraniois are completely interchangeable.

 

This has to be said to be one of the greatest passages in the New Testament concerning the power and authority God has invested in His children. We see clearly how the believer is sharing in Christ’s throne, and partaking of the power and authority which Christ’s throne represents, and is commissioned to use both that power and the authority.

 

There is no place in the New Testament that we are told to ask God to do something about the devil. It is the Christian believers who are supposed to be  doing something about combating the devil. This is because Christ’s delegated authority has been given to the believer over all the works of the enemy. The prayer in Ephesians 1 is for the church to walk in the full revelation of this idea.

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Ephesians 2:6     Christ and the church are in the same Locus in Heavenly Places

“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

 

In 2:6 “in heavenly places” occurs in a context where the present state of believers is contrasted with their previous state before conversion and faith.  “And we, although we were dead in trespasses and sins, He (God) made us alive and has made us live together with Christ—by grace you are saved—and He has raised us up together (“raised us up together” one word. 2:6) and seated us together (“seated us together” one word. 2:6) in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.”  Why did God do these incredible things for us?  “In order that He might demonstrate in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in Christ Jesus.” Our victory in Jesus Christ is dependent on our dependency on Christ and not on ourselves.

 

The Authority of the Believer

Here the fuller implications of the previous occurrence of “in heavenly places” in 1:20 can be seen.  It is not Christ alone who is raised and seated in exaltation “in the heavenlies” but also now believers participate in this exaltation and dominion with Him, as the three single-word verbs with the Greek prefix:“together” in 2:5–6 indicate.  We were quickened together with Christ, raised together with Christ, and seated together with Christ.  Once again, these three terms are in the aorist tense, meaning it has happened to the believer whether they know it or not.  We cannot escape this truth by suggesting that such participation in the messianic experience is merely anticipatory of the age to come as some would suggest.  Christ has been exalted over all angelic beings, “not only in this age, but also in the age to come” (1:21), and so too have believers been exalted “in” Him.  And we have to keep in mind also that 1:3 makes it clear that the blessings are a present reality for believers.  These revelations of the invisible become so exciting and faith building when seen in their combination. The actions of God towards the believer that are biblically explained in the aorist tense are gloriously faith building.

 

Again, in a fashion completely consistent with the previous uses of “in heavenly places” in 1:3 and 1:20, a sense of locale is present in the term in 2:6.  As “in the heavenlies” is where the ascended Christ now is, exalted to a position of universal sovereignty, so also “in the heavenlies” is where believers are, because they have entered a state of participation with Him.  We follow in the train of His triumph. Surely we are just condemned to a life of victory. In the entire Greek vocabulary there is not only the location of our seat in the heavens, but the power and authority that issues from Christ’s own throne. It is only because of Christ’s authority that is delegated to the church  that all things, including the demonic realm are placed under our feet (Ephesians 1:22-23).

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Ephesians 3:10   The Universal Display of the Wisdom of God Displayed Cosmically Through the Church

“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”

 

The phrase “in the heavenlies” in 3:10 clearly maintains the sense of location and locus that we have noted in the earlier verses.  The context of the statement of 3:10 is where Paul has just referred to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.”  He then begins another prayer, clearly on behalf of Gentile Christians just referred to in 3:1.  He interrupts himself mid prayer, with another concentrated theme and is distracted in order to discuss his apostolic mandate as a steward of the mystery of Christ and the church,that had been revealed to him and had become such a major part of the message he preached (3:2–13). The subject and the particulars of the church were all a mystery in the Old Testament. There are prophetic lines that we can now see were referring to the church, but they were not clear enough revelations for the Old Testament prophets to understand.  The content of the mystery he is referring to is made known in 3:6; it is that part of the gospel for which sections of Jewish communities that he visited actually wanted him dead.  It was that “the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the church, and fellow-sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” that gave Paul so much persecution.  In the New Testament every detail of this mystery is revealed, even to demonic powers. God’s church is like a city set on a hill for all the world to see.

 

This is actually an expansion of what he writes about in 2:11–22, of the Gentile incorporation into the church.  The Gentile Christians are to be regarded as complete equals with the Jewish Christians in the benefits and blessings which result from their relationship to Christ. The dividing wall has been broken down in Christ. The injunctions to evangelise, or to preach, and “to make all see” in 3:8–9 are best understood as the implementation of the Great Commission. The gospel is for all people of all races (3:8).  It is a glorious factual insight getting to grips with the content of the grace given to the Apostle Paul.  The revelation of all this was, “to the intent that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies through the church.”

