THE BRONZE SERPENT

THE BRONZE SERPENT

A Sermon by Rev. Terry Schnarr Preached in Sydney, Australia May 19, 1996

“And so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Num. 4:9). “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14,15).

When the Children of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years on the way from Egypt to the land of Canaan, they became very discouraged at times. It is similar with us. At times through life we can become very discouraged about ever coming into a state of heavenly peace, or finding happiness.

When the Children of Israel became discouraged, they longed for the “good old days” in Egypt. They complained about the manna from heaven the Lord provided them with every day. They complained about the lack of water in the dry and dusty conditions of the wilderness. They forgot the misery of their lives in Egypt as slaves.

Similarly, as we journey through life trying to follow the Lord and find happiness, we sometimes become discouraged and long for the “good old days” when we were younger and life seemed happier and simpler. We complain about the tiny morsels of brief periods of happiness the Lord gives us. We complain that the teachings of the Word demand us to change too much, that they are not satisfying. We forget that in our younger years we were led around like slaves by our sensual desires and our worldly ideas.

When the Children of Israel longed for the “good old days” in Egypt they were bitten by serpents, and many died. Similarly, when we become discouraged and start longing for the good old days of sensual satisfaction and worldly fulfillment, we are in danger of being bitten by our sensual desires and losing our spiritual happiness. The Lord gives us a cure for this discouragement.

All the animals in the Word correspond to human affections and desires. Serpents are symbols of our sensual desires. The lowest part of our mind consists of our sensual desires and thoughts, because our senses are the means whereby we are connected with the things outside of us in the world. Above, or within the sensual degree of our mind, is our natural mind; above this is our rational mind. Our rational mind is like the bridge to our spiritual mind, which is above or within these natural parts of our mind. Our spiritual mind is the kingdom of heaven within us and has three parts, related to the three heavens which are called the celestial heaven, the spiritual heaven, and the natural heaven.

Just as serpents are among the lowest animals, crawling on the ground, eating dust, and looking up to most other animals, so also our senses, or our sensual mind, is the lowest part of our mind looking up to the higher parts. The sensual part of our mind or spirit can be good or evil, and so there are non-poisonous and poisonous serpents.

Our senses are useful and good because they allow us to be connected to the world, and after death to be connected to the spiritual world. They enable us to be in contact, in touch with other people, and to enjoy delights and pleasures in both worlds. Without this lowest degree of our mind we could not exist because we would have no way of connecting to our external environment here or in the spiritual world.

On the other hand, our sensual mind can become quite poisonous, can bite us, and can kill our spiritual happiness. Our sensual mind can trick us, as the serpent tricked Adam and Eve, into thinking that all happiness comes from the world, from external things, from sensual things. Our senses can lure us into focusing outward and externally to the things of the world as the source of happiness and delight.

After birth, as we grow and develop physically, our mind is also growing and developing. Our sensual mind is the first level that develops: witness the sensuality of babies and infants, putting everything into their mouths, for example. Next the natural mind opens, and then our rational mind opens about the time we become adults. We are not conscious of the fact that as these natural levels of our mind are opened, the three heavenly levels of our mind, from highest to lowest, are developing at the same time. Because we are conscious of our senses, our sensuality, for the longest time we are most comfortable with this lowest level of our mind, and turn to it for comfort in times of anxiety or depression. An example is how people use food, alcohol, or other sensual stimulants as stress relievers.

Our sensuality becomes increasingly active when we are discouraged about our spiritual progress. When we go through a spiritual drought and experience periods of little internal peace and happiness, the evil spirits with us stir up our sensual desires to seek some sort of immediate physical experience of peace or satisfaction so that we feel more delights. Physical and sensual delights are easy to find and are quick to fade, whereas the spiritual delights are more difficult to experience but satisfy much longer. When we are discouraged we are very attracted to the quick fix, the fast food, of the sensual world.

The attractiveness of sensual desires is what is meant by the Children of Israel’s being bitten by the serpents. Following our sensual desires and the false reasonings of our senses can kill us spirtually by keeping us from developing the spiritual parts of our mind keeping us from being born again, or being born of the spirit. When we focus on selfish, sensual, and worldly things, our minds are drawn down to the lowest level of life. Then our spiritual mind begins to shrivel and eventually will die. This is what is meant by many of the Children of Israel’s dying from the bites of the serpents.

When we get discouraged and despair of ever finding genuine and lasting spiritual happiness and peace by following the teachings of the Lord, when we lose our patience with the Lord and His timing, evil spirits have the opportunity to stir up our sensual memories and the false ideas of our sensual reasoning to inspire us to seek happiness and delights through sensual and worldly things. Food, alcohol, and drugs including nicotine, caffeine, and sugar are common stress relievers in our culture. Things like sex, swimming, hiking, exercise and gardening are other sensually pleasing activities we use to escape our depression. Striving after worldly riches, honor, reputation, and success are other forms of pleasing our senses, though these are not as obviously sensual.

In themselves these things are not evil; in fact they can be useful when used or done in moderation for the sake of refreshing and recreating the vigor of our minds, or for performing uses. When we love them for their use, they are like non-poisonous serpents. When we overdo them or abuse them, then our desires for them are like poisonous serpents which can kill us.

Few of us will go through life without being bitten by our sensual serpents. While it is a deadly disease, the good news is that the Lord provides us with a cure, symbolized by the cure He provided for the Children of Israel. Moses made a bronze serpent, raised it up on a tall pole, so everyone who was bitten and who looked at it could be healed. “And so it was” we read, “if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Num. 21:9).

Quite a miracle, eh? Pretty simple. Not much to it. A very quick and easy cure. The really good news is that it is just as easy, simple, and quick for us to be cured of our serpent bites as well. We can be healed of our sensual and worldly desires just as easily. It may be hard to believe, but the Lord tells us how by explaining in His second coming the meaning of looking at the bronze serpent.

The bronze serpent is a symbol of the the sensual mind of the Lord, of Jesus. All we have to do to be healed of our excessive sensuality is to look at the Lord’s physical manifestations, His sensuality. All we need to do is to think about His presence in the physical and sensual things of this world. His Divine presence is visible everywhere in the world, to everyone, like the bronze serpent raised up on a pole for all to see who wanted to.

We can see His physical activity as a Divine Human in the Word: healing those who looked at the bronze serpent, parting the Red Sea, giving the ten commandments, healing the woman who merely touched His clothes, healing the blind man with mud made from His spit, feeding 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and fish, bleeding on the cross, inviting doubting Thomas to touch His hands and His side, eating bread and fish with His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in His last resurrection appearance. Or we can look at the Lord in our present environment, causing our hearts to beat, waking us up every morning, providing heat and light and rain and soil for all the plants to grow, creating everything in the world to continually reproduce itself. Or we can look at the Lord in the people around us in the good love they demonstrate, in the enlightened thoughts they share, in the good uses they do for others. Or we can look at the Lord in our own lives the wonderful periods of peace and happiness He gives us, in the many blessings for which we are thankful, in the timely occurrence of events He arranges providentially, in our ability to love and our ability to think.

In sum, for us to be healed of our serpent bites, of our sensual desires, all we need to do is think about the physical presence of the Lord in us and around us. There are two reasons why doing this will cure us. The first is that God came into the world in order to experience for Himself life as a human being in the world. Jesus was born as a sensual baby and He experienced the development of His sensual, natural, and rational minds as we do. God has experienced the allurement of our senses, and knows first-hand our temptations. He can relate to us and we can relate to Him, knowing we have had similar experiences. Furthermore, Jesus overpowered the evil spirits tempting His sensual mind, made it Divine, and established His permanent power over them by even making His physical flesh and bones Divine. By thus glorifying His Human, making His sensual mind and physical body Divine, He became constantly present in His own Divine Human mind and body in the sensual world of all the minds of all human beings present with the power to repel all the evil spirits.

The second reason why thinking about the Lord’s presence will cure us of unhealthy sensuality is the spiritual law which is that thought brings presence. It is according to this law that when we think about good loves and true thoughts, the angels draw near to our spirit, and when we think about evil loves and false thoughts, evil spirits draw near to us. So when we think about the physical and sensual body of Jesus, and about the things He does in the physical world, He draws nearer to our sensual mind. The evil spirits cannot stand being in His presence and flee, taking with them their selfish sensual and worldly desires, with the result that our sensual desires subside. We are temporarily cured, even as the Children of Israel needed to go and look at the bronze serpent each time they were bitten.

A permanent cure results when we “believe in the Son of Man.” The “Son of Man” is the Word, which John tells us was in the beginning with God, and was God, and became flesh and dwelt among us as the Divine Human, Jesus. To believe in Him means to live according to and from the truths of His Holy Word, because to do so is to live in and from Him because He is the Word. When we take the written Word into our natural mind by means of our senses and sensual mind, and then love and think and act from its teachings, the Lord enters us because He is the Word. When He is present in our rational, natural, and sensual desires, thoughts, and activities there is simply no room for evil spirits and their sensual desires. We have a permanent cure.

The “bronze serpent” which will cure us of excessive sensuality and worldliness is the Divine Human of the Lord, thinking of His sensual and physical presence both now and in the past. Among the ways we can look at Him, the most effective and by far the most powerful, is to physically take up His written Word and read it whenever we are struggling against the serpents of our sensual desires. While we are reading we will be cured temporarily, because the Lord will be present in the sensual part of our mind. A permanent cure comes when we constantly carry the Word in our hearts, in our loves, in our minds, in our thoughts, and so in our speech and actions. Then we will be angels.

“And so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Num. 4:9). “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14,15).


Lessons: Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:13-21, AE 581:selections

Apocalypse Explained 581 (selections)

That “serpents” signify in the Word the sensual man in respect to craftiness and in respect to prudence can be seen from the following passages. In Moses: “The serpent was more crafty than any wild beast of the field which Jehovah God had made” (Gen. 3:1). “Serpent” here does not mean a serpent, but the sensual man, and in a general sense the sensual itself, which is the ultimate of the human understanding; “the man and his wife” signify the Most Ancient Church, which fell away when the men or that church began to reason from sensual knowledges (scientifica) respecting Divine things, which is signified by “eating of the tree of knowledge”; their craftiness in reasoning respecting Divine things from the sensual is described by the reasoning of the serpent with Adam’s wife, by which they were deceived. The serpent is said to have been “more crafty than any wild beast of the field” because it is poisonous and its bite is therefore deadly, and because it hides itself in lurking places. “Poison” signifies craft and deceit, and therefore the “bite” of the serpent signifies deadly hurt; and the lurking places from which it bites, and in which it conceals itself, signify craftiness.

It is to be known that all beasts signify affections such as are in man, and “serpents” signify the affections of the sensual man, for the reason that they creep on the belly upon the ground as does the sensual of man, for this is in the lowest place, and creeps as it were upon the ground beneath all the other faculties. Moreover, sensual men in the spiritual world dwell in the lower parts, and cannot be elevated toward the higher parts, since they are in externals, and from these they judge and form conclusions respecting everything. …

The sensual, which is the ultimate of the intellectual life, is signified also by: “The stretched serpent” (Isa. 27:1; Job 26:13); also by the serpent into which the rod of Moses was changed (Exod. 4:3, 4; 7:9-12). (See AC 6949, 7293.) Again, sensual things which are the ultimates of man’s life are signified by the fiery serpents sent among the people who wished to return to Egypt, while the healing of the bite of such serpents by the Lord’s Divine sensual is signified by the brazen serpent set upon a standard, by looking upon which they revived (Num. 21:5-9).

The expression “the Lord’s Divine sensual” is used because the Lord when He was in the world glorified, that is, made Divine, His whole Human even to its ultimates, as can be seen from the fact that He left nothing in the sepulchre, and that He said to the disciples: “He hath bones and flesh, which a spirit doth not have” (Luke 24:33, 40).

The ultimate sensual, which was also glorified or made Divine by the Lord, is signified by that “brazen serpent” set upon a standard, respecting which the Lord Himself thus spake in John: “As Moses lifted up the serpent, even so must the Son of man he lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life” (3:14, 15). The Lord was represented before the Israelitish and Jewish people by such a sign, because they were merely sensual, and the sensual man in looking to the Lord is unable to elevate his thought beyond and above the sensual; for everyone looks to the Lord according to the elevation of his understanding, the spiritual man looking to the Divine rational, and so on. This makes evident that “the brazen serpent” signifies also the sensual, but the glorified or Divine sensual of the Lord.

COMPASSION

COMPASSION

By Rev. Terry Schnarr Preached in Sydney, Australia Sept. 4, 1995

When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7:13).

Jesus is a God of love and compassion, of mercy and forgiveness. He is a loving and merciful God. He is tender, understanding, and gentle with us. He loves us dearly.

Last Sunday we were encouraged to pick one day this week to compel ourselves to practice one teaching of the Lord all day, to consciously try very hard to work on it. Did you try? How did it go? Perhaps you intended to but forgot. Perhaps you started to keep some teaching in mind but forgot after a short time. Perhaps you tried but intermittently forgot during the day. Perhaps you were able to keep it up all day and even did it for two or more days.

If you forgot, or didn’t try, or tried and failed, how did you feel? Did you conclude, “I’m just no good,” “I can’t do this,” “I can’t even remember the Lord for one day,” or “I’m just a heathen”? How many of you had this kind of experience and those kinds of thoughts? How many of you felt defeated, hopeless, like giving up, or guilty? Maybe you feel bad or guilty right now. Maybe you feel despairing of ever getting closer to the Lord, of ever having the strength and determination to exercise your freedom and willpower to compel yourself to do the Lord’s will.

