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Eph 1:3 (ESV) says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Eph 1:3 (NLT):

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Eph 1:3 (CSB):

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.

But what is this spiritual blessing? Yes, the blessing seems to be our inheritance by virtue of being united with Christ, but what is it? Also, is it a blessing that Christians can enjoy now or a future blessing?

Why is "heavenly places" plural and what does it refer to? Is the current Kingdom of God on earth a part of the "heavenly places"?

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Yet another case of Paul using ‘in him’. And in * this* lies the debate. Then add ‘in heavenly places’ and straight up many then relegate this to ‘the future when we are reunited with Christ. But the truth is we (that is, believers) already are reunited with Christ.

EPH 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

Here Christ has (already) blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Past tense. A ‘done deal’. The phrase “who hath blessed us” is in the aorist tense in the Greek; this means that there was a point in the past when all these blessings were obtained and given to us. Paul was describing what is already ours. These are not blessings to be sought after but rather blessings to be discovered and enjoyed.

The ‘key’ being - ‘discovered’. We need to ‘find’ these. And they will be in the word, specifically (but not exclusively) Paul’s letters. And then, after that, the unsaid ‘key’ being ‘by faith’. If you believe that these ‘blessings’ are ‘future’, then as your ‘faith’ is, so be it. And if you don’t accept that you are already ‘spiritually’ ‘in Him’ and already seated ‘with him’ in heavenly places, then the ‘future’ is the only possible location for these blessings.

But now let’s examine or rather prompt some thoughts for consideration.

Here is a partial list of some of the blessings that Paul mentioned in the first two chapters of this letter: We have been adopted as God’s children (Ephesians 1:5), we have redemption through Jesus’ blood and the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7), we have obtained an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11), have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), have been given the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20), have been made the one new man (Ephesians 2:15), have been made fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19), have become a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21) and a habitation of God (Ephesians 2:22).

So I this letter to the Ephesians church we already have much to ‘guide us’ into living in the fullness of these blessings.

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  • +1 well written answer; the interpretation sounds right. Thank you. Any clues about the plural form of "heavenly places" ? Jul 28 at 5:07
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The plural form here is common, going back to Genesis, where God created the "Heavens" and the earth (heavens being in dual form, so perhaps there were only two or perhaps the dual form was a proto-plural). Post Alexander's conquests, Jewish tradition, infused with the spirit of Hellenism, was obsessed with dissecting, classifying, analyzing, and categorizing everything from the various names and orders of Angels to the number of and kinds of Heavens.

Thus Paul does not say we are seated with God in Heaven, but in the "heavenlies" - eupouranios - here translated as "heavenly places", but "places" is not in the text, being added in English to supply a placeholder noun whereas the Greek only has a plural adjective (plural form of heavenly). Eupouranios appears five times in Ephesians.

One hypothesis is that this was originally a reference to the Heavenly bodies[1], that is, the stars, and thus they were plural. That is to say, the heavenly places were the positions where the stars were set - the heavenly arrangement. So the creation of the "heavens" and the earth might have come from the idea of the stars and the land, rather than the sky and the land.

If this is true, it might lend credence to the idea of gradations -- some sit in one kind of heavenly place while other sit in a different kind of heavenly place. This association of heaven/heavenly body/stars as a possible interpretation of "heavenly places" can be made in many places, but most clearly in the New Testament here:

1 Cor 15.40-4

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Particularly in Greek myth, there are many traditions of heroes being put into the sky as a constellation or a specific star, and this might be the imagery that's being used here to refer to our spiritual elevation.

The same word is translated as "high places" in Eph 6.12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [eupouranios].

Alternately, eupouranios even if it originally comes from the places of the stars, could just be the expression for "the place above, where the heavenly bodies are" and so might not carry the connotation of gradation. Thus we would all be sitting in the same place, but that place would be in the "realm" of the heavenly places. This interpretation is supported by Eph 1.20:

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places (eupouranios),

Thus the plurality could come from different degrees of glorification, or it could just be a linguistic artifact stemming from the idea of the place of elevation being the realm of the stars.

[1] BDAG gives a gloss for eupouranios of being in the sky or heavens as an astronomical phenomenon, celestial, heavenly, celestial bodies.

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...blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.

Typical to these promises is, "in Christ". When Christ was exalted to the heavens to be united with his God and Father after being resurrected, he shared in all that was God's. He did not have any of this before - he was made / appointed, as the heir to all God's possessions.

But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He (God) appointed heir of all things Heb 1:2

We are co-heirs with him-

And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. Rom 8:17

If we are heirs, we will inherit this at our transformation into spirit life. Following the pattern of Jesus - dying in the flesh - being raised with new spirit life 1 Pet 3:18

So the blessings are already ours - but yet to be inherited. They may be imparted in some small manner now as we already have the gift of God's spirit in us, but largely this is a yet future realisation.

Being 'heavenly' and 'spiritual', the blessings are not of this age or world and are set aside for the next age/life - it is hard for us to quantify what they may be, or even to imagine the life Jesus now has compared to his fleshly life before. Whatever he now has, we will also!

you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of the promise, 14which is a first installment of our inheritance. Eph 1:13

Clearly, if we are only given a promise of that which is much grander than what we presently enjoy, there is much more yet to experience - when the time has come. If that isn't enough to point to a time yet future,

...an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time... 1Pet 1:4

The promise from God is sure - as if it already is given - yet it is still a promise, a hope, a reservation for us, still a matter of faith - who has faith for what they already have?

The blessings of this life - forgiveness, faith, hope, peace, fellowship are for this age. To be compared with "spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" whatever they may be, is beyond our understanding.

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  • Thank you for answering. I'm trying to identify what kind of blessings these are, apart from simply "inheritance". Jul 28 at 2:49
  • Hmm, the Q was 'what does...' (not what are) so I answered from that aspect. Apart from generic glory, we are not told much - they are not of this world and so maybe not understandable/explainable.
    – steveowen
    Jul 28 at 3:03
  • Thanks for the update. Jul 28 at 3:10

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