It is the transformation these shall undergo which he explains to the Corinthians, when he writes: “We shall all indeed rise again (though we shall not all undergo the transformation) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump”—for none shall experience this change but those only who shall be found in the flesh. “And the dead,” he says, “shall be raised, and we shall be changed.” Now, after a careful consideration of this appointed order, you will be able to adjust what follows to the preceding sense. For when he adds, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality,” 7558 this will assuredly be that house from heaven, with which we so earnestly desire to be clothed upon, whilst groaning in this our present body,—meaning, of course, over this flesh in which we shall be surprised at last; because he says that we are burdened whilst in this tabernacle, which we do not wish indeed to be stripped of, but rather to be in it clothed over, in such a way that mortality may be swallowed up of life, that is, by putting on over us whilst we are transformed that vestiture which is from heaven. For who is there that will not desire, while he is in the flesh, to put on immortality, and to continue his life by a happy escape from death, through the transformation which must be experienced instead of it, without encountering too that Hades which will exact the very last farthing? 7559 Notwithstanding, he who has already traversed Hades is destined also to obtain the change after the resurrection. For from this circumstance it is that we definitively declare that the flesh will by all means rise again, and, from the change that is to come over it, will assume the condition of angels. Now, if it were merely in the case of those who shall be found in the flesh that the p. 576 change must be undergone, in order that mortality may be swallowed up of life—in other words, that the flesh (be covered) with the heavenly and eternal raiment—it would either follow that those who shall be found in death would not obtain life, deprived as they would then be of the material and so to say the aliment of life, that is, the flesh; or else, these also must needs undergo the change, that in them too mortality may be swallowed up of life, since it is appointed that they too should obtain life. But, you say, in the case of the dead, mortality is already swallowed up of life. No, not in all cases, certainly. For how many will most probably be found of men who had just died—so recently put into their graves, that nothing in them would seem to be decayed? For you do not of course deem a thing to be decayed unless it be cut off, abolished, and withdrawn from our perception, as having in every possible way ceased to be apparent. There are the carcases of the giants of old time; it will be obvious enough that they are not absolutely decayed, for their bony frames are still extant. We have already spoken of this elsewhere. 7560 For instance, 7561 even lately in this very city, 7562 when they were sacrilegiously laying the foundations of the Odeum on a good many ancient graves, people were horror-stricken to discover, after some five hundred years, bones, which still retained their moisture, and hair which had not lost its perfume. It is certain not only that bones remain indurated, but also that teeth continue undecayed for ages—both of them the lasting germs of that body which is to sprout into life again in the resurrection. Lastly, even if everything that is mortal in all the dead shall then be found decayed—at any rate consumed by death, by time, and through age,—is there nothing which will be “swallowed up of life,” 7563 nor by being covered over and arrayed in the vesture of immortality? Now, he who says that mortality is going to be swallowed up of life has already admitted that what is dead is not destroyed by those other before-mentioned devourers. And verily it will be extremely fit that all shall be consummated and brought about by the operations of God, and not by the laws of nature. Therefore, inasmuch as what is mortal has to be swallowed up of life, it must needs be brought out to view in order to be so swallowed up; (needful) also to be swallowed up, in order to undergo the ultimate transformation. If you were to say that a fire is to be lighted, you could not possibly allege that what is to kindle it is sometimes necessary and sometimes not. In like manner, when he inserts the words “If so be that being unclothed 7564 we be not found naked,” 7565 —referring, of course, to those who shall not be found in the day of the Lord alive and in the flesh—he did not say that they whom he had just described as unclothed or stripped, were naked in any other sense than meaning that they should be understood to be reinvested with the very same substance they had been divested of. For although they shall be found naked when their flesh has been laid aside, or to some extent sundered or worn away (and this condition may well be called nakedness,) they shall afterwards recover it again, in order that, being reinvested with the flesh, they may be able also to have put over that the supervestment of immortality; for it will be impossible for the outside garment to fit except over one who is already dressed.
Comp. Matt. v. 26, and see Tertullians De Anima, xxxv. [and see cap. xliii., infra, p. 576.]576:7560 576:7561 576:7562 576:7563
2 Cor. v. 4. [Against Marcion, p. 455, note 24.]576:7564 576:7565