 

Principalities and Powers both Angelic and Demonic know God’s Wisdom through the Church

Paul is revealing that the demonstration of the church in its life and ministry shouldactually instruct both angelic and demonic powers in the features and forms of God’s infinite wisdom. As far as the devil and his hordes are concerned, this demonstration is not to instruct them, as if they were to repent, but to ensure that at their final judgement, they shall know the heart and mind of God in the dynamics of His final assessment.

 

Leaving aside, but only for a moment, these “rulers and authorities” mentioned here, it is clear that the phrase “in the heavenlies” is intended to convey their location.  However, the fact that they are “in the heavenly places,” must not restrict our view that their activities are only within the parameters of those realms, for they serve the “prince of the power of the air.”  Whoever and whatever these “rulers and authorities” may be, they are located in the same general region as the exalted and enthroned Christ along with believers by virtue of incorporation “in” Him.

 

Thus at this point in the development of Paul’s understanding of “in the heavenlies” within Ephesians, it becomes clear that “heavenly places” does not describe the exclusive realm of the exalted Christ and the church. We know that is true because these regions are also the domain of “the rulers” and “the authorities.”  1:20-21 makes it totally clear, however, that Christ is exalted “far above” them all.

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Ephesians 3:15   There are Family’s in Heavenly Places just as their are on Earth

“From whom the whole family in the heavens and the earth is named,”

 

The next reference to the heavenly realm in Ephesians occurs with the use of “the heavens” in 3:15.  After concluding in 3:13 his digression on the mystery of Gentile incorporation into the church and his ministry in the proclamation of that mystery, Paul resumes his prayer in 3:14.

 

This prayer is addressed to the Father, who is then described further by the problematic qualifications of verse  15 : “from whom every family (“every fatherhood”) in the heavenlies and upon the earth derives its name.” What do we do with this cryptic phrase?

 

The apostle is referring to those that have been made righteous through faith in both the Old and the New Testament, those that were alive in Paul’s day, and those that were already in heaven. The prayer is also relevant to every believer that has lived since the day Paul first put quill to parchment in writing this letter.  Believe it or not, this is the only time in the Bible where the term “family” is used to denote the saints of God. “Family,”  however is obviously inferred in referring to others as “brother,” or “sister,” so we are not surprised at all when we see the word.

 

Family means a Fatherhood

As far as the meaning of “heavens” is concerned, the meaning is quite similar to that in 1:10, where the same twofold division of the cosmos is mentioned.  In 1:10 the headship of the exalted Christ brings together “the things in the heavens and the things in the earth,” while here the “heavenly families” are linked to earthly families through their common dependence on the Father.  The idea of the universal fatherhood of God over those in faith, which 3:15 implies, would admirably suit Paul’s thesis of Jew-Gentile equality within the church.

 

If this verse is interpreted as I have suggested above, “the whole family” refers to all that is, and all those that are in submission to Christ as one single universal family of faith.  If interpreted as “every family in the heavens and in the earth,” I see it as referring to all races on earth that are in Christ, and the families of angels, archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim in heaven, as well as whatever other life forms created by Yahweh exist in the heavenly realms..

 

As far as the meaning of Heavenlies in the context of 3:15 is concerned, it must be concluded that the term has essentially the same meaning as in 1:10, where it refers to the highest peak of the created universe.

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 Ephesians 4:10   The exaltation of Christ is such that His Glory is Higher than the Heavens

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all the heavenlies, that he might fill all things.”

 

The heavenlies occurs again in 4:10, in the middle of the section which contains the quotation from  Psalm 68:18 and the apostle’s revelatory comments on it.

