Confessing the Great Blessings We Receive in Christ
As we bring our journey through the Apostles' Creed to a conclusion, we come to three great hopes which are secured, in Christ, for the believer. Immediately, we should note that when we speak of Christian hopes, we are not speaking of things which we merely wish to come to pass; instead, we are speaking of things in which we have complete confidence. Our confidence is based on the promise of God in His Word. The Apostles' Creed ends with the affirmation of three such hopes. It proclaims:
(I believe in) the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Forgiveness of Sins
The first great hope is that there is forgiveness for sins. With this statement, we recognize the implication that we, as humans, are sinners by nature. In this way, we are not a people who merely stumble into sin, but a people enslaved to it (Romans 6:20). Our Lord said, "whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). Of course, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), thus there is a cost to rebellion against the King of Glory. Make no mistake about it, that is what sin is...it is rebellion against the Divine Lawgiver. The penalty awaiting all of us as sinners is death.
The good news of the Gospel, confirmed in this Creed, is that there is forgiveness of sins, available by God's grace, in Christ Jesus. This blessed truth states that sinners can be accounted righteous before a holy God by faith. The Old Testament testified to this as it stated that Abraham was accounted righteous because he believed God. We too are accounted righteous, by God's grace, as we trust in Christ Jesus for salvation. In this way, we too can experience the blessing of which King David spoke, when he said:
"Blessed is the man whose iniquity the LORD does not count against him" Psalm 32:2
The wonder of what God has accomplished is that our sins were imputed to Christ. He bore them upon the tree. Now, we stand in His righteousness before God by faith. As the great hymn, "Before the Throne of God Above", states:
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
This Creed reminds us of this fundamental Christian truth; we have hope because of what Christ accomplished. We have hope because, in Him, there is forgiveness of sins.
The Resurrection of the Body
The second great hope is that of the resurrection of the body. While the first hope, the forgiveness of sins, is something that we experience at our justification, this hope is eschatological. It is a hope that looks beyond physical death to a great promise- a promise that we will not be left without a body. On the last day, we will be given a new and glorified body that will be like this body in some respects, but quite different in many important ones. Our glorified bodies will not be subject to time and decay, nor will they be limited in their ability to rightfully serve and worship our great God.
The Creed likely included this wording in order to stand against the Gnosticism which the early church battled. The Gnostics argued that the real problem was the body; In other words, we could only be what we are truly called to be once our physical body was shuffled off. The Scriptures directly reject such an argument. In fact, the Bible tells us that God promises to redeem the complete man, including the body. Thus when we confess the Creed, we are affirming that there is a physical and glorious resurrection of the believer's body. It is a hope for which we are most thankful.
The Life Everlasting
Our third and final hope is that we are the inheritors of life everlasting. Now, this is a statement which is true at our justification for we have immediate life in Christ; this is an everlasting life. Still, this is speaking to something more. Our great hope in Christ is that we are reconciled to God, forever to abide with Him. Abiding in the presence of Christ is to experience life everlasting. This is true not only because we have received life everlasting, but because we are united to, and present with, the One who is, Himself, life (John 14:6).
This is truly blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace. We are reconciled to God, adopted into His family, and granted life everlasting. Now, we can state with assurance that we will dwell in the presence of our King forever and ever amen. It is as is answered in the Heidelberg Catechism:
Question # 57:How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?
Answer: Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.
To that, as to all three of these blessed promises, I will add, as does the Creed, a closing Amen.