Pentecost: Receiving the Holy Spirit

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. (ACT 2:6)

We are all familiar with the events of Easter morning, how Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and the others discovered to their joy and astonishment that Jesus was alive, that He had raised Himself from the dead. In the days and weeks that followed, the Lord appeared to the disciples often to comfort them, to reassure them, and to tell them what they must do with what they had learned from Him.

Each of the Gospels gives us a slightly different view of these post resurrection appearances.

In the gospel of Luke we read how the Lord joined with two disciples who were walking to Emmaus, how He walked with them and “opened the scriptures” to them (LUK 24:32). It is also in Luke where we hear how He then appeared to the disciples, invited them to inspect the wounds in His hands and feet, and then ate a broiled fish and a honeycomb with them. After eating, he “opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures” (Ibid. v. 45), and then walked with them to Bethany where as He blessed them, “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Ibid. v. 51).

The gospel of John records different events: how on the evening of the day of the Lord’s resurrection, He appeared to the disciples “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled” (JOH 20:19). It is John who records the details of the scene between the Lord and Thomas, the disciple who doubted. John also tells us that the Lord gave them “many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book” (Ibid. v. 30). Finally, we read that the disciples had given up their discipleship and gone back to fishing. By the sea of Tiberias the Lord appeared again to five of the disciples who had been fishing all night without catching any thing. At His command, they threw their nets over the other side of the boat, and the net was so full they could not pull it in. He invited them ashore for breakfast and gave them bread and broiled fish. John tells us that this was the third and last time that they saw the Lord.

We can see from these few references in the gospels what must have happened in the weeks after the betrayal. First there was the shock of the crucifixion, followed by the joy and astonishment of Easter morning. Through repeated meetings and demonstrations of His well-being, the disciples eventually became convinced of the Lord’s resurrection, they could believe that He was still alive.

But they did not know what to do next. For three years they had been expecting to become the governors of the new Jewish kingdom established by the Messiah. Now that they knew that His kingdom was not of this world, they could not any longer see their part in it. Leaderless, without a sense of purpose or direction, they drifted back to the former occupations.

But the Lord kept appearing to them in groups, opening the scripture, explaining, encouraging them to open their minds to a whole new plane of thought.

He told them that they had a mission in life now: to minister unto the nations, to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to teach all men to be obedient to God’s law, and to heal the sick.

And slowly the message began to sink in. The disciples, no doubt with all these things on their minds, came together in Jerusalem some fifty days after the Passover to celebrate the “Feast of weeks” or “Pentecost.”

The feast of Pentecost was the second of the three annual festivals which all Jewish males were required to attend. The others are the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles. It was called Pentecost because “pente” has to do with the number fifty, and this feast was celebrated fifty days after Passover, and it was also known as the “feast of weeks” because it was kept a “week of weeks” or seven weeks after Passover. Its original purpose was to serve as a festival of thanksgiving at the conclusion of the wheat harvest.

It is interesting that this timing also coincides with Moses coming down off Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt. Because of this linkage, the feast of Pentecost also became a festival commemorating the giving of the Law, celebrated by gathering together to study the scriptures. It was regarded as the culmination and focus of the Passover season, thus forming a one with Passover itself and tying this feast to the celebration of the day when Jehovah Himself freed the children of Israel from their Egyptian slavery.

This then explains why the disciples, who were all brought up in Jewish tradition, were drawn to Jerusalem in spite of the possible risk to their own lives and had gathered at Pentecost to study the Word.

Briefly, what happened to them next was this.

There was the sound of a mighty wind, and a vision of tongues of fire resting on each disciple.

They each began to speak, moved by the Holy Spirit.

Luke writes in the book of Acts that there were many devout men from all over the world who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, and when they heard the sound of the wind, they were drawn to it to see what was happening. And when they the found the source of the sound, they found the disciples preaching as they were moved by the Holy Spirit – and everyone who was there, no matter where in the world he was from, heard them preaching in his own birth language, which astounded and confused them.

There is a phenomenon known as “speaking in tongues” in some modern Christian churches, which they associate with the miracle at the feast of Pentecost, and take as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit with them.

The phenomenon typically takes the form of a person being overcome by religious fervor and speaking in words unknown to any human ear. This is taken to be a sign of great holiness, and is called “speaking in tongues,” although there is a major difference between this and the miracle that gives it its name.

At the original miracle of Pentecost, everyone had perfect understanding of everything the disciples said. The modern phenomenon is considered very holy because no one can understand anything that is said, for they are said to be moved by the Holy Spirit.

If the modern phenomenon is not “speaking in tongues,” then what is it?

What it most closely resembles is a form of Old Testament prophecy. For example, once when king Saul threw himself down and rolled in the mud like someone who had gone insane, it became a proverb that Saul was one of the prophets (1SA 10:11). The reason for this was that in those days many people were overcome with a spirit of prophecy, and they would act in bizarre ways, much as those who are overcome with an emotional response act today. These people were known as prophets in those days, and respected.

However, it is quite clear that there was a distinction between those who prophesied by rolling in the mud and those like Moses, Elijah and Daniel who had visions of God, and that distinction was clearly kept in the Word. While the people considered those who acted strangely to be among the prophets, the Word never refers to them as such.

It appears that our enthusiastic friends are not “speaking in tongues” at all, but instead they are experiencing an ancient form of prophecy. The difference is no more than the difference between complete confusion and perfect understanding.

The Heavenly Doctrines use the example of what happened to the disciples at the feast of Pentecost to make the comparison between ordinary religious zeal and the Divine operating in men, for the two are very similar and there are many who have been deceived, thinking that enthusiasm and forceful speech are the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are told that the way to distinguish between zeal and the Divine operation of the Holy spirit is to see if there is the love of truth from the Word within it. The disciples had this. (See TCR 146)

The other important feature about the miracle of Pentecost is that when the disciples preached, everyone who was present heard and understood perfectly what was said in their own birth language.

