The Life Everlasting

the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

 

For our final study of the Apostles’ Creed, we will study the final three lines: the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. These fundamental declarations are appropriate ones to conclude upon since they address our future and eternal state and our blessed hope within this life.

THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

In Matthew 22, we are given a glimpse of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem before His crucifixion. The religious leaders, who had already been plotting to kill Jesus, put Him through a series of tests. First, the Pharisees and the Herodians plotted together to trap Jesus by asking Him whether or not taxes should be paid to Caesar. A simple “yes” would have elicited a cry of idolatry from the Pharisees, while answering “no” would have been declared treason by the Herodians. Jesus, however, turned their attention to a coin with Caesar’s imprint and declared, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (22:21).

The next testing came from the Sadducees. They present to Him an extreme scenario of levirate marriage. “Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her” (22:25-28). The question was particularly fishy coming from the Sadducees, “who say that there is no resurrection” (v. 23).

Jesus’ answer is both pointed and firm: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (29-32). Mark even adds a final statement from Jesus: “You are quite wrong” (Mark 14:27).

This interaction between Jesus and the Sadducees tells us a great deal about the resurrection of the dead and its importance. Christ’s response contains three parts, so we will walk briefly through each section.

Jesus began by declaring that the Sadducees were wrong. Wrong about what? The immediate answer is, of course, their denial of the resurrection, but it also likely applies to their approach to Jesus in general. They failed to see the reality of an essential truth, and at the same time, they failed to see Truth embodied before them. While holding to sound doctrine does not guarantee that we will come to know Jesus (Exhibit A: the Pharisees), the bold rejection of fundamental truths does guarantee that we will not see Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Yet Jesus specifies by what manner they are wrong: “because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Their failure to see Jesus as the Son of the living God and glorious hope of our resurrection stemmed from their ignorance of the Scriptures and of God’s power. While the Sadducees only accepted Genesis through Deuteronomy as Scripture, they still devoted themselves to studying and understanding it. Yet their study was obviously divorced from God Himself and from His power to illuminate His Word in our hearts through the Spirit who authored them.

Next, Jesus answered their question specifically. He declared that in our resurrected state we will be like the angels, no longer marrying. Popular media has often twisted this statement into the belief that we will each become angels, but Jesus said nothing of the sort. We will merely become like angels in the sense that they have no need for marriage, and neither will we. As such, we know that our resurrected bodies will be quite different from our present bodies. Paul addresses the kind of bodies we will have in 1 Corinthians 15:44, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Like a seed, he argues, dies in order to yield growth into a plant, so must our natural bodies face death and be raised into a spiritual body.

Take note. By spiritual, Paul does not mean incorporeal. Indeed, our resurrected bodies will be physical, but they will also be spiritual and no longer natural. This implies a certain level of both continuity and discontinuity between our current and resurrected bodies. We will obviously still be ourselves, so resurrected bodies must be similar to our current ones. Yet they will also be quite different. Just as Jesus’ disciples did not always immediately recognize Him following His resurrection, so we might assume that our glorified bodies will look quite different as well. Of course, since these bodies will be eternal, they will not age as our current ones do. Nor will they experience any sickness, pain, sinfulness, or death. Matt Chandler fittingly accents the difference between resurrection and resuscitation. Our bodies will not merely be resuscitated so that we can live another round of life. Instead, they will be resurrected, renewed, and glorified. In short, our resurrected bodies will be like our current ones, except spiritual, sinless, and glorious.

Finally, Jesus answered their denial of the resurrection specifically. Since the Sadducees denied all other books of Scripture outside of Genesis-Deuteronomy, Jesus rooted the truth of the resurrection from Exodus 3. In that passage, God revealed Himself to Moses as being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus then makes the powerful declaration that “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Notice that Jesus ties the resurrection of the dead onto the character of God. Our bodily resurrection is an essential doctrine because God is a God of the living. He is the author, giver, and resurrector of life. Like all truths, this truth flows from the reality of Him who is Truth. To deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the God of life who also raised Jesus from the dead.

