Jacob and Esau provide a profound lesson for today’s psychologists (and theologians!)

The authority and inerrancy of the Holy Bible has come under a new kind of challenge in the post-modern world. This challenge comes not just from atheists but also from a new crop of Christian theologians who no longer identify themselves as possessing an absolute deposit of inerrant sacred writings, or, of inheriting an infallible interpretation (exegesis) of the Bible’s message. Instead, this new theological movement is concerning itself with the core belief that Christianity proclaims a universal saving and transformational event. Everything else in religion is now seen to lead to a set of beliefs that are oppressive and destructive and needs correction.

Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg would agree with this new Christian emphasis on God’s transforming love rather than on a mere “book” religion. But he also added an unexpected twist that challenges the relativistic character of modernity in its shift away from embracing the Bible as an absolute and closed deposit of truth (from above). He offered a new and deeper look at Scripture that both broke down the rigid walls of religious orthodoxy yet provided rational evidence of the authority, sacredness and inerrancy of the Holy Word!

He claimed that this authority, sacredness and inerrancy of Scripture was not to be found in its literal or historical accounts, but in its layered architecture, which contain deeper levels of meaning!

On one deeper level, Scripture embraces profound psychology. For instance, the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis offers a profound study of the growth of mind and the evolution of proper human behavior—according to the laws of God’s divine order.

Jacob symbolizes the human intellect while Esau represents the human heart, will, and volition. Psychologically, the growth of the human intellect involves the exploration of knowledge that can lead us to truth. This operation takes the lead. Then an inversion takes place. The intellectual path to finding truth leads us to the heart and that which most represents goodness in our value-system (all knowledge is evaluated according to its serviceability—its goodness). This goodness then begins to command the intellect and generates further knowledge. This mental process of inversion is symbolized by Jacob inheriting Esau’s birthright—the intellect gains command first. But as the biblical story unfolds, Jacob eventually returns to his older twin brother and becomes his servant‑the intellect now begins to serve the heart. Speaking psychologically, Jacob represents analytical thought while Esau represents a new synthesis. These cognitive functions are psychical brothers!

Deeper still (according to Swedenborg) the Bible stories relate directly to Christ’s universal work of transforming love—even the Old Testament! The same Genesis story of Jacob and Esau also symbolize the process of the Lord’s glorification when He lived in the world. This sacred process involved the Lord perfectly uniting His human essence to His divine heavenly essence. This unifying process is how the Word was made flesh and how the Lord became the Alpha and Omega. This also explains how the “Word” and the “Son” are synonymous (which would not be the case if the Old Testament did not refer to the Lord alone on some deeper level).

So the Holy Word is indeed God’s revealed wisdom—not merely the work of different human authors, written from various points of view by individuals who were influenced by the cultural, political, economic or personal circumstances of the times that they found themselves in. Simply put, human authors cannot write in the divine style of the Bible’s three-tiered narrative.

Why would God communicate in this multi-tiered way?

The reason is that God’s Holy Word needs to service both terrestrial humans and spiritual angels. God’s Holy Word has to be adapted to both kinds of brain systems. Angels easily grasp the deeper spiritual and divine meanings contained in Scripture but humans have to learn to think above their worldly ideas (materialistic ideology).

The Lord God is betting that this is possible for humanity. The big secret concerning the Lord’s Second Coming and Revelation is that it represents His “reappearance” within our minds and hearts via a new understanding of Scripture. I have just scratched the surface of what the future of religion will unfold.

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Topics relating to the
Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
and the Lord’s Second Coming :

by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Rev. 20:12).


For many Christians the book of Revelation has little clear meaning. Most people probably consider it to be ignorable. Those who try to understand it find it challenging. Fundamentalists see it as a prediction of a cataclysmic finale to the story of human life on this earth, and countless people have wondered when this finale would occur. Many words have been written trying to link past and present events with the images of destruction spoken of in Revelation to try to see when the second coming will take place. Its immanent arrival has been confidently predicted innumerable times over the last two thousand years.

The misunderstanding that surrounds this book is to be expected. None but the Lord Himself could reveal its true meaning. Human intelligence could spend five times the nearly two millennium that it has already had to try to interpret the book of Revelation and would still not find its true meaning. It is a fundamental truth of the New Church that the book of Revelation as well as the other books of the Old and New Testaments speak on a far deeper level than is seen merely in the literal sense. The book of Revelation does not primarily predict natural historical events any more than did the prophecies of the Lord’s first coming in the Old Testament.

Understood merely literally, the Old Testament prophecies appeared to promise a great and everlasting kingdom of the Messiah in which the Jewish people would have great prominence. Those alive at the time of the first coming who expected Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom were confused and bewildered by the way He lived His life in this world. Some probably lost faith when the Old Testament prophecies were not fulfilled by Jesus as they expected them to be. Likewise, many Christians have been confused and bewildered by the apparent lack of literal fulfillment of the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Some have lost faith, giving up on the prophecies of a last judgment and a second coming as having any meaning.

