Knowing God the Spirit as Restorer, Part 2: A Biblical Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

Steve —  May 28, 2021 — Leave a comment

Knowing God the Spirit as Restorer, Part 2

By Drs. John Frame and Steve Childers

In the Applied Theology series of courses, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:

A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.

In Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 6, you’ll learn how to know and worship God the Spirit as Restorer of all things lost in creation because of the fall of humanity in sin.

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

Read the transcript for Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 6 below!

Knowing God the Spirit as Restorer, Part 2

By John Frame and Steve Childers

Christians believe that there is a new world coming when Jesus returns,[1] in the power of his Holy Spirit, to restore fallen humanity and creation by establishing God’s kingdom on earth forever. The Apostles’ Creed affirms three biblical beliefs regarding the age to come when Christ returns: 1) the resurrection of the dead, 2) the judgment of the living and the dead, and 3) the life everlasting in the world to come.[2]

The resurrection of the dead
The concluding affirmation of the Apostles’ Creed is, “[I believe in] the resurrection of the body.” The Nicene Creed added these words to strengthen it: ”We look forward to the resurrection of the dead.” On that final day, Christ, by his Spirit, will resurrect from the dead every person who has ever lived – beginning with all those who have believed in him.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thess. 4:16)[3]

All believers will be raised from the dead, except for those alive at his return, and restored to God’s original purpose by reuniting their glorified souls, that were in heaven, with their glorified bodies, that were in the earth. Paul writes,

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

What will happen to believers who are still alive at Jesus’ return? Paul tells us, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).[4]

When Jesus returns, all believers who are dead will be raised and given glorified bodies, and all believers who are alive will also be given glorified bodies. Then all of them will be miraculously and spectacularly joined with Christ forever.[5]

On that day, Jesus will also raise from the dead all who have not believed in him.[6] He calls the coming resurrection of believers “the resurrection of life,” and the coming resurrection of unbelievers as “the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)[7]

The judgment of the living and the dead
Earlier in the Creed, we find the ancient Christian affirmation that the ascended Jesus, who now rules at the right hand of God, “will come to judge the living and the dead.” The Scriptures teach that following the resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ return, there will be a final day of judgment. Paul writes, “He (the Father) has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man (Christ) whom he has appointed” (Acts 17:31).[8]

In the parable of the weeds, Jesus taught that “The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels” (Matt. 13:39).

On that day, Jesus promises he will send his angels to separate the wheat (the righteous) from the weeds (the wicked).[9] “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers.” (Matt. 13:41) All nations will be gathered before him as the Son of Man judges the whole world. (Matt. 25:32, Rom. 3:6)[10]

Humans will not be the only ones judged on that final day. Satan and his fallen angels (demons) must also appear before Christ’s final judgment seat. (1 Cor. 6:2-3, 2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6)[11] And the final judgment will include both unbelievers and believers. Paul writes, “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Rom. 14:10).[12]

Although believers must all appear before Christ on the Day of Judgment, they should not fear because God promises them that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). John writes, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).[13]

To the unbelievers on that day Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).[14] But to his followers, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

The life everlasting in the world to come
When Jesus returns, he will not only restore fallen and corrupt humanity, in body and soul, to the Father’s original design for their flourishing. He will also restore fallen and corrupt creation. Paul writes, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

Jesus describes this coming restored creation, over which he will rule, the “new world” (Matt. 19:28). The Greek term for “new world,” palingenesia (παλινγενεσίᾳ), means regeneration and rebirth. Paul uses this same Greek word to describe the Holy Spirit’s regeneration and rebirth of all believers at their conversion. (Titus 3:5) Just as all believers experience regeneration and rebirth by the power of God’s Spirit, so will all creation experience regeneration and rebirth at Christ’s return.

This regeneration of our fallen world will include a purging and cleansing of all forms of evil and corruption. On that final day, when Jesus sends his angels to separate all the righteous and the wicked, he teaches that they will gather out of his kingdom “all causes of sin” and all law-breakers. (Matt. 13:41) The Greek term for “causes of sin” is scandala (Σκάνδαλα), meaning “stumbling blocks.” Not only will God’s Spirit purge the world of “all lawbreakers,” but he will also purge the world of all the stumbling blocks to believers that the disobedient have created.[15]

When Jesus returns, the kingdom paradise that the Father prepared for his children before his creation, the kingdom that was thwarted by Satan and sin in the garden, and the kingdom that the Son inaugurated on earth by his death and resurrection, will finally come to earth in all its fullness forever. John describes it like this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,[16] and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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 he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. (Rev. 21:1-5)[17]

Paul describes the blessedness of this eternal “world to come” as the believer’s “inheritance” that God guarantees will one day be ours by giving us his Holy Spirit when we believe. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14).

