Peter gives his listeners an important detail concerning the presence of Jesus in heaven. His words stress more than merely saying that Jesus is in heaven. They reveal that he is there in a particular capacity, that he is there in the role of always being ‘received’. This is language taken from the courts of government. For example, the Prime Minister is received into the presence of the monarch; when he is there he is being ‘received’ in an official manner connected to his role. Of course, if he also happened to be a member of the royal family, he would be received there in another manner. While earthly leaders do not combine these important roles, Jesus combines them in a far higher way.
Since he is a member of the royal family of heaven, being the eternal Son of the heavenly Father, Jesus is received there in the sense of being at home. In a way that is far beyond our abilities to imagine or appreciate fully, heaven is the home of Jesus. He himself described it as ‘my Father’s house’. In a manner similar to how we are received in our homes, so Jesus is always welcome in the heavenly home. There he enjoys the provisions and resources of that home, and he enjoys them as part of his privileges as the heir of all things. He has a right to be received in heaven because he is the Son of the Father.
There is a second way by which Jesus is received into heaven, and this is connected to what we would describe as honour. The Prime Minister is given access to the Palace because he has been given a privileged role in the running of the country. In a far higher sense, Jesus has a role in the ongoing development of God’s kingdom. He has been exalted to the highest position as Lord and his place is not under threat at a future election. Instead he has been given this place of honour until a definite date; this date will be when he returns a second time. This does not mean that he will cease to be Lord when that happens (his role as Judge of all created beings will reveal that he is still Lord of all, which Paul makes clear in Philippians 2:9-11). Instead it means that he is received with honour as he fulfils his various roles in the present, which have been helpfully summarised as Prophet, Priest and King. His continuing reception in heaven enables him to teach his people by evangelism and education in the faith, to bless his people by forgiving their sins and sending the Spirit to convey heavenly blessings to their souls, and to defend his people from their internal and external enemies. It is good for us that Jesus enjoys a continual reception in heaven.
A third way of considering the reception of Jesus is to see it as the reason for hope. Hope in biblical language is not some vague expectation but instead is a positive certainty about future situations of divine pleasure. Often leaders of nations make many promises about what they would like to bring about, and human history is evidence of their incapability of fulfilling them, no matter how dedicated they were to the task. Yet such can never be said about Jesus Christ. The future of God’s cause is in his hands and therefore we can have certain hope. Peter could have mentioned many details of the future, but he covers them all in his description, ‘the restoration of all things’, which we will think about tomorrow.