“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” –1 Corinthians 15:19-20
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
The statement of faith made by the Apostles’ Creed ends with the powerful declaration of hope that every believing Christian longs for. It is the longing for eternal life through truly entering into the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. Every Christian, past and present, has had to struggle through this fallen world the same as we do today. Life filled with struggle, striving, weariness, weakness, disease, physical brokenness, relational brokenness, financial hardship, and countless other real effects of sin and death in the world.
1 Corinthians 15 is one of the most encouraging chapters in all the Bible. In this chapter Paul focuses on teaching the church about the reality and eternal implications of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He is absolutely clear that our hope in Jesus is NOT just for this life. Our hope in Jesus is NOT just to get a better job, have a happy marriage, raise loving children, and form healthy friendships, but to overcome the final enemy of death with the eternal life of Jesus Christ. This is possible because Jesus has actually and truly been raised up from death to eternal life. It must be the confident expectation of every Christian that by grace through faith we also will experience victory over death.
We must understand our salvation to be multifaceted. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will finally be saved. When a person first confesses their sins and believes in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation, that person is justified before God. To be justified means to be declared “not guilty” before God. When we are justified, we are seen by God the Father as clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We have been saved. But sin remains present in this life. We move forward in discipleship becoming more like Christ through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We are being saved. At the day of God’s choosing every Christian will die (unless they are still alive at the second coming of Christ) and by faith enter into the glory of heaven and everlasting life. The presence of sin will be removed, and the glorious presence of Jesus will be present instead. In heaven we will be glorified, and our salvation will be complete.
Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection of Jesus is evidence and an example of the type of resurrection life we will share in. When the trumpet sounds at the second coming of Jesus the dead in Christ shall rise. Saints long departed will be united again with their bodies. We will forever be in person, not as disembodied spirits. Mohler writes, “What was weak will give way to power. What was dishonorable will give way to honor. What was natural will be transformed to spiritual. What was perishable will give way to an imperishable body that will never taste death. These bodies will live in immortality with Christ for all eternity.”
On this “day of the Lord” there will be a great separation. Jesus will come again not as Savior but as a judge. He will separate those who are His own from those who would attempt to enter the kingdom of God by some other way. Those who have believed in the merciful salvation of Jesus will enter life everlasting. Those who have continued without faith, living in rebellion and relishing the sinfulness of this world will be separated unto damnation. Instead of resurrection glory, there will be weeping, the gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, and a lake of fire.
Every true Christian should long for heaven. Heaven will not be like the foolish portrayals of clouds, harps, and bored people. Heaven is presented as so much more than this life – not less. Shadows become light, and where before we could only see dimly, we will see perfectly. All will be made right. All will be purified and glorified. All that is broken will be created anew. All that is sick will be healed. All that is at war will be brought to peace and the lion will lie down with the lamb. Here God will disclose Himself and be together with His people in a way that cannot be comprehended. We are told by scripture that these things are beyond imagination.
I believe that even though we die, yet shall we live. I believe that what is sown in weakness and death will rise glorious and imperishable through the power of Jesus our Lord. Leave behind your anxiety and fear. Put off the cares of this world and set your mind on things that are above (Colossians 3:1-4).
I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
< This is part thirteen in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >