Seated Among the Celestials

by A.E. Knoch

THE exaltation of Christ is God's most notable exhibition of power (Eph.1:19-23). Let us remember that we are reminded of it in order to give us an intimation and an example of God's power on behalf of those who believe. If the Head of the body is exalted, then the members must be likewise. The power that raised Him has raised His members also. It is to this aspect of the present grace that we now address ourselves. As in the first chapter of this epistle, there are two classes here, you, the Uncircumcision, and we, the Circumcision, both of whom believe Paul's message and, because of the utmost grace which it displays, are united by its reception.

The long and involved sentence (Eph.2:1-7) which presents this truth has been a trial to translators. They usually insert hath he quickened (AV), or did he make alive (RV). This is quite correct, yet a true rendering of the rest of the sentence requires the repetition of these words in the fifth verse. It is better to leave it as it is in the original. The connective also is confused. It is simply the dative case, not in your (AV) or through your (RV) trespasses and sins, but to your offenses and sins. Both in and through suggest a period when each individual actually sins, whereas the passage deals with two classes in relation to sin in the abstract, whenever committed. As a matter of fact we were dead to the sins in the death of Christ, but not dead in or through them until after our birth.

It is true that Vaticanus has added the preposition in when dealing with the Circumcision, making them "dead in the offenses and the lusts" (Eph.2:5). As this reading is not well supported, and may easily have been added after the truth had been lost, we have decided that it also should read "to." The in should be omitted. It is not an individual death recurring each time a sinner receives the evangel, but a figure embracing all who are in the body of Christ. It took place concurrently with the fact of Christ's death and His vivification and rest at God's right hand. Death is a figure of oblivion. We were oblivious to our sins when Christ died and was roused and vivified and seated in the heavens.

To get the controlling thought of the passage, let us leave out the secondary clauses. "And you . . . we also [3]...God [4] . . .  makes . . . alive, together in Christ [5] . . . and rouses us together and seats us together among the celestials [6] . . . " It is, in fact, an expanded statement of the second item of the mystery--the joint body--and, by the repetition of the Greek sun together or joint, enlarges on the fact that Jew and gentile are united in death and vivification, and are seated together in Christ among the celestials.

In connection with the joint allotment, we were chosen in Christ before the disruption of the world to be holy and flawless in His sight (Eph.1:4). Our saintliness was ours in God's purpose long before we had sinned. So it is with this grace also. When Christ died, we died with Him. When He was roused and vivified, we were in Him, and we ascended and sat down among the celestials in Christ Jesus. Let us not blur this marvelous truth by imagining that all this occurs for each individual after becoming dead through sin, or in trespasses. Death is oblivion. We were dead to everything before we were born. All these high honors were ours before we could make or mar them. They are absolutely independent of our conduct.


"The love of Christ is constraining us, judging this, that if one died for the sake of all, consequently all died" (2 Cor.5: 14). It is impossible to view the death of Christ aright without coming to the conclusion that the One Who bore its bitterness was not receiving His own deserts, but suffered on behalf of others. In its effects, His death was not only for them, but was their death in relation to sin and to offense. In this reckoning there can be no discrimination between Jew and gentile, for death allows of no degrees. This is the sad yet solid basis on which our equality with the Circumcision rests. A dead Jew is no better than a dead gentile! His advantages disappear in death, yet all the more in His death, which ought to have repealed every promise or benefit ever conferred on the Circumcision.

Death is the great equalizer. The death of Christ, involving the death of all others, is the one plane on which the Circumcision can claim no preeminence. Yet it is not death in the absolute sense which is in view. It is death relative to sin, to offenses, to lust. These things, if allowed a place, would debar us from all blessing. It is marvelous to escape their consequences by faith in the blood of Christ. But it is ineffably more precious to realize that God thought of us before we were sinners and bestowed all these rich benefits and high honors upon us long before we proved our utter unworthiness of them by our life. The power, the wisdom, and the grace thus revealed are calculated to draw out our most heartfelt love and ardent adoration.

