Chapter 21.–Utterances of the Prophet Isaiah Regarding the Resurrection of the Dead and the Retributive Judgment.
The prophet Isaiah says, “The dead shall rise again, and all who were
in the graves shall rise again; and all who are in the earth shall
rejoice: for the dew which is from Thee is their health, and the earth
of the wicked shall fall.”  All the former part of this passage
relates to the resurrection of the blessed; but the words, “the earth
of the wicked shall fall,” is rightly understood as meaning that the
bodies of the wicked shall fall into the ruin of damnation. And if we
would more exactly and carefully scrutinize the words which refer to
the resurrection of the good, we may refer to the first resurrection
the words, “the dead shall rise again,” and to the second the following
words, “and all who were in the graves shall rise again.” And if we
ask what relates to those saints whom the Lord at His coming shall find
alive upon earth, the following clause may suitably be referred to
them; “All who are in the earth shall rejoice: for the dew which is
from Thee is their health.” By “health” in this place it is best to
understand immortality. For that is the most perfect health which is
not repaired by nourishment as by a daily remedy. In like manner the
same prophet, affording hope to the good and terrifying the wicked
regarding the day of judgment, says, “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I
will flow down upon them as a river of peace, and upon the glory of the
Gentiles as a rushing torrent; their sons shall be carried on the
shoulders, and shall be comforted on the knees. As one whom his mother
comforteth, so shall I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in
Jerusalem. And ye shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your
bones shall rise up like a herb; and the hand of the Lord shall be
known by His worshippers, and He shall threaten the contumacious. For,
behold, the Lord shall come as a fire, and as a whirlwind His chariots,
to execute vengeance with indignation, and wasting with a flame of
fire. For with fire of the Lord shall all the earth be judged, and all
flesh with His sword: many shall be wounded by the Lord.”  In
His promise to the good he says that He will flow down as a river of
peace, that is to say, in the greatest possible abundance of peace.
With this peace we shall in the end be refreshed; but of this we have
spoken abundantly in the preceding book. It is this river in which he
says He shall flow down upon those to whom He promises so great
happiness, that we may understand that in the region of that felicity,
which is in heaven, all things are satisfied from this river. But
because there shall thence flow, even upon earthly bodies, the peace of
incorruption and immortality, therefore he says that He shall flow down
as this river, that He may as it were pour Himself from things above to
things beneath, and make men the equals of the angels. By “Jerusalem,”
too, we should understand not that which serves with her children, but
that which, according to the apostle, is our free mother, eternal in
the heavens.  In her we shall be comforted as we pass toilworn
from earth’s cares and calamities, and be taken up as her children on
her knees and shoulders. Inexperienced and new to such blandishments,
we shall be received into unwonted bliss. There we shall see, and our
heart shall rejoice. He does not say what we shall see; but what but
God, that the promise in the Gospel may be fulfilled in us, “Blessed
are the pure in heart, for they shall see God?”  What shall we
see but all those things which now we see not, but believe in, and of
which the idea we form, according to our feeble capacity, is
incomparably less than the reality? “And ye shall see,” he says, “and
your heart shall rejoice.” Here ye believe, there ye shall see.
But because he said, “Your heart shall rejoice,” lest we should suppose
that the blessings of that Jerusalem are only spiritual, he adds, “And
your bones shall rise up like a herb,” alluding to the resurrection of
the body, and as it were supplying an omission he had made. For it
will not take place when we have seen; but we shall see when it has
taken place. For he had already spoken of the new heavens and the new
earth, speaking repeatedly, and under many figures, of the things
promised to the saints, and saying,”There shall be new heavens, and a
new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind;
but they shall find in it gladness and exultation. Behold, I will make
Jerusalem an exultation, and my people a joy. And I will exult in
Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and the voice of weeping shall be no
more heard in her;”  and other promises, which some endeavor to
refer to carnal enjoyment during the thousand years. For, in the
manner of prophecy, figurative and literal expressions are mingled, so
that a serious mind may, by useful and salutary effort, reach the
spiritual sense; but carnal sluggishness, or the slowness of an
uneducated and undisciplined mind, rests in the superficial letter, and
thinks there is nothing beneath to be looked for. But let this be
enough regarding the style of those prophetic expressions just quoted.
And now, to return to their interpretation. When he had said, “And
your bones shall rise up like a herb,” in order to show that it was the
resurrection of the good, though a bodily resurrection, to which he
alluded, he added, “And the hand of the Lord shall be known by His
worshippers.” What is this but the hand of Him who distinguishes those
who worship from those who despise Him? Regarding these the context
immediately adds, “And He shall threaten the contumacious,” or, as
another translator has it, “the unbelieving.” He shall not actually
threaten then, but the threats which are now uttered shall then be
fulfilled in effect. “For behold,” he says, “the Lord shall come as a
fire, and as a whirlwind His chariots, to execute vengeance with
indignation, and wasting with a flame of fire. For with fire of the
Lord shall all the earth be judged, and all flesh with His sword: many
shall be wounded by the Lord.” By fire, whirlwind, sword, he means the
judicial punishment of God. For he says that the Lord Himself shall
come as a fire, to those, that is to say, to whom His coming shall be
penal. By His chariots (for the word is plural) we suitably understand
the ministration of angels. And when he says that all flesh and all
the earth shall be judged with His fire and sword, we do not understand
the spiritual and holy to be included, but the earthly and carnal, of
whom it is said that they “mind earthly things,”  and “to be
carnally minded is death,”  and whom the Lord calls simply flesh
when He says, “My Spirit shall not always remain in these men, for they
are flesh.”  As to the words, “Many shall be wounded by the
Lord,” this wounding shall produce the second death. It is possible,
indeed, to understand fire, sword, and wound in a good sense. For the
Lord said that He wished to send fire on the earth.  And the
cloven tongues appeared to them as fire when the Holy Spirit came.
