The Comings of the Lord
by Rev. Jan H. Weiss
"Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shall shine forth; our God shall come, and shall not keep silent." (Psalm 50: 2, 3)
This statement of the 50th Psalm is a prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord. It is a promise that mankind will not always be in darkness, but that our Lord will come and speak to us. And as such, it is filled with new hope for the future, and is directed to any man at any time. In fact, it was directed to man from the beginning of creation; it is still applicable to the man of today, and will be directed to the man of tomorrow.
In our text we find an identification of three different actions of the Lord. "God shining forth" is "God coming," and these two actions are the same as "God speaking." In identifying these three actions, the Lord teaches us that the essential, and purpose, of His coming is Divine speech. Without such speech a coming of the Lord would be unreal and meaningless.
Those who do not know that a coming of the Lord is essentially the accommodation of His Divine thoughts to the finite comprehension of man are very apt to think that, when the Lord comes, He becomes like man. And instead of concentrating on what the Lord says, they focus their attention on the means through which the Lord makes His coming.
In the Christian Church this has resulted in an overemphasis on the fact that the Lord assumed a body of flesh and blood, that He was tempted, that He endured physical pain and suffered the death of a martyr. And, consequently, we find in all Christian churches a worship of the crucified Lord rather than the glorified Lord; while in the Roman Catholic Church this overemphasis on the means of the Lord's coming has resulted even in the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the Virgin Mary, and her being nearly equal to the Lord Himself.
The means of the Lord's second coming are the knowledges that were in the mind of Swedenborg. And did we not clearly see the intrinsic Divinity of those Writings, which sets them apart from all other human writings, we could very easily become personal followers and worshippers of the man Swedenborg.
But the truth is that the Lord never became like man. Indeed there is an appearance to that effect, and there are also certain similarities. But the differences are most fundamental. The soul of the body of Jesus Christ was Divine and infinite, while the soul of man is finite and limited, for it consists of finite, receptive spiritual substances.
Man's soul is either a form of the Divine love, which creates a female mind, or a form of Divine wisdom, which creates a male mind. But the Lord's soul was neither a form of Divine wisdom nor a form of Divine love, but was that Divine love and wisdom in perfect union; and this soul created for itself, not a female or male mind, but the Divine mind.
Consequently, the Lord's birth was very different from the birth of man, for He was conceived of the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth; while man is always born from the conception of the seed of a finite father. Only the Lord was born of a virgin.
Again, the Lord's temptations were very different from the temptations of man. In man, temptations are combats between a good love and the hells, while in the Lord there was a combat between those hells and the Divine love itself. His temptations were infinitely more severe and universal than those of man; in fact, so severe that man cannot ever imagine in any degree how severe they were.
As to the Lord's death, it was unlike any "man's" death. His departure from this world was accompanied by unusual physical phenomena, and His body did not remain in the sepulcher. The Lord's resurrection was unlike that of any man, the Writings assure us, for He rose with the whole body which He had in the world (AC 10252).
In the Writings we are shown very clearly and abundantly that the incarnation, the temptations, the death and resurrection of the Lord, were all means for His coming, but that His coming is really an accommodation of Divine truth. Whenever we read about the means for His coming, we are to realize that they were employed only because in no other way could the Lord have revealed Himself at that time, and that the description and history of these means also contain the "words" of the Lord, but in the internal sense. Glorifying the Human was thus a means to humanizing the Divine.
The Lord's coming is thus the Lord speaking to man, or a written revelation that is adapted to the state and apprehension of mankind. And as this apprehension is different in the various stages of, the mental development of both mankind and the individual man, we can see the possibility of many different comings of the Lord. For wherever and whenever mankind or an individual man is given a new understanding of Divine truth, there we may rightly say that the Lord has come again.
All these different comings of the Lord may be divided into two categories, namely, His objective comings and His subjective comings. Or we may say that there are objective revelations and subjective revelations of Divine truth.
An objective coming is a revelation of Divine truth to a certain stage of the mental development of mankind. Though all the Divine love and wisdom is behind such a revelation, its literal sense is limited in that it speaks only to a certain degree of human comprehension; it is accommodated only to a certain type of mind.
An objective revelation is always given in such a way that mankind may see it outside of itself. For were man to receive Divine truth only by an internal way, he would have no freedom to accept or reject it. We also note that the giving of every objective revelation always initiates a new church and a new dispensation. For a coming of Divine truth always brings a judgment upon the previous church.
And, finally, we should know that all revelations of Divine truth to mankind are the Word of the Lord, but may be differentiated by names, such as the Most Ancient and the Ancient Word, the Old and New Testaments, and the Writings, because of the different ultimates into which the Divine truth has been poured.
A subjective coming is the Lord speaking to an individual through an objective revelation. It may indeed be a Divine revelation, yet it does not have any objective authority in the church. When expressed by enlightened men, it may serve as doctrine in the church that can lighten up the Word, but it will never take the place of that Word.
To know how the Lord comes and why He comes is most important, for unless we know that we are not really able to receive Him, nor do we know how to prepare ourselves for receiving Him. And this is true just as much for the reception of an objective coming as for the reception of a subjective coming.
The first coming of the Lord took place when heaven and earth were created. Divine truth proceeding, that is, finiting and limiting itself, brought forth the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms; and the man of the Most Ancient Church, from love to the Lord, perceived in all his observations of nature's wonders heavenly wisdom concerning the Lord's love. To the men of the Most Ancient Church, nature was the objective revelation of Divine truth, and their perception of heavenly wisdom was the subjective revelation or coming of the Lord.
