Chapter 4: Christ's Enthronement
by Jack Palmer, N. Ireland
The term "Christ’s Enthronement" is very suggestive. It instantly provokes thoughts of a person, of a position, of power and points to a time when the enthronement took place. These apply to all enthronements regardless of their background circumstances, gender of throne sitter, location, or duration. Many, in a worldly setting, have been elevated to such a position as a result of political intrigue, revolt, conflict and corruption of one kind or another, with the outcome often being that the individual in question is completely devoid of any moral or honourable status. When it comes to the consideration of the enthronement of our Lord Jesus, it is altogether different; His, in total distinction, is in keeping with Divine purpose and is therefore associated with expectation, elevation, recognition, completion, vindication, glorification and perpetuation. Everything about His exaltation is established on the unchanging bedrock of Divine righteousness.
The purpose of this chapter is to consider the Lord Jesus and His present enthronement "on the right hand of the Majesty on high" Heb.1.3. Addressing the church of the Laodiceans, the Lord promised the overcomer that He would grant him, "to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" Rev.3.21. It is important to distinguish between the throne of the Father, and His Own, that is, Christ’s throne. Clearly the throne on which the Saviour currently sits is His Father’s and is located in heaven whereas when He spoke about "His throne", He was referring to a future throne that would be upon earth and is identified as "the throne of His glory" Matt.25.31. What a day it will be when the rejected Messiah will take His seat upon His throne in the world where "He is despised and rejected of men" Isa.53.3. Our meditation in this chapter concerns His present exaltation in the glory. How reassuring that "the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" Heb.6.20, confirming that one day we shall be where He is now. We shall not only be with Him but "we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" 1Jn.3.2,3.
Earthly enthronements are many and varied. While to the natural mind these are mere historical facts, the believer with spiritual understanding readily perceives that "the powers that be are ordained of God" Rom.13.1. If this be the case in relation to earthly authorities, how much more so does this apply to the enthronement of our Lord Jesus Christ. Divine purpose is firmly established on the premise "that in all things He might have the pre-eminence" Col.1.18. This will ever be so regardless of the hatred, cruelty, opposition and rejection of men. The best that wicked and sinful men could offer the Saviour were symbols of mock sovereignty such as a sceptre, a purple robe and a crown of thorns. The One the world unitedly rejected, and still rejects, now occupies the highest position. The humiliation of the tree has been exchanged for the glory of the throne. God has decreed "Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" Heb.1.13, a position afforded to none other, including members of the angelic host.
The subject of His enthronement is given a prominent place throughout the Scriptures. It is a truth that is fundamentally important and basic to all that we believe, embrace, enjoy and anticipate through our unbreakable link with Him Who presently sits upon the throne at the right hand of the Father. As with many other facets of Bible teaching our understanding of the Saviour’s exaltation is enhanced by the use of appropriate illustrations, for example:
The Ark on Mount Ararat – Genesis chapter 8
The plan, provision, and the passing of the ark through the flood have long been looked upon as a heart-warming picture of the Lord Jesus and His enduring the judgment of God against sin during the dark and lonely experiences of the cross. When "the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained … the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat" Gen.8.2,4. Here is a lovely foreshadowing of the Lord in His suffering and exaltation. Having "endured the cross" Heb.12.2, He is now elevated to the highest pinnacle in glory.
Isaac on Mount Moriah – Genesis chapter 22
It is not difficult to detect in the story of Abraham and Isaac a preview of the movements of God the Father and the Son. Our attention is drawn to the journey to the appointed place, what happened there and how Isaac was put in the place of death upon the altar. The record is that "Abraham returned unto his young men" Gen.22.19. There is no mention whatsoever of Isaac ever coming down from the mountain; this is a most fitting illustration of Christ in exaltation as the One Who has "gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" 1Pet.3.22.
