In theology the incarnate life of the Son of God is often divided into two phases (or ‘states’). First is his state of humiliation, in which he lives a life of perfect obedience to God’s law and dies an atoning death on the cross. This is followed by his state of exaltation, when he rose from the dead and returned to heaven. Paul now turns our attention to this latter phase. Consider Ephesians 1:19b-23 Christ exalted.
1. Christ raised
The power of God that believers experience is ‘like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (v19-20). The resurrection marked the completion of his work on earth. The fact that he rose demonstrates that his sacrifice offered on the cross had been accepted and had accomplished its purpose. His vanquishing sin, death and Satan was due to the power of God. The resurrection assures us of the truth of Jesus’ final words – ‘It has been finished!’ (John 19:30). Without the resurrection, there is no salvation, no Christian hope. It guarantees that the same power of God will raise believers at the last day – 1 Corinthians 15:20. The final stage of the glory he secured cannot fail.
2. Christ seated
Not only has Christ been raised, the Father ‘seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (v20). He is enthroned as supreme over all powers, earthly and (especially) heavenly. The fact that he is seated indicates that his atoning work is complete. Hebrews 10:11-12 contrasts this with the earthly priests daily standing to offer repeated sacrifices – ‘when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down’. Christ has received this position as a result of his work on the cross (Philippians 2:9). He is worthy of our worship.
3. Christ reigning
The enthroned Christ is not inactive – he reigns as King. ‘God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church’ (v22). ‘All authority in heaven and on earth’ (Matthew 28:18) is in his hands. This is a present reality, full of encouragement and comfort for God’s people. He reigns ‘for the church’ – for our benefit. He governs all events for the benefit of his redeemed people. The rise and fall of nations is within his sovereign direction – he is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16). We can rest in the assurance that his plan is being worked out and all enemies will be brought to submission (1 Corinthians 15:25). All opposition to the church will be brought to an end.
4. Christ filling
The church is described as ‘his body’ – a living organism deriving life from its head. The church is filled in a dynamic way by Christ – it is ‘the fulness of him’ (v23). This is accomplished by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is a profound mystery, but challenging and precious. Christ exercises a cosmic reign – he ‘fills everything in every way’. The whole universe depends on him (Colossians 1:17) – our Saviour and Head.