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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“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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Adopted as God’s children (Ephesians 1:5)

Adopted as God’s children (Ephesians 1:5)

“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,” (English Standard Version Ephesians 1:5a)

“And he has constituted us as children by Yeshua the Messiah,” (Aramaic version in plain English Ephesians 1:5a)

“Having marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself” (Darby Translation Ephesians 1:5a)

The word "ADOPTION" written in old vintage letterpress type.

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We all know what adoption means in Western society and culture.  Embedded in the term is somebody from one family legally becoming a member of another family.  In the New Testament, it is used of God engrafting human beings who by faith come into relationship with Jesus Christ, into becoming members of His own family, i.e. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The average person in most western cultures straightforwardly understands this.  However, there is a little more to it than that westernised sanitised shallow statement.

LEGAL ADOPTION AS PER COVENANT

When the New Testament talks of Christians being adopted in to God’s family, we are talking of covenant language.  Christians refer to the Hebrew Scriptures as, “The Old Testament,” or better still, “The Old Covenant.”  The New Testament is aka “The New Covenant.”  “Cutting Covenant,” though none existent in western culture where covenants are replaced by legal contracts with riders, sanctions and expensive bills, is still entered into in certain parts of the world where written contracts, caveats, signatures, and expensive lawyers are not known.  The Bible is a book about covenants. If a person is to seek the full revelation and meaning of both Testaments, one cannot sidestep the issue of defining  exactly what a covenant is.  It becomes compulsory reading.

A covenant is where two parties or more (and a party could be a single human being all the way up to a nation of millions) swear allegiance, relationship maintenance and support in certain situations defined by the covenant made.  The situation may be political, familial, or even militarily protecting one in favour of agricultural favours from the other.  A covenant is made with vows and conditions that would bind the party’s together.  There would also be curses on each party if anybody from either side broke any of the covenantal promises. One member of each party, usually the senior member – but not always – would make a cut on the palms of their hands, or wrists and join hands together, mixing their blood as a sign of deep commitment.  Not all covenants are blood covenants, but blood covenants by their very nature and language are extremely serious and binding. Covenants come out of relationship and are rarely made hastily.

0002MODERN USAGE OF COVENANTS

The history and notes of David Livingstone ploughing his way through Africa and then after being presumed lost, being sought after by Sir Henry Stanley are filled with references to Blood Covenants made with African tribes and chiefs as they plodded across what was then the dark Continent.  Livingstone cut covenant with people to ensure safety as well as protection across the jungle routes, while Stanley later made covenants with many of the same people to ensure that he too could be kept safe while searching for the lost Doctor.

Let us assume that a man called “John” was the chief of one party.  Let us assume I am a member of John’s tribe.  I encounter a situation where I need help and I am away from my family members.  I go to meet a member of the second party that John had entered into covenant with.  Because I was “in John,” People from the other party would acknowledge that I was, by “adoption,” a member of their tribe and they would not – indeed they could not – refuse me help without breaking the Covenant. Adoption is a term most fundamental to blood covenant.

COVENANT LANGUAGE CLARIFIES BIBLICAL TERMINOLOGY

By this extremely brief reference to the culture of covenant, so common and part of social culture in certain parts of the world; we gain insight into the subject of being a Christian by faith.  It adds a postscript to the term we discussed earlier, namely the status of being “in Christ.”  We immediately have clarifying thoughts of being in Him by covenant and being “adopted” into God’s protective family.  In scripture, adoption is merely one of several family-related terms used to explain different aspects of the process of salvation and its ongoing benefits to the believer.  God is the Father of Christ, and through the saviour He is the Father of our new birth.  He is a father who kindly and graciously adopts believers in Christ into his family and grants them all the privileges of being heirs of His salvation.  Salvation is light years more than forgiveness of sins and deliverance from condemnation, no matter how incredible those things are.

