Bible stories unlocked

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Is the Bible literally true?

Cut off my right hand?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

Can my eye cause me to sin? Am I actually supposed to gouge out my eye or cut off my hand if I want to stop sinning? The Writings for the New Church explain that these instructions are not meant literally: “The ‘eye’ represents in the spiritual sense everything belonging to the understanding and to thought, and the ‘right hand’ everything belonging to the will and to affection, it is evident that ‘if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out’ represents that if one thinks evil, the evil must be rejected from the thought; also ‘if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off’ represents that if evil is willed the evil of the will must be cast out. For the eye itself cannot cause sin, nor can the right hand, but the thought of the understanding and the affection of the will, to which they correspond, can.” (Apocalypse Explained §600:8)

Is Jesus coming in the clouds?

“Men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:26-27)

Will this really happen on earth? When? This passage refers not to an anticipated event, but an event that has occurred on a spiritual level: “By ‘the clouds of heaven’ in which He is to come, nothing else is meant but the Word in its literal sense (which sometimes hides/obscures the true meaning such as a cloud obscures the sun); and by ‘the glory’ in which they will see Him, the Word in its spiritual sense (in which all is revealed)” (Apocalypse Revealed §24). The Writings for the New Church give us the spiritual sense of the Word, which descends through the clouds, and then the literal sense becomes accessible and applicable.

Did a flood cover the earth?

“Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth. So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood…and it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. The windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:6-12)

The story of Noah and the flood is not a literal story about life being wiped off the earth, but rather a story that represents the personal struggle and temptation that each of us faces in life—and the ways we can protect ourselves in these times of spiritual trials. The book Secrets of Heaven explains the inner meaning of this story: the ark that Noah, his family, and the animals go into for protection from the flood represents the church that carries us through hard times (§639). “By the ‘flood of waters’ is signified the beginning of temptation” (§739-740). The flood represents the temptations that come in life and threaten to wipe out everything good if we give in to them. It is further explained that “‘Noah went into the ark, from before the waters of the flood’ signifies that he was protected in temptation.” In the story Noah’s wife, his sons, and his sons’ wives came with him into the ark because they represent the resources Noah had to help him resist temptations. Noah’s wife represents goods, his sons represent truths, and his sons’ wives represent truths that are connected to goods (§742). We can see that while the story seems literally impossible it stands for something very real in our lives—turning to the church and the goods and truths that sustain us when we are faced with temptation.

by Abigail Echols,
from an article from New Church Connection


“God is one, and He is the Creator of all things and the Preserver of all things; so He is God of heaven and God of the earth.”

Arcana Coelestia 10815

The Five Churches

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In Swedenborgian theology, the term “church” usually doesn’t refer to a building – like St. Patrick’s Church on 10th Street – or to an organization, e.g. the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, a church is a state of spiritual belief, shared by a group of people, at a given time.

In the big picture, there have been 5 main churches in human history:

– The Most Ancient Church, represented by Adam in the Bible. It spanned the time from the dawn of human spirituality until the time represented by Noah, at around the time of the agricultural revolution. It didn’t have a written Word.

– The Ancient Church, represented by Noah in the Bible. It lasted from the rise of civilization until the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses mentions books from an Ancient Word from that church – the Book of Annunciations, the Book of Jasher, and the Wars of Jehovah.

– The Israelitish church, which lasted from the time of the Patriarchs until the birth of Jesus Christ. Its main role was to preserve the sacred scriptures that form the Old Testament, and to preserve, by adhering to external rituals, the embers of an internal worship whose real meaning was largely forgotten. The prophets of the Old Testament, through recording the history of the Israelitish people.

– The First Christian Church, which started at the time of the Lord’s ministry on earth. It gradually got corrupted by false understandings of the Trinity, which led to further confusion, and eventually the idea of salvation by faith separate from love.

– The New Christian Church, which has a new set of truths contained in Swedenborg’s works. Starting from 1770, it is restoring and fulfilling Jesus Christ’s original mission. The inner meaning of the Bible has been explained and clarified, and new concepts clear away the misunderstandings that hampered the First Christian Church.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 10248; True Christian Religion 786)