Summary: We have a heritage granted to us by the Father when He adopted us as sons and daughters through Jesus. Now it is our responsibilty to continue that heritage.
The Coming Ages
As dads, we often say that we are doing things now for the good they will bring in the future. If you turn your young one over your knee, you say “I’m doing this for your own good”. When we teach our kids to save, we want them to be good stewards of what God gives, and teach them what they need to know for the future, the coming ages.
I think we’re kind of conditioned so that when we see the words “coming ages” in scripture, we automatically think of heaven. After all, we’re familiar with the Patriarchal age, the Mosaic age, the age between the testaments, the Church age and other ages that scholars over the years have assigned to history. And we all know that the age to come is the one that follows the second coming, when judgment occurs and we spend eternity with the Father in heaven.
But this is different.
What are the coming ages? And what is it that God wants to show us in them? Is Paul referring to heaven, or something else? Let’s take a few minutes to examine this passage, and see what Paul may have meant when he said these things.
First, verse four starts with the word, “but”. “4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy… ”
Many, many times in my life I’ve heard people say, “I can’t come to God right now, because my life is a mess”. Paul starts this great passage on the grace and mercy of our loving Father by telling us just how awful we are without Him.
Paul doesn’t attribute this state to anything in particular; no specific sin is included. Paul simply states that we are dead in sin because of the absence of God. No matter how we might be able to straighten up, if we’re without God, we’re dead in sin.
Take another look at those first three verses:
1. “Dead in transgressions and sins”
2. “Followed the ways of the world”
3. “and the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Satan)
4. “following the sinful nature”
5. “all of us”
Nothing in these verses refers to specific sins. The point in these three verses is what “all of us” were following. If you’re following anything other than the one true God, then you’re dead. So no matter what condition your life is in; even if its appearance is good, who are you following?
So even though we may have once been children of wrath, God, who is rich in mercy, and because of His great love for us:
• Verse 5, ASV: “even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)”
• NKJV: “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
• NIV: “made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Even though we were children of wrath, or in other words our heritage was wrath; even though we followed the prince of the power of the air, God made us alive “together with Christ”. The NIV misses the point here just a bit. What it says is true, that God made us alive in Christ, but that’s not the whole point. This is an allusion to Ephesians 1:5, in which we are adopted sons, and verse 14 which describes us a heirs; we were children of wrath but now, by the grace and mercy and great love of the Father we have a new heritage, a new father who has replaced wrath with love.
Verse 6 then takes on a new perspective when we look at the new Father we have. This phrase “raised us up” now takes on three different applications: first, it refers to the resurrection; we are raised up with Christ; second it refers to being raised up to sit next to Christ in the heavenly places; third, it refers to being raised up as a father raises up his children. We have been raised up to a new life by the resurrection, raised up to sit in a new dwelling place by virtue of a new father (after all, when you’re adopted you don’t stay in the old house), raised up as a brother of the king; following Him instead of being a child of wrath and following that parent, the prince of the powers of the air.
Do you see how this is establishing the new heritage we have in Christ? We have new relationships because our new Father has adopted us away from that old parent because of His great love mercy and grace for us.