The true spiritual meaning of scripture is hidden from many, and if certain passages are taken literally they can draw false doctrines from it. Scripture was written from those who had visions, and in visions spiritual truths are shown in symbolic form in ways that humans can understand. And this is one of the reasons why there are different religions, for in different dispensations of Divine Revelation, the Divine truth is adapted to the culture of the people receiving it. The true revelation of the internal spiritual meaning of scripture was revealed to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century, and it is this revelation which is the Second Coming so many Christians are waiting for - and they have not yet realized it.
For this particular post I want to concentrate on the symbolism of the right hand. The reason for this, is that it is imperative to understand this symbolism in order to under who Jesus Christ really is. After he rose from the dead, He ascended into heaven:
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19)The gospels of Matthew and Luke also declare Jesus would be seated at the right of power (Matt. 26:64, Luke 22:69). In the book of Acts, the apostle Stephen had a vision which shows Jesus clearly seated at the right hand of God:
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55-56)Paul would also declare multiple times Jesus was seated at the right hand (Rom. 8:34, Eph. 1:20, Col. 3:1, Heb. 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2) - as he was the one who oversaw the stoning of Stephen right after he had this vision. It is also mentioned once by Peter (1 Pet. 3:22). Moreover, all three gospels contain a quote from Jesus of Psalm 110:1, and Jesus quotes it to demonstrate to the Jews their confusion about the identity of the Jewish Messiah or the Christ:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (Matt. 22:41-46)Even back then, this raised a problem for the Jews. For there are many prophecies that declare that the Messiah would be born of king David, and some prophecies refer to the Messiah simply as "David." And yet if Jesus is simply a son of David, he would not be calling the Messiah his Lord in Psalm 110.
Psalm 110:1 literally says, "Jehovah said unto my Lord" - where Lord is the Hebrew word Adonai which refers to the Messiah or Christ. So is the Messiah another being seated at God's right hand? Then what do we do about this passage:
Thus saith Jehovah the King of Israel, and his redeemer Jehovah of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. (Isa. 44:6)Which means there is no other Divine being seated besides the one true God. And the other interesting point here is that here, as well as many other passages, declare that only Jehovah is the true King and redeemer, not another person distinct from Jehovah. And yet in the New Testament, Jesus is called King and redeemer.
OTHER INTERPRETATIONS OF THE RIGHT HAND
So if Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, does this mean that the Messiah or Jesus is a separate personality from Jehovah? And if separate, Jesus should not be worshiped? For surely God is one? If interpreted literally, there are two ways to go with it. One view sees it as blatant support for the doctrine of the Trinity which seeks to divide God into three separate distinct beings, yet declare with the mouth that "God is one" despite having three distinct beings in the mind. The other view - that of Arians or Jehovah Witnesses - sees Jesus as some sort of avatar or high angel that was created before the universe, who is separate and distinct from God Himself.
This is a very good example of symbolism - presented in a vision - when taken literally leads to confusion and falsehood. On the one hand you have many supporting the doctrine of a trinity of three persons, on the other hand many who see Jesus as an avatar, high angel, or simply a prophet.
If we take a survey of how this is interpreted, one comes across some simplistic solutions. For example, take this one: Is Jesus literally seated on the throne at God's right hand?. The author comes close to the truth when he says this:
The "right hand" is the place of honor (1Ki.2:19; Matt.20:21-23; cf. Matt.25:33-34; 26:64)This is close - for there is this long standing tradition, where to be seated on the right hand is the highest place of honor. But why is this so? Why is the right hand a place of honor? This ancient tradition was actually instituted from things originally seen in vision, but this is something that is not generally known. It still leaves the meaning unanswered. The author comes close to the truth with this statement, but then makes the following error based on a literal interpretation:
So, yes, Jesus is literally seated with the Father, at the right hand of the Father, but He is sharing the throne (in the chariot with the Father) rather than sitting beside it (cf. Rev.5:6: "the Lamb standing in the center of the throne")
We also have the other problem, is Jesus beside the throne, or actually sitting on it? The author commits another error:
God's residence in heaven is temporary - earth is the original place of His rule over creation (Ezek.28:13-14; cf. The Satanic Rebellion, Part 1), and the final place of God's residence along with all the redeemed will likewise be the new earth (Rev.1:8; 21:3; and passim in Rev.21-22).The error comes from literally interpreting "earth" as our material earth or globe, which is not the spiritual meaning. In scripture, the spiritual meaning of "earth" is the church, or those who are in good and truth. But the residence of God in heaven is by no means temporary - there is an eternal conjunction between the spiritual world and the outer material creation. This statement comes from interpreting other passages literally - where it is expected that the Lord will come down out of heaven and literally rule over the earth in the physical world. But this is an error, drawn from interpreting scripture in a very literal manner, according to what one sees with the eyes.
