An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed - Life Everlasting
17. Life Everlasting
and life everlasting. Amen.
As we turn to the final statement of the Creed, which concerns eternal life, we must be careful not to make two common and serious mistakes. The first is to identify the biblical teaching of everlasting life with the idea of the ‘afterlife’ that is found in most religions. This common mistake is made by those who are too eager to establish common ground between the teachings of Christianity and those of the other world faiths. Such endeavours, to be sure, are not confined only to the doctrine concerning life hereafter. Attempts are made to find common ground in the doctrine of God, and even in Christology, the Church’s teaching concerning Christ.
Such attempts, however, often result in distortion, as edges of the various doctrines that do not fit the common mould are trimmed off. In the case of the doctrine of God, the doctrine of the Trinity has to go because it simply fails to fit. A unitarian view of God is much more convenient. In the case of Christology, the incarnation, virgin birth, atoning death, and resurrection all have to go, leaving behind an inspired but very human Jesus. The Christian doctrine of everlasting life will also suffer the same fate if it is forced to fit the procrustean bed of a general idea of the afterlife or immortality.
The second mistake is to think of everlasting life in terms of the immortality of the soul. While the first mistake is usually identified with liberal theology, the second is sometimes found in evangelicalism. This mistake is incipient in statements like ‘God will save your souls’, which, if taken literally, would be erroneous theologically, even heretical. Much of this is the result of Christianity’s close relationship with Platonism. Greek philosophy is generally dualistic: it teaches that the spirit is good and the body evil. Salvation is therefore seen in terms of the liberation of the soul from the prison of the body.
All the fragmentation, the disease and wanton destruction that we witness in our world will cease, and a new reality will emerge. Believers … will be a part of this new creation and inhabit the new earth, where God’s glory will be seen and his shalom (peace) will be experienced by all.
This statement on everlasting life is therefore an extension of the previous statement about the resurrection. In the life hereafter, we will not be disembodied spirits floating freely in some ethereal realm, but resurrected human beings with spiritual bodies residing in the new earth. This brings us to the next point: that salvation does not only concern human beings but the whole of creation. Human sin has damaged the creation, bringing it under a curse, and preventing it from reaching its God-intended goal. But at the end of time, God will bring about a new creation – the transformation and transfiguration of this sin-scarred cosmos. Here again we see that salvation involves the material world and not just the spiritual realm. All the fragmentation, the disease and wanton destruction that we witness in our world will cease, and a new reality will emerge. Believers in the resurrection will be a part of this new creation and inhabit the new earth, where God’s glory will be seen and his shalom (peace) will be experienced by all.
What will life in the new creation of God be like? The Bible provides us with very little data regarding this new reality, and it would be unwise to let one’s imagination run wild and go into biblically unwarranted flights of speculation. However, with the little information that is in our possession we are able to sketch – albeit only in broad brush strokes – what life in God’s eternity may look like.
The first word that describes our future life with God is rest. This concept is associated with the Sabbath and employed in the book of Hebrews to refer to the eschatological rest that awaits faithful believers. The writer of Hebrews exhorts Christians to strive to enter the rest in these rousing words: ‘There remains, then, a Sabbathrest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest’ (Hebrews 4:9-11). In the new creation, the toil of work that we now experience will be a thing of the past. We will enter into a state in which the painful struggles that are intrinsic to human work here are replaced with restfulness, ease and fulfilment.
In the new creation, the toil of work that we now experience will be a thing of the past. We will enter into a state in which the painful struggles that are intrinsic to human work here are replaced with restfulness, ease and fulfilment.
The joyous sounds of their worship resonate throughout the world even as the Shekinah glory of God pervades the new creation … God’s people will forever be in the lovely presence of God and they will be filled with unspeakable joy.