Session of Christ

Last updated

Illustration from the Book of Kells of Christ enthroned. The central significance of Christ's heavenly session is his reign as king. KellsFol032vChristEnthroned.jpg
Illustration from the Book of Kells of Christ enthroned. The central significance of Christ's heavenly session is his reign as king.

The Christian doctrine of the Session of Christ or heavenly session says that Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven—the word "session" is an archaic noun meaning "sitting." Although the word formerly meant "the act of sitting down," its meaning is somewhat broader in current English usage, and is used to refer to a sitting for various reasons, such as a teaching session, or a court or council being in session. The New Testament also depicts Jesus as standing and walking in Heaven, but the Session of Christ has special theological significance because of its connection to the role of Christ as King. The Session of Christ is one of the doctrines specifically mentioned in the Apostles' Creed, where "sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty" immediately follows the statement of the Ascension.

Jesus Central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

<i>Christ</i> (title) messianic dimension of Jesus, biblical figure

In Christianity, Christ is a title for the saviour and redeemer who would bring salvation to the whole House of Israel. Christians believe Jesus is the Israelite messiah foretold in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Christ, used by Christians as both a name and a title, is synonymous with Jesus.

Right hand of God

The right hand of God or God's right hand may refer to the Bible and common speech as a metaphor for the omnipotence of God and as a motif in art.



Pietro da Cortona, Stoning of Saint Stephen, 1660. Acts 7:55 says that, as he was dying, Saint Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Pietro da Cortona - Il martirio di Santo Stefano.jpg
Pietro da Cortona, Stoning of Saint Stephen, 1660. Acts 7:55 says that, as he was dying, Saint Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

The word "session" is an archaic noun meaning sitting. [1] Wayne Grudem notes that the word formerly meant "the act of sitting down," but that it no longer has that sole meaning in ordinary English usage today. [2] This language is used in Psalm 110:1 and Hebrews 10:12. In Acts 7:55, however, Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God. [3] This may represent Jesus "rising momentarily from the throne of glory to greet his proto-martyr," [4] standing as a witness to vindicate Stephen's testimony, [5] or preparing to return. [6]

Wayne Grudem American theologian

Wayne A. Grudem is a prominent evangelical theologian, seminary professor, and author. He co-founded the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and served as the general editor of the ESV Study Bible.

Saint Stephen 1st-century early Christian martyr and saint

Stephen, traditionally venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity, was according to the Acts of the Apostles a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy at his trial, he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later become a follower of Jesus and known as Paul the Apostle.

In the Book of Revelation, Revelation 2:1, on the other hand, Jesus is referred to as walking among the seven golden lampstands. Robert Mounce suggests that since these lampstands represent seven churches, Jesus' motion indicates that he is "present in their midst and aware of their activities." [7]

Book of Revelation Final book of the New Testament

The Book of Revelation, often called the Revelation to John, the Apocalypse of John, The Revelation, or simply Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ or the Apocalypse, is the final book of the New Testament, and therefore also the final book of the Christian Bible. It occupies a central place in Christian eschatology. Its title is derived from the first word of the text, written in Koine Greek: apokalypsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation". The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic document in the New Testament canon.

Johns vision of the Son of Man

John's vision of the Son of Man is described in the scriptural Revelation 1:9-20. John sees a vision of the risen, ascended and glorified Jesus Christ, whom he describes as one "like the Son of Man". Jesus is portrayed in this vision as having a robe with a golden sash, white hair, eyes like blazing fire, feet like bronze and a voice like rushing waters. He holds seven stars in his right hand and has a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth. The vision is also notable for being the only identifiable physical description of Jesus in any form in the Biblical canon.

Seven churches of Asia

The Seven Churches of Revelation, also known as the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and the Seven Churches of Asia, are seven major churches of Early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation. All of them are located in the Asia Minor, present-day Turkey.

Biblical references

According to the Book of Acts, Acts 2:33, after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, he was "exalted to the right hand of God." Preaching on the Day of Pentecost, Peter saw Jesus' exaltation as a fulfilment of Psalm 110:1, The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." [8] In the Bible, the "right hand" is the special place of honour. [9]

Resurrection of Jesus Event in the Christian faith, Gospel episode represented in the cycle of the Passion of Christ

The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion as first of the dead, starting His exalted life as Christ and Lord. In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's parousia.

