On a number of occasions, I have surveyed people to find out their ideas about what happens in the spiritual realm – the world we cannot see. The realm of God, of demons and of angels.

I ask them, ‘How much of what happens in the spiritual world do you think impacts on your day-to-day living?’ The answers vary from ‘basically nothing’ to ‘a huge impact’. ‘Some days not much. Other days a lot.’

I also ask, ‘How much impact do you have in the spiritual world?’. Again, the replies range between ‘some’ and ‘a lot’.

My next question is, ‘What specifically do you do that impacts the spiritual world?’. The answers: ‘prayer’ or ‘how I live my life’.

My short survey certainly reveals a variety of ideas about what goes on in the spiritual world, how it impacts us and how we impact it. Lots of people have lots of different opinions based on what they have experienced and how they have interpreted those experiences.

But what does the Bible say about the spiritual realm? One book that says a lot on this subject is Ephesians. In Ephesians, Paul refers to the spiritual world as the ‘heavenly realms’.

I once read in the newspaper that an insurance survey revealed that one-third of all Britons believe that their houses are haunted, and a quarter are convinced that a poltergeist has moved their possessions. If they believe that, what do they believe they can do about it?

I’ve travelled to Vietnam, and you don’t have to convince the Vietnamese people that there is a spiritual realm.

I’ve spent time teaching the pastors there, based on what we read in the book of Ephesians. From that teaching, they told me they had learnt about the authority we as Christians have in the heavenly realms.

In New Testament times from what we know, the people of Ephesus were also very aware that there is a spiritual realm. Witchcraft was practised, there was a temple to the pagan goddess Artemis and the people witnessed demonic manifestations in others, as well as miraculous healings through Paul.

Paul didn’t have to convince the Ephesians of the existence of the unseen realms, but he did need to teach them the truth about what goes on there.

So, what does happen in the heavenly realms, in the world that we cannot touch, and we cannot see? Who is there? What do they do? What’s it got to do with me?

In the heavenly realms, we have every spiritual blessing. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’.

It’s also where Jesus is … ‘he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 1:20).

It’s where you and I are … ‘And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6).

If you are a Christian, you are already living in the heavenly realms. Not you will be, or could be, but ARE right now. It is a present reality.

And Ephesians is not the only place in the Bible where we are told that – examples include Luke 17:21 (‘The Kingdom of God is already among you’ – NLT).

If you never thought you could be in two places at once, think again. You’re reading this article and you’re sitting with Jesus in the heavenly realms.

The heavenly realms are also where rulers and authorities are. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10, ‘His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’.

What are those who are in the heavenly realms doing? Waging war against you and me.

In Ephesians 6 we read: ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).

But, critically, it’s not a battle between Jesus and the devil, with the result still undecided. Through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, he defeated the devil. ‘In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ’ (Colossians 2:15 – NLT).

The victory has been won. At the time that Jesus decides, there is no question that the devil and all other evil forces will end up in hell. Until that time, there is still a battle going on in the heavenly realms. Jesus isn’t fighting the devil and his forces. We are the ones in the battle.

And what we do as we live our day-to-day lives does have a huge spiritual impact, which in turn has an impact on our day-to-day lives. For example, did you know that making peace with someone who you are angry with makes an impact in the heavenly realms?

Paul tells the Ephesians, ‘And “don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you”. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil’ (Ephesians 4:26,27 – NLT). Dealing with anger has an impact on earth and in the heavenly realms. It stops the devil from getting a foothold in your life.

Accompanying this article are two depictions that attempt to answer the question, ‘What do the heavenly realms look like?’. One picture was first drawn on a whiteboard about 30 years ago by a friend of mine. The other was painted in the Middle Ages and appeared in a Bible in 1534.

My friend, Shannon, drew a model of what the heavenly realms look like. I found it very helpful in how all these truths about the heavenly realms fit together.

The Bible talks about three places, or dimensions:

  • Heaven – where God is
  • The Heavens – where angels and demons are
  • Earth – where we are.

Heaven is also referred to by Paul as the third heaven, while heaven and ‘the heavens’ are ‘the heavenly realms’.

Jesus came down from heaven to earth – at his baptism it says that the heavens were torn open; the Spirit came down like a dove, and the Father spoke. After his death on the cross, the Bible says, ‘that God raised him up and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come’ (Ephesians 1:20,21).

When Shannon first drew this model for me, I had never seen anything like it. Then I saw a picture that Lucas Cranach painted which features in the Luther Bible from 1534.

When we are born again into God’s family, we are also seated in the heavenly realms. So, my spirit is in the two places – here in me, and also with Jesus. Seated next to Jesus, we have his authority and power.

We see in the Bible that Jesus used his authority to access the power of God to nurture and protect the good and to stop and overrule the bad.

He overruled the agenda of the devil, including driving out demons; he overruled sickness and injury in bodies when he healed and raised people from the dead; he showed authority over nature when he turned water into wine, calmed the storm and fed 5,000 people; and he showed authority over the human agenda of people influenced by evil (for example, Luke 4:28–30).

Of course, one way in which we access Jesus’ authority and power is to pray for God to work through us and in the lives of others.

Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus at the start of his letter, that they would know three things: ‘I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you; the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints; and his incomparably great power for us who believe’ (Ephesians 1:18,19 – NIV).

The eyes of our heart to know the hope, riches and power that is ours. Sounds like good things to be familiar with, especially since they belong to you and me.

What would your life and my life look like if we really knew the hope, riches and power available to us? Can you imagine what God could do for us, in us and through us? It’s beyond our human comprehension.

As Paul concludes his prayer for the Ephesians, ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen’ (Ephesians 3:20,21).

Pastor Michael Dutschke serves with the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church Bridgewater in the Adelaide Hills. He also leads prophetic ministry workshops on the topic of ‘Power and Authority in the Heavenly Realms’.

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