Sacred-Texts Christianity Index Previous Next
OF THE HAPPINESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE TORMENT OF SINNERS, AND IN WHAT STATE THEY ARE THERE.
IT is right for us to know and explain how those suffer, who suffer in Gehenna. If they do suffer, how can we say that they are impassible? and if they do not suffer, then there is no torture for sinners; and if there be no torture for sinners in proportion to their sins, neither can there be happiness for the righteous as a reward for their labours. The suffering wherewith the Fathers say that sinners will suffer in Gehenna is not one that will pain the limbs, such as the blows of sticks, the mutilation of the flesh, and the breaking of the bones, but one that will afflict the soul, such as grief for the transgression of what is right, repentance for shameful deeds, and banishment from one to whom he is bound in love and for whom his affection is strong. For in the resurrection we shall not be without perception, like the sun which perceives not his splendour, nor the moon her brilliancy, nor the pearl its beauty; but by the power of reason we shall feel perfectly the delight of our happiness or the keen pain of our torture. So then by that which enables the righteous to perceive the pleasure of their happiness, by that selfsame thing will the wicked also perceive the suffering of their torment; (that is) by the power capable of receiving pleasure, which is the intelligence. Hence it is right for us to be certain that intelligence will not be taken p. 138 away from us, but it will receive the utmost purification and refinement. The glorious and good things of the world which is to come are not to be compared with those of this world; for if all the glorious and good things and delights of this world were given to us in the world which is to come, we should look upon them as hateful and abominable, and they would not be able to give us pleasure or to gladden us; and our nature by the blessedness of its immortality would be exalted above all their glory and desirability. And if all the torments and afflictions and troubles of this world were brought near to us in the world which is to come, the pain of them would make no impression upon our immortal and immutable nature. Hence the pleasure of that world is something beyond all comparison more glorious and excellent and exalted than those of this world; and the torment of yonder is likewise something beyond all comparison more severe and more bitter than any that is here.
It is also right for us to explain the quality of the light of the righteous. The light of the righteous is not of a natural origin like this elemental light (of ours), but some of the light of our Lord--whose splendour surpasses ten thousand suns--is diffused and shed upon them. Each saint shines in proportion to his purity, and holiness and refinement and sincerity, as the blessed Paul has said, 'One star surpasseth another in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead1.' And although all the saints will be happy in one kingdom, yet he who is near to the King or the Bridegroom will be separated from him whose place is at the end of the guest-chamber, even though his place be in the same chamber. So also with the sinners in Gehenna; their sentence will not be alike, for in proportion to the sin of each will be his torment. And as the light of the sun is not to be compared with the light of the moon, nor is the light of the moon like that of the stars, so also will the happiness of the righteous be, although the name and honour of righteousness be laid upon and spread over all of them. And as the light of our Lord's humanity will pass over all our limbs without distinction, and take the place of dress and ornament for us, so also with all our members shall we perceive the suffering and torment of Gehenna. The festal garments which our Lord has prepared for His saints, the children p. 139 of light, are impassibility; and the filthy garments which hinder us from entering into the spiritual bridal-chamber are the passions. In the new world there will be no distinctive names for ranks and conditions of human beings; and as every name and surname attributed to God and the angels had its origin from this world, and names for human beings were assigned and distributed by the government of this world, in the world of spiritual and intellectual natures there will be neither names nor surnames among them, nor male nor female, nor slave nor free, nor child nor old man, nor Ethiopian nor Roman (Greek); but they will all rise in the one perfect form of a man thirty-three years of age, as our Lord rose from the dead. In the world to come there will be no companies or bands but two; the one of the angels and the righteous, who will mingle and form one Church, and the other of the devils and sinners in Gehenna.
1 In the Oxford MS. chap. lx, fol. 205 b.
1 1 Cor. xv. 41, 43.