Ascension of Jesus The departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God

The ascension of Jesus is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God in heaven. In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, God exaltated Jesus after his death, raising Him as first of the dead, and taking Him to heaven, where Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God. While in modern times a literal reading of the ascension-accounts has become problematic, as its cosmology is incompatible with the modern, scientific worldview, the real relevance of Jesus' ascension lies in this exaltation.

Saint Peter apostle and first pope

Saint Peter, also known as Simon Peter, Simeon, Simon, Cephas, or Peter the Apostle, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, and the first leader of the early Church.

Pieter de Grebber, God Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand, 1645. This invitation from Psalm 110:1 is quoted in the Book of Acts as being fulfilled in Christ's heavenly session. De Grebber-God Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand.jpg
Pieter de Grebber, God Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand, 1645. This invitation from Psalm 110:1 is quoted in the Book of Acts as being fulfilled in Christ's heavenly session.

The idea of Christ's heavenly session appears a second time in the account of Peter's preaching in the Book of Acts. In Acts 5:31, Peter says that God exalted Jesus, "to his own right hand" (NIV), though Louis Berkhof notes that the dative τῇ δεξιᾷ may have to be taken in the instrumental sense ("by his own right hand") rather than a local sense ("at his own right hand"). [10]

<i>New International Version</i> English translation of the Bible

The New International Version (NIV) is an English translation of the Bible first published in 1978 by Biblica. The NIV was published to meet the need for a modern translation done by Bible scholars using the earliest, highest quality manuscripts available. Of equal importance was that the Bible be expressed in broadly understood modern English.

Louis Berkhof Dutch theologian

Louis Berkhof was an American-Dutch Reformed theologian whose works on systematic theology have been influential in seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States, Canada, Korea and with individual Christians in general throughout the 20th century.

The instrumental case is a grammatical case used to indicate that a noun is the instrument or means by or with which the subject achieves or accomplishes an action. The noun may be either a physical object or an abstract concept.

The heavenly session was important to other writers of the New Testament. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 10:12, it says that Jesus "sat down at the right hand of God," after he had "offered for all time one sacrifice for sins." As in Acts 2, the language of Psalm 110 is used, the next verse saying that Jesus is waiting "for his enemies to be made his footstool." [11] Other New Testament passages that speak of Christ as being at God's right hand are Ephesians 1:20 (God seated Christ "at his right hand in the heavenly realms") and 1Peter 3:22 (Jesus has "gone into heaven and is at God's right hand").

Epistle to the Hebrews book of the Bible

The Epistle to the Hebrews, or Letter to the Hebrews, or in the Greek manuscripts, simply To the Hebrews is one of the books of the New Testament.

In Matthew Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62, Jesus says to Caiaphas, "you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power". This is a reference to Daniel 7:13, in which Daniel sees a vision of "one like a son of man" coming to the Ancient of Days.

Theological significance

Exaltation of Jesus

In the Bible, to be at the right side "is to be identified as being in the special place of honor," and thus "the full participation of the risen Christ in God's honor and glory is emphasized by his being at God's right hand." [9]

The heavenly session is often connected to the enthronement of Christ as King. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "being seated at the Father's right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah's kingdom." [12] Louis Berkhof notes that, in his session, Christ is "publicly inaugurated as God-man, and as such receives the government of the Church and of heaven and earth, and enters solemnly upon the actual administration of the power committed to Him." [13]

In Hebrews 10:12, however, it is Jesus' priestly office that is in view. The session refers to the completed nature of the work, in the same way that "a human being will sit down at the completion of a large work to enjoy the satisfaction of having accomplished it." [2] F. F. Bruce argues that

Michael Damaskenos Icon of the Holy Liturgy, from the 16th-century Cretan school, showing Western stylistic influence. LiturgieDamaskinos.jpg
Michael Damaskenos Icon of the Holy Liturgy, from the 16th-century Cretan school, showing Western stylistic influence.

