God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and made Him head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph1:20-23)
So, writes Paul, Christ has been seated at the right hand of God, far above all rule, authority power and dominion – not only in the current age but in the one that shall succeed it. No surprise there – what is staggering and scarcely thought through by many, is the implication to the church’s destiny, both in view of what Paul is writing here and how she is described in Revelation. The apostle describes the church as “the body of Christ”, or on one occasion precisely in this context, simply as “Christ” (1Cor12:12). In Revelation the church is Christ’s corporate bride or “wife” (19:7 &21:9) whom Christ Himself informs us shall share His throne (3:21).
I am not primarily emphasizing these matters to glorify the church, though it is an inescapable fact that someone chosen to wed a king must attain glory, how much more the body of women and men chosen to act as consort to the King of Kings? Rather, my priority, as ever, is to magnify the scope of God’s benign providence. For whilst it must always be the case that Christ presides over His Church, that is not the point Paul is making in these verses. Rather, the apostle is indicating that Christ is Head over all things for or to the Church (v22). ἐκκλησίᾳ (church) is dative not genitive. And it is what is known as a dative of advantage; the rule and authority Paul is describing Christ as having is not so much over the church but is on her behalf.
In view of Who Christ is and What He is – the One by Whom and for Whom all things were created, He would scarcely need the help of anyone to preside over His creation. But He, or rather His Father, has determined that His beloved Son should not reign alone. God has given some of His own children over to Christ (Jn17:6 – note wording very carefully). The Father has chosen a bride for His Son, and Paul here depicts her as His body, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”(v23).
So, in terms of the providential context, it should be obvious that Christ with His church/bride/body must have something and someone to rule over in the age to come – they cannot “all be in hell” as I once believed as an amillennialistic Evangelical. [I have been systematically adducing from Scripture that there are not two but three soteriological categories – the most recent post in the context of the age to come is HERE.] As for subsequent ages: “Things that the eye has not seen nor the ear heard nor have not entered the human heart have been prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor2:9). But what can be deduced from what Scripture has already disclosed is that the heavens and the earth shall one day be filled with the glory of God – and that Christ with His “bride” shall take precedence within the arrangements. For “those who are to receive royal authority are the saints of the Most High, and their kingship will be for ever and ever and ever” (Dan7:18). Head and body like Husband and wife cannot be separated as long as they both shall live – likewise their domain.
Such munificent providence cannot be asserted from these observations alone – the matter needs to be determined from Scripture as a whole. I believe this to have been achieved in “The Little Book of Providence”. Such writing was not intended (or in my case barely capable) of being an academic work. Whilst scholarship is undoubtedly useful in determining biblical truth, theological insight pertains as much to the heart as it does to the brain. Hence Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians just a few verses earlier and precisely in this context (previous post): “that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened to understand the nature of the hope of God’s calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (v18).
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