The End of the World

The End of the World

“Neither the visible heaven nor the habitable earth will perish, but both will remain for ever.”—L.J. 1.

INQUIRER.—That is the way you New Churchmen shock people, who are not familiar with your views.

MISSIONARY.—I do not see why it should shock any one to say that the earth will never be destroyed.

I.—We have always been taught, you know, that there is to be a day of judgment, and that then the world will come to an end.

M.—True, it has been generally taught and believed that a judgment will some day take place here in the natural world. But this clashes with the teaching of the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul says: “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” (Heb. ix. 27). According to this statement, the judgment will be after death; consequently in the spiritual world, and not in the natural. This is taught all through the Bible.

I.—But is it not stated in several passages in the Bible, that the world will actually come to an end?

M.—The expression “the end of the world” occurs five times in Matthew; but it is in each case an erroneous translation. It ought to read, “the consummation of the age.” This is the marginal reading in the revised version, as you will see in the following places: xiii. 39, 40, 49, xxiv. 3, xxviii. 20.

I.—I was not aware of that.

M.—In the mere letter the Bible contradicts itself. In some passages it appears to teach that the earth and the universe will finally be destroyed. On the other hand, it also declares that the earth shall endure for ever, as in Ecclesiastes i. 4, and in Psalm civ. 5.

I.—How then do you explain it?

M.—We will come to the explanation very soon; permit me to say here that the true method of the interpretation of the Bible harmonizes all its contradictions. The Word contains a spiritual sense. The Lord speaks in parables. Natural things convey spiritual ideas. Material objects are used to teach heavenly principles. Thus the real meaning is in the spiritual sense of the Scriptures. “The words that I speak unto you, are spirit, and are life,” says the Divine Teacher.

I.—You seem to mean much the same by a “spiritual sense” as we do by “figurative expressions.”

M.—The Word contains a spiritual sense in every part. And in the Epistles, when Peter, for example, appears to be describing a universal conflagration, he is certainly making use of figurative language. For, taken literally, he would be contradicting David and Solomon.

I.—Yes, I see.

M.—When John had written the words in Revelation xxi. 1,—”I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away,”—the very same physical heavens and earth existed as before. These had not passed away; nor will they ever pass away in the sense of being burned up or destroyed. In fact, the material heavens and earth are not meant at all, any more than our Lord means natural salt when He says to the disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matt. v. 13).

I.—What do you understand by the new heavens and the new earth?

M.—The new heavens and the new earth are new states and conditions on the part of the people who constitute the Lord’s Church. There are new states and conditions because the Lord has effected His Second Coming, by making a revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, and by giving genuine spiritual knowledges on all subjects. And in this, His Second Advent, the Lord is at this day establishing a New Church, meant by the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation.

I.—I now begin to get some new ideas.

M. —Well, then, let me try to give you another new idea. God can no more destroy the universe, or the earth, than He can destroy the immutability of His character.

I.—Are not all things possible with God?

M.—Let us consider my assertion logically and rationally; for whatever is not capable of demonstration, according to genuine logic and sound reason, cannot be true. Now I say emphatically, that it is absolutely impossible for God ever to destroy His universe. God is the Creator, the Upholder, the Preserver, of the stupendous fabric of creation. This grand truth is revealed to us in the Scriptures. The immutability of the Divine character is also plainly taught. God is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Does it not, therefore, follow as a logical conclusion, that since God is the Creator and Preserver of the world, and is also immutable, He will remain for ever the same? How can He at any time entirely change His essential Divine nature, and from a beneficent Creator, become a ruthless Destroyer of His own works? Is not such an idea in the highest degree irrational and absurd?

I.—I admit that there is a great deal of force in your method of reasoning on the subject. But since the natural body of man perishes, why not the natural earth also?

M.—Your question is perfectly legitimate. I will try to answer it, though I confess it is somewhat difficult. In the first place, however, I would say that it is not strictly true that the natural body of man does perish. It is only apparently so. The natural body has no life or sensation of itself. All the life and sensations that are manifested in the body are by virtue of the spirit that dwells within the body. The spirit is in the human form, is composed of spiritual substance, and is the man himself that survives the dissolution of the body. The body is said to perish, or to die; but the truth is, that when the spirit is separated from it, as man enters into the eternal world, then the material substances of which the body was composed, are dissolved, and thus return to the earth from which they were taken. But the material substance of which the body was formed is not destroyed nor annihilated. The form has been changed, but every particle of substance still exists. Matter is indestructible. You understand me thus far?

I.—I think so; proceed, please.

M.—Well, in the second place, I would say, that there is no correct analogy, or logical comparison, between the dissolution of man’s natural body and the destruction or annihilation of the material world. Matter of itself, in the absolute sense, is nothing, and cannot exist. The natural earth exists because there is a spiritual world. And the natural earth is the outbirth from the spiritual world; and can no more exist separate from it than the body of man can exist separate from the soul or spirit. The two worlds are indeed distinct as to the nature of the substances of which they are respectively composed. This earth is formed of material substances, while the other world is made of spiritual substances. And they are, nevertheless, very intimately related to each other; are in connection with each other, comparatively like soul and body. The Divine power of God flows in through the spiritual world, and keeps all things of the physical universe in being. Nature cannot create itself and exist of itself any more than a watch can make itself, and keep time without being wound up.

I.—I should like to hear a little more about the reasons why it is impossible, as you affirm, for God to destroy the universe. It has seemed to me that with God all things are possible. He is the Almighty.

M.—God is an infinitely perfect Being. He is Divine order itself. “Order is heaven’s first law.” Without laws of order the universe could not exist for an instant. Not all things are possible with God. It is not possible for Him to do anything that is disorderly. He cannot violate the laws of Divine order which He has ordained for the government of His universe. Such an idea is inadmissible and unthinkable when we think rationally.

I.—You New Churchmen have quite a new way of looking at things.

M.—Yes, we try to get along with as little nonsense as possible on these great questions. We need not launch into wild speculations; because in the New Church doctrines rational knowledges have been given us on all these subjects.

I.—Have you anything more to tell me about the matter we have been discussing?

M.—Yes; before we drop the subject, I should like to make a few more remarks. God created the universe according to His own Divine order. Since He is the Creator, and is immutable, He certainly cannot change into a Destroyer. He created the world to the beneficent end that He might form angelic heavens from the human race. This life, with all its experiences, is intended as a preparation for eternal life. We have no good ground to imagine that this beautiful earth of ours will ever be dissipated into gases, and thus return into a chaotic condition. We cannot reasonably suppose that it will be consumed by fire; that all the oceans, rocks, and mountains, and the solid globe itself, will ever be burned up and clean dissolved. The spiritual world is the medium through which the Creator sustains the natural earth. The spiritual world will never be removed from the natural world, as the spirit is removed from the body at the time man is said to die. The material world will not,, therefore, be subject to dissolution in like manner as the material body of man. The spirit world and the natural are related to each other like cause and effect. As there can be no effect without a cause, so there cannot be a natural world without a spiritual. The physical earth is gradually and constantly undergoing changes. It is not two hours precisely the same. These changes are analogous to those that take place in the human body. The earth is destined to become more beautiful, more desirable, as a temporary home for man throughout the ages of the future. As regards its continued existence, I believe the earth to be as enduring as the heavens. It seems to me to accord well with enlightened human reason to think that the entire glorious universe will be perpetuated, to subserve those wise and benevolent uses for the sake of which it was brought into existence. So that it is literally a grand philosophic truth, that “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever” (Eccles. i. 4).

I.—These explanations, I must say, are very interesting to me; and it seems as though your doctrines ought to do much in the course of time to enlighten the world on many difficult problems.

Evil Life Condemns

Evil Life Condemns

Matthew 5:30: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

Matthew 10:28: “28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Matthew 16:25: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Mark 8:35-37: “35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Mark 9:43-47: “43If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched. 44 where ‘ Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched 46 where ‘ Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”

Luke 12:47: “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

Luke 16:19-31: Rich man and Lazarus, obviously talking about heaven and hell. Message to those on earth: “19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'” [emphasis added]

John 3:18-21 “18He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

From The Writings – Evil Life Condemns

TCR 564 A person who has never repented, or looked into himself and examined himself, ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and what the good that saves him. Since so few people in the world of the Reformed Christians repent, it is necessary to add this point, that anyone who has not looked into or examined himself ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and the good that saves him. For he has no religious belief by which he can know this. The evil which a person does not see, recognize and acknowledge, lasts; and what lasts grows deeper and deeper roots until it blocks the interiors of his mind. This makes a person first natural, then sensual and finally bodily. In neither of these last two states does he recognize any damning evil or saving good. He becomes like a tree growing on hard rock, spreading its roots among the cracks in it, which ends up by withering for lack of moisture.


The Use of Dreams and Visions in Preparing for the Lord’s Second Coming

Dreams, Vision and Sleep 5

The Use of Dreams and Visions in Preparing for the Lord’s Second Coming

by Rev. Frederick L. Schnarr

When we examine the organized Writings of the second coming – and by that we mean those works which were specifically written and prepared for publication, thus excluding the “Journal of Dreams” and such works as The Word Explained and the Spiritual Diary – we find that visions and dreams have very little place. We do not mean by this that there is no instruction in the Writings concerning visions and dreams, for there is a great deal; but it is instruction rather than accounts of Swedenborg’s experiences.

It is not our intent here to consider what the Writings teach about the use and nature of visions and dreams in the past or the present. We would merely note that if one is to have any understanding of how the Word of the Lord was formed through the ages, he must study and understand the nature and function of visions and dreams. Visions and dreams were the principal means of revelation in the Most Ancient Church. How important they have been in the formation of revelation since that time is evident from both the Old and the New Testaments. Much of the Old Testament consists of visions and dreams or stories relating to them, and in a lesser degree the same is true of the New Testament.

Now before we enter into our subject, we would just point out the general difference between a dream and a vision as given in the Writings. Dreams occur while the corporeal of man is asleep, that is, his body with its natural senses. Visions occur when the body is awake, (AC 1882-84, 600; DP 134; Lord 52; AR 36) not only the natural body, but the spiritual body as well, so that man sees and hears things relating to the spiritual world. (AC 1975) Please understand, this is only a general definition; there are many types of dreams and visions, and many various states relating thereto. But this will have to suffice for our purposes here.

When we think of the style of the Writings, of the many descriptions of the life after death – of Swedenborg talking with spirits, angels and devils; of representations seen; of episodes witnessed, such as the Last judgment – we might think of the Writings as being filled with dreams and visions. And yet the Writings are explicit in their distinction between the nature of dreams and visions, and the nature of Swedenborg’s experience in the spiritual world. We read in Continuation Concerning the Last Judgment:


“It has pleased the Lord to open for me the eyes of my spirit, and to keep them open now for nineteen years; it has been given me to see the things which are in the spiritual world, and also to describe them. I can affirm that they are not visions, but things seen in all wakefulness.” (CLJ 35)

Even from 1745 to 1747, when Swedenborg was being introduced into the things of the spiritual world, he was clearly aware that he was in a state different from that of previous prophets and scribes of Divine revelation. He wrote at this time in the Word Explained, “In a certain manner I have been intromitted into heaven itself, not merely as to the mind, but also as it were with the whole body, or with the sense of the body, and that too when I was awake.” (WE 475)

Throughout the later Writings we find the same teaching repeated. “Whenever I have talked with angels face to face, I have been with them in their abodes. . . This occurred when my inner sight was opened, and I was fully awake.” (HH 184)

“All things which I have seen in the heavens have been seen by the sight of the spirit; and I was then in a similar state of wakefulness to that in which I was when they were not seen.” (AE 53)

“These things which I saw and heard, I saw and heard in the wakefulness of my body, and at the same time of my spirit; for the Lord has so united my spirit to my body, that I am in both at the same time.”(AR 484; cf. CL 1, TCR 851)

Finally, we would quote from an experience Swedenborg had with an angelic instructor. A general discussion had just concluded in an angelic society concerning the nature of the soul. The group then broke up into little informal gatherings and continued their discourse on the subject.

Seeing them from my lodging I came into the spirit, and in the spirit I went out to them; and I approached the chief teacher, who lately had proposed the question concerning the soul.

When he saw me he said, “Who are you? I wondered, when I saw you approaching in the way, that now you came into my sight and the next moment passed out of sight, or that at one moment you were visible to me and suddenly became invisible. You certainly are not in our state of life.”

To this I answered, smiling, “I am not a player of tricks, nor one who changes himself; but am an alternate, now in your light, now in your shade, and thus foreign and also native.”

At this the chief teacher looked at me and said, “You say strange and amazing things. Tell me who you are.”

I said, “I am in the world in which you were, and from which you departed, which is called the natural world; and I also am in the world to which you came and in which you are, which is called the spiritual world. I am therefore in a natural state, and at the same time in a spiritual state; in the natural state with men on earth, and in the spiritual state with you; and when I am in the natural state I am not visible to you, but when in the spiritual state I am visible. That I am so has been given by the Lord. To you, O enlightened man, it is known that the man of the natural world does not see the man of the spiritual world, nor the reverse; therefore when I let my spirit down into the body, I was not visible to you, and when I raised it out of the body I became visible.” (CL 326)

That Swedenborg was prepared to be in this dual state for the purpose of serving the Lord in the giving of a new revelation, was called by the angels “a miracle of miracles.” (AC 1880:3)

We have spoken at some length of the fact that Swedenborg’s experiences in the spiritual world were not in a state of vision or dream but in full wakefulness of mind and body, because this is pertinent to seeing how utterly different was his state and use as a revelator from that of all prophets, scribes, and disciples of past revelations. This, as well as Swedenborg’s special preparation through science and philosophy, is what made it possible for Swedenborg to receive the teachings of the second coming with rational understanding.

Only against this background of instruction concerning Swedenborg’s special state can we see in proper focus the place and nature of Swedenborg’s dreams and visions; and let us be clear, he did have dreams and visions. They served a special use at a particular time in his preparation. But let us regard their historic development with Swedenborg.

While it is true that Swedenborg was prepared for his mission from infancy by the Lord, he was not aware of this preparation until he was in his middle fifties. Before this time no unusual dreams or visions are recorded. His political, economic, scientific, and early philosophic writings speak little of religious topics. Later, after his spiritual eyes had been opened, Swedenborg did refer to the early preparation he had had for developing a special tacit breathing, which was to make possible his early dreams and visions, and finally his full wakefulness in the spiritual world.

Of this he writes in the Spiritual Diary,



I was thus during many years, from the period of childhood, introduced into such respirations, especially by means of absorbing speculations, in which the breathing seems to become quiescent, as otherwise the intense study of truth is scarcely possible. Afterwards, when heaven was opened to me, and I was enabled to converse with spirits, I sometimes scarcely breathed by inspiration at all for the space of a short hour, and merely drew in enough of air to keep up the process of thinking. Thus was I introduced by the Lord into interior respirations. I have also observed again and again, that when I was passing into a state of sleep, my respiration was almost taken away, so that I would awake and catch my breath. When I observe nothing of the kind, I continue to write and think, and am not aware of my respiration being arrested, unless I reflect upon it. This I may say has happened in instances innumerable. Nor was I at such times able to observe the various changes, because I did not reflect upon them. The design of all this was, that every kind of state, every kind of sphere, and every kind of society, particularly the more interior, might find in my own a fit representation, which should come into play without any reflection on my part, and that thus a medium of intercourse might be afforded with spirits and angels. (SD 3464)

It was not until 1736 when Swedenborg was on a trip in Europe that he began to have his first unusual experiences. As he was in Amsterdam beginning his work, The Economy o f the Animal Kingdom, he fell into a brief swoon. Following this time, he began to have vague and confused dreams. What these dreams were we do not know.  (Swedenborg’s heirs wrote that a manuscript volume containing “descriptions of Swedenborg’s dreams during the years 1736, 1737 . . . were removed from the volume and in the safekeeping of the family.”) We do not know how important Swedenborg considered them. For seven years, from 1736 to 1743, nothing of unusual import is described by Swedenborg. (While this statement is true there is one sentence written in 1740 that might lead to various interpretations. It is the last sentence at the end of an essay of two pages, Corpuscular Philosophy in Brief. He says, “These things are true because I have the sign.”) During this time he was engaged in his studies and writings on anatomy and psychology. He wrote his works on the Cerebrum (Codex 65), The Economy of the Animal Kingdom, The Fibre, the Rational Psychology, and most of The Brain. During this time Swedenborg traveled much and kept a journal of his travels – the places he visited and the people and things he saw.

In 1739 Swedenborg’s Itinerarium stops. His heirs removed for “safekeeping” some leaves at the end of his journal, and it is presumed that these dealt with some dreams he might have experienced. (Docu. II, p. 130) He later notes that while occupied with the writing of a certain work (probably one of the series of The Animal Kingdom on which he was engaged in 1742-1743) . . . “hardly a day passed by for several months, in which a flame was not seen by me, as visibly as the flame of a household hearth; at the same time, this was a sign of approbation.”(WE 6905)

The sign of a flame Swedenborg mentions a number of times; it seems to have been an introductory vision. (SD 2951)

From late in 1743, Swedenborg’s dreams became so regular that he commenced to be disturbed. He started his record – what is now called the Journal of Dreams – at the close of 1743, but the first dream actually recorded occurred in March, 1744. Two leaves are torn from the journal. This was probably done by Swedenborg himself because, before resuming his journal in March of 1744, he listed brief, one-sentence references to what they had been. A few examples of the references to this missing section read:

“In Venice, concerning the beautiful palace.”

“In Leipzig, concerning him who lay in boiling water.” “Concerning the manservant who wanted to go off on a journey.”

“My joys in the night. I wondered at myself at not having any longer anything of the working of my own honor, so that I found a sensation thereof; at not being inclined to the sex as I had been in all my days.” (Docu. 11, p. 147, 148)

Obviously, Swedenborg at this time had no clear idea of the use of these dreams, unless they referred to the books he was preparing for publication. But in December of 1743 Swedenborg had another vision. In letters to friends in later years he wrote:

“. . . [the Lord] manifested Himself in Person before me, His servant, and sent me to do this work. This took place in the year 1743; and afterwards He opened the sight of my spirit, and thus introduced me into the spiritual world, granting me … to speak with angels and spirits….” (Docu. II, p. 387)

In another letter Swedenborg says it was sometime after this appearance that his spiritual sight was opened. And this is so obvious from Swedenborg’s experiences in his dreams recorded during 1744. For there we see the man being prepared for his high office through many, various temptations. However, certainly after 1743, when the Lord appeared to him, Swedenborg thought of everything that happened to him as being in some way preparatory for some unusual Divine work, although he was not yet clear as to what that work would be. In April of 1744 he writes: “I perceive that I had received a talent for the promotion of God’s glory:

I saw that all had worked together to this end; and that the Spirit had been with me from my youth for this very purpose.” (Docu. II, p. 187)

At this time Swedenborg saw that he would have to leave off the study of natural things and turn his attention to spiritual things. He wrote:

All this represents that I must employ my remaining time in writing upon higher subjects, and not upon worldly things, which are far below; indeed, that I must write about what concerns the very center of all, and what concerns Christ. May God be so gracious as to enlighten me respecting my duty; for I am still in some obscurity as to the direction whither I am to turn. (Docu. II, p. 191)

Swedenborg’s dreams which he recorded in his Journal throughout the year 1744 indicate the various uses these dreams served in Swedenborg’s preparation. They were a means of causing Swedenborg to examine himself, and to shun and order those things present with him from the loves of self and the world. They were a means of establishing communication with the states and spheres of the spiritual world. And finally, they were a means of introducing him to the knowledge of representatives and significatives.

Up to this time, Swedenborg had been wonderfully prepared through the study of science and philosophy to receive and understand truths concerning higher things. Swedenborg thought of himself as a learned man. He had great concern for his reputation in learned society, and he was plagued with many disorderly and interior passions such as undue pride, self-intelligence, and conceit. Before Swedenborg could serve as a complete and trusted servant of the Lord, he had to be led to reject and repel those inclinations of his character which would make it impossible for him to fulfill the use of revelator. He had to come to place himself fully under the Lord’s protection and look to the Lord as the only source of all truly good and heavenly things. Unlike the prophets and disciples of old, the servant of the Lord’s second coming could not serve the Lord as a means of conveying Divine truths unless he freely saw and willed to serve such a use. In the dreams that Swedenborg experienced at this time we see the means whereby he was so prepared.

In the Journal of Dreams we find Swedenborg’s soul laid bare. We see him wrestling with his temptations. In one dream he states:

I saw a bookshop, and immediately the thought struck me that my work would have more effect than that of others; yet I checked myself at once; for one serves another, and our Lord has more than a thousand ways by which to prepare a man, so that each and every book must be left to its own merits, as a means near or remote, according to the rational condition of every man. Still arrogance at once crops up; may God control it, for the power is in His hands.(Docu. II, p. 166)

Earlier in the Journal he could write of his state:

While I was in the spirit, I thought and strove by thought to attain a knowledge of how to avoid – all that was impure; I noticed, however, that this intruded itself from the ground of the love of self, on all occasions whenever anything was reflected upon; as, for instance, when anyone did not regard me according to my own estimation of myself, I thought, Oh, if you only knew what grace I have, you would act differently; this then was not only impure, but originated in the love of self. At last I found this out, and entreated God’s forgiveness, and I then wished that others also might have the same grace, as they perhaps either have had or will have. From this I observed clearly that there was still in me that same pernicious apple which has not yet been converted, and which is Adam’s root and his hereditary sin. Yes, and an infinite number of other roots of sin remain in me. (Docu. II, p. 165)

Sometimes Swedenborg would reflect upon a subject, and then later dream of it in a representative dream. Sometimes he would dream first, and then with some obscure idea of its meaning, he would reflect upon the signification of the dream. At this time Swedenborg was just coming into the idea that his dreams were significative. As yet he saw nothing clearly relating to the heavens or any part of the spiritual world. This would not commence for three more years – and when it did, it would not be in dreams, but in open and waking presence in the spiritual world.

During the period of his Journal dreams, Swedenborg also had many visions, besides the two we have already mentioned. Sometimes he would fall into a dream, then awake from the dream, and remain in a vision. Or sometimes a vision would come without the presence of a dream, but as it were in a trance or swoon of the body. At such times Swedenborg would see spirits as men, sometimes doing different things, sometimes talking.

