The Second Coming
by Rev. David R. Simons
The promise of a source of truth by which the Lord Jesus Christ would tell His disciples things they were unprepared to receive at His first coming is unmistakably given in the New Testament. Something of what, this new truth would be like is also stated. It would involve the inner spirit of truth; it would be a guide to all truth; it would not speak of itself, but what was heard; and it would reveal things to come. "These things," the Lord said, "have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father" (John 16: 25).
Christians who search the New Testament Word can distinguish two differing ideas about the second coming of the Lord: one, that there will be some agency by means of which He will come and yet that it will be the Lord Himself who comes. The other, that this agency is spoken of as a detached Spirit of Truth, a Comforter who will testify of the Christ: "But when the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (John 15: 26). This Comforter is also identified as the Lord Himself: "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him . . . I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14: 16, 17).
Careful reflection on the passages concerning the second coming of the Lord in the New Testament, a sincere analysis of how the Lord fulfilled the Old Testament by His first advent, and a realization of why the Jews rejected their Messiah, can prepare Christians to recognize and receive the Lord in His second coming. Although the Lord comes exactly as He promises in His Word, still He does not come as men expect. We are therefore to "watch . . for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come . . . be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matthew 24: 42, 44).
Every devout Jew at the time of the First Advent was aware of the promises of Scripture that a Messiah would come to save His people. Many were acquainted with the particular teachings about His coming. Yet few received Him when He came. They were for the most part suspicious of the Lord's teachings. They viewed them as contrary to Scripture. Despite the fact that the Lord made His relation to the Old Testament perfectly clear, saying, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5: 17), His words were considered blasphemous. His new doctrine was rejected. The old bottles could not contain the new wine of Christian truth.
However, the teachings of the New Testament did not repudiate the Old, but made it living and full. Rather than destroying them, the Lord filled the law and the prophets with new meaning. He showed men an inner layer of truth by which the Scripture might be understood and become more effective in their lives. Far from taking away the need for such teachings as the Ten Commandments, Christian doctrine made them more fully applicable to life, thus providing the means whereby evil might be fought directly. "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill," the Christ taught; "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5: 21, 22). It is not enough merely to refrain from murder externally, but man must reject hatred and unrighteous anger from his mind. "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5: 27, 28). It is not merely actions of the body that are to be shunned, but intentions as well. The emphasis of Christian doctrine is on internal things of the mind and heart, on the cleansing of the inside of the cup and the platter.
Any Jew who was willing to think deeply could see that this new doctrine did not do away with the law, but actually made it full by revealing its inner purpose and spirit. He was therefore free to recognize that the day of the Lord was at hand, and to receive Him with joy and thanksgiving.
That the Lord fulfilled the prophets was even more apparent. Was He not born of a virgin in Bethlehem? Did He not come up out of Egypt? Did He not ride into Jerusalem a King? And was He not hated without a cause, led as a lamb to the slaughter, rejected of men, and, as Jonah the prophet had represented, resurrected on the third day? Anyone who sincerely compared the life of Christ with the Old Testament could see that He literally became the Word in the flesh. The direct evidence is convincing; the indirect overwhelming. For once the mind was affirmative to His coming-that He was indeed the promised Messiah-His presence throughout Scripture became increasingly obvious. Once the mind was disposed to accept the first coming of the Lord, it could travel with Him to Emmaus and hear Him beginning at Moses and the prophets expounding in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24: 27).
And as if this evidence was not enough, the Lord told men directly who He was. In Nazareth, after reading from the prophet Isaiah, He put down the book saying: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4: 21) . To the woman of Samaria who knew that when the Christ should come He would tell all things, He said: " I that speak unto thee am He" (John 4: 26). The leaders of the Jews were shocked and enraged when the Lord identified Himself with Jehovah God, who spoke to Moses at the burning bush and called Himself "I Am." For "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8 : 58). And He led His disciples to know Him as the way, the truth, and the life-one with the Father, their Lord and their God.
But because the Jews were so external, because they could not lift their minds to the inner fulfillment of Scripture, because they were possessed by their own preconceived ideas of how the Christ would come, they failed to receive Him when He revealed Himself. Blinded by natural loves-the desire for wealth, power, and national salvation-they could not see the truth in human form nor open their minds to His spiritual salvation. For one brief moment on Palm Sunday, when the Lord seemed about to fulfill their earthly ambitions, they hailed Him as their king; but when they discovered that His kingdom was not of this world and that He came to save them from their own evil loves, they cried for His crucifixion. None but a remnant of the Jewish Church received the Lord at His first advent. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1: 10, 11).
