Having the Mark of the Spirit
[Ephesians chapter 1, verses 1-14]
This week we begin our study of the next consecutive book in the New Testament, the book of Ephesians. This book, like the book of Colossians we just finished, was written by the apostle Paul, the twelfth apostle. Among the highlights in this book are Paul’s explanation of his ministry to the Gentiles despite his own Jewish ancestry and religious education, and his still-controversial comments at the end regarding the relationship between husbands and wives and the Church. Bearing that in mind, let’s begin at verse one, where Paul gave them a most eloquent and Christ-like greeting.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians chapter 1, verses 1-10, NIV)
The first thing I want to point out here is that the timeless prose in which this is written is clearly inspired by the Holy Spirit, not just because Paul was a gifted writer, even though he was well-educated during a period in history when most people were illiterate. He is completely focused on Jesus Christ, correctly asserting that those who are saved by His blood were saved since long before recorded time began. We are adopted as sons and daughters of God, which is a reiteration of a point of fact Paul made in his letter to the Roman church, which we studied previously. Jesus has also freely given us his grace, which is defined as unmerited favor from God, like a birthday present. One modern example of grace would be if a traffic cop pulls you over because he or she caught you speeding, and then lets you off with a warning for whatever reason. God’s grace is very similar, but it’s also far more serious – you’re being let off the hook for offenses that will send a nonbeliever straight to hell. And, just in case anyone is unsure, there really is such a place as hell. Jesus shed his blood and died on Calvary to save us all from eternal condemnation. That’s why faith in Christ, alongside belief put into action, is absolutely essential for salvation and a shot at eternity in heaven with our Lord and Savior.
Paul closes this portion of his message to Ephesus with a prophecy, which the Bible defines as a proclamation of the Word of God or a fulfillment of His will. And Paul states that God’s will is “to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” Without a doubt Paul is referring to the end times, which are the last days on Earth before the return of Christ for his church. The true Church will be taken up and away from the earth when the often-prophesied antichrist comes to power and initiates his world government. The antichrist will rule on earth for three and a half years prior to the return of Jesus Christ who, along with his true believers and followers who do his will, will defeat the combined armies of the antichrist at the battle of Armageddon at His return. But, let me save any additional comments on the End Times for another time so I don’t stray off topic. For now, let’s move along with our study beginning at verse 11.
“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity to the purpose of his will, in order that we, who are the first hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians chapter 1, verses 11-14, NIV)
Everybody who hears the Gospel of Christ, and all who read their Bibles and these words and all the rest, all are included with Christ in his Father’s plan for salvation for all of us. Remember what Jesus taught us, “Never will I leave you, and never will I forsake you”. You are adopted into the eternal family of God as a son or a daughter, and you remain that way for all eternity since there is no passage of time in heaven like there is here on Earth. But there is much more to this than the act of adoption. We are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit which is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, and this mark is located on our forehead. We can’t physically see it but it most definitely is there. I would compare “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” to a down payment on a house. Jesus wants to come in and live there with you forever, just like a marriage. So he leaves us his Holy Spirit as a security deposit until he returns for the redemption of our souls, and to abide with us forever.
What I find most interesting is that this same language and terminology that Paul is using when he wrote that we are all “marked with a seal” is also used in the book of Revelation chapter seven to describe the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel who will be marked with the seal of the Living God. On the other hand, after the antichrist comes to power, he forces everyone to receive his mark, or seal, in order to be able to work, to buy and to sell. Without the mark of the beast, as Revelation calls it, no one will be able to buy food or anything else for that matter. No fuel for your vehicle, no way to make rent or mortgage payments, and no way to obtain employment will be just a few of the hallmarks of the antichrist’s reign for those who refuse to worship him and to take his mark. The mark of the beast is the polar opposite of the mark of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual realm.
My point here is that the apostle Paul used a quote from what later became the book of Revelation, which was not written until long after Paul’s death by execution in Rome. How did Paul know what it would say in that part of Revelation if it had not yet been written? By the discernment of the Holy Spirit! It’s the only possible explanation! And that, my dear readers, is how we know for sure that the Bible is the inspired written Word of God. Here is your proof in black and white, although there are numerous other similar examples. But this one fits in best with this week’s study, and I hope you all find this to be at least as encouraging as I do, if not more. Let’s close on that note and reflect on it for a minute. Be encouraged in the Lord, as He taught and as it is written, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”