We can come to Jesus with full confidence because whatever He does is for our salvation.
By Jiří Moskala
Adventist theology differentiates between the complete atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the completed atonement in relationship to His intercessory ministry in heaven on humanity’s behalf. What happened on the Cross is a unique, unparalleled, non-repeatable, and unprecedented divine act of salvation (Heb. 10:12, 14), from which all the benefits flow out, including the intercessory ministry of Christ for us today. Nothing can improve or supplement it, and no one can add anything to Christ’s extraordinary sacrifice for humans; salvation is “complete” (Rom. 3:21–26; Gal. 2:16, 21).
Jesus’ mediatory work was made possible only because of this exceptional, unselfish, and once-for-all death for humanity (Heb. 9:28). His atoning death on Calvary is like a fountain from which all other blessings spring up or like an acorn from which the whole oak tree grows. However, the atonement/salvation is not yet completed because we still live in a sinful world. If it had been completed, then there would no longer be a problem with the evil that surrounds us. The lasting solution to all issues related to evil is an extremely complex task and involves Christ’s mediatory work in heaven over a long period of time. Christ’s intercessory ministry applies His work of redemption to individual believers, but it also involves the security of the whole universe (Dan. 7:9, 10, 13, 14; Rev. 12:7–12).
A Difficult Puzzle
Apparently, theologians encounter unsurmountable problems with the meaning of Jesus’ work for us today. Philip Yancey eloquently declares: “I have concluded, in fact, that the Ascension represents my greatest struggle of faith—not whether it happened, but why. It challenges me more than the problem of pain, more than the difficulty of harmonizing science and the Bible, more than belief in the Resurrection and other miracles. . . . For me what has happened since Jesus’ departure strikes at the core of my faith. Would it not be better if the Ascension had never happened? If Jesus had stayed on earth, he could answer our questions, solve our doubts, mediate our disputes of doctrine and policy.”1 He adds: “By ascending, Jesus took the risk of being forgotten.”2
God’s distance and invisibility disturb us. His obvious physical absence frustrates humans especially in view of atrocity, pain, rape, exploitation, killing, torture, innocent suffering, natural catastrophe, and the reality of death. Christians wonder where God is and what He is doing. If He really exists, and is omnipotent, omnipresent, and loving, then after humanity has experienced, for example, the Crusaders’ wars, the Inquisition, the French Revolution, the Great October Revolution in Russia, the Holocaust, Rwanda, tsunamis, the fall of the Twin Towers, and the Gulf Wars, they question whether God indeed cares for our Planet Earth and about our individual needs and wellbeing. What is accomplished by Christ’s work as our Intercessor?
As a small boy, in my native Czech Republic town, I visited a typical, beautifully constructed European Catholic church. People were kneeling and praying in front of the statues of Mary and many other saints. By each statue was written in Latin “Ora pro nobis” (meaning, “pray”—or “intercede”—“for us”). I was puzzled. Later I learned that every day, the prayers of millions of Christians are directed to these saints, who are considered as intercessors. This picture from my childhood raised many questions in my mind: Is not Jesus sufficient? Why pray to so many? Does God need to be pleaded with because He is angry with us?
The belief that saints are praying for humans in heaven is related to the crucial understanding of the biblical teaching of what happens after death: “An initial question regarding the prayer of saints in heaven for the sake of others (intercession) has to do with our knowledge about the condition of the Christian dead. Do they now live with Christ and, if so, are they aware of the situation and needs of people still on earth? If these questions are answered in the negative, it is more difficult to claim an intercessory role for them and to justify calling upon their help in our prayers.”3
In Roman Catholicism, there are many intercessors: “One basic theological and liturgical conviction which has carried the Catholic tradition holds that Jesus Christ alone is never merely alone. He is always found in the company of a whole range of his friends, both living and dead. . . . Saints show us how the grace of God may work in a life; they give us bright patterns of holiness; they pray for us.”4 The New Testament, however, plainly claims that there is only one Intercessor between God and humans—the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:3–6).