The only way this could have happened was if this was a Divine miracle, where everyone present was brought into the sphere of heaven, so that they could use their spiritual ears and hear speech such as is used by the angels themselves in the heavens. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that:

Among the wonderful things in the other life is the fact that the speech of spirits with a man is in his native tongue, which they speak as readily and skillfully as if they had been born in the same land, and had been brought up with the same language; and this whether they are from Europe, from Asia, or from any other part of the globe. …The reason is that the language with which spirits are familiar is not a language of words, but is a language of ideas of thought; and this language is the universal of all languages (AC 1637).

In the entire heaven all have one language, and . . . they all understand one another. Language there is not learned but is implanted by nature with every one, for it flows from their very affection and thought (HH 236).

There was perfect understanding among everyone present because the disciples were not preaching in the language of the world, but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and were preaching the truth from the Lord in the spiritual language of ideas.

It was like the speech of angels, a direct communication of ideas. We could say that the spiritual ears of everyone present were opened.

We can see a microcosm of our own lives in the experiences of the disciples.

As the disciples followed the Lord for three years, we follow our parents and teachers for many years during our childhood and youth, depending on them to keep us safe and protect us from our own ignorance.

This first state is the state of our historical faith.

What follows is a state of trial and temptation. Jesus was suddenly no longer there to lead the disciples, which is like what happens when we become adults and face life for the first time by our selves.

Usually, due to inexperience, young adults make some unfortunate decisions at first. Their troubles weigh them down and they feel lost and alone. During this time the Lord visited the disciples three times. Young adults will find that their state will rise and fall with contacts they have with those whose judgment and experience they trust and admire.

But what made the change into the final, adult state for the disciples? What finally brought them out of their wandering and self-pity and turned them into dynamic leaders that founded the Christian church in the face of the might of Rome?

The simple fact that they each returned to Jerusalem to study the Word in celebration of the feast of Pentecost. They realized that the Word of God was the true source of wisdom and guidance, and when they put their trust in it alone, they received the Holy Spirit.

When each of us finally accepts the Word as the true source of wisdom and turns away from self-intelligence we will finally be in a state of faith that is truly our own, the kind of faith that will sustain us in the temptations and difficulties of life, the kind of faith that built the Christian church, the kind of faith that turns the human mind into a church, an angelic mind that can live to eternity in heaven.

This is what it means to receive the Holy Spirit: to feel the confidence within yourself to go forth and live your life according to your conscience formed from the Word because the Lord is always present with you, and to feel the power and joy of life that comes from the Lord alone as you go forth.

I foresaw the LORD always before my face,

For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken;

Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;

Moreover my flesh will also rest in hope,

Because You will not leave my soul in Hell,

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

You have made known to me the ways of life;

You will make me full of joy in Your presence.

(Psalm 16:8-11)

AMEN.

Lessons: Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:1-13, TCR 146

1st Lesson: (Joel 2:28-32)

“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. {29} And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. {30} “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. {31} The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. {32} And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Amen.

2nd Lesson: (Acts 2:1-13)

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. {5} And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. {6} And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. {7} Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? {8} “And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? {9} “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, {10} “Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, {11} “Cretans and Arabs; we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” {12} So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” {13} Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Amen.

3rd Lesson: True Christian Religion 146

The operations of the Lord … flow in from the Lord both with the clergy and the laity, and are received by those who are in the Lord, and in whom the Lord is. But enlightenment and instruction are communicated especially to the clergy, because these belong to their office, and inauguration into the ministry carries these along with it. Moreover, when preaching from zeal they believe themselves to be inspired, like the Lord’s disciples upon whom He breathed, saying:-

Receive ye the Holy Spirit (John xx. 22 see also Mark xiii. 11).

Some affirm even that they have felt the influx. But they should be very careful not to persuade themselves that the zealby which many are carried away while preaching is the Divine operation in their hearts; for a like and even warmer zeal prevails with enthusiasts, as also with those who are in the utmost falsities of doctrine; and even with those who despise the Word and worship nature instead of God, and fling faith and charity, as it were, into a bag on the back; but when preaching or teaching they hang it before them like a sort of ruminatory stomach, from which they draw out and disgorge such things as they know will serve as food for their hearers. For zeal, in itself considered, is a glow of the natural man. If it has within it a love of truth it is like the sacred fire that descended upon the apostles, as described in the Acts:-

There appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (ii. 3, 4).

But if within that zeal or glow a love of falsity is concealed, it is like a fire imprisoned in wood, which bursts forth and consumes the house. You who deny the holiness of the Word and the Divinity of the Lord, take, I pray, the bag from your back and open it, as you freely do in your privacy, and you will see. Amen.

The Purpose of Baptism

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THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM
A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn
March 25, 2012
Dawson Creek, BC

Readings: Isaiah 1:9-20; Matthew 3:1-17; True Christian Religion 685

We just heard the story of John the Baptist, who called all of Judah to himself to be baptized in the Jordan River. In that story, we heard John say that one would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He later told his followers that the one he had spoken about was the Lord, Jesus. And when Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to His disciples and told them to go forth and baptize all nations into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, baptism has been a key part of Christianity.

In the New Church, we tend not to focus much on ritual.  We put a lot of emphasis on life – the way we live by our religion.  And that’s as it should be – internal worship involves loving the Lord and loving our neighbour.  But there is a value and strength in the external rituals of worship, because they represent those internal things, and actually serve to strengthen those internal things.  And the two most important rituals – the two sacraments in the New Church – are baptism and the Holy Supper.

Without a knowledge of correspondences, it’s hard to understand how there could be a value in the external ritual of baptism.  But the Writings for the New Church describe a deeper meaning within this ritual that show how something as seemingly mundane as dipping someone under water can have profound spiritual influences.  And the Writings for the New Church reveal a purpose in baptism that is unknown to many in the world.

True Christian Religion describes the three primary uses of baptism: introduction into the church, getting to know the Lord, and being regenerated.  Baptism alone does not accomplish these things, but it serves as an external sign of them, and helps bring them about. These three all involve each other and are tied together – each one is an integral part of what it means to be baptized.

