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Ephesians: The Epistle of Ascension

Paul's epistle to the Ephesians is, in some ways, a continuation of his epistle to the Romans. It enlarges upon Romans 1-8 in regard to the believer's position and right standing with God. We are "seated" with Christ, so we must "walk" according to our calling, and "stand" in the full armor of God against those who would oppose us.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 4

Our Inheritance

In Eph. 1:10, Paul writes about “things in the heavens and things on earth.” This is a short version of that which he often speaks more fully elsewhere. For example, Col. 1:20 speaks of the reconciliation of all creation, “whether things on earth or things in heaven.” In fact, this expression is Paul’s definition of ta panta, “all things,” or, more literally, “The All.”

Paul was referring to his favorite verse, Psalm 8:6, “You have put all things under his feet,” a reference to Gen. 1:26, “Let Us make man… and let them rule… over all the earth.” We will say more about this when we comment on Eph. 1:22.

The Inheritance

Eph. 1:10-12 says,

10 … In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

Note first that we were “predestined” to receive this inheritance. Paul firmly fixes predestination to the sovereign will of God, for He “works all things after the counsel of His will.” In other words, we cannot attribute our inheritance to the counsel of our own will. This is rooted in the New Covenant, not the Old.

The “end” or result of God’s will and purpose is that “we who were the first to hope in Christ” are to receive the glory of the inheritance promised to Adam. Yet Paul’s use of the word “first” shows that we are not the only ones who will have “hope in Christ.” More will come to the knowledge of the truth later. In fact, it is likely that Paul here was speaking of the creation itself, for we read in Rom. 8:20-23,

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God… 23 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?

Biblical “hope” is not mere wishful thinking. Creation has “hope” because of the promise of God and His purpose from the beginning, which is to express the glory of His Kingdom in the physical creation. Though Adam failed through sin, the Last Adam (Christ) succeeded through His act of righteousness (1 Cor. 15:45), thereby securing the inheritance for Himself and for all who come into unity with Him.

Creation’s hope is that it will be saved. Creation awaits the manifestation of the sons of God, who are the first fruits (after Christ Himself), proving and promising salvation to The All.

Christ, being “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) and “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18), indicates that all creation too will be delivered from death. Christ, being the eldest Son, is the Head of this Universal Empire. Those “who were the first to hope in Christ” are predestined to occupy the next highest position of authority under Him. The order in which men are raised from the dead determines the level of their authority.

The last group being delivered from “its slavery to corruption” at the Creation Jubilee will be incorporated into the Universal Empire as citizens having no governmental position of authority. Nonetheless, they will find deliverance and salvation, having a share in the glory that is to come.

The Pledge of Our Inheritance

Paul writes in Eph. 1:13, 14,

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

You” refers to the Ephesian believers, among whom Paul ministered for a long time. These were the ones who had listened and believed “the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Hence, these believers were “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Paul says that the Holy Spirit was “given as a pledge of our inheritance.” When Paul refers to this “pledge,” he uses the Hebrew word arrabon, transliterated directly into Greek. He uses the same word in 2 Cor. 5:5, where God has given us “the Spirit as a pledge.”

The Hebrew word arrabon is used in the story of Tamar and Judah in Gen. 38:17, 18, 20. A pledge is not a downpayment (or “earnest,” KJV) toward the purchase of property. A pledge is collateral on a debt. When the debt is paid, the pledge is returned to its original owner. So Judah gave Tamar a pledge on his debt to her, expecting to return later with payment and to recover his pledge—that is, his seal, cord, and staff (Gen. 38:18).

In Eph. 1:14, Paul asserts that the Holy Spirit is God’s “pledge” and “promise” to pay what He owes us. Yes, only debtors give pledges, and God is our Debtor, Paul says. How? This goes back to Adam’s sin, when God took their garments of light and glory. Because sin is reckoned as a debt, Adam’s sin created a debt he could not pay. So God took his heavenly garment as a pledge until such time that he would pay the debt incurred through sin.

When Christ paid Adam’s debt on the cross, the pledge was to be returned to him, according to the law of pledges. However, God did not return the pledged garments immediately. Instead, he held them in heaven for a season, for Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:1, 2,

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.

Paul uses four different metaphors: a tent, a house, a building, and clothing. They are different ways of describing the heavenly garments that God now owes us—since Christ paid our debt. He now owes us some heavenly garments, and until that debt is paid, He has given us a pledge (arrabon) of the Holy Spirit. In Eph. 1:14 Paul calls it “the pledge of our inheritance.”

We “hope” (or expect) to receive that inheritance but hope that is seen is not hope. By the counsel of His own will, He has determined that we should wait until “the redemption of God’s own possession.” This is what Paul calls in Rom. 8:23 “the redemption of our body.”

This redemption is prophesied through the feast of Trumpets and the feast of Tabernacles. Trumpets prophesies of the dead being raised; Tabernacles prophesies of the living overcomers who will be “changed” without experiencing death (1 Cor. 15:51, 52). Either way, there will be a bodily redemption, and these new bodies will be clothed with the tent, house, or tabernacle that is currently reserved for us “in the heavens.”

The Benefit of God’s Pledge

Paul says in Eph. 1:15-17,

15 For this reason, I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

Their faith, which secured for them the pledge of the Holy Spirit, was the source of great joy and satisfaction in Paul’s mind that his work among them was not in vain. So he prayed that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” would give them “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Wisdom and revelation come through the Holy Spirit and are benefits of the pledge that God has given us until He gives us our garments of glory.

Paul continues in Eph. 1:18, 19,

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart [cardias] may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…

The eyes of our heart are not the eyes in our head. These are spiritual eyes, not physical. The eyes in our head allow the body to see the world. The eyes of our heart enlighten one’s spirit, giving us wisdom and revelation from “the Father of glory.” One’s spirit has consciousness and is, in fact, the new conscious identity of the new creation man within every New Covenant believer.

This is the “new man” (Eph. 4:24, KJV) or “new self” (Eph. 4:24, NASB). Our spirit is our divine connection and the medium through which revelation from heaven is imparted to believers on earth (1 Cor. 2:14-16). To be given such revelation allows believers to transcend human knowledge and human wisdom, so that we may know “the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).

Hence, the pledge that God has given us is of great value and usefulness, though it is not the actual inheritance that we will yet receive at the redemption of our body.