MISCONCEPTION OF ITS NATURE.
From this new doctrine of the Trinity there necessarily follows a new conception of Redemption, Reconciliation and Salvation. We will first consider the orthodox doctrine on this subject.
The idea usually held is that, owing to the sin of Adam, God cursed the human race. All men thereby became " children of wrath," and no one could have been saved. The Son of God, from pity towards mankind, with the consent of His Father, descended into the world, and fulfilled the law. By His suffering on the cross He took upon Himself the punishment due the human race on account of original sin, thus satisfying the justice of the Father. The Father, seeing the suffering of Christ on the cross, was moved to pity and agreed to the salvation of all who believed on the Son, especially of those who believed that the Son had saved them by His blood shed on the cross. From this doctrine have come such statements as: " God outside of Christ is a God of fire and wrath." The result of this doctrine is, that those who believe in it have a personal love for Christ, but fear God the Father. Reader, if you are a believer in this doctrine of propitiation, look into your heart and consider whether you have a real love of God. You may fear such a God, but can you truly love a God who condemned you to eternal torment before your birth, and who would not have given you any hope of salvation if it had not been for another person,His Son? If God is love, how could He have decreed such a terrible doom?
Consider, again, the idea of justice involved. If a man had two sons and one sinned; if the innocent one said to his father, " Father, punish me in the place of my brother," and the father did so, letting the guilty one go free, and punishing the innocent one, would you call that justice ? No, it would be far from it. Cannot God, who is mercy itself, forgive the penitent, without requiring satisfaction by a false and abhorrent retribution, miscalled justice? How far does this idea of God cohere with the teaching of the Bible, where we read: " O Jehovah, Thy Mercy is great unto the heavens." (Ps. 57:10.) Also: "Unto Thee belongeth mercy; for Thou renderest to every man according to his work." (Ps. 62:12.)
" Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy." (Ps. 103:8.)
" Thy mercy, O Lord (Jehovah), endureth for ever." (Ps. 138:8.)
" The Lord (Jehovah) is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy. The Lord (Jehovah) is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works." (Ps. 145: 8, 9.)
How can we imagine a God of love turning to wrath ? -a God of whom we read in the Epistle of James: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (1:17)
The true doctrine of the atonement is contained in the words of Paul: "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." (2. Cor. 5: 19.)
TRUE IDEA OF REDEMPTION.
God took upon Himself the Human, and came into the world from love for His erring children. He came to save them, and lead them back to His fold. Some may think that God, who is all powerful, could have performed this work from heaven. But such do not consider that God always works according to order. He acts according to His own laws. It would have been as impossible for God to descend, and come among men in His Divine majesty and glory, as it would be for the sun to draw near to the earth. No one could have stood God's presence. He, therefore, veiled Himself with a human, with which He clothed Himself according to the order He established from creation; and by means of this human He revealed Himself to men and saved them. Mankind was not condemned for the sin of their original ancestors; that was but the beginning of sin. Evil increased gradually, until it became so great that hell was threatening to destroy the human race. When this came about, Jehovah God took upon Himself the human nature so that He might come down to earth, where He might fight the power of evil, and lead into a new church those who would obey His Word. By this means He delivered the entire world from the threatened damnation that hung over it. This terrible condition overtook the world because men chose evil rather than good. And this damnation is only avoided by those who freely obey the commandments of the Lord. The passion of the cross was but the last great struggle in which the Lord conquered the power of evil, and overcame the might of the hells.
The following quotation is from the Brief Exposition of the Doctrines of the New Church:
" That the whole of Christian Theology at this day is founded on an idea of three Gods, is evident from the doctrine of justification, which is the head of the doctrines of the Church with Christians, both among Roman Catholics and Protestants. That doctrine sets forth the idea that God the Father sent His Son to redeem and save men, and gave the Holy Spirit to operate the same. Every man who reads, hears, or repeats this, can not do otherwise in his thought, that is, in his idea, than divide God into three, and perceive that one God sent another, and operates by a third. Consult yourself, while listening to preachings in churches, or while praying at home, and see whether you have any other conception or thought than of three Gods; especially while you are praying or singing, first to one, and then to the other two separately, as is often done. From this the proposition is established, that the whole Theology of the Christian world at this day is founded on an idea of three Gods." (No. 35.)
HUMAN PROPERTIES ASCRIBED TO GOD.
" The doctrine of the faith of the present Church ascribes human properties to God, as that He regarded man from anger, that He wishes to be reconciled, and that He is reconciled through the love He bore the Son, and by His intercession; also that He wishes to be appeased by the sight of His Son's suffering, and thus to be brought back to mercy; and that He imputes the justice of His Son to an unjust man who supplicates it from faith alone; thus from an enemy making him a friend, and from a ' child of wrath ' a child of grace. But who does not know that God is mercy and clemency itself, because He is love itself and good itself, and that these are His very being or essence? And who does not see that it is a contradiction to say that mercy itself, or good itself, can look at man from anger, become his enemy, turn Himself away from him, determine on his damnation, and still continue to be the same Divine Being or God? Such things can scarcely be attributed to an upright man, but only to a wicked man; nor to any angel of heaven, but only to an angel of hell; wherefore it is abominable to attribute them to God."
