The Right Hand of God

by MW Bassett

The phrase "the right hand of God" appears in both the old and new Testament and being a strong graphic image, it communicates strong and certain attributes of God. Since the image is clearly designed to provide insight into some attributes of God, let's undertake an exhaustive coverage of the meaning and usage of this phrase.

The suggestion has often been made, that these images imply the existence of different physical or essential persons in the Godhead. This idea is false and based on the preconception of Trinitarian, binitarian, or tritheistic notions. Please carefully explore the scripture references, and examine the true revelation of the Holy Bible.

Peter preaching at Jerusalem ...

"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses, Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted ... For David is not ascended into the heavens, but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my LORD sit thou on my right hand until I make thine foes thy footstool" (Acts 2:32-34)

... quotes Psalm 110: "The LORD said unto my LORD sit thou on my right hand until I make thine foes thy footstool".

Despite any other interpretation, Peter reveals the exaltation of the name of Jesus Christ. (see Philippians 2:9-11)

Stephen, near death by the stoning of convicted Jews peers into heaven and Luke reports ...

"But he being full of the Holy Ghost looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand1 of God And said, behold I see the heavens open and the Son of man standing on the right hand1 of God" (Acts 7:55-56)

Please read through these references ...

Consider this wonderful preview of the savior to come ...

Questions:

1. Does the LORD (Jehovah-God) have a physical right hand , which defeated the Egyptians, imparted deliverance to Israel, brought salvation ...etc ?

  1. Is Jesus standing (as in Acts 7) or sitting (as in Hebrews 1:3) ?
  2. How many thrones are required to contain the Most High ? See Rev 4:1-5, and Rev 5:1-7
  3. Is there complete victory for the people of the LORD (Israel), or is His right hand restrained ?

Observations

1. Jesus has all power and authority (Matt 26:64, 28:18)

2. The revealed Glory of God is Jesus Christ

  1. In part, the authority of God declared in Jesus Christ, is authority to judge (by the Law, and Gospel .. ie The Word). In this light review Revelation 4&5.
  2. It is most often used figuratively, as in Acts 5:31. It should no be considered apart from it's Old Testament origin.
  3. The issue of being "seated" is not related to the physical posture of God.

"Right Hand" or "Right Side" ?

The Greek term DEXIOS1 is used about 52 times in the New Testament. It is in fact an indication of relationship, or orientation, and is translated idiomatically into "right hand" almost universally in the New Testament, although the term CHEIR (kheir, Strongs #5495) which literally translates to "hand" does not appear in any of the references to the "right hand of God" listed above, including those of Revelation, though it is used when a literal reference to the hand is required.

In the Greek, the oreintation of left and right are expressed by a pair of words, EUONUMOS, and DEXIOUS. If an equivalent vocabulary was available to English, a single word would refer to the orientation, and imply the hand, as determined by context. Another word would provide the same reflection of the opposite side. In English, the word right might be used to implicitly refer to the actual hand, but typically, the word HAND must be added to clarify. Thus, the subtly of Greek was not duplicable in English, and the translators added the word hand desiring to convey orientation through the popular use of the idiom. To make matters more difficult, the Greek never distinguishes from literal and figurative by adding CHEIR to the orientation word. Because of this, it should be understood that where HAND is added to LEFT or RIGHT in English, as translating from Greek, it will only sometimes relate to a literal hand.

It is more easy to see clearly in this when we examine the regular tendancy of English to utilize the noun abstractly where the adjective already relates to orientation. For example, the "right hand side" does not relate to a hand, but rather to the side of an object which would be adjacent to the observer's actual right hand. The phrase "on the other hand", simple means "the other side".

Orientation not only refers to geometric or spacial dimensions, but also extends into the realm of relationship, role and identity. A "right hand man" acquires the title from more than just an antiquated remnant of speech. The two orientations have various denotations, some of which transcend culture.

Our concern is with the Greek, since we seek the meaning of words originally expressed in that setting. With that in mind, and seeing person of Jesus Christ in the RIGHT HAND orientation with respect to deity, consider the contrasting meanings of LEFT and RIGHT in Greek:

EUONUMOS or "left hand"

From Thayers: "1) of good name and of good omen, 2) in the latter sense used in taking auguries; but those omens were euphemistically called "euonumos" which in fact were regarded as unlucky, i.e. which came from the left, sinister omens, (for which a good name was desired) "

In the Greek, the left related to a good reputation or name.

DEXIOUS or "right hand"

Thayers has "a place of honour or authority". Strongs adds "from the right (or feminine hand), as that which usually takes.

WHERE DOES JESUS STAND ?

If looking toward the heavens for God, one were to see Jesus, where would the Savior appear with respect to the God that made mankind, and which mankind seeks for healing, deliverance and salvation ?

When JEWS, the first audience with Jesus Christ, were positioned for an encounter with God, God's REPUTATION and HONOR were not in question. Followers of Moses had no dispute with God when he required "For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy , for I am holy ." Lev 11:45

God's reputation was unblemished, rather it was man's reputation that left him separated from hope, and needing a Savior. It was the means of approach which was wanting, or at least, it was man's ability to approach God, through the methods revealed at that time, that was in question.. All were known lawbreakers, all were without merit, or righteousness. The Law could reveal the holiness of God, and even replicate in type and shadow God's revealed way of approach, but it could not transform man to be quailfied to follow that path!

The WONDER of the incarnation is that the very God, whose holiness and power was in itself the weight of judgment against man's transgression, had Himself become flesh and paid the price of sin in his mortal frame. Unto the Apostles, this was nothing short of awesome. It was an undeniable call to worship and obedience to this Great God and Savior!

Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom [be] honour and power everlasting. Amen. - 1 Tim 6:15

As stones crushed life out of his earthly tabernacle Stephen looked up, and His path was uninhibited. Stephen had received the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism, Stephen had received the Spirit of the Mighty God into his life to reveal the fullness of the riches in Jesus Christ to Him. As he looked up, he saw One who HE KNOW PERSONALLY standing in the PLACE OF RECEPTION, and IN THE PLACE OF HONOR AND POWER..

When mortal man seeks God, the wonderful revelation of God in Christ Jesus does not stand at the EUONUMOS of God, rather Jesus was seen as the DEXIOUS of God. Jesus does NOT demonstrate God's reputation, as much as Jesus demonstrates His POWER and WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE man into the fellowship of eternal salvation. While feminine, as receiver, the DEXIOUS equally imparts the power and authority. Through Jesus we know that God not only DESIRES to SAVE, but has extended HIS AUTHORITY and POWER "to take out of them a people for his name" (Acts 15:14)

Praise GOD! Who can stand between us and eternal life, if we have come to know the one who HAS LIFE, personally! God has ordained that Jesus, standing in representation of His and at the RECEIVING

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world ; but that the world through him might be saved." - John 3:17

"For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" - 1 Tim 2:3-5

Old Testament

The Old Testament references cited above exclusively derive from the Hebrew term "yamin" which, just like it's Greek counterpart refers to the right side, the opposite of the left side. Again, the respective Hebrew term for hand, or arm (yad) does not appear in conjunction with "right" in the original language. However, God does frequently refer to his operations and sovereign activities as being carried out by his hand, or arm, for example:

"And it shall be when thine son asketh thee in time to come, saying What is this ? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage" Exodus 7:15

The actual references in the Old Testament to the figure of the "right hand" number in the hundreds.

Interestingly, the term right is used in Ecclesiastes: " wise man's heart is at his right hand, but a fools heart is at his left" - Eccl 10:2

Looking deeper into other references to the hand

a. It is considered to be responsible for action. In Matthew 18:8 "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."

b. It is authoritative. The honor and dominion of the person is symbolized by his hand. From Joshua 11:8 ... "And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel."

We might add that the Bible repeatedly pictures leprosy, a disease epitomizing sin wherein fingers, hands, feet and other extremities are desensitized and finally lost, as attacking the hand as in Exodus 4:6.

It is in with these facts in mind that we must consider the combining of the terms "right" and "hand" (or arm). The right is a place of honor and exaltation, the place that the Living God now occupies before the race of Adam, having purged our sins while revealing "the power of God unto salvation", in the person of Jesus Christ. The hand is the instrument of action, and the member of power. Looking back now unto the days of the prophets from where only dimly did the light of hope enter the soul, consider that condition and then the faith of David in Psalm 77:10 ...

"And I said this is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High".

All hope in those days was focused upon whatever lay beyond the gruesome smoke and horror of that flaming brazen altar, but the prophet gave some insight into that hope:

"Now I know that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven by the saving strength of his right hand." -Psalm 20:6

Upon the rending of the Temple veil, the situation changed completely and forever, Praise the Lord! When the conquest was complete, Jesus pronounced from His place of glorification, "It is finished". As a triumphant Prince, returning from the ultimate victory, his position in eternity was forever established as enlightened by Hebrews 10:12 ...

"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God:"

Articulately, the writer identifies the seated deity as a man! The work of salvation had been done, Jesus Christ, the God-Man has proven the power of Salvation, and is himself that power to every applicant. As John tells us ... "But as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. " John 1:12

To further elaborate, sons of the only begotten, through the rebirth of the water and the Spirit. Again, it is a man seated upon the throne of the universe! He is no pretender unto the throne of the human heart, having received exaltation by Eternal God, and before all men. We can say with confidence that God underwent a transformation to bring salvation according to 1 Timothy 3:16. He, the Savior, is displayed before the world without a flaw, being the express image of God (Heb 1:3).

As the peace of God settled Stephen, passing unto his promise, He saw precisely what the prophet predicted ... "And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed and all flesh shall seeit, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it." Isa 40:5

Notice that it is recorded that Stephen saw only one identity or bodily presence in the phrase from Acts 7:55 - "the glory of God and Jesus".

Nowhere is it indicated that "the glory of God" is other that the very person of Jesus Christ. In Acts 7:56, we see Jesus standing in the place of power. The word "standing" is translated from the Greek "Isthmi" (histemi), which as in English is used figuratively to indicate "established" or "appointed". Thus there is no contradiction between Hebrews 8:1 and Acts 7:56, and noting this we should also admit that neither verse provides any information regarding a location of Jesus an a imagined separate Father God in heaven.

How appropriate for the Holy Ghost to move Peter to declare Psalm 110, insofar as this one-time-only event is the public record of the most awesome work of God ever witnessed by mankind!

"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses, Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted ... For David is not ascended into the heavens, but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my LORD sit thou on my right hand until I make thine foes thy footstool" (Acts 2:32-34)

Summary

The anthropomorphic reference to God's hand is more than appropriate in anticipating and later exemplifying the purpose of God's manifestation in human flesh. The hand refers to action, and is the first place of encounter.

A comparison of the implications of right vs left is a meaningful component of the message of scripture, when Jesus Christ, or pre-figured Christ is in focus through this instrument.

Often we have heard mentioned that the RIGHT represents power and authority, describing Jesus as triumphing over sin, but further evaluation shows that the authority of God stands to usher man into the presence of an otherwise unapproachable God. Both hands (sides) of God are visible in Jesus Christ. If the hand of God is extended towards man then, it is a hand of acceptance and reception. There is salvation in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having defused the error of language shortcomings, let us feast on the true revelation of the wonderful face of the Everlasting Father, the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 The Greek term dexiou (dexios)

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