[B25] Jesus At The Father's Right Hand

The kingship of Jesus! Men in all the ages have been looking for a king, one who could fight successfully their battles, bring them deliverance, prosperity, and peace. Sometimes, in certain quarters of the world, men have thought they had found the object of their quest; some one who was able to give them the present measure of their quest. But the horizon continued to widen, the deeper longings of men’s souls were not satisfied. Here at last is the world’s desired King. He has made provision for all man’s wants. He can satisfy all man’s aspirations. He now sits, our brother and our God on the world’s central throne. He rules with a will and a power not to be calculated or controlled by man.

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25. Jesus At The Father’s Right Hand

So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God. — St. Luke 16:19.

The statement of our Creed that the risen Saviour “ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,” may appear to some to set forth two truths; but, in reality, these two clauses present but the two phases of one event. The word ascension tells us of the triumphant procession to the throne; the being seated at the right hand of the Father tells us of the end of the journey, the coronation, and the continued exercise of kingly prerogatives.

The story of the Ascension is itself full of lessons for the devout, thinking Christian. It speaks volumes concerning the character and work of Jesus. It is the final word as to His essential God-head. It is full of assurance as to the satisfactory character of His work. More than multiplied discourses the simply recorded fact of Christ’s ascension impresses us with the beauty, the power, the sublimity, the heavenliness of His person. It would have been difficult for human mind to conceive of anything which would have added to the perfection of the picture of the ascending Christ; but the impression of the picture is intensified, the local coloring is put into it, emphasis is given to its lessons, when the dissolving film of the scene shows to the eye of faith the Christ no longer ascending, no longer an absent prince, but at home with the Father, the crown of victory on His thorn-scarred brow, the sceptre of world-power in His pierced hands, seated forever on the throne of glory. Let us then today consider the goal of the ascension, Jesus on the throne of Heaven, Jesus at the Father’s right hand.

At God’s Right Hand

The rational method of procedure in considering this subject is for us to inquire, first of all, what is meant by the phrase, sitting at the right hand of God the Father. This step is always one of the first which should be taken in treating a subject not generally understood. This inquiry is all the more important because there is some divergence of opinion as to just what is meant by Jesus being seated at God’s right hand. And this difference of opinion has its bearing on other important Biblical doctrines, such, for instance, as that of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper.

There are those who interpret the words, “Sitting at the right hand of God” in a local manner. That is, they regard Christ’s occupancy of the throne of heaven very much as they do that of a human monarch on an earthly throne. For instance, one of the noted theologians entertaining this view says of Christ’s ascension: “It was a local transfer of His person from one place to another.” And with respect to Jesus’ residence in heaven, the same man says: “If Christ has a true body, it must occupy a definite portion of space.”

That Jesus Christ went into heaven as the God-man; that is, that He took His human nature with Him, is believed by all Biblical Christians; few truths are more clearly taught. That Jesus, when He thus went to heaven, sat down at the right hand of God the Father is not only a Biblical thought, but a Biblical statement expressed in specific words. St. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, says that in the last days God had spoken to the world by His Son; and that He, after purging us of our sins, “Sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). After much the same general line of argument, the same Apostle tells the Ephesians that God raised Christ from the dead, and “set Him at His own right hand” (1:20). Another apostle, St. Peter, arguing the efficacy of baptism, declares that it was certified “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God” (1 Pet. 3:22).

Now, in the light of God’s Word, let us inquire what is meant by Christ’s sitting at God’s right hand. Does it mean only this that Jesus, as to His human nature, occupies a literal throne, which may be seen and felt? We believe, on good Biblical grounds, that when we get to heaven we are going to see Jesus. He took His humanity with Him. There in heaven He is our brother, as well as our God. It may be that when we get there we shall see a throne. And it may be that at times we shall see Jesus on that throne. We do not perplex ourselves very much about these things, they are but the draperies of greater realities. But that the existence of such a possible literal throne, and its literal occupancy by the ascended God-man, is not all that is meant by His sitting at the right hand of God is very clear to many of us as we follow closely the teaching of God’s holy Word.

That the right hand of God cannot be pressed to mean a purely localized place, a material throne, seems to us to be clear from the fact that God, as God, has no right hand. God is a spirit without members such as man has. True it is, God’s Word often speaks of His Having eyes, ears, hands, feet, and the like; but this is an accommodation to human modes of thinking for the purpose of emphasizing His watchfulness, His care, and His power. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry” (Ps. 34:15). “Thou hast a mighty arm; strong is Thy hand, and high is Thy right hand” (Ps. 89:13). That these expressions are not to be understood in a localized and material manner is clear from such a statement as this:

“Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I go from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me” (Ps. 139:7—10).

