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Response to Ezra’s Questions

When I had finished speaking these words, the angel who had been sent to me on the former nights was sent to me again, and he said to me, “Rise, Ezra, and listen to the words that I have come to speak to you.”

I said, “Speak, my lord.” And he said to me, “There is a sea set in a wide expanse so that it is broad[a] and vast, but it has an entrance set in a narrow place, so that it is like a river. If any one, then, wishes to reach the sea, to look at it or to navigate it, how can he come to the broad part unless he passes through the narrow part? Another example: There is a city built and set on a plain, and it is full of all good things; but the entrance to it is narrow and set in a precipitous place, so that there is fire on the right hand and deep water on the left; and there is only one path lying between them, that is, between the fire and the water, so that only one man can walk upon that path. If now that city is given to a man for an inheritance, how will the heir receive his inheritance unless he passes through the danger set before him?”

10 I said, “He cannot, lord.” And he said to me, “So also is Israel’s portion. 11 For I made the world for their sake, and when Adam transgressed my statutes, what had been made was judged. 12 And so the entrances of this world were made narrow and sorrowful and toilsome; they are few and evil, full of dangers and involved in great hardships. 13 But the entrances of the greater world are broad and safe, and really yield the fruit of immortality. 14 Therefore unless the living pass through the difficult and vain experiences, they can never receive those things that have been reserved for them. 15 But now why are you disturbed, seeing that you are to perish? And why are you moved, seeing that you are mortal? 16 And why have you not considered in your mind what is to come, rather than what is now present?”

The Fate of the Ungodly

17 Then I answered and said, “O sovereign Lord, behold, thou hast ordained in thy law that the righteous shall inherit these things, but that the ungodly shall perish. 18 The righteous therefore can endure difficult circumstances while hoping for easier ones; but those who have done wickedly have suffered the difficult circumstances and will not see the easier ones.”

19 And he said to me, “You are not a better judge than God, or wiser than the Most High! 20 Let many perish who are now living, rather than that the law of God which is set before them be disregarded! 21 For God strictly commanded those who came into the world, when they came, what they should do to live, and what they should observe to avoid punishment. 22 Nevertheless they were not obedient, and spoke against him;

they devised for themselves vain thoughts,
23     and proposed to themselves wicked frauds;
they even declared that the Most High does not exist,
    and they ignored his ways!
24 They scorned his law,
    and denied his covenants;
they have been unfaithful to his statutes,
    and have not performed his works.

The Temporary Messianic Kingdom

25 “Therefore, Ezra, empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full. 26 For behold, the time will come, when the signs which I have foretold to you will come to pass, that the city which now is not seen shall appear,[b] and the land which now is hidden shall be disclosed. 27 And every one who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders. 28 For my son the Messiah[c] shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. 29 And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. 30 And the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings; so that no one shall be left. 31 And after seven days the world, which is not yet awake, shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. 32 And the earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who dwell silently in it; and the chambers shall give up the souls which have been committed to them. 33 And the Most High shall be revealed upon the seat of judgment, and compassion shall pass away, and patience shall be withdrawn;[d] 34 but only judgment shall remain, truth shall stand, and faithfulness shall grow strong. 35 And recompense shall follow, and the reward shall be manifested; righteous deeds shall awake, and unrighteous deeds shall not sleep.[e] 36 Then the pit[f] of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of hell[g] shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. 37 Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised from the dead, ‘Look now, and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised! 38 Look on this side and on that; here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments!’ Thus he will[h] speak to them on the day of judgment— 39 a day that has no sun or moon or stars, 40 or cloud or thunder or lightning or wind or water or air, or darkness or evening or morning, 41 or summer or spring or heat or winter[i] or frost or cold or hail or rain or dew, 42 or noon or night, or dawn or shining or brightness or light, but only the splendor of the glory of the Most High, by which all shall see what has been determined for them. 43 For it will last for about a week of years. 44 This is my judgment and its prescribed order; and to you alone have I shown these things.”

