John Chapter 1

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Chapter 1 THE INTERNAL SENSE.
  1. IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with god, and god was the Word.
  2. The same was in the beginning with god,
THAT the lord, as to his Divine Human [principle], which is divine truth, existed from eternity, in undivided union with the divine good, which is jehovah, verses 1, 2.
  1. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
That by divine truth from the lord was effected the all of creation, both natural and spiritual, thus the production of the all of outward nature, and likewise the regeneration of man, and the establishment of the church, vs 3.
  1. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
That divine truth is always in union with divine love, and by virtue of that union is the source of all wisdom, intelligence, and rationality, amongst mankind, vs 4.
  1. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
But that mankind had so immersed themselves in external and natural things, and thus in false principles, that they no longer acknowledged divine truth, vs 5.
  1. There was a man sent from god, whose name was John.
  2. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.
  3. He was not the light, but that he might bear witness of the light.
  4. [That] was the true light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world.
That divine truth has its appointed representatives here on earth, amongst those who are principled in charity and faith, whose office it is to testify concerning the lord’s Divine Humanity, and thus to lead mankind to acknowledge and receive it, as the only source of all wisdom, intelligence, and rationality, vs 6, 7, 8, 9.
  1. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
  2. He came to his own, and his own received him not.
  3. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of god, to them who believe in his name.
  4. Who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of god.
That the lord, by his divine truth, or the Word, was present with the Jewish church, but that he was not in general known and acknowledged, yet that all, who did know and acknowledge him, were made regenerate, and thus delivered from the guilt of doing violence to charity, and of profaning truth, being cleansed from all the principles of evil and error, vs 10, 11, 12, 13.
  1. And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled amongst us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.
That the lord, by assuming the human nature, and thus becoming a man, made himself divine truth in ultimates, as he had before been divine truth in first principles, and thus gained fuller access to man, by imparting a fuller measure of his divine love and wisdom, vs 14.
  1. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that comes after me, was before me, because he was prior to me.
  2. And of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.
  3. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by jesus christ.
Therefore all, who are principled in charity and faith, acknowledge from the heart, that the lord in his Divine Humanity is the eternal god, and that all good and truth are from him, and that he came into the world to open those interior things of his Word, for the benefit of mankind, vs 15, 16, 17.
  1. No one has seen god at any time; the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the father, he has brought him forth to view.
They acknowledge also, that no right apprehension can be had of the invisible jehovah, but by or through the visible humanity, which he assumed and glorified for that purpose, vs 18.
  1. And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who are you?
  2. And he confessed, and denied not, and confessed, I am not the christ.
  3. And they asked him, What then? Art you Elias? And he says, I am not. Art you the Prophet? And he answered, No.
  4. Then they said to him, Who are you? that we may give an answer to them who went us: What say you of yourself?
  5. He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the lord, as said Esaias the prophet.
Thus they testify concerning themselves, to those of the perverted church who are inquisitive about them, that they possess no truth or good of themselves, but only from the Word, and that from the Word all in the vastated church are admonished to prepare themselves to receive the lord in his divine humanity, vs 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.
  1. And they who were sent were of the Pharisees.
  2. And they asked him, and said to him, Why baptizest you then, if you are not the christ, nor Elias, nor the Prophet?
  3. John answered them, saying, I baptize with water, but there stands one in the midst of you, whom you know not.
They testify further, that they can teach only external truth, but that the truth itself is the lord as to his Divine Humanity, who is yet unacknowledged, although he is the very central life of all truths, vs 24, 25, 26.
  1. He it is who, coming after me, was before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
And has thus pre-eminence over all, since the lowest order of internal truth is above the highest of what is external, vs 27.
  1. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
  2. On the morrow John sees jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world!
Such is the testimony of external truth, derived from the letter of the Word, which testimony presently conducts to a view of internal truth as it is in connection with the lord’s Divine Humanity, by virtue of which internal truth confession is made that the lord in his Divine Humanity is the purest innocence, and that human disorder can never be removed, only so far as that innocence is implanted in human minds, vs 28, 29.
  1. He it is of whom I said, After me comes a man, who was before me; for he was prior to me.
  2. And I knew him not, but that he should be made manifest to Israel, on which account I am come baptizing with water.
Confession is further made from internal truth, that the lord, in his Divine Humanity, is the eternal god, and that all good and truth are from him, and that he is to be made known to the church by the teaching of external truth from the Word, vs 30, 31.
  1. And John bare witness, saying, I saw the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon him.
  2. And I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, On whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, he it is who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.
  3. And I saw and bare witness, that he is the Son of god.
Which truth testifies, that all the good and truth of faith, thus all purification and regeneration, are from the Divine Humanity of the lord, and that consequently all internal truth is from the same source, vs 32, 33, 34, 35.
  1. Again on the morrow, John stood and two of his disciples.
  2. And looking upon jesus as he walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of god !
  3. And the two disciples heard him speaking, and they followed jesus.
That they who are principled in charity, and in the faith of charity, have their spiritual sight opened to behold and to confess the lord in his Divine Humanity, whom therefore they immediately acknowledge and obey as the only god, vs 35, 36, 37.
    1. But jesus turning, and seeing them following, says to them, What seek you? They said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master) where abide you ?