Martin Luther beautifully summarizes the meaning of our belief in God the Spirit as Restorer in these five statements:

  • I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.
  • In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
  • In this Christian church day after day he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers.
  • On the last day he will raise me and all the dead and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life.
  • This is most certainly true.[18]

[1] The Scriptures teach that there will be certain “signs of the times” preceding the return of Christ and the end of the age. Theologian Anthony Hoekema gives us a helpful description of these signs as being grouped in three categories: 1) Signs of God’s grace, e.g. the proclamation of the gospel to all nations and the salvation of the fullness of Israel (Rom. 11), 2) Signs of opposition, e.g. the tribulation, apostasy, and the Antichrist, and 3) Signs of God’s judgment, e.g. wars, earthquakes, and famines. Although some of these signs will be dramatic in nature, Jesus warns us not to see them as only spectacular and catastrophic events. (Luke 17:20-21) Jesus also warns us not to use these signs as a way of trying to determine the time of his return. (Mark 13:32; Matt. 24:36) He told his disciples that he didn’t know the time, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Since the Bible does not give us an exact sequence and order of these signs, we must not try to create a detailed, specific timetable of future events as some Christian traditions have done (Dispensationalism). But Christians should learn how to “see the signs” when they appear and think about how they could be signs of Jesus’ imminent return. Hoekema give us several practical examples of how God means for these signs to help us grow spiritually by thinking more about the return of Jesus. See Hoekema, A. A. (1994). The Bible and the Future, Eerdmans, chapters 11-12.

[2] For a deeper look at the Bible’s teaching on the resurrection of believers and our future life on the new earth, see the Appendix: Why Look Forward to Your Resurrection and Life in the World to Come.

[3] Paul writes, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, (have died) that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Paul does not want his readers to lose hope about their future with the Lord, simply because other believers have died. Some Thessalonians seem to have believed that Christians would not die before Jesus returned. Paul is reassuring them that those who have died in Christ will be raised from the dead and united with all believers who are living when Jesus returns.

[4] It’s a mistake to interpret this passage as giving us any more specific details about this event and what follows. Paul is not teaching that Jesus will miraculously scoop up all his followers to snatch (rapture) them out of this corrupt world before his final judgment on all who are “left behind.” When he writes, “and so we will always be with the Lord,” he’s not teaching that all the believers who are caught up with the Lord and each other “in the clouds” will be staying up in the clouds forever. Instead, Rev. 21:1-3 shows us the opposite, that heaven (holy city, new Jerusalem) will come down to earth in all its fullness.

[5] The terms that Paul uses in 1Thessalonians 4 for Jesus’ “coming” (parousia, Παρουσίαν in verse 15) and our “meeting” (ἀπάντησιν in verse 17), reflect the political rhetoric of the Roman Empire used to describe military or political dignitaries making official visits. Paul’s words imply that believers will meet the Lord “in the air,” not as an act of departing from fallen creation, but as a majestic act of welcoming their victorious, conquering Lord and King back to the world he created. Paul’s emphasis is on the majestic, final union when Christ’s purified bride is fully united to the groom forever. Apparently, when that final union first takes place, it will not be on the surface of the earth, but above it “in the clouds.”

[6] While the Bible describes much detail about the resurrection body of believers, there is nothing said about the resurrection body of unbelievers. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul says nothing about the resurrection of unbelievers, he is only speaking of the resurrection of believers. So we can only speculate about what the bodies of unbelievers will look like for all eternity and the nature of the “place” of the unbelievers before they’re judged and cast into hell forever.

[7] The Scriptures present a general resurrection of believers and unbelievers as occurring together. (Dan. 12:2, John 5:25-29, Acts 24:14-15, Rev. 20:11-15) Some Christian traditions, e.g. Historic and Dispensational Premillennialists, believe that the resurrection of unbelievers will take place one thousand years (millennium) after the believers’ resurrection.