It is clear that the dreams and visions, such as Swedenborg had at this time, served the use of introducing him into foreign states that were new to him, or of changing a state. Indeed, this use, particularly of dreams, continued up through the time of the writing of the early Arcana Coelestia in 1748 and 1749. Knowledge of certain societies of hell, for example, could not be given to Swedenborg through open communication, because their state was far removed from Swedenborg’s conscious life; also at this time, they could have caused Swedenborg harm. Such was the case, for example, with the antediluvian hells – to know the nature of these hells, Swedenborg was caused to fall asleep, and in his sleep as in a dream he felt the horrible sphere of their presence and the nature of their desires to destroy him. (AC 1270) Upon awakening he saw them, but then they fled. This was not a representative dream, such as we have mentioned before; it was a real dream of actual states. In most ancient times, such dreams were common – but then, of course, they were mostly of angelic societies. However, this use of dreams with Swedenborg was unusual, and became unnecessary after Swedenborg had become a full-time inhabitant of both worlds.

Towards the end of 1744 Swedenborg experienced his first open, waking discourse with inhabitants of the spiritual world. At this time he was writing his concluding anatomical study The Five Senses, and beginning his work, the Worship and Love of God. As he worked on writing about the senses he noticed that he began to be aware of the sensations of the other world. For example, he dreamt of wine in a dream, and upon awakening actually smelled wine. Or, once while writing he saw a fly walking across the page, the fly being not of this world. (Docu. II, p. 206 Sens. 492) The first time a spirit addressed him while he was fully conscious came, he notes, in September of 1744 in the following manner: “Before I slept, I was strongly in thoughts concerning that which I had in hand to write; then it was said to me, ‘Shut thy mouth or I strike thee!’ I saw then one sitting on a piece of ice, and I was afraid.” (Docu. II, p. 207)

Writing about this in 1749 Swedenborg says:

Before it was opened to me to speak with spirits, I had been in the opinion that no spirit or angel could ever understand and perceive my thought, these being within me. . . Then it once happened that a spirit knew what I was thinking, for he spoke with me in a few words, at which I was amazed, especially at the fact that spirits could know my thoughts. (SD 4390)

After this time the use of dreams and visions decreased, while that of open discourse with spiritual beings increased. In April of 1745, when the Lord appeared to Swedenborg and told him that he was to be the servant of the Lord’s second coming, Swedenborg entered from the preparatory state in reference to his character to the preparatory state in reference to instruction – the instruction in heavenly doctrines and spiritual truths which were to form the context of the second advent. Swedenborg settled down at once to study the Old Testament and the New Testament in their original languages, and gradually began an exposition of the Scriptures, called the Word Explained. At this time he writes: “The kingdom of God was first shown me in the repose of sleep, but afterwards sometimes in the middle of the day, or in a time of wakefulness, so that I perceived it most clearly with the very sense itself.” (WE 541)

While working on the Word Explained, wherein Swedenborg grasps only occasionally the spiritual sense of a part of the Scriptures, he also commences to record his waking experiences in the spiritual world. This record is the Spiritual Diary, begun as inserts in the Word Explained in November, 1745. It records the experiences which were to constitute the final preparation for Swedenborg’s office of revelator. The nature of the Spiritual Diary is utterly different from that of the Journal of Dreams – although the two are often confused. In the Journal of Dreams we find Swedenborg experiencing certain terrorizing and incomprehensible, or dimly comprehensible, visions and dreams. We see Swedenborg constantly reflecting on his own state and upon his ability or shortcomings. In the Diary we find Swedenborg recording the events and states of the spiritual world more as a traveler in a foreign country. Truly, some of the things he witnesses and records are not clear to Swedenborg, and many of them are unpleasant, depicting states of evil. But still they are utterly different; they are no longer dreams and visions. Swedenborg not only sees and hears spirits, but speaks with them. And we see nothing of Swedenborg’s personal trials and tribulations therein. When writing the Diary he starts a section by saying “When I was in the company of spirits,” or “This morning it was shown to me how,” or “I was conducted into” such and such a place, or “It was told me from heaven by a living voice,” and so on.

With the beginning of the writing of the Arcana Coelestia in 1748, questions of uncertainty, and all the preparatory use of dreams and visions, came to an end. As we noted, the dreams and visions which Swedenborg experienced while serving as a revelator were of a different nature; they were not preparatory. The few which the Writings describe were used to allow Swedenborg to experience the state of the prophets of old, for example, so that those states could be revealed. The same was true when he experienced the kind of dreams they had in the Most Ancient Church. Indeed, these teachings also confirm how completely different and distinct was Swedenborg’s state as a revelator from that of all former prophets and revelators.

Dreams and visions were a means, and a necessary means, of preparing Swedenborg for his great use. But let us be clear, they are not the means whereby the second coming was made. The clarity of Swedenborg’s wakeful state may be seen all through the Writings. In preparing to describe something about heaven, for example, he will say, “On a certain morning I looked up into heaven,” (CL 42) or “As I was going home from the school of wisdom I saw in the way an angel.” (CL 151) The some thing is true of the descriptions of hell, such as “It has been granted me to enter some of the infernal workhouses”; (AR 153) no dreams, no visions, but full wakefulness of mind and body living in both worlds at the same time.

We would close with the following statement made by Swedenborg a few months before his death in 1772, and after he had lived twenty-seven years of such experience in both worlds at the same time: “The manifestation of the Lord, and intromission into the spiritual world, surpasses all miracles. This has not been granted to any one since the creation, as it has been to me. The men of the golden age, indeed, conversed with the angels; but it was not granted to them in any other than natural light; but to me it is granted to be in both spiritual and natural light at the same time. By this means it has been granted to me to see the wonderful things of heaven, to be together with the angels like one of them, and at the same time to draw forth truths in light, and thus to perceive and teach them; consequently to be led by the Lord.” (Inv. 52)

New Church Life 1980;100:487-496

How the Lord Governed the Universe While on Earth

How the Lord Governed the Universe
While on Earth

by D.T.

…”If Jesus was God the Creator appearing on earth in a human form, then how was the universe governed while He was on earth with the mind of a child?” Now, that’s a most important question, and it deserves to be treated seriously. The answer can be stated briefly in this way: that the universe was governed by His Divine soul, which was within, and which had always governed the universe. But that answer will not convey very much to us until we understand what is meant by the term, “the soul.” What do we mean by the Divine soul?

First, let’s see what the soul is with man. Then, perhaps, we will be able to form some ideas of the Divine soul. Of course, the word, soul, is used to mean many things. But what is strictly called the soul in this context is that receptacle of life that we all have – good and evil alike. Every human being without exception has an inmost spiritual vessel receiving life from the Lord. That inmost vessel is called the soul. It’s the first thing in us that is acted upon by the Lord and receives life from Him. But note: it’s nothing physical; it’s not to be confused with anything of the body; it’s made of spiritual substance; and it’s a spiritual organ or vessel receiving life from the Lord. Without it, nobody could live.

But the Divine soul – God’s soul – is life itself. It’s not a receptacle of life. It’s life itself, the source of all life.

But as far as man is concerned, what does his human soul do for him? Well, as we’ve already seen, it’s the part of us that first of all receives life from the Lord. The soul also directs the formation of the body in the womb of the mother. The operation of the soul is that mysterious force that directs the whole process so that cells subdivide in just the right way, according to the Divine order. Life from the Divine Being flows in and is received first of all by the soul, which channels it in order to perform various uses throughout the body. All our involuntary or automatic functions, such as our reflexes – those things in our body that work quite apart from our mind, our thinking and willing – are all directed by the soul. You see, the soul acts into and upon the rear-brain, which is technically known as the cerebellum, and through that it exercises control over all the automatic or involuntary, unconscious functions of the body.

Now, this happens with even a newborn babe, who has very little mind or consciousness at all, and it goes on through life no matter what stage of development our mind is in or what state it is in. The state of the mind has no bearing whatsoever upon the soul and its work; the soul in this context being defined, as I’ve said, as the organ or receptacle that first receives the inflow of life from the Lord.

For example, you know how it is if you scratch your hand. Provided that scratch is kept clean, it will just heal automatically. It’s not the body, of course, that heals itself. The body, in itself, is just flesh. It’s the action of the soul – a spiritual organism, a finite receptacle of life; it’s the soul that channels life from the Lord and automatically does the healing without any help from our mind. In our mind we can wish as hard as we like that the healing be speeded up, but it makes no difference: this because the workings of the soul are above our conscious awareness. In the example we are considering, the soul marshals instinctively the forces of the body that are necessary to heal the scratch and restore order in the body.

Now let me repeat: this kind of intuitive working of the soul goes on no matter what we are thinking. It goes on even when we are not thinking at all, when we are asleep. The state of our mind has nothing at all to do with it.

Another example would be the process of growth. This is another involuntary process of the body that goes on quite apart from the thinking and willing of our mind. This is why the Lord Himself said: “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?”

Now, it’s the same with the Divine soul – except that it is not a receptacle of life but life itself. Just as our own individual soul governs the involuntary functions of our body, so the Divine soul governed not only the body that it had created for itself but also the whole universe. It always had governed the universe. In fact, this Divine soul, or what is the same, this Divine Being, had created the whole universe. From infinite love and wisdom the Divine soul (or the Divine Being) – known as Jehovah God – provided what was needed in the whole universe, intuitively sensing what was needed to maintain everything in a state of order, just as our soul, on a finite scale, intuitively provides for the needs of the body.

Now when the Divine soul, the Divine in itself, needed to be more closely and personally present with mankind on the physical plane, He created a human body for Himself by means of the Virgin Mary. But the fact that that human part was, in the beginning, merely human and finite or limited, the fact that it began life with only the rudiments of a mind as does every newborn babe, in no way prevented the Divine soul from continuing to operate as it always had done, and so rule the universe. Even when the Lord’s human mind was barely conscious, even when it was asleep, the Divine soul continued to govern the universe. After all, we are assured in the Old Testament that “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Incidentally, it’s the same with our soul, isn’t it? It governs our body even while we are asleep. Our soul neither slumbers nor sleeps. It is a finite image of the Divine soul.

Now it’s interesting to note that the human part that the Lord made for Himself was known as Jesus. This was the Divinely revealed name; and it means, most significantly, “Jehovah saves.” That expresses a great truth, doesn’t it? As we’ve seen in previous talks, in the Old Testament it is said that Jehovah is the only Savior. You’ll find that particularly in the book of the prophet Isaiah. But in the New Testament Jesus is called the Savior. We can only reconcile these two groups of passages by supposing, as we’ve seen, that Jesus is Jehovah in the human form, come on earth to save us from the hells; not to save us from the consequences of our sins, but to save us from the influence of the hells, and so save us from sinning. He saved us by putting on a frail human nature which could attract the hells so that from the Divine within He could fight against and subdue the hells; which, as we know, He finally did. This was the way the Creator of the universe became the Savior and Redeemer. It is one of the greatest and most fundamental errors of the Christian Church that it has taught that God the Creator and the Lord the Redeemer are two separate persons, when, in fact, they are one and the same – the one and only God of heaven and earth.

Now this explanation that you have been listening to this evening, derived from what has been revealed by the Lord through Swedenborg, not only answers the question that was raised, but it also explains something I mentioned briefly last time – i.e., why the Lord on earth had, so to speak, two states of mind, a kind of dual consciousness. You see, when the influence of the merely human body was predominant, He had one state of mind; but when the influence from the Divine soul predominated, then He had a more exalted state of mind.

When the body prevailed, the Lord seemed to be separated from the Divine soul within, which He called in the New Testament “the Father.”

At times like these the Lord was described as praying to the Father as if to someone outside of Himself. These were times when He was in temptations, when His human part was rebelling against His Divine part. The effect of this was that there seemed to be two persons in Him; just as with us, when we are in states of temptation, there seem to be two forces contending for the mastery of our minds.

But, on the other hand, when the Divine soul predominated, then He did His Divine miracles, and said things like this: “I and the Father are one.” He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes. He spoke from the Divine, and He did this more and more often until this more exalted state began to predominate. It kept on predominating until finally His human part also had become completely Divine. He was then Divine from first to last. This is why, in the book of Revelation, He describes Himself as the First and the Last. There was complete unity or peace between the Divine and the Human in Him, so that He was the Prince of Peace and could communicate peace to His disciples.

To sum up, then: from His birth throughout His life on earth right up to the resurrection, the Lord (that is, Jesus) was completely God only as far as His soul was concerned. Only His soul was fully Divine, the Divine. But after the resurrection He was and is God as to both His soul and His body. From this we can see the answer to a question that was put to me recently as to why Jesus said, in Matthew chapter 19: “Why callest thou Me good; there is none good but one, that is God.” You see, we have to remember just when this was said. This was said at an early stage in His ministry; so, obviously, He could not allow His human part to be called “good.” At that stage goodness, Divine goodness, could be fully attributed only to His Divine part. Later on, however, when even His human part had been made Divine, then it was in order for Him to be called good. He said that all power was given unto Him in heaven and on earth, that is, that He was the Almighty. And He did not rebuke doubting Thomas when he called Him “My Lord and my God.”

After all, Thomas had spoken a great truth. Jesus is Lord and God. But let’s face up to what follows from this: that if He is Lord and God, there can be no other Lord, no other God, can there? The moment we say there is some other Lord or God who is not Jesus, in that moment we are saying that there are more gods than one. We are getting into polytheism – the worship of many gods.

The teaching of the New Testament is that there is one God in one Divine person, and that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father, meaning His Divine soul, is within Him, and His Holy Spirit or Divine influence goes forth from Him. It is completely true that “in Jesus Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead (that is, the whole of the Divinity,) in bodily form.”

The Lord Jesus Christ is therefore the God we worship and pray to in the Church of the New Jerusalem.

The Messianic Prophecy and its Fulfillment

The Messianic Prophecy and its Fulfillment

by Rev. Willard D. Pendleton

… To understand [the Christmas] story as it is recounted in the Gospel of Luke we must go back into the history of that nation among whom the Lord was born. For it is here, in the historical and prophetical Word of the Old Testament, that the prophecy of Him who was to come is to be found. Indeed, it is this prophecy which accounts for the remarkable history of this people and sets it apart from the life story of all the other nations of the ancient world.

It is to be noted, however, that the Messianic prophecy did not have its origin among the Israelites. The first recorded statement of a Savior who was to come is found in the third chapter of Genesis, where, in rebuking the serpent who had deceived the woman, the Lord God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed . . . [he] shall . . . [trample upon] thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3 : 15)

The first thing that strikes us in connection with this prophecy is its obscurity. In fact it is so obscure that the question immediately arises, how, from this statement, did men know that the Lord was to be born into the world? But the Writings state that the ancients also possessed other doctrinals “from which they knew that the Lord would come into the world, and that Jehovah would be in Him, and that He would make the Human in Himself Divine, and would thus save the human race.” (AC 3419) What specific forms these other doctrinals or prophecies took, we cannot say, for the Ancient Word has been lost, and all that remains of it today is to be found in the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis in which the prophecy of the seed of the woman is found.

One thing, however, is certain: the knowledge of the Advent did not originate with the Hebrews. It had its origin among the remnant of the Most Ancient Church who survived after the fall. It was from this remnant that the Ancient Church was formed, which, in turn, recorded the prophecies of the Lord’s coming in the Ancient Word. But when in the course of time the Lord did not come, the ancient prophecy was gradually forgotten. As men fell away from internal worship and turned to external worship, that is, as the men of the Ancient Church became idolatrous, the time came when they did not even know the name of the Lord. This was the case with Abraham, a descendant of the Ancient Church, with whom the historical Word of the Old Testament begins.

According to the testimony of the Writings, Abraham was an idolater who worshiped a family God by the name of Shaddai; and it was as God Shaddai that the Lord revealed Himself to Abraham. But if this be so, the question arises as to why the name of Jehovah, and not that of Shaddai, repeatedly occurs throughout the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The reason is that the book of Genesis was written many years later by Moses, to whom the name of Jehovah had been revealed. Because of this later substitution of the name of Jehovah for Shaddai, we are left with the impression that the patriarchs knew the Lord. This, however, was done by Moses for the sake of identification; but the real reason, although unknown to Moses, was, we are told, for the sake of the internal sense. (AC 7194)

Throughout the entire story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, however, there is only one open or direct reference to the Lord who was to come. It came at the end of the patriarchal period, when, in the blessing of his sons, Jacob said of Judah: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.” (Genesis 49: 10) The historical meaning of the text is clear. The function of government was to belong to Judah until such time as He who had been promised of old came into the world. By this renewal of the ancient prophecy with the sons of Israel, the nation that descended from them was set apart from all the other peoples of the earth. As the Lord said later unto Moses: “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people. . . . Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exodus 19: 5, 6) But the holiness of Israel did not consist in any spiritual virtue that was peculiar to this people, but in the representative function that they were selected to serve in preparing the way for the Advent.

Yet here is a curious thing: while it is true that throughout the entire patriarchal period only one direct reference is to be found concerning the Advent, in the derivation of the spiritual sense out of the letter it is this series which serves as the basis for the exposition of the doctrine of the glorification. Seven volumes of the Arcana Coelestia are devoted to this primary doctrine of the church. Chapter by chapter, verse by verse, the Lord’s life on earth is progressively revealed.

By the Lord’s life on earth, however, I do not have reference to the historical events which are recorded in the New Testament, but to those states which He put on as a man in the world. Here are revealed the laws of mental growth and development, the formative states of the Human, the nature of the Lord’s temptations, the quality of those perceptions which were revealed to Him from the Divine, and the nature of those states of humiliation and glorification which marked His progress toward union with the Divine. This testifies to two primary teachings of the Writings:

a) That apart from the spiritual sense, the Word in its letter cannot be understood.

b) That in its inmost sense the Word treats exclusively of the Lord, and were this not so the Word would not be Divine. For as the Writings insist, the Old Testament comes to us in the form of history, and if this history did not contain Divine truths, that is, truths concerning the Lord, it would have no more claim to meaning than the history of any other people or nation.

Our interest this evening, however, is not so much in the spiritual sense which testifies to the Divinity and holiness of the letter as in the continuity of prophecy as seen in the spiritual sense, as it is in those occasional passages of the Old Testament where the inner vein of prophecy breaks through the letter and speaks directly of the Lord who was to come.

In this connection we note what is said concerning Shiloh, which signifies the tranquility of peace. It is a beautiful signification, and the inference was that some day a ruler or governor, who would be a lawgiver, would be born among this people, and in His day Israel would enjoy the tranquility of peace. But that day was not yet. Remaining in Egypt, the descendants of Jacob were enslaved by the Egyptians; and during the long years of servitude they forgot the God of their fathers. Thus it was that when the Lord appeared to Moses He had to identify Himself as the God of his fathers; that is, as Shaddai. But as in each progressive revealing, a new concept of the Lord is given, He said unto Moses: “I am . . . [Jehovah]. And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob . . . [in God Shaddai]. But by My name Jehovah was I not known to them.” (Exodus 6: 2, 3)

In Moses, therefore, it seemed that one like unto Shiloh had come. Was he not a lawgiver? Neither did any come after him who so closely approximated this first definitive function by which He who was to come was to be known. But the days of Moses were not days of tranquility and peace. Israel was beset on all sides by enemies, and for forty years they were forced to remain in a wilderness where each day was a matter of bare survival. If Israel was to fulfill its allotted destiny new hope was necessary, and it was during this period that two further signs were given by which He who was to come was to be known.

It was Moses himself who gave the first sign, for he said: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet . . . like unto Me; unto Him ye shall hearken.” (Deuteronomy 18: 15) When Shiloh came, therefore, He was to be not only a lawgiver, but also a prophet; that is, even as Moses was speaking, now He, too, would speak with authority of things that were yet to come. In all probability it was this prophecy that heightened Israel’s sense of anticipation in the days of the later kings of Judah when such prophets as Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and Jeremiah appeared upon the national scene.

The other prophecy of this period is the well known prediction of Balaam – a wise man or magi who came from among the sons of the east. It was he who, having been charged by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse Israel, blessed them instead. He it was who said: “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side.” (Numbers 24: 5, 6) It was also he who took up his parable, and said: “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.” (Numbers 24: 17) For more than a thousand years this prophecy must have been preserved among the wise men of the east. How else can we account for Matthew’s testimony that “when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.”(Matthew 2: 1, 2)

Now we note with interest that in the succeeding period of Israelitish history, that is, in the days of Joshua, the Judges and Samuel, no open reference to the Messiah is to be found. In all probability the reason for this was that during this period Israel was a divided nation, warring among themselves, and there was no unified concept of a nation into which the ideal of the Messiah could be recast. It was not until the time of David that Israel actually became a unified people, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding prototype of the Messiah. What is more, when the Lord was in the world He was frequently referred to as the son of David.

It was, then, in the image of David, that a new concept of the Lord as a king and a deliverer began to emerge in the popular mind. This image is reflected in the Psalms, many of which are attributed to David. While as yet obscure, the Psalms nevertheless opened the way to the more definitive statements of the later prophets. As for example, the twenty-fourth Psalm, where the question is asked, “Who is this King of glory?” The answer is: “The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory..” (Psalm 24: 10) The question itself is evidence of the form in which the Messianic prophecy was now being cast.

But of all the references in the Psalms to the Savior, the most significant is found in the second Psalm, where it is said: “I have . . . [anointed] My king upon . . . Zion . . . I . . . [shall announce the statute] : The Lord . . . [saith] unto Me, . . . My son [art Thou] ; this day have I begotten Thee.” (Psalm 2: 6, 7) Here, for the first time, what was common knowledge among the people of the Most Ancient Church was revealed to the Jews: namely, that He who was to come into the world was to be as no other, in that He was to be conceived of Jehovah. Yet when, and where, and how this miracle was to be effected was not yet revealed. But one thing was certain: this Man, although like unto David, would be different, in that by virtue of Divine conception He would possess Divine attributes. This was a great step forward in the formation of the Messianic ideal in the national mind. Slowly but surely the way was being prepared for the advent of the Lord into the world.

It was not until the days of the later kings of Judah, however, that this new concept of the Messiah was confirmed. As the psalmists gave way to the prophets – those men of God who were specifically authorized to speak for Jehovah – the voice of prophecy was frequently heard throughout the land. Those were the days of Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habbakkuk and Jeremiah, an age in which the Messianic prophecy became so descriptive and so insistent that it seemed as if the day of the Lord was actually at hand. It was Isaiah who foretold how the Lord was to be born on earth; and who can forget his immortal words? “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us].” (Isaiah 7: 14) Neither did he leave to the imagination what manner of Man this was to be, for he said: “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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6) Neither was there to be any doubt concerning the kingdom He would establish, for “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.” (Isaiah 9: 7)

But if it was Isaiah who foretold how the Lord was to come, it was Micah who designated the place of His birth: “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 of Israel.” (Micah 5: 2) So specific, so urgent, so insistent was the voice of prophecy, and so desperate was Israel’s need at the time, that it was only reasonable to assume that the time was now at hand.

