If you remember back to two weeks ago, on Christmas Eve, we looked at the first four verses of this text in detail. How amazing it is that God became a man, that he was fully God from conception to death, and yet he was also fully man, living the life that we live here on the earth. We saw how that is crucial to the gospel, how Jesus’ birth brought God to man, and how Jesus’ death brings man to God. Both Jesus’ 100% deity and his 100% manhood was required for him to be an adequate Substitute for us. A perfect mediator between us and God. That’s what we see in these first four verses. Today, in verses 9-11, we look at what happened after his death and resurrection.
You see we celebrate his birth on Christmas, his death on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. But we don’t have an Ascension day do we, or an Exaltation Day? A day to celebrate Jesus ascending back to the right hand of the Father. I guess we could just celebrate that 40 days after Easter each year if we wanted to. But, whether we treat it like a holiday or not doesn’t really matter, as long as we understand the significance of Christ’s exaltation. These three verses, verses 9-11, will help us greatly in this regard.
The way we’ll organize our time is with 3 Staggering Implications of Christ’s Exaltation.
- Jesus completed the work of redemption.
Verse 9 starts with, “Therefore God has highly exalted him.” What does that mean, for God to highly exalt Jesus? What did it look like for God to exalt Jesus? Well, we know how it happened, right? After he died on the cross, then rose again, he spent 40 days appearing to different people, then we read in Acts 1:9- “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Christ ascended back into heaven. And then what happened? Well, we see in multiple different passages in the New Testament, what happened when Jesus went back up into heaven.
Hebrews 1:3- “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Ephesians 1:20- God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Romans 8:34- “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1- “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Over and over and over we see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, which is a position of unparalleled esteem and honor, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, we see that Jesus, after ascending into heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father.
I want us, for a moment, to focus on the fact that Jesus is sitting. Why is it that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God? Was he tired? Was it just an extra comfy throne, so he couldn’t help but try it out? No. Here’s why: his sitting is a visual demonstration of having completed his work. It’s a visual reminder that he has accomplished something great, and it is now finished. What is it that he accomplished? He completed the work of redemption. It is through his incarnation, his life, his death, and his resurrection that we are given hope. It is through his sacrifice and resurrection that we can be made whole again! He accomplished the great exchange! The great substitution! He became the lamb of God that was slaughtered so that we could become sons of God. That’s a massive work of redemption, the greatest work of redemption. And as a visual reminder that it was absolutely completed, that there’s nothing left for him to do to provide salvation, he sat down.
It’s very loosely like when we finish some big task that we’re proud of—I think of mowing the lawn, and weed-eating and everything. You’re all sweaty, but you’re proud that you accomplished something, and so you go and you sit down. Broadly, that’s kind of like it is here with Jesus. The difference is the significance of what Jesus has accomplished. Mowing the lawn’s pretty great, but Jesus has just paid for the sin of the entire world. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of all time. Again I think of Hebrews 1:3- “Having made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.”
Now that doesn’t mean that he’s just sitting up there now playing video games or whatever else we might do after we finish some big task. He’s still in a very active role. It’s like a king who has ascended to his throne. Just because he’s up there on the throne doesn’t mean he doesn’t do anything while he’s up there. He’s certainly involved in the affairs of the kingdom. In fact, Stephen when he is being stoned in Acts chapter 7, he’s given this glimpse of heaven and sees Jesus standing, likely in a way to honor Stephen for his sacrifice. And then we see Jesus walking among the seven golden lampstands in Revelation 2:1. So he’s certainly active and involved within Creation, though perhaps his primary work, his work of redemption, has been completed. It’s good news that God has exalted Jesus, and placed him at his right hand. It’s a reminder that the work of redemption is complete. The 2nd Staggering Implication of Christ’s Exaltation, of God having brought him back to heaven and exalted him:
- Jesus received authority over the universe.
