HE SAT DOWN

By Stephen Green

Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

In this advent season, as we approach Christmas, our thoughts may turn to our Lord’s second advent. In the words of ancient Nicene Creed, agreed at the Council of Nicea in 325AD: ‘And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead.’

These words help us understand verse 3 of Hebrews 1.  There seem to be some erroneous teachings starting to surface on this passage.  It is all too easy to jump from ‘he … purged our sins’ to ‘(he) sat down’ and conclude from the words of Christ on the cross ‘It is finished’ that the Lord has ‘sat down’ after all his hard work.

We know that after a tough day of manual exertion, or even a day on the phone, making decisions, standing in front of a class of children or tapping at a keyboard followed by the commute home, we like nothing more than to sit down with a cup of something and relax from our labours.  And let us be very clear; that is a good thing to do.  Much is written about the bleakness of the book of Ecclesiastes, but I love the gracious way Solomon constantly and beautifully commends relaxing after a day’s work.  For example:

Eccl 2:24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

So can this be what our Lord is doing?  We know that he was going to drink wine with the disciples in the Kingdom:

Mark 14:25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

Has he really sat down with a glass of wine after finishing his work on the cross?  Is he even now putting his feet up and saying, as someone might, with a glass of sherry in hand, after digging the garden: ‘That needed doing, but I’m glad it’s over.’

I want to suggest that this is not the meaning of Jesus Christ having ‘sat down’ at all.  But the problem is for many in the church today that to look at the true meaning of ‘sat down’ will confront us with a side to our loving Lord that we should rather not consider.

The truth is, the Son of God has not sat down to rest, he has sat down to rule – and to judge.  The Lord Jesus is not sat in a comfy chair, he is sat on a throne.  He isn’t taking a break, he is exercising his authority.  As a result of his obedience unto death, he has been exalted to the position of King of heaven.  The Apostle wrote to the church in Philippi:

Php 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

Jesus himself said in advance that this would happen:

John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

John 5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

And here we shall remind ourselves that ‘the Son of man’ does not mean a human being.  Caiaphas the high priest and the Sanhedrin knew full well what it meant:

Mark 14:61 … Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? 64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

‘The Son of man’, as those learned but misguided men recognised, is a divine messianic title derived from the book of Daniel:

Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Let us bear in mind that Christ does not just rule in heaven.  Many will be comfortable with that.   They will keep Christ lord of the spiritual things of life while we men get on with day to day living free from divine interference.  ‘”Render unto Caesar” and all that’.  But that is not the end of that saying:

Luke 20:25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.

And how many things are God’s?

Psalm 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Let us look again at Philippians 2: … at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

The verb ‘should’ expresses obligation and expectation.  This is not just how things will be, after Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11, it is a declaration of how things ought to be.  The Lord Jesus demands to rule in the affairs of men, as King of kings.  Daniel said the Son of man would receive ‘dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him’.

Among the Lord’s last words on earth to his disciples were these:

Matt 28:18 … ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth’.

Again, many people are quite happy with the ‘heaven’ bit, but decidedly uneasy with Christ having all power ‘in earth’.  We even spiritualise the expression King of kings:

1Tim 6:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

But for Christ to be up in heaven ordering angels about and smiling down while the kingdoms of this earth destroy each other is not how the Apostle would have understood the expressions he used. He wrote:

Rom 13:1 … For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

He knew when he wrote that to the church in Rome that he was setting the church on a collision course with the Caesars, who asserted that there was no power at all higher than them.  The understanding that every earthly power is subject to Christ might be as unpopular a Christian doctrine today as it was in the courts of the Caesars, but it was well understood in the early church.  It was even explored in the film ‘The Robe’, which starred Richard Burton as a converted centurion whose desire to serve a Caesar under Christ becomes simply not good enough.

As it happens, the expression ‘King of kings’ is not just used in the Bible in 1Timothy and Revelation.  It was a title given to earthly rulers.  Artaxerxes is referred to as a ‘king of kings’ in Ezra 7:12, Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadrezzar in the Babylonian language) is a ‘king of kings’ in Ezek 26:7 and Daniel 2:37 while Chedorlaomer was plainly a king ruling over other kings and Tidal was ‘king of nations’ in Genesis 14.

