Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the Ephesian congregation. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eleven through twenty-two of the second chapter. As this particular passage of the epistle which Paul wrote to the Ephesian congregation begins it does so with two incredibly powerful words. If you begin reading in and with the eleventh verse of the second chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing “wherefore remember.” That which the apostle is seeking to do right now at this moment is being the Ephesian congregation of saints to a place of remembrance from where they once were, who they once were and what they had once done. In fact, if you being reading with and from the first verse of the second chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing to the Ephesians congregation concerning the life which they once lived in the flesh. Journeying back unto the first chapter of this same epistle you will find and discover the apostle Paul writing to these saints concerning the awesome reality of how God the Father or our Lord Jesus has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. For the next twelve verses the apostle Paul begins to expound unto the Ephesian congregation concerning these spiritual blessings which they had been given—blessings which were not only spiritual in nature, but also which were secured in heavenly places and established in and through the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul then begins to speak concerning the tremendous inheritance the saints of God have in Christ Jesus and how they even received the divine Holy Spirit as a seal and pledge of intimacy and relationship with the Father. In verses three through fourteen the apostle emphatically writes and declares unto this congregation how the Lord has taken those who weren’t sons or daughters and have them the right of adoption. Remember the words which the apostle John wrote in the opening chapter of his gospel when he wrote that to as many as believed, to those were given power to become sons and daughters of God.
If you transition to verses fifteen through twenty-three of the first chapter of this same epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing of his persistent and diligent prayers for these saints when he heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus, as well as their love unto all the saints. Within this final set of verses found within the first chapter we find the apostle Paul writing unto the saints in Ephesus how the Father demonstrated His powder when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This was a reality which the apostle Paul regularly preached and wrote unto the various churches and unto the Gentiles. The apostle not only preached Christ crucified, but the apostle Paul also preached Christ risen from the dead and having emerged from the grave triumphant and victorious over death, hell and the grave. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul also wrote how after Christ was raised from death to life He was set down at the right hand of the Father who is in heaven. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize this place of ascension after this place of resurrection for as surely as there can be no ascension without and apart from resurrection, so also it is absolutely necessary and critical that resurrection lead to ascension. I am utterly convinced that resurrection from the grave and our being raised from death to life must always lead to a place of ascension, for it is that place of ascension where we begin to walk in the authority, dominion, power, and might which exists in the natural and spiritual realm. Notice that when writing concerning the ascension of Jesus the apostle Paul writes that He was setbdown at the right hand of all the Father far above principality, power, dominion, might and every name that was named in heaven and on the earth. We dare not miss the tremendous significance of this reality, for to do so would be to miss the awesome power that exists after this place of resurrection and with and from the place of ascension.
Consider if you will that which the apostle Paul wrote in the final verses of the first chapter within this particular epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation: “…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when HE raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all “(Ephesians 1:19-23). As the apostle Paul was writing unto the Ephesian congregation he wrote to them how the Father had wrought His mighty power in Christ when He raised Him from the grave and from death death to life, and how resurrection wasn’t the ultimate outcome of what took place on the third day. If you read the writing of the apostle Paul in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation you will find the following words concerning the resurrection of Christ: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). In the opening verses of the New Testament book of the Acts the beloved physician Luke writes the following words concerning that period of time after Christ’s resurrection from the dead and just prior to His ascension unto the right hand of the Father. Beginning with the first verse of the first chapter of the book of Acts we find the following words: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:1-5).
Between the writing of the apostle Paul, as well as the treatise which Luke wrote unto Theophilus we find that after Jesus was indeed raised from death to life, and after He had emerged from the grave, He didn’t immediately ascend to the right hand of His Father in heaven. Luke records how after Jesus was raised from death to life, and after He had emerged from the grave He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking things pertaining to the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul wrote how after Jesus was raised from death to life he was first seen of Cephas, then of the twelve, but was also seen by James, then the twelve disciples again, and ultimately by upwards of five hundred brethren at once before ascending to the right hand of His Father which was in heaven. There is something else that I find to be absolutely incredible concerning and surrounding the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, and that is a small piece of Scripture we find in the gospel of Matthew. If you begin reading with and from the fifty-first verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel you will find and read the following words: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:51-53). Upon reading the words which Matthew wrote in this particular passage of Scripture you will find that when Jesus cried out with a loud voice and gave up the ghost there was a great earthquake which took place, and in addition to that earthquake the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. What Matthew records, however, is actually quite astonishing and remarkable, for Matthew records how at and upon Jesus’ death the graves of many were opened, and how many bodies of the saints which slept arose, but the bodies of those saints whose graves had been opened did not come out of the graves until after His resurrection. How incredibly powerful it is that it was through Jesus’ death that the graves of countless saints were opened, but it wasn’t until His resurrection that the bodies of those saints could actually emerge from the grave. The graves of many during that day were opened, and they would remain open for three days, however, the bodies of the saints which had dwelt in those graves could not come forth until after Jesus’ resurrection.