Better, we have a more correct explanation of the right hand from here: Right hand of God - Let us reason ministries. Here are some quotes:
"To sit at ones right hand means a place of authority, it was a place of honor it meant dignity and rulership. Throughout the O.T there is used what are called anthropomorphism to describe God in some function or characteristic. this is figurative language describing a certain characteristic of God it is describing his divine actions from a human view point."
"Their are examples of his arm which was a symbol of his power. the arm was used as the agency of strength, when the Bible refers the arm of the Lord it is consistently about the son, as God reaches into the Earth to do his work. Ex.6:6 the Lord redeemed Israel "with an outstretched arm." Isa.53:1 " to who has the arm of the Lord been revealed." Isa.63:5 "therefore my own arm brought salvation for me. Also in like manner his hand is used to most often symbolize an activity of service."
"The term at the right hand of God points to his exalted position he now is active on. There is numerous things that need to be considered to understand this phrase. The phrase right hand is a metaphor, God exercises his authority by his right hand."After reading through it, I realized this web site is actually from a Pentecostal or "Oneness" church, which does not subscribe to the doctrine of a trinity of three persons. Their doctrine is quite similar to that of the New Church, but many Pentecostals are unaware of the revelations received by Emanuel Swedenborg.
THE SYMBOLISM OF ARM OR HAND - POWER
That hand or arm symbolizes power is confirmed by Swedenborg, who references several passages:
"The reason why all things of the arm correspond to power, is that the body exercises its power by them. From this may be evident what is signified by sitting on the right hand, in Matthew: Jesus saith unto him . . . Henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power (xxvi. 64); and in Luke: From henceforth shall the Son of Man be seated at the right hand of the power of God (xxii. 69) — that is, the omnipotence which is the Lord's; wherefore it is said, at the right hand of power — as also in David: Thou hast a mighty arm, strong is Thy hand, and high is Thy right hand (Vs. lxxxix. 13). From this it is manifest what light is given in the Word by the internal sense, for unless it were thereby known that by the right hand is signified power, it would be understood according to the letter of the words, that the Lord would sit on the right hand of Jehovah." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 7518)Right hand signifies eminent power, and in reference to God, omnipotence:
"Thy right hand, O Jehovah, is become glorious in power. That this signifies that the omnipotence of the Lord was shown, is evident from the signification of the right hand of Jehovah, as omnipotence, of which in what follows; and from the signification of, is become glorious in power, as, that it was shown, for Divine power is shown by the strength by which it becomes glorious. That the right hand of Jehovah is omnipotence, is because by hand in the Word is signified power, and thus by right hand, eminent power. Therefore when the hand or right hand is said of Jehovah, it means Divine power, or omnipotence." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8281)
APPEARANCES OF SPACE IN HEAVEN
Understanding the symbolism of right and left is harder. In the spiritual world, there is no space, and appearances of space and their position is according to state. In the last judgment, the righteous are said to be placed at God's "right" and the evil on God's "left" (Matt. 25). It is from this spiritual appearance in heaven, and from visions, that the right hand became a place of honor and dignity. Swedenborg directly saw this in his visions:
"As regards the situation in which spirits in the world of spirits and angels of heaven are — at the right of the Lord are angels, on the left are evil spirits, in front are those of a middle kind, at the back are the malignant, above the head are those of a lofty spirit who aspire to high things, under the feet are hells which correspond to those that are on high. Thus all are in their situation in relation to the Lord; in all directions and at all altitudes, in a horizontal plane and in a vertical, and in every oblique direction. Their situation is constant, and does not change to eternity. The heavens there constitute as it were one man, which is therefore called the Greatest Man; to which all things that are in a man correspond." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1276)Swedenborg saw God as not something abstract as many religions do, but as a Divine Man. This again is an appearance, as God is outside time and space, but it is only through the image of a Divine Man that anyone can approach the Divine itself. Without such an image, there can be no idea of God in our mind. God is not just love itself, He is a personal being who loves all. All of heaven subsists from this Divine Man, and one's apparent position in heaven will be according to one's state:
