Graham Cole completes TGCA’s series on The Apostles’ Creed with a reflection on our eternal home.
For Australians, the eschatological horizon stretches no further than the next long weekend. How different it should be for followers of Christ!
Years ago, I read Ronald Conway’s, Land of the Long Weekend and the striking title of the book has stayed with me ever since. Put in theological terms, his thesis was that for Australians, the eschatological horizon stretches no further than the next long weekend. How different it should be for followers of Christ who taught his disciples to pray “your kingdom come!” And if a member of a church that confesses the creeds, what a different horizon—“the life everlasting.” One of the creeds that puts our life in that grand eschatological perspective is the Apostles Creed.
The Apostles Creed begins where the Bible does with creation, centres on what the Bible centres on the Son—namely Christ—and ends where the Bible does, with the world to come and life in it. In other words, the Creed follows the biblical plotline in a highly condensed way. It doesn’t say everything (for example, what about God’s dealings with Israel?) However, what it does affirm is biblically defensible and essential.
Happily, “the life everlasting” is a most positive way to end the creed. Life is a great Bible theme, starting with the tree of life and the breath of life breathed into Adam in Genesis 2. Life is communion with God and each other (1 John 1:1-3). Death is being cut off from communion with God and each other (cf. Genesis 3 and Leviticus 17:8-9; 19:5-8). God’s promise to his people is life whether in the Old Testament and Israel or the New Testament and believers (cf. Deut 30:19 and John 10:10). Everlasting life or life of the age to come adds a qualitative dimension. The life of the world to come, which we can begin to experience now, is relationally rich.
At Home with God
The Apostles Creed does not say where this life is to be experienced. Most followers of Jesus would probably say heaven. However, if we pay attention to the biblical plotline, heaven is penultimate not ultimate as far as the Bible is concerned. 2Peter 3:13 gives us the picture of the finale: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
As we wait, we are to live as God’s people should. Again, Peter is clear:
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved [the old creation], what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (2 Peter 3: 11-12)
Revelation 21:3-4 fills out the picture of what lies in store for us. Wonderfully, the list includes the following, predicated on the loving presence of God:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
And “the sea is no more” that symbol of chaos (Rev 21:1). The key to the joy of the everlasting life is captured by the Apostle Paul in a sentence (1 Thess. 4:17): “And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
Affirming the Creed when we meet together gives an eschatological perspective to our life in this world. Long weekends are great, but nothing much compared to “the life everlasting.” The best is yet to be for the people of God.