CITY OF GOD, by Saint Augustine, Part 4

Published on January 23, 2018 by Steve West

Penguin Press, 2003 | 1184 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Steve West

 

Introduction

Augustine’s The City of God is one of the most influential works in the history of literature. It is a towering achievement of Christian philosophy that defends Christianity in light of the pillage of Rome. Augustine critiques and attacks pagan religion and morality, and rebuts those who were blaming Christians for the sack of Rome. He develops a biblical theology of two kingdoms, the city of the world and the City of God. Augustine traces out the origins, historical advance, and eternal ends of the two cities. Despite human sin, the City of God will conquer and be victorious. The final culmination of the city of man is in eternal punishment, but the final state of the City of God is consummated Glory.

The City of God consists of two parts which are divided into numbered books. Part 1 contains Books 1-10, and Part 2 contains Books 11-22.

 

Summary: Part 2, Books 17-22

Part 2: Book 17

The Israelites are Abraham’s physical descendants, but anyone with faith is Abraham’s spiritual seed, regardless of their ethnicity. The era of the prophets begins with Samuel. Joshua and the judges did not fulfill the promise of fully occupying Canaan, but this was fulfilled in the time of David and Solomon. There are prophecies that refer to the earthly seed and Jerusalem; others refer to the heavenly seed and to the Jerusalem from above; many find application to both. It is significant that Samuel replaces the ungodly Eli, and David the ungodly Saul. Hannah’s song of praise is rich in prophetic content. She is humble and rejoices in the Lord, waiting his deliverance and salvation (which is found in Christ). Hannah rejoices that God brings down the proud (the city of men) but establishes his humble people who trust in him. This prophetic song both talks about the work of the Lord on behalf of his people, and ultimately his treatment of Christ who humbled himself, died, and was raised up to reign. Christ will be the judge of all the earth. The replacement of Eli by Samuel partially fulfilled God’s word, but the final fulfillment was realized in the priesthood of Christ. The judgment and fall of Eli’s line represented the ultimate fall of the line of Aaron, since the old covenant priesthood was destined to be replaced by Christ.
David, not Saul, is given the promise of an everlasting reign. Saul had the kingdom torn out of his hands because of his sin and disobedience. As the kingdom was given to David, so the kingdom would also be torn from Israel and given to the Christ. Christ reigns over all of his enemies, which includes Israel (although spiritual Israel is his people). God’s promises to David in 2 Samuel 7 are clearly not fulfilled by Solomon. In Solomon there is a faint outline of the reality that comes with Christ. Solomon had some measure of peace, he expanded Israel’s borders, and he built the temple. Christ is the prince of peace, rules over the world, and is the true temple. Furthermore, Christ builds the spiritual house of God (i.e. God’s people), which the stone temple prefigured. The kingdom of Israel was conquered and the kings dethroned, but Christ’s rule is everlasting. The substance of the people of God is found in the incarnate Christ, who laid down his life in death and took it up again. God builds his servants into his spiritual temple, building them up so that they can live and be established in righteousness. Solomon’s reign was characterized by a relative peace, but there were still fears and uncertainties. Lasting and genuine peace will only be experienced in the future heavenly Jerusalem.
On the one hand there is too much of Christ in the Book of Psalms to begin to survey, but on the other hand if we are selective and brief some will not understand the case we are able to make. There are direct references as well as allegorical ones. Psalm 45 is obviously about Christ the great king saving and marrying his queen to take her out of the nations: he rescues her from the city of men. Psalm 45 presents Christ as king, and Psalm 110 presents him with equal clarity as priest. His passion and piercing is prophesied in Psalm 22. Numerous psalms portray Jesus’ resurrection and announce his accomplishment of salvation. Psalm 69 is so irrefutably about Jesus that it leaves the Jews with no excuse for their failure to acknowledge Christ. Solomon’s books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs all contain prophetic material of Christ. After Solomon died, the kingdom was split in two, in fulfillment of God’s prophetic revelation. God continued to send Israel and Judah prophets, but they ignored the message and went into exile. Even after the restoration from exile God sent them a few prophets, but then there was a large gap in time before the prophets we find in the infancy narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus.

 

Part 2: Book 18

The city of the world consists of different nations and peoples, but through history the Assyrian and the Roman nations were the most dominant. When Abram was called out of Chaldea, the Assyrians were ruling the world, and they founded Babylonia. Assyria, and then Rome, represent Babylon which is against God. During the lifetimes of the patriarchs, worldly politics continued and rulers succeeded one another. Some kings were declared gods after their deaths. We see cities—like Athens—named after deities, but there is blurring between history and mythology about how they were named and what transpired before and afterwards in relation to the gods. We are able, however, to accurately correlate world history with biblical history, so we can determine who was reigning in various nations during the times of the characters in Scripture. It is also sometimes possible to determine when various myths arose in history, and even to connect some of them with distorted historical events and figures (although some are sheer inventions). Many of these myths are acted out in religious plays, and they are blasphemous and obscene. If they are lies then the gods cannot be pleased with these stories and depictions, but if they are true then the gods are vile and unworthy of esteem. Demons do have powers, but. . .

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City of God

Penguin Press, 2003 | 1184 pages