At the right hand of God – Acts 7:55-56

Just before being stoned to death for preaching the Gospel, Stephen had a vision of Jesus in his glory:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56).

The book of Hebrews likewise uses similar terminology to describe Jesus at the right hand of God:

After making purification for sins, he [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).

Many groups use these verses to argue that God the Father must have a physical body like people because Jesus is said to be at his “right hand”. This is often thrown out like some kind of trump card as if, by itself, it proves the Father has a body of flesh and bones. If we used that same type of simplistic analysis, we would learn some other remarkable things about the physical characteristics of God. For example, that right hand is incredibly large; large enough to hold seven stars:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand (Revelation 2:1)

And we would learn that God has wings:

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7).

And those wings have feathers (pinions):

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge (Psalm 91:4).

His nostrils send out smoke, and fire comes from his mouth:

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth (Psalm 18:8).

And he can fly on the backs of the angelic beings:

He rode on a cherub and flew (Psalm 18:10).

As you might expect, these groups do not believe God has giant hands, or feathers, or smoke-filled nostrils. Just as these images are figurative, the term “right hand” is also figurative. It describes Jesus’ position of highest honor, his authority,  and his glory. This understanding of “right hand” makes all the more sense when you examine Jesus’ use of the phrase:

And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).

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