By Samuel Clough
This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Part 1 was an overview of Jesus’ intercession and is available here.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7:25 NKJV
The Privilege of Interceding Before the Throne
In righteousness, we should be consumed because of our sin, but instead we can stand before Him and actually engage in dialogue with Him. He actually listens to us and we have the ability to hear the thunderous voice that terrified the Israelites at Sinai (Deut. 5:23-26). This is a phenomenal privilege, which is why everything in this fallen age is calculated to cause us to not appear before the throne.
“So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24 And you said: ‘Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. 25 Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? – Deuteronomy 5:23-26 NKJV
Standing before God terrified the Israelites, which is why they pleaded with Moses that he would be an intercessor for them. When we see God’s majesty, we are left undone, unable to speak ourselves and terrified at His voice. Isaiah faced this very predicament when He saw Jesus on His throne (Isaiah 6:5).
The Israelites sought an intercessor in Moses so that they would not have to endure the great conflict in their souls of drawing near to God and hearing His voice.
Moses was a picture of Jesus, and yet Jesus is far greater than Moses (Heb. 3:3-6). He does not just go to God on our behalf; He goes to God so that we can approach. Every moment He stands in a wonderful, terrible place satisfying the tensions of God’s just wrath against sin and His desire to commune with men. He bears the full weight of the holiness of God through His blood and His sacrifice so that we can approach. This is a very real thing that He does moment by moment. If, for one moment, His blood stops interceding for us we stand ready to be consumed by God’s holiness.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, – Hebrews 10:19 NKJV
…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. – Hebrews 12:24 NKJV
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. – Hebrews 13:12 NKJV
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, – Hebrews 13:20 NKJV
The full power of His blood is required for both sides of intercession. It is required for us to appear before Him without being consumed and it is required for us to actually hear His voice. Because of the blood we can stand before Him with the privileges of a son and it is God’s delight to hear our voices. The fact that the Creator would listen to a finite, fallen creature that deserves judgment should actually blow our minds. The fact that He would enjoy this is unfathomable. The desire of His heart is to hear our voices and this alone should be enough to move us to prayer.
You who dwell in the gardens, The companions listen for your voice – Let me hear it! – Song of Solomon 8:13 NKJV
We offer prayers far too glibly. Would we be so casual if the President gave us 5 minutes of his time? The idea of the Creator allowing us to speak to Him and ask Him to do things is beyond all comprehension. This privilege is so significant, that it required the blood of God’s Son to open the way for us to be able to speak to God.
The blood also allows us to hear God’s voice and not be destroyed. While His voice is still as majestic and terrible as it has always been, we also gain access to hear the still, small voice of intimate communion. It is the blood that enables us to hear His voice so tenderly.
The wrestle against you persevering in the place of prayer is not accidental, nor is it the result of boredom alone. The boredom that you feel at times is a calculated tactic of the enemy warring against keeping you from the place of prayer. One of the primary goals of the enemy is to keep men and women from the place of prayer and he is very intentional and strategic about it. There are a lot of other elements of Christian life that the enemy can tolerate, but he will oppose vibrant prayer with every power he has. There are at least two reasons for his opposition.
First of all, when me do not pray, God does not get the intimacy that He desires with men and men do not have the access to the living God that the human spirit cries out for. The enemy’s anger against both God and man is one of the primary motivations he has for keeping men from the place of prayer.
Secondly, God has orchestrated His kingdom on the earth so that men exercise government in the place of prayer. In the place of prayer, we are able to actually participate in God’s government by asking Him to do the things we know He wants to do. God gave the earth to men in the beginning and therefore it has real authority when men to whom the earth was entrusted ask God to do things on the earth. Satan’s primary opposition on the earth comes from praying men.
The enemy will do everything possible in his power to keep men from praying. He desperately does not want men to take advantage of the blood and utilize all of its benefits. He wars against men so that they will not enter into the full benefits of the blood.
The Heavenly Tabernacle
Moses was very clear to record that the entire tabernacle in the Old Testament was a type and shadow of a very real temple that exists in the heavens. It only had glory because it was a copy of another very real temple. In particular, there is a real mercy seat of which the mercy seat in Moses’ tabernacle was only a copy. John also saw the real tabernacle and elements in it repeatedly in Revelation (Rev. 7:15; 11:19; 14:15,17; 15:5-8; 16:1,17).
Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; thus He spoke to him. – Numbers 7:89 NKJV
Just as Moses recorded the ministry of the priests in the tabernacle on earth, the author of Hebrews is describing the priestly ministry of Jesus in the tabernacle in heaven. We must understand that this tabernacle is real and His ministry there is real and His ministry has the same purpose as the ministry of the Levitical priests had – to allow men to meet God.
