Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tertullian on Persecution and Demonic Oppression Around 200CE

We believe that persecution comes to pass, no question, by the devil’s agency, but not by the devil’s origination. Satan will not be at liberty to do anything against the servants of the living God unless the Lord grant leave, either that He may overthrow Satan himself by the faith of the elect which proves victorious in the trial, or in the face of the world show that apostasizers to the devil’s cause have been in reality His servants. You have the case of Job, whom the devil, unless he had received authority from God, could not have visited with trial, not even, in fact, in his property, unless the Lord had said, “Behold, all that he has I put at your disposal; but do not stretch out your hand against himself.” In short, he would not even have stretched it out, unless afterwards, at his request, the Lord had granted him this permission also, saying, “Behold, I deliver him to you; only preserve his life.”

So he asked in the case of the apostles likewise an opportunity to tempt them, having it only by special allowance, since the Lord in the Gospel says to Peter, “Behold, Satan asked that he might sift you all as grain; but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not;” that is, that the devil should not have power granted him sufficient to endanger his faith. Whence it is manifest that both things belong to God, the shaking of faith as well as the shielding of it, when both are sought from Him—the shaking by the devil, the shielding by the Son. And certainly, when the Son of God has faith’s protection absolutely committed to Him, beseeching it of the Father, from whom He receives all power in heaven and on earth, how entirely out of the question is it that the devil should have the assailing of it in his own power!

But in the prayer prescribed to us, when we say to our Father, “Lead us not into temptation” (now what greater temptation is there than persecution?), we acknowledge that that comes to pass by His will whom we beseech to exempt us from it. For this is what follows, “But deliver us from the wicked one,” that is, do not lead us into temptation by giving us up to the wicked one, for then are we delivered from the power of the devil, when we are not handed over to him to be tempted. Nor would the devil’s legion have had power over the herd of swine unless they had got it from God; so far are they from having power over the sheep of God. I may say that the bristles of the swine, too, were then counted by God, not to speak of the hairs of holy men. The devil, it must be owned, seems indeed to have power—in this case really his own—over those who do not belong to God, the nations being once for all counted by God as a drop of the bucket, and as the dust of the threshing-floor, and as the spittle of the mouth, and so thrown open to the devil as, in a sense, a free possession.

But against those who belong to the household of God he may not do ought as by any right of his own, because the cases marked out in Scripture show when—that is, for what reasons—he may touch them. For either, with a view to their being approved, the power of trial is granted to him, challenged or challenging, as in the instances already referred to, or, to secure an opposite result, the sinner is handed over to him, as though he were an executioner to whom belonged the inflicting of punishment, as in the case of Saul. “And the Spirit of the LORD,” says Scripture, “departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled and stifled him;” or the design is to humble, as the apostle tells us, that there was given him a stake, the messenger of Satan, to buffet him; and even this sort of thing is not permitted in the case of holy men, unless it be that at the same time strength of endurance may be perfected in weakness. For the apostle likewise delivered Phygellus and Hermogenes over to Satan that by chastening they might be taught not to blaspheme. …

He who fears to suffer, cannot belong to Him who suffered. But the man who does not fear to suffer, he will be perfect in love—in the love, it is meant, of God; “for perfect love casts out fear.” “And therefore many are called, but few chosen.” It is not asked who is ready to follow the broad way, but the narrow. And therefore the Comforter is requisite, who guides into all truth, and animates to all endurance. And they who have received Him will neither stoop to flee from persecution nor to buy it off, for they have the Lord Himself, One who will stand by us to aid us in suffering, as well as to be our mouth when we are put to the question.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hippolytus on the Second Coming and the Lake of Fire in 225CE

Moreover, concerning the resurrection and the kingdom of the saints, Daniel says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall arise, some to everlasting life, (and some to shame and everlasting contempt).” Isaiah says, “The dead men shall arise, and they that are in their tombs shall awake; for Your dew is healing to them.” The Lord says, “Many in that day shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” And the prophet says, “Awake, you sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

And John says, “Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power.” For the second death is the lake of fire that burns. And again the Lord says, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun shines in its glory.” And to the saints He will say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” But what does He say to the wicked? “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, which My Father has prepared.”

And John says, “Outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and the sexually immoral, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever tells and loves lies; for your part is in the hell of fire.” And similarly in Isaiah: “And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me. And their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be for a spectacle to all flesh.”

Concerning the resurrection of the righteous, Paul also speaks this in writing to the Thessalonians: … “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive (and) remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice and trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive (and) remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall forever be with the Lord.”

These things, then, I have set shortly before you, O Theophilus, drawing them from Scripture itself, in order that, maintaining in faith what is written, and anticipating the things that are to be, you may keep yourself free of offense both toward God and toward men, “looking for that blessed hope and appearing of our God and Savior,” when, having raised the saints among us, He will rejoice with them, glorifying the Father. To Him be the glory unto the endless ages of the ages. Amen.