 

Christ’s Descent into Sheol

It is plain to see in this graphic use of the term merely another instance of the localized sense of “heavenlies” as in 1:10 and 3:15, as well as it being virtually synonymous with the previous local sense of the phrase “in the heavenlies” in 1:3,1:20; 2:6; and 3:10.  The descent represents Christ’s departure from the heavenly zones, while it does not state that the heavenlies are the goal of the ascent.  In the ascension of Christ the heavenly realms are merely passed through in transit. They are an aside, as it were, and the ascension simply allows the inhabitants of the heavenly realms to watch and stare in awe and wonder at the risen Christ.  Ephesians makes it clear that He wilfully left the heavenly realms.  It is clear that because of the ascension leading “captivity captive,” that the descent is not restricted to the earth, but to the depths of sheol.  One understands that the phrase “the lower regions of the earth” in 4:9 is inevitably influenced by the cosmology one assumes to lie behind the Apostle’s thinking.  My assumption is that the descent referred to in Psalm 68:18 is referring to Christ’s descent into Sheol.  His ascent is the leading of every righteous human spirit since Adam, held captive in Sheol until Christ was raised from the dead, who were then led into heaven in the train of Christ’s triumph.  Romans 10:6–7, confirms my line here.

 

The cosmology thus far discussed throughout Ephesians has been totally two-tiered. The distinction is consistently made between earth and the heavens only. The only place in the letter that would contain any sort of allusion to hell is 4:7–10.  Even the evil “powers,” which are often assumed to be consigned to the underworld, are located in the “air” (2:2), or “in heavenly places (6:12). Christ’s triumph over the powers of darkness may have been accomplished at Calvary but His descent into Sheol was just as necessary an action in the realm of the spirit. In the course of His victorious ascent, He passes through the heavenly regions en route to His exalted position “far above all.”

 

The phrase “led captivity captive” refers to Jesus liberating the Old Testament righteous from the restrictions of Sheol to the liberty of glory. Old Testament people who died, both righteous and unrighteous went to a place that the bible tells us is in the centre of the earth, called in Hebrew, “Sheol.” In most translations it is the same word that in Psalm 16:10 is rendered;”hell.” The Old Testament saints could not enter the presence of the Lord simply because the atonement of Christ had not been completed. It is in that sense that they were captives. Messiah, therefore had to descend to sheol in order to release them, and then ascend with them in company. He died for believers that were present and future, as well as from before the day of His resurrection.

 

Christ’s Ascent Above the Heavens

The ascent “above all the heavens” in 4:10 matches the exaltation and enthronement of Christ “in the heavenlies above all rule and authority and power and dominion,” in 1:20.  The final words in 4:10, “that He might fill all things” resonates with “the fullness of Him that fills all things” in 1:23.  In light of these couplets of similar language, one can see clearly that the cosmology as set in Paul’s thinking was absolutely clear.  He does not use the term “in heavenly places” in 4:10 to describe the terminus and “end of journey” of the ascent, but “far above all the heavens.”  How glorious the thought! 

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Ephesians 6:9   The knowledge of things in the Heavens should Govern our conduct on Earth

“And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in the heavens; neither is there respect of persons with him.

 

The Major motive Behind Luther’s “Haustafel”

Martin Luther wrote a commentary on the book of Ephesians.  In it he listed family duties in the home and referred to those duties as  the “Haustafel,” meaning literally “House blackboard.” In German Christian circles “Luther’s Haustafel” is a common point of discussion.  The final occurrence of “in the heavenlies” in Ephesians is in 6:9, at the close of the Ephesian “Haustafel” (5:21–6:9).  After addressing slaves in 6:5–8, Paul turned to the masters and in a single verse (6:9) summarized their responsibilities to those over whom they exercised “ownership” and authority.  The single rock of rationale given to slave masters for forbearing with threats to one’s slaves was that, “the Lord is in the heavens,” and “there is no respect of persons with Him.”  The heavens is used here in an exhortation to designate where the exalted Lord is—a clearly locational meaning.  From this superior position the almighty impartial Judge, watches over the activities of both slaves and masters and by implication will hold each accountable for their attitudes and actions.

 

It is precisely this spacial or positional contrast between the exalted Christ (in heaven) and believers (on earth) that is needed in Ephesians 6:9 to emphasize Christ’s sovereignty as impartial Judge.  This contrast would be obscured if “in heavenly places” were used, since the meaning developed previously emphasized the locus of both Christ and believers “in Him.” Thus “the heavens” was the writer’s obvious choice for 6:9. It is even clearer in nearly all English translations use the singular “heaven” in this verse.

