The Doctrine of Intercession


Do we have a Cheerleader in Heaven?

Jesus’ intercessory prayer on our behalf serves as a source of comfort and assurance in (at least) four ways:

  1. Jesus’ interceding on our behalf assures us of eternal life. Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25). Philip Hughes comments on this passage, “How can we who draw near to God through Christ fail to be eternally secure in view of the fact not only that he always lives but also that as our ever living priest He never ceases to make intercessionfor us in the heavenly sanctuary? With Him as our intercessor, supporting us with His love, there is no force that can daunt or overpower us (cf. Phil. 4:3; Rom. 8:37).[1]
  2. Jesus’ interceding on our behalf assures us of strength, even when we fail. When Jesus informed Peter that he would be sifted by Satan, He added, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus comforts Peter with the assurance that though he may be tested by the power of hell, he will be strengthened to turn back. When Jesus prays for Peter, it is not a question of “if you turn back,” but rather of “when you turn back.” When we stumble and fall, Jesus does not turn away, but prays that our faith may not fail. Jesus’ intercession will be answered by the Father, who will strengthen us for life’s journey until we are safe at home with Him.
  3. Jesus’ interceding on our behalf assures us of His love for us. If Aaron, in the Old Testament, bore the names of the sons of Israel upon his heart as he wore his breastpiece (Ex. 28:6ff.; 39:1ff.), then with greater delight our High Priest has our names upon His heart. We are remembered by our Lord as He prays to the Father for us. Jesus prayed for Peter by name during His earthly ministry. Is it too much for Him to remember us by name in His heavenly ministry? Jesus says He knows His own sheep by name (John 10:3, 14). When Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus, He called him by name (Acts 9:4). Surely our High Priest knows our name and prays for us. When we think that we are alone and no one cares about us, remember that our Savior knows us personally and prays for us by name.

As our High Priest, Jesus fully identifies with all that we face in life. He has suffered. He was tempted in every way. During His life on earth, “He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7). And so our High Priest is able to sympathize with all our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). He understands and has compassion for us. He knows, He feels, what we are going through, and so he prays for us.

  1. Jesus’ interceding on our behalf assures us of intimate communion with God. His praying for us is not pleading with a displeased, angry Father. Rather, His intercession is in harmony with the Father’s will to love us and communicate all spiritual blessings to us as His children.

Communion with God

The culmination of blessing is to be in the presence of God, enjoying communion with Him. As our High Priest, Jesus has led the way in this communion, representing us before the Father. Because He has been made like us in every way, yet without sin, our humanity is in the presence of God and receives the fullness of blessing. Geerhardus Vos explains, “Through the priest the people enter representatively into the sanctuary of perfect communion with God. Thus the priest not merely works in their interest, but also receives and enjoys in their behalf the fruit of his own labors. He dwells with God as the first heir of the blessedness to which His ministry has opened the way.”[2] This blessing of being in the presence of God is now, and will be fully, communicated to us in Christ.

We are even now in the presence of God. We are exhorted to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). And by faith we should recognize that “you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24). An intimate communion with God is ours by faith. It will never be broken, because Christ prays for us before the Father.

And in the future, you will fully experience what is yours now by faith. Jesus is interceding on your behalf in order that what he experiences fully now will be fully experienced by you throughout eternity. The goal of Christ’s mediatorial work, then, is nothing less than the perfection of the covenant of grace. That goal is to be in the full presence of our God, that he might delight in us as his people, and that we might enjoy him forever as our God.

Adapted from William B. Kessler.  See the full article here.

[1] A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, pgs. 269-70.

[2] Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, pgs. 137-38.

The Doctrine of Intercession

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