Summary: Seated in the heavenlies, head over all things, exercising dominion, filling all things for the church.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE ASCENSION OF JESUS
This single-sentence prayer is a follow-up to the single-sentence praise of Ephesians 1:3-14. God has blessed Paul’s readers with faith (Ephesians 1:15), so the Apostle ceases not to give thanks for them, and continues to pray for them (Ephesians 1:16). Paul prays that his readers would be able to grasp the full implication of their inheritance in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:17-18); and that they may tap into “the immeasurable greatness of His power towards us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19).
This “working of the might of God’s strength” (Ephesians 1:19) is demonstrated in Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and seating at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20). It is customary to reflect upon the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ in terms of the event: the cloud, the two angels in white, the promise of His return ‘in like manner’ (Acts 1:9-11). But Ephesians 1:20-23 points us towards the implications of the event.
1. Christ being seated at the right hand of God “in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 1:20) is replicated in our own spiritual experience. We are ‘quickened together with Christ’ (Ephesians 2:5), and ‘raised up together in Christ’ (Ephesians 2:6): but we are also ‘seated together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6). We are already citizens of heaven, and we should live accordingly (Philippians 3:17-21).
2. Furthermore, Christ is thus elevated in order to establish His reign (Ephesians 1:21). The Psalmist envisioned the enthroning of the Lord Jesus at the ‘right hand’ of the LORD God, ‘until His enemies are made His footstool’ (Psalm 110:1). He is set above every principality, and power, and authority, and lordship: and above every “named name” both now and hereafter (Ephesians 1:21).
Again, the inference for the Christian is not far to seek. Paul later exhorts us to ‘put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For’ (he says) ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual (powers) of wickedness in the heavenlies’ (Ephesians 6:11-12). From heaven, Christ rules over these, but there are still pockets of resistance which have not yet yielded to His authority (Ephesians 2:2).
3. As the man at God’s right hand, Jesus is also able to take up man’s primeval dominion over Creation (Ephesians 1:22; cf. Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8:6). This had been marred by the Fall. ‘For in that He put all things in subjection under him (man), He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him: but we see Jesus…’ (Hebrews 2:8-9).
4. Having established that Jesus is “head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22), we are now told that He is “given as head-over-all-things to the church, which is His body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). He who fills the church (Ephesians 1:23), is also the One who - as a result of His ascension - fills all things (Ephesians 4:10). The head of the church is already the head of the world, whether the world acknowledges Him or not!