THE current work of the lord jesus christ
Speaking of the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul spoke of how he, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2). But from this portrayal of our Lord being seated in this manner, it is assumed by some that his work has temporarily ceased – that he now is in a position of recline until the appointed time of his Kingdom’s establishment. But if this is the case, then we are left with the question of what the Lord Jesus has actually being doing for the last 2 millenia, for we are surely not to assume that the Lord has simply been sitting upon a seat, in a state of dormancy for such a time. In the last issue, we examined the future Kingship of our Lord Jesus, against the claims of some that his reign is present: but now we turn our attentions to the current activities of Christ in relation both to the believer, and to the world he will come to judge.
The positioning of the Lord Jesus at the Father’s Right Hand certainly is not a position of inactivity. This is the Inspired Testimony of Paul: “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” (Rom 8:34). The Lord Jesus then, in having such a highly exalted position, currently carries out the role of an intercessor at his Father’s Right Hand. Indeed, this function is an intrinsic aspect of his Priesthood after the Order of Melchisedec, as it is written: “this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25). The Priesthood to which the Lord Jesus belongs is “unchangeable”, which requires one who is himself unchangeable (cp Heb 13:8), and not subject to death. And this perpetual unchangeableness of the Lord Jesus is essential for him to fulfil his role as a priestly intercessor – he “ever liveth to make intercession” for his brethren, which proves this work to be an aspect of his immortal activity. There are those who suppose that the Lord’s role as a Priest was fully accomplished with His Sacrifice, the offering up of himself for the forgiveness of our Sins. Yet this is not the Testimony of Scripture.
THE LORD’S ROLE AS AN INTERCESSOR
An “intercessor”, in Scriptural terms, is one who stands between two estranged parties, to bring about reconciliation. This we see from the words of the Lord to Jeremiah, saying “therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jer 7:16). And again, in challenging the False prophets, “if they be prophets, and if the word of Yahweh be with them, let them now make intercession to Yahweh of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of Yahweh, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon” (Jer 27:18). This challenge provided a sign to Israel; if when the Babylonians came, they took the vessels from the House of Yahweh, those prophets who spoke of Peace would be proved to be false, unable to intercede between the wicked nation and their Righteous God. The Truth of the matter was, that because of Israel’s abundant wickedness, no intercession would suffice; it was forbidden to even Jeremiah to attempt to intercede on behalf of his people, for there would be enmity between Israel and their God (cp Is 59:2) until the time of their repentance.
But in contrast to this, the Lord Jesus Christ is able to intercede for those who come to Him in faith, and so show such repentance. Indeed, he has been Divinely appointed to such a position, in the absence of any other person able to fulfil this role; as Isaiah spake: “he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him” (Is 59:16). And again, the prophet spoke of how the Lord, in having “poured out his soul unto death” was “numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Is 53:12). So then, it was the obedience of the Lord in yielding to the shame of the Cross – in presenting himself as a perfect sacrifice, that he might intercede to heal the breach between man and his Maker.
But the Lord’s intercessory work did not end with his Sacrifice. The Lord’s Sacrifice began the work – in being “numbered with the transgressors” upon the stake, he “made intercession” for transgressors – yet the Scriptures reveal that part of his current work is to continue making intercession. The simple truth of the matter; is that although a believer finds forgiveness through association with the Sacrifice of Christ in Baptism – even after Baptism he still sins. After finding forgiveness at Baptism, he is in a continual need for intercession. Each one of us, due to the fallen nature we bear, continually find ourselves transgressing the Divine command, falling short of the standard of Divine Glory (Rom 3:23), not willingly, but because of the weakness of the flesh. And each one of us therefore, is in a continual need for intercession – not simply at one occasion when we are baptised into the death of Christ (Rom 6:3). And the exalted priesthood of our Lord is able to meet all the necessary requirements, for he “ever liveth” to perpetually offer intercession on behalf of the faithful.
