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Thursday, 18 December 2014

St. Iranaeus Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 20)

6. Men therefore shall see God, that they may live, being made immortal by that sight, and attaining even unto God; which, as I have already said, was declared figuratively by the prophets, that God should be seen by men who bear His Spirit [in them], and do always wait patiently for His coming. As also Moses says in Deuteronomy,We shall see in that day that God will talk to man, and he shall live. Deuteronomy 5:24 For certain of these menused to see the prophetic Spirit and His active influences poured forth for all kinds of gifts; others, again, [beheld] the advent of the Lord, and that dispensation which obtained from the beginning, by which He accomplished the will of the Father with regard to things both celestial and terrestrial; and others [beheld] paternal glories adapted to the times, and to those who saw and who heard them then, and to all who were subsequently to hear them. Thus, therefore, was God revealed; for God the Father is shown forth through all these [operations], the Spirit indeed working, and the Son ministering, while the Father was approving, andman's salvation being accomplished. As He also declares through Hosea the prophet: I, He says, have multiplied visions, and have used similitudes by the ministry (in manibus) of the prophets. Hosea 12:10 But theapostle expounded this very passage, when he said, Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of ministrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.1 Corinthians 12:4-7 But as He who works all things in all is God, [as to the points] of what nature and how great He is, [God] is invisible and indescribable to all things which have been made by Him, but He is by no means unknown: for all things learn through His Word that there is one God the Father, who contains all things, and who grants existence to all, as is written in the Gospel: No man has seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has declared [Him]. John 1:18
7. Therefore the Son of the Father declares [Him] from the beginning, inasmuch as He was with the Father from the beginning, who did also show to the human race prophetic visions, and diversities of gifts, and His own ministrations, and the glory of the Father, in regular order and connection, at the fitting time for the benefit [of mankind]. For where there is a regular succession, there is also fixedness; and where fixedness, there suitability to the period; and where suitability, there also utility. And for this reason did the Word become the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of men, for whom He made such great dispensations, revealing God indeed to men, but presenting man to God, and preserving at the same time the invisibility of the Father, lest man should at any time become a despiser of God, and that he should always possess something towards which he might advance; but, on the other hand, revealing God to men through many dispensations, lest man, falling away from God altogether, should cease to exist. For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.
8. Inasmuch, then, as the Spirit of God pointed out by the prophets things to come, forming and adapting us beforehand for the purpose of our being made subject to God, but it was still a future thing that man, through thegood pleasure of the Holy Spirit, should see [God], it necessarily behooved those through whose instrumentality future things were announced, to see God, whom they intimated as to be seen by men; in order that God, and the Son of God, and the Son, and the Father, should not only be prophetically announced, but that He should also be seen by all His members who are sanctified and instructed in the things of God, that man might be disciplinedbeforehand and previously exercised for a reception into that glory which shall afterwards be revealed in those who love God. For the prophets used not to prophesy in word alone, but in visions also, and in their mode of life, and in the actions which they performed, according to the suggestions of the Spirit. After this invisible manner, therefore, did they see God, as also Esaias says, I have seen with my eyes the King, the Lord of hosts, Isaiah 6:5pointing out that man should behold God with his eyes, and hear His voice. In this manner, therefore, did they also see the Son of God as a man conversant with men, while they prophesied what was to happen, saying that He who was not come as yet was present proclaiming also the impassible as subject to suffering, and declaring that He who was then in heaven had descended into the dust of death. Moreover, [with regard to] the other arrangements concerning the summing up that He should make, some of these they beheld through visions, others they proclaimed by word, while others they indicated typically by means of [outward] action, seeing visibly those things which were to be seen; heralding by word of mouth those which should be heard; and performing by actual operation what should take place by action; but [at the same time] announcing all prophetically. Wherefore also Moses declared that God was indeed a consuming fire Deuteronomy 4:24 (igneum) to the people that transgressed the law, and threatened that God would bring upon them a day of fire; but to those who had the fear of God he said, The Lord God is merciful and gracious, and long-suffering, and of great commiseration, and true, and keeps justice and mercy for thousands, forgiving unrighteousness, and transgressions, and sins.Exodus 34:6-7
9. And the Word spoke to Moses, appearing before him, just as any one might speak to his friend. Numbers 12:8But Moses desired to see Him openly who was speaking with him, and was thus addressed: Stand in the deep place of the rock, and with My hand I will cover you. But when My splendour shall pass by, then you shall see My back parts, but My face you shall not see: for no man sees My face, and shall live. Exodus 33:20-22 Two facts are thus signified: that it is impossible for man to see God; and that, through the wisdom of God, man shall see Him in the last times, in the depth of a rock, that is, in His coming as a man. And for this reason did He [the Lord] confer with him face to face on the top of a mountain, Elias being also present, as the Gospel relates,Matthew 17:3, etc. He thus making good in the end the ancient promise.
