Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Name of God

Do you want to know how I know that the Christian religion is the correct religion?  Because even the staunchest atheist or universalist or anti-Christian will slam his hand with a hammer and shout out "Jesus!"  The excited non-believer will belt, "Oh My God!" Why would these words be on the tips of their tongues, especially with a culture that hates God so?

It's because God has placed knowledge of himself in everyone's hearts.  We need the specific revelation of the Bible, but natural revelation alone does give us a knowledge of reality. We may not be able to put our fingers on all the details of reality, but God has placed that eternity in our hearts, so that when missionaries visit unreached people groups, the missionaries are not really introducing the gospel to the group, but reaffirming what these groups have had hints of and have been pondering in their culture and folklore for years, even centuries before.

Listen to Paul:

"The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:8b-13)

To read the last sentence, one would think that taking the Lord's name in vain is preferred.  However, we know that there is a commandment, the third, against that. What we are in danger of doing is either the extreme of taking the Lord's name in vain, like an unbeliever, and the extreme of NEVER using the name of the Lord for fear of breaking the commandment, like a Pharisee.  We know quite a bit of people in both categories, don't we?

Reading the sentence in context we learn that confessing Jesus as Lord is only half of the equation.  We must believe also, with all our heart.  But what do we believe?  Do we need to believe complicated doctrines about him?  No.  Paul says right here that we need to believe that God raised him from the dead. Is that all?  Yes, it sounds like so.  All other faith in Christ will come following after that one belief.

Let's look at this single belief.  Is it hard to believe this?  Not really.  We may have trouble concentrating on believing in an invisible God who doesn't seem to be there or listening.  We kneel to pray and we are wondering whether God is really there.  Answered prayers elate us temporarily, but then we lapse into unbelief again.  The world laughs at our faith, telling us that we need PROOF.

Well, here's the proof.  Paul says we have believe with all our heart this one detail about reality, and everything else will follow.  What is the detail?  That God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Is that all?  Yes!  And all that we need to believe is based in historical fact.  Did Jesus live?  Yes.  We have documentation outside the Bible.  Only recently have people tried to write the gospels off as complete myth, but all through history, no one denied that Jesus existed.  Did Jesus die? Yes.  Was he entombed?  Yes, we have documents outside of the Bible that testify to that.  Did he come back from the dead?  The disciples say so.  Are they trustworthy?  We think so.  However, in the extra-Biblical documentation, the Roman officials attempt to explain why the tomb is empty.  Never do they DENY that the tomb is empty.  They only provide excuses for it being empty.  The tomb was empty: that single historical fact catapults our belief into the realm it needs to be.  When we believe in the historical fact of the empty tomb, we can then believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.  Then we can believe that God the father raised the Son from the dead.

Do we believe this with all our heart?  When we believe with all our heart, we are, as Paul puts it, justified.  The NASB translation says "righteous," telling the difference between right and wrong.  With the confession from our lips, we are saved.  Can someone be saved without the righteousness?  No.  It's a four step progression: belief, righteousness, confession, salvation.  Can someone believe and still not be saved because he or she has not confessed the name of the Lord with his or her lips?  Yes, it is possible, but God draws that confession out of us.  Even if the Pharisees of the church are piling rule upon rule upon us to not confess that name under any circumstances, God draws it out of us.  So, although it is possible to have true faith and not be saved, God will not be thwarted in that way, and he brings us to salvation.

Believe with your hearts in the historical resurrection of Jesus.  Believe that the Father raised the Son from the dead.  He will count it to you as righteousness. Confess the name of the Lord with your lips  All who call on the name of the Lord, believing with all their hearts in the historicity of the resurrection, will be saved.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


What are you giving up for Lent?  Chocolate?  Facebook?  Should we be giving up anything?  Should we be giving up everything?  How about this: giving up the body.  I'm not saying not taking care of ourselves.  We should give ourselves nourishment and clothing.  Things that we need.  God knows what we need, as Christ told us in his sermon on the mount, and he will not let us go without food and clothing.  The problem is that we aren't satisfied with the necessities.  We want more.  We overfeed the body.  We overdress.  We engorge the body with attention.  We punch holes in ourselves and permanently ink our flesh.  We flood our brains with images from the television.  We listen to dark and disturbing words and ideas.  We fill our lives with the pleasures of the flesh.  And there are other people in the world who can't get the necessities like food and clothing, because those simple resources are diverted to the garbage we fill our lives up with.