Pause for a moment and consider the reality of what Matthew wrote in the twenty-seventh chapter of his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus, for I can’t help but wonder if anyone during that day witnessed the graves of many opening immediately following the death of Jesus upon the cross. Undoubtedly everyone in Jerusalem, and perhaps everyone in Judaea felt and witnessed and experienced the earthquake, but were any truly aware of what had taken place as a result of the earthquake—namely, that the graves of many were opened. What’s more, is that we must consider the fact that for three days those graves remained opened with the bodies of the saints still present within them. I can’t help but wonder what this scene must have looked like for any who walked by any number of these graves and saw them opened. We know that when Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus He called for the stone which was before the entrance to be rolled away. We know that when Jesus Himself was raised from death to life by the Spirit of Almighty God, the stone which was before His tomb also needed to be rolled away and removed. The reason I mention this, is because I can’t help but wonder if as a result of the great earthquake which struck the earth at the time of Jesus’ death the stones which were before the tombs of many were rolled away. We know and understand from the writing of Matthew that the graves of many were opened, and I can’t help but see this from both a physical and natural perspective, as well as a spiritual and supernatural perspective. On the physical and natural side we can certainly understand that the actual graves of many were opened after Christ’s death and the subsequent earthquake which accompanied it. Whether or not stones were rolled away from tombs, or stones were split in half, we aren’t at all certain about. When we consider death in our own culture and society we think of coffins which are prepared in which the body of the decedent individual would be placed before being lowered six feet into the ground. If we are to take Matthew’s words at face value and interpret them literally and factually—is it possible that the graves of those whose bodies were in the ground opened as well? Imagine the scene as it unfolded during that day when stones were rolled away from tombs, and when graves of countless individuals were opened.
What Matthew records in this passage of Scripture must be carefully considered, for it was Christ’s death with unlocked the graves of many during that day, yet as certainly as Christ’s death unlocked the graves of many during that day, His death would not bring forth and produce resurrection. Christ’s death presented and prepared the exit from the grave and from the tomb, yet that exit could not actually be experienced until He Himself was resurrected from the grave. WAITING TO RISE! THE GRAVES ARE OPEN AND WE ARE WAITING TO RISE! We dare not miss or lose sight of the significance of this reality, for even though Christ’s death might have opened the graves of many during that day, the bodies of those who were present within those graves remained within those graves until the appointed time when Christ Himself would be raised from death to life. I can’t imagine what Lazarus must have thought when he heard that Jesus had not only been crucified and killed, but also that His body had been buried in a borrowed tomb much like the tomb which he himself was buried in. What went through Lazarus’ mind when he considered that the body of the One who had raised Him from death to life was now itself buried in a tomb after having been crucified upon a cross. Consider for one moment that when the body of Christ lie within that tomb He Himself experienced death just like each and every individual had experienced since the day death entered into the world in the garden as a result of Adam and Eve’s transgression. Consider that at one point Christ’s body lie buried in the earth along with the bodies of all the saints which walked the earth prior to and up until that time. At one point in time, Christ’s body lie buried in the heart of the earth alongside the bodies of all those who had died and were themselves buried. BURIED WITH THE BRETHREN! Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality, for not only did Christ taste and experience death just men has experienced since the days of Adam and Eve, but Christ was also buried among His brethren in the earth. Consider that at one point the body of Christ was buried in the same earth where the bodies of Moses, Abraham, David, Isaac, Elisha, and the bodies of other saints were buried. At one point in time, the body of Christ was buried in the same earth as the bodies of all those who had gone before had been and were buried. What an incredibly powerful thought it is to consider the fact that not only did Christ taste and experience death the same as everyone else had and would experience, but Christ was also buried alongside His brethren.
