The Present Session
What is Jesus (in his humanity) currently doing while he is in heaven — a time that some call the ‘present session’? Is Christ acting as a prophet, as a high priest or as a king — or is he functioning in all these offices simultaneously? What are the activities of Christ, the high priest? During this present session, is Christ actively ruling as king from heaven?
Jesus Christ, our High Priest
The office of a priest requires sacrificing something to God and interceding between God and humankind. At the cross, Jesus sacrificed himself once and for all (Heb 7:27; 9:12). This sacrifice accomplished three things: redemption (Rom 3:24-25), propitiation (1 Jn 2:2), and reconciliation (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18-21). Because Jesus offered himself once and for all, he is not sacrificing anymore.
The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus Christ is today acting as high priest. Hebrews 8:1-2 tells us explicitly what the main point of this sermon-epistle is: ‘Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man’. Jesus is interceding for believers (Heb 7:25).
What is Jesus doing today in his current ministry as high priest, during the present session? Ten activities (there are more) can be noted:
- Jesus has become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb 2:17). According to Fruchtenbaum (2005:37), by ‘means of Jesus’ death, God was propitiated; the wrath of God against sin was satisfied. God’s righteous demands were satisfied by the substitutionary payment of blood of the Son for the sins of the people’.
- Jesus acts as an advocate for believers before the Father (Heb 6:20; 9:24; 1 Jn 2:1; Rev 12:10).
- As high priest, Jesus cleanses believers’ consciences so that they can serve God (Heb 9:14; cf. MacLeod 2005:334). Jesus forgives believers their sins (1 Jn 1:9).
- Jesus procures acceptance with God for believers so that we may have intimate fellowship with the Father (Heb 10:19-22).
- Jesus administers the grace of God to believers to enable them to live a life of faith, worship, and obedience (Heb 13:15, 21).
- Jesus provides believers assistance and comfort in their trials, temptations, and sufferings (Heb 2:17-18; 4:15-16).
- Believers need someone who can preserve them from sins and dangers that might ruin them (Heb 7:25) — and Jesus as our intercessory High Priest does just that (cf. Ger 2009:241-242). Jesus prays for us.
- Jesus is continually ready to hear believers’ calls to Him for help (Heb 2:18).
- Believers need someone who will see them through all of life and insure their final salvation (Heb 7:25; 12:1-2). Jesus is just such a high priest, the only one.
- Jesus is building his Church (Mat 16:18; Acts 2:41, 44), and is giving gifts to his Church (Eph 4:7-12).
Is Jesus Now Ruling as King?
“No, not yet”, is the answer to the above question. Psalm 110 predicted that David’s Lord, the Messiah, would have a session at the right hand of God the Father before Christ’s reign from Jerusalem (Vlach 2017:573). After Christ’s ascension, He is indeed sitting at the right hand of the Father. But on which throne is Christ sitting?
Many say that Jesus is already (now) reigning from David’s throne in heaven, a rule which will culminate when Christ returns. But is this true? In Revelation 3:21, Christ promises the overcomer that ‘I [Jesus Christ] will [future tense] grant him [the believer] to sit with me on my throne [the Davidic throne], as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne [the Father’s throne]’. Clearly, Jesus is today sitting on his Father’s throne in heaven, not on the earthly Davidic throne.
When will Jesus sit on his Davidic throne? Only after the second coming. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus said that only after the regeneration (palingenesia), only then [time indicator] will the Son of Man sit on his [Davidic] throne. The apostle Peter affirms that heaven must receive Christ until the ‘times of restoration’ of all (Acts 3:21). This has not yet happened. ‘But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then [time indicator] He will sit on His glorious [Davidic] throne’ (Mat 25:31). Only after his second coming will Christ start to rule as king in the Messianic kingdom.
According Hebrews 10:12-13 (cf. Ps 110:1), after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. God the Father has not yet made Jesus’ enemies a footstool for Christ’s feet. Today, not one nation bows the knee before Christ, in fact, far from serving the Lord with fear, the rulers of the earth take counsel together against the LORD and against his Anointed (cf. Ps 2:2, 11). We do not yet see all things in subjection to Him, not even progressively so, but in the ‘world to come’, this will take place (Heb 2:5-8; cf. 10:13).
Does Jesus have the right to rule? Yes. Is Jesus already exercising such rule as king today? No. What is Jesus doing today? He is interceding as high priest for believers. When Christ returns to earth, then he will reign as king. According to Saucy (1993:61), the writer of Hebrews sees:
[T]he exalted Son currently possessing the legitimacy and authority to rule from the Father’s right hand—but not exercising that authority. His position as King is secure, but he is passive and currently waiting for the promise of Ps 110:1c ([Heb]10:12-13). Thus, his status could hardly be considered as personal exercise of a reign. … While the exalted Son may be inactive towards the rule of his enemies, he is very active interceding for the sanctified.
During the First Advent, Jesus exercised the function of a prophet, calling on the nation of Israel to repent. During the present session and based on his once and for all sacrifice on the cross, Jesus Christ is functioning as high priest, interceding for believers. After the present session, when the Son of Man comes in His glory, then He will sit on his glorious throne, ruling as king (Mat 25:31).
Fruchtenbaum, A.G., 2005, The Messianic Jewish Epistles, Ariel Ministries, Tustin.
Ger, S.C., 2009, The Book of Hebrews: Christ is Greater, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga.
MacLeod, D.J., 2005, ‘Christ, the Believer’s High Priest: An Exposition of Hebrews 7:26-28’, Bibliotheca Sacra 162(648), 331-343.
Saucy, M., 1993, ‘Exaltation Christology in Hebrews: What Kind of Reign?’, Trinity Journal 14(1), 41-62.
Vlach, M.J., 2017, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God, Lampion Press, Silverton.
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