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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 6

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 6.—What is the First Resurrection, and What the Second.

After that He adds the words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.  For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” 1334   As yet He does not speak of the second resurrection, that is, the resurrection of the body, which shall be in the end, but of the first, which now is.  It is for the sake of making this distinction that He says, “The hour is coming, and now is.”  Now this resurrection regards not the body, but the soul.  For souls, too, have a death of their own in wickedness and sins, whereby they are the dead of whom the same lips say, “Suffer the dead to bury their dead,” 1335 —that is, let those who are dead in soul bury them that are dead in body.  It is of these dead, then—the dead in ungodliness and wickedness—that He says, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.”  “They that hear,” that is, they who obey, believe, and persevere to the end.  Here no difference is made between the good and the bad.  For it is good for all men to hear His voice and live, by passing to the life of godliness from the death of ungodliness.  Of this death the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore all are dead, and He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again.” 1336   Thus all, without one exception, were dead in sins, whether original or voluntary sins, sins of ignorance, or sins committed against knowledge; and for all the dead there died the one only person who lived, that is, who had no sin whatever, in order that they who live by the remission of their sins should live, not to themselves, but to Him who died for all, for our sins, and rose again for our justification, that we, believing in Him who justifies the ungodly, and being justified from ungodliness or quickened from death, may be able to attain to the first resurrection which now is.  For in this first resurrection none have a part save those who shall be eternally blessed; but in the second, of which He goes on to speak, all, as we shall learn, have a part, both the blessed and the wretched.  The one is the resurrection of mercy, the other of judgment.  And therefore it is written in the psalm, “I will sing of mercy and of judgment:  unto Thee, O Lord, will I sing.” 1337

And of this judgment He went on to say, “And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.”  Here He shows that He will come to judge in that flesh in which He had come to be judged.  For it is to show this He says, “because He is the Son of man.”  And then follow the words for our purpose:  “Marvel not at this:  for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” 1338   This judgment He uses here in the same sense as a little before, when He says, “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;” i.e., by having a part in the first resurrection, by which a transition from death to life is made in this present time, he shall not come into damnation, which He mentions by the name of judgment, as also in the place where He says, “but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment,” i.e., of damnation.  He, therefore, who would not be damned in the second resurrection, let him rise in the first.  For “the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live,” i.e., shall not come into damnation, which is called the second death; into which death, after the second or bodily resurrection, they shall be p. 426 hurled who do not rise in the first or spiritual resurrection.  For “the hour is coming” (but here He does not say, “and now is,” because it shall come in the end of the world in the last and greatest judgment of God) “when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth.”  He does not say, as in the first resurrection, “And they that Hear shall live.”  For all shall not live, at least with such life as ought alone to be called life because it alone is blessed.  For some kind of life they must have in order to hear, and come forth from the graves in their rising bodies.  And why all shall not live He teaches in the words that follow:  “They that have done good, to the resurrection of life,”—these are they who shall live; “but they that have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment,”—these are they who shall not live, for they shall die in the second death.  They have done evil because their life has been evil; and their life has been evil because it has not been renewed in the first or spiritual resurrection which now is, or because they have not persevered to the end in their renewed life.  As, then, there are two regenerations, of which I have already made mention,—the one according to faith, and which takes place in the present life by means of baptism; the other according to the flesh, and which shall be accomplished in its incorruption and immortality by means of the great and final judgment,—so are there also two resurrections,—the one the first and spiritual resurrection, which has place in this life, and preserves us from coming into the second death; the other the second, which does not occur now, but in the end of the world, and which is of the body, not of the soul, and which by the last judgment shall dismiss some into the second death, others into that life which has no death.



John 5:25, 26.


Matt. 8.22.


2 Cor. 5:14, 15.


Ps. 101.1.


John 5:28, 29.

Next: Chapter 7

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