" They who have seen that merely human properties are unworthy of God, and are yet attributed to Him, in order to defend a system of justification once conceived, and to veil that appearance, have said that anger, revenge, damnation, and the like are predicated of His justice, and are therefore mentioned in many parts of the Word, and are as it were appropriated to God. But by the anger of God in the Word is signified evil in man, which, because it is against God, is called the anger of God; not that God is angry with man, but that man, from his evil, is angry with God; and because there is in evil its own punishment, as in good its own reward, therefore when evil punishes the evil-doer, it appears as if God did it. For this is like a criminal who attributes his punishment to the law, or like one who blames the fire for burning him when he puts his hand into it, or a drawn sword for wounding him when he rushes upon the point of it when in the hand of one defending himself. Such is the justice of God. This I can affirm, that whenever the angels hear anyone say that God from anger determined on the damnation of the human race, and as an enemy was reconciled by His Son, as by another God begotten from Himself, they are excited to vomiting; saying, What can be more insane than to affirm such things of God ? " (Brief Exposition, nos. 61, 62.)
Many of those who are now known as Modernists call this orthodox theology medieval and agree with the New Church in condemning it. On the other hand, these Modernists take away God from the Church and destroy the Bible. They take God away by denying the Deity of Christ, making Him but one of the ancient wise men. Thus they make God unknown and unknowable; they turn Him into a vague phantom which no one can truly love. They destroy the Bible by denying that it is the Word of God, and that it is inspired directly from heaven.
THE PROMISE FULFILLED.
Due to the false notions that have arisen, the world came to such a pass that the only possible way of reestablishing a true religion,a religion of light, which might lead men back to an earnest love of God and the neighbor,was by the giving of the revelation of Divine Truth which the Lord Jesus Christ promised. This revelation has therefore been given.
We will now turn to the revelation given us as to the nature of heaven and hell. But we must first consider the resurrection. The churches have taught in the past that a man's body will lie in the grave until the time of the last judgment, when it will be raised out of the sepulchre. This teaching is so much against common sense that at present most people do not believe in it. We will therefore pass it by quickly, only stopping to indicate that it is not in agreement with the Word of God.
The Lord said to the thief on the cross: " This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43.) The Lord also said to the Sadducees who denied the resurrection: " Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto Him." (Luke 20: 37, 38.)
The whole of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man shows that those who die are living in the other world in a body, while we are here on earth. That we do not resume our natural body, but rise in a spiritual body, is most clearly taught by Paul in I Corinthians (15:35-44), where is it distinctly shown that there is a spiritual body as well as a natural body, and that it is the spiritual body, and not the natural body, which is resurrected. The misconception and belief that men will rise from the grave with their material bodies has arisen from the fact that it is not generally known that in the Word sepulchres and graves are at times used to denote hell, and that those who are in hell are spoken of as " dead." Before the Last Judgment, there were many who had not as yet come into their places in the New Heaven, but were subject to the evil inhabitants in the lower earth,a region on the outskirts of hell. At the time of judgment, these former were freed, and it is this setting free of the good from the power of the evil that is signified by the graves being opened, and many of those that were dead appearing. (Matthew 27:52.) We will explain this more fully when we come to consider the subject of the Second Coming of the Lord and the Last Judgment.
We have already quoted a number of statements by Swedenborg in which he shows that the Lord granted him to live with angels and spirits at the same time as he was living on earth, in order that he might describe the life of those who have passed the great portal of death. This declaration of Swedenborg seems to many people to be incredible; and yet, if we start from the idea that God is Love, and cares for mankind, it would seem but natural that He should desire to reveal to us the nature of our eternal abode, in order that we might better prepare for it. The most natural way to give this knowledge to mankind would be to open the eyes of a wise man, so that he could see and describe the things of the spirit. If we have a real and living knowledge of the life after death, think of the great happiness it brings! We are consoled for the death of the loved ones who have left the world. And as for dying, if we have led the life that leads to heaven, we leave this world as one departing from a hovel when invited to a king's court.
Is it not the most natural thing in the world that the Lord should give us this knowledge of the kingdom into which we shall all enter? The whole testimony of history bears record to the fact that men have at times conversed with those who have departed this life. It is only a section of people in recent times who have ever doubted the possibility of communication with the dead. It is surely unreasonable to discredit the notable witnesses of the past, merely because such communication does not take place under the conditions now prevailing.
The following description of heaven and hell, and of the resurrection, is taken from the Book by Swedenborg entitled Heaven and Hell:
" When the body is no longer able to perform its functions in the natural world, man is said to die. This takes place when the breathing of the lungs and the beating of the heart cease. But the man does not die; he is merely separated from the bodily part that was of use to him in the world. The man himself lives on; for man is not a man on account of his body, but on account of his spirit; for it is the spirit that thinks in man, and thought with affection is that which makes him to be a man. Evidently, then, the death of man is merely his passing from one world into another.
