A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida March 8, 1992

“And Jacob awoke out of his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it … This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:16,17).

Jacob’s awakening from sleep describes man’s emergence from a state of obscurity into a state of spiritual light. It is the dawn of a new spiritual day wherein the person clearly perceives, for the first time, the Lord’s living presence in His Word. “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” These words express the wonder of a person who has been reading the Word, either from habit or self-compulsion, and suddenly awakens to a realization of its inmost Divine quality: “This is none other than the house of God.” These words express the person’s realization that the Lord is fully present in the Word – it is His dwelling place. In the Word a person may come to know God, and through its truths be conjoined with Him. Therefore the words follow “this is the gate of heaven.” The Divine truths of revelation truly are the gateway to heaven.

People, unlike animals, are born entirely without knowledge. Animals. when born, know instinctively what is good for them. They are born with the knowledge required to satisfy their desires. Human beings, on the other hand, are completely ignorant at birth. People have innate loves or desires, but they do not have the knowledge necessary to satisfy them. The state of man’s mind at birth is described in the book of Genesis as being “without form, and void” (Gen. 1:2).

At first glance this may seem strange. Why should man – the highest order of creation – begin life lower than a brute animal? On the surface there may even appear to be something of unfairness in this circumstance. However, when we consider the purpose for which we were created, then the reason for this becomes more clear. We are created to live to eternity as angels of heaven. As angels we can be continually perfected in love and wisdom to all eternity.

The life of animals is circumscribed. They are born with certain desires and the requisite knowledge to satisfy them. They need and desire nothing more. We, on the other hand, are born without knowledge. But we are born with an innate love of knowledge and the capacity to receive and assimilate knowledge indefinitely. We are created with such a nature that we may be continually perfected in love and wisdom to all eternity. In this way the delight of living may also increase to eternity.

Due to the fact that we are not born into the order of our lives, nor into any knowledge, we need to be instructed. On the physical plane we must be taught what is good for us and what is harmful. By example and precept we must be taught to distinguish between good and evil. We have to be introduced into a knowledge of the Lord and a belief in Him as our Heavenly Father – our God.

But, as we well know, there is a great diversity of opinion on these matters. On the physical plane, for example, there are those who think that certain foods are good and healthful, while others believe them to be harmful. Many people have their own pet theories on how to cure a particular illness; and although many of the theories are contradictory, each person believes that the one he believes in is right.

As to what is good and what is evil, there is even greater diversity of opinion. Physical pleasures such as sports or dancing and recreations such as card playing are regarded by some people to be immoral. Others believe that these are useful recreations when properly controlled and subordinated. Some people regard profanity as a legitimate form of expression while others regard it as evil. Many people accept the Ten Commandments as being a reliable, God-given standard as to what is good and what is evil. Others regard them as irrelevant – an outmoded standard of a bygone age.

In regard to God, there are those who categorically deny His existence. Others say that there is a God but that God is a creative force – He is not a Man. Others, again, believe in a God who is one as to substance but tri-personal in form.

These examples serve to illustrate the fact that the faith of every child is, to a great extent, the product of the opinions of parents, teachers, and friends, and of one’s own experience. During infancy and childhood a person’s belief, or faith, is the faith of one’s parents entirely. As one advances to youth, the person’s faith is affected by, and combined with, the faith of one’s teachers and friends and those whom one idolizes. We see from this that there are different kinds of faith.

The Writings speak of the following: “(1) Infantile faith, adolescent faith, adult faith. (2) Faith in genuine truth and faith in appearances of truth. (3) Faith of the memory, faith of reason, faith of light. (4) Natural faith, spiritual faith, celestial faith. (5) Living faith and faith founded on miracle. (6) Free faith and forced faith” (TCR 344).

The faith of infancy is a blind, unquestioning faith. The infant believes everything it is told. Because its mind is only beginning to be formed, the young child cannot distinguish between reality and appearance. The child’s faith, of necessity, is a faith in appearances of truth. In infancy and childhood there is no real choice as to what will be believed; faith is therefore, at this stage, to a degree a forced faith.

But as the child advances into adolescence, the quality of one’s faith changes. Because the adolescent is dependent on parents and is compelled, for example, to go to school, faith is, to that degree, still forced. But because the youth has acquired a background of individual experience from which judgments are made, faith, in this state of life, also partakes of freedom.