The first use of baptism is that it is an introduction into the church – a sign and a symbol that a person is a Christian.  This morning we read the story of John the Baptist baptizing people in the River Jordan.  The Jordan River marked the boundary and the entrance to the land of Canaan.  The reason that John baptized there was that it represented an entrance into the church.

What does it mean to be introduced to the church?  It means that a person is first beginning to learn the truths of the Lord’s words.  These are the simple, basic teachings – that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, that evils are to be shunned as sins against Him, that His Word is truth.  When a person first begins to learn these truths – and to live by them – it is as if he is being washed in the Jordan River.

Now again, this may seem like it wouldn’t have much power.  Doesn’t everyone know that it’s wrong to lie, to steal, to commit adultery, and so on?  They’re such simple teachings, it seems, that a person might scoff at the idea that they have to be bathed by these things. But until we actually try to shun evils because they are sins, we don’t know how strong or weak a hold they have on us. We might think, “OK, yes, I tell lies, but it’s not that big a deal – I don’t think there would be some profound spiritual change in me if I stopped.” But it’s not until we do try to stop because it is a sin against God that we realize how deeply that deceit may or may not be ingrained in us. When we try to stop, and pray for the Lord’s help, we do notice a change.

Being introduced into the church does not just mean introduction into the truth, though.  It also means introduction to the people of the church, and introduction among angelic spirits who make up the church.  That’s why we can perform infant baptisms – because even though the baby is not yet able to learn the truth of the church, there is a promise that they will, and there is also a sign made that they will be raised as Christians.  And it actually changes the spirits who are around that child.

Now, again, this might seem abstract and like it has nothing to do with real life – but that’s only because we don’t realize how huge an influence the spirits around us have.  Every single thought we have flows into us from the spirits around us, as hard as that is to believe.  And so changing our spirits changes the way we are even able to think.  Now, a person’s decisions throughout their lives also affect what spirits are around, and so baptism or non-baptism doesn’t determine a person’s spiritual home, the spirits he will live with forever.  But it does make a difference, because the washing of baptism and the sign of the cross is a physical manifestation and sign that actually brings the person among Christian spirits and angels.

So that first use of baptism is being introduced into the truth of the church, and also coming into the company of Christian people, spirits and angels. But in itself, being brought among Christians is meaningless – being influenced by Christians is not actually what makes a person Christian.  True Christianity – the kind of Christianity described in the book The True Christian Religion – means getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this is the second purpose of baptism – that a person may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and to follow Him.

There would be no point in introducing someone into the church without introducing them to the source of all the good and truth in the church.  And we can’t really get to know who He is except by following His commandments. That source is the Lord.  True Christian Religion asks, What would be the use of being called a Christian without this second use, the acknowledgment of Christ, and especially of following His commandments?  We read, “Is it not really like a subject who attaches himself to a king, and yet repudiates the king’s laws or those of the country, and yields allegiance to a foreign king and serves him?” (True Christian Religion 681).  To be called a Christian and yet not to follow the Lord would be an empty thing, and worthless.

This second purpose of baptism – coming to know the Lord – comes from the first – being introduced to the church.  A person learns to follow the Lord by being brought up, supported, and encouraged by Christians.  And here’s another area where baptism becomes relevant for our daily lives.  When we attend a child’s baptism, we attend a ceremony that introduces the child to the church – and we here help make up that church.  In that ceremony, the parents specifically promise to raise the child to follow the Lord – but we all share that responsibility, to support everyone who comes to the church and who is baptized in their path of following the Lord.  It is our responsibility to encourage each other to do what is right and good, and to look to the Lord together.

The second use of baptism is that we may know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow Him.  It might seem like this purpose would be the final use and goal of baptism.  But from the Lord’s perspective, the one remaining use is actually the most important.  That final use of baptism is that a person be regenerated.

The Lord spoke of the importance of a person being born again.  He said, “Unless someone be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   When we talk about regeneration, we are talking about re-birth.  But we use the word regeneration because it is not referring to one moment in time, as “birth” implies, but a process and progression over time.  The Lord’s purpose in baptism – and even the reason that He wants us to know Him and follow Him – is so that he can create us anew, and give us the blessedness of heaven.

Think about that.  The Lord did not create humanity was for the sake of His own glory, so that He could be worshipped.  The Lord created the world for the sake of blessing the world, not being blessed Himself

And so this final use of baptism – that a person be regenerated – follows from the prior two uses, and it could be said to be its primary end in view.  And it is the use that is most clearly seen in the representation of baptism itself as a washing.  Because the way that a person is regenerated is by spiritual washing, that is, by removing the evil lusts and desires that cling to him.

The way a person does this is by repentance.  And repentance is the common thread that runs through all the different uses of baptism.  A person is truly introduced into Christianity by repenting; he learns to acknowledge the Lord and follow Him by repenting; and he is regenerated by means of repentance.

This is not always an easy process. And in some ways, baptism is presented as a painful thing. It is used as an image of death. Speaking of His crucifixion, Jesus said, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” The image of baptism is one of washing, but it is also an image of being buried – the apostle Paul would later compare Jesus burial and resurrection to the experience of being submerged under the water in baptism and then rising up out of it. In our reading this morning, John the Baptist warned the Sadducees and Pharisees, the religious leaders at the time, that the Lord’s baptism would be like a consuming fire. And when we repent, there are parts of ourselves – the merely natural parts – where we feel like we are dying. Baptism is a symbol of putting to death the parts of us that rebel against the Lord’s love, so that we can be purified. The prophet Malachi compared it to a refiner’s fire: “But who may sustain the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He is seen? For He is as a refiner’s fire, and as washer’s soap.” That refiner’s fire burned away all the impurities in a precious metal. For us to be purified, we have to endure the pain of fighting against the evil cravings that give us pleasure.