The Bible powerfully declares that Jesus Christ is presently in heaven (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9–11) and is interceding for humans (implied in Romans 5:10 to 21, but explicit in Romans 8:34 and 1 John 2:1). This fundamental teaching attests that Christ’s intermediatory role is urgently needed to accomplish the plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Intercessor and serves as our Mediator, our High Priest, in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 4:15, 16; 8:1, 2). The author of Hebrews presents the most elaborate picture of Jesus Christ as our High Priest and Mediator/Intercessor who is alive and makes intercession for sinners (7:25). The Gospels provide concrete examples: Jesus prayed for His disciples and future generations of followers (John 17) as well as for Peter (Luke 22:32).
The Old Testament points to God Himself as a heavenly Witness or Advocate (Job 16:19, 20) and explains that the Servant of the Lord makes “intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12).5 This Suffering Servant, whom the early church identified as being Jesus Christ (Acts 8:27–35), dies for humans on their behalf, forgives their sins, and gives them His righteousness, thus His work brings the benefits of His substitutional death to sinners (Isa. 53:3–12). According to the Book of Daniel, at the time of the end Michael will stand for His people to deliver them from oppression (Dan. 12:1, 2). Likewise, Jesus was standing for Stephen when he was stoned to death (Acts 7:55, 56). Thus, standing at the right hand of God is a biblical image of the intercessory ministry of Jesus Christ.
Many biblical scholars and theologians confirm the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is our Intercessor, but what does it mean? What does the Bible want to convey by this terminology? What difference does it make for our everyday problems that He “always lives to intercede” (Heb. 7:25) for us?
When we imagine the work of a mediator or intercessor, we have in mind two antagonistic parties with a go-between seeking to reconcile them by changing their mutual hatred, misunderstandings, presuppositions, feelings, and attitudes toward each other. This popular model is built on the intense work of the intermediary, who seeks to reconcile both parties. The middle person has to plead with those involved to heal the broken relationship and restore the damaged communication and friendship.
Unfortunately, this popular pattern is often automatically applied to the biblical teaching about Christ’s intercessory ministry in heaven. This view has serious implications for a correct understanding of God’s character. From this view, He is perceived as an angry deity who has to be begged, and His attitude toward humans needs to be changed for grace and mercy to be granted. With a majority of Christians, this negative understanding becomes even worse as they think that Jesus’ work is not powerful enough—not sufficient or adequate—so that He needs Mary’s assistance in pleading with God and even the additional help of a whole pantheon of saints including Peter, the other apostles, Paul, and many international, national, and local saints. This grossly distorts the picture of God and depicts Him as a moral monster with Jesus as an Intercessor having to calm the angry Father to obtain His grace and blessings for sinners.
What Christ’s Intercession Doesn’t Mean
It is necessary to underline what the intercessory ministry of Jesus Christ in the heavenly sanctuary does not mean. It does not imply that Jesus has to (1) plead with the heavenly Father or beg Him to forgive our sins; (2) appease an angry God; (3) change the Father's attitude toward us; or (4) reconcile God with humanity. Jesus and the heavenly Father are not involved in a celestial arm-wrestling match to ascertain who is stronger to show either favor or anger toward humans.
Reasons for these conclusions are plainly explained in the Scriptures:
1. Jesus does not need to beg our heavenly Father to love us. He Himself declared: “‘In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God’” (John 16:26, 27).
2. Jesus does not need to change the Father’s attitude toward us. “‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’” (John 3:16). Christ died for us because the Father loves us.
3. We humans need to be reconciled with God and not vice versa. This is our message of reconciliation as God’s ambassadors: “‘Be [you people] reconciled to God’” (2 Cor. 5:20). Sinners need to be brought back to Him; He is constantly searching for the lost (Gen. 3:9).
If Jesus Christ needed to appease an angry heavenly Father, then He would not be different from pagan gods that necessitate pacification and their anger expiated with sacrifices and gifts. One cannot buy God’s favor. Jesus does not need to plead with the Father on our behalf but is satisfying God’s righteousness/justice in dealing with sin, thus He is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26, NKJV). Our heavenly Father loves people (Deut. 33:3), and He and Christ are united in their efforts to save humanity (Eph. 1:3–10).
The divinity and humanity of the person of Jesus Christ, this oneness of His Being as God and human, are the essential preconditions for His mediation. He came to save fallen humanity. The incarnation of Christ and His atoning death on Calvary are foundational qualifications that opened the way for His intercessory ministry. The Cross was a necessary prerequisite for His salvific mediatory work for humanity (Rom. 3:23–26). His victory over sin (Matt. 4:1–11; Rom. 8:3) and His voluntary and substitutionary death for us qualified Him to be our Intercessor.