" After death, the spirit of man continues in the body for a short time, but only until the heart's action has entirely ceased, which happens variously in accordance with the diseased condition that caused death. As soon as this motion ceases, the man is resuscitated. This is done by the Lord alone. Resuscitation means the drawing forth of the spirit from the body, and its introduction into the spiritual world; this is commonly called resurrection.
" How this resuscitation takes place has been told me, and also shown to me by living experience. The actual experience was granted to me so that I might have a complete knowledge of the manner in which it takes place.
" As to the senses of the body I was brought into a state of insensibility, thus nearly into the state of the dying; but with interior life and thought remaining unimpaired, in order that I might perceive and retain in memory the things which happen to those who are resuscitated from the dead. I perceived that the breathing of the body was almost wholly taken away; but the interior breathing of the spirit continued, joined to a slight and quiet breathing of the body.
" I was in this state for some hours. Then the spirits that were around me withdrew, thinking I was dead. An aromatic odor was perceived, by which evil spirits are kept away from man's spirit when he is being introduced into eternal life. The angels who were present at my head were silent, merely sharing their thoughts with mine; and when the thoughts of the angels are received by the man, the angels know that the spirit of man is in a state in which it can be drawn from the body. This sharing of their thoughts was done by looking into my face; for in this way thoughts are shared in heaven. In order that I might know and remember how resuscitation is effected, I perceived that the angels first tried to ascertain what my thought was, whether it was like the thought of those who are dying, which is usually about eternal life; they also wished to keep my mind in that thought. Afterwards I was told that the spirit of man is held in its last thought when the body expires, until it returns to the thoughts which the man has from his ruling affection or love in the world.
" Especially was I permitted to see and feel that there was a pulling and drawing forth, as it were, of the interiors of my mind, thus of my spirit, from the body; and I was told that this was from the Lord, and that resurrection is thus accomplished.
" The celestial (or highest) angels, who are with the one that is resuscitated, do not withdraw from him, because they love everyone; but when he comes into such a state of mind that he can be no longer affiliated with them, he longs to get away from them. When this takes place, angels from the Lord's spiritual kingdom (that is, the next lower degree of angel) come, through whom the use of light is given; for before this he saw nothing, but merely thought. The angels are extremely careful that only such ideas as savor of love shall go forth from the one resuscitated. They now tell him that he is a spirit.
" When he has come into the enjoyment of light, the spiritual angels render to the new spirit every service he can desire in that state of mind; and teach him about the things of the other life, so far as he can comprehend them. But if he has no desire to be taught, the spirit longs to get away from the company of the angels. Nevertheless, the angels do not withdraw from him, but he separates from them; for the angels love everyone, and desire nothing so much as to render service, to teach, and to lead to heaven; this is their highest delight. When the spirit has withdrawn, he is received by good spirits (spirits are those who have recently come from the natural world). As long as he continues in their company, everything possible is done for him. But if he has lived such a life in the world as would prevent his enjoying the company of the good spirits, he longs to get away from them; and this experience is repeated until he comes into companionship with such as are in entire harmony with his life in the world. With such he finds his own life, and, what is surprising, he then leads a life like that which he led in the world.
" This opening state of man's life after death lasts only a few days. Afterwards he is led from one state to another, and finally into either heaven or hell. This, too, I have been permitted to learn by much experience."
(Heaven and Hell, nos. 445-451.)
LIFE AFTER DEATH.
" I have talked with some the third day after their decease, when the resuscitation just described had been completed, especially with three whom I had known in the world, to whom I mentioned that arrangements were now being made for burying their bodies. I said for burying them, on hearing which they were smitten with a kind of surprise, saying that they were alive, and that the thing which had served them while in the world was being buried. Afterwards they wondered greatly that they had not believed in such a life after death while they lived in the body, and especially that scarcely any within the church so believe.
" Those who, while in the world, have not believed in any life of the soul after the life of the body is ended are greatly ashamed when they find themselves to be alive. But those who have confirmed themselves in that disbelief seek companionship with their like, and are separated from those who have had faith. Such, for the most part, are attached to some infernal society, because they have also denied the Divine, and have despised the truths of the church. For so far as anyone confirms himself against the eternal life of his soul, he confirms himself also against whatever pertains to heaven and the church." (Heaven and Hell, no. 452.)
WHERE IS HEAVEN?
But where is this world of spirit? Is it in some distant place, or is it near at hand ? The Lord Himself gave the answer: " The kingdom of heaven is within you." (Luke 17:21.) After death, we live as we do in our dreams, in a world not governed by natural space. The spiritual world is around us and within us; yet it is not spatial, although in it, just as in our dreams there are the appearances of spaces and distances. By this comparison of the other life with our dreams, we do not wish to indicate that our life after death is in other respects like a dream; on the contrary, we are more wide awake in the other world than in this world, and the things we there see and hear, we see and hear with the most exquisite sense. Indeed, things in that world are more real than the things of this world, just as our thoughts and desires are fully as real, or more real, than the house in which we live.
CATERPILLAR AND BUTTERFLY.
When we leave this world we leave nothing of value behind; our material body is like a scaffolding which s useful for the purpose of building, but the real beauty and perfection of the house cannot be seen until he scaffolding is removed. The body with which we are clothed in the other world surpasses in perfection he body of this world, as much as that of the butterfly surpasses that of the caterpillar from whence it came.
