Daniel saw in a vision one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven, who approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. Prophesying about Jesus he saw the Son of Man receiving authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13, 14).
Daniel and the other prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to come searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when the Holy Spirit predicted Christ's sufferings and the glories that would follow. These prophets must have been amazed at their utterances about the coming Messiah who would have all power and dominion on earth and in heaven.
It was revealed to these prophets that they were not serving themselves but us here today when they spoke about the things that the Holy Spirit teaches us today about the gospel. These were such profound mysteries that even angels were not allowed to know all about them and they longed for the day that they, too, would receive this knowledge.
This Savior that Daniel, and other prophets, spoke about, received the power and authority to sit at the right hand of the Father, and in addition, give the right to those who overcome to sit with Him on his throne.
What will we do there? At the renewal of all things, when Jesus sits on his glorious throne, those who have followed him will also sit with Him on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. We will eat and drink at Jesus' table forever of which we see a reflection in this life already by our sitting down and eating and drinking at his table at communion.
But what does it mean that Jesus will sit at the right hand of the Father?
It is obvious that it has to follow Jesus' ascent into heaven. But if one carefully ponders the question, it is not at all that obvious, because Jesus, as the Second Person of the Trinity, has been in heaven forever and will be in heaven for eternity. So, why is it important that we understand that Jesus first ascended into heaven and then sat at the right hand of the Father?
Jesus took upon himself a physical body, a glorious body that will never age or wither away; a sinless, indestructible, incorruptible body that is the ultimate expression of God's purpose for mankind. While the Second Person of the Trinity was always with God the Father, He is the One who has the office of Mediator and to fulfill and obey his office, He had to become incarnated and suffer the shame and punishment that we were supposed to suffer as a result of our corruption and sin.
God has, therefore, purposed it from before creation that his second Person would bring those, whose names have been recorded in the book of life, to glory in heaven with Him. But since man was never meant to be a spirit but to occupy a physical body as the crown of creation; and since man's body was corrupted and subject to decay as a result of sin; and since man can only be in heaven as an incorruptible being with an incorruptible physical body, therefore, it was inescapable that his decaying body had to be replaced with a new, incorruptible body, worthy of the right to sit with Christ on his throne at the right hand of the father.
So, we see that the Second Person assumed an earthly body to suffer the wrath of God for our sins because we were not able to withstand the punishment due for our sins and would be utterly destroyed if God had rightfully poured his wrath out on us. God did not merely brush our sins aside without exacting satisfaction, but because of his justice, he sent his Son in our place to suffer his wrath, which saved us from the destruction that all of mankind deserves.
It is a source of comfort for us that God did not brush our sins away without any satisfaction because God promised that death would follow sin. If death would now not follow sin and sin may go unpunished, there could legitimately be doubt on God's other promises too, such as our promises of salvation. For us to witness God's judgment and his hatred for sin, is to receive comfort that He will not relent on his promises and that they will come to pass. Just as Jesus promises that those who overcome will receive the right to sit with him on his throne.
But before we can sit with Jesus on his throne in heaven, He has to be in that position at the right hand of the Father in his glorious body, as the head of the church, the firstborn of the living. Which is why He had to ascend as a new, glorious human being to a place in heaven at the right hand of the Father: a place which Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity has never left and will never leave. The man Jesus, however, was not there before, ascended to that position after his work on earth was complete, and sits at the right hand of that Father today and forever.
You may well ask what kind of place is heaven, then, when a physical body can exist in such a glorious environment and how are bodily functions dealt with, especially since we know that this new body has the ability to eat and appear to resemble some traits of our old bodies. We don't know except what has been revealed to us. We just know that our new bodies will be like Jesus' body, that it will be a glorified body, and that it will be something that man has never comprehended or imagined. That's sufficient for us to know and long for.
So, now that we know why Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, and that we will have the right to sit with Him there, let's see what is the significance of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.
The most important thing to remember is that nobody else would sit at the right hand of the Father. Angels and men will ascend but only Jesus will sit at that place with the Father, because that position signifies special things that cannot be bestowed on angels or men.
The right hand of God signifies two things, namely, the supreme power and virtue of God; and supreme dignity and majesty. God exalted Jesus to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness to us. (Acts. 5:31). God's right hand signifies his power, dignity and majesty. To sit at the right hand of God manifests the complete authority in heaven and on earth that Jesus has received. (Matt. 28:18).
Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being sustaining all things by his powerful word, becoming as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (Heb 1:3, 4). He will shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of God, and they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:4). So, we see two things, namely, the one sitting at the right hand of the Father, must be a personal equal with God in power and glory; and through that One the Father works and governs all things immediately. It means to reign in equal power and glory with the Father.
Christ does all things in the same manner as the Father does and is endowed with equal power with the Father, which He also exercises. But Jesus in his divinity has always reigned in this manner, as did the Holy Spirit. With the division of the offices of the three Persons of the Godhead, we see that only the Son sits at the right hand of the Father, not the Holy Spirit, because it is through the Head of the church that the Father governs all things, not the Holy Spirit. So, sitting at the right hand of the Father has special significance for the church and every member of Christ's body.
By the office of the Second Person, which is the Son, the Father governs and rules immediately, both in heaven and on earth, establishing a separation between all things and the Father; a separation because of the sheer immensity and dignity of the Father, that nobody can see Him and live. But this separation is overcome by the glory and merit of Christ being the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, having seen the Son one sees the Father. Nobody has ever seen or has access to the Father except through the Son and He makes the Father known to us. (John 1:18). As we will see later, the Father works immediately through the Son alone.
Christ has, therefore, supreme dignity and glory that the Father bestowed upon him after his ascension, giving him the highest exaltation as Mediator and High Priest. Christ alone received these attributes because he alone is that almighty Person and Mediator through whom the Father immediately governs all things, especially the church, defending her against all her enemies.
The glory of sitting at the right hand of the Father consists in the following four things:
a) In the perfection of his divine nature being equal with the Father, which He did not receive but always had. His divinity was unseen and unobserved during the time of his humiliation, but it afterwards revealed itself with power and majesty.
b) In the perfection and exaltation of the human nature of Christ. Christ's human nature's excellency consists, first, in the personal union of the human nature with the Word, because in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form and we received fullness in Christ who is head over every power and authority, (Col 2:9, 10) and in whose hands the Father placed everything (Joh 3:35). Second, in the excellency of his gifts, such as wisdom, power, glory, majesty, and others, which are far greater and more in number than those that the angels or men have received. On Him rests the Spirit of the LORD, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2). Those who believe in him will have streams of living water flow from them. (John 7:39).
c) In the perfection and excellence of the office of Mediator. Christ's office consists of these three offices, namely, that of Prophet, Priest, and King, which Christ now, as the glorified Head of his church, gloriously executes in heaven in his human nature. He intercedes in glory, grants the Holy Spirit, and gloriously preserves and defends his church. This excellency of Christ's office is his exaltation in his kingdom and priesthood. He laid aside the infirmity of his human nature that he had during his stay on earth and manifested that glory that was due him. He accomplished this by reason of his office as prophet, priest and king and because of his person as God.
d) In the perfection of honor, reverence, and worship. Angels and men give these excellencies to Christ equal with the Father because he is acknowledged, adored, and magnified by all as the Lord and Head of all. God commanded all to worship him (Heb. 1:6) and exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phi. 2:9-11).
This name of which Scripture speaks, consist in the excellency of the Person and office of Christ, and is a declaration of both by his visible majesty that all may acknowledge and be constrained to confess that He is that King by whom God governs all things. It was thus that Stephen saw Him standing at the right hand of God, crowned with visible majesty and glory, and adorned Him. Before his ascension, Christ had his exaltation at the right hand of the Father and certain parts of the excellency of his person and office, but now, He attained the consummation of His glory, taking his place at the right hand of the Father.
To summarize, Christ's sitting at the right hand of the Father consists of the following:
· Having the same and equal power with the Father;
· Excelling all angels and men in his human nature, both in nature and application and also in visible glory and majesty;
· Declaring himself Lord of angels and men and so of all things created;
· Ruling immediately in the name of the Father His kingdom in heaven and the whole world, and especially govern his church in the same manner by his power;
· Be acknowledged and praised by every one as Lord and Head of all.
The office of Savior and Mediator provides a specific honor to Christ, which does not belong to the Father nor the Holy Spirit and is the highest degree or consummation of the honor which the Son obtained. As divine Being the Son is equal and consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but as the only Person with a human body, Christ is uniquely responsible for the ownership, management, and glorification of the elect: his bride.