Lent is not just about giving up something, even though that is a step in the right direction.  It is about redirecting ourselves from over-feeding the body to starting to feed the soul.  Notice I said "starting" because we don't feed the soul at all.  Our souls are like shriveled up raisins, and our bodies are fat and sloth-like.  The real YOU is the soul.  That is who you are.  The body you have and I have are tents for keeping the soul housed on earth.  We should be feeding and clothing these tents only in the necessary.  Our souls should be engorged on wisdom, the imperishable Word of God.

Look at these words from Genesis 2: Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Adam was not the flesh, although the flesh is what he fed, bringing original sin into the world, from which we all suffer.  No, Adam's self was the soul that God breathed into.  But our bodies are still important, because they will be part of us for eternity.  Our is the only religion that believes in a physical resurrection.  Our bodies may be temporary, but they will be restored and renewed beyond what we have now.  The perishable body will be restored with an imperishable body.

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:35-57)

"Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."  This is why we must feed the soul and not the body.  The imperishable soul inherits the kingdom of God.  The imperishable soul gets the new body.  If the soul is a shriveled up raisin there won't be enough to hang a sock on.  This Lent is all about feeding the soul, but how do we do that?

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:19-30)

He who hears the word of God and believes in the testimony of God--which only comes through deep study of the wisdom of this book--has eternal life.  God's testimony, the testimony of this volume, is that of his Son, Jesus Christ.  This whole book is about Jesus, and it is the most important testimony there is.  So, this Lent, let us feed our souls, let us remember that we are dust, and that the breath of God is our true self.  Let us commune with the Lord of Hosts, knowing that we inherit the kingdom of God by believing his testimony, by believing his Holy Word.

Bishop's Visit This Sunday

Bishop John Guernsey will be visiting with us this weekend.  On Sunday at the 10am Eucharist, he will celebrate, preach, sanctify our new space, and confirm Anna Catherine Barrett into the community of Christ. Please join us for this spirit-filled event in the life of Good Shepherd's new beginning.

Memorial Service for Wayne Walker This Saturday

This Saturday, February 23rd, we will be celebrating the life of our dear brother Wayne Walker, who departed this earth on Valentine's Day.  The service will begin at 2pm at Church of the Good Shepherd (2910 S Croatan Highway, Suite 1, Nags Head).  If you knew Wayne, come an join in the remembrances.

Wayne Carl Walker, 60, of Wanchese, died Thursday February 14, 2013 in Nags Head.  Mr. Walker was born in  Huntington Long Island, NY and was self-employed as a painter with his own company Top Quality Painting. Wayne was an avid fisherman and loved surfing.

He was the son of the late William George and Eleanor Lichel Walker.

Wayne is survived by his sister Sandra W. Barile and husband Ralph, two brothers William P. Walker and wife Marie and Thomas J. Walker and wife Gail P.  Also surviving are four nephews, two nieces, four great nephews and two great nieces.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Knitted Spirits

We are finishing up our study of the Apostles' Creed today, and we may think, "there are several lines left!" And they all seem to be unrelated parts in a laundry list of leftovers.  Shouldn't we be spending a week on each of these items?  Also, the line on the Holy Spirit just seems to be sitting out there all isolated.  That's a third of the Trinity!  Shouldn't he get at least as much face time as God the Father?  Here are the lines in question:

I believe in the Holy Ghost, 
    the holy catholic Church, 
    the communion of saints, 
    the forgiveness of sins, 
    the resurrection of the body, 
    and the life everlasting.