The presence of Messiah at God's right hand means that for His people there was now a way of access to God more immediate and heart-satisfying than the obsolete temple ritual had ever been able to provide. [14]

Karl Barth says that the session of Christ is "the first and the last thing that matters for our existence in time," and that

Whatever prosperity or defeat may occur in our space, whatever may become and pass away, there is one constant, one thing that remains and continues, this sitting of His at the right hand of God the Father. [15]


The New Testament writings contend that the resurrection was "the beginning of His exalted life" [16] [note 1] as Christ and Lord. [18] [web 1] Jesus is the "firstborn of the dead," prōtotokos, the first to be raised from the dead, and thereby acquiring the "special status of the firstborn as the preeminent son and heir." [19] [web 1] According to Beale,

"Firstborn" refers to the high, privileged position that Christ has as a result of the resurrection from the dead [...] Christ has gained such a sovereign position over the cosmos, not in the sense that he is recognized as the first-created being of all creation or as the origin of creation, but in the sense that he is the inaugurator of the new creation by means of his resurrection. [web 1]

Hurtado notes that soon after his death, Jesus was called Lord ( Kyrios ), which "associates him in astonishing ways with God." [20] The term Lord reflected the belief that God had exalted to a divine status "at God's 'right hand'." [21] The worship of God as expressed in the phrase "call upon the name of the Lord [Yahweh]" was also applied to Jesus, invocating his name "in corporate worship and in the wider devotional pattern of Christian believers (e.g., baptism, exorcism, healing)." [22]

According to Hurtado, powerful religious experiences were an indispensable factor in the emergence of Christ-devotion. [23] [note 2] Those experiences "seem to have included visions of (and/or ascents to) God's heaven, in which the glorified Christ was seen in an exalted position." [24] [note 3] Those experiences were interpreted in the framework of God's redemptive purposes, as reflected in the scriptures, in a "dynamic interaction between devout, prayerful searching for, and pondering over, scriptural texts and continuing powerful religious experiences." [27] This initiated a "new devotional pattern unprecedented in Jewish monotheism," that is, the worship of Jesus next to God, [28] giving Jesus a central place because his ministry, and its consequences, had a strong impact on his early followers. [29] Revelations, including those visions, but also inspired and spontaneous utterances, and "charismatic exegesis" of the Jewish scriptures, convinced them that this devotion was commanded by God. [30]


In the creeds

The Apostles' Creed says of Jesus that "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty" (1662 Book of Common Prayer ). The words "and sitteth on the right hand of the Father," do not appear in the Nicene Creed of 325, but are present in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, [31] and are retained in all English versions of the Nicene Creed.

Use in hymnody

The heavenly session is referred to in many hymns, such as Charles Wesley's hymn Rejoice, the Lord is King :

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

The Christmas carol Once in Royal David's City contrasts Christ's humble birth with his heavenly session; the last verse begins:

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high; [32]

See also


  1. Novakovic quotes C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:62. [17]
  2. See also Andrew Chester (2007), Messiah and Exaltation: Jewish Messianic and Visionary Traditions and New Testament Christology, Mohr Siebeck; and Larry Huratdo (December 11, 2012 ), “Early High Christology”: A Recent Assessment of Scholarly Debate.
  3. These visions may mostly have appeared during corporate worship. [25] Johan Leman contends that the communal meals provided a context in which participants entered a state of mind in which the presence of Jesus was felt. [26]

Related Research Articles

Adoptionism theological teaching

Adoptionism, also called dynamic monarchianism, is a Christian nontrinitarian theological doctrine which holds that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension.

The Apostles' Creed, sometimes titled the Apostolic Creed or the Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief—a creed or "symbol". It is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western tradition, including the Catholic Church, Lutheranism and Anglicanism. It is also used by Presbyterians, Moravians, Methodists and Congregationalists.

Trinity Christian doctrine that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian. Trinitarianism contrasts with positions such as Binitarianism and Monarchianism, of which Modalistic Monarchianism and Unitarianism are subsets.

Harrowing of Hell story of Christs journey into Hell

In Christian theology, the Harrowing of Hell is the triumphant descent of Christ into Hell between the time of his Crucifixion and his Resurrection when he brought salvation to all of the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world. After his death, the soul of Jesus descended into the realm of the dead.

Jesus in Christianity Jesus in Christianity

In Christianity, Jesus is believed to be the Son of God and the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Christians believe that through his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, God offered humans salvation and eternal life.

The concept of the kingship of God appears in all Abrahamic religions, where in some cases the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are also used. The notion of God's kingship goes back to the Hebrew Bible, which refers to "his kingdom" but does not include the term "Kingdom of God".

Kerygma is a Greek word used in the New Testament for "preaching". It is related to the Greek verb κηρύσσω kērússō, literally meaning "to cry or proclaim as a herald" and being used in the sense of "to proclaim, announce, preach". Merriam-Webster defines it as "the apostolic proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ". Amongst biblical scholars, the term has come to mean the core of the early church's oral tradition about Jesus.