“Do not weep.” All of those kinds of thoughts and experiences are from hell. The evil spirits are fighting you. They are the ones putting those thoughts into your head. It feels as if they are your own thoughts, but they are not. They are from the evil spirits who are with you. They are trying to stop you, make you feel hopeless, and make you give up. Don’t let them win. Keep at it. Keep trying. It takes perseverance and practice, but with a little patience you will be able to do it because the Lord is with you and is giving you the power to do His will.

He is not angry with you. He isn’t giving up on you. He is still with you, loving you, having compassion on you. He is keeping the evil spirits away and preventing them from making you feel worse. He is surrounding you with angels so that you can do what He wants. Don’t quit trying. What the Lord is concerned with is the intention of your will. Keep trying. The Lord is completely understanding of the difficulties and challenges we face. His mercy and compassion and forgiveness are unconditional.

This is so evident from many stories in the Word. When He came to Jerusalem and looked down over it from the Mount of Olives, from the east, He wept. From His love He could see there was no love and charity left in Jerusalem. He wept because He was grieving for the people who had no love, no charity, no understanding, no light, and no truth. They were confused and in darkness. He went to the temple, cleansed it, and began to teach and healto give them help.

There is never any anger in the Lord, only love and compassion. He is love itself and cannot possibly be angry. Even when there is an appearance of anger, as when He cleansed the temple, He was really acting from love, mercy and compassion.

The Lord never punishes either. He is always understanding and forgiving. Even when there is an appearance of punishment, as when people are said to be sent to hell, the Lord is acting from love and mercy allowing them to choose their life and providing a place for them to pursue their evil loves, all the while trying to restrain them from plunging into lower hells and greater frustration and dissatisfaction.

In the original Hebrew, Jehovah’s compassion is expressed by a word which means the inmost and tenderest love. Such love is pictured by the Lord’s looking for the one lost sheep and carrying it back in His arms.

The Lord has compassion on all of us. He especially has compassion on us when we are in ignorance, when we lack a knowledge of truth and wish we had more, because we are then in doubt and confusion. He is also especially compassionate on us when we are deficient in love and desire to have more good loves, because we are then feeling empty and devoid of life, lacking the blessings and delights which come from doing good and using our talents to serve Him.

Nevertheless, the Lord does not intercede, step in, and change us or fix us. He works to maintain our freedom, controlling the spirits around us so that we are free to approach Him. He never interferes with our lives, but always tries to make the path to His door the easiest path to follow so that we will choose to follow Him.

When we do choose to follow Him, to obey His teachings, then He enters into our lives with love and wisdom, giving us good desires, enlightened thoughts, and joys when we do good works of charity for others.

The Lord is especially close to us, actually dwelling inside of us, when we have compassion on others, when we love and care for one another the same way He loves and cares for us. We cannot be compassionate when we are in truth alone, when we know truths but do not act on them in our daily lives. We become compassionate, loving, and caring toward others only when we do the good works the Lord teaches us in the Wordbecause to do them we have to quit being selfish and materialistic to have time and energy to do for others. When we do good works, then the Lord fills us with love and compassion for others. For example, He forgives us our sins when we forgive others their sins against us.

When we have compassion for others, we enter into a closer relationship with the Lord. The Heavenly Doctrines teach us that when we feel pity or compassion toward others, the Lord enters into us with an influx of love. This is said to be an admonition, a kind of suggestion or command from the Lord to reach out to another person. “When those who are in perception feel compassion,” we read, “they know that they are being admonished by the Lord to give aid” (AC 6737). When we feel compassion, we are being urged and prompted by the Lord to act. This is one way of experiencing the Lord in our lives.

He is especially compassionate toward us when we have been suffering spiritual miseries and temptations. The widow of Nain was suffering grief and despair over the loss of her husband and now her only son. “A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.'”

To not weep means to be consoled, we are taught in the Heavenly Doctrines. Not only does the Lord have compassion on us but He acts on His compassion. He gives us consolation. He consoles us. How?

The Lord consoles us three ways. First, when we pray to Him and approach Him He comes to us and surrounds us with angels. We are taught that He answers our prayers with something like a revelation, which is manifested or experienced in our affections as hope, comfort, or a kind of internal joy. Second, the angels stir up our thoughts to help us remember truths from the Word which can be helpful to us. Third, He admonishes other people to come around to give us support and assistance, even as many people in Nain were gathered around the widow who had lost her husband and only son.

A man who was covered with leprosy came to Him, imploring Jesus to help him. He was not just asking for a simple favor; he was begging for his life with complete humility. He came to Jesus as his last hope. He got down on his knees and said, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

The leper’s dramatic example demonstrates to us the kind of attitude we need to bring to the Holy Supper. We need to acknowledge Jesus Christ as our God, as the only one who can save us from our evils, as the only one who has the power to cleanse our minds. We need to acknowledge Jesus as the only hope we have left for our salvation because He really is. When we kneel down to take the bread and wine, we would do well to keep the words of the leper in our thoughts: “If you are willing, You can make me clean.”

“Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed” (Mark 1:40-42).

“Jehovah is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him” (Psalm 111:4,5). He is “slow to anger and great in mercy. Jehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8,9).

Jesus is willing to help you. Jesus is more than willing. He desires nothing more than to cleanse your spirit so that He can be with you and be inside of you. This is His love. Ask for His help and you will receive it; seek for His power and you will find it; knock and He will open up the door for you and come in with all the blessings of peace and happiness. He will do for you as He did for the widow of Nain, an ordinary person like you and me. “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'” (Luke 7:13). Amen.

Lessons: Luke 7:11-17, Mark 1:35-45, AC 6737


Arcana Coelestia 6737

“And she had compassion on him.” That this signifies admonition from the Divine is evident from the signification of “having compassion” as being an influx of charity from the Lord; for when any one from charity sees another in misery (as here Pharaoh’s daughter saw the child in the ark of rush and weeping), compassion arises; and as this is from the Lord, it is an admonition. Moreover, when they who are in perception feel compassion, they know that they are admonished by the Lord to give aid.

DO NOT DESPAIR

DO NOT DESPAIR

A Sermon by Rev. Terry Schnarr Preached in Sydney, Australia June 11, 1995

“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5).

The comfort and consolation of this passage summarizes the meaning of the whole of the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation. Don’t worry. Be happy. Don’t grieve, mourn, and feel sorry for yourself. The Lord God Jesus Christ rules over all things of our lives.

He rules over the angels and evil spirits who are our constant companions, making sure that we are in freedom to make good rational choices even after we have made many bad choices over and over again. Every day, every hour, is new, and we have the freedom to begin a new life.

When John saw the scroll sealed with seven seals and heard that there was no one worthy to open the book, he cried a lot; he wept much. Why? What was he grieving about? John was crying because he knew that if the book was not opened, the whole human race would perish. The whole human race would come under the power and control of satans and devils from hell. Each one of us would be compelled to love ourselves and the world, to be selfish and materialistic, and would spend eternity in hell. John cried out of grief and sadness for the whole human race.

We sometimes find ourselves in this state of grief. It is a depressed state of mind in which we feel, and think, that we just can’t be saved. We feel and think that we can never change, that we will always continue to say and do the nasty and mean things we have habitually done. We feel and think that there is no one who can help, that there is no one with any power to change or do anything for us. We feel despair. We feel hopeless. This is what John felt and expressed, though his concern was for all people, not just himself.

The scroll sealed with seven seals is the Word of God, the Old and New Testaments. Before the Lord made His second coming and revealed the hidden meaning in the stories of the Bible, people did not know how or why the Bible was holy. It appeared to be a poor history book about the Children of Israel and the Jewish race, and a man named Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God, performed miracles and taught a new way of relating to one another.

On the one hand the Word was written to guide us into a closer relationship with God and with each other. On the other hand, it is written in parables and incomprehensible visions, hiding God’s love and wisdom from people who would abuse them for the sake of their own selfish desires. The Word, revealing all of God’s infinite love and wisdom, is hidden from people to protect them from themselves. The Lord opens the hidden meanings in the Word to people slowly and gradually according as they grow in love and wisdom, by doing what it clearly teaches.

After we die, the Lord will begin to open the seven seals of the Word, allowing us to see and understand what is contained in it. How we respond and react to the opening of the Word will depend on how much we have loved the Word and tried to live by it in this world. If we have studied the Word, prayed for enlightenment, asked the Lord to help us shun our evils, and tried to do what the Word teaches out of love for the Lord, then as the internal meanings are revealed to us in the spiritual world we will gladly and readily drink it in. We will go into heaven where there are other people like ourselves who love the Lord and love to try to understand and live according to His Word.

On the other hand, if we have ignored the Word, or only pretended to be interested in living according to its teachings, when the seals are opened to us in the world of spirits after death we will continue to have no interest. In fact, as the Word is opened and we hear and learn of the love and wisdom of God, we will feel revolted. We will turn away and want to hear no more. As the seals continue to open, revealing how far away from loving God and loving our neighbors we really are because we have not done what the Word teaches, have not loved it, have not studied it we will want to get away from the Word. We will flee from heaven and the angels and find a place in hell with people like ourselves who have no interest in the Lord, the Word, or being kind to other people. In both instances we will judge ourselves by how we respond and react to the opening of the Word.

This is what takes place after death for each of us, preparing us for an eternal marriage relationship with the Lord or an eternal life alone against all the other satans and devils of hell. We will judge ourselves by measuring our habitual loves and thoughts and life next to the Word.

Obviously, the devils and satans in hell would not have minded if there really had been no one to open the scroll. Their selfishness, materialism, and love of dominating over others would never have been exposed. They would have been able to trick the new people coming into the spiritual world and turned them into slaves for their own evil purposes. They would gradually have turned the world of spirits, between heaven and hell, into a realm or kingdom in which they ruled and had all power. Then they would have been able to control all the people in the world so that none of us would have a chance to be good or go to heaven because all the angelic influences from the Lord would have been cut off from us. We would feel only evil desires and think only false rationalizations. We all would have been condemned to an eternal life in hell.

This is why John wept much and grieved. He could see the resulting destruction which would come to the human race if the Word of God was not opened. While we can identify with the personal feeling of despair of ever being changed and saved a feeling induced by the evil spirits with us most of us have difficulty recognizing how the whole human race was threatened by the hells.

Most of us have difficulty believing in our hearts, feeling it, that Jesus Christ saved us from destruction. He did this by being in the world, facing the evil spirits, satans, and devils from hell, and bringing them under His control by resisting their influences. The Lord saved the entire human race, all people of all religions, from eternal damnation.

In the middle of the 1700s the hells had again risen up out of hell and were invading the world of spirits, threatening the human race. They had been able to rise up because people were no longer understanding the Word, which was bound with seven seals. People thought the Word was saying that all one needed to do was to believe God sent His Son into the world to save us and then we would be saved, and that although God was one, there were three people in God. Such ideas brought so much confusion in the world and the world of spirits that the hells were able to rise up again.

The time had come for the Lamb to take the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne and open the seals, to restore order in the spiritual world, and ensure once and for all the freedom of the human race.

In His second advent the Lord opened the seals of the Word and revealed the hidden interior meaning of the parables and stories of the Bible. Through the revelation given by Him through the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg the Lord brought rational light and understanding to the meaning of the Word, both in the world of spirits and on the earth. In His second coming the Lord opened the seals of the book sealed with seven seals. Doing this brought about a massive last judgment in the spiritual world, as all the angels, devils, and spirits responded in their own way to the new heat and light or love and wisdom now available in the spiritual world. Some were attracted and some were repelled. Because the new revelation is not in parables but is given in rational explanations, the ordering of the spiritual world will become permanent.

The elder comforted John by telling Him the Lamb, the Lord in His Divine Human, could and would open the seven seals. This is also why the angels sang a new song, why ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels praised the Lord with loud voices, and why the 24 elders fell down and worshiped Him. They were all rejoicing and praising the Lord because He had made His second advent and was about to perform a Last Judgment which would free every individual in the whole human race to choose his own eternal life. They were rejoicing because they knew that from then on, the whole human race would be free to enter into a rational marriage relationship with the Lord that a new golden age of peace, love, and happiness could come.

This is what is meant by the words of the new song the angels sang:

You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals,
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God in Your blood,
Out of every tribe and tongue
And people and nation,
And have made us unto our God kings and priests,
And we shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9,10).

“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5).


Lessons: Revelation chap. 5, AR 279, 283, 284

Apocalypse Revealed

279. Verse 9. “And they sang a new song” signifies acknowledgment and glorification of the Lord, that He alone is the Judge, Redeemer, and Savior, thus the God of heaven and earth. These things are contained in the song which they sang, and the things which are contained are also signified; as an acknowledgment that the Lord is the Judge, in these things which now follow: “Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof.” That He is the Redeemer, in this: “Because Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us in Thy blood.” That He is the Savior, in this: “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign upon the earth.” That He is the God of heaven and earth, in this: “They fell down and adored Him that liveth for ages of ages” (verse 14).

