Self-worth – How can I feel special?

self-worthDo you feel as if you do not matter much and have little to offer? What’s the point you ask yourself of making an effort. “Whatever I say won’t make much of a difference and I won’t really be noticed.” These are signs of low self-worth. Such a way of seeing oneself can lead to a depressive mood.

There are several ways in which people value themselves and assess their self-worth.

Comparison with others and self-worth

A common thing is to look for some way you are better than others. Perhaps you have a smarter car, a bigger garden, or more fashionable clothes. Or perhaps you are socially popular or well-known in what you do at work. The Western world values winners – whether it is being more physically attractive, educationally advanced or financially successful.

But not everyone can beat the competition. There is always someone richer, better thought of, or more influential than you or me. We can’t all be at the top of the pile. And measuring oneself against others means that your sense of self-worth will rise and fall in step with your latest success or failure.

Research at the University of Michigan found that the students who reported more stress, anger, academic problems, and relationship conflicts were those who based their self-worth on comparison with others on external things such as academic performance, physical appearance and being socially approved. For students with well-being, however, what mattered for a sense of self-worth was self-appreciation and a sense of one’s unique strengths and qualities.

Some of these may not be valued by others. So how can one appreciate oneself when few do?

Doing meaningful things and self-worth

What is meaningful in life varies according to individual interest and experience but doing something that you happen to value can help with self-worth. Studies are finding that helping others and volunteering has a positive effect on how people feel about themselves.

Doing things for only external reasons can be demoralising when the rewards don’t come; a bonus from the company or tip from a customer that didn’t materialise, or the unforthcoming offer of employment from someone you are trying to impress. However, the worker who values getting a job done well and on time feels good about him- or herself even when the client or boss fails to show any thanks or praise. Everyone needs a bit of thanks from time to time. Being appreciated is what can keep us going. But when you are dependent upon it, then you perhaps need to think again about what you set store by in what you do; what is important about your input.

Adding value to a situation and self-worth

What seems to matter to self-worth is the attitude one brings to any everyday activity and relationship – not just at work but in the home and community. If you attach importance to generosity, then how generous is your attitude to those who need a little of your time? If you value patience in life, how patient are you with children? If you value home life, how supportive are you of your own family? I would suggest that the more your own ways of living are in harmony with the values you cherish then the more self-worth you will feel.

Unique contribution and self-worth

Every person you meet can walk away from you feeling just a little happier. This can be because of the way you deal with them, the effort you put in, and the interest you have shown. Feeling their appreciation if you get it is part of the delight.

To my way of thinking it doesn’t matter in what circumstance you find yourself – at home, work, or play – there will always be an opportunity to add value to the situation by what you choose to say and do. What this is will vary according to who you are – not only your values, but your strengths, experience and disposition. For everyone brings something slightly different and special to the table.

No two people have exactly the same way of being useful where there is a need. It might be a thoughtful suggestion, a warmth of concern, a sense of humour, an appropriate piece of  knowledge, a relevant personal experience, a practical action, a sensitive empathy, a wise insight. The list could go on.

Spiritual teachings and self-worth

Feeling good about what you do is very different from feeling you are good. A spiritual perspective acknowledges there is some higher power beyond that of human beings. According to this view, all people who behave well whatever their race, education and background are united because there is one infinite creative force behind all that is humane in the world.

I believe that all the worthwhile things we do is a result of being a willing channel for this higher power. I am not good but I can feel good because the more I put into a situation then the more I will get out of it as I experience the inflow of energy, fulfilment and enlightenment.

Similarly, spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg had an all-embracing concept of a Divine Source. He also wrote about the image of what we might call ‘a universal human’. This visionary picture of a healthy well-formed human being is thought of as consisting of a myriad of all people who did good things who have ever existed. All these live in an afterlife of heaven. Each is said to be uniquely different but each fits into the whole as an important bit so that the whole body works. In other words, every human soul has been created to become a special part of the all. Everyone can be important in their own way.

Each of us can choose to remain separate and self-orientated or instead choose to serve some unique function by doing something good that adds to the healthy functioning of society.

“The heavenly kingdom resembles one human being since every specific thing in it corresponds to the only Lord” (Emanuel Swedenborg spiritual philosopher)

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands (http://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)

The World of Spirits

The World of Spirits

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Next Sunday is the 19th of June, the day we traditionally celebrate as the “birthday” of the New Church, for it was on that day in the year 1770 that the Lord sent forth His twelve disciples throughout the spiritual world to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, and that His kingdom shall be for ever and ever. This event was significant in that it signalled the completion of a judgement that took place in the spiritual world and brought us into a new spiritual era.

Next week we will be speaking specifically about that judgement, but this week it is our intention to lay the foundation by speaking about the many things that have been revealed about the World of Spirits, the “place” in the spiritual world where the judgement happened, because it will help us in our understanding of the last judgement to know more about the place and use of the world of spirits.

The first thing we must do is to define terms and describe the “geography” of the spiritual world. First of all, “heaven” is a word with several meanings which can only be distinguished from context. For example, in the most general sense, “heaven” refers to everything in the life after death. We say, “When people die, they go to heaven,” and by that we mean that we believe in a life after death. For clarity, when we are talking about the whole of the Lord’s kingdom, the term “spiritual world” will be used instead of “heaven.”

In a more specific sense, we talk about how good people go to heaven, while evil people will go to hell. In this context, “heaven” means that place where good people go after death (and this is the sense that will be used most often in this sermon).

Sometimes we distinguish heaven into celestial, spiritual, and natural degrees, and each of these is also referred to as a heaven, but this usage is apparent from the use of the adjective “celestial,” “spiritual,” or “natural.”

The whole of heaven, that is, the whole of the spiritual world, is divided into three major divisions: heaven, where the good live to eternity, hell, where the evil are, and the world of spirits, which is an intermediate between them, and where heaven, hell, and the world meet. It is important to keep the distinction between the “spiritual world” and the “world of spirits” clear. The “spiritual world” means, as said before, the entire spiritual realm, while the “world of spirits” is only that part of the spiritual world which lies intermediate between heaven and hell.

The world of spirits is needed as a place of introduction for people who have just died, for although we have all been created to live to eternity in the spiritual world, none of us are ready to be introduced into heaven or hell immediately upon the death of our natural bodies. Each of us has elements of good and evil, and these need to be sorted out to see which is dominant before we can enter our final home. Each of us is accustomed to life in the natural world, and we need to be shown the new and different things, and learn the new ways before we can find our eternal, spiritual home. The world of spirits lies between heaven and hell just so that it can be a place where both the good and evil from the world can be gathered, instructed, and prepared to enter their home society in heaven or hell.

When a person dies, he is greeted in turn by celestial, spiritual, and natural angels who nurture him and instruct him until he is fully resuscitated, at which point the new spirit is permitted to explore his new world. We are told that the world of spirits is so much like the world of nature that the new spirit soon forgets what the angels have told him, and believes that he is still in the world and not a spirit at all. The new spirit explores his new world, moving from place to place, led by his affections.

We have probably all experienced the sensation of coming to a new place and finding that we are very uneasy and uncomfortable, that something in that place just does not agree with us, although we may not be able to put our finger on the exact cause. At other times, we may come to a place and immediately feel as if we have come home, again without being able to describe exactly why we feel that way. When new spirits move around in the world of spirits their reaction to each new place is according to their own states, according to whether or not the people in the new place love the same kinds of things the new spirit loves, or whether they hold the same beliefs as he does. The more similar to his own character they are, the more comfortable he feels, the less similar, the less comfortable.

Each one of us, while we live in the world, is a mixture of good and evil, truth and falsity. The reason we live in the world of nature is to learn truth which will lead us away from the evil tendencies in our heredity and towards the good that the Lord has revealed in the Word. While we live in the world, the mixture of good and evil, truth and falsity is acceptable, but once we die, we must either remove all the evil and falsity before entering heaven, or remove all good and truth before entering hell, for there cannot be a confusion or mixture of good and evil in either heaven or hell, and no one in heaven or hell is allowed to have a “divided” mind, that is, a mind that contains both good and evil loves.

The world of spirits partakes of the world because all men who are in the natural world as to their bodies are in the world of spirits as to their spiritual life (although they are not conscious of the other spirits while they continue in the body). It also partakes of heaven and hell in that there men are prepared for their eternal lives in heaven or hell. Since the world of spirits is the meeting ground where heaven, hell, and the world meet, divided minds are permitted there.

