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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book V, Chapter 32

Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 32)

In that flesh in which the saints have suffered so many afflictions, they shall receive the fruits of their labours; especially since all creation waits for this, and God promises it to Abraham and his seed.

1. Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God's dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum ); and it is necessary to tell them respecting those things, that it behooves the righteous first to receive the promise of the inheritance which God promised to the fathers, and to reign in it, when they rise again to behold God in this creation which is renovated, and that the judgment should take place afterwards. For it is just that in that very creation in which they toiled or were afflicted, being proved in every way by suffering, they should receive the reward of their suffering; and that in the creation in which they were slain because of their love to God, in that they should be revived again; and that in the creation in which they endured servitude, in that they should reign. For God is rich in all things, and all things are His. It is fitting, therefore, that the creation itself, being restored to its primeval condition, should without restraint be under the dominion of the righteous; and the apostle has made this plain in the Epistle to the Romans, when he thus speaks: For the expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature has been subjected to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope; since the creature itself shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Romans 8:19, etc.

2. Thus, then, the promise of God, which He gave to Abraham, remains steadfast. For thus He said: Lift up your eyes, and look from this place where now you are, towards the north and south, and east and west. For all the earth which you see I will give to you and to your seed, even for ever. Genesis 13:13-14 And again He says, Arise, and go through the length and breadth of the land, since I will give it unto you; Genesis 13:17 and [yet] he did not receive an inheritance in it, not even a footstep, but was always a stranger and a pilgrim therein. Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:13 And upon the death of Sarah his wife, when the Hittites were willing to bestow upon him a place where he might bury her, he declined it as a gift, but bought the burying-place (giving for it four hundred talents of silver) from Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite. Genesis 23:11 Thus did he await patiently the promise of God, and was unwilling to appear to receive from men, what God had promised to give him, when He said again to him as follows: I will give this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt even unto the great river Euphrates. Genesis 15:13 If, then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For his seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord, as John the Baptist said: For God is able from the stones to raise up children to Abraham. Luke 3:8 Thus also the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians: But you, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. Galatians 4:28 And again, in the same Epistle, he plainly declares that they who have believed in Christ do receive Christ, the promise to Abraham thus saying, The promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed. Now He does not say, And of seeds, as if [He spoke] of many, but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ. Galatians 3:16 And again, confirming his former words, he says, Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in you shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham. Galatians 3:6, etc. Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

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Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103532.htm>.

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