Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter XII.—The Eternal Home in Heaven. Beautiful Exposition by Tertullian of the Apostle’s Consolatory Teaching Against the Fear of Death, So Apt to Arise Under Anti-Christian Oppression. The Judgment-Seat of Christ—The Idea, Anti-Marcionite. Paradise.  Judicial Characteristics of Christ Which are Inconsistent with the Heretical Views About Him; The Apostle’s Sharpness, or Severity, Shows Him to Be a Fit Preacher of the Creator’s Christ.

As to the house of this our earthly dwelling-place, when he says that “we have an eternal home in heaven, not made with hands,” 5740 he by no means would imply that, because it was built by the Creator’s hand, it must perish in a perpetual dissolution after death. 5741 He treats of this subject in order to offer consolation against the fear of death and the dread of this very dissolution, as is even more manifest from what follows, when he adds, that “in this tabernacle of our earthly body we do groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with the vesture which is from heaven, 5742 if so be, that having been unclothed, 5743 we shall not be found naked;” in other words, shall regain that of which we have been divested, even our body. And again he says: “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, not as if we were oppressed 5744 with an unwillingness to be unclothed, but (we wish) to be clothed upon.” 5745 He here says expressly, what he touched but lightly 5746 in his first epistle, where he wrote:)  “The dead shall be raised incorruptible (meaning those who had undergone mortality), “and we shall be changed” (whom God shall find to be yet in the flesh). 5747 Both those shall be raised incorruptible, because they shall regain their body—and that a renewed one, from which shall come their incorruptibility; and these also shall, in the crisis of the last moment, and from their instantaneous death, whilst encountering the oppressions of anti-christ, undergo a change, obtaining therein not so much a divestiture of body as “a clothing upon” with the vesture which is from heaven. 5748 So that whilst these shall put on over their (changed) body this, heavenly raiment, the dead also shall for their part 5749 recover their body, over which they too have a supervesture to put on, even the incorruption of heaven; 5750 because of these it was that he said:  “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 5751 The one put on this (heavenly) apparel, 5752 when they recover their bodies; the others put it on as a supervesture, 5753 when they indeed hardly lose them (in the suddenness of their change). It was accordingly not without good reason that he described them as “not wishing indeed to be unclothed,” but (rather as wanting) “to be clothed upon;” 5754 in other words, as wishing not to undergo death, but to be surprised into life, 5755 “that this moral (body) might be swallowed up of life,” 5756 by being rescued from death in the supervesture of its changed state. This is why he shows us how much better it is for us not to be sorry, if we should be surprised by death, and tells us that we even hold of God “the earnest of His Spirit” 5757 (pledged as it were thereby to have “the clothing upon,” which is the object of our hope), and that “so long as we are in the flesh, we are absent from the Lord;” 5758 moreover, that we ought on this account to prefer 5759 “rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,” 5760 and so to be ready to meet even death with joy.  In this p. 456 view it is that he informs us how “we must all appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according as he hath done either good or bad.” 5761 Since, however, there is then to be a retribution according to men’s merits, how will any be able to reckon with 5762 God? But by mentioning both the judgment-seat and the distinction between works good and bad, he sets before us a Judge who is to award both sentences, 5763 and has thereby affirmed that all will have to be present at the tribunal in their bodies. For it will be impossible to pass sentence except on the body, for what has been done in the body. God would be unjust, if any one were not punished or else rewarded in that very condition, 5764 wherein the merit was itself achieved.  “If therefore any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new;” 5765 and so is accomplished the prophecy of Isaiah. 5766 When also he (in a later passage) enjoins us “to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and blood” 5767 (since this substance enters not the kingdom of God 5768 ); when, again, he “espouses the church as a chaste virgin to Christ,” 5769 a spouse to a spouse in very deed, 5770 an image cannot be combined and compared with what is opposed to the real nature of the thing (with which it is compared). So when he designates “false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves” into likenesses of himself, 5771 of course by their hypocrisy, he charges them with the guilt of disorderly conversation, rather than of false doctrine. 5772 The contrariety, therefore, was one of conduct, not of gods. 5773 If “Satan himself, too, is transformed into an angel of light,” 5774 such an assertion must not be used to the prejudice of the Creator. The Creator is not an angel, but God. Into a god of light, and not an angel of light, must Satan then have been said to be transformed, if he did not mean to call him “the angel,” which both we and Marcion know him to be. On Paradise is the title of a treatise of ours, in which is discussed all that the subject admits of. 5775 I shall here simply wonder, in connection with this matter, whether a god who has no dispensation of any kind on earth could possibly have a paradise to call his own—without perchance availing himself of the paradise of the Creator, to use it as he does His world—much in the character of a mendicant. 5776 And yet of the removal of a man from earth to heaven we have an instance afforded us by the Creator in Elijah. 5777 But what will excite my surprise still more is the case (next supposed by Marcion), that a God so good and gracious, and so averse to blows and cruelty, should have suborned the angel Satan—not his own either, but the Creator’s—“to buffet” the apostle, 5778 and then to have refused his request, when thrice entreated to liberate him! It would seem, therefore, that Marcion’s god imitates the Creator’s conduct, who is an enemy to the proud, even “putting down the mighty from their seats.” 5779 Is he then the same God as He who gave Satan power over the person of Job that his “strength might be made perfect in weakness?” 5780 How is it that the censurer of the Galatians 5781 still retains the very formula of the law:  “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established?” 5782 How again is it that he threatens sinners “that he will not spare” them 5783 —he, the preacher of a most gentle god? Yea, he even declares that “the Lord hath given to him the power of using sharpness in their presence!” 5784 Deny now, O heretic, (at your cost,) that your god is an object to be feared, when his apostle was for making himself so formidable!