The mercy seat in Moses’ tabernacle was stained with blood from years and years of offering atonement for the people and these bloodstains enabled the high priest to encounter the glory resting above the mercy seat when he entered the holy of holies once a year. Just as the Levitical high priests sprinkled blood on the mercy seat so that they could encounter God and minister to Him, so too Jesus sprinkled His own blood on a real mercy seat in heaven so that other men could come near as priests, experience the glory and hear the voice of God speaking above the mercy seat.
For thousands of years men were separated from God and He only spoke to men in limited ways and times. Moses clearly recorded that God’s voice was heard above the mercy seat, and now the author of Hebrews is telling us that we can stand, not before the mercy seat on earth, but before the actual mercy seat in the heavens and commune with God. Like the mercy seat in Moses’ tabernacle, this one is stained with blood as well. It is the living blood of Jesus. This is a phenomenal privilege.
The High Priest approached the mercy seat on earth trembling in fear of death, but we can approach the heavenly mercy seat trembling, but in the confidence that the blood sprinkled there will allow us to meet God and not die.
Jesus paid the very dear price of putting His own blood on the mercy seat because of God’s intense desire to commune with men again that He might hear our voices and we might hear His voice above the mercy seat. Our separation from God because of sin was very real, but God’s desire to commune with us was even greater than His hatred of sin. That desire caused Jesus to shed His own blood.
Jesus’ blood is actually speaking above the mercy seat crying out to men that the way to communion with God is open above the mercy seat. His blood sits on the mercy seat right now creating a new and living way so that we can appear before God in the place of prayer. It is a living way because the blood on the mercy seat is alive and actually speaks so that we can speak before God. Jesus’ blood is a living way giving us access to God and making atonement so that we can experience the presence of God without experiencing the wrath of God against sin. Life is in the blood and His life is in His blood on the mercy seat interceding for us so that we can appear before the very throne of God.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul…for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. – Leviticus 17:11-14a NKJV
To Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel – Hebrews 12:24 NKJV
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh – Hebrews 10:19-20 NKJV
God’s desire to hear our voice is so strong that His own blood is making a way for us to speak before Him. This is God’s desire to meet us in the place of prayer. This is also why the enemy so violently fights men entering the place of prayer. Ever since the fall, men have been blocked from appearing before the throne except for very limited ways. The way is now open because Jesus is making a continual intercession. With this confidence, the author cries out, “Come boldly to the throne of grace!”
Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
Called to a Life of Intercession
Not only does Jesus’ intercession call us to appear before God, it also calls us to take on the character of an intercessor. If Jesus placed such a high value on being our intercessor forever, then we should likewise enter into the place of intercession for others.
The life of Moses is one of the best Biblical examples of an intercessor. Moses’ continually stood before God as an intercessor for the people even offering his own life in exchange for the people. Studying the life of Moses as an intercessor is a very valuable exercise and reveals the life of an earthly intercessor. Paul also expressed the same life of intercession with regard to his own Jewish kinsmen. Abraham’s life of intercession is also revealed in his petition for Sodom.
And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Supposed there were fifty righteous within the city…Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”…Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry and I will speak once more: Supposed ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” – Genesis 18:23-25,32
Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin…Yet now, if You will forgive their sin – but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” – Exodus 32:31-23 NKJV
…I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh – Romans 9:2-3 NKJV
In both Moses and Paul, we see that the heart of an intercessor is the one who will stand in the gap and lay down their own life for others that do not deserve it. This willingness to give one’s life for another is the reality of what it means to be an intercessor. This is why Jesus is described in Hebrews 7:25 as the eternal intercessor. He did not just enter into this place with all His heart, He experienced it completely in His death as our substitute.
This is why it is such a serious thing not to fully respond to the work of an intercessor on your behalf. When we do not respond, it means we do not value the life laid down for us.
When we do not appear before the throne it is because we do not fully value the life of Jesus that was given for us so that we might receive access and mercy rather than justice. We are called to live this same life of intercession and to put our own lives in the gap for others. Intercession is more than just speaking words. It is expressed in the way we consider our own lives with regard to the purposes and people of God.
Like Jesus, Abraham, Moses, and Paul, an intercessor uses their favor before God on behalf of others. Moses risked his favor with God to intercede for the Israelites. This is intercession according to the heart of God because God’s own heart is self-sacrificing. This is graphically illustrated for us in the death of Jesus on the cross. His death was not only an act of atonement; it was also a demonstration of what God was like. When Jesus’ body hung exposed, it was God being exposed as He in fact He is before all men. An intercessor will have this same heart posture of trading their life for the lives of the object of their intercession.
