Where Christ Is Now

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Colossians 3:1-4

Why is it important to us that we believe and confess our faith in the fact that the ascended Christ now sits at God’s right hand? What truth is this biblical picture trying to convey to us?

I wonder if you have ever thought much about where Jesus is right now. The fact is that, strictly speaking, according to the Bible (and for that matter the Apostles’ Creed) Jesus isn’t here on earth. He is in heaven. That’s “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” as the apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:1. Now I know that as Christians we think of Christ as being everywhere and always present with us, and that is certainly true. In fact, the very last promise Jesus made to his followers was this, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). But technically speaking (if I may put it that way) it is through his Spirit — that is, the Holy Spirit — that Christ keeps this promise. The Spirit of Christ strengthens and comforts us, dwelling with and within us here on earth. But Jesus, at least in the resurrection body of his glorified human nature, is in heaven above, seated at the right hand of God.

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the heart of the Christian faith by describing, in a series of simple phrases, the career of the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of the verbs in this section of the Creed are in the past tense, because they refer to things Christ has already done. He was born, he died, he rose again, he ascended into heaven — these acts belong to the finished work of Christ. The last verb in this section is in the future tense: he will come again to judge the living and the dead. This is the final remaining action in Christ’s work of salvation, following which the heavens and the earth will be made over into a new creation and all the redeemed of God will live and reign with Jesus Christ forever.

But that still leaves one verb in the present tense. Jesus Christ, we confess in our creed, “is sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” That’s where he is now — at the right hand of God. That’s what he’s doing at present — he is sitting.

What Does it Mean?

So how are we to understand that? Why is it important to us that we believe and confess our faith in the fact that the ascended Christ now sits at God’s right hand? What truth is this biblical picture trying to convey to us? For it is picture-language; perhaps I don’t need to point this out, but this is a figure of speech. When the New Testament writers talk about Christ’s heavenly seat, they never meant this to be taken literally as if God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son are both seated on golden chairs in the heavens above the clouds. If you stop and think about it, of course you realize that God has neither a right hand nor a literal throne. We use the same kind of figurative language today. For example, when a news reporter says, “The White House announced today that it was doing such and such,” she doesn’t mean that a building in Washington D.C. started talking to the press. That famous place serves as a symbol of the United States government’s authority. So for Jesus to be lifted up from earth to heaven and exalted to God’s right hand means that God has given him the place of highest honor and greatest power and authority.

The opening verses of the book of Hebrews also make another special point, not just about the position but about the posture of the ascended Lord Jesus. “After making purification for sins,” says the writer, “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). The fact that Christ is sitting next to the Father’s throne does not mean that he is doing nothing. The writer of Hebrews has just said that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (v. 3). But the significance of Christ’s being seated lies in the truth it conveys about his part in the work of our salvation. What it signifies is that Christ’s atonement, his sacrifice for sin, has been accomplished once and for all. The book of Hebrews is especially concerned with the priestly ministry of Jesus. It stresses the point that Old Testament priests had to continually enter the Temple and stand before the altar to offer repeated sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus, when he offered himself on the cross — the true sacrifice of which all those animal offerings were only the foreshadowing — made atonement for sin once and for all.

What about Us?

So the first point the New Testament makes about the heavenly seating of Christ Jesus is a truth about him. Christ our Lord is reigning above, seated in majesty and power and authority at the right hand of the Father. His work is accomplished. His pain and shame are over and done with. He is no longer the humiliated sufferer. No, the crucified One has become the exalted One. To him belong all blessing and honor and glory and power. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

A second point the New Testament makes about the heavenly seat of Christ is a truth, however, about us. The apostle Paul spells it out in Colossians 3:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:1-3

In that rich passage Paul asserts what is true for every Christian believer. First, an assertion about the past: “You have died” (v. 3), Paul says, and “you have been raised with Christ” (v. 1). By faith we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection, so that in him it can be said that we have already died and risen to the new life. The saving merits of Christ’s death for sin and the life-giving power of his resurrection to the life to come are both ours. Next, Paul makes an assertion in the present tense: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Salvation is not an independent operation worked out in separate individuals. God does not fix us up and then send us out on our own, like a mother putting a band-aid on a scraped knee and then shoeing her child out the door again. Salvation only happens as we are united with Christ by faith. By the power of the Holy Spirit a mystical union is effected between Christ and the believer, and a wonderful exchange takes place. Our sins are transferred to Christ, and his righteousness and life are given to us. The wonder of wonders is that when we are saved we are drawn up into the life of the triune God himself and enabled to share in the eternal, perpetual love flowing between the Father and the Son, by the Spirit. And nothing can touch that life. No matter what happens to us here and now, our real life is hidden, safe with Christ in God.

Now that’s an amazing thing to think about and we can’t fully grasp the reality of it. But we need to follow Paul in asking a follow-on question: It’s really the basic New Testament question, “So what?” If all this about Christ being seated above and our life being hidden with him there is true, then what? Then “set your mind on things above, not on [earthly] things” (v. 2), counsels the apostle.

It’s a very simple point really: What do you think about? What are the things you really care about? Do you pay much attention to Jesus Christ? Or do you spend all your time thinking about having fun or making money or getting on in the world? If our true life is really above, then our minds should also be set on the things that are above.

The things that are above are the things of God: salvation, the gospel; faith, hope, and love; judgment, resurrection, heaven and hell, the world to come. The things that are above are the things that are higher, better and nobler. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8), says the New Testament. The things that are above are the things that are eternal. “We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16).

Christians are often accused of being escapist, too preoccupied with unreal, intangible, spiritual things. We’re so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good, as the cliché goes. Frankly, I don’t believe it for a moment. In fact, I doubt if there has ever been an age when Christians, western Christians at least, have been more secular in their outlook and more earth-bound in their concerns. It is precisely because we fail to seek the things that are above that we find ourselves so trapped in our fallen culture and its secular mindset. “Aim at heaven,” said C. S. Lewis, “and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, and you get neither.”

So pay close attention to where your mind and heart are set. Believe me, a very great deal depends upon it.