Moses on the Top of the Hill (Rephidim) – Exodus chapter 17
The account of the provision of the manna, Exodus chapter 16, is an apt picture of the Lord Jesus in incarnation. The smiting of the rock in the following chapter clearly foreshadows Calvary, and drinking from the water that flowed from the smitten rock is a telling picture of the appropriation of salvation. The ensuing conflict with Amalek highlights the battle that begins at the moment of salvation between that which is of the flesh and that which is spiritual. Joshua was down in the valley engaging with the enemy but his success or otherwise in the conflict was dependent on a link with Moses, the man on the top of the hill. We too are engaged in a very real and unrelenting battle. It is a battle with the flesh and we cannot overcome it in our own energy, but how wonderful to realise that we can be victorious by drawing upon the resources that come from the blessed Person now enthroned at God’s right hand. Moses was prone to weariness and his hands fell down, but our heavenly Moses is not, nor ever can be, subject to such fallibilities.
While it is good to observe illustrations, shadows and pictures that provoke our minds and help our understanding of the supremacy and glory of the Saviour’s elevated position, there can be no real substitute for the clear and specific statements of the Scriptures. It is also important to observe the teaching of the Lord Himself. When He drew near to the couple on the way to Emmaus and communed with them, He reminded them that "the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory" Lk.24.25,26.
Turning to the Old Testament Scriptures, and thinking of Christ’s enthronement, the outstanding prediction regarding this is found in Psalm 110. The Psalms provide a beautiful and comprehensive summary of the life of the One Who was to come. Psalm 40 speaks of His incarnation, Psalm 22 of His crucifixion, Psalm 16 of His resurrection, Psalm 68 of His ascension,but Psalm 110, in a unique and detailed way, is the prediction of His coronation. Unlike the others, Psalm 110 is "as some scholars prefer to say "Prophetic-Messianic". There is no other primary reason for it being written. There is no other person, event, or circumstances with which it may be associated. Its language is pure prophetic poetry anticipating only the greatness and glory of the Messiah Who was to come, and all the New Testament citations prove this. There is nothing of David in this Psalm, except that he was the writer. It is all Christ"1. The significance of this Psalm is also borne out by the fact that it is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament passage. It is also quoted by the Lord Jesus in Matt.22.44 when dealing with the Pharisees, and He used it as a basis for confirming His Deity. Turning to the detail of Psalm 110 it is helpful to note its:
- 1 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches: Hebrews.” J.R. Ritchie, Ltd, Kilmarnock, 1986.
How delightful to be able to listen to one Divine person addressing another. "The LORD said unto my Lord" v.1, that is, Jehovah said unto my Adon. The rest of the Psalm presents the purpose of Jehovah for the One that David spoke of so appropriately as his Lord (Strong 113 and also means master, owner). There is also a clear emphasis on the word "said". It is vital to appreciate not only what was said, but to grasp the significance of the authority with which it was spoken.
What a decree, "Sit Thou at My right hand" v.1! There is a threefold emphasis in this statement. Firstly "Sit" magnifies His posture; secondly "Thou" glorifies His person, and "on My right hand" signifies His power. The right hand is also the seat of authority. Some monarchs of earth may have authority but are devoid of power. How precious and encouraging to note that the One Who occupies the throne of Psalm 110 has both.
"Sit Thou on My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" v.1. Everything associated with Calvary and the uplifting of the Saviour on the tree was marked with dishonour and humiliation, but in sharp contrast His present position is a seat of honour and exaltation. Men in their rejection could not bring Him low enough, but the response of heaven is to lift Him to the highest station. What a day when the rejected Man of Calvary will make His enemies His footstool. It was a common practice of oriental conquerors to place their foot on the neck or body of defeated enemies as a means of demonstrating total supremacy and a complete and comprehensive victory. His will be such a victory and will be accomplished by the "rod of Thy strength out of Zion … in the midst of Thine enemies" v.2. The purpose of this chapter is not to deal with His future triumph on earth over His many enemies; it is nonetheless encouraging and reassuring to anticipate a day of total vindication.
"The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent" v.4. The hearts of men were filled with murderous intent and it was their intention to remove the Lord Jesus from their view and put an end to Him altogether, but the purposes of our God cannot be disannulled and these will be fulfilled regardless of all that men would endeavour to oppose or hinder. It is also reassuring that God’s purpose is unchanging, and how precious to remember that He has confirmed it with an oath.
"Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" v.4. The one Who is invited to sit upon the right hand of Jehovah is not only a king but is also a priest: one Person but two offices. It has always been the mind of God that the Messiah should be a King-Priest. His priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek, the one who was "king of Salem" and "priest of the most high God" Gen.14.18. The priesthood of the Lord Jesus is the subject of chapter 6 in this book and it is therefore not appropriate to comment upon it in any more detail, other than to emphasise that it is decreed of God that these great offices be brought together in this delightful way in one glorious Person. Again, while it falls beyond the boundaries of our present subject, it is of interest to observe that in a future millennial day "He shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" Zech.6.13.
The Psalm that presents the King-Priest upon the throne on high also presents the same One as the Warrior-King ruling and judging upon earth. In summary its language speaks of His total triumph and the complete rout of all His enemies. What a day it will be when both earth and heaven accord Him the highest place and crown Him Lord of all, in a world where He was once crowned in mockery and derision!
What had been pictured and promised has been fulfilled in keeping with the pre-determined Divine programme. Nothing could hinder it, and it is with joy and yet with wonder that we reflect on the details recorded in each of the four Gospels; these record the movements of the Lord Jesus that brought Him out from God and took Him back to God. He could say "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" Jn.16.28.
How each Gospel concludes is worthy of consideration. The concluding key stages identified by each writer form an instructive and chronological record of the movements of the Saviour after His resurrection. Matthew leaves the Lord on earth; Mark elevates Him to the throne; Luke directs our thoughts to Pentecost, Lk.24.49 and John points forward to His coming again, Jn.21.22, 23. These provide a broad but accurate overview of the period between the Lord being raised from the dead through to His coming for His own. It is also helpful to observe that each and all of these milestones are woven into the following book, that is, the Acts of the Apostles.
With that panoramic perspective in mind let us comment on each Gospel in a little more detail, with particular regard to the Lord and His enthronement.
There is no reference to His ascension or to Him taking His seat in heaven in Matthew, but this is entirely appropriate given that the purpose and theme of his Gospel is to provide a presentation of the King against an earthly backdrop.
Luke records that "He led them out as far as to Bethany, and … He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" Lk.24.50,51. The ascension was actual and visible as the Lord left earth for heaven, but there is no mention of what took place on His return to heaven.
It is in keeping with John’s presentation not to give any detailed account of the Lord’s return to heaven; rather He writes about "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" Jn.1.18, and of the Lord requesting that He be glorified "with Thine own self with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was" Jn.17.5. Again in chapter 21 John shows the Lord standing on the shore while the disciples toil in their endeavours to catch fish out on the lake; all of this confirming that as Lord of the harvest, He controls and directs His servants from a place of distance but again there is no specific or direct mention made of Him on the right hand of God.
To some it may appear very unlikely that it should be in the Gospel of Mark we read, "He was received [taken] up, and sat down on the right hand of God" Mk.16.19 (R.V.) Of the four gospellers Mark goes further than any of the others. Truly the right hand is the seat associated with the Son and the Sovereign, but it is equally associated with the Servant, Jehovah’s perfect "servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth" Isa.42.1.
His ascension is a clear confirmation that He is Lord of heaven and earth. His sitting on the right hand of God is also a precious declaration that while His work on earth has been finished, His work in heaven is ongoing. At the close of Matthew’s Gospel, the risen Lord promised "I am with you always [all the days], even unto the end of the world [age]" Matt.28.20. Mark endorses this precious promise but again goes further. He reveals that while the Lord was seated on the right hand of God and as "they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord" was not only with them but was "working with them, and confirming the word with signs following" Mk.16.20. No proper value can be placed upon the presence and the power of the Lord and yet these can both be experienced and enjoyed through the blessed Man presently seated and enthroned on high.
The closing words of Mark’s Gospel offer much encouragement for faithful and devoted service, and those that serve find a perfect role model in the One Who "shall not fail, nor be discouraged" Isa.42.4. However, just to see in Him an example to follow, important and valuable though that may be, would represent a very shallow appreciation of all that is involved in the Lord taking His seat on the right hand of God. It must be understood that He did not merely just sit down as a cold factum of information, but He did it by right and had absolute authority to do so. What a sight it must have been when He arrived back in heaven fresh from the triumphs of the tree and the tomb, and took His seat, in all the unique dignity of the glory of His person, upon the throne! While men were permitted to observe the ascension, at least as far as was visible to the physical eye, it was not so in relation to His enthronement. This is something we grasp by faith. It is such faith that enables us to see beyond the temporal and mundane things of earth.
