The Lordís Passion
by F.L. S.
The final moments of the Lord's life on earth were marked by several dramatic events, such as the sun being darkened, the veil of the temple being rent in twain, the earth quaking and rocks being burst asunder, the graves opening and the saints walking abroad, and other miraculous occurrences. All of these things are recorded in the New Testament because they are an essential part of the story of the Lord's glorification - the story of how the Lord took to Himself the Human and made it Divine. When properly understood, they help us to see not only a more perfect picture of the nature of the risen Lord but also a fuller idea of the works He performed in glorifying His Human.
For hundreds of years, biblical scholars and historians have puzzled over the various events which accompanied the death on the cross. Apart from the accounts of these events in the Gospels there seems to be no other record, no independent confirmation that they actually occurred. If the sky was dark for three hours; if there was an earthquake, with rocks being rent asunder; if certain graves were opened and saints came forth from them; how is it, the scholars ask, that such marvelous events were not recorded by many people? Surely such happenings would have instilled fear and panic into the crowds gathered at Calvary to watch the Crucifixion? Yet no such fear or panic are mentioned in the gospel story. This kind of reasoning has led many to conclude that these events - especially such a thing as the dead rising from their graves, which would have astounded the whole world - did not actually take place, but were added to make the gospel account more dramatic. However, most Christian sects hold to the belief that these events, which accompanied the death on the cross, did take place; that they were miracles beyond the scope of human understanding; and that they are to be considered Divine mysteries of faith.
The Writings of the Lord's second coming throw an entirely different light upon the events surrounding the death on the cross. They do not tell us which of these events actually occurred in this world; we are led to conclude that few or none of them did. However, the Writings show that this is not important. What is important is that all of these events are recorded in the Word, and that each one of them represents some truth or teaching about the Lord's Divine Human and about man's regeneration, as part of the Divine story of the Lord's death and resurrection. The spiritual sense of the Word unfolds the meaning of these representative events; often showing that the things described were picturing events occurring in the spiritual world, or states in the Lord's process of glorification. Let us now turn to some of these events as they were described in the Gospels to see how they relate to the various things which the Lord was accomplishing by permitting Himself to be crucified and put to death by men.
According to Jewish time, the Lord was crucified about the third hour, which would be about nine o'clock in the morning, our time. We would note that "three" signifies that which is finished or completed. It signifies an entire period or episode from its beginning to its end. (AE 532) Thus the Lord's being crucified at the third hour signifies that His work of putting on the Divine Human and rejecting the infirm maternal human had come to its final state of completion. On the cross He suffered the last and most severe temptations, in which He was attacked by all the power of the hells and was even assailed by the very heavens themselves. He fought alone, and this for the supreme purpose for which He had come into the world, that He might provide mankind with the means of finding salvation. When the heavens saw how the Lord was persecuted, and how He suffered at the hands of men, they doubted whether anything He could do would ever lead man out of the perverted state into which he had fallen. This doubt of the heavens was a temptation directed against the Lord's purpose in coming into the world; and, together with the final assault of the hells, it provided His final and worst agony. This was what caused the Lord to cry out: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
The Gospels tell us that from the sixth hour to the ninth hour the sun was overcast, and thick darkness spread over all the earth; thus that for three hours the earth was in darkness. Therein was represented something of the Lord's final state of temptation, and also something of the last state of the Jewish Church. In regard to the Lord's temptations, it will be remembered that while He was on earth He alternated between two states, the state of humiliation and the state of glorification. The Writings tell us that the Lord was "in the state of humiliation at the time and in the degree that He was in the human from the mother, and in that of glorification at the time and in the degree that He was in the Human from the Father. In the state of humiliation He prayed to the Father as to one who was other than Himself, but in the state of glorification He spoke with the Father as with Himself. In this latter state He said that the Father was in Him, and He in the Father, and that He and the Father were one. But in the state of humiliation He underwent temptations, suffered the cross, and prayed to the Father not to forsake Him. For the Divine could not be tempted, much less could it suffer the cross." (Lord 35) The darkness that came between the sixth and ninth hour signifies the Lord's most severe state of humiliation and temptation. The presence of the Father, represented by the sun, was as it were obscured by the activity of temptation in the Lord's maternal human. For a time the Lord seemed to be left alone, and that is why He cried out to the Father as to another person: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" and said finally: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."