10. The prophets, therefore, did not openly behold the actual face of God, but [they saw] the dispensations and the mysteries through which man should afterwards see God. As was also said to Elias: You shall go forth tomorrow, and stand in the presence of the Lord; and, behold, a wind great and strong, which shall rend the mountains, and break the rocks in pieces before the Lord. And the Lord [was] not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord [was] not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord [was] not in the fire; and after the fire a scarcely audible voice (vox auræ tenuis). 1 Kings 19:11-12 For by such means was the prophet— very indignant, because of the transgression of the people and the slaughter of the prophets— both taught to act in a more gentle manner; and the Lord's advent as a man was pointed out, that it should be subsequent to that law which was given by Moses, mild and tranquil, in which He would neither break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Isaiah 42:3 The mild and peaceful repose of His kingdom was indicated likewise. For, after the wind which rends the mountains, and after the earthquake, and after the fire, come the tranquil and peaceful times of His kingdom, in which the spirit of God does, in the most gentle manner, vivify and increase mankind. This, too, was made still clearer by Ezekiel, that the prophets saw the dispensations of God in part, but not actually God Himself. For when this man had seen the vision Ezekiel 1:1 of God, and the cherubim, and their wheels, and when he had recounted the mystery of the whole of that progression, and had beheld the likeness of a throne above them, and upon the throne a likeness as of the figure of a man, and the things which were upon his loins as the figure of amber, and what was below like the sight of fire, and when he set forth all the rest of the vision of the thrones, lest any one might happen to think that in those [visions] he had actually seen God, he added: This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God. Ezekiel 2:1
11. If, then, neither Moses, nor Elias, nor Ezekiel, who had all many celestial visions, saw God; but if what they did see were similitudes of the splendour of the Lord, and prophecies of things to come; it is manifest that the Father is indeed invisible, of whom also the Lord said, No man has seen God at any time. John 1:18 But His Word, as He Himself willed it, and for the benefit of those who beheld, did show the Father's brightness, and explained His purposes (as also the Lord said: The only-begotten God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared [Him]; and He does Himself also interpret the Word of the Father as being rich and great); not in one figure, nor in one character, did He appear to those seeing Him, but according to the reasons and effects aimed at in His dispensations, as it is written in Daniel. For at one time He was seen with those who were around Ananias, Azarias, Misaël, as present with them in the furnace of fire, in the burning, and preserving them from [the effects of] fire: And the appearance of the fourth, it is said, was like to the Son of God. Daniel 3:26 At another time [He is represented as] a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, Daniel 7:13-14 and as smiting all temporal kingdoms, and as blowing them away (ventilans ea), and as Himself filling all the earth. Then, too, is this same individual beheld as the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and drawing near to the Ancient of Days, and receiving from Him all power and glory, and a kingdom. His dominion, it is said, is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom shall not perish. Daniel 7:4 John also, the Lord's disciple, when beholding thesacerdotal and glorious advent of His kingdom, says in the Apocalypse: I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks One like the Son of man, clothed with a garment reaching to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle; and His head and His hairs were white, as white as wool, and as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like fine brass, as if He burned in a furnace. And His voice [was] as the voice of waters; and He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shining in his strength. Revelation 1:12 For in these words He sets forth something of the glory [which He has received] from His Father, as [where He makes mention of] the head; something in reference to the priestly office also, as in the case of the long garment reaching to the feet. And this was the reason why Moses vested the high priest after this fashion. Something also alludes to the end [of all things], as [where He speaks of] the fine brass burning in the fire, which denotes the power of faith, and the continuing instant in prayer, because of the consuming fire which is to come at the end of time. But when John could not endure the sight (for he says, I fell at his feet as dead; Revelation 1:17 that what was written might come to pass: No man sees God, and shall live Exodus 33:20), and the Word reviving him, and reminding him that it was He upon whose bosom he had leaned at supper, when he put the question as to who should betray Him, declared: I am the first and the last, and He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and of hell. And after these things, seeing the same Lord in a second vision, he says: For I saw in the midst of the throne, and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing as it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. Revelation 5:6 And again, he says, speaking of this very same Lamb: And behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True; and in righteousness does He judge and make war. And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; having a name written, that no man knows but Himself: and He was girded around with a vesture sprinkled with blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in pure white linen. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He may smite the nations; and He shall rule (pascet) them with a rod of iron: and He treads the wine-press of the fierceness of thewrath of God Almighty. And He has upon His vesture and upon His thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lordof Lords. Revelation 19:11-17 Thus does the Word of God always preserve the outlines, as it were, of things to come, and points out to men the various forms (species), as it were, of the dispensations of the Father, teaching us the things pertaining to God.

more be continued....