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Heavenly Places

by Charles H. Welch PDF

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By Charles H. Welch



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by Charles Welch

reprinted from The Berean Expositor Vol. 1

In a former article we were considering the "dispensation of the mystery," and were reminded of its heavenly character. In this present article we desire to consider the references to the heavenly aspect of this mystery a little more closely. Five times does the word translated "heavenly places" occur in the epistle to the Ephesians, and the spiritual significance of five is grace.

The blessed truth connected with the heavenly places is a fitting witness to the "riches of His grace," and the "glory of His grace." There are not a few who seek to discredit the emphasis upon the peculiar and exclusive teaching of the Prison epistles by the remark that the word translated "heavenly places" occurs in other passages of Scripture, particularly in Hebrews. Twenty times in all the word occurs in the New Testament, distributed as follows: in the Gospels, twice; in the Epistles before Acts xxviii., five times (grace); in the Prison Epistles, seven times (spiritual perfection); and in Hebrews, six times (the number of man, imperfection, and of that age which immediately precedes the new creation, viz., the millennial kingdom).

There is, however, a most important distinction to be noticed between the five occurrences in Ephesians, and the fifteen elsewhere. The word in Ephesians is in the dative plural, en tois epouraniois, "in the heavenlies"-speaking of locality, whereas the word in the other passages signifies "heavenly," but not necessarily "in heaven." Those who tasted of the "heavenly gift" in Heb. vi.4 certainly did not taste a gift that was up in heaven, but which was heavenly. So the "heavenly" country or city of Heb. xi.16 will be seen "coming down from God out of heaven"; it will not be enjoyed "in heaven." The expression "in the heavenlies" (the dative plural) is peculiar to the epistle to the Ephesians. If we deny the distinction, surely we must not resent it if anyone doubts our belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures.

Having seen the unique character of these five passages, we will quote them in their order, and seek to exhibit their blessed meaning. Before we quote the passages, however, we desire to throw light upon the meaning conveyed by this term by reference to another, and then by comparing the passages together we may be enabled to more clearly see the sphere of our blessedness. The word we desire to consider is that translated "saint." Fifteen times does the word hagios (saint) occur in Ephesians. Fifteen is of course 5 x3, the superlative of grace (5=grace; 3=completeness, resurrection, &c.), and is consequently connected with the five-fold occurrence of "heavenly places." To many passages in the A.V. we do not take exception, but there is one form in which this word "saint " occurs that may teach much more than our English Version allows.

The genitive plural of hagios is ton hagion, in masculine, feminine, and neuter. Consequently the context must decide whether the word means "of the saints" (masc. or fem.), or "of the holy places or things" (neuter). Heb. ix. 23 and 24 will illustrate our meaning. "Better sacrifices " is the plural of majesty for "the infinitely better sacrifice." Likewise "holy places " refers to the "most holy place." Readers have only to refer back in this chapter for ample evidence that the "holiest of all" is meant here. The most holy place made with hands was a type of the true holiest of all, not made with hands, which Scripture declares to be "heaven itself."

Let us read "of the saints" as "of the heavenly holiest of all" in the following passages, and see how much we learn thereby

"Now therefore ye are no more guests* and foreigners, but fellowcitizens of the heavenly holiest of all, and of the household of God" (Eph. ii.19, *note: Gentile believers before Acts 28 did not stand upon equality with Israel so far as dispensational privileges were concerned, see Rom 9 - 11).

This is parallel with Phil. iii.20, "Our citizenship (politeuma, fellowcitizen being sumpolitai) is in heaven," heaven itself being the true holiest of all.

"Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made you sufficient for the inheritance of the holiest of all in the light" (Col. i.12).

Believers are not going to have "saints " for their inheritance; they have their inheritance in the light, in heaven itself, the true holiest of all. This lifts the believer above the petty things of sense and time.-What has he to do with ordinances, types, shadows, when his inheritance is centred in the real, true holiest of all in the light?

Returning now to the statement of Scripture concerning the "heavenly places," we can see that these, equally, refer to the same position of glory. The five occurrences are related THUS:

A I Eph. i.3. Spiritual blessings.

B I Eph. i.20. Christ raised far above principalities and powers.

C I Eph. ii.6. Christ and His church raised and seated in the

holiest of all.

B I Eph. iii.10. The church a witness to principalities and powers.

A f Eph. vi.12. Spiritual wickednesses.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spir;tual blessings in heavenly places (or in the holiest of aII) in Christ" (Eph. i.3).

"Ye see your calling, brethren." Let us seek to walk worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called. If our inheritance, our blessing, our sphere is "above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God," let us find our all there. Earthly promises, blessings, and inheritances are for the earthly people (Israel), and through them the Abrahamic blessings will flow out unto all nations. For the time being Israel has been set aside, Abrahamic blessings have discontinued, and a mystery, hitherto kept a perfect secret, has been made known. Unlike the Abrahamic promises, its sphere is "in the heavenlies." Unlike Abrahamic promises, the Jew takes exactly the same place as the Gentile, both as regards salvation and dispensational blessings.

We are living under an economy of grace that is unparalleled in its riches, and its glories. It reaches out beyond the pale of Judah to the ends of the earth; it includes in its boundless scope the forgiveness of "all trespasses "; it reaches down to the depths of sin, and places the saved "far above" in the holiest of all; it points the saved sinner away from self unto Him "who hath made us sufficient" for such an inheritance; it shuts the believer up to the Lord of glory, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It enjoins no ritual, no observance, no ceremony of any kind whatsoever. These have all, divine and human, been nailed to, and cancelled by, the cross of Christ. Our endeavour is now to be directed to keeping (not making) the unity of the Spirit. There faction ends; there peace rules; there is found no confidence in the flesh; there is a blessed condition of absolute independence of all else except the Lord. Once again we repeat,,

"Ye see your calling brethren."

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly holiest of all."