But that fire that burns away impurities is also a warming fire of love. The purpose of baptism and of washing is not simply so that evil can be taken away, but so that something new from the Lord can come in and take its place. It is so that the Holy Spirit can flow into a person, giving them a new spirit.  It is so that the fire of the Lord’s love can flow into a person, giving them a new heart. There is a progression there. That progression is described in John the Baptist’s words: “I indeed baptize you with water, but one comes after me Who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.”

That first kind of baptism is a baptism of water.  The Lord did not only baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire; He also baptized in the waters of the Jordan river, just as John had. The water of Jordan is a picture of the simple, straightforward truths in the letter of the Word.  We start out by following them, by repenting on the very basic, literal level – stopping our stealing, stopping lying, shunning adultery.

As we progress, though, the Lord gives us the opportunity to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit represents the Lord’s Divine Truth.  This is contained within the teachings of the Lord’s Word, but cannot really be expressed in words.  It’s a sight we have of the truth.  We learn to see things in ourselves that are sins against the Lord, even if we can’t describe exactly what they are – attitudes or intentions that on a deeper level steal from the Lord.  There’s the love of self, and the raising up of ourselves above others; and when we realize this, and shun these deeper evils because we know they are sins, we are being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Being baptized by the Holy Spirit means being regenerated by truth.  We come to love the truth, and to love treating our neighbours well because we know it is right.  There is love in the Holy Spirit – but it’s primarily a love for acting by the truth, not simply a love for goodness itself.  That is the next level, the celestial level; and to be regenerated by this love is what it means to be baptized by fire.

A person first becomes spiritual before becoming celestial.  But a person can become celestial.  The way this happens is that gradually the Lord transforms their love for acting by what is true into a genuine love for the Love that comes from Him.  It is love for love’s sake, and when a person reaches this state, they act primarily from love to the Lord.  This washes a person on an even deeper level than that love for truth does.  Those who reach this level are said to be baptized with fire. These are the people who come into a genuine love for the Lord and love for their neighbour, who love to love others.

The external act of baptism does not accomplish any of these things. But when a person has these internal elements – a desire to learn truth, to fight against evil with it, to come to know the Lord and be regenerated – then the external ritual actually makes these things happen more fully and more completely. Through the internal washing of repentance and regeneration, a person is made clean, and made ready for heaven, which is the Lord’s greatest desire. By the first use of baptism, a person is introduced among Christians; by the second use, he comes to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as God, and follow Him; and by the third use, He is regenerated and born again, in accordance with the Lord’s words in the gospel of John: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12,13)  Amen.

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VISIONS AND DREAMS

VISIONS AND DREAMS

A Sermon by Rev. Lawson M. Smith Preached in Mitchellville, Maryland, January 4, 1987

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

It is the beginning of a new year. We seek a vision from the Lord, to show us where we are to go in the days and months ahead. In many areas of life, people speak of “visions” and “dreams”: a vision for a business, financial vision; to have a dream for one’s life; dreams for our marriages, and for our children; a vision for the church. To be a man of vision is a wonderful thing. What is it that we seek when we wish for “vision”? How can we receive it? Let us look at what the Heavenly Doctrine teaches about visions and dreams, and then see what the prophecy of Joel can teach us today.

The Lord taught the people of the Most Ancient Church by dreams and visions. These were their primary means of Divine revelation. Angels came to them in their dreams and showed them delightful paradisal gardens and many other things, and at the same time taught them what these dreams meant. Through such visions and dreams, the Most Ancient people learned the most fundamental truths, such as that all life and all goodness and truth are from the Lord alone and none from man. Having been given to understand these fundamentals, from their love to the Lord they perceived countless applications to their lives.

Later, men turned away from the Lord and closed their open communication with heaven. Then the Lord sent an angel to certain people to teach them about Himself and the life after death. The Lord filled an angel with His presence, so that the angel could represent Him to men and speak from the Divine, not from himself. The angel of the Lord came to men in visions during the day, in dreams at night, or sometimes simply spoke to them without being seen. The men to whom the Lord granted visions and dreams then taught others what the Lord had taught them. They were prophets, spokesmen for the Lord. Through them the Lord wrote the Ancient Word and then the Old Testament. The written Word began to be an important means of Divine revelation, though as yet few could read, and the Word was still transmitted mainly by oral tradition.

In Old Testament times the Lord appeared by means of angels to Abraham, Joshua, Gideon and others. The Writings point out that such visions took place by the opening of people’s spiritual eyes, not by their natural eyesight, for the subjects of the visions were in the spiritual world.

Dreams are an important part of the stories of Joseph and Daniel. The Lord used dreams to show them what He was going to do. The Lord also spoke to Solomon twice in dreams, and Solomon also answered the Lord in his dreams.

Later on in Israel’s history, the Lord gave some of the prophets remarkable visions, especially Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah, and later the apostle John, who wrote the Apocalypse. But these visions, along with many other things revealed through the prophets, can scarcely be understood, even in our day, without the help of the Writings. Relatively few people were given visions, and the Lord sent prophets infrequently. Compared to the days of the Most Ancient Church, few people were in a suitable state to accept revelation from the Lord. In Samuel’s day it is said, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no open vision” (I Samuel 3:1).

Having a vision of what we should do with our lives is very important. But sometimes the word of the Lord seems to come to us rarely, if at all. Then some people will seek visions by other ways than from the Lord.

For example, when the Lord refused to speak to King Saul, Saul turned to a witch or medium to contact Samuel, then deceased. But the law of Moses strictly forbids necromancy and witchcraft: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” a law which even in our day, the Writings say, is altogether to be observed and done (see Exodus 22:18; AC 9349). So Isaiah warned the people, “And when they say to you, `Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? [Go] to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:19,20). This is good advice for us too. It is always unprofitable in the long run to seek guidance by a means which is not according to the Lord’s law, because there is no other source of light and vision than the Lord.