The traditional Christian interpretation of the last judgment has several features that differ quite strongly from the one presented by the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church. The traditional view of all people waiting in the grave till the sounding of the great trumpet is one of those differences. The Writings for the New Church teach that life after death begins for each individual shortly after his natural life has ended. Another is that the crucial judgment of a person’s life does not take place by some objective individual apart from the person himself. A third is that life after death is not primarily a reward or punishment for our deeds in this world. There are many, many other differences. Many of them arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the book of Revelation. Traditional Christianity has viewed the book of Revelation as speaking of earthly events that will some day take place in this world, while the books revealed for the New Church would have us recognize the images of that book as being spiritual realities, much of which has already occurred in the spiritual world.

The reality that the book of Revelation speaks of is that of a great judgment that has already occurred in the spiritual world. To understand what this book speaks of, a person must know a number of things about how judgment takes place after death. In the normal order of the life after death, both the good and evil seek the company of like-minded individuals with all being prepared over a period of time for their eternal home either in heaven or hell. From a mixture of good and evil, just as exists in this world, the different people separate themselves, with the evil seeking hell and the good, heaven. The evil do not desire to be in heaven because they cannot stand to be around those who are genuinely good. They rapidly lose their power to lead others astray, because the light of genuine truth existing in the spiritual world shows them for what they really are. This is a brief description of how the normal process of judgment occurs after each person’s death.

This process is absolutely dependent on the light of truth existing in that intermediate area between heaven and hell which is called the world of spirits. When the truth revealed to mankind ceased to provide the necessary basis for that light, disorder occurred in that intermediate world. The normal process of judgment could not go on. Rather than having hidden evil revealed, they could continue to hide. Rather than having the evil find their proper places in hell, they continued to dwell in the world of spirits and there they established a false life for themselves. It was false in that the true reality of their lives was hidden and they surrounded themselves with things that also did not reflect their true qualities. Their cities, gardens, rivers, even their sun, moon and stars were not from the Lord but from themselves and their own evil. As long as the light of truth did not shine in that world they could maintain the illusion of a false heaven. The images of great destruction recorded in the book of Revelation really did occur in the world of spirits when the light of truth once again shone in that world and the normal process of judgment could once again be reestablished.

Why is it important what a person thinks of the book of Revelation? The Lord has revealed all that He has for us in the world because He wants us to live as happy and as productive lives as we can, both now in our relatively brief natural life and also in our life after death continuing to eternity. Some of the wrong ideas that one can get from the book of Revelation could cause a person to spiritually stumble and fall. Some of them make for a sadder and more self-centered life than the Lord wishes for us.

Nearly everyone has seen the cartoon image of the man walking around in sackcloth through the busy streets of a city carrying a sign that announces that the end of the world is coming. His message is that we should turn our lives from our daily concerns. While it is very important that we recognize that each day gives us precious opportunities to serve the Lord, these opportunities will not be best fulfilled if we withdraw from the world, nor will they be best fulfilled if we cling desperately to each minute as our last, nor if we throw everything aside and live for the moment. The Lord does not want us to wait with bated breath for his arrival, thinking only of our own concerns and needs. He wants us to serve those around us. He wants us to live full, useful lives. Too great a fear of the end of natural life can lead to an impoverished approach to each day.

An important concept presented by the Writings about life after death is that the essential quality of our natural life will continue to eternity as our spiritual character. The lesson read today spoke of the judgment that win take place after death, and uses the image of a book of life that will be read. What is this book of life? One of the most horrible of all Christian heresies is that everyone’s spiritual destiny has been predestined from the beginning of time-written as in a book of who will go to heaven and who will not. Part of the reason this is horrible is because of the quality it ascribes to God. What kind of God would create some people to be inevitably damned to eternity just to satisfy some arbitrary balance? If God did not create each and every individual with the possibility of going to heaven, He would be more cruel than the worst individual could be in this world. Concerning this idea of predestination the book The Divine Providence makes the following observation:

It is cruel to believe that the Lord, who is Love itself and Mercy itself, suffers such a vast multitude of men to be born for hell, or that so many myriads of myriads are born damned and doomed, that is, are born devils and satans; and that He does not from His Divine Wisdom provide that they who live well and acknowledge God should not be cast into eternal fire and torment. The Lord is ever the Creator and Savior of all; and He alone leads all, and desires the death of no one. (DP 330).

Another reason why predestination is such a horrible idea is because of the spiritual apathy that it can arouse. If our spiritual fate is already predetermined, why bother trying to do anything about it? A person could become a complete fatalist, accepting everything that happened to him as inevitable. He would never try to work to make his life better or improve the lot of others, because all things would be accepted as being the way God intended them to be.

While very few people today would subscribe to an idea of absolute predestination by God, all of us are susceptible to the apathy that says we ourselves are fixed and unchanging or that those whom we have to deal with are the way they are due to an unchangeable nature. In some states of mind it is all too easy just to accept things as they are rather than use our best insight to try to improve them.

