Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Irenaeus on the Kingdom of God

"If, however, any shall endeavour to allegorize [prophecies] of this kind, they shall not be found consistent with themselves in all points, and shall be confuted by the teaching of the very expressions [in question]. For example: "When the cities" of the Gentiles "shall be desolate, so that they be not inhabited, and the houses so that there shall be no men in them and the land shall be left desolate." "For, behold," says Isaiah, "the day of the LORD cometh past remedy, full of fury and wrath, to lay waste the city of the earth, and to root sinners out of it." And again he says, "Let him be taken away, that he behold not the glory of God." And when these things are done, he says, "God will remove men far away, and those that are left shall multiply in the earth." "And they shall build houses, and shall inhabit them themselves: and plant vineyards, and eat of them themselves." For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one." (Irenaeus, "Against Heresies, Book V", c. 180 AD)
Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. He is one of the earlier witnesses to the recognition of the canonical character of all four gospels. He is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches (and by Protestants, I suppose, since we follow St. Paul in calling all Christians "saints"). "Against Heresies" was written primarily as a defense against Gnosticism.

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