He Sat Down at the Right Hand of God
Pop quiz: If I asked you what was significant about today, what would you say?
It’s Thursday, May 18th. Maybe today is the birthday of someone you love. Maybe it’s an anniversary date for something significant in your life. For many of us, we’d just say it’s significant because the weekend is coming! But what about today is significant, biblically speaking?
Today is the fortieth day of Easter (counting Easter Sunday as day one of that season), which means that today is the day when we remember Christ’s ascension. Acts 1 tells us that Jesus “presented himself alive to them (his disciples) after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God,” and that then “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:3, 9). That event happened on this day, a Thursday, the fortieth day of Easter.
While it may be an overlooked date on the Christian calendar, it is not an insignificant date in this history of the world. It’s only to our detriment that we disregard the ascension of Christ. The truth is, his ascension into heaven is equally as significant as his resurrection from the dead (a fact emphasized by the attention that the book of Hebrews gives to Christ’s exalted state in comparison with its minimal focus on his resurrection from the dead).
So what’s the significance of the ascension of Jesus Christ for us today? There’s much more than I can say in a short blog post, and I would point you to the excellent chapter on “Christ’s Exaltation” in Knowing Christ by Mark Jones (available in the MCBC Library!), but for now let me offer four certainties revealed to us by Christ’s ascension:
1. HIS WORK IS COMPLETE.
The ascension of Christ tells us that his work as our redeemer is complete. That’s the teaching of Hebrews 1:3 – “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus’s ascension carried him “into heaven” (Luke 24:51), where he has gone into the presence of the Father and is now seated at the right hand of God. The work of purification done, he sat down.
Part of my job is a desk job; I sit to study, and I sit to pray, and I sit when counseling. But some of us have jobs that is anything but a desk job. Think of mechanics or those who work in a manufacturing plant or in construction—when do they sit? When their work for the day is complete. They stand to work; they sit when the job is done.
That’s the picture we have of Jesus, especially when compared to the priests of old. They were never said to have sat down in the presence of God, because their work was never complete. There was always another sacrifice to be made. Not so with Jesus. His ascension to heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of God, reminds us that his work is complete.
2. HIS REIGN IS SUPREME.
Scripture also indicates that his ascension assures us that his reign is supreme. Paul writes of Christ Jesus that God the Father “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:20–22).
All things have been placed under the feet of Christ. He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. We’re hearing echoes of Daniel 7 in this description of Christ’s ascension: “and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14).
The ascension and Christ’s exaltation at the Father’s right hand shows us unequivocally that Jesus reigns supreme. He is, for all eternity, the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords!
3. HIS MINISTRY IS EFFECTIVE.
Jesus’s ascension also encourages us that his ongoing ministry on our behalf is effective. What is Jesus’s ongoing ministry for us? Hebrews 7:25 tells us: “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Having been seated at God’s right hand, he now intercedes for us, ensuring that we have all we need to make it faithfully to the end.
Later, Hebrews says it like this: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus ascended to the right hand of God on our behalf.
If you trust in Christ, you need to know and remember and live in light of the truth that the One who has everlasting dominion over all things is for you. He is for your eternal good. He is for giving you all you need to live a God-honoring, God-pleasing, God-glorifying life.
4. AND ONE DAY, WE’LL BE WITH HIM.
Finally, Christ’s ascension in a physical body to heaven gives us assurance that one day, like him, we’ll live in resurrected bodies with him for all eternity. According to Hebrews 6:19–20, speaking of “the inner place behind the curtain” (that is, the very presence of God), “Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” Jesus has gone—speaking of his ascension and then continued exaltation—as a forerunner into the very presence of God. He went first, but that was to mark the path and make a way for us to follow, which is exactly what he promised us in John 14.
Before his ascension, Jesus told his disciples that he was going away to prepare a place for them, and he said “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2–3). Jesus’s physical ascension into heaven is meant to assure us that the same will be true for us.
How is that possible? We could simply say that it’s possible because all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27). But more specifically, it’s possible only because of Jesus Christ.
In that same conversation with his disciples recorded in John 14, Jesus said this: “And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:4–6).
No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ, that is, through faith in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8–9). But for the one who has been saved through faith, that person is “raised with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6–7).
Salvation in Christ was purchased on the cross, affirmed by his resurrection, and made certain beyond dispute by his ascension into heaven. And all of that was so that he could pour out his grace in kindness on us for all eternity, to the praise of his glory.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.