So the Old Testament warns the people to be on guard against false prophets, and to test their words by seeing whether they come true (see Deut.13:1-5). In the days when Jerusalem was under the Babylonian siege, the Lord through Jeremiah commanded the people to surrender, and then they would be well treated in Babylon. But false prophets arose claiming to have been told that there would be peace in the land again soon. Jeremiah urged the people, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: `Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. … They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. … I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed; I have dreamed!” … Indeed, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal'” (23:16, 25-27). The people, sadly, followed the advice of the false prophets, but the word given through Jeremiah came true.

The Lord Himself came into the world when almost all spiritual light and vision had been cut off. He came to bring light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, so that we could see a true vision of our God. He did away with the need for representations of Himself through the angel of the Lord. In the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus, now an angel, to warn his brothers; but in Jesus’ words, Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The Writings cite this parable in explaining the law of the Divine Providence that men must not be compelled in the things of religion. “No one is reformed by visions and dreams,” we read, “because they compel” (DP 134). That is, they compel an outward, temporary, grudging acknowledgment that fades away with time, and leaves a man no better than before. Therefore the Lord does not make use of conversations with the dead to teach us today. This is not the kind of vision we should seek.

Speech with spirits is still possible, and it would not be harmful with those who are regenerate and established in a true faith based in a life of charity. But spirits do not try to teach people anything, but only speak a few words. In general, spirits speak only out of the things in the person’s own memory, and tend to reflect our own states of mind, or what a part of us wants to hear them say, whereas the written Word is an objective standard.

Some people have criticized Swedenborg as violating the Lord’s warning against conversations with the dead. Many others have been attracted to him merely as, in their eyes, a successful spiritist. But several things set Swedenborg apart from spiritists. First, he never sought contact with the other world. The Lord opened his spiritual eyes in order to reveal things to mankind which could not be made known in any other way, as He opened the eyes of the apostle John and other prophets. Second, all of the Writings rest firmly in the Old and New Testaments. Third, Swedenborg never tried to draw attention to himself. Even the Writings themselves were published anonymously until the last two works, when their authorship was already generally known. Instead, the Heavenly Doctrine always leads us to the Lord.

The Writings say there are several false kinds of visions. There are delusions induced by spirits, affecting our natural sight of things in this world. People who are not strong-minded are prone to this kind of vision. Another kind of vision is inspired by fanatical spirits who believe themselves filled with the Holy Spirit. They insist that what they teach must be believed.

All evil spirits see in a false light. An evil spirit is nothing but a collection of lusts and the fantasies of his lusts. He imagines that what is good is bad, and that what is bad is good; he takes delight in filthy and wicked things, and believes these will make him happy. In hell, one spirit miserably torments another by delusions. They also torment us on earth, inspiring similar fantasies in us, such as the feeling that “only if” I can have or do some selfish thing will I be happy.

On the other hand, when a person has a genuine vision, he actually sees things that really exist in the other life. He sees in the light of heaven from the Lord. The things of the heavens all represent the one and only reality in the Lord (see AC 1966ff). Even though today the Lord does not give us visions and dreams involving the opening of our spiritual eyes, He still does give us spiritual light to distinguish what is real and eternal from what is delusive and fleeting, if we sincerely look to Him for enlightenment.

The prophecy of Joel really looks forward to the New Church. In its spiritual sense, it shows us how we can receive vision from the Lord. The prophecy begins with the devastation of the land of Israel by locusts and invading armies. The Lord through Joel explains the reason these disasters have occurred: Israel has been unfaithful. Then comes a beautiful, clear call to repentance: “`Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, `turn to Me with all your heart … Rend your heart and not your garments'” (2:12,13). The beginning of every true state of the church, or the way to prepare for every gift from the Lord, is to repent of evils that we aware of.

But then the Lord promises to drive Israel’s enemies away, and to bless her with the former and latter rain, so that the crops bring forth abundantly. Then comes the text: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

This describes a state in which we are being regenerated. The Lord pours out His Spirit or breath upon us, the breath of life, when we are ready to receive His Holy Spirit. “Upon all flesh” means upon all mankind. In the spiritual sense, “flesh” means all human states, particularly states oriented to bodily and worldly things, which need to be reformed and regenerated by the Spirit of the Lord. The individual groups sons and daughters, old and young, and servants stand for each of the levels of our minds and hearts in which we need to receive the Lord, in order to see Him clearly. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5; AC 574).

The Lord pours out His spirit upon us by teaching and enlightening us in truths. A man who is being regenerated then “prophesies,” that is, he understands so clearly that he could teach these truths to others. We prophesy to ourselves when from the rational level of our minds we form an idea of what the Lord is saying to us and how we should act, and then tell ourselves that this is how we are going to act.

Sons and daughters are both mentioned, standing for the understanding and the will. The Writings say that our state of enlightenment depends on the state of our minds as formed by doctrinal teachings from the Word, signified by the sons. The more clearly we have the teachings of the Word in our minds, from current, regular reading of the Word, the more clearly the Lord can enlighten us. Faith is perfected by the number and coherence of truths. We can picture a chandelier: the more lights and prisms, the more bright and beautiful a light it will give. There is no substitute for a clear knowledge and understanding of the facts of Divine revelation.

Enlightenment and vision also depend on the disposition of our will, represented by the daughters. For example, we need to be willing to face a vision that calls us to repentance, not just cries of “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Each person is different from every other, both in his knowledge of the Word and experience, and in his love’s interests. Accordingly there is a variety of vision as to the uses of life. This variety perfects society as a whole, as long as each man’s vision comes from the Lord.

The old men, who will dream dreams, stand for the gentle, peaceful wisdom of old age, the interior sight that comes from a lifetime of following the Lord. The most ancients received their instruction in dreams. The young men’s visions represent intelligence and an interest in understanding the Word rightly. The men of the Ancient Church received revelation through visions. It is good for us to recognize and value the contributions that each state of life can bring to the church.