How encouraging and enabling to every believer to appreciate that in the midst of all the pressures and pitfalls of the pathway down here there is a real Man on the throne, Who travelled the highway of life, long before any of us ever did, and "learned obedience by the things that He suffered" Heb.5.8. The fact that "He sat on the right hand of God" Mk.16.19, confirms that this is the place that rightly belongs to Him on account of Him being none other than the Son of God. He has returned to the sphere of eternal glory, the place where He rightly belongs and is beautifully described as "the forerunner", the One Who has "for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest for-ever after the order of Melchisedec" Heb.6.20.
It is important to notice that the themes introduced at the conclusion of each of the Gospels provide a basis for teaching that will be developed throughout the rest of the New Testament. Matthew records that Jesus came and said unto them "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" Matt.28.18-20. The theme of power is further developed in the first chapter of Romans in regard to the gospel and the teaching to observe all things is a very fitting title for all of the ensuing epistles. The Acts of the Apostles clearly follows on from the end of Luke’s Gospel. As John concludes His Gospel the Lord is presented as standing on the shore, controlling affairs from a distance, and this is an appropriate foundation for all that will be presented in the Revelation regarding "the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" Rev.1.19. When we come to the Gospel of Mark the connection with all that is presented in the letter to the Hebrews is not only clear but is most precious. Four times in Hebrews we read of the Lord being seated, 1.3; 8.1; 10.12; 12.2.
It is significant that the first reference in Hebrews to the Lord being seated should be found in chapter 1. This opening chapter links together, in a most instructive way, the essential Deity and the elevated dignity of "His Son" v.2. The Person and the elevated place of His pre-eminence are inseparable; "But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" Heb.1.8. Let us ponder the throne and its:
It was when "He had by Himself purged our sins" that He "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" Heb.1.3. Again we read that the same One is "set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" Heb.8.1. Majesty implies greatness and is associated in a very particular way with the greatness of God.
Hebrews chapter one provides one of the most explicit confirmations of the equality of the Son with the Father. What an honour to be granted the privilege of listening to and pondering in some measure what is involved when the Father addressed the Son as God, v.8! There can be no higher or more authentic affirmation of His Deity.
- In Thee, most perfectly expressed,
- The Father’s glories shine
- Of the full Deity possessed
- Eternally Divine
- (Josiah Conder)
Having spoken to the Son, the Father goes a little further and magnifies Him as sovereign, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" Heb.1.8. Even at His birth He was King. Many were crowned king, some quite young, but He alone was born King. Well might those "wise men from the east" enquire "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" Matt.2.1,2. Men once in their rejection acknowledged His sovereignty in mockery and derision. The purple robe, the crown of thorns, the mock sceptre, the title above the cross all testify to what this world in its ignorance thought of Him, but God has made it known that the rejected Christ of Calvary is His chosen Sovereign and that He not only sits presently on the throne at His right hand, but the day will come when God will set His King on "My holy hill of Zion" Ps.2.6. However, in keeping with the theme of this chapter, our thoughts are engaged with the heavenly aspect of His Sovereignty.
The reign of Solomon is one of the most memorable and noteworthy of which we read in the Scriptures. While it perhaps represents the zenith of earthly kingdoms and foreshadows millennial greatness among other things, it was nonetheless, marked by a commencement and an ending. Such a backdrop only serves to highlight the splendour of a throne that is eternal. It is "forever and ever" Heb.1.8; it can never be overthrown and is as dateless as the One Who sits upon it. How fitting are the words of the angel to Mary, "of His kingdom there shall be no end" Lk.1.33.
"A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom" Heb.1.8. So many kingdoms and governments of men have been established on unrighteousness. Some have reached positions of power by intrigue, plots and unscrupulous methods of various kinds but the kingdom of our Lord Jesus is built on the unalterable basis of Divine righteousness. In keeping with His holy character He could do nothing other than love righteousness and hate iniquity, Heb.1.9. Righteousness is the hallmark of all that He is and does. Just as the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, Rom.1.17, and the world will be judged in righteousness, Acts 17.31, so shall the same inflexible characteristic be displayed in every aspect of Divine rule. What a contrast to the corrupt and questionable methods of sinful men!
