The Gospel of Redemption

The Gospel of Redemption

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – April 19, 2009

revcooper.ca


Afterward He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (MAR 16:14-15)

Everything that the Lord did while He was on earth was representative of spiritual things. Everything He taught, every place He went, everything He did, He did with thought concerning how it would be recorded, and what we might be able to learn both from the literal sense, and from the internal sense. Therefore, we can know that it was not by accident that the Lord led the children of Israel out of Egypt in the spring time, and that they remembered that miracle each year thereafter with the feast of Passover. It was also no accident that the Lord chose the feast of Passover, the feast that celebrates the death of the first-born sons of Egypt, to allow the first-born Son of God to be crucified and rise from the grave Glorified.

In our common speech we acknowledge that endings are really beginnings. A university graduation ceremony is often called “commencement” in recognition of the fact that we do not stop at the end of one state, but we continually move on to new states. The crucifixion and death of the Lord’s natural body is a dramatic symbol of the end of one state, but our attention must not focus on just the ending itself for too long.

There was no reason for the crucifixion except for the sake of the Glorification of His Human. The Lord has provided that we come to worship Him thinking about His death and resurrection at a time of year when there is the beauty of the year’s infant growth, when the senses are filled with the eagerly awaited signs of spring, when things that have been as dead, once again begin to live. This is the reason why we bring an offering of flowers to the church on Easter morning: because they are symbols of resurrection. The dead, dry seed is put into the earth and soon bursts forth into a beauty and splendor that the wisest person could not have imagined from looking at the seed.

In heaven, there is perpetual springtime, for the sights, sounds, and fragrances there touch everyone with the message that life has conquered death. So the story of Easter morning, as told through Mark, begins with many symbols of old states ending, and new ones beginning, to draw our minds away from thoughts of the crucifixion. Such phrases as: the Sabbath was past; very early in the morning; the first day of the week; and at the rising of the sun are powerful images that are able to lead the mind to thoughts about new beginnings, fresh starts, a New Age and a New Church. Such images lead our thoughts to the things to come, to reflect on the goals which the Lord sought, which gave Him the strength to carry on in His temptations, the goal of the redemption of all mankind, and the ordering of the heavens.

The purpose for the Lord’s birth into the world was the redemption of mankind. It was for this reason that He took on a material body, so that through combats with the hells on every level He might defeat them and so restore the whole of the spiritual world to order. The crucifixion was the final battle of the war for mankind’s eternal welfare, and the joy of Easter morning is the victory celebration.

Some have misunderstood redemption, believing that by redemption the Lord has bestowed eternal blessedness on every person, no matter what the nature of his life. The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem teach that by redemption the Lord guaranteed that all people who desired it could enter heaven, because He broke hell’s power to deceive and mislead any one who did not wish to be deceived and misled.

Redemption was combat with the Hells, the subjugation of them, and afterwards the [ordering] of the heavens (TCR 126), and redemption was necessary not only for people in this world, but even for the angels of heaven as well (See TCR 121). In order to understand this, we need to remember that the Lord came into the world because the hells had, through deceit and the corresponding receptive states of people in the world, been able to move into the world of spirits and exert a great influence on those there. They were so successful there, that they actually began to intrude upon the freedom of those in the first heaven, threatening their peace and security. Simply put, the states of the spiritual and natural worlds had become such that it was impossible for a person to choose to learn and follow the truth. Unless order had been restored, no one could have risen above his hereditary tendencies to evils of every kind, and thus everyone would have been condemned to hell. Spiritual freedom was about to come to an end. God Himself … descended and assumed the Human, to remove the hells, and thus damnation, from mankind; and this He accomplished through combats with and victories over … all the hells, which were then infesting, and spiritually killing, every man who came into the world. (BE 57)

The Lord took on the Human so that He might be able to have a means for permitting the approach of the hells to Himself, for they could not approach Him as He is in Himself, nor in the heavens. He had to clothe Himself until His spiritual radiance was sufficiently accommodated, or shielded, that the hells could approach Him. In so doing, He received their temptations, conquered them, and so put them back into the hells from which they came. He thus opened heaven once again; and it was once again possible for Him to be present with mankind, and He could save those who chose to live according to the truths presented in the Word. (See TCR 579)