A person’s book of life is not something that is set before he has lived his life in this world. A person’s book of life is the sum total quality that he has gathered to his life by his choices in this world. It is the record of what he has thought and cared about each day of his life. It is not just a fist of good and bad deeds. We know quite well that actions seen by others in the world may have little relationship to the inner thoughts and motives behind them.

When we leave this world, we will have established what is more important to us than anything else. We will have accepted a ruling love that has worked to orchestrate all the other affections of our mind and from these all our thoughts and deeds. It is this ruling love that determines our eternal home after death. It is our book of life. Its pages are being recorded each day we spend in this world. Everything that we have thought, intended, spoken and done in the world is recorded there.

Swedenborg tells us of some people who after death still tried to pretend. As we learn of the basic rules in the Old Testament, the role of forgiveness in the New Testament, and comprehend why this is good in the explanations of the Writings, then we can re-direct our thinking and grow to be more in harmony with the Lord’s ways.

This is why He speaks to us in His Word. This is why He has revealed truths that can touch and stimulate every area of our minds. And this is the Lord’s second coming in truth. His Spirit of truth leads to all truth as our minds are opened to the wonders of His Word, and as we let that light shine our way. From the essence of love within the Lord that causes Him to speak to us, the Word in its threefold form would lead us back to that love. This is the male child that came from the woman clothed with the sun. This is the Heavenly Doctrine given us by the Lord. This is the Lord with us as we see and do His words. Amen.

Lessons: Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17, AE 724:1,2

Presented in Pittsburgh June 12, 1988


Apocalypse Explained 724:1, 2

And she brought forth a son, a male, signifies the doctrine of truth for the New Church that is called the New Jerusalem. This is evident from the signification of “son” as meaning truth, and of “a son, a male,’ as meaning the genuine truth of the church, consequently also its doctrine, for the truth of the church from the Word is its doctrine since doctrine contains the truths that are for the church. But the genuine doctrine of the church is the doctrine of good, thus the doctrine of life, which is of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor; but yet it is the doctrine of truth, since doctrine teaches life, love, and charity, and so far as it teaches it is truth; for when a man knows and understands what good is, what life is, what love is, and what charity is, he knows and understands these things as truths, since he knows and understands what good is, how he ought to live, and what love and charity are, and of what quality a man is who is in the life of love and charity; and as long as these are matters of knowledge and understanding they are nothing but truths and thus doctrines; but as soon as they pass over from knowledge and from the understanding into the will, and thus into act, they are no longer truths but goods; for interiorly man wills nothing but what he loves, and that which he loves is to him good. From this it can be seen that every doctrine of the church is a doctrine of truth, and that the truth of doctrine becomes good and comes to be of love and charity when from doctrine it passes into life.

This doctrine that is here signified by ‘the son, a male’ is especially the doctrine of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor, thus the doctrine of the good of life, which nevertheless is still the doctrine of truth. That the doctrine of the good of love, and thus of life, is here signified by “the son, a male’ can be seen from this, that ‘the woman’ who brought forth the son was seen “arrayed with the sun, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,’ and ‘the sun” signifies love to the Lord, and “the crown of twelve stars’ signifies the knowledges of good and truth, and from such a woman and mother nothing else is begotten except what pertains to love and good, thus the doctrine respecting these.

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John at Patmos

Once upon a time the Apostle John found himself on the island of Patmos. Geographically, this island could be said to be located in the middle of two great civilizations—east and west.

But John also found himself in an unusual but similar mental place as well. He was meditating equally with both hemispheres of his brain. He needed all his brainpower to make sense out of the things he had personally witnessed and was told by his Lord Jesus Christ.

He was aware that as one of the Lord’s twelve disciples and closest followers he had received special teachings, teachings that were not given to the multitudes. Because of this intimate relationship, He was given deeper insights into the Lord’s parables. He had witnessed the Lord’s transfiguration at the top of a mountain. He saw the Lord perform miracles. He had personally witnessed the empty tomb. He also traveled with the Lord on the four-hour journey to Emmaus—after the crucifixion.

But even these amazing things were not the full reason for his amazement.

In each case the Lord had taken his brain to places where human feet could not go. It was as though the Lord was concerned with opening the minds of his disciples to new revelations. These revelations challenged the worldly belief that the Scriptures referred to mere physical events. John had experienced rarified moments where his mind caught glimpses of the Lord as the Word Incarnate, and not simply as a combative Messiah sent to squash Roman oppression. The stories contained in the books of Moses and the Prophets miraculously conveyed special details of the Lord’s life and His more important divine combat over the spiritual oppression that was taking place within the souls of men and women.

At these special meditative times, John no longer felt that he was in his physical body. He experienced this wonderful elevation of his mind when he walked up the steps to the second floor of the room in which the Lord had His Last Supper. It was as though the Lord was cleverly using the physical world to convey symbolic and spiritual meaning! He marveled that humankind was not ready for such a deep and unexpected teaching. And he himself, like the other disciples, did not fully grasp the full significance of all this. Many of the Lord’s teachings about the Holy Word and the heavenly kingdom were still obscure and remote to his normal way of thinking.

