The Heavenly Places #3

Sunday, June 4, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

The first reference to the “heavenly places” affirms that God has given us, the Church the Body of Christ, resources in them: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…” (Ephesians 1:3). The second mention is how God the Father, because of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork, has given Christ power over all creatures and positions in creation: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…” (Ephesians 1:20).

The third reference talks about how Father God, through Christ’s finished crosswork, has qualified us to share Christ’s authority in the “heavenly places:” “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:…” (Ephesians 2:6). The fourth mention identifies us as the objects of attention of the fallen angels currently polluting the “heavenly places:” “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…” (Ephesians 3:10).

The final reference, today’s Scripture, reminds us that our battle is not between other people here on Earth, but rather invisible evil spirits functioning in the “heavenly places:” For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

Throughout the “Old Testament,” and for good reason, there is very little about God’s activity in the heavenly realm of creation. Those Scriptures are all about God forming the nation Israel, a group who will restore His authority in the Earth: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine (Exodus 19:5). When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, however, the Bible switches to the “heavenly places….”

Our latest Bible Q&A:Could you explain, ‘From his shoulders and upward he was higher…?’

The Heavenly Places #2

Saturday, June 3, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

The Bible opens, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void…” (Genesis 1:1,2). From here onward until the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Acts chapter 9, much of Scripture focuses on God’s workings in the earthly realm.

Read some of the rare “Old Testament” glimpses of God operating in the heavenly realm. “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth…. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet” (2 Samuel 22:8,10; cf. Psalm 18:7,9). The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Psalm 103:19). And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from a fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood…” (Isaiah 34:4-6).

Now, look at some “Old Testament” peeks of Satan working in the heavenly realm. “He [God] putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight (Job 15:15). “Behold, even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his [God’s] sight (Job 25:5). “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high [same idea as today’s Scripture—spiritual wickedness in “high” places], and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:21). Notice in this last verse how God and Satan are working in the heavenly realm.

With the above background as a frame of reference, we return to the Epistle of Ephesians….

The Heavenly Places #1

Friday, June 2, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

Paul’s epistle to Ephesus is literally a very “heavenly” book. Notice the following verses and phrase unique to Ephesians. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…” (Ephesians 1:3). “Which [mighty power] he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,…” (Ephesians 1:20). “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:…” (Ephesians 2:6). “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,…” (Ephesians 3:10).

As previously mentioned, “heavenly places” is a phrase found exclusively in the Book of Ephesians. It appears four times. The Greek word is epouranios (“above the sky”). On one occasion, it is rendered “high places” (cf. today’s Scripture). Ephesians lifts the minds and hearts of its readers to such lofty, dizzying heights. As the Book begins to wind down, however, something strange happens to its tone. There is a drastic shift to material that some call “dark” and “depressing.” Why would the Holy Spirit lead the Apostle Paul to end such a glorious Book about God’s workings in the “heavenly places” (previous paragraph) by referring to Satan’s wicked activities in them (today’s Scripture)?

From time immemorial, Bible commentators and readers have needlessly struggled with Ephesians’ so-called “out-of-place” reference to Satan’s behavior in the “heavenly places.” If they approached the Bible dispensationally, as 2 Timothy 2:15 commands us, there would be no difficulty. Like so many other Bible concepts, it would be unbelievably clear. Remember, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” In our upcoming studies, let us see how dispensational Bible study enables us to understand Ephesians’ handling of the “heavenly places….”

What We Really Need

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 KJV).

Do not be a spiritual hoarder. Be content with what you find in Jesus Christ!

Some people live in absolutely deplorable, filthy, unsafe, rotten environments. I am referring to hoarders, individuals who seek identity, meaning, purpose, and security in filling their homes—literally from floor to ceiling—with items. What begins as an innocent hobby of collecting “neat” or “rare” items becomes madness… to the point where nothing is discarded. Every newspaper clipping, every last empty plastic bottle, every single knick-knack, and so on, is stored. Someone’s home is transformed into a death trap, fire hazard, a literal breeding ground for anything and everything harmful and foul-smelling.

A man owning 12 large barns—each packed with miscellaneous items he bought in bulk! A lady amassing over 3,000 purses! Someone living with 120 cats in her home! A man collecting approximately 10,000 sheets of music and an estimated 5,000 books! A lady storing dozens upon dozens of deceased pets and assorted wildlife specimens… in her home’s freezers!

If you listen to these people talk about their situation, you can understand that they suffer mental disorders. They are not thinking rationally. There is a lot of confusion as to what is truly garbage and what is actually useful. There are also underlying emotional problems. Two or three failed marriages, an abusive childhood, a near-death experience such as armed robbery, and the like… these events triggered hoarders to “go over the edge.” They know they are missing peace, security, love, joy, acceptance, and so on. Inside they are hollow. They have tried their very best to fill the void with material items, having only driven a wedge between themselves and family and friends.

Think about today’s Scripture. What we really need, what we truly need, we already have it in Christ. We do not need to go around in religion, “collecting” a water ceremony, a “tithe” receipt, a “miracle healing,” an “epiphany” or some other experience, and so on. Worthless clutter! God has “riches in glory.” If by Christ Jesus we have richestrue riches, eternal riches—why should we collect “valueless papers and empty bottles” in religion?