God’s hand is everywhere, because God is everywhere. His eye, His ear, His foot is everywhere, because God is everywhere. So Christ’s sitting at God’s right hand means to occupy the position of honor and power wherever God is.

This seems to be the very clear teaching of the passages which treat of Christ’s session at the Father’s side. In Philippians two, St. Paul tells us that Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, made Himself of no reputation, and took on Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, says the Apostle, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. In this passage no specific mention is made of Christ’s ascension, or of His being seated at the Father’s right hand; but it is, as to the latter part, the classical description of that which becomes fully and unendingly Christ’s on his return to heaven. It was the giving of universal lordship to Him, and not the placing of Him, like a piece of statuary in some hall of fame, on a localized throne. And this truth, it would seem, should be forever settled by the Apostle’s words in Ephesians in which he tells us that God raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. Not in the heavenly place, but places; that is, in the domain of heavenly things. And that it does not refer to a location, but to a condition of life, to the exercise of Divine sovereignty, is made clear by the next verse in which the Apostle thus proceeds:

“Far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all things.”

The real point of the seating of Jesus at the right hand of the Father is lost when we fail to remember that it has reference to the raising of Christ’s human nature to the honor, and glory of the full participation in the prerogatives of the Divine nature. Jesus is all powerful not only as the Son of God, but also as the son of man, as He says: “All power is given me,” to His human nature, for as to His divine nature there never was a moment when He lacked it; “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (St. Matt. 28:18). Jesus knows all things, and is everywhere present, not only according to His Deity, but in His human nature by virtue of its personal union with the Divine.

If this be not true, if the human nature of the Redeemer does not partake of the glories, and participate in the activities, of His Divinity, if His human nature is localized and circumscribed on some tangible throne in heaven, then it follows that the whole Christ can never be with his people on earth, that to be with them at all there must be some method by which the God-head of Christ dissevers itself from His humanity. But this is not Biblical. Jesus says: “Lo, I,” the One who stands before you, the Son of God, who came down from heaven; and the son of man, who was taken into inseparable union with the Son of God; “I,” the God-man, “am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (St, Matt. 28:20).

This is not a subject for idle speculation, it is not one to which we can give a definite analysis, it is full of mysteries, we are willing that it should be so, seeing that it is a mystery that is full of glory for our Saviour, and full of comfort for us. And accepting the teachings of God’s Word concerning Christ’s post-ascension life in heaven, we are prepared thereby to receive, and, in a measure, to understand Christ’s sacramental presence.

The King Forever

When Jesus walked the earth He was known as the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief; he had come to be a servant, to work and endure. For love’s sweet sake He had surrendered His life for a season, and rested for a little while in the shadow of the tomb. Though, ordinarily, not showing forth, during this time, His divine nature and power, there was not a moment, from Bethlehem to Joseph’s garden, when He did not possess, in His own right all the powers and prerogatives of Deity. He had chosen, for the good of His cause, to keep the glory of His kingship hidden. But now all this is forever past. The angels have sung their anthem of welcome to the returning King who had stooped to conquer.

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” In a special sense Jesus had made His advent, as the God-man, into that bright and deathless world which, in a distinctive sense, is the home of God. That celestial splendor which, for a little season, had shone forth on the Mount of transfiguration, now became Jesus’ permanent possession. Saul caught a glimpse of it from afar as he journeyed to Damascus, and its exceeding brightness blinded him. This brightness, this indescribable celestial splendor is now the everyday garb of the ascended, glorified Jesus.

Among the native inhabitants of heaven, it seems, there are beings of greater and less degrees of glory; thrones splendid and more splendid, crowns glorious and still more glorious. In all the realms of space, in all the ages of time, past, present or future, there is, apart from the everlasting Father, no name to rival the name of Jesus, no throne to rival His in kingliness, no crown to be compared to the glory of his. There is no power, save that of the eternal Father Himself, which does not owe, and will be obliged to yield, to the God-man the tribute of honor. God “hath put all things under His feet.” Jesus Christ, the God-man, the once betrayed, crucified, buried; but now arisen and ascended Redeemer, is now, as to His human nature, filled with all the fulness of God, and has become the head over all things.

The kingship of Jesus Christ, what a theme! It never has been, it never will be, exhausted in the thought of any creature. The angels are still desiring to look into it. Throughout the endless ages the redeemed will meditate on this subject with never ending delight.