"...heaven is so ordered by the Lord as to represent Man, whence it is called the Greatest Man; and that in consequence every thing in man corresponds thereto; that man, without influx therefrom into every thing in him, can not subsist even a moment; that all in the Greatest Man hold a constant situation according to the quality and state of truth and good in which they are; that situation there is not situation, but state, and therefore those appear constantly at the left who are at the left, those at the right who are at the right, in front those who are in front, behind those who are behind, in the plane of the head, the breast, the back, the loins, and the feet, above the head and below the soles of the feet, directly and obliquely, and at a less or greater distance, those who are there, however and to whatever quarter the spirit turns himself; that the Lord as the Sun appears constantly to the right, and there at a medium altitude, a little above the plane of the right eye; and that all things there have relation to the Lord as the Sun and Centre, and thus to their only one, from which they exist and subsist, and since all appear before the Lord constantly in their situation according to their states of good and truth, they therefore appear in the same manner to every one, for the reason that the Lord's life, and accordingly the Lord, is in all who are in heaven" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4321)
THE SYMBOLISM OF RIGHT AND LEFT
But what about right and left? We call people "righteous" which is related to the word "right", and the direction "right" is also related to right and wrong in the English language. The origin of this is actually spiritual:
""And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left" signifies separation according to truths from good, and according to falsities from evil. They who are in truths from good, in the other life, actually appear to the right, and they who are in falsities from evil to the left. Hence to be set on the right hand and on the left, is to be arranged according to life." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4809)
The reason for this distinction between right and left is hinted at in the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word yamiyn means both "right" and "south." This perhaps originates from facing east, towards the rising sun - one's right hand then faces south. In heaven, one's station as to north, south, east or west is also according to one's state:
"There are four states to which the four quarters in the world, namely, the east, the west, the south, and the north, correspond. The east corresponds to a state of good in its rising, the west to a state of good in its decline; the south corresponds to a state of truth in its light, but the north to a state of truth in shade (n. 3708). The state of good to which the east corresponds, and the state of truth to which the south corresponds, are interior states; and the state of good to which the west corresponds, and the state of truth to which the north corresponds, are exterior; for the more interior any state is, the more perfect it is; and the more exterior it is, the more imperfect, and therefore the more obscure." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9648)
Without understanding the spiritual sense, one can never understand the spiritual meaning of east, west, north, and south, and anyone reading scripture without knowledge of the spiritual world would never know there was something hidden behind these words. North and south correspond to left and right, and as all are judged according to the Divine truth, the good an evil are so arranged on the right or left.
THE IDENTITY OF JESUS CHRIST
All power in heaven is from Divine truth, and as the south or right signifies truth, so "right hand" signifies all power. To "sit on the right hand" is the same as to have all power, thus Jesus said:
All power is given unto me in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)
Only one person has all power in heaven and earth, and that is Jehovah. The meaning of this is that after the resurrection, the human that Jehovah had assumed had become glorified, and glorified to the point where it was completely united with the Divine. And one hidden truth is that once glorified, Jesus was no longer the son of Mary. During his life his external form was that of any other man, but his internal soul was Divine:
"The interiors with Him were Divine, from Jehovah His Father; the exteriors were human, from Mary His mother." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1460)
"But the Lord wholly exterminated His first rational, so that nothing of it remained; for what is merely human cannot be together with the Divine. Hence He was no longer the son of Mary, but Jehovah as to each Essence." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2657.)And that is why it is said all power was "given" to him - not to another person, but rather Jehovah had expelled the natural human he inherited from the human mother Mary and put on a glorified body from the Divine, that had all Divine power. And this is the hidden meaning behind Jesus quote of Psalm 110:1 - for once He rose from the dead, he was no longer the son of Mary, nor a son of David, bur rather the Divine Human or the God Man. That this was rejected early on, even in the church, is signified by the following prophecy:
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the false image of the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8)The "lamb of God" is the Divine Human, to be slain is to be rejected, and the "foundation of the world" is the foundation of the Christian Church. For early on not only did the Jews reject Jesus, but even within the church they divided Jesus into a perpetual Divine and human nature, not understanding that His very human was made Divine. For the true Trinity is not that of three persons, but rather the Divine itself (the Father), the Divine Human (the Son) and the Divine proceeding (the Holy Spirit). All of this exists in one person, Jesus Christ - the "arm of Jehovah" (Isa. 51:9).