THE ALLROUND RELEVANCE OF “ADOPTION” IN GOD’S SAVING PROCESS

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The Greek word for adoption literally means to “place as a son” and is used only by the apostle Paul in the New Testament.  He mentions adoption five times in his writings.  In Romans 9:4 Paul refers to the Old Testament idea of Israel’s special position as the children of God and says, “Theirs is the adoption as sons.”  This tells us that although “adoption,” per se is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the spirit of the meaning is very much present in those first thirty-nine books of scripture concerning Israel’s relationship with God.  The remaining four references describe how New Testament believers become children of God through His gracious choice.

The full scope of God’s work of salvation past, present and future is seen in the significance of the word “adoption.”  The verse we are camping on at the moment, i.e. Ephesians 1:5 explains how God determined the believer’s adoption as a child of His from eternity, that is, before time began.  It states plainly that God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.”  This adoption, therefore, is not the result of any merit earned on the part of the believer, but solely the outworking of God’s love and grace (Ephesians 1:7).  The present reality of the believer’s adoption into the family of God is a literal release from the slavery of sin and the law, giving the believer a new position as a free heir of God.  Entering into salvation brings the rights and privileges of free sonship in relationship to God: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father'” (Romans 8:15 ).  Paul tells the Galatians that Christians were redeemed from the law so that they might receive adoption as sons.  Because of this redemption, the Holy Spirit comes into the believer’s heart crying, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:5).  The intimacy of a relationship with God the Father in contrast to the ownership of slavery is a remarkable feature of the biblical definition of salvation.

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Adoption of s different, but still very real kind.

Like many aspects of salvation, there is an eschatological component of adoption.  Believers “wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23 ).  The full revelation of the believer’s adoption is freedom from the corruption present in the world.  Being a member of God’s family includes the ultimate privilege of being like him (1 John 3:2 ) and being conformed to the glorious body of Christ ( Philippians 3:21 ).  This is part of the promised inheritance for all God’s children ( Romans 8:16-17 ).  In the light of all this we declare adoption a most marvellous truth for inculcating a genuine peace of heart and mind in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

ADOPTION AS PER ENTRY INTO THE FAMILY WAY

Think of Him who was the eternal son, made flesh.  Jesus of Nazareth lived a perfect life.  Jesus did not ever think evil, plan evil, dwell on evil or commit evil.  His Heavenly Father utterly approved of Him in the most positive and affirmative manner. His obedience to the plan and precepts of the Father’s instructions and directions was absolute and total. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ was tempted in every way such as us, “yet without sin.”  When Jesus asked the highly critical Pharisaic public who had been studying His every word and move, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” there was utter silence from His most severe and murderous critics.  From the combination of these biblical statements we take the ground to declare that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.  If the “lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world,” had any sins of His own to account for it would have disqualified Him from dying for the sins of anybody else.

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At the age of thirty, Jesus had seen no miracle, preached no sermon, and led nobody to faith.  This writer utterly rejects some of the legends and stories that the academics of Roman Catholicism suggest of Christ performing miracles in his childhood.  Stories like the one promulgated in some Catholic circles concerning Jesus in his youth, raising a teenage friend of His from the dead purely to prove that He did not push Him off a roof in order to kill him, I personally find ridiculous.  It is an incredibly important observation to make that Jesus did not, would not, and I would add, even could not minister until three things had happened.

  • WATER BAPTISM.  Jesus had to identify with fallen humanity and submit Himself to John’s message and be baptised in water. John’s baptism, of course, was a baptism of repentance.  However, Jesus had nothing to repent of (1 Peter 2:22), so why should He be baptised at all?

 

By being baptised in water and by the descent of the Holy Spirit and thereafter His remaining upon Jesus, and also by the Father’s pronouncement, it verified to John that Jesus was the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world, a fact that the Baptist declared clearly.  The baptism of Jesus, performed by John the Baptist, showed the people that were present, that the voice of the Father, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the response of the Son of God Himself were all concurring together of one mind and one purpose. It was to declare that Messiah had arrived and had come to the moment when His life’s ministry was to commence in earnest.  They are seen as three different persons, knowing that the Hebrew scriptures had declared that, “The Lord our God is one Lord.”  Christ’s baptism in water and the experience that immediately followed was necessary before any Messianic ministry could begin.