But despite all the signs that had now been given, the Lord did not come. Instead of the Messiah, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; and having destroyed Jerusalem, he carried the people away captive into Babylon. What follows here is a matter of history – the tragic history of the remnant of a once proud nation whose confidence in their manifest destiny had seemingly ended in crushing defeat and foreign captivity. But the voice of prophecy, although it never again attained to the heights of eloquence and immediacy that are descriptive of the prophets who spoke for Jehovah in the days of the later kings of Judah, was not yet stilled. It was Daniel, the prophet of the captivity, who saw in the night visions, one like the Son of Man, coming in the clouds of heaven, and to Him was given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom . . . which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7: 13, 14) In all probability it was this prophecy which led to a renewal of hope among those who later returned to Jerusalem. But apart from this we find no further open reference to the Messiah. While it is true that the prophets of the post-exilic period spoke of Him, they spoke in veiled terms which served to keep alive the hope of His coming, but did not provide any further signs by which He was to be known.

With the death of Malachi, the last of the prophets, the voice of prophecy ceased altogether. For almost four hundred years the Word of the Lord was not heard in the land. During these barren years in Israel’s history all that was known of the Messiah was what had been revealed to them of old time. But it came to pass, when Herod was king in Jerusalem, that rumors of one who had been born King of the Jews began to spread among the people. According to the testimony of certain shepherds, an angel of the Lord had appeared to them, saying: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. . . . And when they had seen . . . [Him] they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2 : 11, 17) It was also reported that following this there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, inquiring of Him who had been born King of the Jews, and they said: “We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2: 2) Was this, indeed, He of whom the prophets had spoken, or were they to look for another? That is the question which to this day separates those who believe in Him from those who repudiate the testimony of the New Testament.

In reviewing the Scriptures, one thing is certain: the Lord did not come when expected; neither did He come as expected. Israel had looked for a king after the pattern of David and Solomon, but this Man came from among the lowly. According to the record, He was to be a lawgiver and a prophet; but the scribes and Pharisees accused Him of perverting the law, and the future of which He spake held no comfort for Israel. As to the kingdom which He was to establish on earth, He answered them, saying, “My kingdom is not from hence.”(John 18: 36) For these, and for similar causes, the Jewish Church rejected Him. But in this also a long forgotten prophecy concerning Him was fulfilled. Had not Isaiah said: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of . . . dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men.” (Isaiah 53: 1-3)With the Jews, therefore, as with every church since the beginning, the darker implications of prophecy were forgotten in anticipation of the event.

So it is that at this season of the year when men pause to reflect upon the meaning of those events which took place almost two thousand years ago in the hill country of Judea, the question arises, Who was this Child and what did His birth portend? Some say He was but man, even as you and I and others are man. Others say, although He was man, yet was He the best of men, and as such, an example to all men. Still others hold that He was a third person in a mystical trinity of Divine persons. But the Writings insist that although He was born as man, He was God; that is, one God in person, who is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the faith of the New Church, and upon this faith, as a house upon its foundation, all of the Writings rest.

If, then, we would understand those things which were said by them of old time concerning this Child, we, too, must go unto Bethlehem, that is, to the spiritual sense of the Word, and there we will find Him. The reason for this is that apart from the spiritual sense the Word in its letter cannot be understood. But once it is seen and acknowledged that the Word in the letter contains a spiritual sense, the thought of the understanding is able to perceive that this Child, that is, the newborn doctrine of the Divine Human, is as no other, and that in Him all prophecy from the beginning is at this day fulfilled.

But again we are reminded of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Ibid.) It is a pertinent question, and in this the Second Advent does not differ from the first; for while many have heard of Him, few have sought Him. But there is a difference, and the difference is that the second coming of the Lord is not in person, but as the Writings testify, it is in the Word which is from Him and is Himself.” (TCR 776) This Word is the Word in its spiritual sense; that is, the Spirit of truth of whom the Lord spake to His disciples, saying, “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16: 13) In this, however, the burden of proof lies with the Writings, and this will be the subject of our next class.

* * * * * * *

From ancient times it was known that the Lord was to be born on earth, but when and where this was to take place was not revealed. It was not until the days of the later kings of Judah that Micah the prophet spake, saying: “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.” (Micah 5: 2) It is reasonable to assume that this prophecy created a state of expectation among the people. The inference was that the coming of the Messiah, which had been so long delayed, was now at hand. But in this, as in former instances of open prophecy, Israel was destined to disappointment. Several generations passed; kings succeeded one another; but no one who fulfilled the prescribed qualifications of the Messiah appeared upon the national scene. Then came the armies of Nebuchadnezzar; Jerusalem was laid waste; and the people were taken away captive.

It was a pathetic remnant of a once great nation who returned to the site of Jerusalem after seventy years of foreign captivity. Under the urgings of Haggai and Zechariah they restored the city and rebuilt the temple, but prophecy had lost its emphasis upon the immediacy of the Advent. Then, without apparent cause, the voice of prophecy was stilled altogether. Generations passed, and the Word of the Lord was not heard in the land. With the passing of the years the central theme of prophecy was gradually obscured in the minds of the people, and all that was known of the Lord was contained in ancient scripts which preserved the record of that which had been told to “them of old time.”

It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that in the days of Herod few recalled those signs of the Advent which in earlier days had been common knowledge. Thus it was that when certain wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, and inquired as to where they might find Him who was born King of the Jews, none seemed to know of whom they spake. In evidence of their mission, the wise men spoke of a star which they had seen in the east. The reference was to the prophecy of Balaam, who, in viewing the encampment of Israel in the days of the wilderness, had said: “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.” (Numbers 24: 17) But if this prophecy had been forgotten by men, the record was yet intact. So it was that when Herod “heard these things, he was troubled. . . . And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.” (Matthew 2: 3, 4)They said unto him: “In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet . . . out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel.” (Matthew 2: 5, 6)

To all believing Christians, the story of the Lord’s birth is a matter of historical record. Yet the question arises, who was this Child who was born so many years ago in the hill country of Judea? Some say He was as other men, howbeit, the best of men. Others say He was the Son of God born in time, that is, a third person in a trinity of Divine persons. But it is the faith of the New Church that apart from the spiritual sense of the Word, the Word in its letter cannot be understood. If, then, we would know this Child, we, too, must go unto Bethlehem, that is, to the spiritual sense of the Word; for it is there, in the city of David, that is, in the doctrine of the Divine Human, that we will find Him who was spoken of by the prophets. Here, and nowhere else, is He to be found: “For 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.”

It is important to note that in this prophecy, Bethlehem is also referred to as Ephratah, the name by which it was known in most ancient times. By Ephratah, therefore, is signified the Word in a former state; that is, the Word as to its letter, from which the spiritual sense is derived. Thus it is that in the Psalms of David we find an earlier and more obscure forecast of the Lord’s birth in which it is said: “Lo, we have heard of . . . [Him] . . . [in] Ephratah, we found . . . [Him] in the fields of the. . . [forest].” (Psalm 132: 6) By the fields of the forest are meant those appearances of truth in which the Word in its letter is written (AE 700: 9) and it is from these appearances that man forms his first idea of God.

Let us have no illusions, therefore, concerning the use of the letter of the Word. Were it not for the letter, man could not be introduced into the spiritual sense; for it is upon the idea of God as Divine Man that the faith of the New Church rests. This is the primary teaching of the Old Testament and of the New Testament; and unless a man believes this, how can he accept the testimony of the Writings concerning themselves?

As the Lord said to the Jews: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets . . . but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5: 17) If the Writings break with the letter, it is not with its essential content but with those appearances of the letter in which the Divine doctrine is obscured. It is, therefore, in order that man may enter with perception and understanding into those things which are contained in the letter that the Writings are given; and the central theme of the letter is the prophecy of the Lord’s birth and His life in the world.

It is He, therefore, of whom we have heard in Ephratah; and in the recollection of these things we experience the delight of former states. Thus it is that when we reflect upon the Christmas story there is a renewal of those affections which we knew as children, when we heard with awe and wonder the story of the Lord’s birth among men. It is these affections of former days that the Writings call “remains.” They are so called because they remain with man as long as there is any remnant of innocence in him; that is, any desire whatsoever to be led by the Lord. Never underestimate the influence of first states of instruction upon the mind; for while much of what is learned is obscured in the memory, the delight that is inspired may yet be recalled to service.

It is these primitive affections of childhood that are represented in the scriptural story by those who received the Lord at His birth. Were it not for them there would be none to receive the Divine doctrine at its coming; for at the time of His coming, Herod is king in Jerusalem, and Caesar Augustus is emperor of Rome. By Herod is represented the love of self, which exercises dominion over man’s natural affections; and by Rome is represented the natural-rational, which exalts human reason. Thus it is that when confronted with the claim to the authority of Divine truth, the natural-rational, like Pilate, takes refuge in skepticism, saying, “What is truth?” To such states of mind the Divine doctrine cannot be revealed, for in such states man does not will to believe. It is, then, only to those who will to believe in His Word that the Writings are addressed.

Yet faith in the Writings is not the faith of childhood. If it were, there would be no need for the Writings. It is because the faith of childhood is not sufficient to the more advanced states of adult life that the Lord has come again as the Divine doctrine. It is, therefore, not as children that we experience the joy of the Lord’s advent, but as those who are permitted to perceive what these things interiorly present; for it is here, in Bethlehem of Judea, that is, in the spiritual sense of the Word, that He to whom all prophecy attests is to be found. We see Him, therefore, not as we knew Him in first states, but as He is now revealed; that is, as Divine Man made visible to the sight of the understanding in the Divine doctrine. The meaning of the prophecy, therefore, is clear. If we would know the Lord we must go unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass that the Lord hath made known unto us. If we will do this, we will come to see that all revelation from the beginning testifies to the Divinity of this Child. That this is so is evident from the treatment of the letter of the Word in the Arcana Coelestia. Verse by verse, and chapter by chapter, we follow the sacred text through the formative states of the Human, and through those alternate states of temptation and glorification which marked His progression toward union with the Divine. Thus the Divine doctrine, which formerly dwelt in Ephratah among the obscure appearances of the prophetic Word, is now to be found in Bethlehem; that is, in the plain teachings of the Writings concerning Him. That is why it is said that Bethlehem represents the Word in a new state.

But although at this day the ancient prophecy has been fulfilled, it seems that there are few to receive Him. In this, the Second Advent does not differ from the first. As the prophet Isaiah said: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isaiah 53: 1) The answer is, to none save a few. Men say, If this be the truth, would we not know it? But like many in Israel who were indifferent to those things which were told abroad by the shepherds, the modern mind does not credit the possibility of an authoritative statement of truth. It is not that men no longer believe in God, but that they have lost faith in Divine revelation. Yet in this day, as in that, there is a remnant who have not forgotten the Word of the prophets, and perceive that the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, even as the Divine Child, were conceived of God, and not by man. In the final analysis, this is the test of truth, and when applied to the Writings it inspires faith.

At this time of the year, therefore, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord upon earth, let us not forget that those things which were seen by the shepherds were not only a fulfillment, but also constituted a renewal of the ancient prophecy; for as stated in the book of Revelation, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19: 10) That this is so is evident from the fact that the Lord Himself said that He would come again; but nowhere does it say that He would come again in person, but that He would come as the Spirit of truth, that is, as the spiritual sense of the Word. If men would read the New Testament with this in mind, if they would regard what is said there not merely as an historical record of past events but as a forecast of things to come, the Lord’s life on earth, His birth, His death, His resurrection would take on new meaning, and, as it is said in the preface to the work Heaven and Hell, ignorance would be enlightened and unbelief dissipated.(HH 1)

Consider, for the moment, the evidence in this regard. Did He not say to His disciples: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth”? (John 16: 1) Also: “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter; that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” (John 14: 16, 17) And again: “When the Comforter is come . . . even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.” (John 15: 26) Who is it, then, whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not? Is it not He of whom the Lord spake; that is, He who at this day testifies to the Divinity, to the holiness, and to the unity of the Word? And is this not He of whom the prophets spake; that is, the Lord in His Divine Human?

But like the Jews who did not receive the Lord because He did not conform to their preconceived concept of the Messiah, neither has the Christian world accepted the Writings. Because they do not conform to men’s preconceived concept of truth they have rejected them. But the truth of the Writings is not dependent upon men’s acknowledgment of them. As the Lord said to the Jews: “I receive not testimony from man.” (John 5: 34) In this, as in all things, the truth speaks for itself. As it is stated in the Writings: “It is the Divine which bears witness concerning the Divine, and not man, from himself.” (AE 635: 2) We do not accept the Writings, therefore, on the basis of Swedenborg’s claim to a Divine revelation, but upon the internal evidence that the Writings are what they claim to be; that is, the fulfillment of the prophetical Word.

By the prophetical Word, we here mean all the Word of the Old and the New Testaments. There is nothing said in the letter of either Testament that is not prophetic of the Lord who was to come; that is, of the Lord as He is now revealed in His own Divine Human. It is true that when the Lord came into the world men saw Him as a person; but to know the Lord is not to know Him merely as a person. It is to see and acknowledge the good and truth which are from Him; for to see what is good and true is to see what in essence is human. Hence we read in the Writings: “Who does not know that a man is not a man because of his having a human face and a human body, but because of . . . his understanding and the goodness of his will.” (TCR 417) This also is what is meant by the statement in the same number: “To love the neighbor, viewed in itself, is not to love the person, but the good that is in the person.” (Ibid.)

As it is with man, so it is with the Lord, who is Divine Man. If we would know Him we must know Him not only as He who came into the world in His own Divine person, but we must see and acknowledge that He is good and truth itself, and that all good with angels and men is from Him. But as God, or good, cannot be presented to the sight of the understanding except in the form of truth, the Lord gave the Word; and it is in His Word, and not apart from it, that the Lord may be known among men. Thus the Writings teach that the Word is the medium of conjunction between God and man. Yet how many at this day believe this? For the most part, men think of the Word as the testimony of the religious experience of the prophets and the evangelists. And while many believe that the prophets and the evangelists were somehow inspired, they do not understand the nature of their inspiration; neither are they prepared to believe that within the appearances of the letter of the Word there is a spiritual sense which constitutes an authoritative statement of truth.

To see God, therefore, is to see truth; that is, to see Him as the truth of the Word. Hence it is said in John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1: 1) But whereas, prior to His coming, the Word was revealed through the instrumentality of the human of an angel who appeared to the prophets, and whereas at His coming the Word was revealed through the human that the Lord assumed from the mother, in His second coming the Lord is revealed in His own Divine Human; that is, as the Divine doctrine which, in the words of the Writings, “is from Him and is Himself.” (TCR 776)

By the Divine Human, therefore, is not meant that body of flesh and blood which the Lord put on by birth into the world, but that body of Divine doctrine in which He is revealed at this day. We do not see Him, therefore, as the disciples saw Him; that is, as one who is revealed to the sight of the senses, but as one who is revealed to the sight of the understanding, that is, the good which is implicit in the truth of the Word. For God alone is good, and he who perceives what is good from the affection of truth sees God. But before God may be seen we must first form some idea of Him. That is why the Word has been given, for apart from the Word, man cannot form any idea of God; that is, any idea in which truth may take form. Thus the Writings insist that “no one can think of the Divine itself unless he first presents to himself the idea of a Divine Man”; (AC 8705) for to think of God apart from the idea of a Divine Man is to think indeterminately; and as the Writings state, “an indeterminate idea is no idea.” (Ibid.)

Despite the apparent discrepancies that exist in the Scriptures, there is one teaching that is consistent throughout. This is that God is Divine Man. In the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in the Writings there can be no question concerning this. But whereas in the Old Testament the thought is determined to the idea of God in human figure, and in the New Testament to the idea of God as a person, in the Writings the thought of the mind is elevated to the concept of a God who in essence is good and truth. Thus the subject of the Writings is the essential Human, or that which in essence is Human in the Lord. Hence we are told that we are not to think of the Lord from His person, and from this of His essence; but from His essence, and from this of His person.” (AR 611: 7) In other words, if we would understand who it was who was born into the world, we must not think of Him from the appearances in which the New Testament is written; but we must think of Him as He is revealed in the Writings, and then the appearances of the New Testament will be understood. For He was not man as we are man; neither was He a third Divine person in a trinity of persons, but He was, as the Writings teach, the one God of heaven and earth.

What, then, shall we say of this Child who was born so many years ago in Bethlehem of Judea? Is it not He who has come again in the spiritual sense of the Word? Yet, like the Christ Child, the Divinity of the Writings is not at first perceptible. As we read in John: “He was in the world . . . and the world knew Him not.”(John 1: 10) Think of the multitudes who saw Him as a man in the world; but how many perceived that, as foretold by the psalmist, He was the begotten of God? (Psalm 2 : 7) In this, as already noted, the Second Advent does not differ from the first. Because He has not come as expected, that is, as a person, men say this is not He of whom Christ spake. But as Nicodemus said to the Lord: “Can a man . . . enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born [again] ?” (John 3: 4) The answer is, he cannot. In other words, the Lord cannot come again as a man in the flesh; and if He did, who would believe it and what purpose would be served? But He can and has come as the Divine doctrine, that is, as the spiritual sense of the Word. Hence the teaching of the Writings that “the Second Coming of the Lord is not in person, but in the Word, which is from Him, and is Himself”; (TCR 776) and also the teaching that “the Second Coming of the Lord is effected by means of a man to whom the Lord has manifested Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His Spirit, that he may teach the doctrines of the New Church from the Lord by means of the Word.” (TCR 779)

“Who,” then, “hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” It is revealed to those who in their hearts believe that there is a God, that He is one both as to essence and person; and who believe that the’ Scriptures contain within themselves a spiritual sense which, although not at first apparent, is nevertheless implicit in the Divine text. To such, that high and holy event which took place in the days of Herod the king is seen, not only as a fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, but also as a renewal of the inner meaning of prophecy, which at this day has found its ultimate fulfillment in Him who has come as the Spirit of truth.

-New Church Life 1965;85:497-504, 545-552

The Fulfillment of Prophecy

The Fulfillment of Prophecy

by Rev. Willard D. Pendleton

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

From the time of the fall it was known that some day the Lord would be born upon earth, and that at His coming He would redeem the human race. But when He was to come, where He was to be born, and what manner of man He was to be was not revealed. It was not until the days of the later kings of Judah that the voice of prophecy became both definite and insistent. It was Micah who identified the place where the Lord was to be born, and it was Isaiah who foretold the miraculous manner of His birth. Of even greater significance, however, was Isaiah’s description of the qualities that the Messiah was to possess; for His name was to be called “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6) How this was to be understood, no man knew; yet one thing was sure: this Man was to be as no other, and from all portents it seemed as if the day of His coming was at hand.

It was a bewildered and disillusioned people who, several generations later, were taken away captive into Babylon. The word of the prophets had not been realized, and Israel’s hope of a free and independent kingdom had ended in crushing defeat and foreign servitude. It is true that in the days of the post-exilic prophets the hope was revived; but the prophecy of this period lacked the sense of immediacy that had characterized the pre-exilic period, and while hope remained, it seemed remote. Then suddenly the voice of the Lord was stilled. For almost four hundred years all that was known of the Lord and His coming was what was preserved in the scripts that had been written “by them of old time.” What was once common knowledge, therefore, was gradually forgotten, and in the days of Herod the king few were familiar with those signs by which the Lord was to be known when He was born among men.

Now “it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. . . . And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem . . . . to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2: 1-7)

This was the child of whom the prophets had spoken, the child whose coming was so long delayed. In the silence of the spiritual night which enveloped all humanity, Israel’s high function had at last been realized. A virgin daughter of the people had conceived and brought forth a son, whose name was to be “Immanuel,” that is to say, “God with us.” Yet in all Israel only a few knew of His coming; and of the many who heard the words which He spake, only a handful of disciples perceived that in Him the voice of prophecy had at last been fulfilled. The reason for this was that in the fulfillment of prophecy the reality rarely conforms to men’s preconceived idea of the event. Israel had looked for a king, but this Man came from among the lowly. It was foretold that He was to be a lawgiver; but the Scribes and Pharisees accused Him of perverting the law. Of the Messiah’s kingdom, it had been said that it would know no end, but when questioned He answered, saying, “My kingdom [is] not from hence.” (John 18: 36) Yet in their rejection of Him, the ancient prophecy was fulfilled, for as Isaiah had said: “Who bath believed our report? . . . He is despised and rejected of men.” (Isaiah 53: 1, 3)

In this later day, when it is permitted to enter with understanding into the spiritual sense of the letter, the scriptural account of the Lord’s birth opens the way to an interior perception of the prophetic function of the Word; for while it is true that the New Testament is, in effect, a fulfillment of the Old Testament, what men fail to perceive is that the New Testament is in itself a renewal of prophecy and that in its internal sense it speaks entirely of things which were yet to come. As the Lord said to His disciples: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16: 12, 13)

It was this, and similar teaching, which for a time led many to believe that some day the Lord would come again. But how many believe it at this day? While many subscribe to the social teachings of Jesus, few credit the reliability of the prophetical statements of the New Testament. Yet the reason for this is that men have assumed that the teaching is that the Lord would come again as to person, but this is not what is said. What is said is that He would come as the Spirit of truth. Hence the explanation of the Writings that “the second coming of the Lord is not a coming in person, but in the Word, which is from Him, and is Himself.” (TCR 776)

It is, then, as the Spirit of truth, or as the spiritual sense of the Word, that the Lord has been born among men at this day. Yet, as the prophet Isaiah said: “Who bath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isaiah 53: 1) In this, the second advent does not differ from the first. In both instances the Lord did not come when expected; neither did He come as expected. We have no difficulty, therefore, in understanding why it is that few at this day perceive that in the Writings the Scriptures are fulfilled; for even as the Lord did not conform to Israel’s concept of the Messiah, neither do the Writings concur with men’s preconceived idea of truth. Men say that truth is the sum of human experience, and that what may be regarded as true is at all times relative to experience. But the Writings insist that truth is a form of good, and that as God alone is good, to see God is to see truth. To enable men to do this is the function of all Divine revelation; but as the Word in its letter cannot be understood apart from the spiritual sense, the Lord has come again as the Spirit of truth.