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Ephesians 6:12  The struggle of life is primarily won or lost in the Heavenly places

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

 

Demons in Heavenly Places

In one sense the “heavenly places” in 6:12 is the most revelatory use of the word in the entire letter. While the concept of angelic “powers” dwelling “in the heavenly places” was introduced in 3:10, they were not at that point expressly identified as evil.  However, here in 6:12 the “powers” located “in the heavenly places” are described as “the world-rulers of this darkness” and “the spiritual (forces) of evil.”  The phrase refers primarily to the realm of the evil powers rather than to the locale in which believers are fighting.  But it is not rational to interpret this text in isolation from the remainder of the letter.  In 1:3 and especially 2:6 “in the heavenly places” denotes the location of the exalted Christ and also of believers because of their union with Him.  Believers are in one sense still on earth; but it is true that they are presently “in the heavenly places” also. We now discover plainly that this is where the evil powers with whom they struggle are also located, according to 6:12. This is a stark but wonderful revelation.

 

When one compares 6:12 with the description in 2:2 of the “archon” of the evil powers it seems that the sphere of influence within which these wicked powers are active extends down to the earth and the world of humankind.  It is not limited to earthly global regions. This raises the possibility that “in the heavenly places” is a more comprehensive term than commonly thought.  It is possible that it bridges the extremes of both the earth and the heavenlies: in some sense. Is it more like a dimension than a place?

 

Christians in Heavenly Places

The imagery implied by 6:12 and the remaining context is not that of (evil) spiritual forces placing humanity “under siege,” isolating them from the heavenly regions and forcing them to fight to “break through” and establish contact with the divine realm.  On the contrary, believers are already seated “in the heavenly places” in Christ, united with Him (2:5–6); no “charge through enemy lines” is necessary.  Yet at the same time believers are called on to fight (6:11–14). The victory over the forces of evil has not yet been completely won.

 

Christ in and Above the Heavenly Places

In spite of any theological difficulties raised by the placing of the evil powers “in heavenly places” according to 6:12, such a conclusion is consistent with statements made elsewhere in the letter (e.g., 2:2; 3:10).  Furthermore the assertion that the evil powers are to be found “in heavenly places” favours a local sense as the general meaning of the phrase throughout Ephesians.  The realm to which Christ has now been exalted (and believers in Him) is not presented as in strict isolation from the remainder of the created universe and totally transcendent.  Rather the evil powers whose sphere of influence includes the earth itself are present “in the heavenly places” as well, and in spite of prior assertions concerning the subjugation of the powers to the exalted Christ (1:10; 1:20; and 4:10), their ultimate defeat appears as a future event, a defeat assisted by the spiritual battle entered into by the church.

 

There are four ranks of demonic forces mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.

  1. Principalities. These seem to be the field marshals, or rulers in Satan’s hierarchy. The word is “Arche” and considered by some scholars to refer to fallen angels. Archangels for instance seem to have responsibility over entire nations.  The “Prince” over Persia referred to by the Archangel Michael in the book of Daniel is my main strand of logic that I stand on re this.
  2. Powers. The word is actually “exousias” meaning, “authorities.” I suggest these are they which infest human thoughts and emotions.
  3. Rulers of the darkness of this world. The cosmic rulers. I need light on this one.
  4. Spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. This is the wicked spirits that defile things in the earthly atmosphere.  There purpose is to destroy all that is of Jesus Christ. They hinder God’s work, blind people’s minds, beguile, mislead and deceive people, tempt mankind, buffet Christians, and attempt to corrupt all that goes on in the church of Jesus Christ.

All demons flee at the name of Jesus. All demons must submit to the authority of Christ delegated to the church.

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The Purpose and Goal of the Whole Existence of the Universe (Ephesians 1:10)

“And this is the plan, that at the right moment, with a view to an administration suitable for when the times reach their fullness and complete fulfillment, and when time itself ceases, He will gather, collect and bring together all of creation, summing it all up and bringing all of history to its goal, re-establishing everything and uniting the whole under the authority of Christ the Messiah, yes, everything in heaven and on earth under Christ.”     (Ephesians 1:10. My own paraphrase)  

In, the  world bestselling book, play, film and computer game “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy,” a question was put into the greatest most advanced computer in the universe. The question was; “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe and everything?” If I remember rightly, it takes the mega super duper computer 100 years exactly to find the answer to this, the Mother of all questions.  What was the answer? It was a piece of paper with nothing but the number “42” written on it.  (If the reader would care to take the trouble to look up the number “42” on Wikipedia, one will see the fascinating connotations that apply to these double digits.  It is very humourous, and the first time I saw it on a Television production I chuckled until I cried.