The Lord glorified His Human because by so doing He became the Redeemer, Regenerator, and Savior to eternity. The Heavenly Doctrines further teach that Redemption is like creation in that it is not something that occurs only once in time: The universe has no life in itself; its continued existence is dependent upon the Lord’s constant inflowing with life, sustaining and re-creating it every moment. In the same way, Redemption is not a single act that happened once in time, but a process whereby the Lord continually redeems those who believe in Him and show their faith by living a life of charity to others. He redeems these by continually acting to free them from the unrestrained influence of hell so that they are free to act according to their own choices and their own loves, and are not unduly influenced by others. (See TCR 579)

According to the gospel of Mark, after the resurrection, the Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She went to tell the others, who were mourning and weeping, but they did not believe her (MAR 16:9-11). After that, He appeared to two of them, as they walked (MAR 16:12). They too went to tell the others, and they too were not believed.

Finally, the Lord Himself appeared in the midst of the disciples as they sat at the table (MAR 16:14), and upbraided them for their unbelief. The gospel of Mark does not fully treat this incident, but we know from the record of the other gospels that the Lord spoke with them, moved among them, and ate as a man in the world, in order to put to rest their fears that He was some kind of spirit or ghost, and to bring them to the full belief that yes, He had in fact risen from the dead.

Having shown the disciples the reality of His resurrection, He gave them the following command: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (MAR 16:15).

The disciples were commanded to go forth and preach the gospel to all the world, to every creature. It is important that we understand what is meant by this command, for it applies to us as well. Today, we refer to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the “gospels.” However, since these books were not yet written at the time of the Lord’s command, it is obvious that He was not referring to what we now call the “gospels” or the first four books of the New Testament. They are called “gospels” because the word “gospel” means “good news,” and they contain the “good news” that the Lord Himself taught, as well as the “good news” of His resurrection and Glorification.

This is the “good news” or “gospel” that all those who wish to be the Lord’s disciples are to preach, that by the Lord’s crucifixion, resurrection on the third day, and Glorification, He has revealed Himself as the Redeemer. This is good news because by His perpetual redemption we are all free to live according to our own will and according to our own understanding of the truth, and not the truth interpreted for us by any man or devil. The Lord as Redeemer has shattered the power of hell, so that we have hell in our own lives only through our own action and invitation. He has conquered spiritual death for all men for all time, and the symbol of that victory is that He rose with the whole body on Easter morning.

As the Lord’s Human was glorified, that is, made Divine, He rose again after death on the third day with His whole body, which does not take place with any man; for a man rises again solely as to the spirit, and not as to the body. In order that men may know, and no one doubt, that the Lord rose again with His whole body, He not only said so through the angels in the sepulcher, but also showed Himself to His disciples in His human body.… (Lord 35).

We are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature, that is, to bring the good new of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, the conqueror of death itself, to every person who would be created anew, who would become an angel of heaven. The Lord has given us the good news of His resurrection in the Word, and we must carry that news to others by our life, and by our words. If we so believe and act, then the power of hell cannot harm us, for the Lord told His disciples:

And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen (MAR 16:17-20).

1st Lesson: Psa 8

O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! {2} Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. {3} When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, {4} What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? {5} For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. {6} You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, {7} All sheep and oxen; Even the beasts of the field, {8} The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. {9} O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

2nd Lesson: Mark 16

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. {2} Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. {3} And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” {4} But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. {5} And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. {6} But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. {7} “But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” {8} So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. {9} Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. {10} She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. {11} And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. {12} After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. {13} And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. {14} Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. {15} And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. {16} “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. {17} “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; {18} “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” {19} So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. {20} And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

3rd Lesson: AC 780

Of all flesh in which there was the spirit of life means a new creature, or the fact that they received new life from the Lord. This becomes clear from the meaning of ‘flesh’ as all mankind in general and a bodily-minded person in particular, as stated and shown already. Consequently ‘flesh in which there was the spirit of life’ means a person who has been regenerated, for the Lord’s life, which is the life of charity and faith, is there within his proprium. Nobody is anything more than flesh, but when the life of charity and faith is breathed into him by the Lord, his flesh in that case is made alive, becomes spiritual and celestial, and is called ‘a new creature’, (Mark 16:15), from having been created anew.


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