Judgment Upon the Church

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

  1. Last week we celebrated “New Church Day” the anniversary of the day when the Christian Heaven and the world of spirits were restored to complete order, when the evil of the love of dominion and the falsity of salvation by faith alone were finally purged from that world by the introduction of the doctrine of genuine truth from the Word.
    1. We’re told that this process began in 1747 with the publication of the first volumes of the Arcana Coelestia, and was completed on the 19th Day of June, 1770. On that day, the twelve disciples who had been with the Lord in the world were sent out throughout the whole spiritual world to proclaim the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages of ages. (TCR 791)
    2. In an attempt to improve our understanding of this incredibly important event in spiritual history, we are going to take a moment to examine the historical record of an earlier spiritual judgment.
      1. When Jesus Christ came into the world, His purpose was first to see if it was possible restore the Jewish Church.
        1. He was born as a Jew into a Jewish family.
        2. John the Baptist prepared the way for Him not by teaching a new doctrine, but by calling people to return to their religious roots, to literally and symbolically wash away their sins and return to obedience to the laws of Moses.
        3. Jesus Himself became a rabbi or teacher and went into the temples to teach the scriptures.
        4. He gave that church every chance He could to see and recognize the Messiah, and to follow Him into a restoration of the church.
          1. (Luke 13:6-9) He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. {7} “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ {8} “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. {9} ‘And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”
        5. The Lord worked hard to see if the Jewish Church could be led to bear fruit once again. Unfortunately, it could not, not because it was too far gone, but because its members were not willing to make the necessary changes in their own lives.
      2. In order to bring about the end of the Jewish Church and establish a new church in its place it was necessary for the Lord to allow them to symbolically treat Him in the same way that they had come to treat the Word itself.
        1. And by allowing that to happen, it thrust the disciples into a whole new level of thought as they struggled to apply the principles He had taught them to this new situation.
  2. The book of the Acts of the Apostles, by Luke
    1. Is called in the Writings a “good book for the church” because it reveals what these men when through and struggled with as they tried to adjust their thinking to comprehend for themselves what had happened, and to understand it so that they could teach and lead others.
    2. After the resurrection of Jesus, the focus of the new Christian Church was in Jerusalem, with Peter and John taking the lead among the disciples.
    3. Certain situations that the Lord handled relatively peacefully
      1. Peter, Stephen, and others take a much more aggressive stance, and attract more members, and also attract persecution.
      2. Their leadership was confirmed when they were responsible for several powerful miracles.
        1. They healed a man who had been lame from childhood.
        2. People began to show their support for the fledgling church by selling their homes and property and giving the money to the apostles. Then they expected to be supported from the common fund.
          1. The church began to struggle with administration problems related to collecting and distributing the money fairly.
          2. A couple sold their house and property but when they came to give the money to the disciples, they held some of the money back.
            1. Peter first challenged the husband, who lied, and at Peter’s word, he died.
            2. The wife came to Peter three hours later, and also lies about withholding some of the money from the sale. Also at Peter’s word, she falls down dead.
            3. These kind of events called a great deal of attention to Peter and John, and thousands of people became members of the church.
              1. Of course, this also attracted negative attention from the elders and chief priests, and there began to be a pattern of arrest and inquisition, although they were unable to punish them, or frighten them into silence. Instead, the church continued to grow.
  3. The disciples have polarized the church in Jerusalem, and violence is the result.
    1. Stephen was one of those who joined the church at this time. He was an effective preacher, and was soon arrested by the chief priests, and taken in for interrogation. The Jews, unwisely, allowed Stephen to speak.
    2. Stephen’s words to the leaders of the Jewish Church were a picture of the judgment that was taking place on that church at that moment, and by analogy, a picture of the judgment that was to come upon the Christian Church, and the judgment that will ours at the end of our natural life:
    3. (Acts 7:37 ff.) “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ {38} “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, {39} “whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, {40} “saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ {41} “And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

