God the Redeemer

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (LUK 21:27,28)

  1. As we celebrate the Easter season, it is fitting that we reflect on the doctrine of the Lord.
    1. Last week, in the first of a series of three sermons on the subject of the Holy Trinity, we considered that aspect or quality of God which we call the “Father.”
      1. It was shown how the “Father” represents the Divine Itself, the Divine Love which is the source of all things in the universe, the love which creates and sustains all life, and the love for the salvation of the Human race which was embodied in Jesus Christ as the soul in the body.
      2. It is that embodiment of the Divine Love which we are to consider today. In the same way that we are unable to communicate love directly to one another, but must express it through words and actions, so God, who is in Himself Divine Love Itself, must but that love into some form so that it can be communicated to mankind.
  2. Main Body
    1. The Son Born From Eternity
      1. The former Christian Churches, when talking about the Trinity, refer to the Son born from Eternity. As it is their doctrine that there are three distinct persons who somehow are at the same time one person, they talk about the “Son,” Jesus Christ, as if He were always present in Heaven in the human form.
      2. However, in one sense the “Son” has existed from eternity. The Father is the Divine Love, and the Son is the Divine Truth, the form by which the Divine Love expresses itself, the means by which God communicates to the human race.
      3. The Word tells us that from the very beginning, God has made every effort to teach mankind what was expected of them if they were to prepare themselves for heaven. Throughout the Old Testament it is recorded that God appeared to many different men, and spoke to them. Sometimes He brought words of comfort, as when he promised Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation; sometimes He gave laws, as when spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai; and later in the history of the Jewish church, He often sent words of warning and a call to repentance through many different prophets.
      4. It is not difficult to look at the record of scripture and see that while the Lord was very close to mankind at the beginning (And [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….[GEN 3:8]), but that over time He became more distant. He appeared to Jacob only in dreams. The kings of Israel and Judah only heard Him speak through the prophets. Finally, there was the “Great Silence” where no one in Israel or Judah heard His voice for over 500 years until the angel appeared to Zacharius to announce that He was coming in person.
      5. Was it the Lord who had withdrawn from His people? Or was it that the people had become so immersed in the loves of self and the world that they retreated from the Lord, that they didn’t want to hear His voice, because they knew that He would want them to stop their evil ways — and they loved their evils.
      6. Of course, that is what had happened. The people had withdrawn so far into their own evils, hell had becomes such a strong influence in the world, that in order for the Divine Love to reach out and touch them, and save them, it had to accommodate itself to the extent of actually taking on the Human form. Literally, as John so succinctly said, the Word became flesh.
    2. The Jewish Church was a remnant of the Ancient Church
      1. It was a representative of a Church
        1. Because right from the beginning they were not interested in internal things
        2. In fact, because they denied that internal things even existed, but they had such reverence for the things of the world, the letter of the Word was protected by them, and they never even suspected the internal sense that lay hidden within, so it was safer with them than with any other people.
    3. Idolatry was always a problem with them
      1. Because of their Babylonian heritage
      2. Because they lived in the midst of it
      3. Because it was incredibly attractive
    4. They missed the point of scripture
      1. And so adulterated it
    5. The twin falsities of idolatry (the Lord) and falsity (the Word)
      1. Made them spiritually distant from God. In the spiritual world, space and time are not fixed as they are in the world of nature. There, distance is a function of love. We use the concept whenever we say that someone is a “close” friend. We don’t mean that he is nearby, we mean that he shares many of our affections and ideas — he enjoys the same things that we enjoy.
      2. It is a principle of spiritual association that the Infinite cannot be conjoined with what is finite. That means that the Lord cannot really every be conjoined with a human being. On the other hand, He has created us in such a way that we can, if we choose, learn truth from the Word, and through conscientious effort, come to love it. If this happens, then we have made good and truth our own. Good and truth are from and of the Lord, and He can then conjoin Himself with those things that are His in us.
      3. What this means is that the more truth we learn from the Word, and the more we love to be useful in this world, the closer the Lord can draw near to us. By the same token, the more we choose to pervert the truth to our own agenda, the more we choose to do things that benefit only ourselves, the farther we push Him away from us. Our relationship, our closeness to the Lord is determined by the choices we make during our lives in this world.
    6. The World of Spirits was filling up with people who appeared innocent
      1. But inwardly were evil
      2. There were so many that they became like an invading army
      3. The spiritual spheres were overwhelming
      4. Made it necessary for the Lord to come into the world to restore the truth
    7. The sphere of evil became so powerful that the eternal life of everyone was at risk
  3. In Luke 21 the Lord answered their question as to what would be the sign that the coming judgment on the Church was about to take place.
    1. He described all kinds of wars and natural disasters, and ended by saying that then He would be seen coming “in a cloud with power and great glory” (21:27) He then says that when these things happen, that people should lift up their heads, because “your redemption draws near.”
    2. What He has described is the first step in redemption. Redemption can be defined as restoring spiritual freedom to all people in the world by restraining and ordering the influences of hell.
    3. The first part of the lesson, the wars and disasters, is a description of the states of disorder in the spiritual world that made it necessary for the Lord to come into the world in the first place. As he admitted each hell into His person, there were great battles that were seen by those in the spiritual world as if armies of devils were attacking the spiritual Jerusalem.
