What We Believe
In God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into Hell. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
We Believe in God...
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The Scriptures declare God’s existence. They do not attempt to prove it. Certain things are so true that philosophers call them “properly basic.” They are so true that you can’t properly understand reality without them. From a biblical standpoint, the existence of God falls into that category.
We Believe in God the Father Almighty...
The Apostles’ Creed compresses the entire nature of God into just two words—"Father Almighty.” The Apostles were telling us that if we comprehend the meaning of those two words, we will know who God is, one is intimate and personal, the other speaks of his unlimited power. To call him “Father” means that he is a personal God who cares about me. To call him “Almighty” means that he is able to do whatever needs to be done. There are no limits with him.
Creator of Heaven and Earth...
“In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.” (Genesis 1:1).
“By faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God; that from invisible things visible things might be made.” (Hebrews 11:3).
(Psalm 33:6) “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth:”
(Psalm 33:9) “For he spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created.”
(Psalm 148:5) “Praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created. ”
(2 Peter 3:5) “For by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in water.”
Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord...
Conceived of the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary...
He Suffered Under Pontius Pilate...
Did Jesus Really Die?
First, Jesus repeatedly predicted his own death. In Matthew 20:18-19 he told his disciples,
"Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death. And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day he shall rise again."
He was even more specific in Mark 10:33-34,
Saying: "Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests, and to the scribes and ancients, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock him, and spit on him, and scourge him, and kill him: and the third day he shall rise again"
Nothing that happened to Jesus was a surprise to him. He saw it all coming, knew it was part of the Father’s plan for him, and warned his disciples about what would happen to him in Jerusalem.
Second, Pilate delivered Jesus over to be crucified. Although he tried to wash his hands of any guilt, he could not wash the blood of Jesus away. He knew what he was doing when he caved in to the crowd. They wanted Jesus dead—and he gave in to their hatred and bloodlust.
Third, the Romans designed crucifixion as a particularly terrible way to die. Over the centuries, the Romans developed a number of ways to kill people. Of the various options, crucifixion was the worst, reserved for the worst criminals and for traitors against the state. No Roman citizen could be crucified—and no freedman either. It is said that the Romans crucified 250,000 Jews.
Fourth, the Romans scourged Jesus as part of the preparation for crucifixion. This involved beating him with wooden rods and with leather belts embedded with pieces of stone, metal and glass. The beating not only weakened the victim, it lacerated him until his flesh hung in tatters.
Fifth, the centurions declared that Jesus was already dead—which is why they didn’t break his bones. The centurions were professional soldiers who didn’t care about Jesus one way or the other. They had a job to do and they did it. Over time they became good judges of the people they crucified. They knew the difference between a coma and death. After all Jesus had been through, they knew he could not possibly be alive. They saw him die, they knew he was dead, and they declared him dead.
Sixth, the soldiers pierced his side with a spear to be certain he was dead. Most authorities believe the “water and blood” that gushed forth came from the sac around Jesus’ heart. The effusion of liquid provided another proof he was dead.
Seventh, the women prepared his body for burial following accepted Jewish practices. This involved cleaning the body (a difficult job because of Jesus’ many wounds), wrapping it tightly with a linen cloth, and sprinkling spices and aromatic resins between the linen wrappings. The spices and resins hardened to form a kind of cocoon around the dead body both to preserve it and to deter grave robbers.
Eighth, the tomb was sealed with an enormous boulder weighing 3-5 tons.
Ninth, the Roman guard at the tomb ensured that no one could attempt to steal the body.
Tenth, on Saturday night the Romans, the Jewish leaders, and the disciples agreed on just one point—Jesus was dead. No one believed for a moment that he had somehow survived the beating, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the severe blood loss, the exhaustion, the crucifixion, the exposure, the incredible physical suffering, and the gradual collapse of all his bodily systems. Jesus didn’t die in some corner. He died in public, outside the walls of Jerusalem, surrounded by soldiers who had seen many men die, with his mother nearby, the Jewish leaders watching, and a large crowd of onlookers. No one could have faked his own death in that situation. Jesus was truly dead. All the evidence points in that direction—and the evidence is overwhelming.
Let’s consider three passages that put it into a broader biblical context:
He Descended into Hell..
What happened to Jesus between his death and resurrection? Where was he and what was he doing between his death and his resurrection on Sunday morning?
We begin with the answer offered by the Apostles’ Creed: Jesus “descended into hell.” Let’s notice how the Creed uses a certain verb form to describe Jesus Christ. Most of the phrases are in the passive voice: “He was conceived … was born … was crucified … was buried.” These verbs describe things that happened to Christ or things that were done to him by others. But when the Creed comes to this phrase, it switches to the active voice: “He descended into hell.” Whatever else that means, the Creed tells us that Jesus did this of his own initiative. By using the active voice, the writers of the Creed make a strong statement about what Jesus did. It didn’t happen by accident, but by our Lord’s divine design. He went there and he did it on purpose.
Let’s look briefly at three relevant passages of Scripture.
1) Psalm 139:7-8
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.” The phrase “descended into hell” is translated from the Hebrew word sheol, The early verses of Psalm 139 assure us of God’s omnipresence—wherever we go, he is already there, and there is no part of the universe—no matter how low or how dark or how distant it may be—where he is not already and always present.
2) Colossians 2:15
“And despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open shew, triumphing over them in himself.” The phrase “principalities and powers” refers to the spiritual forces of wickedness, not to human rulers. By his bloody death on the cross, Christ triumphed over Satan and his demons in all their various ranks and titles. The cross was a decisive victory for the Son of God. He won the battle so convincingly that the outcome of the war can no longer be in doubt. To “despoil” someone means to take his weapons away. If a man has a gun pointed at you, he’s not despoiled until you take the gun away from him. As long as he has the gun (and sufficient ammunition), you’re in big trouble. When Jesus died on the cross, he took the guns and the ammo out of the hands of the demons. And he publicly humiliated them.
When Jesus died, something stupendous happened in the spiritual realm. Although it was invisible to the naked eye, it was seen by all the angels and the Old Testament saints. They watched as Jesus, like some conquering Old West hero, entered the infernal regions and disarmed the “bad guys” one by one. Then he marched them in full view of his Heavenly Father so that every created being would know that he had won the victory.
3) I Peter 3:18-19
"Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison:” Verse 18 is clear as it stands. It’s a simple statement of a vicarious substitutionary atonement: Christ died on our behalf to bring us to God. If Peter had stopped right there, we wouldn’t have any problems. But he continued in verse 19 by talking about Jesus being dead in the flesh “but enlivened in the spirit,” meaning Christ’s human spirit. Then Peter says Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison. Christ preached to the imprisoned spirit beings-the just that had gone before Him.
Here are three Bible words that will help us think about the phrase “he descended into hell.” First, there is the Hebrew word sheol. A very common word in the Old Testament, it refers to the shadowy realm of the dead. Sheol is where dead people go when they die. Sometimes it is translated as “grave.” Second, there is the Greek word hades, which to us means “hell” but in the New Testament, it is the equivalent of the Hebrew sheol. Third, there is the Greek word gehenna, which always refers to the place we call “hell,” the place of fire and brimstone. It is the place of eternal torment. The word gehenna comes from the enormous trash dump in the Hinnom Valley outside Jerusalem. Smoke and fire ascended from the dump day and night. It became a symbol for hell—the place of eternal suffering.
How does this apply to the Apostles’ Creed? When we hear that Jesus “descended into hell,” we automatically think of the word gehenna—the place of fire and smoke and suffering. But that’s not what the Apostles meant. They were not trying to say that Jesus entered the burning flames of hell. When the Creed uses the word “hell,” the real meaning is closer to sheol or hades. The Creed is telling us that when Jesus died, he fully entered the realm of the dead. He was truly and utterly and completely dead from a human point of view. You may recall that scene from the movie Princess Bride where the handsome hero has apparently died. But then he is taken to Mad Max, a local magician who assures his friends that the hero is not really dead. He’s only “mostly dead.” That was good news for the hero because there is a huge difference between “mostly dead” and “totally dead.” But when Jesus died, he was totally dead. What happens to us when we enter the realm of death happened to him when he died. He was not spared the pains of death in any way. That’s the main point the Creed is making.
The Church teaches that between his crucifixion and resurrection, Christ went to the regions of darkness and proclaimed his victory over the devil and the demons. The value of this doctrine is that it answers the question, “What happened to the Old Testament saints when they died?” While we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), the Old Testament believers did not always have that same assurance. Christ liberated the righteous souls who were in the “paradise” part of Hades and thus “led captivity captive” (see Ephesians 4:8-10). The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 lend support for this view. This whole scene takes place in hell, that is, in Hades. On one side of hell, as it were, is paradise, where Abraham and Lazarus are. On the other side, beyond a great chasm, hell is really hell, and that is where the once greedy rich man now is. This also agrees with what Jesus said to the thief on the nearby cross who believed in Him: ‘And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise."’ (Luke 23:43). Presumably, then, Jesus went to hell, proclaiming his victory to those given over for damnation, while actually staying in the paradise precincts.
The death of Christ brought startling changes in the spirit world, most of which remain hidden to us.
On the Third Day He Rose Again..
When we say that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, we mean something like this: Jesus truly died on Friday afternoon, and on Sunday morning he personally, bodily, physically, actually, literally rose from the dead, never to die again. He rose personally—it was Jesus himself, not some substitute. He rose bodily—meaning that it was his crucified body that was raised from the dead. He rose physically—meaning that he wasn’t a ghost or a phantom or a figment of someone’s imagination. To say that he rose actually and literally means that it really happened. And the word “resurrection” means that he was raised immortal and incorruptible, never to die again. During his earthly ministry, our Lord raised several people from the dead, most notably Lazarus. But those miracles were resuscitations, not true resurrections. Lazarus was destined to die again. But Jesus, having once experienced death and having triumphed over it, would never die again. He was raised immortal—alive from the dead—and he still lives today. That’s what we mean when we say that on the third day he rose again from the dead.
The resurrection of Christ has always been a fundamental truth of Catholic doctrine. If you do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you have placed yourself outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity. If you truly don’t believe it, you are not a Catholic at all.
We worship a risen Christ. Jesus was crucified once and for all he did not stay dead.
What if Jesus has not been raised from the dead? What if his bones really are in some box in the Middle East? What then?
Four conclusions follow:
And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. I Corinthians 15:17-19
Our faith is vain.
He says this explicitly in verse 17. The word vain means “useless, empty, futile, of no value.” The Christian faith without the Resurrection is an exercise in futility. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it’s not true and we are wasting our time believing it.
We are still in our sins.
That’s also in verse 17. Christ’s death cannot save us if he is still in the tomb. There is no forgiveness and we are eternally lost if Christ is still in the tomb.
We will never see our Catholic loved ones again.
“Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.” (I Corinthians 15:18). Death has won the final battle if Christ did not rise. Then our worst fears are realized as we lay our Catholic loved ones to rest, knowing that we will never see them again.
We are a miserable people.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (I Corinthians 15:19). Sometimes well-meaning people say something like this: “Even if Christianity isn’t true, it’s still the best way to live.” The proper theological term for that is Baloney. If it’s not true, why would anyone want to believe it or live it? I don’t want to spend my days deluded, following some clever fable. Life is too short to do anything but find the truth and then commit yourself to it 100%. If Jesus did not rise on the third day, then the “Hallelujah Chorus” is just another piece of nice music. It’s beautiful but it’s not based on truth. If Jesus did not rise, then our prayers are empty, our preaching is in vain, our missionary work is useless, and the Church itself is a danger because it stands for something that is not true. If Jesus is still in the grave, then we’re just talking nonsense on Easter Sunday morning. That’s what Paul meant—and he’s right!
It all hangs on that little word “if.” If Jesus did not rise … But what if he did?
Having stated the negative, Paul now triumphantly asserts the positive truth in verse 20: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.”
We can simply reverse all of Paul’s previous points. Now that Christ is risen …
Our faith has meaning.
We have forgiveness.
We will see our loved ones who died in Christ.
Today we can be certain about our own future.
Now there is hope for the hopeless. Now light shines from heaven in the midst of the darkest corners of the world. Now we can say to anyone, “If you come to Christ, he will not turn you away.” No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Whatever “your” sin might be, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the blood of Jesus Christ can forgive you and wash you clean in one great moment of transformation. Heaven now becomes real and death has lost its victory. We still die—but we don’t stay dead forever. There is good news from the graveyard because Jesus has come back from the dead.
He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty...
We face certain difficulties when we consider the ascension of our Lord. The event itself is only briefly mentioned in Mark, Luke and Acts. By contrast both the crucifixion and the resurrection are described by all four gospel writers in detail. And because the event itself is so unusual, it is difficult for us to visualize exactly what happened. Yet it is rare to find someone who doubts the ascension of Christ. Vigorous apologetic debates have raged around the resurrection, but the ascension is not a topic of much discussion. Perhaps most people don’t think about it enough either to doubt it or to debate it.
But a quick glance at Church history tells us that there is more here than meets the eye. For one thing, every major Christian creed includes the ascension of Christ. You find it in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. The liturgical calendar always includes Ascension Day—always on a Thursday—always 40 days after Easter. And both the event and doctrine behind it are highly biblical.
· Luke 24:50-52 “And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, he departed from them, and was carried up to heaven. And they adoring went back into Jerusalem with great joy.”
· Acts 1:9 “And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
There are many other verses that speak of Christ’s exaltation at the Father’s right hand in heaven, and what this truth means for believers. The truth of Christ’s ascension answers two important questions:
What happened to Jesus?
Where did he go?
Here are two statements that answer those two questions.