Jesus of Nazareth the king forever on the one lasting throne of the universe. What a paradox! But what a commentary on the unchanging laws on which the universe is built. He loved righteousness, He lived and wrought in the sphere of truth, this will bring anyone to victory. But only Jesus Christ, the God-man, the world’s great champion of truth and righteousness, could come to this throne. It was His. No one besides could occupy it, for no one else could discharge its obligations.

The kingship of Jesus! Men in all the ages have been looking for a king, one who could fight successfully their battles, bring them deliverance, prosperity, and peace. Sometimes, in certain quarters of the world, men have thought they had found the object of their quest; some one who was able to give them the present measure of their quest. But the horizon continued to widen, the deeper longings of men’s souls were not satisfied. Here at last is the world’s desired King. He has made provision for all man’s wants. He can satisfy all man’s aspirations. He now sits, our brother and our God on the world’s central throne. He rules with a will and a power not to be calculated or controlled by man.

Still Our Friend and Helper

Sometimes in the affairs of earth men are given titles of honor, and honorary position as a reward for services rendered, and as a gentle hint that it is time for retirement, to rest on their oars, and dream of their past achievements. Not so with Jesus, the God-man, when He was raised to the pinnacle of heavenly glory and power. He was raised to kingship not only in name, but in fact; He was given sovereignty not only as an honor, but for use. Jesus went to heaven not only to open the way for us as He went, but to prepare a place for us, and to continue to help us on the way.

There is a sense in which Jesus went to heaven leaving behind a finished task. “He has offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever.” He did no work for his generation which others will have to do for succeeding generations. He fulfilled all righteousness, no one can alter or improve the pattern. He has spoken all needed truth, no one can add to His words. He has not had, nor will He ever have, any successors as prophet, priest, or king. He left behind a finished work in which all men may confidingly trust, but which no man can continue. And yet Jesus went to heaven to be crowned that He might continue to work for mankind.

The God-man is the eternally crowned king of the universe, but He is still present with us, still working for us. His going up to glory did not mean His withdrawal from the field of battle, to leave us down here alone shivering with fear. “Lo, I am with you always.” Jesus went to the throne that He might fill all things; that He might pour out His Spirit abundantly upon us; that we might be enabled, with our bruised feet and weary limbs, to climb the heights which lead to glory and to God. Jesus went to heaven’s throne that the hands once nailed to the cross might wield the plenitude of heaven’s power for the furtherance of our salvation. “Thou hast ascended on high; Thou hast taken captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for men.”

Unbelievers mock concerning the kingdom of the exalted God-man, and scout the idea of its ultimate triumph; and even we Christians have our moments of weakness, as we behold the conflicts going on about us. But the King is vindicating His claims. We see His kingdom coming. He could crush His enemies with His power, but that would not be building His kingdom. He does not want subjects chained to His chariot. He wants them bound to His person and purposes by faith, by the consent of their love, by the homage of their inner lines, by the consent of their regenerated and illumined reason. So He rules gently. He comes in the light which bears the morning, in the warmth which comforts and fructifies the earth; He comes in special richness and efficacy in His Word and sacraments. But He is coming, the King of heaven, coming all the time; and His purposes are ripening fast. Are we allowing this all-glorious, all-powerful; but all-gracious King to have His way in our lives? Remember, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” Will we be ready for His likeness?

This reminds us that the thought of Jesus’ eternal regnancy on the throne of heaven is the source, not only of our greatest power for the present, but of our hope for the future. When we think of Jesus on the throne, we think of Him as our forerunner. Jesus in glory is the picture of what man is meant to be, and what those who love and trust Him actually attain, when the vicissitudes of this life have ended.

Oh, the comfort of the vision of the God-man seated securely on Heaven’s throne. We are still strangers and pilgrims, weary and heavy-laden. But our citizenship is in heaven. That is our fatherland. Our hearts are now in heaven, and some measure of heaven is in our hearts. And when Jesus comes to take us home we shall be like Him.

By God's grace, each week LutheranLibrary.org will present a new message on the basics of the Evangelical Christian Faith. Our guide is the Small Catechism, as expounded by Traditional Pastor Robert Golladay. May this series bless and inspire you.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Series B – The Apostles’ Creed

Publication Information

  • Author: “Golladay, Robert Emory”
  • Title: “The Apostles’ Creed”
  • Originally Published: 1917 by Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Lutheran Library Edition: 2020
  • Copyright: CC BY 4.0