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From the Summer 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:

Augustine on Heaven and Rewards

by Kevin Offner
Senior Campus Staff Member for Intervarsity Collegiate Ministries, Mid-Atlantic Area Graduate and Faculty Ministries

 

 
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 In sermon after sermon, Augustine encourages his listeners to keep before them their future hope. This world most definitely is not our home; God in Christ saves the Christian out of it and eventually brings one to one’s true home. While it is true that in his epic The City of God, Augustine has many good and constructive things to say about this earth (the City of Man), and indeed Christian political scientists have derived much help from him in 3 Augustine on Heaven and Rewards their thinking about government, nevertheless, in his sermons to beleaguered and suffering laity, Augustine’s over-arching emphasis is on the afterlife. This present difficult life is to be persevered in because of the future joy that awaits us. Here are a few samples of this repeated theme from Augustine, as found in his sermons:

Consider seriously, how much we should love eternal life, when this miserable life, that’s got to end anyhow some time, is loved so dearly … So you love this life, do you, in which you struggle, and run around, and bustle about and gasp for breath; and you can scarcely count the things that have to be done in this wretched life: sowing, plowing, planting, sailing, grinding, cooking, weaving. And after all this, your life has got to end anyhow … So learn, brothers and sisters, to seek eternal life, where you will not have to endure these things, but will reign with God forever.8

It is for love of this world, after all, that people slave away at all their affairs. But as for you, see you slave away at all your good works, not for love of this world but for the sake of the eternal rest that God promises you.9

What we have set our hopes on, brothers and sisters, is nothing in this age, nor in this world, nor anything to do with this kind of success that dazzles people who are forgetful of God. The first thing we have to realize and keep firmly in mind as Christians is that we did not become Christians in order to obtain the good things of this present life, but to obtain goodness knows what else, that God is already promising us, and that we human beings cannot yet grasp (I. Cor. 2:9).10

Let us love eternal life, and let us gauge how hard we ought to strive for eternal life, from the way in which we see people who love this temporary life that is bound to end sometime strive so hard for it.11 [A Lenten Sermon] Don’t let’s say, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (I. Cor. 15:32) but rather, “Let’s fast and pray, for tomorrow we shall die.”12

Be on our toes and ready as we look forward to the last things … It’s for these expectations and on account of this hope that we have become Christians. But in fact our hopes are fixed on this world, aren’t they? Let’s stop loving the world. We have been called from love of this world, to hope for and cherish another world … Why do we look for good days on earth, where we can’t possibly find them … With what diligence, what labor, what trouble, what vigilance, what effort people seek to live a long time here and to grow old. But what, in fact, does a long time amount to, but running to the end of the race? … You want to walk, and you don’t want to get anywhere … Certainly, certainly seek life, seek good days; but let them be sought where they can be found.13

 

 

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