The male and female servants stand for rational and natural truths, with their affections. Natural truths are facts, and rational truths are concepts formed from them. Such facts and concepts are servants to visions of spiritual things and dreams of celestial wisdom. When we set our knowledge and our interest in information in subordination to the uses of life rather than making it an end in itself, then the spirit of the Lord is poured out even upon the menservants and maidservants with us.

From this prophecy through Joel the Lord is showing us how we can receive His spirit of regeneration in our lives, and so be blessed with dreams and visions of the goals to which the Lord is leading us. What we really want is a vision of the Lord so that we can cooperate with Him in His purposes. The Lord is always offering us such a vision, as light is always streaming from the sun, but we receive it according to our state. Our vision is always very limited. We don’t see where Divine Providence is leading us; we only glimpse a little of what the Lord hopes and intends for us. But what we can see is enough for us to advance into clearer and clearer light. Our source of vision is the Lord in His Word. If we read the Word, and think about its application to life in whatever uses we seek guidance whether our careers, our marriages, our families, or our church and if we act on what we see with courage and zeal, then the Lord will be able to guide us into the right paths, and into greater light. The prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29). Amen.


Lessons: Joel 2:12-32; Matthew 2:1-12; AR 224:1-4e

Apocalypse Revealed 224:1-4e

I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them, that they might converse with them face to face, and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen, standing before them, and they said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts.” And they answered, “We have been told by our priests that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone, because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with another, and still they all said, `Believe us’; and some of them, `We are God’s ministers, and know.’ But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith, and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees.” Then the angels answered, “Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain.” But two of the company said, “We have read, but did not understand.” And the angels replied, “You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities”; and the angels said further, “What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? this is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal, who sees the food of his life, not that of his body but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything, but have only heard sounds that are for the most part dissonant. But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding: one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again. Examples must serve for illustration: are you not able to understand what charity is and what faith is? that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?” … And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, “We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish.” Concerning God they said, “All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any; therefore it ceases and perishes …

Concerning Regeneration: “Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that everyone has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually, for which reason he becomes guilty if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability, but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself, provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance and believes in the Lord is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this as-from-himself is from the Lord …

Concerning baptism, they said that it is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; and that an infant is reformed and regenerated when, on becoming an adult, he does the things which his sponsors promised for him, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; and second, that he shall believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Moreover, baptism is a sign before the angels that a man is of the church.” On hearing these things, some of the assembly said, “This we understand.” But a voice was heard from one side, exclaiming, “We do not understand”; and another voice, “We will not understand”; and inquiry was made from whence these voices proceeded, and it was found that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, and who wished to be believed as oracles, and thus to be adored. The angels said, “Be not surprised: there are very many such at this day; they appear to us from heaven like graven images, made with such art as to be able to move the lips and utter sounds like organs, but without knowing whether the breath, by means of which they utter these sounds, comes from hell or from heaven, because they do not know whether a thing be false or true. They reason and reason; they confirm and confirm, nor do they ever see whether it is so. But know that human ingenuity can confirm whatsoever one wishes, even until it appears to be so; therefore heretics and impious persons, yea atheists, can confirm that there is no God, but nature only” …

And after the angels had taught them something concerning correspondence and its effect, some of the company said, “Now for the first time we understand.” And when they said, “We understand,” behold a flame with light descending from heaven consociated them with the angels, and they loved one another.

Spiritual Frontier – Emanuel Swedenborg

FIGHTING SPIRITUAL BATTLES

FIGHTING SPIRITUAL BATTLES
A Sermon by Rev. Thomas L. Kline
Preached in Bryn Athyn July 7, 1994

“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil” (Luke 4:1,2).

Why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen in our lives? One person recently made the comment that when he looked at the lives of all his friends, it seemed as if every person was dealing with some big problem or issue in his or her life, now or in the recent past. The problem could have been disease, a death in the family, marital difficulties, or emotional distress. But it seemed to him as if everyone had some big issue to deal with.

Another person made a rather cynical comment. That person worried, not about the people who had big problems in their lives, but about those who hadn’t yet faced a major crisis. The concern was that those who still believed that life was peaceful and free of problems would soon have that innocence taken away.

Not all of us face a crisis. And for some of us, the issues that we deal with in life are open and public; for others, the issues we deal with are more private and personal.

But back to the question: Why do bad things happen? One recent best seller was titled, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? And another best seller began with the sentence, “Life is difficult.”

Sometimes when a bad thing happens, we can explain it by reasoning that bad things are a necessary part of our spiritual journey. When bad things happen, it is part of that “refiner’s fire” that makes us into a stronger person. When a bad thing happens, there is a lesson to be learned, a victory to be won. And this is why the life that leads to heaven not only involves joy and comfort, but also involves pain and the anxiety of spiritual temptation. Spiritual temptation is part of our spiritual growth.

But sometimes things happen in people’s lives that are so bad that this explanation doesn’t seem to work. One person said over the tragic death of a loved one, “If there is some lesson that I am supposed to learn by something as tragic as this, I’d rather not learn it.” There are events of true tragic proportion: the untimely death of a loved one, terrible and painful disease, emotional disturbance and depression, the dissolving of a marriage, abuse, hunger and famine. If we come to believe that somehow the Lord allows or even causes these to happen so that we can learn some important lesson about life, we end up with a pretty terrible idea about God. One person made the comment about such an idea: “God is a bad teacher if He uses tragedy as His lesson plan.”

And so there is one other very important truth given to us in the doctrines of the New Church that helps us to understand tragedy: Bad things, terrible tragedies, are permitted by the Lord, not just so we can learn something new about life; they often happen simply because we are in the midst of a great war between heaven and hell. We happen to live on the battleground of a great war, and that war is taking place right now. It is a spiritual war between heaven and hell. It is the very war the Lord came on earth to fight. And sometimes we, or our friends and loved ones, are innocent victims of that terrible battle.

Imagine a physical war where a bombshell goes off near us, and we suffer pain and anguish, not because of anything we did, but because there is a battle going on and a bombshell went off. The same happens on a spiritual level. The hells do inflict pain and disorder upon us, and we suffer.