But this can best be illustrated by quoting from Heaven and Hell:
" When the spirit of man first enters the world of spirits, which takes place shortly after his resuscitation, as described above, his face and his tone of voice resemble those he had in the world. This is man's first state after death. But subsequently his face is :hanged, and becomes entirely different, resembling lis ruling affection or love, in agreement with the interior things of his mind as it was in the world, and in which his spirit was while in the body. The face of his body is from his parents, but the face of his spirit is from his affection.
"When the life of the spirit in the body is ended, and the outward things are laid aside, and interior things are uncovered, he comes into this ruling affection. This is man's second state.
" I have seen some that have recently arrived from the world, and have recognized them from their face and speech; but seeing them afterwards I did not recognize them. Those who had been in good affections appeared with beautiful faces; but those that had been in evil affections, with misshapen faces. All in the other life are brought to speak as they think, and to show in their countenance and gestures the desires of their will." (Heaven and Hell, no. 457.)
" Those who are in heaven are continually advancing towards the springtime of life, with a greater advance towards a more joyful and happy spring the more thousands of years they live; and this to eternity, with increase according to the growth and degree of their love, charity, and faith.
" Women who have died old and worn-out with age, if they have lived in faith in the Lord, and charity to the neighbor, and in happy conjugial love with a husband, advance with the passing of years more and more into the flower of youth and early womanhood, and into a beauty that transcends every imagination of beauty as seen on earth. Goodness and charity give this form of beauty, and in this manner show forth their own likeness, causing the joy and beauty of charity to shine forth from every least detail of the face, and causing them to be very forms of charity.
" Some who beheld this were struck with amazement.
" The form of charity that is seen in a living way in heaven is such that it is charity itself which both moulds and is moulded, and this in such a way that the whole angel is a form of charity, as it were, especially as to the face; as is both clearly seen and felt.
"When this form is beheld, it is beauty unspeakable, moving with charity the very inmost life of the rind. In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young.
" Such forms of beauty do those become in the other fe who have lived in love to the Lord and in charity towards the neighbor. All angels are such in endless variety; and of these heaven is formed." (Heaven and Hell, no. 414.)
A SPIRIT STILL A MAN.
" After the death of the body, the spirit of man appears in the spiritual world in a human form, altogether as it appeared in the natural world. He also enjoys the faculty of sight, of hearing, of speaking and of feeling, as before in the world; and he is also endowed with every faculty of thought, of will, and of action, as before in the world. In a word, he is a man in all things, in every detail as he was before in the world, except that he is not encompassed with that gross body which he had before; he leaves this when he dies, or does he ever resume it." (Arcana Coelestia, 10594.)
WHY SOME GO TO HELL.
We have quoted a number of paragraphs about those who go to heaven; but what of those who go to hell,t0 that place, the existence of which is now so frequently doubted? Does God condemn man to hell? In the work on Divine Providence (324) we read:
" Every man is created to live to eternity in a happy state; for He who wills that man should live to eternity wills also that he should live in a happy state. What would eternal life be without it? This state of man is indeed the end of creation. From these things it is manifest that eternal life is also eternal happiness. But that only those who go to heaven are in this state, is not the fault of the Lord, but of man.
" The reason why all do not go to heaven is because they drink in the delights of hell, which are opposite to the happiness of heaven; and they who are not in the happiness of heaven cannot enter into heaven, because they cannot endure it. No one who enters the spiritual world is refused the liberty of ascending into heaven; but he who is in the delight of hell cannot remain there, since opposites act against each other. But because they were born men, and cannot die, it is provided that every man shall dwell with his like, or with those who are in a similar delight of life; the evil with the evil, and the good with the good; and it is allowed every one, even the evil, to be in his own delight, provided he does not trouble the good."
The laws of the other world are laws of this world, and a man is of the same character there as he is here. It is obvious that a man who loves evil, and likes to talk about it, likes to be in the company of similar companions. If they were forced to live continually in the company of those who hated and detested evil, they would be utterly miserable; it would be worse than hell to them. It is therefore from mercy that God permits them to congregate together, and this congregation is called hell.
THE FIRE OF HEAVEN AND THE FIRE OF HELL.
It is important to note that God does not punish those in hell, but because they are evil they punish each other. When one commits a crime against the rest, the others are permitted to retaliate. In other words, hell is exactly like a society of evil men in this world. The hell-fire spoken of in the Bible is not material fire, nor is it, as some have supposed, the remorse of conscience, for those in hell have no conscience. Hell-fire is the fire of hatred and lust that burns within a man's spirit in this world, and which is represented in the other world by fire.
Heavenly fire is the love that comes forth from the Lord, and warms a man's spirit, whence arises the expression that he has a warm feeling for his friends. A man who feels no love or friendship we call a cold man; one who loves whole-heartedly we call a warm friend. These expressions come from the spiritual world, where the sun of heaven, in which the Lord dwells, gives forth the light of truth which enlightens the mind and the fire of love that enkindles the spirit. Hell-fire is the opposite of this heavenly fire.