Our favor before God is to be used for the benefit of others. Again, Jesus is the ultimate example of this. Jesus had the favor of the Father above all others as His Father’s daily delight (Prov. 8:30) and yet He willingly lowered Himself for the benefit of others (Philippians 2:5-11).
An intercessor boldly uses their favor before God on behalf of others. This is how both Paul and Moses challenged God on behalf of the Israelites. Moses challenged God to cut him off rather than cut off the nation of Israel. Moses had favor with God and he both used it and risked it to secure mercy for the Israelites.
An intercessor knows that God delights in mercy. This is what gives the intercessor confidence to approach God’s throne. The intercessor is actually expressing the desire of God’s own heart when they offer themselves to secure mercy for others. God delights to give mercy and this gives Moses and Paul both confidence to put themselves before God and make such extreme statements.
Let us set our hearts to respond to Jesus’ continual intercession. This means actually appearing before the throne. It would be unimaginable to have an appointment with the President and then not show up. Jesus has given us access at great cost. Let us value the price He paid and actually appear before the throne. In our deep gratitude for His sacrifice, let us go on and ask Him to give us the heart of an intercessor as well.
By Samuel Clough
This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Part 2, “Responding to Jesus’ Intercession” is available here.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)
Jesus’ intercession is not just a prayer that He prays; it is a life that He lives. He “always lives” to make intercession for us. He has given His life to the great work of intercession for us. This tells us just how significant this intercession is. Because Jesus’s pleasure is to perform the Father’s will, we also know that this intercession is very dear to the Father. They both see this intercession as worthy of Jesus’ life.
Not only is this intercession dear to the Father and Son, this is a significant work of intercession because it required Jesus’ own life. God has had intercessors after His heart throughout history including Moses, Daniel, Samuel, and Paul (Exodus 32:1-14; Deuteronomy 9; Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel 14:4; Romans 9:3) and yet none of them are capable of this great work of intercession. This work of intercession is so significant that it requires Jesus the God-man.
This is such a significant work of intercession that is critical that we understand the purpose of it and intercession in this verse should not be understood simply as Jesus’ praying in the way we typically think of prayer.
Jesus is not praying for us so that we do not have to pray; He is interceding before the Father so that we might approach the throne. Being fallen creatures marked by sin, we have no right to approach the throne and should face the wrath of God if we could approach because of our sin.
However, Jesus’ intercession allows us to approach God because His blood has been sprinkled on the mercy seat and His blood actually allows us to approach God. Without that blood, we would be consumed, but because that blood is making intercession for us, we can boldly approach the throne and speak to the living God.
Just as the priests ministering to God in the camp kept God from breaking out against the congregation (Numbers 1:53), so too Jesus’ intercession keeps the holiness of God from breaking out against us and instead creates a context where we can meet God face to face and hear His voice without experiencing His wrath.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. – Hebrews 9:14-15 (NKJV)
Therefore brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way that He created for us… – Hebrews 10:19-20 (NKJV)
Many have the idea that Jesus is sitting there praying to the Father for them. While this idea is not entirely wrong, depending on how you define prayer, it is not the entire picture that the author of Hebrews desires to communicate. Instead, the author is telling us that Jesus is interceding for us so that we can pray. The point is that we can actually appear before the mercy seat and pray ourselves. Without His continual intercession, we don’t have access to stand before the throne in the place of prayer.
If we do not take advantage of Jesus’ intercession and actually appear before the throne then we are neglecting the new and living way that Jesus has opened for us to the Father and not fully valuing His life and death.
Jesus intercession flows out of the Father’s burning desire for communion with His people. God is longing for intimate communion with man, and yet at the same time is completely holy and because of this is unapproachable to fallen creatures. The depth of God’s desire is demonstrated in the costliness of Jesus’ sacrifice and His continual intercession satisfies the Father’s burning desire to be able to have communion with us. Because He sits there as a mediator, we can now approach a holy God.
Not only does His intercession satisfy the burning desire of God, it also satisfies the deep desire of the human heart to appear before God. In the God-man we find the perfect intersection of desire.
The desire of God and the desire of man meet perfectly in the person of Jesus. God has desire for us and we grope and long for Him. Both these desires exist simultaneously within Jesus because He is fully God and fully man. Though men give themselves to various things to try to silence the inner ache, it is obvious that man’s inner ache is an ache for God.