Think of a little child who has a painful disease. The disease itself, the pain and suffering, come from hell. That suffering is a physical manifestation of the hatred, anger, and vengeance of hell. And that little child has a painful and disabling disease not because the child was sinful, not because his parents sinned, not because there is some lesson to be learned (although there might be a lesson that is learned), but that child has a terrible disease because the hells are indeed powerful and they wish nothing more than to cause pain and disease and suffering. All bad things physical, mental and spiritual are a result of this great battle between heaven and hell.

We said that we are often innocent victims residing on this great spiritual battleground. This thought can make us feel kind of helpless. And this is why, rather than saying that we are “innocent victims” living on a great spiritual battleground, it is more accurate to say that we are actually “soldiers” who are called by the Lord to be part of the battle. We are soldiers who live on a large battleground, and we are called to fight in the name of the Lord. And this is one of the most important concepts we need to know about our lives, because it gives us a vision of hope and purpose.

We are in the middle of a great war. (Just look around you and within you.) We are soldiers who are part of this great battle between heaven and hell. Even that little child is a soldier, called into the army of the Lord.

When a bad thing happens terrible disease, a terrible death are we just to remain passive? Are we helpless? How can we fight if the terrible thing has already happened? If a little child dies, how can we be victorious over the hells that caused that death?

And here is another key : We fight the spiritual battle as an individual, but the consequences of our victory, no matter how slight, are global. When we, as individuals, fight a spiritual battle against the hells, we help countless millions throughout this world and the spiritual world who are affected by those same hells. When we are spiritually victorious over a particular hell, we lessen the power of that hell, not just for ourselves but for everyone. When tragedy happens take for example, the untimely death of a loved one we can still fight against those very hells that caused the death. And we do this by continuing on our personal spiritual journey of shunning evils as sins against God, by living the Word of God, by not giving up hope. In this battle we fight for all. And when we fight, we fight for all in the Lord’s kingdom now and in future generations.

Why can’t our life be free from pain, suffering, and the anguish of temptation? Why can’t life just be easy and enjoyable?

It is interesting to ask these questions about the Lord’s life. Why couldn’t the Lord’s life, when He was on the earth, just be peaceful? Why did He have to suffer continual temptations, as the Writings say, temptations from the beginning of His life to the very end? Why did He have to begin His ministry by being tempted by the devil for forty days in the wilderness? Why did He have to suffer the awful pain and anguish of the passion on the cross? Why couldn’t His life have been one of simple peace and joy?

When we ask these questions about the Lord’s life, the answer is obvious: He didn’t come here to have a life of peace and joy; He came here with a mission to be accomplished. He came here to fight against the hells. He came to fight for generations of men, women and children, generations yet unborn. He came to fight for all of us. There was a purpose to His life, a purpose greater than Himself.

And the same is true for us. We are here for our own regeneration, and we are here for a cause (a battle, if you will) greater than ourselves. And sometimes this battle will involve pain, hardship and temptation.

What one of us would not willingly go forth in the face of danger if it meant that we could spiritually benefit the global sphere of the whole earth? (It is interesting that some passages in the Writings suggest that just one person is all that is needed to effect the conjunction between this earth and all the heavens.)

Now this doesn’t mean that our lives are going to be plagued with tragedy every moment. No, there is a lot of joy, happiness, and peace in life. Jesus says that our yoke is easy and our burden is light. But we do need to keep in mind why we are here. We need to have more of a “war-time” mentality than a “peace-time” mentality on the spiritual level. And if we see why we are here, we can know why there is often a lot of pain and suffering in our lives and with those around us. A spiritual battleground is not a very peaceful place. If anything, the Lord gives us an oasis from the battle from time to time, time off from the battle, but the battle is our main purpose in life. In this context, it is useful to think of some of the teachings in the Writings about spiritual temptation.

First of all, we are told that a spiritual temptation is said to be an attack by the hells on some good love that we have. If you have some new, good love in your life, expect it to be attacked by the hells. And if you say to yourself, “Why, every time I have some new love in my heart, it is challenged,” you are not seeing the purpose of why you are here. There is a battle going; expect spiritual temptations.

Another teaching of the Writings: Are our temptations going to get easier or more difficult as we get older? The answer: they are probably going to get more severe. And if your reasoning is, “You mean I am going to have to fight greater battles as I get older? How can this be fair? Why fight now?” If that is your response, then you have missed the point of why you are here. There is a battle going on. You are called to be a spiritual soldier. As you grow stronger, more experienced, the Lord will give you greater challenges, greater battles to fight, because strong experienced soldiers are needed in some of the battles. The Lord is preparing you for great things.

Still another teaching: Spiritual temptations cause utmost despair and anguish. There is no such thing as an easy spiritual temptation. Sometimes you feel that you are going to “lose it” during a spiritual temptation. And again, if the response of your mind is, “Why do I have to have really bad temptations? Why can’t they be easy?” then you have missed the point of why you are here.

When Jesus began His ministry, He was baptized of John in the Jordan River. And then He went into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil for forty days. He hungered. He hungered so much that He was tempted by the devil to make bread out of the stones. And His hunger was deep within Him. He hungered for the salvation of the whole human race.

The devil took Him up to the pinnacle of the temple, and asked Him to throw Himself down. He was tempted to doubt His own power to save the human race.

And finally, the devil took Him up to a great and high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. All this would be given to Him if He would just bow down and worship the devil.

And after all these temptations, it says that the devil left Him “for a time.” The temptations were to continue. They were to continue even to the passion of the cross. And by His victory over temptation, our redemption was effected.

Let us use His victory as strength in our lives so that we may face the challenges that lie before us with courage and strength. Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 91; Luke 4:1-15; AC 6829, 1690

Arcana Coelestia 6829

When a person is in temptation, he is beset round about by falsities and evils which impede the influx of light from the Divine, that is, the influx of truth and good, and then the person is as it were in darkness. Darkness in the other life is nothing else than this besetment by falsities, for these take away the light from the man who is in temptation, and thus the perception of consolation by truths. But when the person emerges from temptation, then the light appears with its spiritual heat, that is, truth with its good, and from this he has gladness after anxiety. This is the morning which in the other life follows the night.