Once more the common version obscures this precious truth by translating pote, once, as in time past, and periepateesate, the indefinite walk, by the past walked. The Revisers corrected the first, but not the second. Dating from the death here spoken of, our walk was future, rather than past. With reference to the present it is past. So it is well expressed in the indefinite, even though it may seem odd in English. The only possible way to express the truth is to render it "in which you once walk," leaving the tense open. Such a slight inaccuracy in translation has robbed us of the grand truth of our death to sin in His death. It has substituted the popular but erroneous "dead in trespasses and sins" and applied it indiscriminately to all sinners, who are not in view in this connection at all.

We are now called upon to consider the conduct of those who form the body of Christ, before they believe. In keeping with the theme, the walk of the gentile is treated separately from that of the Jew. The nations are under the influence of the world and the evil spirit of the air; the Jew was influenced by the flesh and the comprehension. The possession of the divine oracles seems to have separated them from the world and shielded them from the spirit operating in the gentiles, yet they were just as stubborn and equally subject to the divine indignation. Their great advantages increased their responsibility rather than lessened their offense.


The present is an evil eon (Gal.1:4) because it coincides, in time, with a world, or kosmos, or system of things which is opposed to God and devoted to the deification of man. Both the eon and the world began after the deluge, and will end with the change in the constitution of earthly affairs brought about by the advent of the Son of Mankind. The two terms, eon and world, are not interchangeable, but they synchronize. The time occupied by each world is its eon, and corresponds in character with the kosmos with which it is associated. The point is that the members of Christ's body were all born at a time when the world was estranged from God, and they became a part of it and were in harmony with it. They were, by nature, introduced into the sphere which deserves, and will yet receive, the divine indignation. This is in contrast to God's previous purpose for them in Christ.

There is a sense in which this charge was not true of the Jew, for he moved in a modified "world," or order of things, in which Jehovah was at least superficially recognized. Instead, the charge against him is that he conducted himself in line with the flesh (Eph.2:3). The gentile was surrounded on all sides by that which made him an enemy of God; the Jew found the enmity in himself. Consequently, he also was "by nature," a child of Indignation. The difference between the two is one of externals. The system in which the Jew was introduced by birth was largely divine, and, had his flesh responded to it, be would not have entered into the same condemnation as the nations.

Let us avoid the false deduction that there is something radically wrong with human "nature" or instinct. If that were the charge, it certainly would be just as true of the gentile as of the Jew. The phrase "by nature" in this passage merely limits the thought to natural processes, apart from the operation of grace. Human instinct, or "nature," is not corrupt. It is still arranged against sin (Rom.1:26). By the correctness of their instinct it is actually possible for the Uncircumcision to exceed the Circumcision in fulfilling the law's demands (Rom.2:27). It is a law written on their hearts (Rom.2:14). Scripture knows nothing of an "old nature" or "new nature." Our natures do not make us children of wrath. The Jews were such, not because of their instinct, or nature, but by the natural process of birth and upbringing.

Let us not imagine that the nations are left to themselves. They, like the Jews, are under the influence of unseen spiritual powers. Jehovah made Himself known to Israel, and gave His word to guide, them. Their lack was mental. They did not understand Him. Their darkness was in themselves. The nations are also led, and pursue a path chosen for them by a higher power. Since Eve harkened to the serpent, until the Dragon is chained in the abyss for a thousand years, the real sovereign of the earth is the chief of the aerial jurisdiction, the spirit now operating in the sons of Stubbornness (Eph.2:2), His is the hand that reaches "through darkness, molding men." He who first estranged mankind from God has arrayed it against its Maker ever since. He is the great deceiver of the nations. One of the chief blessings of the thousand years is the withdrawal of his deceptive influence over humanity (Rev.20:3).

