I Shall See Him, But Not Now

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, 11 December, 2005

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (GEN 3:15)

In the first chapters of Genesis, we learn the story of the earliest beginnings of the human race, for Adam and Eve are symbols that represent the qualities of the first beings who lived on earth and had immortal souls. The word “Adam” is a transliteration of the Hebrew “a-tham” which properly means “Man” or “Mankind.”

These most ancient people were different from us in several ways.

At first, they did not know evil. It could not have existed then, because the only things in the world at that time were there because God had created them, and God did not and could not have created evil. Because there was no evil in the world, those ancient people did not require any means to rise above their evil, so they were born with their will and understanding united as one.

If they heard something that was true, they immediately loved it and tried to do it. The very nature of their minds made it impossible for them to think one thing and do another.

Their choices were not between good and evil, as ours are, but between one good and another good – and therein lay the seeds of their destruction.

They were like the angels as to their minds and spirits, but they were like us as to their bodies. Some foods were more delicious than others, some sights more beautiful, some feelings more pleasant, and, enjoying those sensations, those people began to choose one good over another according to the sensual pleasure they would derive from it.

And in those circumstances, at that time, choosing a lesser good because it gave more personal pleasure was the same thing for them as choosing evil is for us, for it was turning away from God and towards self.

This is what is meant in the internal sense by the Woman being seduced by the serpent:

That this Most Ancient Church, represented by the woman, was overcome by the love of self, represented by the serpent.

As soon as this happened, the Lord foresaw that it must mean the end of the Most Ancient Church, for, as before said, those people had no means of rising above their evils because their will and understanding were united.

That church was doomed to suffocate in their own evils, represented by the Flood, and to give way to a new Church formed of a new kind of people, represented by Noah, whose will and understanding were separated so that they could desire to do evil, and yet know that they should not, and be able to refrain, to compel themselves to do what they knew to be right. (See AC2661:2, 4687:2)

The Lord also foresaw that the separation of the will and understanding by itself, although essential, would not be enough.

The Most Ancient Church had been in open communication with heaven, and so had been able to see God themselves – and still they had fallen away. He saw that this evil would, like a disease, have to run its full course before it could be defeated.

And He knew that He would have to meet it on its own terms in order to win the battle, that He would have to take on a physical human body and allow the evil to attack that body in the world before it could be brought under control.

And He knew that until that happened, the ultimate fate of the human race was in question.

Because the people of the Church represented by Noah would not have their will and understanding united, and therefore would not be able to be in open communication with heaven, the Lord provided a means for recording the doctrines of the church:

They were for the first time written down and so preserved for the Churches which were to follow.

In this way He sought to prepare men in the world for the great miracle of His birth on earth as Jesus Christ.

And the very first prophecy of His birth is found in God’s words to the serpent in Genesis 3:15, And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

The evils of self love, represented by the serpent, would bruise the heel of Christ, they would cause the death of His physical body, but His spirit could not be harmed, and when Christ raised Himself from the dead by His own power, the head of the serpent was crushed, for it would never again have such power over men in the world.

The Lord never does anything without warning and preparation, and so, as the prophecies and documents of the Old Testament were written, the writers were inspired to include certain passages which told of the Messiah to come.

No one prophecy gave a complete picture, but rather each one added a little something to the others so that even in the literal sense a fairly clear picture of the Messiah and His mission was painted.

The second major prophecy of the Lord’s Coming is also in the book of Genesis, but this time in the later, historical portion. The prophecy is contained in the blessing that Jacob gave to his fourth son, Judah.

After comparing Judah to a lion, Jacob said, The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people (GEN 49:10).

Throughout the Word, Judah represents the celestial kingdom, or love to the Lord. Therefore, this prophecy tells us that sovereignty, represented by the sceptre, would rest with the angels of the celestial heaven until such time as the Lord came into the world to restore order and peace. The tranquillity that would result from the Lord’s Coming is represented by “Shiloh” because it is derived from the Hebrew word which means “peace” and “tranquillity.”