The intercessory ministry of Jesus puts into practice the results of the Cross by expanding the efficacy of Calvary. Though He lived a sinless life, Jesus became sin and a curse for us (Isa. 53:3–6; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13) so what was accomplished on the Cross almost two thousand years ago now needs to be applied, actualized, and incorporated into our lives for us to be restored to His image and have abundant life (John 10:10). He is the God-Man, our Mediator, because He “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6, NASB). He is our Mediator, because He is our Savior. His intercession is a continuation of His saving activity on our behalf, the realization and integration of His work for us on the cross. We need His death and life to be spiritually alive (Rom. 3:24, 25; 5:10).
Raoul Dederen directly emphasizes the role of Christ’s death on the Cross: “While His sacrifice for sin was made once for all on the cross (Heb. 7:27; 9:28; 10:11–14), the ascended Christ is making available to all the benefits of His atoning sacrifice.”6 At the moment sin entered the world, Jesus reached down from heaven and stepped in as our Intercessor in anticipation of His victory at the cross. This reality is best described in the Book of Revelation: “the Lamb that was slain from the creation [or, better, foundation] of the world” (13:8).
Christ’s Twofold Ministry
Christ’s role as Intercessor is twofold: (1) revealing and ministering the mysteries of God’s goodness and richness to humankind; and (2) presenting our existential needs to God and securing our salvation. In other words, His intercessory ministry is both a revelatory and redemptive process for humanity, forming one unit that cannot be separated. Alister McGrath correctly explains that “the presence of God in Christ is intended to mediate between a transcendent God and fallen humanity. This idea of ‘presence as mediation’ takes two quite distinct, yet ultimately complementary, forms: the mediation of revelation on the one hand, and of salvation on the other.”7
First of all, Jesus’ divinity (John 1:1–3; Rom. 9:5; Col. 1:15–18) represents the Godhead. As the Mediator, meaning Communicator, of the divine, He reveals the Father, His character, and all the values of the Godhead (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 1:14–18; 17:6), because He and the Father are one (John 10:30). Even the Old Testament paints the picture of God mediating for His people (1 Sam. 2:25; Job 16:20). Christ also discloses the Holy Spirit by explaining the Spirit’s ministry (John 14:16, 17; 15:26, 27; 16:7–15), of also interceding for the saints (Rom. 8:27). With the entrance of sin (Gen. 3:1–10) and the ensuing distortion of God’s character, Christ’s birth and great sacrifice on the Cross for humanity demonstrated credibly and convincingly that God is the God of love, truth, and justice (John 3:16; Rom. 1:16, 17; 3:21–26; 5:5–8).
Proverbs 8:22 to 31 hints at the special role that Jesus took upon Himself as an Intermediator and Communicator between the Triune God and Their created beings. From the moment God began to create beings in the Universe, Christ was presenting the principles of love, government, and the will of the Godhead to the created worlds.
When the New Testament uses the term translated as “mediate” (Gal. 3:19, 20; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), it denotes what God is doing for humans through Jesus Christ. He came from above to be with us, Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:20–23)―a movement from God toward humanity, not the reverse. He came to live among us as a fragile human being to reveal God’s values, truth, and teachings—and how God hates sin and evil. He never stands on the side of the oppressor but on the side of the oppressed; and in our suffering and distress, He suffers with us (Isa. 63:9).
Jesus is the best self-revelation of God, He is the revealer of truth because He is the Life, the Truth, and the Way (John 14:6). He is not only revealing God and proclaiming the Word of God, but He is also Himself the revelation and the personified Word of God, God in the flesh (John 1:1–3; Col. 2:9). In His humanity, He was exegeting, i.e., giving a right interpretation of the true character of His heavenly Father (John 1:18). On this existential knowledge depends eternal life (John 17:3). He wants to break the circle of lies about the Godhead and rebuild a loving and trusting relationship between Himself and humanity.
In sharp contrast, Jesus Christ also came to defeat Satan and unmask his work (John 16:11; 1 John 3:8) so we can understand the character of our enemy (Matt. 13:25, 28, 29), which is full of deception, violence, and death (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:14).
