Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 15
Chapter 15.—Who the Dead are Who are Given Up to Judgment by the Sea, and by Death and Hell.
But who are the dead which were in the p. 435 sea, and which the sea presented? For we cannot suppose that those who die in the sea are not in hell, nor that their bodies are preserved in the sea; nor yet, which is still more absurd, that the sea retained the good, while hell received the bad. Who could believe this? But some very sensibly suppose that in this place the sea is put for this world. When John then wished to signify that those whom Christ should find still alive in the body were to be judged along with those who should rise again, he called them dead, both the good to whom it is said, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” 1384 and the wicked of whom it is said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” 1385 They may also be called dead, because they wear mortal bodies, as the apostle says, “The body indeed is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness;” 1386 proving that in a living man in the body there is both a body which is dead, and a spirit which is life. Yet he did not say that the body was mortal, but dead, although immediately after he speaks in the more usual way of mortal bodies. These, then, are the dead which were in the sea, and which the sea presented, to wit, the men who were in this world, because they had not yet died, and whom the world presented for judgment. “And death and hell,” he says, “gave up the dead which were in them.” The sea presented them because they had merely to be found in the place where they were; but death and hell gave them up or restored them, because they called them back to life, which they had already quitted. And perhaps it was not without reason that neither death nor hell were judged sufficient alone, and both were mentioned,—death to indicate the good, who have suffered only death and not hell; hell to indicate the wicked, who suffer also the punishment of hell. For if it does not seem absurd to believe that the ancient saints who believed in Christ and His then future coming, were kept in places far removed indeed from the torments of the wicked, but yet in hell, 1387 until Christs blood and His descent into these places delivered them, certainly good Christians, redeemed by that precious price already paid, are quite unacquainted with hell while they wait for their restoration to the body, and the reception of their reward. After saying, “They were judged every man according to their works,” he briefly added what the judgment was: “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire;” by these names designating the devil and the whole company of his angels, for he is the author of death and the pains of hell. For this is what he had already, by anticipation, said in clearer language: “The devil who seduced them was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone.” The obscure addition he had made in the words, “in which were also the beast and the false prophet,” he here explains, “They who were not found written in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire.” This book is not for reminding God, as if things might escape Him by forgetfulness, but it symbolizes His predestination of those to whom eternal life shall be given. For it is not that God is ignorant, and reads in the book to inform Himself, but rather His infallible prescience is the book of life in which they are written, that is to say, known beforehand.
“Apud inferos,” i.e. in hell, in the sense in which the word is used in the Psalms and in the Creed.
Next: Chapter 16
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