I. He Ascended into Heaven
We can state what we know about the event itself in very simple terms. While Jesus is speaking to his disciples in Bethany (several miles east of Jerusalem), he blesses them, and is taken up into heaven before their eyes. They were there, they saw it, it really happened. It was not a figment of their imagination or a dream or vision. Unlike the resurrection, which no one saw as it was happening, the disciples actually saw Jesus ascend into heaven. Both Luke and Acts say that Jesus was “taken up” into heaven. The verb has the idea of being lifted straight up into the air. They saw him rise, then they saw him disappear into a cloud, then they didn’t see him at all. Note that he ascended bodily—not as a spirit, but in his glorified body. The same body that was crucified, and the same body that was raised incorruptible, in that body our Lord ascended into heaven. By means of the ascension, Jesus’ triumphant return to heaven signaled that the days of his suffering were over at last. Death and the grave are behind him forever. He who suffered more than any man will suffer no more forever.
II. He Sits at the Father’s Right Hand
The New Testament uses three words to describe Jesus, status in heaven:
He is exalted.
He is glorified.
He is enthroned.
In the ancient world, when a king wished to honor someone, he offered them a seat at his right hand. That seat was the highest seat, the greatest honor, and the supreme glory the king could confer on anyone. What does it mean to say that our Lord is now seated at the Father’s right hand? First, it means he has a permanent place in heaven. When he returned in triumph, he was given a permanent place next to the Father’s throne. Our Lord didn’t have to search for a seat in heaven. When he arrived, there was a seat with his name on it (so to speak). That seat at the Father’s right hand is his forever.
Second, it means that his work of redemption is now complete. While he was on the earth, he spoke often of “the work” of the Father (John 4:34; 9:4; 17:4). His work came to a climax when he hung on the cross, bearing the sins of the world. The Bible says that when he died, he became a sin offering for us (II Corinthians 5:21). When he died, God poured out his wrath on Jesus even though Jesus was perfect and pure and wholly innocent. But as the sinless substitute, he took the punishment I should have received so that I might go free. Just before he died, Christ shouted out, “It is finished” (John 19:30), which literally means “paid in full.” The work was done; the debt was paid. I can never be charged with the guilt of my sins because Jesus paid it all. The ascension signifies that the Father has accepted the work of his Son. Since God has accepted Christ, nothing more can be added to what he did when he died on the cross and rose from the dead. Hebrews 10:11 reminds us that there were no chairs in the tabernacle because the priests were not allowed to sit down. They stood to perform their work because their work was never done. Every day the priest would kill another animal—signifying that the price of sin had not yet been paid. But when Christ returned to heaven, he sat down because he had offered himself as the one sacrifice for sin forever.
Third, it means he is now in the place of supreme and highest honor in the universe. God has exalted him and given him a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11). At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The ascension means that Jesus has been vindicated in all that he came to do.
Because of the ascension, we may rest assured that the religion of Christ is true. God has accepted him and because God accepted him, he will accept all those who trust in him. Because he is safe in heaven, we will someday be safe in heaven. We will be where he now is.
“From Thence He Will Come Again to Judge the Living and the Dead”
John 14:1-3; II Peter 3:3-10
Some may be wondering if it’s too late for anything but the coming judgment when Jesus returns. And that brings us directly to this phrase from the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe … he will come again to judge the living and the dead.” These simple words consist of two complementary truths:
1) Jesus is coming again.
2) Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead.
It has been said that the New Testament refers to the second coming of Christ in over 300 verses. That means one of every 13 verses deals with some aspect of our Lord’s return to the earth. It is so central to the New Testament that Christians everywhere have always believed that Jesus will return someday. Though we differ (and argue!) over the details, Those who identify with Christianity unite in believing that Christ himself will return to the earth. Jesus said in John 14:3, “I will come again.” Here are five words that help us understand what that means. His second coming will be …
Personal (It will be Jesus and not some substitute)
Literal (Not a vision or a dream)
Visible (“Every eye will see him”)
Sudden (Not a gradual return)
Unexpected (Like a thief in the night).
Acts 1:11 makes it clear that Jesus himself will one day return to the earth. It will be “this same Jesus” who is coming again. Twice in one verse Luke uses the word “same” to tell us something crucial about the Second Coming. The same Jesus who left will one day return. And he will return the same way that he left. If plain English can have any meaning at all, those words teach us that Jesus is coming back personally, literally, visibly and bodily. We might also add that his coming will be sudden and unexpected. Luke 24:50-52 informs us that as Jesus reached out his hands to bless his disciples, he began to rise from the face of the earth—evidently without any warning whatsoever. We can assume that his return to the earth will be no less astonishing and no less surprising.
This Same Jesus
This is truly an astounding thought. The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem is coming again. The same Jesus who grew up in Nazareth is coming again. The same Jesus who turned water into wine is coming again. The same Jesus who walked on water is coming again. The same Jesus who healed the nobleman’s son is coming again. The same Jesus who raised Lazarus is coming again. The same Jesus who entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is coming again. The same Jesus who was betrayed by Judas is coming again. The same Jesus who was whipped, beaten, scourged, mocked, and condemned to death is coming again. The same Jesus who died on Skull Hill is coming again. The same Jesus who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning is coming again. The same Jesus who ascended into heaven is coming again.
That’s what we mean when we say that Jesus is coming again. The actual, historical figure that lived 2,000 years ago on the other side of the world is returning to the earth one more time. There awaits in the future an event more marvelous, more startling, more amazing, and more blessed than anything that has happened in the last 2,000 years. I speak of the literal, visible, bodily return of Christ to the earth. No event may seem less likely to modern men and women; no event is more certain in the light of inspired Scripture.
A Word from Saint Peter
But before we sell our houses and move to the mountains to await the Lord’s return, as some misguided souls have done in the past, let us heed the words of II Peter 3:3-10. In this passage Peter addresses a puzzling question—one that bothered believers in the first century and troubles thoughtful people today. Why hasn’t the Lord returned already? What is he waiting for? Does the 2,000-year delay mean that he isn’t coming at all? Should we give up our Christian hope? Listen to Peter’s answer:
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (II Peter 3:3-10).
This passage is full of important truth that deserves close consideration. Here are three points to ponder:
1) Despite what the scoffers think, the Second Coming is certain because God promised it.
The scoffers will always be with us. They will say, “Twenty centuries have come and gone and still Jesus has not come. Give it up. He’s not coming back.” To which Peter replies, “Think about Noah’s flood.” Before the flood, men lived in reckless disregard for God. They lived as if tomorrow would never come. They sinned in every way possible. But one day the skies poured forth water and the fountains of the great were opened, and water covered the entire earth. If God could do that once, he could do it again—only this time the coming of Christ will bring a judgment of fire to the earth.
2) The Second Coming will usher in a day of judgment for the ungodly.
Notice the sequence of words: water, destruction, judgment, fire. Just as God destroyed the world once with water, the next time he destroys it with fire. For the ungodly, the Second Coming of Christ will be bad news indeed.
3) The Second Coming is delayed to give people a chance to come to Christ.
Here is the good news. The “delay” the scoffers talk about is actually God’s gift to them. He purposely delays the Lord’s return in order to give men and women more time to repent. Verse 9 reveals God’s tender heart toward the lost. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He does not enjoy sending people to hell. Contrary to popular opinion, he is not some crazed old man in a white beard, laughing while he hurls lightning bolts to the earth. For 2000 years he has held back the final judgment in order to give rebellious men and women a chance to surrender their arms and yield allegiance to Jesus Christ.