The sceptre is the symbol of authority and power. Mockery has given way to exaltation and in Him is vested all the authority that is associated with His elevated position as the Son of the right hand. When we think of "righteousness" our minds turn to Joseph, when it is "Thy kingdom" our minds turn to Judah but when the emphasis is on the "sceptre" the person who springs to mind is Benjamin. It really takes all three to fully represent the purity, position and power of Him Who could rightly declare that "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" Matt.28.18. Sadly many are in positions of power but are weak; it is not so with our Sovereign. May we be preserved from ever doubting His ability to meet our every need regardless of how great that need may be.
"Therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" Heb.1.9. Many years previously Samuel had anointed David to be Israel’s first Divinely chosen king in preference over his brothers; now we observe a delightful fulfilment in the One Who is both "the root and offspring of David" Rev.22.16. So many reached great heights but "He that cometh from above is above all" Jn.3.31. While many were prominent and outstanding in their day, and in what they achieved, it must be acknowledged that only One can be proclaimed as pre-eminent. How precious to appreciate that He is beyond compare and that "God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name" Phil.2.9!
- "Far above all" is our Saviour enthroned;
- Crown’d is the Lamb Who for sinners atoned;
- Living forever to list to our call,
- God hath exalted Him "far above all".
- (Horace E. Govan)
A large section of the Epistle to the Hebrews is devoted to the presentation of the unsurpassed greatness of the priesthood of Him Who is identified, without exaggeration, as our "great high priest, Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" Heb.4.14 (R.V.). In chapter four the writer commences a detailed and comprehensive account of the superiority of His priesthood and by the time he reaches chapter eight he says, "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man" Heb.8.1,2. The use of the expression "the sum" (kephalaion) is of interest. The R.V. renders it "the chief point" and J.N.D. uses the word "summary". Others helpfully suggest that the concept of the chief or main point is like adding a coping stone. The idea of the high watermark is also worthy of consideration. All of these help us appreciate two all important matters; firstly the greatness of His priestly office and the loftiness of His regal position.
The emphasis of the preceding chapters has been to draw attention to the glory of the Person but this now switchs at the commencement of chapter eight to focusing on the place. The purpose was to show Jewish readers that both the Person and the place were vastly superior to what they had left. J.M. Flanigan notes, "If the Person was superior, so also is the place. Indeed the surpassing majesty and dignity of the heavenly sanctuary required a superior priest."2 In considering something of the superiority of the place let us observe:
- 2 Flanigan, J.M. ibid
The Status Reached
What instructive words, "the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" Heb.8.1! We have already observed that He, by right, took His seat on the highest possible station. "The right hand" focuses on the glory, whereas "the Majesty" places stress on the greatness of both the Person and the place. The throne is introduced in this particular context to magnify the character and glory of His priesthood. It is not now after the order of Levi but after the order of Melchisedec; this is clear confirmation that it was always the purpose of God that His Son should not only sit upon the throne, but that He should, as we have already observed in our meditation on Psalm 110, combine in one Person the offices of King and Priest.
The Service Recognised
The One "who is set on the right hand of God" is designated "a minister of the sanctuary" Heb.8.2. This word minister (leitourgos) is used of one who serves on behalf of others. J.M. Flanigan explains "Paul uses the word of himself in Rom.15.16. As a preacher of the glad tidings he is a minister of Jesus Christ to the nations. It is also used of earthly rulers who, though often not aware of it, are God’s ministers nevertheless, Rom 13.6. Our Lord is here such a One in the sanctuary, serving for, and on behalf of, others. He is graciously engaged in a representative ministry for His people".3 In this capacity His service is priestly in character, relates to holy matters and is undertaken in a holy environment.
- 3 Flanigan, J.M. ibid
The Superiority Recorded
The sphere of service is identified "as the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man" Heb.8.2. It is precious to remember that the earthly tabernacle which "was a shadow of heavenly things" Heb.8.5, now finds a perfect answer in the heavenly realm. The use of the word "true" does not suggest that there was anything false about the former earthly tabernacle; it is used to show that while the tabernacle in the wilderness served its function in its day, it was never anything other than temporal and was typical of a real, enduring and heavenly sanctuary.
