Seeing the Lord’s Advents Together

READINGS
Revelation 21:1-7
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  (2)  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  (3)  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  (4)  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  (5)  Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”  (6)  And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  (7)  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

True Christian Religion 791
“After this work was finished the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages, according to the prediction in Daniel (vii. 13, 14), and in the Apocalypse (xi. 15).
‘Also that blessed are those that come to the marriage supper of the Lamb’ (Apoc. xix. 9).
This took place on the nineteenth day of June, 1770. This is what is meant by these words of the Lord:
‘He shall send His angels and they shall gather together His elect, from the end of the heavens to the end thereof’ (Matt. xxiv. 31)”

SERMON
June the 19th is considered to be the most significant anniversary of the New Church? That’s because its the day on which which Emanuel Swedenborg witnessed the completion of a monumental shift in the state of the collective human mind or what we refer to as the spiritual world.  It was a shift that opened the way for the Lord to be directly present with the human race through a new understanding of the Word made possible through the reveling of the Heavenly Doctrine.  This revelation of spiritual truths for a spiritual Church was and is the Lord in His Second Advent.  For these truths are the Lord in His Divine Human, for by that term is meant the internal sense of the Word.  This is what is meant in Matthew’s Gospel (24:30) where we read…

…and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth wail, and shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and much glory.

The clouds of heaven are the literal sense of the Word and the power and much glory refers to its internal sense.

The salvation of the human race hangs on this revelation of the Lord in His Divine Human, and Swedenborg was the vessel by which the Lord chose to make this Divine teaching known on earth in the form of a written text.  It is the Heavenly Doctrine that enables us to see what the Sacred Scriptures that form the Word of the Old and New Testaments actually are and how they stand in relationship to the Heavenly Doctrine themselves.  Spiritually the number 3 means what is complete and it is no coincidence that we have 3 written revelations that hang together as one.  In the first we have what is commonly called the Old Testament, which from its beginning looks forward to the coming of the Lord into the world to save the human race from the dominance of hellish influences from the spiritual world over the minds of people.

The second is the New Testament with particular emphasis on the Gospels and the book of Revelation.  The Gospels provide an account of the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies in the person Jesus Christ while the book of Revelation, which is in the same style of the Old Testament prophetical writings, looks forward and points to the Lord’s Second Advent culminating in a new heaven and earth and the descent of the New Jerusalem.  The New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven represents a new revelation for a new church that would arise from a new understanding of the Word. The revealing of the Heavenly Doctrine by the Lord through His servant Emanuel Swedenborg was nothing less than the Lord making His Second Advent in a body of heavenly truths through which He could be present with people and defend them against every evil and falsity.  It is through the application of these truths to the life of the mind that access is given to the internal meaning that lies within the Word. This level of inner meaning provides truths for the reformation of our thinking and regeneration of our will, which is really what is meant by a new heaven and new earth, or a New Church, which is a new mind founded on a new understanding of the Word.

“Behold I make all things new”  and the reason for this need for things to be renewed is that human reasoning corrupts and misrepresents celestial and spiritual realities to support selfish and worldly ends.  Humanly derived doctrines are constantly arising in support the desires of the proprium or the loves of self and the world.  When the Word is read in the light of teachings that have self and the world as their end then the Word is misunderstood because it is misrepresented.  Natural reasoning from the senses is a constant threat to the spiritual life of every Church.  To make things new, the Lord has to represent spiritual and celestial realities in a form that people can grasp and so be lifted out of sense based reasoning into the light of heaven.  This representation of heavenly realities is what the Lord accomplished through His Advents.  In His first Advent He dealt with evils and falsities that infested the mind on the corporeal or bodily level of the mind and in His Second Advent He dealt with evils and falsities that infested the rational level of the mind that arose from drawing conclusions regarding heavenly realities in the Word from the appearances of the senses.

That the Lord would make His Advent into the world is captured in the promise made regarding the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15…

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

This was spoken by the Lord to the serpent after the fall and is a prophecy that looks forward to a time when the Lord would make His Advent into the world to crush the power of the serpent over the hearts and minds of people.  We might wonder what this serpent is that has wrought such havoc on the spiritual health and wellbeing of humanity.  Its voice being something the woman chose to listen to over the commandments of the Lord.  The serpent is the love of self and to listen to its voice is simply to engage in low level reasoning to justify giving priority to self and the world while pushing what the Word declares is good and to periphery. This story of the fall actually describes an ongoing spiritual reality that plays out daily in our own lives if we care to reflect on the interplay that takes place between the conflicting desires that pass for our mental life and vie for our attention.  There isn’t a day in any of our lives in which we haven’t fallen prey to listening to the voice of the serpent and given it priority over what the Word teaches.  Every negative emotion we give expression to, every uncharitable thought that governs our responses in our interactions with others all bear witness to our having listened to the voice of the serpent in preference to the voice of the Lord as found in His Word.

Arcana Coelestia n. 231
“The evil of the Most Ancient Church which existed before the flood, as well as that of the Ancient Church after the flood, and also that of the Jewish Church, and subsequently the evil of the new church, or church of the Gentiles, after the coming of the Lord, and also that of the church of the present day, was and is that they do not believe the Lord or the Word, but themselves and their own senses. Hence there is no faith, and where there is no faith there is no love of the neighbor, consequently all is false and evil.”

