The State of a Vastated Church

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

 Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Scarcely anyone knows how the case is with the rejection of an old church and the adoption of a new church. He who does not know man’s interiors and their states, and consequently man’s states after death, cannot but infer that those who are of the old church, and in whom good and truth have been laid waste, that is, are no longer at heart acknowledged, are to perish, either as the antediluvians perished by the flood, or as did the Jews by expulsion from their land, or in some other way. But when the church has been laid waste, that is, when it is no longer in any good of faith, it perishes chiefly in respect to the states of its interiors, thus in respect to its states in the other life. Heaven then removes itself away from them – and consequently the Lord – and transfers itself to others, who are adopted in their stead; for without a church somewhere on the earth there is no communication of heaven with man; for the church is like the heart and lungs of the Grand Man on the earth.

They who are then of the old church, and thus are removed from heaven, are in a kind of *inundation as to their interiors, and in fact in an inundation over the head. This inundation the man himself does not observe while he lives in the body, but he comes into it after death. In the other life this inundation plainly appears like a thick cloud by which they are encompassed and separated from heaven. The state of those who are in this thick cloud is that they cannot possibly see what the truth of faith is, and still less what is its good; for the light of heaven, in which is intelligence and wisdom, cannot penetrate into this cloud. This is the state of a vastated church.

(Arcana Coelestia 4423)

[*inundate – to cover with a flood]

May 19, 2010
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The Bread of Life

 

A Holy Supper Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, Sept. 20th, 2009

I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world (John 6:51)

It is impossible to correctly gauge how important bread in all its various forms is to the life of mankind. Throughout the world, and throughout the history of man, bread, whether simple or fancy, humble loaves or elegant cakes, is seen as a symbol of life. If we cannot get bread in some form, we cannot live in this world. In Biblical times it was even more important than it is to us today because there were fewer alternative sources of nourishment.

When we consider the importance of bread to the people of Biblical times, we can have a better understanding of the discussion the Lord was having with the Jews as it is recorded in the Gospel of John. They were discussing how one was to do the works of God, that is, how one might earn eternal life. Jesus told them that they should believe in Him, as He had been sent by God, but they wanted a sign. They said that it had been easy for their ancestors to know what to do, because Jehovah had sent such powerful signs, like manna, or bread from heaven. They told Jesus that if God would give them such a sign as their ancestors had seen, they could believe too—but they hadn’t seen any signs yet.

Jesus then told them that they had seen the sign: Moses had given them natural bread (manna), but God was giving the true bread which was from heaven, and gives eternal life. Of course, they wanted to have this bread, and He told them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:35). But the Jews could not accept such an idea, and they murmured against Him for saying things which they considered to be blasphemous.

Their attitudes and beliefs were rooted in the appearances of the natural world, and they were unable to lift themselves up to see the Lord as He truly was. They were unable to understand that Jesus truly was the “bread of life” because He was the source of all good.

The irony of it is that the very sacrifices and rituals which they were trying to protect from the “blasphemous” ideas of Jesus Christ in fact, in the internal sense which was invisible to them because of their natural state, signified nothing else than that He was the “bread of life” for all men.

Unlike those who are unable to lift their understanding above the forms of rituals and sacrifices, we are gifted with the means to see within, to understand the purpose behind the things that God commands us to do. The internal sense of the Word makes it possible for us to understand the stories of scripture in the light of heaven, to have a glimpse of what the angels themselves understand when they read the Word.

Bread signifies the Lord and everything holy which is from Him, because everything celestial and spiritual, that is, all things that are good and true, proceed from Him alone. This is one of the reasons why He commanded that bread be used in the Holy supper—to represent the gift of the bread of life, of all good things and genuine delights, from God to man (See AC 276).

The bread and the wine signify the Lord’s love towards the whole human race, and the things which are the gifts of His love. When a person comes to the Holy Supper table knowing these things, and receives the bread and the wine in humility and gratitude, then a reciprocal conjunction between God and that person is established, and the person thereafter feels a renewal of faith, and the joy that comes from freely choosing to do what is known to be right from the Word (See AC 1798:5, 2165:4, 4217).

When the Lord established the Holy Supper, as He broke the bread and gave it to His disciples, He referred to it as His “flesh.” He was, of course, speaking representatively, for “flesh” represents the proprium of the Divine Human—that part of the Lord that He made His own through choices in the natural world. Because His choices were from the Divine Love Itself, the things that He acquired in His proprium were all good, and therefore His “flesh” or proprium represents the Divine good. And this is called the “body” in the Holy Supper. Because eating has to do with taking things from outside of self and incorporating them into our own body, eating signifies communication, conjunction, and appropriation of truth and good from the Lord into each of our minds and spirits. (See AC 3813)

When we talk about good and truth, many feel that these are just words, terms that we use frequently but perhaps do not understand well. They can seem so “spiritual” and elevated that we seem to close our minds at the sound of them. But we must remember that it is the spiritual world that is real, and this world of nature that is the temporary appearance. Spiritual bread is the very food of the angels! They could not live without it any more than we can live without natural food. And since we are also spirits as to our interiors, the celestial and spiritual things from the Lord are not inconsequential tidbits to pick up when convenient, or when there is nothing better to do, they are the very nourishment of our souls! We must have spiritual food to keep our spiritual bodies healthy, and the only source of that food is the Lord through His Word. (See AC 276)

We have established that eating the bread of the Holy Supper, like making sacrifices in the Jewish church, signifies communication of good and truth from God to man. One final point needs to be made, and that is that this communication and conjunction is not with the Supreme Divine Itself, but rather with the Divine Human. We cannot communicate with cosmic forces, we as humans can only communicate effectively with other humans. That is why, when approaching the Holy Supper, it is important that we think about Jesus Christ as the head of the Church. It is important that before the receiving the Holy Supper we read the words from the Gospels that remind us that when God was a Man upon the earth, He Himself established this sacrament as a real correspondence of His gift of life itself to us. (AC 4211:2)

The Holy Supper took the place of sacrifices and the feasts upon what was sanctified and is an external act of the church in which there is an internal. This outward symbol was commanded by the Lord because most humans are in external worship, and therefore unless there could be some external act that contained something of eternal spiritual value within it, there would be scarcely anything holy with them. (AC 2165:5)

By the internal things hidden within it, the Holy Supper is an external act that can conjoin the person who is in love and charity with heaven, and once conjoined with heaven, he can then be conjoined with the Lord.

The external act of receiving the bread inspires a response in a person by turning his thoughts to heaven and his own eternal life, he can come into a holy state, for he no longer thinks of bread, but of the Lord and His mercy, and of what is of love to Him and of charity toward the neighbor, because he also thinks of repentance and the amendment of his own life.

Of course, this does not happen the same way with everyone, but varies according to the state of holiness which each person is in, to each according to their thought, affection, and life, and according to their understanding and belief in the Divinity of the Divine Human, for to receive the Glorified Divine Human into your life is to receive the bread of life.

Then Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:32, 33). AMEN.

First Lesson: Exo 16:1-12

And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. {2} Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. {3} And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” {4} Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. {5} “And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” {6} Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt. {7} “And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?” {8} Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD.” {9} Then Moses spoke to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your complaints.'” {10} Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. {11} And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, {12} “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'” Amen.

Second Lesson: John 6:41-51

The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” {42} And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” {43} Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. {44} “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. {46} “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. {47} “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. {48} “I am the bread of life. {49} “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. {50} “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. {51} “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” Amen.

