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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22.—What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked.

But in what way shall the good go out to see the punishment of the wicked?  Are they to leave their happy abodes by a bodily movement, and proceed to the places of punishment, so as to witness the torments of the wicked in their bodily presence?  Certainly not; but they shall go out by knowledge.  For this expression, go out, signifies that those who shall be punished shall be without.  And thus the Lord also calls these places “the outer darkness,” 1431 to which is opposed that entrance concerning which it is said to the good servant, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord,” that it may not be supposed that the wicked can enter thither and be known, but rather that the good by their knowledge go out to them, because the good are to know that which is without.  For those who shall be in torment shall not know what is going on within in the joy of the Lord; but they who shall enter into that joy shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness.  Therefore it is said, “They shall go out,” because they shall know what is done by those who are without.  For if the prophets were able to know things that had not yet happened, by means of that indwelling of God in their minds, limited though it was, shall not the immortal saints know things that have already happened, when God shall be all in all? 1432   The seed, then, and the name of the saints shall remain in that blessedness,—the seed, to wit, of which John says, “And his seed remaineth in him;” 1433 and the name, of which it was said through Isaiah himself, “I will give them an everlasting name.” 1434   “And there shall be to them month after month, and Sabbath after Sabbath,” as if it were said, Moon after moon, and rest upon rest, both of which they shall themselves be when they shall pass from the old shadows of time into the new lights of eternity.  The worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched, which constitute the punishment of the wicked, are differently interpreted by different people.  For some refer both to the body, others refer both to the soul; while others again refer the fire literally to the body, and the worm figuratively to the soul, which seems the more credible idea.  But the present is not the time to discuss this difference, for we have undertaken to occupy this book with the last judgment, in which the good and the bad are separated:  their rewards and punishments we shall more carefully discuss elsewhere.



Matt. 25.30.


1 Cor. 15.28.


1 John 3.9.


Isa. 56.5.

Next: Chapter 23

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