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The Apostles Creed
~
I Believe In :
The Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting




The Apostles' Creed 



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The Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting

Read : John 3:34-35; John 5:21,24; John 11:25-26; John 3:14-16; Luke 9:28-33  


What do all the following have in common - love, joy, peace, patience, beauty, grief, pain, the resurrection of the body and eternal life ? Well, none of them can be touched, or seen, or weighed, or measured - in other words there is no way for anyone to examine them or to prove that any of these exist ! And yet - somehow we all know that they do exist, well, all of them that is, except for the resurrection of the body and eternal life !  

Unfortunately, anyone wanting some sort of absolute scientific proof of any of these, but particularly of the resurrection of the body or the existence of another life after this one, will always be disappointed, because that sort of proof is not available to us here and now.  

So as we look at this last phrase of the Apostles' Creed, about our belief in the resurrection of the body and eternal life, how can we know what to believe if there is no absolute proof ?  

Well, I'm going to try to share with you, why I believe in these things, and what it means for me. And for me it really all hinges on the answer to one question - can I trust God ? In other words, do I believe that God keeps his promises ? Does God keep his word ? Can I rely on God ? 

I believe that the Bible contains nothing that is untrue. Time after time throughout its pages, I see God who is constant and unchanging, God who keeps his word and his promises. The Bible is full of people who trusted God and were not disappointed. We have probably all seen God at work in our own lives, and in the lives of others too. Have you found God to be trustworthy ? I have !  

So the Bible, and my own experience, tell me that God has never broken a promise, has never gone back on his word, is utterly trustworthy. If I have no reason to doubt God's word, and no reason to think he would break a promise, then I can safely believe all that he tells us. And, as we heard in our readings, God himself has told us that there is another life after this one - so why would I doubt it ? 

butterflies

What none of us know though, is what life after death, or eternal life, will be like. That's because all we know is this life, so we have no real way to imagine what the next one will be like. All we have are analogies -  

Think of an unborn baby. All it knows is the place where it is safe and nurtured. Can you imagine trying to explain to it life after birth ? For it to imagine a butterfly or an elephant, pain or joy, a sunset or a rainbow, would be impossible ! It simply cannot imagine these things because of its current limited experience. But just because it cannot imagine them, doesn't mean that these things don't exist - we all know that they do, because we have seen and experienced them ! When we try to imagine life after death, we are like that unborn baby trying to imagine life after birth. We cannot imagine what eternal life will be like, because with our current limited experience - it's impossible !  

Does this mean that all we know, is that for those who believe in God, eternal life will be spent with God ? Well really, if we know that much, what else do we actually need to know ?!  

However, I'd like to share something with you that I discovered while I was researching this service, which I find really exciting. William Barclay, in his book about the Apostles Creed (- 'The Plain Man Look at the Apostles' Creed') believed that there is more we can say about eternal life than just, that we will spend it with God. He believed that since we have an ongoing relationship with God, which begins here, but continues unbroken and uninterrupted, into the next life, this suggests the possibility - perhaps even the necessity - of continuing growth and development in that relationship.  

He believed that even in the life to come, we will continue to grow steadily closer to God, because even in heaven, no person can ever reach the end of God. Let's think about this. Eternal life is eternity spent with God - that alone is amazing ! But it isn't going to be a static existence. When we die, we don't meet God at that point in our relationship, and stay there forever. Through the whole of eternity spent with God, we will continue to learn more of him, and our love for him will continue to grow - for ever - because even in the next life, we can never come to the end of God !  

That is mind blowing ! That is really exciting ! Do you believe that is possible ? Do you long for that ? I do, and I believe it is possible, because I trust God who tells us that there is another life after this one, and that we will spend it with him !  

So, what do I think we will be like in the next life ? Well, when we die we don't become part of some sort of mass consciousness, our soul or spirit does not become merged with everyone elses, into some amorphous cloud somewhere. The Bible is clear on this much at least. We will still be ourselves. We will still be separate and distinct from everyone else.  

And we will still have a body - though it will not be the same body that we have now. Jesus of course, is our main example. We know from our eye-witness Bible accounts that after his resurrection Jesus had a body. We know that he appeared to his disciples, he talked with them, he walked with them to Emmaus, he ate with them in the upper room, and again on the beach. He was still Jesus, but there was something different about him - because we also know that sometimes it took the disciples a while to recognise him.  

Somehow, Jesus in his new body, was no longer bound by the laws of time and space - because we know that more than once, he appeared inside a room with locked doors, and disappeared again !  

I don't think that Jesus is our only example in the Bible though, of someone who was witnessed living their life after death. There is also Moses. Remember on the mountain top where Jesus was transfigured, and was seen and heard talking to Elijah and Moses ?  

Elijah, it could be argued never actually died, because as you may remember, Elisha saw him taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. However, we know that Moses died within sight of the Promised Land and that he was buried there. So how come he was seen centuries later, on a mountain top talking to Jesus ? Somehow, on that mountain, for a short time, heaven mingled with earth and could be seen, and there were Moses and Elijah living their eternal lives, still distinctly themselves even with their new bodies, standing talking to Jesus ! 

Elijah, it could be argued never actually died, because as you may remember, Elisha saw him taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. However, we know that Moses died within sight of the Promised Land and that he was buried there. So how come he was seen centuries later, on a mountain top talking to Jesus ? Somehow, on that mountain, for a short time, heaven mingled with earth and could be seen, and there were Moses and Elijah living their eternal lives, still distinctly themselves even with their new bodies, standing talking to Jesus ! 

I wonder whether a caterpillar spinning its cocoon has any idea of what it will become ? Can it imagine what life will be like as a butterfly ? Even though that is what lies ahead. The caterpillar becomes the butterfly. They are so different that it's hard to believe they are the same creature, but somehow, they are !  

Or think of a daffodil bulb - brown, wizened, papery, dead looking, and yet when planted in the ground, it produces amazing flowers. It's hard to believe that dead-looking bulb can produce such beauty, and yet it does ! In both cases the old and the new are linked, but are very different to each other. In a similar way, although it may be hard for us to imagine that we will still be ourselves in the next life, when we are in a new body - we will ! 

Or think of a daffodil bulb - brown, wizened, papery, dead looking, and yet when planted in the ground, it produces amazing flowers. It's hard to believe that dead-looking bulb can produce such beauty, and yet it does ! In both cases the old and the new are linked, but are very different to each other. In a similar way, although it may be hard for us to imagine that we will still be ourselves in the next life, when we are in a new body - we will ! 

Eternity spent with God - how marvellous will that be ?! And as for all the other details, the things we don't know ? Well, I'm sure God has something amazing and wonderful planned for us, but we won't know exactly what it is, until we get there !  

Ruth Gillett, 2010

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