Since the acknowledgment that the Lord alone is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine, and that in no other way could He be called the Redeemer and Savior, was not before in the church, it is therefore called a “new song.” The reason why “a song” also signifies glorification, which is confession from joy of heart, is because singing exalts, and causes affection to break out from the heart into sound, and show itself intensely in its life. Nor are the Psalms of David any other than songs; for they were played and sung, and therefore were also called songs in many passages … That songs were for the sake of exalting the life of love, and the joy derived from it, is evident from the following passages: “O sing unto Jehovah a new song, make a joyful noise unto Jehovah all the earth, resound, shout” (Psalm 98:1, 4-8). “Sing unto Jehovah a new song, let Israel rejoice in His Maker, sing psalms to Him” (Ps. 169:1-3). “Sing unto Jehovah a new song, lift up the voice” (Isa. 42:10,12). “Sing, O ye heavens, shout ye lower parts of the earth, resound with singing, ye mountains” (Isa. 44:23; 49:13) [et alia].

283. Verse 10. “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests” signifies that from the Lord they are in wisdom from Divine truths and in love from Divine goods, and thus images of His Divine wisdom and of His Divine love, as above (n. 21).

284. “And we shall reign upon the earth” signifies and will be in His kingdom, He in them and they in Him. By “reigning upon the earth” nothing else is meant than being in the Lord’s kingdom, and there one with Him, according to these words of the Lord: “That all who believe in Me may be one, and may be one as Thou Father art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; and the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that where I am, they also may be with Me” (John 17:20-24).

As, therefore, they are thus one with the Lord, and, together with the Lord, constitute a kingdom, which is called the kingdom of God, it is evident that nothing else is signified by “reigning.” It is said “to reign” because it was before said, “Thou hast made us kings and priests”; and by “kings” are signified they who are in wisdom from Divine truths from the Lord; and by “priests,” they who are in love from Divine good from Him (n.20); hence it is that the kingdom of the Lord is also called “the kingdom of the saints” (Dan. 7:15,27); and it is said of the apostles, that “with the Lord they should judge the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).

Nevertheless the Lord alone judges and reigns; for He judges and reigns from Divine good by Divine truth, which is also from Him in them; but he who believes that what is in them from the Lord is their own is cast out of the kingdom, that is, out of heaven. The signification of “reigning” is the same in the following passages in the Apocalypse: “They shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (20:4,6). And concerning those who are to enter into the New Jerusalem: “The Lamb shall enlighten them, and they shall reign for ages of ages” (22:5).

THE VIRGIN BIRTH

THE VIRGIN BIRTH

A Sermon by Rev Terry Schnarr Preached in Sydney, Australia December 1990

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us” (Matt. 1:23).

The virgin birth of the Lord is a hard thing to believe. Yet the Word teaches it so clearly and vividly that there can be no doubt that the claim of the Bible is that the Lord, Jesus Christ, was conceived from God and born of a virgin woman. Scholars of the Christian Church have claimed that the Greek word for virgin really means young woman and not necessarily one that has not had intercourse with a man. But the Bible also clearly states that Mary had not known a man, which obviously makes her a virgin. This is a fact that must be accepted if we are going to know and love the Lord as the one and only God of heaven and earth, yet we find it so incredible.

The Lord’s soul, from His conception in the womb to His resurrection from the sepulcher, was God Himself, the Infinite and Omnipotent Creator of the universe. It is of paramount importance to the New Church concept of God that He was born into the world of a virgin. He could not have united the Divine and the Human if He had taken a soul from conception by a natural father. In order to save the human race from the damnation of the hells, it was absolutely necessary for God Himself to come into the world, take on an infirm human covering, then put it off again by combating and conquering the hells, and thereby subjugating them to His own omnipotent eternal control. To attain this end, He had to be conceived in a virgin and born of a virgin. The virgin birth is essential to the New Church concept of Jesus Christ as the one and only God of heaven and earth.

It is prophesied in Isaiah that the Lord would be born of a virgin, and it is recorded as a fact in Matthew. Joseph was betrothed to Mary, and betrothal was considered a legal marriage. But before the marriage had been consummated, before they had been bodily conjoined, Mary “was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Joseph did not at first know of this, and it is said that “being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, he was minded to put her away privately” (Matthew 1:19). But the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and told him that the child she bore was conceived of the Holy Spirit, adding, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, `Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us'” (Matthew 1:23).

Even though Joseph was not the father of the Lord, it was important that in the eyes of men it should appear that he was. It was necessary that He be born under the protection of a legal marriage. Joseph was needed as a guardian, provider, and instructor. It was Joseph who led them to safety in Egypt when Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus. It was Joseph who worked to provide Mary and Jesus and their other children with food, clothing, and shelter. And it was Joseph, as the head of the household, who was responsible for the instruction of his children. The Lord as an infant and child was helpless and dependent, as all of us are, on His natural guardians.

The miracle of the virgin birth is perhaps the hardest to believe of all the miracles recorded in the Word. Other miracles, even though they seem improbable, can be grasped by our natural minds as being remotely possible. We can see with most of them how there could be natural explanations for them even though we believe that the miracle was that they happened at the right time or in the right place. We can see, for example, the possibility that God could string a number of natural phenomena together to produce the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea at the right time. We are familiar with occasions where people have been pronounced dead and have come back to life. We are familiar with circumstances where people have seemingly been miraculously cured of incurable diseases and ailments. Because of our familiarity with these events, and our knowledge of natural science, we can naturally envision the possibility of these miracles taking place, and we can therefore easily believe them. But the miracle of a virgin birth is utterly inconceivable to our natural minds. It is something we are not at all familiar with. It is unprecedented in history, and it has not been repeated. Our natural minds cannot, therefore, conceive of it. The result is that in general we either blindly accept it, ignore it, doubt it, or deny it. The New Church presents us with another idea rational understanding and belief.

We are thinking in the wrong way when we think in such a way as to accept these miracles only when we can understand them as natural possibilities. As we heard in the third lesson, this type of thinking leads to all folly and insanity. We ought to first believe in the Word, or in the doctrine therefrom, and then confirm that doctrine by rational things of natural science and sense experience. “He who assumes as a principle,” we read, “that nothing is to be believed until it is seen and understood can never believe, because spiritual and celestial things cannot be seen with the eyes or conceived by the imagination. But the true order is for man to be wise from the Lord, that is, from His Word, and then all things follow . . . . It is by no means forbidden to learn the sciences, since they are useful . . . but it must be from this principle to believe the Word of the Lord, and, as far as possible, confirm spiritual and celestial truths by natural truths, in terms familiar to the learned world. Thus man’s starting-point must be the Lord and not himself; for the former is life, but the latter is death” (AC 129, emphasis added). In other words, we ought to believe that the miracles recorded in the Word actually took place simply because the Lord in His Word says they did, and then merely confirm our belief by natural reasonings and explanations which seem to make them possible.

The virgin birth is a case in point. We ought to believe it because the Lord says it is so in His Word. We can try to confirm it by natural reasonings and explanations. For example, we are taught that the soul of every man is a graft, or an offshoot, from his father’s soul. It consists of finite, spiritual substances, so formed as to receive life from the Lord. Carried in the sperm from the father at conception, the mind, disposition, nature, inclination, and affection of the father’s love dwell in the souls of his offspring, from generation to generation (see TCR 103). Thus, we read, “the hereditary evil from a father is internal and remains to eternity. For it cannot possibly be eradicated” (AC 1573).

If Joseph, or any other natural man, had been the father of the Lord, He would have had such a finite soul, with hereditary evil inclinations that could not be eradicated to eternity. It would not have been possible for Him to unite His human to the Divine Soul. He would not have been God Incarnate. This is why it is so important that we believe that He was born of a virgin. His soul was Jehovah God Himself. It was Life Itself, infinite and uncreated. His soul had no evil tendencies, but only infinite love for all mankind. It was not a finite substance, formed to receive life. And in no sense was His soul a graft, or an offshoot, of the Divine, for the Divine is one and indivisible. Therefore, we are not to think of the Divine as being limited, or confined in any way, by the Lord’s body as an infant, as a boy, as a man, or at any time during His life on earth.

We might wonder how God could rule and sustain order in the universe while He was living in the world as a child or a grown man; but this is to think of His Essence from His Person, limited by His physical person, and we are taught to think of His Person from His Essence, nevertheless to think of and approach the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience were no way limited by the material body of the Lord. His soul was unchanged. His soul was infinite and unobstructed in its operation at all times, continually recreating and sustaining the universe as it always has and always will. The Lord’s soul was God Himself, the Creator and Ruler of the entire universe, life itself, infinite love, and infinite wisdom. His soul was the indivisible God of heaven and earth in its totality. He called His soul “Father” and spoke to it even as David speaks to his soul in the psalms.

However, the Lord’s body which was formed of natural substances from the womb of Mary was full of the hereditary evil tendencies of the human race. Through this infirm human the hells could approach and tempt the Lord during His life on earth. He combated them from His own power in His Divine Soul, and was victorious, subjugating them to His eternal control. He thus put off the infirm human nature from His mother, and glorified His Human by uniting it to the Divine which was His soul.

In states of glorification, then, He was Jehovah God Himself on earth, fully aware of all that His soul was doing. In states of temptation or exinanition, however, God appeared as someone separate from Him, and He was then not consciously aware of what His soul was doing. When He was fully glorified there was nothing left of the infirm human nature He had taken on in the womb of Mary. He was God-Man, Divine and Human, Emanuel, God with us. Thus He denied His mother from the cross.

The infant Jesus was born of a virgin so that He could become “God with us.” The purpose of His coming into the world was so that He could be in direct contact with people in the world forever after. How is He immediately present with us here today?

He is here in His Word, but His Word is not a book. Before He came into the world in His own Human, He was mediately present by means of a book. But now, the Word, which was in the beginning, which was with God, which was God, and by which all things were made, became flesh and dwelt among us (see John 1:lff). Jehovah God Almighty came into the world to manifest the true form of the Word the Divine Human. He came into the world to show His true nature in physical ultimates. He came into the world to become visible in His own Human form, which is Divine in Essence. He came into the world so that people could know and love Him as He really is, Divine and Human, Divinely Human. God is the one and only Divine Human Being. He is Divine Love in human form.

The form He is visible in today, the form in which He is immediately present with us today, is as Divine love in Human form. The book upon our altar, and the books upon our shelves, are not in Human form. He is not then immediately present and visible there. But when the contents of His Word have been brought into the forms of human minds and have been loved, thought about, and lived, His Divine love is then received and is immediately present in a visible human form.

When the Word becomes flesh and dwells within people like you and me, the speech and actions of our lives will manifest an image and likeness of the Lord’s Divine Human. The miracle of the virgin birth will be repeated in each one of us, and we “shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which being interpreted, is God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Amen.

Lessons:
Matt. 1:18-25; 2:1-16
Isaiah 9:1-7
AC 2568 (portions)


Arcana Coelestia 2568

[2] As regards man, it is one thing to regard the doctrine of faith from rational things and altogether another to regard rational things from the doctrine of faith. To regard the doctrine of faith from rational things is not to believe in the Word, or in the doctrine thence derived, until one is persuaded from rational things that it is so; whereas to regard rational things from the doctrine of faith is first to believe in the Word, or in the doctrine therefrom, and then to confirm the same by rational things.

[4] There are therefore two principles, one of which leads to all folly and insanity, and the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things or to say in the heart that we cannot believe them until we are convinced by what we can apprehend or perceive by the senses: this is the principle that leads to all folly and insanity, and is to be called the negative principle. The other principle is to affirm the things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within ourselves that they are true because the Lord has said them; this is the principle that leads to all intelligence and wisdom, and is to be called the affirmative principle.

[5] The more they who think from the negative principle consult things rational, the more they consult memory knowledges, and the more they consult things philosophical, the more do they cast and precipitate themselves into darkness, until at last they deny all things. The causes of this are that no one can apprehend higher things from lower ones, that is, spiritual and celestial things, still less Divine things, from lower ones, because they transcend all understanding, and moreover everything is then involved in negatives from that principle. On the other hand, they who think from an affirmative principle can confirm themselves by whatever things rational, by whatever memory knowledges, and whatever things philosophic they have at command; for all these are to them things confirmatory, and give them a fuller idea of the matter.

[6] Moreover, there are some who are in doubt before they deny, and there are some who are in doubt before they affirm. They who are in doubt before they deny are they who incline to a life of evil; and when this life carries them away, then insofar as they think of the matters in question, they deny them. But they who are in doubt before they affirm are they who incline to a life of good; and when they suffer themselves to be bent to this by the Lord, then insofar as they think about those things, so far they affirm.

LIVING CONFESSION

LIVING CONFESSION

A Sermon by Rev. Philip B. Schnarr Preached in Phoenix, Arizona. – August 17,1997

“Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins (Matt 3:5,6).”

In the Word, as it is written in the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we find the story of John the Baptist, or, as some translations say, John the Baptizer. John was a lone voice in a wilderness, in the wasteland of a devastated church. And he was called to prepare the way for the Messiah by crying out for the people of Palestine to repent. And many came. They came flocking to John’s baptism in the Jordan river from all over Judea, from Jerusalem and all the regions round about. And as they were being baptized by him in the Jordan, the Word says that they confessed their sins.

Our sermon this morning is on the subject of confessing sins. And we will consider some basic questions such as:

How are we to understand confession and where does it fit in with the process of repentance?

How important is it for us to openly declare the particulars of how we have sinned against the Lord?

