The Heavenly Places

   "A devout Scotchman, being asked if he ever expected to go to heaven answered, 'Why man I live there."' Heaven is not alone a place far distant, a place of which we know very little and to which we hope to go some day when this life is over. Heaven is some" thing that may be enjoyed here and now. "God, who i. rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.... and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2 :4-6).

  Too many people put off their enjoyment to another life and do not expect much of it in this life. It is our privilege to enjoy heaven now. As it is often said, "We can have a heaven to go to heaven in." It is true that many persons who speak of this refer only to superficial emotions, outbursts of rejoicing, leading to physical demonstrations and the like. These things may have a certain value but they are not the things referred to in the text mentioned. Living in heaven here means something far deeper, richer, and more glorious than mere emotions, however joyful for the moment emotions may be.

  Living in heaven is a reality. It was a reality toJesus. He said, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13). Jesus was living on earth in the midst of a few friends and many enemies, but he was also, as he here asserts, living in heaven. To be sure his being in heaven was something different from our being in the heavenlies with him. His statement was a declaration of his omnipresence. But his being in heaven need be no more real than our being in heaven while we are in this "vale of sorrow."

  Phil. 3:20 (American Standard Version) says that "our citizenship is in heaven." In other words, we are citizens of heaven now.

  What does it mean to dwell in heaven, to sit in the heavenlies in Christ? First, it means to be raised up above the low and evil elements of this world into a heavenly atmosphere. It means to have our affections set upon heavenly things, not upon things on the earth. It means that heavenly things, that is, the things of righteousness, purity, love, and all kindred elements, will have more importance to us than do earthly things. Living in the heavenlies means to live in the element of love, to be actuated by love, to be filled with love, love that is begotten in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts" (Rom. 5: 5). "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (I John 4: 16). Love instead of selfishness becomes the mainspring of life. It banishes hatred, jealousy, envy, malice, and all similar things that blight life.

  In the heavenly places we are in an atmosphere of peace. We are at peace with God, at peace with our fellow-men, and peaceably disposed. Those who live in heaven are heavenly minded, as it is written, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2: 3-5).

  To be living in heavenly places requires certain characteristics in ourselves. In other words we can live in the heavenlies only when we have been raised up into the heavenlies by Christ. This raising up is a purification of our natures and an implanting of divinely given spiritual characteristics. One of these characteristics is inner purity. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God" (Matt. 5: 8). We must not suppose seeing God in the sense this means is confined to eternity. No, we can say like Simeon of old, "Mine eyes have beheld thy salvation." As was prophesied, it shall be true of us, "all shall know me, from the least to the greatest" (Heb. 8:11). We must be godlike in the characteristics of our souls if we would dwell with God either in eternity or in the heavenlies in this life. There must therefore be inner purity of desire and purpose, of affection and will. There must be glad acceptance of God's will for us. We must always act from motives of love and purity. Only by this means can we have the favor of God and realize his presence with us.

  Inward purity manifests itself in outward purity, that is, purity of life. Our conduct will be the fruit of love. We shall not only love our neighbor as ourselves, but even love our enemies and do good to those that despitefully use us and persecute us. A great profession of religion, together with many physical demonstrations of joy, may exist when there is no inner purity and when the outer life is inharmonious and unlovely, but there can be no actual living in the heavenly places under such conditions. There must be unworldliness o! spirit. Those who love the world do not and cannot love God. We must mingle with the people of the world as did Jesus, but if he dwells in us and rules our life we can keep ourselves pure in the midst of this life. We may dwell among men, yet sit in the heavenlies in Christ.

  Living in the heavenlies we have fellowship with God. John says, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3). Again, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (vs. 7). Fellowship must be experienced to be understood. It is the answering of our hearts to the heart of God. It is one of the most precious experiences of the Christian life. It includes a consciousness of being acceptable to God. It is the realization that our heart answers to him and his to ours. This includes the sense of divine companionship, of divine understanding, and of union with God. We are his and he is ours. The Bible expresses this relation by the figure of marriage. A marriage of true love symbolizes this sacred relation of redeemed souls to God.

  In this relation we have communion with God. We know God hears us. We know we can talk to him as to a father. We know there is a heart that answers to our heart. We know one understands and enters sympathetically into the things that make up our lives. Jesus said he would not call his disciples servants, but friends. Abraham was called the friend of God. It is our glorious privilege to be friends of his, in a close, intimate, and satisfying friendship that will enrich our lives and make a heaven of them.

  When we dwell in the heavenlies it is our privilege to entertain God there. "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3: 20). Again it is written, "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Isa. 57:15). Therefore God does not alone dwell in heaven—he dwells in the hearts of his people. We can entertain him as a dear friend when he comes in and sups with us. We are called the temples of God because God dwells in us (I Cor. 3:16). The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, comes into us to be an abiding guest (John 14:16). All these texts show clearly that it is God's purpose that man be in intimate relations with himself in this world.

  Life has two sides. Most of us could realize more of the heavenly if we should let our minds dwell more upon that side. The heavenly is not merely imaginary. It is not merely an attitude of mind. It is a glorious reality.

  We shall not have fellowship with Jesus merely in his joyfulness and victory, but in "the fellowship of his sufferings" (Phil. 3: 10). "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him but also to suffer for his sake." He had his periods of heaviness and mental distress. It is our privilege to go with him through the valley of humiliation, through the garden of Gethsemane to Calvary. It is our privilege to fellowship his sufferings from rejected love, from unjust condemnation, from neglect and hatred. Christ was still in the heavenlies as he passed through these things and we may be in the heavenlies with him, yet walk with him through such things. We have the promise that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him. Let us not shrink back from whatever suffering comes to us because we are true to Christ and walk with him.

  God has promised to withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly. Eph. 1: 3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." All spiritual blessings are ours through Christ or, as the American Standard Version says, "every blessing" is. When we walk with Christ we have access to his storehouse of love, mercy, kindness, and blessing. As Paul cried out, "All things are yours and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's."

  Since it is our privilege to sit in the heavenly places with Christ let us draw near in full assurance of faith. Let us become heavenly minded. Let us set about realizing our privileges. We must draw near to God. We must dwell in his presence. This is not such a hard thing to do. It takes some time. It takes some effort. But this time and effort are largely to free ourselves from our sense of earthly things. We are close to them, so absorbed with them, so busy with them that we do not take time for many things. We do not give God an opportunity to talk to us. We fill our minds with trivial things instead of with thoughts of the high, and holy, and blessed things that so fill God's will for us.

  Let us learn our privileges in Christ; then set about having these privileges realized in actuality. Oh, the blessedness of being hid away in the presence of God, the sweetness of communion with him, the joys "unspeakable and full of glory" that come to the quiet soul whose heart is all the Lord's, when he lives in the very atmosphere and elements of heaven. No matter what may be our situation in life, it is the privilege of each of us to have this blessed experience.