Third Lesson: AC 4211

Since ‘bread’ in the highest sense means the Lord it therefore means everything holy which comes from Him, that is, it means everything good and true. And since no other good exists which is good except the good of love and charity, ‘bread’ therefore means love and charity. Sacrifices in former times had no other meaning, and for that reason were referred to by the single word ‘bread’, see 2165. And some of the flesh of the sacrifices was eaten so that the heavenly feast – that is, a joining together through good flowing from love and charity – might be represented. The same is meant today by the Holy Supper, for this has replaced sacrifices and feasts of consecrated things. The Holy Supper is in the Church an external practice that has an internal reality within it, and by means of this reality it joins one who is governed by love and charity to heaven, and by means of heaven to the Lord. For in the Holy Supper too ‘eating’ means making one’s own – ‘the bread’ being celestial love and ‘the wine’ spiritual love – so much so that while it is being eaten by one in a state of holiness nothing else is perceived in heaven. Amen.

 

ISAIAH NAKED AND BAREFOOT

ISAIAH NAKED AND BAREFOOT

A Sermon by Rev. Martin PrykePreached in Bryn Athyn on May 3, 1987

“At the same time spake the Lord by Isaiah the son of Amos, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot” (Isaiah 20:2).

The prophet Isaiah served in the kingdom of Judah in the eighth century B.C — a time when the northern kingdom, Israel, had been taken captive by the Assyrians to be settled among the people in the north. This left Judah alone, directly on the path between the two great powers: Assyria in the north and Egypt in the south. Their position was an impossible one, for they were not themselves powerful enough to face either of these nations and yet stood between them as each sought to attack the other. Their only hope was to play off Egypt against Assyria and Assyria against Egypt. At the time of the prophecy of our text, the greatest danger was from Assyria in the north, and it was Judah’s great hope that Egypt would protect them, if only for their own sake.

Assyria sent a force to attack the Philistinian city of Ashdod, stretching themselves along the coastal route toward Egypt. This was close indeed to Judah, and they dreaded the consequences, looking desperately to Egypt and Ethiopia to come to their aid. It was Isaiah’s lot to show them that this hope was not to be fulfilled, that Assyria would, in this instance, conquer. “The king of Assyria [shall] lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt” (Isaiah 20:4).

It is interesting to note that in this case, as in other cases, Isaiah was commanded not only to speak words of prophecy but also to enact them — to declare them before the people in a dramatic form. It was not enough for him to say that the king of Assyria would take the Egyptians and Ethiopians away captive, naked and barefoot, but he was to demonstrate the prophecy by himself loosing the sackcloth from his loins and putting off the shoes from his feet, to go naked and barefoot for three years. This form of instruction by dramatic presentations was used on occasion by other prophets. These were a living revelation to the people who beheld them, and they must have been a powerful means of instruction to those who recognized that they were not the peculiarities of eccentric individuals, but were deliberate acts of revelation, messages from God.

We are shown in the Writings that the Lord, while in the world, who called Himself a prophet and was indeed the greatest of all prophets, similarly taught by act or example. We know that He suffered Himself to be abused, even to scourging and crucifixion, so that He might teach the people, for then and for all times. In these things was represented the treatment of the Word by the Jews (see Lord 15) and in them was portrayed the attack of all evil against the Divine Truth of the Word and against the Divine Himself. We wonder why it was necessary that the Lord undergo such sufferings. The answer is that it was essential that mankind see in the clearest, the most ultimate, the most unanswerable, manner possible the nature of the hells. During His whole life the hells attacked the Lord, seeking to frustrate His work of redemption. This attack was ultimated at the end in the days of the betrayal, trial and crucifixion; and this was done so that there might be no doubt concerning the state of the church which was then at its end, not any doubt concerning the nature of evil which does indeed inmostly seek the destruction of the Lord Himself.

Because of these things it is said that the Lord bore our iniquities, and this is certainly true, for He did suffer at the hands of the evil of mankind, and He was attacked by the hells even to the cruel physical attacks of the passion. He bore out iniquities indeed! But this term has been given a false meaning by those who believed that Christ the Son has atoned for the sin of all believers. To such the reference to the Lord bearing our sins, which we read in our lesson (Isaiah 53), means that He has accepted the punishment for the sins which believers now commit, and that by this vicarious atonement (or indirect satisfaction of the penalty), we are saved from the consequences of our evil loves and need pay no price.

In the same way the words “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) have been given an incorrect interpretation, when the truth meant by this expression is that the Lord has set us free from the power of the hells, having redeemed us by His victories over them. No sin is actually taken away from a man until, truly repenting, he shuns it as a sin against God. Then alone can the Lord remove it and insinuate a new love of good.

The prophecy of this part of Isaiah foretells not simply the worldly devastation of Judah and the conflicts of the surrounding nations, but also the vastation of the church, showing the states through which all churches go at the time of their decline. The spiritual sense given in the Writings is especially applied to the closing states of the Christian Church, but these states are likewise individual, and so they are the states of all men in whom the church dies.

In the twentieth chapter, with which we are now concerned, the matter dealt with is the state of truth at such a time, and it treats of those who make a false religion for themselves by perverting the teaching of the Word. This is evident in the fact that Isaiah himself enacted the prophecy — for a prophet represents the doctrine of the church. He is the Lord’s teacher of men, and so signifies all teaching or doctrine. That the prophet was to go naked for three years represented that in this state of spiritual decline there is an absence of any genuine truth, for there is no longer any love of good, which is the very life of truth. By this we mean that truths are meaningless and are ineffective with us unless we love good — for it is the love of good which makes it possible really to see truth and to put it to use. Without this love of good we are, in effect, stripped of genuine truth.

Garments signify truths — as garments clothe the body, so truths clothe good. Nakedness is, then, an absence of such truth, which reveals the filthy loves of the degenerate man. Here it is not the innocent nakedness of the celestial whose minds are centered in good rather than truth. We can understand this nature of the nakedness of fallen man when we think about how the perverse reasonings, the self-justifications and twistings of the Word which an evil man uses reflect and show the nature of his evil loves. These do not usually appear to the world, for he hides them to protect his reputation and his worldly welfare; but within his own heart and in the secret places of his own meditation these things are clear, and are recognizable to the man if he is willing to see them.

These false reasonings are indeed our downfall, for as long as a man recognizes and does not justify his evils, there is hope of his redemption; but once he denies their nature and confirms them as being allowable, his way is set toward hell, and repentance becomes increasingly difficult. Such false reasonings are represented by Assyria, the enemy of Judah which is the church.

Assyria is the perverted rational which favors the delights of the natural loves by denying God and attributing all things to nature. The natural loves of man favor such an idea because an acknowledgment of God carries with it human responsibilities which involve the subjugation of the natural man to spiritual principles. But “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no god,” (Psalm 14:1) and by ascribing all things to nature, he relieves himself of the responsibility of conforming to a law higher than himself and so he sets himself free to follow a life which is directed only by his own intelligence, and to himself and his own loves.

Such false reasoning holds all other thought captive, just as the king of Assyria led “away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot.” The Egyptians are the scientifics which a man receives through his bodily senses. They are the facts of sensual experience, and include, let it be noted, the scientifics of the Word, which are the superficial knowledges of it stored in man’s memory. The Ethiopians, on the other hand, are the fallacies of the senses (see AE 240:3), which are the appearances of truth into which we are first introduced. These two — scientifics and fallacies of the senses become completely subservient to a perverted rational, which twists them and turns them to its own ends.