Thomas Torrance aptly declares: “Thus as both the incarnate revelation of God and the embodied knowledge of God, Jesus constitutes in himself the Way, the Truth and the Life through whom alone the access to God the Father is freely open for all the peoples of mankind. That is to say, as the incarnate Word and Truth of God Jesus Christ in his own personal Being is identical with the Revelation which he mediates.”8 “Thus in Jesus Christ the Mediation of divine Revelation and the Person of the Mediator perfectly coincide. In Jesus Christ God has given us a Revelation which is identical with himself. Jesus Christ is the Revelation of God.”9 “Jesus Christ is the Word of God, not that he is only the bearer of God’s Word, for he is the very Truth of God addressed to us in the form of his personal Being.”10
Second, Jesus Christ by experiencing true humanity (Matt. 4:1–11; Rom. 8:3; Col. 2:9; 1 John 1:1, 2; 4:2, 3) understands our struggles (Heb. 4:15, 16), and thus as our Representative (1 Tim. 2:5) can efficiently mediate on our behalf between the holy Father and sinful humanity.
The Scriptures certainly attest that Jesus Christ intercedes on our behalf before the heavenly Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24) and that He is our Advocate (1 John 2:1). The movement is clearly that of uplifting believers in God from Earth to the heavenly Father.
What Does Jesus’ Intercessory Ministry Mean to Us?
On the basis of the previous biblical and theological observations, four aspects of Christ’s intercessory ministry emerge:
1. Christ meets the Father to help. Jesus Christ and the heavenly Father meet together to help humans with their everyday problems and enable them to be victorious Christians. All heaven (the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit) is united in helping us in our struggles with sin, Satan, and temptations because without Their assistance, we are powerless and cannot resist evil, we cannot change, and we cannot spiritually grow (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13).
The first tangible result of that meeting after Christ’s ascension was the sending of the Holy Spirit and giving Him to the believers (Acts 2). Everett Ferguson rightly states: “God gives help in living out one’s salvation (Phil. 2:12) in the Christian way of life. The Holy Spirit provides the link between baptism and the Christian life. The Holy Spirit not only sanctifies (1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Pet. 1:2) but also gives new life in baptism (John 3:5) and takes up residence in the one converted (Acts 2:38; 5:30; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit provides the continuing present benefits of God’s one-time action in the cross and the one-time commitment in baptism (there is ‘one baptism’—Eph. 4:5). He is the power of the Christian life.”11
Since we now have free access to God, we can approach Him directly through Christ without any human or semi-divine beings (Heb. 4:16; 10:19). “Christ has made direct access to God in the heavenly sanctuary possible. That access is also related to the Holy Spirit. ‘For through [Christ Jesus] both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father’ (Eph. 2:18). The Holy Spirit provides a life that in some measure already participates in the future life (Eph. 1:13, 14; Heb. 6:4).”12
John’s comment: “Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39) needs to be correctly understood. This proclamation does not mean that the Holy Spirit was not present, active, and engaged during the Old Testament period (ample evidence testifies against this popular standpoint), but it signifies that the Spirit of the Lord could work only proleptically during Old Testament times and was acting in anticipation of Christ’s glorification, i.e., Jesus’ victory on the Cross, His resurrection, and ascension. James Hamilton states: “The sense in which the Spirit is yet to be given is that believers are about to receive Him at the glorification of Jesus.”13
The Cross historically validated the Spirit’s activities, and Jesus’ glorification (see John 13:31 and 32; 17:1 to 5) was the seal authenticating the involvement of the Holy Spirit’s work during Old Testament times and onward. Thus, the triumphant death of Jesus was the prerequisite for giving the Spirit of God to the world and at the same time the justification and affirmation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament dispensation.
Jesus’ intercession is also compared to His praying for us. By praying for His followers, He helps them to become strong in faith and united in love and truth (John 17). Jesus’ intercessory prayer for His disciples and the successive generations of His followers is that they be a model of that unity and faithful. A good example of this is Jesus praying for Peter: “‘I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail’” (Luke 22:32, NKJV). He wants believers to know Him (John 17:3; Eph. 9:10), be victorious in Him (Rev. 3:6), love one another (John 13:34, 35), and be His bold and courageous disciples (Matt. 14:27; Acts 4:13, 29; Phil. 1:20).