  • SPIRIT BAPTISM.  This was the experience immediately after.  The descent of the Spirit empowering and anointing Jesus for His ministry was the fulfilment of that last phrase of Daniel 9:24 (See Acts 10:38).  I would like to call this the point where the man, Jesus of Nazareth, was also immersed in the Holy Spirit.  However Scripture does not use this appellation at all when referring to Jesus. The truth however, surely must be that the experience of the descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove and the fact that the Spirit remained on Him, were all necessitated for Christ’s ministry as it is necessitated by fallen mankind in the same criteria of ministry via the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus was fully human, and fully God, His life was perfect and sinless YET even He could not minister without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2 it was a mighty wind, tongues of fire, and a gush of tongues of various languages from the mouth. It was a crisis moment, a one off.  With Christ, in the same manner, it was the heavens opening, the wings of the heavenly dove descending upon Jesus, and the voice of the Father declaring His approval of His family member from heaven itself.  Even though it was a one off experience the rest of His life was lived under the anointing and the empowering that was imparted at that moment (Acts 10:38. The anointing referred to was imparted at the Jordan.). In the same manner the entire Christian life is to be lived under the anointing and enduement of power that comes with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
  • SEEING WHAT HEAVENLY FATHER WAS DOING AND HEARING WHAT HE WAS SAYING –CONTINUEING IN HIS WORD.  It was not only the one off anointing of the Spirit that was essential, but living under the power of the Holy Spirit was also a prerequisite.  The water baptism was an exemplary act of Christ to be emulated by all sinners converted to the faith, an example that was to be emulated and experienced every believer that has ever lived.  That is the first outward demonstration of knowing Christ, a wilful choice to be baptised.  The descent of the Spirit was a precedent of a gift from the Father to the Son that was to be repeated in and with every Christian believer.  As the Father sent the Spirit to rest on Christ, in the same way Jesus Christ is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God, sent by Christ, falls on men and women for exactly the same reason that the Father sent the Spirit to rest on Christ.  My point  from these observations is that if Jesus Himself dared not commence ministry until He had enjoyed a supernatural experience of an encounter with the Holy Spirit, how dare we attempt the same kind of ministry without the same process. It isn’t the way of the heavenly family. We are made partakers of the divine nature by the exceeding precious promises of God
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The temptation of Christ, and His successful victory over such a temptation caused Him to return to society in the “power” of the Spirit.  The ultimate lesson is that human beings cannot minister for God without the power of the Holy Spirit resting on their lives.  Jesus said that He only spoke what He heard His Father say and did what He saw His Father do.  The miracles He performed, therefore, were miracles that His Father did through means of the Holy Spirit through the faith of human person.  As the King who rules the kingdom of God, as the son of David who was the rightful heir to the Davidic throne, He was the son of God.  Father Son and Holy Spirit were the complete and harmonious family of heaven.

The purpose of the King in His earthly mission was to pay for sin and to bring others into the joy of God’s family.  This is plainly the entire purpose of spreading the word of God in order to expand God’s kingdom.

By faith in Christ, we are born of the Spirit of God.  Jesus was also born (literally and physically) of the Spirit of God, yet still required the enduement of power from heaven by means of being “anointed” – or should we say “filled” – or should we even say “baptised” in the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Spirit falling on the house of Cornelius settled the issue with Peter that they were all adopted members of the family (even though they were gentiles), the process of faith, water baptism and Spirit baptism, followed by a life of obedience is validation to this world of  adoption ( see Acts chapters 10 and 11).

0004Justification by faith is therefore a complete transaction, it cannot be added to or subtracted from.  There are no degrees in justification. Justification before God is a biblical term for an absolute resolution of anything and everything to do with sin and evil, by action or by thought, by motive or by inward selfishness that stands between a sinner and Almighty God.  If one is justified by faith in Christ one is declared clean, without blame and spotless.  The battle and goal of life is to walk in that justified state and to stay clean. The account is settled, and was settled before the foundation of the world.

