F.B. Meyer, who was a contemporary of Moody, a Baptist, once wrote, “The nearer the saint comes to the perfect life, the farther he feels from it. It is only when we have climbed the foothills that we realize how lofty the mountain summits are. But there is no need for discouragement. We have eternity before us, the expanding landscape of truth is our inspiration, and the loving Spirit of God bears us upward on eagle’s wings. Our Savior had a distinct purpose in view when He apprehended us. Its full scope was only known to Him; let us strive that we may not fail to realize His ideal. We can do this best by forgetting past failures, past sins, and past successes, and pressing on toward the goal…. We are citizens of the skies, who come forth to spend a few hours each day on earth. This is our inn, yonder is our true home. Thence Jesus will come to complete the work of salvation by giving us a body like His own.”
I love that expression, “We are citizens of the skies,” although I’d rephrase it to Citizens of the Heavens. Paul would say in Phil. 3:20, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Just as Scripture is His Heavenly Word to us, our conversations, our dialogue about spiritual matters based on His Word, is a heavenly dialogue because we are already Citizens of the Heavens.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Heaven
We know from 2 Cor. 12:2 there are three heavens. The first Heaven is the atmosphere above ground until it reaches the universe, which is the 2nd Heaven.
We know from Isaiah 40 that He spreadeth out the heavens as a tent to dwell in and God created the universe as a tent for Himself to dwell in.
In Genesis 28:12-17, and the story of Jacob’s Ladder, Jacob came to understand that the land he was on was the very land God had established for His own residence. He said, “this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
In Psalm 132:13-14, David writes of how God is going to dwell and live in Zion. “For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
And of course, Rev. 21, speaks at great length about the new heaven and new earth and the arrival of New Jerusalem from Heaven where the Lord will abide forever.
All of creation, the earth, the universe, Heaven, wasn’t just created for us but for Himself as well as a home to live in. When Christ reclaims the Earth from Satan, this Earth will be His home. Christ will spend all eternity in New Jerusalem. God wants to spend all eternity inside His creation with His creation. When you look around at this amazing Earth, this will be God’s eternal home designed for Him to dwell with His people on the Earth and us seated in Heavenly places. God is the master artist wanting to live inside His own artwork with His own creation.
I love this expression: He stretcheth out the Heavens as a curtain. That is such an amazing illustration of His infinite power. Stretching out the universe was as easy to Him as us taking a crumpled fabric and stretching it out so there are no wrinkles. But it’s stretcheth with an -eth at the end. Meaning it’s a continual state of stretching. He didn’t simply stretch out the heavens once but He keeps the heavens stretched out by His power. This may be a reason why the universe is so vast because it points to the vastness of His power because He keeps all the heavens continually stretched out by His power, which is a power beyond all comprehension greater than the size of the entire universe and all power in it.
Who can measure power that great? Who can compute it? Who can comprehend it? “By him all things consist” (Col. 1:17), who is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). He is so great that even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). What can be found in nature is the testimony of His existence, as well as His eternal wisdom and power, but to find His life we turn to His Word, the Word of Life (Phil. 2:16), which is capable of dividing asunder soul and spirit, which is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12), and which was once made flesh (John 1:14). His life is also found in His Spirit, who is the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2).
But I digress.
Of course, the 3rd Heaven is Heaven itself.
I’m sure most of our readers already know the verse about our seats in heavenly places. Eph. 2:6, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” But I’d like to look at Ephesians 1 instead.
Eph. 1:20, “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” So Christ’s throne at the right hand of the father is considered a heavenly place, but notice it’s heavenly places with an “s.” “In the heavenly places.” Either there are multiple heavenly places in Heaven or “heavenly places” is just a phrase that encompasses all three heavens of which Heaven itself is a part.
I’d suggest it means both.
In the OT, there are 5 verses that say “the heaven and the heaven of heavens.” Why does the Bible make the distinction between heaven and heaven of heavens?
Plus, there are 2 verses in the OT that say, plural, “heavens of heavens.” It may be that the third heaven is a heavenly place in and of itself, and that Heaven is so massive, beyond comprehension, that heaven has its own multiple heavenly places, and Christ is exalted above it all. The phrase “7th Heaven” isn’t Biblical but it’s possible.
Ephesians 4:8 and 10: “He ascended up on HIGH”, “the same also that ascended UP FAR ABOVE ALL HEAVENS.” That verse screams to me that there is more than the 3 heavens, that it’s possible that Heaven itself is so massive beyond comprehension that there could be multiple heavenly places in Heaven.
In Eph. 1:19 we read concerning the mighty power of God which He wrought in Christ “when He raised Him from the dead, and – what? – set Him at His own right hand in the HEAVENLIES FAR ABOVE ALL PRINCIPALITY, AND POWER, AND DOMINION, AND EVERY NAME THAT IS NAMED, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Christ isn’t sitting on the ground floor of Heaven. He is seated in the heights of Heaven itself, probably atop the highest of mountains in heaven, like the Mount of the Congregation, which is far above all the heavenly realms in heaven itself as well as all the first and second heavens, far above all principality and power and dominion. His exaltation is so high we cannot conceive how high it is. He is literally and figuratively seated above every power and every creature in Heaven and in Earth.