Arcana Coelestia 1690:3

All temptation is an assault upon the love in which the person is, and the temptation is in the same degree as is the love. If the love is not assaulted, there is no temptation. To destroy anyone’s love is to destroy his very life; for the love is the life. The Lord’s life was love toward the whole human race, and was indeed so great, and of such a quality, as to be nothing but pure love. Against this, His life, continual temptations were admitted, as before said, from His earliest childhood to His last hour in the world. The love which was the Lord’s veriest life is signified by His “hungering,” and by the devil’s saying, “If Thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread,” and by Jesus answering that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:5-8; Matt. 4:2-4).

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

It is said in John, that the Lord “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and in Luke, that He baptized “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” In the internal sense, to baptize signifies to regenerate; to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, is to regenerate by the good of love,—fire, is the good of love.. (AC n. 9229)

THE HOLY SUPPER

General Doctrine

In order that every one who repents should look to the Lord alone, the Holy Supper was instituted by Him, which to those who repent confirms the remission of sins. It confirms; because in that supper or communion every one is kept looking to the Lord only. (DP n. 122)

Baptism is introduction into the church; but the Holy Supper is an introduction into heaven. These two Sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper, are as two gates to eternal life. By baptism, which is the first gate, every Christian man is intromitted and introduced into those things which the church teaches from the Word concerning another life; all which are means whereby a man may be prepared for and led to heaven. The second gate is the Holy Supper; through this every man who has suffered himself to be prepared and led by the Lord, is intromitted and introduced into heaven. (TCR n. 721)

The Holy Supper was instituted by the Lord that by means of it there may be a conjunction of the church with heaven, and so with the Lord; it is therefore the most holy thing of worship.

But how conjunction is effected by it, is not apprehended by those who do not know anything of the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; for they do not think beyond the external sense, which is the sense of the letter. From the internal or spiritual sense of the Word it is known what is signified by the body, and blood, and what by the bread and wine, also what is signified by eating.

In that sense, the body or flesh of the Lord is the good of love, as is the bread likewise; and the blood of the Lord is the good of faith, as also is the wine; and eating is appropriation, and conjunction. The angels who are attendant on man when he receives the Sacrament of the Supper understand these things no otherwise; for they perceive all things spiritually. Hence it is that with man the holiness of love and the holiness of faith then flow in from the Lord. From this is conjunction.

From these considerations it is evident that when a man takes the bread, which is the body, he is conjoined to the Lord by means of the good of love to Him from Him; and when he takes the wine, which is the blood, he is conjoined to the Lord by means of the good of faith in Him from Him. But it should be known that conjunction with the Lord by means of the Sacrament of the Supper is effected only with those who are in the good of love and faith in the Lord from the Lord. With these there is conjunction by means of the Holy Supper; with others there is presence, but not conjunction.

Moreover, the Holy Supper includes and comprehends all the Divine worship instituted in the Israelitish church; for the burnt-offerings and sacrifices, in which the worship of that church principally consisted, were called in one word bread; hence also the Holy Supper is its complement. (HD n. 210-214)

They come to the Holy Supper worthily who are in faith in the Lord, and in charity towards the neighbour, thus who are regenerate. (TCR n. 722)

[Every one is regenerated by abstaining from the evils of sin. TCR n. 510. The state of regeneration begins when a man determines to shun evil and do good. ibid. n. 587.]

To those who come to it worthily the Holy Supper is as a signing and sealing that they are children of God; because the Lord is then present, and introduces those who are born of Him, that is who are regenerate, into heaven. The Holy Supper effects this because the Lord is then present even as to His Human; for it was shown above that in the Holy Supper the Lord is wholly present, and also the whole of His redemption; for He says of the bread “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood.” Consequently He then admits them into His body; and the church and heaven constitute His body. The Lord is indeed present whenever man is being regenerated, and by His Divine operation prepares him for heaven; but that He may actually enter, a man must actually present himself to the Lord. And because the Lord actually presents Himself to man, a man must actually receive Him,—and not as He hung upon the cross, but as He is, in His glorified Human in which He is present. The body of this is Divine Good, and the blood is Divine Truth. These are given to man, and by them man is regenerated, and is in the Lord and the Lord in him; for, as was shown above, the eating which takes place in the Holy Supper is spiritual eating. From all this, rightly apprehended, it is plain that the Holy Supper is as a signing and sealing that they who worthily approach it are children of God. (ibid. n. 728)

Conjunction with the Lord by means of the Holy Supper may be illustrated by the conjunction of the families descended from one father. From him descend brethren, and relations in succession by marriage and by blood; and they all derive something from the first stock. They do not, however, thus derive flesh and blood; but from flesh and blood they thus derive the soul and hence inclination to similar things, whereby they are conjoined. The very conjunction indeed commonly appears in their faces, and also in their manners; and they are therefore called one flesh (Gen. xxix. 14; xxxvii. 27; 2 Sam. v. 1; xix. 12, 13; et al). It is similar in respect to conjunction with the Lord, who is the Father of all the faithful and blessed. Conjunction with Him is effected by love and faith, on account of which two they are called one flesh. Hence it is that He said:—”He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him” (John vi. 56). Who does not see that the bread and wine do not effect this, but the good of love which is meant by bread, and the truth of faith which is meant by wine, which are the Lord’s own, and proceed and are communicated from Him alone? In truth all conjunction is effected by love; and love is not love without confidence. Those who believe that the bread is flesh and the wine blood, and are not able farther to elevate their thought, may remain in this belief; but ought not to think otherwise than that there is a something most holy [in the Sacrament], that is conjunctive with the Lord, which is attributed and appropriated to man as his although it continually remains the Lord’s. (ibid. n. 727)