The Last Judgement and the Coming of the Lord

READINGS

Matt 13: 47-50
47 Again, the kingdom of the heavens is like a net cast into the sea, and gathering of every kind;
48 which, when it was full, they brought it up to the shore, and sitting down, collected the good into vessels, and° cast the bad out.
49 So shall it be in the consummation of the age; the angels shall come forth, and shall separate the wicked from the midst of the just,
50 and shall cast them into the furnace of the fire; there there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Arcana Coelestia 931 [2]
People are… mistaken in their belief that the end of the earth will be one and the same event as the Last Judgement referred to in the Word, that is to say, where the close of the age, the day of visitation, and the Last Judgement, are described. For a last judgement befalls every Church when it has been vastated, that is, when no faith exists there any longer. A last judgement on the Most Ancient Church took Place when it perished, as it did among its final descendants who lived immediately prior to the Flood. A last judgement on the Jewish Church took place when the Lord came into the world. And a further last judgement will take place when the Lord comes in glory. This does not mean that at that time the earth and the world are going to be destroyed, but that the Church is destroyed and, as always happens, a new Church is raised up by the Lord at that time. At the time of the Flood the Ancient Church was raised up, at the time of the Lord’s Coming the primitive Church among gentiles; and the same will happen when the Lord comes in glory. It is also what ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ are used to mean.

[3] It is similar with everyone who has been regenerated and becomes a member of the Church, that is, becomes the Church. When he has been created anew his internal man is called ‘a new heaven’ and his external ‘a new earth’. In addition a last judgement awaits everybody when he dies, for at that point, according to how he has acted during his lifetime, his judgement points either to death or to life.

SERMON
June the 19th 1770 (True Christian Religion 791) holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many New Church people. As a point in time it marks the beginning of a new spiritual dispensation or a new church that has been advancing since then and is characterised by the restoration of spiritual freedom to the human race, a freedom that had been virtually lost due to the abuses of heavenly things for selfish ends and worldly power within the Church. The Lord is quite clear in His teaching concerning the nature of His Kingdom, that is not of this world (Jn 18:36). The Lord’s Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and as such is solely concerned with heavenly and spiritual realities, being concerned with natural realities in the degree to which they are able to support and serve heavenly and spiritual ends.

We find many stories in the Gospels that deal with the ushering in of a new spiritual dispensation. These often carry the idea of separating one thing from another. For example we have the parable of the separation of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:32), another of the separation of the wheat from the chaff (Lk 3:17), of divisions that occur in families due to the Lord’s coming where the Lord said that He came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt 10:24), then there is the story of those being taken while others are left (Lk 17:34-36), and that found in our reading of a haul of fish that that once brought ashore is to be sorted into what’s useful and what’s not. All these separations prefigure the separations that Swedenborg witnessed in the spiritual world due to the advancing light of the Lord’s Second Advent.

Even the very presence of the Lord in the midst of those first century Jewish people was a catalyst for separating out those who would accept Him and those who would reject Him. All these separations prefigure the separations that Swedenborg witnessed in the spiritual world due to the advancing light of the Lord’s Second Advent.

What was portrayed in the various parables the Lord spoke and in the very example of the Lord’s life in the world was representative of things taking place on the spiritual plane in the collective human mind, for this is the spiritual world. Every word and action of the Lord in the natural world represented shifts taking place in in the spiritual world.

Every spiritual age has come to its end, and such ends are marked by the rise of what is evil and false in the Church with an accompanying loss of people’s sense of what is genuinely good and true. There then comes a last judgement when what is evil and false is separated from what is good and true leading to a reorganisation of both the heavens and the hells in the spiritual world and the rise of a new spiritual era or new church in the natural world.

Every new spiritual era that arises in the world first requires that a new heaven be established. For the natural world is the ground of effects with the spiritual world being the world of causes and no effect can exist without there being a cause, and within every spiritual cause is a single end or purpose which gives life to the whole and this is the Lord’s love for the salvation of the human race. This Divine motivation permeates all things that they might be organised in such a way so as to support this supreme end and so bring about a heaven from the human race.

