And is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead
The last couple of phrases of the second section of the Apostles’ Creed describe what Jesus is presently doing and what he will do in the future, as it notes that he “is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” and that “he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
What Does It Mean to Be Seated?
At first glance, the fact that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty might not seem like something important to remember. We might associate the fact that he is “seated” as being that he is taking a break, and the fact that he is seated in heaven an indication that he is far away from us. In other words, we can interpret it as Jesus resting up between his past work and future work.
However, the idea that Jesus is sitting in heaven is actually a very comforting fact. The posture of sitting is not resting, but rather of ruling, as we see in the Bible itself. One of the most quoted Old Testament passages in the New Testament is Psalm 110, in which God says this, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ (110:1)." The writer of Hebrews notes that “After making purification for sins, he [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:3-4). We need to think of sitting as the posture of a king on his throne.
Jesus sitting on the throne in heaven means he is ruling and reigning over everything; if he was on a throne in a particular land, it would be limited to that land, but the fact that the throne is in heaven means there is no sphere or place in this world which his rule does not extend (see Ephesians 1:20-23). According to the Heidelberg Catechism, from his throne in heaven, Jesus sends the Spirit to be with believers and also “defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies” (Q & A 51). We are under the watchful eye of Jesus as he rules in heaven, giving us hope that we will one day reign with him. When we look to Jesus, we need to remember not only his death on the cross, but also that he is seated God’s right hand (see Hebrews 12:1-2), accomplishing our salvation from beginning to end.
Of course, someone might say that the world doesn’t seem to be under the rule and control of Jesus, but as Psalm 110 notes, this is because there is a timeline in which all enemies will be defeated in a coming day. This is not because the end result is in doubt, but according to the plan of God. As Hebrews 10:12-13 notes, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” Because Jesus reigns along with God the Father Almighty who created and rules over the world, the world is not currently spinning out of control. Even in suffering or challenge, we know he reigns. Jesus’s present work of ruling in heaven looks forward to his future work in terms of his return.
The Hope of His Return
At his return, Jesus promises to judge the living and the dead. This is twofold in that those who are dead and alive physically will be judged, but also those who are dead spiritually and those who are alive spiritually. There is no escape from this judgment, no statute of limitations, no way that status or influence can exempt us from this event.
Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 52 tell us that this future hope has present value, offering comfort in that we know that:“In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.” We can find comfort in the future judgment when we know the judge who is for us and has given his life for us. There is both grace and wrath at this judgment, with grace given to those who know Jesus and wrath given to those who have refused to accept the gift he came to bring. Grace quells our fear of judgment day, while wrath addresses our concern to see justice met to those who mistreat us and others. Above all, there is great comfort in the fact that we have a promise not just to be exonerated, but to spend eternity with the one who has given himself for us.
Present Living in Light of these Truths
We often do things in the present to help us move to our preferred future -- whatever physical, financial, or vocational goal we might have. May we live in the present in the light of our promised future in Christ -- that he will come to judge and bring final defeat to all his enemies -- even while we know that the present is being guided by our Lord and God.
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