By John Harley

“and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”

This is a fascinating verse that is unique in Paul, for it tells us that we are currently seated with Christ in union with him in the heavenlies (epouraniois). Can we take this verse at face value? Ought it to be read in some other way, with qualifications?

There can be little doubt that the heavenlies are invisible, spiritual, and where God and Christ Jesus dwell (Eph.1:3, 20). They are also the place(s) that dark spiritual forces inhabit (Eph.3:10; 6:10-13). Patently, the heavenlies are not merely heaven itself, but the fullness of the invisible world, with Christ Jesus and God ruling over all. Due to our union with Christ Jesus, the assembly, too, reigns over all of this, for we are seated with Christ Jesus.

Having said this, I can tell you that as I type this article, I am sitting on a chair on planet earth! Why, then, does Paul teach that I am, we are, seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenlies? Am I two persons? Do I have two levels of consciousness? The answer is, of course not. I am not two persons, nor do I have two levels of consciousness. Maybe Paul simply means that the life we possess in the flesh is the life of the resurrection Christ, and he dwells in us (see Gal.2:20). Or that because our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col.3:3), Christ in heaven in some way possesses our life, and he and the life are hidden in God there in heaven itself. However, in Ephesians 2:6, Paul does not refer to Christ in us, or that we are here in the flesh, but that we are seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Similarly, Paul is not speaking about the blessing of God, of life or of salvation, for it is persons, the assembly, that are seated in the heavenlies. 

Maybe the solution is found in Christ as our representative. It is not that we are actually with Christ Jesus in the heavenlies, but because he is our representative, we are counted as being there with him, a bit like a trade union rep representing his whole union at a meeting. Yet, this view, too, does not go far enough, for the language of Paul is very specific: we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This is an odd way, indeed, of saying that Christ represents us, but we are not really there. 

It is the case that, Ephesians 2:6 is not only unique in its statement, but it is one of those rare verses in Scripture that mentions a spiritual fact but one time, yet, that sole verse is a mountain in theological gold. We are, the assembly, in actual reality seated with Christ Jesus in the heavenlies!  

Still, how can we be seated in the heavenlies? It happens spiritually, and is due to our mystical union with Christ Jesus. We have been spiritually resurrected with Christ into the heavenlies (Eph.2:5-6; Col.2:12; 3:21). Paul’s use of two compound verbs sunegeiren (“raised up together”) (Col.2:12; 3:1) and sunekathisan (“seated together”) amply indicate this mystical union and placement. By faith in Christ Jesus, we were raised from the dead with him; and by faith in him, we sat down in the heavenlies, exalted, with him. Luke 22:55 brings some living color to sunekathisan, “After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together [sunekathisan], Peter was sitting among them.” It is clearly a group that sits down together, simultaneously, in the same place. We are exalted princes of the heavenlies, whose Lord is exalted and king in the heavenlies, and whose Father is the One to whom our king will eventually hand over his kingdom to give him all the glory (1 Cor.15:24).

Still, how are we in the heavenlies? We must distinguish between the resurrected, heavenly, soul and the earthly flesh or body. Our souls were raised up in Christ Jesus to be with him in heaven, and they immediately were given the new life of the risen Christ himself. Yet, we await our new physical body from heaven, patterned after the heavenly, resurrected Man (1 Cor.15). This will complete our redemption (Rom.8:23). Another way of illustrating the same division is the “outer man” verses “inner man” distinction. Paul refers to the “inner man” in Ephesians 3:16 (Rom.7:22; 2 Cor.4:6). It was that inner man, which is renewed in glory daily, that was raised into the heavenlies, and not our outer, physical, earthly, man that is decaying (2 Cor.4:6).

As we are raised to the heavenlies in a mystical union with Christ Jesus, the Anointed One, we live in a different realm to everyone else. The inner man, who we are in Christ, lives in a different ‘part’ of the heavenlies above all the invisible, angelic, authorities that live in ‘other, lower, parts’ of the heavenlies (see Eph.4:10). A major, immediate, blessing of Paul says that we are citizens of the commonwealth of Israel above (Eph.2:12, 19). By implication, this Israel is not in any way fleshly or of the earth (see Gal.6:16). Another immediate consequence is that we literally have, through Christ Jesus, “access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph.2:18). This is access that we participate in within the heavenlies themselves, not merely as we dwell on earth as believers. We, as sons of the Father, can come through the king, Jesus, to Almighty God and worship him, commune with him, and petition him. Who in all of creation has such an entrance and face-to-face fellowship?

What is mind-blowing, too, is our new power and authority in Christ Jesus, now that we live in the heavenlies with him. It is this that allows the believer, within the heavenlies, to fight with the dark spiritual forces. It is not only the holy angels, or mighty archangels, such as Gabriel, who fight with Satan and his dark host, but Christians are royal prince-warriors who battle against those forces in the realm of the heavenlies. It follows that our fight is not physical, with fleshly enemies, but with invisible powers, and that our weapons of warfare are therefore invisible and spiritual, not fleshly (Eph.6:10-17; 2 Cor.10:3-6; John 18:36). More specifically, they are weapons wielded solely in the spiritual realm of the heavenlies. This is not to say that Paul denies that we walk in the flesh (see 2 Cor.3:3). Yet, that is our life in this world, of our bodies, and it is not the resurrection life we have in Christ Jesus, or who, or where, we are in union with Christ Jesus, the exalted One in the heavenlies.

It can be very difficult for our mind to absorb these truths. We are so earthy, so conditioned by our senses, by the flesh, and by those around us, that we tend to think of our spiritual warfare as being conducted in the earthly domain itself. Yet, it is not! When our Lord rebuked Peter, he did not think according to the flesh, “Get behind me, Peter!”, but according to the invisible world, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt.16:23). Our warfare is conducted in the spiritual realm, or, more accurately, the heavenlies; but due to our fleshly ‘encasing’ in our decaying bodies, we cannot avoid ‘physical’ engagements/interactions as we go about our spiritual warfare that belongs in the heavenlies, a different plane or realm. It is as if the physical world is a mere signpost to a different, hidden, world.

Nor ought we waste a second on trying to unravel this heavenly mystery. Only if the reader can unravel the existence of God- which would make one God himself- should he concern himself with this matter. Some things just are, and that’s that!

Are you tired of your wasting, decaying physical body, and the illnesses it brings? Perhaps you are at that time in life that you are ready to be with the Lord in heaven. Maybe you are poor materially, or you have no earthly status or rank, and all of this ‘hurts’ you emotionally, financially, and even spiritually. Yet, we are rich beyond measure, and are truly princes of a different realm. And whilst we might not be able to change people after the manner of the world, we can go forth as prince-warriors to fight along with the heir and king Jesus Christ. And we know we will triumph, because we were raised with him, and seated with him, in the heavenlies, above all invisible powers and authorities. Better still, we will forever be with Christ Jesus in the new world, basking in his risen glory, under the sun of God’s resplendent beauty. Utterly mind-blowing!