The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” – Psalm 110:1
When studying theology, there are certain doctrines in Scripture that seem to not receive as much attention as they deserve. I think the ascension is one of those doctrines. So often Christians focus on what Christ did and what Christ is going to do, but neglect what Christ is currently doing (Peter Orr, Exalted Above the Heavens: The Risen and Ascended Christ, NSBT, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019, 1). Patrick Schreiner, Associate Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, precisely states the issue: the often overlooked doctrine of the ascension “is a key moment in the good-news story and a crucial hinge for Christ’s threefold work as prophet, priest, and king” (Patrick Schreiner, The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press), 2020, xv). In this article, I hope to briefly discuss each part of Christ’s office, the consummation of each part in Christ, and our hope and assurance that rests in Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
Christ Our Ascended Prophet, Priest, and King
This may seem confusing, but Christ didn’t resign from his office as Prophet when he ascended into glory after his death and resurrection. In fact, the opposite resulted from his ascension; his influence as Prophet increased. This is because when he ascended into glory to the “exalted [position] at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit,” Christ poured out upon his people the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which marks the birth of the Church (Acts 3:33). Through the work of the Holy Spirit Christ empowers his people to spread the message of the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
One of the major themes of the book of Hebrews is Christ rightfully assuming the role of being the Great High Priest of the New Covenant. Since Christ willingly offered himself as a “single offering” to sanctify his people for all time, he rightfully took his office as our Great High Priest (Heb 10:10, 14). In doing so, he “obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the [Old Covenant]” (Heb. 8:6). The sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and eternal priesthood gives his people every reason to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).
The most recognized office of Christ is that he is the Risen King, who sits at the right hand of the Father. Fully pleased with the work of his Son, God the Father “has given” to Christ “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14). What’s unique about the kingship of Jesus in respect to the other offices is that “the other offices flow from kingship and this office encompasses the others” (Schreiner, The Ascension of Christ, 76). It is by Christ’s authority that his servants are commissioned to advance his marvelous Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
King David, one of the members of the Messianic lineage, prophetically writes Psalm 110 to describe the majesty and ministry of the Ascended Messiah:
The LORD [Yahweh] says to my Lord [Adonai]:
“Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments; from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
In reading this psalm, David highlights all three offices of the Messiah: verses 1-2 and 5-7 highlight the kingship of the Messiah; verse 3 highlights the prophetic influence of the Messiah; and verse 4 highlights the priesthood of the Messiah. In biblical history, the kings of Israel and Judah could temporarily partake in prophetic and priestly roles; however, all three offices permanently, peacefully, and harmoniously rest on Christ because he is worthy and righteous to assume all three offices.
Our Hope and Assurance in the Ascended Christ
My prayer is that you are encouraged by the truth that Christ is our Prophet, Priest, and King. He empowers his people through the Holy Spirit to proclaim the excellencies that are in Christ alone. The message of repentance and faith Christ preached is the same message his faithful ones joyfully proclaim. His empowered people have the joy of having infinite and eternal access to the Great High Priest who (1) is the perfect “mediator of a new covenant” according to the single, final offering made “to bear the sins of many” through perfect atonement; and (2) is fully able “to sympathize with our weaknesses,” who indeed “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15; 9:15, 28). Christ rules over his people as King of kings and Lord of lords; “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [him]” (Matt 28:18). He is the King of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Therefore, “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace [from Christ our Great Prophet, Priest, and King] to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).