Attributes of God in Christianity

The attributes of God are specific characteristics of God discussed in Christian theology.

Vision theory of Jesus appearances

The vision theory or vision hypothesis is a term used to cover a range of theories that question the physical resurrection of Jesus, and suggest that sightings of a risen Jesus were visionary experiences. It was first formulated by David Friedrich Strauss, and proposed in several forms by mainstream scholarship, including Helmut Koester, Géza Vermes, and Larry Hurtado, and members of the Jesus Seminar such as Gerd Lüdemann.

Binitarianism is a Christian theology of two persons, personas, or aspects in one substance/Divinity. Classically, binitarianism is understood as a form of monotheism—that is, that God is absolutely one being—and yet with binitarianism there is a "twoness" in God, which means one God family. The other common forms of monotheism are "unitarianism", a belief in one God with one person, and "trinitarianism", a belief in one God with three persons.

Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus

The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are the earthly appearances of Jesus to his followers after his death and burial. Believers point to them as proof of his resurrection and identity as Messiah, seated in heaven on the right hand of God.

God in Christianity is the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe God to be both transcendent and immanent. Christian teachings of the immanence and involvement of God and his love for humanity exclude the belief that God is of the same substance as the created universe but accept that God's divine nature was hypostatically united to human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, in an event known as the Incarnation.

1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians 15 is the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle and Sosthenes in Ephesus. The first eleven verses contain the earliest account of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in the New Testament. The rest of the chapter stresses the primacy of the resurrection for Christianity.

Throne of God reigning centre of God in the Abrahamic religions

The Throne of God is the reigning centre of God in the Abrahamic religions: primarily Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The throne is said by various holy books to reside beyond the Seventh Heaven and is called Araboth in Judaism, and al-'Arsh in Islam. Many in the Christian religion consider the ceremonial chair as symbolizing or representing an allegory of the holy Throne of God.

The Nicene Creed, composed in part and adopted at the First Council of Nicaea (325) and revised with additions by the First Council of Constantinople (381), is a creed that summarizes the orthodox faith of the Christian Church and is used in the liturgy of most Christian Churches. This article endeavors to give the text and context of English-language translations.

Kingdom of Heaven is a term used in the Gospel of Matthew in reference to the "kingdom of God" of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke, thought to be the main content of Jesus's preaching, described by referring to "a process, a course of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as king or Lord, an action, therefore, by which God manifests his being-God in the world of men".

The terms "son of God" and "son of the LORD" are found in several passages of the Old Testament. In Christianity, the title Son of God refers to the status of Jesus as the divine son of God the Father.


  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  2. 1 2 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (IVP, 1994), 618.
  3. Acts 7:55
  4. F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts (Eerdmans, 1964), 167.
  5. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, 168.
  6. H. P. Owen, "Stephen's vision in Acts 7:55-56," NTS 1 [1955], 224-226.
  7. Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans, 1977), 86.
  8. Acts 2:33-36
  9. 1 2 Ryken, Leland; Wilhoit, James; Longman, Tremper, eds. (1998). "Right, Right Hand". Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. InterVarsity Press. pp. 727–728.
  10. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth, 1959), 351.
  11. Hebrews 10:12-13
  12. "Paragraph 664". Catechism of the Catholic Church . Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  13. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 352.
  14. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, 166.
  15. Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (SCM, 1960), 126.
  16. Novakovic 2014, p. 135.
  17. Novakovic 2014, p. 135, note 78.
  18. Hurtado 2015, p. 508, 591.
  19. Novakovic 2014, p. 152.
  20. Hurtado 2005, p. 179.
  21. Hurtado 2005, p. 181.
  22. Hurtado 2005, p. 181-182.
  23. Hurtado 2005, pp. 64–65, 181, 184-185.
  24. Hurtado 2005, pp. 72–73.
  25. Hurtado 2005, p. 73.
  26. Leman 2015, pp. 168–169.
  27. Hurtado 2005, p. 184.
  28. Hurtado 2005, p. 53.
  29. Hurtado 2005, pp. 53–54.
  30. Hurtado 2005, pp. 72–73, 185.
  31. Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom , Volume I, §8.
  32. The Cyber Hymnal: Once in Royal David's City.


Printed sources