Summary: Today’s sermon explores what it means to believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
Today we conclude our series in The Apostles’ Creed. I would like to examine what it means to believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Please listen as I recite the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living 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.
When I was a teenager, I felt immortal. I did not think much about death and eternity.
Then I went off to the Angolan Civil war. Friends were killed, and I quickly realized that I did not know when I would die.
So I began some serious study of death and eternity. That concern, in large part, was the tool God used to draw me to himself.
Today we come to our last study in the Apostles’ Creed in which we examine death and eternity. Today we want to examine our belief in the “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Let’s examine the following topics:
1. Physical Death,
2. The Intermediate State,
3. The Second Coming of Christ,
4. The Resurrection of the Body,
5. The Last Judgment, and
6. The Final State.
I. Physical Death
First, let’s look at physical death.
Physical death is variously represented in Scripture. It is spoken of as the death of the body, as distinguished from that of the soul. Matthew 10:28a says: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
Death is spoken of as the termination of life. Luke 6:9 says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’”
Death is also spoken of as a separation of body and soul. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “. . . and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
Based on this, Louis Berkhof defines physical death as “a termination of physical life by the separation of body and soul.”
Death is not something natural in our lives, but is an expression of divine anger (Psalm 90:7, 11), judgment (Romans 1:32), condemnation (Romans 5:16), and a curse (Galatians 3:13). Death fills our hearts with dread and fear.
Now, the Bible speaks of death as “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). Since believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are set free from the guilt of sin, the question naturally arises, “Why do Christians still die?”
It is clear that for Christians death cannot be a punishment, since we are no longer under condemnation. So why does God cause us to pass through the harrowing experiences of death?
The answer is that death is the culmination of the chastisements which God has ordained for our sanctification. The very thought of death, sorrow as a result of death, and the feeling that sickness and sufferings are harbingers of death all have a very beneficial effect on the people of God. These things serve to humble the proud, to mortify the flesh, to check worldliness, and to foster spiritual-mindedness.
II. The Intermediate State
Second, let’s look at the intermediate state.
What happens to a person after he or she dies?
The bodies of all people, both believers and unbelievers alike, are subject to decay after death. They are buried or in some cases cremated (which, by the way, is an unbiblical practice), and their bodies decay. Their bodies await resurrection which will take place some time in the future. More about that in a moment. Our concern for the present has to do with the souls of believers and unbelievers.
The souls of believers immediately enter the glories of heaven when they die. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 [emphasis mine]; cf. also Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:8).
The souls of unbelievers, on the other hand, immediately enter hell when they die. The Bible tells us that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man found himself in hell, where he was in torment (16:23). His condition was fixed forever. He was conscious of his miserable plight, and sought relief from his pain and suffering. And he wanted to have his brothers warned so that they would not face a similar plight.