Once the new spirit has left the world of nature, he is no longer able to make changes to his basic character which has been fixed and made permanent through changes to the very organics of his mind while he was in the world of nature. And since he cannot any longer change his basic nature, the Lord then knows where that spirit’s eternal, heavenly home will be, and the spirit is associated with it. However, since the spirit has not yet thrown off those things that do not belong in his home society, and he is yet very curious about the new world that he is in, he is free to wander and associate with friends and family that have come into the spiritual world before him.

However, the new spirit quickly finds that one cannot hide their true feelings behind a facade of friendliness in the spiritual world, and is unable to pretend to like people who do not share his ruling love – nor can they pretend to enjoy his company, and so the visits are quickly over unless they are of similar ruling loves, that is, unless they are guided by similar affections and desires. Such visiting takes place only in the world of spirits before they have been brought into a permanent state which is in accord with their ruling love.

While in the world of spirits, each new spirit is prepared for their new spiritual home by a series of steps whereby those things that do not belong to the dominant feature of their character are removed from them forever. The person who has allowed and harboured hatred and revenge to rule in his heart all his life has everything of good and truth removed. The person who has tried his best to do what the Lord teaches will have all things that inhibit that love removed. In short, each person has all those things that are not a part of their ruling love are permanently removed. No good is carried into hell, and no evil into heaven.

When the process is complete, when the spirit is wholly in agreement as to his spiritual state, he leaves the world of spirits for his eternal home in heaven or hell. In order for those of us who are still in the natural world to have some grasp of this, the world of spirits has been described as a great valley in which a great many people live. Along the sides of this valley there are many gates or doors that lead to paths that lead upwards to the various societies of heaven. There are also many caves and holes behind the rocks which lead downwards to the various hells. We are told that although there are many paths leading out of the world of spirits, they cannot be seen until the spirit himself is fully prepared to leave, and then he only sees the passage that leads to the society which will become his home to eternity.

The passages leading from the world of spirits correspond to the way the life from the Lord inflows into the human mind, for there are two ways that lead to the rational mind of a person; a higher or internal way through which good and truth from the Lord enter, and a lower or external way through which evil and falsity enter below from hell.

The rational mind itself is at the middle point to which the ways tend. As light from heaven is admitted, a person becomes rational; but so far as it is not admitted he is not rational, no matter how rational he may seem to himself to be.

With those preparing for heaven, the regions above the rational mind are opened, but those below are closed to the influx of evil and falsity; while with those preparing for hell, the parts below it are opened, and the parts above it are closed to the influx of good and truth. The result is that the evil can look only to what is below themselves, that is, to hell; while the good can look only to what is above themselves, that is, to heaven.

All the above describes what happens when all things are orderly and when those people who come into the world of spirits have sufficient truth to open the rational degree of the mind. But when a church is coming to its end, as when the Jewish church became totally external in their worship, or when the leaders of the Christian Church divided God into three separate persons, there was longer sufficient truth available for people to be able to make their choices between heaven and hell freely. When the church on earth is failing, it has two immediate effects: The world of spirits is brought into a state of confusion and disorder from the lack of truth; and the Lord prepares to restore truth on earth through a new revelation. When He came on earth for His first coming, the temptations that He suffered were actually battles with the evil spirits who had invaded the world of spirits, and His teachings were the new revelation which brought judgement and order back to the spiritual world.

The evil spirits were only able to cause disorder and confusion in the world of spirits because the church on earth had failed to the extent that new spirits entering the world of spirits did not have enough truth to be able to make a judgement about the other spirits. In other words, speaking specifically about the judgement that took place at the time of the Lord’s Advent, evil spirits were able to set up false heavens in the world of spirits through craftiness and deceit. They would approach a spirit newly arrived from the world and tell him that they were his friends, and that they would take him to heaven with them. They would overcome the new spirit with so much apparent friendliness that he would not be able to see their true nature. We can imagine it as a similar process to that which the religious cults use to ensnare and entrap new members. The evil spirits were only able to create these false heavens and entrap innocent spirits because there was so little truth about spiritual things known by people in the world. The new spirits were unable to make any good judgements on their own as to what was good or evil, true or false, and so through their own ignorance they were made prisoners in false heavens set up in the world of spirits.

But when the Lord came on earth and began to teach the truth, it was also heard in heaven, and when the spirits heard the truth, it was like a bright light coming on. They could then see their “friends” for what they were, they could see the evil and falsity and slavery that they were in, and when they could see it in the light of truth, they could make a rational decision to leave it. The light of truth revealed the false heavens for what they were, and made it possible for all there to make good judgements for themselves, thus bringing the world of spirits back into order.

If we are going to understand the cycle of judgement and revelation, we must understand the function of the world of spirits, for only in the world of spirits do heaven and the world meet in freedom and without harm. It was in the world of spirits where the prophets saw their visions, and it was there where the prophecies actually came true as the Lord fought the hells and subdued them by the truth of the Word in the only place where they could fight for control of the spiritual world without destroying human freedom. AMEN.

Lessons: Psalm 2, Rev. 6, HH 428-429

Heaven and Man Conjoined

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, 22 August, 2004

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Our text for this morning is well known. It begins with the words, “Jesus said,” which tells us that the Lord was speaking here as the Divine Truth itself, or the Word because that is what “Jesus” represents. He was saying that He, that is, the Divine Truth contained with the Word, is the means whereby there is a conjunction of heaven with the human race. Since this connection or conjunction between the spiritual and natural worlds is essential to the orderly flow of life and rationality from God into the world of men, we need to understand it better so that we can better carry out our duties and responsibilities as New Church men and women.

The basic premise from which we begin is that the good that is with a person is from God, and his evil is from hell. However, it is not possible for good to be from God, and evil to be from hell unless there us a conjunction between man and heaven and hell – how else would the get from the spiritual worlds into the natural world where we consciously exist?

The spiritual connection between God and man is maintained by what are called “associate” spirits, for it is their use to associate with people. Everyone has associate spirits. Everyone is conjoined with heaven through a series of good spirits and angels, and conjoined to hell through a like series of evil spirits and devils. The spirits who are closest to use while we are still in the world of nature are not angels or devils, but spirits recently from the world who are in still in the introductory state called “the world of spirits.” The law of spiritual association says that people associate with those who are of the same or very similar spiritual degree.

Just as we are unaware of the spirits with us, they are unaware of us. If they were aware of us, they would wish to speak with us, and such a direct contact would be destructive.

One can understand that if spirits are to serve as a bridge between man and God why He would cause good spirits to be near us, but why is it necessary for Him to give us evil associate spirits? Each person has a heredity from his parents. That hereditary nature contains both evils and goods. That means that, like it or not, evil is a part of every one of us from birth, and our first life is from those evils. It’s ironic, but sweet little babies who let us feel the presence of angels among us are in fact purely selfish, completely motivated in all things by their love of self. Any time they are uncomfortable, hungry, or unhappy, they cry and demand attention with no regard for what important thing Mom might be trying to do at that moment. Our purpose, our reason for being in this world, is to start making choices that will invert that vessel, turn it around so that it receives influx from heaven instead of hell.

Since the vessel begins life inverted, there are only two choices: to forcibly turn the vessel, or to provide a way for life to inflow from below. To forcibly turn the vessel would destroy man’s spiritual freedom, so instead the Lord provides for his freedom by allowing life to flow into the inverted vessel up through hell by means of evil spirits in association with each of us. Of course, the good spirits are always present as well, looking for the slightest turning in their direction, the smallest opportunity to encourage and support the life of good.

Having both good and evil spirits associated with us is essential to our eventual reformation and regeneration, for we are held in our own life by the evil spirits, and withheld from it by the good spirits, and through the Lord’s government the two are kept in balance. The end result is that we can have a character that is made up of all kinds of loves, and still be in a state of freedom to choose among them.

Why does the Lord not just force the good upon us, forcibly turn the vessel towards heaven? Because it is a spiritual principle that nothing remains with anyone unless it is received with affection. It cuts both ways. If we could be forced to good by the Lord, we could also be forced to evil by hell. For the sake of our freedom, we cannot be forced by either.

The spirits who are nearest to us change as our states change. Good spirits are selected for us by the Lord, chosen according to our eternal needs and welfare, while we select our own associate evil spirits by summoning them up with our own evil affections. With those who cannot be saved, the Lord still works to turn them to milder evils, and chooses the spirits to associate with them on that basis. Thus it is that even while on earth, a good person is conjoined with heaven, and a bad person with hell. Good spirits in the world of spirits are in turn associated with spirits in the natural heaven; these with spirits in the spiritual heaven; and these with spirits in the celestial heaven. Thus, everyone is in communication with the Lord by means of the heavens. The same thing is true in hell by correspondence.