Nevertheless, having settled the account of a sinful state, i.e. sins committed against the Father, one then has to function in a Godly manner whilst the account is in the black.  It may or may not be possible to hereafter walk in a sinless manner, but we MUST be blameless.  If we cannot become sinless, we are called to be blameless.  That’s what faith in Christ resolves.  The power to “walk the world in white,” comes by no other way that walking in the power of the Holy Spirit under the grace of forgiveness that is absolute.  Short accounts with God, meaning confession of any wrong doing quickly is a profound secret of the Christian life.

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When seen in their proper light these issues are revelatory.  Lights are switched on in the inner man. We all need faith in Christ.  This is what saves us.  Faith that is given us from God to believe that Christ is who He said He was and that His death, burial and resurrection was for us.  It brings home to the heart of all believers that their birth in the Spirit was a direct act of God in our lives.  The issue thereafter is not sins and forgiveness, but obedience and power, and therefore water baptism is a statement of what has already happened, not a part of the saving process per se, but a statement of the transaction with heaven that has already taken place.  Christians are baptised in water because they are already saved, not in order to be saved.  Salvation is a thing of the Spirit effected purely by faith in Christ’s atoning death.  To suggest that one needs to be immersed in water to “aid” being saved or to “complete” becoming saved can only be seen as nonsense; in effect blasphemously claiming that what Christ achieved on the cross was insufficient.  We are justified by faith, not by immersion in water.  Obedience to the model of the life of Christ, requires and anointing and infusion of the power of the Holy Spirit.  The cross of Christ is about forgiveness.  The baptism in the Holy Spirit is purely about power.

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It must always be kept in mind, that even though Christ had told the twelve that they were all clean – apart from Judas Iscariot – and even though He breathed on them after His resurrection and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus still  “commanded” the disciples (some translations say He “ordered them”) not to even think of preaching until they had been baptised in the Holy Spirit.

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The Old is in the New Revealed. The New is in the Old Concealed -Even Ephesians 1:3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”  (Ephesians 1:3)

 

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Because of the remarkable divinely given revelation embedded and embodied in the whole of scripture, with revelatory historical narratives that take place in this time space world, both Judaism and Christianity have nurtured and developed their belief systems conjoined to their confidence of the immovable fact that the eternal, omniscient personal God is the creator of the universe and the absolute source of all meaning and value of life.

 

The New Testament takes it further and reveals Jesus Christ as the very communication point betwixt heaven and earth, between the invisible God and man. The promised Messiah of the Old Testament is the Christ of the New. The open revelation of the New Testament is clearly the cryptic promise of the Old being fulfilled. The rocks of truth that are scattered in great depth over the pavements of the New, are half buried under the surface of the Old Covenant, and to the surface reader seem very scarce and uncommon.

 

Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and that statement is the encapsulation of the sum total of the purest revelation of scripture. It is a non negotiable rock solid absolute statement for the Christian believer. It is not an evolved opinion like some would suggest, that was somehow arrived at generations after the crucifixion. The academics that make such suggestions reveal their utter ignorance of the body of the Hebrew Scriptures. By separating the Christ of the New Testament from the Messiah of the Old Testament they bungle, stumble and look ridiculously academically backward to thoughtful and astute readers of both Testaments.  The Old and New Testament, spread over more than a thousand years, by over forty different writers has a unity that is nothing short of miraculous. To argue the point means that the deniers have simply not read the whole. The inerrant divine revelation, which is exactly what the scriptures claim to be, are firmly adhered to by Christian people as supernaturally granted knowledge, gratuitously given by God’s transcendent divine initiative. In a nutshell the Bible is a gift to mankind from God Himself. Whether one is of the Jewish faith and clinging to the Old Testament only, or a Christian focussing on the messianic fulfilment of Christ it is the divine word that settles faith. The promised Messiah was to be Yahweh in the flesh, every Jewish student of the Old Testament will vouch for that statement. So when Jesus was received as Messiah His deity was being discussed before the crucifixion.  His claim to deity was the main reason he was taken to the cross.