  1. He says to them, Come and see. They came and saw where he abode, and remained with him that day, and it was about the tenth hour.
And being led by an internal dictate in their own minds to explore and examine the end of all truth, or knowledge, they are led further to inquire after the good of love and charity, to which all truth and knowledge point, and thus attain conjunction with the lord in that good, vs 38, 39.
  1. Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard from John, and followed him.
  2. He first finds his own brother Simon, and says to him, We have found the Messiah,—which is, being interpreted, the christ.
  3. And he led him to jesus, and jesus looking on him, said, You are Simon the son of Jona: You shall be called Cephas, which is, bring interpreted, a stone, (or Peter.)
That they who are principled in the good of charity instruct those who are principled in the good of faith, concerning the lord in his Divine Humanity, and thus conduct them to the incarnate god, by whom they are taught that they, who are principled in truth derived from good, ought to attach themselves to divine truth, or to truth proceeding from, and in conjunction with, the lord’s Divine Humanity, vs 40, 41, 42.
  1. On the morrow, jesus willed to go forth into Galilee, and he finds Philip, and says to him, Follow me.
  2. But Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrewand Peter.
  3. Philip finds Nathaniel, and says to him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.
That they of the church, who are principled in intelligence, are next instructed to acknowledge all intelligence to be derived from the lord’s Divine Humanity, and that when they are so instructed, they again instruct those who are principled in charity and its faith, that the lord is manifested in his Divine Humanity, as was predicted, vs 43, 44, 45.
  1. And Nathaniel said to him, Can any good thing be from Nazareth? Philip says to him, Come and see.
  2. jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him, and says of him, Behold, truly an Israelite, in whom is no guile.
  3. Nathaniel says to him, Whence know you me? jesus answered, and said to him, Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig-tree, I saw you.
  4. Nathaniel answered, and says to him, Rabbi, You are the Son of god, you are the King of Israel!
Which instruction is received with doubt, until conviction is worked of the divine wisdom of that humanity, by the distinction which it makes between spiritual good and natural good, and by setting the former above the latter, vs 46, 47, 48, 49.
  1. jesus answered, and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig-tree, believe you? You shall see greater things than these.
  2. And he says to him, Verily, verily, I say to you, now on you shall see heaven open, and the angels of god ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
That this distinction, however, does not produce a conviction equal to that which arises in the course of regeneration, when the internal man is opened to see the several orders of truth in their connection with their divine source, by virtue of which man’s ascent to god is first effected, and afterwards the descent of god to man, vs 50, 51.

http://www.biblemeanings.info/Bible/john.html

THE

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN,

Translated from the Greek,

AND

ILLUSTRATED BY EXTRACTS

FROM THE

THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS OF THAT EMINENT SERVANT OF THE LORD,

THE

HON. EMANUEL SWEDENBORG,

TOGETHER WITH

NOTES & OBSERVATIONS OF THE TRANSLATOR ANNEXED TO EACH CHAPTER.

