Where is Jesus and what is he doing?
To boldly go where no one has gone before… beyond the earth, to the stars, to the heavens! That is something that has fired the imagination of man for ages. In our time, imagination has been made a reality by space exploration and travel.
The Bible relates one space quest that took place nearly two thousand years ago. It is referred to in the words of the Apostles’ Creed which say that Jesus ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. As members of the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church we also wholeheartedly believe those words. They answer two questions about Jesus. The first is: Where he Jesus right now? The second is: What is Jesus doing right now?
Jesus is in heaven
In the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 1, we are told that after Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples over the next forty days. Then, as they were walking outside Jerusalem, Jesus suddenly was taken up from their midst, going up into the air. The group of disciples looked at this with utter amazement, until a cloud came and took Jesus out of their sight. Whereas before Jesus had come and gone, it was clear to them that Jesus had now physically left the earth.
No doubt, this talk about Jesus going to heaven is all very strange to our modern ears. Christians, however, are guided by the Bible. The Bible speaks about heaven in different ways. First there is what we would call the atmosphere. Then there is what we call the place where the stars are. Finally, there is the third heaven, the heaven of heavens, and that is where God dwells in his majesty and glory. This heaven is a definite place, just like the earth is a definite place. As earth is the dwelling place of man, so heaven is the dwelling place of God.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was taken up from the earth, a remarkable event took place: a man entered heaven, the dwelling place of God!
Jesus is busy as Priest
This raises the question as to what Jesus is doing. The Bible teaches that he very busy doing priestly work. The priests were mediators between the people and the LORD. Whenever sin brought separation between God and his people, sacrifices made symbolic payment for sin, and brought reconciliation between God and sinner. They did this work in an earthly sanctuary.
If you look in the New Testament book called Hebrews you will notice that Jesus Christ is also called a priest. He is the Great High Priest because he sacrificed himself! We are told that “Christ entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).
In the first place, then, Jesus is busy working for his followers, acting as mediator. We are told in Hebrews 4:14-16 that since Jesus is in heaven as high priest, Christians can confidently draw near to the throne of God, where they will receive mercy and grace to help in their time of need.
Jesus is busy as King
Jesus, however, is not only busy as priest. Jesus is also busy as king. This is what is meant by the phrase that Jesus “sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” At the end of the gospel according to Matthew you can read how Jesus told his disciples before he ascended that he had received all authority in heaven and on earth. The ascension was a coronation.
This has far reaching consequences. In heaven Jesus Christ rules as king, not just over his Church, his people, but over all of creation. He is establishing his kingdom. We should realize that this kingdom is not so much a physical kingdom, marked by geographic boundaries, but a spiritual one. His kingdom, his rule, is evident where people confess him as King, and where they begin to obey him from the heart.
Further, as king in heaven, Jesus Christ controls all things that happen on earth. This is shown clearly in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. To many people the book of Revelation is a puzzle. When you read the book of Revelation, one fact becomes absolutely clear: Jesus Christ has power and authority over all creation! The world is not spinning aimlessly, nor is it spinning out of control. Jesus controls all events in the world.
Effect on worship and life
This belief that Jesus is in heaven shapes weekly worship and daily life. Worship is a spiritual activity, where believers come together and think of their Saviour in heaven at God’s right hand. In worship, God the Father and his Son Jesus are addressed in song and prayer. In the worship service, it is proclaimed that Jesus is in heaven, covering all sins and ruling all things. As for daily life, believers seek to live in obedience to their heavenly king, showing in their daily life something of the holiness of heaven. This will be done with weakness, but it is the desire of every sincere Christian to live in obedience to Christ as king.
Call to join in worship
It is this Priest and King who also continues to call to all people through the ministry of the church, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). We hear the call to submit to him as priest, who will give rest to sinners, and as king, whose yoke is light. And so we invite you to come and join us in the worship of Jesus Christ, who died, who rose, and who now is in the heavens at God’s right hand.