In my last installment I noted that in Ephesians Paul clearly declares Christ was enthroned as king in the first century. And this proved that his kingdom was not postponed until there could arise CNN to report the sudden disappearance of millions of Christians. Christ’s kingdom and kingly rule began at his first coming. His kingdom was not postponed, causing God to establish Plan B for history in the establishment of the Church.
We Presently Rule with Christ
To add insult to injury, Paul continues his anti-dispensational diatribe in his little missive. His next step transforms Ephesians into dispensationalism’s right strawy epistle. The heck with James! Dispensationalists find Ephesians quite a bit more strawy because immediately after affirming Christ’s first century enthronement he takes the next logical step. He declares that all those who believe in Christ (beginning in the first century) are enthroned with Christ! All the hopes of ruling over cities during a future millennium are destroyed in this maneuver. How dare he! But alas, there it is in black and white (unless you have a red-letter edition of the Bible, in which case it would appear in black and white and red).
Note once again the clarity of Paul’s theology:
“God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4–6).
And where had Paul just stated that Christ was seated? According to Ephesians 1:20–21 God “raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” He is at God’s right hand ruling over all.
Say it ain’t so! According to the plain-and-simple method of literal interpretation our enthronement must wait until after the second coming of Christ in the rapture, the resurrection of believers, the conversion of the Jews, the building of the temple in Jerusalem, the unveiling of Antichrist, the outbreak of the great tribulation, the destruction of two-thirds of the Jewish race, the arising of the beast, the formulation of the revived Roman Empire, the imposing of the mark of the beast for buying and selling, the third coming of Christ at the second advent, the battle of Armageddon, the sanctification of temple for millennial use, and the establishment of the global Department of Redundancy Department.
Why does Paul speak in the past tense by using the aorist verbal forms of “raised” and “seated?” Ah! Perhaps these are aorist futures which really mean he will in the future raise us and seat us! Why does he teach that Christians in the first century are already enthroned with Christ, that is, that they are already ruling and reigning with him in his kingdom? Paul is surely not rightly dividing the word of truth. He has mixed dispensations. He is not interpreting literally. He has strayed from Scofield’s notes. Perhaps this is proof for a late-date for Revelation! Paul obviously did not have verse 4 of Revelation 20 to guide him in his entire eschatological and theological understanding.
Or has Paul missed the mark? Maybe it is the late-blooming (1830) dispensational construct that is mistaken. Maybe Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. Maybe we as Christians are already enthroned with Christ.
Indeed, may I be so bold as to suggest that maybe he, Peter, and John actually know the truth? After all, Peter calls first-century Christians a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9), i.e., a kingdom of priests. And even John, long before he speaks of the millennium (which occurs in only one chapter in all of the Bible, which happens also to be its most difficult book) and our reigning with Christ as kings and priest (Rev 20:6), states in the past tense: “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (Rev 1:6).
To make matters worse, Paul even mentions the celebration of Christ’s enthronement in Ephesians 4. He speaks of his enthronement in terms reflecting a formal Roman triumph where the conquering ruler returns to his capital and divides the spoil with his jubilant citizens. In Ephesians 4:8 Paul states regarding the heavenly-enthroned Christ: “When He ascended on high, / He led captive a host of captives, / And He gave gifts to men.”
Thus, once again we see how Ephesians can function as a counter to dispensationalism. It is truly a tract that could be titled “The Ephesians Road Out of Dispensationalism.”