What Jesus is Doing Today: Seated at the Right Hand

Original Date: 
Sunday, June 25, 2017

Various scriptures What Jesus is Doing Today: Seated at the Right Hand of the Father

Pledge of Allegiance
Today we are going to continue our study of the Apostles’ Creed. Since Easter, we have been going through this short confession of faith that Christians have been reciting together for centuries.

When I was a kid, in elementary school, we would begin every school day by putting our hands on our hearts, facing the American flag, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Even now, as a member of Kiwanis, we start our weekly meetings by reciting the Pledge. It is a way of remembering who we are, and what a privilege it is to live in this country.

In the same way, I have been encouraging you to think of the Apostles’ Creed as a Pledge of Allegiance. When we recite it together, it is a way for us to remember who we are, and what a privilege it is to belong to Jesus. It is a way to acknowledge our commitment to Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

And so, as we have throughout this series, I want to make sure we say the Creed together. And so, I’m going to invite you to stand if you are able, and let us confess our faith.

Christians, what do you believe?

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Ascension
So, I still remember the first joke I ever learned. Do you want to hear it?
Q. Did you know that God the Father is left handed?
A. He has to be: Jesus is sitting on his right hand.
That is a real groaner. My dad told me that joke after church one day.

I still remember the second joke he told me as well, do you want to hear that?
Q. Did you know the Bible talks about baseball?
A. It’s right in the first verse: “In the big-inning…”
Yeah, sorry about that. That’s what passed for humor in my house growing up.

But we are to the part of the Creed that talks about Jesus sitting at God’s right hand:

He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Up to this point in the Creed, we have talked about what Jesus has done. He was born; He suffered under Pilate; He was crucified, died and buried; He descended into Hell; He rose again. Those are all events in history. Things that happened about 2000 years ago which are recorded in the pages of the Bible. Obviously, there is a lot of significance in the things Jesus has done.
But the Creed also wants to talk about what Jesus is doing now. And so, after one more significant event from Jesus’ life on earth (“He ascended into heaven”), we confess what we believe about what Jesus is doing right now: He “is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

The Creed sees this as important; though we don’t talk about it as much as the other things we confess about Jesus. That is to say, we make a big deal out of Christmas: the celebration of Jesus being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. And we make a big deal out of Easter: the celebration of Jesus being crucified, died and buried, only to rise again on the third day. But we don’t make as big a deal about Ascension Day, which always falls on a Thursday 40 days after Easter. We don’t decorate Ascension Day trees or give away Ascension baskets. Most years, I couldn’t even tell you when Ascension Day comes and goes.

And yet, the Ascension is a crucial part of Jesus’ story. Because, unlike Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter, whom Jesus raised from the dead, we believe that after Jesus conquered death He never died again. Instead, the first chapter of Acts tells us that Jesus’ was physically taken up into heaven. We believe that Jesus’ glorified body is present in heaven today, the prototype for our own resurrection bodies that we will receive when Jesus comes again at the end of time (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:49).

And so, we believe that Jesus is still alive today. We believe that Jesus is in heaven right now, seated at the right hand of God the Father. And we believe that makes a difference in how we see the world.

So what I would like to do is talk about four things Jesus is doing right now. Four things that go with being seated at the right hand of God. And what they mean to us.

The Supremacy of Christ
First: Jesus reigns. Right now, Jesus is reigning over all of creation.

I need to talk a little bit about this expression: “seated at the right hand of God.” This is a very Biblical expression, with dozens of references to God’s right hand made throughout scripture. To be seated at God’s right hand is to be given a place of great honor.

The right hand, of course, represents strength. Most people tend to be right-hand dominant; and so the right hand is the hand that people write with, throw a ball with, handle a weapon with, etc. In fact, the Greek word for right-hand is “dexios”, from which we get the word “dexterity.” By contrast, the Latin word for left-hand is “sinister”, which goes to show that at many points in world history, to be left-hand dominant was considered to be strange, different, and possibly even evil. At times, left-handedness has been associated with witchcraft.

My wife, Beth, became an illustration of how important the right hand is the last few weeks when she fractured her right elbow. She is right-handed, but suddenly she could get virtually no use from her right hand. I teased her that it had become like a tiny little T-Rex arm. Many simple, everyday tasks that Beth took for granted became things she needed to relearn with her left hand, or things she needed help with. It was as though her strength were gone.

Now, I’m not saying any of this to pick on left-handed people. We know that there is no value judgment to be placed on whether a person is left-handed or right-handed. I just want us to understand the figurative significance of saying that Jesus is seated on God’s right hand. It’s a way of saying that Jesus is God’s strength. That Jesus becomes an extension of God’s powerful and sovereign arm.