Everyone receives life from the Lord in two ways: mediately, and immediately. So far, we have been talking about mediate influx, that is, a flowing in of life from the Lord that comes to us by means of others, specifically by means of the angelic heavens and the world of spirits. But there is also another kind of influx from the Lord that flows directly into the soul of every human being that gives that soul eternal life that cannot ever be harmed. Since it flows directly from God to man, it is called “immediate,” or “without mediary.”

We are told that if humans were born into the good that is in accord with the order of heaven, there would not be a need for the Lord to govern with influx through the heavens. If we were in heavenly order, we could freely respond to the Lord on the basis of our reception of His life immediately. But, although this may one day be the case again, it is not the case now. Today, we are worn down by our evils, and the Lord uses the angels of heaven to help lift us up out of our own hells.

The associate spirits are not normally permitted to inflow with their own thoughts or memories, because if they did, it would cause confusion, for the person would not be able to distinguish between the things from the spirit and things that were actually a part of their own memories. On those rare occasions when it does happen, it gives rise to the deja vu experience when one has a vivid memory of something that could not have actually happened. Such experiences have given support to the belief in reincarnation.

But if thoughts and ideas do not inflow, then what does? Affections of good and truth flow in from heaven, while affections for evils and falsities flow in from hell. Everyone is subject to innumerable spiritual influences every moment as they flow in from the spiritual world, but we only notice those that are in tune with the state of our affections.

It is similar to the way radio works. The atmosphere of the earth is constantly filled with radio signals at all frequencies and from a thousand different sources – radio, television, radar, microwaves, cell phones. All these signals are present with us all the time, but we don’t notice them or get any information from them unless we have a device that is specifically designed to receive a particular band and tuned to a particular frequency. Then a signal is received. Similarly, we don’t receive the all the affections from the spiritual world at once, but only those we are “tuned in” to.

The fact that we receive affections and not thoughts is key to our spiritual freedom, for although our will is corrupt, the human mind has been designed to be able to rise above the will through truth from the Word in the understanding. This means that no matter what affections we may feel, no matter how evil or filthy, we can think with our rational minds and realize that such feelings are from hell, and then choose to turn our minds onto a healthier subject. When we use our minds to turn away from evil, we appropriate the opposite good. On the other hand, when we welcome and encourage certain filthy affections from hell, these evils are appropriated to us and also become a part of our eternal character.

The outward appearance is that the natural world is made up of a lot of things, most of which are quite different from one another. But that view changes when we begin to look more interiorly into things. Specifically we find that all the millions of different things in the natural world are made up of varying combinations of only 103 different elements. When we look even more interiorly, we find that those 103 elements themselves are made up of only 3 kinds of matter; and when we look farther, we discover that inmostly they are nothing but pure energy. Thus we can see that in the world of nature there is a direct connection between pure energy and the things of the world. There is nothing that exists that is not part of this system.

One might say that atomic energy is the first, the things of the natural world are the ultimates, and the elements and compounds are the intermediates. If so, it would be true to say that there is a connection between the first and the last by means of the intermediates; there is a connection between pure energy and natural objects through or by means of atoms. We can also see that if the chain is broken at any point, the whole thing falls apart, it would be disastrous for pure energy to flow into a natural object – it would cause an explosion.

This order of the natural world exists because it mirrors the order of the spiritual world, and demonstrates the spiritual fact that there is a connection of all things from first to last through the intermediates.

This connection means that mankind serves a most important function, for unlike angels, men have a spiritual mind living in a body of natural substances. Therefore, when life flows from the Lord as the source through the angelic heavens as intermediates and finally into men, it is able to come to rest in the ultimates of the world. The exterior degree of our minds, associated as it is with the ultimates of our body, actually serves as the foundation for heaven in the same way that blocks of stone and rough-poured concrete serve as foundations for the most beautiful and delicate buildings. You simply cannot have one without the other.

The connection and conjunction of heaven with the human race is such that one continues in existence from the other, and that the human race apart from heaven would be like a chain without a hook; and heaven without the human race would be like a house without a foundation” (HH 304)

 

 

But man has broken this connection through evil by turning his interiors away from heaven and towards the loves of self and the world. In so doing, he has so withdrawn from heavenly things that he cannot any more receive them, and so cannot serve as a true foundation. But heaven must have a foundation, so the Lord provided the Word instead. As said before, heaven must rest on the minds of men on earth in order for the Lord’s influx to reach down into the ultimates of the world and enliven them so that they can provide delight. Before the fall, men’s minds served this purpose, but when they turned to perverted truths, they instead formed the foundation for hell.

In order to make a new foundation for heaven, the Lord sent the Word by means of the various prophets, and the Word was written in such a way that it seemed to be a history of the Jewish people, but yet every word contained spiritual truth within it. The result was that an evil man could read the Word, seeing nothing eternal or spiritual in it, but at the same time the spirits associated with him would be hearing the internal sense which teaches of nothing but the Lord and His kingdom. In this way, the Word serves as a foundation of truth even in the minds of evil men.

And it reaches even those outside of the church, but through the church where the Word is read and understood. The church specific stands as a beacon, radiating light from the Word. The light is received with varying intensity depending on the distance from the source, but all men on earth are connected with the influx of heaven by the church where the Word is read and understood. Without this light, men would loose their rationality

There are scholars who criticize and belittle the literature of the Bible because they say it is all written in common dialects, that in the Hebrew or Greek, the language is common, vulgar. They seem to believe that the Word of God should be written in difficult, lofty words. But what if it were? Would it not then be a book for the educated only? Is it not intended to be a book for all people? That is the reason why it was written in the spoken Hebrew of the day, not in classical Chaldean, that is why the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, and that is why Swedenborg’s Latin is some of the most flowing, easy to read Latin ever written – because God wanted everyone to understand what it said. He never intends that language should get in the way of meaning and understanding. The angels say that although the style of the Word seems simple in the sense of the letter, it is such that nothing can ever be compared with it in excellence, since Divine Wisdom lies concealed not only in the meaning as a whole, but also in each word; and that in heaven, this wisdom shines forth (see HH 310).

Without the Word, there would be no light of heaven with the men of earth, nor would there be any conjunction of heaven with them. There is conjunction only so far as the light of heaven is present with man. The light of heaven is only present so far as Divine Truth is with them, revealed by means of reading the Word from doctrine. This truth, that our very life depends on the conjunction of heaven with mankind by means of the Word, is for the most part unknown in the world. Those men who do know of the internal sense, and while reading the Word think in accordance with such truths as they know, they will come into interior wisdom, and be even more closely conjoined with heaven because they would be entering into ideas like those of the angels.

So, how important is regular study of the Old and New Testaments in the light of the spiritual sense now revealed? Only that it forms the foundation of heaven itself, is our connection to the Lord, and is the means whereby all people may come into interior wisdom.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock (MAT 7:24,25). AMEN.


First Lesson: Mat 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. {2} “Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. {3} “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, {4} “and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. {5} “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. {6} “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ {7} “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ {8} “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ {9} “And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. {10} “But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. {11} “And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, {12} “saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ {13} “But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? {14} ‘Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. {15} ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ {16} “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” Amen.

Second Lesson: Heaven and Hell 302.

I have talked with angels about the conjunction of heaven with the human race, saying that while the man of the church declares that all good is from God, and that angels are with man, yet few believe that angels are conjoined to man, still less that they are in his thought and affection. The angels replied that they knew that such a belief and such a mode of speaking still exist in the world, and especially, to their surprise, within the church, where the Word is present to teach men about heaven and its conjunction with man; nevertheless, there is such a conjunction that man is unable to think the least thing unless spirits are associated with him, and on this his spiritual life depends. They said that the cause of ignorance in this matter is man’s belief that he lives from himself, and that he has no connection with the First Being (Esse) of life; together with his not knowing that this connection exists by means of the heavens; and yet if that connection were broken man would instantly fall dead. If man only believed, as is really true, that all good is from the Lord and all evil from hell, he would neither make the good in him a matter of merit nor would evil be imputed to him; for he would then look to the Lord in all the good he thinks and does, and all the evil that flows in would be cast down to hell from which it comes. But because man does not believe that anything flows into him either from heaven or from hell, and therefore supposes that all things that he thinks and wills are in himself and therefore from himself, he appropriates the evil to himself, and the good that flows in he defiles with merit. Amen.