Only a Few Will Be Saved

45 I answered and said, “O sovereign Lord, I said then and I say now:[j] Blessed are those who are alive and keep thy commandments! 46 But what of those for whom I prayed? For who among the living is there that has not sinned, or who among men that has not transgressed thy covenant? 47 And now I see that the world to come will bring delight to few, but torments to many. 48 For an evil heart has grown up in us, which has alienated us from God,[k] and has brought us into corruption and the ways of death, and has shown us the paths of perdition and removed us far from life—and that not just a few of us but almost all who have been created!”

49 He answered me and said, “Listen to me, Ezra,[l] and I will instruct you, and will admonish you yet again. 50 For this reason the Most High has made not one world but two. 51 For whereas you have said that the righteous are not many but few, while the ungodly abound, hear the explanation for this.

52 “If you have just a few precious stones, will you add to them lead and clay?”[m]

53 I said, “Lord, how could that be?”

54 And he said to me, “Not only that, but ask the earth and she will tell you; defer to her, and she will declare it to you. 55 Say to her, ‘You produce gold and silver and brass, and also iron and lead and clay; 56 but silver is more abundant than gold, and brass than silver, and iron than brass, and lead than iron, and clay than lead.’ 57 Judge therefore which things are precious and desirable, those that are abundant or those that are rare?”

58 I said, “O sovereign Lord, what is plentiful is of less worth, for what is more rare is more precious.”

59 He answered me and said, “Weigh within yourself[n] what you have thought, for he who has what is hard to get rejoices more than he who has what is plentiful. 60 So also will be the judgment[o] which I have promised; for I will rejoice over the few who shall be saved, because it is they who have made my glory to prevail now, and through them my name has now been honored. 61 And I will not grieve over the multitude of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke—they are set on fire and burn hotly, and are extinguished.”

Lamentation of Ezra, with Response

62 I replied and said, “O earth, what have you brought forth, if the mind is made out of the dust like the other created things! 63 For it would have been better if the dust itself had not been born, so that the mind might not have been made from it. 64 But now the mind grows with us, and therefore we are tormented, because we perish and know it. 65 Let the human race lament, but let the beasts of the field be glad; let all who have been born lament, but let the four-footed beasts and the flocks rejoice! 66 For it is much better with them than with us; for they do not look for a judgment, nor do they know of any torment or salvation promised to them after death. 67 For what does it profit us that we shall be preserved alive but cruelly tormented? 68 For all who have been born are involved in iniquities, and are full of sins and burdened with transgressions. 69 And if we were not to come into judgment after death, perhaps it would have been better for us.”

70 He answered me and said, “When the Most High made the world and Adam and all who have come from him, he first prepared the judgment and the things that pertain to the judgment. 71 And now understand from your own words, for you have said that the mind grows with us. 72 For this reason, therefore, those who dwell on earth shall be tormented, because though they had understanding they committed iniquity, and though they received the commandments they did not keep them, and though they obtained the law they dealt unfaithfully with what they received. 73 What, then, will they have to say in the judgment, or how will they answer in the last times? 74 For how long the time is that the Most High has been patient with those who inhabit the world, and not for their sake, but because of the times which he has foreordained!”

State of the Dead before Judgment

75 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in thy sight, O Lord, show this also to thy servant: whether after death, as soon as every one of us yields up his soul, we shall be kept in rest until those times come when thou wilt renew the creation, or whether we shall be tormented at once?”

76 He answered me and said, “I will show you that also, but do not be associated with those who have shown scorn, nor number yourself among those who are tormented. 77 For you have a treasure of works laid up with the Most High; but it will not be shown to you until the last times. 78 Now, concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone forth from the Most High that a man shall die, as the spirit leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High. 79 And if it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the way of the Most High, and who have despised his law, and who have hated those who fear God— 80 such spirits shall not enter into habitations, but shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad, in seven ways. 81 The first way, because they have scorned the law of the Most High. 82 The second way, because they cannot now make a good repentance that they may live. 83 The third way, they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the covenants of the Most High. 84 The fourth way, they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days. 85 The fifth way, they shall see how the habitations of the others are guarded by angels in profound quiet. 86 The sixth way, they shall see how some of them will pass over[p] into torments. 87 The seventh way, which is worse[q] than all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame,[r] and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times.

