The final book of The City of God is a description and defense of the position that God will spend eternity with His people in a united Heaven and Earth. As Augustine says, this is the right way to end this huge work – end with the hope of eternity and pray that the goodness and beauty of that hope will draw humanity to Christ.
The line of argument runs this way: the City of God is better than Rome and has a better founder, miracles prove the City’s supernatural origins, the supernatural is the basis for the Christian idea of a resurrection of bodies, those bodies will be perfected and spiritualized versions of earthy bodies, the Platonists are wrong about the resurrection, and we will see God, rest in Him, and worship Him forever in eternity.
One of the interesting discussions Augustine engages is what happens to bodies at the resurrection. What about infants? What about bodies that have been dissembled? What about those who die in old age, or who die of crippling diseases? Will they be raised but remain crippled? He describes nicely the idea of “potentiality” within our bodies:
“For in that utterance of the Lord, where He says that, ‘Not a hair of your head shall perish’, it is said that we shall not in future lack anything we once had; but it is not said that we shall not then receive anything that we do not have now. The dead infant lacked the perfect stature of its body, for even the perfect infant lacks the perfection of bodily size because, unlike an adult, it has not yet achieved the greatest stature possible for it. There is, however, a sense in which this perfect stature is possessed by all when they are conceived and born: that is, they have it potentially, even though not yet in their actual size. In the same way, all the members of the body are latent in the seed, although some of them are lacking even after the child is born – teeth, for example, and things of that kind. Every material substance, then, seems to contain within itself what one might call a pattern of everything which does not yet exist … but which in the course of time will come into existence, or, rather, into sight. In this sense, therefore, the child who is to be short or tall is short or tall already. According to this reasoning, then, we need fear no bodily loss in the resurrection of the body.”
God will make us into our very best potential selves. This is a pretty cool idea. He goes on to say that it is possible that the martyrs will retain their wounds, or at least scars of their wounds as badges of honor in the New Creation. He asks whether we will retain our sex and answers that the sexes are created by God, both male and female, and that they are good. We will not have intercourse or lust in the New Creation, but the sexes will remain. Augustine goes on to say that we will spend eternity seeing God, and then wonders in what way and with what eyes we shall see Him. Augustine is not sure, but imagines that it will be a glorious vision. One suggestion: “God will then be known to us and visible to us in such a way that we shall see Him by the spirit in ourselves, in one another, in Himself, in the new heavens and new earth, and in every created thing which shall then exist; and also by the body we shall see Him in every body to which the keen vision of the eye of the spiritual body shall extend.” We will see Him in and through everything. And we will praise Him constantly, for He is and will be the “end of our desires. He will be seen without end, loved without stint, praised without weariness. And this duty, this affection, this employment, will, like eternal life itself, be common to all.”
We will be all worship and praise and without sin. Humanity will be perfected, with a perfected free will:
“Also, they will then no longer be able to take delight in sin. This does not mean, however, that they will have no free will. On the contrary, it will be all the more free, because set free from delight in sinning to take a constant delight in not sinning. For when man was created righteous, the first freedom of will that he was given consisted in an ability not to sin, but also in an ability to in. But this last freedom of will will be greater, in that it will consist in not being able to sin.”
This is a perfectly free will, because it will be not dragged down by imperfect loves or enslaving desires. Lusts and impurities master us and make our wills less free, while righteousness sets us free. In eternity, we will be truly free, without sin. We will enter the full Sabbath rest of God, as Augustine argues, and God will bring full completion to His creation. Amen.