“he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
This is final section of the Apostles’ Creed that focuses on the nature, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. After this we will rapidly move through the Holy Spirit and the nature of the church and believers. I feel that in many ways the Creed has saved the best for last because the implications of this final section on Jesus Christ have profound implications for a faith and our futures. In this section we celebrate the resurrection of Christ but also the death of death.
Death has been defeated through the victory of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” In Christ resurrection death has been defeated and no longer holds us captive as it once did. Christ death on the cross along with his resurrection from the dead freed us from the bondage of the curse and began a healing for all of creation that will be completed when Christ comes again. The end is assured sin and death will not keep humanity from eternal life and communion with our Creator.
However, that full vision of abundant life in perfect relationship with God and humanity is not fully realized. We saw a foretaste of that life and relationship in Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life and who had an unbroken relationship with the Father. Unstained by sin Christ was not held under the curse and exampled for us the fullness of the life we were created to live. Yet, we now, even those of us who believe, are still dealing with the consequences of sin and the pain of death. We know that death has been defeated but we are waiting for Christ return when all things will be placed firmly under his feet and his will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We are called to faith believing in what we have not seen and trusting that the promise of Christ and the life eternal is real. In our time on earth we will find glimpses of our future hope, little in-breakings of the Kingdom of God. We see this in the fellowship of believers as they share each others burdens and joys, the power of the sacraments of baptism and communion, and in acts of grace and compassion that seem to turn the whole world upside down and help us to understand more about the truth of Christ’s teachings. We most poignantly point to our belief in the death of death when we gather at funerals. We celebrate the life of that person and then remind ourselves that this is not the end. When we commit bodies to the ground we do not expect them to stay there forever. Since Christ rose all who have died in Christ will also rise. Death is not the end and not longer has the final say. Thanks be to Christ who offers life and life everlasting!