From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
The Bible makes it clear that the Ascension of Christ is linked also to His coming again, to His return to earth. The angels who spoke to the disciples after the ascension said, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) That hasn’t happened yet, but the day will come when Christ will return to earth, this time not as a baby born in poverty and insignificance but in glory and splendour.

We don’t know when that will be and there is much we don’t know about this prophecy, but the Creed states the fact that Jesus will come again and the purpose of that return. It tells us that ‘he shall come to judge the quick and the dead’. Quick, incidentally, is not referring to speed. A more modern translation of this would be ‘the living and the dead’. In other words, the Creed is talking about Christ coming to judge everyone: those alive at the time, those who have died – everybody. No one can escape.

Judgment can be an emotive topic. Romans 14:10 tells us “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 says “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Acts 10:42 says “He (Jesus) commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead”. 2 Tim 4:1 says ”In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead…” It’s easy to fear judgment and worry about the future, but John reminds us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:16-18) and Paul reminds us there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Christ’s appearing is heralded by Titus as a ‘blessed hope.’ (Titus 2:13). We don’t have to fear judgment for our sins, for Christ has paid the penalty for our sins. Clearly the fact of judgment motivates us to holy living and we are aware also of our longing for God to act as the ‘Righteous Judge’ (2 Tim 4:8); there is a longing in our hearts for that day of justice and restoration. God wants everyone to be saved (2 Pet 3:9), but we also know that some people will choose, in spite of everything God does, to reject His authority in their lives and that there will be eternal, unpleasant consequences of that choice. These are sobering words and there can be no hiding from these difficult issues.

For the believer, however, the ‘day of the Lord’ is something to be anticipated with longing and holy living. We celebrate Communion, remembering all that Christ has done for us, ‘until He comes’ (1 Cor 11:26), looking ahead to the wedding feast of the Lamb with joy and eager anticipation. As Phil Wickham says,
“We are waiting, anticipating
Your arrival, Your arrival.
Voices raising, celebrating,
Your arrival, Your arrival.” (‘Your Arrival’, Phil Wickham)

O Lord, come! Maranatha! (1 Cor 16:22)