The faith of the adolescent is a faith of the memory. By this time a person has acquired much knowledge. The adolescent is a veritable storehouse of information. The rational faculty is just beginning to open, and so there is very little of the element of reason in one’s faith at this stage of development. Because the rational faculty is as yet largely undeveloped, appearances of truth are accepted for genuine truths. For until the rational faculty is more fully developed, the sight of the understanding cannot penetrate appearances. The faith of the adolescent is best characterized as traditional or historical faith. Although one may question parents and teachers and dispute their judgment, nevertheless the things the person calls into question are relatively few compared to those which one accepts unquestioningly. There is also an element of the miraculous in the faith of adolescence. The youth is given to hero worship; at this stage one is easily impressed by the unusual and spectacular, and this also colors one’s faith. Because regeneration does not begin until maturity, adolescent faith is purely natural in character.

When a person passes from adolescence into adult life, one’s faith should take on a new quality. As an adult, the person is no longer subject to parents. The young adult decides what will be believed and what will not. The person’s faith becomes a free faith. Since the rational faculty is more fully developed, the person is capable, if he makes the effort, of penetrating appearances and seeing genuine truths. The young adult’s faith should no longer be traditional, but should be a faith of reason and insight. As an adult, one should accept responsibility for one’s own loves, thoughts, and actions. A person should, therefore, begin to examine one’s life – one’s thoughts, intentions, and deeds – and shun those things which he sees to be evil as sins against God. As one does this, faith, from being faith of memory, becomes a living faith; from natural it becomes spiritual. And if the person advances in the life of regeneration until one is motivated in all one does by a genuine love for the Lord and the neighbor, then faith becomes celestial.

Every thinking person comes eventually to the point where he recognizes that two things which are mutually contradictory cannot both be true. If the person is given at all to reflection, he sees that in one’s traditional beliefs there are many such contradictions, and the person is faced with the problem of what to reject as false and what to accept as true. In view of the fact that there is such a diversity of opinion of a contrary nature in regard to the things of faith, one may wonder if it is possible to acquire a genuine, rational, adult faith.

The Lord assures us in the Writings of the New Church that such a faith is possible for all who sincerely seek. Such a faith is not inborn, nor is it transferred from one person to another. It can be acquired only by a person who is searching for truth – a person who is not content to found one’s life on the shifting sands of human opinion but who is looking for a rock upon which to build spiritual faith – one’s spiritual home.

It is of such a person that our text treats in the internal sense. Jacob was on his way to Padan-aram. When the sun set, he stopped at a certain place to spend the night. While there he had the remarkable vision of a staircase ascending toward heaven, its base on earth and the Lord at the top, with angels ascending and descending on it. It was then that the Lord renewed the promise which He had made to Abraham and Isaac, to give them the land of Canaan for an inheritance.

The Writings tell us that Jacob represents the person who is instructed in natural truths (see AC 3305). When he had this vision, he was on his way to Padan-aram. Padan-aram signifies knowledges of truth. We see from these teachings that the person who is instructed in natural knowledges, represented by Jacob, who is on his way to Padan-aram (searching for truths of faith) is given the Divine promise of an indefinite increase in the truths of faith. The Lord said to Jacob: “Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all of the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).

When the Lord had made this promise, then Jacob awoke and said: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it … This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” These words express the wonder and conviction of a person who has found the truth after a diligent search – the truth that the Lord is livingly present in His Word as Divine truth.

We cannot come to this conviction unless we go directly to the Word for ourselves seeking instruction directly from the mouth of the Lord. We may have been raised with the stories of the Word and taught about God. We may hear preachings regularly, but we cannot come to this state of conviction until we go directly to the source of truth itself. When we read the Word with a genuine desire to learn the truth; when we realize the inadequacy of our borrowed and traditional faith; when we are no longer satisfied with appearances of truth but seek genuine truth, then the Lord will enlighten our understanding and we will see, with clarity and conviction, the truths for which we have been searching. This rational, adult faith is said to exist in a person when one has spiritual sight, or when one’s understanding has been enlightened, when there is in the mind a harmony of truths, when there is interior conviction, and when an acknowledgment of the Lord’s Divinity is inscribed on one’s mind (see TCR 344). These are the signs of a genuine, rational, adult faith.