The Heavenly Doctrine paints a historical picture of the state of the collective human mind that made up the world of spirits that was flowing into the minds of those in the natural world in the 18th Century. It was such that a spiritual era was fast drawing to a close. The world of spirits exerting its influence upon the minds of people in the world had become a dense darkness that was so oppressive that all goodness entering this realm from the Lord was being used for evil and every truth was turned into falsity to support evils of every kind. (AC 2121-23.)

In order to better understand this we need to understand how the human mind is structured to receive its life from a spiritual perspective. Such knowledge is only available to us through Divine revelation for it sits above any ability our natural senses to grasp so that it requires the opening of our spiritual senses. These senses are opened by means of truths from the Word that are able to stimulate thoughts and affections of a higher order. To the natural man none of it seems credible, but to all those who carry within their hearts an affection for what is good and true such knowledge is more than credible for it is intuited to be the living truth that enlightens all who are willing to bend the pride of their own intelligence to what the Word teaches.

What we are taught from the Heavenly Doctrine is that human beings in the natural world are connected to spirits in the spiritual world and that it is by means of this connection that we are able to receive life from the Lord. That life manifests as a constant stream of affections and thoughts making up what passes for our mental life. Indeed without this connection we would have no experience of any mental activity whatsoever. And if there is no mental activity then there is no consciousness and without consciousness we can hardly be said to be living. So all the mental activity we experience as our thoughts and affections has its origin with spirits in the spiritual world and these things arise in our minds through a process called influx.

Now the laws that govern influx are such that we don’t sensibly experience the spirits that inspire what we experience as our thoughts and affections, nor are these spirits allowed to perceive their presence with people in the world. In this way the two realms are kept separate and a sense of personal identity and more importantly freedom is maintained for all involved.

In cases where this barrier between levels breaks down we do see the manifestation of spirits in various forms of psychosis where the person has lost their freedom and ability to moderate their thoughts and affections, and do experience being compelled by entities that they identify as separate from themselves. Others may suffer obsessive thoughts that they can’t get rid of, while in milder forms of spiritual manifestations that impact negatively on peoples states of mind can be found in the mental paralysis that arises from excessive worry or the inability to think coherently due to high levels of anxiety and fear.

In less extreme states of mind intrusive thoughts and unwanted affections present themselves but we tend to dismiss them more easily and not give them a second thought. In this state which we will call “normal” people experience a relatively stable sense of self and carry a strong sense that the thoughts and affections they are in arise from themselves, or are their own. Here the barrier between the natural and spiritual levels is such that spiritual influences are unable to break into the mental life of a person and disrupt their mental health through negatively impacting on their rationality and sense of freedom.

When a “normal” state of mind exists then people are able to act from their spiritual associations as if of themselves unlike those who are suffering from some form of acute mental distress whose experience isn’t one of acting from the spiritual world but of having the spiritual world acting upon them or through them seemingly against their wishes. Every decision we make, every thought we have, every affection we feel and every action we take in the world, occurs by means of influx from the spiritual world whether we feel it to be so or not. This occurs through the Lord having provided us with a sense of self that carries the appearance of independence from all others, and because of that sense of independence and autonomy we are also granted a sense of freely choosing what we think, feel, and do. When we have a thought or dwell on a pleasurable affection or choose a course of action there is a shift that takes place on the spiritual plane whereby spirits that have an affinity for whatever it is we are focused on flow in and give life to the mental phenomena we are experiencing in any given moment.

Perhaps this can be better understood when we see that spirits are nothing but affections, and they are affections because they affect those they are associated with. All affections take form through the understanding where they can be sensed by us and registered as feelings or thoughts. We then respond to these accordingly depending on how strongly they impact on us. When we act from a thought or a feeling, we are acting as if of ourselves but we are acting from a spirit or an affection and its associated thoughts.

