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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Session of Jesus in His Incarnate Nature at the Right Hand of God a Guarantee of the Resurrection of Our Flesh.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter LI.—The Session of Jesus in His Incarnate Nature at the Right Hand of God a Guarantee of the Resurrection of Our Flesh.

That, however, which we have reserved for a concluding argument, will now stand as a plea for all, and for the apostle himself, who in very deed would have to be charged with extreme indiscretion, if he had so abruptly, as some will have it, and as they say, blindfold, and so indiscriminately, and so unconditionally, excluded from the kingdom of God, and indeed from the court of heaven itself, all flesh and blood whatsoever; since Jesus is still sitting there at the right hand of the Father, 7660 man, yet God—the last Adam, 7661 yet the primary Word—flesh and blood, yet purer than ours—who “shall descend in like manner as He ascended into heaven” 7662 the same both in substance and form, as the angels affirmed, 7663 so as even to be recognised by those who pierced Him. 7664 Designated, as He is, “the Mediator 7665 between God and man,” He keeps in His own self the deposit of the flesh which has been committed to Him by both parties—the pledge and security of its entire perfection. For as “He has given to us the earnest of the Spirit,” 7666 so has He received from us the earnest of the flesh, and has carried it with Him into heaven as a pledge of that complete entirety which is one day to be restored to it. Be not disquieted, O flesh and blood, with any care; in Christ you have acquired both heaven and the kingdom of God. Otherwise, if they say that you are not in Christ, let them also say that Christ is not in heaven, since they have denied you heaven.  Likewise “neither shall corruption,” says he, “inherit incorruption.” 7667 This he says, not that you may take flesh and blood to be corruption, for they are themselves rather the subjects of corruption,—I mean through death, since death does not so much corrupt, as actually consume, our flesh and blood. But inasmuch as he had plainly said that the works of the flesh and blood could not obtain the kingdom of God, with the view of stating this with accumulated stress, he deprived corruption itself—that is, death, which profits so largely by the works of the flesh and blood—from all inheritance of incorruption. For a little afterwards, he has described what is, as it were, the death of death itself: “Death,” says he, “is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin”—here is the corruption; “and the strength of sin is the law” 7668 —that other law, no doubt, which he has described “in his members as warring against the law of his mind,” 7669 —meaning, of course, the actual power of sinning against his will. Now he says in a previous passage (of our Epistle to the Corinthians), that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 7670 In this way, then, it is that corruption shall not inherit incorruption; in other words, death shall not continue. When and how shall it cease? In that “moment, that twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, when the dead shall rise incorruptible.” 7671 But what are these, if not they who were corruptible before—that is, our bodies; in other words, our flesh and blood? And we undergo the change. But in what condition, if not in that wherein we shall be found? “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 7672 What mortal is this but the flesh? what corruptible but the blood. Moreover, that you may not suppose the apostle to have any other meaning, in his care to teach you, and that you may understand him seriously to apply his statement to the flesh, when he says “this corruptible” and “this mortal,” he utters the words p. 585 while touching the surface of his own body. 7673 He certainly could not have pronounced these phrases except in reference to an object which was palpable and apparent. The expression indicates a bodily exhibition. Moreover, a corruptible body is one thing, and corruption is another; so a mortal body is one thing, and mortality is another. For that which suffers is one thing, and that which causes it to suffer is another. Consequently, those things which are subject to corruption and mortality, even the flesh and blood, must needs also be susceptible of incorruption and immortality.


Footnotes

584:7660

Mark xvi. 19.

584:7661

1 Cor. xv. 45.

584:7662

Acts i. 9.

584:7663

Acts 1.10.

584:7664

Zech. 12:10, John 19:37, Rev. 1:7.

584:7665

1 Tim. ii. 5. Tertullian’s word is “sequester,” the guardian of a deposit.

584:7666

2 Cor. v. 5.

584:7667

1 Cor. xv. 50.

584:7668

1 Cor. xv. 54-56.

584:7669

Rom. vii. 23.

584:7670

1 Cor. xv. 26.

584:7671

1 Cor. 15.52.

584:7672

1 Cor. 15.53.

585:7673

Cutem ipsam. Rufinus says that in the church of Aquileia they touched their bodies when they recited the clause of the creed which they rendered “the resurrection of this body.”


Next: From St. Paul's Analogy of the Seed We Learn that the Body Which Died Will Rise Again, Garnished with the Appliances of Eternal Life.

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