See, it looks like a laundry list of catch-alls.  And the Holy Spirit is just given a mention, as if we are supposed to believe in Him without really understanding who He is.  Well, it just so happens that these six items are not a laundry list but are all about the Holy Spirit.  The five lines beneath the Holy Spirit line are the attributes of the Spirit in how He relates to us.  All of these items are about us, and our relationship with God--things that happen directly to us.  When we say we are filled with the Holy Spirit, or we have the Holy Spirit, we are not saying that God has blown us up like a balloon or that we have have gotten a jolt of electricity from God.  We are saying that our souls, which never diminishes in us (because our soul is our true self), has been knitted together with God's Spirit, which communicates directly with our souls.  As Christians, we are in direct communion with the creator of the universe.  Our souls have been knitted with His soul, and the five attributes that are listed here are directly related to us, because they are directly related to our souls interacting with God's soul--His Holy Spirit.

The holy catholic church.  Note the small "c".  We are not claiming to be Roman Catholics here.  When something is catholic it is "correct."  We are saying that we believe in the correct church, God's church, the members of which he can see.  The universal church, which transcends denominations and self-professing Christians everywhere, and is the actual church.  Somewhere there is a tribal native hearing the gospel from a missionary for the first time.  This individual is looking to the Lord now, instead of his ancestors, or whatever he worshiped instead.  As Isaiah writes, "Look to me and be saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other."  Anyone who looks to God for salvation is now a part of this universal, catholic church.  The problem is our natural proclivity is to not WANT to be a part of this church.  Only the Holy Spirit informing our sols of the truth draws us into the holy catholic church.

Likewise with the communion of saints.  Whereas the holy catholic church is the universal church here on earth, the communion of the saints is the holy catholic church throughout TIME.  And communion means exactly what we do here each Sunday.  We're not just "in a relationship" with the saints throughout history.  Saints are Christians, believing members of the holy catholic church, and when we have communion here each Sunday, our table is transported up to heaven, and the heavenly feast table is transported down, and we meet, and the saints are there, and they are watching, and they are communing with us.  When I say the Eucharistic prayer later, note that what I'm asking for is the work of the Holy Spirit to happen in this room, to take this communion with the saints into the heavenly realm.

The forgiveness of sins.  We can turn to the Lord's Prayer for help here.  We forgive others' sins, not because we want God to forgive us, or because God refuses to forgive us, if we don't forgive others first.  However, if the concept of forgiveness is alien to us, and that may sound weird, but I think it is an epidemic today that we really don't know what forgiveness means.  People ask me all the time how I am able to act normally around certain people.   They are baffled, and that is because forgiveness is an alien concept.  If we don't know what it means, we will not accept it when it is offered to us by other people, and from God.  Once again, without the Holy Spirit, we are not only unable to forgive, but we have complete ignorance of the concept of forgiveness, no matter how often pop psychology tries to define it for us.  Real forgiveness is biblical, and it is a gift from the Holy Spirit.

The resurrection of the body.  This concept separates Christianity from every other religion on the planet.  No other religion believes in the resurrection of a physical body.  When Jesus rose on the third day, the disciples though he was a ghost.  They had to touch him and watch him eat in order to believe that he had a physical body.  Our own bodies are going to decompose, and when they are restored, the Holy Spirit is there to put us back in place.  Once again, God is connected to us--his spirit to ours--and just as he created all things, he sustains all things, and he restores all things, keeping track of the details through the Holy Spirit. Every hair on our heads is numbered: this isn't just a statement of love and intimacy.  God keeps track of our physical bodies in just that amount of detail, so he can restore it perfectly, with the addition of our new bodies being imperishable and everlasting.

Finally, the life everlasting.  Not much needs to be said about this, because it is self-explanatory.  However, this needs to be said.  Jesus punched a hole in the wall of death that we all hit.  This hole he punched through leads to the other side, where a whole new existence awaits us.  This is the life everlasting, but the way Jesus punched is narrow, too narrow for us to find.  The Holy Spirit, that life line that is knitted to our souls, is the connection through that little hole.  We will always be able to find the hole as long as we are connected to the Holy Spirit, as long as God's spirit and ours are one.  That knitted bond is everlasting, too.  It will never corrupt or break.  And God draws us through that narrow way using the lifeline of his Holy Spirit.

