To people who lived so close to Jesus in time, He was very different from how we think of Him.
Did you ever notice how often the New Testament writers speak of Jesus as having gone to heaven, or being at the Father’s right hand? They mention it at least 20 times!—a lot considering the brevity of their writings.
Hear Peter’s telling of the story at Pentecost. And notice he cites the telling of these facts by “the prophet… David.” We don’t usually think of David as a prophet, but he surely was.
Acts 2:29–33 29“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. [David wasn’t in heaven!]
30Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,
David was the ancestor of Christ. He also foretold Christ’s death and resurrection.
31he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.
Here David includes a prophecy of the ascension of Jesus.
33Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
Peter says Jesus was “exalted” at the right hand of God. The one they had known so well was now at the right hand of God!
A recent blog from Logos comments on how little the NT says about Jesus’ ascension, and how relatively unimportant it actually was—hardly worthy of mention, since Jesus’ death and resurrection were so extremely central!
We know where that goes—because they want Jesus’ blood to save them from the sins! At the same time, aren’t they closing their eyes to an important point of emphasis?
Jesus being at the right hand of the Father was a vivid picture in the minds of His closest followers left behind, and they mentioned it frequently. For good reason. To them the fact that He went to heaven highlighted Jesus’ high achievement. How many born on earth EVER had such an honor?
At the same time it gave importance to their mission as they carried on the work Jesus commissioned them to do.
Jesus had been so common among them. They walked with Him daily, they ate with Him, they slept with him, they talked over their big and small problems with Him. Day after day they heard Him addressing the multitudes, or the chief priests, or themselves.
Now that He had been taken to heaven, everything looked different. This took Him completely OUT of their realm and into the heavenlies, where he went to prepare for all the events to follow:
His crowning with glory and honor in His Father’s presence (John 17:5)
His Kingship of the whole earth (Zech. 14:9)
The plan to clean up the earth and make it an “all new” world.
With this background in mind, let us read what the author of Hebrews wrote to his brethren about Jesus as High Priest.
First a practical note that says how badly Israel failed. He says, “Let us…”
Hebrews 4 1Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
The only fear we need is a fear of coming short of getting an entrance pass into the great Rest to come.
2For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
The word must be “mixed with faith”—where? “In those who [hear].”
3For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
Why not? Why did they not enter? The next verse tells us:
6Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience,
They “did not enter because of disobedience.”
They COULD HAVE entered, but for their stubborn disobedience. Then Hebrews repeats the oft repeated story.
7again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.
9There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
They had their “reasons,” plenty of them. For us, the most important is for us to (Verse 11)
11Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
Because the word will judge YOU.
12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
An important point to remember:
… all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
14Seeing then that we have a great High Priest
Jesus has high status now, the highest in the Levitical system—yet He was no part of it! But the parallel is important to observe.
Jesus… who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Mercy and grace – because Jesus is our great high priest, the one commissioned to be the one in charge of helping those who come, blessing them with “help and aid” in every time of need! What help? What aid? Let us keep our eyes open from day to day, and we are sure to see!
Jesus is OUR high priest, relaying our petitions to the Father, and making plans for us to become pure “like Christ is pure,” making intercession for us to be heard and answered. How we need Him!
Heb. 4:16 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
What “boldness”? We come seeking the help He has promised us. It is the confidence we have that
1 John 3:22 22…whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
It is the confidence that we are holding fast with rejoicing IN HOPE! It is confidence in Christ because we belong to His family, His house.
Hebrews 3:6 6but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
It is the confidence we will want when He returns:
1 John 2:28 28And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.