Apostle’s Creed #12
Revelation 21:1-4 & 22:3-4
Belief can be a very powerful thing. It’s a strong motivator, for sure! We’re often willing to fight for what we believe in - aren’t we? Wars have been fought - and man has certainly created mountains of grief... because of belief.
The fact is: Suicide bombers and terrorists all operate from their particular belief... while carrying out their intentions. So, there’s definitely a dark side to believing.
But, belief can also be very positive and transformative. Henry Ford (slightly paraphrased) said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right!” We can transpose the word “believe” as in “whether you BELIEVE you can, or you BELIEVE you can’t, you’re right!”
Belief is most often the basis for action... and I’d argue that belief divorced of action is no belief at all. We act upon those things that we earnestly, honestly believe. Mahatma Gandhi said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
And, the flip side is true, too: the moment we stop believing, our hopes tend to die - our striving ends. Be that belief in ourselves, in our own abilities, or be that belief in something beyond ourselves.
Of course, to simply say that we believe in something, is to actually profess our support, our reliance... our faith… in that “something!”
In Christian terms, we profess belief in certain tenets and teachings. Like the tenets of the Apostles’ Creed... that begins with that grand profession, “I believe…”
“I believe…” in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, and the Holy Ghost, universal church, the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins!
Of course, to say we believe in something or someone, is to declare an acceptance that something is true. It’s a firmly held conviction, a stance… It’s a trust or confidence that grounds us and offers us hope... and assurance, that may (at times) seem beyond our reach... beyond our ability... or even beyond possibility.
Such is the case with our phrase from the Apostles’ Creed today: as we reach the end of the Creed, it crescendoes to the ultimate proclamation: we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. It’s definitely the exclamation point at the end of the Creed!
What we’re professing to believe here, is not just the resurrection of Christ! We’re professing belief in our own resurrection.
Just a couple of weeks ago we discussed how Romans chapter 8 clues us in to Gods desire to redeem both us, and the whole of his creation. To restore all that was lost due to the curse of sin and death.
And that belief, that hope, that assurance… is expressed in the Apostles’ Creed.
Of course, what we’re saying is... we believe, that those who die in Christ… in the Lord… will go on to be with Christ, in (what some call) the “first heaven”… or in Paradise, as Jesus himself called it. As in... Jesus told the thief on the cross, today you will be with me in paradise.
So, this first heaven, or Paradise, is a spiritual place... it’s a time and a place of watching, waiting, and renewal. It’s a place of rest… from the natural, physical world - and the grief and pain it often causes.
We believe, alongside orthodox Christians from every time and place... that those who depart this life, in Christ, find rest from their labor. Those of us who are in Christ will experience a time of spiritual rest in Christ presence... until that day when Christ comes in final victory, when he returns! Then those waiting and resting in him, will return with him, in this new heaven, and new earth, to live and reign alongside Christ, forever! Are you still with me?
In other words, those who have “fought the good fight” and depart this life in faith, those who’ve persevered in faith, will be immediately ushered into the arms of Christ… in his presence… in the first heaven - the heaven of now - the heaven that exists at this very moment. The heaven that all of our loved ones and friends, who finished their life of faith, now know.
But... we will not stay there. It’s not our eternal dwelling place of the Saints of God.
Because again, when Christ returns, everyone who has died in Christ - will be Resurrected! Their spirits, souls… Our spirits our souls… will somehow, someway, re-inhabit our lifeless bodies, and we’ll be resurrected. You & I will be given new and glorified bodies, in the New Heaven and New Earth. We’re even told, that those who are still breathing - at the Second Coming - those who remain, will be changed… They will be given new bodies as well.
It’s hard to imagine... it’s difficult to wrap our minds around it... even when we profess to believe it with all of our heart!
Of course, Jesus is the example of what all of this looks like! Because after his own resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples, they knew him! They recognized him! But at the same time, he was different. And that same reality... that same hope, awaits us, and all who place their faith in the eternal love of Christ.
The apostle Paul, in 1st Corinthians 15 verses 53-54, tells us that our perishable bodies will be clothed with the imperishable. And that our mortal bodies will be made immortal!
The curse of sin… and the grave... broken! We believe that we will be resurrected… to eternal physical life! And we will forever live in reign in that new heaven, and new earth, alongside Christ!
I hate to be the one to break it to you… but in this new heaven and new earth, we won’t be walking along literal streets of gold. We won’t have magical angel wings… Nor will we become guardian angels. Angels are completely separate order of creation - they’re real - but we don’t become angels. We won’t be floating along on clouds listening to harps while blissfully watching over the ways of the world.
We will thrive, in a state of fullness, as we were originally intended to be… walking alongside our creator… worshiping, living, working, engaging in this new reality in the literal presence of our eternal God.
Eden… Perfection… Restored! God with us, and we with him… Forever his people. Looking upon him “face-to-face”… Without fear, in complete peace.
Lord knows I don’t understand it all, by any means... but I believe it. I believe it with all my heart, soul and strength... even when my mind can’t fully comprehend it...
Of course, you and I can experience full and abundant life NOW... today... in this life! Not completely... not perfectly... we still live in the “now and not yet” - the time between the fall of man, and the restoration of humanity. But... we’ve been given a taste, or a glimpse of life in the presence of our loving and gracious God! Eternal life and the wholeness that God brings can be known... NOW... through the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, living within us.
In Christ we have a promised future - and a present partnership! That’s why the Apostle Paul could say, “to live is Christ, to die is gain!” In life, and in death, we belong to God.
I suppose the point... and the hope of this 12-message series on the Apostles’ Creed (my hope and prayer)... is that you and I will know and acknowledge who and whose we are... that we’ll profess and LIVE both the promise and presence of Christ... NOW! TODAY!
How about it Church? Does knowing Christ’s promise and presence impact our lives now? Does it make a difference for us today? Are these words that we profess meaningful, and active... and transformative for us as individual followers of Christ, and as the Church, together? Does that promise fill us with hope, and purpose, and power?
I pray so...