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Description: Rest in The Heavenly Places
Rest in the Heavenly Places
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Loved ones, today’s verse is Ephesians 2:6, “And raised us up with him,” that is referring to God as
you see in verse 4, and verse 6, “And raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” So that’s the statement: “God who is rich in mercy, out of the
great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive
together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with
him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” And lest there be any doubt about the time issue just
look at Colossian 3:1 which makes it crystal clear that of course Paul means that you have been
raised. Now, Colossians 3:1 runs, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that
are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” So obviously Paul means you have now
been raised with Christ and you sit with him at the right hand of God.
I don’t know if it’s because of the skepticism of heaven that has almost ruled Christendom, it seems
to me, for the past fifty years, or if it’s the oppression of this very vivid world around us, but
we have utterly missed the whole attitude to heaven that the Christians obviously had. In their
minds there was no doubt that when we were raised with Christ we were made to sit with God in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That was just accepted and so when Paul or the others ended up in
prison, there was nothing else that they would dream of doing but singing because their eyes were
not on the prison and on the darkness, but were clearly on their position in Christ at God’s right
hand. And I think one of the agonies you and I go through is we don’t – I mean, it’s terrible to
say it, but we don’t have too much of an idea of that.
We’re so involved with the car in front of us and in getting around them and into the next lane, and
so preoccupied with the visit to the next store, and it’s not just because we’re very earthly
people, it’s just that that’s the way everyone thinks. And indeed you know the jokes we make’ “he’s
so heavenly minded he’s no earthly use” and we’re usually talking about somebody who is kind of
mystical or daydreaming actually. But we apply it not just to the daydreamer or to the forgetful or
to the absent minded professor, but we tend to apply heavenly mindedness to anybody who is
impractical and unrealistic. And of course, the result of that is that we are not heavenly minded
almost at all. Only from time-to-time when we sing “For all the saints who from their labors rest,”
or an odd moment when we feel maybe we are being caught up like Paul into the third heaven, there
are odd moments when we forget where we are, but generally we think that is an aberration.
Generally we think it’s an unusual experience and maybe it’s a special exaltation that we’ve been
given by God, but on the whole we regard such things as close to the table tapping of the
spiritualist, or the experience of cosmic consciousness that they talk about. And I’d just say to
you we’re completely wrong, we’re completely off beam and that’s why we have such trouble with this
business of faith. That’s often why we fall into the power of positive thinking because we’re
trying to work ourselves up. We’re trying to ignore the things that we see around us and do as that
guy that Paul Little referred to said, “What is faith? Faith is believing what you know isn’t
We get into that because we do not live where all the early Christians lived and the result is we
think of the mum and the dad going into the lion’s arena with their children by their hands as being
exceedingly brave. We would not just say exceedingly brave but incomprehensibly brave and we cannot
imagine being able to do that and part of the reason is because we don’t live where they lived. And
you see the way the next sentence goes without me saying it; we don’t live where we are. We don’t
live where we are.
I joke with my wife when I see somebody on the cell phone because I say, “There’s another person who
isn’t where they want to be” because it seems they want to be with the other person that they’re
talking to and not where they are. But we ourselves do not live where we actually are and some of
that, I think, is due to the fact that we have not clearly seen that when God crucified us with
Christ he did that before the foundation of the world simply because he does not need to run the
thing through. He does not need to run the movie through to see how it would go. When he made us,
all in a moment he conceived all that would take place; he knew what he was making, he did not make
things that were mysterious. He knew what was involved in giving us free will and what would be
required of him in order to preserve that free will and yet to work things according to the counsel
of his own will.
So he saw all of that and he saw us crucified in Christ and he and his son bore that pain in a
millisecond, it’s silly of us to talk in these terms as we know, but a millisecond after he
conceived of creating the world he bore all that pain, all that agony, all the agony that has been
spread out in time through the centuries. He bore it in that millisecond in eternity and in that
same millisecond he raised us up with Christ and made us sit with Christ in the heavenly places and
that is where he has seen us as being from the very beginning, and that’s where we are. All this
that we’re seeing is a movie.