So ‘King of kings’ and ‘Lord of lords’ are not entirely spiritual titles.  They encompass the truth that Christ will return to this earth in glory and in judgment, as an Emperor to whom all other earthly kings and rulers are subject.  Christians may be inspired by Jarrod Cooper’s song ‘King of Kings, Majesty’, but while it is necessary for the ‘God of Heaven’ to be ‘living in me’ it is not nearly enough.

We read in Mark that the Lord said he would be going on ‘a journey’ in his role as ‘Son of man’:

Mark 13:34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

In Luke, the journey with its reason and its conclusion are set out in more detail:

Luke 19:12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.

With that interesting detail ringing in our ears, we proceed to the Lord’s return and the settling of accounts with his servants, which forms the centre part of the parable.  The servants are the church, Christian believers, charged with working for the Kingdom until the King returns, and they are called to give an account of themselves first.

1Pet 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

Well, Luke 19 spells out exactly what their end will be, and it is a chilling thought that this particular drama may be played out not at the last judgment in heaven, but here on earth:

Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. 28 And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.

In looking at our Lord sat down in the seat of judgment to rule, we have explored a side to his character which is not often preached today, that of the terrible risen, ascended Saviour before whom John fell as one dead and who rides forth on a white horse emblazed with those messianic titles  King of kings and Lord of lords.

Is this the same gentle Lord Jesus who knows our frailties and bears long with us?  Our advocate in heaven.  Yes it is, he does that as well.

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

But our Lord is not one-dimensional, and the knowledge that we serve a soon-returning king should be an encouragement to us not just in this Advent and Christmas season.

Share

10 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Bobbie Ann Cole

    We have to assume that Hebrews was originally written in Hebrew. The verb ‘to sit down’ lshevet is intimately connected to the word for Tribe, Shevet. They share a common root.
    I think a Tribe is called a Shevet because they sit down together. You don’t sit down with your enemies but with your family.
    There are deeper meanings than the physical act of sitting down when we are told here that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, implications of family unity and status within God’s family.
    In my view, the way this is expressed would have been as telling and important to the Jews as the information that Jesus was from the Tribe of David.

    1. Rox

      I don’t think it was. Hebrew was not at that time the everyday language of Jews. Just as Jews in Europe in the twentieth century spoke Yiddish (really German), the 1st century Jews spoke Aramaic in Palestine, Latin in Rome, and Greek in the eastern empire, like everyone else. They only used Hebrew in their worship, like Europeans used Latin well into the 20th century when hardly anybody could understand it, let alone speak it (and Muslims still use Arabic, even in England and Pakistan).

      However, I have seen a group of Americans preaching in the street insisting that the whole New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. A surprisingly large crowd gathered to tell them that it was written in Greek. But the most important thing to them was that it was written in Hebrew originally, I don’t know why. They won no converts.

      1. Stephen

        It makes no difference to Bobbie’s insight. On the other hand, very often Hebrew has no distinct noun for something, only a describing word. So an ox is ‘thing of strength’ and a dog a ‘thing that holds on’. It would be consistent for a tribe to be ‘those who sit together’. But the act of sitting down, also mentioned in Matt 5:1, Matt 23:2 and Matt 27:19 with the same Greek word as in Hebrews 1:3, is associated with passing judgment.

  2. Mike Abel

    Bless you brother Stephen for your fresh perspective. I honour the King on the throne with you and your readers.
    Have a Blessed Christmas and a 2014 filled with opportunities to serve the Lord.
    Mike Abel
    http://churchleaderpearls.org

