Life Everlasting Amen: Eternal Life according to the Apostles’ Creed

It is fitting that the end of all our desires, namely eternal life coincides with the words at the end of the creed, “Life everlasting. Amen”.

The first point about eternal life is that man is united with God. For God himself is the reward and end of all our labors: I am your protector and your supreme reward. This union consists in seeing perfectly: At present we see through a glass, darkly; but then we shall see face to face.

Next it consists in perfect praise, according to the words of the prophet: Joy and happiness will be found in it, thanksgiving and words of praise.

It also consists in the complete satisfaction of desire, for there the blessed will be given more than they wanted or hoped for. The reason is that in this life no one can fulfil his longing, nor can any creature satisfy man’s desire. Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures. That is why man can rest in nothing but God. As Augustine says: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart can find no rest until it rests in you.

Since in their heavenly home the saints will possess God completely, obviously their longing will be satisfied, and their glory will be even greater. That is why the Lord says: Enter into the joy of your Lord. Augustine adds: The fullness of joy will not enter into those who rejoice, but those who rejoice will enter into joy. I shall be satisfied when your glory is seen, and again: He who satisfies your desire with good things.

Whatever is delightful is there in superabundance. If delights are sought, there is supreme and most perfect delight. It is said of God, the supreme good: Boundless delights are in your right hand.

Again, eternal life consists of the joyous community of all the blessed, a community of supreme delight, since everyone will share all that is good with all the blessed. Everyone will love everyone else as himself, and therefore will rejoice in another’s good as in his own. So it follows that the happiness and joy of each grows in proportion to the joy of all.

This excerpt from a conference on the Apostle’s Creed (Coll. super Credo in Deum: Opuscula theologica 2, Taurini 1954, pp. 216-7) by Saint Thomas Aquinas is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings on Saturday of the 33rd week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Zechariah 14:1-21. As he examines the final article of the Apostle’s Creed, the angelic doctor reflects on what eternal life in heaven will be like – the beatific vision of God, our supreme reward, along with the satisfaction of every desire and a superabundance of delights which brings the fullness of joy at God’s right hand.

Thomas Aquinas, St.

In the middle of the thirteenth century, a noble family named Aquinas from Southern Italy had a plan for their son. Thomas had been born in 1225 (in the lifetime of St. Francis of Assisi) and had received his initial education from the Benedictines at the historic Abbey of Monte Cassino, founded by St. Benedict himself. His parents knew he was religiously inclined, so his father planned to pull a few strings and get Thomas appointed Abbot of Monte Cassino, a position with power and prestige befitting the son of the Count of Aquinas.

But before taking such a step, the Count sent him to the newly founded University of Naples to get some further education. While there, Thomas was inspired by the members of a new, unconventional religious order called the Dominicans or Order of Preachers. Over the protests of his parents, Thomas, joined this new group. The young friar grew rapidly in holiness and knowledge of the things of God. It helped, of course, that he had St. Albert the Great as one of his principal teachers. Ultimately, Thomas Aquinas was appointed professor of Sacred Theology at the University of Paris where he taught alongside a Franciscan professor named Bonaventure.

Though not sufficiently appreciated until the Council of Trent three hundred years later, Thomas Aquinas, who died in 1274, ultimately came to be recognized as a Doctor of the Church and as indeed one of the greatest Catholic teachers of all time. He wrote commentaries on various books of the bible as well as the multi-volume apologetics work “Summa Contra Gentiles.” Yet St. Thomas was first and foremost a man of prayer, a true disciple of Jesus and Jesus’ disciple Dominic. His study flowed from his prayer and his profound holiness made it possible for him to discern the wheat from the chaff in the intellectual currents of his day, and integrate that wheat into the established fare of the Catholic Tradition. His most notable achievement along these lines was to show how many of the ideas of the pagan Greek philosopher, Aristotle, could be utilized with great benefit in Catholic theology, an idea that was quite controversial in his day.

St. Thomas’ greatest theological work, the Summa Theologiae is, though unfinished, nevertheless a masterpiece of theology that covers all aspects of Catholic doctrine from the Trinity to Morality.


St. Thomas died in 1274 (the same year as his Franciscan Colleague, St. Bonaventure) while on his way to participate in the Ecumenical Council of Lyons. As early as 1277, his work was attacked by a number of Catholic theological faculties and remained under a cloud until the time of Council of Trent some 300 years later. Pope Leo XIII, in the late 19th century, recognized that the achievement of St. Thomas in the area of truly Christian philosophy and theology had to be emulated in the modern era if the Church was ever to meet the challenge posed by atheism and secularism.