For sincere Christians who await the second coming of the Lord, a clear understanding of His first advent can be most useful. For from a knowledge of how the Lord fulfilled the law and the prophets, how He revealed Himself directly, and how the Jews rejected Him because He did not cater to their preconceived ideas, Christians can be prepared to receive Him when He makes His second coming. This they can know with sureness, they must not look externally for this coming, but to the Spirit of Truth. They must not look for salvation from national calamity, but for a truth which can save them from their own evils. They must seek for a new doctrine-one that unveils the inner content of the Ten Commandments and presents a new fulfillment of the law. They must see through the "letter that killeth" to the "spirit that giveth life." They can expect the Lord to reveal Himself in His own way and so not be blinded by their preconceptions of how and when He will come. And finally, they can expect Him to identify Himself when He comes-to state that this is His coming, and to invite all to receive Him and to enter His New Church.
A mind so conditioned and prepared, a mind willing to examine the claims of a New Christianity in the light of Scripture, is a mind prepared to accept the Lord as He reveals Himself in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. For all the requirements of New Testament prophecy are fulfilled by this new doctrine. The Writings given from God out of heaven, that is, revealed through a mind ordered and elevated to receive Divine truth directly from the Lord, tell the "many things" the disciples could not bear. They are a revelation of spiritual truth which relates to all truth. They do not speak of their human author, but of things heard and seen. And they show us things to come-the world of the human spirit as it lives here and in eternity.
As the Lord at His coming fulfilled the law, in His new coming He unfolds Christianity in its fullness-the inner laws of the human spirit in its body as it lives in this world and in the world to come. Whereas the Old Testament was seen in an entirely distinctive light from the New, so both the Old and the New Testaments shine with meaning when viewed from the interior light of rational truth in the Writings.
The Old Testament law condemns murder and the New the anger that is its cause. The Heavenly Doctrine enters more interiorly into the commandments and reveals layer within layer of meaning. It shows how the commandments apply naturally in our external relations with men, how they apply spiritually in our relations with the eternal minds and spirits of men, and celestially in our relation to our God, the Lord. We learn from the work called the True Christian Religion that "not to kill . . . also means not to inflict any deadly harm on a person's name. . . . In a broader natural sense [it] means enmity, hatred and revenge. . . . In the spiritual sense, murder means all the devious modes of killing and destroying the souls of men. . . of turning them away from God, religion, and Divine worship by insinuating scandalous thoughts against these. . . . Such murderers are all the devils and satans in hell," whose states are described fully, elsewhere in the Writings. "In the celestial sense to kill means to be rashly angry with the Lord, to hate Him, and to wish to blot out His name. It is said of such that they crucify the Lord, and this they would do, as the Jews did, if He were to come again into the world as before" (no. 311).
That the Heavenly Doctrine is a new law is further evident from its treatment of the Seventh Commandment. The Old Testament forbade adultery in act, the New in thought. The Writings enlarge on these teachings showing that the intention of a lust is a spiritual deed. Man is not made chaste merely by abstaining from doing, but by abstaining from willing because it is a sin against God. So far as anyone abstains from adulteries merely for external reasons-from fear of the law and of reputation or "on account of some natural or moral law, and not at the same time on account of spiritual law, he is nevertheless inwardly an adulterer" (TCR 316). Such a one believes that adulteries are not sins, and therefore in spirit he commits them, even if he does not commit them in the body; and in consequence, when after death he becomes a spirit, he speaks openly in favor of them. In the spiritual sense "to commit adultery" means to adulterate the goods of the Word and to falsify its truths. This is done by those who deny and profane the holiness of the Word, and ridicule all things of the church and of religion, which are from the Word (see TCR 316, 314, 315). Commandment after commandment is unfolded as to its inner meanings, as a law of the human spirit, an eternal law of life. Neither the Old Testament nor the New is repudiated by the Heavenly Doctrine. Both are made full and complete. Their inconsistencies and mysteries are rationally explained.
These rational truths would have been beyond the grasp of the disciples and of the primitive Christian Church. Their minds could not have comprehended them. How could men understand spiritual law who had no real conception of natural law? How could men who knew little about the consistencies of order by which the Lord rules the external world ever have grasped the consistencies of order by which the internal world of the mind and spirit are governed? As the individual man is prepared by growth to understand things naturally, so the human race had to advance to an age of rationality before the Lord could reveal Himself plainly. "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" (John 3: 12).