The New Understanding of Predestination

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, MD – June 29, 2003


And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29)

Our text is taken from a portion of the Gospel of Luke where the Lord was instructing the leaders of the Jewish church about who was entitled to enter His “new” kingdom that was “not of this world.” In order to understand why the Lord said things the way He did, we first have to understand the context in which they were given. The Jews had a heartfelt belief that they were the chosen people, that they had been personally chosen by God to receive special blessings, and that no other people in the world had the right to those blessings. Certainly the Old Testament records that Jehovah frequently reminded them that if they wanted to be His chosen people, they had to keep up their part of the covenant, and the Old Testament also records their regular departure from His ways.

When we look back at this historical period from the context of the Christian era where life after the death of the body in a heavenly paradise is assumed, it is interesting to note that very few of the Jews thought that their special blessing from God would be a reward in heaven. At that time belief in the life after death was not common, even in the Jewish Church. Some people believed in a place called Sheol (related to the Greek concept of Hades), others believed in reincarnation, while the rest believed there was nothing at all after the death of the body.

Their understanding of their covenant with Jehovah was that they would possess the land of Canaan in perpetuity in return for the performance of certain sacrifices and rituals at the temple. So they performed their rituals and lived in contempt of their gentile neighbors.

This was not what was intended, and God sent many prophets to tell them in various ways that their sacrifices and rituals were meaningless if they continued to live in sin. But they ignored the warnings, for they believed they were the “chosen people” and somehow the rules applied to them differently. And so, the Lord came on earth to tell them that they should not be so sure of themselves, that they were in for a big surprise. He told them that “His kingdom was not of this world,” but that He was king of some kind of otherworldly paradise where their forefathers now lived. He told them that there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth when they entered the kingdom of heaven and saw Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only briefly before they themselves were thrust out as unacceptable because they had failed to put away their evils.

That a Jew would be unacceptable to Jehovah was a concept too radical for them to accept! After all, they were the chosen people! And then Jesus said something that proved to them that they must reject Him as their Messiah: He actually said that people from all kingdoms could enter His otherworldly kingdom, people from the north, south, east, and west – people who were not Jews. No wonder they were angry with Him; He taught that Gentiles and Samaritans could enter the kingdom of heaven, while the Jews would be thrust out. Jesus made no friends among the Jews with such teachings.

Christianity owes much to the Jewish Church. We share the Word of God as written by Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament. The concept of “church” where people gather to listen to experts explain the meaning of Scripture was developed by the Jews during their captivity in Babylon. Since they no longer had access to the temple in Jerusalem they had to do something to take the place of sacrifices. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, Christianity has also inherited some bad things from the Jewish Church, and prime among them is the concept of the “chosen people,” the idea that heaven is closed to all but a handful of specially chosen people who have received some sign from God, and that God Himself excludes all others from His spiritual kingdom based only on their lack of membership in a particular national or religious group!

This false idea exists under many names and in all churches, and we need to be wary of it because it is not taught anywhere in the Word. What the Lord does teach, however, is that heaven is open to all people and those will find their home there who earn it through the good of life. In the gospel of Matthew He teaches, he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good (Mat. 5:45), and If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give good things to those that ask Him? (Matte. 7:11, cf. Luke 11:13) And further, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it (Matte. 21:43).

The Lord was trying to establish a bridge for the Christian Church. He was trying to take the limited and mostly false ideas of the Jewish Church and enfill them with new truths so that they could be of some use to the people of the Christian Church that was about to be established. He taught over and over again that the kingdom of heaven was not for the Jews alone, but it was a gift from a loving and personal God for all those who followed the Mosaic law in both its letter and its spirit. He was trying to teach the truth that all men, of all races and of all nationalities, have been created for heaven, and that only those who deliberately turn away from God do not live there to eternity in blessedness and peace.

Because all people have been created to live to eternity in heaven we say that they are “destined” to heaven, and because this was planned by the Creator from the beginning of time, and certainly far before the individual human’s life began, it is correctly said that every human being is “predestined” for heaven.

Unfortunately, this New Church definition of predestination is not the one commonly used in the world. The traditional doctrine of predestination evolved in the Christian church over a period of many years. Its roots lie in the Jewish concept of the “chosen” people, and it achieved its full growth and flower when combined with the doctrine of the Trinity as invented at the council of Nicea and the question of how if man was totally evil, how could he do anything towards his own salvation?

By dividing God into three persons, the early Christian church laid the foundation for the idea that God the Creator became angry with people when it turned out that they weren’t perfect, withdrew from them, and condemned everyone to hell. Jesus Christ tries to mediate between the angry Jehovah and His created beings, and by allowing Himself to die on the cross, Jesus is sometimes successful in reversing the condemnation of some people. Once that idea was in place, the inevitable question was what would determine whether an individual human being would chosen for heaven, or allowed to continue into hell. The answer was the doctrine of predestination.

In its worst form, called “double” predestination, the doctrine asserts that Jehovah God has selected certain people who will join Him in heaven, no matter how they live their life. Everyone else goes to hell, no matter how they live their life. Every person is nothing but evil, nothing he can do or say can change God’s mind, so the only possible explanation for some people going to heaven and others to hell is that it is the result of God’s own choice. Nothing else has any effect whatsoever.

Not surprisingly, not all Christians could hold to this doctrine. They were unwilling to say that God sent people to hell, so the doctrine was modified to what is now called “single” predestination. In this version of the doctrine, all people are still totally evil and unable to effect anything towards their own salvation and will certainly go to hell. But some are selected by God for salvation, not as a reward for any act or good deed, but just because He wants to. The rest continue on their way to hell.

This doctrine is preferred by many because it delicately avoids actually saying that God actually sends people to hell for no reason other than to punish them for Adam and Eve’s original sin. It just says that He chooses to save some from hell, while allowing the rest to go to hell through His inaction. Those who hold to this doctrine assert that no one may know for certain if they have been chosen for heaven while in the natural world, but that there are indications called the “signs of faith.” They believe that, in general, those who are predestined or “chosen” live a better, more favored life while in this world – although they still hold to the view that even the vilest criminal will go to heaven if he has been chosen, no matter what his life has been.

The Writings of the New Church call the traditional Christian doctrine a “a cruel heresy” because the Lord is the Creator and Savior of all men. How can anyone think that He would will the death or damnation of anyone? It is cruel to think that the vast majority of nations and peoples under His Divine Providence could be callously handed over to the devil even though they were innocent of any sin (See DP 330:8).

We say that God, by definition, is omnipotent, that He has all power and is able to do all things from Himself. His will and His understanding, that is, His love and His power are united, and since He wills nothing but good, therefore He cannot do anything but good. How then can anyone think or believe that He could condemn, curse, or send anyone into hell? How can anyone who understands anything about the loving nature of God the Creator believe that He can send anyone to eternal death? The fact is that He “cannot turn Himself away from any man, nor even look upon him with a stern countenance.” Such things are contrary to His essence. (See TCR 56)

If such views are contrary to His very nature and essence, then what views of the eternal salvation of the human race are consistent with the qualities of God the Creator? God created the universe for one purpose: that there might be a heaven from the human race. That is the only purpose of creation that makes sense. No sane human being creates things for the purpose of hating and destroying them. No sane God would do that either. Since the purpose of creation was for men to be conjoined with God in heaven, we must then say that all people are “predestined” to heaven (See AC 6488), and our concern becomes how some are able to turn away from heaven in spite of the Lord’s efforts to lead them into heaven.

The Lord sees our evils, and it is His constant effort and intent to bend our evils to good. Therefore He governs the world so that nothing is tolerated unless He can turn it to good somewhere, sometime. For example, Joseph’s brothers were permitted to beat him and sell him as a slave into Egypt so that Joseph would be in a position to rise to power in Egypt and be able to save tens of thousands of lives with his program of stockpiling food in preparation for the coming famine. When Jacob died, and his brothers feared that Joseph would then take revenge upon them for their crimes against him, he said, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Gen. 50:20). The Lord constantly seeks to turn the evil to good, and if that cannot be done in freedom, then He still seeks to turn the evil to a lesser evil, because He seeks what is best for everyone. (See AC 6489)

Sound reason dictates that all people are predestined to heaven and none to hell, for all people are born in God’s image. God’s image in them consists in their ability to understand truth and to do good. The ability to understand truth comes from the Divine wisdom, and the ability to do good from the Divine love. This ability, which is God’s image, remains in any sane person and is never removed. (See DP 322)

In simple terms, we can summarize the means of salvation in this:

that evils are to be shunned because they are contrary to the Decalogue and that it be acknowledged that God exists.

Everyone can do both if he does not love evils, for the Lord is constantly flowing into his will with power for shunning evils and into his understanding with power to think about God.