To put Jesus at God’s right hand is to put him in the place of “highest favor with God the Father.” (WLC, Q&A 54) We might say about somebody: “He’s my his right-hand man;” we mean this person is indispensible to us. And that is what this is saying about Jesus. He has been elevated to a position of authority, He is co-regent with the Father over the universe, He is seated on the throne of heaven.

There are a lot of Bible verses that convey this idea, but I’ll quote just one. Ephesians 4:19-23:

That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Jesus is seated far above all rule and authority, power and dominion. There is no name that you can invoke that is greater than the name of Jesus. And that’s true today, and will be true forever. There will never be a name that is higher than Jesus.

Rather, God has placed all things under the feet of Jesus. As the Bible says elsewhere, the world has become Jesus’ footstool (cf. Psalm 110:1). He is the head over everything. He reigns over all the earth. All of creation needs to answer to His command.

That’s what it means for Jesus to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. It means that Jesus is supreme. And it means we need to recognize the supremacy of Christ.

Now, I mentioned last week that John Piper is one of my theological heroes. He’s got a lot of great sermons available on the internet. But there is one, in particular, that has gotten a lot of attention on YouTube called “the supremacy of Christ.” There are sermon mix videos and that sort of thing. I can’t really do it justice. I’d encourage you to Google “John Piper, the supremacy of Christ” and listen for yourself. But let me quote a portion of it:

He is always infinitely admirable in everything and over everything supreme, over all galaxies and endless reaches of space, over the earth from the top of Mount Everest 29,000 feet up to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, 36,000 feet down in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific rim. He is sovereign and supreme over all plants and animals from the peaceful blue whale to the microscopic killer viruses. He is supreme over all weather and all movements of the earth, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, earthquakes, avalanches, floods, snow, rain, sleet. He is supreme over all chemical processes that heal or destroy, cancer, AIDS, malaria, flu and all the amazing grace of antibiotics and a thousand healing drugs that we do not deserve.

He is supreme over all countries and governments and armies. He is supreme over al Qaeda and the terrorists and the kidnappings and the suicide bombings and the beheadings…He is supreme over all nuclear threats from Iran and Russia and North Korea. He is supreme over politics and elections and debates… He is supreme over media and news and entertainment and sports and leisure. He is supreme over all education in universities no matter what they teach and he is supreme over all scholarship and science and research. He is supreme over all business and finance and industry and manufacturing and transportation and he is supreme over the internet and all informational systems.

As Abraham Kuyper, famously said—and many of you know: There is not one square inch on planet earth over which the risen Christ does not say: Mine and I rule it. I am supreme over it. (http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/christ-reigns-over-every-inch)

This is what it means for Christ to be seated at the right hand of God. He reigns.

So what should our response be to this? How does it affect us to know that Jesus reigns today?

I think it should fill us with confidence. Knowing that Jesus is on the throne, that Jesus is God’s trusted right hand, reminds us that nothing happens in this world that is beyond His control. And so we can live confidently, boldly, and strategically as servants of the exalted king of heaven; knowing that none of our labors in the Lord Jesus will be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Jesus is on the throne, and so we can be confident in His reign.

The End of Sacrifice
Or, again, we can say that Jesus rests. Right now, Jesus is done with the work of salvation.

I need to be careful here. I don’t mean to imply that Jesus is lazy. Or that Jesus just isn’t doing much right now. I’m sure the work of reigning of the universe keeps Him plenty busy.
But the Bible also wants us to know that sitting down at the right hand of God means that the work of salvation has been completed. The passage is Hebrews 10:11-14:

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The book of Hebrews talks a lot about the difference between the Old Testament pattern of sacrifice and what Jesus has done. And one of the points that the author of Hebrews keeps making is that the Old Testament sacrifices needed to be repeated over and over and over again. People would bring sacrifices to atone for their guilt, but they would keep on sinning, and so they would have to bring more sacrifices. As verse 11, there was just no way that the blood of bulls and goats could fully pay for our sin (cf. Hebrews 10:4).

And so, there were no chairs in the tabernacle. No place for a priest to sit down. Because the work of sacrifice never came to an end. Really, I picture the work of a priest in the Old Testament as that of a line worker at Tyson’s or some other meat-packing plant. There is this constant need for more sacrifice, for more animals to be slaughtered, for more blood to be shed. And so there is this constant line of animals, and the priest’s job never comes to an end.

But then along comes Jesus—and the book of Hebrews is making much out of Jesus being the perfect high priest—and He makes a once for all sacrifice that is absolutely perfect. So perfect, in fact, that after He has made it, He is able to sit down at the right hand of God. He can sit down, because there is no more work to be done.