Such a faith is the characteristic of all who are truly of the Lord’s New Church. This enlightenment and this clear conviction are the reward promised to all who humbly and sincerely approach the Lord directly in His Word, and read it under His auspices (see TCR 165). Amen.

Lessons: Genesis 28:1-5, 10-19; AR 224

Apocalypse Revealed 224

To this I will add this relation. I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them that they might converse with them face to face and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen standing before them, and they said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts.” And they answered, “We have been told by our priests that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with another, and still they all said, ‘Believe us’; and some of them, ‘We are God’s ministers, and know.’ But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees.”

Then the angels answered, “Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain.” But two of the company said, “We have read but did not understand.” And the angels replied, “You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities”; and the angels said further, “What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? this is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal who sees the food of his life, not that of his body but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality, but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything but have only heard sounds, that are for the most part dissonant. But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding, one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again.

Examples must serve for illustration: Are you not able to understand what charity is and what faith is; that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?” They replied that they understood these things. The angels said further, “Do you not understand that repentance from sins is to be performed in order that man may be saved, and that, unless a man actually repents, he abides in the sins into which he was born, and that the work of repentance consists in not willing evils because they are against God, and in examining himself once or twice a year, in seeing his evils, in confessing them before the Lord, imploring assistance, desisting from them, and leading a new life, and as far as he does this and believes in the Lord, so far his sins are remitted?”

Then some of the company replied, “This we understand, and thence also what remission of sins is.” And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, “We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish.” Concerning God they said, “All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any, therefore it ceases and perishes. The idea of God as Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea; but the idea of God as Man is a just idea, for God is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, with every quality belonging thereto, and the subject of these is man and not ether or wind. The idea of God in heaven is the idea of the Lord. He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like unto ours, and we shall be consociated together.” On saying these words, their faces became resplendent. Concerning the immortality of the soul, they said, “Man lives to eternity, because he can be conjoined with God by love and faith, this indeed is possible with every one. That this possibility constitutes the immortality of the soul you may understand if you think of it a little more deeply.” Concerning regeneration: “Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that every one has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually; for which reason he becomes guilty if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance and believes in the Lord is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this as from himself is from the Lord. It is true that man cannot contribute anything thereto, no not in the least, nevertheless you were not created statues, but you were created men, that you might do that from the Lord as from yourselves. This is the only reciprocal of love and faith, that it is altogether the Lord’s will that it should be done by man unto Him. In a word, do it from yourselves and believe that you do it from the Lord, thus do it as from yourselves.”

But then the Englishmen inquired whether to act as from oneself is a faculty implanted in man from creation. The angel answered, “It is not implanted, because to act from Himself is the Lord’s alone, but it is communicated continually, that is, adjoined continually, and then so far as man does good and believes what is true as from himself, so far he is an angel of heaven; but so far as he does evil and thence believes what is false, which is done also as from himself, so far he is an angel of hell. That this also is as from himself surprises you, but still you see that it is so when you pray that you may be preserved from the devil lest he should seduce you and enter into you as he did into Judas, fill you with all iniquity, and destroy you, soul and body. But everyone incurs guilt who believes that he acts from himself, whether it be good or whether it be evil; but he does not incur guilt who believes that he acts as from himself …”


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida May 13, 1990

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

Our text occurs seven times in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. It is the concluding exhortation of each of the messages to the seven churches. Indeed, the Lord frequently ended His instruction to the Jews by saying: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear … ” (Matt. 11:15, et alia). The fact that this phrase and similar admonitions occur frequently throughout both the Old and the New Testaments warrants our consideration of its purpose and meaning.

In the Arcana Coelestia we are told that “to hear” in the Word does not mean simply the physical act of hearing, but rather the reception of that which is heard, first in the memory, next in the understanding, then in the will, and finally in the life (AC 9311).

Two of the five senses, we are told, especially serve man in perfecting the mind: the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. These are also the primary senses involved in man’s reformation and regeneration, for they are formed to receive those things which contribute to this end. The things which enter the mind through the sense of sight enter the understanding and enlighten it. For this reason when “seeing” is mentioned in the Word and it is frequently mentioned it refers to the enlightenment of the understanding. However, the things which enter through the sense of hearing enter both the understanding and the will, and for this reason when “hearing” is mentioned in the Word it refers to perception and obedience (see AE 14).