The hateful history of mankind may be summarized, in a sense, by that strange statement, "Satan entered into Judas" (Luke 22: 3). After that he became the medium of the Adversary and betrayed His Lord. So it is with the nations. They are unconsciously the puppets in the hands of unseen spirit powers, which are urging them on to oppose or counterfeit all that is of God and of His Christ. Latterly they have even succeeded in enlisting the nominal church in the schemes for human betterment and aggrandizement, which God plans to perform only through His Christ in the coming eon. Mankind is stubbornly against God and His word, not because of a defective or sinful "nature," but because of the superior spirit forces which control its actions.

Sometimes there is actual "possession" or obsession by demons. These extreme cases serve to show what is true of all in a more moderate degree. The victim does not follow his own bent or volition, but is forced to act as the demon dictates. In ancient times the nations seem to have had a clearer consciousness of this, for they worshiped and served the demons, as the arbiters of their destiny. The apostle warned the Corinthians that "that which the nations are sacrificing they are sacrificing to demons and not to God" (1 Cor.10:20). With this agrees the psalmist, "They also sacrifice their sons and their daughters to demons" (Psa.106:37).

Our Lord connects the demons with the dominion of Satan (Matt.12:26). They are probably under his jurisdiction. There is no hint that they are heavenly beings, for they seem always associated with the earth. Their ascendency and possession of humanity will cease when the kingdom of God is established on the earth. When the sixth bowl is emptied, demon spirits are sent out to mobilize the kings of the whole inhabited earth for the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev.16:13,14). As a result the next bowl is poured out on the air, and great Babylon is overthrown, to become the dwelling place of demons and a jail of every unclean spirit. Thus the air is cleared of the unclean spirits which have mobilized mankind against God from the beginning (Rev.18:2).

The various divinities of ancient and modem times are too often dismissed as mere figments of a vivid imagination. Yet Paul assures us that there are many gods, though, for us, there is only One. The spirits of the air are real beings, into whose charge Satan has put the details of human affairs. God's messengers will not accept divine worship (Rev.22:8), but these demons crave the worship of their dupes. They can perform real miracles, as is evident from the power of Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses. We are distinctly told that they will do so in the future, to induce earth's kings to mobilize at Armageddon. To most of mankind the supernatural is a synonym for the divine. Hitherto these spirits have been accorded the worship of the greater part of the race. The goal to be gained is to bring all to the worship of the dragon, their chief.

The fact that the Jews, as well as the gentiles, are children of Indignation is fully sustained and exemplified by the fearful judgments of the Revelation. The few who are faithful are shielded from God's wrath, but the apostates of the nation are overtaken by judgments more terrible than those which visit God's displeasure on the nations. Thus, once again, we have the Circumcision leveled with the Uncircumcision. They are both sunk in sin. God's purpose operated on their behalf when they were dead to these sins. Salvation is not an afterthought with God. He plans to save, and uses sin to make it possible. We were dead to sin before we become dead in it or through it. This is God-like and grand. It is a fitting foundation for the gracious structure which is built upon it.

In tremendous contrast to the conduct of the members of His body is the career of Christ Himself. He came into this sinful eon but was not carried along by its current. He met the chief of the aerial jurisdiction, who appealed to His flesh, but failed to swerve Him from His fealty to God. Far more than this, on Golgotha He was made sin in order that we may become God's righteousness in Him. He brought God, as it were, under such heavy obligations, He has enriched Him with such a vast store of glorious wealth, that God is engaged to recompense Him for His work. His deserts are high, yet not higher than His rich reward.

God rouses Him from the dead. He gives Him immortality. He seats Him at His right hand among the heavenly hosts. Glorious to relate, the Jew or gentile whose faith lays him low with Him in death, were also roused and vivified and seated together with Him. This is the fullest expression of God's rich mercy, the supreme revelation of His vast love! (Eph.2:4,5).

