“He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead” (Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds) - traditional wording
Some say the word “quick” as used in the Creeds is an antiquated way of saying “living”, and therefore that the expression “quick and dead” refers to Christians who are alive on the Last Day and to Christians who having died previously are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. It does NOT mean that.
If taken out of context, it is true that the verb “quicken” is a translation of the Greek zoopoieo (make alive) and the Hebrew chayah (be alive). It is also true that Christ’s mercy extends to all generations. However, the Bible’s use of these words which we translate (traditionally) as “to quicken” and “the quick and the dead” (King James and Geneva Bible) refers correctly to the division that Christ will make between those who are (or were) reborn, made alive spiritually in Christ and those who remain (or remained) dead in their sins. On the Last Day, Christ will save the Elect who are alive in Him according to His unconditional and sovereign mercy; and according to His righteous and immutable judgement He will condemn the Reprobate who are dead in their sins.
Changing the word “quick” to “living”, which we see in all modern english translations is thought to be a simple and accurate improvement, but in fact it changes the Word of God, softening the doctrine that God is simultaneously just and merciful, carrying out His purposes on both the Elect and the Reprobate according to the plan which He set “before all worlds.”
See how the words "quicken" and "quick" are used in Scripture:
1 Peter 4:2-7
That he hence forward should live (as much time as remaineth in the flesh) not after the lusts of men, but after the will of God. For it is sufficient for us that we have spent the time past of the life, after the lust of the Gentiles walking in wantonness, lusts, drunkenness, in gluttony, drinkings, and in abominable idolatries. Wherein it seemeth to them strange, that ye run not with them unto the same excess of riot: therefore speak they evil of you. Which shall give account to him, that is ready to judge QUICK AND DEAD. For unto this purpose was the Gospel preached also unto the dead, that they might be condemned according to men in the flesh, but might live according to God in the spirit. Now the end of all things is at hand. Be ye therefore sober, and watching in prayer.
2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:4
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and which are committed unto thee, knowing of whom thou hast learned them: And that thou hast known the holy Scriptures of a child, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus. For the whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to teach, to convince, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, That the man of God may be absolute, being made perfect unto all good works. I Charge thee therefore before God, and before the Lord Jesus Christ, which shall judge the QUICK AND DEAD at that his appearing, and in his kingdom, Preach the word: be instant, in season, and out of season: improve, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not suffer wholesome doctrine: but having their ears itching, shall after their own lusts get them an heap of teachers, And shall turn their ears from the truth, and shall be given unto fables.
In that ye are buried with him through baptism, in whom ye are also raised up together through the faith of the operation of God, which raised him from the dead. AND YOU WHICH WERE DEAD IN SINS, AND IN THE UNCIRCUMCISION OF YOUR FLESH, HATH HE QUICKENED TOGETHER WITH HIM, FORGIVING YOU ALL YOUR TRESPASSES, And putting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, he even took it out of the way, and fastened it upon the cross
And you HATH HE QUICKENED THAT WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS, Wherein, in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, and after the prince that ruleth in the air, even the spirit, that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Among whom we also had our conversation in time past in the lusts of our flesh, in fulfilling the will of the flesh, and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, as well as others. But God which is rich in mercy, through his great love wherewith he loved us, EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD BY SINS, HATH QUICKENED US TOGETHER IN CHRIST, by whose grace ye are saved, And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
Him God raised up the third day, and caused that he was showed openly: Not to all the people, but unto the witnesses chosen before of God, even to us which did eat and drink with him, after he arose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify, that it is he that is ordained of God a JUDGE OF QUICK AND DEAD. To him also give all the Prophets witness, that through his Name all that believe in him, shall receive remission of sins.
For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things, whatsoever he himself doeth, and he will show him greater works than these, that ye should marvel. For likewise as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, Because that all men should honor the Son, as they honor the Father: he that honoreth not the Son, the same honoreth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but hath passed from death to life.
Quicken me, O Lord, for thy Name’s sake, and for thy righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
Quicken me according to thy loving kindness: so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.
Wilt thou not turn again and quicken us, that thy people may rejoice in thee?
All they that be fat in the earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down into the dust, shall bow before him, even he that cannot quicken his own soul.
Scripture has a great many examples of Judgement between the Elect and the Reprobate. Nowhere does Scripture declare that a major aspect of God's judgment, when He comes again, is drawing a biological distinction between those alive and dead. Instead, the Word of God is keen to emphasize that:
- the Judgement is between "sheep" and "goats."
- the Judgement is made at the Cross, which is the "rock of stumbling" for some, but the foundation of salvation for His chosen ones.
- the Righteousness which saves us is not earned in our flesh and taken to heaven, but rather is imputed to the Elect by Christ and kept as their spiritual inheritance which no man has ever seen and which the powers of this world cannot touch.
For this reason, it is incorrect to say the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed with revisionist words like "He shall come again to judge the living and the dead." If one were to modernize the traditional creeds, they would have to say "He will come again to judge between the Elect and the Reprobate." This is the Calvinist doctrine of "double predestination."