That “seeing” refers to understanding and enlightenment, and “hearing” to perception and obedience, is evident from ordinary speech. When we want to know if something is understood we ask: “So you see what I mean?” And if it is understood the answer is given: “Yes, I see.” Also we say of a person endowed with an unusual intelligence that he or she is bright or brilliant. Or if a person is low in intelligence we say he or she is dull. “Dull,” “bright,” and “brilliant” are attributes of light, and thus of sight.

That “hearing” refers to perception and obedience is also clear from ordinary speech. When somebody has been explaining something to us which he considers important, and we get the message, we say: “I hear.” Or, when we are trying to exact obedience from a child in a certain matter, we end by saying: “Do you hear me?” And if the answer is “Yes,” we expect obedience from that child.

These expressions, we are told, flow down into human speech out of the spiritual world, where man’s spirit is, by correspondence. Furthermore, in the Grand Man of heaven, those who are in the province of the ear are in obedience from perception. This province is said to be the axis of heaven, that is, the whole of the heavens have direct relation to those who are in obedience from perception because the ruling perception of heaven is that if a thing is true it must be done (see AE 14; AR 87).

In communication between people the function of the ear is to receive the speech of another and convey it to the mind so that we can perceive what is in the mind of the other person. Thus “to hear” is to perceive. The function of hearing is to transfer what a person is speaking from his thought, into the thought of another, and from his thought to his will and from the will into deed. Therefore to hear also involves obedience. The circle of communication, then, is from the will into thought, and so into speech, and from speech through the ear into another’s thought and will (see AC 5017).

The most important of all communication is that which exists between the Lord and mankind. And the medium of this communication is the Word. The Lord’s ardent love for the eternal happiness of mankind descended into His thought and from His thought into words, which were communicated to those who were prepared by the Lord for the office of revelator, who wrote them down. For the circle of communication to be completed these words must be conveyed to the understanding of man and from the understanding to the will, and from the will into life. When the Lord’s love is received in a person’s will, conjunction between the Lord and that person takes place. It is not enough that the Lord’s wisdom contained in the Word be communicated to our understanding; this merely produces presence but not conjunction. This is the reason the Lord has established a church and instituted worship so that His Word may be heard, that there may be an appeal to the very will itself.

Thus in the church we have the written Word and the spoken Word. To develop our understanding we should read the Word and presentations on its Divine doctrine and reflect calmly and deeply on their meaning. In this way we will grow in spiritual intelligence. But if we wish to grow in wisdom also, we should hear the Word read and preached. In hearing there will be, or should be, an added appeal to the affection. Thus it should enter into our will and from that into our life where the will is terminated and made permanent.

In His wisdom the Lord has provided that the mind of man may be reached through both of these senses through “seeing” and “hearing.” The written Word is almost devoid of emotion except for the emotion which the words themselves convey. Thus the intellect is appealed to so that the mind can come to know, understand, and believe the truth which the Lord teaches, simply because it is true. The spoken Word is then added to appeal to both the intellect and the will. The ideas expressed by the words are received in the understanding but the tone of voice and the inflection affect the will, so that what is said may be received in the will and cause a person to do that which is heard. From this we may see that there is a use and a need for both kinds of communication, and we can see what our response to both should be.

We are taught in the Word that to hear the voice of the Lord means to obey what is proclaimed from the Word; and that they who do so become rational and spiritual, but that they who do not become sensual and corporeal. “Those become … sensual and corporeal,” we read, “who have … known the things of the spiritual world and have afterward rejected them, and have imbued themselves with principles of falsity contrary to truths; and as to life, have looked solely to worldly, bodily, and earthly things, and from this have believed that life ought to be enjoyed with every pleasure, saying: `What has man more while he lives? When we die we die!’ … If anyone by rational arguments sets them thinking at all about eternal life, they think that they shall fare no worse than others, and immediately relapse into the state of their former life.

“With such there is a closing of the passage for the light of heaven and its influx, and light of heaven in their natural becomes thick darkness, but the light of the world … becomes brightness, and the brightness is so much the more brilliant as the light of heaven is more darkened; hence it is that such see no otherwise than that the evils of their life are goods, and that consequently the falsities are truths. It is from this then that a person becomes sensuous and corporeal” (AC 6971).

In other words, if we do not obey what we hear from the Word, we degenerate. Instead of becoming rational and spiritual, we become sensual and corporeal our minds are darkened and our will vitiated.

