This Book is the Coming Of The Lord
If we could place ourselves in the position of one of the first readers of the Writings, sooner or later we would have come upon certain statements claiming that these doctrines embodied the truth of the Lord's second coming. "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" (TCR 779). What would our reaction be to this amazing claim? Without question it is one of the more remarkable assertions which appear in the Theological Writings given through Emanuel Swedenborg.
Our attention becomes more sharply focused upon this declaration as we contemplate the impact of a certain inscription which Swedenborg was commanded to write on two of His Theological Writings in Holland. On the flyleaf of these two books he wrote: "This Book is the second coming of the Lord, written by command." One of these books has been found, and it is now preserved in the British Museum in London. The book in question was the original manuscript of The Brief Exposition.
In a small fragmentary work entitled Sketch of an Ecclesiastical History of the New Church Swedenborg refers to this inscription, and gives us the following account:
A copy of the original inscription penned by Swedenborg appears below. It was written in his own handwriting in Latin.
Let us ask an important question. Why was the Brief Exposition singled out to be one of the books upon which the Lord commanded Swedenborg to write such an inscription?
When we examine the contents of this book we find that it compares and contrasts the creeds of Christianity with the doctrines of the New Church. It exposes the falsity of Christian dogma and emphatically states that the two bodies of doctrine are totally incompatible. Through its bold assertions the genuine truths of the New Heaven and the New Church became lucidly clear, it was published in Amsterdam in 1769, being written some twelve years after the Last Judgment. Following the judgment the new heavens became established and also the Heavenly Doctrines were becoming published on earth. We are also told that the spiritual sun could then shine with greater brilliance. As a result people on earth who found the Writings and who were moved by their truths were given to see a wholeness and unity to the Word of God.
The publishing of the Brief Exposition brought a new peace to the angelic heavens. Swedenborg noted that when it was published, the angelic heavens were radiant. They "appeared of a deep scarlet color, with the most beautiful flowers." Why did they appear that way? The Writings help us to see the reason. "By 'scarlet' is signified 'the truth of the Word from a celestial origin'" (AR 723). Truth from a celestial origin is the truth which envelops love. It is in fact the very face of love, or the means whereby love becomes seen. The following teaching sheds even more light on this appearance of the heavens. "When the sphere of [the good of mutual love and its truth] is presented to view in the lowest heaven, it appears of a scarlet color, because that which flows down from the celestial heaven and appears beneath takes its color from flame, and beneath becomes scarlet from the shining whiteness of the light of the middle heaven, through which it passes" (AC 8468).
Accompanying this scarlet glow of the heavens flowers also appeared. Again the Writings explain why. "Flowers [signify the Lord's] Divine intelligence. For Divine good united to Divine truth proceeding from the Lord' is received . . . in the first or lowest heaven as Divine intelligence" (AE 458:3).
Thus we can see that this beautiful scene in heaven, when the Brief
Exposition was published, furnishes us with a representative picture of the
Divine intelligence of the Lord descending through the heavens. It was like the
forecast of a new sense of peace which the Lord would bring to pass as the
communion between angels and men would take increase. The effects of the second
coming could now begin to take place in the hearts of those who would embrace
the doctrines of the New Church. 430
We should note that these references have been a source of debate among some scholars. Were they actually written by Swedenborg, or were they added later by someone else? The handwriting appears to be his, but the numbers seem to be written with unusual care. But it may be argued that if something was commanded to be written by the Lord we would expect special care to be taken.
The following points are some of those that have been raised by those who feel doubtful about attributing them to Swedenborg.
Personally, I have little doubt that Swedenborg penned those numbers. The handwriting appears to be his, and the objections cited above are by no means conclusive denials. Despite these points, it is very interesting to study the contents of these passages, for each one seems to define some aspect of the second coming. The further purpose of this article is to examine briefly the content of each of these references.
Let us then proceed to consider the content of the first reference,
AC 2513. We find that it treats of the internal sense of the words from Genesis:
"That God came to Abimelech." As Abraham journeyed through the land of Canaan he
came to Gerar in the territory of the Philistines. As he approached Gerar he
foresaw a danger. Abimelech, the king, would probably want to take Sarah, his
beautiful wife. To acquire her he would probably kill Abraham to eliminate any
opposition to his desire. For the purpose of saving his own life Abraham told
Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. Abimelech took Sarah, but that night he had
a dream, and in that dream it is said, "God came to Abimelech. That this means
the Lord's perception regarding the doctrine of faith is clear from the meaning
of 'God coming' and from the meaning of 'Abimelech'; for 'God coming' plainly
means perceiving, since perception is nothing else than the Divine coming or
influx into man's ability to understand. . ." (AC 2513). 431
The second written reference is AC 4535. This number occurs in one of those inter-chapter sections of the Arcana. At this point an explanation is being given about the internal sense within Matthew 24. That familiar chapter portrays the Lord speaking with His disciples during His last week, and answering their question, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the consummation of the age?" We quote from this passage: "The preliminary sections of previous chapters. . . explained what the Lord foretold about His coming, or the consummation of the age. Frequently in those sections it has been shown that His coming or the consummation of the age means the last period of the church, which in the Word is called the Last Judgment. . . . The church reaches its consummation when no charity exists there any longer, nor consequently any faith. . . . That in the church of the present day, called the Christian Church, scarcely any trace of charity or consequently of faith survives there, and that the close of the age is accordingly now at hand, will of the Lord's Divine mercy be shown further on" (AC 5435).