Reaching the doors of Heaven isn’t enough to find Christ.
You’d have to scale the heights of Heaven itself into the very heavenly places of heaven itself to find Christ in His seat of penultimate power above all things. Before Christ came down from Heaven He was in the form of God. Now in Heaven Christ is God in the form of man, exalted beyond comprehension at the right hand of the Father, where He is the Head of the Church, and we are to see Christ now as He is exalted far above all things. I don’t think we can comprehend just how exalted He truly is in the heights above the Heavens of Heavens.
Our seats are in heavenly places.
We know that the Lord’s throne now is in a heavenly place. So our seats may be in the third heaven.
Satan and his demons have various seats of power in the first heaven, which is also a heavenly place. So our seats may also be in the first heaven.
What about the second heaven? Will the body of Christ occupy any seats in outer space in the second heaven? Isa. 34:4, “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 the fig tree.” Remember in Isa. 40 how the Lord stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain? Well, Isaiah tells us here that during the tribulation, the Lord will roll the universe up as a scroll and it will all be gone.
So we may conclude from all of this that the seats the Body of Christ will occupy may very well be in the first heaven and the third heaven. Between the first heaven and the third heaven, there are enough seats to accommodate billions of saints.
Yet, what’s amazing to me is the great distance between the Earth and Heaven and yet, there’s also the nearness of God to us not only with how He sees us but also in our oneness with Him. On the Damascus road, the Lord was able to open Heaven to Paul, reveal His glory, and also speak to Paul as if He was standing right next to him despite such great distance between Heaven and Earth, which is amazing.
When you consider the totality of the age of grace, how many billions of saints will there be in the Body of Christ? They say there are 2.3 billion Christians on the Earth today. Let’s say for all the age of grace there are 10 billion saints in the Body of Christ. With so many saints with seats in Heavenly places, how close will we be literally to the Lord? How close will we be to Him when He reigns on the Earth for a thousand years?
Yet, we can learn something from Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus – that no matter where we’re seated in Heavenly places, no matter how many billions of saints and billions of seats there may be throughout the spiritual realm, we will always be near to the Lord. In the spiritual realm distance has no meaning whatsoever.
Where does Paul say we’ll be after we die? With the Lord forever. Paul said in Php_1:23 “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.”
We’re promised in 1 Thess. 4:17, that after the rapture, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” With the Lord forever. Does that mean we’ll be near Him when He relocates from Heaven to Earth? I think so. I think we’ll take over those seats in the first heaven now occupied by the demonic realm (Col. 1:16, 20).
The bigger point is this – The Lord has shown us from Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus that no matter where our seats may be in Heavenly places, there will always be a nearness to the Lord. If the Lord can talk to Paul from Heaven, then He can certainly talk to all of us wherever we are seated, and we’ll also be able to see Him wherever we are seated. In the spiritual realm, distance will have no meaning. In the eternal state when God will be all in all, we’ll be one with Him in a very literal sense, which also means that distance will have no meaning.
But I want to close with the thought about the Lord being exalted beyond all comprehension at the right hand of the Father, exalted far above all things, exalted above the very heights of Heaven itself. Just consider that we are already seated with Him. We are exalted with Him above the heights of Heaven, victorious with Him over sin and death, glorious with Him because of the riches of the grace of God the Father, reigning with Him, inheriting all things with Him, our destiny forever in the Heavens with Him because of His masterwork on the cross.
The moment we believed, we became Citizens of the Heavens, the accepted ones, the elect of God, beloved children of God the Father, who loves us as much as He loves His only begotten Son, who died for us, and so it’s only natural that we would, like Paul, aspire to apprehend Christ, to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. We were spiritually identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and we aspire to attain unto the resurrection of the dead. We live each day to experience the fullness of living His resurrection life as much as we can, in which we through the study of His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and constant communion with God through prayer, we are made able to ascend the very mountaintops of His grace, and see the breathtaking view of the brilliance of His eternal purpose in us, being filled with all the fullness of God Himself. We have but one life to live, and we look ever forward and ever upwards to the very mountaintops of His grace and beyond, to our seats in the Heavens, as Citizens of the Heavens, and we bring up with us as many as we can.
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Thank goodness I was told about you and your church on Twitter and I have been following. One of the things I have enjoyed about you Joel is your choice of authors and books you share from. I was saved in 1981 at one of the few Plymouth Brethren (gospel hall) assemblies left at the time. Vancouver, BC(Canada). I was able to assemble a library of authors from the older brethren, who also taught all us young people how to use a Strongs Concordance & study. (Showing my age here). Though many of these book authors moved on in their lives to other ways of meeting and many divisions happened (I moved into different church too)… I still marvel at the amazing writings and scriptural light that was given during that time. I still regularly read FB Meyer, CHM, Sir Robert Anderson, Robert Chapman, Bullinger, Stam, FC Jennings, FW Grant, Scofield, Chafer, JB Stoney, Charles Stanley (old one), W.EVine, C.A. Coates, Thomas Newberry etc… I loved Amy Carmichael, Fanny Crosby, Hannah Whitall Smith and others who wrote during those marvelous times. Again, thank you- I always look forward to your twitter posts & written words. I am far away in California where it is extremely difficult to find a church that rightly divides… God bless. Wendy (wejolyn on twitter)