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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 17

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 17.—Of the Endless Glory of the Church.

“And I saw,” he says, “a great city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, but neither shall there be any more pain:  because the former things have passed away.  And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” 1391   This city is said to come down out of heaven, because the grace with which God formed it is of heaven.  Wherefore He says to it by Isaiah, “I am the Lord that formed thee.” 1392   It is indeed descended from heaven from its commencement, since its citizens during the course of this world grow by the grace of God, which cometh down from above through the laver of regeneration in the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.  But by God’s final judgment, which shall be administered by His Son Jesus Christ, there shall by God’s grace be manifested a glory so pervading and so new, that no vestige of what is old shall remain; for even our bodies shall pass from their old corruption and mortality to new incorruption and immortality.  For to refer this promise to the present time, in which the saints are reigning with their King a thousand years, seems to me excessively barefaced, when it is most distinctly said, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, but there shall be no more pain.”  And who is so absurd, and blinded by contentious opinionativeness, as to be audacious enough to affirm that in the midst of the calamities of this mortal state, God’s people, or even one single saint, does live, or has ever lived, or shall ever live, without tears or pain,—the fact being that the holier a man is, and the fuller of holy desire, so much the more abundant is the tearfulness of his supplication?  Are not these the utterances of a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem:  “My tears have been my meat day and night;” 1393 and “Every night shall I make my bed to swim; with my tears shall I water my couch;” 1394 and “My groaning is not hid from Thee;” 1395 and “My sorrow was renewed?” 1396   Or are not those God’s children who groan, being burdened, not that they wish to be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life? 1397   Do not they even who have the first-fruits of the Spirit groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of their body? 1398   Was not the Apostle Paul himself a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, and was he not so all the more when he had heaviness and continual sorrow of heart for his Israelitish brethren? 1399   But when shall there be no more death in that city, except when it shall be said, “O death, where is thy contention? 1400   O death, where is thy sting?  The sting of death is sin.” 1401   Obviously there shall be no sin when it can be said, “Where is”—But as for the present it is not some poor weak citizen of this city, but this same Apostle John himself who says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1402   No doubt, though this book is called the Apocalypse, there are in it many obscure passages to exercise the mind of the reader, and there are few passages so plain as to assist us in the interpretation of the others, even though we take pains; and this difficulty is increased by the repetition of the same things, in forms so different, that the things referred to seem to be different, although in fact they are only differently stated.  But in the words, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, but there shall be no more pain,” there is so manifest a reference to the future world and the immortality and eternity of the saints,—for only then and only there shall such a condition be p. 437 realized,—that if we think this obscure, we need not expect to find anything plain in any part of Scripture.


Footnotes

436:1391

Rev. 21.2-5.

436:1392

Isa. 45.8.

436:1393

Ps. 42.3.

436:1394

Ps. 6.6.

436:1395

Ps. 38.9.

436:1396

Ps. 39.2.

436:1397

2 Cor. 5.4.

436:1398

Rom. 8.23.

436:1399

Rom. 9.2.

436:1400

Augustin therefore read νεῖκος, and not with the Vulgate νίκη.  [The correct reading is τὸ νῖκος, later form for νίκη, victory.—P.S.]

436:1401

1 Cor. 15.55.

436:1402

1 John 1.8.


Next: Chapter 18

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