False reasonings will destroy those things represented by Egypt and Ethiopia. Their state in such captivity is indeed a state of nakedness, for no genuine truth is left with them. That this was to happen to the young and the old (or boys and old men) signifies that all innocence and wisdom perish as a consequence (see AE 532:3), and consideration will show how this is the case. The innocence of childhood is provided in order that it may remain with a man (even if deeply hidden) as states of affection for what is good and true, and so serve as a basis for regeneration, but if a man deliberately falsifies all that is good and true, these states of innocence will perish in him. Equally the wisdom of old age into which all regenerate men will come (a state of union between good and truth, love and wisdom) cannot be entered into. The young and old will go naked and barefoot.

That we remain clothed in truth should be our constant prayer and endeavor, for by it we are protected from the cruelty of a winter world about us. Yet we will not have such protective clothing unless we seek it in the Word, but, more than that, unless once received, it is preserved in its integrity. No truth must be twisted and distorted for the sake of our own selfish ends. It is not to be tampered with or treated lightly. It is a precious gift to be kept as the unhewn rock of God against which we fear to raise up our graving tool lest what is from us shall destroy what is from the Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 20:1-6, 53:1-9, Doctrine of the Lord 15 and 17 (parts)


Doctrine of the Lord

15. (parts) Some persons within the church believe that by the passion of the cross the Lord took away sins and made satisfaction to the Father, and so effected redemption; and some, that He transferred to Himself, bore, and cast into the depths of the sea (that is, into hell) the sins of those who have faith in Him. They confirm themselves in these notions by the words of John concerning Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29); and by the Lord’s words in Isaiah: “He hath borne our diseases and carried our sorrows: He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His wound has health been given us…” Both these passages speak of the Lord’s temptations and passion; and by His taking away sins and diseases, and by the iniquities of all being made to fall on Him, is meant the like as by His bearing sorrows and iniquities.

Therefore it shall first be stated what is meant by bearing iniquities, and afterwards what by taking them away. To bear iniquities means to endure grievous temptations; and also to suffer the Jews to treat Him as they had treated the Word, which they did because He was the Word. For the church as it then existed among the Jews was utterly devastated, and it was devastated by their having perverted all things of the Word so that there was not any truth remaining; and therefore they did not acknowledge the Lord. This was meant and signified by all things of the Lord’s passion. The prophets were treated in a similar way because they represented the Lord in respect to the Word, and derivatively in respect to the church, and the Lord was the Prophet.

17. Something shall now be said of what is meant by taking away sins. To take away sins means the same as to redeem man and to save him; for the Lord came into the world to render salvation possible to man. Without His advent no mortal could have been reformed and regenerated, and so saved. But this became possible after the Lord had deprived the devil (that is, hell) of all his power and had glorified His Human, – that is, had united it to the Divine of His Father. If these things had not been done, no man would have been capable of permanently receiving any Divine truth, still less any Divine good; for the devil, whose power was previously the stronger, would have plucked it out of his heart.

From what has been said it is evident that the Lord did not take away sins by the passion of the cross, but that He takes them away, that is, removes them, in those who believe in Him by living according to His commandments, as He also teaches in Matthew: “Think not that I am come to loosen the law and the prophets. Whosoever shall loosen the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens” (5:17, 19).

Who cannot see from reason alone, provided he is in some enlightenment, that sins cannot be taken away from a man except by actual repentance, which consists in his seeing his sins, imploring the Lord’s help, and desisting from them? To see, believe and teach otherwise is not from the Word nor from sound reason, but from cupidity and a depraved will, which are proper to man, and from this comes the debasement of his intelligence.

THE LORD’S SECOND COMING AS THE WORD

THE LORD’S SECOND COMING AS THE WORD
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida January 31, 1993

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-14).

There are in the New Testament two markedly different sets of prophecies of the Lord’s second advent. In Matthew, Luke and Revelation, it is prophesied that the Son of Man will appear in the clouds of heaven. For example, we read in Matthew: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other … Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled” (Matt. 24:29-31, 34). This and similar prophecies have been understood to mean that when the Lord makes His second coming, the visible earth will be destroyed or, at the very least, suffer terrible calamities. Then the Lord will appear visibly, to the natural eyes, in the clouds.

But there are other prophecies, notably in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the gospel of John. These teach that the Lord’s Second Advent will be in a new revelation of Divine truth. So we have apparently contradictory prophecies.

A careful examination of the prophecies of the Second Advent, and a thoughtful analysis of how the Lord fulfilled the prophecies of the First Advent, and why the Jews rejected their Messiah, will be of great benefit to those who are still waiting for the Second Advent. Although the Lord comes as He prophesies in the Word, still He may not come as people expect Him to. He tells us: “Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming … Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matt. 24:42,44).

Most Jews, and especially the leaders, were familiar with the prophecies of the Lord’s First Advent. Indeed, many of them had detailed knowledge of them yet few received Him, despite the fact that the Lord fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets. Was He not born in Bethlehem, of the house of David? Was He not born of a virgin? Did not John the Baptist go before Him to prepare the way? Was He not called up out of Egypt? Was He not despised and rejected of men, and hated without cause? Did He not ride as a king into Jerusalem? Was He not led as a lamb to the slaughter and opened not His mouth?

Anyone who studies the life of the Lord and compares it without prejudice to the Old Testament prophecies can see that the Lord actually became the Word made flesh. When the mind is affirmative to this concept, the more one studies the Scriptures, the more obvious this becomes. But this is not the only evidence that exists to support belief in the Lord’s First Advent. The Lord did not leave people to infer that He was the promised Messiah. He openly stated it a number of times.

In reply to the woman of Samaria, who said that she knew that when the Messiah came, He would tell all things, He said: “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26). When He was teaching in Nazareth, He said, after reading from the prophets concerning the advent: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). He identified Himself to the scribes and Pharisees as the infinite and eternal God, saying: “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58). And He said to His disciples: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”(John 14:9).

It is a characteristic of all Divine revelation that it does not compel belief. It offers convincing confirmation of its authenticity to all who humbly and affirmatively seek, but it does not compel belief, lest people profane that which they have acknowledged as true. Therefore, the Jews were free to accept the evidence that Christ was the promised Messiah, or to reject Him.

Because the Jews of that day were so steeped in externalism, they refused to lift up their minds to see the internal fulfillment of the Scripture. They accused the Lord of destroying the Law and the Prophets, but He said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). And He taught them saying: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt 5:21, 22). He did not negate the commandment against murder, but gave them a deeper concept of the commandment. He showed that it is not only evil acts that we must shun, but evil thoughts and intentions.

Any Jew who was willing could have seen that this teaching did not destroy the Law, but rather made it more full by revealing some of its deeper implications. Indeed, many of them did see this. But the majority of them, blinded by the natural loves of national ambition or personal power, or their own preconceived ideas of how the Messiah would come, rejected Him. For a brief time on Palm Sunday, when the Lord entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, He was hailed by the throng as the promised Messiah. But when they found that His kingdom was not of this world, that He had not come to release them from the Roman yoke but from the bondage of hell, they cried out: “Crucify Him!”

The knowledge of how the prophecies of the Lord’s First Advent were fulfilled can be very useful to those who are sincerely looking and waiting for the Second Advent. On examining these prophecies one thing becomes apparent. Some prophecies were literally fulfilled while others were fulfilled spiritually. For example, it was prophesied that: “He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion the Law shall go forth, the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2). This prophecy was literally fulfilled. The Lord did teach people His ways, and His Word went out from Jerusalem. It is recorded that they were astonished at His doctrine because He taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.