2 Cor. v. 1.


As Marcion would have men believe.


2 Cor. 5:2, 3.






2 Cor. v. 4.




1 Cor. xv. 52.


Superinduti magis quod de cœlo quam exuti corpus.


Utique et mortui.


De cœlo.


1 Cor. xv. 53.






2 Cor. v. 4.


Vita præveniri.


2 Cor. v. 4; and see his treatise, De Resurrect. Carnis, cap. xlii.


2 Cor. v. 5.


2 Cor. v. 6.


Boni ducere.


2 Cor. v. 8.


2 Cor. v. 10.


Deputari cum.


2 Cor. v. 10.


Per id, per quod, i.e., corpus.


2 Cor. v. 17.


Isa. xliii. 19.


His reading of 2 Cor. vii. 1.


1 Cor. xv. 50.


2 Cor. xi. 2.


Utique ut sponsam sponso.


2 Cor. xi. 13.


Prædicationis adulteratæ.


A reference to Marcion’s other god of the New Testament, of which he tortured the epistles (and this passage among them) to produce the evidence.


2 Cor. xi. 14.


Patitur. The work here referred to is not extant; it is, however, referred to in the De Anima, c. lv.


Precario; “that which one must beg for.” See, however, above, book iv. chap. xxii. p. 384, note 8, for a different turn to this word.


2 Kings ii. 11.


2 Cor. 12:7, 8.


1 Sam. 2:7, 8, Ps. 47:6, Luke 1:52.


Job 1:12, 2 Cor. 12:9.


Gal. i. 6-9.


2 Cor. xiii. 1.


2 Cor. xiii. 2.


2 Cor. xiii. 10.

Next: The Epistle to the Romans. St. Paul Cannot Help Using Phrases Which Bespeak the Justice of God, Even When He is Eulogizing the Mercies of the Gospel. Marcion Particularly Hard in Mutilation of This Epistle. Yet Our Author Argues on Common Ground. The Judgment at Last Will Be in Accordance with the Gospel. The Justified by Faith Exhorted to Have Peace with God. The Administration of the Old and the New Dispensations in One and the Same Hand.