What, then, is the claim of the Writings concerning themselves? Is it not that in them the prophetic Word is fulfilled? Like the shepherds, therefore, who watched over their flocks on the night that the Lord was born on earth, “let us now go even unto Bethlehem,” that is, to the spiritual sense of the Word, “and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord bath made known unto us.” (Luke 2: 15) “And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 12)

By swaddling clothes are signified primary truths or truths of innocence; (AE 706: 12) that is, those general or primary truths of revelation which are acknowledged by all in whom there is something of innocence. These truths are: that there is a God; that the Lord came into the world to save the human race; that there is a heaven; and that the life of religion is to do good.” (AC 8773) It is these truths which in first states attest to the Divinity of the Writings, and serve as a sign that the newborn doctrine, while born of woman, is conceived of God; for by a woman is signified the affection of truth, and it is through, or by means of, this affection that the Divine doctrine is born in the hearts of men. Thus it is that in the prophecy concerning the New Church the book of Revelation speaks of a great wonder seen in heaven – of a woman clothed with the sun, who gave birth to the Man Child who was to rule .all nations. (Revelation 12: 1-5) He it was of whom Isaiah had prophesied, saying, “Unto us a child is born,” for the Christ Child and the Man Child are one. Yet while they are one, there is a difference, the difference being that the child who was born in the days of Herod the king is the Lord as He is seen and known in the sense of the letter, whereas the child who was born of the woman in the wilderness is the Lord as He may now be seen and known in the spiritual sense of the Word. Hence the Man Child is said to signify the nascent (newborn) doctrine of the Divine Human, who is the Spirit of truth who was to come.

Now it is a notable fact that the historical account of the Lord’s birth on earth concurs with the prophetical account of the birth of the Divine doctrine in that in each instance there was no place to be found for Him among men. Because there was no room for Him in the inn, the infant Lord was placed in a manger. By a manger is signified the doctrine of truth from the letter of the Word which, although it testifies to the Lord’s Divinity, has no place in the minds and affairs of men. But if men have rejected the doctrine of genuine truth as contained in the letter, what of the Divine doctrine as plainly revealed in the spiritual sense of the Word? Surely, it would seem that if the Writings are what they profess to be, men would acknowledge them. Yet, as foretold, the Man Child is born in a wilderness; that is, in a state in which there is no interior perception of the Divine doctrine. Thus it is that at this day the knowledge of the Divine doctrine must be preserved by a few while preparation is being made for its reception by many.

On this high and holy day, therefore, when our thoughts and affections are stirred by the remembrance of the Lord’s birth among men, we share the joy of those few to whom these things were revealed. Like Mary, like Joseph, like the shepherds, there is much that we do not understand; but of one thing we are certain: this child, the nascent doctrine of the Divine Human, is as no other. In all history there is nothing comparable to the Writings; and while men may not credit their testimony concerning themselves, they cannot account for them, neither can they explain them away. Like the Divine Child who astonished the doctors in the temple by His understanding and answers, the Writings speak with an authority and a clarity that testify to their Divine origin; and while few at this day are concerned with the unique claim that the Writings make to be the truth, yet the fact remains that “never man spake like this.” (John 7: 46)

It is, then, as the Spirit of truth, or the Spirit of prophecy, that the Lord has come again into the world; for as we read in the book of Revelation: “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19: 10) And was it not He who testified, saying, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you”? (John 14: 16,17)

Who is it, then, that the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not? Is it not the doctrine of the Divine Human which is now plainly revealed in the spiritual sense of the Word? Is it not He of whom the prophet spake, saying, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”? For by a child is signified He who is innocence and love itself, and by a son is signified the truth of His Word. This truth is that there is one God, in one person, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the doctrine of the Divine Human, and it is in the light of this doctrine that the Word in its letter is to be understood. But the perception of the Lord in His Divine Human is dependent upon a faith in the integrity of the Word. By this we do not mean a blind faith in the letter, nor a general acknowledgment that the Scriptures are somehow inspired, but a faith that within the letter there is to be found an authoritative statement of truth. In this also, the second coming does not differ from the first, for in this day, as at that, the Lord is received by those who have not forgotten the words of prophecy and are capable of perceiving that in the doctrine of the Divine Human all prophecy from the beginning is at this day fulfilled.

Yet the inevitable question arises: If this be true, why is it that the Writings are not acknowledged by many? The implication is that the test of their truth is their acceptance by men. But this is not so; for as the Writings insist: “It is the Divine which bears witness concerning the Divine, and not man from himself.” (AE 635: 2. See also AE 538: 4) What is meant here is that it is the spiritual sense which bears witness to the Divinity and holiness of the Word in its letter, and when the letter is understood, it supports and bears witness to the spiritual sense.

So it is that when we reflect upon the scriptural account of the Lord’s birth we think of Him as He is revealed in the spiritual sense of the Word. For whereas when He lived in the world He was seen and known through the instrumentality of a human derived from the mother, in the Writings He is revealed in His own Divine Human. There is a world of difference between these two concepts of the Lord, as may be evident from the fact that in the New Testament our thought is directed to Him as a person; and while it is true that God is a person, and that apart from the thought of Him as a person we can form no idea of Him, yet the Writings insist that we are not to think of the Lord from His person but from His essence, and from this of His person. (AR 611)

If, as stated, this seems arcane, it is not; for by essence is meant the essential man, or the real man. Hence we are taught in the Writings that the real man is not the person, but the affection and thought which underlie the person; for love is the life of man, and such as the love is, such is the man. What, then, shall we say of Him who came into the world as man? To all appearances He was as other men; but as it is said in John: “In Him was life: and the life was the light of men.” (John 1: 4) In Him therefore was love; that is, Divine love, and it was in this that He differed from all men, for whereas man is but a vessel receptive of life and love from the Lord, the Lord is love itself; and because He is love itself He is the source of all good and all truth with the angels of heaven and with men upon earth. But as God, or good, cannot be presented to the sight of the understanding except in the form of truth, the Lord gave the Word. For this cause came He into the world and made the Human, which He took to Himself, Divine. This Human is the Word made flesh, the Spirit of truth; that is, the Lord as He now is revealed in the living sense of the Word.

This is the Man Child who was born in the wilderness, and it is this child, or newborn doctrine of the Divine Human, who testifies to the integrity of the scriptural account of the Lord’s birth on earth. For, as promised, a virgin did conceive and bear a son, whose name was Immanuel, that is to say, God with us. And what is more, the day has come when men at last may enter with understanding into the reason that His name is also to be called “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

New Church Life 1964;84: 529-534

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The Gathering of the Elect. How Prophecy Works

The Gathering of the Elect

by Hugh L. Odhner

“And He shall send forth His angels with the great voice of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24: 31)

The Lord foretold His second advent in several different ways. He was to return to His church as the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; as a King judging from His throne; as a wounded Lamb who would open the seals of Scripture; as a male child born from a celestial woman; as a Harvester with a sickle; as a Divine Bridegroom ready for the marriage supper; and as the conquering Hero mounted on a white horse and having the name of “the Word of God,” and followed by angelic hosts on white horses.

The confusing variety of these prophetic word-pictures was necessary to show that the Lord’s second advent was not a physical or personal coming but a spiritual event – effected by a new revelation of His presence to the minds of men, at a time when the Christian Church had become so alienated from heaven and from the understanding of the Word that it could no longer serve as a source of spiritual enlightenment. And the New Church now sees that this second advent of the Lord was effected in spiritual fact by means of His servant Emanuel Swedenborg, whom He filled with His Spirit to teach from Him the doctrines of the New Church through the Word. (TCR 779)

In the natural world this second advent of the Lord went unperceived except by a few, even as was the case when the Lord was born into the world and only Mary and a few others pondered in their hearts what His birth might mean. It was in the spiritual world that the Lord was seen in great glory. It was there that the clouds which had concealed the way to heaven were dispersed by a great judgment, and angels were sent out to all quarters to gather the “elect” together into the New Heaven.

All men are intended for heaven, in the sense that none are predestined to hell. All men can be saved in the other life, unless they have confirmed themselves in evils of life, and this whether they are pagans or Christians, or whether they die as babes or as adults. All can find salvation if they have acknowledged God and lived well. There are many mansions in the heavenly Father’s house – many heavens with differing degrees of spiritual light. Yet only those spirits who have been in a spiritual affection of truth (AE 732) can intellectually receive the Heavenly Doctrine in the other life, and thus go to compose the New Heaven whence the New Church on earth is to receive its strength. The New Church on earth, our revelation indicates, will at first be among a few. For the falsities of the former church must be removed before truths can be permanently received. (AR 547) The faith of the New Church cannot be together with the faith of the old church, in one house or in one mind, any more than an owl and a dove can be reared in one nest. (BE 102, 103)

And because the state of the Christian world is such that in the official teachings of the churches no truths remain that are not entangled with and steeped in dangerous falsities which annul the power of the Word to enlighten men’s minds and conjoin them with heaven, therefore the New Church is likened to a woman in a wilderness, preserved by a miracle and hidden by God from the persecutions of the “dragon.” (Inv. 38; AR 562) Its growth in both worlds is slow, especially from the Christian world.

A new church, the Writings note, is seldom if ever formed from the people of the former church, but mostly from gentiles or those of other races. It was so also with the Christian Church, which indeed first commenced among the Jews, but was established mainly among former gentiles. Still, each new church or dispensation rests upon the Divine revelation originally given to the previous church. The New Testament rests upon the Law and the Prophets. The Writings rest upon the entire Scriptural Word. And this continuity in the giving of Divine revelation was illustrated when Swedenborg had completed his draft of the True Christian Religion. For he adds the “Memorandum” that when the book was finished, the Lord commissioned His twelve disciples who had followed Him in the world, and who were now angels, to go out into the whole spiritual world and preach the new advent of the Lord God Jesus Christ, whose reign will be eternal. “This was done on the 19th day of June, in the year 1770. And this was meant by these words of the Lord: `He will send forth His angels . . . and they shall gather together His elect . from one end of the heavens to the other.'” (TCR 791)

The spiritual sense of the Word is never confined to persons. The apostles who were sent out on the 19th of June, 1770, were not chosen because of their personal distinctions. In heaven there are many that are more worthy than they. (SD 1330; HH 526) They had entertained many crude ideas as to their Master’s return, and of their own position in His worldly kingdom. But after their death – and again after the Last judgment in 1757 – they had come to see the spiritual truths which were hidden beneath the symbolism of the Lord’s words.

These twelve had seen the Lord in His ultimate Human. The form and features of His personality, His words, the tone of His voice, His touch, had been impressed upon their memories. In their hearts burned His promise to return – a coming long delayed. And their function now in the spiritual world was to testify to His identity: that He Himself had indeed made His second advent, as He had promised, in the clouds of heaven. Only they could confirm that the true Christian religion was the very teaching of Christ, at last clarified and revealed in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem – in the foundations of which were collected all the gems of truth for which these apostles had labored in the world! Truths built by the Lord into a city of celestial life, rising secure above the clouds and obscurities, the conflicts and confusions, of earthly life.

These twelve, who represented each in his own way the cardinal truths of the Lord’s church, were the forerunners of an unending number of evangelists who are to proclaim the new reign of the Lord. The gathering of the “elect” proceeds in both worlds, not suddenly, but slowly and continuously, through the patient work of angels and also of men.

The function of the priesthood in the New Church includes, as its first province, the announcement of the Lord in His second advent. This is the first priestly duty, (TCR 669: 2) for without this new gospel there could be no New Church on earth. It is a work which can be done only by a distinct ministry – by men whose lives emulate those of the apostles in that they are dedicated to the work of the salvation of souls, the ingathering into the kingdom of God.

In one sense, all men are the Lord’s elect, chosen or destined by the Creator for eternal life; and none are born who cannot be saved or find a place in the Lord’s kingdom. In a narrower sense, only those who consent to the Lord’s will, who walk the way of repentance, become His “chosen.” Yet among those who enter heaven some are said to be “called,” while others are said to be “chosen,” and still others “faithful.” (Revelation 17: 14) Those of the natural heaven are said to be “called,” and these are described as a vast multitude. But while “many are called, few are chosen.” (Matthew 20: 16) Only those who have fought the battles of temptation and have embraced the truths of the Word with a spiritual love are chosen as angels of the spiritual heaven. And the celestial, whose hearts are not defiled by hereditary evils, are especially called the “faithful” who never fall from their high estate. (AR 744, 821)

Yet in a relative sense the apostles were singled out as the Lord’s “chosen.” Indeed the Lord had said: “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15: 16) He had breathed upon them, and said: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20: 22) That these disciples were selected by the Lord in a unique sense, for qualities and characteristics of which they themselves were not aware, is peculiarly true. For they “represented” all the various cardinal things of the church, and thus all things of faith and charity by which the Lord builds the church.

The church is not built by men. Yet the Lord, who judges not by the appearance, sees beyond the personal qualities of men. He chooses His human instruments with Divine foresight, and performs through them the kind of work which is of use in each age and place – uses which are not necessarily foreseen by men, or even consciously intended by them; uses which do not stem from man’s own power or merit, or reflect to his credit; uses which are not visible to man’s dull eyes, but which, through the inscrutable wisdom of Providence, build up agencies which in time permit the Holy Spirit to pass “from the Lord through men to men,” and thus heal and restore His church through spiritual enlightenment.

Among the canons of the New Church we find the statement that the Holy Spirit “flows into men who believe in the Lord, and, if according to order, into the clergy, and thus through them into the laity.” The Spirit of truth “proceeds from the Lord through the clergy to the laity by means of preaching, according to the reception of the doctrine of truth thence.” (Can. HS IV ) The institution of the New Church priesthood, with its threefold function of instruction, worship and government, is an orderly contribution to and ultimation of the work of the apostles which commenced on the nineteenth day of June, 1770, in the spiritual world – the work of “gathering together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

This gathering of the “elect” is also called a “harvest.” The final harvest takes place in the spiritual world. But on earth it takes the introductory form of a collection of men who belong to the visible body of the church from their own free choice and conviction. Even the spiritual works of the church must be organized in an external form and order, to withstand the onslaught of its foes and to carry on its uses, which are prescribed in the revelation; and to bear fruit both visible and invisible.

The priest of the New Church must think not only of persons but also of states. What is true of every man in his own sphere is true of the priest in the larger sphere of the church. The first fruit that he must harvest and preserve is found in the Word of God, in its threefold revelations, as truths of doctrine. But a ripening harvest also awaits in every tender state open to the influx of heaven. It is a priestly responsibility to protect and gather into fruitfulness the growing faith of infancy with its innocent charity and obedience; to bend the fancies of childhood and order the budding reasonings of youth with its ideals and its doubts; to watch against the falsities of self-intelligence and to challenge the thinking that stems from passion and sensual appearances or from the illusions of worldly glamour. It is the priest’s work to sound the trumpet on the walls of Zion if falsities of doctrine invade or evils of life encroach. It is the task of the priesthood, as the servant not of men but of God, to guard the sanctities of conjugial love and to keep the holy things of worship from being neglected or violated by human ambition. It is the task of the priesthood to lead – not by own intentions but by revealed truth – to the uses of charity and mutual love, and to see that the freedom of every man’s conscience is respected. In such leadership there must be no blind persuasion or compulsion, for only that which is implanted in freedom will endure.

It is so that, we pray, the kingdom of the Lord may be increasingly established on the soil of earth, and the minds of successive generations of men be interiorly opened to see the spiritual wisdom latent in the Writings of the Lord’s second advent. The priesthood is ordained to inherit the apostolic office, as an assurance that what is Divine may ever find a place among men and that the fruitful states of the church may be gathered together into organic unity in the uses of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which there shall be no end.

New Church Life 1968:88:261-265


The Mode of the Second Coming

The Mode of the Second Coming

by C. H. 

…. The mode by which the Lord made [His] final coming is well known to all New Church men and women. He came, not in person, but in the Word; not in the flesh, but in and as the Spirit of truth. It is interesting to note, however, that the Lord initiated His second coming by appearing before Swedenborg in person, and that He appeared before him as God-Messiah; thus identifying the Divine Human with the Lord who had been born in Bethlehem, and the Lord so born with Jehovah. Thereafter the Lord revealed through Swedenborg the internal sense of the Word – first as drawn from the letter of Genesis and Exodus, and then as heavenly doctrine for the New Jerusalem – and inspired Swedenborg’s writing of what was thus revealed.

This, we are taught, was the second coming of the Lord. In thus making His advent the Lord came, as always, to the minds of men, and essentially by the same mode that He had used before, namely, by means of a man. The Old Testament Word had been given through Moses, the prophets and other inspired writers; the gospel had first been spoken by the Lord Himself as Divine Man on earth, and then written through the evangelists; the Apocalypse had been given through John; and in making His second advent the Lord has again given a Divine revelation through a man, His servant, Emanuel Swedenborg. The distinctions between the Lord’s two advents should not be blurred; but this consistency in and similarity of method may usefully be stressed in discussing Swedenborg’s claim as being unique but not without precedent.

New Church Life 1959;79:328

The Truth: Seen and Heard

The Truth: Seen and Heard

by Rev. David R. Simons

He that cometh from above is above all: . . . He that cometh from heaven is above all. And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth; and no man receiveth His testimony.  (John 3:31, 32)

The Christian Church is founded on the conviction, expressed by John the Baptist, that the Lord Jesus Christ came from “above” and is “above all.” True Christianity acknowledges that the Lord had a heavenly origin and that He testifies in the New Testament from “things seen and heard,” that is, that He had an infinite soul and that what He did and taught reveal Divine omniscience and Infinite perception. The Lord Himself confirms the authority from which He speaks saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (Jn. 3: 11, 12)

The New Christian Church, now to be established on the earth, is founded on the conviction that the same Lord Jesus Christ has come again, as He promised, in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. As “the Spirit of truth (spiritual truth) leading unto all truth,” (Jn. 16: 130 this new scripture comes from “heaven” and is “above all,” that is, is Divinely inspired and thus superior to all the writings of men. The evidence which backs this claim, like the evidence which confirms the validity of the New Testament, rests on what is “seen and heard,” “that he testifieth”:

The arcana revealed in the following pages (we read in the work entitled Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell From Things Seen and Heard) relate to heaven and hell, and also to the life of man after death. The man of the church at this day knows scarcely anything about heaven and hell or about his fife after death, although these are set forth and described in the Word; and many of those born within the church even refuse to believe in them, saying in their hearts, `Who has come from that world and told use’ Lest, therefore, such a spirit of denial, which especially prevails with those who have much worldly (learning), should also infect and corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith, it has been granted to me (Emmanuel Swedenborg, ‘servant of the Lord,’) to associate with angels and to talk with them as man with man, also to see what is in the heavens and what is in the hells, and this for .thirteen years; also from what I have heard and seen I am now permitted to describe these, in the hope that ignorance shay thus be enlightened and unbelief dissipated. Such immediate revelation is granted at this day because this is what is meant by the (Second) Coming of .the Lord. (HH 1)

The evidence establishing the First Coming of the Lord is contained in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John who also wrote the Book of Revelation. The New Testament is the product of Divine inspiration through men who knew the Lord for less than three years, or were in contact with those who knew Him, who described themselves as “eyewitnesses from the first” and as “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first . . . .” (Lu. 1: 2-4) And the disciple John adds, “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (Jn. 21: 24, 25) And later at the end of the Book of Revelation, he concludes, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22: 20)

In contrast to the New Testament, the evidence which establishes the truth of the Second Coming of the Lord is contained in more than thirty volumes. The Heavenly Doctrines are the product of Divine inspiration through a man who had contact with the Lord and over twenty-seven years of direct experience in the eternal world of the human spirit, which is the kingdom of the Lord. In these Writings New Churchmen see the same Lord Jesus Christ now speaking “plainly of the Father.” (Jn. 16: 25) Swedenborg, the evidence shows, received the Doctrine of the New Church from the mouth of the Lord alone:

. . . That the Lord manifested Himself before me, His servant, and sent me to this office, and that He afterwards opened the sight of my spirit and so has introduced me into the spiritual world, and has granted me to behold the heavens and the hells and to converse with angels and spirits, and this now uninterruptedly for many years, I testify in truth; likewise, that from the first day of that call I have not received anything that pertains to the doctrines of the New Church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while I read the Word. (TCR 779) It has been given me to see (the light of heaven), and from it to perceive distinctly what has come from the Lord, and what from angels. What has come from .the Lord has been written, and what has come from angels has not been written. (AE 1183)

Christianity was based, founded, and confirmed not on the teachings of the Lord alone, but on what He did – on miracles performed, on open demonstrations of His mercy and love. The disciples of John were shown who the Lord is as follows:

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said unto Him, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said unto them, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lama walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” (Matt. 11: 2-6)

The First Christian Church was established by things seen and heard, by miracles which were seen and direct teachings of the Lord which were heard. The Lord used miracles to attract men to Himself so that He could teach them the truth and open their understandings to the light of heaven. In every way He worked to lead men from external things to internal – from the things in this world to those of the world to come. For example, by changing the water to wine in the outer, physical world the Lord drew men to Him so that He could give them the “new wine” of the New Testament and in this way perform the spiritual miracle of changing the external truths of the Old Testament in their minds to the internal truths of the New. Again, by raising Lazarus from natural death and commanding them to release “him and let him go,” ( Jn. 11: 44) the Lord on earth filled men’s eyes with wonder so that they might be willing to hear His new doctrine and by it be themselves raised from spiritual death, to be released from self-centered living and world-centered thought, that they might “Know the truth” and become free! No one is saved by the sight of miracles, yet everyone can be led by means of them to hear what the Lord has to teach.

The New Christian Church, now made possible by the giving of new Doctrines from heaven, is based, founded, and confirmed not on doctrine alone, and definitely not on miracles, for the Writings teach that miracles and concern for what is externally miraculous is misleading in a rational age and can seduce the church. “Was anyone ever made spiritual by their means?” they ask. (Inv. 46) The Writings of the Second Advent, although they center on clear rational doctrines which appeal to the “self-evidencing reason of love” (Can. Pro.) and to the love of truth for its own sake, are confirmed by actual experience, by things “seen and heard” in the spiritual world. In place of miracles, this new revelation is founded on the experience of a science-oriented mind which was specially prepared and led to receive and rationally understand a body of evidence greater than all miracles and which is calculated to have a deeper impact on the rational mind which understands the laws of the physical universe and something of the workings of the human mind.

