The Truth: Seen and Heard
by Rev. David R. Simons
The Christian Church is founded on the conviction, expressed by John the Baptist, that the Lord Jesus Christ came from "above" and is "above all." True Christianity acknowledges that the Lord had a heavenly origin and that He testifies in the New Testament from "things seen and heard," that is, that He had an infinite soul and that what He did and taught reveal Divine omniscience and Infinite perception. The Lord Himself confirms the authority from which He speaks saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" (Jn. 3: 11, 12)
The New Christian Church, now to be established on the earth, is founded on the conviction that the same Lord Jesus Christ has come again, as He promised, in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. As "the Spirit of truth (spiritual truth) leading unto all truth," (Jn. 16: 130 this new scripture comes from "heaven" and is "above all," that is, is Divinely inspired and thus superior to all the writings of men. The evidence which backs this claim, like the evidence which confirms the validity of the New Testament, rests on what is "seen and heard," "that he testifieth":
The evidence establishing the First Coming of the Lord is contained in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John who also wrote the Book of Revelation. The New Testament is the product of Divine inspiration through men who knew the Lord for less than three years, or were in contact with those who knew Him, who described themselves as "eyewitnesses from the first" and as "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first . . . ." (Lu. 1: 2-4) And the disciple John adds, "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (Jn. 21: 24, 25) And later at the end of the Book of Revelation, he concludes, "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22: 20)
In contrast to the New Testament, the evidence which establishes the truth of the Second Coming of the Lord is contained in more than thirty volumes. The Heavenly Doctrines are the product of Divine inspiration through a man who had contact with the Lord and over twenty-seven years of direct experience in the eternal world of the human spirit, which is the kingdom of the Lord. In these Writings New Churchmen see the same Lord Jesus Christ now speaking "plainly of the Father." (Jn. 16: 25) Swedenborg, the evidence shows, received the Doctrine of the New Church from the mouth of the Lord alone:
Christianity was based, founded, and confirmed not on the teachings of the Lord alone, but on what He did - on miracles performed, on open demonstrations of His mercy and love. The disciples of John were shown who the Lord is as follows:
The First Christian Church was established by things seen and heard, by miracles which were seen and direct teachings of the Lord which were heard. The Lord used miracles to attract men to Himself so that He could teach them the truth and open their understandings to the light of heaven. In every way He worked to lead men from external things to internal - from the things in this world to those of the world to come. For example, by changing the water to wine in the outer, physical world the Lord drew men to Him so that He could give them the "new wine" of the New Testament and in this way perform the spiritual miracle of changing the external truths of the Old Testament in their minds to the internal truths of the New. Again, by raising Lazarus from natural death and commanding them to release "him and let him go," ( Jn. 11: 44) the Lord on earth filled men's eyes with wonder so that they might be willing to hear His new doctrine and by it be themselves raised from spiritual death, to be released from self-centered living and world-centered thought, that they might "Know the truth" and become free! No one is saved by the sight of miracles, yet everyone can be led by means of them to hear what the Lord has to teach.
The New Christian Church, now made possible by the giving of new Doctrines from heaven, is based, founded, and confirmed not on doctrine alone, and definitely not on miracles, for the Writings teach that miracles and concern for what is externally miraculous is misleading in a rational age and can seduce the church. "Was anyone ever made spiritual by their means?" they ask. (Inv. 46) The Writings of the Second Advent, although they center on clear rational doctrines which appeal to the "self-evidencing reason of love" (Can. Pro.) and to the love of truth for its own sake, are confirmed by actual experience, by things "seen and heard" in the spiritual world. In place of miracles, this new revelation is founded on the experience of a science-oriented mind which was specially prepared and led to receive and rationally understand a body of evidence greater than all miracles and which is calculated to have a deeper impact on the rational mind which understands the laws of the physical universe and something of the workings of the human mind.
As miracles in the first Christian Church led men to the Lord that they might hear and learn, so in the New Church the remarkable experiences recorded as "Memorable Relations" in the Writings are not ends in themselves, but are to lead to deeper things. To see into the spiritual world, to see heaven and hell and the world of spirits into which each one of us is to come immediately after death, is but an introductory step, an opening of the way to an interior understanding of the Lord, in a way not possible on earth, and how He demonstrates the fullness of His love and the depth of His wisdom in the eternal world for which each one of us was created. The psychological, dramatic, spectacular, and even at times humorous experiences of the Revelator in this after-death environment, because they are new, different, and totally unique from anything ever written, have the power to attract the curious and to stir wonder in all who take the time to read them. Yet like miracles their primary purpose is to lead men to the Lord, lead them to hear His voice, perceive His foresight and His providence, and to learn of Him the way of regeneration and eternal life. As the revelator was given to perceive behind what he saw the love and wisdom of the Lord, so all who would be New Churchmen must learn to penetrate the external appearances of the spiritual world and see the living laws which apply to their own spiritual lives right here on earth. Sight is to lead to hearing and obedience. The rational sight of these things in the Writings is to lead us to hear the voice of the Lord, to recognize and perceive Him as the same Lord revealed in the New Testament, and to follow Him in a New Christian life, in which evils are shunned and use made the center of our lives. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life." (Jn. 10: 27, 28)
By sight and hearing each one of us knows what we know. By sight and hearing we sense realities outside of ourselves. By these twin senses we come to know the reality of the natural world, and by twin senses of a higher kind - by the internal sight of understanding and the internal hearing of perception - we come to know the reality of spiritual things.
The whole purpose of the Word, the whole purpose of Divine Revelation is to bring the Lord present before these higher senses to be seen and heard. "Life consists in the exercise of sensation, for without there is no life, and such as is the faculty of sensation, such is the life, a fact that anyone may observe." (AC 322)
Sight and hearing are the senses which the Lord chose to emphasize, since they relate first to the understanding and then to the will. The man of the spiritual Church is to enter first with his understanding into spiritual things, and then with his will.
Although sight is a superior sense in that it can reach out and sense things untold distances away, being aware of the starry universe, and can in a flash absorb a scene which would take hours to describe adequately, still hearing is the more powerful of the two senses, since it directly stirs the will.
It is a curious anomaly that the very evidence from things "seen and heard" which is given to confirm both the New Testament and the Heavenly Doctrines have proved unacceptable to a rational, science-oriented age. As the Lord said, "Therefore speak I to them by parables; because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which said, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive; for the people's heart is waxed gross, and with ears they have heard dully, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart." (Matt. 13: 13-17; Jn. 12: 40)
How the precious truths of the Heavenly Doctrines are received is clear from the following Memorable Relation from the work The True Christian Religion:
-New Church Life 1978;97:1-7