We’re blogging our way through the “Apostles Creed”, one of the earliest statements of core doctrines developed by the early Church.
Resurrection is a word that the Bible gave to the world. Life without eternity, or earth without a heaven is ultimately meaningless. But the promise of resurrection which we confess in the Apostles Creed changes everything.
John Wesley said of the early Methodists that “they die well”. It’s a peculiar endorsement for Christianity at first glance, until you really reflect on it. Only a person anchored by the hope of heaven can face death with dignity and courage.
When I think of the impact the resurrection of the body makes, I think of three words. First, justice. The Bible makes it clear that the future resurrection will concern everyone who has lived, both righteous and unrighteous (Acts 24:15, Dan.12:2, Matt.25). What we do in life echoes in eternity, to quote Maximus from Gladiator.
This is a source of great comfort for believers. Psalm 37:1 tells us, “Fret not because of evildoers.” That’s a tall order 1) because there is so much evil in the world, and 2) because it seems that the ones who do it so often get away with it. But the psalm goes on to assure us that God will right every wrong, and provide a certain future for the upright. The evildoer may give the police the slip, bribe the judge, and cover his tracks perfectly, but God sees it all. All sin that is not brought to the Cross of Christ for forgiveness will be brought before the Throne of God for judgment.
Second, redemption. While a believer’s entrance into eternity is granted by faith in Christ alone, there are nonetheless rewards for righteous living. All the sacrifices we make in this life for the kingdom of God; all our obedience given through blood, sweat and tears; all the days of seemingly thankless labor we invest for God’s glory will receive full redemption. God sees and hears it all. Nothing gets by him, not even the simplest act of generosity we do in his name.
Third, restoration. Scripture tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor.15:50). Our bodies are too contaminated by sin. Death and resurrection is what will enable us to stand in our Lord’s direct presence because then “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). I can’t fly over to England with a crate of fresh-picked grapes and expect them to let me into the country. But if I were to crush the grapes and allow them to age into fine-wine and then bottle it, then suddenly it’s “Come on in! No problem! Glad you could visit!” Something similar must happen to us, to fit us for eternity.
But not only are our bodies restored. But the very creation itself – all the goodness and beauty and joy we find in this life which have been only temporary shadows here – will be restored to full and lasting reality in the age to come.
And in case you couldn’t connect the dots, this is why Jesus came that first Christmas, Charlie Brown.