In place of miracles, there has at this day taken place a manifestation of the Lord Himself, an intromission into the spiritual world, and enlightenment there by means of immediate light from the Lord in such things as are the interior things of the church. But chiefly, the opening of the spiritual sense in the Word, in which the Lord is in His own Divine light. (Coro. Mir. IV) The manifestation of the Lord in Person, and (my) introduction by the Lord into the spiritual world, both as to sight and as to hearing and speech, surpasses all miracles.( Inv. 43)

As miracles in the first Christian Church led men to the Lord that they might hear and learn, so in the New Church the remarkable experiences recorded as “Memorable Relations” in the Writings are not ends in themselves, but are to lead to deeper things. To see into the spiritual world, to see heaven and hell and the world of spirits into which each one of us is to come immediately after death, is but an introductory step, an opening of the way to an interior understanding of the Lord, in a way not possible on earth, and how He demonstrates the fullness of His love and the depth of His wisdom in the eternal world for which each one of us was created. The psychological, dramatic, spectacular, and even at times humorous experiences of the Revelator in this after-death environment, because they are new, different, and totally unique from anything ever written, have the power to attract the curious and to stir wonder in all who take the time to read them. Yet like miracles their primary purpose is to lead men to the Lord, lead them to hear His voice, perceive His foresight and His providence, and to learn of Him the way of regeneration and eternal life. As the revelator was given to perceive behind what he saw the love and wisdom of the Lord, so all who would be New Churchmen must learn to penetrate the external appearances of the spiritual world and see the living laws which apply to their own spiritual lives right here on earth. Sight is to lead to hearing and obedience. The rational sight of these things in the Writings is to lead us to hear the voice of the Lord, to recognize and perceive Him as the same Lord revealed in the New Testament, and to follow Him in a New Christian life, in which evils are shunned and use made the center of our lives. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life.” (Jn. 10: 27, 28)

By sight and hearing each one of us knows what we know. By sight and hearing we sense realities outside of ourselves. By these twin senses we come to know the reality of the natural world, and by twin senses of a higher kind – by the internal sight of understanding and the internal hearing of perception – we come to know the reality of spiritual things.

Nothing can look into itself; but it must be something more internal or higher that thinks about it, for this can look into it. For example: the ear cannot know, and still less perceive the speech that it receives into itself: this is done by a more interior hearing. The ear merely discerns articulate sounds or words: it is the interior hearing that apprehends what is said, and then it is an interior sight of mental view that perceives it, and in this way there is through the hearing a perception of the meaning of the speech. The case is similar with the things of sight . . . .( AC 1953)

The whole purpose of the Word, the whole purpose of Divine Revelation is to bring the Lord present before these higher senses to be seen and heard. “Life consists in the exercise of sensation, for without there is no life, and such as is the faculty of sensation, such is the life, a fact that anyone may observe.” (AC 322)

Sight and hearing are the senses which the Lord chose to emphasize, since they relate first to the understanding and then to the will. The man of the spiritual Church is to enter first with his understanding into spiritual things, and then with his will.

Those in heaven have more exquisite senses, that is, keener sight and hearing . . . than when in the world; for they see in the light of heaven, which surpasses by many degrees the light of the world; and they hear by means of a spiritual atmosphere which likewise surpasses by many degrees the earthly atmosphere . . . . Moreover, the outward sight (of angels) corresponds to their inner sight or understanding; for with them one sight so flows into the other as to act as one with it; and this gives them their great keenness of vision. In like manner, their hearing corresponds to their perception, which pertains both to the understanding and to the will, and in consequence they perceive in the tone and words of one speaking the most minute things of his affection and thought . . . . But the rest of the senses with the angels are less exquisite than the senses of seeing and hearing, for the reason that seeing and hearing serve their intelligence and wisdom, and the rest do not. (HH 462)

Although sight is a superior sense in that it can reach out and sense things untold distances away, being aware of the starry universe, and can in a flash absorb a scene which would take hours to describe adequately, still hearing is the more powerful of the two senses, since it directly stirs the will.

The nature of hearing is to transfer into the thought of another what one speaks from his own thought; and from the thought to transfer it into his will; and from this into act: hence ‘to hear’ (when used in the Word means) to obey? (AC 5017) When things which are heard penetrate to the interiors, they are also changed into something like sight, for what is heard is seen interiorly; and therefore by “hearing” (in the Word) . . . there is also signified that which is signified by “sight” namely, that which is of the understanding, and also that which is of faith; but the hearing at the same time persuades that the case is so, and affects not only the intellectual part of man, but also his will part, and causes him to will that which he sees. Hence it is that `hearing’ signifies the understanding of a thing, and at the same time obedience; and in the spiritual sense, faith in the will …. Moreover such is the circle of things in man, that whatever enters by the ear and eye, or by hearing and sight, passes into his understanding and through the understanding into the will, and from the will into act. (AC 3869)

It is a curious anomaly that the very evidence from things “seen and heard” which is given to confirm both the New Testament and the Heavenly Doctrines have proved unacceptable to a rational, science-oriented age. As the Lord said, “Therefore speak I to them by parables; because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which said, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive; for the people’s heart is waxed gross, and with ears they have heard dully, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart.” (Matt. 13: 13-17; Jn. 12: 40)

How the precious truths of the Heavenly Doctrines are received is clear from the following Memorable Relation from the work The True Christian Religion:

I was once taken up as to my spirit into the angelic heaven . . . and some of the wise ones there came to me and asked, `What news from the earth?’

I answered, “The news is that the Lord has revealed mysteries, which in excellence surpass all the mysteries revealed from the beginning of the church. . .”

They asked, “What are they?”

I replied, “They are the following: (1) That in each thing and in all things in the Word there is a spiritual sense . . . . (2) The correspondences of which the spiritual sense consists are disclosed . . . . (3) A revelation respecting the life of men after death. (4) Respecting love truly conjugial and its spiritual delights. . .

The angels were exceedingly delighted with (this news), but perceiving a sadness in me, they asked, “Why are you sad?”

I said, “Because these mysteries that are now revealed by the Lord, although they surpass in excellence and dignity all the knowledge hitherto divulged, are nevertheless regarded on earth as of no value”

At this the angels were astonished, .and besought the Lord to permit them to look down upon the world; and they looked down and behold, mere darkness was there ….

When these (Heavenly Doctrines) were let down by the angels into assemblies of learned . . . a murmur of many voices was heard . . . . “What is this? Is it anything? What matters it whether we know these things or not? Are they not mere products of .the brain? . . .” (and) a hostile murmur (was heard saying,) “Work miracles and we will believe.”

I answered, “Are not these things miracles?”

They replied, “They are not” . . .

At that moment I heard it said to them from heaven, “If you believe not Moses and the Prophets, that is, the Word of the Lord, you will not believe on account of miracles . . . any more than they believed when with their own eyes they saw the miracles wrought by the Lord Himself when He was in the world. . . “

I foresee that many who read the Memorable Relations annexed to the chapters in this work will believe them to be inventions of the imagination. But I affirm in truth that they .are not inventions, but were truly seen and heard . . . . For it has pleased the Lord to manifest Himself to me, and to send me to teach those things which will belong to His New Church, which is meant by the “New Jerusalem” in the Apocalypse…” (TCR 848, 849, 851)

New Church Life 1978;97:1-7

Two Advents: One Divine Process

Two Advents: One Divine Process

by E. Sandstrom

To remember Christmas is to reflect on the meaning of the Divine coming down to reveal itself in Person to people in this world; and truly to celebrate it is to pray that the Lord may be received by oneself and in the world.

At the time of the Lord’s coming as the Word made Flesh there was a complete turning point in the spiritual history of the human race. All that had preceded looked to that stupendous event, and all that was to follow anticipated the second advent and the resulting eternal development of wisdom with men.

The turning point consisted in this, that the Creator of the universe began to make Himself visible. Previously only His power had been known, but not the love and wisdom that operated through it. We say that the Lord began to make Himself visible at His first advent, and mean by this that He began to make known the nature of His love and the nature of His wisdom. These were the Divine qualities that stood forth in the life and teaching of the Lord our Saviour through His ministry in the world. His love was revealed throughout His life, but never more fully than on the cross when He was tempted to give it up. His words, “Father, forgive them,” represented the final and supreme victory of Divine love which descended from the infinite Divine within Him and glorified His Human.

As for His wisdom, all His teachings bear witness to it, but perhaps this too stood forth in a special way in connection with the cross. Wisdom too was finally glorified through that most grievous and culminating temptation; and wisdom was glorified in this: that it effected the victory of love. Prior to the event the Lord had prepared His disciples for some understanding of His Divine foresight in this matter. But their understanding came only after His victory. His foresight was His wisdom. It was when the end of His earthly life drew near that He said: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.” But, as we read, at that time “they understood none of these things.” (Lu. 18: 31-34) Nor did they understand the triumphant ride into Jerusalem a day or two after that saying. But what they had been prepared for came to pass after the resurrection, for as we read: “These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they.” (Jn. 12:16)

So we say that the Lord revealed something of His Divine love and wisdom during His first advent. Nevertheless, the men of His day were not prepared for more than a preliminary glimpse. Only at His second advent could the Lord bring fulfillment. Only then could the Lord say: “Now it is permitted to enter intellectually into the secrets of faith.” The first advent had to be restricted to this: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (Jn. 16:12) It was at the second advent, “when the Spirit of Truth is come,” that men were to be “guided into all truth.” (Jn. 16:14) It was then that the Lord would speak “no more in proverbs, but would shew plainly of the Father.” (Jn. 16:25) In a word, the first advent prepared for the second, and the second was a fulfillment of the first. In this we see that the two advents in the Divine view were one action, one process, interrupted in time because of the hardness of the human heart and the slowness of human understanding, but undivided in the Divine concept and in the continual workings of the Divine providence.

It follows that it is only in the light of the second advent that we can see the perspective of the whole Divine process in the Lord’s preparing to come to the human race, and in His final and full coming among them. In fact, that perspective goes back to the beginning of creation; and the Writings draw it up for us in the following words:

What the Divine providence of the Lord was in revealing Divine truths can be seen from the successive establishment of churches. There have been several churches on our globe one after another. There was the Most Ancient that was before the flood; the Ancient after the flood; also the Hebrew; then the Israelitish; after this the Christian; and now the New Church is beginning. Inmost Divine truths were revealed to those of the Most Ancient Church; more external Divine truths to those of the Ancient Church; and most external or outmost Divine truths to the Hebrew Church, and afterwards to the Israelitish with which Church all Divine truth finally perished, for at last there was nothing in the Word that had not been adulterated. But after the end of that Church interior Divine truths were revealed by the Lord for the Christian Church; and now still more interior truths for the Church that is to come. These interior truths are such as are in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word. All this makes clear that there has been a progression of Divine truths from inmosts to outmosts, thus from wisdom to pure ignorance; and that now a progression of it is going on from outmosts to interiors, thus from ignorance again to wisdom. (AE 948: 3)

“From ignorance again to wisdom.” That wisdom, while in depth equal to that of the Most Ancient Church (for it will again be the wisdom of love), will be wider in its scope and more full. The Lord was visible to the spiritual mind of the most ancients, but not to their natural mind as well. Now He is visible to both minds, that is, visible to the natural mind from the light that shines for the eyes of the spirit, and then shines on through the spiritual mind into the natural. This is possible because of what the Lord revealed through His two advents. The True Christian Religion gives us with regard to these matters the following:

The Lord, in the world, put on also the Divine Natural, and from this He enlightens not only the internal spiritual man, but also the external natural – which two, unless they are at the same time enlightened, man is as it were in the shade; but while both are at the same time enlightened, he is as it were in the day. For while the internal man alone is enlightened, and not the external at the same time; or while only the external and not at the same time the internal, he is like one that sleeps and dreams, and presently when he awakes, he recollects the dream, and from it concludes various things which nevertheless are imaginary . . . . The difference between the state of the Church before the coming of the Lord, and after His coming, is like the difference between reading a writing in the night by the light of the moon and stars, and reading it by the light of the sun.( TCR 109: 2, 3) . . .

This New Church is the crown of all the churches that have hitherto been in the world, because it will worship one visible God, in whom is the invisible God as the soul is in the body. That thus and no otherwise there can be conjunction of God with man, is because man is natural, and so thinks naturally, and the conjunction must be in his thought, and thus in the affection of his love, and this is effected when he thinks of God as Man. (TCR 787)

We are to understand, here, that the Lord is now fully seen as Man. The most ancients too saw the Lord as Man, but not fully; for the Lord had not taken on the Divine Natural, therefore not revealed it, wherefore at that time the natural mind could not see in the light of the spiritual sun.

It is a stupendous thought that it is now that all things are coming into fullness. Such is the Divine invitation to all mankind. That we are slow to accept the invitation, and to respond according to capacity, is another matter. The truths that the Lord began to open up in His first advent, and fully revealed in His second, are to produce a wisdom with men such as was not since the world began. We see this in general through the pronouncement concerning the New Christian Church, in that it is said to be the crown of all the churches. More in particular, we see it in the light of two further teachings.

The first of these shows up the difference between the primitive Christian Church and the new Christian Church – and if we bear in mind the teaching concerning the crown of all the churches the statement takes on an even deeper significance than is at first apparent. We read: “The spiritual sense is now revealed, because the Christian Church such as it is in itself is now first commencing. The former Church was Christian only in name, but not in essence and reality.” (TCR 668) And similarly, “Because Christianity itself is now first beginning to dawn, and a New Church meant by the New Jerusalem in the Revelation is now being established by the Lord, in which God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are acknowledged as one because in one Person, it has pleased the Lord to reveal the spiritual sense of the Word.” (TCR 700)

Our second teaching relates to the two Revelations that brought about the first Christian Church and the New Christian Church respectively. This teaching tells us two things: first, that a new revelation is always given before the end of a previous church; and, second, it tells us concerning the nature of the revelation at that time, as accommodated to then-prevailing needs and the consequent general state of reception. This teaching reads:

When the end of a Church is at hand the interior things of the Word, of the church, and of worship, are revealed and taught. This is done that the good may be separated from the evil . . . . Moreover, the interior things of the Word which are revealed at the end of a church are serviceable for doctrine and life to the new church that is then established. That this is so is evident from this, that when the end of the Jewish Church was at hand the Lord Himself opened and taught the interior things of the Word, and especially revealed those things in the Word that had been prophesied of Himself …. That the Word is revealed interiorly, that is, in respect to the spiritual sense, before the church has been fully devastated, is because a new church will then be established into which those of the former church are invited . . . . For like reasons the Word has been opened interiorly at this day, and still more interior Divine truths have been revealed from it for the use of the New Church that will be called the New Jerusalem.( AE 641: 2, continued at 948: 2)

The Lord’s revealing interior truths also in His first advent means that He began, even at that time, to show Himself as the visible God. But the two advents relate as the preparatory to the fulfillment. This is also reflected in the New Testament in its reference to “glory” in regard to the two advents. We read of “glory” first, and then of “great glory.” “And the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” (Jn. 1: 14) This was the first advent; but the words relative to the second advent are magnified: “And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24: 30) To see the Lord in great glory is to see Him as He is in heaven. “And He was transfigured before them;” (Matt. 17: 2) and in our generation, and all future generations, He is to be transfigured again – and always.

Further with regard to our second teaching above. The “revealing of interior Divine truths” obviously applies to the New Testament, which is the record of what the Lord Himself said and did whilst on earth. Similarly, the “revealing of still more interior Divine truths” is an obvious reference to the Writings, for these truths are to be “for the use of the New Church that will be called the New Jerusalem.” This takes us to the New Testament and the Writings. What about the Old Testament? But this too is included in our second teaching, for we read: “When the end of the Jewish Church was at hand the Lord Himself opened and taught the interior things of the Word, and especially revealed those things in the Word that had been prophesied of Himself.”

We therefore have prophecy in the Old Testament; fulfillment in the New; and the heavenly explanation of both the prophecy and the fulfillment in the Writings. This `heavenly explanation’ is the opening up, or revealing, of the “still more interior Divine truths” – the truths of heaven, or the heavenly doctrine.

We have therefore three forms of Divine revelation progressively leading to the standing forth of the Divine Human in glory, and then to the vision of this Divine Human in great glory. There are also three degrees of the natural mind of man. I suggest that the three Revelations were progressively and by turn given to each one of these degrees. The natural mind consists, looking at it from below, of the sensual, the interior natural, and the rational. In speaking now of each form of Revelation addressing directly one degree of the natural mind, we have reference to the letter of revelation. (The spirit and life within the letter ever speak to the spirit itself of man and the life of love that is to develop there.) And does not the Old Testament in its letter appeal to the sensual man? The sensual relates to the body. If the Jews were “willing and obedient,” there would be no famine, no war, no pestilence; but if rebellious and disobedient, one or other of these calamities would come upon them. Rewards or punishments relating to the body.

In the New Testament the appeal is clearly more interior. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, but I say unto you.” Particular examples given as to just how the New Testament in its letter is more interior, relate to the commandments concerning murder and adultery. “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause . . . .” “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her . . . .” (See Matt. 5) This more interior natural to which the New Testament directly appeals, might also be described as the imaginative or moral quality in the mind. Entertaining “anger without a cause,” or “desiring adultery” within one’s imagination, is destructive of moral virtues.

Finally the Writings are given. Are they not the ultimate fulfillment of the words spoken already through Isaiah: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord”? (Isa. 1: 18) Do they not speak directly to the rational mind as they invite men to “enter intellectually into the secrets of faith”?

This all relates to the letter of each revelation. But clearly, the interior man, that is, the man who is to live after death, is at all times the object of the Divine concern. But the interior man cannot come forth fully, except insofar as the natural mind is prepared for reception. Therefore little of the spirit could develop in the times of the Old Testament, more in the new era that opened up through the New Testament, and still more and fully in our age, when “Christianity itself is beginning to dawn.” If the spirit and life of the Word will now be allowed to descend into the mind, so that the New Jerusalem is coming down from God out of heaven, then the rational mind, seated though it be in the natural, will receive a spiritual quality, and so will be turned into a spiritual-rational level of consciousness.

This observation, we may note parenthetically, also implies that there can be no further Divine revelation in an ultimate, natural form in the world, because there are no more than the three degrees of the natural mind. The Lord has now revealed Himself fully, and He now awaits human response.

But we return to the question of the two advents. Bear in mind that the first advent was a beginning of a revelation concerning the Divine Human. This, stated more explicitly, means that it was in His first advent that the Lord assumed the Human down to the Divine Natural, and then fully glorified it. But that He only began to reveal His glory at that time, was because the rudiments of a Christian Church that He then established could “bear no more.” In His second advent He does not repeat His glorification process, but He does reveal it fully, that is, as fully as natural language will permit. The Arcana Coelestia, especially, is devoted to this objective. So the second advent sets forth what the first advent accomplished. The two cannot be separated in thought, if either one is to be properly understood.

The Lord never had more than one end in view. His Divine love never changes, nor ever has changed; and it has within it to give to men as fully as they are ever able to receive. And His Divine wisdom accommodates His love to human reception. So it is that mankind is now invited not only to return to the wisdom of the most ancients, but to enter into that of angels, and to live according to wisdom.

To be deeply aware of this Divine love and Divine wisdom is to see God Man, that is, it is to see the infinite Divine nature of the Person of the Lord our Saviour. It is to see the Lord as Father.

Christmas, therefore, is remembered when we reflect on the turning point in human history, in that it was then the Lord assumed the Human in the Divine Natural. But truly to celebrate Christmas is to be thankful for that which the Lord already had in view through that assumption. He desired to make Himself visible down even to the natural mind of man – the whole natural mind, so that He might be conjoined to it; but He could do so only by opening up one of the two interior degrees of the natural at a time. He came in order to come again. “There came a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified, and will glorify again.” (Jn. 12: 28)

All of the above, however, has a primary focus in the Lord’s historical advents – the historical first advent and the historical second. We have spoken of revelation as words. But words by themselves address only the understanding. Words, however, need not be “by themselves:” within them there are also the spirit and the life.” (See Jn. 6:63) It is when the spirit and life are perceived and received that the real man, the inner man, is enlightened and led. Then there is a new creation, or a spiritual birth. “All things were made by the Word . . . . In it was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Jn. 1: 3, 4)

Words by themselves give only presence, but the spirit and life within them, when the mind is open for reception, bring conjunction as well. And that is advent to the individual.

The True Christian Religion lays the matter before us: “The presence of the Lord is perpetual with every man, both evil and good, for without His presence no man lives. But His advent is only with those who receive Him, who are those who believe in Him and do His commandments.” (TCR 774)

New Church Life 1978;98: 564-570

The Second Coming of the Lord

The Second Coming of the Lord

by Rev. F. E. Gyllenhaal

“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24: 3)

The disciples believed in the Lord’s second coming. The Lord had told them of His going away from them, that He would soon be put to death on the cross, and of His return to them and to the world. They believed Him, as child believes his or her father, not even doubting His words. Though they did not understand what He meant, they asked: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the, world?” The Lord’s reply is contained in all that which He said as recorded in the 24th and 25th chapters in Matthew, but particularly in His words: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be broken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24: 29-31).

Did the disciples understand the Lord’s reply? The Lord spoke at great length about His second coming, what He said being written in the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew; but it is nowhere said that the disciples understood His words. Their failure to understand them appears in what the Gospel of John tells of the Lord’s further promise of coming again – a promise given after His resurrection – in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Epistles of Paul to the first converts to Christianity, and from the common belief of Christians ever since.

The Gospel of John, in its last chapter, relates that the Lord, appearing in His resurrection body to the disciples in the spiritual world, said to Peter: “If I will that John stay in the world until I come, what is that to thee?” Then, turning to John, the Lord said, “Follow thou Me.” (John 21: 21, 22 as quoted in Apocalypse Explained 785: 5). Note that the Lord did not tell Peter to follow Him, as appears from the English of the Authorized Version, but told John to follow Him. And though these words were spoken by the Lord in the spiritual world, and were heard only spiritually, still the disciples understood them to mean that John would live on earth until after the Lord had come again. So they expected the second coming to happen soon. But the Lord spoke in a parable, His words meaning the survival of charity and good works, and not of John.

The same is true of what is said about the second coming in the Acts and in the Epistles. Those books are not portions of the Word, yet they are useful books. The Writings say they were written before the Gospels, also that the Christian Church was begun by means of them; and from them it is evident that the Lord’s second coming was daily expected. (See Acts 1: 10, 11; I Thessalonians 4: 16-18; Document 224, which is the third letter of Swedenborg to Dr. Beyer, in Tafel’s Documents Concerning Swedenborg.) What is said in the Acts of the Lord’s return, namely, that He should “come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven,” obviously was seen in the spiritual world when the Lord, at the end of forty days after His resurrection, made His last recorded appearance to His disciples and others who were in Galilee, and there and then had their spiritual faculties opened; and the words were spoken by two angels.

If anyone really thinks about what is written in the passages just quoted or else referred to, he or she should realize that the literal meaning is such as to be impossible of happening; therefore there must be a spiritual meaning for people on earth, a meaning that can be completely fulfilled, that is, can happen and satisfy the understanding of everyone. This is shown in a summary of the spiritual meaning of the text, as follows: “Here His coming does not mean His coming in person, but that He was then to reveal Himself in the Word that He is Jehovah, the Lord of the heaven and earth, and that He alone is to be adored by all in His New Church, which is meant by the New Jerusalem; and to this end He has now opened the internal or spiritual sense of the Word, in which sense the Lord is everywhere treated of” (AE 870: 2).

