In the book of Ephesians, especially the first half of the book, Paul will use an expression, “in the heavenly places.” Why is that significant? What does it mean?
Heavenlies is a word made up from the word heaven. “Places” is in italics. It has been supplied for us. The phrase is literally, “in the heavenlies.” It is not a place. It is not a phrase that talks about geography.
Sometimes we see it appear as in “heavenly things” but like “places” that, too, will not fit everywhere. “In heavenly things” or “heavenly places” pose a problem when we come to Ephesians 6:12. The translators had a notion when they put “heavenly places”, Paul was talking about heaven. That is, in another place other than here. If that is true, when we get to Ephesians 6:12 what do we have? We would have spiritual wickedness not only here but in heaven. A better job defining the term is “high places.” That is all the term means.
“In the heavenlies” stands for exalted or high. When we say in the heavens we look up in the heavens. We use the word heaven to identify that which is highly exalted or splendid.
In Ephesus, Diana was thought to be the seventh wonder of the world. It was thought she fell from the heavens and brought with her all the provisions belonging to that system of idolatry. Diana was thought to be a gift from heaven. So, there is a framework which serves as background talking about majestic things in Ephesus.
First, Paul begins by saying, “we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies,” i.e., in regard to the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3). Heavenlies stands simply as the idea of things exalted. He reminds them that their spiritual blessings are not trivial or earthy. The spiritual blessings are grand and glorious blessings, i.e. high blessings. Our spiritual blessings are not in heaven. Paul tells them that their spiritual blessings are blessings they have now, not are going to have. He tells them their spiritual blessings are “in Christ.” He describes them as majestic blessings. They are not guttural blessings or ordinary of this world blessings. They are grand, noble, and majestic.
Second, Christ is seated “in heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20). Paul is not talking about where Christ is. He is not saying Christ sits at the right-hand. “Set at His right-hand” talks about authority. One at the right hand of the king was Prime Minister. He was next to the king in authority. “In the heavenlies” does not talk about authority, but glory or majesty. Why would He need to set Him in the heavenly places if He set Him at His own right hand? Christ sits “in the heavenlies.” He sits in an exalted and majestic position.
For example, like with Joseph and Pharaoh, Pharaoh didn’t know what was going on in Egypt. Before Pharaoh there was Potiphar. He said he didn’t even know where the bread came from. All was in Joseph’s care. Joseph set in a grand place, second only to Pharaoh, at the right hand. Joseph is the second man in all of Egypt in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh and Egypt were the grand government of the world. Joseph was virtually the second man in this grand government of the world. Pharaoh is number one. That is grand. As grand and as high as Pharaoh is there is one who sits at the right hand of God. He sits “in the heavenlies.” He is exalted. One of the things Paul wants these Ephesians to know is that God’s power not only raised Jesus from the dead but seated Him in the heavenlies. He exalted Him.
Third, we also sit “in the heavenlies” (Eph. 2:6). Paul uses the same term he uses of Christ. As Christians we have an exalted place. Our place is safe as the sons of God or the exalted. He raised us up and made us to sit “in the heavenlies.” Look where we sit. Now Christ is sitting in the heavenlies but when He raised us up, we sit “in the heavenlies”. If “in the heavenlies” is referring to heaven then we must be sitting in heaven, but we are not in heaven. Paul is not talking about geography but our exalted place. We are sons of God. We join with Christ who is second in authority, in relationship and in honor with God. We are joined, share and sit with Him “in the heavenlies” in our relationship to God.
Also, God’s wisdom on earth is made known to principalities and powers “in the heavenlies” (Eph. 3:10). No matter how high or majestic the power of the world is, God’s wisdom is manifested. The manifestation of God’s wisdom made known by the church is testimony to the principalities and powers “in the heavenlies,” or exalted places. No matter how exalted they are, the manifestation of God’s manifold wisdom is by the church. Just like a painting or sculpture demonstrates the skill of the artist. So, the church is the manifold wisdom of God.
Fourth, spiritual wickedness is “in high places” (Eph. 6:12). “High places” is the same phrase as “in heavenly places.” They didn’t translate it the same way because “in heavenly places” suggest geography. Is spiritual wickedness in heaven? No. Where is our wrestling against spiritual wickedness? Here. “For we do not wrestle…” Paul is referring to something that he and the Ephesians were wrestling with then, not someday. He says spiritual wickedness is in high places. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” is simply the idea of, we do not wrestle with a person. It is not a knock down drag out physical battle. He uses this wrestling, not like in Olympic games, but it is a battle in spiritual things. Paul said they wrestled against principalities and power. They are also called rulers of darkness. We wrestle against spiritual wickedness. When we talk about heaven we talk about a consideration of “above” or that is “high.” That which is the place of God. Heaven is always considered as something high and elevated. These ruler are exalted. They are rulers of spiritual wickedness. That is, all kinds of wickedness.
The point is our battle is not just against the wicked people in the lowlands without any power or strength; just the man who walks the street. Our battle against wickedness is not just a physical battle. Our battle is against those who have great power, great honor, great majesty. Paul is referring primarily to those that the devil uses. We are involved in a battle against the forces of evil, but the forces of evil that employ all that belongs to power, and high places, privilege and rule. While our struggle is in the physical aspect, the conflict is on the spirit side of it. The primary emphasis of the battle is on the spiritual. It is not a battle against flesh and blood but a battle for the heart, soul and mind (2Cor. 10:3-5).
Amazing! Our spiritual blessings in Christ are exalted blessings. Christ sits in the heavenlies. He has an exalted position. We sit in the heavenlies. We, too, have an exalted position. The wisdom of God is high and exalted, but spiritual wickedness is in high places too.
by Rickie Jenkins