The following text is the lesson that I taught last night to Junior High students at my church. We're working through the Apostles' Creed on the first Thursday of every month, and I'm amazed at how rich the theology of the AC is -- I'm sure I'm learning much more from it than the students are ... though hopefully they're learning something! I was particularly struck by how well 2 Peter 3 goes with the chunk of the creed that I was teaching from last night.
By the way, these are my teaching notes and they're by no means a complete teaching text, so it might be a little enigmatic to you :)
“The third day he rose again from the dead:”
1. Is there proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead?
The tomb was empty, nobody could produce a body. The disciples kept meeting Jesus alive, in groups from 2-500 -- creating a lot of witnesses (and they weren’t all hallucinating the same thing); the disciples were changed men -- they weren’t fearful anymore.
2. What happen to our faith if Christ hadn’t risen from the dead?
a. 1 Cor 15:17 - If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
b. There is no hope of us rising either -- we will stay dead.
c. Christ is not reigning, he will not return … the creed would end at “he died.”
d. We would not have fellowship with a living Lord -- Jesus could be a hero, but he could not be our Savior
“He ascended into heaven:”
3. What is heaven?
Heaven in the Bible means 3 things: 1) the endless, self-sustaining life of God -- in this sense, God has always been in heaven; 2) the state of angels or men as they share the life of God, whether as a foretaste now or in eternity (this is shorthand for everything we hope for as Christians); 3) the sky.
4. In what sense did Jesus “ascend into heaven”?
Jesus entered heaven in sense 2 in a new and momentous way: he “sits at God’s right hand,” ruling the world as King.
Note on “ascending:” Jesus went up as a way of being withdrawn from the disciples’ presence because our idea of heaven is tied up with sense 3 … it’s a visible show of him rising to power.
“And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:”
5. Is it scary or hope-giving that Jesus will come back to judge everybody who has ever lived?
For people who recognize the power of God’s judgment and place their trust in Christ, it’s hope-giving: wrongs on earth will be righted and we will be judged righteous through Christ’s blood. For people who have not trusted in Christ, it is (or should be) very frightening: Christ will judge the world with the power of God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
6. How should Jesus’ resurrection and ascension affect how we live our lives?
See 2 Peter 3, especially vv 11-18.
Verses 3-9 refute people who do not believe that "he will come again to judge the living and the dead." Verse 10 describes the way that the Lord will return as judge. And verses 11-18 are Peter's exhortation for how we should live in light of Christ's coming return.
UPDATE: I've noticed that several people have come to this page by googling something like "Teaching the Apostles' Creed." If this is you, you should know that my main resource has been a book by J.I. Packer called Growing in Christ. It's a simple, clear and practical overview of the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the 10 Commandments.
Less helpful - but still a resource - has been Michael Horton's We Believe. He has a very philosophical approach to making a study of the Apostles' Creed that I struggled to bring to the Jr. High level; it might be 'just the thing' for people who are going through an existential crisis or who like to contemplate the deeper/broader questions of life.