The sovereignty of the celestial kingdom refers to the fact that until the Lord came into the world Himself, and took on His own human body, He had to present Himself to men in the world by means of a representative, called the “Angel of Jehovah.”

The Divine Itself dwells above the highest heaven, and no created human can bear Its direct presence. And yet it was necessary that the Lord speak to men from time to time, to teach them, and to give them the prophecies that would prepare them for His Coming. So the Lord would use the spiritual body of a celestial angel, putting the angel’s mind and personality to sleep for a time, and then bring the man whom He wished to speak to into the spiritual world by opening the senses of his spiritual body. In this way man and God could meet on a middle ground without harm to either.

Because the Lord used the angels of the celestial heaven in this way from time to time, it was said that He ruled through the celestial heaven, the sceptre was in Judah – but only until Shiloh would come. Once the Lord had been born into the world, and had made His own human form Divine by the process of glorification, all that power that had previously passed through the celestial heaven was now taken up directly by the Lord Himself in His Divine Human.

We are told that the angels of the celestial heaven still have great sovereignty now, but only in so far as they, like all other people, are in the Lord’s Divine Human through love to Him. (See AC6371, 1069:4, 6362, 6373)

The next major prophecy of the Lord’s Coming is found in the 24th Chapter of the book of Numbers, and it is a part of one of the blessings that Balaam, a prophet who held the secrets of the Ancient Church, pronounced upon the children of Israel.

Balaam had been called by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel and to drive them out of his land. Balaam was only permitted to go to the king of Moab on the condition that he say only what the Lord put into his mouth.

And so on four separate occasions, commanded by Balak to curse the children of Israel, Balaam spoke instead the blessings commanded by the Lord, and in so doing, revealed more about the time, place, and nature of the Lord’s Coming.

He said, I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult (NUM 24:17).

The first part of the prophecy, I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near, reaffirms the previous prophecies, and tells us that the promise will be kept, but not here, and not now, as the time is not yet right.

However, the second part of the prophecy balances this by promising a sign that will be unmistakable, and will also reveal both the time and place of His Coming: A Star shall come out of Jacob.

This prophecy may have in fact been a fragment of a fuller prophecy to the Ancient Church which is now lost, for we read in the Arcana that such a prophecy existed from of old among the sons of the east, who were from Syria (AC3762:5), and we also know that Balaam was one of the ‘sons of the east’ that is, he came from Syria where there was a remnant of the Ancient Church (AC1675:5).

The wise men also were ‘sons of the east,’ and their knowledge of the Ancient Word and the science of correspondences made it possible for them to know where and when to look for the Star that led them to the Lord.

Isaiah was privileged to receive some of the most specific and detailed prophecies of the Lord’s life on earth.

His earliest prophecy of the Lord’s Coming was given to king Ahaz of Judah. The circumstances were that King Rezin of Assyria, and King Pekah of Israel had joined forces and were together attacking Ahaz in Jerusalem. Isaiah came to him in this time of extreme difficulty and brought the word of the Lord that the lands of his enemies would, in time, be forsaken by both their kings, and that the promised Messiah was still to come.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that in order that King Ahaz might be assured that his enemies would be defeated, he was told to ask for a sign, that is, proof so that he might be assured of the Lord’s help. The Lord especially wanted to protect Jerusalem because He wished to go there Himself when He came into the world for the sake of the things that would be represented by His visits, and therefore, in spite of the fact that Ahaz was an evil king, his capitol city Jerusalem was to be saved, and Isaiah gave him the miraculous sign that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, whose name shall be God-with-us. (See AE706:15)

Finally, in one of the very latest prophecies of the Lord’s Coming, the prophet Micah tells us exactly where the Messiah would be born: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (MIC 5:2).

Bethlehem, a little village within the borders of Benjamin, was a good choice for the birthplace of the Lord for a number of geographic and political reasons.

The birthplace of Jacob and Rachel’s son Benjamin, and also King David, Bethlehem was conveniently near to Jerusalem.