The sun being obscured and darkness coming over the earth for three hours represents also the final state of the Jewish Church, that is, the state of man's reception of the goods and truths of the Word at that time. The sun here represents the Lord, and its being hidden from men's eyes represents that they were not receiving the Lord's love and wisdom through the truths of the Word because, from evils of life and also from ignorance, they had so falsified those truths that nothing of the Lord's real nature could be seen in them. Thus was the Lord utterly rejected by the Jewish Church. Darkness signifies falsities, and that the darkness lasted for three hours and spread over all the earth signifies that falsities ruled completely over the entire Jewish Church. In the complete darkness of evil and falsity the Lord was not seen, but was fully rejected, and the Jewish Church came to an end. (AE 526, 401: 15 ; AC 1839: 11)
In the last few moments of the Lord's life upon earth it is said that the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. The temple represents in the supreme sense the Lord's Divine Human. (AE 220) This is the Human to which the Lord referred when He said to the Jews: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2 : 19) When the Lord assumed the maternal human by coming into the world, He took upon Himself the appearances of good and truth in which the angels were and also the appearances of good and truth in which men in the world were. With men these appearances from the Word had been utterly perverted, and the same was true of many in the world of spirits. These false appearances, which were originally presented in the external rites and ceremonies of the Old Testament law, the Lord had to reject. Indeed it was through them that He could be tempted both by the hells and by the heavens. Through victory in temptations He not only rejected these appearances, He also re-ordered the ultimate of Divine truth and made it one with the Divine; and this new ultimate of Divine truth, which is called the "Word made flesh," is the Lord's Divine Human.
The final rejection of everything that was of the maternal human, together with all of its false or limited finite appearances of good and truth, is what was represented by the rending of the veil of the temple. The link between the maternal human and the glorified Human was broken. (AC 2576, 9670) A veil represents something that divides. It will be remembered that veils were used to divide the different parts of the tabernacle. Besides this, however, a veil also represents that which clothes, covers or conceals. Thus the veil of the temple signified also the letter of the Word - the representative stories, rites and laws, the prophecies and judgments of the Old Testament. These were an external veil or covering for spiritual truths. When the Lord plainly manifested the nature of His Divinely-human qualities before man's natural mind He rent asunder the outer covering of the Old Testament story, as it were, so that man could see confirmed therein the spiritual truths which the Lord had revealed. Man could now see that the Lord Jesus Christ was the same God as the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
The new truths which the Lord revealed through His Human were to be the means of bringing judgment upon the evil and false states of the Jewish Church, and the means also of establishing a new church in its place. The earthquake and the rending of the rocks which are described as following immediately upon the Lord's death represent the judgment upon the Jewish Church, and represent also a change of state with those who were to form the Christian Church. The Writings tell us that during the Last judgment, in 1757, the spiritual world, especially the world of spirits, was shaken by many earthquakes, and such accompanying events as rocks being rent asunder. The reason that earthquakes correspond to judgments may be seen when it is known that by the earth is represented the church, and by a shaking or quaking of the earth is represented a change of state. Thus an earthquake represents a change in the state of the church. When a church comes to its end, that is, when it is ruled by nothing but falsity, either from evil or from ignorance or simplicity, a new revelation is given by the Lord, and a new church is established in place of the old. The truths of the new revelation bring about a judgment, an ordering or change of state, both with the evil and with the good.