Therefore it can be seen that the Lord provides a knowledge of the means by which anyone can be saved, and the power to shun evils if he wants to be saved.

It follows then that all are predestined to heaven and no one to hell. (DP 329)

The Lord is the heavenly Father of all human beings and they are His spiritual children. Therefore He says: Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven (Mt. 23:9), and further, If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give good things to those that ask Him? (Matte. 7:11, cf. Luke 11:13) The Lord cannot act other than as a parent on earth does with his children, only infinitely more loving because His divine love is infinite. Further, He cannot condemn anyone to hell or withdraw from them, because all life is from Him, and if He were to withdraw, spiritual life would end. However, it appears that He withdraws from the evil, although the fact is that it is the evil man who withdraws from Him while the Lord yet continues to lead him from love. (See DP 330:1)

In conclusion we can see that the origins of the traditional doctrine of predestination are in the Jewish concept of a “chosen” people, the doctrine of man’s complete sinfulness and lack of power in spiritual things, and the concept of the trinity incorporating the concept of Jehovah being the Creator who is angry with the failures of His creation and wishing to destroy them all, while the Son strives to convince Him to allow a few into heaven. But we have also seen that nothing in the Word supports such a view, for the Lord tells us that He is our heavenly Father, and we His children. He created heaven so that we could be with Him to eternity, and He has given us the tools and the strength to prepare ourselves for heaven, and we have seen that He wants all men who love Him, no matter what their religion or nationality, to be conjoined with him to eternity.

This is the true meaning of the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that all those who obey Him and shun evils as sins, will receive His eternal blessing. Hopefully, we have seen that the true doctrine of predestination, the predestination of all men to heaven, is one that is supported by the teaching of the Word and sound reason. We can have confidence in the Lord’s plan to bring all those who keep His commandments and love Him, to eternal life in heaven, for He Himself said, Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. AMEN.


First Lesson: Luke 13:22-30

And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. {23} Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, {24} “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. {25} “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ {26} “then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ {27} “But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ {28} “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. {29} “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. {30} “And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

Second Lesson: TCR 664

Once I looked toward the right in the spiritual world, and observed some of the elect conversing together. I approached them and said, “I saw you at a distance, and there was round about you a sphere of heavenly light, whereby I knew that you belonged to those who in the Word are called ‘the elect;’ therefore I drew near that I might hear what heavenly subject you were talking about.”

They replied, “Why do you call us the elect?”

I answered, “Because in the world, where I am in the body, they have no other idea than that ‘the elect’ in the Word means those who are elected and predestined to heaven by God either before or after they are born, and that to such alone faith is given as a token of their election, and that the rest are held as reprobates, and are left to themselves, to go to hell whichever way they please. And yet I know that no election takes place before birth, nor after birth, but that all are elected and predestined to heaven, because all are called; also that after their death the Lord elects those who have lived well and believed aright; and this takes place after they have been examined. That this is so it has been granted me to learn by much observation. And because I saw that your heads were encircled by a sphere of heavenly light, I had a perception that you belonged to the elect who are preparing for heaven.”

To this they replied, “You are telling things never before heard. Who does not know that there is no man born who is not called to heaven, and that from them after death those are elected who have believed in the Lord and have lived according to His commandments; and that to acknowledge any other election is to accuse the Lord Himself not only of being impotent to save, but also of injustice?”

The Communion of Saints

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, May 24th, 2009

            And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honour of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses that they may remain in the river only.”   (Exodus 8:9[5])

Our text is taken from the story of the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh as recorded in the book of Exodus. We remember that although Jacob and his sons were welcomed into Egypt and invited to live there as Pharaoh’s guests when Joseph was in favour, in the years that followed, Joseph’s wise leadership that saved Egypt from a terrible famine was forgotten. After a time, the Hebrews were no longer seen as guests, but as foreigners – enemies.  Without the protection of Pharaoh they were soon made into slaves.

Hundreds of years later, God spoke to Moses from the burning bush and sent him to challenge the authority of the most powerful king on earth; to lead the children of Israel out of their Egyptian slavery. Pharaoh was difficult to convince, a stubborn man representing evils that are difficult to remove requiring 10 states of vastation before they are removed – the 10 plagues of Egypt which broke Pharaoh and resulted in freedom for the Hebrews.

Our text is taken from a portion of what Moses said to Pharaoh after Pharaoh asked that the second plague of frogs be removed, and was selected because of the image of the king standing at the head of his servants, his people, his nation; for through the science of correspondences, this brief passage gives us the key to understanding many things about the Lord’s Kingdom in the Heavens, the Lord’s Kingdom on earth, and their relationship to each other.

We read in our third lesson that the universal heaven represents one man, and the societies therein his members (AC 7396). This doctrine is known as that of the Grand Man, and receives a full treatment in the inter-chapter material of the Arcana Coelestia. But more to the point, we found in the lesson that the Lord’s kingdom also exists on the earth with those who are in love to the Lord and in charity toward the neighbour, and these people do not belong to any particular church or organization, but are scattered throughout the whole world. And finally, our lesson told us that all those in heaven, and those in love to the Lord and the life of charity, taken together are called a “communion.”

It is this doctrine that forms the basis of that brief and frequently misunderstood statement in our creed where we confess our belief in the “communion of angels and people.” If this idea is important enough to be included in such a brief statement as the creed, it should be clearly understood. It is our intention today to look into the doctrine of the communion of angels and men, and to see what are its implications to our daily life. In order to do so, it is necessary to take a moment to define our terms, to discover what is meant by “communion” and other closely related terms.

The word “communion” has to do with sharing thoughts and emotions, and is often used to refer to a group of persons having a common religious faith. It was interesting to discover that the “Communion of Saints” is defined as “The spiritual fellowship existing among all faithful Christians, both living and dead.” It was interesting because of the use of the word “saint,” and because the definition was very close to that which we would use to explain the New Church concept of the communion of angels and men.

Further investigation showed that although we of the New Church seem to avoid speaking or thinking about saints, the Heavenly Doctrines frequently teach and speak about saints in a very positive way! Usage in the Old and New Testaments always has to do with being “Kind,” “Pious,” “Set apart,” and “Holy.” The Heavenly doctrines use the word in a number of different ways, but with the common theme that the saints are those who acknowledge God and live the life of charity.

A few examples will make the point clear:

“Men of holiness” are those who are led by the Lord; for the Divine which proceeds from Him is the Holy itself. Hence, they who receive it in faith and also in love are called ‘saints.’ (AC 9229)

They are called ‘saints’ who live according to the truths of the Word; not that they are saints, but that the truths in them are holy;

(AR 586:3) ‘The saints’ are those who from the Lord through the Word are in Divine truths; and, abstractedly, the Divine truths of the Lord, of the Word, and thence of the Church. (AR 730)

(The saints are) those who are in truths of doctrine from the Word, and in a life according to them. (AE 695)

From this we should be able to see that although the word “saint” has been flavoured by its usage in other churches, it is in fact a word commonly used in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in the Heavenly Doctrines, and in each Testament, it carries the meaning of something or someone who is holy, someone who loves the Lord, and each day strives to live a life of charity towards the neighbour. If we think “regenerating man,” or “angel” when we hear the word “saint” we can perhaps get around the problem and arrive at the intended meaning.

In the creed, we say that we believe in the “communion of angels and people,” which is just another way of saying the “Communion of Saints” without saying the word “saint.” It was said earlier that the dictionary definition of “communion” was the intimate sharing of thoughts and emotions. If we change one word from “emotions” to “affections,” we arrive at the same definition that the Heavenly doctrines would use, and most people would understand and agree with this definition:  an intimate sharing of thoughts, experiences, and affections.

The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that there are many, many levels of communion, and that such communication exists both between people on earth, and also between men and spirits. To lay the foundation, let us first reflect on a communion that is possible for us to experience in this world, the special communication that exists between a husband and wife.

There is a certain communion between married partners which is implanted in both from the first covenant of marriage … as a communion of possession, in many things a communion of uses, of various necessaries of the house, and thence also of thoughts, and sometimes of secrets; there is also a communion of bed, and a communion of the love of little children (CL 277:2).

Marriage causes a miraculous transformation in people. A man and a woman begin their life together through mutual consent. With their love as a basis they get down to the business of making a home and a life together. They begin to build up a collection of common memories and experiences of trips taken, projects done, decisions made. Slowly, because of their communion, their common life, they become no longer man and woman, but husband and wife. And when new life enters the picture, when the children are born and bring with them all their tender states of celestial innocence, feedings in the middle of the night, sickness and laughter, the husband and wife slowly but surely become not only husband and wife, but also father and mother, sharing things in their marriage that no one else would ever understand or appreciate – and it binds them together. This is communion. This is an intimate sharing of thoughts and affections where through years of common experience a personal language is formed so that all that is needed is a word or a glance to communicate a whole world of meaning. This is a bond between people that is cemented by common interests, delights, and uses.

