THE NEW JERUSALEM
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinMarch 20, 1994
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. (Rev. 21:9-11)
The Apostle John, while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, had a series of visions which he was commanded to write down and send to the seven Christian churches. The spiritual experiences John went through were designed to show what the state of the world would be when the Lord would come again and in what manner His Coming would take place. One of the most beautiful and spectacular sights that John saw was the Holy City, called the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven upon the earth.
From the descriptions that John wrote, this city must have been breathtaking, unlike any city John had previously seen. The city had a clear and bright light that made it unnecessary for there to be a sun or a moon. And John perceived that the source of this light came from the Lord Himself. (Rev. 21:23) There was also a great wall that surrounded the city. This wall was 144 cubits high or about 216 feet. The wall was said to be made of jasper. Jasper is a translucent stone. Therefore, the light of the city was able to pass through its walls. The wall had twelve gates, three on each side, and each gate consisted of a pearl with an angel guarding it. The wall also had a foundation made of twelve precious and translucent stones. The street within the city was made of pure gold that was as clear as glass. This was a very beautiful city to look upon. But John made clear that only those who were written in a certain book called, “the Lamb’s Book of Life”, were allowed to enter this city. Anyone that was impure was not allowed to enter. The luster of the city goes far beyond what we can ever imagine.
Certainly, the Lord’s followers were encouraged when they later read of this vision. They were inspired to continue on in their struggles to spread the Lord’s gospel to all nations. They were assured that someday they would enter into this marvelous city. However, they were not aware that contained within the descriptions of the New Jerusalem, were teachings on how the Lord can make His Second Coming into each individual that makes a sincere effort to receive the Lord. The peace and the security that the Lord can give to such a person is illustrated by the wonderful beauty of the city, New Jerusalem.
A striking thing about the New Jerusalem is the brightness of the light there. The light of that city is so bright that there is no need for the sun or the moon. And it is a perpetual light. Furthermore, the light there comes directly from the Lord Himself. A person who is spiritual is in such a light. When they read the Word, truths will appear to them. And these truths will clearly show who the God of heaven and earth is, how they are to love, how they are to think, and how they are to act. The Word provides them with clear directions on how they are to conduct their lives. These are the ones who are able to see heavenly doctrine in the letter of the Word. (AR 898) They are able to see how the Word can lead them into the life of heaven even while they still live upon the earth. When a person can see the heavenly doctrine in the Word, Divine truth appears to him. The appearance of Divine truth is the Second Coming of the Lord. (AC 4060) When we are guided by Divine truth, we are in the bright light of the city of the New Jerusalem. When we are guided by Divine truth, the Lord Himself will direct our ways. And because we are in heavenly light, the Lord will appear to us when we read the Word. (AC 6895) The Word is the revelation of the Lord. (AE 36) And when we are guided by Divine truths, or truths directly from the Lord Himself, we will have a clear vision of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth, and the life He would have us live. This clear perspective of life, that comes to those who desire to become spiritual, is the shinning bright light that is in the New Jerusalem.
Those in the New church have a wonderful means to know and be guided by Divine truth. This is because of the revelation of the doctrine of genuine truth. Through the revelation of genuine truths, the spiritual sense of the Word has been unfolded. The doctrine of genuine truth agrees fully with the spiritual sense of the Word. (SS 25) The Lord is present in the spiritual sense. (TCR 780) When we have the knowledge of the spiritual sense and more importantly, when our lives are conformed to it, we are able to see the Lord in genuine light. We will see the Lord as He really is: the One God of heaven and earth, the One in Whom is the Trinity. This is the purpose why the Lord has made His Second Coming through the Writings: so we may know that the Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah, and He alone must be worshipped. (AE 870) The more we can recognize the Lord as He truly is, the more we can love Him. And the more we love the Lord, the more we can know what a life of charity consists of. The greater knowledge concerning the Lord and the purpose for our existence is the opportunity that the New Church can enter into.