It is not merely together with Christ, however. It is the gentile together, conjointly, with the Jew. The mother of Zebedee's children could form no greater wish than that her two sons might sit one on His right, the other on His left, in His kingdom. He could not promise that. But suppose this, the highest earthly honor, were given to a gentile cur! How excessive were such grace! Even as the heavens are higher than the earth, so also is His heavenly throne exalted above His earthly sovereignty. And this, the loftiest place in all the universe, is reserved for an election out of the nations as well as a remnant out of Israel! Surely they will have the honor of His right and we shall revel in a place subordinate at His left! Not so! We are peers in these celestial dignities! We are not merely members of His body. We are fellow members. It is a joint body. This is the secret! This is the truth that God concealed from previous generations! As members of the joint body of Christ, the nations are of equal rank with those out of Israel who are chosen for this high honor.

Leveled in the dust of death, the physical differences which divided us have passed away. This exaltation is an exclusively spiritual grace. The flesh has no place in it at all. We are not members of "the body of Jesus." He has a glorious physical frame. He has flesh and bones as real as our own. But we are in Him only in His official role, as God's Anointed, the Messiah, Christ. We are members of the joint body of Christ. We cannot claim kinship to Him, like Israel. We are joined by the one spirit, which is our common life.

Let us note that the secret here revealed is not "Christ Mystical," by which is meant the figurative body of Christ. That had been made known years before to the Corinthians (1 Cor.12) and to the Romans (Rom.12:5). These earlier uses of the figure of a body were by no means intended to bring out the heavenly equality of the nations. The figure was confined to the spiritual relations of individual saints to one another in their behavior down here on earth. That body is not a joint body. Christ is not seen as its Head. This is the same figure--a human body--but it is now applied to the relationship of the two great classes, Jew and gentile, and makes Christ the Head. The same Christ, the same apostle, the same saints, the same body, but the relationship of each is rearranged to reveal the secret hitherto unknown.


The parenthetic ejaculation of the apostle, "you are saved for grace!" is one of those high pinnacles of faith that few ascend. Our translators, in rendering it "by grace," have not reached any higher than that elevated peak in the Roman epistle. Were it in the text, we would gladly expatiate on the marvels of such a salvation. "Therefore it is of faith, that it may accord with grace" (Rom.4:16) deserves a sermon by itself. But we must not allow it to rob us of this far greater grace, which is much more in keeping with the transcendent nature of the context. Literally, we read that it is to grace. Salvation by grace is past. Salvation to grace is future. There are glories on before which are ours as freely and gratuitously as the gift of life when we believed.

There are many who wish to work for salvation. They cannot have it on such terms. Many who have it by grace, through faith, imagine that all further blessing must be earned by their own efforts. There will be a reward for faithful service, but this could never include the supernal glories which are in store for us. These are the common lot of all who are members of His body, not because of their attainment, but because God's love gives it to them before they had any deserts, either good or bad, and apart from their faithfulness or service.

It will help us to realize the gracious character of God's dealings with us if we forget ourselves for the moment and consider one of His motives in this lavish outpouring of His favor. The end and aim of all things is the revelation of God. In order to display His attributes He first allows mankind to discover its weakness and folly and hate in the past and present eons. Then He intervenes, and in the coming eon He discloses His power and wisdom and love in His mercy to Israel and to the nations. The fruitful earth, with curse restrained, will teem with plenty. What an exhibition to show what He can do! Yet in that day, and in the still more glorious eon when a new creation reveals His heart in far fuller measure, what will be His most prized gem of grace? Will He point us to these scenes to learn the power of His love? Not so. He points us not to them. He points them to us!


The on-coming eons will be freighted with blessing, yet they will look to us to learn the transcendent riches of His grace. Such a redundant wealth of favor is not an outgrowth of the grace that has saved us. It does not spring from our efforts. It is not a reward for our faithfulness. It is naught of ours. It is God's ablation, not of works, lest any one should be boasting (Eph.2: 9).