From what has been said we can now see how the judgment of a man takes place after death. As is so often said in the Word, it takes place " according to his works." Or, what is the same thing, he is judged according to the intentions which animate his works; for a good deed done from an evil intention is not a good deed in the sight of heaven; and a mistaken deed done from a right intention is good in the sight of heaven. In fact, in the other life a man brings about his own judgment, according to the loves and desires which animate his life. Yea, when he finally goes to hell, he does so of his own accord.
An evil man loves evil, and therefore prefers evil company to good company. He therefore prefers the society of hell to the society of heaven. A man is not condemned to hell for the reason that God will not forgive him his wickedness, for God is mercy itself. Yea, it is on account of the mercy of God that the evil are permitted to gather themselves together; and when they are thus congregated, they make hell for themselves.
We also read that a man is saved according to faith. But by faith in this sense is not meant what a man professes with his mouth, but what he puts into practice. A good man in the other life loves truth, and when he is taught the truths of faith by the angels, if he has been in ignorance before, he gladly receives instruction ; while an evil man, being proud and of a hard heart, refuses to learn, and clings eagerly to the opinions he has formed for himself.
Man therefore executes the judgment of God upon himself; and God permits him to do so, for the reason that He wills man to be free. It is freedom, or free will, which causes a man to be a man. If God compelled a man to be just and to love God, justice and love would have no value. A man so compelled would be merely an automaton.
If a man tried to compel his son to love him, the love of the son would be of no value; it would not even be love. Love, to be of any value, must come freely from the heart. It is therefore essential, in the nature of things, for God to leave man free, so that he can choose to love and serve God, or choose not to love Him.
HUMAN JUDGMENT FORBIDDEN.
The Lord while in the world said: " Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Matt. 7:1.) In the light of what Swedenborg has revealed, the meaning of these words becomes clear. Some who had been prominent in church and state, who had to all appearances led immaculate lives, were seen by him in hell, the reason being that they had thought only of themselves and of the praises of men. Their actions were all directed to winning applause, and had no regard to the welfare of their fellow men.
On the other hand, there were others, not among the so-called " faithful," and who appeared before men to have led evil lives, but who yet were in heaven. For, unknown to the world, they had struggled to lead a better and unselfish life. Their occasional failures could be forgiven, for they loved and struggled for what was better, not to be seen of men, but for the sake of God.
This idea is illustrated by the following number from The Apocalypse Revealed:
" Ten men can do works which externally appear alike, but which yet are dissimilar with them all, because they proceed from different ends and different causes; the end or the cause rendering the works either good or evil. For every work is a work of the mind; such, therefore, as is the quality of the mind, such is the work. If the mind is charity, the work becomes charity; but if the mind is not charity, the work does not become charity. Yet the works may appear alike outwardly. Works appear to men in external form, but to angels in internal form; and to the Lord their quality is apparent from inmosts to outmosts." (No. 76.)
MAN'S FINAL ABODE.
We have said that a man chooses whether he will go to heaven or to hell; for in the other life he follows his inclinations. He also chooses his own place in heaven or hell; for in the other life there are innumerable societies. All who are in internal agreement, all who think alike and feel alike, dwell in one society. Happiness in this life depends largely upon the company we are in. If we have congenial friends, who think and feel the same as we do, we find happiness; while if we are living among those who are not congenial, we feel sad. In the other life we have the same interests that we had in this world, and it is therefore essential that we dwell with those who are entirely congenial.
LIFE IN THE OTHER WORLD.
In a pamphlet such as this, we cannot describe at length the character and nature of the other life. A full description can be found in the work on Heaven and Hell, by Emanuel Swedenborg. In that work are described a host of interesting things concerning the other life, among them a description of the different heavens; the government of heaven; the Sun of heaven, from which goes forth love as heat and truth as light; the garments and dwellings of the angels; little children in heaven; the rich and the poor in heaven; the heathen in heaven; and the employment of the angels of heaven.
Here we will consider but two matters relating to heaven which are usually misunderstood. The New Church teaches that there were no angels created from the beginning, but all angels were once men; and that men and women are married in heaven.
ANGELS AND DEVILS WERE ONCE MEN.
That angels were once men, is evident from the words of the angel to John after he had fallen at the angel's feet to worship him; " And the angel said unto me, See thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren which keep the sayings of this book; worship God." (Rev. 22:8, 9.) The angel Gabriel and other angelic heralds were messengers sent from a society of those in heaven who had once dwelt on earth.
The Devil is not an original fallen angel, as is generally supposed, largely due to the reading of Milton's Paradise Lost. The Devil is a personification of all hell and evil. As we have already shown, it was customary in ancient times to speak of a church as if it were an individual man; so likewise it was customary to call hell " the Devil." The Devil which tempted the Lord was a messenger sent from hell as an ambassador to carry out its nefarious plans. The idea of a personal Devil is, to a great extent, Persian in its origin.
MARRIAGE IN HEAVEN.