But it was also prophesied: “Behold, He is coming … Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the Lord, as in days of old, as in former years” (Malachi 3:1, 4). “At that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17). These prophecies were not literally fulfilled. When the Lord was on earth He told them that their offerings were not acceptable to Him, nor were all nations gathered to Jerusalem when He was on earth. These prophecies, which appealed to the external nature and ambitions of the Jews, were fulfilled not literally but spiritually. The worship of love and faith represented by the meat offering was pleasing to the Lord, and also all those who were in truth, represented by the nations, were gathered to the church which the Lord established, represented by Jerusalem.

In connection with the fulfillment of prophecy, it is of interest to note that three particular prophecies of the Lord’s First Advent in the Old Testament were not literally fulfilled. In Joel we read: “The sun and moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (2:10). And in Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven … to Him was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom” (7:13, 14). And in Isaiah: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (65:17).

These prophecies are almost identical to prophecies in the New Testament which refer to the Second Advent. We read in Matthew: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven … and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:29, 30). And in Revelation: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1).

The question arises: If these prophecies were not literally fulfilled at the time of the First Advent, can we reasonably expect them to be literally fulfilled at the time of the Second Advent? Are not these among the prophecies which were spiritually fulfilled? It should be noted that the prophecy in Matthew ends with these words: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled” (24:34). It is a matter of history that these things did not, in fact, happen before the passing of that generation. This is a plain indication that the prophecy has a deeper meaning a spiritual fulfillment.

The spiritual meaning of this prophecy is expounded in the Writings. There we are told that these words must be understood spiritually, not naturally. The sun being darkened means that at the consummation of the age the end of the church love to the Lord will be obliterated. The moon being darkened means that faith in Him will perish. The stars falling from heaven means that knowledges from the Word concerning the Lord will fall from the higher regions of the mind and be debased. The Son of Man appearing in the clouds of heaven means His new appearance in the Word the clouds referring to its literal sense, and the glory to its spiritual sense (see HH 1).

When we examine and reflect on these prophecies in this light we see that they were spiritually fulfilled. When the Lord came into the world, had not love to Him and faith in Him perished, and had not the knowledges concerning Him from the Word been debased? Jesus said: “You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your traditions” (Matt. 15:6). The stars had fallen from heaven.

Is this not true of today? Once again, in accord with the prophecy, love to the Lord and faith in Him have been blotted out, and knowledge of Him from the Word has been debased. We must therefore look for the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, that is, the inner meaning of the Word, its glory, to be revealed shining forth from the Word as the clouds of the literal sense are dispersed.

The Lord prophesied to His disciples that He would come as the Spirit of Truth. He said: “I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive … I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18). Here He identified Himself as the Spirit of Truth, or Spiritual Truth.

Those who look for an external coming of the Lord like the Jews who looked for an earthly king will look in vain. The Word had already been made flesh. To repeat this miracle would be useless. The Lord while on earth glorified His Human for all time. What was, and is, needed is a deeper understanding of what was involved in the First Advent, and of the meaning of the Scriptures. The Lord, knowing this, said: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-14).

This prophecy is literally fulfilled by the Lord in His Second Advent, as a new revelation of spiritual-rational truth. In the Writings of the Second Advent we are taught plainly of the Father. We are told of things to come the spiritual world, where people come after their departure from this world, is described in considerable detail. They do not speak of the human agency through which they were given, Emanuel Swedenborg, but they testify to the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the words: “When the Comforter comes … the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). They glorify the Lord. The doctrine of how the Lord glorified His human while on earth is fully explained to the rational understanding. The truth concerning the Lord is no longer given in proverbs, but we are told plainly of the Father (John 16:25). All things concerning the Lord are now brought to our remembrance in clear light.

The rational truths of the Second Advent could not have been given to the disciples, or to the primitive Christian Church. They were beyond their comprehension they could not bear them then. How could those people, who could not understand even the elementary laws of nature and of the human body, comprehend the laws of the spiritual world and of the human mind or spirit? Just as every person must progress from an understanding of simple external things to complex and more interior things, so did the human race.

The Lord had these things to reveal, but they could not, at that time, receive them, according to His Words: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

Although the Writings fulfill all the prophecies of the Second Advent, we are not left to come to this conclusion of ourselves. Just as the Lord openly declared who He was when He came to earth the first time in the flesh, so does He now the second time, when He has come as the Spirit of Truth. He declares in one of the books of the New Word: “This immediate revelation is the advent of the Lord” (Athanasian Creed). Also on two volumes were written: “This book is the advent of the Lord, written by command” (autographed by Swedenborg on the flyleaf of Summary Exposition).

Now is fulfilled the Lord’s promise: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you … At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:18, 20). Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 24:29-42; John 16:1-15, 25; TCR 777, 779

True Christian Religion 777, 779

777. That the Lord is the Word can be clearly seen from the following in John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. And the Word was made flesh” (John 1:1, 4). “The Word” means here Divine truth because Divine truth among Christians is from no other source than the Word, which is the fountain from which all churches bearing the name of Christ draw living waters in their fullness; and yet a church accepting the Word in its natural sense is, as it were, in a cloud, but one accepting it in its spiritual and celestial senses is in glory and power. That there are three senses in the Word, a natural, a spiritual, and a celestial, one within the other, has been shown in the chapter on the Sacred Scripture, and in the chapter on the Decalogue or Catechism. From all this it is clear that “the Word” in John means Divine truth. John also bears testimony to this in his first Epistle: “We know that the Son of God hath come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ” (v. 20). This is why the Lord so frequently said, “Verily I say unto you,” verily [amen] in the Hebrew language meaning truth. (That He is “the Amen” see Rev. 3:14, and “the Truth,” John 14:6.) Moreover, when the learned men of the present day are asked what they understand by “the Word” in John 1:1, they say that it means the Word in its pre-eminence; yet what is the Word in its pre-eminence but Divine truth? From all this it is evident that the Lord is now to appear in the Word. He is not to appear in Person, because since He ascended into heaven He is in His glorified Human, and in this He cannot appear to any man unless the eyes of his spirit are first opened; and this cannot be done in anyone who is in evils and consequent falsities, thus not in any of the goats whom He sets on His left hand. Therefore, when He showed Himself to His disciples, He first opened their eyes, for it is written: “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him and He vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31). The same took place with the women who were at the sepulchre after the resurrection, and in consequence they also saw angels sitting in the sepulchre and talking with them, and angels cannot be seen with the material eye. Neither did the apostles before the resurrection see the Lord in His glorified Human with their bodily eyes, but in spirit, which seems, after one is awakened from it, like the state of sleep. This is evident from the Lord’s transfiguration before Peter, James, and John, for it is said that they were heavy with sleep (Luke 9:32). It is idle, therefore, to believe that the Lord will appear in the clouds of heaven in Person; but He is to appear in the Word, which is from Him and therefore is Himself.

779. VIII. THIS SECOND COMING OF THE LORD IS EFFECTED BY MEANS OF A MAN TO WHOM THE LORD HAS MANIFESTED HIMSELF IN PERSON, AND WHOM HE HAS FILLED WITH HIS SPIRIT, THAT HE MAY TEACH THE DOCTRINES OF THE NEW CHURCH FROM THE LORD BY MEANS OF THE WORD.

