An eclipse occurs when the light of one object is blocked by another object—such as the moon passes directly between Earth and the Sun, blocking out its light. Throughout history people have thought of solar eclipses as bad omens, as signs of impending destruction. Bad things going on in the heavenlies—and casting a shadow over mankind. Today we begin a six-part series on the New Testament Book of Ephesians. Ephesians tells us (6:11-12) that when Satan rebelled against the Lord of Glory, and cast this world into darkness. The light of God was eclipsed. God’s Word teaches a real, literal devil, who leads a real, literal kingdom of darkness, with a hierarchy of demons. These are the “rulers”, “powers”, “world forces of darkness” and “spiritual forces of wickedness” mentioned in our passage.
Although the devil and demons are real, we need some sanity when it comes to Satan. They once were angels, and then they rebelled against God. Demons have no more power than any other angel. On the one hand, we’re nothing compared to them— but they’re nothing compared to God. They cannot do anything unless God permits it. There is a spiritual battle going on, but the outcome is not in doubt. It was won 2,000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem called “Golgotha”. During this brief moment of cosmic history God is permitting his divine glory to be eclipsed. Until God brings this chapter of cosmic revolt to a close, we’re going to see in Ephesians that he has given us all the resources we need for standing firm against Satan’s schemes (6:10-11).
The “heavenly places” (6:12) is not to be confused with “heaven”, which is the abode of God and all his blessedness. This term, “the heavenly places”, occurs five times throughout Ephesians, and it is a concept that is critical for you to understand if you wish to live a successful Christian life. Satan and his minions are there, and our struggle is there (6:12). If our struggles were just against our boss or spouse or parents or our children, then we could use fleshly strategies such as manipulation, intimidation, or even fist-fights, but none of them work against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. The resources we need to fight spiritual battles in the heavenly places are found in the heavenly places too (1:3-5)! Notice too that those spiritual blessings are “in Christ”. God has chosen to bless people spiritually only through Christ — through the person and work of Christ. If we want spiritual life and blessing, we must come to Christ. If you are a believer in Christ, you have it all—you have everything you need for spiritual wholeness and fruitfulness. If you are saved, then there is no “extra blessing” out there that you need to seek. There isn’t any more. It’s all in Christ, and if you have Christ, then you have it all. ( Although all of sin’s curse was resolved at the cross, God in his wisdom has decided not to apply all of those solutions immediately. Forgiveness of sin and connection to God are given the moment one receives Christ, but other aspects of the curse won’t be fixed until heaven.)
Ephesians 1:4 says that God chose us before the world was made. The roots of your salvation go all the way back to eternity past. And he chose us of his own free will; just because of his love (1:4b-5)! He simply loves us. None are saved because of superior moral or faith qualities in us. He chose us. He did it before the world was created. And he did it because of his love! Incredible. How could we not love a God like that (1:6)?! And God works all things after the counsel of His will (1:11). I don’t know how God does it, but even with all our sin and the times we resist his will, God nonetheless works all things after the counsel of his will! Amazing! We make real choices—some good, some bad—but God has purposed in advance that our inheritance is secure and he’s sovereignly in control. The Trinity counseled together and decided what they’re going to do, and by golly, they get it done! Even though we’re not smart enough to understand how God works everything according to the counsel of his will, it’s important that we know that he does, because that gives us confidence when things look so chaotic. Paul prayed that God would help the Ephesians understand (1:17-18). We need to pray the same thing for ourselves. And ultimately, the cross of Christ proves both God’s love and wisdom.
During the brief moment of cosmic history we live in God is permitting his divine glory to be hidden, to be eclipsed by our enemy, Satan. But Satan’s rebellion will not continue for long. God has promised to bring this sad chapter of cosmic revolt to a close. But for now, God has given us all the resources we need for standing firm against Satan’s schemes. This is the “good news”, the gospel: we are chosen by God, we are predestined to be his children, he loves us and relates to us in grace, we’re now blameless in his sight, God sovereignly works everything according to his will, we have hope, and an inheritance that awaits us!
Application / Challenge
- Today’s message is only for those who are “in Christ”. Make sure that describes you.
- Have biblical beliefs about Satan—neither too high nor too low.
- Dig deeper for yourself into the rich gospel realities which will armor you against Satan’s schemes using this week’s “Digging Deeper in Your Daily Quiet Time” section.