We’re continuing with our explanation of the Nicene Creed this weekend picking up at articles six and seven that read: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
These two articles conclude our statements of faith in and about Jesus. In the previous articles we’ve examined his divinity and his humanity concluding with his saving death and Resurrection. Articles 6 & 7 express our belief in the role that Jesus continues to play in our redemption.
Jesus has shown us the way to eternal life, he has opened to all people the gates of heaven that were sealed shut when mankind ruptured that origin perfect relationship with God, and he has returned to the Father were he is now the one who decides whether we, individually, have lived our lives according to our faith or lack of it and are therefore worthy or unworthy to take our places in heaven for the rest of eternity.
So let’s have a look at the phrases and their origins in scripture. An important aspect of the Nicene Creed that is often overlooked is that it was composed before the Church had even determined which books belonged in the New Testament. Because the Nicene Creed was formulated to express the essential doctrines of Christianity and to serve as a test of accepted teaching, it was obviously very significant and influential in the compiling of the New Testament. One cannot discard the Nicene Creed without refuting the New Testament and Christianity as a whole; and vice versa.
Article six reads: “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.”
Direct references in scripture to this article of faith can be found in:
[The Bible references are linked to the Jerusalem Bible on line, their website header is big, so scroll down!]
Luke’s Gospel (chapter 24),
Mark (chapter 16 ),
Hebrews (chapter 12 ) and the
Acts of the Apostles (chapter 7 ).
Paul also mentions the Ascension in his letter to the
Ephesians in chapter 4.
The Ascension reminds us that after the human and divine natures of Jesus were united in the Incarnation (the Word made flesh), they could never be separated. In other words, after his death and Resurrection, Jesus didn’t dump his human body as if it was just a mask or a disguise. His human body will exist forever. Where Jesus went, body and soul, into heaven, we hope one day to follow.
Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom; the fulfilment of the Prophet Daniel’s vision in chapter 7: “I saw coming with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man. To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Article 7 reads: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
This article affirms the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time to be its judge. Scriptural references are found in
Matthew’s Gospel in chapters 16 and 24; Acts (chapter 10 ) and Romans ( chapter 2). Paul in his letter to the Romans makes it very clear that no one is exempt from God’s judgement; there is no partiality with God; each person will reap the consequences of their life choices.
We believe that immediately after death, personal judgement occurs. We will be confronted with the reality of our lives; we will see who and what we are as though through the eyes of God; what we have made of ourselves through our personal choices. We will see clearly the ways in which we have or have not served and loved God and our neighbour and we will then either be admitted to heaven or its immediate precincts for purification or we’ll be excluded from heaven to live in cold, lonely isolation for eternity; and that sure sounds like hell.
If we have rejected God in this life, rejected his love and have lived only for our own selfish interests without remorse or repentance, we will have passed dark judgement on ourselves and cannot expect a warm welcome into God’s kingdom of love and light.
Judgement Day, the Day of Reckoning, Doomsday – these are all metaphors for the end of time when what’s known as the Final Judgement will occur. On that day, all the private judgements will be revealed, so everyone knows who is in heaven and who isn’t – and why. It’s final; it’s not an appeal court where one can petition for a review or a second chance.
There are some Christian denominations and sects that believe in what they call “The Rapture.” This is a theology that was developed in the 18th century and has selected appeal today. The idea suggests that some believers will be snatched up to heaven with the Second Coming of Christ and the rest (the vast majority) will be left behind. The timing of this event is reckoned by some to be imminent, by others to be not so imminent and there have been many prediction dates that have already passed without incident. The idea of this “Rapture” has proved quite popular in contemporary literature and movies. The whole idea is imaginative and misguided.
As Catholics, we focus our attention on the condition of the individual soul at the time of death rather than speculating on the timing of the end of the world.
When the disciples asked Jesus about the timing of his second coming in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 24 he replied: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Our vocation is to live as if every day may be our last on earth; to live that we be suitably prepared when we die to be deemed worthy of eternal life with God.