Through Christ’s mediatory work, our Intercessor needs to perfect even our best actions that spring from our gratitude to God’s kindness (Rev. 8:3, 4). For example, our prayers, worship, obedience, our best praises coming from gratitude to God, all need His purification.
Ellen White powerfully comments on this aspect: “Christ, our Mediator, and the Holy Spirit are constantly interceding in man's behalf, but the Spirit pleads not for us as does Christ who presents His blood, shed from the foundation of the world; the Spirit works upon our hearts, drawing out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving. The gratitude which flows from our lips is the result of the Spirit striking the cords of the soul in holy memories, awakening the music of the heart.
“The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to the heavenly sanctuary; but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They ascend not in spotless purity, and unless the Intercessor who is at God's right hand presents and purifies all by His righteousness, it is not acceptable to God. All incense from earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops of the blood of Christ. He holds before the Father the censer of His own merits, in which there is no taint of earthly corruption. He gathers into this censer the prayers, the praise, and the confessions of His people, and with these He puts His own spotless righteousness. Then, perfumed with the merits of Christ's propitiation, the incense comes up before God wholly and entirely acceptable. Then gracious answers are returned.
“O, that all may see that everything in obedience, in penitence, in praise and thanksgiving must be placed upon the glowing fire of the righteousness of Christ. The fragrance of this righteousness ascends like a cloud around the mercy seat.”14
Jesus Christ as our Intercessor helps His followers to be connected with Him and be active in His church. “To be in the church is to be in Christ, and to be in Christ is to be in the church.”15 Ferguson fittingly comments: “One is not ‘in Christ’ because of being ‘in the church,’ but one is ‘in the church’ because of being ‘in Christ.’ . . . To be saved is to be in Christ, and to be a Christian is to be a member of the church.”16 Jesus gives to His followers the Holy Spirit to be His faithful witnesses: “‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Act 1:8).
2. Christ saves completely. Jesus Christ justifies and saves (Zech. 3:1–7; Rom. 8:1). As a result, we identify with Him (Rom. 6:1–4; Eph. 2:4–10). He is our Substitute and Representative because He died for our sins (1 Cor. 1:30; 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21). His substitutionary death brought victory over the evil forces and Satan. He defeated death (Rom. 6:24; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 26, 54, 55), which is why He can now give His followers eternal life (John 5:24, 25; 11:25).
According to Hebrews 7:25, Jesus “is able to save completely.” Our Intercessor saves all who come to Him as they are, confessing their sins. Christ as our Intercessor reflects the Old Testament function of the priest and high priest, who made an atonement for the people (Lev. 16:19, 30) and reconnected the sinner with the holy and gracious God. But Jesus gave Himself as an ultimate sacrifice for us (Heb. 9:25, 26, 28) and His blood purifies us from our sins (Heb. 9:12; 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). We are perfect in Him, and Paul very strongly emphasizes our dwelling in Christ (Rom. 6:23; 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:30).
Jesus Christ identifies with us, one to one, and this identification is so close that it is compared to the most sensitive part of our body: the pupil of our eye. “This is what the Lord Almighty says: . . . ‘whoever touches you touches the apple of his [the Lord’s] eye’” (Zech. 2:8). “‘The King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”’” (Matt. 25:40, NLT). Additional biblical examples demonstrate how Jesus is closely uniting Himself with His followers: “He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied” (Acts 9:4, 5). “‘He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me’” (Luke 10:16).
Timothy Jennings rightly comments: “Jesus interceded in the course of sinfulness itself. . . . He took on himself our terminal condition to conquer, overcome and cure. ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows’ (Is 53:5 NIV 1984). Yes, Jesus became one of us to reverse all the damage sin has done to his creation and to restore us, his children, back to unity with God. Jesus came to crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15)—to destroy Satan and eradicate the sin infection from this world (Heb. 2:14).”17
Jesus takes us into the very presence of God the Father and applies the results of the Cross (Eph. 2:5; Heb. 9:24). Ellen G. White powerfully summarizes the biblical teaching: “If you give yourself to Him [Jesus Christ], and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.”18 “Make friendship with Christ today. Put your case in the hands of the great Advocate. He will plead your cause before the Father. Though you have transgressed the law, and must plead guilty before God, Christ will present his precious blood in your behalf; and through faith and obedience, and a vital union with Christ, you may stand acquitted before the Judge of all the earth, and he will be your friend when the final trump shall sound, and the scenes of earth shall be no more.”19
Because Jesus Christ is our Intercessor, we can come to Him with full confidence, assurance, and boldness (Heb. 3:6; 4:16; 1 John 2:28; 4:17). We can come to Him without fear, doubt, or wavering; for in Him, we have hope (Heb. 6:19; 1 Peter 1:3). He is highly and uniquely qualified to be our Intercessor since He is one of us, our older Brother, and He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15; 2:17, 18). He is the source of salvation for everyone who comes to Him (5:7–9, 16), and there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1).