Even the Greek in the New Testament makes it plain. “Schema” is the word Paul uses for this passing
world, this passing scene, this temporary appearance of things. It’s only a movie that’s being
played out and the reality of it is that you and I have been raised and made to sit with Christ in
the heavenly places and that is actually where we are at this moment. And I sympathize with you,
because obviously in the old churches maybe – I’m afraid you have to go back eighty years to one
hundred years ago when heaven was much more talked about and people were very clear on what heaven
Even I can remember some of the hymns that we used to sing, not only “Shall we gather at the river”
about the meeting that we would have when we meet together in heaven and what a meeting that will
be. But in those days I think there was more emphasis on it and in these days there’s little or no
emphasis on it and so we ourselves, do not think that we’re in heaven, or that we’re actually living
Now the result of that is that when we try to exercise faith that God is in control, we’re working
from down here, we’re not working from up there, and I think it might have been in Power through
Prayer by E.M. Bounds, but he said that position is everything. Position is the secret; if you see
your position then the Holy Spirit is able to make your condition match your position. But so often
the position we see ourselves in is down here trying to reach up to heaven, and of course, the truth
that God has given us is, “I raised you with my son and I made you sit with me in the heavenly
places in Christ.” And that surprised me. I don’t know if you have grasped that but if you look at
it in verse 6, it’s quite interesting that it is, “And raised us up with him, and made us sit with
him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
So I always thought the “with him” was Christ, and do you see we think that because of the previous
verse that runs, “even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with
Christ,” and its that “made us alive with Christ” that we therefore tend to carry that on in verse
6, “and raised us up with him,” we say, “Oh yes, raised us up with Christ.” No, “and raised us up
with him and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” So the “him” there can
only be God. So God made us alive together with Christ and then raised us up with him, and made us
sit with God in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
So, God is there and Christ is there, and we are in him and sitting with him, and that’s what God’s
word says, that that’s where we are at this moment and that’s where our power comes from. Now if
you ask how did that affect the men and women in the lion arenas, I think they hardly saw the lions.
I think that when those men sang hymns in prison, it was because their hearts were full of heaven.
It wasn’t “I think I’ll whistle a little song or sing zippity-do-dah to try to lift my spirits” it
was that out of the fullness of the heart the mouth sang, and I think it was the same with the lion
arenas. I think they were so aware that they were talking to the children about our Lord, “Do you
see him, right beside us, right there, do you see we are surrounded by the angels?” It was like
that experience of Elijah when he said, “Look at all the chariots around us.” They were so
conscience of that that the lion arena thing was nothing. I do believe that’s why the saints who
were burned at the stake were able to bear the flames; they didn’t feel the flames because they were
so conscience of where they were in Christ at God’s right hand.
Now that’s where faith comes from, do you see that? And that kind of faith you notice, is not
preoccupied with, “Lord, keep the lion’s away, keep the lions away. Lord, make the flames go out.”
It is not. It is so taken up with God, so conscience that he is around you, so conscience that
you’re in him and that you’re fulfilling exactly what he planned in Christ, that it does not matter
to you whether you leave this earth now or leave it five years later, or twenty years later. So
everything on the earth becomes relatively unimportant, relative to the reality of the position in
which you are.
So loved ones, I think that’s the first thing we have to grasp, that we’re not seeing things the
right way around at all, and we’re not seeing reality. We are actually doing our very best to tear
down what God has built up in us and actually to veil our eyes from reality because we are utterly
preoccupied with this present world, utterly preoccupied with all the things that oppress our five
senses, and deep down we’re convinced that if you want to be a realistic Christian that’s the way —
that’s where you have to live.” No, the only way to be a realistic Christian is to live where you
are — where you have been raised to in Jesus at God’s right hand and it’s that position that brings
the power of faith and enables one to triumph over the difficulty.
So it makes fun of the whole business of, “Lord, give me good sales today,” In heaven, what does it
matter if you have sales or not? Sales are up to God, what he wants to do here on earth he’ll do.
Our place is to live rejoicingly in him. Now, as a result of that you will find yourself with lots
of strength, and lots of power, and with the sheer joy of living. You’ll feel that. So you’ll
actually have more energy, and probably you will get good sales, but that will be God’s blessing
upon you. The part that you will fulfill is to simply dwell in him and enjoy him.
And if you say to me, “Oh, you mean we can’t enjoy the world?” Of course you can, but it’s all
those things that those men talk about when they first become Christian. “The sun was brighter; the
grass was greener than I ever saw it. Somehow everything seemed more wonderful.” It really is like
a drug experience in that sense, everything is more vivid. You see everything more clearly. Why —
because your mind is not distracted with the heavy business of living and keeping going. Your mind
and your senses are energized and sharpened by the place that you dwell in, which is the place where
you really are. It’s the difference between the reality and the dream; a dream has a vagueness to
it, a dream is not so startling clear and vivid as reality and that’s what happens when you don’t
dwell in reality; you live in this dream world down here and everything is a little more vague and
is not so clear. So I think that’s the first thing we have to see and have no doubt about it, that
nowadays few Christians live in the reality that Christians have lived in for hundreds of years and
that God intends that we live in.
Now, where are the heavenly places? Well I tried to bring up some of the quotations so that we
would see a little more about them. Ephesians 1:3 is the first place that that term occurs in
Ephesians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” who has blessed us, “even as he chose us in
him before the foundation of the world.”
So obviously, the heavenly places are certainly eternity. For those of you who are Greek scholars
the “heavenly places” is “epouranios” in the Greek and “in the heavenly places,” is eternity.
Eternity is not time that goes on forever and ever, eternity is a timeless, spaceless world. That’s
why it’s exciting to follow the radio telescope people, and all the cosmologists, and the
astronomers, and the people who are trying to find out what lies behind the stars.
It’s always fun to listen to all their careful precise calculations which are measured in billions
and billions of years and to see that it is remarkable that time and space are interrelated and that
undoubtedly, it is true, you can get to a place in space where you can be going through the
experiences that actually took place hundreds and thousands of years ago.
