03. As A Bride Prepared…

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea no longer is. And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, having been prepared as a bride, having been adorned for her Husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God with men! And He will tabernacle with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And death shall be no longer, nor mourning, nor outcry, nor will there be pain any more; for the first things passed away. And the One sitting on the throne said, Behold! I make all things new. And He says to me, Write, because these Words are faithful and true. (Revelation 21:1-5)

‘Prepared as a bride [adorned] for her husband’ signifies the Church conjoined to the Lord by means of the Word….By ‘prepared’ is signified attired for betrothal; and the Church is equipped for betrothal and afterwards for conjunction or marriage…by means of the Word, for this is the only medium of conjunction or marriage, because the Word is from the Lord and concerning the Lord, and thus is the Lord…Indeed the Word has been given for the sake of that end…by the ‘husband’ is understood the Lord is plain from vers. 9 and 10 of this chapter, where Jerusalem is called ‘the bride the Lamb’s wife’…From these considerations it can be established that by ‘Jerusalem prepared as a bride for her husband’ is signified the Church conjoined with the Lord by means of the Word. (Apocalypse Revealed 881)

The word Church is used…to mean that which constitutes the Church in a person, for a person is a Church when goodness and truth are present in him; and groups of such people make up the Church in general. (Arcana Coelestia 6113)

…they have the Church within them who have an affection for truth for its own sake and an affection for good for its own sake, thus who are governed by love towards the neighbour and love to God. For good and truth are the neighbour, and so is God since good and truth are God’s and so are God as He exists with such people. (Arcana Coelestia 10310)

The New Jerusalem is described as a city and as we saw last time, this description is symbolic of something spiritual. For when we talk of something spiritual we don’t mean something vague or vaporous – the spiritual realm is the very real realm of our thoughts, belief, affections and desires. While we can’t see mental phenomena with our physical senses we know their reality in our experience. We are able to detect that we have feelings and thoughts because we have inner spiritual senses that are designed for that very function.

In order for the activities of our spirit, which we experience as our thoughts and affections, to be real, they must have a structure to them. They must have substance and form. And we can know this because when we reflect on these activities we see that they have a quality to them, and for a thing to have qualities it must exist, and for anything to exist it must have substance and form. Now we may not think too much about our inner life in terms of its substance, form and qualities but in the very fact that we can reflect and detect the things of this inner world, means that they do exist as something substantial. I can’t see your thoughts and feelings, you can’t see mine; does this mean they are not real? Of course not, the way we feel and think, the beliefs and values we hold, the love we have for others – these things are more real in terms of our quality of life than any material possession could ever be. We know this is true if we care to reflect on it.

I hope you can see that spiritual things, the things of our mental world, are substantial and as such must have a structure to them. We can’t see spiritual structures with our physical eyes or natural thought but we would be hard pressed to convince anyone that the feelings they feel or the thoughts they experience are non-existent. Spiritual things are real but because they are a degree above the detectable level of our physical senses, we need to have something to lift our perception above the merely sensual level of life in order to see them. For in order to see what is spiritual we have to develop our rational faculty as spiritual things are seen not in the eyes of the senses but in the eyes of the understanding. To teach us about spiritual realities the Word uses natural imagery: objects from the natural world, historical people, natural events, things we are all familiar with. But if we are to read these things as something that might apply to our spiritual life, then we must think about them in a different way. This takes some effort because we are so used to thinking naturally. To think spiritually in relation to what the Word has to say, we need to be able to see that everything in it applies to the inner mental life.

So as we saw last time, the city of the New Jerusalem is not to be thought of as a physical structure but that the idea of a city has an inner application and as such represents a structure of thought and belief that is spiritual in nature and so belongs to the world of the mind. Today I want us to consider the idea of this city being something prepared as a bride, having been adorned for her Husband.

But first let’s clarify this idea of the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. This tells us that the structure of thinking that the city the New Jerusalem represents, is from God and it descends from out of heaven. And again, as we saw last time, this city can be seen as the works that make up the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity because they offer a new way of thinking about how the content of the Word can be applied to the life of the human mind. These teachings are found in volumes of books, yet as books that just sit on the shelf – they are ineffective and dead. The ideas they contain only become living when they are freely taken into the human mind and become the basis for our life, for they are designed to build a new rational faculty within us from which we can see what is spiritual. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity enable us to grasp the inner truths of the Word and of how its stories relate to our inner life and the path of spiritual transformation, and as such they form the means by which what is heavenly can become more grounded in the reality of our lives.

