In the Scriptures there are a number of different ways in which the word ‘heaven’ is used. There are the literal heavens, where God Himself dwells (Psa 123:1). There are political heavens, where mankind rules over his fellows; and there are spiritual heavens where wonderful blessings abound.

Our finite minds are unable to fathom the power and majesty of God’s presence in heaven. Somewhere, at the centre of all life, God has chosen a dwelling place, and although His throne is at the heart of His dominion, yet He is everywhere present through His glorious power. To mankind, it is a place of unapproachable light and glory, yet it is a place where “Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Psa 96:6). Surrounded by hosts of angels, with His Son at His right hand, we can only feebly imagine the fulness of joy in those courts. As Psalm 89:14 explains: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.”

The political heavens, on the other hand, are something entirely different. During this dispensation they are places of human strength and human injustice. Whilst the heavens above are literal, the political heavens are symbolic; a representation to describe rulers and administrators over the affairs of mankind. The heavens “which are now”are styled by Paul “principalities and powers in heavenly places” full of “rulers and spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 3:10, 6:12). By way of contrast, the heavens which are coming are full of righteousness (2 Pet 3:13).

But our main interest lies in the spiritual heavens. Paul used the expression in this way:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”(Eph 1:3);

“God… hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6).

These heavens are “in Christ”; that is, they portray a relationship rather than a place. They speak of close fellowship with the Father through forgiveness; they speak of privilege, of status, and of blessing. The blessings associated with these heavens are described in the rest of the chapter. We have been chosen before the foundation of the world, predestinated unto the adoption of children, redeemed and forgiven, shown great favour, given wisdom and understanding, and offered a glorious inheritance (Eph 1:4-12). What marvellous heavens these are!

To live in these heavens is to live like those who are literally there. It is to seek those things that are above and set one’s affections on heavenly ideals and heavenly characteristics (Col 3:1-2). These things are eternal and so different to things centred on earth. But notice the incredible expression Paul used to describe this new relationship. We who were once dead, have now been made alive, but even more amazing is that we have been raised up together and made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). We are figuratively sitting at the right hand of God with His Son!

This is a difficult concept to grasp. We can conceive of God “coming down” to dwell with mankind, but we are being told that we have ascended up on high. This is the language of reconciliation, a metaphor to describe those who have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13). The language of sitting there with Christ, however, takes the privilege of fellowship with our Lord to another level. It is a phrase drawn from Psalm 110:1 where the Son of God and of David is set down at the right hand of the Father enjoying dominion over all things. Paul is teaching that our position before God is one of such complete closeness that we are depicted as sharing the same blessings and prospective glory as His Son. We are sitting with him in an exalted sphere of privilege and dominion. Our mind shies away from any sense of being in heaven because we disavow any suggestion of man possessing an immortal soul and going to heaven. But these heavens are not literal. They represent a state of fellowship and exaltation which we have in Christ. The Son of God is sitting there having dominion over all things and we are there with him!

The apostle is asking us to lift our gaze heavenwards and see life from God’s perspective and bring our lives into conformity with His view. We are being asked to live a life as though we were in the presence of the majesty on high. As Psalm 140:13 states, “the upright shall dwell in thy presence”.

This metaphor of being in spiritual heaven is an extension of the idea of Christ dwelling in us and we dwelling in him. He is in heaven and therefore, to abide in him is to sit in the heavenlies with him. He abides in us through the power of his word (Eph 3:17). We abide in him by walking after his example (1 John 2:6, 3:24, John 15:10) and such a wonderful status of being in him should bring about a consciousness of Christ’s nearness in our lives. It should develop a desire to lift our thoughts above the mundane and fleshly. Everything about our behaviour should reflect the qualities and values that the Son has as he sits in the presence of his Father.

This is why the New Testament is full of these ideas relating to the heavens with which we are associated. The Kingdom of God is also called the Kingdom of Heaven because its constitution is based on godly principles and because God seeks to make the earth a reflection of His dwelling place in heaven (Matt6:10).We are partakers of a heavenly calling because flesh and blood has no part in this invitation (Heb 3:1). We have in heaven a better and enduring treasure (Heb 10:34). We seek a heavenly country and city where God is the architect and builder (Heb 11:10,16). We are enrolled in heaven as members of the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22-23). Our citizenship is in heaven because it is based on the Lord’s word and example (Phil 3:20, 1:27). Our hope is safely laid up for us in heaven, ready to be brought to us when our Lord returns (Col 1:5, 1 Pet 1:4). Heaven is the source of all our spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3).

The Lord said to the Jews of his day,“Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world” ( John 8:23). His mind was centred on heavenly things and this was what Paul styled, “the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10). He was completely united with his Father’s will and this is the ideal we need to strive after. Everything about our life should be focused on the heavenlies in Christ and the enormous privilege that status entails. We, who were once afar off, have been brought nigh and our blessings are without parallel. We sit in the heavenlies with him now, knowing that one day we will sit with him in reality in his throne (Rev 3:21, Deut 33:3). May that day come soon.