BY THE REV. J. CLOWES, M.A.

RECTOR OF ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, MANCHESTER, AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.

” Whoso readeth, let him understand.”—Matt. xxiv. 15.

 

Second Edition.

MANCHESTER:
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AND SOLD BY

  1. HODSON. 112, FLEET-STREET, LONDON; AND BY E. BAYLIS,
    ST. ANN’S-STREET, MANCHESTER.

MDCCCXXXVIII.

What really happened at Easter?

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By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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What does the New Church teach about Easter? It’s a short question, but it involves a big network of connected ideas. It can’t be answered right in a sound bite, so bear with me…

First, we believe in God – just one God – who creates and sustains everything, including our physical universe.

We believe that God is love itself, and wisdom itself. It is the nature of love to want to love others outside of oneself, and to make them happy, and to be conjoined with them. It is the nature of wisdom to provide the means, the know-how, to bring love into effect.

God, acting from his core of Divine Love, using his Divine Wisdom, created the universe (the Big Bang?), and, eventually, as part of it, our galaxy, solar system, and the Earth. Through his creative providence, life began on earth. Over millions of years, it evolved into progressively more complex life forms, until, in time, God could bring about the development of human beings with rational minds capable of understanding spiritual truths. Through those truths, people would be able to love one another as neighbors, and to love God, walk in his ways, receive his love and wisdom, and be conjoined to Him.

It’s part of God’s Providence to always keep open a way to communicate with us, so that we can receive truths accommodated to our state. He communicated with early humans through a more direct awareness, but as we became more external, he used some men as prophets, or revelators, to write down his truths, and to tell them to others. Some of these revelations are very ancient, by human standards. In the Books of Moses, maybe 3500 years old themselves, Moses refers to even more ancient books – “The Wars of Jehovah”, “Annunciations”, and “The Book of Jasher”, which formed parts of an ancient Word.

At the time before Jesus Christ was born, the truths from the Ancient Word had been corrupted or largely forgotten, and polytheism and idolatry were widespread. Of the 12 tribes of the Children of Israel, 10 were dispersed, and swallowed up into the surrounding culture. In Jerusalem and its surrounds, the Jewish church still preserved the Old Testament, and the faithful still observed its tenets, but even within Judaism, some of the external worship was hollow. There were still some people in simple good, who would receive the Lord’s new truths gladly – Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Anna, Simeon, and later the apostles, and then the multitudes who gathered to hear Jesus preach the truth, and to be healed by Him.

The New Church teaches that Jesus Christ was God himself, who took on a human body, so that he could live among us, and teach us the essential truths we need so that we can follow them, and by doing so open our minds to receive and transmit his love.

We also believe that part of his method of redeeming us was to take on a human heredity with its temptability, so that he could directly fight evil. Where was the evil coming from? We believe that people have immortal souls. When our bodies die, we live on in a spiritual world. In that world, we can’t pretend we are good if we are not – our true natures become evident. And, we gravitate towards like-minded people, much as we do in this world, except with clearer sight. If we fundamentally love our neighbor and God more than ourselves, we will create friendly, neighborly societies. If we fundamentally are looking out for “number one”, our societies will tend towards the nasty, forming hellish places. God didn’t create hell, but he does not force us to be good, since that would destroy our freedom. So, he permits us to create hells for ourselves. We can do it on earth too, when evil people have power. Nazi Germany was one ultra-clear example of this, among too many others.