What benefit is it for those of the New Church to practice various forms of confession?

Confession by itself has very little use unless we first see that it fits into a much bigger process. We cannot grasp its full place and power without seeing that it is essentially one of three main steps of repentance.

Now most Christians are familiar with the Lord’s teaching that repentance is an essential part of dealing with our evils. The Word teaches this plainly in many places. In Ezekiel (14:6) we read:

Thus says the Lord God ‘Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.

In Matthew (4:17) we read that Jesus as well as John preached:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

And in Luke (I 3:5):

Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

So it should come as no surprise that many people accept the need for some form of repentance. But “to turn away from evil” – which is the meaning of the word “repent” – means different things to different people.

Some believe that repentance simply means “penance” or “contrition” which is feeling sorry and penitent for our evils. When I asked some older children what they thought repentance was, that is exactly what they said. It is “sort of feeling sorry for your sins.”

Others believe that repentance means more than saying and feeling that we are sorry for our sins. They take it a step further and say we must show that we are sorry. This calls for making amends to those we have wronged wherever possible. Suppose we have cheated on our taxes, we would admit our guilt and make restitution. If we hurt our spouse with angry words we might apologize and then perhaps offer a gift to show that we are truly sorry. If we mistreat our children, perhaps we give them a treat to try to make up or “heal the wound.”

In some faiths, repentance also requires an act of self- mortification. In the time of the Israelites the sorrowful Israelite would clothe himself in sackcloth, place ashes on his head and then sit in the ashes (Matthew 11:21).

In the Writings for the New Church there is a more complete idea of repentance. While it does require we make ourselves guilty for our sins, there is much more to it than any external act of contrition or sorrow. And it’s more than making amends too.

Repentance, we are taught in the Writings is “the first of the Church” (TCR 510:2). In general it has three main steps. First comes self-examination, which involves recognizing our sins as transgressions against the Lord, and acknowledging to ourselves that they are a problem. The second is to confess our sins before the Lord and pray for His power and help to remove them. And lastly, step 3, comes the living of a new life – the ongoing effort to change our patterns of thinking and living (TCR 528-531). These three must all be present for actual repentance to take place. But for now let us look more closely at the second of these three steps, confession.

The first and foremost thing to remember about confession is that it is absolutely necessary for our salvation. The Writings for the New Church state unequivocally, “The person who wants to be saved must confess his sins, and do repentance” (AC 8387). Unless we are ready to admit our weaknesses and admit our guilt, that we have sinned against God and our fellow man, then we cannot receive the life of heaven that the Lord seeks to give to us.

Salvation is a state of being conjoined with the Lord in true love for Him and for our neighbor. How can this come to be unless we are willing to openly confess that we have worldly and selfish desires that are getting in the way.

Yes, confession is an important – no a vital – step forward in our spiritual life and it is a remarkable turning point for many people. It often means breaking through the silent fears that keep us from being honest with ourselves and others. Just listen to what the Psalmist said as he turned from his silence to confess his sin:

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
I acknowledge my sin to You.
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to you….

And now listen, listen to what follows after the Psalmist’s confession and prayer…

You shall surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32).

Songs of deliverance, yes the sweet melody of freedom will come to us too when we break the silence and admit our wrongdoing before the Lord. Evil thrives in silence. Many of the worst abuses happen in our society because people fear to break the grip of silence.

In this same silence we resist the acknowledgement that we must humble ourselves before the Lord not for His sake but for our own sake! We may even feel a twinge of anger that we are asked to be submissive to Divine authority. Our lower self resents the implication that there is a power greater than us.

But confession and daily prayer to the Lord for His help will bring a gradual change. If we make a habit of them, these two open us up to reveal how the hells are doing their work inside of us. And by exposing the hells, they lose some (not all but some) of their power.

We have all experienced this ourselves at one time or another. Whether we are dealing with external dependencies like smoking, caffeine, alcohol or with compulsive and harmful behaviors, the grip these things have over the mind is simply amazing. And when the time comes that we are ready to give up a dependency, whatever it is, when it has become really unmanageable and harmful to us, -a sincere confession to the Lord and perhaps to people we trust, can be part of the miracle of recovery. It can lift the burden and lead to a sense of freedom, freedom to change and to be changed.

Remember that John baptized in the Jordan River. The Jordan marks an entry point to the land of Canaan. The children of Israel, after 40 years of struggle, when they crossed the Jordan, had put the past behind them. They were finally free of the plagues of Egypt and the perils of the wilderness. In the same way, people came to John at the Jordan River to be washed, to be cleansed from their trespasses, and to begin a better life. And during their baptism they confessed their sins. They opened their hearts up to the Lord so that He could find a dwelling place with them.

But let us remember that the Jordan river was the boundary, a gateway to Canaan. And so it is with the washing of our spirits that comes from confession. It is also only a starting place. Confession is an entrance to spiritual life, but it should not be confused with heavenly life itself. Yes it can be a momentous turning point and entryway to the life of peace which in the Word is described as a promised land flowing with milk and honey. But we must resist the temptation to think that a mere oral confession of our guilt will purify us.

The truth is that purification only comes with patience and a ready willingness to acknowledge an evil whenever it surfaces. If we are patient we will be purified by the Lord indeed. But our evil affections are only gradually uprooted and replaced by good ones (cf AC 10236.2).

This devotion to ongoing effort is what makes our confessions to be living, to be from the heart, not just the lips. We know from much experience that changing our habits and our self-destructive patterns does not happen overnight.

We must also guard diligently lest we confess our sins to benefit our own reputation, or sense of self-satisfaction. This will only make real confession harder. We read, “mere lip- confession of being a sinner is not repentance, or the recounting of various particulars in regard to it” (TCR 529).

But how then should we confess? Is it something between us and the Lord alone? Or should we confess openly before others? Should we go to a priest? Should we confess to our spouses?

These are not easy questions and the Writings give us only a few specific guidelines about external forms of confession. It is obvious however, that our priority must be to the Lord. We read in the Arcana Coelestia “to confess our sins is to declare them before the Lord and admit that all good is from the Lord and all evil is from (him)self'(AC 3880.7).

It is true that the Lord knows all of our evils already. So we need not go to great lengths enumerating them. Still when we confess them sincerely, it puts us in a true relationship with Him as our God. He alone has the power to save us.

As to the methods of confession, it would seem that the Lord leaves that largely to a matter of conscience. The principles that must guide our conscience, however, are very clear. Confession of the lips and not at the same time of the heart is not a living confession and does more harm than good. From the Writings we read:

Interior confession is of the heart and comes forth in humiliation, and at the same time in the affection of good: but exterior confession is of the lips, and may possibly come forth in a feigned humiliation and a feigned affection of good, which is none at all.. (AC 2329).

To confess our sins from the heart before the Lord, a trusted person, perhaps our spouse, has been for many people a life changing experience. In The True Christian Religion we learn that we can gain relief from our sins by telling them to a priest. It can serve to lighten our burden and establish the habit of self-examination.(TCR 539e). Often a skilled counsellor can help us discover and express negative thoughts and feelings that come from hell but need to be observed and acknowledged for us to deal with them. And although nothing sets us free from our sins but resisting evils and living a life of faith (AC 8387- 8394), the Writings tell us that if we should feel freed from our sins after confessing them, this is not a bad thing. It can lead to good providing we refrain from that evil in the future (AC 3993. 10).

One thing is sure. Confession is good for the soul. True, living confession of the heart lightens our burdens. It helps us to see that all good is from the Lord and not ourselves. It changes the direction of our thinking so that when we make mistakes, when we fall down, and when our minds wander into angry, resentful and unkind thoughts we will be quick to be lifted up by the Lord.

Those who fail to acknowledge their sins through regular confession and self-examination find repentance in this world and the next to be a distasteful and difficult exercise (TCR 561-2).

Confessing our sins, like admitting our mistakes, is hard for many of us. But once begun, the task gets easier. What has seemed to be a burden can become a refreshing way of putting the past behind us and beginning a new life. Let us be fearless as we go before the Lord in humility, asking Him to have mercy upon us, to blot out our transgressions, to wash us and make us clean, to create in us a clean heart and to give us the joy of His salvation (cf Ps 5 1). Amen,


Lessons: Psalm 51:1-13; Matthew 3:1-11; TCR 539; Lord 17.

Psalms 51

1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Matthew 3

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

True Christian Religion

539. There are two duties incumbent on man, to be done after examination, namely, supplication and confession. The supplication should be that the Lord may be merciful, that He may give power to resist the evils that have been repented of and that He will provide inclination and affection for doing good,

Since apart from the Lord man can do nothing (John 15:5).

The confession will be that be sees, recognizes, and acknowledges his evils, and finds himself to be a miserable sinner. There is no need for man to enumerate his sins before the Lord, nor to supplicate forgiveness of them. He need not enumerate them, because he has searched them out and seen them in himself, and consequently they are present to the Lord because they are present to himself. Moreover, the Lord led him to search them out, disclosed them, and inspired grief for them, and together with this an effort to refrain from them and begin a new life. Supplication need not be made to the Lord for forgiveness of sins, for the following reasons: First, because sins are not abolished, but removed; and they are removed so far as man continues to refrain from them and enters upon a new life; for there are innumerable lusts inherent, coiled up as it were, in every evil, and they cannot be put away instantly, but only gradually, as man permits himself to be reformed and regenerated. The second reason is, that as the Lord is mercy itself, He forgives all men their sins, nor does He impute a single sin to any one, for He says, “They know not what they do.” Nevertheless, the sins are not thereby taken away; for to Peter asking how often he should forgive his brother’s trespasses, whether he should do so seven times, the Lord said:-

I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21-22). What, then, will not the Lord do? Still it does no harm for one burdened in conscience to enumerate his sins before a minister of the church, in order to lighten his burden and obtain absolution; because he is thereby initiated into a habit of examining himself, and reflecting upon each day’s evils. But this kind of confession is natural, while that described above is spiritual.

Lord

17. Something shall now be said of what is meant by taking away sins. To take away sins means the same as to redeem man, and to save him; for the Lord came into the world to render salvation possible to man. Without His advent no mortal could have been reformed and regenerated, and so saved. But this became possible after the Lord had deprived the devil (that is, hell) of all his power; and had glorified His Human, that is, had united it to the Divine of His Father. If these things had not been done, no man would have been capable of permanently receiving any Divine truth, still less any Divine good; for the devil, whose power was previously the stronger, would have plucked it out of his heart. [2] From what has been said it is evident that the Lord did not take away sins by the passion of the cross; but that He takes them away, that is, removes them, in those who believe in Him by living according to His commandments; as He also teaches in Matthew:–

Think not that I am come to loosen the law and the prophets. Whosoever shall loosen the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens (5:17, 19). [3] Who cannot see from reason alone, provided he is in some enlightenment, that sins cannot be taken away from a man except by actual repentance, which consists in his seeing his sins, imploring the Lord’s help, and desisting from them? To see, believe, and teach otherwise, is not from the Word, nor from sound reason, but from cupidity and a depraved will, which are proper to man, and from this comes the debasement of his intelligence.

THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST

THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST

A Sermon by Rev Grant R. Schnarr March 3, 1997

Our idea of God is the most important concept we can have. Our spiritual lives are based on this concept. Our spiritual destiny, including our home in the other world, is formed by our view of God. Every aspect of our eternal life revolves around our understanding and our relationship with our Maker.

Developing a true and working concept of God, though, can be a challenge. We bring our own conceptions and misconceptions to this image. Historically, humans have perverted or destroyed the picture of God over and over again, and have used a twisted understanding of God and His will to do many twisted things. The Spanish Inquisition, Hitler, and others claimed to worship the Lord, and performed hurtful deeds in the name of the Lord. People can make up their own God to suit their own bias rather than worship the true God.

Culture and the times can be biased against a true picture of God. For instance, God the judge might be popular at times, or the punisher, the warrior, or a remote and uncaring ruler. Or the opposite kind of God can be held up as an ideal: the ineffective, permissive, enabling, anything-goes God, weak and unable to lead or effect change in the world. The discussion of gender in relation to God is a good example of the struggle between cultural bias on every side of the issue and a struggle to understand revelation.

In the past history of the Christian Church, truth has certainly taken precedence over good. The Writings tell us that a faith-alone world developed, where good did not count for much, if anything. A natural outcome was that the world became perceived as a male’s world, and even as good was suppressed and put down as nothing, so were women treated the same. In a faith-alone culture, male attributes have been held up as an ideal, and it can be argued that even much of the feminist movement in the western world in the past quarter century has made the mistake of joining that illusion rather than dispersing it. This has caused deep wounds in many, and is not to be taken lightly or overlooked as an oddity. When love, perception, gentleness, and nurturing are looked upon as second-rate feelings, many of them to be shunned, those who excel in these areas receive the constant message that they are not good enough, that they do not count. From a truth-dominated culture a false concept of God is created, a static God firmly entrenched in a groundwork of rules seemingly unconnected to life. God becomes a judge whose favor limits the variety of the human race to those few who hold the correct set of ideas, and who punishes those who do not. God can seem to become a distant Father who is never home, or who arrives home on Sundays to lecture and scold, only to disappear again Monday morning. What would it be like to have nothing at all in common with this God and be told that this is the true God and that you must worship Him? Cultural bias affects not only our view of God, but our lives, and the wounds caused by false doctrines presenting false gods are real.