3. Christ changes and transforms. Salvation means healing (Ps. 6:2; 41:4; Jer. 17:14; Hosea 14:4) and transformation (Rom. 12:1, 2; 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 5:23, 24). Jesus Christ did not come to save us “in” sin but “from” sin (Matt. 1:21). He desires our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3, 4; Heb. 12:14) by our walking humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8), persevering (Rev. 12:14), and living with eyes fixed on Him (Heb. 12:1, 2). In this way, we will more and more reflect the character of God (2 Cor. 3:18). Hebrews 4:16 eloquently spells out why the intercessory ministry of our High Priest is needed for us: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” As broken and fragile human beings, we are constantly in need of Jesus and totally dependent upon Him. We are crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:5, 6) to live a new life (Rom. 6:4; Eph. 1:15–21). Being a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) does not mean that we no longer have a sinful nature (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 7:14–20), but that our sinful desires are under the control of His Spirit (Rom. 6:11–14), and then Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21). Our sinful nature will be changed only at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:50–54; Phil. 1:6; 1 John 3:1–3).
Jesus proclaimed: “‘Without me you can do nothing’” (John 15:5, NKJV). Paul confessed: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). To fight against temptation, overcome sin, have a successful fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7), and bear lasting good fruit is an impossibility without Christ, without His Spirit. Only Christ is able to keep us from falling (Jude 24) because His intercession breaks the power of sin, gives freedom, and liberates from addictions and slavery to evil. He saves us from the consequence of sin—eternal death, but He also enables us to live a new life according to His will (Eze. 36:26–29; Rom. 8:13, 14). Only He can transform by His grace so that we may replicate His loving, compassionate, and serving character. He wants to change us by the power of His Word, Spirit, and grace to rid us of selfishness, self-centeredness, self-justification, and striving to be the strongest. “Godly love is at war with the survival-of-the-fittest principle.”20 He desires that we be governed by the fruits of the Spirit against which there is no condemnation (Gal. 5:22, 23).
4. Christ vindicates/defends His people. Jesus Christ vindicates His children against the accusations of Satan. The Book of Job gives insight into Satan’s charges against God’s followers (Job being a typological figure for them), and how God stands against Satan and for them (Job 1:8, 9; 2:4; 42). It is plainly explained in the Book of Revelation, where His victory on the cross is described: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short’” (Rev. 12:10–12).
Jesus Christ personally withstood Satan’s accusations when He defeated him on the Cross (John 8:31; 16:11; Rev. 12:7–10). He was the Victor, and His followers can be victorious only because of Him. Our victory is His gift to us. Jesus Christ not only opposes Satan, the powers of darkness, and the principalities of evil (Eph. 6:10–13) but He also defends us against Satan’s accusations (Rev. 7:1; 12:10–12). He is placing a hedge of protection around his people (2 Kings 6:17; Job 1:10; Ps. 103:1–5). Thus, the intercessory ministry of Jesus Christ means that He personally stands against Satan to defend us and silence our accuser.
Jesus Christ as our Intercessor vindicates His people in front of the whole universe (Dan. 7:9, 10; Eph. 3:10, 11). He is both our Advocate and Judge at the same time, so we can look forward with bold assurance and without fear to the day of judgment (1 John 2:28; 4:17). For who He is, for what He accomplished, and for what He does, He deserves to be eternally praised (Rom. 9:5; Rev. 5:9, 10, 12, 13).
Jesus Christ is our Intercessor until the close of probation (Rev. 15:7, 8; 22:11). However, this does not mean that after this time, believers live without Christ (but only without His specific role and ministry as their Intercessor) and the help of the Holy Spirit. We will never live on our own independent of Him. This dependence will be maintained throughout eternity (Rev. 22:1–4).
