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Wednesday
Jun202007

Seven Statements about the Son: Seated at God's Right Hand

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Hebrews 1:2b-3 gives us seven statements about Christ, the Son of God. This post winds up a series of posts on these statements by looking at the last statement: Christ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. As I did with a couple of the other posts, I’ll start at the end phrase in this statement and work my way forward.

  • The Majesty On High
    The Majesty isn’t a common way to refer to God. It’s used again in Hebrews 8:1, and that ‘s pretty much it. It refers in both places to God the Father, and emphasises the greatness of God. Christ is at the right hand of God the Father in all his greatness.

  • At the Right Hand
    The term right hand of God is figurative language. We can’t take it (as some people have this week in a certain thread on the Baptist Board) to mean that God has a body. God and heaven are beyond our abilities to describe exactly, and the writers of scripture often use word pictures to convey important truths about them to us.
     
    In this case, the image of Christ  at God’s right hand is meant to tell us something about the relationship Christ has to God—and all of creation, too—after he completed purification for sin. The right hand of God is a place of honor—the highest possible place—right next to God. Christ humbled himself to make purification for sins, and after that he returned to his place of glory and dignity and authority.  1 Peter 3:22 tells us that Christ
    has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
    That Christ is seated at the right hand of God assures us that he is not just another created being, but one to whom all creatures are subject. And if all creatures, even creatures with special authority, are subject to him, then he is not a creature at all, but rather in the class of one and only Creator.
     
    And yet, that Christ is at the right hand of the Majesty on high also suggests that he is distinct from the Father. He is with the Father, but he is not the Father. His placement also indicates a degree of subordination to the Father.  The one “at the right hand” is the one who carries out the will of the one he sits beside. We know from some of the other statements in these verses that Christ is equal to the Father. We have already, for instance, been told that Christ is God’s exact imprint. So this subordination must be a voluntary subordination, and not subordination that comes because Christ is somehow less in value or worth or importance than the Father.

  • Sat Down
    And Christ is sitting.  In Hebrews 10, we learn a little more about the significance of this sitting position.
    And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … . For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-14)
    It is because Christ’s work of atonement is finished that he is no longer can take a seat. I wrote a post on this once called Christ Who Sits, and maybe I’ll just quote from that. I’m allowed to do that, right?
    An old covenant priest stood daily in his priestly work. He was always in a standing position in God’s presence because his ministry was never done. Over and over again, every day, he offered the same sacrifices—sacrifices that that had to be repeated because they were ineffectual, for they didn’t actually take away sins… . The old covenant priest’s sacrifices never cleansed completely, and the outward cleansing they provided was only temporary… . Day in and day out they had to do exactly the same work, and that it was necessary for them to keep repeating only served as a reminder of how unsatisfactory the work they did really was.

    The text gives us a very different picture of Christ’s work as Priest, however. Christ offered one sacrifice of himself, and then he sat down on the right hand of God. His work was over because his work was effectual… . It “perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Never again does his work have to be repeated, for this Priest did a complete job: his work cleanses completely and cleanses forever. It is finished.
So what does it mean for us that Christ sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high?
  • It means that we are subject to his authority.
  • It means that he deserves our worship.
  • It means that we can rest—we don’t have to work for our salvation—because he is resting, having completed all the work required for it.
  • That Christ is equal to the Father and yet at his right hand gives us a model for the rightful existence of ordered authority among people who are  equal in value or worth.
In the last post, I mentioned that I thought this statement and the one before are really two halves of one statement, so that this section isn’t really seven statements about the Son, but six, with the last one being, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… .” For one thing, taking it that way makes it parallel with the statement in chapter 10 that I quoted above, which says that “when Christ had offered for all time a sacrifice for sin he sat down at the right hand of God.” 
But there’s another reason why I think the two statements (and perhaps verse 4) might go together. I noticed something while composing these posts. Some of the statements seemed to parallel others, and I think those parallels might show something of chiastic structure, but I don’t know enough about it to be a good judge of it. So let me show you, and you draw your own conclusion. I’ve used the letters a, b, and c to show the parallels in the statements: 
  • a. whom he appointed the heir of all things,
  • b. through whom also he created the world.
  • c. He is the radiance of the glory of God
  • c. and the exact imprint of his nature,
  • b. and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
  • a. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, [and I’d probably add verse 4 as well] having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
There you go. You tell me: Do you think there is chiastic structure there or  not?
And while we’re at it, can you think of other things to add to the list of what this statement means for us? Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?

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Reader Comments (8)

Thanks again for this series!

June 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMartin LaBar

You are welcome, Martin. I really enjoyed doing it.

June 21, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

Now that you bring it up, it does look chiastic; and you're probably right about the balance between heir in 1:2b and inheritance in 1:4; when we add the parallel to chapter 10, that does look like a convincing reason to take the last two as one unit.

One thing I just realized looking at it is that the chapter doesn't just describe Christ in these ways; it goes on immediately in 1:5-13 to give Scriptural evidence for each of them. So, unlike the angels, Christ is appointed heir of all things (because God says of him, "You are my Son..."), through whom He created the world ("In the beginning, O Lord..."), the radiance of his glory and the imprint of his being ("Let all God's angels worship Him...."), and so forth. I've read the passage many times but I've never seen before how tightly organized it is; between the chiastic description and the careful argument, it's really an amazing chapter.

June 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

I love the book of Hebrews for exactly those reasons. Sometimes the structure and arguments are hard for us to see, because we aren't familiar with the form. The arguments, throughout the book, are a think of beauty.

June 24, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

Just wanted to thank you for your writings and meditations and also for your website with the writings of David Brainard. What a man of God he was ! We must pray that men and women like him will be raised up by the Holy Spirit

June 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Friend

Glad you enjoyed reading David Brainerd, Michael.

June 28, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

Something I've been wondering about lately is that He said that we'd be seated with Him in Heavenly Places. It just hit me one day that He is seated at the right Hand of God and we too will be seated with Him. IF he said that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him and be crucified with Him then we will also (spiritually) rise with Him and come with Him to a growning creation that is WAITING for the manifistation of the SONS of God! What are your thoughts? He is the 1st born amoung MANY brethren.

July 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Hi Diana,

You've asked a question on a subject I haven't thought much about, and so I really don't feel qualified to answer you. I do believe that we will reign with Christ, though.

August 3, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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