John now turned his attention and meditative power to the Lord’s words that some of his disciples would see the Kingdom of Heaven before their deaths. John wondered about this. Suddenly he felt his mind elevated from the physical world and was now in his spirit. In this state of heart and mind the obscure ideas he had about Holy Scripture became like clouds forming above his spirit. These were the same clouds that appeared to him after he, Peter and James saw Jesus transfigured atop a mountain.

Suddenly, with the eyes of his spirit, John saw Jesus appearing out of the clouds of his mental obscurity. He had witnessed the first coming of the Lord with his physical eyes. Now he was witnessing the Lord’s Second Coming with his spiritual eyes. The Lord now was about to give John an inside look at the deepest heavenly secrets contained within Scripture. This deeper look was the real revelation behind what John had witnessed and was told to write on a scroll.

Now let us fast-forward two thousand years.

Today, Jesus is also returning to clear up the clouds of mental obscurity for all those individuals who are willing, like John, to be taught new things. But such an earth shaking (paradigm changing) “event” will require humility, sincerity and an openness of the human spirit to learn from and experience the truly miraculous.

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God’s Word was written for angels too

One might assume that because angels live in heaven that they do not need to learn any more about God. But, if God is Infinite Love and Wisdom, you would think that the Creator would offer angels the ability to continue exercise their minds over the long haul of eternal existence.

Even we terrestrial beings of the planet earth would find it quite boring on this temporal plane if we could not learn something new each day.

Since the Lord God instructs through the Holy Word, and the Word existed prior to creation (John 1:1-3), we can assume that angels have access to the Word. However, do angels interpret its stories and narratives the same way we do?

The reason why I ask this silly question is that angels do not live in the physical world of time and space. Yet, all the stories in Scripture take place in time and space. How could they understand physical events when living in a non-material realm?

Mystic and theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg, suggested that angels interpret Scripture differently – by removing its stories from any involvement with time and space. How would they accomplish this theological feat?

Angels turn the literal sense of each word in Scripture to its psycho-spiritual equivalent. So, instead of seeing the Holy Word as a mere literal and historical account of things, they distill higher, spiritual meanings from its stories.

Angels do not interpret the seven-day Creation Story found in Genesis as an unfolding of physical events. They interpret this story as the seven steps that an individual’s heart and mind goes through in acquiring an “inner” paradise (epigenesis) from God.

Here is a brief overview of the Angelic take on the Creation Story:

LET THERE BE LIGHT – In the beginning, the human heart and mind starts off in spiritual darkness and in a complete void concerning God. God moves to enlighten us from this darkness (day one).

SEPARATING THE WATERS – Once God is recognized we can begin to separate spiritual knowledge from worldly knowledge (day two).

DRY LAND & PLANTS – By separating this information we can put our feet on firm ground, that is, on solid faith in God. From this faith grounded in the mind, new spiritual thoughts take root, grow, flower, fruit, and yield seeds (day three).

GREAT LUMIINARIES – Now humans have, from God, a faith that can serve as a beacon in times of darkness, and serve as a more powerful light when the warmth of love is added to faith (day four).

CREEPING THINGS – Our faith now becomes more animated by love, which is symbolized in the biblical story by animals that move (day five).

MAMMALS, MAN & WOMAN, DOMINION – Love increases and is exalted through the representation of warm-blooded animals appearing. True “humanness” now emerges onto the scene. God commands us through our faith to gain dominion over all the various qualities of thoughts and feelings that live in our hearts and minds. Our inner reality has now become a garden, where everything in it has been arranged according to God’s wisdom and order (day six).

REST – God’s work is finished (day seven).

So angels remove the aspects of time and space from the biblical narratives by interpreting them as symbolically addressing things taking place within the human heart and mind (which is a person’s spirit). These higher symbolic meanings allow angels to learn deeper concepts about faith throughout an eternity.

The Sacred Word would not be sacred unless it contained God’s Divine Holiness, which is infinite. Therefore, God’s Infinite nature can only be expressed in a Holy Document that contains deeper levels of meaning!

The significance for each of us about all this is that since we humans are inwardly spirits, we too, have the capacity to interpret these higher meanings from the Holy Word.

In fact, this is one of the biggest secrets concerning the Second Coming. REVELATION is the Lord’s coming back to reveal these deeper things to us!

Are you ready?

Posted on September 7, 2008by thegodguy

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Conscience and Armageddon

 

Conscience is the battleground where our various proclivities and compulsions fight it out with the things we know to be true and proper.

If religion and God’s tenets form our conscience, then the stakes are raised. It not only becomes a personal conflict over civil rules or ethical standards but it rises to the level of spiritual warfare – the battle between good and evil.

Anyone who reflects on the issues of living a spiritual life, according to God’s tenets, will realize that these are issues pertaining to the human heart and mind. God, through religion, wishes to win over our minds and hearts. Similarly, maleficent influences seek to rule hearts and minds.