The passage in the Gospels which reads " For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven," (Matt. 22:30), has been taken to mean that in the other life all live as celibates. The idea of marriage, with those to whom the Lord was speaking, was so carnal and gross that they would not have understood, had the Lord revealed to them the truth about the heavenly marriage; He therefore permitted them to think that there was no marriage in heaven, until such time as men could rise in perception and purity, so that they might think of marriage as holy and primarily of the spirit. In other words, the Lord waited until He should come in spirit to explain His words, before revealing the actual conditions in the other world.
The word " marry," in the Greek, refers to the ceremony of marriage, and does not mean the state of being married. " To marry" referred to the man, and " being given in marriage " to the woman.
Marriage is often used in the Word in a spiritual idea, as where we read of the " marriage of the Lamb." And in the Prophets: " Thy land shall be married." Marriage, in this sense, is used to signify conjunction or union. On the plane of the spirit there is a great marriage which must take place during the life in the world; that is, the marriage of love and faith. Love and faith must be joined together as in a marriage, in order that a man may be prepared to enter the kingdom of God. This great marriage, which takes place in the mind of man, is symbolized or represented by the marriage which takes place between a man and a woman.
If we consider the difference that exists between a man and a woman, we find that a man primarily loves to understand things. It is the man who leads in the search for truth, while a woman is primarily interested in the things of love and affection. Affection and not intellect take the most prominent part in the normal woman.
Man, on this account, represents faith, truth, or the understanding; while woman represents love, or affection. In every individual man and woman there must be the marriage of these two," love " and " wisdom," or charity and faith. This is the marriage which does not take place in the other life. The marriage of faith and charity in the individual man must take place in this life, or it will never take place. This is the spiritual idea contained in the words of the Lord about marriage; but even in the literal sense they are true. A man and woman are not married in heaven; they are either married on earth, or if they are not married on earth, or are not suitably married, they are married in the world of spirits, on the threshold of heaven, before they make their entrance into their eternal abode.
That they are husband and wife in heaven, in a marriage which is primarily of the spirit, is on account of the nature of man. When we die we take with us all our loves, all our thoughts and affections. Men and women are not primarily such from their body, but from their spirit. As it is the spirit of a true man and woman which seeks union, therefore this union continues after death. What the Lord joins together he joins for eternity. God does not unite things which are but temporary. " What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
The question of Divine Providence troubles many people. Why is it that the evil often prosper, while the good suffer hard things ? Is the Lord's hand weak ? Or does He not do what is just?
We can best explain this mystery by quoting the words of Swedenborg from the work entitled the New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine:
" They who think of the Divine Providence from worldly affairs conclude that its working is of a general nature, and that particulars depend upon human agencies. But such persons are unacquainted with the mysteries of heaven, because they form their conclusions under the influence of the love of self and the love of the world, and of their gross delights.
" Hence, when they see the wicked exalted to honor, and acquiring riches more than the good, and when they see success attending the devices of the evil, they say in their hearts that these things would not be so, if Providence were everywhere working, and if it reached to every detail of the life of man. They do not consider that the Divine Providence does not regard that which is fleeting and passes away, and which comes to an end with the life of man in this world, but that it regards that which remains to eternity, and which has no end.
" It may be said of that which has no end that it really is, but of that which has an end that relatively it does not exist. Let him who is able consider whether a hundred thousand years be anything compared to eternity, and he will see that they are nothing. What, then, are a few years of life in this world?
" Whosoever rightly considers the subject may know that worldly rank and riches are not real Divine blessings, bestowed on man by the Lord, although men call them so; for they pass away and also seduce many. But that eternal life and happiness are real blessings bestowed on man by the Lord, He Himself plainly teaches in these words:
"Provide for yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in heaven that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'" (Luke 12: 33, 34.) (N. J. H. D. 269, 270.) The Lord is always caring for man, preparing him for the greatest happiness, and developing him to the greatest extent possible. The hardships and trials that we go through, the sufferings of this life, are but as a moment in His sight. As a mother digs out a thorn from her child's finger, so the Lord permits us to undergo trials, always with the object of removing some evil, some fault. No man can know what is best; the Lord alone can judge whether happiness or sorrow will lead man to heaven the more readily. If a man chooses hell, then God so works that the evils into which he goes will be as mild as possible. Even in hell the Lord is always working to keep those who are there from sinking into worse evils.
THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD AND THE LAST JUDGMENT.
We have given a brief view of some of the essential teachings of the New Church; we will now close with a sketch of what is meant by the Second Coming of the Lord; the End of the Age, often called the end of the world; and the Last Judgment; and will then conclude with a few words about the New Church.
The end of the age and the coming of the Lord are described in Matthew, chapter twenty-four, in these words:
" Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Verses 29, 30.)
We also read in the Gospels of the " day of judgment," and in John: " Now is the judgment of this world." (12:31.)
In Revelation we read: " Lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." (6:12-14.)
It is a general law of prophecy that the predictions are never fulfilled as men expect them to be fulfilled. When the Lord made His first coming, He did not come as the Jews expected Him. The prophecies were that He was to come as a king, as a hero and councillor, and that when He came He would gather together the Children of Israel.
He did come as these, but not in the natural or literal sense. He fulfilled these prophecies spiritually. When the Apostles asked about the kingdom which they expected Him to establish, He said, " My kingdom is not of this world." The enemy which He came to fight was the power of evil and hell. Because the Lord did not fulfill the prophecies literally the Jews would not believe in Him.