Since the Lord cannot manifest Himself in Person, as shown just above, and nevertheless has foretold that He was to come and establish a new church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will do this by means of a man, who is able not only to receive these doctrines in his understanding but also to publish them by the press. That the Lord manifested Himself before me, His servant, and sent me to this office, that He afterward opened the eyes of my spirit and thus introduced me into the spiritual world and granted me to see the heavens and the hells, and to talk with angels and spirits, and this now continuously for several years, I affirm in truth; as also that from the first day of that call I have not received anything whatever pertaining to the doctrines of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I have read the Word.

THINKING SPIRITUALLY

THINKING SPIRITUALLY
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida February 9, 1992

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

The Lord claimed to be the promised Messiah. The leaders of the Jews the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees disputed His claim. We would note that those who denied His claim and rejected Him based their case on an erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures. They claimed repeatedly that His teaching was contrary to the law given through Moses. Time and again the Lord showed them that His doctrine was not contrary to the law, but its fulfillment gave it deeper meaning a spiritual meaning to the law. But because the Lord refused to be bound by the rigid, self- serving interpretations which the scribes and Pharisees placed on the law, they branded Him an imposter, and continually attempted to discredit Him.

Because their minds were so warped by their sensualism they totally failed to see the true nature of the Lord’s teaching. What were their primary concerns? Ceremonial washings, the observance of feast days and sacrificial offerings. They were utterly blind to the weightier matters of the law: judgment and mercy (see Matt. 23: 23). Therefore the Lord advised them: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (text).

The Lord has revealed that everyone during infancy and childhood is sensuous. One’s thoughts during that period of development are formed solely from bodily and worldly sensations entering through the five senses (see AC 5126:2, 5497). These physical sensations are stored up and form a physical plane in the mind called the corporeal memory, or the memory of material ideas. As the child grows up and begins to reflect on the things in this plane of the memory and forms conclusions from them, a reorganization takes place and a new plane is established called the natural memory, or the memory of immaterial ideas. If one matures and cultivates the rational faculty, he then reflects on the things in this plane of the mind and so is able to perceive the truth which is in that which has been learned (see AC 5497).

The things of sense are one thing, knowledges in the memory another, and truths another. They are formed successively, the higher from the lower. These planes of the mind are distinct in their formation and they remain distinct. A person can be thinking at one time in one plane and at another time in another (see AC 5774:2). Thought from the lowest plane is called sensual thought, from the middle plane, natural thought, and from the third plane, rational thought. There are thus three distinct degrees or types of thought: sensual, natural and rational. Every thought that we have emanates from one of these planes and derives its quality from it.

Like the Jews referred to in our text, all of us are prone to think from the lowest or sensual plane of our minds. Since it is the first plane formed it requires no effort of the will or intellect to think in this manner; it is, as it were, spontaneous. Yet if we are to perceive and understand truth we must rise above both sensual and natural thought to rational and spiritual thought.

Truth is above nature. Because it is from God, it is in its essence spiritual. In its descent from God the Divine truth is successively clothed, or finited, and in this manner creation took place. That creation took place by a successive finition of Divine truth is clear from the first chapter of John’s gospel. There God is identified with the Word, or Divine truth, and it is declared that the world is made by Him, that is, by the Word or Divine truth proceeding from Him. Thus the objects of nature are appearances of truth on the material plane. The laws of nature which govern the objects are appearances of truth on the plane of nature and are thus called natural appearances of truth.

With this in mind we can see that when we think from the two planes of the mind based on, and formed from, the realms of matter and nature, we are not thinking from truth, but from appearances of truth sensual and natural appearances of truth. Such thought tends to obscure and obliterate a perception of spiritual truth. It drags the mind down.

The Writings state: “Unless man’s thought can be elevated above sensuous things so that these are seen as below him, he cannot understand any interior thing in the Word, still less such things as are of heaven … for sensuous things absorb and suffocate them” (AC 5089:2). For this reason, we are told, those who abound in worldly learning alone have greater difficulty than the simple in understanding spiritual truths, for their minds are immersed in material concepts to such a degree that the mind cannot be elevated to perceive spiritual realities (ibid.).

To illustrate the truth of this, Swedenborg relates the following experience: “It has sometimes happened that I was earnestly thinking about worldly things, and about such things that give great concern to most persons, namely, about possessions, the acquisition of riches, about pleasures, and the like. At these times I noticed that I was sinking down into what is sensuous, and that in proportion as my thought was immersed in such things, I was removed from the company of angels. By this means it was also made plain to me that they who are deeply immersed in such cares cannot have association with those who are in the other life. For when such thoughts possess the whole of the mind, they carry the lower mind downward, and are like weights which drag it down; and when they are regarded as the end, they remove the man from heaven, to which he cannot be elevated except by means of the good of love and of faith. This was made still more manifest to me from the fact that once when I was led through the abodes of heaven, and was at the same time in a spiritual idea, it happened that I suddenly began to sink into thought about worldly things, and then all that spiritual idea was dissipated and became nothing” (AC 6210).

That reliance on, or trust in, sensual appearances obscures truth is apparent even on the natural plane. The record of history bears witness to this fact. Basing their conclusions on the evidence of the senses, people believed for centuries that the world was flat. Until very recent times matter was believed to be solid. These are appearances which, on the evidence of the senses, are very convincing. However, when the mind is elevated to the realm of causes to a consideration of immaterial ideas and the operation of laws then these appearances are seen to be fallacious, and as a hindrance to a true understanding of the natural world in which we live.

If there must be an elevation of thought in order to rightly understand the truth behind, or within, natural phenomena, how much more must this be the case if we are to understand the truth about spiritual things. For this reason the Writings continually urge us to raise our minds above the senses and think spiritually if we wish to understand spiritual truths. In the words of our text we are not to “judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment”(John 7:24). That is, we are not to think from the appearance of the senses but from revealed Divine truth, for judgment is predicated of Divine truth and the thought derived from it (see AC 9857).

We are privileged, as was no former church, with a revelation in which spiritual truths in abundance are laid open to the sight of the understanding in clear rational language. As a church and as individuals associated with that church, we have the opportunity, if we will, to think spiritually.

What do we mean by thinking spiritually? Many people associate the word “spiritual” with what is vague and incomprehensible. This is not the kind of thought which we have in mind. The Writings apply the term “spiritual” to that which is living and eternal, to that which is real and substantial though not material. To think “spiritually,” therefore, is to think from that which is real, living, substantial and eternal; that is, from Divinely revealed truth.

We would note here an important distinction one that is frequently overlooked. It is one thing to think about spiritual truth and quite another to think from it. All of us do the former when we listen to sermons or doctrinal classes and read the Lord’s Word. This is not spiritual thought. We do not wish to belittle it, for it is a very important means. The fact is, we cannot arrive at the end except through the means. We must first learn the truth before we can think from it. All too often we go no further.

Because of our hereditary nature, there is a strong tendency for us to think of religion and life as being two separate, distinct things. On Sundays, and on other occasions when we are engaged in worship, we focus our attention on spiritual matters. When this is over, we tend to recede from thought about spiritual things. In our day-to-day living we are apt to allow ourselves to a great extent to be predominantly influenced by the attitudes and thought of the world around us.

We might ask ourselves: How many of the decisions we make are arrived at after a careful consideration of Divinely revealed principles of truth? Some might suggest that this is carrying religion too far! If we think like this, then we too are thinking from worldly appearances.

