Every good story has an end. This world has an end as well. The effects of sin in every area of life lead many people to ask whether there is meaning in any area of life. Yet, everything that God made has a purpose. He created all things and He governs all things, directing them to the right goal. This means that our salvation has an end or purpose as well. The purpose of all things is to glorify God. God glorifies Himself most greatly in Christ’s work of purchasing our salvation, and in the Spirit’s work of applying our salvation. Creation is marching towards its perfection and glorious completion in Christ at the resurrection and final judgment (Rom. 8:18–26; Col. 1:20). While many things are wrong in the world today due to the effects of sin, God will ultimately set all things right when Christ returns to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). The exalted Christ will ultimately exalt the glory of God in every way, both in heaven and on earth.
Christ’s resurrection and ascension are not the only parts of His exaltation. Westminster Larger Catechism 54–56 teaches that God exalts Christ in His session, intercession, and return in judgment. These things are important because Jesus’ place in heaven secures ours, His intercession for us makes our prayers acceptable to God, and He is coming as Judge to receive us to Himself.
How Is Christ Exalted in His Session?1
After making purification for sins, Christ sat at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). Like a worker who sits down after finishing a hard day’s work, Christ sat at the Father’s right hand and rested from His work (4:10). Yet Christ did not rest from His work because He was tired but because God exalted Him by seating Him. His session is thus part of His glory. The catechism explains this in two ways.
First, Christ received the Father’s favor and honor. Sitting at a monarch’s right hand is the highest place of honor. None can add to or take away from the eternal Son’s glory. Yet as the incarnate Son, He was “advanced to the highest favor with God the Father” (Phil. 2:9). The man Christ Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). The highest favor God gave Him was the “name that is above every name,” ensuring that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” to the Father’s glory (Phil. 2:9–11). Just as He rejoiced in spirit at the Father’s will on earth (Luke 10:21), so He has “fullness of joy” at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Ps. 16:11). In His session, the Father answered Jesus’ prayer that the Father would glorify the Son and that the Son would glorify the Father (John 17:1) by glorifying Him with the glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world (v. 5). As the Son of Man, Jesus was invested by the Father with “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18; see Dan. 7:13–14). Christ is Head over all things for the sake of the church (Eph. 1:22), which is good news for those belonging to the church. Christ’s session at the Father’s right hand is the seat of the highest honor and power.
Second, Christ is seated to gather and defend His church. His work in doing so reflects His threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. As King, He subdues us to Himself by His Word and Spirit, and He subdues His and our enemies, putting them all under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25). The kingdoms of this world are the kingdoms of the seated and reigning Christ (Rev. 11:15). As Prophet, He furnishes “his ministers and people with gifts and graces” (WLC 54; Ps. 110:1; Eph. 4:10–12). He teaches through His ministers (Rom. 10:11–17) so that those who hear Him are taught by God (Isa. 54:13; John 6:45). As Priest, He intercedes for His people (Heb. 7:25). The seated Christ stood to receive Stephen to Himself (Acts 7:56). The seated Christ still stands in our place to make sure there is room for us in God’s eternal house (John 14:2). Christ’s three offices converge in His session. He is the King who takes captives and distributes teaching gifts to the church to fulfill His prophetic office. The primary content of this prophetic office is His priestly work, culminating in His death on the cross (1 Cor. 2:1–5).
Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand to secure a place for us in heaven. Do we seek our exaltation in His exaltation, and do we find our safety in His defense? We can no more lose a seat at the Father’s table than Christ can lose His seat at the Father’s side.
How Is Christ Exalted in His Intercession?2
Christ is exalted by His intercession both by who He is and by what He does. While we use words when we intercede for others in prayer, Christ needs none. He appears “in our nature continually before the Father in heaven” (Heb. 9:12, 24). The same human nature that fell from God by sin is seated at God’s right hand in righteousness. His session is the primary part of His intercession, because He sits at God’s right hand “in the merit of His obedience and sacrifice on earth” and by “declaring His will to have it applied to all believers” (John 17:17). The Father does not need persuasion through Christ’s intercession. He sent His Son in the place of His elect, and He sees the elect complete in the finished work of His Son (Col. 2:10), who is always in His presence.
