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15 & 16 June 2024 (Pastoral Page) JESUS CHRIST - OUR ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER

By Dr Daniel Chan

Five weeks ago, we marked Christ’s ascension into heaven which according to the Bible took place 40 days after His resurrection on Easter Sunday. In that weekend’s Pastoral Page, Dr Peter Lim shared that although Christ’s ascension may not be widely commemorated, its significance is fundamental to the Christian faith. Christ’s ascension confirmed the completion of His primary ministry on earth—namely His sacrificial death on the cross whereby He atoned for the sin of man and redeemed man from eternal damnation. His ascension inaugurated the era of the Holy Spirit which is marked by Pentecost, and it was at His ascension that the disciples were assured of His return.

Through His ascension Christ continues His work as our Saviour. To better appreciate this, it is useful to consider what happened at the Tabernacle on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). As described in the Old Testament, the Israelites preformed rituals that foreshadowed Christ’s work on the cross and help us understand Christ’s atonement. Once a year on that Day, the high priest makes animal sacrifices for his and the people's sins. He then takes the blood of the sacrifice and enters the Holy of Holies. There, in the presence of God, the high priest presents the blood of the sacrifice, completing the ritual of atonement. He then intercedes for the people.

Similarly, Christ died on the cross for our sin and was raised on the third day. Forty days after His resurrection, he ascended into heaven and entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, the true presence of God. There, He presented His own blood from His once-and-for-all sacrifice on behalf of humanity (Heb 9:11-14). By these actions, Jesus acts as both our sacrificial Lamb and our High Priest. By bearing His sacrifice into the true Holy of Holies, He completes His act of atonement.

Christ’s ascension also marks the start of His heavenly ministry, where He reigns as Lord and continues His priestly work for us. Jesus took His seat at God’s right hand (Heb 1:3) and rules on the heavenly throne as God’s exalted Son. He now serves as our Great High Priest (or our Advocate) who continues to work on our behalf, continually praying to His Father for us (Heb 7:25), constantly appealing for saving mercy and enabling grace based on His sacrifice of Himself (Heb 4:14–16). This is part of how He saves us completely (Heb 7:25).

A part of our weekly worship service is set aside for confession. Why do we continue to confess our sins and seek forgiveness even after professing faith in His sacrificial death? We do this because our ongoing sin is a reality and requires ongoing confession and forgiveness (1 John 1:8). We do this confidently because we have an advocate with the Father - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He pleads our case based on His death, by which forgiveness of sins was made possible (1 John 1:9-2:1).

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea

A great High Priest whose name is love

Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands

My name is written on His heart

I know that while in heav'n He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart

No tongue can bid me thence depart 

Atonement in the Old Testament wasn’t accomplished simply by slaughtering animals; their bodies and blood had to be brought to the altars by priests with prayers offered. Similarly, Jesus’ ascension brought Him, the Crucified and Resurrected One, into God’s heavenly presence to minister as His people’s high priest. He is the atoning sacrifice who died, rose, and now intercedes for us. He ensures His people will receive the salvation God has promised them. We still sin and fall short, but we have an advocate in heaven. We can, therefore, confidently proclaim His death, until He comes (1 Cor 11:26).[1]

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