Victory on this level means complete victory. Principles of life obtained by the human heart and mind, through conscience (or the lack of it), cannot be quashed by physical threats or by brute force.

If the ultimate battleground between good and evil is played out on the psycho-turf of the human heart and mind, why then, do people still believe God will return to earth to “kick butt?”

God compels no one towards having religious faith or belief, otherwise he would have come down from the cross and asserted his divinity and authority, right there and then. Compelling belief accomplishes the opposite, for it destroys free will, which is a gift from God and a derivative of love. God wants to be accepted from the principle of love not from the tip of a sword, unless that sword symbolizes the power of divine truth (as opposed to polished steel).

I have maintained throughout many posts that the Sacred Word contains deeper levels of meaning by which physical things can communicate higher, spiritual qualities. When these deeper meanings are applied to the “end times” as recorded in Revelation, including the great battle of Armageddon, we will find that these scenes pertain to events taking place within the inner lives of people. This is where God makes His ultimate and final stand. This is the only “place” where true spiritual warfare can take place and allow the Lord to make all things new – from the inside out.

Even a careful reading of the literal meanings of the words used in the New Testament back this up this thesis. When the Lord speaks about the end times, he states that the current generation will not pass until all these things are fulfilled (Matt. 24:34). Well, the generation the Lord addressed has long passed. Elsewhere, the Lord states that “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation” (Luke, 17:20). One will not point to anything unusual and say, “Look here,” or “Look there” (Luke, 17:21). So, what gives here?

The only place left to look is WITHIN us. This new wrinkle on biblical interpretation certainly allows God to fulfill his promise within a generation – anyone’s generation. The caveat is we have to take part in the fight.

Posted on August 27, 2008 by thegodguy

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How does God squeeze infinite knowledge into a finite book?

The Bible is a ponderous book. But in no way can its 1,000+ pages contain God’s Infinite Wisdom.

Why is this an issue?

Because, everything God does, must be done from an infinite and eternal perspective. Otherwise, divine action would be dissimilar to God’s actual infinite character and nature. Dissimilarity means imperfection.

If God is the ultimate author of Scripture then it must somehow contain infinite knowledge within its numbered pages. This would also give us a more effective way to verify the sanctity, authority, and inerrancy of the Holy Word – beyond our having unshakable faith or some corroborating archeological evidence.

Even if we were to find archeological evidence for every story in Scripture this would only prove that God was accurate with the historical facts.

Accurate time lines do not portray Infinite Wisdom. Furthermore, the accuracy of biblical events, like the creation story and the age of the universe, are called into serious question by scientific discovery. So how are we to take seriously the claim that all things in the created universe were created from the Word? (John, 1:1-3) That would mean the Holy Word contains scientific as well as moral laws!

Does Scripture give any reference to relativity theory, quantum physics, or superstring theory?

And, what are we to think of God being depicted as angry, starting wars between nations, supporting slavery and polygamy?

Theologian Emanuel Swedenborg had an answer to these problems. He discovered that the Holy Word was a multi-dimensional document. This gave Scripture the depth to contain God’s Infinite Wisdom through levels that contained deeper meanings and revelations within its narratives.

Once this scaffolding of the biblical architecture is recognized and grasped, the mysteries of faith become accessible to the human rational mind – especially concerning the dynamics of salvation and the secret behind the Lord’s return. And more. Much more.

Universal patterns will begin to emerge out from our careful reading of the biblical stories, displaying God’s design in scientific matters as well. Because hidden within the sacred narratives are the patterning principles for holistic process in the universe. By elevating our minds above the literal meaning of the words, Scripture addresses quantum discontinuity, top-down causality, and reveals how every detail of its stories is non-locally connected simultaneously, that is, perfectly oriented to God’s eternal goal and Infinite Wisdom.

These are a few of the issues I will be addressing in my next book, Proving God.

Do these ideas seem strange to you? Does this possibility shake up your current world-view?

Well then, my friend, welcome to the Lord’s Second Coming!

Posted on August 22, 2008by thegodguy

Website: http://www.provinggod.com

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Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?

Jesus promised his disciples and those who followed Him that He would come again. This is known as the Second Coming. There are several “mainstream” interpretations of the Second Coming which has formed some false expectations in the minds of many. With these false expectations, many will not see the reality of the true Second Coming. False expectations can blind people to the truth – for example, the Jews expected a literal Messianic King, who would lead them to conquer the world. This false expectation is diametrically opposed to the spiritual truth of the Word, and because of it, the Jews completely missed recognizing the identity of Jesus Christ.

As it was then, so it is now. There are several false expectations that have been formed regarding the Second Coming. To be specific:

  1. There will be a visible appearance of Jesus in the sky, seen by everyone.
  2. At some point in time, Jesus will descend upon the Mount of Olives.
  3. Related to #2, there will be a third temple established in Jerusalem.
  4. There will be a rapture of Christians into the clouds of the sky.
  5. There will be a literal physical resurrection of the body.

