Jesus is at the Right Hand of the Father For You
“He ascended into heaven; And is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From where He shall come to judge the living and the dead” (Apostles’ Creed). Perhaps you have heard the light hearted story of little Billy’s concern for God’s hand. Or maybe a friend has used these words of the creed to demonstrate that Jesus is now fully enclosed in heaven and is unable to come to us with His body and His blood. But what does the ascension of Jesus into heaven mean? Why is it important that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father? Where in the Bible is His ascension taught?
Jesus’ ascension is taught in multiple places. First, Mark chapter 16 tells us, “So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (verse 19). Second, Luke 24 teaches, “Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (verses 50-51). The book of Acts chapter one affirms these saying, “As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (verses 9-11).
Jesus has gone to the Father. This means, first of all, that Jesus has won the victory over every enemy. Psalm 110 speaks prophetically about this saying, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” (verse 1). Jesus has triumphed over sin, death and the devil. He triumphs over every evil foe. He is seated in power and glory at the right hand of God. The Psalm continues, “The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power.” And again, starting in verse 5 it says, “The Lord is at your right hand; He will shatter kings on the day of His wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations.” If you are trusting in Jesus, then this is good news for you! As Jesus executes judgment on the wicked and unbelieving, He rules in favor of His beloved children. Because of this, we who trust in Him, “offer ourselves freely.” Our King, Jesus, has triumphed!
Second, Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father means that Jesus now wields all power and authority on heaven and on earth. As the Psalm says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Jesus does not need our permission to act, nor is His ability to act dependent on our prayers. Also Jesus is not encapsulated in a heavenly sphere and is therefore unable to come to us with His holy body and blood in communion as some teach. Instead it is because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father that He is able to come to us wherever we may be with His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins just as His words declare in Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; and 11:23-29. The book of Philippians adds, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9). Any teaching that limits Jesus’ power to save, denies His ability to come to us, or constrains Him to work only where and when we give Him permission to act is wrong. These teachings fall short in light of the Scriptures’ testimony of the ascended Christ.
Jesus uses His power and authority to save us. We know this because of what the Bible says. Matthew, Mark’s longer ending, and Luke each end with Jesus sending His disciples out into the world. Behind their missionary activity, and the continued proclamation of the Gospel today, lies the sending, presence and authority of Jesus. When the disciples made disciples by baptizing and teaching, Jesus was with them and working just as He promised (Matthew 28:20). Mark 16:20 also says, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” The ascended Jesus is not confined to one physical location in heaven. Rather, His ascension means He has authority to be everywhere He has promised to be.
Therefore it is not the case that when we preach or teach we must first give God permission to act before He can seek and save. We do not give God permission to act as though we were the head and He the hands and feet. Instead Jesus works through His Word to bring sinners to Himself, and He gives us the privilege of joining with Him as instruments in His work.
In closing we joyfully confess these words from Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”