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The Ascended Lord (Psalm 100:1–7)

by Doug Van Meter | Miscellaneous Sermons 2024

As Paul defined the gospel, he included the elements of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). These are the fundamental elements of God’s good news for believing sinners. Jesus’ death informs us that the penalty has been paid on our behalf. Jesus’ burial declares that that price really was paid. Jesus’ resurrection declares that the price was accepted.

But with the resurrection, we are reminded that Jesus is alive. But where is he alive? What is he doing? Why does this matter? What does this mean for his people?

On Ascension Day, our church, like many others, takes the opportunity to gather to celebrate Jesus’ ascension. Psalm 110 offers us some insight as to why we do so, and answers the questions listed above. By direct quotation and allusion, Psalm 110 is the most referred to psalm in the New Testament. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews expounds some of this psalm in a large portion of chapter 7. Since the psalm prophesied the ascension, and since it is referred to so frequently in the New Testament, we can conclude that the ascension is a big deal. The psalm reveals what Jesus was doing since forty days after his resurrection. It tells us what he is doing today. It tells what we can expect him to do one day.

This psalm was written by King David. He had the highest position in the land. And yet, as we read here, he was aware there was one who reigned much higher. This psalm records a heavenly conversation to which David was privy. It was a conversation between Yahweh and Adonai, a conversation, we can put it, between the Father and the Son. It seemingly was a conversation that took place upon the Son’s ascension to the throne room of heaven where he was crowned King of kings and Lord of lords.

The psalm provides us with the fundamentals of what we need to know about Jesus and his ascension. And as I trust we will see, it is very encouraging for, according to the Holy Spirit, who moved David to write this, our ascended Lord Jesus sits (v. 1) to save (vv. 2–4) and will one day stand (vv. 5–7).

The Ascended Lord Sits

The psalm begins with the ascended Lord seated: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (v. 1).

The “earthy” messiah (David) was privy to overhear a conversation between “the LORD” [Yahweh] and his [“my”] “Lord” (Adonai). The conversation sounds like a command, but it is actually a coronation by the Father of his Son, in whom he is well-pleased. Yahweh (self-existent, self-sufficient) crowns Adonai (Master, Sovereign) as King.

To sit at the right hand of a ruler is a statement of royalty and equality. At his resurrection Jesus was given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). That is, he was proclaimed to be God (Romans 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:16).

We are told by the author of Hebrews that “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). His work was finished (unlike Levitical priests [see v. 11]). Jesus sitting down was indicative of his penultimate words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

For forty days, Jesus continued to instruct his disciples, preparing them for mission at his ascension. Once those days had passed, he disappeared into the clouds from a place on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:6–12). This is where Psalm 110 picks up the story.

Upon his arrival in God’s heavenly tabernacle, the Father honoured him with these words. His new creation work being finished, he, like his Father, was given a Sabbath’s rest (Hebrews 4:10). Having secured the redemption of his people, he was told by the Father to sit while the Father made his enemies his “footstool.” The King would be vindicated. This matter of Jesus and his “footstool” is the theme of the rest of the psalm. The psalm is a promise of conquest.

Realise that Jesus the King has enemies, hence his admonitions to the disciples concerning facing hostility in the world. The fact that he is seen seated indicates that his work is largely done but that the Father will ensure that this work is acknowledged. It is not that Jesus is inactive (Matthew 16:18; Revelation 2–3; etc.) but rather the Father speaks indicating that he will ensure that the one in whom he is well-pleased will receive his full reward. Jesus sitting means that we can rest as well!

The Ascended Lord Saves

The conquest of Christ’s enemies occurs in a number of ways, but the main way is conquest through conversion. This is the message of vv. 2–4:

The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty sceptre. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 110:2–4

Note that, in keeping with v. 1, Yahweh—specifically, the Father—undertakes to send forth from Zion the conquering sceptre. This word is used many times in Scripture and can be translated “staff” or “rod.” It symbolises authority, whether that of a shepherd, a parent, or a ruler. Here, it speaks to us of the rule of Jesus. He exercises his kingdom rule through his word—through his gospel, we might say. Thus the Father is seen extending the Son’s rule in the midst of his enemies. This was seen initially on the Day of Pentecost in which the gospel was proclaimed to those guilty of crucifying Jesus (Acts 2:36). And observe that Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 in that context (vv. 34–35)!

When the new covenant church was planted in Jerusalem, King Jesus established his throne, even though many did not realise it at the time. By ruling his true people, saved by the gospel to become his people, truly many of his enemies were made his footstool through gospel reconciliation. And he has been doing this ever since.

We were once his enemies but have now been redeemed and reconciled. The middle wall of hostility has been torn down and Jesus is ruling as our king right here in our midst! Indeed, all hail the power of Jesus’ name!