So lets examine expectations surrounding each of these subjects, and look at what the New Testament actually has to say on this.

IS THE SECOND COMING A PHYSICAL RETURN OR A SPIRITUAL REVELATION?
Let’s start with a verse may indicate that there will be a physical return, visible to everyone:

Behold, he comes with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Rev. 1:7)

There is a similar passage in Matt. 24:30. This at first seems that He will make a visible appearance, and that every eye shall see Him. But Jesus counters this argument in what at first seems to be a conflicting statement:

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21).

This is important, the word “observation” means “visible evidence” or “outward show” – something that can be seen with one’s literal eyes. This means there will not be outward visible evidence of the Second Coming.  So what does it mean that “every eye shall see him”? What it means is that those who have spiritual sight, that is spiritual understanding, will be able to see the truth of the Second Coming. That this is the spiritual meaning of “eye” can be seen from the following passage:

And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:29)

This Jesus commands after stating one should not look upon a woman lustfully, for even the thought of it is considered adultery (Matt. 5:28). It’s one’s internal thought or intent that counts. Thus he is of course not literally stating that we should pluck our eye out, but rather, that one should correct how one sees things. These false thoughts should be searched out and removed. Thus “eyes” in the spiritual sense signify one’s spiritual understanding in a good sense, or a false understanding in the bad sense.  Correcting how one sees things falsely is again portrayed as removing a “beam” out of one’s “eye” before removing a speck of dust out of another person’s “eye” (Matt. 7:3-5).

So let’s pick out another passage, which causes problems to many:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Truly I say unto you, There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:27-28)

Some early Christians had interpreted this that the Second Coming should have taken place in the lifetime of the disciples. That the early Christians had this expectation, can be seen from the following passage, where Jesus singles out the disciple John after Peter asks what would become of him:

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
So the saying spread abroad among the brothers  that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:21-23)

And, in the literal sense, it was John who literally saw the Second Coming take place, in a spiritual vision as recorded in the book of Revelation.  That Jesus is talking about one’s spiritual vision is easily proven in the book of Revelation. Before John’s grand vision, John states this:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10)

Which means he was in a spiritual visionary state. That “in the spirit” means one was in a spiritual visionary state can be seen from Ezekiel:

The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah (Eze. 37:1)

After which Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley of bones coming to life. John would later mention he was caught up into heaven “in the Spirit” (Rev. 4:1), that he was carried away to a wilderness “in the Spirit” (Rev. 17:3), and he was taken to see the New Jerusalem “in the Spirit” (Rev. 21:10).

Combining Jesus’ statement of His Second Coming, with the fulfillment of it by John seeing it in a spiritual vision, we can infer that John is a type of the future, where the Second Coming will be seen in spiritual vision.

THE MOUNT OF OLIVES PROPHECY

There are a couple of passages that are used as proof that Jesus will return in physical form upon the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem. One is the scene of the ascension of Jesus at the Mount of Olives. After Jesus commands his disciples to return to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, He then ascends into heaven. There is unfortunately a mistranslation here in most English translations, I will select the NASB:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

This is stating that Jesus will return “in just the same way” or as other translations have it, “in like manner” (KJV).  The problem here is this phrase is added by the translators, the Greek simply has “as.”  So the last sentence should read as follows:

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

It simply says He will come again from heaven.  It does not say “in just the same way” or “in like manner.”  This phrase was added by translators.  I double checked this with an online Greek interlinear tool, you can see the entire chapter here: Greek Interlinear of Acts 1. The same Greek word (Strongs #5158) is simply translated as “as” in Acts 7:28, 15:11, 27:25.

Another point, when Jesus appeared to others after the resurrection, in many cases He manifests Himself by opening up their spiritual vision:

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

With the corrected translation of Acts 1:11, it is saying Jesus will come “as you have watched” or “as you have seen.” If they were seeing Him with their spiritual vision opened, then this means He will return in a manner that is seen in spiritual vision.

Now, there is the case of a prophecy of Zechariah which speaks of the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives:

Jehovah shall go forth, and fight against the nations. . . . His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before the face of Jerusalem . . . and the mount of Olives shall cleave asunder, that a part thereof shall remove toward the east, and [a part] toward the sea, with a great valley; and a part of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and a part of it toward the south (xiv. 3, 4).