 

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This divinely imparted, special revelation is in contrast to finite human logic, thought and presupposition that has been accruing “naturally stumbled upon knowledge” and theories about the nature of reality since the day Adam and Eve were ejected from the garden of Eden. The ongoing ever descending – yet ever expanding result of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that mankind has ever since been trying to find answers to questions that Adam, pre the fall, would have found out solely and directly from God Himself. Christians should not be in any way putting restraints on science or research into the realities of the physical cosmos. It is only because many scientists have made conclusions that presuppose error, or even downright lies in the divine revelation that Christians stand on, that Christians in earlier centuries bitterly rejected the generally held scientific status quo of their day that sought to defame or ridicule scripture and biblical truth – even though it did no such thing. No facts can defame or ridicule the Creator or His Book, but only point to Him in His genius. It is the interpretation of facts, or human presuppositions that are held that causes scientific secular man to force the facts to fit into the historical meta-narrative that they have stumbled upon. It is the presuppositions that cause some Christians to deny the legitimacy of so called “scientific” findings. If scientists remained neutral in their search for truth, the world would remain a more informed place.

 

Revelation and accuracy of the biblical text has nothing to fear from scientific research. Facts are facts. Secular science, speaking generally believe that the bible is irrelevant and have presuppositions tightly in place that are tenaciously clung to in exactly the same way that Judaism and Christianity cling to scripture. The entire sheer cliff face of the mountainous spread of the Christian belief system that is based on the assumed fact of divine revelation in the scriptures being robust enough to withstand the siege of modern atheism, is the Church’s good news for the world. Its assurance of man’s redemption and his final destiny is based on the concept that divine revelation is the ground, the substance and the content of the Gospel. Make no mistake about it, the reality of what believers refer to as divine revelation, is the rock on which Christianity stands or falls. The science of the knowledge of God stands on the reality of what is revealed and embedded in the scriptures of both Old and New Testaments. This is stuff that Christians cannot alter and do not wish to. Man lives not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and that most assuredly points to the Bible. Those words were written early on in the history of the Old Testament and quoted by Christ Himself in the early chapters of the New, exhibiting the relevance of the Old Testament scriptures to the New Testament age.

 

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The subject of revelation permeates the entire Bible itself and was a major plank in the manmade theology that began to sprout throughout the early centuries, sproutings that sprung from the soil of the Bible. In the early days of Christianity, revelation was a huge issue. The acceptance of God given revelation was of absolute and fundamental importance to Christianity and foundational to all its theology, to the mission of the church, and to the spiritual life of every Christian. Authentic and faultless revelation is in the warp and woof of every single thing the Bible teaches that we require. With it, the Bible claims and has the authority of inerrancy and infallibility, without it the entire Scriptural message is without any authority at all. Extra biblical revelation is also considered sound when it is extrapolated from the presupposition statements of scripture and considered true and subject to those scriptures.

 

Referring to the scriptures and all the things He taught, Jesus Christ stated that, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.” Much of what Christ Himself taught was extrapolated from the words of the Old Testament. He explained Yahweh’s statement, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” as proof that His Father was God of the living, not the dead, and therefore proved the resurrection (Matthew 22:31-33).

 

I state all this before pointing to some Old Testament passages that would lead Paul to make the statement he makes in Ephesians 1:3. I am convinced of the probability that Paul could have somehow seen or heard it from heaven directly on the grounds of his declaration in 2 Corinthians 12 that while being transported to the third heaven he had heard things that were unlawful to utter, it implicitly informs us that he heard some glorious things that could be uttered – and Ephesians 1:3 could have been one of them. However, simply because we are left to draw up our belief system map of Christianity from the scriptures, and because it says in Acts that the men of Berea were more noble than others because they sought out to prove for themselves that what Paul said was vindicated and verified by the Hebrew scriptures, I believe it is necessary to see in those very same scriptures that Ephesians 1:3 is cryptically or illustratively promised. I am sure an exhaustive study of every single insight to this truth is a bit of an impossibility this side of the resurrection, but if I can just note a few statements, we may be on the way to seeing where it all comes from.

