Christ on the Throne of God

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There is no point perhaps which the Spirit of God takes more pains to press in writing to the Hebrew Christians than the connection of the throne of God with the Lord Jesus. And the immense weight of such a relationship must be evident on the least reflection to one who knows what God is and what man is. There are two things that the Jew as a Jew never acknowledges. It was their great difficulty when unbelief began to overspread the nation, and it is the great lie of Judaism up to the present day.
The one is that God came down to man—God really and truly came down to man and not that He merely made a revelation of Himself. This they could easily believe. All their old polity was founded upon a manifestation of the divine presence; but a real personal presence of God upon earth, to have God becoming a man, truly a man, is foreign to Judaism as such. The system of its Rabbis cannot abide it, utterly refuses it, and perishes in its war against it.
But there is another grand truth also to which Judaism is equally opposed: not that God came down merely, but that man was to go up and be with God. Judaism as such finds all its place upon the earth. It is essentially for the world; and even in its best shape it is earthly, not heavenly. According to God's intentions about it and the glorious counsels that He has yet in store for Israel, it is the blessing of Israel upon the earth, though I do not deny that after all the dealings with the earth are over, they, as all other believers, will have their portion according to a changed condition in the new heavens and earth. But still, speaking of the course of dispensations on the earth, Judaism finds its place not in the heavens but here below. Therefore there was an immense barrier in their minds against the thought of a man being in heaven. Accordingly, in writing to the Hebrews, the Holy Ghost sets Himself to give the strongest possible expression to these truths, and that, too, founded on the ancient divine records which the Jews possessed. Psalm 110 has a very important connection with the whole doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as it was used on a most critical occasion by our Lord with the Jews in Matt. 22.
The Lord Jesus is viewed in various lights as seated on the throne of God. In chapter 1 it is connected with the glory of His person. The Messiah was divine. It was not merely that He was raised there, that God exalted Him above His fellows, though this was true; but He was God. He who was a man was God; He who was God deigned to become man. And now that He is gone up to heaven, He is not gone up as God only, but as man. In Him God therefore had come down and man had gone up. He had not ceased to be God; He could not cease to be what He is, but He had carried humanity on high, now bound up with His own person forever, humanity itself in His person being on the throne of God. It is this too which is shown here to be bound up with the work that He has done. For it is evident that the value of the work in the sight of God depends on the glory of the person that did it. It is so even among men. The man who supposes that an action depends merely on itself, and not also on the person who does it, knows nothing as he ought to know. The same words from persons of a totally different character, and of different measures of dignity, would have and ought to have altogether another effect. Now this shows what an immense source of strength and blessing, for the Christian, is the holding fast the eternal glory of the person of Jesus. So it is said here, He is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His subsistence.
Observe by the way, it is not the express image of His “person,” because each person was Himself; the Father was Himself, the Son Himself, and the Holy Ghost Himself. Christ is never said to be the express image of the person of Father; He is the image of the invisible God. The word that we have here is given nowhere else. It is “subsistence.”
“And upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins.” Creature could not mix in it; that divine and glorious person undertook the whole work alone, and He would not take His seat otherwise than as having perfectly accomplished it. He would only sit down there “when he had by himself purged our sins.” Then and not before—not till sin had been perfectly put away—did He sit down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Thus our sins are gone according to the perfectness of the place of glory in which He is now seated. The Lord Jesus has not merely taken His seat on the throne of God as a divine person. He was and is evermore a divine person; and had He not been so, He could not have taken His seat there as He did; but He is glorified on that throne because He had, and when He had, by Himself purged our sins. What a perfect witness to the absolute putting away of sins for the believer! Thus it is that God graciously, but with perfect wisdom, binds together our faith in His personal glory, our perception of His present place as man, and the joy of the perfect abolition of our sins before God. You cannot separate them. If one of these truths is shut out, there is weakness about all the rest. If one lets go the glory of Christ, how can he henceforth realize the efficacy of His redemption in the remission of sins? If you hold fast His personal glory, you are entitled to know forgiveness according to the glory of His seat on the throne. If He was glorified on that throne after He had taken your sins on Himself; it must have been because they were all absolutely borne away.