In respect to His Human nature, it is a real communication of heavenly gifts and perfect glory, which the humanity of Christ had not had before his ascension. In respect to His divine nature, this sitting at the right hand of God does not include any change of his Divinity, but is merely the laying aside of his humiliation, and the manifestation of that glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world, but which He had concealed during the time of His humiliation. It is also the manifestation of the right and title to the free and full possession of that which His Godhead had laid aside, as it were, in assuming our nature. It is manifest of Christ's love for the elect having tolerated for a while the humiliation and shame, for the sake of the elect, as it would have destroyed anything that dared approach him without the necessary awe and subjugation, because he had legions of angels at his disposal to remove the threat of the Pharisees had he chosen to use them. (Matt 26:53).
As the Godhead humbled itself for a while, so it was again placed at the right hand of the Father, that is to say, it was gloriously manifested in the flesh, glorifying Christ in the Father's presence with the glory he had before the world began. (John 17:5). Knowing the Father is the definition of eternal life, and one cannot know the Father unless He is revealed by Christ who brought the Father glory on earth by completing the work He gave Christ to do.
Although the three Persons of the Godhead are all one true God, we cannot assume that the Holy Spirit also sits at the right hand of the Father because Christ alone sits there, because He assumed human nature, humbled himself, died, rose again, ascended into heaven and is Mediator, even though the Holy Spirit is God, Ruler and Comforter of the church. The Father works immediately through the Son alone and mediately through the Holy Spirit. The same order that exists in relation to the Persons of the Godhead is preserved in their operation.
The Father does not work by anybody because He is of no one. He works by and of Himself. The Son works by himself but not of himself because He is begotten by the Father. The Holy Spirit works by himself but from the Father and the Son, from whom He proceeded.
It is for this reason that the Son, who is Mediator, is correctly said to sit at the right hand of the Father.
Christ was always the Mediator, Head and King of the church, even before his ascension, with this difference, he was not exalted in the office of mediator, in his kingdom and priesthood. The consummation of his glory, which consists in the administration of his kingdom and priesthood in heaven, commenced with his exaltation at the right hand of the Father. The administration of his kingdom and priesthood per se has been his office from the beginning, working through the nation of Israel while the church was tutored by the law. The functions performed by Israel for the sake of the church were permanently moved to the throne of Christ in heaven, from where he rightfully rules and prepares his church in this final phase before glory.
Does our passage in Revelation 3:21 mean that we will be sitting at the right hand of the Father by the right given by Christ? No, because Christ will not give to another the supreme dignity and glory given him of the Father. We shall sit with Christ by a participation in his glory, even though the throne of the Father and the Son is the same. There will also be many at the Throne, some in higher, others in lower places, some near the King, but the Son alone sits at His right hand.
In dealing with this question, we must first distinguish between the natures of Christ and then consider the timeline involved.
a) Christ has always sat at the right hand of the Father as it respects his Godhead, if we understand this to mean that He reigns in equal power with the Father and that he is endowed with equal honor and glory. His divine nature was from everlasting equal to the Father in honor and power. The same thing is true if we understand the phrase to sit at the right hand of the Father to signify that Christ is the Head of the church, for the Son was always that Person by whom the Father governed all things from the beginning, as He also created all things by Him. In this sense Christ was placed at the right hand of the Father by his eternal generation as Second Person of the Godhead.
b) Christ was always at the right hand of God according to his divinity by virtue of his appointment to the office of mediator, which was made from everlasting. This appointment had respect to his divine nature from the beginning. Christ ruled his church through Israel when the church was still an infant and, when the time came, He took over the ruling offices and now rules while at the right hand of the Father. The prophets knew they were prophesying about the Christ, but they tried to find out the time and circumstance to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing. (I Peter 1:10).
c) The same as with Christ's Divinity, as the Second Person of the Godhead he has been since everlasting since He executed the office of mediator from the very beginning.
No man can see the Father and live, and when God appeared to people in the guise of a man, it was by virtue of the mediating Christ that the appearance was established. One may argue that it wasn't the incarnate Jesus, which would technically be correct because Jesus was not born yet at the time God appeared to Abraham, for instance. But it was the Second Person of the Godhead, who already had the office of mediator and fulfilled the duties of his office by taking on the guise of a man, speaking the mind of the Father, for He would not speak of his own accord but the Father commanded him to say and how to say it. (John 12:49).
It is also the same Second Person who mediated the salvation of the Old Testament saints based on the promise that He would come as the Christ. And being the same Person and God who made the promise and fulfill it, the promise was secure and thus the salvation of the Old Testament saints was also secure.