[8] The final judgment will take place at the end of the present age (2 Pet. 3:7), the time of Christ’s return (Matt. 13:40-43, 2 Thess. 1:7-10), and following the general resurrection (Rev. 20). What the Bible teaches about the general resurrection for the saved and lost implies that there will also be only one final judgment for the saved and lost, since the final judgment is presented as following the resurrection. Dispensationalists believe there will be several judgments, including: 1) the rapture and judgment of believers at Jesus’ return (Parousia), 2) the judgment of gentiles before a one thousand year rule, 3) the judgment of ethnic Israel just before the millennium, and 4) the judgment of unbelievers after a one thousand year rule.

[9] In this parable, Jesus teaches that “the enemy (Satan) came and sowed weeds (the wicked) among the wheat (his Church)” (Matt. 13:25) Then Jesus says, “Let both grow together until the harvest (the end of the age), and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matt. 13:30) Prior to the final judgment day, there will be many professing Christians within the church who are not true believers. But when Jesus returns, his visible Church (the wheat) will finally be purged of all unbelievers (the weeds).

[10] John records this remarkable vision God gave him of the final judgment day, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne … and the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Rev. 20: 11-12).

[11] Glorified believers will also participate in the judgment of Christ on the world and the angels. (Matt. 19:28) Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2)

[12] Paul also writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:10) See Heb. 10:30; James 3:1; I Peter. 4:17. The Bible teaches that everything a believer has done, including thoughts, words, and deeds, will be taken into account on the Judgment Day. (Matt. 25:35-40, 1 Cor. 3:8, Eph. 6:8, 1 Pet. 1:17, Rev. 20:12; 22:12) Paul describes the believer’s judgment with this imagery: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation (Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer lossthough he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:12-15) The loss referred to here is not a loss of salvation but the loss of eternal rewards. Leon Morris writes, “Here and now the man who gives himself wholeheartedly to the service of Christ knows more of the joy of the Lord than the half-hearted. We have no warrant from the New Testament for thinking that it will be otherwise in heaven.” Biblical Doctrine of Judgment, p. 67.

[13] See how Answer 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism reflects this: “In all my distress and persecution  I turn my eyes to the heavens  and confidently await as judge the very One  who has already stood trial in my place before God  and so has removed the whole curse from me. All his enemies and mine  he will condemn to everlasting punishment:  but me and all his chosen ones  he will take along with him  into the joy and the glory of heaven.”

[14] John writes, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire … and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11-15). Similar to how believers will receive degrees of eternal rewards (1 Cor. 3:12-15), Jesus seems to indicate that unbelievers will receive degrees of eternal punishment. (Luke 12:47-48)

[15] The Apostle Peter describes the coming day of the Lord as a time when “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Pet. 3:10) The Greek word heurethēsetai (εὑρεθήσεται), translated “exposed,” is used in the earliest Greek manuscripts and can be translated “found, revealed, and discovered,” possibly conveying the exposure and revelation of the righteous and unrighteous works that have been done on the earth. Peter is teaching that God’s final judgment of the whole earth with fire, will be like God’s earlier judgment of the whole earth with water during the times of Noah (2 Pet. 3:5-7). During the flood, the earth was not completely annihilated but purged of all its wickedness. So, when Peter writes that “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13), he’s not referring to a totally new earth that is completely different than the present one. Instead, he’s referring to a gloriously renewed and restored earth that remains in continuity with the present one – but is completely without any form of corruption. In the same way that God will make us recreated bodies from our dust, God will also make a new, recreated world after being “burned up” and “dissolved”. The world will be a new creation, but not a totally new creation. We’ll still recognize the earth and the world as we know it, but it will be fully redeemed, restored, and glorified to flourish according to God’s design – just like our new bodies.

[16] Heaven and earth will no longer be separated with God “up in heaven,” where his will is done perfectly, and man “down on earth” where God’s revealed will is not done perfectly. When Jesus returns, the “first heaven and the first earth will pass away.” In 1 Peter 3:5-13, the Apostle Peter describes the “passing away” of the “old world” and its transformation into the “new world.” When Jesus returns, heaven will come “back down” to earth like it was in creation before the Fall, when God’s presence was with his people (Immanuel) on earth. But it will be far better than Eden.

[17] The Greek word John and Peter use to designate the “newness” of the new earth is not neos (νέος), meaning new in time or origin, but kainos (καινὸς) meaning new in nature or in quality. Similarly, when Paul says in Romans 8:20-21 that creation waits with eager longing to be set free from its bondage, he’s referring to how the present corrupt creation will be delivered from all its corruption when Christ returns to make all things new – not become a totally different creation.

[18] Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: The Creed, The Third Article.

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