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Corinthians 15:13-15)

THE LIFE EVERLASTING

Intrinsically tied to the resurrection of the body is our belief in the life everlasting. In fact, the most famous verse in the Bible declares this truth: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Given that death is an inevitable consequence of living and that we each feel a gut-level revulsion against that fact, the notion of eternal life is a deeply ingrained one. Eternity is etched within each of our hearts, yet we sinned and will surely die. We live in a perpetual state of existential dissonance. We were made for life, but death haunts our every step. As bearers of the Eternal One’s image, we perish, exiled east of Eden.

And yet, “for God so loved the world” steps into the picture. Although we sinned against Him, God has not abandoned us to torment and death. Instead, He sent His only Son, who willingly committed Himself to thirty years of living in the wilderness of this life as one of us, who rescued us, who saved us, who gave His life to ransom us from the wrath that we rightfully deserved. Jesus, God the Son, takes our death and gives to us eternal life.

Revelation 21:1-4 describes our eternal life within our resurrected bodies as follows:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

With our glorified and resurrected bodies, we will dwell upon the new earth as the New Jerusalem, the radiantly adorned Bride of the Lamb. Tears, mourning, pain, and death are such ordinary components of this life that it’s almost impossible to imagine life without them. Yet our life everlasting will be free from them.

But as splendid as those promises are, they are not the best part of our eternal life in Christ. The true essence of eternal life is that God will dwell with His people. Communion with God is eternal life. Consider Jesus’ prayer to God the Father in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This verse is worthy of eternity-long meditation. Knowing God is eternal life. And by implication, not knowing God is everlasting death. This means that Heaven and Hell[1] are not merely future realities but also present ones. Although the new earth and the lake of fire are not yet physical realities, they are already spiritually existent. When Paul states that in Christ we “were sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:13-14), he is describing the same truth. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, who enables us to know and glorify Christ, we are given a guarantee, a down payment, of our eternal life to come. Through our communion with the Spirit, we experience the beginnings of our physical and sinless communion with God just over the horizon.

Our eternal life, therefore, must begin now. If we have no joy in knowing God now, we will neither find joy in Heaven, regardless of the wonders and riches therein. The Triune God Himself makes Heaven heavenly. Eternal life is constant joy and blessedness because of God’s perpetual and unhindered presence. A true desire for eternal life must be displayed through a hunger to know God here and now. We must seek Him through the reading, hearing, and obeying His Word, through praying to Him without ceasing, and through our communion with His people.

If you truly desire life everlasting, follow Him who is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

AMEN

We come now to the final word of the Apostles’ Creed: amen. The typical usage of amen is to conclude a prayer, yet the creed is not a prayer.[2] Why then does the creed finish with this word?

Amen means simply may it be so. It is a declaration of affirmation. Concluding prayer by saying amen is meant to be a proclamation of faith. By praying we bring our praise and petitions before the throne of God, we say amen to affirm that God both hears us and will answer according to His perfect will. In other words, amen is a statement of belief. It is, therefore, highly fitting for the Apostles’ Creed, which begins each article with “I believe” to conclude with “Amen.”

Yet as we declared at the beginning of this series, our belief must not merely be intellectual. True biblical faith has hands and feet. It does not only hear the Word but obeys it. Amen is, thus, a reminder that these fundamental truths must transform our lives. They must reside in our mind, while also infecting our heart and hands.

So when we say:

  1. We believe in the holy, almighty Creator of all things, who is also our loving and merciful Father.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, grant us the grace to know You in both Your sovereignty and Your intimacy. You are the Creator of us and of this world. May we submit to Your designs as children who trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

  1. We believe in Jesus, who is the Christ, the divine Son of God, and the rightful Lord of all.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, let us behold with fresh eyes the glory of Your Son, Jesus, who is the Christ, the prophesied Serpent-Crusher and Davidic king, our Lord and our God.