As the Creed says, Christ will eventually judge the living and the dead. All must stand before him and give an account. No one can escape that day.
The Bible teaches a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. The righteous and the unrighteous are raised at the end of the millennium and you will find that that this resurrection is clearly taught in God’s word. In fact, Jesus refers to this resurrection in John 5:28-29: “For the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”
The resurrection of the just we can understand. They are raised to be given eternal rewards.
But why are the dead raised “to be judged” after they have already suffered in hell? The story in Luke 16 may suggest an answer in that the rich man was somehow able to converse freely across the great divide that separated hell from “Abraham’s bosom.” He evidently hoped to convince Abraham to send someone to ease his torments. He also wanted someone to go back and warn his five brothers. These facts suggest that while hell is a place of torment, those who are there know it is not their final destination. They are conscious not only of their sufferings, but of other places, other people and other possibilities. Is it possible that some in hell resent their sentence and argue that they have been treated unfairly? If so, then it makes sense that they will be raised bodily to face the Lord at the final judgment. At that time, all secrets will be revealed, the books will be opened, and ultimate judgment determined. This is not to suggest that after spending “thousand of years” in hell that the Lord will discover they should have gone to heaven. Nor does it suggest that hell itself is a kind of short-term purgatory preparing people for heaven. Perhaps the case is similar to a man who is arrested, denied bail and kept in jail until his trial, at which time the final sentence is pronounced.
But what is that “final sentence?”
Here we come face to face with the most awful reality in all the Bible. After the unsaved dead are raised, after they face the Lord in the final judgment, they are condemned forever to suffer everlasting conscious punishment away from the presence of the Lord. Note the words of II Thessalonians 1:8-9, “...giving vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power:” The phrase “eternal punishment in destruction” seems like an oxymoron–destruction that never ends, a process that goes on and on and on. It is an apt description of the final fate of those who do not know Jesus Christ. They suffer forever, they are destroyed forever, they are punished forever.
Revelation 20:11-15 describes exactly what happens when the unsaved dead are finally raised to stand before the Lord.
And I saw a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire.
Think of it. An entire pool (better translated lake) filled with waves of burning fire. A lake as vast as an ocean, a lake with no shoreline, only wave after wave of burning sulphur and brimstone. In this lake, unbelievers are cast one by one, screaming, pleading, cursing, their voices drowned by the crackling of the flames as they enter the burning fire. Acrid burning smoke fills the lungs, fire hotter than any earthly fire engulfs the human body, pain unlike any human pain courses through the burning veins. Voices cry out, but no one hears, people sink but do not find the bottom. Fire is everywhere, and smoke, and poisonous fumes. Here and there ghastly hunks of humanity desperately swim through the flames. Although they swim forever, they never reach the shore. No ships ply the lake of fire, no fishermen ever visit, no vacationers ever come this way.
As you stand in the distance, two striking facts come before you. First, there is no sun, only an eerie orange-yellow glow that seems to come from within the lake itself, a hideous, hellish emanation that seems to have come out of the bowels of evil. There is no light, no sun, only darkness and shadows. But then you notice something else. Although the fire is burning across the lake, and although the lake is filled with people, no one is consumed. What kind of fire is it that burns but does not destroy?
This is the lake of fire, the final destiny of the unsaved. If my description be rejected as a lurid literalism, let me ask the reader to consider this: If the lake of fire is not literal, if we are to understand it as a kind of symbol, must it not be true that the reality behind the symbol is even worse than the symbol? I have no objection to those who say the fire in hell is not “literal,” if by that they mean that the fire is not the same as human fire since it burns but does not consume.
If this picture of a lake of fire is not “literal,” that must mean that the reality is so terrible that no human words can describe it. Please do not make the mistake of trying to “humanize” hell by playing down the images. The Bible uses “fire” and “darkness” and “torment” too many times for us to glibly say, “That’s not literal.” It means something and the something it means is so eternally terrible that only these awful words and pictures can remotely begin to convey the ultimate meaning.
Let me clarify that point. I am sure my description of the lake of fire is no closer to reality than was Dante’s Inferno. But of this much I am sure. The reality is much worse than anything I or Dante or anyone else could ever imagine.
This is what we mean by “everlasting conscious punishment.” It is the final destiny of those who do not know Jesus Christ. To make it more personal, it is the final destiny of your friends and neighbors, your loved ones, your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your children, if they die without Jesus Christ.
And, yes, it is your destiny if you die without Jesus Christ. Let that thought linger in your mind. The reality of hell is more than just a theoretical doctrine. There is a place reserved for you in the lake of fire unless you by a conscious choice “Do penance, and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins:” Acts 2:38.
I Believe In The Holy Ghost...
And on the last, and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39).
This is a moment of high drama. It is the last day, the greatest day, the eighth day of the final feast of the year, the Feast of Tabernacles. It usually took place in early October, at the time of the final harvest. And it was a great celebration. For seven days the Jews lived in lean-to tents or shanties or booths made of palm branches, leaves and tree limbs. This was their way of remembering the 40 years that their ancestors spent wandering in the wilderness. That was a hard time, a long time, and a whole generation died while waiting to enter the Promised Land. Why celebrate that difficult period? Because every day, even in the wilderness, God provided manna and quail. Though they lived in the desert with the sand and heat and the flies and the desolation all around them, God never failed them. They discovered that God could prepare a table in the wilderness and feed them for 40 years. So for seven days each year the Jews came to Jerusalem, made their lean-to's, and celebrated God’s goodness.
But it wasn’t just food that God gave them in the wilderness. He also gave them water. When the people became thirsty and had no water, they accused Moses of bringing them into the desert so they would die of thirst. The Lord told Moses to take the same staff he used to part the Red Sea and hit the rock at Horeb. When he did, water gushed out. Clean, fresh, pure water, more than enough for all the people. It was a mighty miracle—made even greater because the people had grumbled against God—and he provided for them anyway. So each day for seven days during the Feast of Tabernacles, the priest would form a procession from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam. There he filled a golden urn with water and brought it back to the Temple. While he poured the water on the western side of the massive altar, the choir of 4,000 singers accompanied by 287 instrumentalists began to sing. The people cheered and sang Psalm 118, which ends with these words: “O praise ye the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” The priest repeated that ritual every day for seven days—and the people cheered for joy each time. When the eighth day came, things were different. This was the final feast day of the entire year. It was truly the greatest day. On that day there was a solemn convocation, but the priest did not go to the Pool of Siloam to draw water.
On that day—the greatest day of the final feast—the day with no water—Jesus stood up and spoke to the throngs of people crowding the Temple precincts. The fact that he stood would have gotten their attention since Jewish rabbis normally were seated when they taught. The impact of his words on this particular day was enormous. On the one day when there was no water, Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” The Jews understood him immediately. For Jesus to say those words at that moment meant, “I am the rock that brought forth water in the wilderness. I am the true source of living water. Come to me, believe on me, and I will give you living water from heaven.”
