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Jesus, the Right Hand of God

Subtitle

In One Part

Acts 2:33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

What does it mean for Jesus to sit or be at “the right hand of God”? Many might think when the Bible uses this phrase, it is speaking in a spatial sense, i.e., referring to a physical throne on the right side of God the Father’s throne. Is this what the Bible conveys to us in this phrase? No, it is not. This phrase, “the right hand of God,” is figurative or symbolic language, pointing to power and authority. We shall see this later in this study.

First of all, we must see that the Bible gives us at least two views of the throne of God, from which He rules — one in Isaiah 6 and one in Revelation 4. On this one throne sits His Son, Christ Jesus. How do we know? John gives us the following picture in the book of Revelation, chapter four. In the first part of this chapter, we read,

2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. [Rev. 4:2-3]

Notice, there is one throne set in heaven. John describes the One who sits on the throne, using precious stones. He says the One sitting on the throne “was to look upon,” or in appearance was like a jasper and a sardine/sardius stone. Now, we might be tempted to think that John is simply describing the brilliance and preciousness of Him on the throne. However, this would be falling short of what John is saying. John’s readers would automatically think of where they had heard about these stones before. Where would that be? In the breastplate of the Israelites’ high priest [Ex 28:17-20].

The breastplate of the high priest contained twelve stones arranged in four rows of three. Upon each stone was the name of one of the sons of Jacob: twelve stones, with twelve names. The stones with these names upon them, were arranged in the order of birth, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus.

“The names of all the sons of Jacob were engraved in these stones, whom we regard as the founders of our tribes, each stone being honoured with a name according to the order of their birth.” [Josephus, Antiquities 3.7.5]

Before we go any further, we must remember this one thing. We are dealing with the stones as they were named in ancient time, not as they are called today. Many of the names of these stones have changed over time. The Sardius stone belonged to Jacob’s firstborn son, Reuben, while the Jasper stone belonged to his last son to be born, Benjamin [Exodus 28:17,20 KJV]. In addition to this, the order of the stones would be in the usual Hebraic order, reading from right to left. This tells us two things.

First, keeping the breastplate in mind, the twelve stones represented the whole covenant people of God. To name the first and last stone is to count the whole of the people. Here, we can see that the One on the throne represents in His Person the whole covenant people of God as the high priest did when he wore the breastplate in the Presence of God once a year, on the Day of Atonement.

However, more to the point, we have the actual identity of the One who sits on the throne, revealed in the names of the two sons of Jacob. The firstborn son of Jacob, represented by the sardius stone, is Reuben, whose name means, “Behold, a son.” The last son to be born to Jacob, represented by the jasper stone, was Benjamin, whose name means “Son of the right hand.”

Here, John identifies the One sitting upon the throne in heaven. He is “Behold, a Son, the Son of the Right Hand.” However, John is not finished. He also describes a rainbow around the throne, in sight like an emerald. Do you know what son of Jacob is identified with the emerald stone? It is Judah, the lion, whose name means “Praise.”

The One John describes being on the throne of heaven, is Behold a Son, the Son of the right hand, surrounded with eternal praise. This is the true meaning and picture of Jesus being on or at the right hand of God. It is He, Christ Jesus, who sits upon the throne of Power and Authority over heaven and earth [Matt. 28:18; Rom. 9:5].

It’s meaning.

As with any topic in the New Covenant writings, we must begin with the meaning in the Old Covenant.

THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER

Ex 15:6 Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
Ps 89:13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.

THE RIGHT HAND OF SALVATION

Ps 17:7* Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
Ps 18:35* Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Ps 20:6* Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
Ps 60:5 That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.
Ps 63:8* My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
Ps 118:15* The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.

These are just a sampling of the references in the Old Covenant to the right hand of God. If we were to summarize all that is said, we would see that the right hand of God, is God acting in POWER, RIGHTEOUSNESS, SALVATION AND JUDGEMENT, among other things.

We then come to the passages where we see this right hand of God, is made to appear in the person of a man, which according to the ancient rabbis, is none other than King Messiah.

THE MAN OF THE RIGHT HAND

Ps 80:17* Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

The rabbis interpret this to refer to the Messiah. The Targum translates “Son of man” as King Messiah. So the Messiah is looked upon as the Man of the Right Hand, or the Power and Salvation of God. This reminds us of Jesus before the high priest after His arrest. Jesus would not answer His accusers.

