“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”
It is Jesus Christ of whom the apostle speaks!
Not Enoch, who, after he had a vision of thousands of angels coming with the Lord to judgment, was translated that he should not see death. Nor was it Elijah, who was whisked away into heaven in a whirlwind that appeared as a chariot and horses afire. Though these also went to heaven, to remain in the realms of glory, of them you do not learn that they were exalted at God’s right hand, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto them.
But Jesus Christ, Who was raised from the dead!
The One of Whom the apostle speaks earlier in the chapter, that He once suffered for sins, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
He is gone into heaven, and is now on the right hand of God exalted!
Fact, concerning which the apostle Peter had first-hand information, and concerning which he now writes!
It was written evidently for the comfort of and an incentive to Christians who are required to suffer for well-doing, having a good conscience; of Christians who, because of and from their sanctified hearts are ready always to give answer to every man that asketh concerning the reason of their hope. The very ground for their antithetical life in the world rests on the solid facts that as Christ was victorious, so shall they be. And the fact is that Christ, being exalted, has received power not only to deliver them, but also to preserve them unto everlasting glory.
As eye-witness of the glory Christ would receive, when He should ascend into heaven, which he saw when he was with Him on the mount of transfiguration, and eye-witness of the actual ascent into heaven, Peter and John could also say: “What we have seen and heard, and our hands have handled concerning the Word of life, that declare we unto you.”
For forty days after His resurrection the Lord Jesus had tarried with His disciples, making ten different appearances unto them. During this period He gave them instructions concerning His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. He spoke to them of the necessity of His suffering and death. He tendered them the promise of the restitution of all things. He gave them the promise also of His return in the Spirit, the Comforter, for Whom they were to wait in Jerusalem, and of Whom they would receive power to be witnesses unto the ends of the earth.
On the last day of the forty, He led them out to the Mount of Olives, from which He was to ascend into heaven. Yea, while He was speaking to them and blessing them, He was taken up. And as they beheld, lo, a cloud specially prepared by God, came and received Him out of their sight. And, behold, as they looked steadfastly toward heaven, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”
There can be no doubt about it. The historic fact of the ascension of Jesus Christ is well attested to by those who were eyewitnesses!
Who is gone into heaven!
And that means, first of all, that He changed places. The human nature which He assumed at His conception and birth, the nature in which He suffered and died, and the same human nature in which He was raised from the dead, now glorified, — must have a place. The ascension therefore, was not merely a change of state and condition, but also of place, — from the earth to heaven. And heaven is the place where the omnipresent God dwells most particularly in His glory. It is also the home of the glorified saints.
Secondly, that He is gone into heaven means also to convey to us the truth, not only that He changed places from earth to heaven, but also that He penetrated the heavens and came into the very center of it. He passed through the periphery and the abode of the saints, so that they, too, witnessed His ascension. But He ascends above them to appear before the very face of God. In God’s glorious presence He stood, and by God was urged to sit down.
On the right hand of God!
The original text seems to make this emphatic. Translated literally, the text may be read: “Who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven. . .”
God has no throne in the literal sense of the word. Nor does He have a right hand in that literal sense. “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
Rather, are we to understand the expression in the figurative and symbolic sense. Then the throne of God is to be understood as representing His supreme and absolute sovereignty. Then the right hand of God means to convey to us the truth that God has highly exalted Christ and given to Him to partake of His glorious power and authority.
Necessary element in His exaltation!
We must understand clearly that Christ’s ascension is not merely a change of place, from earth to heaven; but it is also a progressive degree in His state of exaltation. Just as in His state of humiliation there were several degrees according to which He progressively descends, beginning with His lowly-birth, and ending as it were in the abyss of hell; so also in the state of exaltation there are various degrees, beginning with His resurrection, and ending with His return in glory to judgment. The ascension is only one of these ascending degrees that brings Him to the pinnacle of glory. It was to this He evidently referred when He said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”
Necessary also because of His heavenly nature!
He arose from the dead with heavenly life. Though human, it was no longer earthly. It was new. It was different. And with heavenly life He belongs to the heavenly state and place. No longer could the disciples fellowship with Him, as they had done before His death. This lesson was forcibly impressed upon Mary Magdalene, who imagined that the living Lord had returned to her. Jesus said unto her when she was about to throw her arms about Him: “Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.”
Nor should we fail to point out that He was the Person of the Son in human nature, Who was so clothed with glory! Not the divine, but the human nature is glorified. The same Jesus Who had so deeply humbled Himself is now highly exalted.
And this means that our human nature, as it was assumed by the Son of God, is exalted at God’s right hand. O, indeed, not so that the human becomes divine; but so, that the human is crowned with divine honors, and dwells in divine glory.
Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him! Not so highly was man honored when he was created in the beginning. Then, verily, he was made a little lower than the angels. So the psalmist describes him in Psalm 8. And the writer to the Hebrews reflecting on this Psalm, informs us: “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels: thou crownest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2).
The apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians, informs us that God hath set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church . . .”
Such is also the testimony in our text: “Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.”
His dominion extends over all!
All that is in heaven! All that is on earth! All that is in hell! All things, all men, all angels, and all devils! Over all His church! Over all His enemies and ours!
Jesus Christ is the exalted Lord, before Whom every knee must bow!
Lord of the angels! Since the fall in the angelic world, when Lucifer, son of the morning, exalted himself, taking with him in his rebellion a host of angels, the order in the angelic realm was disturbed. Now, however, the order of heaven is restored in Jesus, made higher than the angels.
Lord over authorities! Over those who are given the right to rule under God, none excluded. They all are subject to the rule of Jesus.
Lord over powers! All the powers that be are subject to his power.
His is a dominion that is derivative, always given unto Him. He does not possess it of Himself. At God’s right hand He receives it, and from that exalted position He exercises it until all is brought into complete subjection; when He also shall be subjected to God, after He has brought all into subjection unto God.
Our wonderful Lord!
With His authority and power He is enabled to finish the work of our salvation. What He has accomplished in His death and resurrection is not the end. He must apply unto us His salvation, causing all things to work unto our salvation, and bringing us at last to everlasting glory. He must perfect His everlasting, heavenly kingdom, by destroying all His and our enemies, putting them under His feet. By His Word and Spirit He must gather His saints, sanctifying them, and presenting them at last without spot or wrinkle in the assembly of the elect in life eternal. He must prepare for us a place in God’s Father-house. He must intercede for us with the Father. He must defend and preserve us until the work of the church in the world is also finished.
So the church of Christ has nothing to fear! Our hearts may be filled with hope. In the midst of all our distresses the Captain of our salvation cannot fail us. His is all the power even to make all the powers of darkness to be our servants.
When He shall have exalted us with His own glory, then shall we with Him be subjected unto God, in order that God may be all and in all.