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‘Heavenly places’ occurs 4 times in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The Greek word translated ‘in heavenly places’ is ‘ep-ouranios’. It is translated in the King James Version as ‘heavenly’ 16 times; ‘celestial’ 2 times; ‘in heaven’ once; ‘high’ once.

‘Ouranios’ comes from ‘ouranos’ which is translated in the King James Authorised Version as ‘heaven’ 268 times; ‘air’ 10 times; ‘sky’ 5 times.

From this we see that ‘in heavenly places’ is not restricted literally to ‘in heaven’ as being the abode of God where Christ sits at God’s right hand.

If we consider the verses individually:

  1. Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

    ‘Heavenly places in Christ’ here cannot refer literally to heaven because it is plain that Paul and the believers at Ephesus were blessed with spiritual blessings on the earth. It is better understood to mean that those who have believed and been baptised into Christ occupy an exalted position in the purpose of God.

    1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

    Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son

    Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    Ephesians 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

  2. 'Heavenly places’ here carries a literal meaning; for Christ sits at God’s right hand in heaven awaiting the day that God has appointed for his return.

    Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

    Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

    Acts 3:21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

    Acts 17:31 Because he (God) hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

  3. It also has a figurative meaning; for God has given all power in heaven and earth to his son.

    Ephesians 1:21 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:

    Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

    Philippians 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

  4. Christ has been exalted above all (excepting the Father).

    1 Corinthians 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

  5. ‘Heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ is again referring to the exalted position of the believers in the purpose of God. They are not literally sitting in heaven.

    Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

    Ephesians 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known (NKJV made known) by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    Here the ‘heavenly places’ refers to the governments. From Ephesians 1:21 we understand that the principalities and powers, are those in the heavenly places (authorities) of this world and the world to come.

    Ephesians 1:21 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

  6. The world to come is not in heaven. The kingdom of God (or heaven) will be established on the earth. The true church is to bear witness of the manifold wisdom of God before the kings and rulers of this world with limited success.

    Luke 21:12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. 13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony. 14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

    Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high (‘ep-ouranios’) places.

    There is no ‘spiritual wickedness’ in the literal heaven, only in the authorities of this world.

  7. In the world to come; in the kingdom of God which Christ will establish on the earth at his return; the same church, raised to the divine nature, will teach the manifold wisdom of God with authority to the mortal rulers in the earth.

    Luke 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

    Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

    2 Timothy 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him...

    Revelation 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

    Micah 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

I hope you have found this helpful.

May God bless you,