Thus, begins the wind-up for St. Augustine’s City of God, translated by Marcus Dods. St. Augustine first describes the framework in which this discussion lies:
…by the end of good, we at present mean, not that by which good is destroyed, so that it no longer exists, but that by which it is finished, so that it becomes complete; and by the end of evil we mean, not that which abolishes it, but that which completes its development. These two ends, therefore are the supreme good and the supreme evil…
From the viewpoint of the city of God, the supreme good is represented by eternal life, and the supreme evil by eternal death. To have the former and avoid the latter, we must live according to God’s ways. Yet, we often fall short, and so we turn to the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, and petition Him for forgiveness and for HIs strength that we may increase our alignment with Him:
…we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises] – 2 Cor. 5:7 AMP
Out of that strength, we build upon the virtues we acquire through godly living, so as to do our best to overcome the temptations of vice:
I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] Phil. 4:13 AMP
Still, until Christ’s return, the devil will not relent; and so, strength and discernment will be required until we make our heavenly transition, whereupon evil will not exist in the city of God. So then, we can say that our ultimate happiness will be realized in our salvation, vivified in incorruptible flesh that is not given into sin, but represents our heavenly suit, in which we live out our eternal joy and peace.
And our city is none other then the New Jerusalem, (‘Jerusalem’ can be translated as ‘vision of peace’):
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. Ha makes peace in your borders… Ps. 147:12 – 14. ESV
“…the name of the city of my God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God…” Rv. 3:12 CSB
Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. – St. Augustine
We can also take comfort in the deaths of our loved ones who took Jesus at His word, knowing that they will be waiting for us.
Whereas, those unfortunate inhabitants of the earthly city have only demonic oppression and eternal punishment in their future (as a result of their rebellious wills):
For he who laments the peace his nature has lost is stirred to do so by some relics of peace which make his nature friendly to itself. And it is very just that in the final punishment the wicked and godless should in anguish bewail the loss of the natural advantages they enjoyed, and should perceive that they were most justly taken from them by that God whose benign liberality they had despised. – St. Augustine
What do we do to stay ready for our transition? We must live by two rules:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt. 22:37 – 39. CSB
During this time, we will still be confronted by evil. Thankfully, we can call upon our Savior to fight that fight, and help us see the purpose in it:
For even when we wage a just war, our adversaries must be sinning; and every victory, even though gained by wicked men, is a result of the first judgment of God, who humbles the vanquished either for the sake of removing or of punishing their sins.
To be innocent, we must not only do harm to no man, but also restrain him from sin to punish his sin, so that either the man himself who is punished may profit by his experience, or others be warned by his example. – St. Augustine
We are blessed to be citizens of the city of God, waiting for our assured eternal blessing. We keep our focus on that, so that we can better endure the trials of this broken world. Our city stands against the city of the earth, as our focus and thinking are diametrically opposed; so, we will suffer persecution for our faith.
Still, we keep calling out to all people, inviting them to our city, to join us in our pilgrimage. We are helping God fill His book of Life by ascribing to a heavenly balance:
No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God. – St. Augustine
The best we can do on this earth is to try to make our lives a ‘living prayer’ to our God, and keep our joy centered on our eternal city, wherein lies our supreme good.
Those who choose to remain in the citizenry of the city of earth will experience the ‘second death,’ where their souls are eternally separated from their Creator, their bodies subject to pain, and there shall be no end to it.
For those who love God, we have a far far better fate…
Goodnight and God bless.