Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Philosophical Works.: To those who say, “If the resurrection is a thing excellent and good, how is it that it has not happened already, but is hoped for in some periods of time?”
XXII. To those who say, “If the resurrection is a thing excellent and good, how is it that it has not happened already, but is hoped for in some periods of time?” 1689
1. Let us give our attention, however, to the next point of our discussion. It may be that some one, giving his thought wings to soar towards the sweetness of our hope, deems it a burden and a loss that we are not more speedily placed in that good state which is above mans sense and knowledge, and is dissatisfied with the extension of the time that intervenes between him and the object of his desire. Let him cease to vex himself like a child that is discontented at the brief delay of something that gives him pleasure; for since all things are governed by reason and wisdom, we must by no means suppose that anything that happens is done without reason itself and the wisdom that is therein.
2. You will say then, What is this reason, in accordance with which the change of our painful life to that which we desire does not take place at once, but this heavy and corporeal existence of ours waits, extended to some determinate time, for the term of the consummation of all things, that then mans life may be set free as it were from the reins, and revert once more, released and free, to the life of blessedness and impassibility?
3. Well, whether our answer is near the truth of the matter, the Truth Itself may clearly know; but at all events what occurs to our intelligence is as follows. I take up then once more in my argument our first text:—God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and God created man, in the image of God created He him 1690 .” Accordingly, the Image of God, which we behold in universal humanity, had its consummation then 1691 ; but Adam as yet was not; for the thing formed from the earth is called Adam, by etymological nomenclature, as those tell us who are acquainted with the Hebrew tongue—wherefore also the apostle, who was specially learned in his native tongue, the tongue of the Israelites, calls the man “of the earth 1692 ” χοϊκός, as though translating the name Adam into the Greek word.
4. Man, then, was made in the image of God; that is, the universal nature, the thing like God; not part of the whole, but all the fulness of the nature together was so made by omnipotent wisdom. He saw, Who holds all limits in His grasp, as the Scripture tells us which says, “in His hand are all the corners of the earth 1693 ,” He saw, “Who knoweth all things” even “before they be 1694 ,” comprehending them in His knowledge, how great in number humanity will be in the sum of its individuals. But as He perceived in our created nature the bias towards evil, and the fact that after its voluntary fall from equality with the angels it would acquire a fellowship with the lower p. 412 nature, He mingled, for this reason, with His own image, an element of the irrational (for the distinction of male and female does not exist in the Divine and blessed nature);—transferring, I say, to man the special attribute of the irrational formation, He bestowed increase upon our race not according to the lofty character of our creation; for it was not when He made that which was in His own image that He bestowed on man the power of increasing and multiplying; but when He divided it by sexual distinctions, then He said, “Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth 1695 .” For this belongs not to the Divine, but to the irrational element, as the history indicates when it narrates that these words were first spoken by God in the case of the irrational creatures; since we may be sure that, if He had bestowed on man, before imprinting on our nature the distinction of male and female, the power for increase conveyed by this utterance, we should not have needed this form of generation by which the brutes are generated.
5. Now seeing that the full number of men pre-conceived by the operation of foreknowledge will come into life by means of this animal generation, God, Who governs all things in a certain order and sequence,—since the inclination of our nature to what was beneath it (which He Who beholds the future equally with the present saw before it existed) made some such form of generation absolutely necessary for mankind,—therefore also foreknew the time coextensive with the creation of men, so that the extent of time should be adapted for the entrances of the pre-determined souls, and that the flux and motion of time should halt at the moment when humanity is no longer produced by means of it; and that when the generation of men is completed, time should cease together with its completion, and then should take place the restitution of all things, and with the World-Reformation humanity also should be changed from the corruptible and earthly to the impassible and eternal.