Now, in the New Church we believe, as many people do, that there is a relationship between the spiritual world and the natural world, and that we are subject to spiritual influences. The popular image of the guardian angel actually has some basis in spiritual fact, and the image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other is also more real than is comfortable to think about.

We are tempted, while living our lives, to do evil things. These temptations flow into us from evil people in the spiritual world. In the normal order of things, the power of this evil is kept in check by balancing influx from heaven, where the Lord’s love flows through good societies and communicates itself to us. At the time of the Lord’s birth, the balance was precarious – the hells had grown too strong and evil was too influential. We see illustrations of this in the stories of the New Testament, where Jesus and his disciples in many cases are healing demon-possessed people.

So, part of the Lord’s mission was to rein in the power of hellish influence, and he did this by allowing himself to be tempted through the human that had had taken on from Mary, and by winning each temptation in turn, to cap the power of each hellish society. In the stories of the New Testament we see some of those temptations – when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. But, he conquered each one, even the final ones where he was doubting whether His mission had succeeded.

What, then, happened at Easter?

God incarnate had come to earth, as Jesus Christ, fulfilling a whole series of Old Testament prophecies. He had, through a lifelong series of temptations, fought with and subdued the powers of hell, restoring the balance which allowed people to freely choose their course in life. He had taught us the new truths that we needed, so that we could learn, if we wanted to, how to be good. He had opened a new channel of communication – we could now picture him in human form – not just as a remote, formless God, but as a Divinely Human God who loves us, wants to save us, and in whose image and likeness we are made.

The crucifixion was the climactic temptation, and victory, in a life of victory over evil. The human body that the Lord took on from Mary was glorified, converted to Divine substance. That’s why it was not found in the tomb on Easter Sunday, when the stone was rolled away.

After Easter, the Lord could – and did – still appear to his followers, but they were seeing him with their spiritual eyes opened. They followed him to Galilee, and witnessed his ascension to heaven. And then they spread out around the world, teaching the truths that he had taught them, and leading by example, so that Christianity became the world’s largest religion.

As the Christian religion spread, false ideas crept into it. Here are some key points in our belief, that combat those falsities:

– We don’t believe that Jesus was a separate person from God. He was God.

– We don’t believe that he sacrificed himself on the cross to atone to God for the sins of humankind. He WAS God. Instead, he allowed himself to be crucified because by doing that he could show that even the death of the physical body was not something final – not something that really had power over good and truth. His resurrection was the key event.

We believe that Mary was good, but not that she was perfect, nor that she was born without sin. She was chosen to be the mother of the Lord because she was, like Joseph, part of the remnant of simple, good people who obeyed the Lord’s will, and whose faith would enable the fulfillment of His mission. However, the heredity through Mary contained normal tendencies towards evil that opened Jesus to temptations, which was a necessary part of the plan.

There are also non-Christian ideas that have currency in our culture, though we think they are false. Here are some key points in our belief:

– We do not believe that Jesus Christ had a romance with or married Mary Magdalene.

– We do not believe that Jesus Christ was merely a good teacher or man of exemplary character, who was later deified by his disciples.

– We DO believe that Jesus Christ did exist as a historical figure, and that he was God incarnate, and that the Gospels contain essential truths that we should live by.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

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Salvation

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Salvation

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For anyone who believes in heaven, one question stands above all the others: How can I get there? How can I be saved?

Christianity has offered a variety of answers over the millennia, from early sects that simply followed the example of Jesus to monasticism to the elaborate rites and rituals of medieval catholicism to crusading warfare to the Protestants’ hope in the mercy and blood of Jesus.

For the most part, those concepts have regarded heaven as a paradise, where anyone would be happy no matter what he or she did to get there, and no matter what kind of person he or she is. This actually does not make a lot of sense if you think about it. If the cruel and power-hungry could attain heaven alongside the kind and caring, then surely they would make heaven a hell through their cruelty and desire to rule. And if the cruel and power-hungry were rendered non-cruel and non-power-hungry, would they still be themselves anymore?