The region itself was, from time to time, politically aligned with both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and for many years existed as a buffer zone between them.

Just as the child Benjamin was the pawn in the battle between his brothers Judah and Joseph, so the tribe of Benjamin became the buffer between Ephraim (the tribe descended from Joseph’s son) and Judah.

If you follow the history of Benjamin through the history of the Israelitish Church, you will see that tribe of Benjamin aligns itself sometimes with Israel, and at other times with Judah.

There is reason for this in the spiritual sense as well, for Judah represents those who are celestial, while Israel represents those who are spiritual.

Bethlehem itself represents the spiritual of the celestial within a new state. The reason the Lord was born there … was that He alone has been born a spiritual-celestial man. Everyone else has been born a natural man with the ability or capacity to become, through regeneration by the Lord, either celestial or spiritual.

The Lord was born a spiritual-celestial man to the end that He might make His Human Divine, doing so according to order from the lowest degree to the highest, and so would bring order to everything in the heavens and everything in the hells. For the spiritual of the celestial is an intermediate part between the natural or external man and the rational or internal man. (See AC4594)

In touching on these key prophecies of the Old Testament, we have tried to show that Lord foresaw from the very beginning that it would be necessary for Him to come into the world in a human form, and that from that time He began to prepare the way for that to happen in an orderly and timely fashion.

The various prophecies did not give such specific information that when the Lord was born there could be no doubt, for that would take away spiritual freedom. Rather, the prophecies provided confirmations so that the gospel writers, especially Matthew, could look back on these sayings of old, and in them see the careful preparation by the Lord, and so know that Jesus Christ was the Messiah as He said.

As we move into the Christmas season, let us reflect on the thousands of years of careful, orderly preparation made by the Lord for this event, and that it was all done for the sake of our spiritual lives.

And let us therefore prepare ourselves for the proper celebration of Christmas by thinking deeply about the effect of the Lord’s presence in our lives, and about what we can do to bring Him ever closer. AMEN.


First Lesson: GEN 3:1-15

(GEN 3:1-15) Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” {2} And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; {3} “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” {4} Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. {5} “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” {6} So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. {7} Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. {8} And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. {9} Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” {10} So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” {11} And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” {12} Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” {13} And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” {14} So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. {15} And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Amen.

Second Lesson: ISA 7:1-17

(Isa 7:1-17) Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it. {2} And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. {3} Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, {4} “and say to him: ‘Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah. {5} ‘Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, {6} “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel”; {7} ‘thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass. {8} For the head of Syria is Damascus, And the head of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken, So that it will not be a people. {9} The head of Ephraim is Samaria, And the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.”’ “ {10} Moreover the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, {11} “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” {12} But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” {13} Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? {14} “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. {15} “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. {16} “For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. {17} “The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house; days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AE 422:20

AE 422d. [20] In ancient times there was a church in many kingdoms of Asia, as in the land of Canaan, in Syria and Assyria, in Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chaldea, in Tyre and Sidon, and elsewhere; but the church with them was a representative church, for in all the particulars of their worship, and in every one of their statutes, spiritual and celestial things, which are the internals of the church, were represented, and in the highest sense the Lord Himself was represented. These representatives in worship and statutes remained with many even to the Lord’s coming, and thence there was a knowledge of His coming; as can be seen from the predictions of Balaam, who was from Syria, and who prophesied of the Lord in these words:-

 

I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not nigh; there shall arise a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. xxiv. 17).

That this knowledge was afterwards preserved is evident from this, that certain wise men from the east, when the Lord was born saw a star from the east, which they followed, which is thus described in Matthew:-

 

In the days of Herod the king wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him; and lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was (ii. 1,2,9).

The star appeared to those from the east because the Lord is the east; and because they had knowledge respecting the Lord’s coming from representatives that were with them, the star appeared and went before them, first to Jerusalem, which represented the church itself in respect to doctrine and in respect to the word, and from there to the place where the infant Lord lay. Moreover, a “star” signifies the knowledges of good and truth, and in the highest sense the knowledge respecting the Lord. Amen.

 


Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

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