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On God's Right Hand

by Tim O'Hearn

How do we know that God is left-handed? He must be, because Jesus is standing on his right hand. (Acts 7:55-56) It’s an old joke, but worth repeating if only to introduce an important concept. Jesus is sitting on (or at) the right hand of God.

Why is that important? What are the consequences of that fact? How does it affect the thinking of many in the religious world today?

It is important because Jesus is Messiah, and the son of God. Of whom else can it be said that he is sitting at God’s right hand? Many people, many good people, have died. David was among the greatest of all men, in God’s eyes. Yet it was David who said, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Ps 110:1) Jesus (as recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Peter, and the writer of Hebrews all point out that David spoke of Messiah. When Stephen told the hostile crowd that he saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God, it is no wonder that they stoned him. These were people who knew the scriptures. They knew that Stephen was claiming that Jesus (whom they had heard refer to himself as the Son of Man) was Messiah. They could not believe this, so they chose to shoot—well, stone—the messenger. But Stephen was right. He saw Messiah at the right hand of God.

What does that mean? It means that he can intercede with God for us directly. (Rom 8:34) Additionally, it means that Jesus is now ruling, above all other rulers.

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (Eph 1:20-21)

Jesus is ruler of all. He is not just a king on the earth, but has been elevated beyond earthly rule. “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Pet 3:22)

What does this mean to religious thinking today? There are many that posit that Jesus will return to reign on earth for a thousand years. That Jesus is seated at the right hand of God militates against this idea. First of all, what would be the point? Jesus demoted himself once (Php 2:6-9), but that was so he could become the sacrifice for sin. Since he doesn’t need to do that again (Heb 9:26-28), why should he reign on earth just to prove God a liar? “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:25-26) If Jesus is to return to earth to reign, then he would have to give up his current reign. But even according to millennialist theory death would still remain. If not, again what is the point?

There is a more serious consequence if Jesus is to reign on earth. “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” (Heb 8:1) “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:12) If Jesus returns to earth to reign here, he must give up the office of our high priest. He must say that his sacrifice was insufficient to save. If he leaves his reign in heaven there would no longer be any sacrifice for sin. He would not be a priest forever. The second he takes up a limited reign on earth, giving up his reign over angels and powers, he instantly becomes the ruler of a world of sinners who will have lost hope. Once the eternal high priest gives up that office, the sacrifices made under that covenant become null and void.

Jesus is sitting at God’s right hand for a reason. It is a reason that offers all people hope. If he leaves God’s right hand, we have no hope. He can’t break the covenant just to take it up again. Once the contract is void, it would take another death to reestablish it. Many hope Jesus comes to reign on earth soon. They would do better to hope it were never.