This is the other implication, particularly from Jesus having sat at the right hand of the Father. Not only is that a sign that his work is complete, but this is also a sign that he has been given all authority, even more than he had before, somehow. Sitting on the throne is a picture of him receiving authority. I already quoted Ephesians 1:20, but if you include the next verse right after that: God “raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.” You hear the parallel there with Philippians 2. He has seated himself at God’s right hand, and God has placed him above all rule and authority.
Obviously, this is explicit in today’s text, verse 9 and following. Basically, this is a picture of the authority that Jesus has been given. God gives us a glimpse into what that actually looks like now, and will look like in the future: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Do you hear the authority that’s been given to Jesus?!
“Name that is above every name.” No other name or person compares! Every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth! Every knee will bow (that shows respect and honor and submission, and no one is exempt from this), and every tongue will confess (everyone will admit it, again, no one exempt!), Jesus Christ is Lord!” That’s what they’ll confess. This is quite fitting, right? Literally, we see Jesus humbled and even humiliated in verses 5-8. He’s crucified, he’s labeled as beyond contempt, humiliated, worthless! He’s brought down to as lowly a position as humanly possible, and now he is exalted to the highest position possible. Motyer writes, “And the Father loves to see it so, for it is a principle with God that he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Even in Revelation we see the power and authority of Jesus, in fact, perhaps especially in Revelation. In Revelation 5:12, we see this remarkable scene of literally thousands upon thousands of angels saying in a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive (catch this) power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” That’s a whole lot of things, right? I feel like the angels didn’t want to miss anything, wanted to make sure they got it all! “Power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” Basically, EVERYTHING! What is Jesus NOT over?! Who or what is more SUPREME than Jesus? Certainly not the Taco Supreme at Taco Bell. We use this word supreme rather loosely nowadays. But who or what is supreme over Jesus. NOTHING and NO ONE! He has authority over the entire universe.
Here’s the thing about all of this. Maybe this isn’t new for you. Maybe you already know this, but it seems often the case that we do NOT see Jesus like this. We don’t. Maybe we see Jesus as so awesome because he’s there for me, personally. Which is great! And frankly amazing! That Christ himself loves and cares for me, a clueless sinner. But do we understand that this Jesus that we pray to, and that we even cherish and treasure: Do we see him as King and Ruler of the entire universe!? The word there for “Lord,” when Paul writes that every tongue will confess that Jesus is “Lord.” It’s the same word for “Master.”
So the question for us is, Do we see Jesus as the one, the only King and Ruler to whom one day every knee will bow, on the earth and under the earth? Every tongue will confess, they’ll all admit it! He is LORD. He is MASTER. He is KING. The truth of the matter is that I think we often think of Jesus as like God’s sidekick, or his child—which in a sense, yes, He’s God’s Son, but not how we think of sons and daughters: “Oh, we love them, but they got some growing up to do. One day they’ll be adults.” I think, maybe that we don’t say this, but sometimes we think of Jesus as like a Junior God, the son that will one day fill the shoes of his Father, if he works hard at it.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hear from John in Revelation 1: “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
This does not sound like Junior God. Or God’s sidekick. This is God. The Ruler of all things. He sits at the right hand of the Father with all authority. God having exalted Jesus to this place means something. Motyer puts it like this: “The great God is expressing a value-judgment about his son; nothing will do but that he should be lifted up to the highest of all, for, in the Father’s eyes, he is the highest of all.” Do not relegate Jesus to a little action-figure in your pocket that you pull out when you determine that you need him, maybe to try and magically make all your problems go away. He is LORD of the universe! Do not limit him in your life only to certain areas and certain seasons. Let him REIGN as your Master, because that’s who He is. The 3rd Staggering Implication:
- We too will be exalted.
Now this one truly is an implication, at least in this text. Paul does not write about our exaltation here, but it is certainly part of the reason he’s writing this about Jesus being exalted! These are struggling Christians that he’s writing to, many of whom are suffering for their faith, and having much difficulty. So, in speaking so clearly of Jesus being exalted really speaks to the Christian’s vindication! Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess! There will be no confusion, and certainly no persecution when all are forced to bow the knee and confess with their tongue the Lordship of Christ!