Even more intensely will the Holy Spirit be with His people and carry them through the last short period of time when they will live without the intercessory ministry of Christ, since it will no longer be necessary because He has saved them completely, begun in them the process of powerful transformation, and vindicated them in front of the universe (Matt. 25:1–10; John 15:5; Rom. 8:14; 1 Thess. 5:23, 24; Heb. 12:1, 2; Rev. 3:10). During this short period of time before the second coming of Christ, between the close of probation and our glorification, the true believers will still need to be covered by the results of the Cross, the atoning merits of Christ, because of our sinful natures. We will still have a need for a “constant dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ.”21
One can observe an incredible pattern in the whole Bible regarding God’s intercessory ministry. It is very positive toward His people because He is for them, never against them, and wants to save. This crucial role of Jesus Christ’s is indispensable as the following statement indicates: “What does intercession comprehend? It is the golden chain which binds finite man to the throne of the infinite God. The human agent whom Christ has died to save importunes the throne of God, and his petition is taken up by Jesus who has purchased him with His own blood. Our great High Priest places His righteousness on the side of the sincere suppliant, and the prayer of Christ blends with that of the human petitioner.”22
Ellen G. White further explains the vast efficacy of Christ’s intercessory ministry: “All blessings must come through a Mediator. Now every member of the human family is given wholly into the hands of Christ, and whatever we possess—whether it is the gift of money, of houses, of lands, of reasoning powers, of physical strength, of intellectual talents—in this present life, and the blessings of the future life, are placed in our possession as God's treasures to be faithfully expended for the benefit of man. Every gift is stamped with the cross and bears the image and superscription of Jesus Christ. All things come of God. From the smallest benefits up to the largest blessing, all flow through the one Channel—a superhuman mediation sprinkled with the blood that is of value beyond estimate because it was the life of God in His Son.”23
We can come to Him with full confidence because whatever He does is for our salvation. In His actions He wants to be transparent to us as well as to the whole universe. He has been a great Communicator with His created beings from the beginning, because He wants everyone to understand who God is, His character, purposes, and will. He does not hide His purposes from His created beings; on the contrary, He opens Himself and His thoughts, feelings, actions, and the future to everyone who wants to know and understand.
Christ’s intercessory ministry is twofold: He reveals God’s character and His values to humanity, and presents our needs, struggles, and issues to God. The triune God closely collaborates in this double mission.
A decision for Jesus Christ means complete salvation—eternal life (Heb. 7:25), and He is always ready to help (1 John 1:8, 9). The following summarizes the four main functions of Jesus Christ as our Intercessor:
1. On Jesus Christ’s return to heaven, He and the heavenly Father met together to help humans in their everyday struggles with evil. The first tangible result of that meeting on our behalf was that the Holy Spirit was given to believers (Acts 2). All heaven is united in helping us in our struggles with sin, Satan, and temptations (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13). Jesus prays for us (John 17; Luke 22:32), and our best—and worst—is covered by Christ’s perfect life and atoning sacrifice. We are enabled through His power to witness to others.
2. Jesus Christ saves completely and identifies with us when we give our life to Him (Zech. 2:8; Matt. 25:40, 45; Acts 9:4–6). He saves, justifies, sanctifies, and changes believers into His image (Zech. 3:1–7). Because of His goodness (Rom. 2:4; Eph. 1:7), we identify with Him (Rom. 6:1–4; Eph. 2:4–10).
3. Jesus Christ’s intercessory ministry transforms His followers into His likeness, they grow in Him and His grace, and become more and more like Him (2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3, 4; 3:18).
4. Jesus Christ vindicates us against the accusations of Satan (Rev. 12:10–12; Job 1:8, 9; 2:4; 42). He personally stands up against them; and because He is the Victor, our victory is secure in Him when we accept Him as the Lord of our life.
Knowing this magnificent work of Jesus Christ “for” and “in” us, one cannot do otherwise than give Him glory. Doxology is the only proper response to His kindness: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20, 21).
Jiří Moskala, Th.D., Ph.D., is Dean and Professor of Old Testament Exegesis and Theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, U.S.A.
NOTES AND REFERENCES