Now if that can happen between two people in the world, what kind of communion might be possible between the angels in heaven, between heaven and earth, and between the church in the heavens and the church on earth?

The Heavenly Doctrine tells us that in the Heavens there is a communion of all goods; the peace, intelligence, wisdom, and happiness of all are communicated to everyone there, and those of each are communicated to all. (AC 10723) And they teach further that there is such a conjunction of each with all in Heaven, that everyone speaks from the communion, although an Angel is not conscious of it. (AR 5)

The Heavenly Doctrine also speaks of the Communion between Earth and Heaven:

He who in faith acknowledges and in heart worships one God, is in the communion of saints on earth, and in the communion of Angels in the Heavens; they are called communions, and are so, because they are in one God, and one God is in them. (TCR 15)

            Every person is in communion with angels of heaven or with spirits of hell because he is born to become spiritual; and this is not possible unless he is in some kind of conjunction with those who are spiritual. Every person, as to his mind, is in both worlds, the natural and the spiritual; but men, angels and spirits do not know of this conjunction because men, during their life in the world, are in a natural state, and angels and spirits in a spiritual state. On account of the distinction between the natural and the spiritual they are invisible to each other. The conjunction of men with angels and spirits by means of their love’s affections is so close that without it, people on earth would no longer have conscious though – and in fact would soon die. As everyone lives continually in communion with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, therefore, when he dies, he is immediately received by those like himself, with whom he has been associated while in the world; for he then enters the company of those who are ruled by the same loves. These he greets in the same way as relatives and kinsfolk greet each other in the world. This is the meaning of what is said in the Word concerning those who die, that they are gathered to their own. It should be evident from this that a regenerate man is in communion with angels of heaven, and an unregenerate man with spirits of hell. (TCR 607)

If a husband and wife can build such a tender and powerful bond as marriage based on the common experience of the joys and sorrows of life in this world, how much deeper, how much more powerful must be the bond that is based on a common love and understanding of God – or as it is sometimes called, a “similitude of religion.”

There is peace and happiness in a home when there is agreement. That peace may actually only be a temporary truce resting on the surface of a unresolved difference, but the peace and happiness of heaven rest on agreement that reaches to the very depths of the mind, to the farthest resources of character. Such profound agreement or communion in the most essential areas of life is the basis for the foundation of heavenly societies which are organized first of all according to their understanding of and belief in God. This is why the Heavenly Doctrines teach that your place in heaven is determined by your belief in God.

While we live in the natural world, even though we are not conscious of it, we attract those spirits who are in the same spiritual state as ourselves. Our spiritual state creates a sphere that is perceived in the spiritual world, that attracts those of a like spirit who then strengthen our state. This means that if we are in an evil state, we attract more of the same evil which strengthens and encourages that evil. If we are doing good, we then attract good spirits who then strengthen that state. Everything we say, do, think, or feel has its effect in the spiritual world – which in turn has its effect on us.

But there is one essential difference between us and the spirits with us that we must remember and use to our advantage. We can be of two minds. We can want to do something evil and yet not do it because we know we should not. We are free in spiritual things. We are free to choose our spiritual companions. We can freely choose to do what is right, to attract the spheres of heaven, to feel heaven’s joy, and gain strength and resolve from the angels. We are free to begin a communion with the angels of heaven right now which will endure forever. AMEN.

First Lesson:  Exodus 8:1-15

And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. {2} “But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs. {3} “So the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into your kneading bowls. {4} “And the frogs shall come up on you, on your people, and on all your servants.”’ “ {5} Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.’” {6} So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. {7} And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt. {8} Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” {9} And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honour of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.” {10} So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. {11} “And the frogs shall depart from you, from your houses, from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only.” {12} Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh. And Moses cried out to the LORD concerning the frogs which He had brought against Pharaoh. {13} So the LORD did according to the word of Moses. And the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courtyards, and out of the fields. {14} They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. {15} But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said. Amen.

Second Lesson:  Rev. 13:1-10

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. {2} Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. {3} And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. {4} So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” {5} And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. {6} Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. {7} It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. {8} All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. {9} If anyone has an ear, let him hear. {10} He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Amen.

Third Lesson:  Heavenly Secrets (Arcana Coelestia) 7396

7396 ….Empires and kingdoms are represented in heaven as a person, and the communities within them are represented as the parts of that person’s body, the monarch being so to speak its head. The reason why they are represented in that way traces back to this: The whole of heaven represents one human being, and the communities there represent the parts of his body, in accordance with the functions they perform.

From this one may see how beautiful and delightful the representation in heaven of an empire, kingdom, or community would be if its citizens were linked to one another by charity and faith to form a body like that. Whenever possible the Lord also links communities together into that kind of body; for Divine Truth itself, which emanates from the Lord, introduces that state of order wherever that order is accepted. This is the origin of the state of order that exists in heaven. It exists on earth took, but the communities constituting it are scattered all over the earth and are made up of those who are governed by love to Him and charity towards the neighbour. But those scattered communities have been drawn together by the Lord in order that they too, like communities in heaven, may represent one human being.

These communities exist not only within the Church but also outside it; and when taken all together they are called the Lord’s Church, drawn together from the good scattered throughout all the earth. That Church is also called a communion. This communion or Church is the Lord’s kingdom on earth linked to the Lord’s kingdom in heaven, and so to the Lord Himself. Amen.

Entrance into Heaven and the Church

Entrance into Heaven and the Church

A Holy Supper address by Rev. James P. Cooper

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. …She had a great and high wall with twelve gates, … and the twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And … its gates shall not be shut at all. (REV 21:10,12,21,25)

The Holy city New Jerusalem, first seen by John in a vision while on the Isle of Patmos, is a beautiful image and symbol of heaven, and at the same time a vision of the Lord’s New Church which was to be established when men on earth were ready to receive the spiritual truths contained within the letter of the Word. John’s description of the New Jerusalem makes it sound heavenly indeed: a city in the sky with golden streets, with walls made of precious stones, and the gates each made of a single great pearl.

All the readings from the threefold Word today have been selected because they had “gates” as their central focus. Throughout the Word, gates represent a person’s entrance into the church or heaven, because a city represents the doctrine of the church, and to enter into the doctrine of the church by living according to the truths of faith, that is, by entering into it voluntarily, as if going through a gates, is to prepare oneself for heaven.

Gates are the means by which those who are on the outside of something are able to come in, whether it be an historical figure in the Word entering a walled city, whether it stand for a person joining the church, or whether it stands for a person who has passed on into eternal life and then finding the doorway that leads to their own particular home in heaven.

There are also gates into the mind through which we can, by our choices to do good or evil, invite evil spirits to enter, or through which the Lord may enter with peace and life if we invite Him. But most of all gates are important to our considerations today because they are the way that someone who is alone and unhappy on the outside can come in and find a comfortable, spiritual home.

We have all felt like outsiders at one time or another. When as adults we are compelled to follow our career to a new and unfamiliar place, or as children when we are suddenly moved into a new school, we feel extremely disoriented and uncomfortable because we don’t know the ground rules, the customs, and we feel that we are outside of the group. We’ve all felt this way at one time or another, and we don’t like to feel that way. When faced with such a situation, we feel a lot of stress, and we compensate by concentrating very hard on learning the things we need to know to find our way into the group, to feel a part, to feel comfortable and at home.

We are all outsiders in one way or another. For one thing, we are all outside of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom, and we are here today to try to learn the ways of His kingdom so that we may enter it one day, we are all standing outside the gate, hoping to be ready to enter when the time comes. If we want to learn about a new school, we find a friendly student and ask lots of questions. If we want to find out about a new neighborhood, we look for a friendly face and again, we ask lots of questions about the way we should act, the things we should do, the things that are expected. We should stand at the gate of the church and heaven and ask the same questions of our Heavenly Father. We need to ask Him what we should do. We need to ask Him what we need to learn. We need to ask Him how we should treat each other in order to fit into the heavenly neighborhood. If we regularly study the Word and pray for enlightenment, He will help us find these essential truths.

The first gate for us to enter is called Baptism, and through its symbolic washing away of evils, we represent our intention to shun evils as sins so that we can thereby enter into the church where we can learn how to live in the world, how to live with one another, how to be useful, how to forgive, and how to love the Lord.