 And our Lord says, “I am not come to send peace on earth, but
a sword.”  And Scripture says that the word of God is a doubly
sharp sword,  on account of the two edges, the two Testaments.
And in the Song of Songs the holy Church says that she is wounded with
love,  –pierced, as it were, with the arrow of love. But here,
where we read or hear that the Lord shall come to execute vengeance, it
is obvious in what sense we are to understand these expressions.
After briefly mentioning those who shall be consumed in this judgment,
speaking of the wicked and sinners under the figure of the meats
forbidden by the old law, from which they had not abstained, he
summarily recounts the grace of the new testament, from the first
coming of the Saviour to the last judgment, of which we now speak; and
herewith he concludes his prophecy. For he relates that the Lord
declares that He is coming to gather all nations, that they may come
and witness His glory.  For, as the apostle says, “All have
sinned and are in want of the glory of God.”  And he says that
He will do wonders among them, at which they shall marvel and believe
in Him; and that from them He will send forth those that are saved into
various nations, and distant islands which have not heard His name nor
seen His glory, and that they shall declare His glory among the
nations, and shall bring the brethren of those to whom the prophet was
speaking, i.e., shall bring to the faith under God the Father the
brethren of the elect Israelites; and that they shall bring from all
nations an offering to the Lord on beasts of burden and waggons (which
are understood to mean the aids furnished by God in the shape of
angelic or human ministry), to the holy city Jerusalem, which at
present is scattered over the earth, in the faithful saints. For where
divine aid is given, men believe, and where they believe, they come.
And the Lord compared them, in a figure, to the children of Israel
offering sacrifice to Him in His house with psalms, which is already
everywhere done by the Church; and He promised that from among them He
would choose for Himself priests and Levites, which also we see already
accomplished. For we see that priests and Levites are now chosen, not
from a certain family and blood, as was originally the rule in the
priesthood according to the order of Aaron, but as befits the new
testament, under which Christ is the High Priest after the order of
Melchisedec, in consideration of the merit which is bestowed upon each
man by divine grace. And these priests are not to be judged by their
mere title, which is often borne by unworthy men, but by that holiness
which is not common to good men and bad.
After having thus spoken of this mercy of God which is now experienced
by the Church, and is very evident and familiar to us, he foretells
also the ends to which men shall come when the last judgment has
separated the good and the bad, saying by the prophet, or the prophet
himself speaking for God, “For as the new heavens and the new earth
shall remain before me, said the Lord, so shall your seed and your name
remain, and there shall be to them month after month, and Sabbath after
Sabbath. All flesh shall come to worship before me in Jerusalem, said
the Lord. And they shall go out, and shall see the members of the men
who have sinned against me: their worm shall not die, neither shall
their fire be quenched; and they shall be for a spectacle to all
flesh.”  At this point the prophet closed his book, as at this
point the world shall come to an end. Some, indeed, have translated
“carcases”  instead of “members of the men,” meaning by carcases
the manifest punishment of the body, although carcase is commonly used
only of dead flesh, while the bodies here spoken of shall be animated,
else they could not be sensible of any pain; but perhaps they may,
without absurdity, be called carcases, as being the bodies of those who
are to fall into the second death. And for the same reason it is said,
as I have already quoted, by this same prophet, “The earth of the
wicked shall fall.”  It is obvious that those translators who
use a different word for men do not mean to include only males, for no
one will say that the women who sinned shall not appear in that
judgment; but the male sex, being the more worthy, and that from which
the woman was derived, is intended to include both sexes. But that
which is especially pertinent to our subject is this, that since the
words “All flesh shall come,” apply to the good, for the people of God
shall be composed of every race of men,–for all men shall not be
present, since the greater part shall be in punishment,–but, as I was
saying, since flesh is used of the good, and members or carcases of the
bad, certainly it is thus put beyond a doubt that that judgment in
which the good and the bad shall be allotted to their destinies shall
take place after the resurrection of the body, our faith in which is
thoroughly established by the use of these words.
 Isa. xxvi. 19.
 Isa. lxvi. 12, 16.
 Gal. iv. 26.
 Matt. v. 8.
 Isa. lxv. 17-19.
 Phil. iii. 19.
 Rom. viii. 6.
 Gen. vi. 3.
 Luke xii. 49.
 Acts ii. 3.
 Matt. x. 34.
 Heb. iv. 12.
 Song of Sol. ii. 5.
 Isa. lxvi. 18.
 Rom. iii. 23.
 Isa. lxvi. 22-24.
 As the Vulgate: cadavera virorum.