Wouldn’t it be great to be sitting with Christ in heavenly places?
Have you ever just wanted to get away from all the struggle, the challenges, and the busyness of daily life? Sometimes it seems the cycle of events never stops and we don’t have time to just be still and feel God’s presence as much as we’d like to. I have certainly felt this way many times. But a phrase from Ephesians has been coming to me the last week or so which has given me a lot of comfort: “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6
That actually sounds pretty good doesn’t it? To sit in heavenly places in Christ.
But how on earth do we do that? Or, how in heaven do we do that, I should say. How can we get there, sitting in heavenly places?
Sitting in heavenly places
Well, it’s important to read all of verse 6 and the verses before and after to get the context and see the bigger picture of what Paul is talking about in Chapter 2 of Ephesians.
And then, I encourage you to read chapters 1, 2, and 3 to get the full context of this idea of sitting in heavenly places in Christ. But we’re going to focus especially on
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, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10 NKJV
These seven verses really summarize so much of what’s in the first three chapters of Ephesians. Paul talks about the amazing love God has for us. He uses death as a metaphor for a sinful approach to life, but then emphasizes that Christ delivers us from sin and brings us to a true sense of life, and that God has raised, or you could say resurrected, us along with Christ. But Paul reveals something which is even more glorious than our resurrection. God has “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Notice that Paul doesn’t say God will make us sit in heavenly places. This is not way off in the future. He says “made us sit together.” It has already happened.
If God has put us in heavenly places in Christ, why don’t we stay there? Why don’t we realize it, and accept it, and live out from it?
So let’s explore this a little.
Jesus sitting on his throne
There are a couple of times when Jesus referred to himself sitting on his throne in heaven. referring to himself, he says, “when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne.” (Matthew 19:28 NIV) And later in Matthew he mentions sitting on his throne again.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. Matthew 25:31 NIV
This may be what Paul is referring to, Christ sitting on his throne and that we will sit with him there.
In fact, the book of Revelation makes this very point. Jesus instructs John to tell the church of Laodicea,
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 NIV
So in Ephesians, Chapter 2, Paul is really talking about our spiritual inheritance to sit with Christ in heavenly places. He talks about this same heavenly inheritance in Romans.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17 NIV
So was Paul telling the Christians in Ephesus that they were already sitting in heavenly places in Christ?
I’m sure they didn’t feel that was where they were. In fact, they were struggling to hold onto the spirit of Christ in the way they conducted themselves in daily life and interactions with each other.
In Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Ephesians Paul gives some pretty straightforward counsel to the church members. Based on his instructions, they were not living as though they were sitting in heavenly places. Some of them were definitely struggling to overcome the ways of the world.
What is Paul really saying then? Are they, and this applies to you and me as well, sitting in heavenly places in Christ or not?
Are already sitting in heavenly places with Christ?
The more I read this verse, the more it says two things to me.
First, we have been created for the purpose of sitting in heavenly places in Christ. This is our true, spiritual heritage. We are not struggling to deserve this. We cannot win it or gain it or deserve it by doing good works. It is a free gift through God’s grace. It is ordained for us. And God has ordained us for it.
Coming back to Ephesians 2:8, 9, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
What a gift! What an inheritance! To sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Just thinking about this gives me a deep sense of spiritual peace and assurance.
But what does it even mean, to sit in heavenly places?
I’m sure I don’t fully know, but it calls up a sense of unity with Christ in my heart.
Take a moment and just contemplate what this could mean to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
The second thing that comes to me is that because it is our heritage, it’s what’s already true about us spiritually in the kingdom of heaven.
If what Jesus says is true, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and within us, our sense of time with this being way off in the future, begins to melt away, like clouds disappearing after the rain, and we can begin to see it is already a reality from a spiritual perspective.
It may seem pretty bold to say that you are already sitting in heavenly places.
From earth’s perspective, it is totally unrealistic and contradicts what the world tells us every moment of every day. But from heaven’s perspective, the view is very different.
What perspective are you looking from?
Unity with Christ
Let’s start with this idea of sitting in heavenly with Christ as a metaphor for our unity with Christ, our divine heritage, our inheritance so to speak.
If you inherited $1 million from a rich uncle, you’d have to prove you were the rightful heir and then claim your inheritance. So, how do we claim our spiritual inheritance? How do we bring it into our daily lives and experience more of it here on earth?
Well, the obvious first step is to realize you are the heir, that you do deserve to inherit what God has caused and created you to be and receive.
Some Christians have a problem with the word deserve. They have been taught they don’t deserve God’s grace, love, and forgiveness, and there’s nothing they can do to earn or deserve them. But God loves us so much, He gives His grace, love, and forgiveness anyway.
That’s one way to look at it, but I disagree with this perspective. Actually, I do agree in one sense that we don’t come to the point of deserving God’s grace by earning it. Paul says plainly, “it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
God has ordained us to sit in heavenly places
God has made us for the purpose of sitting in heavenly places and to be co-heirs with Christ. As I’ve said several times, this is our inheritance. We don’t do anything to make it our inheritance. God has pre-ordained it for us. In that sense, of course we deserve to have and be what God has created us for.
So the next step is to accept this fact, that we do deserve God’s gift of grace. But once we have accepted this fact, there’s something we have to give up before we can claim our inheritance and live our lives accordingly.
Paul makes it very clear throughout his writings, and Jesus preached this from the beginning of his ministry, that we must not just quit sinning, but replace a sinful way of thinking and living with a Christlike way of thinking and living.
This is a complete mindset shift, which is the true meaning of the word repentance, to quit thinking of yourself as a miserable sinner and see yourself as the pure image and likeness of God.