And it was precisely because of this tendency to succumb to the voice of sense based reasoning that the Lord would make His First Advent into the material plane of existence as a human being.  His presence in the world in a material human form enabled divine truths to be taught in a way that could affect the minds of people through sense impressions received in the actions He performed and the words He spoke. These natural truths that the Lord taught are the lowest form of divine truths and came to form the letter of the New Testament Word that we have in the Gospels and book of Revelation. While in the world the Lord was the embodiment of Divine Truth in a physical form and because the heel is what is lowest part of the body, so this level of truth is said to correspond to the heel and is the heel referred to in Genesis that was to bruised the serpent’s head. That natural truths were bruised in the fallen church on earth at the time of the Lord’s coming can be clearly seen in the way He was treated as to His physical body.

The serpent’s head is bruised when people in hearing truths respond to them affirmatively.  For truths have the power to lift the mind out of the appearances of the senses or the voice of the serpent that flows out of the loves of self and the world and direct it towards eternal things; things not seen by the natural eye but that can be seen by the light of the Word when it is given first place in our life. But when the Word is not attended to or given priority in our life so then sensuous reasonings will actively seek to find excuses and ways of dismissing the demands the Word places upon us to examine our life and repent from our evils.  When we refuse to acknowledge the Word’s call on our life to change our thinking and so the quality of our responses we bruise the Lord’s heel through lessening the power of the Word to bring forth the Lord’s goodness in our life.

This decline in a real interest in inner spiritual work is a recurring theme in the history of the Church on earth, both at collective and individual levels which requires the Lord to continually re-present Divine Truths on a level on which they can be received by people.  Every time the Lord makes His presence known through a new insight from the Word so He makes His Advent. On the large cosmic scale of the spiritual development of humanity as a whole the Word speaks of two Advents.  The first He made bodily, because the state of the mind of the Church was such that it defined spiritual things merely in terms of natural or bodily things.  This was represented in the fact that religion had been reduced to external traditions and rites in which the loves of self and the world exercised power and control through man made institutions to the benefit of a select few.

Through making His Advent into the world bodily the Lord’s life and teaching opened the way for a new understanding of religion to take hold in the minds of people based, not on blind traditions and the meticulous observances of the Pharisees and Scribes, who were obsessed with the letter of the law, but on living a life of love, mercy and compassion through following the spirit of the law.  It was a theology of spiritual liberation the likes of which the world had never seen before.  It was radical in the true sense of the word, bypassing the hierarchical power structures of the institutional religion of the day that had effectively closed heaven off to people by offering a living alternative that enabled people to have direct access to the Lord through what He taught.  His very presence in the world in a physical form drew a stark contrast and clear demarcation line between the false and the true expressions of religious life.

But this wasn’t just the case in the physical world, for the events on the material plane were a reflection of the line being drawn between what was evil and false and good and true in the spiritual world as well. It was as the Lord engaged with the power of the hells internally that the power of the serpent over peoples’ minds was dealt a blow so that its influence could be reduced and the stage set for His Second Advent in which His power over the serpent would be demonstrated once more, once and for all.  Only this time it would be through a new understanding of spiritual truths from the Word. These truths would opened the Word as to its inner meaning which would provide people open to spiritual things with an understanding of spiritual realities that could stand against all the sense based philosophical reasonings that had stood in opposition to the Word from the time of the Lord’s First Advent up until the time of His Second Advent.

We come now to the question of the Lord’s Second Advent and why this was necessary given what was accomplished in the First.  We need to see these not so much as separate events as much as an ongoing process in the outworking of the Lord’s regeneration of the collective and individual human mind on all its levels. The Heavenly Doctrine presents us with a picture of the natural mind that has a multileveled structure.  In very general terms we have a corporeal or bodily level, above that a sensual level and above that a rational level. Over the course of the spiritual history of the human race the Lord has looked to provide each level of the human mind with those goods and truths specifically accommodated to the mental states that belong to the level being addressed.  This is why we have 3 revelations, each addresses a different level of the human mind.

The Old Testament Word addresses the corporeal or bodily level, hence the Lord’s First Advent was bodily which saw Him bring truths to the bodily level of life.  His life and teaching was received through the senses by those who followed Him and this formed the basis for the New Testament Word which addresses the level of the mind that is based on the senses.  When sensual reasoning raised its head in the life of the Church in the form of arguments and philosophical reasonings born of self-love and love of the world that used discrepancies in the literal sense of the Word to undermine the faith of people by calling into question the Lord’s Divinity the Lord had to meet this threat. He did this through His Second Advent which was not a coming in person but a coming in the Word as truths that could address the rational level of the mind and defend it against the atheism that had corrupted every genuine good and truth given to the Christian Church.  The Lord’s Second Advent is found in the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, for through these the Lord is made visible to all those who look to Divine Revelation as the Lord’s presence with people.  This coming in power and glory and the changes wrought in the spiritual world as a result has opened the way of salvation that no man can shut and it is this that makes June 19th a special day in the life of the New Church.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Amen.

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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