And so it is that the Heavenly Doctrines come into the world to bring back the balance between truth and good, to honor both sexes in their own right, and to offer everyone with an open mind a visible image of God in a Divinely Human form for what is actually the first time in religious history. (Read TCR 787 and following.) The Writings call upon society to rethink the entire picture of religion, the entire concept of God. They present a radically different concept where love and wisdom both reign in the Divine and in life. The Writings say “no” to a truth-alone world, and firmly present the marriage of truth and good in use as the essence of perfection (see DLW 28-33).

However, while acknowledging the wounds created by false doctrines of the past, how do we form a true picture of the Lord which reflects all of humanity without bias from past or present culture? How do we begin to heal the wounds that many have felt by cultural misconceptions of God, and at the same time not create more wounds by creating more misconceptions? We want to see God through our own eyes, but how do we do this without creating God with our own hands, in our own image?

Wounds heal over time, and there is no quick solution, but there are answers to all of life’s questions that can help heal. The Writings are called the leaves of the Tree of Life for the healing of the nations. Revelation from God is the source of healing if one will approach it and accept it. Revelation was given to guide us to an ever-growing understanding of the Lord. Revelation presents a picture of the Lord, a living picture, and through this window into eternity we can behold the face of our Creator and see our own face reflected therein.

What does revelation teach us? More than we can learn in a lifetime. Truth from the Word is infinite, but we can take a few principles and apply them to begin to build a healthy and genuine concept of God.

First, the Heavenly Doctrines teach us to look to our Maker from essence to person, and not from person to essence. This is an important teaching to help us approach our Maker. “Everyone who thinks of God from person only,” the Writings say, “and not essence is thinking materially. For instance, a person who thinks of the neighbor from the form only and not the quality is thinking materially . . . . Think of God from essence, and from that of His person, and do not think of His person and from that of His essence. For to think of His essence from person is to think materially of the essence also; but to think of His person from essence is to think spiritually of His person” (AR 611:7).

Thinking of God from person to essence is not helpful to us. Looking at the Lord’s material body from a corporeal point of view and translating that into the essence of God is not helpful. In modern terms, getting “hung up” on the physical form of the Lord while He was on earth, and allowing the physical form of the Lord to dictate how we think of the essence, is not helpful. An example of this would be statements that say the essence of God is male or female. That is thinking of God from person to essence. God is the I AM. While He is the origin of gender, God in essence is above gender. To attribute qualities of creation to the Uncreated is like calling the potter “clay.”

But that does not mean that all attributes of what we call humanity are not from the Divine. Of course they are, and that is why every human being, whether white, yellow, black, male, female, disadvantaged, disabled or healthy and whole can approach and be conjoined with the Lord.

But this is accomplished by approaching the Lord from essence to person. Through a recognition of the all-encompassing God, the all-loving, all-wise, ever-creating, ever-nurturing Force from whom all people and things come, we look to the Divine Human. We see these infinite and Divine qualities in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this, we allow the invisible God to be visible, as the Writings say, in the air or on the sea with His arms opened inviting us into His embrace (see TCR 787). This is how conjunction with God takes place, through the visible, tangible, lovable, approachable Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word.

But we are to worship Him as the Lord Jesus Christ and no other. To worship Divine attributes by any other name is to make God invisible. The Writings tell us: “As to His Divine Human the Lord is the Mediator, and no one can come to the Divine Being itself within the Lord, called the Father, except through the Son, that is, the Divine Human . . . . Thus the Lord as to His Divine Human is the actual joining together. And if people cannot do this in thought, how can they be joined to the Divine itself in love?” (AC 6804:4)

The Writings go on to say, “He was pleased to take upon Himself human form, and thus to allow people to approach Him . . . . It is this Human which is called the Son of God, and this it is which mediates. . . . This is why the Son of God, meaning the Human of God . . . is called the Savior, and on earth Jesus, which means salvation” (TCR 135:4).

And so the Lord said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known the Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6-7).

The invisible soul of God is at once revealed and made manifest in His own Humanity, now revealed in His Word and proclaimed to us in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord God Jesus Christ.

Can we see the essence of God within His person? Can we allow God to be both Divine and Human? The image of the Divine Human is a blessing to those who long to understand and be conjoined with the Lord. A newcomer to the church once said, “When I was young I heard about God, the great and powerful Almighty. He clapped His hands, the thunders roared. He batted His eyes, the lightning flashed. Boom! God? God scared me. But when I read in the Writings that this gentle shepherd named Jesus, who called Himself a lamb, who held the children, healed the sick, and taught so many loving things, that this man was God, well, that did it for me.” The question might be asked, “What does it do for you?”

The image of the Lord Jesus Christ as it appears in the Gospels and as it is explained in the Heavenly Doctrines is given to the human race to bring conjunction with the Divine, the true Divine, and with that, healing. Although it is no doubt difficult for some, because of real abuse of false doctrines in the past, approaching this image as presented in the Word will bring healing. This image when viewed from essence to person can be infilled with a variety of descriptions from the Word, which represent every aspect of humanity. Jesus does bless the children, heal the sick, feed thousands of hungry mouths, cry for His people, and call each of us to arms of love and compassion. He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He cries out to a church that has gone astray in faith alone. He says and listen to His words “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matt. 23:37-39).

Can we say these words? Can we see our Lord and Savior as all-encompassing, containing the source of all that is human and Divine? And can we worship Him as He has revealed Himself in His own Word? Then we will truly be able to see Him, and say with full hearts, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

What is the essential message of the New Church? Is it that God is inaccessible to some people for no fault of their own? Is the message that if you have a hard time picturing God that you should give up and go somewhere else? The answer is “No!” Is the message of the New Church that anything goes you can make up your own God here, in any fashion you choose? The answer is “No!”

The message of the New Church is clear in the Writings, preached by the lips of the apostles themselves, and held as a hope for all people everywhere, from whatever background or origin, so that they may be conjoined with their Creator. This message is for everyone, to be infilled by every individual in a way that she or he must, in order to see and feel what it means to them. The message is that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, and His Kingdom shall be forever and ever. Blessed are they who come to the marriage supper of the Lamb (see TCR 791). The Lord promises us: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to everyone according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). May our response be with open hearts and minds, and with joyful lips: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Lessons: Isaiah 42:1-9; John 14:1-11; AC 8705


Arcana Coelestia

8705. “And bring thou the words unto God.” That this signifies mediation and intercession is evident from the signification of “bringing the words unto God,” when said of the Divine truth, as being to mediate with the Divine Itself and to intercede, for he who mediates and intercedes brings the matters to Him who gives aid. Mediation and intercession are of the Divine truth, because this is nearest with the Divine good, which is the Lord Himself. That the Divine truth is nearest with the Divine good, which is the Lord, is because it proceeds immediately from Him. As the occasion offers, it shall here be told how the case is with the Lord’s mediation and intercession. They who believe that there are three Persons who constitute the Divine and who together are called one God, from the sense of the letter of the Word have no other idea of mediation and intercession than that the Lord sits at the right hand of His Father, and speaks with Him as man with man, and brings the supplications of men to the Father, and entreats that for His sake, because He suffered the cross for the human race, He may pardon them and have mercy. Such is the idea of intercession and mediation which every simple person has from the sense of the letter of the Word.

But be it known that the sense of the letter is according to the apprehension of simple men, in order that they may be introduced into interior truths themselves; for the simple cannot have any other idea of the heavenly kingdom than as of an earthly kingdom, nor any other idea of the Father than as of a king on the earth, and of the Lord than as of the son of a king who is the heir of the kingdom. That the simple have such an idea is plainly evident from the idea of the Lord’s apostles themselves about His kingdom; for at first they believed, like the rest of the Jews, that the Lord as the Messiah would be the greatest king upon the earth, and would raise them to a height of glory above all the nations and peoples on the whole globe. But when they heard from the Lord Himself that His kingdom is not on earth but in heaven, then neither could they think otherwise than that His kingdom in heaven is altogether like a kingdom on the earth. And therefore James and John asked that in His kingdom the one might sit on His right hand and the other on His left; and the rest of the apostles, who also wanted to become great in that kingdom, had indignation, and disputed among themselves which of them should be greatest there. And as such an idea cleaved to them and could not be rooted out, the Lord indeed said unto them that they should “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (see Mark x. 37, 41; Luke xxii. 24, 30; Matt. xix. 28); but they did not then know what the Lord meant by the “twelve thrones,” and by the “twelve tribes,” and by “judgment.”

From all this it can now be seen what the idea is, and whence it is, concerning the Lord’s mediation and intercession with the Father. But he who knows the interior things of the Word has a totally different notion about the Lord’s mediation and His intercession, namely, that He does not intercede as a son with a royal father on earth, but as the Lord of the universe with Himself, and as God of Himself, for the Father and He are not two, but are one, as He Himself teaches (John xiv. 811). He is called “Mediator” and “Intercessor,” because by “the Son” is meant the Divine truth, and by “the Father” the Divine good (see n. 2803, 2813, 3704), and mediation is effected through the Divine truth, because by means of it access is given to the Divine good; for the Divine good cannot be approached, because it is like the fire of the sun, but the Divine truth, because it is like the light therefrom, which gives to man’s sight, which is of faith, passage and access (n. 8644) . . . .

When the Lord was in the world, and before He was fully glorified, He was the Divine truth; wherefore at that time there was mediation, and He interceded with the Father, that is, with the Divine good itself (John xiv. 16, 17; xvii. 9, 15, 17). But after He was glorified as to the Human, He is called “Mediator and Intercession” for this reason, that no one can think of the Divine Itself unless he presents to himself the idea of a Divine Man; still less can any one be conjoined through love with the Divine Itself except by means of such an idea. If any one without the idea of a Divine Man thinks of the Divine Itself, he thinks indeterminately, and an indeterminate idea is no idea; or he conceives an idea of the Divine from the visible universe without an end, or with an end in obscurity, which idea conjoins itself with the idea of the worshipers of nature, and also falls into nature, and thus becomes no idea. From this it is evident that there would not be any conjunction with the Divine through faith, nor through love . . . .

Nevertheless, what is remarkable, all who think from themselves or from the flesh about God, think of Him indeterminately, that is without any determinate idea; whereas they who think of God not from themselves, nor from the flesh, but from the spirit, think about Him determinately, that is, they present to themselves an idea of the Divine under a human form. So the angels in heaven think of the Divine, and so the wise ancients thought, to whom also, when the Divine Itself appeared, it appeared as a Divine Man; for the Divine passing though heaven is a Divine Man. The reason is that heaven is a Grand Man, as has been shown at the end of many chapters. From all this it is evident of what sort are the intelligent of the world, and of what sort are the intelligent of heaven; namely, that the intelligent of the world remove from themselves the idea of the human; and consequently between their minds and the Divine there is no mediation, whence they have thick darkness whereas the intelligent of heaven have an idea of the Divine in the Human; thus the Lord is to them mediation, and consequently in their minds there is light.

THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES

THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES

A Sermon by Rev. Erik Sandstrom, Sr. Preached in Bryn Athyn May 7, 1989

“Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and tempting Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, “It will be fair weather, for the heaven is red”: and in the morning, “It will be foul weather today for the heaven is red and gloomy.” Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of heaven, but you cannot discern the signs of the times'” (Matt. 16:1-3).

There are full parallels between the Lord’s first and second advents. The reason is that the Lord always operates according to His Divine order, and that order, though accommodating itself to varying states of reception, never changes as to its own interior essence. The principles, therefore, are identical. But in viewing the applications to the two advents we need to make adjustments to the different times that prevailed in each case.

The following are some of the principles by which the Lord acted in both advents. Each time He came as the Divine truth, in which was His infinite love of salvation; each time He revealed His Human, in “glory” at His first advent and in “great glory” at His second (see John 1:14 and Matt. 24:3); each time He restored spiritual freedom (“The truth shall make you free” – John 8:32); each time a spiritual judgment followed: over the Jewish Church at the first advent, and over all the preceding church dispensations, but especially the Christian Church, at the second (see TCR 76063); each time a new heaven was set in order: the middle heaven at the first advent, and the ultimate heaven at the second (see LJ 46; cf. TCR 115, 116); and each time a new church was raised up: the Christian Church at the first advent, and the New Church, signified by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse, at the second.

And in a most comprehensive view the parallel is seen in the opening up of the Word interiorly in each advent, for it is in the Word that everything is revealed for the man of the church. About this we read in the Apocalypse Explained: “At the end of the Jewish Church, which was when the Lord came into the world, the Word was opened interiorly; for when the Lord was in the world He revealed interior Divine truths that were to be for the use of a new church about to be established by Him and that did serve that church. For like reasons the Word has been opened interiorly at this day, and still more interior Divine truths have been revealed therefrom for the use of a new church that will be called the New Jerusalem” (AE 948:2; see also AE 641:2, 3).

The words of our text, therefore, have an application to our day just as they did when the Lord spoke them while in the world: “You know how to discern the face of heaven, but cannot discern the signs of the times.” And again, at another time, when He put the matter in the form of an explicit rebuke: “How is it that you do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:56). This too is spoken to us as well.

The Writings tell us that the Lord meant His own coming – His own presence among them in the world – when He spoke of “the signs of the times” (AE 706:7). What the people witnessed was the most important event that had taken place in the history of the human race. And how was it that many, and first the leaders of the church, reasoned or looked the other way?

