Scotland is wonderful. However, depending on taste, I suppose this world has many “heavenly” places. If I enjoy azure seas and sandy beaches, there are many. If I enjoy lofty snow-capped mountains, there are many. If I delight in forests, there are many forested places as well.
Yet I must admit there is only one heaven, one true heavenly place. When the Bible talks about it, it does not refer to any of the many beauty spots in this world.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4–6)In these verses, “heavenly places” refer to the supernatural realm of God. While He is everywhere (omnipresent), the Bible speaks of a kingdom that I cannot see with my eyes, the kingdom where God dwells and God rules. This kingdom is also that ‘place’ of my union with Christ, a union that is both real and profound.
The terms in these verses must be understood by their context. Ephesians speaks of the great change experienced by Christians. It tells how we are set free from the condemnation of the law, the dominion of Satan, and the deadness and pollution of sin and spiritual separation from God. It tells how we are reconciled to God by grace through faith, how we share His Spirit, are adopted into His family and are given all the privileges of being His children. All of this is about the life to come, but it is also about life now. As Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” This verse agrees that I have died to sin (as Jesus died for sin) and live in the power of new life, life given by God.
This amazing power of God was shown in Jesus when God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:20). Those heavenly places describe where Christ is now, exalted and seated with the Father. What a wonderful thought, yet if that were not enough, the Bible also says that I share that exaltation with Him. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Whereas Christ now reigns with God, I am there with Him. I reign with Him. The verbs are present tense, yet how can that be, since I am here? Some say this means my spiritual position — I may be physically still on earth, but in the spiritual realm I am in Christ and with Christ. That is true, but there is more.
Sometimes I think of this in terms of how eternity is defined. Eternity is not about time. No clocks, no past or future. To the mind of God and in eternity, all that we call past, present and future is NOW. I tremble a bit as I write that, because it is much more easily written than imagined. Eternity in those terms astonishes me with the unknown of it, the mystery of past and future being present and now.
When I think about the mind of God, I better understand that it is in eternal terms that I am seated with Christ in heavenly places. It is not “I will be” but, as the Greek verb tenses say it, it is now. This is how God sees me, already in there, already seated with Jesus.
How is this practical? For one thing, this reality makes me very aware of the presence of Jesus Christ. As I think of being seated with Him, it is very easy to lean over and put my head on His shoulder. In the stress of ordinary life, what could be more practical than being able to take my burdens to the caring One that sits right beside me?