This post continues a running series in which I’m attempting to explicate The Apostles’ Creed and The Nicene Creed. In this post we’ll be talking about the hinge upon which Christians believe salvation history turns.
First, The Apostles’ Creed:
“On the third day he [Jesus Christ] rose again.”
And from The Nicene Creed:
“On the third day he [Jesus Christ] rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.”
I’ll begin by admitting that I’m intimidated to be trying to unpack this affirmation in a blog post. I know I’ll miss something, because it’s impossible to say it all in a book, much less a blog post. So I want to focus on what is the key point, the full throated affirmation that Christ rose from the dead, that he is not merely a historical figure from long ago, but our present and future Lord and Savior. The creeds make a point of affirming this, in part, because the denial of the resurrection by Christianity’s critics is not a recent development. It has been there throughout all of church history. The ancient’s understanding of science was not as advanced as ours today, but they understood every bit as well as we do that dead people stay dead. The resurrection was not any more easily accepted then than now, but even so the church affirmed it in the creed.
The resurrection was affirmed because with it God the Father vindicated God the Son (showing that Jesus was in the right and the powers and principalities that crucified him were wrong and destined to lose). The resurrection reminds us that even “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” Following Jesus’ example may lead to suffering and hardship in the short term, but it is the best way in the long run. The creed affirms Christ’s resurrection on the third day because in it the promise of our future resurrection to everlasting life was secured. With the resurrection God’s victory over sin and even death was made manifest (to borrow a phrase from the apostle Paul, death was swallowed up in victory). The resurrection is not self-evident, and to believe and trust in it requires faith, but it was the key point in salvation history.
Theology Geek Note: “The Scriptures” referenced in the Nicene Creed refers to what we now refer to as the First or Old Testament.