They had seen many miracles, but that was not enough for them. (Interestingly, the Writings note that “miracles are signs only to the good” – AE 706:6). So now they were still asking for a sign – that is, a sign that would indisputably convince them that the Lord was indeed the promised Messiah, the Son of God who was to come into the world. But such a sign would have silenced them only for a time, for it would not have affected or changed them interiorly; and affirming exteriorly while negating interiorly is to profane. The Lord therefore refused what they asked, and referred instead to all “the signs of the times,” adding, however, what was to be the greatest of all such signs, namely, “the sign of Jonah,” that is, His resurrection in glory on the third day.

John the Baptist had done his work, and the multitude had come to be baptized of him (see Luke 3:7), and had heard his warning: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Even then, therefore – even before they had witnessed the Lord’s own works and teaching – the people were “in expectation,” for, as we read: “All reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not” (Luke 3:15). John had taught and baptized; and the Lord Himself had given His whole sermon from the mount, and had taught many other things in groups and privately, all of His sayings having been supported by miracles such as had not been done since Moses and the legendary prophets. So there was a stirring from Jerusalem to Galilee. “How is it that you do not discern this time?”

And so, what of our day? Have we heard the voice of a John the Baptist? Yes, for the Writings show us that the Baptist represented the letter of the Word; and the letter of the Word has been preparing, and is preparing, for the Lord’s return among men – as the Spirit of Truth this time. It has described our times. It has said: “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and the rumors of wars … For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places … Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. … ‘And you will see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place … See, I have told you beforehand. … Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”‘ (Matt. 24:5-30). The letter has also asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

True, many particulars of what the Lord foretold concerning His coming could not have been understood in depth before their meaning was revealed. Yet what could be understood is that the Lord was speaking about a time of general turmoil in the world, when Christian love and charity would be scarce, and when the Son of Man would look sorrowfully for a living faith in Him. There are still temples in the Christian world, and people who go there, sometimes in great numbers, but the life of Christianity is such as is reflected in newspapers, magazines, and on television. Is there something wrong with the faith that cannot do better?

Moreover, there are those who do see. They wonder if things can really get any worse. Are they perhaps “in expectation?” They see how truly happy and harmonious marriages are scarce; how countless children grow up without the security of a home (including the many who have a bed inside four walls to come to); how sexual disorders are so commonplace that they have become socially accepted, and worse, how perversions which are perhaps meant in the Writings by “secret evils which are not to be named” (CL, 450, 459:5) are not only tolerated but are getting legal protection. And there are many other things – indolence rewarded, cheating and petty thefts becoming boasts, and what inside church walls can be recognized as “faith alone,” turning up in other places as declarations, and promises that are not even expected to be fulfilled.

Are there not “signs of the times” to be read by men and women of our day?

And happily there are those who read them. They are those who are troubled, and who perhaps in their hearts say something like: “How long, 0 Lord?” (Rev. 6:10).

We sometimes hear reference to a “silent majority” in the world. Possibly it would be more correct to speak of a “silent minority” – a minority, that is, of such as have retained in their heart a respect for the Divine, and from conscience say no to evil and seek to do what is good. At any rate, the Writings seem to indicate here and there that minority it is, as for instance in the case of a group of 300 learned who were gathered in the spiritual world and who were given the choice between “the way of wisdom” and “the way of folly.” It happened that only forty out of the 300 turned into “the way of wisdom” (Wisdom I:5). And Isaiah seems to say the same: “Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom; we would have been like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).

But small or not so small by proportion, out of five billion people this remnant would still constitute a sizeable number of men and women. Mostly silent (but not always) this remnant nevertheless serves as a feeble, yet not dead, conscience in the world. The Lord is present with it, flowing in with whatever light it can receive and with whatever strength it can hold. “A bruised reed He will not break,” says Isaiah, “and a smoking flax He will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). If it were not for this remnant, and if the mighty of the world were not afraid of what there is of conscience with people, it would be all over; there would be no restraint whatever of evil; and there would be no time for the truth of the Lord’s new revelation to find its way among those who secretly wait for it.

But the truth is not standing still. Though longsuffering, the Lord is also zealous; and He longs with the longing of Divine love to seek out and save those who would receive Him. The Heavenly Doctrines are spreading, not only through direct hearing and reading of them, but also through concepts taken from them and given out to others, with or without recognition of their origin, by means of literature or other forms of the arts, and by means of conversation. Such concepts hold within them some truths from heaven; and all truths, even if not strongly presented, bring the Lord’s presence with them wherever they go. Preparation is going on in our times.

But the Lord is asking thoughtful people, knowledgeable people, to discern even more than the many aspects of the “abomination of desolation” that abound around us. There is more to the parallel than we have observed already.

Bear in mind that when the Lord was answering the Pharisees and Sadducees He was challenging His hearers to recognize Him as the promised Messiah, Christ the Lord. He had been asked to show a sign from heaven to prove that He was indeed the Messiah, but He rebuked them for not seeing what good people were beginning to see. “Hypocrites! You look to the sky to predict the weather, but you do not sense the winds of change that cause people to be in expectation! How is it that “you cannot discern the signs of the times?” The Lord was among them, and He had preached and done many miracles.

Now the Writings are among us, and the hearsay from them is among many. Is there more that we can see than dissolved homes, unrest, and lawlessness?

The Writings tell us what the “evening” prediction of the weather means, and what the “morning” prediction. ‘Evening” was “the church laid waste with the Jews,” now the church laid waste with Christians. Saying in the evening, “It will be fair weather,” means a dusky state of no knowledge when they lulled themselves into the “fair weather” of “security in falsities from evil.” But the morning prediction of “foul weather” reflects the state when they did have daylight knowledge, but brought “foul weather” upon themselves by “denying and assaulting” the Messiah who was among them, and this from the same falsities of evil that formerly had given them such a sense of “security.”

“Falsities of evil” are confirmations in the church environment or political environment through pronouncements or legislation – confirmations of the evil of godlessness, spiritual lawlessness and various forms of adulteries, and also the acceptance of such confirmations by many of “the multitude.” We see these things happening in our day.

We see also how leaders and followers alike look the other way when the Writings speak to them, or how the doctrines are openly assaulted and derided. Our brief New Church history shows many instances of this.

It is significant that the same chapter that records the Lord’s reply to the Pharisees and Sadducees also tells of His question addressed to His own disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” And when they answered, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” He then persisted: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter then confessed Him as “the Christ – that is, the Messiah, the Son of the living God”; and it was this confession that brought upon Peter the happy words: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah” (Matt. 16:13-17).

Are the Writings the Lord’s own revelation in His second coming? “What do men say? “What do you say?” Peter’s reply was crucial to the establishment of the Christian Church. A like reply is now crucial to the raising up and spread of the New Christian Church, which is the New Jerusalem.

Through these Writings the Lord is saying, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

We ought to believe this – and go out and tell people. Amen.


Lessons: Isaiah 1:2-20, Matt. 16:1-17, AE 706:7, 8

Apocalypse Explained. 706:7, 8

In Matthew: “The Pharisees and the Sadducees, tempting, asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. He, answering, said to them, When it is evening ye say, It will be fair weather, for the heaven is red. And in the morning, There will be storm today for the heaven is red and gloomy. Ye hypocrites, ye know how to discern the face of heaven, but not the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous nation requireth a sign, but no sign shall be given unto it but the sign of the prophet Jonah” (16:1-4). Here too the “sign” asked from heaven means attestation that they might be persuaded and might believe that the Lord was the Son of God, although miracles were wrought that they did not call signs. The Lord then spoke of evening and of morning because “evening and morning” signifies the Lord’s coming; here it means when the church with the Jews was laid waste, who then had “fair weather” because they had no knowledge of the Lord and lived securely in falsities from evil; this is the “evening,” but when they knew Him, and because of falsities from evils in which they were, denied and assaulted Him, this is signified by “the morning when there is a storm.” This is why the Lord said, “Ye hypocrites, ye know how to discern the face of heaven but not the signs of the times,” that is, the Lord’s coming; and because they were “a wicked and adulterous nation,” that is, one that adulterated the Word, He said that “no sign should be given unto them.”

So again in Mark: “The Pharisees began to dispute with Jesus, seeking of Him a sign from heaven; and He, sighing in His spirit, said, Why doth this generation seek a sign. Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (8:11, 12). That a “sign” here signifies attestation by which they might plainly know, acknowledge, and believe, that the Lord was the Messiah and Son of God whom they expected from the predictions in the prophets is evident from this, that “sighing in spirit, He said, Why doth this generation seek a sign? Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation”; and this was because if this had been plainly revealed or told them from heaven, and if thus persuaded they had acknowledged and believed it, they would nevertheless have rejected it afterwards, and to reject after acknowledgment and faith is to profane, and the lot of profaners in hell is the worst of all.

THE MESSENGERS OF THE LORD OF HOSTS (The Priesthood)

THE MESSENGERS OF THE LORD OF HOSTS (The Priesthood)

A Sermon by Rev. Erik E. Sandstrom Cataloged May 4, 1997

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 2:7).

There have always been messengers of the Word of the Lord. At first, in the Most Ancient Church meant by Adam, the Lord spoke face to face, because there were as yet no angels (see SD 2591). After the first humans had died, however, they became the messengers of the Word. Revelation was thus continual, and the patriarch of each clan passed it on to the rest of the household; thus there was both direct revelation and instruction from the elders (see AE 799, AC 205). Everyone had a perception of the truth and delighted in doing what was good. This was the Golden Age.

With the fall of mankind, however, the perception of truth and seeing into heaven came to an end, and people had a conscience instead. The Word was for the first time committed to writing, which was invented for this purpose (see EU 115). Since angels were always used to dictate the Word to those who wrote it (see AR 959), it was consequently invested with an angelic meaning hidden within the literal text (see HH 254). That is why the Word of the Lord has such power (see SS 37).

Then the Lord Himself came on earth, the Word made flesh. He studied, then fulfilled the Old Testament stories (see AC 1461, Lord 11). For all His earthly life was spelled out in them (see AC 2523) as He said, “And beginning with Moses … He expounded in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:7). “You search the Scriptures, … they … testify of Me” (John 5:39). And the last prophet testifying of Him was John the Baptist.

John was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you” (Mal. 3:1). Malachi means “My angel” or “messenger” in Hebrew, just as angelos in Greek. John was that messenger. Of him the Lord said: “What did you go out in the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? … A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses …. A prophet? Yes, more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:7-9).

A “reed shaking in the wind” means the Word taken literally, “explained at anyone’s pleasure”; “soft clothing in kings’ houses” means the true spiritual sense of the Word in heaven (see AC 9372). “More than a prophet” means angelic wisdom which transcends human comprehension (Ibid.). It was this angelic wisdom or spiritual sense of the Word which the Lord came on earth to reveal, because it is “to be used in the worship of the Lord” (TCR 669).

But when the Lord came on earth, the literal text of the Word was as a “reed shaking in the wind.” He began to restore the Word from His own mouth. He also began to explain the “soft clothing of kings in heaven,” the internal heavenly meaning. No angel could now reveal this, so God Himself took on a body from the world to do it. We read: “The Human whereby God sent Himself into the world is called the Son of God” (TCR 92). God became His own messenger. He explains the truth about the Father and the Son: “All Mine are Thine. He who sees Me sees the Father. I and the Father are one.”

John prophesied this advent of heavenly wisdom, which is why he was “more than a prophet.” It is angelic wisdom given us also here on earth. For we all have a soul and body, and so we can say the same: “Everyone may say the same of his own soul and body, namely, All mine are thine, and thine are mine. You [the soul] are in me [the body] and I in you; he that sees me [the body] sees you [the soul]; we are one in person and in life …. All this makes clear that the Divine of the Father is the soul of the Son, and the Human of the Son is the body of the Father” (TCR 112:5).

That was why the voice saying “This is My beloved Son,” meaning the body, came from the Father or soul of Christ, and why the body cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” to the soul or Father. Christ therefore is God, as to both soul and body, in one Person: the Lord.

We can understand this since every human being has a soul and body, an internal and an external. Both the Word of God and also worship have an internal and an external.

The internal of worship is charity, which avoids, in the Lord’s name, doing any harm to the neighbor. This internal coheres with the external rituals of worship (see Charity 173), which are “formalities of internal worship” (AC 1175). For example, someone who loves good and accepts the truth (see AC 1326) freely adores the Lord (see AC 1947) with rituals; for unless you adore the Lord, there is no worship (see AC 1150).

Such is the internal of worship. That is why there is a commandment to remember the Sabbath day “to keep it holy.” Not that the Lord compels us to worship Him for His own sake. No. We read: “The Lord does not demand [adoration] for His own sake. He has no glory in it … ; but [it is] for the sake of man; … the Lord wills [adoration] for [man's] own sake … [so that] the Lord can flow in with heavenly good” (AC 5957).

This is the design of church services. That is why internal worship – love of good, accepting the truth and adoring the Lord – must have external ritual along with it. For, we read, although internals of worship can exist without externals, “it does not follow that there ought not to be external worship” (AC 1175). No, external rituals drawn from the Word (see SS 76) are necessary, for there is “nothing of the church in people unless the internals of the church are in the externals” (AC 4899).

