Commentary on Ephesians, 1:20,21

Ephesians 1:20,21

“20 which he has worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating [him] at his right hand in the heavenly [places],
21 above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this age but also in the coming one,”  LEB

“seating [him] at his right hand in the heavenly [places]…”

For about 40 years I was a pre-trib rapture, premillennialist, however, as I’ve devoted more and more time to studying eschatology, I’ve become convinced that that those positions just can’t be the truth. It’s not my objective to teach extensively on this subject here, as this is a commentary, not a book or an end time prophecy website.

However, I do want to key in on some things that are huge in the discussion of end time prophecy, and perhaps it will encourage you to study this out further on your own.

Here in this passage, Paul discusses the fact that Jesus is now seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father, and is “above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name named.” This supports the amillennial view of eschatology that teaches that there is no 1000 reign of Christ on earth, where human believers dwell with resurrected believers, and has the nation of Israel figuring prominently in this view.

The amillennial position is that Christ is reigning now, and that the 1000 years mentioned in Rev 20:4-6 is symbolic for a long period of time, rather than a literal 1000 years. This long period time, according to this position, is the Church age, which basically extends from the first coming of Christ to the second coming of Christ.

According to the amillennial position, when Christ returns in “great power and glory,” He will at that time judge the world, create a new heaven and earth, and then set up His eternal kingdom.

The premillennial view has Christ setting up a 1000 year kingdom on earth at His return. This is a Jewish kingdom in nature, and includes a return to animal sacrifices….something that I simply can’t accept, and something the book of Hebrews doesn’t support. At the end of that kingdom, He will judge the world, create a new heaven and earth, and then set up His eternal kingdom.

However, I don’t see any strong New Testament basis for that position. There is by far, more biblical support that Christ is reigning in His kingdom now, which carries on into the Eternal Kingdom after He’s created a new heaven and earth. 

Here are some scriptures for you to consider that will give you a good start as you study this on your own:

Col 1:13
Matt 25:31-34
Matt 19:28
Matt 26:64
Mark 14:62
Luke 10:11,19
Luke 11:20
Luke 17:20,21
Luke 22:69
Acts 2:33
1 Cor 15:23-25
Eph 2:6
Col 3:1
2 Tim 4:1
He 1:3,8
He 8:1
He 10:12
He 12:2,28
2 Pet 1:11
2 Pet 3:13
Rev 3:21
Rev 11:15-17
Rev 5:10

While the above scriptures provide support for the reign of Christ in His kingdom now, and looks ahead to His eternal kingdom, the  eschatological position we hold also hinges in large part on our view of Israel and the Church. According to premillennialism, there is a distinct plan for the Church, and a distinct plan for the nation of Israel yet to be fulfilled.

However, according to the amillennial position, the Church and Israel are one and the same. The New Testament tells us in many places that there is no longer any division between Israel and the Gentiles, but we as believers are all one in Christ. Therefore, true Israel is the Church, all those who are of the faith of Abraham. Christ and the Church are the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel. Again, I will provide you with many scriptures that support this position:

Ro 4:11-17
Ro 9:7,8,24,25
Gal 3:7-9
Gal 3:16-29
Eph 2:11-22
Eph 3:6
Phil 3:3
Col 3:11
He 1:2
He 2:16
1 Pet 2:9,10
Ro 11:26

I encourage you to study the amillennial position. Read a book or two on it. It’s worthy of your time. For most of my Christian life, I was so strongly convinced that the premillennial position was the truth, that I would not even consider the amillennial position. I scoffed at it. But I was not exercising wisdom.

What I’ve discovered is that I was looking at Scripture through the lens of pre-trib rapture and premillennialism. Whenever we study the Bible with a positional bias, we get into trouble. If we are not objective in the study of God’s Word, we will likely see only what we want to see in order to support our position. That’s true not only in regard to prophecy, but also regarding election, and any other doctrine. Let’s be wise and approach God’s Word with a true desire to know the truth, rather than simply with a desire to prove our theology.

Note: I could go into some detail that would refute the pre-trib rapture position, but as you study the amillennial position for yourself, you will see that there’s absolutely no biblical basis for that idea. To me, that’s one of the easiest things to disprove. Without a lot of complicated arranging and assumptions, the only way anyone would ever come to that position, is if they already had this idea in mind. A natural reading of the pertinent scriptures point directly to the resurrection/rapture of the saints at the return of Christ. There is no justification for a two-part return of Christ.

Here are a few passages to get you started:

1 Cor 15:22,23
John 5:24-29
Matt 25:31-34
Matt 24:30,31
1 Th 4:14-17

“above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name named”

This refers to Christ’s absolute and supreme authority over the universe. That includes both the rulers on this earth, and the rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Ti 6:15; Rev 19:16). He reigns over all, and no one in authority does anything without Him allowing it. Someday all rule and authority will be put down, and Christ will reign in His eternal kingdom where only righteousness dwells. Right now we have rulers who are evil, but their season will end, and then Christ will be high and lifted up for all to see, and all to serve, and all to worship.

“not only in this age” 

The Church age.

“but also in the coming one”

William MacDonald sees this as a reference to the 1000 year kingdom, but again, I think the evidence is overwhelming that Paul has the Eternal Kingdom in view. This is brought out clearly in the book of Hebrews:

He 11:10,14-16
He 12:22,23
He 13:14

I have searched the New Testament, and except for the one reference in Rev chapter 20, I can’t find any evidence that there will be a millennial kingdom on earth. On the contrary, the New Testament evidence strongly has the Eternal Kingdom in view, and not a kingdom on this present earth where both humans and the resurrected saints dwell together. It’s just not there.

I think Matt 25:31-34 provides the strongest evidence that there is no 1000 kingdom on this present earth, but that we go directly into the Eternal Kingdom when Jesus returns. When you compare that passage with Rev 20 and the first few verses of chapter 21, there is no doubt about it. Consider the Matthew passage:

1. Jesus said that when He returns He will then “sit upon his glorious throne.”
2.  He will at that time judge the world.
3.  Those on His left (Matt 25:41) will be thrown into the lake of fire.
4.  Those on His right will go into the Eternal Kingdom.

As for the reference to the 1000 years in Rev 20, that number can easily be referring to simply a long period of time. That shouldn’t be so surprising considering all the symbolism in this book. When you piece it all together, the amillennial position provides strong support that that’s exactly what it is.

Premillennialists have to go to the Old Testament for any real support of a Jewish millennial kingdom. According to the amillennial view, Christ and the Church is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, and therefore, many of the OT scriptures must be interpreted symbolically, while others must refer to the Eternal Kingdom on the new earth. Interpreting OT prophecy symbolically shouldn’t be so hard to accept, considering we do the same thing with the book of Revelation.

Once we understand that the true children of Abraham are of the faith of Abraham, and that all Christians together are therefore the true Israel, which make up the Church, it’s easy to see the amillennial perspective.