And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Can you imagine trying to describe a beautiful sunset to someone born blind? That would be almost impossible, because there would be no common point of reference. In the same way, Paul probably struggled to express the truths mentioned in these verses, and we certainly have a hard time understanding them. They go far beyond our experience, and therefore our ability to comprehend. But let’s try anyway.
To read this verse, it sounds as if a believer was resurrected together with Jesus all those years ago and is now relaxing in heaven with Christ. What is he talking about? After all, we’re presently on earth in the twenty-first century! To understand, it helps to remember that God isn’t limited by time and space. I picture it as Him standing outside of time, observing the whole course of history at once. Therefore, He treats the future as if it has already happened, because He sees it at the same time as the present and the past.
Paul is saying that believers are so united with Christ that it’s as if they were with Jesus when He rose from the dead and are already with Him in heaven. Let’s look at both aspects in turn.
Thanks to the resurrection, a follower of Jesus receives new life. At present it’s in the spiritual sense, but some day it will also impact the physical body. As to the sitting in heaven, Paul is saying that believers are able to share in a limited way in Christ’s dignity and honor, so that even now they can get a foretaste of their future exaltation. We see how the past, present, and future are all rolled up into one.
There is one important condition, which Paul declares by using the term “in Christ.” This new life and future glorification come only from a relationship with Jesus.
Paul goes on to explain the purpose of salvation. The phrase “ages to come” refers to eternity. When time has ended, God will be able to pour out, without any barriers whatsoever, his grace and kindness on those who believed. They will be able to enjoy God completely, and He will be able to take delight in them. Remember that the Gospel is ultimately a love story. In our present world there are many obstacles that keep us from fully experiencing God’s love. In eternity, those hurdles will be gone, and the love will be able to flow unhindered.
Picture: Carol Schlorff