Apostle’s Creed: Week Three

We have arrived at the third week of examining the Apostle’s Creed (see week one here and week two here). This is the creed with this week’s section highlighted in bold font:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by 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 rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence 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. AMEN.

Christians have told the story of Jesus’ death since the inception of our religion. We agree that Christ was dead for three days before his resurrection. This doesn’t necessitate seventy-two hours, but rather part of Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday when he rose from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection led to a time where he dwelt with his disciples on earth before ascending into heaven. We shouldn’t think of this as Jesus flying into space somewhere beyond Jupiter and Saturn, but rather the spacial, cosmological language describes Jesus’ return to the realm of Heaven where God the Father reigns. In the Book of Acts Jesus goes upward into heaven. Angels inform the disciples that he will return to earth as he went (1.9-11). Later in the same book a martyr named Stephen sees Jesus in heaven, sitting on a throne in the authority of God the Father (7.56).

This language is common in the New Testament. Jesus resurrected and he ascended into heaven. He reigns authoritatively as God’s chosen King over earth, though he is not on earth. He will return. The Apostle Paul described it similar to the Book of Acts stating that Jesus would return in the sky (see 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18). In 1 John 2.28 this event is described as Jesus’ “appearing”. It is not that he is completely absent, but as he dwells in the heavenly realm he is not visible. Jesus’ Second Coming can be described as an “appearing” as much as a coming. Another relevant text worth studying is Ephesians 1.3-14.

Jesus’ return is seen as a time of judgment. Jesus was often described as the “Son of Man”. This takes its cue from Daniel 7 where the Son of Man comes to judge on behalf of the Ancient of Days (God). In the Gospels we have several discussions about Jesus returning to judge. The Apostle Paul talks about God judging through Christ throughout his epistles. Likewise, the Book of Revelation shows Jesus as God’s chosen judge over the world, purging it of evil and making creation into the good place of dwelling intended by God.

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