“Jesus as Intercessor”: barely restraining God’s wrath?

That was the feeling I got all through the years when preachers would explain that term “intercessor,” from Hebrews 7:25.

. . . he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,

since he always lives to make intercession for them.

This “intercession,” I was told throughout my growing-up years, was Jesus’ prayer to his Father not to slaughter His people, since He had taken the punishment.

It was an unsettling picture in my mind. The Father, angry and eager to destroy. The Son, who stood between Him and us, uttering prayers night and day, holding Him off.

I pictured the Father with a somewhat disgruntled assent. “Oh yes, oh, that’s right. You’ve paid the price. No, I won’t destroy them now.”

I had the impression that this scenario played out over and over and over . . . and over. Because Jesus always lives to make intercession for us.

When I first heard this Mark Altrogge song [link] those old feelings returned (though to be fair the picture I had in my head is probably not what the author intended):

When Satan’s accusations
Make my poor heart afraid,
I hear my King declaring,
“Father, that debt is paid.”

Jesus my only hope, my only plea,
My righteousness, my Great High Priest,
Who intercedes for me before the throne.
Jesus, I trust in You alone.

I think it was one of the times I was studying the book of Hebrews that I truly understood what was going on with the “intercession” of Jesus. It was a joyous thing.

Even though we usually use the term “intercession” to refer to prayer, the “intercession” (literally “going between”) of Hebrews 7:25 really isn’t about prayer at all, much less about trying to restrain the Father from executing a punishment (one that would be just, if only His Son hadn’t taken it instead).

Instead, chapter 7 of Hebrews is talking about how Jesus Christ has finished a priestly work. Here’s a fuller context, verses 23-25:

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,

but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him,

since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The Father and the Son are not at odds with each other, battling it out to see which one will triumph, the “Harsh Judge” or the “Loving Advocate.”

Instead, the “pleading” that the Interceding Son does on our behalf, is, if you will, a passive pleading, because everything necessary to bring God’s people into His loving family has already been accomplished. These powerful and encouraging words come from Hastings’ Great Texts of the Bible, published in 1914:

He intercedes by the exhibition of Himself in His Divine manhood, pierced for us, raised, and glorified. His five blessed and holy wounds are each one a mighty intercession on our behalf. The glorious tokens of His cross and passion, exhibited before the throne of God, plead for us perpetually. . . . His very presence in heaven is in itself an intercession for us. His sacrifice on the cross, though perfected by suffering of death only once in time, is in its power eternal. Therefore it stands a Divine fact—ever present and prevailing, the foundation and life of the redeemed world—before the throne of God.  

Do you see all the passive language there? Jesus intercedes by His very presence, even as He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, as Hebrews reminds us over and over. He already accomplished all that needs to be accomplished. The intercession, the pleading, is perpetual not because the Father is chomping at the bit to destroy while Jesus is barely restraining Him, but only because in heaven there is no marking of time.

The Father and the Son are noted by perfect dignity and absolute oneness of purpose. If you are believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, then the compassion and care with which the Son sees you is the very same compassion and care with which the Father sees you.

This same book of the Bible, Hebrews, tells us that Jesus is not only the brightness of the Father’s glory, but as the KJV says in Hebrews 1:3, He is

The express image of his [the Father’s] person.

The “express image” is literally, the “engraving.” The “person” is literally his “essence,” or His foundational reality.

I’ve expressed it elsewhere as Jesus being the features on the face of God.

How do you separate the features from the face?

You can’t.

If you trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, then the loving face with which Jesus sees you is the very same as the loving face with which the Father sees you. There is no need to live in perpetual dread of the Father or to see the Son as continuing to restrain His wrath—in fact, that would be dishonoring to who He truly is.

Here’s the joy for those who have become the children of God through identification with the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: God the Father is for you. He loves you. He delights in you. Be no more timid, but believing. Be strong in faith, rejoicing in your standing in Christ.

You can now come boldly before the throne of the Father, for this very reason. As a child of God, you can be confident that the Son and the Father are united in their love for you.

There is great joy in that.

13 thoughts on ““Jesus as Intercessor”: barely restraining God’s wrath?