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What does John 3:16 really mean?

Paul and Dispensationalism #17

Monday, August 24, 2015

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13 KJV).

What else can the Apostle Paul teach us about dispensational Bible study?

Baptism has been called “religious TNT.” It has generated many explosive fights across denominational lines! Sprinkling? Pouring? Immersion? Only adults, or babies, too? Where? Who should administer it? What words should be said? What type of water is needed? For salvation or testimony? On, and on, and on… contentious people from all sides fuss and fight, spewing forth contemptuous words! “For ye are yet carnal [fleshly, worldly]: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

Paul could not be clearer. There is one baptism” valid for us in the Dispensation of Grace (Ephesians 4:5). It is not, NOT, NOT, NOT water baptism! The only time Paul mentioned water baptism in his epistles, he wrote, “Christ sent me not to baptize” (1 Corinthians 1:17)! Our one—ONE—baptism is not performed by preacher or priest, but by the Holy Spirit Himself (today’s Scripture; cf. Colossians 2:11,12). The Spirit baptizes us into—NOT water but—the Church the Body of Christ and seals us (Ephesians 1:12-14). Immediately after we rely exclusively on Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection for our justification (1 Corinthians 15:3,4), we are made one with Jesus Christ, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Ephesians 5:30). The Holy Spirit comes to indwell us Christians (1 Corinthians 6:19)—He equips us, that the doctrine we read and believe comes to life in our lives (Ephesians 3:16)!

We do not need Israel’s water baptism. We will not experience her fire baptism (seven-year Tribulation and Christ’s Second Coming in wrath). We do not need her “Holy Ghost” baptism in Acts chapter 2, when Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5). No, today, the Holy Spirit does the baptizing, and we are thus “complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10). The Apostle Paul teaches us that water ceremonies will profit us nothing, NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING spiritually!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Is there a simple way to present the Grace Message to children and teens?

Thee and Two Gardens #3

Monday, January 26, 2015

“And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 KJV).

Wilt thou choose to “live” in the Garden of Eden, or in the Garden of Calvary?

Today’s Scripture shows us what living in the Garden of Eden is like. After sin entered into the world by Adam’s disobedience (Romans 5:12), the Garden was a place of misery, fear, and hiding. What God had designed to be paradise was now in shambles. Many of us today find the Christian life to be equally frustrating and glum—what God intended to be a blessing is such a heartache!

How could something God have made, be so unpleasant? It is miserable because we make it! As Adam ruined the Garden of Eden with his performance, so we wreck the Christian life when we try in our strength to live righteously. We add church rules, denominational burdens, to try to make God happy with us when He has already accepted us in Jesus Christ forever (Ephesians 1:6). What a shame that most Christians live like spiritual paupers when they are spiritually rich in Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9)! They beg God for forgiveness when they already have it in Christ (Colossians 1:14)! They beg God for blessings when they already have them all in Christ (Ephesians 1:3)! They beg God for strength and victory when they already have it in Christ (Philippians 4:13)! Religion is indeed “weak and beggarly” (Galatians 4:9)!

Dear readers, mentally, we need to leave the Garden of Eden. Our identity does not go back to Adam. We are no longer in Adam, but are forever “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our identity goes back to Jesus Christ’s garden tomb at Calvary. In that garden, not Eden, do we find the fruits of our (Christ’s) resurrection life! Our life should abound with good works, not to make God happy with us, but because He is working inside of us, because we are simply living in accordance with our identity in Jesus Christ. That mindset will surely change our lifestyle….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Was God unfair in striking Uzzah dead?

Riches and the Four Gospels #6

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

“And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24,25 KJV).

Understandably, “health-and-wealth” preachers and teachers never quote Jesus’ words in today’s Scripture!

While some teach that Jesus did not literally mean “sell that ye have, and give alms” (Luke 12:33), that His language was figurative (“sell out for Me”), His audience took Him literally. They actually sold their possessions and had all things common in Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-37. Peter declared to the lame beggar, “Silver and gold have I none!” (Acts 3:6; cf. Matthew 10:9). The Jerusalem saints pooled all their wealth together and lived for each other’s benefit, just as Jesus instructed, while those Jews who did not have their heart in heaven simply ignored Jesus. Ananias and his wife Sapphira lied to the Holy Ghost and did not relinquish all of their wealth—it was so serious that God actually struck them dead (Acts 5:1-11)!

Later, when a great famine troubled the whole then-known world (Acts 11:28), and because there was no interest associated with the common account, the Jerusalem Messianic Jews grew poorer. Moreover, their kingdom program and their kingdom prosperity were delayed (since God had just instated our Dispensation of Grace). Thus, Paul’s Gentile converts repeatedly sent financial relief to these poor Jerusalem saints (Acts 11:28-30; Romans 15:25-28; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Galatians 2:10).

Therefore, dispensational Bible study is important. God’s Word to us—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon—never instructs us to sell all our possessions and share one bank account. We are expected to work in order to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; cf. Ephesians 4:28). Still, Paul also warned about loving and worshipping material goods, for “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:3-19). While it is not a sin to be materially rich or poor in this the Dispensation of Grace, let us remember that we in Christ are—and always will be—spiritually rich in Christ (Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 4:19). 🙂