  1. We believe in Jesus, who, by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin, becoming a fully human, while still retaining His divinity, so that He could stand as the only mediator between God and us.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, may the incarnation of Jesus never cease to be good news of great joy to our broken and sinful ears. May it forever stand as a stone of remembrance that You will never leave us nor forsake us.

  1. We believe in Jesus Christ, the God-man, who, suffered, was crucified, died, and buried as a substitute for us, paying the penalty of our sins.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, may the crucifixion of Jesus eternally declare to us the riches of Your love and mercy for us. May we also joyfully embrace our own crosses as we follow in Jesus’ footsteps as His disciples.

  1. We believe in Jesus Christ, the crucified Son of God, who rose to life on the third day, triumphing once and for all over sin, death, and the grave for our redemption.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, may the resurrection of Jesus be our trustworthy hope in the midst of the storms and trials of life. As we meditate over the empty tomb, remind us again and again that the decisive battle over our sin is won and that the war will one day give way to peace as well.

  1. We believe in the risen Christ, who ascended into heaven and is now sitting at the right hand of the Father as our ruling King and merciful High Priest.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, may the ascension of Jesus perpetually remind us of His once for all sacrifice for our sin, and may we pray to You with confidence, knowing that Jesus as our mediator and High Priest is at Your right hand interceding for us.

  1. We believe in Jesus, the ascended Lord, who will return to judge the living and the dead.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, may the second coming of Jesus remind us of His sovereign rule over all things, which will be manifest visibly at His return. In light of His coming judgment, grant us strength to live lives of godliness and holiness while we await that blessed hope.

  1. We believe in the Holy Spirit, who is worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son as God, who has been sent to us by the Father and Son to be our Helper, to unite us to Christ that we may glorify and imitate Him by the strength that the Spirit provides.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, give us a deeper love and longing for Your Spirit. Let us yield to His guidance as He convicts of us sin, comforts us, leads us into all truth through Your Word, and enables us to pray to You.

  1. We believe in the holy, catholic church, the body and bride of Jesus Christ, the redeemed people of God throughout all time and place, who are ambassadors for Christ and His ministers of reconciliation in this world by the power of the Spirit and will be one gathered body of worshippers in the world to come.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, entrench our souls in the cosmic scale of Your church, the people whom You are redeeming throughout the globe and across all time. Let our hearts burst with awe that You would count us as one of Your glorious saints.

  1. We believe in the communion of saints, the glorious day when all of God’s people will be united together to worship for all eternity, and we affirm this truth through our gathering together in the Spirit to worship and fellowship with the saints here.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, we thank You for the privilege of loving this gathering of saints. Strengthen our love for one another that we will encourage, admonish, and equip each other as we all mature into maturity in Christ.

  1. We believe in the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, who has now given us His Spirit that we may have life in Him and the strength to kill the sin that still clings to us.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, through faith grant us an immovable confidence that You have forgiven all our sins by grace in Christ. Being forgiven, empower us by Your Spirit to make war against our sin each day.

  1. We believe in the resurrection of the body, the day when God will raise up for us imperishable, glorious, physical, and sinless bodies, and in the life everlasting, when we will live for eternity in the presence of God, knowing and communing with Him ever more forever and ever.

And God’s people say: Amen!

Father, let the blessed promise of our eternity with You also be a present reality as we set our heart and lay up our treasures in heaven.

We believe these truths in Christ, in whom all of God’s promises “find their Yes,” and “it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Do you believe?


[1] I use the uppercase H to distinguish the final destinations of humanity from the present holdings that currently exist. For instance, Christians who die are united with Christ in heaven, the spiritual realm glimpsed by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John, apart from their resurrected bodies. Yet Heaven (meaning our final home) is actually upon the new earth with newly resurrected bodies. Similarly, unbelievers upon death are taken to hell, which the Bible often calls Hades or Sheol, while Hell (the place of eternal death) is actually the lake of fire still to come.

[2] Although I do highly recommend regularly praying through the Apostles’ Creed.

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