Jesus is not, like other men who lived in the past, somewhere in a grave. He is unique among men, in that, though He died and was buried, He rose again! His resurrection was not in any sense a spiritual resurrection, because His spirit never died! It was His body that was raised, leaving an empty tomb. “Handle me and see,” He told His astonished disciples; “a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).
His resurrection body, though truly a physical body, was also a spiritual body, controlled and activated by His spirit, no longer subject to the infirmities and limitations of the flesh. He could now instantly transport Himself to any place directed by His spirit—even from earth to heaven (John 20:17).
After clearly demonstrating the fact of His resurrection to His disciples, “to whom he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days,” He ascended up to heaven (Acts 1:3). “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up” (Acts 1:10), they received a promise from angels standing by. “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” (Acts 1:11).
Thus, since He ascended bodily into heaven, He will some day return bodily from heaven. This can only mean that He is now bodily in heaven!
And this in turn means that heaven is a real, physical place, existing somewhere in this physical universe. Jesus, in fact, had said: “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The place which He is now preparing is described in Revelation 21:2. “1 John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This passage is not a description of heaven; rather it describes a city coming down out of heaven, to the earth. God’s throne is itself in the midst of the city. “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Revelation 22:3).
Somewhere, right now, far out beyond the starry heavens, too far to be observed by man’s puny telescopes or space vehicles but quite real nonetheless, exists a “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). In this city are abiding the departed spirits of all those whose bodies are “asleep in Christ” in their graves. These are the ones who are now “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Some day, probably very soon, the Lord Jesus will once again leave His throne in the heavenly Jerusalem and return to earth. This “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” will be “with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). When He “shall descend from heaven,” the “dead in Christ shall rise first,” then “we which are alive,” and all—both the reunited spirits and bodies of those resurrected from the graves, and the immortalized bodies of those then living—will “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). They will all then “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgment throne may well be the same as the “throne being set in heaven” (that is, now, the atmospheric heaven) of Revelation 4:2, indicating that the holy city may then have come down to a point near the earth itself, there to remain as a sort of a stationary (or orbiting) satellite until the end of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14) and the millennium (Revelation 21:1). Finally, it will descend to the new earth itself, there to remain forever (Revelation 22:5).
At this moment, therefore, the Lord Jesus is in the heaven of God’s throne, a real physical place somewhere in His created universe, but “far above all heavens” (Ephesians 4:10), also called “the third heaven” and “paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4).
In numerous Scriptures, in fact, Jesus is said now to be “sitting on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). In fact, there are no less than 21 distinct references in the Bible to the presence of Christ at the right hand of the Father! This remarkable fact has great significance, and a study of the passages will show that they are delineating two important aspects of Christ’s present activity in this location.
The first such occurrence is in Psalm 16, the great psalm of Christ’s resurrection, where Christ speaks prophetically: “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). In this passage, obviously the emphasis is on the access and joyous fellowship which presence at the Father’s right hand entails. The second occurrence is in Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” This chapter speaks of the invincible power to be wielded over His enemies because of His position at God’s right hand.
All the other occurrences of this phrase are in the New Testament, and all emphasize one or both of these two aspects of Christ’s present position. Thus, He is “the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power” (Mark 14:62), able to exercise all necessary power on behalf of His own. “That ye may know … the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion” (Ephesians 1:18–21).
But His presence at the Father’s right hand is also a token of perfect fellowship and immediate access to the Father, and it is there that He continually intercedes for those who trust Him. “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
For all who have received Him by faith as Lord and Savior, therefore, Jesus Christ is “such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1), who 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).
Henry M. Morris and Martin E. Clark