Hebrews 9–2. Christ's Work in Heaven.
Key Notes: Does Jesus plead for our salvation? The functions of the High Priest. The nature of His intercession. The end of His work.
"For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf." (Hebrews 9:24)
Today's lesson asks about the nature of Christ's presence in heaven on our behalf. My early understanding of His intercessory work was conditioned by Charles Wesley's hymn, "Arise, My Soul, Arise." which says:
v.2."He ever lives above for me to intercede; His all- redeeming love, His precious blood to plead."
v.3."Five bleeding wounds He bears, received on Calvary; They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me; 'Forgive him, O forgive.' they cry, 'nor let that ransomed sinner die'."
v.4."The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One; He cannot turn away the presence of His Son."
This great hymn implies a continual tension within the Trinity regarding our salvation: Jesus pleading, the Father resisting but eventually yielding. "Pleading" our case is not found in the NT. It appears to be incorrect.
Furthermore, Rom. 8:31–34 says: "If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him ? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died?"
This passage indicates harmony, not tension, in the Trinity regarding our salvation. In fact, there must be the highest form of fellowship, love and cooperation within the Trinity.
What then is the nature of Christ's work in heaven?
Hebrews quotations on Jesus in heaven:
"seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High" (1:3, 10:12)
*" able to help those who are tempted" (2:18)
*"able to sympathize with our weakness" (4:15)
*"gone as a fore-runner on our behalf" (6:20)
"ever living to make intercession for them" (7:25)
"now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (9:24)
A. The starred (*) passages give one the impression of one who was and is the coach, previously a player, who is working with his team behind the scenes. He has been through the race long before us. The game, more like warfare, is deadly serious.
"We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world." (Eph. 6:12).
Other glimpses into the warfare are in Dan. 7:11–12; 10:13,20; 12:1.
B. God "...raised us up with Him and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus". (Eph. 2:6). He is our representative and we are positioned in Christ in Heaven. He acts on our behalf.
C. The OT High Priest gave a blessing: "The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." (Num. 6:24–26)
How does Jesus as High Priest bless us?
"Exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you see and hear." (Acts 2:33). The Holy Spirit poured out is our greatest blessing.
Eph. 4:8–13 elaborates the blessing.
"His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ...to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
We are also given the fruit of the Spirit. Gal.5:22
D. Ex. 28:6–29 describes the high priest's garments and gives an image of intercession or advocacy. Two onyx stones were used as shoulder clips on the ephod, engraved with the names of the sons of Israel.
"And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for remembrance." (Ex.28:12)
There was also a breast-plate set with precious stones each with a name of one of the tribes of Israel:
"And they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the Lord; thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually." (Ex.28:30)
The high priest carries his people on his shoulders and on his heart always before God. Jesus gives us an example of having His disciples, present and future, on His heart.
"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." (Jn.17:15)
"I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." (Jn.17:20–21)
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." (Rom.8:26)
So His intercession is still in the picture:
"If anyone sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world". (I Jn. 2:1–2)
Why do we need an advocate? We keep messing up.
E. The best place to find descriptions of Heaven and what goes on there is in Revelation.
Rev. 4 is a picture of worship around the throne.
Rev. 5 finds the Lion of Judah, Christ as a lamb, worthy to open a sealed scroll because he has redeemed men for God by His blood. The scroll begins judgment on the earth, starting with conquest, war, famine, pestilence, and earthquake.
After many woes are brought upon the earth, Christ comes with His armies to rule.
"I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.... He is clad in a robe dipped in blood and the name by which He is called is the Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed Him on white horses." (Rev.’:11–14). He is preparing to return, as conquering King, to defeat Satan and avenge Himself on His enemiesg.
Summary: Jesus in Heaven is our Player / coach, our Representative, our Fountain of blessing, our Advocate and our coming Conqueror-king. He is not in Heaven pleading with a reluctant Father. God is for us."...and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with His servants and His indignation is against His enemies."" (Isa.66:14)
Praise be to God. Rejoice.