The Creed (Part 7)

May 12, 2020

by Peter Amsterdam

(Points for this article were taken from The Creed by Luke Timothy Johnson.1)

Having covered the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, the creed now moves on to His resurrection from the dead, ascension into heaven, and His enthronement at the Father’s right hand.

The Third Day He Rose Again

In the previous article, we read that He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. We now read, The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. This sentence echoes what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:4: He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Each Gospel states that Jesus was killed on the day before the Sabbath, meaning on a Friday.2 Since according to the Jewish faith, work cannot be done on the Sabbath (Saturday), Friday is considered the day of preparation, when the Jewish people prepare the Sabbath meal, so that no cooking or other work needs to be done on the Sabbath. Jesus was crucified, taken down from the cross, and placed in a tomb on the same day (Friday), in order to avoid breaking the Sabbath rule of no work.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.3

When evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.4

The body of Jesus was laid in the tomb on Friday before nightfall, and remained there over the Sabbath. We’re told that the women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.5

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.6

The “first day of the week,” Sunday, was the “third day” mentioned in the creed. He was raised on the third day.

Within the New Testament, there are some variations concerning “the third day.” Some passages make reference to “after three days.”

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.7

However, most passages state it as “on the third day.”

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.8 

“We are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”9

In all four Gospels, there are accounts of the empty tomb.10 Jesus was no longer there, as He had risen from the dead. Throughout the Gospels, various believers had encounters with the risen Jesus.11 The apostle Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.12

According to the Scriptures

It was after Jesus’ death and resurrection that believers understood that the Old Testament scriptures referring to the Messiah were speaking of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke, we read that the resurrected Jesus met two disciples who were walking to a town called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. In the course of their conversation, Jesus said,

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.13

On the day of Pentecost, while he was preaching to the crowd, the apostle Peter quoted from Psalm 16 when making reference to Jesus.

You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.14

Old Testament verses such as those from Isaiah 53 were understood to be speaking of Jesus.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.15

Ascended into Heaven

Having affirmed that Jesus was no longer among the dead, as He was resurrected, the creed points to Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

In the Gospel of Mark we read,

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.16

In the Gospel of Luke we’re told,

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.17

The opening words of the book of Acts say,

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. … And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.18

While the account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven is given in only two of the Gospels, Mark and Luke (as well as in the book of Acts), the understanding and conviction that Jesus ascended into heaven and is now exalted, glorified, and enthroned is found throughout the New Testament.

Sitting at the right hand of the Father was the New Testament way of expressing Jesus’ new and more powerful form of existence. It often speaks of Him as sharing royal power with the Father. In the book of Hebrews we read,

To which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?19

Sitting at the right hand suggests a sharing in power, as seen in a variety of New Testament verses.

The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”20

“From now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”21

[Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.22

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.23

The book of Ephesians speaks of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory … [who] worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet.24

Besides pointing to Jesus’ royal power, the New Testament speaks of His “exaltation.”

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.25

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.26

Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is spoken of as having been “lifted up.” The Greek word used for lifted up means “exalted.”

Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”27

I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.28

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.29

Jesus is also spoken of as entering glory, along with being glorified.

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”30 

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.31

You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor … we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.32

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”33

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”34

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus.35

The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

(To be continued in Part Eight.)


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 The Creed—What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (New York: Doubleday, 2003).

2 Matthew 27:57–63, Mark 15:42–43, Luke 23:53–54, John 19:30–31.

3 John 19:31.

4 Mark 15:42–43. See also Luke 23:55–56, Matthew 27:62–66.

5 Luke 23:55–56.

6 Luke 24:1–3.

7 Mark 8:31. See also Mark 9:31, 10:34; Matthew 27:63; Luke 24:21.

8 1 Corinthians 15:3–4.

9 Matthew 20:18–19. See also Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7; Acts 10:40; Matthew 16:21.

10 Matthew 28:1–6, Mark 16:1–4, Luke 24:1–2,10, John 20:1.

11 John 20:16, 19–24, 26–29, 21:1–12; Luke 24:30–31, 34, 36–43; Matthew 28:16–17.

12 1 Corinthians 15:5–8.

13 Luke 24:25–27.

14 Psalm 16:10.

15 Isaiah 53:10–11.

16 Mark 16:19.

17 Luke 24:50–51.

18 Acts 1:1–2, 9.

19 Hebrews 1:13, quoting from Psalm 110:1.

20 Mark 14:61–62.

21 Luke 22:69.

22 Acts 7:55.

23 Romans 8:34.

24 Ephesians 1:17, 20–22. See also Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2; 1 Peter 3:21–22.

25 Acts 5:30–31.

26 Acts 2:32–33.

27 John 8:28.

28 John 12:32.

29 John 3:14–15.

30 Luke 24:26.

31 1 Timothy 3:16.

32 Hebrews 2:7, 9.

33 Revelation 5:12.

34 John 13:31–32.

35 Acts 3:13.