Last night, I had the privilege of eating dinner with Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church Dallas. While Jeffress is fairly well-know for his years of pastoral ministry and books, his most recent position of notoriety has been that of the “personal pastor” of President Donald Trump. If you were to ask President Trump about Jeffress, I am sure that he would respond, “Dr. Jeffress is YUGE!!”
I want to offer a quick word about Dr. Jeffress before moving to a portion of the conversation that I found interesting (among many). Jeffress and I disagree on a number of issues. Primarily his outspoken dedication to what I refer to as the “God and Country” mentality. Additionally, theological topics exist that put us at odds. However, Jeffress was completely different in person than what I had perceived about him on television. He is quiet, humble, and genuine. He asked me so many questions about my family, my ministry, FBC Oloh, and my education. From the moment I began to interact with him, it was apparent that this guy was not just a face on t.v., a spiritual advisor to POTUS, or a dude just trying to hustle some books, he was a Pastor. I greatly appreciated his kindness and repent of my “quick to judge attitude” based only upon what I have perceived of him from a distance.
Dr. Jeffress did ask me an interesting theological question that I had never quite pondered until it was posed. He has a children’s book about to be published on the topic of heaven. He sent the manuscript off to the editor, the editor to the illustrator, and so forth. When the illustration returned, it portrayed two thrones in heaven. Immediately, he was drawn back, “how could there be two thrones in heaven?” It then became apparent that when it was mentioned that Jesus was “seated at the right hand of the Father,” the illustrator took that to mean two thrones. He then posed the question to me, “do you think there are two thrones in heaven?”
I have never been asked this question, nor have I given it much consideration before I gave him my answer, of which I am about to provide in this blog. To begin, the confusion is understandable. After all, “he [the Father] raised him [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20). Or, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Taking these verses as they are written, it might appear that two thrones exist in heaven, or at least a big throne and a little throne.
However, God the Father is Spirit. John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Can a spirit sit? You may say, “What about the occurrences in Scripture when God’s “hand” or “face” or other bodily features are mentioned? When we see God the Father referred to in having body parts, or bodily features, these are known as anthropomorphic terms. This means that Scripture is explaining the character or actions of God by placing human characteristics upon him in order to have the readers further understand the ways of God in their own terminology. Yet, God has revealed himself in bodily form, a point of which we cannot overlook. While God the Father is spirit, seemingly unable to sit on a throne, Christ can indeed occupy a throne. For Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).
So what about this throne ordeal? I do not think there are two thrones in heaven. Pondering this thought, and I may totally change my opinion at some point, when Scripture speaks to the Son seated next to the Father, I think it to be a reference to the functionality of Trinity. It appears Scripture is applying anthropomorphic terms to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son. While the Persons of the Trinity are ontologically equal, from a functionality perspective, the Son is subordinate to the Father. This type of subordination exists in their roles, not in essence, but in the manner in which they function. The Father begets the Son and the Son sends the Spirit.
So when we think about the Son seated at the right hand of the Father, it is the Son that is on the throne as the image of the invisible God. Yet, from a functional perspective, the Father sent the Son to glorify Him through his life, death and resurrection, and the degree to which the Father stands over the Son places him at the Father’s right hand. Hear this once more, they are co-equal, of the same substance, but differing in roles.
Jeffress agreed (I think) and he said that he had already told the illustrator that there should be one throne in heaven.