Christians who look for an external coming of the Lord, like the Jews who expected an earthly king, will look in vain. The Word has already been made flesh. To repeat this miracle would be useless. The Lord has already come into the world and glorified His Human, and this for all time. What is needed, and what the Writings provide, is an interior understanding of the First Advent-of the New Testament and of the Old which it fulfilled.
The Heavenly Doctrine fulfills New Testament prophecy to the least detail, but not in an external way. The Lord has not come in physical clouds. There has been no cosmic disturbance in which the sun was darkened and the moon's light dimmed. The stars have not tumbled from their appointed places in the external world. Yet what about the world of the human spirit? Who would say that the sun of love to the Lord has not been darkened? Who does not recognize that the moon of genuine faith in the Lord scarcely shines among men? Who is not aware that the stars of heaven-the knowledges of good and truth in the Word - have fallen from importance in our modern world? And who does not realize that the literal Word of the Old and New Testaments is full of mysteries which men do not understand-that it is veiled in clouds? It is to unfold these mysteries of faith, it is to show the living spirit, the consistent threads of truth within the letter, that the spiritual sense has now been revealed. "This revelation is [what is] meant by the second coming of the Lord" (AE 641). The scribe of the Second Advent teaches that "in order that the Lord might be continuously present with me, He has unfolded to me the spiritual sense of His Word, wherein is Divine truth in its very light, and it is in this light that He is continually present. For His presence in the Word is by means of the spiritual sense and in no other way; through the light of this sense He passes into the obscurity of the literal sense, which is like what takes place when the light of the sun in day-time is passing through an interposing cloud. The sense of the letter of the Word is like a cloud, and the spiritual sense is the glory, the Lord Himself being the sun from which the light comes, and thus the Lord is the Word" (TCR 780).
That an inspired revelation can be the Lord with man is because the Lord is the Word. Even as the real man is his spiritual qualities of love and wisdom, his will, purposes and thoughts, in "like manner, but in a preeminent degree the Lord is Divine love and Divine wisdom" (TCR 778). Thus "whether you say, ‘the Lord' or ‘the Divine truth' it is the same, since all Divine truth is from Him, and therefore He Himself is in it" (AE 411). This makes clear why the Lord said of His new revelation that it should both testify of Him and that He should come by means of it.
The Lord on earth openly identified Himself. In the Heavenly Doctrine He plainly states His coming: "This revelation is [what is] meant by the second coming of the Lord," He teaches in the Apocalypse Explained (no. 641) : "This immediate revelation is the advent of the Lord," we are taught in the treatise on the Athanasian Creed. The most direct declaration was written by command on all copies of the Heavenly Doctrine in the spiritual world and on two volumes in this. Here the Lord says: "This book is the Advent of the Lord, written by command" (Autographed by Swedenborg on the flyleaf of the Summaria Expositio).
The direct evidence is convincing. The indirect - the manifold teachings about the spirit of man, the spiritual sense of the Word, and about the Lord Jesus Christ - is overwhelming!
"Who in the Christian world," the Writings ask, "could ever have known anything about heaven and hell, had it not pleased the Lord to open the sight of some one's spirit and show and teach him?" (TCR 851). Who would know anything about the spiritual sense of the Word as a consistent thread of meaning within all the Scriptures? Who would know anything about the creation of the natural universe from the spiritual sun? Who would know anything about the origin of evil and why evil is permitted by a merciful God? Who would know anything about the laws of the Divine Providence by which the Lord rules the human race, the inner purposes of creation, and the modes by which those purposes are carried out? And who would really know the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and earth, who has not left us comfortless but has come and revealed Himself in the fullness of rational truth so that we can enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith, and so that a New Christianity, a spiritual Christianity, may be established among men?
We must distinguish between the presence of the Lord and His coming. Of this distinction we read: "The Lord's presence is unceasing with every man, both the evil and the good, for without His presence no man lives; but His coming is only to those who receive Him, who are such as believe in Him and keep His commandments" (TCR 774). That all may believe in Him, and this from an interior sight of His truth, that all may receive Him and keep His commandments spiritually, He extends an "invitation to the whole Christian world to [His New] Church, and an exhortation that they receive the Lord worthily, who foretold that He would come into the world on account of [this church] and to it" (Summary of the Coronis LV). And in the heavens He has "called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world and . . . sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach [this] gospel, that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose Kingdom shall be for ages and ages" (TCR 791).