Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 17.--Where the Kingdom of God May Be Understood to Be.
Now, they who say this, do no doubt seem to themselves to say a good deal, because theirs is only a slight and careless view of Scripture; nor do they understand in what sense we use the phrase, |kingdom of God,| when we say of it in our prayers, |Thy kingdom come;| for that is called the kingdom of God, in which His whole family shall reign with Him in happiness and for ever. Now, in respect of the power which He possesses over all things, he is of course even now reigning. What, therefore, do we intend when we pray that His kingdom may come unless that we may deserve to reign with Him? But even they will be under His power who shall have to suffer the pains of eternal fire. Well, then, do we mean to predicate of these unhappy beings that they too will be in the kingdom of God? Surely it is one thing to be honoured with the gifts and privileges of the kingdom of God, and another thing to be restrained and punished by the laws of the same. However, that you may have a very manifest proof that on the one hand the kingdom of heaven must not be parcelled out to the baptized, and other portions of the kingdom of God be given to the unbaptized, as you seem to have determined, I beg of you to hear the Lord's own words; He does not say, |Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom or heaven;| but His words are, |he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.| His discourse with Nicodemus on the subject before us runs thus: |Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.| Observe, He does not here say, the kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of God. And then, on Nicodemus asking Him in reply, |How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?| the Lord, in explanation, repeats His former statement more plainly and openly: |Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.| Observe again, He uses the same phrase, the kingdom of God, notthe kingdom of heaven. It is worthy of remark, that while He varies two expressions in explaining them the second time (for after saying, |Except a man be born again,| He interprets that by the fuller expression, |Except a man be born of water and the Spirit;| and in like manner He explains, |he cannot see,| by the completer phrase, |he cannot enter into|), He yet makes no variation here; He said |the kingdom of God| the first time, and He afterwards repeated the same phrase exactly. It is not now necessary to raise and discuss the question, whether the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven must be understood as involving different senses, or whether only one thing is described under two designations. It is enough to find that no one can enter into the kingdom of God, except he be washed in the laver of regeneration. I suppose you perceive by this time how wide of the truth it is to separate from the kingdom of God any mansions that are placed in the house of God. And as to the idea which you have entertained that there will be found dwelling among the various mansions, which the Lord has told us abound in His Father's house, some who have not been born again of water and the Spirit, I advise you, if you will permit me, not to defer amending it, in order that you may hold the catholic faith.