Thursday, September 8, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

[S]ince it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Thess 1:6-8)

Damned in Hell (Venetian fresco)
We are obliged from time to time to recur to certain topics in order to affirm truths which are connected with them.  We repeat then here, that as the Lord is by the apostle proclaimed as the awarder of both the eternal sentences,* He must be either the Creator, or … One like the Creator—“with whom it is a righteous thing to recompense tribulation to those who afflict us, and to ourselves, who are afflicted, rest, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed as coming from heaven with the angels of His might and in flaming fire.”  The heretic, however, has erased the flaming fire, no doubt that he might extinguish all traces herein of our own God.  But the folly of the obliteration is clearly seen.  For as the apostle declares that the Lord will come “to take vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel, who,” he says, “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power”—it follows that, as He comes to inflict punishment, He must require “the flaming fire.”  Thus on this consideration too we must … conclude that Christ belongs to a God who kindles the flames [of vengeance], and therefore to the Creator, inasmuch as He takes vengeance on those who do not know the Lord, that is, on the heathen.  For he has mentioned separately “those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Now, to inflict punishment on the heathen, who very likely have never heard of the Gospel, is not the function of that God who is naturally unknown, and who is revealed nowhere else than in the Gospel, and therefore cannot be known by all men.  The Creator, however, ought to be known even by [the light of] nature, for He may be understood from His works, and may thereby become the object of a more widely spread knowledge.  To Him, therefore, belongs the right to punish such as do not know God, for none ought to be ignorant of Him.

Tertullian, Against Marcion 5.16

* I.e., heaven and hell; blessing and destruction

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