The Lord in His Divine Human
by Rev. Geoffrey Childs
The words, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," are the first in the book of Revelation - that inspired, spiritual diary written by John on the Isle of Patmos. Now it is a revealed law of the Second Coming that the first thing said in any series in the literal Word is the key to all that follows. Here the first words, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," summarize or epitomize the whole of the Apocalypse; for, first and above all else, the Apocalypse reveals the Lord Jesus Christ, and treats of the qualities of our one and adored Lord. Moreover, of all the books of the literal Word, this last one is especially for the New Church. Its internal-historical sense treats specifically of the new heaven based on the Writings and of the establishment of the New Church on earth; whereas the Old Testament treats, in the internal-historical sense, of the Most Ancient, Ancient, Hebrew and Jewish churches, and the New Testament of the Christian Church.
What is it that inmostly makes a church? It is its concept of the Lord. Therefore the book of Revelation treats above all else of the Lord as He is revealed to the New Church. Clearly, unforgettably, it portrays the one Lord in His glorified Human. That man's concept of the Lord is what makes the inmost of the church in him is not immediately grasped; it is a primary truth that needs to be reflected upon before it can be seen. Often it is only material things that seem real - the things man can see and touch, can experience with his senses. Ideas often seem to be unreal, theoretical, entirely removed from the basic issues of life. Yet this is not the case. This misconception is the flesh blinding man; for the truth is that the most powerful thing in each man's life is his idea of God.
Thus, in a memorable relation, angels instructed inquiring spirits that "all who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God; because this idea reigns universally in everyone and in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to any one, nor does it terminate in any [thing], therefore it ceases and perishes. The idea of God as Spirit, when a spirit is believed to be like ether or wind, is an empty idea. But the idea of God as Man is a just idea; for God is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, with every quality belonging thereto, and the subject of these is man, and not ether or wind. The idea of God in heaven is the idea of the Lord. He is the God of heaven and earth, as He Himself taught. Let your idea of God be like unto ours [the angels concluded] and we shall be consociated together." (AR 224)
How can an idea - even an idea of God - be anything real? A first answer to this is that an idea is not real if it is merely a mental thing entirely separated from life and from loves. An intellectual abstraction, remote from love or affection, is unreal. But man's inner idea of God cannot be apart from love or hate; it cannot be apart from a dominating affection or emotion. An evil man's idea of God is himself; and this concept is not an unreal or abstract thing. This idea is his very life's love; he himself as a god to be worshiped is the most real thing there is. A good man does not look to himself. He looks outside of himself to what is unselfish and of charity. He looks, in fact, to the source of unselfishness and charity, who is the Lord.
Where there is a good ruling love, however, man does not make any of his own loves a god. Rather does he look outside of himself in search of the true Lord. He searches for the objective reality - for the one God who made heaven and earth. He knows that within himself there is nothing to worship, and therefore searches for the source of all holiness, good and truth. To such men the Lord has always revealed Himself. Yet He has done this according to the ability of man to receive; that is, He has revealed as much of His Divinity as man could understand and love. The angels, too, follow this principle of not disclosing to man more than he is capable of understanding at any given stage of his development. Thus the angels said to certain spirits: "We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which, although watered from heaven, still wither and perish." (ibid.)
Thus the Lord, in revealing Himself to the Jewish Church, appeared as a jealous and wrathful God - as the almighty Jehovah whose commands must be obeyed; for this was the type of God that the Jews, even those of them who were good, could understand. To the Christian Church the Lord could reveal something of His essential Humanity, His mercifulness and gentleness; for men were then at a stage of development in which they could receive and understand something of these qualities of the Lord. Even in the Golden Age, to the Most Ancient Church, the Lord could not reveal Himself fully. The first people on earth were in innocence itself; they were the wisest people in heavenly things who ever lived on this planet. However, though wise in heavenly things, there was little that they knew about the sciences and knowledges of this earth. Compared to what we know today of the natural world, the most ancients were as small children. Their natural minds were undeveloped; and this being the case, the Lord could not reveal Himself fully even to the people of the Golden Age. They saw Him in His celestial and spiritual glory, but in their natural minds there was darkness. In that plane of creation they could not see their Maker; therefore they did not see the Lord in His fullness.
All these examples show that, even in the case of those who are good, man forms God to a certain extent after his own image. The celestial man's picture of God excluded His natural, for his own natural mind was undeveloped. The Jews' picture of God was limited by their own weaknesses and frailties. So was it even with the Christians. They could perceive something of the Lord's mercy and love. Yet the fullness of His glory - the glory revealed in the Writings - they could not perceive. Their rationality was not so far developed; the Lord had much to reveal which they could not yet bear. (See John 16: 12)
There was to come, in the history of the race, a great change. Mankind had not yet seen the Lord in His fullness, but that miracle was to come. Thus John wrote: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.... And I turned to see the voice that spake with me: and being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they glowed in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. . . . And His face was as the sun shineth in his power." (Revelation 1: 10-16)
Thus John saw the Lord in His glorified Human - as He is to be seen in the New Church. What is marvelous in this vision is that this was the first time the Lord was seen fully in the history of the human race. All the Divinity that man can perceive was now unfolded in its glory. This is the "revelation of Jesus Christ"; but it is a sight that can be seen only by the enlightened eyes of love - love represented by John.
Before John saw the Divine Human, he heard a voice. This voice spake of the infinity of the Lord. The one God said: "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." In the internal sense, these words signify that He who is speaking is the "self-existing and the only from firsts to ultimates, from whom are all things; thus who is love itself and only love, wisdom itself and only wisdom, life itself and only life ... who alone is infinite and eternal, and Jehovah, and that He is the Lord." (AR 5) Thus the " literal words here and their spiritual sense tell of God's infinity - as much of it as man can grasp. Before this we bow in humility, for this is the source of all that is real within creation and within ourselves.
To His New Church the Lord reveals something never before seen - His Divine natural. Before His incarnation and glorification, the Divine celestial and spiritual could be seen in their actuality by good men; but with His glorification, the Lord became present actually, Divinely, in the natural; and He has revealed His fullness - His Divine celestial, spiritual and natural - in the Writings. He is there to be seen; and it was this wondrous vision that John saw when he turned toward the voice that spake to him. Here is the Lord: His celestial in His eyes and face and in the beauty of His head; His spiritual in His white robe and golden girdle; His natural in the glow of fine brass at His feet and in His voice that had the sound of many waters.
We have said that, to a certain extent, even a good man sees the Lord after his own, or man's image. What a man lacks, that he cannot see in his Creator. Thus the most ancients could not see the Divine natural. Do not we, too, in the New Church, see the Lord partly after our own image? Do not our own lacks and frailties limit and narrow our vision? Yes, they do, for we cannot see beyond what we are. Yet now we have an opportunity unique in history. Now we know that the Lord has revealed Himself in His fullness in the Writings. He is there, waiting to be seen and loved; and we can see Him, fully and completely. How? - by the process of regeneration, by the shunning of evils as sins. For as we regenerate, or rather, as the Lord regenerates us, our lacks and frailties gradually fall away, until all the obstacles that block our vision of the Lord are gone. Then, like John, we turn - turn away from the proprium that is ours through heredity. We turn, and see the Lord whom we love. We see the Lord in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, whose eyes are as fire, and whose face is as the sun shineth in his power. The Lord in His glory touches us, and says, "Fear not."
-New Church Life 1963;83:49-53