But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly 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.
The Trinitarian Question
The right hand of God is an age old question that is presented to the people of oneness to show distinction between the Father and the Son. Like the rest of the questions that have been asked, this one only requires a little bit of study to see the truth of the matter.
The question concerning this passage is about what Steven saw as he was being stoned to death for being Apostolic. His sermon itself should answer any questions about where he stood doctrinally, but we will entertain this question to show definitively what Steven saw.
Opponents of oneness raise the question as to what Steven meant when he said he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. They say that Steven had a clear picture of the Father sitting on the throne and Jesus standing next to Him to His right. This is Jesus standing on the right hand of God.
So what exactly did Steven see, anyway?
The Trinitarian Dilemma
Let’s take a look at the dilemma that the believers in the trinity have concerning this.
Where is the Holy Ghost? How come “He” is never anywhere to be found? Why isn’t the Holy Ghost ever mentioned as being at His left hand or at His right hand or anywhere else? Maybe even hovering over the glowing head of the Father like in the Catholic stained glass artwork? It is always the Father and the Son being pointed out.
This is because of the dual nature of Jesus Christ. When talking about God, the only distinction is between the Deity and the humanity of Christ. That is the Father and the Son. This is not a distinction between persons, but of natures. The missing Holy Ghost is actually not missing at all. He is present as the Spirit of God. The Father and the Holy Ghost is the selfsame Spirit.
Secondly, who exactly was on the throne? They say that Jesus stood at the right hand of the Father, yet the bible says God was on the throne. Trinitarians assume that the “God” who was on the throne was the Father. The bible does not specifically say that the Father was on the throne. It says the right hand of God, not Father. According to the Athanasius Creed, the definition of God is all three persons; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. That would mean all three persons were sitting on the throne. So Jesus stood at the right hand of the trinity? This is confusing on more than one level. How many Divine Sons are there? Was one on the throne and the other standing off to the right? Was Jesus standing at the right hand of Jesus? No wonder people get confused about the topic of the Godhead.
The Omnipresence of God
To assume that what the trinitarians are saying is correct is to violently strip the word of God of one of its greatest truths; the omnipresence of God. The doctrine of God’s omnipresence states that the Spirit of the Almighty God transcends both space and time. In other words, God is everywhere at all times. He is not bound by any amount of space. He fills the universe. He has no place or time in which He does not exist. This is a truth that both Oneness and trinitarians alike believe in.
The problem here is that the stance of the trinitarians concerning what Steven saw utterly contradicts their belief that God is omnipresent. They depict Jesus standing at the literal right hand or right side of the Father’s throne. Where exactly is God’s right side? In order for Jesus to be standing on the right hand or side of God there first must be a place that God stops existing. Jesus had to have followed the Spirit of God to its furthest point to the right, found where it ended and stood to the right of it. Where exactly do we locate the place where God stops so that Jesus could stand at his right side? For Jesus to be standing at His right side, would obviously mean that God had to stop somewhere. Because He has a right side means that there is a place where He does not exist. Now that utterly contradicts the truth of God’s omnipresence.
The beautiful truth of God’s omnipresence declares that God transcends time and space. He is everywhere. God doesn’t have a right side. God fills the entire universe. God fills the heaven and fills the earth. David said “if I make my bed in hell, thou art there” (Ps. 139:8). God fills everywhere. There is not a place that God does not exist. There is not a place where God stops, or ceases to exist. There is no such thing as the right side of God because God is endless. God is absolutely endless and has no place where he ceases to exist where we can say we have come to the end or the side of
God. To say that Jesus was standing at the literal right side of God is a detriment to the truth of his omnipresence.
God’s Body Parts
The next question we must ask ourselves in order to understand what Steven saw is whether or not God actually has a right hand? The bible tells us that God is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24). God is not a person. No matter how many times they use the word person concerning God, the fact remains the same; God is a Spirit. Understanding this will help us to a greater understanding of what it was that Steven saw.
Jesus unearths a great truth during His departure as He bids farewell to the disciples in Luke 24. Jesus appeared before the disciples in a sudden and almost frightening way. The disciples were afraid because at first they thought it was a spirit that appeared. Jesus then makes a statement that would have much more meaning to it than just what the context allowed. He tells them “behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Lk. 24:39). He was saying this to calm them and give them peace over their heightened fear, but at the same time He unfolded a great mystery concerning the physical nature of God. Simply stated; a spirit doesn’t have body parts.
If God is a Spirit, and a spirit does not have body parts, then how can God have a right hand? The bible is clear about the fact that God does not possess a physical body other than Jesus, yet all throughout scripture it speaks of body parts as they were His. It talks about “the eyes of the Lord” and about how He would make your enemy “the footstool” and now about the “right hand of God”. What do these references to body parts mean if He does not actually have body parts? These are what you call anthropomorphisms. Anthropomorphism is a reference to something that is not human (deity, animals, etc.) using human terminology with the intent if helping to familiarize the reader with the non-human subject.
For example, when we see the eyes of the Lord running to and fro upon the earth, are we actually seeing God’s literal eyeballs (pupils and retinas included) physically running across the land, or are we seeing an illustration of the fact that God sees everything? When we see God making a footstool of our enemies, are we seeing God place His literal feet upon the back of our prostrate enemy? No. We are being told that God will come to our aid when we are in despair. It is an illustration of something supernatural taking place, but being put in human terminology.