Compare this state with that of the angels of the celestial heaven. The wisdom of the angels of the inmost heaven consists in wishing to be led by the Lord and not by themselves, in loving what is good and delighting in what is true. Because they love nothing so much as being led by the Lord, whatever they hear from the Lord, whether through the Word or by means of preaching, they do not store in the memory but instantly obey it, that is, will it and do it (see HH 278). “In that heaven, love to the Lord is willing and doing Divine truth” (HH 271).

In the teachings which have been presented, we see sharply contrasted the final lot of those who hear only with their ears and those who really hear with the ears, with their understanding and with their will. We should need little convincing as to which state is preferable. But we may well ask ourselves: “Where do we fit in this picture?”

To find the answer to this question we should ask ourselves more particular questions. To what extent have we allowed the truths we have heard to enter into and change our lives? What is our usual reaction to the truths we hear preached? Do they enter only as far as the external ear and then vanish beyond recall? Are we momentarily stirred but cannot remember several days later what it was that moved us? Or do we see and perceive an important truth a truth which, if lived, can change our lives and make us better men and women? Do we will that truth and determine within ourselves to obey it?

Speaking generally, the purpose of a sermon is to draw a particular truth from the Word, to put it into perspective by showing its relationship to other truths, to examine it from several different aspects so that its nature and quality may be perceived, and to indicate the application of that truth to life. A sermon is not preached merely to uplift and soothe, nor is it intended to upset or depress the congregation, and certainly it is not to weary them. The Word is studied and its truth presented with the hope that it may be received, perceived and obeyed.

In the Arcana Coelestia where it treats of the reading of the covenant by Moses to the Children of Israel, we are told that to “read in the ears of the people” signifies hearkening and obedience. For when anything is read, it is that it may be heard, perceived and obeyed (AC 9397).

In the passage from the Apocalypse Revealed which we read for a third lesson, we are assured that if we read the doctrine of the New Jerusalem with a desire to know that doctrine, if we hear the things which are taught from it, and if we live according to it, then we will be blessed. We will be, as to our spirits, in communion with the angels of heaven even while we live on earth (see AR 8).

What, then, should be our attitude and response to the reading of the Word and the preaching from it that we regularly hear in Sunday worship? The nature of our response is clearly indicated in the Word itself. We should say in our hearts with conviction and determination: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and hear” (Exodus 24:7). Amen.

Lessons: Exodus 24:1-13; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-11; AR 8

Apocalypse Revealed 8

Verse 3. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein” signifies the communion of those with the angels of heaven, who live according to the doctrine of the New Jerusalem. By “blessed” is here meant one who as to his spirit is in heaven; thus, one who, while he lives in the world, is in communion with the angels of heaven; for as to his spirit he is in heaven. By “the words of the prophecy” nothing else is meant than the doctrine of the New Jerusalem, for by “prophet” in the abstract sense is signified the doctrine of the church derived from the Word, thus here the doctrine of the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem; the same is signified by “prophecy.” By “reading, hearing, and keeping the things which are written therein” is signified to desire to know that doctrine, to attend to the things which are in it, and to do the things which are therein; in short, to live according to it. That they are not blessed who only read, hear and keep or retain in the memory the things which were seen by John is evident (n. 944). The reason why “a prophet” signifies the doctrine of the church from the Word, and “prophecy” the same, is that the Word was written through prophets, and in heaven a person is regarded according to that which belongs to his function and office. From this also is every man, spirit, and angel named there. Therefore, when a prophet is mentioned, because his function was to write and teach the Word, the Word is meant as to doctrine, or doctrine from the Word. Hence it is that the Lord, because He is the Word itself, was called the Prophet (Deut. 18:15-20; Matt. 13:57; 21:11; Luke 13:33). To show that by “prophet” is meant the doctrine of the church from the Word, some passages shall be adduced, from which this may be collected. In Matthew: “In the consummation of the age many false prophets shall rise up and shall seduce many. There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and, if it were possible, they shall lead into error the elect” (Matthew 24:11,24).

“The consummation of the age” is the last time of the church, which is now, when there are not false prophets but falsities of doctrine. In the same: “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man shall receive a just man’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).