 

REVELATION GIVEN TO ABRAHAM INFERS THE TRUTH OF EPHESIANS 1:3

 

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Paul says something rather challenging about Abraham. In Romans 4:13 it says “For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” But I have searched and searched for many years and there is no scripture in the Old Testament that directly promises Abraham to be the “heir to the world.” So we have to examine where the promise was cryptically made if it was not in plain language.

 

The nearest thing to a plain statement that makes such a promise as a presupposition of another promise is firstly at Genesis 12:3. Here God tells Abraham that all the families in the earth would be blessed by him. So somehow, the blessing that God placed on Abraham was to someday go global. “All families in the earth” cannot but mean that the entire earth would be blessed through Abraham. Also in Genesis 17:4-5 God says TO Abraham; “You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” It is cryptic but it does have the meaning of Romans 4:13. The Jews generally interpreted God’s promises to Abraham as being to his physical descendants only. However, this wording of the Old Testament is plainly to anybody who walks in the same faith as Abraham. Moses, the acknowledged author of Genesis, removes any doubt about the Jews being the only ones to be blessed through God’s covenant with Abraham. Abraham’s true spiritual seed is anyone of any nation or language who has faith in Christ.

 

The point is that the Old Testament is hereby connecting Abraham’s eternal inheritance as being inclusive of the whole world. The spiritual blessing of God is given without restriction to Abraham in a manner that would impact the entire planet.

 

By this we see, perhaps not in the plainest of language, but by sound and intelligent extrapolation, that every spiritual blessing is promised in the future to all those who, from whatever tribe or nation on the planet, walk in the same faith as Abraham. Abraham was promised the world, which meant Abraham was heir of the physical Cosmos.

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Ephesus in Paul’s day.

REVELATION GIVEN TO MOSES  INTIMATES THE TRUTH OF EPHESIANS 1:3

The first 14 verses of Deuteronomy chapter 28 gives so many Christians a problem. The teachings of the scripture on the subject of prosperity are so belittled by so many that it concerns me how the body of Christ can globally maintain an open mind to God on His revelation on the subject. Prosperity is generally neglected as a biblical truth simply because there are a few exponents of the subject that so many think to be off balance on the subject that has made them peculiarly more wealthy than most.

 

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The teaching of scripture on “Giving,” “Sowing and Reaping,” “Prosperity,” “Wealth” and “Faith,” is rampant throughout the pages of the Bible. Some preachers major on the second advent, some preach on little else other than healing, others are filled with deliverance, prophecy, grace or the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – and nobody seems to criticise them, in fact these kind of “teaching majors” are welcomed worldwide in the body of Christ and utilised to educate people on biblical issues that the General Practice of pastoring does not allow church leaders to dwell upon long term. Pastors are encouraged by scripture as well as common place to preach the whole arc of God’s truth in order to feed the household of God, so, generally speaking most pastor’s have a grasp of the whole bible rather than specialising in some particular line of revelation.  So, what is the reason that teachers that major on biblical prosperity get so persecuted within the body of Christ? Prosperity is there in the Bible and cannot be dodged if one believes every word of the scripture.

 

If anybody wishes to debate with me the veracity of what I have written above I normally refer them to this passage: Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This section of Moses’ writing is Ephesians 1:3 language before the days of Christ. This passage is actually and very obviously within and constituent to the law of Moses. It is the most explicit prosperity centred passage of scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. In these 14 verses there are twenty one blessings delineated which include the physical and the spiritual, the tangible and the unmeasurable, the spiritual and undefined, and the physical and tabulated. In short it is the substance of every blessing in heavenly places.

 

Why is this relevant to Christians? Simply because Jesus Christ fulfilled every single aspect of the law that Moses, under God’s instructions, prescribed. Jesus Christ hearkened diligently to the voice of His Father and was sinless in the pursuit of obedience to Him, and therefore every single one of the twenty-one blessings of those first fourteen verses of Deuteronomy 28 are His in all their voluptuous fullness. Jesus Christ was the only human being that ever lived and qualified for the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Because all this comprehensive body of blessings are Christ’s, they belong to everyone that is “in Christ.” If a believer is “in Christ,” and the scripture teaches that faith in Christ is what puts us positionally, spiritually in Him, then we have the blessings that He has.