This is an encouragement for us! It’s a reminder of other teachings we see in Scripture, that we too will be exalted like Christ has been exalted. 1 Thessalonians 4:17- “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” I mean we, literally, especially if we’re hear at the end, will ascend into heaven. John 14:1-3, one of my favorite passages of Scripture: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And 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.” We too will be exalted, because Jesus is going ahead of us to prepare the place!
How much assurance does that bring us? Anyone get a bit pumped up when they hear that?! It’s like sending someone ahead to a restaurant to make sure and get a table. Or sending someone into the movie theater to get good seats while you get popcorn. Usually, you feel this sense of relief, or assurance. Why? Someone’s already in there, figuring out your place. Either your table at the restaurant or your seats in the theatre.
But here’s the difference between a friend getting seats and Jesus preparing a place for us. Here’s the difference: they may not get good seats at the theater, right? Even though they go ahead of you, it may not work out. The seats may still be taken, and they don’t have the authority to make other people move, right? “Um, excuse me, I want those seats. Please move.” Of course not! We don’t have that authority or respect from people we don’t even know. But let me ask you this: would the president of the United States have an issue getting the best seat in the house in a movie theater? Would the president have trouble getting a table at a restaurant? Of course not! Why? Because he has the authority and his office demands respect, whether you like him or not!
Listen, we’re not talking about a movie theater or a restaurant; we’re talking about God’s Kingdom. And listen, we’re not talking about the most powerful man in the world, impressive as that is. We’re talking about the LORD and MASTER of the UNIVERSE! We can be CERTAIN, when Jesus says he’s preparing a place, he’s not going to run into any trouble. There will be no hiccups in preparing a place for us. We too will be exalted.
In fact, in some ways, we’ve already been exalted. In some ways, we even share in Christ’s authority now. This is something that’s often ignored because it’s a bit difficult to understand. But this authority that we see Jesus being given in Philippians 2 is the authority that we partially share with him even now. Listen to this from Ephesians 2, and I know I’m jumping around a lot, but when I get excited, I just wanna read the whole Bible! Ephesians 2:4-7.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
I know that was a long text (it’s just too good, I gotta read the whole thing), but did you catch verse 6? He “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places.” That’s present-tense! That’s speaking of believers in salvation. We share in part of Christ’s authority as he is seated at the right hand of the Father, right now! How do we use that authority? What good is that authority for us now? We use it to kill sin! To plunder the enemy! To spread the gospel.
Romans 8: 31 and following: “What then shall we say of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things!? Who can bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies? 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. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
Think about that! What power does any of that have over us, church? Jesus, the LORD OF THE UNIVERSE, is our King. We, like him, will be exalted! Does any of this threaten us truly? Let me answer with the next verse, Romans 8:37. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Listen, child of God, and that’s you. You have some of the same authority that Christ himself has right now, in this life. To defeat sin, to plunder the enemy. To spread the gospel. No, pornography does not have control over you. Jesus is Lord of EVERYTHING, and he’s made you a conqueror. No, anger does not truly have control over you. No, depression does not truly have control over you. No, indifference. No to greed. No to an obsession with money. No to gluttony. No to narcissism. No to compulsive lying. No to disrespecting your parents. No to laziness. No to all of it in the name of Jesus, the name above all names, the HIGHEST authority.
If you want to be reminded of your authority over sin and your power FOR Godliness, look to JESUS! He’s been given all authority in the universe, and he, even now, shares some of that authority with us. And one day, he’ll share even more of that authority with us. We will reign with Christ one day. 2 Timothy 2:11-12, the last verse I’ll jump around to this morning: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Wow.
Listen, in 2018: see Jesus for who He really is. Submit to Him and worship Him as he truly is. The one who completed the work of redemption, who is completely sufficient for our salvation, and the one whose been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Treasure Him, find your JOY in Him. Reign over sin in Him. Be sanctified by the Word in Him. And humble yourself like him, and be exalted like him.