There is a surprising amount of material in the New Testament describing what Jesus is doing now, but I want to concentrate on two which help us think about the past and future aspects of our salvation.
Jesus is sitting at the Right Hand of His Father
It might appear that sitting is not all that significant an activity. How many movies are made where the hero is sitting down throughout the movie? But one of the most important aspects to grasp about Jesus’ current activity is that he is sitting. The fact that Jesus is sitting underlines the fact that his work of redemption is finished.
More than any other book it is Hebrews that helps us see this. So, in Hebrews 10, the author tells us Jesus has ‘sat down at the right hand of God’ (v.12) because ‘by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified’ (v.14). Unlike continually busy human priests, Jesus has sat down because only one sacrifice was necessary. The sacrifice that Jesus offered was his own perfect blood and it perfected the recipients for all time. He did not and does not need to do anything else to secure our redemption so he has sat down.
This is a strong idea – because of Jesus’ one sacrifice we have been perfected for all time. ‘But don’t I still sin and don’t I need to change?’ Yes! But in God’s sight, because of Jesus’ one sacrifice, you are ‘perfect’ – not lacking anything. In terms of your relationship with him you are complete. There is nothing more that needs to be done to reconcile you to God. Nothing more that needs to be done to pay for your sin. Nothing more that needs to be done to deal with his wrath. As Christians we need to continually remind ourselves of the cross, but we also need to remind ourselves of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, because it is his sitting which so powerfully reminds us that his death on the cross was effective and that we are now perfect in God’s sight.
Jesus is interceding at the Right Hand of His Father
In Hebrews 7 the author again compares Jesus to the OT priests. This time the point of comparison is the fact that the OT priests all died whereas because Jesus lives forever. This means his priesthood continues for ever. As a result the author tells us Jesus ‘is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them’ (v.25).
Verse 25 may jar a little. Haven’t we just said that we are perfected already ? Why does the author speak about us needing to be saved ‘to the uttermost’? And how does this on-going work of intercession fit with the idea that Jesus has finished his work and that he is sitting at God’s right hand?
Firstly, aren’t we saved already? When I was a young Christian, I was part of a church in N. Ireland. Each Christmas one of the older men in the church would play Santa Claus at the Sunday School Christmas party. He was a very godly man who was concerned for the children’s spiritual state. So, when they were put on his lap he wouldn’t ask them what they wanted for Christmas – no he would ask them if they were saved! I have always wondered if someone actually became a Christian through this man and whether in their testimony they could share about being led to the Lord by Santa Claus. I imagine they would need to do some careful theological sorting out of what actually happened! The point is that it is a legitimate question to ask someone. Because the NT does speak of us being saved already (Eph 2:8).
However, the NT also speaks about salvation being a future occurrence. In Hebrews 9:28, the author says that Christ […] will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews – this book that says so much about Jesus’ one sacrifice for sin, about how he has finished his work, also says that our salvation is future.
Doesn’t that contradict what we have been saying already about how Jesus’ death made us perfect in God’s sight? No, because the Christian life is one of continual trust in Jesus. We don’t just trust in him once and then that’s it.
Jesus is praying for us. But he is not interceding for us to be reconciled to God; he is not interceding for our sins to be forgiven – his work on the cross has achieved that already. No he is praying that we would be saved to the uttermost – to be saved to the end – something that lies in the future. Jesus is praying for us to keep going as Christians.
And that means that Jesus is praying in heaven the same way he prayed on earth. In Luke 22:32 Jesus prayed for Peter's faith not to fail. In John 17 he prays that the disciples may be protected from the evil one (17:15). The prayers of Jesus, then, are for the perseverance in faith of the disciples.
It is a real encouragement to have a Christian friend praying for us. How much more to have Jesus praying for us at God’s right hand! The response is not to sit back and go into cruise control. No the response is to keep trusting in him, to keep ‘drawing near to God through him’ (7:25), knowing that not only is he the only one who can reconcile us to God, but that he is the only one who can ensure we make it to the end.
When we sin, we need to remember that Jesus is sitting down, that his work is finished and that he is sitting at God’s right hand.
When we struggle to keep going and are tempted to give up we need to remember that someone is always praying for us. And not just anyone but the risen and exalted Lord Jesus.
Jesus is the one who is continually praying that we will be saved to the uttermost.
Dr Peter Orr lectures in New Testament at Moore Theological College.
Feature photo: Mark Grapengater