 

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With this understanding, we believe that simply by leaning on Christ to be our Saviour we are

  1. God will set us high above others on the earth and all the following blessings will fall on us and mug us as we go on in righteousness.
  2. We will be blessed in the city. Commerce, housing and the city dwellers bundle of life.
  3. Blessed in the field.
  4. We will have perfect children.
  5. Crops will be blessed – not just farmers – but the sowing and reaping of whatever a man deals with in the city.
  6. Cattle will be blessed, or whatever business goods we deal in.
  7. Flocks will be blessed and increased, as per number 6.
  8. Our baskets and storehouses will be full of good things ie: twenty first century wallets and bank accounts and anything else we delight in.
  9. We will be blessed in absolutely anything we undertake.
  10. We will have complete victory over anybody and anything that we refer to as an enemy.
  11. Our land, or area of labour will be incredibly fertile and productive,
  12. We will be established and known for our holiness and Christ-like life.
  13. We will be a witness for Christ to all we know and all that hear of us.
  14. All nations and people groups will revere and esteem us and even be fearful of us.
  15. We will be prosperous in goods, children, stock, crops and land.
  16. This is a key one in the light of Ephesians 1:3;The Lord will open to us ALL His good treasure. Could that one be any clearer.
  17. The heavens will give us rain in due season in our area of activity. That means no drought, famine or financial shortage.
  18. The Lord will bless and increase all we put our hands to.
  19. You will be prosperous to lend enough to lend to many and have no need to borrow.
  20. We will be the head and not the tail of things, relationships and relevance to our generation.
  21. We will be above and not beneath anybody.

By this I state my conviction that Moses was taught of God in the substance of the statement of Ephesians 1:3 that would have come to all those who wholly followed God’s word as dictated to Moses. In our case, as Christians, what is there for our blessing is in Christ, waiting for us to possess our possessions, and appropriate what is ours by inheritance.

 

REVELATION GIVEN TO DAVID CONCLUDES THE TRUTH OF EPHESIANS 1:3

 

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Psalm 34 is a Psalm of David. Verses 9 and 10 of that verse make statements of those being utterly blessed and overwhelmed with blessing who “fear” Yahweh (verse 9) and those that “seek” Yahweh (verse 10). It cannot be seen as correct to suggest that these verses mean anything less than what Ephesians 1:3 showers upon us by particular and specific statement.

 

No matter how many questions, queries and quandaries this kind of language in the scriptures raises, the teaching, the declaration and the carrot of “no want” to those that fear, seek and desire Yahweh with all their heart, mind and soul is one of the clearest and most comprehensive  heart openers of scripture.

 

This writer is in the business of wanting to illuminate and elevate all who read and hear him in the flesh, so I exhort any reader of this page to hear my heart and the heart of Christ when I say that in view of the directness and the commonness of these promises, the only grounds, reasons or excuses Christians may have for not having every need and want met within the bounds of scripture is a lack of the fear of God, not enough seeking Him, unbelief or ignorance of the biblical statements. Frankly I think that simply understanding and believing prosperity to be the will of God is the major breakthrough required in order for us to commence possessing our possessions and living in the fullness of Ephesians 1:3.

 

Because we have all things in Christ does not mean these things “automatically” fall on our heads simply because one is a Christian. We constantly need to point our faith at certain issues of life, fire our bullets of confession and profession with the gunpowder of belief and expectation, and receive. There is a fight of faith. Laying hold of eternal life and the blessings of God is the heaviest point of the battle.

 

The plainness of all wants being met and more, is the Psalmists Old Testament equivalent of Ephesians 1:3 and is seen in the following samples of the Hebrew scriptures of David: Psalm 23:1. Psalm 84:11. Psalm 91 in its entirety. Psalm 103:1-3.

 

 

There are other sections of Old Testament truth that leads us to see statements equivalent to Ephesians 1:3 revelation, but I will highlight others as we proceed through the epistle. (Isaiah 64:4. Jeremiah 31. Joel 2 would be the main ones to chew on.)

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