In the Old Testament, as in Joel, there is a prophecy given of the coming of the Messiah which is very similar to the prophecy of the Second Coming given in Matthew:
" The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining." (Joel 2: 10.) Peter said, " For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: ' And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh . . . The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come.'" (Acts 2:15-20.)
Yet those who dwelt on earth were not aware of any great cosmic convulsion. That we are not to take literally the things foretold in connection with the Second Coming, is manifest from the very nature of the prophecy; for it is obvious that the sun could not cease to give forth light, and that the stars, many of which are far larger than the earth, could not fall upon it, " as a fig tree casteth its untimely figs." That the prophecy of the Second Coming was not fulfilled literally, is evident from the prophecy itself. For the Lord said, " Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Matt. 24:34.) "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matt. 16:28.)
We have quoted certain passages which would seem to indicate a great destruction and commotion of natural forces; on the other hand, we have the prophecy that He would come as a thief: " Behold, I come as a thief." (Rev. 16: 15.) And in Luke: " The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or Lo there! for, behold the kingdom of God is within you." (17:20, 21.)
From what has been said it is obvious that these passages need explanation. When we interpret according to the spiritual sense all becomes clear. By " this generation,"the generation of the disciples to whom the Lord spoke, in which all these things would be fulfilled, is signified the generation or age of the first Christian Church, for this Church was represented by the Apostles of the Lord. This age or generation came to an end when the Lord made His Second Coming and established the New Church.
We have already mentioned that the Lord is in the sun of heaven, where He appears before the angels as He appeared before Peter, James and John on the mountain when He was transfigured, shining as the light of the sun. The Lord gives the light and warmth of love to all in heaven, as the natural sun gives light and warmth to those who are on earth.
The Word in its internal sense does not treat of the things of this world, but of the things of heaven. When it is said that the " sun shall be darkened," it signifies that men will turn away from the love of God, so that they no longer receive the light and warmth of God's kingdom. As love to God is the great luminary which enlightens our mind, so faith is a lesser luminary which reflects the love of God as the moon reflects the light of the sun. By the " moon's becoming dark" is signified that men lose faith in the Lord and His Word.
The stars of heaven are like the knowledges of God and heaven, which shine as points of light in our spiritual mind. When men lose interest in these heavenly knowledges, and care merely for the sciences of this world, it is said, in Sacred Scripture, that the " stars of heaven fall to the earth."
By the " clouds of heaven " in which the Son of Man would come, is meant the literal or natural sense of the Word, much of which is written in " dark sayings of old." The truths of God are, as it were, hidden in a dark cloud until the time when the Lord explains them in His Second Coming. Then is revealed the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. The clouds of the letter of the Word then shine with the light of truth, when the hidden things are brought forth to view; and the Son of Man appears in glory.
Now is fulfilled this prophecy. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ has taken place. He has come as He said, " not with observation," but quietly, " as a thief in the night." But how has He come?
How does the Lord come to man in His First Coming? He comes to us by means of the Gospels. We see Him through the eyes of His apostles,see Him as He walked on earth, teaching men and sharing their griefs and sorrows. Now He has revealed Himself again to those who have eyes to see. He has revealed
Himself in the Writings of the New Church, written by Emanuel Swedenborg, whom He filled with His Holy Spirit, as He did the prophets of old. We see the Lord Jesus Christ in His Second Coming, as He reveals Himself in His glory as Ruler of heaven, through the eyes of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose eyes were opened to see Him in His Divine glory and majesty. All who search diligently in the Writings of the New Church can see the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, in the clouds of heaven. That is, they can see the Lord in the Word of God, the internal sense of which is now revealed for the use of the New Church. The Word which " became flesh" is now seen once more in glory.
The Last Judgment, which was predicted in connection with the Second Coming, does not take place on this earth; but it took place in the spiritual world during the time that Swedenborg had his spiritual eyes opened. Swedenborg witnessed the great overturning and destruction in the other world, which was prophesied concerning the Judgment.
That God has no reason for destroying the visible heavens and the world on which we dwell is obvious. There is nothing wrong with the earth itself,no reason for its destruction. Land and earth in the Word are very frequently used to signify the Church. By the " new earth," which is to take the place of the former earth, is meant a New Church which God will establish to take the place of the former Christian Church, as at His first coming He established the Christian Church to take the place of the Jewish Church.
In order to understand what is meant by the heavens " rolling up as a scroll," and a new heaven taking its place, we must have some knowledge of the other world. After death, when everything is normal, men are judged soon after their arrival in the spiritual world, and go to their final abodes; but at the end of the Church, when many of the leaders of thought teach what is false, and do not lead the life of heaven, there is a great influx of evil men into the other world. The world of spirits comes into confusion, and a congestion takes place. The evil took advantage of this confusion to establish false heavens for themselves; and for a while they had the power to keep the good in bondage. While the Lord was on earth He executed a great judgment on these false heavens. He drove out the evil, and established the good in their place. The same thing took place during the time that Swedenborg had his spiritual eyes opened. Swedenborg actually saw mountains overturned, as it were, and the islands fleeing away. He witnessed the great Last Judgment, in which the good who had been held in bondage appeared to come from below, from what appeared like caves or sepulchres, and were established in their proper heaven.
