The End of the World As We Know It? The New Church Hope for the Future

Earth on Fire

Not what happened. Image copyright: rbv / 123RF Stock Photo

Is the world coming to an end? One of the most startling claims of the New Church is that the “end of the age” and the Last Judgment referred to throughout the New Testament do not refer to the destruction of the world, but are instead spiritual events that have already taken place. But if that’s the case, then just what IS the New Church’s hope for the future of life on planet earth?

What the Last Judgment did and did not accomplish.

Swedenborg wrote that the Last Judgment occurred entirely in the year 1757. If you’ve looked outside lately, you’ve probably noticed that the sky has not rolled up like a scroll, that the earth has not been consumed by fire, and that the righteous are not living in a giant golden city. So what happened? According to New Church theology, the judgment was a spiritual event – a revelation, a making-clear, of the hypocrisy and evil that had come to dominate Christianity by the eighteenth century, which led to a re-ordering of heaven and hell. Because all human thought stems from spiritual reality, that spiritual judgment brought about a change in the human spirit:

“People in the church will henceforward have more freedom in thinking about matters of faith, and so about the spiritual matters which have to do with heaven, because of the restoration of spiritual freedom. For now everything in the heavens and the hells has been restored to order, and it is from there that all thought is influenced about Divine matters or against them.” (Last Judgment §73)

The effects of the spiritual last judgment have been gradual, and will probably continue to be so.

The changes that happened in 1757 weren’t immediately visible:

The future state of the world will be exactly the same as it has been up to now; for the mighty change which has taken place in the spiritual world does not cause any change in the external appearance of the natural world. So just as before there will be politics, peace-treaties, alliances and wars, and all the other general and particular features of society….  (Last Judgment §73).

While there may not have been immediate visible effects in 1757, I’d argue that in retrospect it’s fairly clear that a world began to end in the 18th century. The world of Christendom, where nationality and identity and religion were inextricably intertwined, has largely collapsed, and in the Western world at least, religion is seen even by the most devout as an individual choice. There are upsides and downsides to this, but I think at least it’s evident that we are living in a new age.

As a pessimist by nature, I tend to focus on the downside – and I do believe that before something new arises in the world there will be a lot more falling apart (see, for example, the current political climate in the U.S.; my friend Joel Brown wrote a New Church Perspective article on this entitled “Things Fall Apart“). But there is also evidence already of new birth, new positive ideologies – an almost complete rejection among Christians of slavery, for example, and a challenging of male domination over women. But the changes have been gradual, and I expect them to continue to be so.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds, and neither does anyone else.

Even if change is gradual, I do expect change to continue. What will it look like? That I don’t know. And, I believe, neither does anyone else; Swedenborg testifies,

I had various talks with angels about the future state of the church. They said that they did not know what would happen, because the Lord alone knows the future. What they did know was that the servitude and captivity, in which people in the church have up to now been held, had been taken away, so that now through the restoration of freedom they could better perceive interior truths, if they wished to do so, and thus, if they wished, become interior people. But they said that they still had only faint hopes of the people in the Christian church, though much better hopes of a people far removed from the Christian world and sheltered from its attackers. (Last Judgment §74)

So, I have hopes and expectations and a general outline of where I think things are headed, but human freedom being what it is – I could be wrong. What I do trust to be true is that God will never stop creating new human beings, since infinite love can never have “enough” people to love.

There IS hope for a world of restored unity, and even a great decrease in war, natural disasters, and diseases.

Despite the fact that I don’t expect drastic overnight change, I do expect gradual movement in a positive direction. And if more and more people begin repenting of sin and turning to the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God, I expect there to be greater and greater unity in the world. There are prophecies of harmony and peace – that the “lion will lie down with the lamb,” that the law will be written on everyone’s heart – that, according to True Christian Religion, have yet to be fulfilled in the Church:

It is well known that these events did not take place in the previous churches. The reason is that they did not approach the visible God, whom all are to know. It is also because He is the Word, that is, the Law, which He will set in their midst and write upon their hearts. (True Christianity §789)

If and when that happens, I expect that to affect even physical things like diseases, because everything in the physical world is a manifestation of a spiritual reality. If by their choices, human beings give heaven more power than hell, even the physical world changes. People will still be in freedom to choose, but I believe we can return to the original plan – that God’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven,” that people in the physical world act as a body for the spirit of heaven.

“The love of Christ

Image result for jesus
“The love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, so that all those who live might live no longer to and for themselves, but to and for Him Who died and was raised again for their sake. Consequently, from now on we estimate and regard no one from a human point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-16a)

Jesus Christ: A Reflection,

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Truly Wise or Insane

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Selection from Interaction of Soul and Body ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The man who is affected with the love of wisdom is like the garden in Eden, in which there are two trees, the one of life, and the other of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life is the reception of love and wisdom from God, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the reception of them from self. The man who receives them in the latter fashion is insane, yet still believes himself to be wise like God; but he that receives them in the former method is truly wise, and believes no one to be wise but God alone, and that a man is wise so far as he believes this, and still more so as he feels that he wills it.
… All the angels of heaven turn the front of the head towards the Lord as a sun, and all the angels of hell turn the back of the head to Him. The latter receive influx into the affections of their will, which in themselves are lusts, and make the understanding favour them; but the former receive influx into the affections of their understanding, and make the will favour them; these, therefore, are in wisdom, but the others in insanity. For the human understanding dwells in the cerebrum, which is behind the forehead, and the will in the cerebellum, which is in the back of the head.

