We often speak of the “finished work of Christ,” referring to the fact that Jesus has perfectly accomplished our redemption through his death and resurrection. As our Great High Priest who has offered the final sacrifice for our sin—the sacrifice of himself in our place—Hebrews says that unlike the priests who stood day after day offering sacrifices in the temple, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:11–14).
But we would be wrong to assume that Jesus sits idly by doing nothing in heaven. Sometimes Christians live almost like Jesus is on some kind of heavenly hiatus until he returns to judge the world and bring his people to be with him at his Second Coming. After all, from the cross Jesus declared: “It is finished.” We know he is there in heaven receiving our worship, but what is he actually doing? We’re kind of like the disciples standing around looking at the clouds when Jesus ascended into heaven thinking, “Now what?” (Acts 1:11).
A helpful way to consider Christ’s ongoing work on behalf of his people is by looking at what is known as Christ’s threefold office. Christ is our prophet, priest, and king. These three aspects of Christ’s work today give us hope as we await his return to bring us to live with him forever.
The Three Offices of Christ: An Ongoing Activity
There are aspects of these offices that Christ carried out in his earthly ministry. For example, as our great high priest, he satisfied divine justice by offering himself up as a final sacrifice for sin to reconcile us to God. That’s a big part of “the finished work of Christ” we often talk about. But Jesus is still carrying out these three offices today. They are the ongoing work of Christ for us. One of the catechisms in the Reformed tradition, the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC), sums up how Christ continues to fulfill these three offices of prophet, priest, and king:
- As a prophet, he reveals to us by his Word and Spirit the will of God for our salvation (WSC 24).
- As a priest, he makes continual intercession for us before the throne of God (WSC 25).
- As a king, he is subduing us to himself, ruling and defending us, and restraining and conquering all of his and our enemies (WSC 26)
Christ’s Heavenly Work Gives Us Hope
It’s very true that we find great hope in the finished work of Christ. We look back in faith on that work as it’s been applied to us by the Spirit and find comfort when we feel condemned because of our sin. But the fact that Jesus is at work on our behalf today should bring us hope too!
- Be encouraged—by his Spirit, Christ our Prophet helps us to understand and apply Scripture, finding the way of life in him (John 14:26).
- Be encouraged—by his Spirit, through the work of sanctification, Christ continues to apply to us the redemption he accomplished as our priest. Even when we fail, we can stand back up and follow him with confidence because we have an advocate interceding as our priest before the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for those who draw near to God through him (Heb. 7:25).
- Be encouraged—Christ’s kingship gives the Christian hope in the fight with sin and in the face of opposition, because by his Spirit Christ continues to subdue us to himself, and with sovereign authority (Matt 28:18) he perfectly defends us as his people.
He’s Preparing a Place for You
When the disciples stood around wondering what to do next, an angel appeared to them and said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). This gives us hope today—Jesus will return!
Jesus said in John 14:1–3, “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.”
Not only is Jesus our prophet growing our understanding and application of his word, our priest interceding for us before the Father when we fail, and our king subduing and defending us—he’s preparing a place for us!
Knowing what Jesus is doing now helps us in the “now what” of the Christian life—we go about the business of his kingdom, expectantly waiting his return. We have not been abandoned to fend for ourselves. Jesus comforts his disciples in John 14:18–19 before that day when he departed in the clouds, saying, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
Jesus didn’t just disappear into the clouds at his ascension; he entered heaven before us and promises to bring us to himself. This fact should give us great hope.
Because he lives, we too will live.
What Does the Bible Say?
- Christ’s Offices: Deut. 18:18; Isa. 9:6–7; Luke 1:32–33; John 18:37; Acts 2:33; 3:22–23; 1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:1–2, 4:14–15, 5:5–6
- Christ as Prophet: Exod. 20:19; Luke 4:18–19, 21; John 4:25, 41–42; 15:26–27; 20:30–31; Acts 1:1–2, 8; Heb. 2:3; 1 Pet. 1:11
- Christ as Priest: Isa. 53; Acts 8:32–35; Rom. 5:10–11; 8:34; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:21–22; Heb. 7:25; 9:24, 26–28, 10:12
- Christ as King: Ps. 2:6-9, 110:1–3; Matt. 12:28, 28:18-20; John 17:2; 1 Cor. 15:24-26; Col. 1:13, 2:15