Ephesians 2:2 is like looking at a photograph of what you were like before Jesus Christ came into your life. It says, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." The King James Version says, "Wherein in time past." But the Greek could be better translated, "Back then."
Paul was reminding his readers of what they were like before the grace of God touched their hearts. With this one statement, he reached into his pocketbook, pulled out a stack of old photographs, and began flipping through them, searching for one old photo that would remind them of their past. When Paul wrote Ephesians 2:2, it was like he held that old photo up in the air and said, "Hey, look at this! Do you remember what you looked like back then?"
Then Paul reminds his readers, "Back then you walked according to the course of this world." The word "walked" is the Greek word peripateo, a compound of the words peri and pateo. The word peri means around and the word pateo means to walk. When these are joined together, it means to walk around habitually in one general area all the time. The Greek grammar implies that it is a path from which these people cannot deviate. You might say they are trapped on this path - bound to walk it again and again. They are locked in this one general sphere and can't find their way out by themselves.
The verse goes on to say, "Back then you walked according to." That phrase "according to" is from the Greek word kata, which portrays something that is forceful or dominating. By using this little word, Paul reminds us that before we met the Lord, we "habitually walked around under the dominating influence of this world, unable to alter the path we were taking." Although unaware of our condition, we were spiritual prisoners that were dominated and manipulated by the influence of a lost society.
But Paul goes on to say, "Back then you walked according to the course of this world." The word "course" is from the Greek word aiona, a word that describes a specific, allotted period of time, such as an age, a specific era, or a generation. It often denotes the influence of a particular generation or a period of time, like a decade, a century, or even a millennium.
The word aiona also denotes the spirit of a period; for instance, the 1920s were typified as "the Roaring Twenties." The spirit of the 1960s and 1970s was typified as a "rebellious" period because of drug use and the strong reaction against the Vietnam War. Many times in Greek literature, this word aiona carries this same meaning of the spirit of the age.
Then Paul adds the next word: "Back then you walked according to the course of this world." This word "world" in Greek is kosmos, a word that depicts something that is fashioned or ordered. In this verse, it denotes systems and institutions in society, such as fashion, education, or entertainment. Because Paul uses the word kosmos, he paints a picture of people who have no standard like God's Word by which to live; therefore, they are guided by the constantly changing ethics and whims of the times. Sadly, education, entertainment, and fashion are the forces that guide the lost world.
You could rephrase Ephesians 2:2 this way:
"Don't you remember what you used to be like? Why, back then you habitually walked around trapped and unable to get off the track you were stuck on - totally unaware that you were being dominated and manipulated by the constantly fluctuating thinking of the day, by the whims of the times, and by whatever society was giving its approval to at that moment."That is who you were, but that is not who you are today! Now you are a child of God who has been redeemed, sanctified, and indwelt by the Spirit of God. But think for a moment of all the people you know who still don't know Jesus Christ. That means they still fit into this category! They are still trapped, unable to get off the treadmill they are stuck on!