The Lord Jesus, it is testified, having put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb 9:24) for that very purpose. As our High Priest, he appears in the Divine presence at the representative of those who believe in him. And as the Almighty continually beholds the people’s representative, he sees one who is free from sin, who is holy and undefiled. He beholds only righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, which is in fact God’s own righteousness, as declared by him, and not the sins of the people who Christ represents. He is able to be a representative, because he was one of us, who laboured under the dominion of death (Rom 6:9), who was a partaker of the infirmities of our nature. Yet he is able to appear before God on our behalf, because he overcame that nature, and can stand before God, free from sin. He is able to plead our cause before the Divine presence, that though we still transgress, because we are represented before the throne of Grace by one who is perfect, we might find forgiveness continually.
This principle is also the testimony of John: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins …” (1Jno 2:1,2). If we sin, we have an advocate; and intercessor who is able to plead our cause in righteousness. The term, “advocate”, translates the Greek paraklhtov, parakletos, which carries the meaning of one who is “called to one’s side”, to be a help or a comforter (cp Jno 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). For the faithful therefore, there is no need to fear because of sin, for they have one at their side, so to speak, who pleads for their forgiveness before the Father in whose presence He sits. And that forgiveness is granted, for Christ’s sake, for the principles of redemption which were worked out in his sacrifice.
LORD OVER THE ANGELS OF GOD
When considering the most highly exalted position of our Lord Jesus Christ in the last issue, we noted how he has been raised to a status even higher than that of the Angels of God: “Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb 1:4). Indeed, the apostolic testimony is that Angels are currently subject to Christ, “who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pet 3:22, cp Eph 1:21). Angels are “subject” to the Lord, which suggests that they hearken to the voice of his word, performing his will, in a similar manner to the way they respond to the voice of the Almighty Himself (Cp Ps 33:9), But how can “authorities and powers” said to be subject to Christ when as yet he exercises no kingly dominion over them?
In Daniel chapter 4, we learn of the Creator’s current rulership over a rebellious earth. In speaking of the vision of future affliction for Nebuchadnezzar, the angelic “holy one” spake thus: “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand of the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Dan 4:17, cp verses 25, 32). So it is that as the apostle proclaimed, “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom 13:1). But how? Not by rulers willingly submitting to the commands of the Almighty, but by the hands of Yahweh’s angelic ministers manipulating world affairs to the end that powers and rulers are ordained by the Divine Will, according to the Divine Purpose (Cp Dan 10:13-21). This is how the Almighty can be said to “rule” over the Kingdom of men; not manifested as a King (for is the Kingdom of men – not of God), but by unseen angelic hands, unrecognised by the unenlightened, yet ever active and present nevertheless.
But following his resurrection to Glory, the Lord Jesus has been set above the angelic hosts; for “when he (The Almighty) bringeth in the firstbegotten (from the grave) into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6). The Lord Jesus is “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David” who “hath prevailed to open the (apocalyptic) book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (Rev 5:5). Having conquered the grave through righteousness, he is qualified to unroll the apocalyptic scroll of history, unloosing each seal at the appointed time, and ensuring his Angelic ministers execute the things written therein. The sequence of events as revealed to John in the visions he saw whilst “in the Spirit” (Rev 1:10) are all under the control of the Lamb, ensuring that all things work for the ultimate good of his brethren, moving towards the final events at the expiry of the 6th vial, when “the kingdom of this world” shall be replaced by that of “our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15).
To conclude then, when we consider the scope of the current work of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is great comfort. Because the Lord ever lives to make continual intercession for us, we can have the hope and confidence that despite our many failures, we can nevertheless “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). We have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the Righteous who is the propitiation for our sins (1Jno 2:1,2), who is over the angels of God – “the ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb 1:14), ensuring all things work together for their ultimate good. And as we consider the unfolding of world events, we are comforted in the knowledge that the overriding hand of our Lord is guiding all things to that great crisis in world history when the Kingdom of men shall be shattered, and replaced with a glorious new age of righteousness, when our Lord will reign openly, as King over a subdued world. Let us therefore seek to understand more fully the current activities of our Lord carried out on our behalf, that we might learn to be more appreciative of what it is that he does for us.