With that as background, I want us to see that these words are for us today. They speak a message of hope to a thirsty world.
I. We come to Christ because we are thirsty.
Most of us know very little about thirst. If we are thirsty, we go to the refrigerator and get some water or some milk or some tea or a coke. We go to the faucet and turn it on, and if we don’t turn it off, water pours out 24 hours a day. So most of us rarely experience true thirst. A few years ago Gatorade promoted itself with this slogan: “Gatorade—for that deep down body thirst.” One commercial showed a runner at the end of a race, having crossed the finish line totally spent, bent over, arms resting on his knees, his body dripping sweat. The commercial sends the message that there is a deep thirst that Coca-Cola can’t satisfy. We know that a man can live for weeks without food, but he can only live a few days without water. Once thirst takes over, it becomes a raging demon and all you can think about is finding a few drops of water. And when thirst controls a person, you will do anything, anything at all, to get those few drops. You will lie or cheat or steal or kill if necessary.
Inside all of us there is a thirst that nothing in this world can satisfy. We all have a “God-shaped vacuum” that only God can fill. Some people thirst for sexual fulfillment, so they hop from one relationship to another. Some people think career advancement is the key to happiness, so they move from job to job. Husbands leave their wives for other women, and still they are not happy. Wives leave their husbands for other men, and they aren’t happy either. Some of us are adrenalin junkies, always on the move, looking for the next jolt of excitement, the next big adventure, the next battle to fight, trying to fulfill the “Wild at Heart” impulse we feel on the inside. But adventure itself never lasts very long. Life returns to the ordinary and we wonder, “What do we do now?” Some people thirst for significance, others thirst for power, others thirst for fame or wealth or close relationships to fill the lonely void inside.
· There is the thirst of the intellect—we want to know the truth.
· There is the thirst of the conscience—we are guilty and need forgiveness.
· There is the thirst of the heart—we desperately search for happiness and don’t know where to find it.
We come to Christ because we are thirsty, and until we see our need and cry out for help, we will never come at all. As Jesus said, only the sick need a physician. Only the hungry will be fed. Only the lost are found. Only the thirsty drink the living water.
II. When we come to Christ, our thirst is quenched.
How simple it is to be saved. It’s like drinking a glass of cool water on a hot day. Notice the verbs that Jesus uses: Come … drink … believe. We all know what these words mean. Jesus used simple words so everyone could understand the Good News. There is a story of A priest who received a letter from a prisoner in Kansas. This is his letter as he wrote it:
“First of all, may God bless you. I pray that this letter finds you in the best of health. Me, I’m blessed, Sir, I just got done reading some of the literature you sent me, and believe me, I have been a mess up all my life, and my wife and my kids have always be saved, “Godly people.” It’s always been me the messed up father and husband, but after reading the literature-Oh, I’m in prison now for drugs and I got to do 58 months, my out date is 8-03-07, but after I read your book, I asked the Lord Jesus into my life, and had the Chaplain here baptize me and I don’t know what happen, but I do know it were good. So thank you for everything and I would like for you to assist me more about knowing Christ.
“Father, I would really like to hear from you.
Isn’t that a wonderful letter? I was touched by his straightforward honesty about his own sinful past, but this is my favorite part: “I don’t know what happen, but I do know it were good.” Those are the words of a man who has found Living Water; he just doesn’t know how to explain it yet.
In a real sense, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in prison or on the outside because apart from Christ, we’re all in the same boat together. We’re all hungry and thirsty and desperately searching for something we can’t quite find. Then one day we meet Jesus, and suddenly everything is different.
Here is one mark of true conversion—we are deeply changed by Jesus and we know it. That’s the meaning of “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water ” This literally meaning out of the deepest place, the seat of the emotions. When we talk about a “belly laugh,” we mean the same thing. A “belly laugh” comes from deep within us. The deep change Jesus makes touches us at the very core of who we are. You will know you are converted when you come to Jesus and something happens to you that you cannot fully explain. True conversion means that Almighty God enters your life, in the deepest, most personal part, and takes up residence within. You can truly say, “I am converted,” when you know that God has done something for you that only God can do. Let me say that another way: If everything in your life can be explained apart from God, what do you need God for? True conversion goes beyond religion—which is why religious people are often the last to be converted. Religious people trust in their religion—but their lives are never changed. They go to Mass and go through the motions, they may even pray the Rosary and say all the right words, but they have a Sahara heart—hot, parched, barren, empty.
When Jesus comes in, living waters flow out. And they keep on flowing.
III. When our thirst is quenched, we become a river of living water for others.
Here we have the whole course of the Christian life set before us.
What starts with God, comes down to us, and then goes out from us to other people. Living water flows from God into us, and then from deep within us (from the “belly” of life), the river flows out from us for the benefit of others. The concept of a river of living water can be found in various places in the Old Testament, including Isaiah 44:3, “For I will pour out waters upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land: I will pour out my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy stock.” In John 7:39 Jesus tells us the living water is the Holy Spirit. That’s the connection with the Apostles’ Creed, which says, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” And what does the Holy Spirit do? He brings God to us. When Jesus was on the earth, his name was Immanuel—God with us. Now that he has gone back to heaven, the Holy Spirit comes and brings God to us. The Holy Spirit opens the springs of life and a river of living water begins to flow from within us.
But God never gives his blessings simply to be hoarded. He gives his blessings to us so that we can share them with others. Here is a simple sentence to help you think about this truth: The Holy Spirit brings God to us so we can bring God to others. The river flows from us to others. A genuine believer in Christ is not self-centered. He says to himself, “I have been greatly blessed. I must pass these blessings along to others. I can’t keep them for myself.”
What God gives me, I give away. If it’s money, it’s not mine anyway. If it’s my time, it all belongs to God anyway. If it’s something I own, I can give it away because I don’t own anything; God owns it all. If it’s a helping hand, I can do that because God reached down and helped me.
The Holy Catholic Church...
Jesus was the first to mention the Catholic Church (Catholic meaning Universal):
Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 16:16–19)
Peter Our First Pope is the Foundation of the Church
Some have tried to argue that Jesus did not mean that his Church would be built on Peter but on something else.
Some argue that in this passage there is a minor difference between the Greek term for Peter (Petros) and the term for rock (petra), yet they ignore the obvious explanation: petra, a feminine noun, has simply been modified to have a masculine ending, since one would not refer to a man (Peter) as feminine. The change in the gender is purely for stylistic reasons.
These critics also neglect the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and, as John 1:42 tells us, in everyday life he actually referred to Peter as Kepha or Cephas (depending on how it is transliterated). It is that term which is then translated into Greek as petros. Thus, what Jesus actually said to Peter in Aramaic was: "You are Kepha and on this very kepha I will build my Church."
The Church Fathers, those Christians closest to the apostles in time, culture, and theological background, clearly understood that Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter, as the following passages show.
"Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ [Matt. 16:18] with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’ [Matt. 16:19]?" (Demurrer Against the Heretics 22 [A.D. 200]).
"[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys" (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).
"Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? ‘Oh you of little faith,’ he says, ‘why do you doubt?’ [Matt. 14:31]" (Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [A.D. 248]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. . . . If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
"There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering" (Letters 43:5 [A.D. 253]).
"But what is his error . . . who does not remain on the foundation of the one Church which was founded upon the rock by Christ [Matt. 16:18], can be learned from this, which Christ said to Peter alone: ‘Whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:19]" (collected in Cyprian’s Letters74:16 [A.D. 253]).
Ephraim the Syrian
"[Jesus said:] ‘Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples’" (Homilies 4:1 [A.D. 351]).
"You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all" (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).
Ambrose of Milan
"[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. . . . ’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?" (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).
"It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but life eternal" (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).
Pope Damasus I
"Likewise it is decreed . . . that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has not been placed at the forefront [of the churches] by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it" (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).
"‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division" (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]).
"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails" (Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).
"If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. ... In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found" (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).
Council of Ephesus
"Philip, the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See [Rome], said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors’" (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 431]).
Pope Leo I
"Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles. . . . He wished him who had been received into partnership in his undivided unity to be named what he himself was, when he said: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18], that the building of the eternal temple might rest on Peter’s solid rock, strengthening his Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it" (Letters 10:1 [A.D. 445]).
Council of Chalcedon
"Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped him [Dioscorus] of the episcopate" (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 451]). (1)
The Church does not belong to the Pope it belongs to Jesus Christ.
"upon this rock (Peter)I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18)
What does Jesus mean when he says He will build His Church?
"I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18)
Men can build buildings and men can build organizations but only Jesus Christ can build the church. The Lord says, "I will build My church," the only one approved by God and supernaturally constructed Is the Catholic Church not Denominations. Each person who has been baptized into Christ has been baptized into the Church. Each one is a building block, a building material that is a part of the whole.
St. Paul uses the same word picture in I Corinthians 3:9. He says to the those in the Church of Corinth, "you are God's building." He describes himself as an architect, "According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation;...." (vs10) that foundation was Jesus Christ (vs11) then he describes what kind of material, that is what kind of people are sometimes used for building on that foundation. "gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:"
The Church is also called the Bride of Christ.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it:(Ephesians 5:25)
The Apostle John, while on the isle of Patymos was told by an angel to come with him..."Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.” (Apocolypse/Revelation 21:9) and what did The Apostle John see? "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God," (vs. 10). He saw a city of buildings the holy Jerusalem, the bride, the lamb's wife! So we see Jesus is building his Church and the Church are those who are baptized into Jesus Christ.
"The gates of Hell will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)
The phrase gates of hell is a Jewish expression meaning “realm of the dead.” The same two words appear in the Septuagint version of Job 38:17: “Have the gates of death been opened to thee, and hast thou seen the darksome doors?” They appear again in Isaiah 38:10: “I said: In the midst of my days I shall go to the gates of hell: I sought for the residue of my years..” "Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death, that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion." (Psalms 9:15 Douay Rheims) also see Psalms 106:18. In all these passages, they are a euphemism for death or grave, or place of the dead.
Death can not prevail against the Church any more then it could prevail against Jesus by his death burial and resurrection.
And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15: 54-57)
The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)
In David's Kingdom there would have been a "prime minister" who had the absolute authority of the King himself.
(Isaiah 22:20-24) And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias, And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father' s house, divers kinds of vessels, every little vessel, from the vessels of cups even to every instrument of music.
In that day I will call my servant Eli'akim the son of Hilki'ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.--Isaiah 22:20-22
The Lord grants authority to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of David.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. --Matthew 16:18-19
The quotes from Isaiah and Matthew that appear at the top of the page demonstrate the position of the Pope in the Kingdom of God. Because Christ is our King, and His kingdom is a perfection of the Kingdom of David, we can expect the same structure of the Davidic Kingdom applies to the Perfected Kingdom. In the Davidic Kingdom, the head was obviously the King, who is now Christ. Second to the King was the Queen Mother. If you remember from 2 Kings, King Solomon would bow to and obey his mother Queen Bathsheba. Mutual honor and obedience was given between the King and the Queen Mother, but ultimately the King was the head of the kingdom. Mary has been given the honor of being Christ's Queen Mother as demonstrated by her heavenly queenship in Revelations 12.
Next on the hierarchy of the Davidic Kingdom was the Prime Minister. To act as the primary managing forces for the King, the Ministers of the Court were delegated the authority of the King. The Bishops as successors of the Apostles are the Ministers of Christ's Court. Of the ministers, the Prime Minister is head.
The quote from Isaiah demonstrates how the Lord recognized the office of Prime Minister in the Kingdom of David. It also shows the language the Lord used in passing that position from Shebna to Eliakim. When Christ speaks of building His Perfected Kingdom in Matthew 16, He intentionally parallels the language used in Isaiah 22. This parallel shows Christ's intention for Peter to take the position of Prime Minister in His Kingdom. As that position was handed down from Shebna to Eliakim, the position of Prime Minister has been handed down through Apostolic Succession from Peter to every Pope since . As faithful subjects, we continue to recognize the authority of the Pope as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of God. In recognizing the authority of that office, we honor and obey Christ's Kingship and His kingdom. 2
Communion of Saints
The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head.
The doctrine of the "Communion of Saints" helps to explain the Church. The baptized all form one body and the good of each is shared by all. "Because Christ (the Church's most important member) is the head, his riches are given to all the members through the sacraments" (St. Thomas Aquinas).
The disciples "were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42).
There are five Communions:
Communion in the faith
This faith of the Church was received from the apostles.
Communion of the sacraments
Sacraments, especially Baptism, link all the faithful to each other and to Christ. The word "communion" "is especially suited for the Eucharist which brings about this communion.
They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2: 41)
And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house. (Acts 2:46)
Communion of charisms
These are "And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit.", (1 Corinthians 12:7). That is for profit for the whole Church.
We see an example of this in (Acts 2:43) And fear came upon every soul: many wonders also and signs were done by the apostles in Jerusalem, and there was great fear in all.
Communion of common goods
Whatever a Christian has is really possessed in common with everyone else.
And all they that believed, were together, and had all things common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as every one had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Communion in charity
"If one members suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Because of the Communion of the saints, that is "Being in one accord" (Acts 2:46) in these areas, and because they were "Praising God", "and having favour with all the people", in other words having a good testimony before the people, Scripture says that, "The Lord increased daily together such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47)
There are Three States of the Church.
There is the Militant Church, The Suffering Church, and the Triumphant Church. Lets begin by studying the Militant Church.
The Militant Church is the church members on earth who struggling against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses; that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself. (II Timothy 2:3-4)
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.(Ephesians 6:12)
The Suffering Souls in Purgatory
In II Maccabees 12:39-46, we discover Judas Maccabeus and members of his Jewish military forces collecting the bodies of some fallen comrades who had been killed in battle. When they discovered what these men were carrying “And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain." (vs. 40), Judas and his companions discerned they had died as a punishment for sin. Therefore, Judas and his men “And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten.… And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice ... to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection," In doing this "he acted very well and honorably… that they may be loosed from sins."
Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. Here is an evident and undeniable proof of the practice of praying for the dead under the old law, which was then strictly observed by the Jews, and consequently could not be introduced at that time by Judas, their chief and high priest, if it had not been always their custom. (1)
The practice of praying for the dead has been part of the Jewish faith since before Christ. Remember that 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, on which Catholics base their observance of this practice, shows that, a century and a half before Christ, prayer for the dead was taken for granted.
Jesus bore our sins in His body, paid the penalty for them, and died. He said, "It is finished." In Greek, the phrase, 'It is finished' is one word, tetelestai. In ancient Greek papyri texts that were receipts for taxes, when a debt was paid in full, the word tetelestai was written on the document. This meant that the debt had been paid in full. In other words, Jesus had finished the work of atonement. But not only atonement (to make amends, to make right), but also of propitiation (turning away God's wrath). He had fully paid the debt invoked by the sinner. There was nothing more to be done... It was finished. They would go on to say... "When Jesus said, 'It is finished,' all that was necessary in the atonement was concluded and all in Christ were justified." https://carm.org/does-purgatory-deny-sufficiency-christs-sa…
Even though Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin, even though the debt was paid in full, there is still the principle of sowing and reaping.
Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. (Galatians 6:7)
This principle is irrevocable; there is no escape, either for the believer or for the unbeliever. It is a law of life.
That thought should make us tremble. We should fear sin instead of playing with it. Oh how much damage we do when we sin!
The Church Triumphant
And one of the Elders answered, and said to me: These that are clothed in white robes, who are they? and whence came they? And I said to him: My Lord, thou knowest. And he said to me: These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he, that sitteth on the throne, shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 7:13-17)
What is the Church Triumphant?
The church triumphant describes the Church in heaven. The realm in which the holy Trinity, the angels and saints who have reached the fullness of salvation in Christ, abide. But it will have its fullest being at the end of time, when all of creation and all the Church whether the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, or the Church Triumphant, will be conformed to Christ and all reality will be one of divine praise and glory.
The term "church triumphant" underlines the truth that in the glory of heaven all human sin will have been transformed, death and suffering will be no more, and the glory of God will have triumphed over all the imperfections of human history.
What is the state of the Church Triumphant in Heaven?
They are in a state of UNSPOTTED PURITY.
The Triumphant Church is said to be "arrayed in white robes, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!" These kind of terms, when used in Scripture, are used to denote purity and the favor of God.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. (Psalms 50:9 DRB Psalms 51:7)
If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
White linen is said to be the justification of the saints.
And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. (Revelation 19:8)
This is the Justification in which they stand before the throne. It is a Justification that is done for them and in them, by the merits of a Redeemer's blood, and the power of his Spirit. Their purity is now spotless, being without sin.
"Now to him who is able to preserve you without sin, and to present you spotless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!" (Jude 1:24)
That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: (Ephesians 5:26)
The Forgiveness of Sins...
All pardon for sins ultimately comes from Christ’s finished work on Calvary, but how is this pardon received by individuals? Did Christ leave us any means within the Church to take away sin? The Bible says he gave us two means.
Baptism was given to take away the sin inherited from Adam (original sin) and any sins we personally committed before baptism—sins we personally commit are called actual sins, because they come from our own acts. Thus on the day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowds, "Repent, Peter said to them, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to have your sins forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38), and when Paul was baptized he was told, "And now why tarriest thou? Rise up, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, invoking his name." (Acts 22:16). And so Peter later wrote, "Whereunto baptism.....now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21).
For sins committed after baptism, a different sacrament is needed. It has been called penance, confession, and repentance. and some have even called it reconciliation, each word emphasizing one of its aspects. During his life, Christ forgave sins, as in the case of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11) and the woman who anointed his feet (Luke 7:48). He exercised this power in his human capacity as the Messiah or Son of man, telling us, "the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins," (Matthew 9:6), which is why the Gospel writer himself explains that God "had given such power to men" (Matthew 9:8).
Since he would not always be with the Church visibly, Christ gave this power to other men so the Church, which is the continuation of his presence throughout time (Matthew 28:20), would be able to offer forgiveness to future generations. He gave his power to the apostles, and it was a power that could be passed on to their successors and agents, since the apostles wouldn’t always be on earth either, but people would still be sinning.
God had sent Jesus to forgive sins, but after his resurrection Jesus told the apostles, "He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." (John 20:21–23).
Christ told the apostles to follow his example: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." (John 20:21). Just as the apostles were to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, so they were to carry his forgiveness: "Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven." (Matthew 18:18).
This power was understood as coming from God: "But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18). Indeed, confirms Paul, "We are Christ’s ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Some say that any power given to the apostles died with them. Not so. Some powers must have, such as the ability to write Scripture. But the powers necessary to maintain the Church as a living, spiritual society had to be passed down from generation to generation. If they ceased, the Church would cease, except as a quaint abstraction. Christ ordered the apostles to, "Going therefore, making disciples of all nations." It would take much time. And he promised them assistance: "behold I am with you all through the days that are coming, until the consummation of the world." (Matthew 28:19–20).
If the disciples believed that Christ instituted the power to sacramentally forgive sins in his stead, we would expect the apostles’ successors—the bishops—and Christians of later years to act as though such power was legitimately and habitually exercised. If, on the other hand, the sacramental forgiveness of sins was what Fundamentalists term it, an "invention," and if it was something foisted upon the young Church by ecclesiastical or political leaders, we’d expect to find records of protest. In fact, in early Christian writings we find no sign of protests concerning sacramental forgiveness of sins. Quite the contrary. We find confessing to a priest was accepted as part of the original deposit of faith handed down from the apostles.
The Fourth Lateran Council discussed confession. To combat the lax morals of the time, the council regulated the already-existing duty to confess one’s sins by saying that Catholics should confess any mortal sins at least once a year. The sacrament of confession was not "invented" at this time as some would say, but they took to issue an official decree about how frequently a sacrament must be celebrated.
The earliest Christian writings, such as the first-century Didache, are indefinite on the procedure for confession to be used in the forgiveness of sins, but a verbal confession is listed as part of the Church’s requirement by the time of Irenaeus (A.D. 180). He wrote that the disciples of the Gnostic heretic Marcus "have deluded many women. . . . Their consciences have been branded as with a hot iron. Some of these women make a public confession, but others are ashamed to do this, and in silence, as if withdrawing themselves from the hope of the life of God, they either apostatize entirely or hesitate between the two courses" (Against Heresies 1:22).
The sacrament of penance is clearly in use, for Irenaeus speaks of making an outward confession (versus remaining silent) upon which the hope of eternal life hangs, but it is not yet clear from Irenaeus just how, or to whom, confession is to be made. Is it privately, to the priest, or before the whole congregation, with the priest presiding? The one thing we can say for sure is that the sacrament is understood by Irenaeus as having originated in the infant Church.
Later writers, such as Origen (241), Cyprian (251), and Aphraates (337), are clear in saying confession is to be made to a priest. (In their writings the whole process of penance is termedexomologesis, which means confession—the confession was seen as the main part of the sacrament.) Cyprian writes that the forgiveness of sins can take place only "through the priests." Ambrose says "this right is given to priests only." Pope Leo I says absolution can be obtained only through the prayers of the priests. These utterances are not taken as novel, but as reminders of accepted belief. We have no record of anyone objecting, of anyone claiming these men were pushing an "invention."
