A key point of the opening paragraph in Hebrews is the accomplishment of the Son on behalf of his people, and his exalted position at the “right hand” of God as their High Priest. He secured what none of his predecessors ever could. Unlike his predecessors, through his death, Jesus did, in fact, “achieve the purification of sins,” and afterward, he “sat down” in the “true and greater tabernacle” where he now intercedes for the saints.
The logic is clear. The “Son” sits before the divine throne BECAUSE he accomplished the “purification of sins” and dealt definitively and forever with sin’s stain. He is appointed “high priest forever” due to his victory over sin. The opening declaration anticipates the later discussions about his priesthood and superior sacrifice.
And though the image of him sitting “at God’s right hand” is drawn from the second Psalm, the letter’s focus is not on his exaltation to the Davidic throne, but on his appointment to the priesthood “after Melchizedek.”
OUR HIGH PRIEST
As their “high priest,” he now intercedes unhindered for his people – “Wherefore, also, he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near to God through him, seeing he lives forevermore to make intercession for them” – (Hebrews 7:25).
It is no accident that the passage refers to the “purification of sins” rather than forgiveness. The language reflects the Levitical system and its sacrifices designed to remove ritual impurity.
Moreover, the image of a priestly figure who “sits down” at God’s right-hand echoes the annual Day of Atonement but with a distinct difference. Under the ancient system, the high priest entered the sanctuary only on the Day of Atonement, and he never “sat down or remained in the Holy of Holies for more than a short time.
In contrast, Jesus entered the true sanctuary “once for all” and “sat down,” and remaining there, he now intercedes for his people.
This modified picture emphasizes the finality of his priestly act. And according to the letter, he will remain in his Father’s presence until God again “introduces the first-begotten into the habitable earth.”
HE SAT DOWN
The term “sat down” alludes to another key passage, once again from the Psalms, the text that prophetically summons the Messiah and “high priest after the order of Melchizedek” to do this very thing:
- “Yahweh said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” – (Psalm 110:1. Compare Hebrews 12:1-2).
- “We have such a high priest who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched not man” – (Hebrews 8:1-2).
- “And every priest indeed stands day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never remove sins. but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins once-for-all, sat down on the right hand of God” – (Hebrews 10:11-12).
The last passage contrasts the positions of the Levitical priests with that of the Son, the new and final “high priest forever.” The priests “stand” in the sanctuary while performing their duties but Jesus “sat down” in the Greater Tabernacle, the one “not made with hands” in the highest of the heavens.
And the repeated animal sacrifices performed by the Levitical priests are incapable of “removing” the stain of sin, but the one-time sacrifice of the Son did exactly that and “once for all.”
And even since, Jesus has remained seated at the “right hand of God,” having achieved the “purification of sins,” where to this very day he intercedes for his “brethren.”
In the letter’s later chapters, the Author demonstrates not only the vastly superior sacrifice and priestly mediation of the Son but also that his death does what no animal sacrifice could ever do; namely, the cleansing of the conscience of the sinner and his reconciliation with God.
And especially for these reasons, the removal of sin’s stain and his intercession for his people, the “word of the Son” is supreme over all others, surpassing even the word given through Moses.