All religion is of life. That is, the truths of religion are applicable to all phases of life. Indeed they were given for no other purpose than that they may be applied to our lives every aspect of our lives. In the minds of some the question may arise: “How can we be expected to know what truths or principles apply to a given situation?” The answer to this question is simple: If we seek to be enlightened by regular reading of the Lord’s Word, and avail ourselves of all the means provided by Him for our instruction, both public and private, we will learn those truths which apply directly to our lives. And if we pray to the Lord, He will enlighten us to see those truths we need to know in order to live well.

The truths revealed by the Lord in the Writings especially should be the principles from which we think about all things. As New Church people we should always be willing to examine the attitudes and opinions we hold to see if they are in agreement with the principles of truth which the Lord has revealed. And let us remember: a thing is not true or right merely because many people believe it, nor is it true and right because we have always believed it. It is true and right only if it is in agreement with what the Lord teaches. We would also note that because of our hereditary nature, we are inclined to favor those ideas which are in agreement with our own ideas, ideas which further our own selfish interests. It is therefore of great importance that we always be willing to re-examine our thoughts and attitudes.

The truths which the Lord reveals should, little by little, become the fabric of our thought. When we approach the problems of daily living, we should ask ourselves questions such as these: In what way does the thing I am considering contribute to the Lord’s end in creation? How does the doctrine of use apply to the situation under consideration? What relation has this problem to the degrees of the neighbor? Does the course of action I am considering come under the laws of Divine providence or under the laws of permission? What laws of Divine providence are applicable to the problem I am wrestling with?

If we are serious about living the life that leads to heaven we will seek to formulate our opinions, thoughts and attitudes from the truths of Divine revelation. We will cultivate the habit and practice of thinking from spiritual principles about all things. We are told that when what is spiritual reigns in a person, it affects and as it were tinges all that the person thinks, wills and does, and causes the thoughts and the actions of one’s will to partake of the spiritual, until at last these become spiritual in him (see AC 5639:2).

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3). Amen.

Lessons: I Samuel 16:1-13, John 7:14-31, DLW 248, 249

Divine Love and Wisdom 248, 249

UNLESS THE HIGHER DEGREE WHICH IS THE SPIRITUAL IS OPENED IN MAN, HE BECOMES NATURAL AND SENSUAL.

It was shown above that there are three degrees of the human mind, called natural, spiritual, and celestial, and that these degrees may be opened successively in man; also that the natural degree is first opened; afterwards, if man flees from evil as sins and looks to the Lord, the spiritual degree is opened; and lastly, the celestial. Since these degrees are opened successively according to man’s life, it follows that the two higher degrees may remain unopened, and man then continues in the natural degree, which is the outmost. Moreover, it is known in the world that there is a natural and a spiritual man, or an external and an internal man; but it is not known that a natural man becomes spiritual by the opening of some higher degree in him, and that such opening is effected by a spiritual life, which is a life conformed to the Divine precepts; and that without a life conformed to these man remains natural.

There are three kinds of natural men; the first consists of those who know nothing of the Divine precepts; the second, of those who know that there are such precepts but give no thought to a life according to them; and the third, of those who despise and deny these precepts. In respect to the first class, which consist of those who know nothing of the Divine precepts, since they cannot be taught by themselves they must needs remain natural. Every man is taught respecting the Divine precepts, not by immediate revelations but by others who know them from religion, on which subject see The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Concerning the Sacred Scriptures (n. 114-118). Those of the second class, who know that there are Divine precepts but give no thought to a life according to them, also remain natural, and care about no other concerns than those of the world and the body. These after death become mere menials and servants, according to the uses which they are able to perform for those who are spiritual; for the natural man is menial and servant, and the spiritual man is a master and lord. Those of the third class, who despise and deny the Divine precepts, not only remain natural but also become sensual in the measure of their contempt and denial. Sensual men are the lowest natural men, who are incapable of thinking above the appearances and fallacies of the bodily senses. After death they are in hell.

GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND

GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 28, 1991

“Then they reviled him, and said: `You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes'” (John 9:28-30).

Walking along with His disciples on the Sabbath day, the Lord noticed a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked the Lord whose fault it was that he was blind the man’s or his parents’. The Lord replied that it was neither. He then announced that He must do the works which He was sent to do, and proclaimed Himself the `light of the world.’ “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and He said to him: `Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ … So He went and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6,7).

When the neighbors and acquaintances of the man saw him, they questioned whether it was indeed the same man, for a miracle such as this was unknown at that time. But the man did not leave them in any doubt. He told them that he was the one who had been born blind. They then wanted to know how he had received sight. He told them how a Man named Jesus had made clay with His saliva, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

They then brought the man to the Pharisees, and he was again questioned concerning this amazing miracle. Upon hearing his recital of what had taken place, the Pharisees concluded that the Man who did the miracle must be a sinner since He had done it on the Sabbath day. They therefore asked the man, “`What do you say about Him because he opened your eyes?’ He said, `He is a prophet'” (John 9:17).

But the Pharisees doubted whether he had indeed been born blind. They therefore called the parents of the man and began to interrogate them. The parents claimed him as their son and affirmed that he had been blind from birth; but, knowing the hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus, they refused to say how he had been cured, saying that he was of age and could answer for himself. The Jews therefore called the man again, telling him that Jesus was a sinner, and that he should give the praise to God. They then began to question him again, pressing him to make some statement of which they could accuse him. When he asked them whether they also wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, they reviled him, saying that they were Moses’ disciples, for they knew that Moses spoke with God but they did not know where Jesus was from.

Then “the man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes … Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing'” (John 9:30,32,33).

Then the Pharisees, in anger, expelled him from the synagogue saying, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (John 9:34) When the Lord heard that the man had been expelled, He came to him and asked him if he believed in the “Son of God.” The man inquired who He was, expressing a desire to believe in Him. Then the Lord told him that it was He who was speaking to him. Upon hearing this the man declared his belief in the Lord and fell down and worshipped Him. The Lord then declared that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind, and make blind those who could see. The Pharisees then inquired whether they were among the blind. To this the Lord replied, “If you were the blind, you would have no sin, but now you say `We see’; therefore your sin remains” (John 9:41).

This story of the Lord’s miracle of giving sight to the man born blind is dramatic and deeply touching. We sense in it the joy and wonder of the man who received sight after so many years of utter darkness. We are warmed by the compassion and mercy which the Lord showed toward the blind man. We are amazed, astonished and dumfounded by the hostility and antagonism which the Pharisees exhibited toward the man who had been blind and his benefactor, and by their fanatical desire to discredit Him. Instead of rejoicing at this man’s good fortune, and marvelling at this wonderful miracle, they rebuked and persecuted the man and his family, and finally expelled him from the synagogue.

Dramatic as this story may be, and wonderful as the miracle was in itself, this story is not mere history. It is not an event done and finished. The miracle of giving sight to the blind is one which the Lord is continually effecting with all people who genuinely desire it. Remarkable as all the Lord’s miracles were in themselves, they were not the fulfillment of His mission on earth. Because the Lord is infinite, everything He did while on earth looked to spiritual and eternal ends. The Lord did not come on earth to heal people’s bodies. The body lives for only a few short years and then it is discarded, like clothing that has served its use. He came to heal the spirits of people their minds, which live on in the spiritual world when the body has been put off. All the miracles which the Lord performed were ultimate representations of spiritual things things that pertain to the hearts and minds of people (see AE 475:19).

