Friday, April 07, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #4

packerWe are continuing to work through J. I. Packer's short book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this post, and the next, we finish the longest section in the creed about God the Son. Here he discusses the resurrection ascension, and future return of Jesus. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The next phrase in the creed is "the third day he rose again from the dead." The detail of the timing of the resurrection places it into a historical context. It was a real event that happened in space and time and it has had undeniable effect on history for the last 2000 years. Without the resurrection the claims of Christianity are baseless. With the resurrection Jesus identity as God is confirmed and our resurrection with Him becomes a sure hope.

“If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested in the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole of the size and shape of the resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?” The actual historical effect is inconceivable without the resurrection of Jesus as its objective historical cause. 93

What is the significance of Jesus’ rising? In a word, it marked Jesus out as the Son of God (Romans 1:4); it vindicated his righteousness (John 16:10); it demonstrated victory over death (Acts 2:24); it guaranteed the believer’s forgiveness and justification (1 Corinthians 15:17; Romans 4:25) and his own future resurrection too (1 Corinthians 15:18); and it brings him into the reality of resurrection life now (Romans 6:4). 94

The next phrase, "He ascended into heaven," is very significant but often overlooked in our preaching and teaching. Packer makes the important point that this was a vision shown to the disciples that Jesus had retaken his place in the "throne room" or control center of the universe at the "Father's right hand." He lists three significant truths that result from this: 1) The battle with the dark forces of sin, death and evil has already been won and we can now participate victoriously in that. 2) Jesus is interceding for us as our advocate, providing all the grace and everything we need for life and godliness. 3) God's people now have intimate fellowship with the Trinity "that nothing, not even death, can touch." We have already begun our eternal life.

What happened at the Ascension, then, was not that Jesus became a spaceman, but that his disciples were shown a sign, just as at the Transfiguration. As C. S. Lewis put it, “they saw first a short vertical movement and then a vague luminosity (that is what ‘cloud’ presumably means …) and then nothing.”...So the message of the Ascension story is: “Jesus the Savior reigns!”  98–99

In a weary world in which grave philosophers were counseling suicide as man’s best option,
the unshakable, rollicking optimism of the first Christians, who went on feeling on top of the world however much the world seemed to be on top of them, made a vast impression. (It still does, when Christians are Christian enough to show it!)

The final phrase in the section about Christ is "he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." This is not an escape from the earth, but a culmination and renewal of God's kingdom in which heaven and earth come together for all eternity. Christ will judge all people, when we do not expect, so the bottom line is to be ready by being involved in His kingdom work now.

We think less and less about the better things that Christ will bring us at his reappearance because our thoughts are increasingly absorbed by the good things we enjoy here. No one would wish persecution or destitution on another, but who can deny that at this point they might do us good? 108

In one sense, Christ comes for every Christian at death, but the Creed looks to the day when he will come publicly to wind up history and judge all men—Christians as Christians, accepted already, whom a “blood-bought free reward” awaits according to the faithfulness of their service; rebels as rebels, to be rejected by the Master whom they rejected first. 106

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