Another example that illustrates this is when we act from the Word. Say we do something good that others praise us for and we find we want to take the credit for it, then, we are reminded of the truth that all good is from the Lord alone, and that to take credit would be to break the commandments. To take credit for what is the Lord’s is to break a number of the commandments if not them all. It certainly breaks the first, Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, and strength, it also breaks the commandment that says you shall not steal, as well as that which says, thou shalt not bear false witness.

If we are reminded of these commandments and see that it is not right to credit ourselves with good and so resist this, we are certainly acting as if of ourselves, but because we are doing so from our understanding of the Word, we are actually acting from the Lord, for the Lord is the Word. Our response is only made possible due to our understanding of the Word, and while this response feels like us, it is actually the process of influx in action. Everything we enact in our life is a response from some thought and feeling and these are nothing but the presence of spirits with us.

AC 6307 That there is an influx from the spiritual world through angels and spirits into the affections and thoughts, has been given me to know so manifestly by the experience of many years, that nothing can be more manifest. I have felt the influx, not only as to the thoughts, but also as to the affections and when evils and falsities were flowing in, I was given to know from what hells they came; and when goods and truths, from what angels. This experience has consequently become so familiar to me that at last I have been able to know whence came every one of my thoughts and affections; and nevertheless my thoughts have been just like those which I had before.

Now let’s return to the main theme of this sermon, that being the anniversary of June 19th and what it’s all about. Given what we now understand so far as the nature of influx into the minds of human beings from the spiritual world is concerned we can see that the quality of the spirits that make up the plane from which people in the world act from will determine the quality of the thoughts and affections that fill their minds. Spiritual eras end when what is good and true is lost and evils and falsities that support the loves of self and the world gain prominence in the Church. But what happens in the Church on earth is merely a reflection of the state of the spiritual world from which those in the Church draw their life, and if all that is good and true in the Church has been lost then we can be sure that the spirits that populate the lower reaches of the spiritual world are similarly without anything genuinely good or true. These spirits act like a dense cloud absorbing the good and truth that flows down through the heavens from the Lord, which as soon as it enters this lower collective spiritual mind is instantly dispersed and turned into its opposite becoming what is evil and false.

The spiritual atmosphere that formed the basis for all thought and affection for those in the Church in the world in the 18th Century had become so spiritually toxic that had nothing been done the human race would have spiritually perished. So in order to clear the world of spirits the Lord prepared a human being to serve as the means by which this would be able to be accomplished. It required a human mind capable of grasping spiritual truths on the lowest level of life and bring insight and knowledge of these spiritual and celestial realities before spirits in the lower reaches of the spiritual world. To this end the mind of Swedenborg was prepared by the Lord over the course of his whole life. Swedenborg was not the source for what was to be brought into the world of spirits, he was merely the instrument through which the Lord as truths from the Word understood more interiorly would gain access by an external way into the lower reaches of the spiritual world which He could no longer access via an inner influx from above. Swedenborg’s own testimony concerning his life and mission is found in the work True Christian Religion 779 where it states that…

This, the Lord’s second coming, is taking place by means of a man, to whom He has shown Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His spirit, so that he may teach the doctrines of the new church which come from the Lord through the Word.

 Since the Lord cannot show Himself in person…and yet He predicted that He would come and found a new church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will do this by means of a man, who can not only receive intellectually the doctrines of this church, but also publish them in print. I bear true witness that the Lord has shown Himself in the presence of me, His servant, and sent me to perform this function. After this He opened the sight of my spirit, thus admitting me to the spiritual world, and allowing me to see the heavens and the hells, and also to talk with angels and spirits; and this I have now been doing for many years without a break. Equally I assert that from the first day of my calling I have not received any instruction concerning the doctrines of that church from any angel, but only from the Lord, while I was reading the Word.

There are a few spiritual principles that need to be grasped if we are to see why this was necessary. The first is that spirits are not material beings existing in space. They are spiritual beings that exist in a general sphere of thought and affection, this is because they are affections and thoughts themselves (see AE 798, 1133; DP 50; HH 517). Despite the appearance you are not your body, rather you are your thoughts and affections and this becomes very clear after the body dies. Secondly spirits are organised according to the similarity and differences of affection, those that are similar are found together with those that are less similar being further apart, relationships of distance in the spiritual world be reflections of the degree of similarity one affection is to another (AC 10146[3]).