Matt. 26:63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest wanted to know if Jesus admitted to being the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus responded in the affirmative, by saying, “You have said so.” Jesus is answering, "Yes, I am." [Mark 14:61-62] He then further answers by saying, that they would see Him, the Son of Man “seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In this, Jesus equates being the Christ, the Son of God, with being the Son of Man, who sits at the right hand of the Power of God. The high priest understood Him in this way, when he declares Christ spoke blasphemy. His statement about “coming in the clouds,” refers to His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem.

Ps 110:1* The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Ps 110:5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.

This psalm is quite interesting, in its references to this one who is at the right hand. In verse one, we see the LORD saying to my Lord, “sit thou at my right hand. . .” The first word translated as LORD is the Name of God, YHVH (#3068 in Strong’s). The second Lord is the Hebrew for ruler or sovereign (Adone, h0113. אָדוֹן ’âḏôn), whether it is used of a divine or human ruler. This would seem to give us the sense that we are speaking of two Lords. If we were to stop here, it might give us the impression that LORD is a reference to God the Father, and Lord was speaking of the Son.

However, let’s move on to verse five. In verse five, it is speaking of the Lord who is at the right hand. The Name that is given to this Lord is not Adone as it is in verse one, but ADONAI (#136). This name, ADONAI, is specifically and emphatically used as a substitutionary name for YHVH, the I AM THAT I AM.

If the Man at the Right Hand is understood as King Messiah, then we see in Ps. 110:5, that this King Messiah is none other than YHVH Himself. It is the Great I AM, who is Israel’s Messiah. This is the message of the New Covenant writings.

JESUS AND THE RIGHT HAND

Mt 26:64* Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Jesus made this statement to the high priest, signifying that He was the Messiah. However, it didn’t go over very well, because after this he was beaten and delivered up to the Romans.

Mt 27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

The reed in the right hand was to represent His scepter, which signifies the strength of his kingdom. They were mocking Him as having a kingdom that was easily broken. However, the Scripture gives us a different picture of the power of his Kingdom, as represented by His true scepter, which is of iron (Rev. 12:5;19:15). This points to a Kingdom or Rule that can never be broken. And one day, as the Scriptures proclaim, every knee shall bow, but it won’t be in mockery as these soldiers were doing.

Stephen, while preaching to his brethren, the Jews, looked up into heaven and saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God.

Ac 7:55* But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Ac 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Stephen looked up and saw "the glory of God," which is Jesus, the Son of God [Heb. 1:3]. The emphasis of this image, is that Jesus is standing, not sitting. This is the only place we have a picture of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. What is the significance of this? In the ancient world, if one were to enter the court or throne room of a monarch, he would be seated upon his throne and you would be expected to approach and bow before him. This would be true, unless this monarch was a friend or a close relative. The act of Jesus standing was the act of a monarch rising to greet a dear friend. Jesus was standing in all His power and righteousness, to greet his friend Stephen.

Of course this infuriated those who were listening to Stephen and they … “cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.”

In the book of Hebrews, we see Jesus not standing but sitting at the right hand. What is the significance of Him sitting?

Heb 1:3* Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Heb 1:13* But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
Heb 8:1* Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
Heb 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
Heb 12:2* Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The emphasis of sitting, takes us to the image of Jesus as High Priest. In the tabernacle and the temple, there was one piece of furniture that was missing, a chair. There was a table and a lamp, but there was no chair, no place for the priest to sit. Why? Because he did not have time to sit, or rest, because he was always ministering, making the necessary offerings and sacrifices for sins. The work of the priest was never done, hence he had no time to sit and relax.

The picture of Jesus sitting, is a statement that His work is done. When He cried upon the tree, “It is finished,” He meant it, His work was complete. When we see Jesus sitting, it is the picture of the completion of His work, concerning sin and the offering of Himself.

SUMMARY

To briefly summarize this study, we would say that the image of Jesus being on the right hand of God, is not to be taken in the literal (spatial) sense, but in the manner in which it was intended, figuratively.

It speaks of Jesus, the man of God’s right hand, as the one who acts in Power, Righteousness, Judgement and Salvation. He is the Power of God, the Righteousness of God, and the Salvation of God. He does not simply demonstrate these qualities, but HE IS all of these and more. He is the One who sits on the Throne in heaven, ruling all creation. It is before Him, that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess. It speaks of Jesus as the Divine Messiah [Ps. 110], who has come to redeem men from sin and death, to rule not only on His father David’s throne, but on the Throne of Almighty God, because HE IS.

Col. 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

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