“To receive a prophet in the name of a prophet” is to receive the truth of doctrine because it is true; and “to receive a just man in the name of a just man” is to receive good for the sake of good; and “to receive a reward” is to be saved according to reception. It is evident that no one receives a reward, or is saved, because he receives a prophet and a just man in the name of such. Those words cannot be understood by anyone without a knowledge of what “a prophet” and “a just man” signify; nor can those which follow: “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.” By a “disciple” is meant charity, and at the same time faith from the Lord. In Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, so that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). This is concerning the church which was to be established by the Lord, in which they would not prophesy but receive doctrine, which is to “prophesy.” In Matthew: “Jesus said, Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? but then will I confess unto them, I have not known you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22, 23).

Who does not see that they will not say that they have prophesied, but that they knew the doctrine of the church, and taught it? In the Apocalypse: “The time is come for judging the dead and for giving reward to the prophets” (Rev. 11:18); and in another place: “Exult, O heaven, and holy apostles and prophets, for God hath judged your judgment” (Rev. 18:20).

It is evident that a reward would not be given to the prophets alone, and that the apostles and prophets would not alone exult at the Last Judgment, but all who have received the truths of doctrine and have lived according to them. These, therefore, are meant by “apostles” and “prophets.” In Moses: “Jehovah said unto Moses, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet” (Exod. 7:1); “a god” here means the Divine truth as to reception from the Lord, in which sense the angels are also called gods, and by “prophet” is meant one who teaches and speaks it, therefore Aaron is there called a prophet. The same is signified by “prophet” in other places, as in Jer. 18:18; 23:15,16; 5:13; Isaiah 28:7; Micah 3:6; Jer. 8:10. In these passages, by “prophets” and “priests,” in the spiritual sense, are not meant prophets and priests, but the entire church, by “prophets,” the church as to the truth of doctrine, and by “priests” the church as to the good of life, both of which were destroyed; these things are so understood by the angels in heaven, while by men in the world they are understood according to the sense of the letter. That the prophets represented the state of the church as to doctrine, and that the Lord represented it as to the Word itself, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (n. 15-17).



A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. CarswellPreached in Glenview, Illinois June 11, 1995


“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).

The book of Revelation is special to the New Church. When understood in its internal sense it presents a vivid picture of why and how the New Church came into existence. It presents a picture of what we who aspire to be members of that church need to look to in what we care about, what we think and what we do. This sermon will focus on the picture of the New Church as a radiant city descending from heaven. This picture represents the qualities that the church in our own lives should evolve toward.

The whole book of Revelation, when properly understood, helps us to see the Lord as a loving God who is reaching out to people, calling them to Him. It helps us to see the importance of understanding what is true and good. It helps us to see the nature of evil and its influence on religious people. And it helps us to see the way the Lord’s kingdom can be, in heaven and on earth.

Understanding the book of Revelation is not a matter of knowing about a single event, the Last Judgment. The spiritual dynamics of that event, which the New Church asserts has already occurred, have a direct counterpart in our daily lives. The better we understand how the Lord showed His loving care for all people through His role in the Last Judgment, the better we can see how He can care for and lead us.

The final chapters of the book of Revelation present a wonderful description of the New Jerusalem. This heavenly city is a picture of the Lord’s church, both as it exists among all people who receive Him and also as it can be with each human being. It is the picture of the church that we want to look toward becoming ourselves. What are its qualities and how do they differ from what we sometimes find ourselves inclining to or actually thinking and doing?

The New Jerusalem is from no other source than the Lord. It is not a product of keen human intelligence. It is not the result of doing a certain number of good deeds. It is fundamentally a quality that a person’s heart has received from the Lord as he or she works to understand and live according to the Lord’s Word. Certainly we have our own role in receiving this life. John compares that city to a bride adorned for her husband. When you picture a woman preparing for her wedding, don’t you imagine her taking more care with each detail of her preparation than she would at any other time in her life? Don’t you picture her planning out each step in order? This preparation is not done from fear, nor from a self-absorbed focus, but rather comes from her desire to represent the importance of her relationship to her bridegroom. We prepare for our relationship with the Lord through taking the ideas and implications of His Word into our thoughts and deeds. How haphazard are we about this preparation? Is it like that of a bride adorning herself for her wedding? Is it that important to us?