But the throne is used in quite another way in chapter 8. We were once enslaved by sin and we have still to deal with it, though entitled by Christ's death and resurrection to count ourselves dead to it. For believing in the Lord Jesus, and in the forgive ness of our sins by Him, we are in living relationship with God, our sins blotted out and our sin judged in the cross. Consequently sin is regarded as foreign to us, because in the nature in which we are in relationship with God, there is no sin, and the other nature is a constant encumbrance which we learn to look upon with hatred. But as we have the old nature still as a matter of fact, though delivered from it by faith, so we are liable to Satan's using the world to act on our flesh. Consequently we need a priest, and we have a priest—the best priest that God can give, the only priest that ought to be confided in. “We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” There we find the glory of our Priest; the very same glory is bound up with His priesthood as with His atonement and His person. And we find that as a priest He could not be on a less place than the throne of God. God has seated Him there. Such is the witness to the glory of Him who intercedes for us and is engaged to bring us through the wilderness.
But in chapter 10 we have the combination of the sacrifice with the priesthood. “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God.” It was not a temporary seat, because the sacrifice was absolute in its consequences, and in virtue of this He takes His seat permanently, or in continuity, on the right hand of God, to prove that there was nothing else that needed to be done as far as the blotting out of our sins was concerned. No doubt He will descend from heaven to receive His bride to Himself, as also to judge the world. But as to the question of purging our sins, He will never rise from that throne. His being there is the pledge of sin being put away. As I look up at the throne and know that the Son of God is seated there, I ought not to have one question about my sins being gone. There are those who think that this would diminish our present abhorrence of sin; but it is an objection of unbelief; not of holiness. It may have an appearance of jealousy for what is good; but it really flows from ignorance of God and unbelief of the power of the sacrifice of Christ. For the believer the ground of hatred of sin and of guarding against it lies not merely in our having a nature to which sin is an aversion, but in the certainty that the victory is won before we start in our course as Christians. Therefore our business is to walk consistently with the truth that our sins are gone. If we trifle with sin after that, we lose sight of the deliverance which Christ has wrought for us; we are showing human nature far from God, and so far walking in unbelief of the blessed place into which Christ has brought us by His blood.
But there is a fourth place in which the throne is introduced. In chapter 12:2 Jesus is set down at the right hand of the throne as the witness that God is against the world and for Him whom the world cast out, the Captain of faith; not merely the sacrifice or the Priest, but the perfect pattern of faith as a man here below. Now as such He was a sufferer. The more faith, the greater the suffering. The Lord Jesus was not only the object of faith for others, but He deigned to become a man (and a man of faith) Himself; and, as a man, He had all the suffering as well as the joy of faith, as it is said here, “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.” It was not what He was going to receive, but His own grace that brought the Lord here. He had all things and needed nothing that could be given Him. Nor is it even true of the Christian that reward is the motive before him. The Christian does not start upon his career on earth, because of the glory he is going to have in heaven. It is always the effect of divine grace made known to the heart, and this alone which separates from the world and delivers a man from himself. It is the absolute work of redemption. He knows he is starting with God's favor, and he has the encouragement of the glory at the end of the course. It was the fullness of love that brought the Lord down. But when here in the midst of sinners and of rejection and failure all around, this was what sustained Him in His errand of love; “for the joy that was set before him (he) endured the cross, despising the shame.” And here we have the answer to it on God's part: He “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” and this just when everything appeared to be ruined; for the very last thing the world saw of Jesus was His cross. Apparently as far as man could discern, a total victory was gained over the Son of God. God's purposes appeared to collapse in the cross of Jesus. He was the only righteous man, the only righteous judge, the appointed governor of the world; yet He had not the throne but the cross. He was the Messiah of Israel, yet the despised and rejected of men. He was the object of faith to the disciples, yet they all forsook Him and fled. All appeared to be one mass of ruin and failure. But faith looks not to the earth, nor to man, but to God: and it sees that the man who was rejected and crucified by the world is set down on the throne of the glory of God. And when the moment comes for God to display Him in glory, how He will reverse every thought of man, and prove that faith alone was always right! And faith is only right because it is the answer in man's heart to the revelation of God.
The Lord grant that, rejoicing in such a Savior and in such a portion as we shall have now in hope if not in present possession, and actually glorified with Him by and by, we may look through all present shame and sorrow with joy to that throne whence He will come to receive us to Himself in the Father's house.