Here we are presented with statements regarding the consummation of the age, that state when charity and faith cease to exist and the church in question no longer serves the true ends of the Lord. The events are presented in their historical chronology, as they happened at the time of the second coming. But, it should also be remembered that such a statement has ample application to our own regeneration, but nevertheless it is here couched in the framework of history.
The third reference written was AC 6895. This passage explains the internal sense of certain words which the Lord spoke to Moses when He appeared to him in the burning bush. The Lord told Moses that He had chosen him to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses said, Who shall I say has sent me? The Lord said, tell "the sons of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. . . . Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, Jehovah the God of your fathers has been seen by me, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, saying, visiting I have visited you" (Exodus 3:14-16). Arcana Coelestia 6895 explains these last words: "Saying, Visiting I have visited you. That this signifies His coming to those who are of the spiritual church is evident from the signification of 'visiting,' as being the coming of the Lord, which precedes the last time of the church, which time is called the 'Last Judgment'. . . . 432 That by the 'coming of the Lord' is not meant His appearing with angels in the clouds, but acknowledgment in hearts by love and faith, also His appearing from the Word. . . . This coming is meant by the coming of the Lord which takes place when an old church is rejected and a new church is set up again by the Lord . . . . By 'visiting to visit' in the spiritual sense is meant liberation from falsities and thus initiation into what is of the Lord's church and kingdom, thus the coming of the Lord in love and faith with those who will be of the new church."
In this interesting passage we are again shown how the historical sequence of the second coming also bears a relationship to the personal advent of the Lord into the heart and life of the regenerating man.
The reference to AC 8427 reveals the internal sense of certain words spoken by Moses to the Children of Israel after the Lord had promised to supply manna for them in the Sinai desert. Moses and Aaron said to the people: "At evening you shall know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord. . ." (Exodus 16:6, 7). The Arcana reveals the following message: "And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of Jehovah. That this signifies that in the beginning of a new state there will be the advent of the Lord is evident from the signification of 'morning' as being the beginning of a new state; . . . and from the signification of 'the glory of Jehovah' as being His presence and advent. That 'glory' signifies the presence and advent of the Lord is because in the supreme sense 'glory' signifies the Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord, and the Divine truth appears before the eyes of the angels as light and brightness from the Sun which is the Lord" (AC 8427).
Here again we see a similar teaching that when a new heavenly state is born it is brought about by the advent of the Lord. Again this leads our thought to the personal coming of the Lord in the life of the regenerating man.
The final reference is to Apocalypse Revealed 626, explaining the spiritual significance of a passage in Revelation 14. In that chapter John saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with the 144,000 having the Lord's name written on their foreheads. Harpers from heaven were heard playing their instruments and singing a new song. But only the 144,000 could sing that song. Then John "saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven" (Revelation 14:6). The internal sense is expounded: "And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the eternal gospel to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth. 433 This signifies the annunciation of the Lord's advent, and of the New Church about to come down out of heaven from Him. . . . By 'another angel' is signified something . . . new out of heaven from the Lord in the church. By the 'eternal gospel' is signified the annunciation of the coming of the Lord and of His kingdom. . . . By 'them that dwell on the earth' are signified the men of the church to whom the annunciation will be made. The reason why it also means to announce that the New Church is now about to descend out of heaven from Him is because the Lord's coming involves two things, the Last Judgment and after it the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem" (AR 626).
Throughout the Writings there is a message of eternal moment. This passage speaks of the Lord's second coming both as to its historical fact and also as to His reception by the man of the church.
So in summary, let us ask what we learn from these passages that appear beside the quotation which Swedenborg wrote on the Brief Exposition.
Do they not help us to define more clearly just what is meant by the second coming of the Lord? It is a fact that the Lord made His second coming through the agency of His servant Emanuel Swedenborg. It is an historical fact that the Last Judgment occurred in the spiritual world in the year 1757. After that judgment the Lord restored order to the heavens. Before, during, and after that judgment there was the gradual descent of a new revelation from God out of heaven.
However, the ultimate purpose of these new teachings was to provide opportunity for the living, spiritual New Church to descend into the hearts and minds of those who follow the Lord God Jesus Christ who is revealed as the Bridegroom and Husband of the church.