The New Jerusalem is described as ” … having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Rev. 21:11). One of the important qualities that the Lord wants for the New Church is that we understand His Word. He does not want us to be in blind obedience to rules that don’t make any sense to us at all. He does not want us to be befuddled about who He is, how He is a presence and powerful force within our daily lives, and how we can cooperate with Him. Certainly there will always be things that are hard for us to understand because of our finite perspective. We should not expect that doctrinal understanding will help us see specifically why some tragedy has occurred. We will still need to have a faith or trust in the Lord’s love and wisdom even when our eyes or thoughts don’t easily recognize that love or wisdom. But we are to grow in understanding about the Lord’s will and presence. We are to worship a visible God. This means that we come to see His presence more and more in our own lives, in the lives of others and in the events of this world. This will never occur without learning about Him and what He asks of us, reflecting on its specific meaning in our own lives, and then trying to live according to this understanding. Learning facts about the Lord is not enough. Neither is insight during moments of reflection distant from the daily ups and downs that so characterize this world. We need to learn; we need to see the personal meaning of this knowledge and we need to act from it. If we do this, our lives will be seen by the angels as having a light that “was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.”

The holy city has a wall that is described as great and high. For many this implies protection against dangerous enemies. But that idea is in conflict with the fact that the gates of the city are constantly open in all directions. The wall is not so much an image of protection against enemies as it is a definition of what is true and good. It is a picture of the clear boundaries that we place on what we will think, say and do. These boundaries come from our recognizing that the Lord has told us in His Word of the kind of life toward which He wants to lead us. Its strength comes from our calling from memory specific words and sentences that we have learned from the Word. It defines what we will and won’t do in work, friendships, marriage, and family. It stops us from saying hurtful things. It stops us from harboring thoughts of revenge. It helps define for us what it means to justly, faithfully, and honestly do the work that the Lord places before us each day.

The twelve gates of the city, three for each direction of the compass, represents all the ideas of what is true and good by which a person is introduced into the church (see AR 899). These ideas vary tremendously in the degree to which they reflect “more or less in the love or the affection of good, and for those who are more or less in wisdom or the affection of truth” (n. 901). One of the challenges that we tend to face as human beings would be imaged by a city with only one gate. We can get stuck on the idea that our view of an issue at some point is the only right one. We can close our mind off to considering other ideas and other values that might have an important contribution to a wise decision. We can do this by rejecting the validity of others’ opinions or by rigidly fixing our own mind on the one and only right way, even when the Lord is working to help us see the limitations of that view. The Lord’s church in our lives is to have an openness in all directions to come to understand what is good and true from the Lord. This openness is not an acceptance of every idea that comes down the road, but rather a willingness to consider its possible legitimacy and value.

The twelve foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with twelve different kinds of precious stones. We are told that these words signify that: ” … all things of that doctrine in their order from the sense of the letter of the Word, with those who immediately approach the Lord and live according to the commandments of the Decalogue by shunning evils as sins, for these and no others are in the doctrine of love to God and love toward the neighbor, which two are the fundamentals of religion” (n. 915).

With all the complexity and breadth of knowledge that has been revealed for the New Church it is absolutely essential that we keep in mind that the two fundamentals of religion can be stated quite simply. If we are to be grateful for any qualities that have a growing presence in our lives, they should be that of our love of the Lord and our love toward our neighbor.

The gates of city were twelve pearls, each one made from a single pearl. We are told that this signifies that: ” … the acknowledgment and knowledge of the Lord conjoins into one all the knowledges of truth and good, which are from the Word, and introduces into the church” (n. 916).

As John describes the New Jerusalem, he observes, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). We might intuitively imagine that this holy city would have a magnificent house of worship. But the reason why it does not represents a problem that can come with such things as church buildings or other external expressions of worship and good. In this world it takes regular effort to keep external forms from becoming things in themselves. For example, many people are quite capable of saying the Lord’s prayer giving it no more thought than they do to the basics of walking. It can become a series of sounds made basically without any conscious reflection on their meaning. This is an external form without any internal. We are told concerning the New Church that: ” … in this church there will not be any external separated from the internal, because the Lord Himself in His Divine Human, from whom is the all of the church, is alone approached, worshiped, and adored” (n. 918).

At times we benefit significantly from compelling ourselves to go through external forms that do not at that moment have an appropriate internal of understanding and will. But while we do such things, we are called to approach the Lord, asking for that internal, praying for understanding and for the love that can properly motivate the external act we now are doing more from obedience.

