"But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised” (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an important part of the Christian faith from its beginnings. In fact, it’s professed by each of us every time we are at Mass, when we recite the Nicene or Apostles Creed.
The Creed is a statement of our faith and encapsulates what Jesus entrusted to the first apostles of the early Church. In other words, every part contained within the Creed is a summary of the entirety of our faith.
The Catechism notes that “we firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and He will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like His own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity: If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
This means that our immortal soul will live on after death, but also our mortal body will come to life again at the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. Of course, we don’t know when that time will be, but it is part of the mystery of faith, and our Christian hope.
The Creed also says that we believe in “life everlasting.” The catechism notes that when a Christian unites his or her own death to that of Jesus, it’s considered a step toward our entrance into everlasting life in heaven. A priest who gives absolution to a dying person often performs the “last rites,” which include the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, sacrament of reconciliation and a final Holy Communion, sometimes called viaticum, or food for the eternal journey.
It’s important to remember that what the Church teaches about life after death is based upon our understanding of what happened to Jesus when He died and rose from the dead.
History of the Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed was developed at the Council of Nicaea (325) in response to various heresies of the time, particularly Arianism. Arius argued that Jesus Christ was a created being and should not be worshipped. At one point, a majority of the theologians and bishops accepted this idea, but it was opposed by St. Athanasius of Alexandria and his insights triumphed.
The Creed confirms the recognition of God as a Trinity of persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It confirms that the Son was of-the-same-essence, consubstantial (homo-ousios) with the Father. It emphasizes the humanity of Jesus Christ as God and man, that He suffered and died and rose from the dead, to judge the living and the dead.
The Council of Constantinople (381) amplified Nicaea and added, among other articles, “and we await the resurrection of the dead and a life of the age to come.”
The Creed defines the faith which had been proclaimed in all the churches since apostolic times and for which seven generations of Christian martyrs gave their lives.
— Msgr. Michael Witt, pastor of All Saints Parish in University City and professor of Church history at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.