The teachings for Spiritual Christianity exist on the physical plane as words printed on the page. Taken together, these words form ideas and concepts in natural language about spiritual things. But before they became printed words on a page they always existed as the spiritual sense within the literal sense of the Word. The spiritual meaning within, is not actually in the printed words of the Old and New Testaments. The inner meaning is spiritual and so exists in the minds of people, or comes to light when they acknowledge the Lord as the Word through a willingness to live from its truths. This acknowledgement took place in Emanuel Swedenborg and the result was the publishing of his collective works which teach why, and show how, the Word is Divine and thus offer us the principles upon which a new Spiritual Christianity can be founded within each of us.

These works concerning the spiritual life, were drawn out of the literal sense of the Word as it was read by Emanuel Swedenborg. He was able to record the insights he received from the Lord through the heavens, showing in wonderful detail what the Word teaches concerning the nature of God, the nature of human kind, the nature of life after death and heaven and hell. These revelations have the power to restructure the minds of human beings into a heavenly form for they have descended from out of God through the heavens for this very purpose – so that human beings might be more completely and fully connected with the Divine life. And because they have the power to bring about this transformation they are called the holy city the New Jerusalemprepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Everything that comes forth from God has one end in view; the eternal happiness of every human being. The Lord is Divine Love and Wisdom itself, and the Love He is seeks only the welfare of all under His care. Therefore the Divine Wisdom works tirelessly to bring this about, attending to every detail of life to hold open the possibility for people to realise that God wants them to be intimately connected to Himself, not for His sake but for theirs. We call this Divine care and attention the Lord’s Divine Providence. Love by means of wisdom presents itself to human consciousness in the form of spiritual teachings. It doesn’t force itself on us, but by means of ideas that look very human, at least on the surface, we have opened to us a possibility – a possibility for spiritual life. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity are here, the Divine leaves us in complete freedom to pick them up and explore them, or leave them aside.

To the natural mind, the claim that the Divine reveals itself in the form of ideas and concepts through a human agent may seem unbelievable. So be it, but for those who are willing to lay aside their preconceptions and consider the possibility of a life in accordance with spiritual principles, these teachings offer to empower them to resist self-centred patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving and open up a new way of life where they are brought into a deeper sense of connection with the Divine.

This is why these teachings are described as something prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband. Although, it is not us who are to be joined to God, we are not the prepared bride, the teachings are the bride. Our sense of connection to the Divine is made possible through these teachings drawn from the Word and accommodated to human comprehension. When we take the truths that they offer into our life, we have a sense of connection with the Lord because He is in these truths of the Word within us.

The works that make up the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity are designed to restructure our thinking in regard to the Word. They carry within them new ideas, new concepts and the possibility for a new belief structure which can form something in the human mind into which Divine can flow and enlighten us. This enlightenment draws our sense of self into the reality of what is spiritual as we look to the Word for our life. The teachings adorn the Word through giving us a new understanding of it in which the beauty of the Divine can be seen. The word translated from the Greek as “adorn” means to put things in their proper order. When we receive truths into the mind from the Word and understand them in the light of what the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity teach, we receive the holy city of the New Jerusalem as that which is descending from God out of heaven.

In terms of time, the descent of the holy city occurred in the publishing of these spiritual ideas so that they had permanence in the material world. Now anyone can pick them up and begin to examine what they have to say. If in the course of that examination a person sees their truth and begins to use them to better understand what the Word teaches concerning how to acknowledge the Lord as God, and from that acknowledgement have their inner and outer life reordered, so what was in print now becomes something in the mind into which the Divine Life can present itself and be alive for us. This living presence then becomes the New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven in the reality of our personal experience. When the Word speaks of something descending or of a movement from what is higher to what is lower, it spiritually refers to what is of a higher spiritual quality finding expression on a lower level or what is more internal becoming manifest on a more external level of life. This sense of the Lord’s presence with people in the truths they have had worked into their lives is what is described in verse 3 where we read…

And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God with men! And He will tabernacle with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.

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