We cannot fathom in our finite minds the infiniteness of our awesome God. This is why He uses terms that we can relate to. When God speaks, does He literally form words using a tongue, lips and His larynx? All I know is that from His being comes forth utterance and all of creation obeys. Again, we are seeing human verbiage so that we can relate to or even fathom what it is that God is doing because we cannot really grasp or comprehend all that God can do. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher \ than our thoughts (Is. 55:9).
Knowing this, does God have a literal right hand? The answer is no. We see in the Old Testament that when the Red Sea was parted, that it was the right hand of God that caused an east wind to part the sea. Did God literally stand there fanning the water with His hand until the wind was strong enough to part it? God, by His power and authority over creation, simply caused the wind to part the sea. He did not need an actual hand to do it. It was His supernatural authority that caused the miracle to take place and save His people. The right hand was symbolic of His divine power and authority.
Right Hand Man
In the Jewish culture to say somebody was at your right hand was more than just a figurative statement. When a king sat down his most powerful men sat to his right and the least of his people sat to his left. It was more honorable to sit at the furthest seat away from the king on the right side than it was to sit at the closest seat to the king on the left.
When you were on his right side you were considered a person of power. If you were on his left side you were just a common person. When they said somebody was at their right hand they meant this person is in a position of power, glory and authority. We have no problem seeing that same truth even in today’s culture. When we say this is my right hand man or this person’s my right hand, we are declaring their importance. We would not say this person is like my left hand. Nobody would say that. When we cannot do without somebody we say man this persons like my right hand. It is a statement that we borrowed from the Jewish culture. When the Jews called somebody the right hand man or somebody who was at the right hand what they were saying was that vested in this person is my very own authority. If the king was to give somebody the right hand position, when the king was away the person at the right hand position could speak in the king’s behalf and the entire kingdom would have to obey that decree because the king gave that man the right hand blessing. When the king was blessing somebody it was his right hand that he laid on them because it was showing everybody around that this person was now vested with the power and the authority that the king had.
In the book of Genesis when Joseph was promoted into the office of second under Pharaoh, the pharaoh even told him, laying his right hand on him, said the only thing that separates you from me is this throne. You have all the power of my kingdom and every decision that you make is like the pharaoh himself made it. The only thing that separates me from you is my throne (Gen. 41:40).
When Stephen said he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God he was saying he saw Jesus in all of His power and authority. I see Jesus in all the glory of the kingdom. He saw the same thing John saw; one throne and one who sat upon it (Rev.4:2). He did not see God sitting in the throne and Jesus standing to the right side of Him. God does not have a right side to stand at. What he saw was Jesus in all of His glory. What he saw was Jesus sitting on the throne and he used a very familiar Jewish statement “I see Jesus at the right hand of God”. I see Jesus reigning supreme in heaven with everything under His power. He saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. What a glorious sight to behold!
What happens next is very telling of the answer to this question. They were already beating him and even biting him for calling Jesus the Messiah and the Son of God. The punishment for that was a severe beating. When we read verse 57 we see something change in their behavior toward Steven. “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him…”
Before, they did not intend to kill him. They were beating him because he called Jesus Christ the Messiah. He called him the Son of God. It was not the same level of blasphemy to call him the Son of God so they were not going to kill him for doing so. Something changed when he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Why all of a sudden did this anger and rage come out against him? Why did the punishment suddenly change from a beating to a death?
They were not going to kill him because he said Jesus was standing next to God. That would have been a relief to them. They probably would have let him go for saying that. Hey, the guy went to heaven, no big deal. They probably would have let him go for that. But all of a sudden they wanted to kill him. They wanted to murder him because of what he said. Why? Because they had no problem understanding what he was saying. When he said the right hand of God, they understood. This man is calling Jesus God. This man is saying that Jesus is standing in all the authority of the kingdom and we know that that is only reserved for God. They cast him out of town and brought him outside of the city gates and they killed him there because Stephen was calling Jesus God. The Jews had no problem understanding this saying and neither should we.
There Is A Name
Here is the real clincher. “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Ac. 7:59) As they are stoning this man to death for saying what he said, the bible says he called upon God. That is a good thing for a Christian to be doing in such a time of distress, but what is he saying when he is calling upon God ? “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He is calling upon God and saying Lord Jesus. He is calling God by name.
As a trinitarian would tell it, Stephen was calling upon God saying Lord Jesus, yet Jesus was standing at the right hand of God. This is a confusing mess. We have one on the throne, we have one standing next to His throne, we have him calling upon God and calling Him by the name of the one standing next to God. This is all so confusing.
Here is what really happened. He saw God sitting on the throne and it was Jesus Christ. He called upon that God by using the name he was taught, Lord Jesus. This is something we still do today. When calling upon God, we do so in the name of Jesus. The act of using the name Jesus while calling upon God gives a very clear view of the position of Jesus when Steven saw Him. Jesus was on the throne in all of His glory.
In conclusion, we can clearly see that the question that is asked of oneness proponents about Jesus standing on God’s right hand is not troublesome to answer, but actually enhances the full depth of understanding concerning the oneness of God.
Steven is being beaten for calling Jesus the Messiah. He looks up and sees Jesus in all power and glory. He is considered a blasphemer for saying that he saw that and as they start stoning Him to death, with one of his very last breaths, he calls one more time upon that wonderful name; the name of God as it is given to men; Jesus (Ac. 4:12). What an inspiring insight to the depth of the great truth of God’s oneness.
If I ascend up into heaven, ihou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved