In Eph. 1:10, the Greek text according to the Textus Receptus states,

Ιʹ εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ τὰ τε ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς TR, 1550

According to my understanding, the idea is that everything in heaven and upon earth is recapitulated (from the lemma ἀνακεφαλαιῶ), that is, brought under a single head, “in Christ.” Although it has a few meanings, I understand “in Christ” here to mean, “by being a Christian and being incorporated into the body of Christ.” That being said, I can understand what “everything that/everyone who is upon the earth” («τὰ πάντα...τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς») refers to, which would be Christians alive on earth (i.e., the Church militant).

However, to what or whom does the phrase “everything that/everyone who is in heaven” («τὰ πάντα...τὰ...ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς») refer? Do the other verses in the epistle shed any light on its meaning or referent?

2 Answers 2


The "in Christ" (ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ) reference certainly helps inform the meaning of "τὰ ... ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς," which the opening of the epistle makes clear the intent of that phrase (NKJV):

  • v.1 epistle addressed to the "faithful in Christ Jesus [ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ]"
  • v.3 those faithful Paul includes himself among them ("us") being blessed "in Christ [ἐν χριστῷ]."
  • v.4-5 those faithful having been placed "in Him [ἐν αὐτῷ, i.e. χριστῷ from v.3]," were chosen for a specific destiny of holiness and family position.
  • v.6 this holiness and family position is what made "us accepted in the Beloved [ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ]." This term ἠγαπημένῳ is challenging, as it is a bit ambiguous whether it is another name for Christ here (and so parallel the "in Christ" and "in Him" statements) or a singular reference to the group of "the faithful" who have been placed in Christ, who are noted as being recipients of God's love in their holy state in v.4. If it be deemed the latter is the case, then this verse is not an "in Christ" reference directly, but still refers to the group that is found "in Him," and does not compromise the point of the other ἐν χριστῷ references.
  • v.7 for those "in Him [ἐν ᾧ]" (more literally, "in Whom," referring back to Christ from v.3, 4 [and possibly 6]), redemption and forgiveness is possessed because of His gracious sacrifice, and so the riches abound from that.
  • v.9 God's plan was either "purposed in Himself" (NKJV) or "in Him" (NASB). The Greek in v.9 is ἐν αὐτῷ, which can be either reflexive ("in himself") or a 3rd person reference ("in him"). If the phrase is emphasizing the fact that the purposes were wholly for "His good pleasure," then "purposed in Himself" makes sense; on the other hand, the emphasis may be on His good pleasure being all these things "purposed in Him" to occur to the faithful in Him. If the latter, this is another ἐν χριστῷ reference, if the former, then not. Still, which way one takes it does not defeat the other ἐν χριστῷ references.
  • v.10 [Our verse in question] the τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ χριστῷ must at least include these "faithful" already noted. The TR and BYZ texts still have a final "in Him" (ἐν αὐτῷ) like the NA/UBS texts, it is just that for whatever reason, the human added versification splits it to the beginning of v.11 in the TR/BYZ text, still right before what is likely the opening of v.11.
  • v.11 "In Him [ἐν ᾧ; in Whom]" is the location of God's predestined purpose, the main verb being ἐκληρώθημεν "have obtained an inheritance" or "were also chosen" (NIV) or perhaps "have been appointed by lot." The idea of an appointment by "lot" is inherent in the term, but not necessarily a random drawing of lot, rather that one's lot is with Christ.
  • v.12 all those faithful are τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ χριστῷ (my translation: "the ones who hoped before in Christ"). Is this ἐν τῷ χριστῷ here a reference to the placement of already being in Christ (as so many other references in the passage) or a reference to the One in Whom the hope is placed? That is, are the faithful who are already in Christ hoping beforehand for the inheritance/appointment or are those who are entering into obtaining the inheritance/appointment placing hope in Christ before obtaining that inheritance/appointment? The προηλπικότας is a perfect participle, thus giving a time relation to the main verb in v.11, such that the hope is prior to the obtaining. And we find the next verse clarifies that the "in Christ" here is where the hope is placed (not where the faithful are yet residing):
  • v.13 "In Him [ἐν ᾧ; in Whom] you also [hoped beforehand], after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom [ἐν ᾧ] also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." The "you also" refers back to the previous verse's action of hoping beforehand, so it is elliptical and implied. This hope was a hope related to Him, a hope "in Him" (in what He has done), as it came from the hearing of the gospel, which brought faith and thus hope. That is, the aorist of the participles for hearing (ἀκούσαντες) and believing (πιστεύσαντες) shows a past tense (or at least contemporaneous relation) relation to the hope beforehand that they also had. And so upon the hearing and the believing, there is also hope in this inheritance/appointment, which comes with the sealing of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (v.14).

So the "faithful in Christ" are the topic of the passage, and they became "faithful" by first hearing, believing, and thus hoping in Christ's person and work for them.