The Significance Revealed
It would be a very narrow understanding of the significance of the right hand to confine it only to the fact that the Occupant of the throne combines the twin offices of Priest and King. The right hand has traditionally been the place of affection; earthly kings demonstrated their love for their brides by granting them a place on their right hand. It also is the seat of acclaim and is associated with elevation to the place of the highest honour and majesty. We have already noted in this chapter that the right hand represents the seat of authority, but our meditation on its significance would not be complete without emphasising that it is the position of perfect accomplishment. What a mighty accomplishment and how assuring to recall His high priestly prayer to His Father when He said, "I [have] glorified Thee on the earth: I [have] finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" Jn.17.4. Every redeemed soul will be eternally grateful that the Saviour ever said "It is finished" Jn.19.30.
While Hebrews chapter 1 concentrates on the glory of His person, and chapter 8 stresses the loftiness of His position, chapter 10 highlights the permanency of that position. It is true that during the time Stephen was being stoned, and before he left this world he "looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" Acts 7.55. On that occasion the Lord Jesus was standing to welcome Stephen home to heaven as he was being cruelly put to death on earth. On a future occasion He will arise from His lofty throne when He fulfils His promise and comes for His own and to those that "look for Him shall He appear the second time without [apart from] sin unto salvation" Heb.9.28. What is unmistakably clear is that He will never again arise to deal with the question of sin.
He sits in glorious perpetuity and nothing will ever erode or devalue His once for all and eternal sacrifice. The claims of God on account of sin have been eternally met. The fact that He sits is in stark contrast to a former day when "every priest" stood "daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God" Heb.10.11,12. In this context J.M. Flanigan helpfully observes, "No priest of Israel ever sat. A sitting priest was unknown in Judaism, except perhaps once, and then associated with weakness and with disaster, 1Sam.1.9; 4.13-18. There was really no such provision made for Israel’s priests. However our High Priest, though still engaging in a ministry of intercession for His people, nevertheless is entitled to sit, in that there is no more sacrificing for sins. That aspect of His work is finished. He accordingly may sit."4
- 4 Flanigan, J.M. ibid
The permanency of His position is something that has continually thrilled the hearts and minds of believers. In pondering this aspect of His exaltation it is also worth remembering that nothing can ever disturb or dislodge Him. When Jacob was addressing his sons, he said regarding Judah that he "is a lion’s whelp [young lion]: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old [mature] lion; who shall rouse him up?" Gen.49.9. What a delightful picture of the One Who sprang out of Judah, of the One Who has gone up from the "prey" of Calvary and Who now crouches in all the majesty of His lion-like character and guards the spoils of victory. Well might we ponder the challenge thrown out in vain: can any rouse Him up? He is gloriously and eternally impregnable.
When the Saviour was here in this world He had many enemies. That He should have enemies is a testimony to the darkness of the human heart. It was said prophetically, "They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: They that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully are mighty" Ps.69.4. The Savour was ever mindful of these words, but more so as He drew near to the cross. This can be seen from John chapter 15 as He spoke to His own about their fulfilment. The attitude of the world, whether politically, religiously, culturally or socially is one of outright enmity. It remains the case that "The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD, And against His Anointed, saying, Let us break Their bands asunder, And cast away Their cords from us" Ps.2.2,3. Regardless of all the opposition and rejection of earth "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 things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" Phil.2.9–11.
Earth has spoken and has declared its hatred and rejection. Heaven too has spoken and has accorded the rejected of earth the highest station in heaven and He presently occupies His seat on the right hand of God. From such a position He waits expectantly "till His enemies be made His footstool" Heb.10.13. Every form of opposition and rebellion will be fully and righteously avenged and "the day of vengeance of our God" Isa.61.2, will surely come. Meanwhile as W.E. Vine comments, " in this time of waiting He is showing His longsuffering and mercy to convert His enemies into His friends by the power of the gospel, that they may not be involved in the inevitable judgment which must precede the advent of His kingdom on earth."5
- 5 Vine, W.E. “The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Vol.3.” Thomas Nelson Inc. Tennessee, 1996.