Swedenborg’s idea of heaven – and hell – is different. In his theology both are simply spiritual states where we live with others who love the same things we do. If those loves are good and kind it will be a wonderful life of sharing and joy; if those loves are cruel and selfish we will end up in endless contention with others who are cruel and selfish.

Salvation, then, is a matter of letting the Lord change our hearts from the naturally selfish state to a heavenly, loving state. We do this by learning what is right and good, using our minds to lead us in doing those things, and asking the Lord to change our hearts. If we continue and stick to it. He will little by little do that, so that eventually we can reach a state where we love what is good and know what is true.

So is that salvation by faith? Salvation by works? In a way both, and neither. Works are involved, because we have to make ourselves do what we know is good and loving. Faith is involved because we have to invite the Lord into our hearts to make a true change. But neither can get us there without the other, and the ultimate judgment is on what we love, not what we’ve done or what we believe.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

(References: Divine Providence 338, 339; Divine Providence 258 [3]; True Christian Religion 150, 726)

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Temptation: What is it?

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Most of us would welcome a life without temptation. It would be so easy to be good!

According to Swedenborg, however, a life without temptation would actually guarantee the opposite: It would leave us mired in evil and bound for hell. In fact, his theology says that temptation is the only way we can root out our evils and let the Lord into our hearts, so we should recognize it as an opportunity even if we can’t exactly embrace it as a good time.

The reasoning behind this starts with the idea that we are what we love; that what we care about actually determines our character and defines our identity. That might sound odd at first, but consider: If you say that you “know” someone, you’re really talking about an awareness of what they love, not an awareness of all their thoughts. What we love is who we are.

And from the beginning of our lives, what we love is highly self-centered. Much as we love babies for their innocence, they can’t even form the concept of putting someone else’s needs first. And while children and teenagers learn to be kind and considerate, that kindness is more in their external levels – inside they are busy with the work of becoming themselves, and that remains a self-involved process.

Somewhere between there and the end of life, we’re called on to change completely, setting our self-interest aside and replacing it with a genuine love for others and love for the Lord. That, however, involves uprooting the things we love most. And since those loves form our identity, that’s really hard, and has to be done in many, many steps.

The key element working for us is the mind: from our knowledge and thoughts we can know what’s right even when we don’t want it. In fact, from our knowledge and thoughts we can actually want to be better people, while in our hearts we still want to wallow in those attractive evils.

Elevating the mind this way creates a conflict between “the person I want to become” and “the person I am,” between “what I want” and “what I want to want” (sort of like, “I want to be craving celery, but I’m really craving cookies”). And since the hells want to keep you enslaved by cookies, they go on the attack, using both blunt desire and twisted logic and argument to try to break you down.

Key to the hells’ attack is the fact that what we want forms our identity; giving up each evil thing we crave feels like sacrificing a little part of who we are. But the Lord’s promise is this: If we actually do it, stick through it and let that piece of ourselves be sacrificed, He will eventually replace it with the desire for something good, pure and loving.

An interesting twist is that if we tried to do this all at once, we actually would lose our identity, destroying every love we have at once. This may sound odd – wouldn’t we want such a transformation- – but imagine someone you think of as thoroughly evil: Hitler, perhaps, or Caligula, or Vlad Dracula. Then imagine removing, in one swipe, all their evil desires. Would we even recognize them anymore? Would they be themselves? Would they be anything?

But imagine a child’s stuffed bear, loved so much that it loses an arm. You replace the arm, and then it is loved so much that it loses the other arm. And then the legs, and the head, all replaced one at a time. Finally the body wears through and you replace that too. So what you have is the same bear, but with every part replaced. That’s kind of how the Lord works on us: Through a lifelong series of temptations we can root out and replace one little bit at a time until we emerge all-new and ready for heaven while still being who we are.