 

@@@@@ However, the question is so huge and important that it need not be ashamed of the funny answers that comedians and writers throw at it.  It is big, brash and bold  and old enough to withstand the ridicule that is thrown at it throughout the generations.  Ephesians 1:10 however, in the context of all the other spiritual and eternal data that Paul gives us in this incredibly revelatory letter, is the Bible’s definitive answer to that very question.

 

Jesus Christ Himself is the purpose for all creation; the hub and centre of what all of life is about, and only in submission to Him and adoration of Him will the world – indeed the universe, fulfil its purpose and reach its eternally set goal. Those that reject or spurn Him will not and cannot be part of this coming together as they are simply not “in Christ.”  The gathering is of all things that are “in Him.” They who have responded positively to Him in faith believing will be welcomed into eternal conscious bliss with the joy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when this eternal unified oneness in Christ takes place.

 

We have no means of even guessing when this final summation shall come.  The details are discussed and debated and argued opon by Christian academics, theologians and prophetic types not because the Bible is vague, far from it, but because it is future and so specific in its far-reaching vision.  Because the Bible says some amazing things, the differences of opinion on eschatological matters are nearly always about the order of predicted events.  There are also wildly different perspectives on the literalness or otherwise of the events explained in scripture.  Finally, voices are raised from all corners of the theological spectrum when individual eschatological viewpoints are snagged on the template of the framework of world history and the resulting interpretative nuance’s of what has already taken place. What fits into history and the present political scenario and what doesn’t is conceivably the hottest potato in all tyhe dialogue of the end-times.

 

However Ephesians 1:10 reads as if Paul was aware before all the “school’s of thought” were even school’s that could do any thinking  of the confusion that was to come, and so he wrote down the sentence which is far shorter than the manner in which I have paraphrased it above. It sums the whole universe up.   The conclusions that cannot be debated concerning the purpose of life are these:

 

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1. God has a clear and defined purpose and time for all things.

2. Nobody knows when the ultimate moment of the consummation of all things will come.

3. It will happen outside time in the outworking of the fullness of time.

4. Circumstances in cosmic, world and human events have to conclude history.

5. All things “in Christ” are to be gathered, suggesting that those things outside of Christ will not be.

6. The visible and invisible, the heavenly and the earthly, the angelic and the human in Christ shall be collected.

7. “In Christ,” as in almost everything Paul talks about is the hinge of inclusion of exclusion.

8. The eternal purpose of all things is to be made subject to Jesus Christ.

9. It will take place at God’s initiation and NOT at the expediency of the human condition.

10. Ephesians 1:10 must be seen in the context of all that is written from verse 3 through to verse 12.

11. This verse must surely be seen as an ongoing event in perpetuity, rather than a “Judgement Day,” that comes and passes.

12. This is the last event for the universal existence, and existence that will never come to a conclusion yet has this final “event.”

 

 

Whatever biblical Eschatological viewpoint one adopts, it has to be affirmed that all Christians affirm that history and world events are in His hands and control. No matter how corny the pun and word play may seem it is absolutely true that “History is His story.”  God is pro-actively working with a strategy that stems from the plan He conceived in eternity. That plan has been, is being, and will continue to be outworked through time past, time present and time future being fully disclosed by the prophetic insights of scripture within time, and climaxing outside of and beyond time into eternity future. The bible has a pre planned pre destined linear plan in linear time that steps out into eternity in the same way Peter stepped out on the water. It cannot be doubted, be it by biblical scholars, or people with the most rudimentary grasp of the Bible that the hub and centre of the entire eternal plan and purpose of all things is the person and character of Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him and His redeemed, reconciled and blood bought people that follow in the train of His triumph.

 

What’s the purpose of it all?  John Stott wrote, “God is making human beings more human by making them more like Christ.” That is his succinct remark of why we are here.  The message for this generation is ensure that each individual is “in Christ” through believing the gospel message. God take us there.

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