Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Is Jesus Sitting or Standing in Heaven? Pt. 1

By Sam Shamoun

Some anti-Trinitarians cite Acts 7:56 and Revelation 5:6 to establish that Jesus is standing in heaven, as opposed to sitting alongside Jehovah:

and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Revelation 5:6

They also like to quote John 6:62, where Jesus says he will ascend to where he was before, and tie that in 1 Kings 22:19 in order to prove that Christ’s standing in heaven indicates that he is a member of the heavenly host, since there is no one that rightly sits next to Jehovah:

And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and ALL the host of heaven STANDING by him on his right hand and on his left.” 1 Kings 22:19

What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” John 6:62

Their obvious intention in manhandling the Holy Bible in this manner is to cause people to doubt the explicit Biblical witness to the eternal Deity of the Lord Jesus and his essential coequality with God the Father.   

In light of the foregoing we are going to examine the NT documents, specifically the inspired writings of Luke and John, to see if the God-breathed Scriptures testify to Jesus being a co-occupant of the divine throne, which would therefore affirm his absolute Godhood and essential coequality to God the Father.

The Witness of Luke

We begin with Luke’s recounting of the Apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, approximately fifty days after Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ten days after his physical ascension into heaven: 

“Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.  For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, SIT thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:29-36

Jesus himself appealed to Psalm 110 in order to point out the fact that he, as the Messiah, is much more than a mere son or descendant of David since he is also the glorious Son of Man who reigns from God’s right hand as Lord:

And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?” Luke 20:41-44

And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.” Luke 22:66-71

We will have more to say concerning Jesus being the Son of Man later on.

The blessed Peter went on to proclaim that Jesus is not only ruling from God’s right hand, but that he is also reigning as the Savior who grants his people repentance and forgiveness of sin,   

“God exalted this Man to His right hand to be a Ruler and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31 Modern English Version (MEV)

Functions which the Holy Scriptures ascribe to God alone:

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Peter wasn’t alone in making this proclamation:

And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Jud├Ža, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God ALONE? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye IN YOUR HEARTS? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.” Luke 5:17-26

And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Luke 7:48-50

In these verses Jesus is depicted as knowing the secrets of men’s hearts, healing diseases, and possessing the authority to forgive sins. Once again, these are characteristics and functions which the Hebrew Scriptures ascribe to Jehovah God Almighty!

then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:” 1 Kings 8:39, 46-50 – cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 44:21; Acts 15:8; Romans 8:27

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;” Psalm 103:2-3 – cf. 51:4; Isaiah 43:25; Daniel 9:9; Micah 7:18-19

That’s not all. Luke records the final moments of the first Christian martyr as he was being stoned for his testimony concerning the risen Lord, whom he had just seen in a vision standing at God’s right hand in heaven:

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, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of GodAnd they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:55-56, 59-60

What makes Stephen’s words rather astonishing is that he prayed to the risen Lord in the same exact way that OT saints would pray to Jehovah,

Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Psalm 31:5

And even beseeched the resurrected Christ to forgive those who were stoning him to death! 

It is therefore abundantly clear that Jesus doesn’t merely reign from God’s heavenly throne, but that he also performs specific deeds and exhibits certain characteristics which only God possesses and carries out.  

With this in mind we are now ready to examine the writings of the Apostle John.

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