It’s clear, then, how crucial a role temptation plays. If we never had that conflict between what we want to be in our minds and what we are in our hearts, the evil would just stay in our hearts untouched. We have to take on those battles, one by one over a lifetime, to become the people the Lord wishes us to be.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

(References: Arcana Coelestia 730, 739, 755, 757, 1690, 2334, 2338, 4274, 5246, 8403)

Prophecies of the Lord’s Advent

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The Messiah. The Savior. For hundreds – maybe thousands – of years, people were waiting for the Lord to be born. Why? Because the Old Testament has many prophecies of the event.

It starts in Genesis 3:15, where the Lord admonishes the serpent in the Garden of Eden:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15.

There’s the well-known one from Numbers 24, when Balaam blesses Israel:

He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: “I shall see him, but not now. I shall behold him, but not nigh. There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.”

In Micah 5, there’s this one, in which Bethlehem is identified as the place where the Lord will come from:

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

In Malachi 3:1-4, there’s a prophecy that includes both John the Baptist and the Lord:

1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to this temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifer of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

In Isaiah, there’s another prophecy of John the Baptist, and the Lord:

“A voice is crying — in a wilderness — Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, Make straight in a desert a highway to our God.” Isaiah 40:3.

Then, in Isaiah 9, we have perhaps the best-known one of all:

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

There are many other prophecies besides these. But Malachi was the last of the Jewish prophets, and for perhaps 500 years after his death, the records are silent.

Three hundred years before the time of Jesus Christ, the armies of Alexander the Great swept through Israel, and it became part of Alexander’s empire. After his death, three of his generals divided the empire amongst themselves, and Israel became a borderland between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. Greek culture followed, threatening to swamp the Jewish culture that had been somewhat restored after the return from Babylon. There was a brief independence under the Maccabees, but then came the Romans.

Somehow, there was still a remnant of good people who were waiting for the Messiah, and – when the time came – they were receptive. Mary was. Joseph was. The shepherds were. The wise men were. Zacharias and Elizabeth were. In the temple, Simeon and Anna were. So, there were a few, who knew the prophecies, and had not lost faith that they would someday be fulfilled.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

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Human

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Human

The Lord, in His essence, is perfect, infinite love given form through perfect, infinite wisdom. Because He is love, and love wants something to give itself to, he created human beings so that we could accept his love and return it, and thus be conjoined with Him.
Two things had to be done for this to work. First, we had to be structured so we would fit into a state of union with the Lord – which means we had to be forms of love and wisdom ourselves. Second, we had to be free to reject the Lord’s love, or the choice would be meaningless (in fact, if we were purely good, with no choice, we would be extensions of the Lord; in that case loving us would the Lord loving Himself, which is contrary to His nature).

The things that make us human, then, are the fact that we have thoughts and feelings (thoughts come from wisdom; feelings come from love), and that we can choose – in freedom – to use those thoughts and feelings to open ourselves up to the Lord’s love and be conjoined to Him.

And how do we do that? By bringing our thoughts and feelings into line with the Lord’s love and wisdom, so His love and wisdom can flow into us. We accomplish this first through our thoughts, which are more external and more under our control than our feelings are. We can fill our minds with the Lord’s teachings through the Word, through ministers, teachers and parents and through the wisdom of people around us. Using those ideas of what is right and wrong, we can force ourselves to stop doing what is wrong and instead do what is right. If we stick to it out of a desire to be good people, the Lord will start rewarding us with joy in doing the right thing, and will eventually change how we feel so that we genuinely love to do what’s good.

If we do that, we will eventually become angels – who are also human, people who once lived in our world and followed the Lord. If we don’t, instead letting selfish loves rule us, we will eventually become evil spirits in hell – who are also human, though barely so, since they reject the Lord’s love.