All of these things--the church on earth, the church throughout time, reconciliation, our bodies, our souls, our lives--all are dependent on the Holy Spirit working in us, knitted with our souls, connecting us to the Father through the Son.  Let us say this Apostles' Creed with confidence that we know what it means.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pilate and Crucifixion

We are studying the main ideas behind the Apostles' Creed.  Why are they important?  This compact little creed is chock full of deep insight into the nature of everything--of reality.  We explored faith, God as a concept, the Christian God as Father, and then we began to investigate who Jesus is--how he is the agent through whom all things were created.  We also delved into how Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time.

Then we get to this line: He suffered under Pontius Pilate.  Why is that there?  Who cares who was in charge at the time Jesus suffered and died?  Is this really important?  Well, it turns out that this information is drastically important for three reasons:

1. It testifies to the historical accuracy of Jesus' life.  We live in a time where people deny the existence of Christ completely.  We once used to dispute the details, but now we dispute everything.  Thanks to the enlightenment we begin truth with ourselves instead of God.  Most of the time, we never even reach God in our important knowledge.  Pontius Pilate is someone who existed outside of the framework of the Bible (Jesus was mentioned only a couple times outside the Bible at that point in history).  Pontius Pilate has artifacts and documentation of his existence.  He helps our modern minds transition from his life to the life of Jesus.

2. Pilate testifies to the historical accuracy of Jesus' death.  It's one thing to believe that Jesus lived, but it's another thing to believe in Jesus' death, and the kind of death that he had.  The information about Jesus outside the Bible at the time revolved around his death and resurrection.  More about this below.

3. Finally, Pilate's existence in the creed testifies to something crucial about our relationship with Christ.  Let's look at certain parts of our Gospel reading:

Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. 

Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:1-15)

Pilate finds no guilt in him.  He scourges him.  He is afraid of the Jews.  He wants to release Jesus.  He doesn't want to have anything to do with this situation!  In another Gospel, his wife has a dream that this Jesus guy is bad news and they need to get out of the situation.  Up to the very end, Pilate doesn't want to do this, but he is terrified of Jesus, of the Jews, of everything.  He gives the order out of political pressure.

What is so important about these details?  It confirms this: Pilate is US.  We are this way, too: wishy-washy, never able to make a definitive decision in life, always turning on the tide of random thought.  Getting scared of situations, trying to back out of deals at the last second.  Generally FREAKING OUT.  We are Pilate.  This is important because now we can read the creed with our own names in Pilate's place: suffered under Fred Barrett, and it will be true.  Jesus DID and DOES suffer under us.

Let's go back to the second point, about Jesus' death.  His particular death of Crucifixion has a lot to do with our relationship with our Lord, too, in the same way that we can identify with Pilate.  We can identify with crucifixion, too.  How?  Let's look at our Pauline Epistle:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Crucifixion affects each and every person on this earth in this way: to the Jew it is a stumbling block, and to the Gentile it is folly.  Why a stumbling block to the Jew? Because according to Jewish Law, anyone hung on a tree is CURSED.  Jews cannot worship a cursed God.  It goes against their religion.  They stumble at this fact.  Why folly to the Gentile?  For two reasons: first, gods don't die.  Look at the Greek and Roman pantheon.  These are indestructible beings.  These are powerful figures, like superheroes.  Our gods don't die!  Secondly, crucifixion was reserved for criminals.  Not only do our gods not die, but they NEVER die as a criminal would. What a foolish god to die in such a way.  We cannot worship this.

So where do we fit in?  Where does our relationship with the Lord come into this?  Well, Jews and Gentiles comprise EVERYONE on earth.  For us to not stumble at the crucifixion, for us to not think the idea foolish, we are connected to the creed once again, as the true recipients of the creed.  The creed is not meant to be understood or spoken aloud by Jews NOR Gentiles, but only by us who are being saved.  The creed is for us.  If you can say this creed and not stumble or laugh, call yourself blessed indeed.  If your God dies by being hung on a cross, and you accept that, welcome to the world of salvation.

