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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Death Swallowed Up of Life. Meaning of This Phrase in Relation to the Resurrection of the Body.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter LIV.—Death Swallowed Up of Life. Meaning of This Phrase in Relation to the Resurrection of the Body.

Then, again, questions very often are suggested by occasional and isolated terms, just as much as they are by connected sentences. Thus, because of the apostle’s expression, “that mortality may be swallowed up of life” 7700 —in reference to the flesh—they wrest p. 588 the word swallowed up into the sense of the actual destruction of the flesh; as if we might not speak of ourselves as swallowing bile, or swallowing grief, meaning that we conceal and hide it, and keep it within ourselves. The truth is, when it is written, “This mortal must put on immortality,” 7701 it is explained in what sense it is that “mortality is swallowed up of life”—even whilst, clothed with immortality, it is hidden and concealed, and contained within it, not as consumed, and destroyed, and lost. But death, you will say in reply to me, at this rate, must be safe, even when it has been swallowed up. Well, then, I ask you to distinguish words which are similar in form according to their proper meanings. Death is one thing, and mortality is another. It is one thing for death to be swallowed up, and another thing for mortality to be swallowed up. Death is incapable of immortality, but not so mortality. Besides, as it is written that “this mortal must put on immortality,” 7702 how is this possible when it is swallowed up of life? But how is it swallowed up of life, (in the sense of destroyed by it) when it is actually received, and restored, and included in it? For the rest, it is only just and right that death should be swallowed up in utter destruction, since it does itself devour with this same intent.  Death, says the apostle, has devoured by exercising its strength, and therefore has been itself devoured in the struggle “swallowed up in victory.” 7703 “O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?” 7704 Therefore life, too, as the great antagonist of death, will in the struggle swallow up for salvation what death, in its struggle, had swallowed up for destruction.


Footnotes

587:7700

2 Cor. v. 4.

588:7701

1 Cor. xv. 53.

588:7702

1 Cor. xv. 53.

588:7703

1 Cor. 15.54.

588:7704

1 Cor. 15.55.


Next: The Change of a Thing's Condition is Not the Destruction of Its Substance. The Application of This Principle to Our Subject.

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