This teaching enables us to understand clearly the Gospel prophecies of the second coming; and, together with other doctrine, it rescues all who will use it from the numerous false and fantastic ideas about the Lord’s second coming that have been advanced in the Christian Church. On the firm rock of this Divine instruction we can view, calmly and unafraid, those old and new Christian interpretations; and so can sympathetically understand even the wrong ideas which have swayed countless people down through the ages from earliest Christian times, and which continue even in present times.. Truly, knowledge is essential to enlightenment; but enlightenment in respect to spiritual things, and in respect to many human emotions and actions, requires a special kind of knowledge which can be given to people only by Divine revelation.

In the Epistles of Paul we note that the expectation of the second coming was feverishly eager, and the history of the Christian religion shows that it has been so at various times since those days. The event was awaited with a mixture of fear and joy. There was fear of the destruction of heaven and earth, of the loss of everything worldly, of not being among the elect (or those who would be taken into the Lord’s everlasting kingdomthe one hundred and forty-four thousand mentioned in the 7th and 14th chapters of Revelation) ; for the Gospels especially were regarded as literally true. The joy was over expected rewards because of a persuasion of complete relief from afflictions and miseries, from difficulties and work; over expectation of life in heaven (even of a life there without the need of working) ; over thought of again seeing the Lord. To countless people the Lord’s promise of coming again has been as the distant light of a refuge in dense darkness, as a last hope in a world of despair; perhaps because the old, enslaving conditions were to be completely removed and a new world with a new life was to be given. Even the impossible ideas of Christian theology kept alive hope of the Lord’s return; and by them there was some measure of protection against evil, of persuaded resistance to evils of various kinds, of leading from threatening worse states to milder ones.

But why the delay in the fulfilment of the promise? Why the withholding of plain explanations of His promise by the Lord Himself? What seems to us delay is not to be measured by the impatience of man. Divine order, whether in spiritual or in natural things, requires successive and often slow growth to maturity and fruition, and to fulfilment with its newness of form and of life. People’s freedom, as Divinely and forever preserved in their “as of self” ability, needed an accumulation of knowledges capable of dispelling the clouds of ignorance as to natural phenomena before they could be rescued from ignorance of spiritual things. The naturalrational mind had to be provided with the means of becoming genuinely rational before the means for the formation and functioning of the spiritualrational mind could be provided.

This is the order of all progress. The trend always is upward, an ascent by planes that serve successively as new foundations. This is the order of man’s conscious life, of his “as of himself.” At the same time, but unnoticed by man, there is a descent from above; an inflowing of something from the Lord, from which the man lives, and which produces every effect; but this can work in a man only on the foundations he “as of himself” lays one by one, and on which he ever builds anew, inspired by the new visions he receives from time to time in the course of his progress heavenward.

How grateful we should be, then, and how greatly we should rejoice, over the Divine revelation of the accomplishment of the second coming! But is the joy of expecting and hoping for something greater than the joy of getting what was wanted? Does the joy of fulfilment lack something of the vitality of anticipation? Does hope fulfilled end all hope? Does the fact that the Lord has made His second coming – the belief that the complete written Word has been given, the belief that the crowning and therefore last Church has been established – deprive us of a sufficiently strong incentive to go forward, deprive us of a goal for which to strive?

This is never the case in respect to anything spiritual and Divine. After a game is won there can be no longer the hope of winning it, but there can be the new hope of winning the next game. What is spiritual and Divine, however, is always above and beyond us. For the spiritual and the Divine have within themselves a power that always is uplifting, a power of turning the mind upward, of expanding it, of renewing its hunger for knowledge; intelligence, wisdom, justice, and righteousness. The Divine itself is life itself; therefore its works are stimulative of life, of aspirations, of ceaseless activity, of perpetual desire for new things, new truths about life and the Lord. This Divine quality is perpetually shown in everything spiritual, because the spiritual is an accommodation of the Divine to human perception, awareness, and application. Therefore the fulfilment of the promise of a second coming deprives men of nothing, but, on the contrary, gives to them in greater abundance what is spiritual and Divine, and has the fertile seeds of ever new inspirations and aspirations.

What a new world the Lord’s first coming opened to mankind! It produced a new civilization with possibilities of spiritual life on earth undreamed of before His birth on earth. The corruptions of that civilization have been man’s doing in opposition to Divinely revealed teaching about what is good and true. The second coming has again revealed the sublime possibilities of another new civilization; has given Divine doctrine applicable to all human needs, such as to make possible the realization of the kingdom of heaven on earth. But as before, as it ever has been since the creation of the world, man’s own actions, his freely chosen application of the Divine doctrine to his daily life, is required for the attainment of the new world, for the production of the new civilization. There never is any fulfilment of a Divine promise in the sense of its blessings being only for the enjoyment of a certain age; for the fulfilment is timeless, ever renewing itself.

There have been two comings of the Lord. Both belong to the past of human history, but they also belong to the present and the future of every person. The second coming was when the Lord gave the internal sense of the Word of the Old and New Testaments. That revealed internal sense we call the Writings. Such is the clear meaning of the whole doctrine of the Writings, as is evident from these two quotations: “The Lord at this day is performing a redemption which He began in the year 1757, together with the Last judgment which was then performed. This redemption has continued from that time to this. The reason is, because at this time is the second coming of the Lord; and a New Church is to be instituted” (TCR 115). “This second coming of the Lord is effected by a man before whom He has manifested Himself in person and whom He has filled with His Spirit to teach the doctrines of the New Church through the Word from Him” (TCR 779).

The Divine and spiritual qualities of both comings cause them to be forever repeated spiritually, though not as they first happened naturally, or to be experienced by every person who is willing to receive the Lord and to be redeemed and saved by Him. Essentially, therefore, the Lord’s comings are always in the present, even in the future, as a person longs to experience them, to have their Divine purposes effected in themselves. They assure us of all that truly is. They are like the cruse of oil that never dried up.

But the second coming should make us rejoice, not only because of what it gives, but also because of what it requires of us. Its joy is not only the emotion which may be stirred by receiving a gift, but the thrill that passes from the heart throughout the body in response to a demand for energy. It is good to thank the Lord when we feel that our path is being smoothed for us and that we are being led heavenward. But the true soul, the valiant person, thanks the Lord more joyously when he or she becomes assured that something eternally useful, something to be enjoyed perpetually, is expected of them and can be done by them.

The internal sense of the Word and the Heavenly Doctrine given in the Writings by the Lord in His second coming make clear the real purposes of life, teach the manner of their accomplishment, and supply the means for attaining the goal of life. It it such knowledge that we need in order to rise above the appearance of a world which has been darkened by humankind’s selfishness and conceit. Without such knowledge we see only a temporary life on earth, a life that to many is only hardship, want, and misery. But the Heavenly Doctrine of the second coming reveals an eternal life of ever increasing opportunity for doing uses, in which opportunities we find the only enjoyment and happiness possible to men.

The Heavenly Doctrine, which is given in the Writings, enables us to look upward and ever forward; and by our striving to follow in its light toward the endless visions is unfolds, we gradually rise above the world’s darkness and strife to the eternal kingdom of God, where every moment of life has its heavenly joy, and where the communion of saints becomes ever a more blessed communion. Such has ever been the promise of the Creator and Heavenly Father, a promise He has always kept. It has been revealed to mankind in many ways, in many different expressions of thought; for the most part joined with the promise of His coming, of His presence, as in His words when on earth: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I shall not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14: 15-18).

Rev. F. E. Gyllenhaal, New Church Life 1952;72:265-269

The City of God: The Second Coming

The City of God: The Second Coming

by Rev. Karl Alden

The expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ was to make a second advent is based on the following statements in the Gospels:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . .”

“Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:29-31 & 34)

“And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say to here, or to there, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20, 21)

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:12-15

The final passage that I will quote is from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter II, verses 14-20, where we read:

“But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken unto my words: For these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on My servants, and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” Thus Peter believed that the prophecy of Joel had then been fulfilled in what transpired on the day of Pentecost.

The First Advent

To comprehend what was meant by the second advent of the Lord it is essential to understand what actually happened at the time of His first coming. We all believe that God is omnipresent, that is, that He is everywhere; that there is no place in the universe from which God is absent, that there is not a planet nor a star nor any place whatsoever that does not contain within it the Divine Spirit. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” (Psalm 139:7-12) If the Lord, then, is present everywhere, it is quite impossible to say that He came anywhere. The very act of coming to a place involves that you were not in that place before you came to it.

All of us, being finite, occupy a certain place in space, and we can move from place to place. If we visit a place where we were not present, we say that we have come there. But strictly speaking, it cannot be said of the Divine that He comes to a place, because there is no place where He is not already present. Our minds turn to Bethlehem at Christmas time, and we think of the Lord as having been born there; as having begun His first coming on earth there. But is it not inaccurate to say that God came to Bethlehem Christmas night? The Lord was in Bethlehem when Benjamin was born there nearly two thousand years before. The Lord was present in Bethlehem when King David was born there almost a thousand years before, and He was present there the year before, and the month before and the day before He was born there as a babe. I stress this because we cannot possibly understand the real significance of the Second Coming of the Lord unless we see that the first coming was not a coming of God to a place where He had not been before, but it was a manifestation of God to men in a new form.

On that first Christmas, what happened was that the Divine which had been present in Bethlehem since the beginning of time, took to itself a means whereby it could be seen as it had never been seen before; for, although the Lord was present in Bethlehem when Benjamin and David were born there, He was not seen, nor was His voice heard, nor was His hand touched; but when He was born there on Christmas night, then He took to Himself a body from the Virgin Mary, into which the Divine Spirit as a soul could flow, and through which as a manifesting agency, the Divine could more and more reveal itself.

The Greek word for “reveal” means to unveil. An example of its use is this: If I should have a heap of diamonds covered over by six or seven veils, and then if I should take one veil off, then an other, and if I kept that up, finally the diamonds themselves would be revealed so that men could behold them and appreciate their beauty. Similarly the body which the Lord took on from the virgin Mary was a means whereby the Divine could come into the world and be manifest to men in a way that He had never before, in all past ages, appeared to their sight. Prior to that time He had spoken His word through the prophets. He had inspired the men of old – Moses, Isaiah, Elijah and Elisha and all of the other prophets – to preach His Word. He had put His Word in their mouths, and they had spoken from His Divine Wisdom. But He had never taken on a material body of His own before, through which the Divine life could be directly manifested.

That coming into the world so many centuries ago marked the time when He took on such a body, when He assumed such a means of showing His Divine Spirit. When He was first born there was nothing between the Divine soul and the material body except a means of communication. But as He grew up a Divine mind was gradually formed as an intermediate between the soul and the body. And this Divine mind more and more glorified His body as the years passed. More and more He put off that of the body which He had taken from Mary, and He put on the Divine Human from the Father; consequently, at the Last Supper, when Philip asked Him to show him the Father the Lord was able to answer without qualification, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

One who had seen the babe lying in the manger in Bethlehem had not seen the Father. They had only seen the babe which in the process of time would one day reveal the Father. In discussing any coming of the Lord, we must rid our minds of that spatial idea of coming that the word so strongly conveys to our minds. We must substitute for the word “coming” the word “revealed.” When the Lord was born a babe on Bethlehem’s plains He revealed Himself for the first time and men have called it “The First Coming of the Lord.” At the time of this First Coming He revealed Himself in human form. Now is the time of the Second Coming, and the question is: How has He revealed Himself? The answer is that He has revealed Himself in a new body of truth, which we find in The Writings.

The Expectation of the Lord’s Return

The disciples, those who had heard the Lord’s own words, expected Him to come again while some of them were still alive. About two weeks after the Lord had risen from the dead, when seven of His disciples had been fishing on the Sea of Galilee, the Lord talked to Peter privately, warning him that when he should be old others would carry him where he did not wish to go. Asked about John, the Lord answered: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me.” So the saying went abroad among the brethren that John should never die; but the Evangelist reminds us that the Lord did not say, “He shall not die,” but “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:23) It is quite evident that Peter must have thought that John would remain in this world until the Lord had made His Second Coming, on the “last day.” This is confirmed by what is said in Matthew, “This generation shall not pass till all those things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” (24:34, 35)

The disciples knew well these words, and consequently they looked for His Second Coming in their own lifetime. If we turn to the epistles of the various apostles, we find that James urges the people to whom he is preaching to be ready, for the Lord may come at any moment. Paul indicates to the Thessalonians that in his lifetime, or at least in their lifetime, they may expect the coming of the Lord. The disciples were quite unanimous in their belief that the Second Coming of the Lord would be in their lifetime.

The Understanding of Prophecy

But the Second Coming of the Lord did not occur within their lifetime. Must we then disregard the Lord’s words? Will there never be a coming since it did not take place when He literally said that it would? Or can we learn how to interpret prophecy? What is the fair way of interpreting it? We can certainly admit that as a matter of history none of the physical catastrophes took place, such as the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light, and the stars falling from heaven. Those calamities certainly never had any literal fulfillment in the lifetime of the disciples, and so we are compelled to inquire how the prophecy is to be understood.

A wise person has said that a prophecy can never be understood until after the event has taken place. It cannot be understood beforehand, and the reason for this soon appears if we look beyond the surface. If prophecy were so definite that we could say that an event was to happen at such and such a time in such and such a place, then events would be predestined, and there would be no human freedom. But we are taught very clearly that the Lord guards human freedom as the apple of His eye; that He allows nothing in His economy, or in the history or the affairs of men, to destroy spiritual freedom. Therefore, the nature of prophecy is such that it lays down the law whereby certain causes will inevitably have certain effects.

For example: in the realm of chemistry, if I put sulphuric acid and zinc together, the chain of reactions liberating hydrogen is bound to take place, so that I can prophesy for certain that sulphuric acid and zinc will give me hydrogen. I don’t know where; I don’t know when, but I do know that given the causes the results will follow without the shadow of a doubt. This is not predestination, but the rule of law.

Another example: Judas lived to betray the Lord, but we cannot believe that Judas as a man was predestined to betray the Lord. Certainly not! It would never have been permitted for any individual to have been born into the world with such an evil task to perform; but if Judas had not betrayed the Lord, then, may we say, that a man with the same name would have betrayed Him. I am not being facetious, but mean that the name Judas signifies the sensuous nature in man’s character. The thing that betrayed the Lord in His lifetime was the same element in human psychology that betrayed the Lord in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent (which represents somewhat the same thing as the name Judas represents, namely, delight in sensual pleasure apart from use) beguiled Eve, or the will; and Eve persuaded Adam, that is the understanding, to succumb to temptation. The betrayal was the same, but historically it happened to be Judas that betrayed the Lord; yet, he, as a man, did it of his own free desire.

In order to understand what I am trying to bring out, let us contemplate the nature of the fulfillment of the prophecies of the first coming of the Lord, and let us find out why the Jews could not understand them before they took place. It is written that the wise men came from the East because of a star that indicated that a new king had been born to the Jews. The star had apparently led them to Jerusalem, and then disappeared, but at Jerusalem they had no evidence of what person the star pointed to; so they went to Herod and said that they had seen the star, and they thought, of course, that he could tell them where the child was. But Herod was very much upset because he was an intensely jealous man who feared for his crown and his throne; and so he gathered the learned of the Jews, the priests and the scribes, and demanded of them where Christ should be born. They knew where Christ should be born, but they did not know when. They said that He would be born in Bethlehem, for thus it is written by the prophet.

Bethlehem means the “house of bread”, and “the house of bread” means a mind full of spiritual truths and spiritual loves; and that is exactly where the Lord is always born in human lives. It does not make any difference that the prophecy does not state the time that He was to be born. Bethlehem was the only place where He could be born. He was born there. The various causative factors that worked together under human freedom made that birth possible nearly two thousand years ago.

The wise men had seen His star, and the learned Jews knew where He was to be born, but they little suspected that He would be born in a stable, and probably they never dreamed that He would be born of such humble parents, nor did they know the time. It was impossible to interpret the many different prophecies until after the event.

Another prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord tells that He shall rule the nations with a rod of iron. The Lord while on earth never made any attempt to resist Pilate, or Herod, or the rulers of the Jews. The rod of iron that He set up was the rule of truth in men’s hearts, and truth is much stronger than iron; but those words could not be interpreted until after the event. However, after He had come on earth, various things mentioned in the prophecies were seen to have taken place. To illustrate: When the Lord was tried before Herod, the Gospel says that He opened not His mouth, and because He so acted He fulfilled the words of Isaiah, who had written: “As a sheep is dumb before its shearers, He opened not His mouth.” (53:7) And all through his Gospel Matthew points out various things in the Lord’s life that actually did fulfill the ancient prophecies. But you could not have told it beforehand. You could not have worked out a predestined plan that would have enabled you to go to Bethlehem at the very time that the Lord actually did make His First Coming. It was only after the event that men were able to interpret the prophecies and see how they were fulfilled. In order to preserve human freedom, the prophecies were necessarily vague, and not determined to individuals, and thus they could not be understood until after the predicted events had taken place.

The Manner of the Lord’s Second Coming

Having seen this principle applied to the prophecies of the First Coming, let us look more searchingly at the prophecies concerning the Second Coming of the Lord. Beginning with the disciples themselves, and going on down through the Christian Era, there have always been people who have insisted on a literal interpretation of the prophecies. However, there are reasons which seem to me to make it quite impossible to believe in any literal fulfillment of the prophecies concerning His Second Coming.

Literal Fulfillment Impossible

A literal fulfillment of the prophecies was impossible for physical reasons. Consider, for instance, the “stars falling from heaven” as mentioned in Matthew (24:29). We know that the earth is one of the tiniest of the planets, and that the stars beyond the planets are so much larger than the earth, and there are so many of them, that if they should really start falling toward the earth, when they got within a certain distance of it they would completely interlock. They would form a complete and solid mass, and the gravity from such a huge body would be such as to tear the earth to atoms. The physical concept of the stars falling is simply impossible to believe literally in the face of all that science has taught us about the universe. Furthermore, it is impossible to conceive of any place where the Lord could appear, except in the spiritual world, where every eye could see Him. In this world there is no cloud high enough. The highest mountain is only visible from a comparatively small portion of the earth’s surface. The people on the opposite side of the earth would be deprived of the sight of His coming. Because a literal fulfillment involves scientific contradictions, which seem to me to be insuperable, this mode of fulfillment is not satisfying.

Another contradiction appears when we try to interpret the prophecies in a literal manner. Notice the Twenty-fourth chapter in Matthew, where we are told that the Lord would appear in the clouds of heaven after the sun had been darkened, and the moon ceased to give its light, and the stars had fallen from heaven.

Contrast with this the Nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation where we have another picture of the Second Coming of the Lord. Here He is described as coming on a white horse followed by the angels of heaven, all of whom are riding on white horses. We have here two very different literal pictures – one is of a great horseman on a beautiful white steed followed by a mighty army riding on similar mounts sweeping forth from heaven; the other presents the picture of the Son of Man alone, coming in the clouds of heaven.

Will the Lord come on a white horse, or will He come in the clouds of heaven? Literally it is hard to reconcile these two different forecasts of His Second Advent, but if we seek for a spiritual interpretation, something which is above the letter, we will find a complete reconciliation. Then let us leave the literal for a moment and substitute spiritual values. What is meant by the Lord as a horseman? Remember that He was born in a stable and laid in a manger, because a manger fed horses, and horses signify the understanding of the Word. This correspondence rested on the fact that horses were the chief means of traveling from one place to another. Just so, the understanding of the Word is the means by which we are carried from one spiritual truth to another. When truth is understood spiritual light is shed in the mind. That spiritual light is the Lord riding upon the white horse. “And His name is called, The Word of God.” (Rev. 19:13)

The clouds of heaven, on the other hand, are made up of small water particles, water which corresponds to truth. The clouds of heaven then represent the gathering together of these truths, especially in the literal sense of the Word. Now a true understanding of the Word reveals the Lord, so the Lord is seen in the clouds of heaven, that is, He is seen in the literal sense of the Word which, as it were, opens to our sight. Thus perceived He rides into our hearts on a white horse. Spiritually these two visions of the Second Coming of the Lord are the same. Whether He comes in the understanding of the Word, or whether He comes in the clouds of heaven, the significance is the same.

Nevertheless we have those other passages which seem to indicate an utterly different kind of coming which in the spiritual sense harmonizes with His coming as a horseman or His coming in the clouds. I refer to a passage in Luke which states that the coming of the Lord is a personal thing. It is secret. “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” he says. (17:20) What could be more contradictory in the letter than the opposing ideas of the Lord’s coming in the clouds of heaven, with His coming without observation. What a magnificent coming is portrayed in the words “every eye shall see Him.” (Rev. 1:7) He is revealed to the whole spiritual world. Yet how deep is the message that “the Kingdom of God is within you”. The Second Coming is universal, but it is also intimate and intensely personal.

If we seek to learn the spiritual meaning involved in the Lord’s coming in the clouds of heaven, of His riding on a white horse and of His coming not with observation, we will come to a deeper understanding of the Word, which deeper understanding really constitutes the Second Coming of the Lord. When we can see truths in the Word which we never saw before – we may say that the Kingdom of God has come to us personally. And really that is the only thing that is vital to us. It is the Lord’s Second Coming into our hearts which is the matter of supreme importance. The Kingdom of God cometh not flashingly – with a “Lo here”, or “Lo there” – but the Kingdom of God is within us.

Let us tie this idea of the spiritual interpretation of the prophecies together with our original proposition, that the Lord is everywhere; that He is here in this room; that He was in Bethlehem the night that He was born. What, then, does His Second Coming mean to us as individuals? It means that the Kingdom of God must be within you. I can illustrate what I mean by the example of a radio. The current that flows into it and lights up the tubes may be compared to the Lord’s immediate influx into each one of us. The Lord flows into us and keeps us alive, but we have no conscious sensation of that inflowing life. We don’t feel it. He gives us the life processes, and that is like the inflowing electricity that lights up the tubes in your radio, but that inflowing current is not what tunes your set to various stations. Your dial gives you the stations, and when of your own free will you tune in a station, then that particular station can send its signals into your radio. The waves from the station were there all the time, but they were, as it were, around and outside your radio.

The human heart is an instrument on a higher plane. The only person who can receive the Kingdom of God is the person who has the Kingdom of God in his own heart. That means that God gives the faculty to receive, but man must tune in to the type of love and affection which characterizes heaven if he wants the Kingdom of God to be within him. We are taught that when man passes into the spiritual world he can go up into heaven if he so desires, but instead of finding it delightful he may see nothing there. Sometimes a good spirit will walk along beside an evil spirit in heaven, and the good spirit will see paradises, and the evil spirit will see nothing but a desert, because he has nothing of the Kingdom of God within him, and therefore all the impulses that come to him from without are not received by him any more than the waves to which your radio is not tuned can enter and be received by your radio. They just pass it by without affecting it. No more can heavenly spheres affect you unless your heart is attuned to heaven, that is, unless the Kingdom of God be within you.

