The Confession has many wonderful truths about Christ to convey, all of which round out a robust Christology. We know that Christ died and was raised again, so what is Christ doing now?
We’re told that “on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.”
The apostle Peter tells us in Acts 10 that “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption” (vv. 36-37). All men who have died have their bodies rotting away in the ground or at the bottom of the sea. But Jesus Christ was raised with his body which did not see any corruption or decay. It was a sign (as if the resurrection wasn’t enough) that Christ was the perfect, clean sacrifice. He still carried the scars he suffered, and by them he was recognized. Even they continued to serve a saving purpose (John 20:27).
Peter again reminds us that Christ serves also as our judge: “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). This is not the only eschatology (end-of-this-age) in the Confession, but it is the only component mentioned of Christ’s second coming. There are many difficult passages to harmonize when it comes to the “train schedule” of the end of the age. But one truth is to be held high above all others: he is coming again, just as he said.
But until then, at this very moment, we have a high priest doing what high priests do, which is praying to God on behalf of the people. The author of Hebrews assures us, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (vv.24-26).
Once Christ entered into the heavens, his sacrificial ministry was complete. He has put it away, as if he was storing it in the garage, never to use it again. It is no longer necessary. And Christ’s intercession is a solemn cause for peace in the Christian’s heart, for as Paul says, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
The Confession tells us what was accomplished in his sacrificial ministry: “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.”
The Confession regularly uses the words of Scripture as its own. Hebrews 9 tell us, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (vv.13-14).
And when it comes to the idea of God’s justice being satisfied in Christ’s atoning work, Paul tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25b). That odd word, propitiation, means the satisfaction of a grievance or a debt. It carries the significance of finally ending a long-standing series of payments by one final, large, sufficient payment.
But what of those who came before the time of Christ’s atoning work? The Confession says, “Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages[.]"
In Revelation 13, a beast rises out of the sea, drawing worship to himself. But only certain people are willing. “And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (v.8). The book of life of the Lamb who was slain precedes even creation, meaning that God’s election is sure and unchanging. God is not on a rescue mission because things took a turn. God is on a mission, but it is his to glorify himself. So two things must be true and are true at once: God wrote down the names of those he would save before anything was made, and Christ would die at a predetermined time to shed his blood and cover over their sins. “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). “Once for all” covers all those whose names appear in that book.
And of course, there is no other mediator between God and man. “Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself[.]”
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13).
Regarding election, the Confession says, “To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them[.]”
John 6:37 is perhaps the clearest passage about the beautiful relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” We must not separate what God has put together. There is no incongruity between a transcendent being who is totally outside of created reality ordering his creation so that his creatures will either choose or reject him. But still, what assurance there is for the Christian who knows that he only goes to the Son because the Father has given him or her over to the Son. If the basis for your assurance is what you decided to do, you need to look no further than your ability to avoid carbs. If your ability to be saved is based on will-power, not to be crass, but you are hosed.
Rounding out the Confessions description of Christ as our great and only mediator, it says, “This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God;” and “This number and order of offices is necessary[.]”
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” Christ is the narrow gate. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is greater than the angels, Moses, the temple, and the sacrifices. There is no other name by which we can be saved.
Next week, we will move on to an issue no no controversy whatsoever: free will.