This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1998 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the fourth.
A seminary friend made a decorative plaque. On the plaque, below the common Christian symbol of a plain, empty cross, was written the Greek word TETELESTAI. That one long Greek word is translated by the English phrase IT IS FINISHED. This is what Jesus said just before He gave up His life on the cross, "it is finished". Jesus meant that His work on earth of living a sinless human life and offering that life as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of others was now completed. To demonstrate that His peoples' sin had been paid for, and eternal life earned for them by the Lord Jesus, He rose from the dead. And so in our last session we looked at this great historical victory: the literal, bodily rising of the Son of God from the grave.
Hence, preachers and Bible teachers speak of the "finished work of Christ". There is nothing to be added to Jesus' work of redemption. It is accomplished. Any teaching that claims something must be added to this work is severely heretical. Hence the so-called "mass", which purports to be a continual sacrificial offering of the body of Christ, is a blasphemous insult to the Son of God Who said, "it is finished". There is a corrollary end to verbal revelation from God. Jesus is the living Word of God, and the holy Bible is the written word of God. The written word corresponds to the living Word. Just as nothing can be added to the perfect redeeming work of Christ, so nothing is ever to be added to the holy Bible. John the apostle wrote at the end of the Revelation, the final book of the Bible, "For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book." The Gospel of Jesus Christ, recorded in its fulness in the New Testament, is the last verbal revelation from God which we will receive until the Lord Jesus returns. This corresponds to the finishing of His earthly mission.
Having said that, we need to look at a new work of Jesus which He began in heaven after He finished the first work. We might call this "the unfinished work of Christ". It refers to what the risen, living Lord Jesus is doing right now. For the Bible clearly teaches in many places that after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. In one of the New Testament's most quoted Psalms, Psalm 110, David prophetically speaks of the Messiah's heavenly enthronement or session in these words, "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Gospel writer Mark says about the resurrected Christ, "So then after the Lord had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." The writer to the Hebrews says of the Lord Jesus that "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high..."
What are we to believe about this present state of the Lord Jesus, seated at the right hand of God the Father? For indeed, Jesus is alive today. Not only is He present with us on earth, not only does His Holy Spirit dwell within us, but He also continues His bodily existence. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. For all eternity, the Lord Jesus will possess His real human body and soul, and the great hope of the Christian is to one day see Him in His unimaginably glorious, exalted state. Yes, believer, one day you shall see God in the flesh! Your eyes shall be transformed; made fit to look upon Him Whose glory is infinite, unfathomable, eternal! But O! If your response to the message of the Gospel is apathetic or even antagonistic...if you are an unbeliever, please heed the grave warnings of the Bible to repent and believe in Him now. For if you remain unrepentant and unbelieving, when you see Jesus it will not be with the overwhelming joy of those who will see their Savior. You will instead look upon Him with sheer terror. For you will be painfully aware of your inexcusable guilt, and you will be looking upon the just, holy, and righteous Judge of all men, who has the power to cast sinners into a place where their pain will be inconceivably increased. You will be looking upon the One who most assuredly will send the wicked into the eternal flames of hell!
As we answer the question, "what are we to believe about this present state of the Lord Jesus, seated at the right hand of God the Father?", let's first consider what He Himself said He would do when He went away.
1. In John 14:2, Jesus says this to His disciples in the upper room where they had gathered for the last supper. "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Jesus has gone to a REAL place, and He is preparing a place. The question arises, where is this place? That is not revealed to us. How it relates to the space and time of this creation we do not know. It is only certain that by natural powers of science and technology, no matter how advanced they become, man will never be able to ascend to where Jesus has gone. Imagine the most futuristic space expedition from science fiction lore, and know that they would never find it. Yet, Jesus is now there, and is preparing it for the day when He receives His bride, His church, to be with Him there forever.
2. Shorty after declaring this mystery to the disciples, Jesus said this, at John 14:26 "...the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Then Jesus adds at John 15:26, "...when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of me." Jesus' promise that the Holy Spirit would come, sent by both His Father and Himself, was abundantly fulfilled at Pentecost. There, the Spirit came down upon the Church and filled them with power. And to what end did the Spirit come and fill them? That they might be taught all things. That they might be made to remember what Jesus has said. That they might testify of Jesus by His, that is the Holy Spirit's, power! It is a prophesying work of Gospel proclamation, teaching, and bearing witness. No wonder the apostle Peter described Gospel preaching as something done with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Jesus' ascent into heaven made it possible for Him to send the Holy Spirit from heaven. The Holy Spirit Himself applies to human hearts the benefits of the finished work of Christ. The unfinished prophetic work of the Spirit of Christ depends upon the work He finished on earth.
3. Not only does our great prophet, king, and priest continue to prophesy by the Holy Spirit sent from where He is in heaven, but He now exercises kingly rule over all the world. At Matthew 28:18, we read, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." According to the vision of the prophet Daniel, the Son of Man has received a kingdom which will become the greatest of kingdoms, an eternal kingdom. The unfinished work of Christ includes His absolutely sovereign, present rule. Jesus is in complete control of President Clinton, Saddam Hussein, the destiny of the rain forests, the ozone layer, all nuclear weapons, AIDS, cancer and all disease. In the book of Job we see that although Satan raged against Job, it was within God's appointed limits. It is Jesus Christ Who is in complete control of even Satan. Jesus overrules evil to serve His good and wise purposes. Be of good cheer, Christian, He has overcome the world, and now rules over it!
4. The apostles add to our understanding of what the Lord Jesus is doing even now. They write that He makes interecession for us at the Father's right hand. "Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also makes intercession for us." (Romans 8:34) "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25). This means nothing less than that, even as He prayed for His church while on earth, the Man Christ Jesus is even now presenting His church and all its needs before His Father, Who cannot deny His son. As a friend said, "If Jesus is praying for you, you can't be doing that bad!" And if you are a believer in His Name today, the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed interceding for you in heaven. He will continue to do so until you are safely brought to heaven to be with Him forever.
Finally, Jesus promised to return. Our fifth and final session will be devoted to considering what the Bible has to say about that.
Go to Session Five - Bible Study on the Work of Christ
Go to 2 Timothy 2:15 Dept.
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