This faithful group are thus placed "in Christ," and that position does not change nor its planned inheritance. So now, there is in Eph 3:14-15 a statement related directly to the identity of "τὰ ... ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς" of Eph 1:10:

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named

There is a family (πατριά), split between heaven and earth. That family, Paul had just spent much time in identifying from chapters 1 through 3:12. He specifically, for the Ephesian believers who were primarily Gentiles, focuses on how the Gentiles became included in the family with the Jews (Eph 2:11-3:13).

So without question, at the very least Eph 1:10b

τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ χριστῷ, τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

refers to this family of believers, Jew and Gentile, some of which are still alive, some of which are already in heaven.

The one question that remains is whether that group is all that τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ χριστῷ refers? Why does Paul use τὰ πάντα here, rather than "us" or "the faithful" or some other marker to show he means only all the believers "in Christ" in v.10? The τὰ πάντα is a neuter plural form, which takes on the gloss of "all things" (William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. πᾶς).

I think the answer is in the context. The "all things" refers to the faithful for sure, but also to all the "things" that the faithful shall be participating in; all the blessings, riches, etc. predestined for them. In the fullness of times, all these things that relate to being "in Him" will come to those who are "in Him," whether those people at that time are in heaven or on earth, whether those blessings and riches are heavenly things or future (new) earthly things.


The Mystery of his Will

To understand the next passage first we must understand what this is saying:

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. (Ephesians 1:9 NASB)

Attempting to save time, and though many references can point to this, the general idea is for God to receive all the glory and praise. This is the point and reason for the entire existence of his creation.

Here where it states "which He purposed in Him" declares that Jesus was sent to achieve the purpose of God receiving all the glory and the praise.

When it says, "according to His kind intention"
This is speaking of a deliverance of "the mystery of His will".

Therefore a restatement of this verse could say, "God will receive all glory and praise by the message delivered through Jesus Christ concerning the mystery of His will."

Now if his will was known by men, why was it then called a mystery?
Paul explains later in the epistle:

which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:5-6 NASB)

and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:9-10 NASB)

Yet why was this kept secret?

for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18 NASB)

Logic plainly tells us that earlier then the Spirit, access was denied to the Father.

Yet lets put it together and see if it makes sense
"God will receive all glory and praise by the message delivered through Jesus Christ concerning Jews and Gentiles as fellow heirs of the promise in Christ Jesus."

Does that by itself bring all glory and praise to God?

Therefore we can see that there's more to this message then simply Jews and Gentiles as heirs. Paul does explain "having access to the Spirit":

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18 NASB)

Wait! Paul just spoke about Jews and gentiles a joint heirs, yet he warns about the way the other Gentiles.

and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:23-24 NASB)

Lets study this to see the difference
He speaks of "futility of mind", "darkened understanding", and "exclusion from life", for reason of a hardened heart.

Yet as opposite he shows newness of life in the "spirit of the mind", a "likeness of God", "created in righteousness and holiness of the truth"

Therefore we can see that the change must occur "in the mind".

Another clue given to us about the access to the Spirit

Avoid grieving the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:30-31)

When speaking of the mind and emotions this is pointing us directly to psychology.

The Stages of Grief

  • Denial - Anger - Bargain - Depression - Acceptance

We can learn from this that Paul is asking us to cast away anger. James explains why:

for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:20 NASB)


Now denial that's the opposite of faith and forgiveness leads to acceptance.

In this we can see how acceptance provides the cure for the knowledge of function and error. Indeed its your acceptance that will make you well.

Well that's all fine and dandy why did I have to go through all of that to get to the answer of the question?

  • εἰς - (for)
  • οἰκονομίαν - (administration)
  • τοῦ - (of the)
  • πληρώματος - (fullness)
  • τῶν - (the)
  • καιρῶν - (of times)
  • ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι - (to head up)
  • τὰ - (the)
  • πάντα - (all things)
  • ἐν - (in)
  • τῷ - (the)
  • Χριστῷ - (Christ)
  • τὰ - (the)
  • τε - (and both)
  • ἐν - (in)
  • τοῖς - (the)
  • οὐρανοῖς - (universe)
  • καὶ - (and)
  • τὰ - (the)
  • ἐπὶ - (upon)
  • τῆς - (the)
  • γῆς - (Earth)

The Build

for administration of the fullness of the times to head up all the things in the Christ in both the Universe and upon the Earth.

The Answer

Realizing the importance of a persons mindset in comparison to acceptance of things as they exist at the now, goes to show the true meaning to the word ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι. Ever hear the expression "head up" comparing to "chin up" or "cheer up"?

Restatement of Build using Understanding

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him, for administration of the fullness of the times to cheer up all the things in the Christ in both the Universe and upon the Earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10 Decoded)

Bonus Info

R. Lenski denies that the root of 346 (anakephalaíomai) means "head" (kephalē), and prefers kephalaion ("sum"), Yet in either way it shows the building up of the Spirit(attitude) of a man to that of Holiness.

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