Adventist doctrine shows through bible evidence that when Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, in Acts 1:9-10, he ascended first into the Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, in order to begin his work as High Priest. When one studies the earthly type in the books of Exodus and Leviticus, one sees that its obvious that this is where he would begin his ministry, because the Priests and High Priest ministered in the Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary first, and then second, once a year on the Day of Atonement, in the Most Holy Place (Leviticus 16). But when all the evidence is shown to prove this fact, opponents suggest that verses such as Hebrews 8:1 and Romans 8:34 prove that Jesus ascended first to the Most Holy Place instead, because that is where God’s throne is seen in the sanctuary type (Exodus 26:33-34).
Let’s take a look at Hebrews 8:1:
(1) Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens
This verse, along with Romans 8:34, Hebrews 12:2 and the like, no doubt says that Christ sat down at the right hand of the Throne of the Father. But there are a couple of things our critics are not aware of in regards to the throne of God that we now wish to inform them about.
In our study of The Health Message we touched a bit on the Sanctuary in the section called The Health Message within the Sanctuary Message, and showed how it was designed not only show the plan of salvation, but also to teach true doctrine and refute error. In that article we quoted some verses about the sanctuary we want to again quote here. Notice what the Holy Spirit tells us through the prophet David:
(13) Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
Note carefully that God’s “way” is shown in the Sanctuary. The word “way” is translated from the Hebrew word derek which according to Brown Driver Brigg’s Hebrew Dictionary can mean either one of the following:
1) way, road, distance, journey, manner
1a) road, way, path
1d) manner, habit, way
Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon says it means “road, course, mode of action.” In other words, God’s way, manner or course, is seen in the Sanctuary. This means that our attention should be directed more often to the study of this subject because there we will get a more thorough understanding of God’s will for mankind. But there is more. Through the study of the Sanctuary, we can understand true doctrine and learn how to refute error. Note for example Asaph’s declaration in regards to the wicked:
(17) Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
Study the entire Psalm. You’ll note that Asaph is questioning the prosperity of the wicked. How do the ungodly, being so wicked, continue to prosper? And what will be there end? His answer was given to him when he studied the Sanctuary:
Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors… they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
Interesting. These words echo David’s proclamation that the wicked will “perish” and be “consumed into smoke” (Psalm 37:20, 104:35). Malachi sounds awfully similar (Malachi 4:1, 3), and so does our brother Paul (2 Thess. 1:9).
If the Sanctuary, which teaches us God’s ways, and teaches us true doctrine, shows that the wicked will in essence be “destroyed,” why then do we have Christians teaching that this is not true; that instead the wicked will live forever in an eternal Hell fire?
This study is not about Hell fire though. My point is that the Sanctuary clearly shows us the workings of God, and it is through this same Sanctuary truth that we will find the answer to the question on where the right hand of God is.
Notice something very interesting about the Sanctuary. Within the sanctuary there was but one throne, and this throne was in the Most Holy Place. Upon this throne, or seat, did God sit once a year on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 25:21-22). The question we must now ask ourselves is… why was there only one throne, and not three, one for each member of the Godhead?
We know that God is one, but the bible teaches that God manifests himself in three eternal and separate persons:
1 John 5:7
(7) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
Although they are one, they are also separate, as seen at the baptism of Jesus:
(16) And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
(17) And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The above verses show this separation:
1) Jesus in the water
2) The Holy Spirit in the air, above Jesus, in the form of a dove
3) The Father in heaven, from where his voice was heard
Since all three are God, yet one in essence, agreement and truth, it follows that each one would have his own throne. There must be more then one throne in heaven!
Since in the type there was only one throne, then any other throne in heaven must be anywhere outside the heavenly sanctuary. I don’t presume to know where, but the fact that Jesus has his own throne of glory is made crystal in these and many other scriptures.