All the diseases which the Lord healed while on earth have their spiritual correspondents (see AE 815:5). The man born blind whom the Lord healed represents all those people who are ignorant of Divine truth, and who, through a genuine desire to know the truth, are enlightened by the Lord at His coming.

We would recall here our lesson from Isaiah. We read there of a closed book that none could understand, neither the learned nor the simple. This book was the Word. The Jews, through their refusal to obey the Lord’s precepts, closed their understanding to the truth revealed by the Lord in His Word. Thus the book was closed to them; and because it was closed to the leaders and teachers of the Jews the learned they closed it to the simple who depended on them for instruction from the Word. Instead of teaching genuine truths from the Word they taught man-made precepts: “their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They “make a man an offender by a word … and turn aside the just for a thing of naught” (Isaiah 29:21).

Because of this situation the Lord prophesied that He would do a marvelous work when He came on earth. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness … Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmured will learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:18, 24).

Here we see described one of the purposes of the Lord’s coming: to open the understanding of people their spiritual sight so that they could see Divine truths in the Word. He came to open the closed “Book” so that people could learn doctrine from it doctrine applicable to life Divine doctrine, not man-made doctrine, the precepts of men which turn aside a person for a thing of naught. This is the interior meaning of the miracle which the Lord performed for the man born blind. And the means by which He healed the man describe the means by which He may open the interior understanding of each individual, and impart to him a genuine rational faith.

The clay which the Lord used to anoint the man’s eyes represents good the good affections which a person has acquired by a life according to truth (see AC 6669:6). After anointing the man’s eyes, He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This represents a cleansing by repentance from what is evil and false, for all the ceremonial washings of the Jews represented repentance, as did the baptism of John in the fords of the river Jordan.

The Lord healed the blind man on the Sabbath day a thing which caused the Pharisees to condemn Him. When the Lord came on earth the Sabbath day took on a new meaning. The representatives of the Jewish Church were abolished, and the Sabbath became a day for instruction and meditation on spiritual things and for the worship of God. The Lord, in this and many other instances, healed people on the Sabbath because people are cured of their spiritual diseases by instruction from the Word, meditation upon its teachings, and the resulting internal worship of the Lord (see TCR 301). All this is represented by the Sabbath day.

We would also note the fact that when the Pharisees asked the man what he thought of the Man who healed him, he said he thought Him a prophet. By prophets in the Word are meant those who teach truths which lead to the good of life, thus, in an abstract sense, the truths of doctrine themselves. The Lord was therefore frequently called a “prophet” because He was the Divine truth itself. In this particular instance He is called a “prophet” to signify that spiritual blindness ignorance of spiritual truth is healed by genuine truths of doctrine from the Word (see AE 624:18, 23). We read in the Apocalypse Explained: “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815:5).

We would draw your attention to the fact that the man first acknowledged the Lord as a prophet. Later, after he had been expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees, the Lord asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked: “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” The Lord replied, “It is He who is talking with you.” The man then said, “`Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:35-38).

We see here the natural progression of the faith of a person whose understanding has been opened who was been given spiritual sight. When the understanding is first opened, the person acknowledges that it is truth which has given sight to the understanding. But after the person has lived the new truth which he sees, when he becomes a disciple of the truth the prophet’s disciple a judgment is produced. He cannot remain any longer in the former church; he is expelled from the synagogue, for he no longer adheres to their man-made precepts. Then it is that he is asked if he acknowledges the Son of God the Lord in His Divine Human revealed anew to mankind. And by further questioning and study of the newly revealed truth the person is led to make the final acknowledgment, that this same truth which opened the understanding is the Lord Himself in His advent (see AC 2628).

This miracle represents the fulfillment of one of the Lord’s purposes in coming on earth. He prophesied in Isaiah that He would come to open the human understanding so that people could see the inner contents of the “Book” which was closed by their spiritual blindness. He was going to teach them doctrine so that they would cease to err. He proclaimed again this purpose immediately before and after He had healed the blind man, saying, “I am the light of the world … For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be blind” (John 9:5,39). Those who think they see are blinded, because they see from self-intellegence rather than from the Lord who is the “light of the world” their self-illumined understanding in an illusory light. They see what is false as the truth, and what is true they see as false. They close their eyes against the genuine light of Divine truth.

The purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming is the same as that of the First Coming. In the book of Revelation we read of a “Book” sealed with seven seals, which nobody was worthy to open except the Lord Himself. This was a prophecy of how, in the Christian Church, the Word would again become a closed Book a book no longer understood by the learned or the simple, a book which only the Lord Himself could open in His Second Advent. And it is opened! The spiritual meaning of the Word is now revealed! It gives spiritual understanding spiritual sight to those who receive and acknowledge it.

We see in this story of the healing of the blind man that the Word is not just an historical record of the Israelites, of the Lord’s life on earth and the wonders He performed during the three short years of His ministry. We see that the Word contains within it living truth which can heal our spiritual blindness and cleanse our minds and hearts from what is false and evil. In the revelation of His Second Advent the Lord has opened the Book that was closed. He has revealed Himself anew so that those who err in spirit may come to understanding, and those who murmur may learn true doctrine.

May the Lord, through His open Word, heal us who have been born in ignorance. As we apply these revealed truths to our lives, and repent of our sins, may our understandings be opened so that we come seeing. And when the Pharisee within us raises doubts as to the origin of our new light, may we be led to acknowledge, as did the man born blind, that only the Lord Himself can open the interior sight of our minds and illumine their darkness, so that we may say of the truth when it is presented to our minds, “Lord, I believe.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 29:9-24, John 9

THE GLORIFICATION OF THE LORD’S NATURAL AND RATIONAL

THE GLORIFICATION OF THE LORD’S NATURAL AND RATIONAL
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, March 24, 1991

“And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:6- 8).

Throughout the Christian world the celebration of Palm Sunday is properly regarded as a Christian festival. For it was on this day that the Lord was recognized and proclaimed by a great multitude to be the long-awaited Messiah. This is obvious from the welcome they accorded Him as He made His way toward Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Spreading their garments and palm branches in His path, they cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matt. 21:9). “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!’ (Luke 19:3 8).

For centuries the Jews had awaited this glorious day. They, the chosen people of the Lord, had suffered humiliation and defeat at the hands of each of the neighboring nations in succession. First the Assyrians subjugated them, then the Babylonians, next the Persians, then the Greeks, and finally the Romans. They waited and prayed for the day when the Messiah would come and conquer their enemies and release them from their chafing bondage.

Many of those present on this occasion knew who it was who was declaring Himself King — that this was Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher from Galilee. They knew of the many miracles which He had done, especially the raising of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. They had wondered whether or not He was the Messiah. Some said He was Elijah or Jeremiah returned to earth, or one of the prophets (see Matt. 16:14).

Now, by riding into Jerusalem on a “donkey, and a colt, the foal of a donkey” – traditional symbols of royalty – He was proclaiming Himself the promised Messiah, the Savior of Israel. Great throngs, therefore, came to greet Him. Shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and paving the road with their garments and palm branches, they ushered Him into Jerusalem. Now, at last, their dreams would become a reality. Their nation would be restored to its former glory, the glory it enjoyed under Kings David and Solomon. They would become the rulers instead of the ruled. This was what was in their minds as the Lord made His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. But their great expectations were short-lived. For Jesus made His way to the temple instead of the palace. They had not yet realized that the kingdom He came to establish was not of this world. But when He went daily to the temple to teach instead of seizing the reins of power, their hopes of national supremacy were shattered, and with bitterness and scorn they rejected Him.