  3. Apotle(Prof.)Vic N.Ronnie

    Very interesting write up

  4. Iain Rodgers

    Thanks Stephen,
    The main thrust of these first verses of Hebrews is also telling us that the “Sitting Down” of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ’s WORK of “purging of our sins” is COMPLETELY finished.
    It has been well said that ; Christianity is the only FAITH that “starts” when the main work is “finished” !
    As you know there was no seat in the Tabernacle because the Priests’ and High Priest’s was never finished.
    Our Lord said things were finished twice. : 1) John 17 : 4 and 2) John 19 : 30. ( not a contradiction however ! )
    1) Active voice – things He DID for / to others.- “- – – – – went about Palestine doing good – etc ”
    2) Passive voice ; Perfect tense – Work done ON him – “He bore our sins – – ” – and still valid in its application today ( Perfect tense )
    Our Lord was confirmed to be “standing” at the martyrdom of Stephen :- Acts 7 : 56 – MAYBE to do some special thing if the people accepted the Preaching of Stephen and repented – ??? Who knows ?
    It certainly influenced the Apostle Paul for sure.

    # Done is the work that saves – ONCE and for ever done – finished the righteousness that clothes the unrighteous one – Why stand we then without in fear – The Blood of Christ invites us near #

    YES ! – He is the Sovereign Lord too ( Phil 2 – etc ) and HE WILL come again – Rapture first and then some seven years later in severe Judgement : – MARANATHA ! ; “- – – – – – – even so come Lord Jesus”

    Every blessing,
    brother Iain

  5. Real

    Thanks for the hard work that you are doing may God lift you up o that you can help others like us.
    Thanks
    please may I hear more from you
    Real.

  6. joseph mugwanya

    dear Stephen hope you are well thank you so much for building the body of Christ may God bless you so much for loving God iam pastor Joseph mugwanya from Uganda east Africa iam senior pastor and founder of rhema community church in Uganda dear sir i request kindly to associate with you especially for building the body of Christ and to build partners may God bless you so much just wanted to greet you and to appreciate a good work your doing God bless you so much yous pastor Joseph mugwanya; my cellphone +256 788 66 96 22

  7. Mike lampard

    Good article but raises some interesting points.
    1. The work of Christ is truly finished. He has dies ‘once and for all’; he has already healed us of infirmities; redeemed us; saved us and, through the divine exchange already given to us our righteousness. Christ can then indeed sit down at the right hand of the Father.
    2. The issue here is therefore the work of the Holy Spirit in us as Believers. That is ongoing right now whereby we receive the finished work of Christ’s redemption and thereby continue to walk in victory in this life. Although reality suggests that we are beset with disease, problems, antagonisms, and the like, yet the truth is that we have already been set free from these things: healed, redeemed etc. We either walk in reality, or in truth, and these two are not always the same. We are to walk in truth, and bring that truth into a daily reality. I may not feel healed of flu, infection, eyc. but the truth is that I am already healed of thse irrespective of what thereality may try to tell me. That is the walk of faith.
    3. I think that this article tried to bring thsse points together, but with the added issue of what is likely to occur towards the end of time. Judgement begions with the House of God on this planet! Wickedness will increase! As in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man, etc. We will (or our descendants) have to live through this on this planet. That is still to come. However, we walk in truth that the work of Christ has already been accomplished, and so we walk primarily and completely in that, through all the otherbalagan that may occur to us as we walk.
    Thanks for the article, anyway.
    Mike Lampard.

  8. Jyothy prem

    OASIS REQUEST FOR FUND

    Resp: Sir,

    Oasis Charitable Trust (OCT) is a not for profit organization based at Delhi India, with a commendable service of over four years in enabling self reliance for the poor and downtrodden and promoting socio-cultural values of its clientele from different parts of the country. Over a period of four years, the Trust has critically impacted the lives of around 3000 families from three states. The chief beneficiaries of the Trust are the ultra poor people living in very abysmal conditions. Our services in the forms of Education, Community Health, SHG & Micro Finance are reaching out to the underprivileged people of 5 underdeveloped colonies in Delhi and 5 most backward villages each in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Our SHG & Micro Finance Program has become the lifeline of all these target areas.

    We would like to submit this proposal for your kind perusal. We also submit a brief summary about our organization along with this proposal. We would like to foster a strong partnership with your esteemed organization, in our mission to serve the disadvantaged masses. We request you approve this proposal and provide us an opportunity to join hands with you. We solicit your early response.

    Thank you

    Executive Director

    Jyothyprem
    http://www.octweb.org

Leave a Reply