Speaking about Jesus and Psalm 16, Peter declared:
(30) Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
(31) He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
(32) This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
(33) Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
Note carefully that Christ sat “on his throne,” being by “the right hand of God.” We know that the Father has a throne, but now we read that the Son also has a throne, and that this throne is at the right hand of the Father. Here’s another verse:
(8) But unto the Son he (God the Father) saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Here God the Father, while calling his Son “God,” unmistakably establishes the fact that Jesus also has his own throne. However, returning back to the Sanctuary, we read that therein existed but one throne only. If Jesus ascended to the Father, to sit on his throne at the Father’s right hand, it couldn’t of been to the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary… it must have been to another, undescribed location in heaven where the thrones of each member of the Godhead exists!
Proof that thrones exist outside the heavenly sanctuary is shown also in the following verse:
(22) And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
Note that the heavenly Sanctuary will of course no longer be needed in heaven nor in the New Earth where New Jerusalem will land, because by then sin will be no more, thereby eliminating the need for the intercession of a priestly ministry. Since the type demands that the mercy seat, or throne, be in the temple, or sanctuary, this means that when the heavenly temple is eliminated, this throne will also be useless. However, the throne of Christ, as we read earlier, is established “forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8). How then does he have an eternal throne, while eliminating the throne that was used for intersession in the heavenly sanctuary? The answer is simple… Christ has his own throne elsewhere in heaven. A throne of glory, of position, and of power, just like the Father has a throne, and the Holy Spirit, who is also a member of the heavenly trio, has a throne.
When Christ therefore ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9-10, and sat down on his throne at the right hand of the Father, as Hebrews 8:1 and Romans 8:34 says he did, where do you think this throne was? In heaven… but not in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, as we have seen.
They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God,
Question #1: Why does Matthew 25:31 say that Christ will sit on his throne of glory at his second coming, and not at his ascension?
Answer: Matthew 25:31 reads:
(31) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
The context surrounding this verse is different from that surrounding those verses which show Jesus sitting on his own throne at the right hand of the Father. The context of Matthew 25:31 is the second coming of the Son of man, when the executive judgment will take place upon the wicked of this world. The throne at the right hand of God, seen in Acts 2:30-33, Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 8:1, is one found in heaven, where God resides. The throne spoken of in Matthew 25:31 must therefore be a separate throne, one for the purpose of executing judgment.
Question #2: Is there any other evidence that there are more then one throne mentioned in scripture?
Answer: There is evidence of this fact also in the book of Revelation. Notice the following two verses:
(6) And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
(1) And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In front of the throne in Revelation 4:6 is a "sea of glass," while in front of the throne in Revelation 22:1 there is a "river of water of life, clear as crystal." As you already know, glass and water are two very different things, as shown even in the original language. These must therefore be two separate thrones, in two separate locations.
Question #3: But isn’t there but one throne which is movable, as indicated by the appearance of “wheels” on the throne in Ezekiel 1:4-26 and Daniel 7:9?
Answer: A general rule of thumb, recognized by most students of bible prophecy, is not to take as literal a portion of a vision which is surrounded by highly symbolic language. Both these verse mention beasts and creatures we know don’t really exist. Since the surrounding context is symbolic, and needs to be interpreted by comparisons with other portions of scripture, the wheels in these visions must necessarily also be symbolic.
Questions # 4: Is it not true that the throne of God, rather then being literal, is symbolic of his majesty and power, as shown in Matthew 5:35 where Jesus said that all of heaven is God’s throne?
Answer: Before we answer, let’s consider the very next verse as well:
(34) But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
(35) Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Or course, we don’t see a giant foot upon our earth, do we? When the context is considered, Jesus is simply trying to communicate to the people that they should not sware at all, because we have no power to actually allow that which we swore to take place. God is greater, and only God knows the future, which is why it is his right only to swear (Acts 2:30, 7:17, Hebrews 4:3):
“… because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself…” –Hebrews 6:13.
(36) Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
We have no power, not even to change our own hair! Therefore we should remain completely dependent upon God’s perfect will only, and wait if whether our plans are right in his sight… because he is greater then us, for even the heavens is... "his throne, and the earth his footstool.”
The fact that God is so great that heaven can be described as his throne does not do away with the fact that the bible teaches he also has a literal throne where he actually sits:
(8) God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.
Dare we say that God actually can’t be both bigger then heaven while at the same time having a throne he "sitteth upon?"