The easiest way I have of understanding it is when they say, “See that star there, well it died a
million years ago, it’s just that its light is coming towards you and so you’re seeing it millions
of years later.” Well my little mind can grasp the fact that obviously it has to travel through all
those years, in fact “light years” means that time is affected by where in space you are. And
obviously it is true, that you can be in that position in space where if you could see the things
that happened a hundred or two hundred years ago they would be coming to you in space just now,
years and years later.
In other words, there is a relationship between time and space and you can therefore, begin to
glimpse just a little how there can be a state where there is just one eternal moment; where there
is not a before and after. And eternity is a timeless spaceless state and that’s why I shared with
you that I saw, at the time of my little operation that a millisecond after I would get to heaven my
wife would be there. And it’ll be the same with your mum, you know, a millisecond after she gets to
heaven the rest of us will be there.
In other words, there won’t be a long wait, there – when heaven is a place where there is neither
time nor space, everything is a great eternal moment. So that’s the first thing about the heavenly
places, it’s a timeless spaceless condition that we call eternity and its present, and it’s at rest.
That is what God is saying, “He has made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Now you can see that one of the benefits of that is that you do experience the rest and peace of
eternity, and the rest and peace of that timeless spaceless world and that undoubtedly is part of
where the great composure of the martyrs came from. They had a sense of that eternal peace that
filled their hearts so that to them it did not matter whether they were here or there. So that’s
one thing, the heavenly places is certainly eternity, timeless and spaceless.
Now Ephesians 1:20-23, is the second place where heavenly places occur, “which he accomplished in
Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not
only in this age but also in that which is to come.” So that state, that timeless spaceless state
in which God has placed us in Jesus at his right hand he has placed us not only in that place, but
has placed us in that place far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
So, what we often fight here in this world is the sheer worldly setup that has been devised by Satan
and by men and women, to enable us to seem to sin and not die. And part of that involves the way
men have joined together to build towers of Babel to build MCI WorldCom, and to build IBM, and then
to build national consciousness, and then finally to build gangs in Puerto Rico or in New York.
Those gatherings or groupings of fallen human beings are powered by, what you’ll find to be, the
powers of wickedness. And so they exert tremendous pressure on all of us and all of us feel those
pressures and actually, it’s that kind of pressure that surprises you when you find yourself not
wanting me to ask you how your sales were.
In your head you know that I love you, and I only want you to be happy, and finally I don’t care
what your sales are, but the powers that surround us in this present world of competition, that
stimulate and provoke the human will to act in the absence of the constraint of Jesus’ love, those
powers affect even you. And it’s above every rule and authority and power that God has placed us in
Jesus, and when you live in that reality that God has placed you in, you’re delivered from those
powers and those rules and those authorities, and you find that you see things right and clear. And
so when somebody, even like me who loves you, asks you what your sales were, there’s no tingle about
it, there’s no shame about it, there’s a desire to do whatever you can for Jesus, but there’s no
fear about the thing.
Now then, you change that over into going into the store and you wonder, “Is my tie alright? Is my
suit okay? Do I look alright? I’m fiddling with this case, I’m sure I look a bit dumb. I don’t
know exactly what to say at this sales presentation. I don’t know quite the words; they’re going to
see I’m a kind of amateur.” All those pressures, all those feelings, come from these rules and
authorities and dominions and powers that have set up patterns of behavior and conventional
standards that all of us are made to feel we have to reach, and really it’s the rule of law and the
domination of law and the enslavement of law that makes us feel those things.
Now God has placed us in Jesus at his right hand far above every rule and authority and dominion and
power so that we are not touched or affected by those powers, or rules, or dominions, and that’s the
key to it, you see. Why we have so much difficulty not being nervous, not being shy, not being
self-conscious, not being afraid, not feeling that we’re inferior, is because we’re trying to deal
with all those things mentally and psychologically when actually the problem is a spiritual power
that is acting upon us. And the key to that spiritual power is to be above it and to know that
you’re above it, and that’s where God has placed us, and that’s why he says, “Set your mind on
things above the earth.”
There’s a lot for us to talk about, but will you begin to think of some of those things and begin to
see that God has raised us up and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus and
that the New Testament writers do not treat that as a metaphor. They do not; they build all kinds
of theology and practice on it. It’s on the basis of this that the early Christians lived and died.
So it is not just, “That’s a nice thought. You mean we’re really sitting with God in the heavenly
places with Christ Jesus? Oh, that is a nice thought, that’s kind of uplifting and I must think of
that from time-to-time.” That’s terrible. No, that’s not it at all, God has actually made us sit
with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus and that is actually where we are and that is why
the moment your heart stops beating and your brain stops working, you carry right on because that’s
where you are, above every rule including the rule that governs physical fallen life here on earth.
And so that’s the position in which we are.
So will you think about it and look at the verse, and remember faith, feeling, and fact. Deal with
the fact and faith is what sees that fact and accepts it, feeling is what comes from that. But put
it in that order. Let us pray.
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