There is a brokenness and a wound on every human being and it is a wound that is the result of separation from God. Even in the atheist’s cry, “Show me proof of God!” you can see the wound of the human heart that cries out to again see God face to face. Right now the billions across the planet are putting various bandage on the wound of their heart, but they are dressing a wound that is not healed but only continues to fester.
…that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him. – Ephesians 1:10 (NKJV)
Only the intercession of Jesus can heal the wound of man and create a doorway for the fulfillment of man’s ultimate desire. Only the God-man can give us access to our own desire while fulfilling the desire of God. This is why God is going to gather up all things on heaven and earth in Jesus. That gathering is the gathering of all desire. The desire of the heavens and the desire of the earth will intersect in the man Jesus and have their full expression. He will express the fullness of God’s desire towards us, which also expressing the fullness of our desire for the Father. Both sides of His being are swallowed up in desire and this is why He ever lives to make intercession for us.
…Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 1:9;12:2 (NKJV)
What joy Jesus’ work of intercession is! There is no way we can comprehend the depths of joy that exists within Jesus as He experiences the full measure of God’s desire for us, the full measure of our desire for God, and the full satisfaction of both those desires. It is for this reason that He intercedes for us continually. This joy was worth His suffering and it is why He loves His work of intercession and will continue it forever. Let us enter into the joy of our Master by fully responding to His work of intercession.
Watch for part two of “Living Before the Throne.”
By Samuel Clough
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the rightesouness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7 (ESV)
Have we fully considered the faith of Noah? He believed what he heard from God in spite of what was around him. We find that he alone had confidence in the word of God and the promise of God. What is even more amazing than his belief is the fact that Noah’s obedience condemned the world. The very way that Noah lived pronounced a judgment on the age in which Noah lived. (It is important to understand that, in the context of the verse, condemning the world is more rightly described as condemning the age rather than the earth. It is a condemnation of the systems and values of this age rather than a condemnation of the creation.) The word used here has the idea of declaring the verdict but not necessarily executing it. The execution of the verdict belongs to God always, but our very lives are a part of declaring the verdict.
How then should we live? As our lives are lived under firm confidence in the Word of God, our lives are proving the truth of His promise by the way His promises shape our lives. Our unseen, mostly future, hope then becomes the very evidence that the unseen thing for which we hope exists (Hebrews 11:1). Our lives are designed to be a witness and testimony to the truth (Acts 1:8).
Have we considered that our very lives are going to be testimony against the damned? God is calling us to live in such a way that we give a witness to the truth that is so authentic that it condemns those who do not believe. Saints, do we live this way? Do you live in such a way that your life pronounced a judgment on all who turn away from the gospel? Are you such a vibrant witness to the living, risen Son of God that for men to reject your witness is to condemn themselves?
Jesus did not leave the world without a testimony. We have the testimony of the infallible Scriptures. We have the testimony of creation which Paul argues in Romans is sufficient to bring one to at least a rudimentary knowledge of God. We have the inner witness in man that we call the conscience that leads a man into truth. We have the testimony of the very Spirit of God who convicts this world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
Besides these witnesses God has given, He also intends us to be the primary witness to the world. How that should cause our hearts to tremble. Who we are and how we live is to give vibrant and living testimony of Jesus. In other words, on the day of judgment when men stand before Jesus, should a man try to claim ignorance, Jesus will point to you and me and say, “They were a living flesh and blood example of Me. They were evidence that every word I spoke was true. There is no way you could have seen then and not seen Me. You are without excuse because the testimony of their lives was too compelling.”
Who is sufficient for this? Can you and I honestly say that we are witnesses to the extent that a man encountering us is as though he has encountered Jesus Himself? Does our witness have the power to condemn men? Can men who have seen us be condemned for having seen the reality of God and rejecting it? This is what the author is saying of Noah. Noah so carried what God had spoken in his heart that to reject Noah was to reject God Himself. Noah was a man of flesh and blood just like you and me, but what he carried in his life was so vibrant, so alive, that it was enough, in God’s eyes, to be a revelation of Himself to the unbelieving world.
Are our lives so much a revelation of Jesus that they would count as a verdict against the world? Are we enough of a witness to condemn the world when it rejects us? Remember the inverse is true as well. If our lives are so authentic that they can bring condemnation that means they are also authentic enough to bring men to life. It means that we are so full of the living God that there is a river of living water flowing from us (John 7:38) from which men can drink. If our lives are a real enough testimony to condemn men then they are also real enough to bring men into life.