With that being said, I can’t help but think about what it was like on the earth after Christ had been raised from death to life, for Luke records how He walked upon the earth for forty days prior to ascending to the right hand of His Father in heaven. As much as the concept of Christ being buried alongside and with His brethren in the earth is a powerful concept, so also is the concept of Christ walking upon the earth after His resurrection—especially when you consider the reality of what we read in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew records how the graves of many were opened at and upon the death of Christ, but also how the bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. As it wasn’t bad enough that prior to Jesus’ own resurrection Lazarus himself walked upon the earth—now after Christ’s resurrection from the dead we not only have Lazarus walking upon the earth, we not only have Christ Himself walking upon the earth, but we also find countless saints who came out of their graves and who went into the holy city and appeared unto many. I can’t imagine the utter and complete horror that must have been triggered in the spiritual and supernatural realm—not only when Christ emerged from the tomb, but also when Christ walked upon the earth for a period of forty days. I can’t help but see Christ’s walking upon the earth for those forty days as a show of His power unto the disciples, as well as to all those who were present during that time. With that being said, I can’t help but also see Christ’s walking upon the earth after His resurrection for a period of forty days as a serious taunt to the demonic realm, as not only did natural man see Christ alive and walking upon the earth after He had been crucified and buried in the tomb for three days, but so also did the demons, so also did the evil spirits, so also did principalities, so also did rulers of darkness, and so also did the prince of the power of the air who is known as Satan and the devil. I can’t help but find this to be the ultimate taunt, for it would have been one thing for Christ to raise from death to life and to emerge from the tomb and immediately ascend to the right hand of His Father in heaven. That, however, was not at all what happened, for for a period of forty days Christ Himself walked upon the earth very much alive. What’s more, is that not only did Christ Himself walk upon the earth for a period of forty days, but for a period of forty days Christ walked upon the earth alongside Lazarus who himself was raised from death to life, as well as those saints who themselves were buried in their own tombs and graves. It is true that Christ was the first fruits of resurrection, but even with that being said, there was a period of forty times when the earth was embraced by what I would call “the resurrected ones.”
WHEN EARTH IS EMBRACED BY THE RESURRECTED ONES! There was a popular movie which was released several years ago with Bruce Willis called The Sixth Sense. One of the main characters of this move was a young boy who had a very unique gift—he could literally see dead people. The entire movie was about this young boy who could see dead people and Bruce Willis’ character helping this young boy to cope with and deal with being able to see dead people. It wasn’t until the end of the movie, however, that we understand that the reason this young boy could talk with and see Bruce Willis’ character was because Bruce Willis’ character was dead the whole time. Now, you might be wondering why I chose to bring up this particular movie in light of everything I have written thus far, and the reason is actually quite simple. While this young boy was portrayed as being able to see dead people, on the day when Jesus Christ was raised from the grave, men and women didn’t see dead people, but rather “resurrected people.” I would adapt the famous line of this movie from “I see dead people,” to “I see resurrected people.” I can’t help but wonder if those whose graves were opened, and those whose bodies emerged from the graves led others to the site of their grave to show them the site of where they were once buried. Imagine what it could have been like to lead people to the site of your grave—leading people to the very place where you yourself had once been buried. LEADING OTHERS TO THE PLACE OF YOUR BURIAL! LEADING OTHERS TO THE PLACE OF YOUR GRAVE! There was a period of forty days when all of Jerusalem saw what should have been dead people walking upon the face of the earth alongside Christ and Lazarus. Lazarus was the first to have his tomb opened and his body be raised from death to life within the earth, but when Christ was raised from death to life it wasn’t just Christ’s body which walked upon the earth, but it was the bodies of countless saints which also walked upon the earth. What an absolutely tremendous and incredible concept it is to think how that for a period of forty days—not only did Lazarus walk the earth, not only did Christ walk the earth, but so also did many saints who were once dead, but were now very much alive.
With the reality of resurrection now presented and before our hearts and minds, I feel it necessary to turn and direct our attention to the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. If you turn and direct your attention to the second chapter of this particular epistle you will find the author writing concerning Christ, as well as concerning His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Consider if you will the words which are written in the second chapter of this epistles beginning to read with the eighth verse of the chapter: “But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold, I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:8-18).