The next gate for us to enter is called Holy Supper, for the Holy Supper is the sign that we have actually begun to shun evil, that we have examined our own spiritual state, found sin there, prayed to the Lord for forgiveness and help, and have then taken steps to sin no more. The Holy Supper, when taken worthily throughout life, is the process of passing through the gate of the holy city New Jerusalem.

Finally, when reflecting on the gates, or entrances to the church and heaven, we should take a moment to think about the two distinct views of the New Church seen from our readings today, the Holy City New Jerusalem seen by John, and the Nunc Licet temple seen by Swedenborg. While they both stand for the New Church, they represent that same church from different perspectives: John’s vision of the New Jerusalem descending stands for the ties between the Jewish and Christian foundations of the Word, the Old and New Testaments, while Swedenborg’s vision of the Nunc Licet temple stands for the Heavenly Doctrines, the New Word. The one thing that ties these two visions of heaven together is the fact that the gates of both the New Jerusalem and the Nunc Licet temple are made of pearls.

In the Word, the pearl, the precious pearl that signifies the ultimate treasure, the treasure that we should sell all that we have to obtain, is the knowledge and acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth. When we know and acknowledge the Lord as God, it means we not only understand what that means, but that we live according to its implications, that is, we live a life of charity towards the neighbor. This pearl of wisdom is the basis on which we are judged worthy to enter heaven. That is why the gates to the Holy City each made of one pearl.

But in our effort to clarify that central theme, let us not forget one other important feature of the entrances to the Holy City: there are twelve of them, three on each side. In the Word, the number twelve stands for all things that are good and true, while the number three stands for what is complete. By the fact that there are twelve entrances to the Holy City we are to understand that there are as many entrances into heaven as there are goods and truths — as many ways to attain eternal life as there are people striving to bring the Lord’s Word into their life.

Therefore, as we prepare ourselves to communicate with the Lord by means of His Holy Supper, let us reflect on the wonder of His creation, that He celebrates our individuality, that He has created a heaven that is perfected and made more whole by the variety brought to it by those who enter. And let us prepare ourselves to enter through those pearly gates into the Holy City by shunning evils as sins, by careful regard of the neighbor, and by keeping the Lord God Jesus Christ as the center and focus of our lives. AMEN.

Hear now from the Word of the Lord as it is written.…

1st Lesson: Psalm 24:7-10

Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! And lift them up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

Isaiah 26:1-3

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Amen.

2nd Lesson: Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: AC 2851

As regards the signification of a ‘gate,’ there are in general two gates with every man; the one opens toward hell, and is opened to the evils and falsities therefrom; in this gate are infernal genii and spirits; the other gate opens toward heaven, and is opened to good and the truths therefrom; in this gate are angels. There is thus a gate which leads to hell, and a gate which leads to heaven.…

There are two ways which lead into man’s rational mind — a higher or internal one, through which good and truth from the Lord enter, and a lower or external one, through which evil and falsity come up from hell. The rational mind itself is in the middle, and to it these ways tend.

That mind, from the goods and truths which are in it, is compared in the Word to a city, and is called a ‘city.’ And because it is compared to a city, and is called a ‘city,’ gates are attributed to it, and it is often described as being besieged and stormed by enemies, that is, by evil genii and spirits; and as being defended by angels from the Lord, that is, by the Lord.

Sacred Scripture 36

The Word in its ultimate or natural sense, which is the sense of the letter, is signified also by the wall of the holy Jerusalem, the structure of which was of jasper; and by the foundations of the wall, which were precious stones; and likewise by the gates, which were pearls; for Jerusalem signifies the church as to doctrine.

True Christian Religion 508:1-5

One day there appeared to me a magnificent temple. It was square in form, and its roof was in the shape of a crown, with its lofty arches rising on high all round. Its walls were continuous windows of crystal and its gate of pearly substance. Within on the south side, and facing the west was a pulpit on the right of which lay the open Word, surrounded with a blaze of light whose brightness enveloped and illumined the whole pulpit.

In the center of the temple was the shrine, before which a veil was hung. This was now drawn back, and there stood a golden cherub having in his hand a sword which he waved this way and that. While I was looking at these things there flowed into my thought a perception of what they all signified.

The temple signified the New Church; the gate of pearl, entrance into this church; the windows of crystal, the truths which enlighten it; and the pulpit, the priesthood and preaching. The Word open upon the pulpit and illuminating the upper part of it, signified its internal sense, which is spiritual, now revealed; the shrine in the center of the temple, the conjunction of that Church with the angelic heaven; and the golden cherub within it, the Word in the sense of the Letter. The waving of the sword in the hand of the cherub signified that the sense of the Letter can be turned this way and that, provided this is done in application to some truth; and the drawing aside of the veil before the cherub signified that the Word is opened.

When I approached nearer I saw this inscription over the gate, ‘Now it is permitted’; which signified that one may now enter with understanding into the mysteries of faith. On seeing this inscription I was impressed with the thought that it is extremely dangerous to enter with the understanding into the dogmas of faith which are the product of man’s own intelligence, and therefore consist of falsities; and still more dangerous to confirm them from the Word.…

It is otherwise, however, in the New Church. Here one is permitted to enter with the understanding into all its interior truths, and also confirm them by the Word. The reason is that its doctrine are truths in series from the Lord, revealed by means of the Word; and confirmation of these by rational considerations opens the higher reaches of the understanding and so elevates it into the light which the angels of heaven enjoy. This light in its essence is truth, and in this light the acknowledgment of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth shines in all its glory. This is meant by the inscription over the gate of the temple, ‘Now it is permitted’, and also by the veil of the shrines being drawn aside before the cherub. For it is a canon of the New Church that falsities close the understanding and truths open it.

True Christian Religion 721

…Baptism is an introduction into the Church; and … the Holy Supper is an introduction into heaven. These two sacraments are like the two gates to eternal life. Baptism is the first gate, through which every Christian is admitted and introduced into what the church teaches from the Word concerning the future life; and all this teaching is the means whereby man may be prepared and led to heaven. The other gate is the Holy supper, through which every one who has permitted himself to be prepared and lead by the Lord is admitted and introduced into heaven; there are no other universal gates. Amen.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

The Pearl of Great Price

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, November 23, 2008

revcooper.ca

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (MAT 13:45,46)

The Old Testament is remarkably silent on the matter of the nature of heaven, hell, and the life after death. It appears that the children of Israel were not able to receive truths about heaven, and so were allowed to continue in their belief in the shadowy spirit world which they called “Sheol.” Sheol is related to the Greek concept of Hades and is often translated as “hell”. Perhaps the most powerful teaching of the Old Testament regarding Sheol is in First Samuel Chapter 28 where Saul begs the witch of En Dor to raise the prophet Samuel’s spirit up from Sheol so that he can once more be advised of what to do by the Man of God.

[13] And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.” [14] So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. [15] Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

Saul’s conversations with the witch and with Samuel’s spirit constitute the majority of the teaching of the Old Testament regarding the life after death. The most that can be said for this doctrine is that it affirms that there is life after death without defining its nature. This graphic scene speaks of a terrible bleakness of spirit that pervaded the people of that church in that time. It shows how they were not able to know anything of what heaven was really like because they were far too interested in personal property, honor, and gain.

In the New Testament however, the Lord frequently taught about heaven, comparing it to many kinds of experiences and places which were common to the people of the day. He began to open the doctrine of the spiritual world in such a way as to take away the fear, while at the same time opening their minds to the knowledge of eternal life. In the Gospel of Matthew alone, the Lord taught that the kingdom of heaven was like:

                  1. a man who sowed good seed” (13:24);
                  2. a mustard seed” (13:31);
                  3. leaven” (13:33);
                  4. a treasure hidden in a field” (13:44);
                  5. a merchant seeking beautiful pearls” (13:45);
                  6. a dragnet cast into the sea” (13:47);
                  7. a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (13:52);
                  8. a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (18:23);
                  9. a landowner” who hired workers for his vineyard (20:1);
                  10. a certain king who arranged a wedding feast” (22:2);
                  11. and “ten virgins” with lamps who came to the wedding feast (25:1).

The Lord had to speak in these parables, because the people of that church were not prepared to understand His new truths in any other way. The only way to explain a totally new idea to someone is to say that it is like something he does know well.

When someone takes a new job, they look for the things that are familiar and already understood to form the basis for the things that must be learned because they are new.

