Where do our ideas come from? There are so many things in our lives that we take for granted. Last Sunday we talked about this a little bit by talking about presuppositions. These are the thoughts and beliefs that are in the background of everything that we do. These can come from lots of places. They can come from our traditions, this is how we have always done things. They can come from a previous teacher. A lot of the time they come from assumptions based on incomplete data. But wherever they come from it is important that we challenge them and ensure that they are what scripture teaches. This should be our standard. So what are the presuppositions that we have about judgment on the last day?
The Living and the Dead
When we read the line in the Apostles Creed that says "From there he will come to judge the living and the dead" it can be easy to fall into a misinterpretation because of presuppositions. If you are like me the first few times you read this statement you think of the physically living and the physically dead. You read it and think when Jesus returns he will judge both those who are alive at the time and all those who have died before his return. This is one of those areas where the understanding is true but not the point of the statement. See we misunderstand this kind of statement because we assume that the Creed is talking about physical life and death. This is very easy for us to do because as physically living human beings this is normal. In our everyday lives, we think of life and death. We are alive and we remember a loved one who has passed away. Perhaps you are someone who watches the news which inevitably at some point has something about the death of someone somewhere. We are bombarded with the idea of death. More recently with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the idea of the life and death of the unborn is in the spotlight. But this brings us back to the Creed. Is the creed referring to the physical living and dead?
Another Kind of Living and Dead
Is there another kind of living and dead? Emphatically YES. There is a much more important life and death. That is the spiritual living and dead. See what the Apostle Paul has to say to us in the book of Ephesians.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins" - Ephesians 2:1.
Before we are made new in Christ we are dead in our sin. This is what is meant by original sin. Each and every one of us is born into this world spiritually dead. You might hear this described as a sin nature, being a slave to sin, or something similar, but they all point to the same idea. Apart from the regenerating work of Christ you are dead in your trespasses and sin. Paul tells us a couple of verses later that it is because of the mercy and grace of God that you are saved, and given new life. He writes
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" - Ephesians 2:4-5
You might be asking why is this important? It is important to understand that there is a Judgement not only of those who are not Christians but also of those who are Christians. Christians will be called to give an account for each and every action, each and every word that is spoken. While we are not going to go through the same judgment that the unsaved will, there will still be judgment.
Where to Go From Here
What should we do with this information? If you are a Christian this should spur you on to do the good works that God has prepared for you. You will be called to account for what you have done with your master's gifts. Will you be like the good servants who take what is given to them and invest it, or will you be like the fearful servant who does not truly know his master? We have been made new creations to do good works that God prepared before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 2:10). The creed reminds us that Jesus is Lord of all. He is Lord over all creation, the living and the dead. He is the King of Kings. Those who live in active rebellion against him are still under his rule and will be subject to his judgment. Those who have been saved by his grace are also under his rule and will be called to give an account for what they have done with his good gifts. Are you ready? How have you used the gifts that your Lord has given to you? Pray with me that we will be good stewards of what God has given us. Pray with me that those who do not know Christ would be shown his grace.
Soli Deo Gloria.