Any grouping of affections or spirits gives rise to a general sphere reflective of all those who make it up. Ultimately what organises spirits or binds them into their various groupings is the influence of the Lord’s presence. Those who love Him most are closest to Him and those that love Him less are further away. Evil spirits being in a state of opposition to the Lord’s love seek to be as far away from what is of the Lord as possible. This is permitted so that all are able to maintain a sense of self, in other words evil spirits are permitted to be in their evils and falsities because by being in them they are protected from the Lord’s light which if they were exposed to would destroy the falsities on which there sense of self is built and so destroy the very basis of who they are.

The Lord could not enter the lower reaches of the world of spirits directly without destroying those who dwelt there. So He entered by way of Swedenborg, who having been prepared by the Lord, had his spiritual sight opened so that he could communicate truths and principles from the Word to those who occupied the lower reaches of the spiritual world. Those in the spiritual world saw themselves being brought into contact with a man who communicated ideas with them; ideas that they would not have initially seen as being from the Lord or Word. However the nature of these ideas were such that they provided a basis for the Lord to now be present with those in the lower reaches of the spiritual world and begin to effect the Last Judgement that would usher in a new spiritual age that would see the rise of a new church in the world.

The ideas the Lord delivered into the world of spirits through Swedenborg and due to the interconnected nature of the communication that spirits enjoy they would have had a ripple effect impacting on every corner of that world. As these ideas gained traction and more clarity with spirits in the spiritual world they would begin to react to them. Some would be repelled when the ideas proved to be discordant with their own affections while others who has some good in them would be attracted due to their compatibility. This would effect a separation of the evil from the good who were bound due to the toxicity of the evil influence that permeated the world of spirits at the time. As more true ideas shone in that darkness (Jn 1:5) so what is evil would become more restricted and bound through spirits seeking relief from the light through casting themselves into ever deeper states of confirmed evils creating what the Word refers to as the hells. The good now freed, are able to be raised into more expansive states of love and so a new heaven is formed. The forms of the truths that the Lord through Swedenborg implanted into the minds of good spirits in the world of spirits meant that there were now vessels in that would that could receive an internal influx of love and wisdom. In those vessels the Lord’s light could shine brighter and brighter bring light and order into a realm that had previously been so dark. Swedenborg in this way served as a kind of Trojan Horse through with the Lord was able to bring truths by an external way that couldn’t be brought by an internal way. This could only be accomplished by means of a man through whom truths from the Word could be clothed in a form that those in the spiritual world could approach, hear, and assess for themselves.

So as the spiritual world was cleared of the more pernicious evils people in the world would have a more balanced level of influx into their minds. New insights would arise from a newly established level of light and heat and through that a new understanding of Word on earth becomes possible giving rise to a new church or spiritual era in the world. We are taught in the Writings that this process constitutes the Lord’s Second Advent and the accompanying last judgement (occurred in 1757), it is what is meant by the creation of a new heaven and earth or internal and external mind, through which spiritual freedom is restored to all human kind. It is the anniversary of these momentous changes in the spiritual state of the collective human mind that were a precursor for the birth of the new church which we celebrate on June 19th .

Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun. And the light of the sun with be sevenfold. In that day the Lord binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound. Isa 30.26

Amen

Final Comment
The process described here mirrors that of many people when they first come into contact with the Heavenly Doctrine. At first they are regarded as the works of a man, Swedenborg. In this way they are accepted into the mind (the person’s own spiritual world) but as they gain a foothold there so their claims need to be assessed. If they are received affirmatively so the doctrine forms a basis for a reorganising of a person’s thinking and from this a clearer distinction is now made between what is true and false and what is good and evil. This process allows for what is evil and false to be cast out of their spiritual world and the strengthening of what is good and true. The result is a new internal and external man or a new heaven and earth.

 

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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