After the fall of this church, nature could no longer function as an objective revelation of the Lord; for the men of the Ancient Church were not able to perceive heavenly wisdom in nature as the people of the Most Ancient Church could. The Lord had to speak again to a different degree of human comprehension. This time the perceptions of the men of the Most Ancient Church were gathered together into doctrinal statements, and their compilation, guided by the Lord, became the Word or objective coming to the Ancient Church. Thus came into existence the Ancient Word.
The Lord foresaw the fall of the Most Ancient Church, and there are therefore prophecies of His coming even in nature itself. There is the darkness of the night, and the glorious dawn of a new day. There is the cloudy sky that hides the light of the sun, and there is the wind that disperses the clouds. and opens the sky.
The Lord also foresaw the fall of the Ancient Church; and we thus find in the third chapter of Genesis, which is part of the Ancient Word, that the Lord would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, between its seed and her seed; it would bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent would bruise his heel (verse 15).
And when it seemed to the human observer that the future Israelitish Church was increasing in numbers and blessedness, the Lord prophesied through the dying Jacob: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" (Genesis 49: 10).
To the Israelitish Church the Lord came through prophets and through its own history. Its genesis in Ur of the Chaldees, its conquest of the land of Canaan, its glorious period of the three great kings, and its decline and captivities afterwards, all picture, in the internal sense, the Lord's coming. And here and there shines through the literal sense prophecy of the Lord's incarnation - prophecy becoming more frequent and less obscure as time goes on. And the sincere Jew who gave heed to the ever clearer prophecies, and saw the need of a new adaptation of Divine truth, could recognize the blessed Savior, born in Bethlehem.
The many prophecies that we find in the Old Testament were given so that the Israelites could come into a state of expectancy. Yet how few really expected Him! Surely they knew about the coming of a Messiah, but their national conceit and selfishness had caused them to interpret the prophecies falsely. Some Jews still expect the coming of the Messiah, but many have interpreted the prophecies in such a way that they see the rise of the Jewish nation in the land of Canaan as the coming of the Lord.
Conceit and selfishness are very easily combined with a pride of the "glorious" past and an entirely perverted. idea of the n future In such a state were the Jews at the Lord's coming. And such a state is absolutely closed to anything new and different. It destroys all possibility of progress and kills very quickly any seed of new truth that is sown. In such a state there can be no reception of an objective revelation, and thus certainly not of a subjective coming.
Most Christians today are able to see why it was that so few Jews recognized the Lord when He was on earth. However, just as the Jewish Church was not the crown of all churches, so the Christian Church was not going to be the final church. For while the Lord spoke, and laid the foundation for the Christian Church, He foresaw at the same time that this church would fall, and He therefore prophesied also that He would come again.
Concerning this coming the Lord said: "The Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not"; "therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh" (Luke 12: 40; Matthew 24: 44). Though Christians of today know about these prophecies, there are but few who realize that such a coming involves a giving of a new revelation. There is an attitude in the Christian Church that all problems of theology have been solved long ago, and that there is no need for a new adaptation of Divine truth. And yet the Lord said: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16: 12).
Though the Jews could have known that their misery under the Roman yoke was due to their disobeying the Lord's commandments, they were blind and desired from the Lord only a national deliverance, not a personal deliverance from hell. And while Christians know, or can know, that all the conflicts and wars in the world are due to our disobeying the Lord's commandments, they have not placed their hopes in a personal deliverance from hell or a personal regeneration, but have declared such a personal regeneration impossible, and therefore look only for a deliverance of the church as a whole. Or, as is done in some of the churches, especially on the American continent, they see the second coming of the Lord as an improvement in social circumstances and international relationships.
And yet the Lord has come again in an objective revelation of Divine truth. As He explained the Old Testament prophecies when He made His first coming, so He explained the New Testament prophecies in the revelation of His second coming.
To an age and a stage of mental development that is characterized by the word "rational," the Lord has revealed the wisdom that is in the rational degree of His Divine mind; He has thus come and not kept silent.
He has come to deliver us from false notions concerning Himself and the way to heaven. He has also come to give us Divine truth to fight the hells of personal conceit and arrogance. His light now shines forth to reprove our evils, and light up the path to a brighter future.
To some this new revelation will be "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense," for it crushes preconceived ideas and personal ambitions. But to others it will be a source of light and inspiration, which will cause them to exclaim: "Lo, this is our God, for whom we have waited that He may deliver us; this is Jehovah, for whom we have waited; we will exult and be glad in His salvation" (Isaiah 25: 9, 26: 8, 9).
New Church men have heard these words before. They have accepted the Lord in His second coming, and they might think that they need not heed the Lord's reproval of the Pharisee and of the Christian of today. But if they think so, they should know that they are sadly mistaken. Every New Church man can be in the state of the Jewish nation at the time of the Lord's birth, or in the state of the Christian Church of today. For though he may accept verbally the threefold objective revelation of the Lord, he may reject His coming into his heart and mind and life.
There is not only an objective coming of the Lord, but also a subjective one. And though it is true that the Lord will not again make an objective coming into this world, He will have to come subjectively in order to accomplish salvation, and free us from the slavery of hell.
For this reason New Church men should pay close attention to the prophecies of the Lord's first and second coming. These prophecies will always be true for the coming of the Lord into man's mind. With every individual there should be a constant preparation for the coming of the Lord in his every thought and desire. Then the Lord, who is sought, will suddenly come to His temple in man's mind. He will do judgment and justice in the land. He will feed like a shepherd. He will - as He does, and did - give grace and peace. For only the Lord is, and was, and is to come.
-New Church Life 1957;77:529-534