Who does not know that a man who is insane through falsities favours the lusts of his own evil, and confirms them by reasons drawn from the understanding; whereas a wise man sees from truths the character of the lusts of his own will, and restrains them? A wise man does this, because he turns his face to God, that is, he believes in God, and not in himself; but an insane man does the other, because he turns his face from God, that is, he believes in himself, and not in God. To believe in one’s self is to believe that one loves and is wise from self, and not from God, and this is signified by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; but to believe in God is to believe that one loves and is wise from God and not from self, and this is to eat of the tree of life — He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7).

(Interaction of Soul and Body 9:3-5)
 March 24, 2017

Why Personal Evil Flies Under The Radar

Christians admit—at least in principle—that we are all evil, and that we depend on the Lord God for our personal redemption. Therefore, when we the faithful, pray that God remove evil from the world, what is it that are we asking God to do?

Are we asking God to remove us from the world scene? I doubt it. Instead, we tend to do a lot of finger pointing. In reality we each see evil as something outside of us rather than within us. And we do this in spite of the Lord’s warning that we are not to “throw the first stone,” or “see the speck in someone else’s eye” (especially when there is a log in our own eye).

We all want change in the world but we seem to have lost our true focus on what needs to be changed.

In the famous words of the comic strip character Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Wars between countries are a natural extension of, and multiplication of, our personal and individual wars with other people. We war with our spouses, we war with our neighbors, we war with other communities, other states, and finally other nations.

Even within civility we can harbor inner hatred, jealousy and envy towards others.

How do these harmful tendencies fly safely under our personal radar and are never detected by us?

There are two big reasons.

One is religious. The other is the psychology behind self-centeredness. The religious doctrine of salvation by faith alone places almost no value on self-examination and our taking part in the salvation process. In fact, this ill-conceived doctrine puts Christians above the Law of the Commandments and personal responsibility. We are saved through mere belief and trust that the Lord died for our sins, not in our cleaning up our own act.

Self-centeredness also thwarts introspection. While spotting negative traits in others is easy–being a simple matter of observation, seeing these bad traits in oneself is limited to what his or her heart wishes the eyes to see. Seeing evil in others requires mere ocular vision but seeing our own harmful proclivities requires permission from one’s will.

Until we take ourselves to task, we have no real sense of our evil compulsions because they are only detected as pleasures. We derive pleasure from revenge and in dominating a situation. This “pleasure” of always coming out on top seduces our thinking and distracts our reflections.

This psycho-harlotry is what is actually meant by the term “whoredom” used in various stories of Holy Scripture. It is a spiritual condition that causes one to separate his or her faith from life—a condition where faith is not lived or put into action. Instead we prostitute ourselves for a false worldview.

To live one’s faith, one must sincerely love God and neighbor.

One cannot sincerely (inwardly) love God and neighbor unless one knows what is really going on in his or her heart. Only when we take inventory and make unflattering self-discoveries can the Lord God begin to help us. We have to give God a clue as to what we want changed in our lives.

Until then, true Religion will fly under the radar as well.

Posted on October 6, 2008by thegodguy

Posted in god, Inner growth, love, psychology, Reality, religion, spirituality, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Leave a comment

Quibbling about Parables

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Parable of the prodigal son.

I am having a spot of bother with parables – nothing serious, you understand; nothing to worry about. Some of them, however, do seem just a little dated.

There is that famous puzzle about the workers in the vineyard, for example – enough to spark a general strike. And what about the story of the lost sheep? I wonder why the shepherd didn’t return to find the rest of his flock scattered over the wilderness. I am also concerned about the humble guest at the banquet: what was the poor fellow supposed to do if all the lowest places were already taken?

The parable of the talents is likewise hardly fair-play and could have turned out very badly: in a less favourable economic climate the investor could have been very glad to find at least part of his capital still intact. Sorry, but I think the whole story simply demonstrates that life is a risky business. I’m not entirely sure about the unforgiving servant either: he was, after all, desperately anxious to pay off his own debt and was prepared to go to any length to do so.

Then there is that strange yarn about a king trying to arrange a wedding feast, only to find that the guests all had prior engagements. The king’s reaction was, to put it mildly, a bit excessive, especially towards the fellow who eventually turned up inappropriately dressed.

But enough of my silly quibbles. The parables, I suggest, were never intended as watertight arguments. I imagine they were throw-away anecdotes delivered off-the-cuff. They make their points brilliantly. I can pick no holes in the parable of the sower, or the prodigal son, or the good Samaritan, or the man who built his house upon a rock.

There are others also that clearly reveal an inspired man speaking plainly to the people of his own time. It is perhaps tempting to reflect on what imagery Jesus might use today if he were speaking to us, now that insurance has softened so many of the blows that life throws at us.

Some scholars, however, would have us believe that there is much more to it than that. The Parables go much deeper, they say, and every word is filled with holy meaning for all time and beyond. One such writer was the prolific 18th century visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg.

He reckoned that this life is some sort of spiritual training ground – nothing very original there! But he went on to say that once established in the next world, our abiding character, for good or evil, is fully formed and thereafter unchangeable. If so, it is surely sensible to make the most of any flexibility this world may have to offer. We need to ‘invest’ in spiritual values while we have the opportunity and not stubbornly nurse our prejudices.

Anyway, that is Swedenborg’s slant on the parable of the talents. Where evil predominates any remnants of goodness will fall away. (i.e. “are given to the one who has ten talents.”) So the parables might all be interpreted as profound psycho-spiritual cameos.

Over the centuries parables have perhaps become shrouded in stifling holiness, but they were certainly never meant to be taken literally at all. It is a neat idea.

Copyright 2010 G Roland Smith