Surrounding this Holy City with the great light was a great wall. This wall was made of jasper. Jasper is a type of stone which light can pass through. Therefore, the light of the New Jerusalem could pass through the walls which surrounded it. Such is the process in which the light of Divine truths can shine forth though the sense of the letter of the Word. When we approach the Word with a dedication to let it govern our lives, then the truths that are contained therein will shine forth to our apprehension. When we apprehend the truths of the Word through the letter, we then can see the Lord in His Divine Human. (AR 911) When we read the Word and it gives us a clear message of the Humanity of the Lord and how we can sincerely worship Him, then the words we read are like the walls of jasper, the light of heavenly truths can shine through and effect our understanding. The natural sense of the Word can only become such a light when we truly acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and earth. And we acknowledge the Lord as the only God when we seek to conform our lives to His commandments.
The wall of the New Jerusalem contained twelve gates. These gates were the only way a person could enter this marvelous city. Before we can have the Divine truths of the Word lead our lives, we must first become familiar with what the Word says. We must have the knowledge of truth before we can be affected by them. When we sincerely obtain the knowledge of what the Word says, we sill enter into heavenly light. If we seek to know what the Word contains so we can live a life that can be conjoined with the Lord, then we are entering through the pearly gates of the Holy City of the New Jerusalem.
However, at each gate there was an angel standing guard. Only those who were accounted worthy could enter through the gates. And they were worthy if they had a love towards the Lord and a desire to live according to His Commandments. Anyone who did not have such a commitment were prevented from entering therein. They could not experience the beauty and the delights that existed within the New Jerusalem. The only way we can have this commitment to receive the Lord into our lives is to shun our evils as sins against the Lord. We must refuse to indulge into the delights we know violate the teachings of the Word. (AR 908) When we shun our evils or selfish loves, we are then able to walk in light by living according to the Lord’s Commandments. (AR 920, 922) This will be our desire because we know that thereby we will be conjoined with the Lord. This is why the New Jerusalem was called a “Bride” and “the Lamb’s wife”. For just as a bride and a wife desire to be conjoined with her husband, so will those who shun evils as sins desire to be conjoined with the Lord. If we do not desire to remove our evil habits, then we are prevented from experiencing the beauty of the New Jerusalem. And no one is allowed to enter who is still defiled. This was made clear when John wrote:
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Rev 21:27)
We are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life if we believe in the Lord and live according to His Commandments. This can only happen when we are willing to shun our evils as sins against the Lord.
Also the city New Jerusalem was founded upon a strong foundation. This foundation represents the doctrine of those who sincerely love the Lord and have a clear direction on how to live their lives. We need doctrine for stability. (Doctrine of Lord 52) If we did not have doctrine, we would wonder from one sweet sounding belief to another. Doctrine is formed by gathering together the teachings of the Word into a unity that becomes principles to live by. The more our doctrine is based upon Divine truths, the more stable and clear it will become. It will become stronger because it will not be confusing nor contradictory. We will see the Lord in greater light as the one God and the life that proceeds from Him. The more Divine truths make up our doctrine, the more secure the foundation of our belief in the Lord becomes. Also, the more beautiful it will be. For it will be like a foundation adored with precious stones.
The fact that we can now see the Lord directly makes the New Church the crown of all churches. We can worship a visible God because we can see Him openly. (TCR 787) The more we can apprehend the Lord’s Divine Human, the more we can be conjoined with Him. This is the purpose for our creation: to be conjoined with the Lord. (TCR 786) All we need to do to enter into this beautiful city of the New Jerusalem is to remove the evils and falsities that are still attached to us. (TCR 784) When we strive to do this, the Lord will make His Second Coming to each one of us. When He so comes, the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven into us. And when we feel the spectacular beauty of the New Jerusalem, we will have heavenly joys in our lives. This is our reward. This the Lord promises: “Behold I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7)