It is precious to ponder the goings of grace. Full of comfort is the fact that righteousness flows from faith, apart from works. Moreover, where sin abounds, grace superexceeds. Grace reigns! For us there is no condemnation. Being justified, we shall be saved from future indignation. Whether watching or drowsy, we shall live together with Christ when He comes. All these footprints of grace are good--far better than we know. Yet they are only the symptoms and beginnings of the amazing grace which the future shall unfold. All of these leave us naught to boast of. And so shall be the future favor. It is God's oblation. He alone will be able to boast.

The use of the word dooron, oblation, commonly confused with a simple gift, is a most exquisite and appropriate touch of the Divine Author. It is a special gift offered to win another's favor. It is the equivalent of the Hebrew corban (Mark 7:11). This is the approach offering, or oblation, of Leviticus 1:2. It was not concerned with sin, but was intended as a present with which those who approached the Divine Majesty sought His favor. This is the term applied to the gifts of the wise men (Matt.2: 11). Is it not astounding to discover that, far from God's favor depending on our oblations, He has turned the tables, and makes that very favor His oblation by which He wins our regard! This, we submit, is grace beyond our fathoming.


To everyone who knows a little of the plague of his own heart, and has a hint of the impotence of his own hands, there is intense satisfaction and exultation in the contemplation of ourselves as His achievement. We do not feel worthy of taking His name upon ourselves, and consider our own efforts at self- improvement so far from our ideal that the less attention drawn to us the better. But this is not our permanent condition! It is the best preparation for that future day when God Himself will be proud to own us as His handiwork, the highest specimens of His skill.

We have been created for good works, which God makes ready beforehand in order that we should be walking in them (Eph.2:10). Our desire to render acceptable service shall be gratified. It may not be fulfilled on earth, for this is not the normal sphere of our activities. What good deeds are these for which we have been created? What employ will be ours as the glory laden eons roll their bounty to the feet of God? How strange that we, who look to spend the eons with our Lord, should have so little knowledge of our future work! All we need know is what is His employ. If we learn this, then we have the knowledge that we seek. So intimately are we one with Christ that His official duties are ours as well. An unselfish interest in His work and exaltation is enough to stir our hearts to study this. But when we see that He is not alone in all He does, that we share in His activities, how much the more should we search the future glories that are His!

This is the alchemy that transforms the dull and heavy page of prophecy into a program of intense delight, a bulletin of future bliss. More blessed is the blesser than the blessed. So, if we read of blessing that is not for us, we share the happier portion of the blesser. Not only is the future fully known to God, but every detail has been prepared and arranged by Him to fulfill the purpose of the eons. Our every step is chosen for us as for a child who follows in his father's footsteps across a muddy street. We do not need to scheme and plan to improve the condition of mankind. Our Head has done all this in His own inimitable way, and He, unlike poor creatures such as we, can carry out His plan. He will not waste His efforts now, but do it in its proper time, through the instruments He has chosen and fitted for the task.

We do not need to scheme and plan our own work for Him, as though we were indeed "workers together with God," as the common version mistranslates. We are not fellow workmen by any means. He is our Master. We work for Him. He lays out the task we are to do. Our wisdom lies in conforming to His plan, in seeking light from Him at every step, in order to achieve the consummation of His purpose. Let us exult that He has prepared our good works for us and created us in Christ Jesus so that we are competent to perform them.

Thus closes the divine discussion of the second item of the secret. Jews and gentiles had already been closely associated by Paul's evangel. They were members of the body of Christ. But now that Israel as a nation is temporarily repudiated, all blessing is based on spirit and transferred to celestial realms. This relieves the Circumcision believers of their preeminence, based on flesh, and puts all the members of the body on the same plane of transcendent grace. There is no figure in nature to illustrate this. The members of the human body are variously esteemed. Some are far more honorable than others. So a new figure must be invented to adequately set forth this most glorious grace. It is called a joint body, in which each member is equally and preeminently exalted, in order to display the transcendent riches of God's grace.

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