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Cessation: Hebrews 1:1-4 (part 14)

after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

 

Jesus “sat down…”  The imagery of this is of a victorious king who has returned home after the defeat of his enemies.  The sitting symbolizes that the victory is final and decisive.  And indeed, we who have received the benefits of that victory can and do rejoice in the wonderful victory of our King!  Oh, the peace and confidence that come from knowing that our Lord reigns unopposed.

Yet, with this in mind, there are several observations that must be made from this clause.  The first observation is that this victory took place at the cross.  “After making purifications for sins,” this passage begins, Jesus sits down in victory.  Beloved, Jesus’ victory over the devil and sin is not something that has yet to take place, but it has already taken place at the cross.  Indeed, the devil still rages against believers.  Indeed, sin still haunts our lives and the effects of sin still surround us.  But these things are the death throes of a defeated enemy and we can rejoice in knowing that the attacks we endure have lost their sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-56) for the law has been satisfied by the work of Christ (satisfaction is another aspect of the atonement—see above).  The devil is dead and he knows it, he is simply thrashing about to do as much damage as he can to God’s people for as long as he is able.  Indeed, there is a time when our Lord will once again leave his throne and enter into our world in final judgment, casting the devil and his servants into the eternal lake of fire, but for now, our Lord reigns victorious while he brings the entirety of his elect church to himself.

The second thing that we must note about this passage is where our Lord takes his seat.  It is at the right hand of God the Father in all of his glory.  Now, we know that this is metaphoric imagery.  We know that God the father does not have hands and we know that God the Father and God the Son (as well as God the Holy Spirit), while three persons, are one God, so to make too much about designation and location is inappropriate—there is no real subordination, for example, within the Godhead (though, we can argue that there was an economic subordination in the sense that certain members of the Godhead primarily focused on certain tasks in redemptive history, but all-the-while knowing that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are present when God the Father is working, etc…).  All of this having been said, we must note that the right hand was symbolic in ancient cultures of the hand of power and authority.  In other words, sitting at the right hand communicates that all of the power and authority of God are at the disposal of the one to that side.  It is the side given to the honored guest, brought into the fellowship of one in authority (note that we retain some of this imagery in our modern culture when we extend the right hand of fellowship to another in a handshake).  The symbolism of the right hand is seen as a confirmation that Jesus’ completed work of atonement has met the full satisfaction of God the Father and nothing more needs to be added.  Jesus’ work is complete; his sacrifice never needs repeating.  God’s justice and honor has been satisfied and his wrath has been meted out in terms of the elect—there is no more work to be done for the redemption of God’s people.

Loved ones, let that sink in a bit.  Jesus’ redemptive work is complete.  We neither need to nor are even able to add to it on a saving level.  Jesus successfully accomplished what we could not accomplish for ourselves.  Jesus’ merit was sufficient to satisfy the righteous law and his sacrifice was sufficient to satisfy the justice of his Father—what more is there left but for us to adore him!  Oh, loved ones, when we speak of the “Cessation” of the Son’s work, we are not suggesting that he puts his feet up on a celestial ottoman and sips divine lemonade for all eternity, no, he lives to make intercession for his people (Hebrews 7:25)!  Yet, in terms of the work necessary to redeem his people, that work was fully completed on the cross—we are just going through history while that redemptive work is slowly realized in the lives of the elect (2 Peter 3:9).  Believer, rejoice in the knowledge that your Lord and Savior sits in such  a place of honor and privilege in the grand scheme of God’s great plan, yet, for those who may not believe and have a relationship with Jesus Christ, be afraid, for the one you reject is the one who has the Father’s ear and who promises that none will come to the Father save through the Son (John 14:6).

To God be the glory, great things He has done;

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,

And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the earth hear His voice!

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

Let the people rejoice!

O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,

And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

-Fanny Crosby

Purification for Sins: Hebrews 1:1-4 (part 13)

after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

 

There are many theories that have been put forth in the history of theology to try and articulate all of the ramifications of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross.  Yet, the scriptures affirm so many different aspects of Jesus’ work on the cross that it is difficult to encapsulate all of them within one theory.  And here is one of those passages in scripture that gives us a glimpse into one aspect of Jesus’ redeeming work—that of making purification for sins.  This idea of making purification ties in closely with the Old Testament concept of the high priest offering a sacrifice to make atonement for his people.  Indeed, this very language is found in the Greek translation of passages like Exodus 29:6 and Exodus 30:10, which speaks specifically of this atoning work.

In light of the Old Testament passages of atonement for sin, one thing that we must recognize is that sin is an offense to God, it is ugly and wicked, and it warps us wholly.  The physical disease of Leprosy in the Old Testament is a visual description of the effect that sin has upon us in life.  It makes us wretched and separates us from that which is holy and of God.  Yet, God offers a means by which we may be made clean.  In the Old Testament age, this cleansing revolved around the illustration of slaughtering animals.   Though the blood of animals has no intrinsic value of its own, the promise of the work of Christ would impart value to it (Hebrews 9:15).  And ultimately, the work of Christ in laying down his life as an offering of atonement, would offer a cleansing for those who flee to him in faith.  Just as Jesus physically healed the lepers and others who were being consumed by disease and the other effects of the fall, Jesus heals us as well through faith in his finished work. 

Does this idea of cleansing encapsulate the entirety of what Jesus’ atoning work does, certainly not!  There are legal aspects where we need to talk about Jesus in terms of penal substitution.  Scripture speaks of Jesus as having provided a ransom (to God, not the devil) for believers.  There is the language of his being a model for us to follow and one who imputes his righteousness.  We could go on, but that misses the point.  The atonement is quite complex and we will likely never plumb the depths fully of this remarkable doctrine; this passage gives us just one glance at what Christ does for us:  he cleanses us from our sins so that we might stand as clean in the presence of a righteous and a holy God who cannot tolerate sin in his presence.  And this task, the writer of Hebrews affirms, Christ has gloriously completed, taking his seat at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  Blessed be the name of our Lord!

Extol the Lamb of God,


The sin atoning Lamb;


Redemption by His blood


Throughout the lands proclaim:

The year of jubilee is come!


The year of jubilee is come!


Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

-Charles Wesley