And that the Lord will not come with observation, but must come within you, harmonizes perfectly with the idea that the Lord becomes present by a greater understanding of the Word which will lead us to the deeper affections and greater wisdom, such as is signified by the Rider on the white horse. And it makes one with the picture of the Lord coming with glory in the clouds of the literal sense of the Word, which are the clouds of heaven.

When the Spirit of Truth is Come

Let us look at another kind of prophecy, the one that we find in the sixteenth chapter of John, where the Lord is talking with His disciples and says, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak.” (12-13) Think for a moment of the disciples, and consider what the Lord meant by those words.

Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. They probably had had scarcely any education as we understand it. As likely as not, they thought that the sun was a ball of fire suspended in the sky, that the moon was a lesser light created to give us some illumination at night, that the stars were tiny lights in the sky, and that the world was flat. Suppose Peter had kicked a piece of coal as he walked along beside the Sea of Galilee, he would have thought that it was only a black stone. He would not have known that stored up in what seemed to be a stone there was a wealth of potential heat, of aniline dyes and gases and many more things that we know today as coal products.

These were the men to whom the Lord said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” That is, “Ye cannot understand them yet.” Nevertheless, He said, the time would come when the spirit of truth would reveal those things unto the world.

Those simple disciples had a task to perform. Their great work was to teach the world that the Lord had risen from the dead, that He had conquered death. That was the supreme message of Christianity, and with it they were to preach the simple Christian principles revealed in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Lord’s other discourses, for these were the truths whereby man might conquer the death of sin and come into heaven. That was the task imposed upon the disciples.

They were not then prepared to understand the glorification of the Lord, to perceive how He had taken on a body from Mary, and how little by little He had glorified it. They had no concepts of philosophy, nor even of natural science, by means of which they could understand His deeper teaching. Consequently He foretold a further revelation in the words, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”

At His first coming the Lord took on a garment of flesh so that we could see Him in a new way – feel Him, and hear His voice, and whatever the Divine does it does perfectly. By His incarnation He achieved all that could be accomplished by a life in the flesh, and by the glorification of His body. If, as He indicated, there were other things which He could not accomplish or teach because of the state of men’s minds at that time – these could not be done by men’s vision of Him in the flesh, but only by His revealing His inner spirit – the Spirit of Truth.

The history of the individual repeats the history of the race, and the Lord told Nicodemus that people must be twice born to become spiritual. They must first be born of their mother, and then they must be born of water and of the Spirit. (John 3:5) The Lord told him that it was not a rebirth in the flesh, but a rebirth from water and the spirit. In a similar way, it is needful for people to see the Lord not only as to the flesh, but also to see Him as to His Spirit. His second advent reveals His Divine Love and Wisdom. Just as at the first coming He gave people a body of flesh to behold, now at the Second Coming He gives them a body of truth Divine, which answers the questions in peoples’ hearts, which down to the present time the literal sense of the Word has failed to answer.

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12,13)

Of this spirit of truth which He promised to send to His disciples, the Lord says, “he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for he shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” (Ibid. 13,14) We believe that the Lord used a human instrument – Emanuel Swedenborg – to reveal this new spirit of truth. Swedenborg says that from the time his spiritual eyes were opened when he was fully introduced into the spiritual world, and commenced to write the Arcana Coelestia in 1748, until 1772, when he died, he did not receive anything pertaining to the doctrine of the New Church from any spirit or angel, but from the Lord alone while he read and meditated on the Word. Swedenborg’s works must be judged on the basis of what they claim to be, and his claim has to be rejected or accepted from that standpoint.

Luther wrote a commentary on the Bible as did Calvin, Melanchthon, Adam Smith, and many others. They are interesting, useful, and valuable studies of the meaning of the letter of the Word, but they do not rise above their fallible authors. They set forth what the man Luther, the man Calvin, the man Melanchthon, the man Adam Smith thought that the words of the sacred text meant. They do not claim to be Divine, nor are they.

But the case with Swedenborg is different. In giving the spiritual sense of the Word, nothing is further from his mind than to claim to be the spirit of truth or the Lord in His Second Coming. The spirit of truth is the rational truth revealed in the Writings; the wisdom which Swedenborg received from the Lord alone as he read and meditated on the Word. And the Lord said that this spirit “shall not speak of himself, but what he shall hear, that shall he speak.” That is why Swedenborg says that he did not receive anything from any spirit or angel, but from the Lord alone.

It is of the Lord, and from the Lord, that Swedenborg writes, for it is worthy of note that when Swedenborg commenced the Arcana he adopted the term “Dominus” or “Lord” for the God that we worship. In the New Testament He was called “Kurios” which means Lord, and in the Old Testament, wherever the word Jehovah occurred the priests were commanded to read “Adonai” which means “Lord.” Therefore in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in the Writings we have the one God denominated by the same term “Lord.” So Swedenborg asserts that he did not receive anything from any spirit or angel, but from the Lord alone while he read and meditated on the Word of God. He wrote at the command of that one God, and he testified about that one God, and he explained how that one God is eternally in the one person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Divine is right here with each of us, but our senses do not perceive the Divine presence. When, however, through the pages of the Writings, we are able to see the truth of the Lord’s presence, we can see that the Lord has come to us in a new way. That new coming in Divinely revealed truth is the Second Coming of the Lord. It is not a coming in space, but it is a new revelation of Him, a new manifestation of His Wisdom and His Power. The signs of His Second Coming are these newly revealed truths:

That there is one God in one Person, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

That He has revealed what is the life of man after death.

That He has shown the way to heaven to be the shunning of evils as sins against God.

That He has opened the spiritual sense within the Word.

That He has made known to the New Church that there is love truly conjugial.

In very truth, now, in His Second Coming, the Lord has revealed Himself anew as the one Divine Man, the Creator, Redeemer, and Savior of mankind, whose kingdom shall exist for ages of ages.

– from Karl R. Alden, The City of God (Bryn Athyn, PA: General Chrurch Publication Committee, 1961)

Harmony With My Soul

read our discusion on atonement back in april of 2012,me and chris, click on view original and scroll down the page, to read it

Christopher Clody

It’s been said that our wills are stronger than God’s.  After all, God is a gentleman, who does not force Himself upon us. 

Although He breathes into every beating heart our restless need to love and be loved with a sense of curious wonder, our choice to trust or reject God ultimately depends on the extraordinary gift of free will.   The interesting irony which answers that “why” to our existence distills down to relinquishing this very gift of our moral advocacy in exchange for “God’s will.”  God’s will is not some blueprint to building Jacob’s ladder, but rather pits our very understanding and liberties of our self-worth against a concept of trust our beating hearts somehow already know.  In order to have our cake and eat it too, our remedy to this leaking guilt from our heart’s need for love through trust is spent gorging on distractions that temporarily make…

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God the Creator

Chapter 1

God the Creator (n. 4)

The Unity of God  (n. 5)

1. The entire Holy Scripture, and all the doctrines therefrom of the churches in the Christian world teach that there is a God and that He is one (n. 5-7).

2. There is a universal influx from God into the souls of men of the truth that there is a God and that He is one  (n. 8).

For this reason in all the world there is no nation possessing religion and sound reason that does not acknowledge a God and that God is one (n. 9, 10).

4. Respecting what the one God is nations and peoples have differed and still differ from many causes (n. 11).

5. Human reason can, if it will, perceive and be convinced from many things in the world, that there is a God, and that He is one  (n. 12).

6. If God were not one, the universe could not have been created and preserved (n. 13).

7. Whoever does not acknowledge a God is excommunicated from the church and condemned (n. 14).

8 With people who acknowledge several Gods instead of one, there is no coherence in the things relating to the church (n. 15).

The Divine Being, Which is Jehovah (n. 18)

1. The One God is called Jehovah from Esse, that is, because He alone Is, [was], and is to be, and because He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega (n. 19).

2. The One God is Substance itself and Form itself; and angels and men are substances and forms from Him; and so far as they are in Him and He is in them, are images and likenesses of Him (n. 20).

3. The Divine Esse is at once Esse [Being] in itself and Existere [Outgo] in itself (n. 21,22).

4. It is impossible for the Divine Esse and Existere in itself to produce another Divine, which is Esse and Existere in itself; therefore another God of the same Essence is impossible (n. 23).

5. The doctrine of a plurality of Gods, both in past ages and at the present day, sprang solely from a failure to understand the Divine Esse (n. 24).

The Infinity of God, or His immensity and eternity (n. 27)

1. God is Infinite because He is Being and Existence in Himself, and because all things in the universe have their being and existence from Him (n. 28).

2. God is Infinite because He was before the world was, that is, before times and spaces arose (n. 29).

3. Since the creation of the world, God is in space without space and in time without time (n. 30).

4. In relation to spaces God’s infinity is called Immensity, while in relation to times it is called Eternity; but although it is so related, there is nothing of space in His Immensity, and nothing of time in His Eternity (n. 31).

5. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened reason from very many things in the world (n. 32).

6. Every created thing is finite, and the Infinite is in the finite, as in its receptacles, and is in people as in its images (n. 33, 34).

The Divine Essence, which is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom (n. 36)

1. God is love itself and wisdom itself, and these two constitute His Essence (n. 37).

2. God is good itself and truth itself, because good is of love and truth is of wisdom (n. 38).

3. God, because He is love itself and wisdom itself, is Life itself, which is life in itself (n. 39, 40).

4. Love and wisdom in God make one (n. 41, 42).

5. It is the essence of love to love others outside of oneself, to desire to be one with them, and to render them blessed from oneself (n. 43-45).

6. These essentials of the Divine love were the cause of the creation of the universe, and are the cause of its preservation (n. 46, 47).

The omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God (n. 49)

1. Omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence pertain to the Divine wisdom from the Divine love (n. 50, 51).

2. The omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God can be clearly understood only when it is known what order is, and when it is known that God is order, and that He introduced order both into the universe and into each and all things of it at the time of their creation (n. 62-65).

3. God’s omnipotence in the whole universe, with each and all things of it, proceeds and operates in accordance with the laws of His order (n. 56-58).

4. God is omniscient, that is, He perceives, sees, and knows each thing and all things, even to the most minute, that take place according to order, and from these the things also that take place contrary to order (n. 59-62)

5. God is omnipresent from the firsts to the lasts of His order (n. 63, 64).

6. People were created a form of Divine order (n. 65-67).

7. From the Divine omnipotence people have power over evil and falsity; and from the Divine omniscience has wisdom respecting what is good and true; and from the Divine omnipresence is in God, just to the extent that he lives in accordance with Divine order (n. 68-70).

The creation of the universe (n. 75)

No one can gain a right idea of the creation of the universe until their understanding is brought into a state of perception by some universal knowledges previously recognized (n. 75).

The creation of the universe described in five Memorable Relations (n. 76-80).

Chapter 2

The Lord the Redeemer (n. 81)

1. Jehovah God descended and assumed a Human that He might redeem people and save them (n. 82-84).

2. Jehovah God descended as the Divine truth, which is the Word, although He did not separate from it the Divine good  (n. 85-88).

3. God assumed the Human in accordance with His Divine order (n. 89-91).

4. The Human whereby God sent Himself into the world is the Son of God (n. 92-94).

5. Through the acts of redemption the Lord made Himself righteousness  (n. 95, 96).

6. Through the same acts the Lord united Himself to the Father and the Father united Himself to Him (n. 97-100).

7. Thus God became Human, and a Human became God, in one Person (n. 101-103).

8. The progress towards union was His state of Exinanition [emptying Himself], and the union itself is His state of glorification (n. 104-106).

9. Hereafter no one from among Christians enters heaven unless he believes in the Lord God the Saviour [and approaches Him alone] (n.107, 108).

10.  Corollary on the state of the church before the Lord’s coming, and its state after that (n. 109).

Redemption (n. 114)

1. Redemption itself was a subjugation of the hells, a restoration of order in the heavens, and by means of these a preparation for a new spiritual church (n. 115-117).

2. Without that redemption no person could have been saved, nor could the angels have continued in a state of integrity (n. 118-120).

3. In this wise not only people but the angels also were redeemed by the Lord (n. 121,122).

4. Redemption was a work purely Divine (n. 123).

5. This Redemption itself could not have been accomplished except by God incarnated (n. 124, 125).

6. The Passion of the cross was the last temptation which the Lord as the greatest prophet endured; and was the means whereby His Human was glorified, but it was not Redemption (n. 126-131). The belief that the Passion of the cross was Redemption itself is a fundamental error of the church; and this error, with the error respecting three Divine persons from eternity, has perverted the whole church to such an extent that there is nothing spiritual left in it (n. 132, 133).

Chapter 3

The Holy Spirit and the Divine Operation (n. 134-138)

1. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Truth and also the Divine Energy and Operation, proceeding from the one God in whom is the Divine Trinity – that is, from the Lord God the Saviour (n. 139-141).

2. The Divine Energy and Operation, which are meant by the Holy Spirit, are in general reformation and regeneration; and in accordance with these, renovation, vivification, sanctification, and justification; and in accordance with these latter, purification from evils, forgiveness of sins, and finally salvation (n. 142-145).

3. The Divine Energy and Operation, which are meant by the sending of the Holy Spirit, are, with the clergy specifically, enlightenment and instruction (n. 146-148).

4. The Lord makes these energies operative in those who believe in Him (n. 149-151).

5. The Lord operates of Himself from the Father, and not the reverse (n. 153-155).

6. The spirit of a person is his or her mind and whatever proceeds from it (n. 156, 157).

A Corollary: Nowhere in the Old Testament is it said that the Prophets spoke from the Holy Spirit, but from Jehovah God; it is otherwise, however, in the New (n. 158).

The Divine Trinity (n. 159-163)

1. There is a Divine Trinity, which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit  (n. 164, 165).

2. These three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are the three essentials of the one God, and they make one, as the soul, body, and operation make one in a person (n. 166-169).

3. Before the world was created this Trinity was not; but after creation, when God became incarnate, it was provided and brought about, and then in the Lord God the Redeemer and Saviour, Jesus Christ (n. 170, 171).

4. In the ideas of thought a Trinity of Divine persons from eternity, thus before the world was created, is a Trinity of Gods; and these ideas cannot be effaced by a lip-confession of one God (n. 172, 173).

5. A Trinity of persons was unknown in the Apostolic church, but was hatched by the Nicene Council, and from that was introduced into the Roman Catholic church, and from that again into churches separated from it (n. 174-176).

6. From the Nicene Trinity and the Athanasian Trinity together a faith in three Gods arose by which the whole Christian church has been perverted (n. 177, 178).

7. This is the source of that abomination of desolation, and that tribulation such as has not been nor ever shall be, which the Lord foretold in Daniel, and in the Gospels and in the Apocalypse  (n. 179-181).

8. So, too, unless a new heaven and a new church were established by the Lord there could no flesh be saved (n. 182).

9. From a Trinity of persons, each one of whom singly is God, according to the Athanasian Creed, many discordant and heterogeneous ideas. respecting. God have arisen, which are fantasies and abortions (n. 183, 184).

Chapter 4

The Sacred Scripture or Word of the Lord (n . 189)

I. The sacred scripture or the Word is Divine truth itself (n. 189-192).

II. In the Word there is a spiritual sense hitherto unknown (n. 193).

1. What the spiritual sense is. (n. 194)

From the Lord the Divine Celestial, the Divine Spiritual (and) the Divine Natural go forth one after the other.  (n. 195).

2.  The spiritual sense is in each and every part of the Word (n. 196-198).

The Lord when in the world spoke by correspondences; that is, when He spoke naturally He also spoke spiritually (n. 199).

3. It is because of the spiritual sense that the Word is Divinely inspired and holy in every Word (n. 200).

4.  Hitherto the spiritual sense of the Word has been unknown; although it was known to the ancients. Of correspondence among them (n. 201-207).

5. Henceforth the spiritual sense of the Word will be given only to such as are in genuine truths from the Lord. (n. 208).

6. Some wonderful things respecting the Word from its spiritual sense (n. 209).

III. The sense of the letter of the Word is the basis, the containant, and the support of its spiritual and celestial senses (n. 210-213).

IV. In the sense of the letter of the Word divine truth is in its fullness, its holiness, and its power (n. 214-216).

1. The truths of the sense of the letter of the Word are meant by the precious stones of which the foundations of the New Jerusalem consisted (which is described in the Apocalypse; and this on account of the correspondence (n. 217).

2. The goods and truths of the sense of the letter correspond to the Urim and Thummim on the ephod of Aaron (n. 218)

3. Goods and truths in outmosts, such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word, are signified by the precious stones in the garden of Eden where the king of Tyre is said to have been (in Ezekiel). (n. 219).

4. The same were represented by the curtains, veils, and pillars of the tabernacle (n. 220).

5. Likewise by the externals of the temple at Jerusalem (n. 221).

6. The Word in its glory was represented in the Lord when He was transfigured (n. 222),

7. The power of the Word in its outmosts was represented by the Nazarites (n. 223).

8. The inexpressible power of the Word (n. 224).

V. The doctrine of the church should be drawn from the sense of the letter of the Word and confirmed thereby (n. 225,229, 230).

1. Without doctrine the Word is not understood. (n. 226-228).

2. Doctrine should be drawn from the sense of the letter of the Word and confirmed by it (n. 229-230).

3. The genuine truth of which doctrine must consist can be seen in the sense of the letter of the Word only by those who are in enlightenment from the Lord (n. 231-233).

VI. By means of this sense of the letter of the Word there is conjunction with the Lord and affiliation with the angels (n. 234-239).

VII. The Word is in all the heavens. And angelic wisdom is from it (n. 240-242).

VIII. The church is from the Word, and with people it is such as their understanding of the Word is (n. 243-247).

IX. In every particular of the Word there is a marriage of the Lord and the church, and. In consequence a marriage of good and truth (n. 248-253).

X. Heresies may be drawn from the sense of the letter of the Word, but to confirm them is hurtful  (n. 254-260).

Many things in the Word are appearances of truth, which conceal within them genuine truths (n. 257).

Fallacies arise through the confirmation of appearances of truth (n. 258).

The sense of the letter of the Word is a guard for the genuine truths concealed within it (n. 260).

The sense of the letter was represented by cherubs and is signified by cherubs in the Word (n. 260)

XI. The Lord when in the world fulfilled all things of the Word, and thereby became the Word, that is, divine truth, even in things last (n. 261-263).

XII. Before the Word that is now in the world, there was a Word that was lost (n. 264-266).

XIII. Through the Word there is light also to those who are outside of the church and do not possess the Word (n. 267-272).

XIV. If there were no Word there would be no knowledge of God, of heaven and hell, or of a life after death, still less of the Lord (n. 273-276).

Chapter 5

The catechism or Decalogue explained in its external and its internal sense

I. In the Israelitish church the Decalogue was holiness itself. the holiness of the ark which contained the law (n. 283-286).

II. In the sense of the letter the Decalogue contains the general precepts of faith and life; but in the spiritual and celestial senses it contains all precepts universally (n. 287-290).

III. THE FIRST COMMANDMENT: “There shall be [with thee] no other god in my presence” (n. 291-296).

IV. THE SECOND COMMANDMENT: “Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold a person guiltless that taketh His name in vain” (n. 297-300).

V. THE THIRD COMMANDMENT: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Jehovah thy God” (n. 301-304)

VI. THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT: “Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may be well with Thee upon the earth. (n. 303-308).

VII. THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT: “Thou shalt not kill” (n. 309-312).

VIII. THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (n. 313-316).

IX. THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT: “Thou shalt not steal” (n. 317-320).

X. THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (n. 321-324).

XI. THE NINTH. AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s” (n. 325-328).

XII. The Ten Commandments of the Decalogue contain all things that belong to love to God, and all things that belong to love toward the neighbor” (n. 329-331).

Chapter 6

Faith (n. 336)

Preface: Faith is first in time, but charity is first in end (n. 336).

I. Saving faith is faith in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ (n. 337-339)

Because He is a visible God in whom is the invisible (n. 339).

II. The sum of faith is, that a person who lives well and believes rightly is saved by the Lord (n. 340-342).

The first principle of Faith in Him is an acknowledgment that He is the Son of God (n. 342).

III. People acquire faith by going to the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living according to them (n. 343-348).

The Esse of the Faith of the New Church is: 1. Confidence in the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ. 2. A trust that a person  who lives well and believes aright is saved by Him. (n. 344, seq.).

Merely natural faith, that it is a persuasion counterfeiting faith (n. 345-348).

IV. An abundance of truths cohering as if in a bundle, exalts and perfects faith (n. 349-354).

1. The truths of faith may be multiplied to infinity (n. 350).

2. The truths of faith are disposed into series, thus, as it were, into bundles (n. 361).

3. According to the abundance and coherence of truths, faith is perfected (n. 352, 353).

4. However numerous the truths of faith are, and however diverse they appear, they make one from the Lord (n. 364).

5. The Lord is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or church, the God of faith, Light itself, the Truth, and Life eternal (n.354).

V. Faith without charity is not faith, and charity without faith is not charity, and neither has life except from the Lord (n. 355-361)

1. People can acquire for themselves faith (n. 356).

2. People can acquire for themselves charity (n. 357).

3. People may also acquire for themselves the life of faith and charity (n. 358).

4. Yet nothing of faith, or of charity, or of the life of either, is from man, but from the Lord alone (n. 359).

5. The distinction between natural faith and spiritual faith, the latter being inwardly within the former, from the Lord (n. 360, 361)

VI. The Lord, charity, and faith make one, like life, will, and understanding in a person; and, if they are divided, each perishes like a pearl reduced to powder  (n. 362-367).

1. The Lord with all of His Divine love, with all of His Divine wisdom, thus with all of  His Divine life, flows into every person (n. 364).

2.  Consequently the Lord, with the whole essence of faith and charity flows into every person (n. 365)

3. What flows in from the Lord is received by a person according to their state and form (n. 366).

4.  But the person who divides the Lord, charity, and faith, is not a form that receives, but a form that destroys them (n. 367).

VII. The Lord is charity and faith in people, and a person is charity and faith in the Lord (n. 368-372).

1. It is by conjunction with God that a person has salvation and eternal life (n. 369).

2. Conjunction with God the Father is not possible, but only conjunction with the Lord, and through Him with the Father

(n. 370).

3. Conjunction with the Lord is a reciprocal conjunction, that is, that a person is in the Lord and the Lord in the person (n. 371).