An interesting aspect of this is the role of freedom. Free choice is essential to our humanity, but it seems like the more we force ourselve to follow rules the less freedom we have, until as angels we do nothing but obey. Following our urges and doing whatever we want seems like a much greater degree of freedom. This, however, is exactly wrong on a spiritual level. If we follow our urges we will end up desiring only evil. Since evil wants only to hurt and dominate others, we will face constant obstacles and resistance to our desires. That will be all the more true in hell, where the Lord prevents evil spirits from doing any actual long-term harm. On the other hand, if we force ourselves to be hind and loving, the Lord will eventually fill us with the desire to be kind and loving – and in heaven, with everyone in such a state, there is no need for rules at all. Every angel does exactly what he or she wants to do.

There is one other aspect of humanity that is worth mentioning. The Writings also tell us that because both heaven and the natural world were created by the Lord, they are in human form just as we are. That means every aspect of life has some analogy to the human body, and to the human spirit. Since humanity is modeled on the Lord, this also means that every aspect of heaven and earth has some analogy to the nature of the Lord. Think about this next time you go for a hike – every leaf on every tree could tell us something about the Lord, if only we could understand it. And every leaf on every tree could tell us something about ourselves, as well.

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Holy Spirit

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Spiritual Topics

Holy Spirit


The nature of the Holy Spirit is a topic where there’s a marked difference between standard Christian theology and the New Christian perspective. The “official” dogma of most Christian teaching is that the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons that make up one God, in the role of reaching out to people with the power of God to bring them into a desire for righteousness. He is perceived to be proceeding from the other two: God the Father and Jesus the Son.

That old formulation was the result of three centuries of debate among early Christians, as they tried to understand the nature of God. At that time, there was a sizeable minority that rejected the God-in-three-persons view, but — the majority won out, at the Council of Nicea, in 325 AD.

The New Christian teaching is more akin to some of the old minority viewpoints. It regards the Holy Spirit as a force, or activity, coming from God — not a separate being. This aligns with our everyday understanding of “spirit” as the projection of someone’s personality. It also accounts for the fact that the term “the Holy Spirit” does not occur in Old Testament, which instead uses phrases such “the spirit of God,” “the spirit of Jehovah” and “the spirit of the Lord,” where the idea of spirit connected closely with the person of God.

The Writings describe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three attributes of one person: the soul, body and spirit of the one God. They also say that the term “Holy Spirit” emerges in the New Testament because it is connected with the Lord’s advent in the physical body of Jesus, and because of the way that advent changed the way we can learn the Lord’s truth and become good people.

According to the Writings, the churches that came before the advent were “representative.” The people in them (in the best of those churches, anyway) knew that the Lord had created the world, and that the world was thus an image of the Lord, and they had the ability to look at that created world and understand its spiritual messages; they could look at the world and understand the Lord. And they did it without trying and with great depth, much the way we can read a book when what we’re actually seeing is a bunch of black squiggles on a white sheet of paper.

That ability was eventually twisted into idol-worship and magic, however, as people slid into evil. The Lord used the Children of Israel to preserve symbolic forms of worship, but even they didn’t know the deeper meaning of the rituals they followed. With the world thus bereft of real understanding, the Lord took on a human body so He could offer people new ideas directly. That’s why the Writings say that He represents divine truth (“the Word became flesh,” as it is put in John 1:14).

The Holy Spirit at heart also represents divine truth, the truth offered by the Lord through his ministry in the world and its record in the New Testament. The term “the Holy Spirit” is also used in a more general sense to mean the divine activity and the divine effect, which work through true teachings to have an impact on our lives.

Such a direct connection between the Lord and us was not something that could come through representatives; it had to come from the Lord as a man walking the earth during His physical life or – in modern times – through the image we have of Him as a man in His physical life. That’s why people did not receive the Holy Spirit before the Lord’s advent.

What we have now, though, is a full-blown idea of the Lord, with God the Father representing His soul, the Son representing his body, and the Holy Spirit representing His actions and His impact on people.

(References: Doctrine of the Lord 58; True Christian Religion 138, 139, 140, 142, 153, 158, 163, 164, 166, 167, 168, 170, 172)

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