Christ’s intercession secures our place before God in heaven. We do not know whether Jesus uses words or not in His intercession, but we do know many glorious effects of His intercession. He intercedes for us by “answering all accusations against” us (Zech. 3:2). These accusations do not come from the Father. Christ’s intercession is not a cosmic wrestling match between the Son, who defends us, and the Father, who keeps trying to get His hands on us. The whole Trinity is united in planning, purchasing, and applying our redemption. Christ puts down all external accusations against His people by casting Satan out of his place, who “accused them before God day and night” (Rev. 12:10). Who can bring a charge against God’s elect if Christ’s intercedes for them (Rom. 8:33–34)? If God is for us, then who can be against us?
Christ’s intercession stops all internal accusations against us by procuring everything that we need for salvation. As a result, He brings us “quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings” (Rom. 5:1–2). In spite of indwelling sin, we can come to God with full assurance of faith, “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). This is because He gives us “confidence [to] draw near to the throne of grace” (4:16), where we can find grace for the forgiveness for sins and the power for subduing sin.
Christ intercedes for us so that God accepts our service as well as our persons (1 Peter 2:5). God not only accepts our persons as a reconciled Judge, but He accepts our service as a loving Father. He is the God of adoption as well as the God of justification and sanctification. Is it not remarkable that with so many faults tainting even our best works, Christ will say one day, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21)? Is it any surprise that we will say, “Lord, when did we do these things” (25:37)? God ignores the dross in our works and sees the pure silver of Spirit-wrought righteousness because Christ intercedes for us.
Christ’s intercession makes our prayers, and all other acts of service, pleasing to God. Should this not make us eager to pray, diligent to serve, and confident to pursue glory?
How Will Christ be Exalted When He Returns to Judge the World?3
Christ’s return is the completion and climax of His glorification. The Father vindicated, or justified, His righteous Son by the Spirit in Christ’s resurrection (Rom. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:16). Yet Jesus’ final vindication comes when “he who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men” will justly judge the wicked and the righteous alike (Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10). He shall come again “to judge the world in righteousness.” This day will be the last day, of which no one knows the day or the hour (Matt. 24:36), though many in the past and the present have pretended to. Presuming to know the time of Christ’s return is unspeakable arrogance and ignorance of or unbelief in God’s Word. Scripture tells us more about the central fact of Christ return in judgment than it does about the precise timing of His coming. We should listen to what God reveals and be deaf to what He has concealed (Deut. 29:29).
The manner of Christ’s exaltation in judgment will be glorious. He shall come “with great power” (Matt. 24:30; 2 Thess. 1:9–10). He shall come “in the full manifestation of His own glory, and of His Father, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26; Matt. 25:31). He shall come “with the voice of the archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). When Christ comes in judgment, then the Father will reveal to all unmistakably what and who Christ is, with every appropriate circumstance fitting the occasion. Jesus will return with the fanfare of the hosts of heaven. Christ’s exaltation in His return to judge the will be God’s final and most glorious act of revelation.
When Jesus comes again in judgment, He will receive us to Himself so that we may be with Him where He is (John 14:3). So we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17). This fact transforms what would otherwise be a fearful event into a joyful one. Do we exult in Christ for His session and intercession now so that we can look forward to His exaltation at the judgment?
In his science fiction novel Perelandra, C.S. Lewis depicted the end of the history on another planet as the beginning of a glorious new history. Something new and more glorious began when something old and less glorious ended. The end of the first world was the beginning of a false start. The close of the lesser story was actually the opening of the greater story.4 So it will be with Christ’s return. Once Christ returns to judge the world in righteousness, the beginning will end, and the end will begin. We must be content with nothing less than the Father’s glorifying the incarnate Son to the highest degree. Do we know His heavenly glory now in His session and intercession, and do we long to see its completion at His return? In the meantime, we should live in light of Christ’s return, under the power of His intercession. Christ sits at the Father’s right hand to secure a place for us. He intercedes for us to make sure that we arrive there safely. He shall return in glory to receive us to Himself and to judge the world. All of life has meaning and purpose because its meaning and purpose lies in Christ’s final exaltation, which encompasses the salvation of His people.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on Christ as Mediator. Previous post.
- “Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favor with God the Father, with all fullness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and doth gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces, and maketh intercession for them” (WLC 54). ↩︎
- “Christ maketh intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit and obedience of his sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers; answering all accusations against them, and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services” (WLC 55). ↩︎
- “Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men, shall come against at the last day in great power, and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father’s, with all his holy angels, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, to judge the world in righteousness” (WLC 56). ↩︎
- C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (New York: HarperOne, 2012). ↩︎