from Early Church Fathers on the Twofold Coming of Christ
Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of
All) - mosaic, 1148 AD, dome of Cathedral of Cefal, Palermo, Italy
not resist the first coming, and the second will not terrify you
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)
Then all the trees of the forest will exult before the face
of the Lord, for he has come, he has come to judge the earth. He has
come the first time, and he will come again. At his first coming, his own
voice declared in the gospel: Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man
coming upon the clouds. What does he mean by hereafter? Does
he not mean that the Lord will come at a future time when all the nations
of the earth will be striking their breasts in grief? Previously he came
through his preachers, and he filled the whole world. Let us not resist
his first coming, so that we may not dread the second.
What then should the Christian do? He ought to use the world, not become
its slave. And what does this mean? It means having, as though not having.
So says the Apostle: My brethren, the appointed time is short: from
now on let those who have wives live as though they had none; and those
who mourn as though they were not mourning; and those who rejoice as though
they were not rejoicing; and those who buy as though they had no goods;
and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with
it. For the form of this world is passing away. But I wish you to be without
anxiety. He who is without anxiety waits without fear until his Lord
comes. For what sort of love of Christ is it to fear his coming? Brothers,
do we not have to blush for shame? We love him, yet we fear his coming.
Are we really certain that we love him? Or do we love our sins more? Therefore
let us hate our sins and love him who will exact punishment for them. He
will come whether we wish it or not. Do not think that because he is not
coming just now, he will not come at all. He will come, you know not when;
and provided he finds you prepared, your ignorance of the time of his coming
will not be held against you.
All the trees of the forest will exult. He has come the first
time, and he will come again to judge the earth; he will find those rejoicing
who believed in his first coming, for he has come.
He will judge the world with equity and the peoples in his truth. What
are equity and truth? He will gather together with him for the judgement
his chosen ones, but the others he will set apart; for he will place some
on his right, others on his left. What is more equitable, what more true
than that they should not themselves expect mercy from the judge, who themselves
were unwilling to show mercy before the judge's coming. Those, however,
who were willing to show mercy will be judged with mercy. For it will be
said to those placed on his right: Come, blessed of my Father, take
possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning
of the world. And he reckons to their account their works of mercy:
I was hungry and you gave me food to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me
What is imputed to those placed on his left side? That they refused
to show mercy. And where will they go? Depart into the everlasting fire.
The hearing of this condemnation will cause much wailing. But what has
another psalm said? The just man will be held in everlasting remembrance;
he will not fear the evil report. What is the evil report? Depart
into the everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
Whoever rejoices to hear the good report will not fear the bad. This is
equity, this is truth.
Or do you, because you are unjust, expect the judge not to be just?
Or because you are a liar, will the truthful one not be true? Rather, if
you wish to receive mercy, be merciful before he comes; forgive whatever
has been done against you; give of your abundance. Of whose possessions
do you give, if not from his? If you were to give of your own, it would
be largess; but since you give of his, it is restitution. For what do
you have, that you have not received? These are the sacrifices most
pleasing to God: mercy, humility, praise, peace, charity. Such as these,
then, let us bring and, free from fear, we shall await the coming of the
judge who will judge the world in equity and the peoples in his truth.