Pastoral Q & A: Christ’s Intercession
On Ascension Day, I preached on Romans 8:34. Afterwards, one of my parishioners asked the following question:
Why do we see the intercession of Christ as an ongoing process and not a completed act like his atonement on the cross?
To answer this we need to go back to the Scriptures and pay attention to the exact wording of two key passages that speak of Christ’s intercession. In Romans 8:34 it says that Christ is interceding for us. Grammatically speaking, the verb there is in the present tense. It is describing something that is happening right now and happening continuously. Similarly, in Hebrews 7:25 it says that Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for believers. There you not only have the present tense (“lives”), but also an adverb to emphasize that it’s ongoing (“always”). There is no escaping the teaching of Scripture that Christ’s intercession is a present and ongoing reality. If the Holy Spirit had meant to say that Christ interceded but once (just as he was sacrificed and made atonement once), certainly there is a grammatical option in Greek to express that (the perfect tense or, less likely, the aorist).
So given that information, our question has to be different: why do the Scriptures teach that Christ’s intercession is present and continuous? Why does he carry on that ministry? I believe the answer to that is that he wants to constantly assure us of his love and interest in our lives. He completed his work on the cross and was raised for us — that’s in the past. But now he wants us to be confident that every minute he is carrying us on his heart. I say that on the basis of passages like John 17 (Christ’s high priestly prayer) and Hebrews 4:14-16. In John 17, Jesus allowed his disciples to listen in to his prayer — why? Partly to encourage them with the knowledge that he was praying for them (John 17:9). In Hebrews 4:14-16, we read of Christ’s position as our high priest. His sympathetic mediation is the reason why we can confidently go to throne of grace. His continuous intercession is revealed to us so that we would be constantly encouraged by his love and continue to depend on him in faith each day.