But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus . . . . (Ephesians 2:4-6)These three verses are a description of God’s gracious solution to the human problem detailed in the verses that begin the chapter (Ephesians 2:1-3). Two weeks ago, we looked at the problem as it affects our children, but it applies to us all—young and old, believer and unbeliever—although for the believer, it’s a “once were” situation, while for the unbeliever, it’s still a “now are.”
For the solution to our “by nature” problem, we are entirely dependent on God’s action. God, out of the mercy that flows from his love, takes those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and makes them alive, raising them, and seating them in the heavenly places. He does this all “in Christ.”
These events have already occured in the life of Christ: He has risen and ascended to heaven where he sits at God’s right hand. What once took place with Christ affects those who are in him, too. Those who belong to Christ are a risen people. They have new life—spiritual life.
The phrase in this passage that intrigues me most is this: “seated us with him in the heavenly places.” Even though Ephesians 2:1-10 is one of my favorite passages, and one I’ve spent plenty of time studying, I’ve never been sure I understood exactly what it means that I—or perhaps more precisely, God’s people corporately, including me—have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
Reading what commentators say doesn’t help me much either. Some think this refers to something that believers possess, at least in part, in this life. The ESV Study Bible notes on this phrase, for instance, say that even now, God’s people “share in a measure of the authority that Christ has, seated at the right hand of God . . . .” Others think this refers to the future hope of eternity with Christ, a hope so certain for those who belong to him that Paul can refer to it as if it has already happened.
Either way, it’s a phrase that should bolster our assurance. If it is pointing to an inheritance still waiting, our blessed future is sure—as sure as our own own past regeneration (being “made alive”), and better yet, as sure as Christ’s past resurrection, ascension, and present session at the right hand of the Father. If it means we presently possess a share of our future heavenly blessings, it's all of the above and this, too: What we have now is a promise of more to come.
Yet, if we are in Christ, God sees us as if we were already seated in the heavenly places. Our inheritance is settled because we are united to the One who was raised and now sits at God’s right hand. We can bank on this!