How to leave behind a sin-oriented mindset
How on earth do we do this? How do we quit sinning? How do we quit being tempted to sin? How do we leave behind a sinful mindset that defines us as sinners? And how do we live out from our heritage of Christ likeness?
Paul says repeatedly that we cannot do this all by ourselves. We don’t earn it by our actions, however good they may be. It all has to do with Jesus’s victory over death in what we call the resurrection.
It’s the resurrection of Jesus that gives us life. It’s the resurrection of Jesus that dissolves the hold sin has on us. It’s the resurrection that gives us a new way to see ourselves, a new lens to look through.
Too many Christians just talk about the cross as the source of our salvation and forgiveness of sins. But Paul repeatedly emphasizes the essential role the resurrection played to bring forgiveness and freedom from sin and the gift of eternal life.
As I said, this is a mindset shift. Or to put it another way, it’s changing the lens you see yourself through.
What lens do you see yourself through?
Imagine if everyone who ever took a picture of you had oily smudges on the lens of the camera? What would the pictures look like? What if those lenses were full of cracks? How would that distort the pictures of you?
If those photos taken with dirty and cracked lenses where the only way you ever saw yourself (I know, that’s pretty unrealistic, but just stay with the analogy for a bit), how would it affect the way you saw and, more importantly, thought of yourself?
You just might think of yourself as dirty and flawed.
If someone came along, after many years of you only seeing these pictures of yourself, and took a photo of you with a camera with a clean and uncracked lens, what would be your first reaction to this picture? It might be one of disbelief. You might actually end up thinking it wasn’t really you.
Now I realized this is just a silly little analogy, but it gives a hint of what I’m talking about. We have been taught by society and sometimes our churches that we are not worthy of God’s grace, that we don’t deserve His love, and that our natural state is one of sin and depravity.
And why do people say that? Because they’re looking at the world through the dirty and cracked lenses.
Jesus looked at people through a clear, flawless, spiritual lens and saw the beautiful child of God, sitting with him in heavenly places.
This same lens is here today for us to look through when we look at ourselves, others, and the world. It’s called “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That’s the lens Jesus looked through. And it’s the lens you and I can look through as well.
We are sitting in heavenly places
There’s something else I noticed in this passage from Ephesians, Chapter 2. Paul says God “made us sit.” We are not standing, kneeling, bowing, walking toward or away from, or jumping in heavenly places. We are sitting. What does that imply?
Use your spiritual intuition to get a glimpse of what this would be like. How would you feel?
As I said earlier, it gives me a sense of peace. But there’s also a settled feeling of belonging. Belonging with and to God. Being in and with Christ. And that brings a sense of dominion, authority, and spiritual assurance that all I’ll always have everything I need.
What is grace?
I want to circle back around to talk about God’s grace.
Let’s come back to Ephesians 2:8, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
This is probably one of the most often quoted verses in the Bible. People love to talk about God’s saving grace. So we should get a better understanding of what grace is.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians define grace as “God’s unmerited mercy.” But this doesn’t really do the word justice. We’ve already talked about the idea that we can’t earn God’s grace, because it is freely given.
But grace is so much more than God being merciful. And by the way, we all do deserve God’s mercy, just as all children deserve love from their parents.
Part of the definition of the Greek word for grace, charis, which I found in Strong’s Concordance is
“the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”
Looking through the lens of grace
The way to see yourself sitting in heavenly places in Christ is to look at yourself (and others) through the lens of grace, to look at yourself through the lens of God’s divine influence in your heart, and how that changes the way you live your daily life.
How does God’s nature influence you heart, the way you think, see, and love yourself and everyone around you? This divine influence changes us from the inside out. This is grace.
Grace is not transactional. In other words, we don’t do something that causes God to give us grace. He is the source of grace and gives it freely, just as the sun shines freely in every direction at all times. God doesn’t choose whom to bestow His grace on because of how we behave or misbehave. God is not a “respecter of persons.” Peter points this out when he is talking to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion.
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. Acts 10:34 NLT
How has God divinely influenced your heart? How has that transformed your life?
We are all sitting in heavenly places in Christ
The last thing in the passage from Ephesians, Chapter 2 that I want to leave you with is the fact that Paul sees all of us sitting in those heavenly places. He isn’t just talking about himself or one or two others. He includes all of us, the entire body of Christ.
If you want to see yourself sitting in heavenly places, it automatically implies and requires you to acknowledge and see everyone else there too. Even those fellow church members you may disagree with on some detail of doctrine.
Now I can just hear someone saying, “James, this sounds too good to be true. I can’t see myself sitting in heavenly places. My life is too full of struggles and problems. This seems completely unrealistic from my point of view.”
Well, I would agree with you as long as you look at yourself through a dirty and cracked lens. But that lens is not part of who you are. And it doesn’t define who you are. It distorts the picture of who you are. But it doesn’t actually distort you.
Change the lens you’re looking through
I invite you to change the lens you’re looking through. Look at yourself through the lens of grace. God has made you capable of doing this and empowers you to do it.
Take a moment right now, and use your spiritual vision, open your spiritual eyes, to see yourself sitting in these heavenly places we’ve been talking about. Quit looking through the smudged and cracked lens of a world full of sin. Look at yourself, and everyone you meet, through the lens of God’s grace, God’s divine influence in your heart.
This is not something to do just once or twice. It begins with that. It’s a daily practice. It’s a mindset shift.
The more you look through the lens of grace, the more grace you’ll see everywhere you go. And you will see yourself and everyone you meet sitting in the heavenly places in Christ.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He gives Bible talks and conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
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Ephesians 2:4-10 NKJV
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Matthew 19:28 NIV
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Matthew 25:31 NIV
31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
Revelation 3:21 NIV
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Romans 8:17 NIV
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Acts 10:34 NLT
34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.