6. And this it seems to me the Divine apostle considered when he declared in his epistle to the Corinthians the sudden stoppage of time, and the change of the things that are now moving on back to the opposite end where he says, “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump 1696 .” For when, as I suppose, the full complement of human nature has reached the limit of the pre-determined measure, because there is no longer anything to be made up in the way of increase to the number of souls, he teaches us that the change in existing things will take place in an instant of time, giving to that limit of time which has no parts or extension the names of “a moment,” and “the twinkling of an eye”; so that it will no more be possible for one who reaches the verge of time (which is the last and extreme point, from the fact that nothing is lacking to the attainment of its extremity) to obtain by death this change which takes place at a fixed period, but only when the trumpet of the resurrection sounds, which awakens the dead, and transforms those who are left in life, after the likeness of those who have undergone the resurrection change, at once to incorruptibility; so that the weight of the flesh is no longer heavy, nor does its burden hold them down to earth, but they rise aloft through the air—for, “we shall be caught up,” he tells us, “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord 1697 .”
7. Let him therefore wait for that time which is necessarily made co-extensive with the development of humanity. For even Abraham and the patriarchs, while they had the desire to see the promised good things, and ceased not to seek the heavenly country, as the apostle says, are yet even now in the condition of hoping for that grace, “God having provided some better thing for us,” according to the words of Paul, “that they without us should not be made perfect 1698 .” If they, then, bear the delay who by faith only and by hope saw the good things “afar off” and “embraced them 1699 ,” as the apostle bears witness, placing their certainty of the enjoyment of the things for which they hoped in the fact that they “judged Him faithful Who has promised 1700 ,” what ought most of us to do, who have not, it may be, a hold upon the better hope from the character of our lives? Even the prophets soul fainted with desire, and in his psalm he confesses this passionate love, saying that his “soul hath a desire and longing to be in the courts of the Lord 1701 ,” even if he must needs be rejected 1702 to a place amongst the lowest, as it is a greater and more desirable thing to be last there than to be first among the ungodly tents of this life; nevertheless he was patient of the delay, deeming, indeed, the life there blessed, and accounting a brief participation in it more desirable than “thousands” of time—for he says, “one day in Thy courts is better than thousands 1703 ”—yet he did not repine at the necessary dispensation concerning existing things, and thought it sufficient bliss for man to have those good things even by way of hope; wherefore he says at the end of the p. 413 Psalm, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that hopeth in Thee 1704 .”
8. Neither, then, should we be troubled at the brief delay of what we hope for, but give diligence that we may not be cast out from the object of our hopes; for just as though, if one were to tell some inexperienced person beforehand, “the gathering of the crops will take place in the season of summer, and the stores will be filled, and the table abundantly supplied with food at the time of plenty,” it would be a foolish man who should seek to hurry on the coming of the fruit-time, when he ought to be sowing seeds and preparing the crops for himself by diligent care; for the fruit-time will surely come, whether he wishes or not, at the appointed time; and it will be looked on differently by him who has secured for himself beforehand abundance of crops, and by him who is found by the fruit-time destitute of all preparation. Even so I think it is ones duty, as the proclamation is clearly made to all that the time of change will come, not to trouble himself about times (for He said that “it is not for us to know the times and the seasons 1705 ”), nor to pursue calculations by which he will be sure to sap the hope of the resurrection in the soul; but to make his confidence in the things expected as a prop to lean on, and to purchase for himself, by good conversation, the grace that is to come.
Otherwise Chap. xxiii. The title in the Bodleian ms. of the Latin version is:—“That when the generation of man is finished, time also will come to an end.” Some mss. of the Latin version make the first few words part of the preceding chapter.411:1690
Gen. 1:26, 27.411:1691
This Realism is expressed even more strongly in the De Animâ et Resurrectione.411:1692
1 Cor. xv. 47.411:1693
Ps. xcv. 4.411:1694
Cf. Sus. 42.412:1695
Gen. i. 28.412:1696
1 Cor. 15:51, 52.412:1697
1 Thess. iv. 17.412:1698
Heb. xi. 40.412:1699
Heb. xi. 13.412:1700
Heb. xi. 11.412:1701
Ps. lxxxiv. 3.412:1702
Ps. 84:10, 11Ps. lxxxiv. 11 (LXX.).412:1703
Ps. lxxxiv. 10.413:1704
Ps. lxxxiv. 12.413:1705
Acts i. 7.
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