This article is part of our weekly series, “Our Life’s Comfort: One Year of Being Shaped by the Scriptures.” Read more from the series here.
(50) Q. Why the next words: “and sits at the right hand of God”?
A. Christ ascended to heaven, there to show that he is head of his church, the one through whom the Father governs all things.
(51) Q. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
A. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members. Second, by his power he defends us and preserves us from all enemies.
(52) Q. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me.Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.
Where is God in my pain? Does my struggle against sin matter when no one seems to care? Why does God allow injustice to go unpunished? Why doesn’t God come to us when we need him most? If you aren’t asking these questions now, some of your friends are. And you might be someday. These questions get to the essence of the human relationship to God in a fallen world. And they can be answered—not with guesses or theories, but with divine revelation.
Our troubled lives need the unshifting truth of two key doctrines that can be immensely comforting when we ask hard questions. These doctrines track Christ’s state of exaltation beyond his completed resurrection and ascension, into the age to come.
Christ presently “sits at the right hand of God.” Perhaps the word session (from the Latin for “seated”) reminds us of a legislative or judicial body. When congress is in session, law makers are seated in their chambers for the purpose of doing their work. Christ too is “in session” in the chambers of heaven. After purging our sins “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3; cf. Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20, Col. 3:1). His sitting down answers his announcement from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). But Jesus is not on recess. He is actively fulfilling his calling as our redeemer.
Christ’s session is good news for believers. But because we sometimes forget why doctrine matters, the Catechism spells out two benefits of Christ’s present reign.
Christ pours out gifts through his Spirit.
Since the Spirit had not yet been fully poured out on all God’s people, Old Testament ministry was primarily performed by “professional” prophets, priests, and kings. When Christ ascended into heaven and sat down at God’s right hand, having fulfilled his three-fold ministry, he gave the Holy Spirit to his people to discharge his callings on earth, and to use their spiritual gifts to bless his body, the church (Eph. 4:8). To answer an earlier question, God is with us in our pain: the Spirit comforts our hearts and helps us care for our brothers and sisters (2 Thess. 1:3).
Christ rules from heaven as our King.
Christ is seated not in an easy chair but on a throne (Matt. 25:31). Our brother is King even now over every inch of creation. We have no reason to fear the world. We are valuable to the God who numbers the hairs of our heads (Luke 12:7) and will ultimately defend and preserve us from all enemies—neither tribulation, distress, persecution, or danger shall “be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35, 39). This is true even if our enemies “kill the body.” Because of Christ’s hold on us, “after that” they “have nothing more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). Despite our pain, frustration, and unanswered questions, we can know that Christ the victor is fulfilling a plan to fix everything at just the right time.
Christ has finished his work. He has poured out his gifts. The King is seated in heaven, governing all things and preparing a place for us. When that place is ready and God’s plan for this earth is complete, Christ will come again.
Christ’s Second Coming
Just as Jesus came to earth once as a child, and then ascended into heaven after his death and resurrection, he will also descend again. He came first as a peacemaker. He will come again as a judge. So the day of Christ’s return is known as judgment day, the day when the history of this age will finish, heaven and earth will be remade, and everyone will be judged and begin experiencing their eternal destinies.
No one but God knows the day of Christ’s return (Matt. 24:36). But he gives us signs to remind us that the day is coming. The good news will be preached to every people group (Matt. 24:14), and many, including Jewish people, will be converted (Rom. 11:25–29). Before the end, many professing Christians will fall away (2 Thess. 2:3). Those who remain true will be persecuted (Matt. 24:21) under the leadership of the incarnation of wickedness called antichrist, who will finally be destroyed by the breath of Christ’s mouth (2 Thess. 2:3–8).
How can the truth of Jesus’ powerful return comfort you?
Christ’s return gives believers needed perspective.
Relief is coming! Scoffers doubt Jesus’ return, claiming that “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” Not so! In the flood God sent a clear warning of the final judgment (2 Peter 3:1–7). Continuous aftershocks of judgment repeat his warning to the ungodly, and comfort God’s children who presently suffer “distress and persecution.”
Christ’s return assures believers of vindication.
Being perfectly just, God cannot leave sin unpunished. On judgment day God will grant unbelievers their wish to be free from him, and cancel even the ordinary kindness everyone experiences in this age. But he will respect the punishment Christ bore on the cross for the elect. Believers cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:1); the judge has already removed our curse.
Christ’s return marks God’s victory over evil.
Critics scorn the Bible’s motif of judgment which is said to oppose love. But critics don’t reject judgment, only God’s standard of judgment. Only evil people oppose God’s judgment of those committed to sins like murder, sexual immorality, sorcery, idolatry, and lies (Rev. 20:8; 22:15).
Christ’s return begins believers’ reign with God.
Christ promised his disciples, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). Following Christ’s return believers “will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17), forever protected from pain, tears, and death (Rev. 21:4).
It’s not wrong to ask God hard questions. It makes sense for us to cry out for his presence, especially in our pain. But because we like quick fixes to our problems, we need to know that some of our hurts—even during Christ’s present reign—will only be healed by the return of King Jesus. We ask hard questions believing that God is actively working for our good and is coming again. And only on that day will the hard questions of believers give way to perfect happiness and worship.