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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16.—Of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Having finished the prophecy of judgment, so far as the wicked are concerned, it remains that he speak also of the good.  Having briefly explained the Lord’s words, “These will go away into everlasting punishment,” it remains that he explain the connected words, “but the righteous into life eternal.” 1388   “And I saw,” he says, “a new heaven and a new earth:  for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away; and there is no more sea.” 1389   This will take place in the order which he has by anticipation declared in the words, “I saw One sitting on the throne, from whose face heaven and earth fled.”  For as soon as those who are not written in the book of life have been judged and cast into eternal fire,—the nature of which fire, or its position in the world or universe, I suppose is known to no man, unless perhaps the divine Spirit reveal it to some one,—then shall the figure of this world pass away in a conflagration of universal fire, as once before the world was flooded with a deluge of universal water.  And by this universal conflagration the qualities of the corruptible elements which suited our corruptible bodies shall utterly perish, and our substance shall receive such qualities as shall, by a wonderful transmutation, harmonize with our immortal bodies, so that, as the world itself is renewed to some better thing, it is fitly accommodated to men, themselves renewed in their flesh to some better thing.  As for the statement, “And there shall be no more sea,” I would not lightly say whether it is dried up with that excessive heat, or is itself also turned into p. 436 some better thing.  For we read that there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, but I do not remember to have anywhere read anything of a new sea, unless what I find in this same book, “As it were a sea of glass like crystal.” 1390   But he was not then speaking of this end of the world, neither does he seem to speak of a literal sea, but “as it were a sea.”  It is possible that, as prophetic diction delights in mingling figurative and real language, and thus in some sort veiling the sense, so the words “And there is no more sea” may be taken in the same sense as the previous phrase, “And the sea presented the dead which were in it.”  For then there shall be no more of this world, no more of the surgings and restlessness of human life, and it is this which is symbolized by the sea.


Footnotes

435:1388

Matt. 25.46.

435:1389

Rev. 21.1.

436:1390

Rev. 15.2.


Next: Chapter 17

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