10 Things You Should Know about the Heavenly Intercession of Jesus Christ1
Right now, without ceasing, Jesus Christ is interceding for all those who know him. It is a wonderful truth indeed. Here are ten things to keep in mind when you think of Christ’s heavenly intercession.
(1) Christ’s heavenly intercession was prefigured in the Old Testament. We know that Christ's atoning death was prefigured by the offering of sacrifices on the brazen altar, but the daily burning of incense on the golden altar in the Holy Place (cf. Exod. 30:1-10; Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4), symbolic of Israel's prayers, also prefigured the priestly prayers of Jesus on behalf of his people.
(2) Christ’s heavenly intercession is repeatedly confirmed in the New Testament. Among the many texts that either explicitly or implicitly describe it, consider 1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:25; 9:24; 10:19-22; John 17; Romans 8:28-34; John 14:16.
(3) For whom does Christ intercede? We see again in the NT that Christ intercedes for his people, the elect, who were given to him by the Father before the foundation of the world. Although John 17:9 describes Christ’s prayers for his people while he was yet on earth, it stands to reason that this would not change upon his exaltation to the right hand of the Father. Thus, we read: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9; see also John 17:20; Romans 8:33-34).
(4) His intercession is inseparable from his atoning death. In the OT, those for whom sacrifice was made were represented by the priest before God. So, too, in the NT those who are the recipients of Christ's redemptive blessing are those for whom he intercedes with the Father. Paul declares in Romans 8:33-34 that the basis for our receiving the blessings of his redemptive work is his intercession on our behalf at God's right hand. The intercessory work of Christ is but a continuation of the atoning work of Calvary, serving as the means whereby the saving benefits of his sacrifice are effectually and perpetually applied.
(5) John Calvin is helpful in this regard. He writes: “He appears before God for the purpose of exercising towards us the power and efficacy of his sacrifice. . . . Christ's intercession is the continual application of his death to our salvation" (Commentary on 1 John, 243). This is why John speaks of Christ's propitiatory work as the ground or cause (i.e., the basis of his appeal) of his advocacy. The success of the latter depends on the success of the former (see 1 John 2:1-2).
(6) His intercession brings assurance of the fulfillment of God's promises: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).
(7) His intercession is instrumental in our sanctification. The author of Hebrews declares that “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). It is through the intercessory ministry of Jesus that our praise and thanksgiving to God is made possible: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15). See also John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 Peter 2:5.
(8) His intercession keeps us secure in the Father's redemptive purpose and protects us against the accusations of Satan: “Who shall 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” (Rom. 8:33-34).
(9) Our Lord’s advocacy on our behalf, his prayerful intercession for us, is what ultimately secures for us the on-going application of his atoning blood, even in the presence of our continual sin: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
(10) Christ’s heavenly intercession on behalf of those who draw near to God never ceases. The author of Hebrews declares that Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). It is incessant, unending, never to suffer from interruption or pause.