As He hung from the cross, less than a week after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, those who passed by railed at Him “wagging their heads, and saying: ‘Ah, you who destroys the temple, and builds it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross.’ Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ And they who were crucified with Him reviled Him” (Mark 15:29-32).

The events which led up to the culmination of the Lord’s life on earth had profound historical significance. Had these things not transpired, it is safe to say that the course of history would have been greatly altered. But, although this is true, it should be born in mind that the acts and events of the Lord’s life have more than historical significance.

Everything that the Lord did, every word that He spoke, every event related to His life had eternal significance. The Writings teach that whatever the Lord did, and whatever He spoke, while He was in the world represented and signified Divine and heavenly things (see AE 405:24). In considering these events, therefore, we should try to see their spiritual meaning and import – their internal and eternal significance.

The Lord came on earth to redeem and save mankind. This was necessary because the human race had completely alienated itself from God. They had closed the way to heaven by rejecting the means which God had provided for their salvation and eternal happiness. In former times the Lord had instructed and led mankind through the prophets whom He had inspired with His Word. But the prophets had been stoned and their message rejected.

If the human race was to be saved from complete and eternal destruction, a new means of approach had to be established – a more direct approach. To accomplish this end, God Himself descended to earth, clothing His Divine soul in a human body derived from the virgin Mary. In this assumed human were all the hereditary characteristics of the human race. The devils of hell were able to approach the Lord through these hereditary tendencies and tempt Him. As He overcame in these temptations, the Lord successively subjugated the hells, and so restored spiritual freedom to people on earth (see AC 1676:3, 1690:6).

But the Lord did more than assume a human body by birth into the world. He put on the human mind, and this in the same way as any other person. Not only did He acquire from Mary hereditary tendencies to evil through which the hells could assault Him, but He also acquired the human affection of truth. And by means of this affection, He acquired knowledges of truth.

In the Arcana Coelestia we read: “In His childhood the Lord was instructed as are other men …. The external mind is corporeal and sensuous, nor does it receive anything celestial and spiritual unless knowledges are implanted in it, as in ground” (AC 1461). “Knowledges are the things that open the way for seeing celestial and spiritual things; by means of knowledge the way is opened for the internal mind to advance toward the external, in which latter are the receiving vessels, which are as many as are the knowledges of good and truth; into these knowledges, as into their vessels, do celestial things inflow” (AC 1458:5).

Thus it was that the Lord, while in the world, acquired knowledges by the ordinary way. In this way He successively put on the human mind. His nature, therefore, was composite or twofold. From within, or as to His soul, He was Divine, infinite, perfect. But from without, through birth, and by means of instruction, He put on a human mind which was finite and imperfect.

Throughout His life in this world this assumed human – the mind put on through instruction – had to be successively purified and freed from its finite, human limitations and imperfections. The human had to be glorified or made perfect and one with the indwelling Divine. The human had to be made Divine. This is what the Lord meant when He said: “O Father, glorify Me with Your Own Self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). His prayer was that the human which He assumed by birth into the world and through instruction from without would be fully subordinated to, and made correspondent with, His indwelling Divine soul.

The subject of the subordination of the exterior rational to the interior and Divine degrees of the Lord is contained interiorly in the story of Ishmael’s conception and birth, and Hagar’s humbling herself under the hand of her mistress Sarai. Abram and Sarai represent the two interior and Divine degrees of life in the Lord – the Divine celestial and the Divine spiritual. But they were barren. These two degrees cannot produce the rational degree of the mind (that degree which distinguishes man from beast, and is therefore truly human), which the Lord came on earth to acquire and make Divine. But Sarai had an Egyptian handmaid named Hagar -who represents the affection of exterior truth, or the affection of knowledges. By the Divine life flowing into this natural affection -represented by the conjunction of Abram with Hagar – knowledges were acquired, and the rational degree, represented by Ishmael, was conceived and born.

But Hagar then despised her mistress – the affection of exterior truth wanted to exalt itself. Therefore the angel told Hagar that she was to return to her mistress Sarai, and humble herself under her hand. The human rational which the Lord acquired had to be made submissive and subordinate to the Divine life within (see AC 1895-1904).

This subordination of the natural to the Divine is what was represented by the Lord’s riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey. The Writings tell us that whenever female donkeys are mentioned in the Word, the natural affection of truth is signified (see AC 2781:5, 5741:2). We are also told that a donkey’s colt represents rational truth, because rational truth is as a son to the affection of natural truth, because that affection conceives and brings it forth (ibid.). We read: “… to ‘ride upon a donkey’ was a sign that the natural was made subordinate; and to ‘ride upon a colt the son of a donkey’ was a sign that the rational was made subordinate” (AC 2781:8, emphasis added).

We see from this that the Lord’s riding into Jerusalem upon a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey, was representative of the state of His glorification. Both the natural and the rational, which He had put on while in the world, had been made subordinate to and one with the Divine. The two lower degrees were now glorified. This was the interior reason why there was rejoicing and singing. The glorification of the Lord’s human was almost complete; all that remained was the glorification of the sensuous and corporeal degrees, represented by the cleansing of the temple and the final temptation on the cross. There was, therefore, rejoicing in the heavens on this account, as the Lord made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

This heavenly rejoicing is conveyed by the words: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). This is also why the Lord said to those Pharisees who told Him to rebuke the multitude for their joy and praise: “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).

As we approach the Easter festival, let us bear in mind the fact that within all the events recorded in the literal story of the Lord’s last days on earth, there is an internal, spiritual meaning, a meaning which, when seen, elevates our minds to the contemplation of the Lord’s Divine Humanity.

While we may be deeply affected by the literal story, we will realize that the things there related were representative, ultimate acts through which the greatest of all miracles was effected. God was made man, and man was made God. Thus it became Him “to fulfill all righteousness” (see AE lesson). Amen.

Lessons: Genesis 16:1-12,15,16; Matt. 21:1-17; AE 31:7

Apocalypse Explained

31:7. As it is known from these things what is meant by a “king” in the Word, I will add to the above: Why the Lord, when He entered Jerusalem, sat upon the foal of an ass, and the people then proclaimed Him king, and also strewed their garments in the way (see Matt. 21:1-8, Mark 11: 1-11, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:14- 16).

This is predicted in Zechariah: “Exult, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee, just and having salvation, riding upon an ass, and upon the foal of an ass” (9:9; Matt. 21:5; John 12:15). The reason was that to sit upon an ass and the foal of an ass was the distinctive mark of the highest judge and of a king, as can be seen from the following passages: ‘My heart is toward the lawgivers of Israel, you who ride upon white asses” (Judges 5:9,10). “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh come, who shall bind his ass’s foal to the vine, and the son of his she-ass to the noble vine” (Gen. 49:10,11).

As sitting on an ass and the foal of an ass was such a distinctive mark, judges rode upon white she-asses (Judges 5:9, 10); and their sons upon asses’ colts (Judges 10:4, 12:14); and the king himself when crowned, upon a she-mule (I Kings 1:33); and his sons upon mules (II Samuel 13:29).

One who does not know the signification of “horse,’ “mule,” and “the foal of an ass” in a representative sense will suppose that the Lord’s riding upon the foal of an ass was significative of misery and humiliation. But it signified royal magnificence; for this reason the people then proclaimed the Lord king, and strewed their garments upon the way. This was done when He went to Jerusalem because by “Jerusalem” is signified the church.