Christ suffered under us.  He was crucified, died, and was buried.  Do you believe that?  Then say the creed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Quick and the Dead

    He descended into hell. 
    The third day he rose again from the dead. 
    He ascended into heaven, 
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty. 
    From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. 

We've gotten to a difficult part of the Apostles' Creed: "He descended into hell."  This is the part we get to and we quickly race through to the next part, so we don't have to think about Hell.  We even changed that part in the modern translation to "He descended to the dead."  I want to take this whole part of the creed as one hunk, from the descent into hell to the judging of the quick and the dead, because it is all related.

What does it mean that Jesus descended into hell?  Well, usually we rationalize it by thinking that it is a part of Jesus' suffering: he suffered, was tortured, and he died.  He felt the rejection of the Father: "My God, Why have you forsaken me?"  He took on the sins of the world.  This is an ordeal!  Of course he must have experienced the fires of hell, too.  Why not?  It all fits.

The problem is our narrow view of hell.  Today hell only means the unquenchable fire and torture.  Back then, hell had parts, and everyone knew it.  Dante got it right.  What we think of as hell is actually Gehenna, the destination of the wicked.  This is different from Sheol or Hades, which is a more neutral place of the dead.  Both places were in hell, and when they said Jesus descended to hell, they meant that he descended to the place of the dead.  Our modern translation helps us by changing it to, "he descended to the dead."

Why did he go there?  Let's look at scripture.  First, the passage I usually end sermons with; this time I want to look at it near the beginning of the sermon:

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

There is no place that Jesus' lordship does not permeate: from the top of heaven to the depths of hell. We know that he defeated death, so sometimes we picture death as a person, probably in a black villain costume.  And Jesus comes down there, looking for death, who is, of course, hiding in the deepest place in the universe.   Jesus is probably dressed as Superman, like in Godspell, and he punches death in the nose and knocks him out.

That's silly, of course, but we do think things like that, when we can't grasp the meaning.  Look at this passage from Ephesians 4:

Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10)

Jesus isn't punching out villains.  He's filling all things.  He's also freeing captives.  Look at this difficult passage from first Peter:

in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison (1 Peter 3:19)

We have Jesus doing something much different from punching death in the nose.  He's preaching to the spirits in prison, in the land of the dead.  He's filling all things.  Look at the Apostles' Creed again.  We have a transition from hell to heaven to the right hand of God, from where he will judge the quick and the dead.  What Jesus seems to be doing in this proclaiming and filling all things is the act of QUICKENING.  He is painting the entire space/time continuum with a quickening brush.

When we see in the modern translation, "the living and the dead," we are, once again, getting a narrow view of Christ.  Living and dead implies a physical life and death, as if Jesus was just going to sift through corpses for good Christians, and then he was going to have all the living stand at the foot of the judgment seat.

The word quicken is not in the bible, but we have close words, like awaken, and more closely, "resurrect."  Jesus does a lot of resurrecting in the bible.  He physically raises people from the dead, but we have a metaphor here for quickening.  Jesus is giving people life.  We were all dead in our sins.  We were lost.  Now we are alive again.  We have been found.  This quickening extends from heaven to hell.

The best of example of this is from the parable of the prodigal son.  Twice the father of the wayward son says, "what was once dead is now alive, what was lost has been found."  He's not talking literally, here.  The prodigal son knew where he was and how to get home.  He was not physically dead, but he was spiritually dead.  So were we until Jesus quickened us.  He found us and he resurrected us.  We are all here because he has drawn us to him.  Not everyone is quickened, although Jesus painted from top to bottom, across the space/time continuum with his brush of quickening.

When we read this part of the Apostles' Creed we can see that these words are not the same as what it says below when it says, "I believe in the resurrection of the dead."  There are no redundancies in the Apostles' Creed.  The quick and the dead is something beyond resurrection of the dead.  It is the difference between being lost forever and found in Christ.  It is the difference between being dead in our sins and alive in Christ.  Of course he would go from the bottom to the top of space and from the Genesis to the Revelation of time to make sure none of God's elect were lost and all were quickened.