In the final phrases of the Nicene Creed we confess that we are looking “for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” My question for you this Easter is: “How hard are you looking?”
Are your eyes constantly fixed upon the horizon, joyfully awaiting the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come? Are you eagerly anticipating the day when Jesus will reveal Himself to the world as its Lord and Savior? Or, like most people, do you have bigger fish to fry?
The Resurrection of our Lord is a foretaste of the feast to come. He has conquered death itself and so He guarantees that we too will rise upon His return. And so we should always be looking forward to that day. We are to look for it with fervent hope.
Taking our eyes off of Jesus, taking our eyes off the prize, has devastating consequences for our lives here and now. It has a cost for the Church, and for the world in which we dwell.
When we are not looking for Jesus to return, when we are not awaiting the resurrection, then we get lost. We lose sight of our calling in this world, and we fall into blatant sin.
We fail to take seriously the commands of God. We forget that we are called to purity and holiness, and so we end up looking like the rest of the world around us. We absorb and adopt worldly attitudes toward life, marriage, wealth, and success. We seek revenge. We look for security and pleasure in places where we will never find it enough.
But there are other ways in which this loss of direction manifests itself. When we lose sight of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come we begin to get bored, especially with Church and the Gospel.
Why do I have to come to Church? If we are asking that question, then we have lost sight of the resurrection. When the forgiveness of our sins, the announcement of God’s grace, the singing of His Gospel bores us, then we have lost our bearings.
And there is always fear, particularly the fear of death. We lose our way and we start to think that the grave is final, it is “goodbye”. We lose sight of the fact that we will rise as Jesus has risen, and so we worry about how “short” life is. When we stop looking for the resurrection, the only thing we can see is death, and nothing beyond it.
The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the most significant event in the history of the world. It has changed everything. Jesus lives! Christ is risen! And His resurrection directs our attention to our own resurrection. It entices our gaze away from the doldrums of this world onto the glory of the world to come.
The cross and empty tomb have removed our sin. Every instance of losing our way, each time that we have gotten off course because we have stopped looking to the future that Christ will surely give, has been forgiven.
The Holy Spirit moves our eyes to see Jesus returning in triumph, and that colors everything we do here and now. Life is not simply a chemical accident that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is the intentional creation of God, redeemed from death by Christ to endure forever. Your neighbor is no longer just another person, but a person for whom Christ died and rose, a person who will live forever, wither with Jesus or without Him.
We can take our eyes off ourselves and truly learn to love and serve others because our future is set. We can lay aside vengeance trusting that Jesus will return to judge all things. We can rest secured that even though we die, yet shall we live. Jesus gives us confidence to lay aside temporary and fleeting pleasures now because we will receive never ending joy in the resurrection.
When the Spirit turns our eyes to the resurrection and the world to come Church becomes much less boring. You don’t have to attend Church. You get to. Jesus invites you to receive His gifts at Church every single week to give you a blessed hope that will endure through death.
The forgiveness of your sins, the proclamation of the good news, the singing of the hymns, these are not done for God’s good, but for yours. Jesus is reassuring you that He is coming back and that when He does He will judge you to be righteous and blameless.
And because of that reality there is no need to fear death, at least not as the world does. Jesus has conquered. He has triumphed over every single inch of the grave. You may die, but Jesus will raise you up on the last day. You may go into the grave, but Jesus will call you out.
When the Spirit helps us to look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come we know that life is not short, it is eternal. Death is not “goodbye”. Death is defeated.
Jesus gives us eyes to see what the world cannot see, to see Him still at work through His Word, to see Him revealed on the Last Day, to look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Like a ship navigating the waters of this earth by following the North Star, so we Christians are to gain our bearings from keeping our eyes fixed upon the coming of our Lord Jesus. He is coming soon, and we are to be ready, letting the day of His return and the day of our resurrection be the guiding star of our lives.
We will now allow Dr Luther to direct our gaze:
“But for this we are baptized, for this we hear the Gospel and believe in Christ, that we may set aside all these vocations…and turn from this world to another existence and life where there is neither servant nor master, neither maid nor mistress, neither wife nor husband, but where we are altogether equal and one in Christ Jesus, which equality begins here in faith, but yonder is made perfect in sight, where there is no death, but only eternal and imperishable life, no sin, but only righteousness and innocence, no fear nor sorrow, but only security and joy, no dominion nor authority nor power, but God alone will be All in All; in short, where God and Christ Himself is with all His elect and saints. Unto this eternal life we have been baptized, unto this life Christ has redeemed us by His blood and death, and to reach this life we have received the Gospel.” (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol III, p86)
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to keep our eyes trained upon the dawning of the glory of God. Through the work of the Gospel He will do it. May your eyes always be fixed upon the dawn of that new day. Amen.