88 “Now this is the order of those who have kept the ways of the Most High, when they shall be separated from their mortal body.[s] 89 During the time that they lived in it,[t] they laboriously served the Most High, and withstood danger every hour, that they might keep the law of the Lawgiver perfectly. 90 Therefore this is the teaching concerning them: 91 First of all, they shall see with great joy the glory of him who receives them, for they shall have rest in seven orders. 92 The first order, because they have striven with great effort to overcome the evil thought which was formed with them, that it might not lead them astray from life into death. 93 The second order, because they see the perplexity in which the souls of the ungodly wander, and the punishment that awaits them. 94 The third order, they see the witness which he who formed them bears concerning them, that while they were alive they kept the law which was given them in trust. 95 The fourth order, they understand the rest which they now enjoy, being gathered into their chambers and guarded by angels in profound quiet, and the glory which awaits them in the last days. 96 The fifth order, they rejoice that they have now escaped what is corruptible, and shall inherit what is to come; and besides they see the straits and toil[u] from which they have been delivered, and the spacious liberty which they are to receive and enjoy in immortality. 97 The sixth order, when it is shown to them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on. 98 The seventh order, which is greater than all that have been mentioned, because they shall rejoice with boldness, and shall be confident without confusion, and shall be glad without fear, for they hasten to behold the face of him whom they served in life and from whom they are to receive their reward when glorified. 99 This is the order of the souls of the righteous, as henceforth is announced;[v] and the aforesaid are the ways of torment which those who would not give heed shall suffer hereafter.”

100 I answered and said, “Will time therefore be given to the souls, after they have been separated from the bodies, to see what you have described to me?”

101 He said to me, “They shall have freedom for seven days, so that during these seven days they may see the things of which you have been told, and afterwards they shall be gathered in their habitations.”

No Intercession for the Ungodly

102 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in thy sight, show further to me, thy servant, whether on the day of judgment the righteous will be able to intercede for the ungodly or to entreat the Most High for them, 103 fathers for sons or sons for parents, brothers for brothers, relatives for their kinsmen, or friends[w] for those who are most dear.”

104 He answered me and said, “Since you have found favor in my sight, I will show you this also. The day of judgment is decisive[x] and displays to all the seal of truth. Just as now a father does not send his son, or a son his father, or a master his servant, or a friend his dearest friend, to be ill[y] or sleep or eat or be healed in his stead, 105 so no one shall ever pray for another on that day, neither shall any one lay a burden on another;[z] for then every one shall bear his own righteousness and unrighteousness.”

36 106 I answered and said, “How then do we find that first Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom, and Moses for our fathers who sinned in the desert, 37 107 and Joshua after him for Israel in the days of Achan, 38 108 and Samuel in the days of Saul,[aa] and David for the plague, and Solomon for those in the sanctuary, 39 109 and Eli′jah for those who received the rain, and for the one who was dead, that he might live, 40 110 and Hezeki′ah for the people in the days of Sennach′erib, and many others prayed for many? 41 111 If therefore the righteous have prayed for the ungodly now, when corruption has increased and unrighteousness has multiplied, why will it not be so then as well?”

42 112 He answered me and said, “This present world is not the end; the full glory does not[ab] abide in it;[ac] therefore those who were strong prayed for the weak. 43 113 But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning[ad] of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away, 44 114 sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared. 45 115 Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on him who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm[ae] him who is victorious.”

Lamentation over the Fate of Most People

46 116 I answered and said, “This is my first and last word, that it would have been better if the earth had not produced Adam, or else, when it had produced him, had restrained him from sinning. 47 117 For what good is it to all that they live in sorrow now and expect punishment after death? 48 118 O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants. 49 119 For what good is it to us, if an eternal age has been promised to us, but we have done deeds that bring death? 50 120 And what good is it that an everlasting hope has been promised us, but we have miserably failed? 51 121 Or that safe and healthful habitations have been reserved for us, but we have lived wickedly? 52 122 Or that the glory of the Most High will defend those who have led a pure life, but we have walked in the most wicked ways? 53 123 Or that a paradise shall be revealed, whose fruit remains unspoiled and in which are abundance and healing, but we shall not enter it, 54 124 because we have lived in unseemly places? 55 125 Or that the faces of those who practiced self-control shall shine more than the stars, but our faces shall be blacker than darkness? 56 126 For while we lived and committed iniquity we did not consider what we should suffer after death.”

