The Son Sits in the Supreme Seat (HC LD 19, QA 50-52)

Think for a moment about the most powerful people in the world. You probably think of political leaders, judges, business magnates, and religious figures. And all of them probably have important places where they sit. Pope Francis has his papal throne in Rome. Jeff Bezos probably has a certain seat at a huge conference room table. I saw a bizarre picture of Vladimir Putin meeting with financial advisors at the Kremlin. He was at the head of the table. At the other end of the table, about 20 feet from Putin, sat the financial advisors. That’s a big table and a weird seating arrangement. Joe Biden has the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. The presidential Resolute Desk is made of oak from a 19th-century British Royal Navy ship. Queen Victoria gifted the desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes. All this to say, important people have important seats.

As Christians, we confess that Jesus Christ the Son of God “sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” What’s that seat about? Heidelberg 50 asks, “Why is it added, ‘and sits at the right hand of God’?” It answers: “Christ ascended into heaven to manifest Himself there as Head of His Church, through whom the Father governs all things.” Jesus Christ is in heaven manifesting himself as the head of his church. The Father is governing all things through the crucified and risen Christ.  

Now, some Christians, particularly Dispensational Christians, do not believe that Christ is reigning and ruling now as King. I think that’s fair to say. They place his kingly reign and rule sometime in the future during a millennial kingdom. I think this is greatly mistaken. See, right before his ascension, Jesus said something extremely important and informative. He told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Isn’t it clear? Jesus Christ currently possesses supreme authority over heaven and earth and all that is in them. This preeminence was given to him by his Father. Paul communicated this truth in Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus Christ is preeminent in everything. As the Christ, he is not only preeminent as Prophet and Priest, he is preeminent as King of kings and Lord of lords.

But, does God have a literal right hand? Is Jesus literally sitting at God’s literal right hand? We need to think carefully. God is a spirit and certainly does not have a physical body like us. To think that God has a physical right hand identifies you more with the Latter-day Saints than it does with historic Christianity. Scripture is clear that God is spirit (Jn. 4:24). God does not have a physical right hand. Nor is Jesus physically sitting until he returns. Scripture does talk about Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. Acts 5:31 says that “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Jesus is currently exalted at God’s right hand. He is interceding for us there. Jesus himself said, “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk. 22:69). Seated is the image given. And yet, when the heavens were opened right before his gruesome death, Stephen saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Acts 7:55–56 says:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

So, is Jesus sitting or standing? Yes. We can answer yes. But we have to know what it means for Jesus to be sitting or standing at God’s right hand. More than physical posture, think rightful honor and unrivaled power. Think supremacy. Ephesians 1:20–23 provides much clarity on this. Paul said that God

raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Paul makes clear that his sitting is his supremacy, rule, authority, power, and dominion. His sitting means all things are under his feet, that he is indeed head of his church. Christ is preeminent in all things. Zacharias Ursinus summarized it like this:

As used in the Scriptures, the phrase, right hand of God signifies two things. First, the supreme power and virtue or omnipotence of God. . . . And secondly, supreme dignity and glory or majesty. It is in this second sense that we are to understand it as here used. . . . From what has now been said, we may give a more complete definition of Christ’s sitting at the right hand of the Father. It is to have the same and equal power with the Father: to excel all the angels and men in his human nature both in the number and excellence of the gifts which were conferred upon him and also in visible glory and majesty: to declare himself Lord of angels and men and so of all things which are created: to rule immediately, in the name of the Father, his kingdom in heaven, and the whole world, and especially to govern the church in the same manner by his power: and, finally, to be acknowledged and praised by everyone as Lord and Head of all. [1]

It’s not that Jesus is tired and needs to sit down for a long time. It’s not that Jesus is finished working – he continually intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand in that he has been glorified by the Father and possesses all honor, glory, and majesty. He is equal to the Father. He is exalted in his supremacy over all things. John Calvin added, “The expression does not refer to any bodily posture, but denotes the highest royal power with which Christ has been invested.” [2]

If we understand what it means for Jesus Christ to sit at the Father’s right hand, we can begin to understand how his glory, majesty, and power benefit us. Heidelberg 51 asks, “How does the glory of Christ, our Head, benefit us?” Yes, this helps us draw comfort and joy from the doctrine. It answers, “First, by His Holy Spirit, He pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members. Second, by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.

Take comfort in this: the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven and possesses supreme dignity, glory, dominion, and power; therefore, he is actively defending you and preserving you against all your enemies. Do not doubt his supremacy, for every day he is working for your good. He is actively loving you with the authority, glory, and majesty bestowed upon him by the Father. He truly is there for your good. 

[1] Zacharias Ursinus, trans. Rev. G. W. Williard, ed. Eric D. Bristley, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (RCUS: 2004), 465-466, 468. Slight edits in punctuation.

[2] John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 215.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism and creeds are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism: True Comfort for Life & Death (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021), 395.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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