    4. The second part then describes the ordering that will take place when the Lord conquers and through His presence and power restores spiritual order, when He conquers hell by His own power. The Word tells us that when the Lord appears, ready for battle, that we should lift up our heads and watch, for victory – redemption – is at hand.
    5. In the 24th chapter of Luke, we have a marvelous insight into what the Lord’s disciples thought about Him.
      1. Two of the disciples are walking together to Emmaus the day of the resurrection which they have only heard about from the women who went early to the tomb. The Lord joins them as they walk. They do not recognize Him, because he “restrained” their eyes, and He asks them why they are sad. They proceed to tell Him about the great prophet that had been crucified by the chief priests. They are upset about this because they “were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (24:21)
      2. The Lord’s response to them neatly ties redemption to glorification. They say that they wished He had been the redeemer and He answers “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (24:26) And then He went on to explain to them, opening the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing them the spiritual sense that lies within the letter, and teaching how that the only way that He could have Redeemed Israel was not through civil war or revolution, but by suffering temptations, even to that of the cross, and so drawing ever closer to the Divine within, eventually glorifying the Human so that it became one with the Divine Itself, the Father.
  4. . The Writings of the New Church teach that the Lord came into the world for two reasons: Redemption and Glorification.
    1. Redemption
      1. Just as the problem that caused the Lord to take on the Human developed over a long period, so redemption was not an instantaneous act, but a process that the Lord was engaged in throughout His entire life in the world.
      2. He came because the hells were overflowing into the world of spirits and even into heaven, creating a situation where people were no longer spiritually free. In order to save us, in order to return the human race to a circumstance where they would be spiritually free, the Lord had to met, be tempted by, and overcome every society of hell; He had to be tempted by every evil desire that men had ever conceived.
      3. Each time He overcame a temptation, another hell was brought back into order, and people in both the spiritual and natural worlds became a little more free. Finally, when He overcame the temptation to come down off the cross and instead allowed the human body to die, the process of redemption was completed, and we were saved because the hold of hell had been broken; we would only be led into evil if we ourselves wished it.
    2. Glorification
      1. Through the process of Redemption, the Lord also Glorified His human.
      2. As before said, in spiritual terms, “closeness” has to do with similarity of loves. Therefore, when the Lord took on the human form, He took on with it all the failings and frailties that were passed on to him through Mary’s heredity. These inclinations to evil made Him feel distant from the Divine Love within, the Father.
      3. He felt the same confusion we feel when what we are thinking about is very different from what we know we should be doing, or the anxiety we feel when faced with a difficult moral decision. It seems as if there are two sides to our minds, and they draw far apart as they fight over the course of action.
      4. It was in these times of confusion, when He was unsure about which form His love should best take, that He prayed to the Father as if to another, just as we, in times of trouble, ask ourselves, “What should I do?”
      5. Throughout His time in the world, He was fighting against and conquering the hells. As each of those hells were conquered, as each step in the process was completed, the Lord felt His power grow, felt His return to unity within Himself, until finally, with the temptation on the cross, there was no longer any hereditary inclinations to evil within Him: He had conquered them all, and there was no longer anything separating Him from the Divine within. Union was achieved. We call it glorification, for the Human which the Lord took on had been purified and made holy.
    3. Once again the Lord is the Word
      1. Having restored spiritual freedom, and having put off all those inclinations to evil that He inherited from the human body He received from Mary, He had accomplished what He set out to do.
      2. As He had been present with the human race by means of the Word of the Old Testament before the incarnation, so once again it was His intention to be present with His people by means of the Word, rather than in a physical form. And so, He inspired several of His disciples to write out the account of their experiences with Him so that others, like us, could share in the wonder of having God Himself walking among us and “opening the scriptures.” His presence with us now, as the internal sense of the Word, is the aspect or quality of the Divine that we call the Holy Spirit, and which will be the subject of the sermon in two weeks.

It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (ACT 1:7,8) Amen.

AC 1893 There are in every man an internal man, a rational man that is intermediate, and an external, which is properly called the natural man.

With the Lord these were represented by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the internal man by Abraham, the rational by Isaac, and the natural by Jacob.

The internal man in the Lord was Jehovah Himself, for He was conceived of Jehovah; on this account He so often called Him His “Father,” and in the Word He is called the “Only-begotten of God,” and the only “Son of God.”

[2] The Divine Rational itself is represented by Isaac; but the first rational before it was made Divine, by Ishmael; and therefore that “Sarai, Abram’s wife, did not bear unto him” here signifies that hitherto there was no Divine rational.

As before said, the Lord was born as are other men, and as regards all that He drew from Mary the mother He was like other men; and as the rational is formed by means of knowledges (scientifica et cognitiones), which enter through things of the external senses, or those of the external man, therefore His first rational was born as with any other man; but as by His own power He made Divine all the human things that appertained to Him, so did He also make the rational Divine. 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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