This judgment takes place essentially in the spiritual world, but its effects reach down also into the natural world. The change of state which the new truth brings about is actually an ordering of man's externals into agreement with his internals. Those who have confirmed themselves in the love of evil and falsity desire to possess and rule over others. They will cloak their internal evil loves with external appearances of good and truth if by so doing they can achieve their desire to dominate others. When the church on earth comes into such a state that there is nothing left in it but falsity, the love of good has nothing whereby it can grow and be nourished; therefore that love remains only in its simple and first state of formation. It has no truth from which to see the nature of evil and falsity. The resulting states therefore become a prey to the infernal love of dominion. By clever false arguments, the evil spirits weave a web in which they trap and hold those who are good, yet in simplicity and ignorance.
That is what occurred in the spiritual world when the Jewish Church fell, and as that church declined, the influence of the hells became so strong that it threatened to cut off the influx of God's love and wisdom to mankind. When the Lord took to Himself the Human, and through it revealed anew the nature of His Divine love and wisdom, He provided the truths necessary to bring salvation to the good and judgment upon the evil. The captive good spirits now had the means to see through the external appearances of good and truth which the evil spirits had put on, to see the evil loves and the falsities therefrom that lay beneath; and, seeing these things, they could free themselves from the bondage of the evil. With the new truths from the Lord's Divine Human, their simple love of good could be nourished and formed into a heavenly love. This change of state with the good spirits is what is signified by the earthquake that followed immediately after the death on the cross; while, with the evil, the earthquake represented judgment. Stripped of their cloak of hypocrisy, the evil fled into hell, to find a home with those in similar loves. (AE 400: 14; AC 9093)
The release of good spirits from captivity by means of the truths of the Lord's glorified Human is represented in the gospel story by the graves being opened, and by the saints arising from them, walking in the city, and being seen by many. The death-like state in which the love of good was held in bondage is represented by the graves; by their being opened and by the saints arising is represented the freeing of good spirits from oppression by the evil; and by their walking into the holy city and being seen by many is represented the ascent of these good spirits into heaven, here represented by the holy city. (CLJ 31; AR 845, 884; AE 659, 899)
When we know something about the meaning of the events which accompanied the Lord's passion, we are able to see more clearly' the vast scope of that Divine and holy drama, influencing as it did, and still does, the life of every individual human being in all of creation. Even more, we are able to see in the effects of the Lord's death and resurrection the reasons why the salvation of the human race rested upon the Lord's coming into the world and glorifying His Human. These reasons are not mysteries, nor are they abstract ideas; if they remain such, there can be no real understanding of what is meant by the Lord's Divine Human, and where there is no understanding, neither can there be any love. The states of man's life, of his loves and thoughts, are what made the Lord's coming necessary; they account for every event of His life on earth, including His final humiliation and crucifixion. At the end of the Jewish Church men's proprial loves burst into the open; what they did to the Lord represented what they had done to the truths of the Word. These same proprial loves are the heredity of each one of us; through them the hells inspire us to love evil, to do evil, and to invent falsities that we may be justified in so loving and doing; and in so far as we allow the hells so to rule in us, in so far do we crucify the truths of the Lord's Word, which is the same thing as crucifying the Lord Himself, for the Lord is the Word.
The Lord's glorification, though it took place in time many hundreds of years ago, is not to remain with us only as a memory - a picture of the Divine love for mankind in which we see why we should be thankful for His infinite mercy. For man's regeneration is an image of the Lord's glorification, and, indeed, more than an image, for the truths revealed concerning the glorified Human form the faith upon which all regeneration and salvation depend. That is why the doctrine of the Lord's glorification is the central doctrine of the New Church, and why the process of glorification is so fully revealed in the Writings. It is why the knowledge of the Lord's glorification is timeless, and of supreme importance to every state of both angels and men. The Lord's reasons for coming into the world are His reasons for coming into the human heart and mind: that we may know that He is a Divinely-human God, and, knowing, may learn to love and do the truths of His Word. In this way is the Lord glorified in man, according to the words which He Himself spake while on earth: "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples."
-New Church Life 1964;84:97-103