How can I be seated with Christ in the heavenly places if I'm still sitting upon the earth?

Question
How can I be seated with Christ in the heavenly places if I'm still sitting upon the earth? Isn't this impossible? How can this be true? But the Bible is true. So, I don't understand. Ephesians 2:6.
Answer

Thanks for your question. The short answer is in the same way the Christian has already been "glorified" with Christ (Rom. 8:30) and "raised up" with him (Col. 3:1). Without being too technical let me explain.

To briefly understand the strength and totality of Paul's argument, let's look at all three texts:

Romans 8:30: And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified [edoxasen].

Ephesians 2:6: ...and raised us up [synegeiren] with him and seated us [synekathisen] with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:1: If then you have been raised [synegerthete] with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

What isn't clear in our English texts is made clearer in the Greek ones. The words "glorified" in Romans 8:30, "raised" and "seated" in Ephesians 2:6, and "raised" in Colossians 3:1 are each in the aorist tense and the indicative mood. This is important. Though I will explain further below, perhaps this brief chart describing the kind of the action and time element of the Greek tense names will help:

Tense Name
Kind of Action
Time Element
Indicative Mood
Present Progressive or Continuous
Present
Aorist Simple or Summary Occurrence
Past
Perfect Completed with Results
Past
with present results
Imperfect Progressive or Continuous
Past
Future Simple Occurrence
Future
Past Perfect Completed with Results
Past
Future Perfect Completed with Results
Future

Please look at the aorist tense - item 2 - in the table above. In these verses, the aorist tense means something that simply occurred. It's a statement of fact. Note that the verbs in question are also in the indicative mood. It's important to understand that the time element of the tense of a verb really only comes into effect when the verb is in the indicative mood. All three Pauline texts above (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1) are in the aorist tense and indicative mood. So, the time aspect does come into play in these verses - past time.

So, while that was a little technical, what does all this language stuff mean? What Paul is saying is that the events of being "glorified" (Rom. 8:30), "raised up" (Col. 3:1), and "seated" with Christ (Eph. 2:6) are absolutely certain for the believer! Why? Because from the standpoint of God's eternal decree, they have already happened - past time. As Isaiah 55:11 says, "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (cf. Num. 23:19; Isa. 40:8; 45:23; 46:10; Matt. 24:35). In other words, it's done; it is finished (cf. John 19:30).

All those "in Christ" are in an intimate, solemn, binding, and eternal covenant with Christ (Heb. 13:20-21). They are eternally in union and identified with him. When Christ died, we died (Rom. 6:3). When he was buried, we were buried (Rom. 6:4). When he was raised up, we were raised up (Rom. 6:4-5; Eph. 2:5). When he was glorified, raised, and seated his invisible church was also (Rom. 8:30; Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:6). So, believers are co-crucified, co-buried and co-resurrected with Christ (Rom. 6:3-5); co-quickened, co-raised, co-seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:5-6); and co-buried, co-raised, co-quickened with him (Col. 2:12-13; 3:1). No wonder Paul seems to already be raptured and in ecstasy when he pens Romans 8:31-39! So great a salvation (Heb. 2:3)!

As a husband and wife are united through marriage and become one (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:8), so the invisible church is united to Christ through the Spirit's baptism. They are "sealed" and given his "guarantee" (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30). Jesus is the head and we are his body (1 Cor. 6:15-19); Jesus is the husband and his church is his bride (Eph. 5:25-31); Christ is the firm foundation and we are the living stones joined to him (1 Pet. 2:4-5). The invisible church is in an intimate and eternal union with Christ; we are sealed for eternity "in him" (Eph. 1:7-14).

Scripture very clearly teaches that the invisible church is united to Christ in an intimate, unique and special way (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; Col. 1:18). They are "one" (John 17:20-23). So, all those God foreknew are necessarily "glorified" (Rom. 8:30), "raised up" (Col. 3:1), and "seated" (Eph. 2:6) with Christ in the heavenly places. As matter fact, all the verbs in Romans 8:30 - predestined, called, justified, glorified - are each in the aorist tense and indicative mood. They have been eternally decreed and in the heart of God they are already finished - past time. Through inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), Paul is so sure of what God's foreknowing, predestining, calling and justification entails that "glorification" (Rom. 8:30), being "raised up" (Col. 3:1), and "seated" with Christ (Eph. 2:6) are being spoken of as already happening - past tense! Why? Because the believer is one with the Lord, who has already risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of God!

This said, since the invisible church is already considered "glorified" (Rom. 8:30), "raised up" (Col. 3:1), and "seated" (Eph. 2:6) with Christ, then when did "the first resurrection" happen (Rev. 20:5-6)? Isn't the reason "the second death" has no power over those who have part in "the first resurrection" (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1) because they have already "passed from death to life," and that the life they now experience is eternal (John 5:24-25)? Eternal life for the believer has already begun (John 3:36; 10:28; 1 John 2:25; 5:11-12, 13).

So, the now, but not yet reality of the Christian's beimg seated with Christ and their very glorification impacts and helps our understanding of many other theological concepts; not only our understanding of our eternal sealing by the Holy Spirit, but our assurance in salvation, and the second coming as well. If you think about it just briefly, it also transforms the way we view the Lord's Supper as well.

Related Topics:

What is the Visible / Invisible Church?
The Old/New Testament Church
What is the Covenant of Grace?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).