  1. Thank you for a wonderful teaching.
    Amen with rejoicing for the eternal and tender mercy of our God – Father, Son, and Spirit. I appreciate this so much: “Here’s the joy for those who have become the children of God through identification with the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: God the Father is for you. He loves you. He delights in you. Be no more timid, but believing. Be strong in faith, rejoicing in your standing in Christ.”

  2. I’m not inspired to love and passion by someone who can’t decide if he loves me or wants to annihilate me — if I were, I’d have liked Twilight.

    So I struggled for many years to “love” a God who was poised to smite me if Jesus ever moved out from between us.

    This post is such a good reminder that the peace I’ve found is the real thing. Thank you.

  3. Well put, Rebecca! We stand before the throne not because Jesus has to continually plead us righteous, but because He has ALREADY given us HIS righteousness.

  4. I am glad you wrote on this – so agree. This has been on my heart as well, and some songs that hint on Father’s supposed anger and hardness vs. Jesus’ meek love, really have a bad theology. The underlying premise that God hates us, and can only bear to see us because of Jesus, begs the question.. Who sent Jesus on the first place? Wasn’t that the Father Himself? Of course!
    The same Father God who sent His Son, loves us. The same Son who dies for us is also a fierce judge, the all-mighty King. We cannot separate the persons and their heart – WHo has seen Me, has seen the Father, just as Jesus said.

    (Some Roman Catholics of course have taken this whole ‘pleading for mercy’ even further and added another necessary link to the forgiveness process: for them, Jesus Himself is seen as an angry King, and His mother Mary has to beg for mercy for us! Craziness. How far do we have to go as humans until we can accept God’s grace as freely given?)

    • What I meant to say in my last paragraph was, some Roman catholics have taken this one step further, making Virgin Mary another missing link in the chain of forgiveness: some of them have this idea of Jesus as an angry Judge, who is just about to strike out, unless His mother tries to retsrain Him begging for mercy.

  5. This is a shocking perspective for those of us who have grown up listening to “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” being told that we were the spider that God loathed and wanted to drop into the flames of hell, but was just barely being restrained.
    It is hard to picture God being loving with those vivid illustrations painted in my head of his wrath that is just barely holding back the strength of his revulsion.
    It is hard to view that it was God the Father who sent the Son to bring us hope and redemption.

    • It’s all over the New Testament!! We wear the righteousness of Christ. Take a look at Ephesians 1. THAT’s what God sees when He looks at us. It might help to meditate on that chapter, and pray through it. Because it is truth.

    • I have heard so much of this famous sermon, applauding it as one of the essential tools that ushered in a great revival. Not sure if those people were genuinely born-again or only affected by fear and religious fervor.
      Muslim preachers also have sermons about judgement, God’s hatred for sin, etc… But that kind of teaching produces hate, not freedom and life.

  6. From 1 Peter 1, we know we have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannott perish. This gift is kep SAFE for us in Heaven and we are guarded by God’s power. “3 May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! On account of his vast mercy, he has given us new birth. You have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 4 You have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you. 5 Through his faithfulness, you are guarded by God’s power so that you can receive the salvation he is ready to reveal in the last time.”

  7. I totally love this post. Christ’s redemption covers our sins of the past, present, and future. We wear the righteousness of Christ. Period. I love the idea from Hebrews that tells us Christ sat down at the right hand of God– because His work is complete (Hebrews 10:12). And that in Ephesians, Paul writes we have been seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). Our “work” is complete– through what Christ did. Glorious truth. Thank you for making this so very clear. The implications of our position should work their way into every bit of our theology.

  8. I love how you expand on the idea of Jesus being the image of God as meaning that the love that I see on the face of Jesus is the same expression I would see on the face of God. This is the inverse of what I heard all my life! I always heard that when God looks at me, he doesn’t see me, but instead he sees Jesus. The implication is that if he actually saw me, he would be angry and disgusted. How good to know that’s not true!

    • Oh yes! That same old ‘God doesn’t see you, He sees Jesus’.. No wonder we as believers often struggle understanding His love for us, if we have to feel like God the Father is disgusted with us.
      I am sure He often is disgusted with our sins, especially the ones committed willingly…, but still looks at us lovingly, knowing that those who really are His children, sincerely want to live for Him and please Him.

I welcome your thoughts