This continues our side trip into some questions and ideas about “the kingdom”. In Daniel 2:44, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven was going to establish an eternal kingdom. Reams of paper and gallons of ink, to say nothing of gigabytes of data, have been used to explain what that is. Our last post dealt with the idea that this kingdom can never be an “earthly” one.
The post today deals with the question, “Yes, but isn’t Jesus already reigning at the right hand of the Father?”
Without a doubt, the New Testament is clear that the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father. The question is, What is He doing there?
Scripture tells us.
Leaving aside our Lord’s statements during His trial before the Sanhedrin that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, here are the verses which teach that He is at the right hand of the Father.
1. Acts 2:33, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God.” This is Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost about the events of the day and relating them to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.
2. Acts 2:34, “For David did not ascend into heaven, but he says himself, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘ Here he quotes Psalm 16:8-11. This is an important testimony.
3. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Compare Acts 2:36. Christ was not an executed criminal, but had been exalted to be a Ruler, in order for Him to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. As grateful as we ought to be that mercy has been extended to us Gentiles, never make the mistake of believing that we have taken over all the promises and prominence given to Israel. Whatever was given to them still belongs to them. Note carefully the present tense in Paul’s listing of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9:3-5.
4. Acts 7:55, 56, The dying Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a phrase which is repeated twice. Though in this one instance He is standing, Jesus is still “at the right hand of God.” Some have suggested that this single recorded instance of His standing is because He is waiting to receive the first martyr of the church.
5. Romans 8:34, Who is He who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Paul here tells us that Christ is not “reigning,” but interceding for His people. His work as High Priest, begun on Calvary, isn’t finished. His work as “King” hasn’t yet begun.
6. Ephesians 1:19-21, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality….
Here Paul taught the Ephesians that the power that regenerated and saved them was the same power that resurrected the Lord Jesus and brought Him back to heaven. That’s the same power that saves us. It isn’t without reason that the Bible likens salvation to a creation, a resurrection, a birth. That same power that created the heavens and the earth and called forth Lazarus from the tomb is the same power that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light – an effective, irresistible power.
7. Colossians 3:1, …where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. The complete verse says, If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. This verse isn’t so much about where He is right now, as it is about where we are right now. Are we, like people of the world, content with the paltry things this world offers, or are we like those of whom the book of Hebrews speaks, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Hebrews 11:13.
8. Hebrews 1:3, …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…. Note carefully the words, “by Himself.” He doesn’t need “the saints,” or Mary, or the church, or “the sacraments” to save His people. By Himself He paid the awful penalty. By Himself He purged, “cleansed,” “put away,” our sins. He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28. You won’t find rest at the front of a church, or in baptismal waters, or in ritual or routine. Only in the Lord Jesus is there salvation from sin.
9. Hebrews 1:13, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? This is the second time this Psalm has been quoted in this connection. Our Lord quoted it in Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 21:41-44 to confound the Pharisees in their attempts to trip Him up. The fact that this incident is recorded in all three Synoptic gospels is of some significance.
10. Hebrews 8:1, …We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven…. Again, the reference to Christ as High Priest. He is not yet “King”.
11. Hebrews 10:12, 13, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifices for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, one sacrifice for sin. One sacrifice. One. One. ONE!!!
12. Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cross was no walk in the park for the Son of Man. Even He only “endured” it. We really have no idea what the Son of God “endured” on that day, with our glib and powerless Christianity, our sanitized pictures, our pretty crucifixes, blasphemous as these are because the cross is empty, and the death of Christ was a horrible and ugly thing, because of which, by faith, God saves us. The early church was accused of turning the world upside down. I’m afraid it must now be said that the world has turned the church upside down.
13. 1 Peter 3:21, 22, …Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
What does this mean? Weren’t they already subject to Him? They were subject to Him as God, but He laid all that aside when He came into this world to live and die for His people. At the Ascension, His humanity and human nature were exalted to the same level as His deity and divine nature. A real human being is seated at the right hand of the Father, a Being who is fully Human and, at the same time, fully God. To Him, to this Man, this God-Man, angelic beings were brought into subjection. That cannot yet be said of humans. The time is coming when it will be. The question is how and when that will happen.
These verses certainly teach that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. But notice how He Himself characterizes this in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne“ (emphasis added). Right now, according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne.
So, when does He sit on His own throne?
Hear His own words in Matthew 25:31-34,
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will divide them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand…,” emphasis added.
The Lord Himself calls Himself “the Son of Man” at the time of His Second Coming. It isn’t until then, when He returns to this world, that He sits “on the throne of His glory.” His sitting on His own throne as King is connected with His Second Coming, not His Ascension.
Matthew 19:28 also bears witness to this.
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory….”
The rest of the verse answers a question that Peter had, which has no bearing on our subject. In the part we read, our Lord referred to “the regeneration”. I believe that Scripture teaches a regeneration of society just as it teaches the regeneration of an individual. We call this, “The Millennium”. If one asks, “Why?” I believe it is to answer once and for all the idea of some that all that is needed is the proper education, or the right economic conditions, or some other improvement, and men will finally show that, at heart, they are basically good people.
Yet, Scripture tells us that, after 1000 years of the most perfect government and environment this fallen world has ever known, Satan will have no trouble fomenting a world-wide rebellion, Revelation 20:7-10. This will demonstrate once and for all that man is not basically good. He is basically evil.
In our next post, we’ll discuss the title of our Lord Jesus: “King of Kings”.