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.