Verse 3 contains a promise from the Father that the people for whom Jesus Christ died will be saved. Those who were previously his enemies will be conquered by the rule of King Jesus and will become willing servants. They will willingly repent and willingly be sanctified—including the “youth.” Perhaps Peter had in this mind when he said that the gospel promise was for those hearing as well as for their children (Acts 2:39).

Regardless, as bountiful and as numerous as is the dew from the womb of the morning will be those who willingly, humbly, repentantly bow to the Saviour. The Son will save his people from their sins, despite them initially digging in their heals as his enemy. Verse 4 assures this.

In v. 4, Yahweh declares, with an unchangeable oath, that his risen, ascended Son will be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” What does this mean?

The author of Hebrews gave a large portion of his chapter 7 to this theme. To summarise, Melchizedek was a priest-king. Jesus, of course, is Priest-King (and Prophet). Further, the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek has no recorded beginning or ending, which makes his priesthood a helpful template. The Levitical priesthood, of course, had a point in time in which it began and it was associated with all kinds of covenantal regulations. Not so with Melchizedek. This is the point of Psalm 110. Jesus’ priesthood is perpetual. It is forever, which means that he is able to save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus saved, Jesus saves, and he will forever save!

Christian, your salvation is eternally secure. It astounds me that people have, over the years, decided to not join our church, or to leave its membership, because of our conviction that Jesus forever saves. The faithfulness, the fruitfulness, the competency of Jesus Christ is a draw, not a discouragement.

That Jesus continually saves motivates us to evangelise. That Jesus saves continually motivates us to pray. That Jesus continually saves motivates us to raise a godly seed. That Jesus continually saves motivates us to invest our lives and our livelihoods in missions. That Jesus continually saves motivates us to persevere in holiness (Romans 8:31–34).

The Ascended Lord Stands

The third stanza of this psalm is marked by a shift from Yahweh speaking (v. 4) to apparently the psalmist speaking to Yahweh, pointing out the position of Adonai. And with what we can label “prophetic certainty,” he sees the ascended Lord exercising justice in the form of judgement on the earth.

The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgement among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

Psalm 110:5–7

The psalmist predicts a day of wrath in which the Master of the Universe will crush (rebellious) kings (v. 5). He will fill rebellious nations with corpses of those upon whom he executes judgement (v. 6a). He will smite every rebellious leader, regardless of who or where they are (v. 6b). And in all his carrying out of justice, he will never tire but will rather, as though refreshed by drinking from the cool waters of a brook, will complete the task.

The psalm opens with the promise that all of Adonai’s enemies will be put under his feet. And so it shall be, either through the gospel or by the fiery flame of his vengeance upon all those who do not obey his gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9). In other words, the doctrine of the ascension is not a truth with which to trifle.

To summarise, Jesus Christ ascended is good news for those who glory in his gospel. But for those who do not—who will not—it is bad news. It was bad news for first century Jerusalem (Matthew 26:64). It is bad news for rulers throughout history that have sought to stand in the way of the building of his church. It is bad news for rulers throughout history that have persecuted God’s people—including today.

But, like all bad news, there is the flip side of good news. In this case, the promise that all of Christ’s enemies will become his footstool points us to the first promise in Scripture: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

I love the appellation of Jesus as the “heel-crusher.|  Katy has taught that designation to her nieces and nephews. When Jesus died on the cross, he crushed the serpent’s head. Satan was sovereignly placed under Jesus’ feet. The devil became Jesus’ footstool. And since Jesus triumphed over all of the evil spirits, principalities, and powers (Colossians 2:15) they too were made his footstool. He continues to crush them today. Perhaps this helps us to understand the words of Romans 16:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Perhaps Paul was thinking of the Roman emperor and Empire that was just beginning to oppose the church. If so, he was encouraging the church to look up and remember that Jesus is risen, ruling, reigning, and, when necessary, will stand to bring about his judgement.

We have a beautiful illustration of this in Acts 7. Stephen, a faithful Christian, bore witness to the truth of the gospel as the focal point of biblical theology (vv. 52–53). When he finished, his hearers persecuted him to death by stoning. But just before he died, “he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” He then declares, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (vv. 55–56).

Jesus was no longer sitting, though he was still saving. He was interceding for his child. And he was standing ready to bring judgement on those who mistreated them. He would conquer, as the ascended the Lord, first by saving the likes of Saul of Tarsus. He would then conquer by bringing the Roman army against rebellious Jerusalem. In both cases he crushed Satan’s head. And he continues to do so today.

Will you look up and see the Saviour and be saved from your sins? Or will you look away only to experience his justice?