The ascension of Jesus signifies that the Father has accepted the work of his Son. Since God has accepted Christ, nothing more can be added to what he did when he died on the cross and rose from the dead. “It is finished.” Paid in full.

So what does that mean for us? I think it should fill us with peace. This is meant to make us strong and unshakable against the terrible temptation to doubt that our sins can be forgiven.

The resurrection and the enthronement of Christ to the right hand of God is meant to make us confident in the hour of trial and in the hour of death that the purification of our sins is sure and real and sufficient to give us entrance to heaven. We don’t need to be weighted down with guilt or fear or shame or worry that somehow we are not covered, that somehow Jesus has missed us, that it wasn’t enough.

Jesus has rested from His work of salvation. He has made a perfect sacrifice, once and for all.

Before the Throne of God Above
Third, Jesus represents. Right now, Jesus is in heaven representing us before God the Father.

This is the office of priest that Jesus fills. One of the key roles of a priest is to act as a go-between for God and the people. A priest represents God to the people, and he represents the people to God. In fact, the word “pontiff” comes from the Latin for “bridge-builder”. A priest is supposed to be a bridge between the people and God.

And so, with Jesus at the right hand of God, we have a priest who has God’s ear, as it were. We have a priest who can represent us before the throne of God above. Hebrews 4:14-16:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus knows all about us. He is able to empathize with our weaknesses. He has been here. He’s faced temptation. He knows us through and through. He knows where you were last night, what you did, and what you thought about doing. He knows all about every dumb thing you’ve said and done (and thought) in the last week—and He still loves you. That’s good news for imperfect people who stumble and struggle our way through life.

More than that. He is there by the throne interceding on our behalf. Hebrews 7:25 says he intercedes for us “always.” Right now, Christ is in heaven pleading our case before God. He’s praying for us.

What a thought that is:
• When I am down in the dumps, Jesus prays for me.
• When I falter under the load, Jesus prays for me.
• When my faith gives way, Jesus prays for me.
• When I fight a losing battle against temptation, Jesus prays for me.
• More than that. When I am asked to pray for someone, and I can’t seem to find the appropriate words and I feel as if my prayers are in vain, Jesus is there in heaven taking my pitiful prayers and transforming them into powerful petitions before the throne of God.
• When I can’t pray, when the words won’t come, Jesus prays for me.

Jesus is our “inside man.” You know about that, right? Sometimes, in order to get things done, it helps to know somebody on the inside. You want tickets to a game that is sold out? It helps to know someone in the ticket office. You have a permit you need to fast track through the bureaucracy? It helps to know someone inside of City Hall. You need to make a business deal at a cut rate? It helps to have someone inside that other business. An inside man. A friend in high places.

Well, Jesus is our friend in high places. He’s the one pleading our cause before the throne of God.

Jesus represents us before the Father.

And so, I think that should fill us with comfort. Jesus is not indifferent to our struggles. He’s been here, He knows what it is like, and He is on our side. You can take your cares to the ascended Lord who hears your prayers and has the Father’s ear.

The Living and the Dead
And then, fourth, Jesus will return. Right now, Jesus is in heaven preparing to come back to earth and establish His kingdom forever.

This is the last line about Jesus in the Creed: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” I mentioned last week that when I first learned the Creed, I learned this line as “the quick and the dead.” Jesus isn’t coming back to judge a foot race, “quick” is an old English way of saying “living.” What the Creed is saying is that Jesus will someday return to sort out those who are destined for eternal life and those who are destined for eternal judgment.

In Matthew 25 Jesus uses the imagery of sheep and goats to explain it:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

As the rest of the story goes on to show: you’d rather be a sheep than a goat. Those who are put on His right are the quick, the living, they are ushered into eternal life. Those who are put on His left are the dead, they spend eternity in judgment.

There are, of course, a lot of things that could be said about Jesus’ return. A lot of speculation and predictions about when it will happen and what it will be like. But the main thing is to remember that when Jesus comes again His heavenly reign will be fully realized here on earth. Justice will be done. Evil will come to an end. This is the very thing we pray for when we pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

And so, our response to this should be hopefulness. When we think about Christ’s return we should do so with anticipation, because then His supremacy will be known by one and all. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love. Best of all, we will be with our king forever.

Throughout this series, I have been turning to the Heidelberg Catechism for instruction on what the different parts of the Creed mean. I have enjoyed this for the nostalgia, remembering my Catechism classes when I was growing up. But also I have enjoyed it because of how personal the Catechism is. It doesn’t just give dry theology, but it shows how these truths affect and influence the way we live our lives.

And so, I want to give the last word today to the Catechism. I think it does a wonderful job of explaining how the promise of Christ’s return should fill us with hope. It is question and answer number 52:

52 Q. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me.

Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.