A church would not be a church without rituals of worship. Internal adoration calls for external prayers and psalms of praise. But the aim of worship is life. The New Church doctrines explain: “The very worship of the Lord consists in performing uses, … discharging aright your duties in your station, and from the heart being of service to the neighbor” (AC 7038). So church worship begins by remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy, and finishes by keeping the rest of the commandments for the rest of the week.

Now which comes first, church or life? We read, “Regeneration is one thing, worship another; worship is according to the state of regeneration” (AC 10206). Thus we are not regenerated or reborn by worship; instead, our life qualifies our worship. And life can be a struggle.

The Lord began to explain these things too at His advent: “He who keeps My commandments, it is he who loves Me” (John 16). “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) These things seem plain, but He always spoke in parables so that His Word could conjoin angels and humans. These parables were misunderstood early on in Christian history (see TCR 378). The darkness that necessitated the advent returned. The Word became a “reed shaking in the wind,” and had to be fully explained in a second advent. This was prophesied: “I have yet many things to say unto you but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth … He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-14).

The Lord has made this second advent by another messenger’s giving the meaning of both testaments, in a revelation of Heavenly Doctrine: the Lord now “speaks plainly of the Father” (John 16:25). “Now it is permitted to understand the Word” (TCR 508). We can be instructed in what the Word truly means.

That is the primary use of Sunday – worship. So the Lord commands us to remember the Sabbath. Also “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It is not up to us to decide how to worship the Lord. The Lord teaches us how. For on the correct observance of the Sabbath day and honoring parents, we are told, depend all other commandments (see AE 965). Holy worship serves a purpose in and by itself, and when done sincerely, helps in how we live.

Church helps our life. And our life qualifies how we worship. Life is most important, for we are saved by how we live, not by how we worship. We therefore must control our externals of life before attending church. These are meant by a foot: “If you turn your foot away from the Sabbath day, … not doing your own ways …” (Isaiah 58:13). The externals are changed in honor of the internal. That is why it is a use to put aside our own ways and dress for worship. It is from the internal that externals have power (see AR 918). When both cohere in holy worship, there can be an “uplifting to the Lord by the Lord” (AC 10206).

Priests only administer the holy things of worship, which is why dignity and honor are due to priests (see NJHD 317). But the priest’s lips and seeking the law from his mouth means that it is the Divine truth that is the messenger, not any angel nor any priest (see AE 130:8 and PP). The messenger is “the truth of doctrine from the Lord [with those who] love Him” (AE 444:12).

The Divine truth, the truths of doctrine, are the real messengers or angels. Ministers therefore preach the Word so that what is “Divine may be among men” (Charity 130). They are good shepherds who teach the “truths of the church, and by their means lead [the flock] to the good of life” (NJHD 315). It is the truth that leads, not the priest. No priest can compel belief; no lay person may disrupt the church over belief (see NJHD 318). For it is the Divine truth itself that is the honored messenger of the Lord.

Thus we read: “The priesthood is not to be loved first of all and the church from it; but the goods and truths of the church are to be loved in the first place, and the priesthood loved for the church’s sake” (TCR 415).

That is why John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease. ” The message of Divine truth must increase, while all finite messengers take second place to it. Only those ordained may preach (see HH 226; cf. SD 4904). However, now there is rational light beaming from the doctrines of the New Church. Reading them gives light. Hearing gives light. The truths themselves are the messengers, not their angelic or human means. All honor and dignity are finally passed on to the Lord to whom alone they belong. He sent Himself into the world to be His own messenger. Thus we worship the Lord, the Son of Man, who “is Lord also of the Sabbath. “

The Sabbath serves its function: the truth heard on the Sabbath may be put to practice the rest of the week. Truth becomes good, the church becomes religion, and the human being becomes an angel. The priest’s lips keep knowledge, so we can all go out and see soft clothing in kings’ houses, understand all mysteries, and live by what the Lord says. Amen.

Lessons: Malachi 2:1,4-7, 3:1; Matthew 11:1-10; TCR 112:4,5; 415


True Christian Religion 112:4,5

From the passages quoted, take this one saying of the Lord, “Father, all Mine are Thine, and all Thine are Mine. ” What else does this mean than that the Divine of the Father belongs to the Human of the Son, and the Human of the Son to the Divine of the Father, consequently that in Christ, God is Man and Man is God, and thus that they are one as soul and body are one?

Every man may say the same of his own soul and body, namely, “All mine are thine, and all thine are mine; thou art in me and I in thee; he that seeth me seeth thee; we are one in person and in life.” This is because the soul is in the man, both in the whole and in every part of him, for the life of the soul is the life of the body, and between the two there is a mutuality. All this makes clear that the Divine of the Father is the soul of the Son, and the Human of the Son the body of the Father.

True Christian Religion 415

THE CHURCH IS THE NEIGHBOR WHO IS TO BE LOVED IN A STILL HIGHER DEGREE.

Since man was born for eternal life, and is introduced into it by the church, the church is to be loved as the neighbor in a higher degree, because it teaches the means which lead to eternal life and introduces man into it, leading to it by the truths of doctrine and introducing into it by goods of life. This does not mean that the priesthood should be loved in a higher degree and the church because of the priesthood, but it means that the good and truth of the church should be loved and the priesthood for the sake of these.

THE MOUTH OF THE LORD

THE MOUTH OF THE LORD

A Sermon by Rev. Erik E. Sandstrom Preached in Florida August 6, 1995

“For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Isaiah 40:5).

When the Lord God speaks, that is with us the Word of the Lord. We know that the Lord spoke both testaments. What else? Has the mouth of the Lord also spoken the Writings of the New Church? If so, the Writings themselves should say so. For the testaments testify of their Author, as the Lord said: “Search the Scriptures for … these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

If the Writings are the Word, they should also testify of their Author. So is the Lord their Author? We read: “I [Swedenborg] have not received anything whatever concerning the doctrines of the [New Church] from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I have read the Word” (TCR 779). “No spirit has dared, nor has any angel wished, to tell me anything, still less to instruct me about what is in the Word, or … doctrine from the Word. I have been taught by the Lord alone, who was revealed to me” (DP 135).

It is clear that the Lord dictated the Old Testament through the prophets as they said, “The Word of Jehovah came unto me, saying … “; and the New Testament through the Evangelist, but recalled later, as He said, “The Holy Spirit … will bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). And the Lord prophesied the Second Coming: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now … When the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12,13). And “Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).

There was clearly more to come. And now, in the Writings, more has come. If the Lord’s spirit of truth has spoken the New Church Writings, then they should be able to explain the truth about their Author; they should “speak plainly of the Father” (John 16:25). Do they? Do they explain the words such as, “O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5)?

Yes. The Lord’s essence is Love, the Divine Itself, called Father; and for the “sake of human comprehension … this is distinguished into Divine good and truth … The Divine truth is called Son” (AC 3704). However, this understanding was first stated around 450 A.D. in the Athanasian Creed which says: “As soul and body are one man, so God and Man are one Christ” (Lord 55). Just as our soul is embodied, so the Divine Love was embodied in the human, making one Christ. The Lord is God in person. It is as simple as that.

Thus “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” was Christ’s own soul talking, the Father seen at the time as a shining cloud (Matt. 17:5). And the words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” came from the crucified body wracked by temptations when the soul seemed absent. So the Lord is one God, both in Person and Essence; Father and Son are soul and body in Christ. And the Holy Spirit? The Lord breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). It is the spirit of truth from the mouth of the Risen Lord.

On earth the Lord spoke in parables, but in the Writings He speaks plainly of the Father. The parable “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) means plainly that Jehovah was His soul (AC 10579:5). Thus the Old Testament “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” through angels, in the New Testament became the Lord Himself saying, “Verily, verily I say unto you.” Those who heard Him, said, “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46) But still, He spoke in parables.

Now in the Writings He speaks plainly. But where is the Lord now? After His resurrection the Lord “became an essence by itself which fills the universal heaven, … the Divine Human” (AC 3061). He spoke the Writings to Swedenborg directly (see TCR 779, DP 135). For the risen Lord, we read, “is Doctrine Itself” (AC 5321). When He speaks out of heaven, His Doctrine is seen as a crystal city. The river in that city is knowledge of the internal sense of the Word.

The Lord as Doctrine Itself now explains how He formerly revealed the Old Testament: it was spoken by Jehovah through angels: “The Lord spoke the Word through [angels] … whom He filled with His look, and thus inspired with the words which they dictated … so it was not influx but dictation. And as the words came forth directly from the Lord, each one was filled with the Divine and contains within it an internal sense [for angels], while men understand them in a natural sense. Thus has the Lord conjoined heaven and the world by means of the Word” (HH 254).

This transflux used to flow through angels who dictated both Testaments:

First, events themselves happened under Providence, e.g. the Exodus (see AC 1675, 2523, 6025), or the spiritual eyes of the person were opened, e.g. Mary seeing Gabriel (see AR 36).

Second, there was Divine inspiration and recollection. Angels later recalled to Moses and dictated the record of the Exodus. Or Mary “pondered all these things in her heart,” and “a sword pierce[d] her heart [to reveal] the thoughts of many” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s account was re-worded to Luke later by angelic dictation.

The angel Gabriel was part of that transflux. But this “transflux ceased” with the glorification (AC 6371). There was no transflux through angels when the Lord revealed the Word’s internal sense. Instead, the Divine Human “our Father in the Heavens” (AC 6887:3) spoke the Writings directly from His mouth. We are now told how the two testaments were written.

There are two stages of revelation, the Writings say, which “are to be most carefully distinguished” (AR 36; cf. Lord 52). “When the Word came … [they] were in the body and heard Jehovah speaking. The Word … was not revealed in a state of the spirit or in vision, but was dictated … by the Lord by a living voice.” Thus no writing ever took place during vision, but only when it was over.

In fact, no one could write the Word while in vision, because everything is ineffable until dictated (see De Verbo 4). That is why angelic dictation of both testaments, once written, has an internal sense for the angels and a literal sense for men, conjoining heaven and the church (see HH 254).

However, the Writings of the New Church were not dictated by angels. We read, “No spirits dared, no angels wished” to say anything concerning the Word or doctrine” (DP 135). If came “from the Lord alone while I read the Word” (TCR 779). “The Lord has manifested Himself [to me] in Person, and filled [me] with His spirit” (TCR 779, title). Since the transflux whereby angels dictate “has ceased” (see AC 6371), angels can no longer dictate a spiritual sense within a literal sense.

Swedenborg established this fact by actual experiment: “Retaining in my memory what I had spoken, when I returned into my natural state … I then wished to bring it forth … and describe it, but I could not; it was impossible … There is no ratio” (De Verbo 4).

That is when angelic language is used. By contrast, when the Lord speaks directly, nothing is beyond expression. We read on: ” … yet they could be described even to their rational comprehension in terms of natural language … There is not any Divine arcana which may not be perceived, and even expressed naturally” (De Verbo 6). “Spiritual truths can be comprehended just as well as natural ones” (Faith 3). “The doctrine itself … for the New Church … was revealed to me out of heaven; … to deliver it is the purpose of this book” (NJHD 7). So the ineffable could be and was written.

It is therefore clear from the Writings that they are the Word which the Lord Himself has spoken out of heaven. Thus the Old Testament’s “The mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Isaiah 40:5) through the New Testament’s “verily verily I say to you,” is fulfilled in “from the Lord alone while I read the Word” (TCR 779). When the Writings say so often, “The case herein is this,” we can be sure it is the Lord Himself speaking.

Thus all of the Writings, whether published or not, were inspired by the Lord, not by angelic dictation, since that mode of revelation had ceased. Since no angels dictated them, they are the living Word of the Divine Human Himself. Only heaven’s language is ineffable, not its doctrine. The Lord who is Doctrine Itself put Heavenly Doctrine right into human terms through Swedenborg, but only after visions ceased. The Lord can speak to us since He took His whole glorified body with Him.

The Lord began this “plainly of the Father” revelation on the road to Emmaus and in Jerusalem, after His resurrection. He then ” … beginning at Moses and all the prophets, … expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself … He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27,45). But although He spoke comprehensible doctrine, or the Spirit of Truth even then, “they could not bear it,” and it was not recorded. Some 17 centuries later, through Swedenborg’s mind, the Lord finished revealing heavenly truths: what angels know in ineffable language has now been spoken directly and plainly by the Lord “our Father” “out of heaven.”

This second coming was prophesied as the New Jerusalem coming down “from God out of heaven.” We read, “John was carried to the third heaven, and his sight opened, before whom … the Lord’s New Church as to doctrine [appeared] in the form of a city” (AR 896). John’s Holy City thus is the Heavenly Doctrine, published “in this book” (NJHD 7). And the river of the water of life John saw flowing from the Lord’s throne is “the Apocalypse now opened and explained as to its spiritual sense, where Divine truths in abundance are revealed by the Lord for those who will be in His New Church, which is the New Jerusalem” (AR 932). The city and the river include all the Writings published from 1749 to 1771.

We are all invited to drink of that river: “Let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” This means “to receive the truths from the Lord without any work of his own” (AR 956). The work has been done for us all that exposition and writing thirty volumes, twice [a copy for the printer]! All we have to do is to read or listen, and the understanding of the truth carries us along, self-evidently, without any work of our own.

