What is the significance of the term “Heavenly Realms” in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians?
The phrase “heavenly realms” occurs five times in the book of Ephesians. It emphasizes Paul’s perception that—right at this moment—issues of ultimate importance for the Christian happen not just on earth, but in heaven as well. That is because Christians are united with Christ’s exaltation. Christ’s exaltation refers to his resurrection and enthronement at God’s right hand in heaven.
At stake are God’s eternal purpose and the titanic conflict between God and the powerful spiritual forces arrayed against him—a purpose and a conflict that come to focus in the history of redemption. Paul asserts that through their union with the exalted Christ, Christians already benefit in of every spiritual blessing that belongs to and comes from the heavenly realm. Christ’s exaltation to that realm and his elevation over all other powers and titles means that he rules over all for the sake of his church. Those who have been made alive with Christ share in Christ’s exaltation and enthronement in heaven. Thus, by the gathering of Gentiles and Jews into one body of Christ (the church), God triumphantly displays his “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities” in the heavenly realms.
As a result, the spiritual struggle of believers here and now is not so much against “flesh and blood” as against the great spiritual forces that wage war against God in heaven.
Content adapted from the NIV Study Bible, Fully Updated Edition.
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