Monday, January 30, 2012

Living from a Higher Realm

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Paul has already settled the issue of whether believers in Jesus the Messiah have been buried and raised with Him. Earlier, he affirmed that we have been “buried with Him in baptism” and likewise “raised with Him” through the faithful work of God (Colossians 2:12). Now Paul is building on the significance of that. So we can take the “if” here as “since.”

Since, then, those who believe in Jesus have been raised from the dead with Him, we are now to seek those things which are “above.” This is a reference to heaven, of course, but it in the way many people are accustomed to thinking about it — that is, as some place way far away, at the edge of the universe, perhaps, and off in the vagueness of the future. In that sort of view, heaven is mostly a destination and does not have much to do with earth, except that God or one of His angels pops in every now and then to work some little miracle. But that is not at all what Paul has in mind.

No, Paul conceives of heaven as a realm that is very close to us, a realm of which we are already a part. In Ephesians, he speaks of it as “the heavenlies.” In the heavenlies, we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). In the heavenlies, we have already been raised up with Jesus the Messiah and seated with Him at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6). In the heavenlies, we are part of the manifold wisdom of God being made known to the principalities and powers — the same powers that were disarmed by Jesus at the cross (Ephesians 3:10). It is not a distant realm but a higher one, in both position and priority.

This is now what we are to seek, the things that are of that realm. The Greek word for “seek” here is the same one used in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” There, Jesus was speaking of the kingdom; here, Peter is speaking of the King — Jesus. We are to seek those things which are above, where Jesus the Messiah is seated at the right hand of God. For Paul, this is enthronement. We can see this in his letter to the Jesus believers at Ephesus, where he speaks about the working of God’s mighty power,
which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
To seek the kingdom and the things that are above is not an act of curiosity or idle speculation. We seek them in order to find them, that we may know and benefit from them.

Paul adds this: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” This is to be our focus now. The lens through which we view everything. The perspective from which we think about and relate to everything. Because we are new creatures who are no longer under the authority of principalities and powers. We no longer have to look at things through the old lens of those broken powers. We can begin to see things as heaven sees them.

Seeking the things above is not about abandoning the earth but is for the sake of the earth. Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom of God to come and the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We are now to look at everything from the perspective of that higher realm so that it may become a reality on earth. Heaven is not our final destination, earth is. We have been raised with Jesus in the spiritual realm, but one day we will receive the resurrection of our physical bodies as well, just as Jesus’ own physical body was raised from the dead, and we shall dwell upon the earth. For heaven and earth will become one.

Heaven is not our final destination, it is our source. Right here, right now. We come from heaven, we live from heaven. We live on the earth but with the life of heaven at work in us. That is why we are to seek the things that of that realm, to set our thinking on how heaven operates. Because it corresponds with who we really are in Jesus and who He is in us. Should we not view things from the perspective of where we are now seated with Jesus? Then we will be able to manifest the reality of heaven on earth.

(See also, Heaven Now and Pursuing Heaven for the Sake of Earth, and my book, The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew.)

Focus Questions
  1. What is your conception of the realm of heaven?
  2. What is your conception of the relationship between heaven and earth?
  3. In what ways might the reality of heaven be made manifest on earth, that is, the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven?

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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