In the New Jerusalem there was a river of the water of life. This represents the breadth and depth of truth from the Lord that is available to those who seek it from a desire to live a good life. Near the end of the final chapter we read: “And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). We are told that these words mean that: ” … he who desires truths should pray that the Lord may come with light; and that he who loves truths will then receive them from the Lord without labor of his own” (n. 956).

And in that city there is also the tree of life. This is the same tree that is described in early Genesis as being the center of the Garden of Eden. The tree of life is unusual in that it bears not one kind of fruit but twelve. This represents all the good qualities and actions that will flow from our lives because of the church within us. And the leaves of the tree are described as being for the healing of the nations. These leaves represent the sensible and understandable ideas we have learned from the Lord that we can share with friends and acquaintances to help them lead better lives. Even when the source of these ideas is completely unknown, they can help others become wiser and more useful people.

The heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, is a picture of the Lord’s church both as it exists among all people who receive Him and also as it can be with each human being. It is the picture of the church that we want to look toward becoming ourselves. May we dedicate ourselves to receiving that church. May we daily approach the Lord with the prayer that it may descend ever more completely into in our hearts, minds and lives. Amen.


Lessons: Revelation 21:1-4, 9-26; Apocalypse Revealed 956

Apocalypse Revealed 956

“And let him that heareth say, Come; and let him that thirsteth come, and let him that willeth take the water of life freely” signifies that he who knows anything of the Lord’s coming, and of the New Heaven and New Church, thus of the Lord’s kingdom, should pray that it may come, and that he who desires truths should pray that the Lord may come with light, and that he who loves truths will then receive them from the Lord without his own work. By “let him that heareth say, Come” is signified he who hears and thence knows anything of the Lord’s coming, and of the New Heaven and the New Church, thus of the Lord’s kingdom, let him pray that it may come; by “him that thirsteth, let him say come” is signified he who desires the Lord’s kingdom, and, at the same time, truths, let him pray that the Lord may come with light; by “him that willeth let him take of the water of life freely” is signified that he who from love is willing to learn truths and appropriate them to himself will receive them from the Lord without any work of his own; by “willing” is signified to love, because that which a man wills from his heart he loves, and that which he loves, the same he wills from the heart; by “the water of life” is signified Divine truths through the Word from the Lord (n. 932); and by “freely” is signified without his own work. The things in this verse have the same signification as these in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so also upon the earth” (n. 839). The Lord’s “kingdom” is the church which makes one with heaven; wherefore it is now said, “Let him that heareth, say, Come, and let him that thirsteth come.” That “to thirst” signifies to desire truths appears from the following passages: “I will pour water upon him that thirsteth, I will pour My spirit upon thy seed” (Isa. 44:3). “Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; buy wine and milk without silver” (Isa. 55:1). “Jesus cried, saying, If anyone thirst, let him come unto Me and drink; whosoever believeth in Me, out of his belly shall flow streams of living water” (John 7:37, 38). “My soul thirsteth for the living God” (Psalm 42:2). “O God, Thou art my God; my soul thirsteth for Thee; it is weary without water” (Psalm 63:1). “Happy are they who thirst after justice” (Matt.5:6). “Unto him that thirsteth I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 21:6). By which is signified that to those who desire truths for any spiritual use, the Lord will give from Himself through the Word all which conduce to that use. That by “that” and “thirsting” is also signified to perish from lack of truth, is evident from these: “My people are exiled because they have no acknowledgment; the multitude is dried up with thirst” (Isa. 5:13). “The fool speaketh foolishness, and his heart doeth iniquity, and he maketh the drink of the thirsty to fail” (Isa.32:6). “The poor and needy seek water but there is none; their tongue faileth for thirst; I Jehovah will hear them” (Isa. 41:17). “Plead with your mother lest I strip her naked, and slay her with thirst” (Hosea 2:2, 3). Mother here is the church. “Behold, the days come in which I will send a famine in the land; not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah; in that day shall the beautiful virgins and the young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:11, 13). But by “not thirsting” is signified not to have a lack of truth, in these passages: “Jesus said, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall not thirst to eternity'” (John 4:13-15). “Jesus said, He that believeth on Me shall never thirst'” (John 6:35). “Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob; then shall they not thirst; He shall make waters to flow out of the Rock for them” (Isa. 48:20, 21).