This many have taken to be a prophecy of the Second Coming. But that is not the case, it is a prophecy of the First Coming, foretelling how a new church would be established that would withdraw from the Jews and go out towards the Gentiles. The spiritual sense of this prophecy is explained by Swedenborg in Heavenly Arcana:

“Here the Lord and His coming are the subject; by the mount of Olives is signified the good of love and of charity and thus the church, for these goods make the church. That the church would remove from the Jewish nation, and would be established among the Gentiles, is signified by the mountain being cleft asunder toward the east, toward the sea [the west], and toward the north, and the south; in like manner as by the words of the Lord in Luke: Ye shall be cast forth without. And they shall come from the east, and the west, and from the north, and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God (xiii. 28, 29). In a universal sense by Jehovah going forth and fighting against the nations, and by His feet standing upon the mount of Olives which is before the face of Jerusalem, is meant that the Lord from the Divine love would fight against the hells; for the nations are the evils which are from the hells (n. 1868, 6306), and the mount of Olives, on which were His feet, is the Divine love.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9780.13)

The massive work Heavenly Arcana goes through several passages that prove that in the spiritual sense, mountains signify love (or in the opposite sense selfish pride), and nations in a bad sense signify the evils of hell. It is also known to some that Jesus made a descent into hell between his death and resurrection and effected a last judgment. In these spiritual judgments, this is portrayed in the spiritual world as the upheaval and upturning of mountains (see Rev. 6:14-16). The upturning of mountains in the spiritual world is further described in Swedenborg’s vision in the work The Final Judgment. That “mountain” has a spiritual meaning can simply be seen from the gospels:

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)

Jesus is obviously not literally speaking of a literal mountain. Following the description of the splitting of the Mount of Olives, Zechariah then describes a river that proceeds out of Jerusalem toward the west, and toward the east through the split Mount of Olives, which again has a spiritual meaning:

In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; part of them to the eastern sea, and part of them to the hinder sea (xiv. 8).
“Living waters from Jerusalem” signify truths from a spiritual origin in the church, which are the truths that are received by man when he is illustrated by the Lord while he is reading the Word. “Jerusalem” is the church in respect to doctrine, the “sea” signifies the natural man, into which those things that are in the spiritual man descend; the “eastern sea” signifies the natural man in respect to good; and the “hinder sea” the natural man in respect to truth; and as the natural man is in the generals of truth, “sea” also signifies the general of truth.” (Apocalypse Explained, n. 275.20)

This river is again described in the vision of a new temple in Jerusalem in Ezekiel, which literalists interpret as a future third temple. However it is symbolic, and it spiritually signifies the Christian Church that would be established. This is shown in detail in the blog post The Spiritual Symbolism of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Third Temple. There are several items in Ezekiel’s vision which show that it cannot be taken literally, but should be interpreted in a spiritual manner.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A RAPTURE?

Next, associated with many Christians’ expectation of a physical Second Coming of Jesus is the idea of a rapture, where they will suddenly be caught up in heaven to be with the Lord. This mainly comes from the letters of Paul:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thes. 4:7)

The original prophecy of this was probably taken from the gospel of Matthew:

And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:30-31)

The original does not even mention the word “rapture” but instead “gather together.” Nevertheless, from the letter of Paul he mentions that those who are alive and remain will be “caught up” and from this Greek word we have the word “rapture.”  There are two interpretations of this. It can indeed mean a sudden physical transportation, as in the case of Philip:

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:39-40)

The word “caught away” is the same as “caught up” in 1 Thes. 4:7 where we get the term rapture. So from this, many assume there will be an actual physical ascension into the sky. However there is another, perhaps more interesting interpretation. The same word is used by Paul in a completely different context:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)

Some surmise Paul had this near death experience when he nearly died from being stoned to death. The word “caught up” or “rapture” is used twice in this verse. Here it does not refer to a physical ascension, but rather the rapture is to be caught up or enraptured in a spiritual visionary state.  And this is exactly what happens to John in his vision of the Apocalypse:

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. (Rev. 4:1-2)

With the apostles and select individuals throughout history, such visions took place on a limited individual basis. But the promise of the future is that such a visionary state will become more widespread:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)

In parallel with that, the majority of cases have been of those who are false prophets. So in each case they should be tested to determine if what they are stating is valid. But the point here is this: the expectation of a “rapture” can be fulfilled by a widespread outpouring of the Spirit, allowing people to enter a visionary state. At the moment, this is not permitted for most everyone, as most people’s minds have been lowered into material and carnal desires away from the love of the Spirit.

IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE PHYSICAL BODY, OR THE SPIRITUAL BODY?

So somewhat related to all this is the doctrine of the resurrection. There are many, at this day, who expect a literal physical resurrection, where people will rise out of their graves. This view is related to a literal appearance of the Second Coming, where everyone assumes all things take place in this material physical world. But this is not the case: one is resurrected in the spiritual world, in a spiritual body. One can take the same passages and interpret them either way. For example:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

This would indicate we will be raised in a spiritual glorified body. Will it be visible in this world? Not necessarily. And then there is this one:

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

To interpret these references to a resurrection, one must have spiritual knowledge of the afterlife. In the spiritual world, midway between heaven and hell, there is an intermediate state where souls gather, good and evil, who were not judged right after death. Many enter into a state of sleep. John sees them in one of his visions of the Apocalypse, where souls “under the altar” are told they must rest or sleep a little longer (Rev. 6:9-11). There are three heavens signified by the three divisions of the temple; the lowest heaven is represented by the outer court and this is where the altar was located. Those “under the altar” are those in this intermediate state between heaven and hell.

