Resurrection and life to come (Nicene Creed #13 - conclusion)
We are examining the Creed's final clause:
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Last time we addressed one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Now we'll address the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. We begin by noting how the Creed links the resurrection with the forgiveness of sins. As noted by Thomas F. (T.F.) Torrance (in The Trinitarian Faith), this linkage was of particular importance to the Creed's framers, "for it meant that forgiveness was not in word only but enacted in the concrete reality of human physical existence" (p298).
This linkage also served to expose certain heresies that denied that the Word of God really did become flesh, and really did die and then rise from the dead in flesh (bodily), remaining forever fully God and fully human (now a glorified human). T.F. explains:
In his incarnate life, death and resurrection the Son of God established a binding relation between his divine reality an humankind; he not only bridged the gap between the creature and the Creator but triumphed completely over the separation between man and God due to human sin and alienation. The resurrection of Christ demonstrated the fact that all division between man and God has now been removed in atoning reconciliation through the blood of Christ. Moreover, the resurrection of Christ in body demonstrated that the saving work of Christ on our behalf was fulfilled within the concrete reality of our actual human existence, and in such a way as to set it upon an entirely new basis in the regeneration or renewal of human being in the risen Lord. That was the great message of forgiveness proclaimed at once by the apostles on the day of Pentecost and sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism.
ConclusionTo be united to the crucified and risen Christ through the baptism of his Spirit , necessarily carries with it sharing with him in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. 'Our resurrection is stored up in the Cross,' as Athanasius once expressed it. Through his incarnation the Son of God took up into himself our physical existence enslaved to sin, thereby making our corruption , death and judgment his own and offering himself as a substitute for us, so that through the atoning sacrifice of his own life, he might destroy the power that corruption and death have over us. Through the resurrection of our physical human nature in himself Christ has set us upon an altogether different basis in relation to God in which there is no longer any place for corruption and death. 'Now that the Savior is risen in his body, death is no longer terrible; for all who believe in Christ trample over it as if it were nothing, and choose rather to die than deny their faith in Christ. They know that when they die, they are not lost, but live and become incorruptible through the resurrection. Thus the central focus of Christian belief is upon the incarnate, crucified and risen Savior, for he has burst the bands of death and brought life and immortality to light - that is the forgiveness of sins and resurrection of the dead into which we are once for all baptized by the Holy Spirit. Far from being just a promise for the future, it is an evangelical declaration of what had already taken place in Christ, and in him continues as a permanent triumphant reality throughout the whole course of time to its consummation, when Christ will return with glory to judge the quick and the dead, and unveil the great regeneration which he has accomplished for the whole creation of visible and invisible realities alike (pp298-9).
And so we have come to the end of this 13-part series. The emphasis throughout has been on our triune God - the one who in being and activity is one in three and three in one. T.F. comments:
For there is from the Father one grace which is fulfilled through the Son and in the Holy Spirit; and there is one divine nature and one God "who is over all and through all and in all" (quoting Athanasius who quotes Ephesians 4:6) (p307).Let's conclude with the prayer offered by T.F. at the end of his book (p340):
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast revealed thyself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and dost ever live and reign in the perfect unity of love: Grant that we may always hold firmly and joyfully to this faith, and, living in the praise of thy divine majesty, may finally be one in thee; who art three Persons in one God, world without end. Amen.