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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Scriptures Forbid Our Supposing Either that the Resurrection is Already Past, or that It Takes Place Immediately at Death. Our Hopes and Prayers Point to the Last Great Day as the Period of Its Accomplishment.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXII.—The Scriptures Forbid Our Supposing Either that the Resurrection is Already Past, or that It Takes Place Immediately at Death. Our Hopes and Prayers Point to the Last Great Day as the Period of Its Accomplishment.

We must after all this turn our attention to those scriptures also which forbid our belief in such a resurrection as is held by your Animalists (for I will not call them Spiritualists), 7412 that it is either to be assumed as taking place now, as soon as men come to the knowledge of the truth, or else that it is accomplished immediately after their departure from this life. Now, forasmuch as the seasons of our entire hope have been fixed in the Holy Scripture, and since we are not permitted to place the accomplishment thereof, as I apprehend, previous to Christ’s coming, our prayers are directed towards 7413 the end of this world, to the passing away thereof at the great day of the Lord—of His wrath and vengeance—the last day, which is hidden (from all), and known to none but the Father, although announced beforehand by signs and wonders, and the dissolution of the elements, and the conflicts of nations. I would turn out the words of the prophets, if the Lord Himself had said nothing (except that prophecies were the Lord’s own word); but it is more to my purpose that He by His own mouth confirms their statement. Being questioned by His disciples when those things were to come to pass which He had just been uttering about the destruction of the temple, He discourses to them first of the order of Jewish events until the overthrow of Jerusalem, and then of such as concerned all nations up to the very end of the world.  For after He had declared that “Jerusalem was to be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled,” 7414 —meaning, of course, those which were to be chosen of God, and gathered in with the remnant of Israel—He then goes on to proclaim, against this world and dispensation (even as Joel had done, and Daniel, and all the prophets with one consent 7415 ), that “there should be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring, men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the p. 561 earth.” 7416 “For,” says He, “the powers of heaven shall be shaken; and then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” 7417 He spake of its “drawing nigh,” not of its being present already; and of “those things beginning to come to pass,” not of their having happened: because when they have come to pass, then our redemption shall be at hand, which is said to be approaching up to that time, raising and exciting our minds to what is then the proximate harvest of our hope. He immediately annexes a parable of this in “the trees which are tenderly sprouting into a flower-stalk, and then developing the flower, which is the precursor of the fruit.” 7418 “So likewise ye,” (He adds), “when ye shall see all these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand.” 7419 “Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all those things, and to stand before the Son of man;” 7420 that is, no doubt, at the resurrection, after all these things have been previously transacted. Therefore, although there is a sprouting in the acknowledgment of all this mystery, yet it is only in the actual presence of the Lord that the flower is developed and the fruit borne. Who is it then, that has aroused the Lord, now at God’s right hand, so unseasonably and with such severity “shake terribly” (as Isaiah 7421 expresses it) “that earth,” which, I suppose, is as yet unshattered? Who has thus early put “Christ’s enemies beneath His feet” (to use the language of David 7422 ), making Him more hurried than the Father, whilst every crowd in our popular assemblies is still with shouts consigning “the Christians to the lions?” 7423 Who has yet beheld Jesus descending from heaven in like manner as the apostles saw Him ascend, according to the appointment of the two angels? 7424 Up to the present moment they have not, tribe by tribe, smitten their breasts, looking on Him whom they pierced. 7425 No one has as yet fallen in with Elias; 7426 no one has as yet escaped from Antichrist; 7427 no one has as yet had to bewail the downfall of Babylon. 7428 And is there now anybody who has risen again, except the heretic? He, of course, has already quitted the grave of his own corpse—although he is even now liable to fevers and ulcers; he, too, has already trodden down his enemies—although he has even now to struggle with the powers of the world. And as a matter of course, he is already a king—although he even now owes to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s. 7429


Footnotes

560:7412

For the opinions of those Valentinians who held that Christ’s flesh was composed of soul or of spirit—a refined, ethereal substance—see Tertullian’s De Carne Christi, cc. x.–xv.

560:7413

Suspirant in.

560:7414

Luke xxi. 24.

560:7415

Joel 3:9, Dan. 7:13, 14.

561:7416

Luke 21:25, 26.

561:7417

Luke 21.26-28.

561:7418

Luke 21:29, 30, Matt. 24:32.

561:7419

Luke 21:31, Matt. 24:33.

561:7420

Luke xxi. 36.

561:7421

Isa. ii. 19.

561:7422

Ps. cx. 1.

561:7423

Compare The Apology, xl.; De Spect. xxvii.; De Exhort. Cast. xii.

561:7424

Acts i. 11.

561:7425

Zech. 12:10, John 19:37.

561:7426

Mal. iv. 5.

561:7427

1 John iv. 3.

561:7428

Rev. xviii. 2.

561:7429

Matt. xxii. 21.


Next: Sundry Passages of St. Paul, Which Speak of a Spiritual Resurrection, Compatible with the Future Resurrection of the Body, Which is Even Assumed in Them.

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