Waiting on the part of Divine Persons is a precious consideration. We can reflect upon that day when "the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing" 1Pet.3.20, and we never tire in thinking about the Saviour sitting on the well, waiting for the coming of "a woman of Samaria to draw water" Jn.4.7. It is precious and fortifying to be occupied with Him and to presently enjoy His succour and sympathy, as He patiently waits for that day of total vindication when His enemies, that now appear to be so strong and invincible, will be crushed under His footstool. This will inevitably happen just as grapes are trampled in the winepress without mercy and in keeping with His power and righteousness.
We can learn much from His patient attitude and approach. Waiting for God’s time is often difficult, regardless of all the promises and the assurances that God will work out His purposes in spite of satanic and human opposition. The carnal individual finds it most difficult to wait upon God and to trust Him to act in keeping with the moment and method of His choosing. Sadly, when patient waiting is disregarded the results are disastrous. We have much to learn from the impulsiveness of Peter and the implications his actions had for himself and others, John chapter 21. In this context it is impossible not to think of Abraham when he, aided and abetted by his wife, resorted to fleshly methods to bring about the fulfilment of God’s promise, all because he could not wait patiently for God to move in His time. How different it would have been had he been able to "Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him" Ps.37.7.
Many of the Lord’s dear people are suffering and enduring some of the most difficult of circumstances. They are waiting patiently for that moment of release and their continual cry is "Even so come, Lord Jesus" Rev.22.20. As saints on earth wait, so He in His exalted seat in heaven waits. Meanwhile we are exhorted to " serve the living and the true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" 1Thess.1.9,10.
We now come to the fourth and last reference in Hebrews to the enthronement of the Lord Jesus. In chapter 12 the Hebrew believers are encouraged "to lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and … run with patience the race that is set before us, looking off unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of God" Heb.12.1,2 (R.V.). The writer holds out two great encouragements to the participants in the race. Firstly he draws attention to a comprehensive, yet a carefully selected list of those who have seen mighty accomplishments wrought and who suffered and endured the severest of trials, all on the ground of faith. These are the "great cloud of witnesses" Heb.12.1. W.E. Vine comments "their lives of faith are so recorded in the Old Testament narratives that they seem to be living spectators urging us on to run as they did. The inspired record is like an amphitheatre, and, as with the cloud of onlookers of old, so these heroes of faith utter their voices in the sacred page."6 Secondly the writer exhorts them to lift their eyes above earthly incentives and focus on the One Who is at "at the right hand of the throne of God" Heb.12.2.
- 6 Vine, W.E. ibid
It is good to draw encouragement from fellow believers and what they have seen and done through faith. After all, if spiritual greatness is within the reach of one, it is within the reach of others. The mutual strengthening of each other is to be greatly encouraged. On the other hand there is a far greater; the ultimate example. The Hebrew believers were exhorted to be occupied with the One Who suffered to a far greater degree, in comparison to anything they ever suffered, and to "consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" Heb.12.3. It is reassuring to remember that no matter how much we are called upon to suffer, it is relatively insignificant in comparison with what He endured. This is the great antidote for weariness and should stimulate and fortify our resolve to be faithful to Him, no matter the circumstances or whatever the cost may be. When the apostle Paul wrote about the suffering and hardships of the believer, he assessed them as nothing more than "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" 2Cor.4.17. Note the powerful contrasts between the temporal and the eternal and the "light affliction" and the "weight of glory".
In the context of running the race, Hebrew believers are encouraged to address a twofold problem. They are exhorted to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset" Heb.12.1. Bearing in mind that they are participants in a race, unnecessary weight would clearly be a disadvantage and a hindrance. So many believers get bogged down with the everyday cares of this life. If such things, not necessarily sinful in themselves, impede progress, how much more will sin restrict the believer in realising his or her full spiritual potential. It is most likely that the writer has in mind the sin of unbelief, but it must be clearly understood that all sin will have the same crippling and debilitating effect. How precious to observe that the One upon the throne, held up as a great encouragement and source of strength to the participants in the race, was never burdened by the weight of worldly cares or sin of any kind. In a very helpful way Peter reminds suffering and tried believers that they were called to such a path, but he also directed their attention to His "example, that ye should follow His steps" 1Pet.2.21. We ought to note that Peter did not write "that ye should follow in His steps"!.
