We were once spiritually dead but have been saved by grace. In the book of Ephesians, Paul likens our salvation as being raised up with Christ and being seated with him in the heavenly realms (v. 6). Although being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms sounds mysterious, it is most likely a metaphorical usage meaning that we have the life of Christ and that one day we will be with him in the heavenly realms.1
Our salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit, so being seated with Christ is something that will happen for sure, and the Bible treats such a certain thing as if it has happened. Or, thinking it differently, it is that part of salvation that has happened, but the final fulfilment has not happened.2
We will now look at an aspect of salvation that is sometimes overlooked. Verse 7 says that God places us, the New Testament believers, in a special position that throughout the ages, we will be shown as a testimony to the “incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” This certainly refers to the act of salvation and the power of making us alive, but the explanation that immediately follows also says that we are God’s handiwork to do good works (v. 10). It is also an important theme that Paul will pick up again in chapter 4: we are “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1). Thus our salvation and our new living is a display of God’s grace.
Perhaps a little visualization might help.3 Try to visualize the image of the whole universe. In this huge universe, God has separated us, the New Testament believers, also known as the Church, as a special group to show his incomparable riches of his grace throughout the generations in the past and continuing to the future. We are small but at the same time very important in testifying God’s grace, to men and to spiritual beings. Hopefully seeing this will give us a better perspective on our life, how God sees it, and how we should live it.
The Bible describes our salvation as “so great a salvation” (Heb 2:3). May we all live a life worthy of the calling!
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 TNIV)
- This is the majority view, but some scholars believe that we somehow mysteriously seat with Christ in heaven even now, but such literal interpretation is not really necessary here because when Paul describes us as being dead and being raised up, he does not literally mean we were physically dead and received a resurrection. From some discussion, see, for example, Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Vol. 8: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999), 111. ↩
- Theologically, it is often referred to as “already but not yet” (For some explanation on this term, see James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 465-68. ↩
- I am not using ‘visualization’ in a mystical sense. Sometimes the term is used to mean imagining things that are not described in the Bible, like seeing Jesus and listening to him whispering in our ear. Jesus does not and will not whisper in our ear, especially not in the sense that some songs are trying to hint. If we want to know what the resurrected Jesus does or how we should do when we see him, we read the Bible instead of imagining things. We are not to use imagination, visualization, or anything else to replace the revealed word of God. Here I simply mean to bring to conscious mind what is described in the Bible instead of just reading and passing it. The passage does describe that God shows our salvation as a display of his grace, so we try to ‘see’ it. At the same time we are to remember that it is our imagination and we are not to dwell long in it. ↩