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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 5

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 5.—The Passages in Which the Saviour Declares that There Shall Be a Divine Judgment in the End of the World.

The Saviour Himself, while reproving the cities in which He had done great works, but which had not believed, and while setting them in unfavorable comparison with foreign cities, says, “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you.” 1323   And a little after He says, “Verily, I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.” 1324   Here He most plainly predicts that a day of judgment is to come.  And in another place He says, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:  because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.  The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:  for she came from the utter p. 424 most parts of the earth to hear the words of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” 1325   Two things we learn from this passage, that a judgment is to take place, and that it is to take place at the resurrection of the dead.  For when He spoke of the Ninevites and the queen of the south, He certainly spoke of dead persons, and yet He said that they should rise up in the day of judgment.  He did not say, “They shall condemn,” as if they themselves were to be the judges, but because, in comparison with them, the others shall be justly condemned.

Again, in another passage, in which He was speaking of the present intermingling and future separation of the good and bad,—the separation which shall be made in the day of judgment,—He adduced a comparison drawn from the sown wheat and the tares sown among them, and gave this explanation of it to His disciples:  “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man,” 1326 etc.  Here, indeed, He did not name the judgment or the day of judgment, but indicated it much more clearly by describing the circumstances, and foretold that it should take place in the end of the world.

In like manner He says to His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 1327   Here we learn that Jesus shall judge with His disciples.  And therefore He said elsewhere to the Jews, “If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Therefore they shall be your judges.” 1328   Neither ought we to suppose that only twelve men shall judge along with Him, though He says that they shall sit upon twelve thrones; for by the number twelve is signified the completeness of the multitude of those who shall judge.  For the two parts of the number seven (which commonly symbolizes totality), that is to say four and three, multiplied into one another, give twelve.  For four times three, or three times four, are twelve.  There are other meanings, too, in this number twelve.  Were not this the right interpretation of the twelve thrones, then since we read that Matthias was ordained an apostle in the room of Judas the traitor, the Apostle Paul, though he labored more than them all, 1329 should have no throne of judgment; but he unmistakeably considers himself to be included in the number of the judges when he says, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” 1330   The same rule is to be observed in applying the number twelve to those who are to be judged.  For though it was said, “judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” the tribe of Levi, which is the thirteenth, shall not on this account be exempt from judgment, neither shall judgment be passed only on Israel and not on the other nations.  And by the words “in the regeneration,” He certainly meant the resurrection of the dead to be understood; for our flesh shall be regenerated by incorruption, as our soul is regenerated by faith.

Many passages I omit, because, though they seem to refer to the last judgment, yet on a closer examination they are found to be ambiguous, or to allude rather to some other event,—whether to that coming of the Saviour which continually occurs in His Church, that is, in His members, in which comes little by little, and piece by piece, since the whole Church is His body, or to the destruction of the earthly Jerusalem.  For when He speaks even of this, He often uses language which is applicable to the end of the world and that last and great day of judgment, so that these two events cannot be distinguished unless all the corresponding passages bearing on the subject in the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are compared with one another,—for some things are put more obscurely by one evangelist and more plainly by another,—so that it becomes apparent what things are meant to be referred to one event.  It is this which I have been at pains to do in a letter which I wrote to Hesychius of blessed memory, bishop of Salon, and entitled, “Of the End of the World.” 1331

I shall now cite from the Gospel according to Matthew the passage which speaks of the separation of the good from the wicked by the most efficacious and final judgment of Christ:  “When the Son of man,” he says, “shall come in His glory, . . . then shall He say also unto them on His left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” 1332   Then He in like manner recounts to the wicked the things they had not done, but which He had said those on the right hand had done.  And when they ask when they had seen Him in need of these things, He replies that, inasmuch as they had not done it to the least of His brethren, they had not done it unto Him, and concludes His address in the words, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into p. 425 life eternal.”  Moreover, the evangelist John most distinctly states that He had predicted that the judgment should be at the resurrection of the dead.  For after saying, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:  that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father:  he that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him;” He immediately adds, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death to life.” 1333   Here He said that believers on Him should not come into judgment.  How, then, shall they be separated from the wicked by judgment, and be set at His right hand, unless judgment be in this passage used for condemnation?  For into judgment, in this sense, they shall not come who hear His word, and believe on Him that sent Him.



Matt. 11.22.


Matt. 11.24.


Matt. 12:41, 42.


Augustin quotes the whole passage, Matt. 13.37-43.


Matt. 19.28.


Matt. 12.27.


1 Cor. 15.10.


1 Cor. 6.3.




Matt. 25.34-41, given in full.


John 5.22-24.

Next: Chapter 6

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