When trying to learn a new language, the mind eagerly latches on to those words that have similar roots to words they already know. People who speak English as a first language often find Latin easier to learn than Greek because the Latin alphabet is familiar and so many English words have a Latin root. On the other hand, native English speakers probably find that Greek is easier to learn than Hebrew because even though both use a different alphabet, there are far more English words with Greek roots than with Hebrew roots.

For most people, in most circumstances, the comparison of something new and unknown with something familiar and common will often calm the fears enough so that learning can begin. This is but an application of the Lord’s teaching technique to a modern circumstance: explain what is totally new, unknown and unimagined in terms of what is well known and familiar. The kingdom of heaven is not a mustard seed, nor is dying the same thing as going to sleep, but they both can serve as useful illustrations making what might be strange and frightening seem less so. The Lord sought to give the truth to His people, but at the same time to comfort them – not frighten them with new and strange ideas. And so He taught them that the kingdom of heaven was like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, and having found a pearl far superior to any he had ever seen, he sold everything he had to purchase this one perfect pearl.

In the internal sense, the “kingdom of heaven” refers to both heaven and the church on earth. A “merchant” signifies all those people who are seekers of truth and who live according to the new truths they have acquired from the Lord through the Word. Our ability to seek out and acquire new truths comes from the spiritual affection of truth; which affection consists in loving the truth itself and esteeming it above every good in the world, because through truth, we have eternal life. The spiritual affection for truth can be said to be loving truth for the sake of eternal life. This is to be compared to a natural affection for truth, which would be to love truth for the sake of knowing things – natural curiosity – but not for the sake of spiritual goals.

It is important that each of us form a spiritual affection for truth within ourselves, for we are taught that the only means by which eternal life is implanted in man is by means of the truth, consequently by means of the Word, for it is through the Word that the Lord teaches truths to man. The spiritual affection of truth, which is to love truths above every worldly delight and treasure, is what is described by the parable of the merchant seeking to buy one precious pearl of great price. This is so because in the internal sense to “buy” signifies to appropriate to yourself, or make something your own through your own free choice.

As an illustration of this point, reflect for a moment of what happens when we go shopping in a large store. We are faced with literally thousands of decisions about whether or not we should buy a certain thing or not.

                  1. We might see something that would be nice to have, but decide not to buy it because it seems to be priced too high to be a good value.
                  2. We might see something to replace something we already have that’s wearing out, but decide to wait a little longer.
                  3. We might see something that is almost what we want, but we decide to look a little farther before buying.
                  4. When we see something that is just right, that fits our desires and needs exactly, then we decide to buy it, to make it our own.

This is very similar to the process by which our character is formed during life in the world. Ideas are constantly flowing into our minds from the world of spirits. Some are from heaven, some from hell, but most are fleeting thoughts, unable to remain with us because they find no common ground, no similar affections in our mind to hang on to. Such things are so far removed from our own loves that we do not even notice their passage.

Other ideas enter that are interesting enough for us to turn them over in our minds for a moment, until we see a flaw or a discordant affection, at which point we discard the thought.

But many ideas are delightful to us, so we choose to “take” them, make them our own. We “purchase” some of the ideas that flow in, and as it were take them home and make them a part of our particular lives. This describes how our free will functions in the development of our own unique personality and character – the free selection of ideas and loves that agree with what we love and with what we want ourselves want to be.

We can imagine a merchant, a dealer in pearls, going through his life, buying and selling unremarkable pearls, always searching for one perfect pearl. We too go through life making our decisions based on very mundane and common things most of the time, decisions about what to have for lunch, how to deal with a problem with the children, which course to take in a business deal. These are natural things, so called because they relate to things of the natural world, and so involve the natural degree of the mind.

There are some truths that, once they enter into the natural mind, become quite irritating. We try to ignore them, but they will not go away or be quiet. One the one hand, these can be truths that irritate us because they point out our own weaknesses and failings.

On the other hand there are things in others that irritate us, such as when a normally open-minded and loving spouse becomes very stubborn on one particular topic. There comes a time when we must take a lesson from the oyster, and form a pearl around that irritation. If an otherwise kind and thoughtful spouse has a character flaw that irritates, you can either fight it, rub it, and irritate it until it becomes an open wound, or you can surround it with thoughts of the spouse’s many good qualities will qualify and soften the effect of that single irritating point.

We need to remember that the other person may have been working on that particular problem for some time, and our comments have the effect of reminding them of their failure to conquer it yet. We must be merciful to those we love, and as far as possible look to the good in others.

The “one precious pearl,” long sought by the merchant, is the knowledge and acknowledgment of the Lord in His Divine Human. This is the central, essential idea of faith that qualifies all others, the one precious pearl of wisdom which gives value and meaning to all the others is the belief that the Lord God Jesus Christ is the One God of heaven and earth, and that He

                  1. actually took on a body from Mary,
                  2. lived among us on earth,
                  3. suffered and conquered in temptations,
                  4. restored the hells to their proper place and order,
                  5. and rose into heaven on the third day with His glorified Human.

This is the pearl of true wisdom, more precious than any other: that God Himself came down to earth in a Human body to free us from the dominion of hell and free us to choose to follow His commandments, to become Christians, that is, to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In our parable, when the merchant finds the precious pearl, he sells all that he has that he might acquire the precious pearl. To go and sell all that you have does not refer to ridding yourself of all material possessions, though some have interpreted the passage in this way. The Word speaks in the spiritual sense in terms of spiritual possessions and deeds. To “sell all you have” then refers to cleansing yourself of those things in your thought and will that are contrary to the knowledge and acknowledgment of the Lord in His Divine Human as the One Only God of Heaven and earth, to shun evils as sins against God.

We read in our second lesson (Revelation 21) that the Holy City New Jerusalem, which represents the Lord’s New Church in the Heavens and on the earth, has 12 gates, each of which is formed of a single pearl. There are twelve gates into the city, because twelve represents the idea of all things of good and truth universally. This is significant, for it tells us that there are really as many different ways for people to approach the Lord’s church as there are people, that no two individuals will approach the Lord in quite the same way, yet He has provided that there will an entrance for everyone into His church – as long as one condition is met. That condition is revealed by the fact that the gates are each made of one pearl: Only those shall enter the Holy City New Jerusalem who have as the basis of their faith the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and earth.

We all need to become spiritual merchants. We all need to have a spiritual affection for truth, that is, look to the things of the Word because they lead to eternal life. We need to seek the One Precious Pearl in the only place where it will be found, in the Word. And when we have found the Lord Himself in His Word, we must sell all that we have, that is, give up all that we have that is from self and the world, so that we can enter into the Holy City New Jerusalem through one of the twelve gates, each made of a single precious pearl, unimpeded by false ideas and evil desires. AMEN.

First Lesson: MAT 13:44-52

(Mat 13:44-52) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. {45} “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, {46} “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. {47} “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, {48} “which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. {49} “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, {50} “and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” {51} Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” {52} Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Amen.

Second Lesson: REV 21:9-21

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” {10} And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, {11} having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. {12} Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: {13} three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. {14} Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. {15} And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. {16} The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. {17} Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. {18} The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. {19} The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, {20} the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. {21} The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. Amen.

Third Lesson: Apocalypse Explained 863a.

For they are virgins, signifies for the reason that they are in the affection of truth for the sake of truth. This is evident from the signification of “virgins,” as being affections of truth, which are called spiritual affections of truth. For there are natural affections of truth which exist in almost every one, especially during childhood and youth. But natural affections of truth have reward as an end, at first reputation, and afterwards honor and gain. These are not the affections here meant by “virgins,” but spiritual affections of truth are meant, which are such as have for their end eternal life and the uses of that life.

Those who are in such affections love truths because they are truths, thus apart from the world’s glory, honors, and gains; and those who love truths apart from such considerations love the Lord; for the Lord is with man in the truths that are from good. For that which proceeds from the Lord as a Sun is the Divine truth, and that which proceeds from the Lord is the Lord; consequently he that receives truth from spiritual love because it is truth receives the Lord. Therefore of such it is said “these are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.”

Moreover, such are meant by the Lord in these words in Matthew:-

The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a treasure hidden in a field, which a man having found hideth, and in his joy goeth and selleth all things whatsoever he hath, and buyeth the field. Again, the kingdom of the heavens is like unto a man a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one precious pearl, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (xiii. 44-46).

The treasure hidden in a field” and “the pearls” signify the truths of heaven and the church; and the “one precious pearl” signifies the acknowledgment of the Lord. The affection of truths because they are truths is meant by “the man went in his joy and sold all that he had, and bought the field” in which the treasure was hidden, also by “the merchant’s going and selling all that he had, and buying the precious pearl.” Amen.

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