Having introduced the fitting and vivid picture of athletes in the race and their problems the writer stresses the need for patience. We have already commented in this chapter on the Lord Himself patiently waiting for the day of victory and vindication. Now those that belong to Him are exhorted to display similar Christ-like features and exhibit patient endurance when confronted with the difficulties and hurdles that mark the pilgrim way as we anticipate eternal scenes. We not only "rejoice in hope of the glory of God … but we glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" Rom.5.2-5.
The key to steadfastness in the race is occupation with a Person. The natural tendency would be for the Hebrew believers to feel sorry for themselves and to become disgruntled. However, instead of being inward looking, they were encouraged to be ever "looking [off, R.V.] unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God" Heb.12.2. They were invited to contemplate Him Who not only endured the cross and all that it entailed, but to look beyond with joyful anticipation. W.E. Vine helpfully comments, "The joy set before the Lord was the anticipation of His glory with the Father and all that was to be the outcome of His finished work on the cross, both in the present age and in the ages to come. Because of the value He set upon all this He endured the cross."7 May we too be enabled to place value on things of real and abiding worth. The key to this is being taken up with the One often spoken of as ‘the Man in the glory’. It was a sight of "The God of glory" Acts 7.2, that enabled Abraham "to go out ... not knowing whither he went" and to look for "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" Heb.11.8.
- 7 Vine, W.E. ibid
The concluding reference to the Lord upon the throne in Hebrews not only offers encouragement to endure hardships encountered because of association with a rejected Lord and Saviour, but it is introduced to teach and assure them that they should not "despise … the chastening of the LORD, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the LORD loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" Heb.12.5,6. The writer is assuring them that the chastening hand of God is upon them because of their privileged position as sons in the family of God. He reminds them that if they "be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons" Heb.12.8. In addition to reassuring them of the reality of their sonship the writer proceeds to emphasise that the chastisement permitted, although not pleasant, is both temporary and beneficial. How encouraging to the Hebrews to note that "it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" Heb.12.11! In the context of the epistle the example of the Lord in His suffering and then His glorious elevation to the right hand of God represented a great source of strength in enduring the various difficulties they faced, but it enabled them to grasp something of the purpose, confirmation and fruitfulness of chastisement. These lessons are not easy, but may we too be granted the grace and discernment to learn their true value in the school of God.
The consideration of His enthronement is a precious endorsement of all that we enjoy through "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" Eph.2.7. If it does not draw out our affections in continual devotion to Him, we do stand in urgent need of spiritual restoration. It is reassuring to appreciate that both our devotion and duty to Him have a firm doctrinal basis particularly in regard to His Person. The tenets of doctrine ratified by His enthronement include:
- • His eternality – Heb.1.8
- • His equality with the Father – Heb.1.8
- • His incorruptibility and sinlessness – Heb.4.15
- • His perfect and once for ever sacrifice – Heb.10.12
- • His offices as King/Priest - Heb.8.1
- • His ability to succour and sympathise – Heb.4.15
- • His coming again – Heb.9.28.
It has often been observed that the practical teaching in the Epistle to the Hebrews has been reserved for the closing two chapters. The argument being, that in light of all that has been taught in regard to the glory of the person, work and exaltation of the Lord Jesus, the believers should turn away from all that they held dear through Jewish traditions and be drawn to Him. Just as He "suffered without the gate" (that is, outside the camp of the Jewish system of things) so the Hebrew believers were exhorted to "go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come" Heb.13.12-14. His attractiveness is all-compelling. The sharing in His reproach in terms of association with Him in His rejection and cross is real and costly, but the occupation with Him in glory seated at the right hand of God in majesty and honour will not only encourage but will enable them to be loyal and faithful in their devotion to Him. It will also stimulate desires for heaven and home and encourage them in their capacity as "pilgrims and strangers on the earth" Heb.11.13. If this was so in the case of the Hebrews, how much more it ought to be in relation to us as we "wait for His Son from heaven" 1Thess.1.10.