4. This reciprocal conjunction of the Lord and person is effected by means of charity and faith (n. 372).

VIII. Charity and faith are together in good works (n. 373-377).

1. Charity is willing well, and good works are doing well from willing well (n. 374).

2. Charity and faith are only mental and perishable things, unless they are determined to acts and coexist in them when it is possible (n. 375, 376).

3. Good works are not produced by charity alone, still less by faith alone, but by charity and faith together (n. 377).

IX. There is a true faith, a spurious faith, and a hypocritical faith (n. 378-381).

From its cradle the Christian church began to be infested and divided by schisms and heresies (respecting which n. 378).

1. True faith is the one only faith, which is a faith in the Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and this is held by those who believe Him to be the Son of God, the God of heaven and earth, and one with the Father (n. 379).

2. Spurious faith is, all faith that departs from the true faith, which is the only one faith; and this is the faith that is held by those who climb up some other way, and regard the Lord not as God but as a mere human being (n. 380).

3. Hypocritical faith is no faith (n. 381).

X. With the evil there is no faith (n. 382-384).

1. The evil have no faith, since evil belongs to hell and faith to heaven (n. 383).

2. Those in Christendom who reject the Lord and the Word have no faith although they live morally, and even speak, teach, and write rationally about truth (n. 384).

 Chapter 7

Charity or love to the neighbor, and good works (n. 392)

I. There are three universal loves – the love of heaven, the love of the world, and the love of self  (n. 394-396).

1. The will and understanding (n. 397).

2. Good and truth (n 398)

3. Love in general  (n. 399).

4. Love of self and love of the world in particular’ (n. 400).

5. The external and internal person (n. 401).

6. The merely natural and sensual person (n. 402).

II. These three loves, when rightly subordinated, perfect a person; but when not rightly subordinated they pervert and invert him or her (n. 403-405).

III. Every person individually is the neighbor who is to be loved, but according to the quality of  his or her good (n. 406-411).

IV. The collective human being, that is, a community smaller or greater, and the composite person formed of communities, that is, one’s country, is the neighbor that is to be loved (n. 412-414).

V. The church is the neighbor that is to be loved in a still higher degree, and the Lord’s kingdom in the highest degree (n. 415, 416).

VI. To love the neighbor, viewed in itself, is not to love the person, but the good that is in the person (n. 417-419).

VII. Charity and good works are two distinct things, like willing well and doing well (n. 420,421).

VIII. Charity itself is acting justly and faithfully in the office, business, and employment in which a person is engaged, and with those with whom he or she has any dealings (n. 422-424).

IX. The benefactions of charity are giving to the poor and relieving the needy, but with prudence (n. 425-428).

X. There are duties of charity, some public, some domestic, and some private (n. 429-432).

XI. The diversions of charity are dinners, suppers, and social gatherings (n. 433, 434).

XII. The first thing of charity is to put away evils, and the second is to do good works that are of use to the neighbor  (n. 435-438).

XIII. In the exercise of charity a person does not place merit in works so long as he or she believes that all good is from the Lord  (n. 439-442).

XIV. When a moral life is also spiritual it is charity  (n. 443-445).

XV. A friendship of love, contracted with a person without regard to their spiritual quality is detrimental after death (ii. 446-449).

XVI. There is spurious charity, hypocritical charity, and dead charity (n. 450-

XVII. The friendship of love among the evil is intestine hatred of each other  (n. 454, 455).

XVIII. The conjunction of love to God and love towards the neighbor (n. 458-458)

Chapter 8

Freedom of choice (n. 463)

I. The precepts and dogmas of the present church respecting freedom of choice (n. 463-465).

II. The placing of two trees in the garden of Eden, one of life, and the other of the knowledge of good and evil signifies that freedom of choice in things spiritual has been given to a person (n. 466-469).

III. A person is not life, but a receptacle op life from God (n. 470-474).

IV. So long as a person lives in the world he or she is kept midway between heaven and hell, and is there in spiritual equilibrium, which is freedom of choice (n. 475-478).

V. It is clearly manifest from that permission of evil in which everyone’s internal person is that person has freedom of choice in spiritual things (n. 479-482).

VI. Without freedom of choice in spiritual things the Word would be of no use, and consequently the church would be nothing (n. 483, 484).

VII. Without freedom of choice in spiritual things there would be nothing in a person whereby he could in turn conjoin himself with the Lord, consequently there would be no imputation, but mere predestination, which is detestable (n. 485).

Detestable things concerning predestination divulged (n. 486-488)

VIII. If there were no freedom of choice in spiritual things God would be the cause of evil, and thus there would be no imputation of charity or faith (n. 489-492).

IX, Everything spiritual of the church that enters a person in freedom, and is received with freedom, remains; but not the reverse (n. 493-496)

X. A person’s will and understanding are in this freedom of choice; nevertheless in both worlds, the spiritual and the natural, the doing of evil is restrained by laws, because otherwise society in both worlds would perish (n. 497-499).

XI. If a person had not freedom of choice in spiritual things all the inhabitants of the world might in one day be led to believe in the Lord; but this cannot be done, because that which is not received by a person from freedom of choice does not remain (n. 500-502).

Miracles are not wrought at the present day, because they take away freedom of choice in spiritual things, and compel  (n. 501).

Chapter 9

Repentance (n. 509)

I. Repentance is the first thing of the church in a person (n. 510, 511).

II. The contrition which at the present day is said to precede faith, and to be followed by the consolation of the Gospel, is not repentance (n. 512-515).

III. The mere lip-confession that one is a sinner is not repentance  (n. 516-519).

IV. A person is born [with an inclination] to evils of every kind; and unless he or she, to some extent, removes their evils by repentance, they remain in them; and he who remains in evils cannot be saved (n. 520-524).

The fulfilling of the law (n. 523, 524).

V. Recognition of sin, and the discovery of some sin in oneself, is the beginning of repentance (n. 525-527)

VI, Actual repentance is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life (n. 528-531).

VII. True repentance is examining not only the actions of one’s life, but also the intentions of one’s will  (n. 532-534).

VIII. Those also repent, who, although they do not examine themselves, yet refrain from evils because they are sins; and those who from religion do the works of charity exercise such repentance (n. 535-537).

IX. Confession ought to be made before the Lord God the Saviour, followed by supplication for help and the power to resist evils (n. 538-560)

X. Actual repentance is easy for those who have now and then practiced it, but is a difficult task for those who have not (n. 561-563)

XI. A person who has never repented or has never looked into and searched himself, finally ceases to know what damning evil or saving good is (n. 564-566).

Chapter 10

Reformation and Regeneration (n. 571)

I. Unless a person is born again and, as it were, created anew, he or she cannot enter into the kingdom of God (n. 572-575).

II. The new birth or creation is effected by the Lord alone through charity and faith as the two means, a person cooperating  (n. 576-578)

III. Since all have been redeemed, all may be regenerated, each according to their state (n. 579-582).

IV. Regeneration is effected in a manner analogous to that in which a person is conceived, carried in the womb, born and educated (n. 583-586).

Something about the masculine and feminine sex in the vegetable kingdom (n. 585).

V. The first act in the new birth is called reformation, which pertains to the understanding; and the second is called regeneration, which pertains to the will and therefrom to the understanding (n. 587-590).

VI. The internal person must first be reformed, and by means of it the external; and thus is a person regenerated (n. 591-595).

VII. When this takes place a conflict arises between the internal and the external man, and then the one that conquers rules the other (n. 596-600).

VIII. The regenerated person has a new will and a new understanding (n. 601-606).

IX. A regenerate person is in communion with angels of heaven, and an unregenerate person with spirits of hell (n. 607-610).

X. So far as a person is regenerated sins are removed, and this removal is the forgiveness of sins (n. 611-614).

XI. Within freedom of choice in spiritual things regeneration is impossible (n. 615-617).

XII. Regeneration is impossible without truths, by which faith is formed and with which charity conjoins itself  (n. 618-620).

Chapter 11

Imputation (n. 626)

I. Imputation and the faith of the present church (which is held to be the sole ground of justification) make one  (n. 626, 627).

II. The imputation that belongs to the faith of the present day is a double imputation, an imputation of Christ’s merit and an imputation of salvation thereby (n. 628-631).

III. The faith imputative of the merit and righteousness of Christ the redeemer, first arose from the decrees of the Council of Nice respecting three divine persons from eternity, which faith has been accepted by the whole Christian world from that time to the present  (n. 632-635).

IV. The faith imputative of Christ’s merit was unknown in the preceding Apostolic Church, and is nowhere taught in the Word (n. 636-639).

V. The imputation of Christ’s merit and righteousness is impossible (n. 640-642).

VI. There is an imputation, but it is an imputation of good and evil (n. 643-646).

VII. The faith and imputation of the New Church can by no means exist together with the faith and imputation of the former church, and if they are together, such a collision and conflict result that everything pertaining to the church in a person perishes (n. 647-649).

VIII. The Lord imputes good to every person and hell imputes evil (n. 650-653).

IX. Faith, with that to which it is conjoined, is what determines the verdict; if a true faith is conjoined to good, the verdict is for eternal life, but if faith is conjoined to evil the verdict is for eternal death (n. 654-657).

X. Thought is not imputed to anyone, but will only (n. 658-660).

Chapter 12 (n. 667)


I. Without a knowledge of the spiritual sense of the Word no one can know what the two sacraments, baptism and the Holy Supper, involve and effect (n. 667-669).

II. The washing that is called baptism means spiritual washing, which is purification from evils, and thus regeneration (n. 670-673).

III. Because circumcision of the foreskin represented circumcision of the heart, in the place of circumcision, baptism was instituted, in order that an internal church might succeed the external, which in each and all things prefigured the internal church (n. 674-676).

IV. The first use of baptism is introduction into the Christian church, and at the same time insert ion among Christians in the spiritual world (n. 677-680).

V. The second use of baptism is that the Christian may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ the redeemer and Saviour, and follow him (n. 681-683).

VI. The third use of baptism, which is the final use, is that the person may be regenerated (n. 684-687).

VII. By the baptism of John a way was prepared, that Jehovah God might descend into the world and accomplish redemption (n. 688-691).

Chapter 13

The Holy Supper (n. 698)

I. Without some knowledge of the correspondences of natural with spiritual things, it is impossible to know what the uses and benefits of the Holy Supper are (n. 698-701).

II. With a knowledge of correspondences what is meant by Lord’s flesh and the bread mean the divine good of bread and wine have a like meaning; namely, that the Lord’s flesh and blood can be known, also that His love, also all good of charity; and the Lord’s blood and the wine mean the Divine truth of His wisdom, also all truth of faith, and eating means appropriation (n. 702-710).

Shown from the Word what is meant by “flesh” (n. 704, 705).

What is meant by ” blood”  (n. 706).

What is meant by ” bread”  (n. 707).

What is meant by ” wine”  (n. 708).

III. When all this is understood any one can comprehend that the Holy Supper contains all things of the church and all things of heaven both in general and in particular (n. 711-715).

IV. In the Holy Supper the Lord is wholly present with the whole of His redemption (n. 716-718).

V. The Lord is present and opens heaven to those who come to the Holy Supper worthily; and is also present with those who come to it unworthily, but to them He does not open heaven; consequently, as baptism is introduction into the church, so is the Holy Supper introduction into heaven (n. 719-721).

VI. Those come to the Holy Supper worthily who have faith in the Lord and charity toward the neighbor that is, who are regenerate (n. 722-724).

VII. Those who come to the Holy Supper worthily are in the Lord and the Lord is in them; consequently conjunction with the Lord is effected by the Holy Supper  (n. 725-727).

VIII. To those who worthily come to the Holy Supper it is like a signature and seal that they are sons of God  (n. 728-730).

Chapter 14

The Consummation of the Age; the Coming of the Lord; and the New Heaven and New Church (n. 753)

I. The Consummation of the Age is the last time of the church or its end (n. 753-756).

II. The present is the last time of the Christian church, which was foretold and described by the Lord in the Gospels and in the Apocalypse (n. 757-759).

III. This last time of the Christian church is the very night in which former churches have come to an end (n. 760-763).

IV, This night is followed by a morning, which is the coming of the Lord  (n. 764-767).

V, The Lord’s coming is not His coming to destroy the visible heaven and the habitable earth, and to create a new heaven and a new earth, as many, from not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word, have hitherto supposed (n. 768-771).

VI. This coming of the Lord, which is His Second Coming, is taking place in order that the evil may be separated from the good, and that those who have believed and do believe in Him may be saved, and that from them a new angelic heaven and a new church on earth may be formed, and without this, no flesh could be saved (matt. xxiv. 22)  (n. 772-775).

VII. This Second Coming of the Lord is not a coming in person, but in the Word, which is from Him and is Himself  (n. 776-778).

VIII. This Second Coming of the Lord is effected by means of a man, to whom the Lord has manifested Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His spirit, that he may teach the doctrines of the new church from the Lord through the Word (n. 779-780).

IX. This is what is meant in the Apocalypse by ” the new heaven,” and ” the New Jerusalem descending therefrom” (n. 781-785).

X. This New Church is the crown of all the churches that have hitherto existed on the earth (n. 786-791).

Supplement (n. 752)

The nature of the spiritual world (n. 792-795). Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin in the spiritual world  (n. 796-799).

The Dutch in the spiritual world (n. 800-805).

The English in the spiritual world (n. 806-812).

The Germans in the spiritual world (n. 813-816).

The Papists in the spiritual world (n. 817-821).

The Popish saints in the spiritual world (n. 822-827).

The Mohammedans in the spiritual world (n. 828-834).

The Africans in the spiritual world; also something in regard to the gentiles (n. 835-840).

The Jews in the spiritual world (n. 841-843).

The Transition

4. The Transition

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”Psalm 27:10

The lesson of obedience has been learned. The next step in development is for the child to assume the guidance of his own life, which up to this time has been in his parents’ care. The Lord, therefore, gives in opening manhood and womanhood the rational faculty, the power not only to know and remember, but to understand, to rise above facts to principles, and to see the application of principles to various conditions. The new faculty does not give us power to invent truth,- no human mind has that power, – but it does enable us to make for ourselves the applications of truth which before our parents have made for us, and so to look directly to the Lord as our standard of truth and our Teacher. The rational faculty is not given that a young man may turn from dependence upon his parents to dependence upon himself, but to dependence upon the Lord ; that he may advance from indirect obedience to Him to direct obedience. ” When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”

When circumstances remove children from their parents’ care; when parents die, when children leave home for college or for work ; when, though they still live with their parents, they outgrow the dependence of childhood, then they should be prepared to transfer their dependence to the Lord. It is to enable them to do this that rationality is given them. This is the essence of the change from boy- and girlhood to man- and womanhood.

To see clearly what the change is, is a help in knowing our duty to children at this transition period of life. If we have the change in mind as something that is coming, we can do much to prepare the children for it, so that at the right time they can make the change safely and happily.

From the first we can cultivate the thought that the children are the Lord’s children. We shall not selfishly wish to keep them in ignorance of their Heavenly Father, and claim all their affection for ourselves. We shall teach them about the Lord, and shall be glad to see their thoughts and affections turn to Him in childlike ways. If little children look up to us and think us very wise and good, we shall in our own hearts transfer their reverence to the Lord, knowing that whatever goodness or wisdom they find in us is from Him; and as the children grow older we shall not hide it from them that we are but giving them what the Lord gives us. It may be a trial to our natural feelings to think in this way of the children, as the Lord’s, and gradually to lead their thoughts and affections beyond ourselves to Him. It is a process of weaning ; it is a taking the child to the tabernacle and lending him to the Lord forever. But we must remember that we cannot always nurse and lead the children ; they will outgrow us. If we love them we must teach them about the Lord as the only One who is good and wise, so that when the change comes they will be able to turn promptly to Him.

We can also help to prepare the children for the responsibility which is coming to them, when they must be trusted to take into their own hands the choice of their course of life and their eternal destiny, by giving them even as children little responsibilities and gradually greater ones, and by helping them as children to be trustworthy. Suppose parents in their anxious carefulness for a child never let him go out of their sight; they go always with him to prevent his doing wrong and to shield him from every danger. The child grows up with the feeling that nothing depends upon him ; parents do everything for him, or if he must do some things himself, they carry the whole responsibility for him, they continually remind him of what he is to do and when to do it, and stand over him to see that it is done. When the child becomes a man and such care is no longer possible, is he well prepared to take up the responsibility of guiding his own life? He would be better prepared if he had become accustomed little by little to meeting the difficulties of life himself; if his parents in little things and for short times had trusted him to do right without their presence to check him or remind him. This mistaken kindness does not make a manly boy, nor prepare him for the time when he must assume the responsibilities of a man.

To take one practical example. We want the children, when they are grown up, to be honest and careful in the use of money. Shall we prepare them for the responsibility by always taking care of the money ourselves, always buying for them, and deciding for them what to buy? Or will it be better for them gradually to learn the value of money by earning a little themselves, and to learn to use it carefully by giving and spending of their own with some guiding advice from us? It is no doubt easier to do it all ourselves, but there can be no question which course better prepares a child for the responsibility of earning his own living, or of caring for a fortune by and by. Moreover, trustiness in temporal things is the basis of trustiness in eternal things.

There is nothing more destructive of manliness of character than for a child to feel that he is never trusted, especially to feel that he is not trusted to do right without watching. Treated so, he very soon depends upon the watching and is not safe without it. But a child responds readily to trust reposed in him. He is upon his honor to do well, and the manliness in him is awakened not to disappoint the expectation. It is of course necessary to adapt the responsibility to the strength, and not to expect a child to know what he has never been taught, nor to exercise the judgment of a man. We must be sure that what he is asked to do is within his ability; then to trust him, and to let him know that we trust him, begins to make a man of him. Faithfulness in a few things prepares him to make good use of many things. Trustworthiness cultivated in the years of boy- and girlhood prepares the children to take up the responsibilities of man- and womanhood.

If the earlier stages of development have done their work we need not fear the transition period, which is commonly recognized as a trying season in life, and a critical one. Infancy has laid up a store of innocence which has given heaven a hold upon the soul. Childhood has given a store of knowledge of what is good and right, and has disciplined the powers to obedience; the child has learned in small dangers and small duties not to disappoint the trust reposed in him by his parents; he is prepared for the greater responsibility with which the Lord now entrusts him. Still, the transition period needs our tenderest and wisest help. It is called a disagreeable age, and often it does not receive the sympathy and consideration which it needs. It is a trying and disagreeable age for reasons which we shall consider, but it is most of all trying and disagreeable to the one who is passing through it. He finds himself growing hard and critical; he finds himself questioning the decisions of his parents; he is rebellious and irritable; even the kindness of friends is an annoyance to him and he returns it with rudeness. This new state is distressing to one who inwardly loves his parents and friends as tenderly as he ever did. He is ashamed of himself, and sorry, when he has been rude to them. Even at the time he treats them so it hurts his better feelings, and yet he seems hardly able to do otherwise. He does not understand the meaning of this change. He does not know why it has come, and whether it is temporary or must last for the rest of his life. He certainly deserves not blame but kindly sympathy.

The cause of the change is that the faculty of rationality is developing. When fully formed it will give strength and grace to the manly character, but in the process of development it shows an unlovely side. The faculty first develops on the natural side, and in a hard and intellectual way. Afterwards it may open upward and become spiritual, and its hard intellectualness may be softened by a regard for use.

In the panorama of life presented in the Bible story, this faculty of rationality is represented by Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael is the first, natural reason, critical and hard; the son of the Egyptian hand-maid, a man of the deserts, described as “a wild-ass man, his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16: 12) In explaining these words about Ishmael, Swedenborg describes the character of one whose rationality is developed only in a natural way, and is not yet softened by regard for use. ” He is morose,” he says, ” impatient, in opposition to all others, regarding every one as in the wrong, instantly rebuking, chastening, punishing; he is without pity, and does not try to bend the minds of others; for he regards everything from truth, and not from good.” (AC 5949) Again, the natural rationality likened to the wild ass is described as ” morose, contentious, having a dry, hard life.” (AC 1964)

When one who has been a good and affectionate child comes into this critical, contentious state, it may be hard for his friends, but it is harder still for himself; he is not to be blamed, but helped with the utmost kindness and patience to come through the Ishmaelite stage to a more lovely and wiser rationality. And how shall we help ? by disputing and ridiculing the first efforts of a young man to reason for himself? To be sure his conclusions are very crude; he sees only the natural side of the question that he undertakes to solve; he thinks little of the opinion of any one in comparison with his own. But it may be an honest effort to use the faculty of reason. Shall we ridicule it? Do we treat so a child’s first efforts to walk? Does a bird treat so the efforts of her young to fly? This comparison is a good one, for the wings of a bird are emblems of the power of thought. ” He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings : so the LORD alone did lead him.” (Deuteronomy 32: 10-12) The patience of the parent-bird in teaching the young to fly is a suggestion of the Lord’s patience with our first efforts to use the faculty of reason. It is a lesson of patience to human parents.

Remember also that it is application to use which softens the hard intellectualness of the natural reason. We can be helpful, then, by leading a young man’s thoughts to usefulness, by encouraging the doing of useful work, turning his active mind from speculation and theory to good use, in which the truth will find the softening influence of good. There is nothing so wholesome for a young man or woman as work, good work, useful work; nothing is a surer help to bring them safely through to substantial manhood and womanhood.

What a help and safeguard it is if we have kept the children’s confidence from their babyhood till now, by sharing their interests with them, by meeting always kindly and patiently their confessions of weakness and failure! New dangers and temptations meet the children in these transition years; they need our instruction and warning, yet if we have not their fullest confidence, if we are not their tried and faithful friends, we cannot reach them with the help they need.

It may be with an agony of fear that parents see their children pass from their control. But if they have learned to be trustworthy children, trust them still, and let them know that you trust them. If we would have influence with a man and strengthen his manhood, we must treat him like a mean. Coercion is not useful at this stage. If it succeeds at all it does so by forcing the young man to remain a child. There is far more power in trust. It recognizes the developing manhood, and appeals to it to show itself worthy of confidence. We must respect a young man’s right to think for himself; if he is crude in his conclusions, not contradicting him, but comparing his view with ours, as man with man. Such treatment disarms his opposition, the self-assertion melts away, and often, with almost his old childlike docility, he voluntarily seeks advice and follows it.

Much of our ability to help the children in the new relation of opening manhood and womanhood depends upon our recognizing that it is a new relation. We must not treat them now as children, subject wholly to our will and judgment. The subjection they now owe is to the Lord, and we are their companions in the service. We help them with loving advice and sympathy and by doing our part to keep alive the tender things which give heaven its hold upon the soul. We help still more by expecting a young man to do right and trusting him to do it.