Friday, May 23, 2008

The Fifth Dimension

"Praise be to the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Eph 1:3

I enjoy the Sci-Fi genre of literature. Though I rarely read such books these days, I am known occasionally to sit in front of the TV and watch Star Trek (The Next Generation). One of the recurring concepts in these stories is that of beings who live in an alternate dimension, beyond the "space-time continuum." Often these characters are portrayed as having god-like qualities - being eternally existent, having exceptional powers and so on.

There Is More Than Space And Time
As human beings we are firmly grounded in the three dimensions of space. Our bodies are designed with senses to take in information about the physical world around us and to move us through those dimensions. We also have an awareness of the passage of time but have no choice about the direction and rate of travel through that fourth dimension.

Scripture teaches us that there is a fifth dimension of which most people these days are unaware. The Bible calls this dimension, "heavenly realms". It is the dimension of the spirit and it is the place where we encounter God. In many societies around the world the existence of this dimension is a powerful reality but in the West we have become so obsessed with material things that we have largely lost our sense of the spiritual.

Paul was acutely aware of the existence of "heavenly realms". In Ephesians he mentions them five times and on each occasion he teaches us something about this world of the spirit that we need to understand if we are to have effective and powerful prayer lives.

The first thing which Paul tells us is that the heavenly realms are where we are blessed. He then goes on, through the next 11 verses, describing some of these blessings in quite extravagant terms. Words such as freely given, riches, lavished and pleasure, indicate an abundance of blessing which is ours "in Christ." When we comprehend the enormity of what we have in Christ, our identity in Him, it transforms the way we pray.

In verse 20 of chapter 1 Paul tells us that Christ is seated in the heavenly realms at the right hand of God. From this we can see that the heavenly realms are the place where both the Lord Jesus and our Father dwell. This is why Jesus told the woman at the well that those who worship God should do so in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Worship which only involves body and soul is inferior worship. We are created with a spirit and that is the part of our being which communes with God. Our physical bodies and our souls (mind, will and emotions) may well be involved when we worship but it is our spirit which embraces God. Jesus told us that He is "the Truth" (Jn 14:6). It is because we are in Christ, who Himself is seated at God's right hand in the spiritual dimension, that we are able to offer worship in spirit and in truth.

But it is not only Christ who is seated in the heavenly realms for in Eph 2:5 we are told that God has raised us up to that same position in Christ. We too are seated in the heavenly realms. We have intimate access to the Father through being in Christ. When we worship, when we pray, we do so not from a position of mortals confined to time and space but from the very privileged place at the heart of the throne room of heaven. There need be no concern about whether our prayers are reaching heaven or bouncing back to us from the ceiling above. We do not pray from a distance and wonder whether the message gets through. In the spiritual dimension we are so close to God that we can whisper and be heard. Sometimes we hear Him in our spirit whisper a reply.

Rulers And Authorities
In Eph 3:10 Paul introduces the concept of "rulers and authorities" who inhabit the heavenly realms. Here he says that one of the Lord's purposes for the church is to reveal what He is like to other spiritual forces. It is not entirely clear here whether Paul is talking about angels or demons but we know from other parts of scripture that there are angels where God dwells.

But in Eph 6:12, part of that great treatise on spiritual warfare, Paul talks about the spiritual beings in the heavenly realms against whom we struggle. These clearly are forces of evil who exist in the same dimension as God and our own spirits. Some believers find it difficult to believe that the devil can exist in the presence of God, but the account of Job gives us a very clear picture of two audiences Satan has with the Lord (Job 1:6-2:10).

Prayer College Assignment
Our physical bodies have to deal with the realities of the material world and our relationship with it so it's very easy to make that the focus of our lives and forget that part of us lives permanently in the presence of God and other spiritual beings in heavenly realms. If we are to have a "successful" Christian life we need to develop our sensitivity to what is happening in the spiritual dimension. This can only be done by exercising our spirits through communion and fellowship with God. Ask the Lord to help you "see" spiritually.

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