As we now know, it was the same Second Person who would willingly obey and become the incarnate Jesus, the Christ, in whose glory we now practice and preach the gospel having a hope that the Old Testament saints could never have imagined.
While Christ lived on earth His Godhead had also humbled itself, not by becoming weaker but only by veiling and not openly manifesting itself until it was appropriate to do so. He was exalted by manifesting and not by adding anything to his Godhead, which it did not possess before, nor by making it more powerful or glorious, nor by declaring it before God, but before men, and by fully and freely claiming His own right, which his divinity had concealed in assuming our nature.
So, when Christ says that the Father should glorify him in the Father's presence with the glory He had before the world began (John 17:5), Christ establishes the fact that he did not have that glory with men and he prays that He might also manifest it unto men. The Word has not underwent any change as to his Divinity, but it was solely for the sake of the church, now being matured, to see the manifesting glory of her Head and King.
In respect to his humanity, Christ was the first human to be placed at the right hand of the Father when he ascended into heaven. It was at this time that he obtained his glorification as a human, when he received that which he had not had before. The Christ had to suffer these things and then enter his glory. (Luke 24:26).
So, in heaven there are two natures of the Second Person sitting at the right hand of the Father: there is God the Second Person or Christ with respect to his Divinity, who is omnipotent and almighty, and then there is the human nature of Christ, who is not omnipotent, who has a physical body, and is the firstborn of all of the human race, some to join Christ in heaven and some to follow the beast into the abyss. Christ ascended into heaven, first having come down from heaven, in order to fill the whole universe with his gifts and graces, but not his flesh, skin and bones. (Eph. 4:10). Only the elect would enter eternal bliss in their indestructible bodies.
Although Christ has been endowed with omnipotence since everlasting in his Divinity, the personal union between his divine nature and human nature does not confer these properties onto him as a human. There are, though, many things conferred upon his humanity by real transfusion, namely, other qualities than those, which he had in his humiliation and upon the cross. There were far more and greater gifts conferred upon his human nature after his ascension, than were conferred either upon angels or men.
In respect to the bestowment of these gifts Christ, according to His humanity, was placed at the right hand of God. According to His Divinity, He was always at the right hand of the Father. However, as far as He was glorified in the highest degree, and in as far as He manifested this glory in His flesh and has obtained the perfection of glory, He was placed at the right hand of God.
The fruits of Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father include all the benefits of the kingdom and priesthood of Christ glorified. They are the following:
a) Intercession for us.
b) The gathering, governing and preservation of the church by His Word and Spirit.
c) The defense of the church against all her enemies.
d) The rejection and destruction of the enemies of the church.
e) The glorification of the church, and the removal of all the infirmities it is subject to.
f) These fruits of Christ's sitting at the right hand of God, naturally grow out of the office which He holds. The benefits of the kingdom of Christ glorified are:
i. that He rules us through the ministry of His word and Spirit,
ii. that He preserves His ministry,
iii. gives His church resting places,
iv. makes His word effectual in the conversion of the elect,
v. raises them up at length from the dead,
vi. delivers them from all their infirmities,
vii. glorifies them,
viii. wipes all tears from their eyes,
ix. places them upon His throne, and
x. makes them kings and priests unto His Father.
The fruit of the priesthood of Christ glorified is, that He appears and intercedes prevailingly for us in heaven, so that the Father does not refuse us anything on account of the virtue and force of His intercession. It is in view of this that we obtain this precious comfort, that since He who is our King, our Head, our flesh and brother, sits at the right hand of the Father.
a) He will grant unto us, his members, every good.
b) He will grant unto us the Holy Spirit, so that we shall be quickened and glorified.
c) He will bestow upon us heavenly gifts, such as a true knowledge of God, faith, repentance, and every Christian virtue, and
d) He will accomplish all for us, as from the office, which He sustains as our Head.
Because we have such a High Priest, who is set down at the right hand of the Father, there is no reason why we should doubt our salvation, for He will preserve it safely for us, and at length bestow it upon us.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
What do I then believe regarding his sitting at the right hand of the Father? It is this
I believe that Christ, possessed of supreme and divine majesty, intercedes for me and all the elect, as a truly glorified human, as I will be at the end of time, and that He applies to us his sacrifice; that the Father, by and for His sake, will bestow upon me eternal life; and that He will also rule and defend me in this life, against the evil and all dangers, and that He will at length glorify and grant me eternal life.