The New Church is a new dispensation; the Heavenly Doctrines are worded in rational terms to stand on their own, self-evidently. They shed new light on all areas of life. They reveal life after death. They show us how the church is to be established from pure and sound doctrine, which is understood and applied to life by the individual, who is a “particular church” (TCR 245). Since every area of worldly life has heavenly light shed on it, the Lord can now lead both angels and human beings together as a New Heaven and New Church on earth. This use is served by the New Church, and the open-eyed cooperation between both worlds is meant by the angel’s words to John: “I am your fellow servant … Worship God.” Amen.


Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-5; Rev. 22:6-10, 17; NJHD 7, De Verbo 4, 6; TCR 245 (portions)

De Verbo 4

The difference between the natural and the spiritual … is such that there is no ratio between them … This it has been given me to know by much experience, retaining in my memory what I had spoken to the angels when I returned into my natural state, I then wished to bring it forth … and describe it, but I could not; it was impossible; there were no expressions, nor even ideas of thought, by which I could express it; spiritual expressions [are] so remote from natural ideas and expressions that they did not approximate in the least …

De Verbo 6

[However, although] I could not utter nor describe them by any spiritual or celestial expression, nevertheless they could be described even to their rational comprehension by words of natural language. There is not any Divine arcana which may not be perceived, and even expressed naturally.

New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 7

The doctrine which is delivered in the following pages also is from heaven, because it is from the spiritual sense of the Word, and the spiritual sense of the Word is the same with the doctrine that is in heaven … But I proceed to the doctrine itself, which is for the New Church, and which is called Heavenly Doctrine, because it was revealed to me out of heaven; to deliver this doctrine is the design of the present book.

True Christian Religion 245

It is known that the church is in accordance with its doctrine, and that doctrine is from the Word; nevertheless it is not doctrine but soundness and purity of doctrine, consequently the understanding of the Word, that establishes the church. Neither is it doctrine, but a faith and life in accordance with doctrine that establishes and constitutes the special church in the individual man.

JOY IN THE COMING OF OUR LORD

JOY IN THE COMING OF OUR LORD

A Sermon by Rev. David C. Roth Cataloged May 4, 1997

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him …. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:2,10).

How often have we been in the same position as the wise men, or maybe the same situation as the shepherds? We are in a position similar to theirs when we are told of the Lord and the message of His Word. As He did for the wise men and the shepherds, the Lord has made Himself known to each of us in different ways, and now it is up to us to respond. Both the shepherds and the wise men were told in different ways about the coming of the Lord and then given guidance to that special place where the Lord chose to be born. Although both were present to see the newborn Savior, they received the message of the Lord’s birth in different ways.

Most likely each of us has a favorite story in relation to the Lord’s birth. We may even ask ourselves whether it was the wise men or the shepherds who responded in a more favorable way to the announcement of the Lord’s advent. But this question is not really very important when we realize that the essential observation is the one that points to the fact that both the wise men and the shepherds did respond. They both heeded the Lord’s call, but in different ways, each according to his own state – different states, yet states which were acceptable to the Lord. How can we then apply the responses of the wise men and shepherds to our own lives on this Christmas day? As we examine the stories of the shepherds and the wise men, the spiritual sense shows us clearly of their application to our lives.

The first thing, however, that we must understand is the importance of the Lord’s birth. Without His coming we could not be in freedom to be regenerated by Him. His coming has redeemed mankind; that is, He put the hells back where they belonged, put the heavens in order so that they could be safe from the attack of the hells, and began a new church where people could love the Lord and their neighbors (see TCR 86). By His birth and fulfilled life here on earth the Lord is now present with us fully and powerfully in His Word; we are not left alone. It was this message involving all this wonderful work to be done by the Lord which the shepherds were told of, and which the wise men sought to see fulfilled. As the angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). The message was clearly one to pay attention to, one to be happy about. A Savior had come, of whose kingdom there would be no end.

When we consider the call of the shepherds we see a unique response. The shepherds at this time of the year lived out in the fields with their sheep day and night, always keeping a watchful eye on their tender flocks. Perhaps we envision it being cold and dark, with the shepherds staying close to keep themselves warm. This is illustrative of the type of world into which the Lord was born – cold from the lack of charity and love, and dark because of the false understanding in which the world had engulfed its minds. Yet even in all this cold and darkness there were a few who possessed an innocence and a willingness to be led and taught by the Word. We can see this in the story of the shepherds. A shepherd represents one who teaches the truths and goods of faith. A good shepherd, that is, one that guards and protects his flock, shows us a picture of someone who is learning, protecting and storing up goods and truths. This is a picture of a basically good person, yet one who believes that life is his own, and that most power is from himself. He has been working hard to learn the truths of the Lord’s Word; however, he remains in a state of darkness as to how it all applies to his life, and how it leads him closer to the Lord and away from self. But with this learning of truth and innocent willingness the Lord is able to come to us and be born in our hearts.

The first thing which the appearing angel said to the shepherds was, “Fear not.” This represents a renewal of life, meaning that the Lord will create a new heart within us, a heart that acknowledges the Lord as our Savior and not ourselves. This actually can be a real cause for fear. We read, “For all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord” (AC 80). It can be a difficult and scary thing to give our life over to the care of the Lord when we feel so strongly that life is our own and that we have the power ourselves to conquer evil. When the Lord draws near, the result is temptation, and if we are good we will fear for the loss of good and truth. His nearer presence makes it feel as if we are losing what good and truth we have. But it is when we do follow the Lord, when we listen to the angel’s good tidings, that He can truly care for us. The manger in which the shepherds found the Lord represents spiritual nourishment. It is here in the presence of the Lord that we are nourished and instructed. The Lord does not lead us to Himself and then starve us; He will fill us to overflowing. The Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes means first truths, truths of innocence from the Lord’s Divine Love. When we come to the Lord He nourishes and instructs us in those things which will make us ready for His kingdom, a kingdom of innocence, love, and use.

After seeing the Babe, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 2:20). This response by the shepherds signifies a true confession and worship, which comes when we acknowledge in our hearts that there is nothing of good in ourselves, and that we can do nothing of ourselves – and, on the other hand, that all good is from the Lord, and that the Lord can do all things (see AC 1210). The Heavenly Doctrines say further of this response, “When man is in this acknowledgment he puts aside what is his own, which belongs to the love of self, and opens all things of his mind, and thus gives room for the Divine to flow in with good and with power” (AC 1210). The shepherds heard the Lord’s call and followed it. We can be like the shepherds ourselves when we make the same sort of acknowledgment regarding the power of the Lord. He will call us in His Word, but if we are looking to ourselves for strength we will not hear Him. We may celebrate the Lord’s advent, but not with the same conviction for the Lord as we would if we humbled ourselves and gave glory to the King of Glory.

From this beautiful picture of innocence as seen in the story of the shepherds we now turn to a different scenario: one of wisdom and perseverance – the story of the wise men. The wise men seemed to have a special quality about them. They knew about the advent of the Lord because they had a knowledge of the Word and its prophecies. We read concerning them, “The knowledge of correspondences survived among a number of the Orientals, even until the Lord’s Advent, as is evident from the wise men of the east who came to the Lord at His birth” (SS 23), “and that they knew of His Advent by a star which appeared to them in the east” (AC 10177).

It is interesting to think of the fact that those who were of the Jewish faith who had the Old Testament Word and who should have known that the Lord was to be born had no idea of it. When the wise men came and asked Herod, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” he had no answer but called the chief priests and scribes together to help. We can imagine that perhaps Herod was a bit embarrassed that he, the king, did not know this, as well as being jealous of this newborn King. The Word says that ” … he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ” Whatever the nature of the response, again it was quite indicative of the state of the Jewish Church at the time. Not only was their knowledge of the Word lacking and false but many, like Herod, had an all-out hatred for the Lord. This is plainly shown in Herod’s plot to kill the infant Lord, a plot which resulted in the slaying of thousands of innocent children in Bethlehem.

The Jews at this time, it seems, were not planning or looking for the Lord. And when they did find out that He had come, there was no room in their hearts nor their inns to greet Him. Yet, as with the shepherds, we see in the story of the wise men others who were ready for the Lord. But we observe a difference in their response to the Lord’s coming, the main difference being that the wise men were actively seeking out the Lord. They had seen His star in the east and had come to worship Him. They traveled a long distance to see the star that had come out of Jacob, the Scepter that had risen out of Israel, He who was to be born King of the Jews.

In the spiritual sense, the east represents love, and the star that went before them signifies knowledge from heaven (see AC 3762, SS 23). The wise men traveling eastward to the land of the east was representative of those who in their life are moving toward the good of faith. This, the Writings teach, is nothing else than charity toward the neighbor, or a life according to the Lord’s commandments (see AC 3249). In this spiritual picture we can see that it is the knowledges of good and truth found in the Lord’s Word, represented by the star, which guide us to a life of charity or love, that is, which guide us to the Lord Himself. This paints a beautiful picture for each of us. We see that it is through the learning of the Lord’s truths and commands that we can be led to Him.

Still, the most beautiful aspect of the wise men’s response to the Lord’s Advent is seen when they departed from Herod for Bethlehem and the star reappeared before them. “And behold the star which they had seen in the east went before them, til it came and stood over where the young Child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Exceeding great joy! What kind of a feeling did they have? It must have been an overwhelming feeling of excitement and internal peace over having embarked upon the last leg of the journey to their Savior, the star’s reappearing to assure them that the Lord was with them as they continued their trek. Can we ever have such feelings of great joy in our religious life? We certainly can, and we must! Talking to a person who has recently become aware of the wisdom and love found in the Heavenly Doctrines can certainly emanate exceeding great joy. Or a newly engaged or married couple show it to a certain degree. Perhaps we can even relate it to the expression a young child shows on Christmas morning. However, if we are raised in the New Church, do we lose this excitement, or never let it show? If we do, how can we regain this feeling or bring it out so that others can share it? One answer is to be like the wise men, to seek out the Lord in His Word and then come to Him when we see the star, that is, the knowledges from heaven contained in the Word. We may not find the Lord right away. Even the wise men thought they would find the Lord in Jerusalem, but He wasn’t there. They could have given up, but they asked others where He could be found. It is essential to talk to others about our beliefs and our quest for the Lord. They can add to our understanding and love for the Lord, and perhaps our picture then becomes clearer for us, which can eventually lead us to Him. Notice, the star showed itself again until it came and stood over where the young Child was. It led the wise men right to the Lord. We need the truths and goods represented by the star to lead us, and to keep leading us throughout life.

It is important to realize that truth will lead us to the Lord and make us happy, but the real joy for us in our spiritual lives will be when we come to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did. These gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were more than just earthly treasures. They represented testifications of the heart or will, the heart found in a person that is truly thankful for all that the Lord has done for him, and shows it by following His Word. These gifts represented things pleasing to God, because their origin is in love and faith toward Him – the love represented by gold, and our faith by the frankincense, and by myrrh is represented our love and faith grounded in things external, which is a life in obedience and love to the Lord and to our neighbor. These are the gifts which the Lord is asking us to bear on Christmas day and beyond. But more importantly to know, they are the gifts which He gives us and wills to give each of us when we respond to His coming. So on this Christmas day let us ask ourselves the following question with the earnest desire to find the answer: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Let us then search diligently for His star in the east and come to worship Him, that is, live a life of charity and faith in Him, because it is in this kind of a life where we too can share the vision of the shepherds and the excitement of the wise men. “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him … And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Amen.

Lessons: Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12; AE 661


Apocalypse Explained 661

“And shall send gifts one to another” signifies their consociation. This is evident from the signification of “to send gifts” as being to be consociated by love and friendship through good will; for gifts from such an affection and disposition bring together the well-disposed as well as the ill-disposed; here those are meant who are opposed to the goods of love and the truths of doctrine, which are signified by “the two witnesses” who were killed and cast forth into the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt. It is to be known that to the ill-disposed and wicked nothing is more delightful than to destroy the goods of love and the truths of doctrine wherever they are, and to do evil to those with whom these are; for such burn with hatred against these; consequently from the hell where such are, there continually breathes forth a deadly hatred against celestial love and spiritual faith, and therefore against heaven, and especially against the Lord Himself; and as often as they are permitted to do evil they are in the delight of their heart. Such is the brutal nature of those who are in hell. This, therefore, is what is meant by “they shall rejoice over them and shall be glad.” Moreover, the wicked enter into friendships and consociate themselves for doing harm to the well- disposed; they are consociated by the delight of hatred, which is the delight of their love; this makes them appear as if friends in heart when yet they are enemies. This, therefore, is the signification of “shall send gifts one to another.”

Because gifts captivate the mind and consociate, it was a custom in ancient times to give gifts to the priest and the prophet, as also to the prince and the king, when they were approached (I Sam. 9:7, 8); and it was also a statute that they should not appear empty (that is, without a gift) before Jehovah, but in their feasts everyone should bring a gift according as he had been blessed (Exod. 23:15; 34:20; Deut. 16:16, 17). So too: “The wise men from the east brought gifts to the Lord just born: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2: 1 1), according to the prediction in David (Psalm 72:10). So again: “The oblations upon the altar, which were sacrifices, and also the meal offerings and drink-offerings, were called gifts” (Isaiah 18:7; 57:6; 66:20; Zeph. 3: 10; Matt. 5:23, 24), and this because external gifts signified internal or spiritual gifts, namely, such as go forth from the heart, and thence are of the affection and faith; and as by these conjunction is effected, in the spiritual sense “gifts” in reference to God signify conjunction, and in reference to men consociation.