Note that the power Christ gave the apostles was twofold: to forgive sins or to hold them bound, which means to retain them unforgiven. Several things follow from this. First, the apostles could not know what sins to forgive and what not to forgive unless they were first told the sins by the sinner. This implies confession. Second, their authority was not merely to proclaim that God had already forgiven sins or that he would forgive sins if there were proper repentance.
Such interpretations don’t account for the distinction between forgiving and retaining—nor do they account for the importance given to the utterance in John 20:21–23. If God has already forgiven all of a man’s sins, or will forgive them all (past and future) upon a single act of repentance, then it makes little sense to tell the apostles they have been given the power to "retain" sins, since forgiveness would be all-or-nothing and nothing could be "retained."
Furthermore, if at conversion we were forgiven all sins, past, present, and future, it would make no sense for Christ to require us to pray, "forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors," which he explained is required because "if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences." (Matthew 6:12–15).
If forgiveness really can be partial—not a once-for-all thing—how is one to tell which sins have been forgiven, which not, in the absence of a priestly decision? You can’t very well rely on your own gut feelings. No, the biblical passages make sense only if the apostles and their successors were given a real authority.
Still, some people are not convinced. One is Paul Juris, a former priest, now a Fundamentalist, who has written a pamphlet on this subject. The pamphlet is widely distributed by organizations opposed to Catholicism. The cover describes the work as "a study of John 20:23, a much misunderstood and misused portion of Scripture pertaining to the forgiveness of sins." Juris mentions "two main schools of thought," the Catholic and the Fundamentalist positions.
He correctly notes that "among Christians, it is generally agreed that regular confession of one’s sins is obviously necessary to remain in good relationship with God. So the issue is not whether we should or should not confess our sins. Rather, the real issue is, How does God say that our sins are forgiven or retained?"
This sounds fine, on the surface, but this apparently reasonable approach masks what really happens next. Juris engages in verse slinging, listing as many verses as he can find that refer to God forgiving sins, in hopes that the sheer mass of verses will settle the question. But none of the verses he lists specifically interprets John 20:23, and none contradicts the Catholic interpretation.
For instance, he cites verses like these: "Be it known therefore to you, men, brethren, that through him forgiveness of sins is preached to you: and from all the things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. In him every one that believeth, is justified." (Acts 13:38–39); "And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mark 16:15–16).
Juris says that verses like these demonstrate that "all that was left for the disciples to do was to ‘go’ and ‘proclaim’ this wonderful good news (the gospel) to all men. As they proclaimed this good news of the gospel, those who believed the gospel, their sins would be forgiven. Those who rejected (did not believe) the gospel, their sins would be retained." Juris does nothing more than show that the Bible says God will forgive sins and that it is through Jesus that our sins are forgiven—things no one doubts. He does not remotely prove that John 20:23 is equivalent to a command to "go" and to "preach," merely that going and preaching are part of God’s plan for saving people. He also sidesteps the evident problems in the Fundamentalist interpretation.
The passage says nothing about preaching the good news. Instead, Jesus is telling the apostles that they have been empowered to do something. He does not say, "When God forgives men’s sins, they are forgiven." He uses the second person plural: "you." And he talks about the apostles forgiving, not preaching. When he refers to retaining sins, he uses the same form: "When you hold them bound, they are held bound."
The best Juris can do is assert that John 20:23 means the apostles were given authority only to proclaim the forgiveness of sins—but asserting this is not proving it.
His is a technique that often works because many readers believe that the Fundamentalist interpretation has been proven true. After all, if you propose to interpret one verse and accomplish that by listing irrelevant verses that refer to something other than the specific point in controversy, lazy readers will conclude that you have marshalled an impressive array of evidence. All they have to do is count the citations. Here’s one for the Catholics, they say, looking at John 20:21–23, but ten or twenty for the Fundamentalists. The Fundamentalists must be right!
Is the Catholic who confesses his sins to a priest any better off than the non-Catholic who confesses directly to God? Yes. First, he seeks forgiveness the way Christ intended. Second, by confessing to a priest, the Catholic learns a lesson in humility, which is avoided when one confesses only through private prayer. Third, the Catholic receives sacramental graces the non-Catholic doesn’t get; through the sacrament of penance sins are forgiven and graces are obtained. Fourth, the Catholic is assured that his sins are forgiven; he does not have to rely on a subjective "feeling." Lastly, the Catholic can also obtain sound advice on avoiding sin in the future.
During his lifetime Christ sent out his followers to do his work. Just before he left this world, he gave the apostles special authority, commissioning them to make God’s forgiveness present to all people, and the whole Christian world accepted this, until just a few centuries ago. If there is an "invention" here, it is not the sacrament of penance, but the notion that the sacramental forgiveness of sins is not to be found in the Bible or in early Christian history. - Unknown Author
(Taken from Catholic Answers web site with some editing to shorten it and to use for scripture references the Douay Rheims and Knox Catholic bible.)
The Resurrection of the Body...
Our bodies will be raised physically and materially. Our souls will be reunited with our transformed physical bodies, brought back to life from the dead.
First, simply to speak of a "resurrection" of the dead is to imply physicality:
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:30-31)
...for recompense shall be made thee at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:14)
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)
For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Second, Philippians 3:20-21 teaches us that Christ's resurrection body is the pattern of our resurrection body:
But our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory... (Philippians 3:30-21)
We know that Christ was raised in a physical body because the disciples ate with Him after the resurrection:
Not to all the people, but to witnesses preordained by God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he arose again from the dead; (Acts 10:41)
We know that Christ was raised in a physical body because the disciples touched Him.
And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him. (Matthew 28:9)
Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. (John 20:27)
Also, Jesus outright declared that His resurrection body was physical and touchable:
See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have. (Luke 24:39)
This same God hath fulfilled to our children, raising up Jesus, as in the second psalm also is written: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And to shew that he raised him up from the dead, not to return now any more to corruption, he said thus: I will give you the holy things of David faithfull. And therefore, in another place also, he saith: Thou shalt not suffer thy holy one to see corruption. For David, when he had served in his generation, according to the will of God, slept: and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. But he whom God hath raised from the dead, saw no corruption. (Acts 13:33-37).
Since Christ's resurrection is the pattern of our resurrection, we will therefore be raised in a physical body as well.
Third, Romans 8:21-23 speaks of waiting for "the redemption of our bodies":
Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:21-23)
Our bodies are not going to be thrown away. They are going to be renewed, restored, revitalized.
Fourth, Jesus speaks of the resurrection as involving the coming forth of individuals out of their tombs, which clearly indicates a physical concept of the resurrection:
Wonder not at this; for the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)
Fifth, the Old Testament speaks of the resurrection as being physical:
And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, and shame. (Daniel 12:2)
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God. Whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another: this my hope is laid up in my bosom. (Job 19:25-27)