THE FIVE CHURCHES.
In the past there have been four great Churches on earth, one following the other, and now is established the fifth,the New Church. The first great Church, which we call the Most Ancient Church, is represented in the Word by " Adam." The second great Church, which we call the Ancient Church, was represented by " Noah." The third great Church was the Israelitish or Jewish Church. The fourth great Church in this series is the Christian Church, which the Lord established while He dwelt on earth. And the fifth great Church is the New Church,the Church of the New Jerusalem, established by the Lord at the time of His Second Coming. This Church is still in its infancy. Now is fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel: " I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (7: 13, 14.)
God has always revealed Truth suitable to the age in which men are. In the infancy and youth of the race, Divine Revelation was necessarily of a nature suitable to the peoples of those times. The race has now come to manhood; and the Lord has therefore revealed rational truth adapted to the adult rational mind. This last Revelation of His Word to man is therefore the final and crowning Revelation of Himself. In so far as men learn the truths of the New Church, and live according to its Divine Doctrine, the prophecy of John is fulfilled:
" I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new; and He said unto me, Write, for these words are true and faithful." (Rev. 21:2, 5.) With those who truly accept the Lord in His Second Coming, everything of the mind and spirit is indeed made new. But this newness must not only be a matter of faith, but also a matter of life and love. Of those who are of the Church, and yet do not obey the commandments of God, Jeremiah writes:
" Stand in the gate of the house of Jehovah, and proclaim there this word: Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, the God of Israel: Render good your ways and your works; trust ye not upon the words of a lie, saying, The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah is here (that is, the Church). Will ye steal, kill, commit adultery, and swear falsely, and after that come and stand before Me in this house, whereon my name is called, and say we are delivered, whilst ye do all these abominations ? Is not this house become a den of robbers? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 7: 2-11.)
Without a knowledge of correspondences it is impossible to realize the importance or meaning of Baptism and the Holy Supper.
Washing is for the sake of cleansing. Ordinary washing is for the cleansing of the body; baptism is for the cleansing of the spirit. Not that baptism actually cleanses the spirit; for only the actual removal of evil can accomplish this end. The washing of baptism represents this purification from evil.
There are two things which nourish the body,food and drink. There are likewise two things which nourish the spirit,good and truth. Food is to the body what good or love is to the spirit, while drink is to the body what truth or wisdom is to the spirit. Truth not only aids in the nourishment of the spirit, but also cleanses the spirit, when the man who knows it orders his life according to it. Baptism with water therefore stands for a sign or representation of regeneration, the regeneration that results from the removal of evil by obedience to the commandments of God.
Baptism does not in itself accomplish these ends, but is a symbol of them. Wherefore we read in The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine:
" As baptism is for a sign and memorial of these things, therefore man may be baptized as an infant, and if not then, he may be baptized as an adult. Let those, therefore, who are baptized, know that baptism itself gives neither faith nor salvation, but it testifies that they may receive faith, and be saved, if they are regenerated." (Nos. 206, 207.)
What use, then, does baptism perform? The answer given in the True Christian Religion is as follows: " The first use of baptism is introduction into the Christian Church, and at the same time insertion among Christians in the spiritual world. In the heavens, infants are introduced by baptism into the Christian heaven, and angels are assigned by the Lord to take care of them." (No. 677.)
In order to understand this passage it must be known that while a man is living in this world he is at the same time living in the spiritual world as to his spirit, although unaware of his spiritual associations. Whatever a man does affects the angels or evil spirits who are with him. The influence of Baptism and the Holy Supper is largely due to the relation of the two worlds, to the effect which the acts of men have in attracting angels. That a man has guardian angels, and that he is tempted by devils, has been known since ancient times, and it is only in the present age of skepticism, materialism, and agnosticism, that this presence has been denied.
When a man eats the bread of the Holy Supper, the angels who are with him think of the Lord's Love, which feeds and builds up his spirit. When he drinks the wine, the angels think of the Divine Truth from God which refreshes the soul and enlightens the understanding. By this means God is brought more closely present and conjoined to the man who loves God and keeps His commandments. With those who are regenerating, what is represented in the Holy Supper is actually fulfilled in the partaking of it. (See True Christian Religion, no. 728.)
Now are fulfilled the words of the prophet Zechariah: " There shall be one day which is known to Jehovah, not day, nor night, but about the time of evening it shall be light. It shall come to pass in that day that living waters shall go forth from Jerusalem. And Jehovah shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall Jehovah be one, and His name one." (Zech. 14; 7-9.)
" And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Rev. 22:17.)
The Lord Jesus Christ has come in glory to reestablish His Church. Let not Christians reject their Lord and Master, who has come in spirit and in truth, as the Jews rejected their God when He visited them.
The Lord said: " Watch, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." (Matt. 24:42.)
And the New Testament closes with these words:
" He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Rev. 22: 20, 21.)