The author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote concerning the tremendous authority and dominion which Christ was given after He had become obedient to the place of death, and after He had been raised from death to life, and after He had ascended to the right hand of His Father who was in heaven. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation we find that when Christ was resurrected from the grave He showed Himself alive for a period of forty days. During those forty days Christ showed Himself as having triumphed over, and having power over death itself. When He ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, however, He sat down in a place of divine authority which He could not experienced while walking upon the earth. It was true that while He was upon the earth—even though He had been raised from death to life—He could show Himself alive, and show Himself as having triumphed over death. What could not be shown or experienced, however, during that period of time was the dominion, the authority, the might, and the glory He would have when He ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. There was something about being seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven that took the reality and concept of resurrection to an entirely new and different level. In all reality, I am convinced the ascension takes resurrection to a completely different level, for ascension—that being seated in heavenly places—is the ultimate manifestation and expression within our lives after having been resurrected. I would like to be both bold and brazen right now and emphatically declare that while resurrection is absolutely necessary—it is not enough. What’s more, is that regardless of how necessary resurrection truly is within our lives, resurrection is not the ultimate goal and end game. It wasn’t enough for Christ to be raised from death to life, for Christ also needed to ascend to the right hand of the Father and be seated together with the Father in heavenly places. Please catch and lay hold of this, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous reality of that which the apostle Paul was writing unto the Ephesian congregation of saints.
In the first chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation the apostle Paul writes how Christ was raised from death to life, and how Christ was set down at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. That place at the right hand of the Father which was in heavenly places was far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. What’s so incredibly interesting is what we find and read in the second chapter of this particular epistle is that whereas in the first chapter we read of Christ being raised from death to life and seated in heavenly places at the right hand of the Father—in the second chapter we read how we ourselves have been raised up together from death to life, and have been made to sit down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is absolutely crucial and vital that we recognize and understand this reality, for even within our own lives we must know and understand that resurrection is not enough. It is absolutely wonderful that we are raised up together with Christ, but as surely and as certainly as we have been raised up together with Christ, so also must we be seated together with Christ in heavenly places. I am convinced that it is only to the degree and measure that we are seated together with Christ in heavenly places that we can truly experience the same dominion, the same authority, the same power, the same might as Christ experienced when He Himself was set down at the right hand of His Father in heavenly places. The apostle Paul wrote about our being crucified with Christ and about being buried together with Him in baptism, but the apostle Paul goes on to write about our being raised up together with Him—both a resurrection which we experience and enjoy now while we are upon the earth, as well as a resurrection we have yet to experience until the day the trumpet sounds. With that being said, the apostle Paul also writes about an additional reality and experience which we partake of—namely, being seated together with Christ in heavenly places. This concept of being seated together with Christ in heavenly places is quite remarkable and astounding when you consider it, for just as Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and sat down at the right hand in heavenly places, so also have we ourselves been called to ascend to heavenly places. The very fact that we have been called to sit together with Christ in heavenly places suggests that the same reality of ascension which Christ experienced and enjoyed when He was taken up before the eyes of all those who watched before being hidden by a cloud can and should be experienced by us as the saints of God.
The apostle Paul called the Ephesian congregation to remember how they were dead in trespasses and sins, and how that in times past they walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. The apostle Paul also goes on to write how we had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desire of the flesh and of the mind. What’s more, is that we were by nature the children of wrath as were so many others. But God, who was and still is rich in mercy—even when we were dead in sins—quickened us together with Christ, raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Did you know that it is the will of the Father in heaven to sit you down in a place of authority, dominion, strength, might and power? Did you know that when speaking of this place the apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit speaks of “being seated,” for there is no standing in heavenly places. When we read of heavenly places in and with Christ we read of being seated in such places, thus signifying and suggesting a certain place of rest in that place of dominion, authority, strength, might and power. I absolutely love that the apostle Paul writes about being seated together with Christ in heavenly places rather than standing, for it strongly suggests and speaks of a powerful place of rest in that place. Scripture doesn’t record how Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and stood at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places, but rather that He sat down. “God, who at Sunday times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3). This reality is ultimately and perhaps greatly expressed in the tenth chapter of the same New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, and is found beginning with the eleventh verse: “And ever priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstools. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14).
It is this ascension life, and this being seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus which we must wonderfully and powerful understand and recognize, for it is this place of ascension where we can not only truly experience true and complete rest, but also where we can truly experience the dominion, the authority, the might, the power and the strength which Christ experienced and has experienced since that moment He sat down at the right hand of the Father. It is in that place of sitting where Christ rested from His work which He accomplished and fulfilled upon the earth, but also where He ever lives to make intercession for the saints and body of believers. It is absolutely necessary that we be raised from death to life together with Christ Jesus, but it is also true that we experience this being seated together with Christ in heavenly places, for it is only to the degree and measure we are in this place we can truly experience rest and security. I would leave you with the words which the psalmist wrote in the ninety-first chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His fathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall by thy shield and buckler. Thou s halt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that fleeth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation” (Psalms 91:1-9),