      {51} “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. {52} “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, {53} “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” {54} When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. {55} But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, {56} and said, “Look !I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” {57} Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; {58} and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” {60} Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

    4. (Acts 8:1-3) Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. {2} And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. {3} As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
  4. This is a picture of the judgment of the Jewish Church
    1. The events in the natural world could not take place until after the Lord’s resurrection.
      1. The events in the natural world mirror the events in the spiritual world.
      2. As we know from the doctrines, the disciples themselves were not fully aware of the spiritual nature of the Lord’s mission until after the resurrection, so too the ordering of the spiritual world could not begin in earnest until the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and resurrection was known in the spiritual world as well.
      3. We can imagine similar events happening in the spiritual world, especially in those places in the world of spirits where the Jews were gathered waiting for the judgment.
        1. Messengers bringing the truth to the gathered crowds, but they not receiving the word, but instead rioting, trying to harm the messenger.
          1. An important difference between the two worlds is that in the spiritual world, the messenger could come to no harm, while in the natural world, angry crowds often kill the bearer of bad news.
    2. Note the condemnation of the Jewish Church, especially how it is carefully and in detail pointed out that the Covenant was not kept.
      1. This judgment was not arbitrary or revengeful.
        1. It was to be shown clearly that from the very beginning the Jews had failed to keep the Covenant, and it was for that failure that they were being called to account.
  5. Evidence in the natural world of the effects of the last judgment on the Jewish Church.
    1. A revelation of the spiritual principles that would govern the things that would happen to the Christian heaven when the when the internal sense of the Word was finally revealed to them in the spiritual world.
    2. Each of us faces a judgment at the end of our natural life. What can we learn from this?
    3. Remember the rich man from the Lord’s parable in Luke 16, who represents the state of the Jewish church at the time the Lord was in the world.
      1. Suffering in hell, he begs that someone go back to warn his five brothers.
      2. Now, knowing what he knows, he believes that his brothers would listen to someone who had been to the spiritual world.
      3. He is told that the church has ignored Moses and the prophets, so they will also ignore one who rises from the dead.
    4. The Lord is describing how the church will respond to His own death and resurrection.
      1. He told them that the only sign He would give was that of the prophet Jonah – that he would die and live again on the third day.
        1. They had Moses, they had the prophets, one even rose from the dead to tell them about preparing themselves for spiritual life, and yet they turned away.
    5. We too have Moses: the Old Testament.
    6. We too have the prophets: The New Testament and the Writings.
    7. We too have seen the sign: Jesus rising from the dead by His own power on the third day.
    8. We too have one who has come from heaven to try to persuade us to live the life of charity and prepare ourselves for spiritual life: Emanuel Swedenborg.
    9. And now the responsibility for our own spiritual fate rests solidly on our own shoulders. The Lord has done all He can do and still preserve our freedom.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.



1st Lesson: Exo 32:15-20

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. {16} Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets. {17} And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” {18} But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear.” {19} So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. {20} Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Luke 16:19-31

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. {20} “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,

21} “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. {22} “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. {23} “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. {24} “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ {25} “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. {26} ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ {27} “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, {28} ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ {29} “Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ {30} “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ {31} “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” Amen.

3rd Lesson: SD 2387


I spake with those in heaven, concerning the state of spirits, or of the world of spirits, before the Lord’s advent into the world; that it had been of such a quality as was their the faith of men on earth, especially among the Jews, who were in knowledges, to wit, that many had been ignorant that there is a life after death. Very many openly denied it. The Pharisees who defended it were not such as were persuaded of the resurrection of the body, as appears from the Lord’s Word. Such were the spirits in the world of spirits before the advent of the Lord. I saw this firstly. Another point was, that they were wholly ignorant that Messiah was to come, in order to save them to eternity, in a kingdom that would last to eternity, but only that he would make them lords in the world, and thus they were ignorant the Lord would come, on account of the salvation of souls. Amen.

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