57 127 He answered and said, “This is the meaning of the contest which every man who is born on earth shall wage, 58 128 that if he is defeated he shall suffer what you have said, but if he is victorious he shall receive what I have said.[af] 59 129 For this is the way of which Moses, while he was alive, spoke to the people, saying, ‘Choose for yourself life, that you may live!’ 60 130 But they did not believe him, or the prophets after him, or even myself who have spoken to them. 61 131 Therefore there shall not be[ag] grief at their destruction, so much as joy over those to whom salvation is assured.”

Ezra Appeals to God’s Mercy

62 132 I answered and said, “I know, O Lord, that the Most High is now called merciful, because he has mercy on those who have not yet come into the world; 63 133 and gracious, because he is gracious to those who turn in repentance to his law; 64 134 and patient, because he shows patience toward those who have sinned, since they are his own works; 65 135 and bountiful, because he would rather give than take away;[ah] 66 136 and abundant in compassion, because he makes his compassions abound more and more to those now living and to those who are gone and to those yet to come, 67 137 for if he did not make them abound, the world with those who inhabit it would not have life; 68 138 and he is called giver, because if he did not give out of his goodness so that those who have committed iniquities might be relieved of them, not one ten-thousandth of mankind could have life; 69 139 and judge, because if he did not pardon those who were created by his word and blot out the multitude of their sins,[ai] 70 140 there would probably be left only very few of the innumerable multitude.”


  1. 2 Esdras 7:3 Syr Compare Ethiop Arab 1: Lat deep
  2. 2 Esdras 7:26 Arm: Lat Syr that the bride shall appear, even the city appearing
  3. 2 Esdras 7:28 Syr Arab 1: Ethiop my Messiah; Arab 2 the Messiah; Arm the Messiah of God; Lat my son Jesus
  4. 2 Esdras 7:33 Lat gather together
  5. 2 Esdras 7:35 The passage from verse 36 to verse 105, formerly missing, has been restored to the text
  6. 2 Esdras 7:36 Syr Ethiop: Lat place
  7. 2 Esdras 7:36 Lat gehenna
  8. 2 Esdras 7:38 Syr Ethiop Arab 1: Lat thou shalt
  9. 2 Esdras 7:41 Or storm
  10. 2 Esdras 7:45 Syr: Lat And I answered, “I said then, O Lord, and I say now:
  11. 2 Esdras 7:48 Cn: Lat Syr Ethiop from these
  12. 2 Esdras 7:49 Syr Arab 1 Georg: Lat Ethiop omit Ezra
  13. 2 Esdras 7:52 Arab 1: Lat Syr Ethiop are corrupt
  14. 2 Esdras 7:59 Syr Ethiop Arab 1: Latin is corrupt here
  15. 2 Esdras 7:60 Syr Arab 1: Lat creation
  16. 2 Esdras 7:86 Cn: the text of this verse is corrupt
  17. 2 Esdras 7:87 Lat greater
  18. 2 Esdras 7:87 Syr Ethiop: Latin is corrupt
  19. 2 Esdras 7:88 Literally the corruptible vessel
  20. 2 Esdras 7:89 Syr Ethiop: Latin is corrupt
  21. 2 Esdras 7:96 Syr Ethiop: Lat fulness
  22. 2 Esdras 7:99 Syr: Latin is corrupt here
  23. 2 Esdras 7:103 Syr Ethiop Arab 1: Lat kinsmen for their nearest, friends (literally the confident) for their dearest
  24. 2 Esdras 7:104 Lat bold
  25. 2 Esdras 7:104 Syr Ethiop Arm: Lat understand
  26. 2 Esdras 7:105 Syr: Latin omits on that . . . another
  27. 2 Esdras 7:108 Syr Ethiop Arab 1: Latin omits in the days of Saul
  28. 2 Esdras 7:112 Latin omits not
  29. 2 Esdras 7:112 Or the glory does not continuously abide in it
  30. 2 Esdras 7:113 Latin omits the beginning
  31. 2 Esdras 7:115 Syr Ethiop: Lat overwhelm
  32. 2 Esdras 7:128 Syr Ethiop Arab 1: Lat I say
  33. 2 Esdras 7:131 Syr: Lat was not
  34. 2 Esdras 7:135 Or is ready to give according to requests
  35. 2 Esdras 7:139 Lat contempts

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