It is in this intermediate state, where many are unaware or asleep, is where the last judgment takes place. One is judged after death, some immediately who go to heaven or hell, but many will gather in this intermediate spiritual world. Thus, it is in the spiritual world where last judgments take place. And indeed, the Second Coming is this event – a judgment of souls in the spiritual world:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matt. 16:27)

At this time, there is a separation between the good and evil. This is described in the parable of Matthew 25, where the righteous are signified by “sheep” and the evil by “goats” –

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt. 25:31-32)

As this is a common misconception, one of the primary revelations given to Swedenborg is a complete explanation of the afterlife, the spiritual resurrection there, and how people are judged according to their works in a complete life review. For further information on this see Heaven and Hell as well as The Final Judgment.  This is becoming more well known among those who study the Near Death Experience from a variety of witnesses who have been brought back to life.

IF THE SECOND COMING IS “NONE OF THE ABOVE” THEN WHAT IS IT?

So its not a literal physical return, there is no literal physical resurrection, there is no rapture into the sky… all I have said so far is what it isn’t, and that one must look for a higher spiritual explanation.  It is very simple: in the First Coming, the “Word was made flesh.” The Word, or Greek Logos, is the Lord as to Divine truth made manifest in human form. In the Second Coming, the Word or Divine truth has been made manifest in the spiritual sense of the Word itself. This spiritual sense has been made manifest in the many volumes of revelations given in waking visions to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century. It is a more internal revelation, not an external visible revelation.

That this is so, is indicated by Jesus, who always describes the Second Coming as the coming of the “Son of Man.”  In the New Testament, “son of Mary” is used to refer to Jesus in His ordinary human form, “Son of God” is used to refer to Jesus in His glorified Divine Human form, but “Son of Man” is used to refer to the Lord as to the Divine truth. To appear “in the clouds of heaven” does not mean He will appear in the sky, but rather He will appear in spiritual vision. The “clouds” is the obscure truth that appears in the literal sense of the Word; for the Son of Man to “appear in glory” signifies the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word. This He did in the 18th century to Emanuel Swedenborg over a period of 27 years of continuous waking visions, where incorrect doctrines of Christianity have been corrected, for there are many false teachings that have corrupted the core of Christianity where very little truth means. And that is the other point: the Second Coming will take place when there is little or no faith left on earth:

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)

And there will be a general falling away from Christianity, where a false religion will come to take its place:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (1 Thes. 2:3-5)

This particular prophecy is probably taken from Dan. 11:45. A “falling away” is an apostasy from the true faith, a “man of sin” indicates that the falling away is where sin is disregarded, and to show oneself as God is to have an incorrect understanding of God Himself. Thus to see and recognize the Second Coming, one has to first recognize the falsehoods that are propagated in one’s own religion. Very few question what they are taught to believe. Falsehoods from within is what causes a true church to come to its end:

“A church is brought to an end by various means, especially by such as cause falsity to appear as truth; and when falsity appears to be truth, then the good which in itself is good and is called spiritual, is found no more.” (True Christian Religion, n. 754)

Thus what to expect? A true revelation of Jesus Christ and Christianity, a revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, revealed through spiritual vision. This will establish a New Church, which will be among the few and opposed by the many. This is signified by the 2 witnesses (Rev. 11), the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev. 7 and 14), and the woman who flees to the wilderness (Rev 12) which signifies a state of truth in obscurity known to few. This will be opposed by a false form of Christianity, signified by the dragon, beast and false prophet (Rev. 13) as well as the whore of Babylon (Rev. 17-18). That the Second Coming is a heavenly revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, can be seen by the coming of the Lord on a white horse, where we have this statement:

And his name is called The Word of God (Rev. 19:13)

As for the hidden spiritual sense of the Apocalypse, see further in the works Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained. The good news here, is the Second Coming has taken place, to reveal a more spiritual Christianity where further heavenly secrets are revealed. This was revealed in spiritual vision by Jesus Christ to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century:

“We read in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven (as in Matt. xxiv. 30; xxvi. 64; Mark xiv. 62; Luke xxi. 27; Apoc. i. 7; xiv. 14; Dan. vii. 13; see also Matt. xvii. 5; Luke ix. 34, 35). But hitherto no one has known what was meant by the clouds of heaven; they have believed that He is to appear in them in person. But that by the clouds of heaven the Word in the sense of the letter is meant, and by the glory and power in which also He is then to come (Matt. xxiv. 30) the spiritual sense of the Word is meant, has been heretofore concealed, because hitherto no one has even by conjecture reached the conclusion that there is a spiritual sense in the Word such as this sense is in itself. Now because the Lord has opened to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and it has been granted me to be together with angels and spirits in their world as one of them, it has been disclosed that by the clouds of heaven is meant the Word in the natural sense, and by glory the Word in the spiritual sense, and by power the Lord’s power through the Word.” (True Christian Religion, n. 776)

Friday, March 24, 2017