Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XXIV.—Of the renewed world
Chap. XXIV.—Of the Renewed World.
Now I will subjoin the rest. Therefore the Son of the most high and mighty God shall come to judge the quick and the dead, as the Sibyl testifies and says:—“For then there shall be confusion of mortals throughout the whole earth, when the Almighty Himself shall come on His judgment-seat to judge the souls of the quick and dead, and all the world.”
But He, when He shall have destroyed unrighteousness, and executed His great judgment, and shall have recalled to life the righteous, who have lived from the beginning, will be engaged among men a thousand years, and will rule them with most just command. Which the Sibyl proclaims in another place, as she utters her inspired predictions:—“Hear me, ye mortals; an everlasting King reigns.”
Then they who shall be alive in their bodies shall not die, but during those thousand years shall produce an infinite multitude, and their offspring shall be holy, and beloved by God; but they who shall be raised from the dead shall preside over the living as judges. 1421 But the nations shall not be entirely extinguished, but some shall be left as a victory for God, that they may be the occasion of triumph to the righteous, and may be subjected to perpetual slavery. About the same time also the prince of the devils, who is the contriver of all evils, shall be bound with chains, and shall be imprisoned during the thousand years of the heavenly rule in which righteousness shall reign in the world, so that he may contrive no evil against the people of God. After His coming the righteous shall be collected from all the earth, and the judgment being completed, the sacred city shall be planted in the middle of the earth, in which God Himself the builder may dwell together with the righteous, bearing rule in it. And the Sibyl marks out this city when she says:—“And the city which God made, this He made more brilliant than the stars, and sun, and moon.”
Then that darkness will be taken away from the world with which the heaven will be overspread and darkened, and the moon will receive the brightness of the sun, nor will it be further diminished: but the sun will become seven times brighter than it now is; and the earth will open its fruitfulness, and bring forth most abundant fruits of its own accord; the rocky mountains shall drop with honey; streams of wine shall run down, and rivers flow with milk: in short, the world itself shall rejoice, and all nature exult, being rescued and set free from the dominion of evil and impiety, and guilt and error. Throughout this time beasts shall not be nourished by blood, nor birds by prey; but all things shall be peaceful and tranquil. Lions and calves shall stand together at the manger, the wolf shall not carry off the sheep, the hound shall not hunt for prey; hawks and eagles shall not injure; the infant shall play with serpents. In short, those things shall then come to pass which the poets spoke of as being done in the reign of Saturnus. Whose error arose from this source,—that the prophets bring forward and speak of many future events as already accomplished. For visions were brought before their eyes by the divine Spirit, and they saw these things, as it were, done and completed in their own sight. And when fame had gradually spread abroad their predictions, since those who were uninstructed in the mysteries 1422 of religion did not know why they were spoken, they thought that all those things were already fulfilled in the ancient ages, which evidently could not be accomplished and fulfilled under the reign of a man. 1423 But when, after the destruction of impious religions and the suppression of guilt, the earth shall be subject to God,—“The sailor 1424 himself also shall renounce the sea, nor shall the naval pine
Barter merchandise; all lands shall produce all things.
The ground shall not endure the harrow, nor the vineyard the pruning hook;
The sturdy ploughman also shall loose the bulls from the yoke.
The plain shall by degrees grow yellow with soft ears of corn,
The blushing grape shall hang on the uncultivated brambles,
And hard oaks shall distil the dewy honey.
Nor shall the wool learn to counterfeit various colours;
But the ram himself in the meadows shall change his fleece,
Now for a sweetly blushing purple, now for saffron dye;
Scarlet of its own accord shall cover the lambs as they feed.
The goats of themselves shall bring back home their udders distended with milk;
Nor shall the herds dread huge lions.” 1425 p. 220
Which things the poet foretold according to the verses of the Cumæan Sibyl. But the Erythræan thus speaks:—“But wolves shall not contend with lambs on the mountains, and lynxes shall eat grass with kids; boars shall feed with calves, and with all flocks; and the carnivorous lion shall eat chaff at the manger, and serpents shall sleep with infants deprived of their mothers.”
And in another place, speaking of the fruitfulness of all things:—“And then shall God give great joy to men; for the earth, and the trees, and the numberless flocks of the earth shall give to men the true fruit of the vine, and sweet honey, and white milk, and corn, which is the best of all things to mortals.”
And another in the same manner:—“The sacred land of the pious only will produce all these things, the stream of honey from the rock and from the fountain, and the milk of ambrosia will flow for all the just.”
Therefore men will live a most tranquil life, abounding with resources, and will reign together with God; and the kings of the nations shall come from the ends of the earth with gifts and offerings, to adore and honour the great King, whose name shall be renowned and venerated by all the nations which shall be under heaven, and by the kings who shall rule on earth.
[This is “the first resurrection” as conceived of by the ancients, and the (Phil. iii. 11) ἐξανάστασις of St. Paul.]215:1422
Profani a sacramentis.215:1423
[This rationale of the Orphica and Sibyllina deserves thought.]215:1424
Vector, i.e., the passenger, as opposed to one who sails in a ship of war.215:1425
Virg., Bucol., iv. 21–45. The order of the lines is changed. [This, the famous Pollio, greatly influenced Constantine. See p. 140, note 7, supra.]
Next: Chap. XXV.—Of the last times, and of the city of Rome
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