3. A Christianity That Is Spiritual

For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent; and for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not rest; until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning lamp. And nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. And you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of Jehovah shall specify. You also shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of Jehovah, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You no longer shall be called Forsaken; nor shall your land any longer be called Desolate. But you shall be called, My Delight is in Her; and your land, Married. For Jehovah delights in you, and your land is married. (Isaiah 62:1-4)

I was looking in the night visions. And behold! One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of the heavens. And He came to the Ancient of Days. And they brought Him near before Him. And dominion was given to Him, 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. (Daniel 7:13-14)

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. (Rev 21:24-25) And the nations of the ones saved will walk in its light; and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. And its gates may not at all be shut by day, for no night will be there. (Rev 22:16-17) I, Jesus, sent My angel to testify these things to you over the assemblies. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come! And the one hearing, let him say, Come! And the one thirsting, let him come; and the one desiring, let him take of the water of life freely. (Rev 22:20) The One testifying these things says, Yes, I am coming quickly. Amen. Yes, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 21:3,24,25 & 22:16,17,20 )

Today we come to the third and final part of our series looking into how the idea of the Lord’s second coming can be understood spiritually. We have explored the underlying motivation for the Lord having to periodically present a revelation of Himself to the human mind and that always occurs when true ideas about the nature of God and of spiritual life have been darkened or lost due to the misuse of the Word of God for worldly and selfish ends. We have seen that when a Church loses its sense of God as love, the Lord then comes through the giving of a new revelation of Himself to restore what has been lost.

Every Divine revelation forms a Word that consists of Divine truths in the form of ideas that are able to be received into a human mind and communicated abroard. The mode of manifestation has varied down through the ages, but the underlying essentials have been the same. So for example when a genuine spiritual idea of God is drawn from the wonders of nature, then nature serves as the Word for those people, alternatively when a genuinely spiritual idea of God is drawn from rituals and representations then these form the Word for those people or, as in the case of the Lord’s first advent when Divine Truths take their form in a person then the person is the Word for that time and people. When, as in the case of the Christian era, genuine spiritual ideas of God are drawn from the written form of Sacred Scripture then the Sacred Scripture are the Word or the Lord for that people.

So in its broadest sense the Word is whatever is able to reflect and represent genuine spiritual ideas concerning the nature of God. From this it can be seen that the Lord uses many mediums to represent Himself to the human mind in forms it can grasp. The important thing to see is that it is the quality of the ideas or how close they come to reflecting the true nature of God as love that determines whether those who hold to them actually form a Church or not. This is because the term “Church,” spiritually understood is wherever the Lord is and the Lord is where goodness or love is expressed from a genuine motive that has the spiritual or eternal welfare of the human race as its primary goal.

The Lord for us is principally found in ideas, or spiritual teachings. This is how we learn about Him and become connected to Him. Without the Word we would have no concept of the Lord in the person Jesus Christ. So we see that the Lord reveals Himself in ways that can be expressed in human language so that all people can then have access to Divine truths accommodated to their mental grasp. The extent to which a body of spiritual teaching is able to empower people to love in appropriate ways, that promote the spiritual health and wellbeing of others, is directly related to the spiritual quality of the ideas themselves. The closer the ideas found in a spiritual teaching reflect the nature of the Divine Love the greater their ability to empower people to love. Flaws in spiritual teaching are like defects in a mirror so that the further its ideas fall from conveying a genuine image of the love that the Lord is, so too a person’s ability to love in appropriate ways is adversely affected.

The ideas we carry in our minds in spiritual matters are like a mirror that reflects back into our consciousness the image we have of God. If our ideas are centred on the principles of loving the Lord and loving our neighbour then our image of God will be one of a loving creator who is continually working to ensure the spiritual welfare of all people regardless of their religion or lack of it. If on the other hand the spiritual ideas we hold to have self and the world at the center then we will use the things of religion, its truths in particular, to judge others, be critical of them and so exalt ourselves in our own eyes and imagination. With love at the centre we will attribute the best possible motive to the behaviour of others and display mercy and compassion in our thoughts towards them.

On a grand scale the behaviour of the Christian Church by the 18th Century had embodied the opposite of genuine love into itself through its interests in political and worldly power. It dominated the lives of ordinary people with horrendous images of hell fire and an image of God as one who casts those who didn’t accept Him into the flames. Such ideas formed the basis for all kinds of abuses, particularly in the teatment of the Scriptures for these were presented in ways that promoted these false images of God, leaving people spiritually alienated and destitute. With the rise of atheistic philosophies that directed their attacks on the inconsistencies of Scripture understood in terms of the letter of the Word, the Lord saw to it that a new understanding of the Scriptures accommodated to the states of people at that time was able to come forth.

We spoke last time about the coming of the Lord in terms of the opening of the Word as to its spiritual contents. If these new ideas centred in the inner spiritual meaning of the Scriptures were to be something people could access for themselves then they would have to be presented in a form they could grasp. As we have seen, the Lord revels Himself through ideas accommodated to our mental grasp. This means that a new revelation would have to take its form in human language and be written down. In such a form it is potentially made available to anyone who can read. For this to be accomplished, the Lord, as He has done down through the ages, would present them through a human mind prepared for the task.

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) claimed to have been given this task by the Lord. He saw his whole life as a preparation for this. Swedenborg, the son of a Lutheran Bishop, testified that he experienced a sense of spiritual connection to the Lord from childhood. His life though didn’t follow a course of study in theology. His interests took him into the sciences including philosophy and engineering, in which he studied, trained and mastered. The breadth and depth of his study was remarkable and was marked by a constant search for spiritual meaning in all that he did. He was driven in his anatomical studies in search of the seat of the soul in the body. He drew many conclusions concerning the operations of the human body and its organs and delved into the workings of the brain presenting ideas concerning anatomical and psychological functions well ahead of their time. His interests extended into the political arena of his homeland, Sweden, and he took a personal interest in the mining industry. But in all that he did, his mind was never far from a spiritual focus in the service of others.

There are many biographies available for those interested. The point of what I have just presented is to show that this human mind was prepared in the sciences where it sought to find the connection between the natural and spiritual worlds from a perspective that affirmed the reality of God and the importance of a life of service to mankind. A quick glance at Swedenborg’s scientific works shows his personal discipline, meticulous attention to detail, and the ability to intuit accurate insights from the facts before him. At age 56 Swedenborg’s attention was drawn to directly focus on Divine matters. A personal inner crises and encounter with the Lord changed the course of his life. This encounter was a call to serve the Lord and he did this through committing his talents to the task of exploring the Word. He undertook to learn Hebrew so that he could read the Word in its original languages. His entry into the area of exploration was an ordered methodical approach. And as he read and studied the Word he experienced having his spiritual eyes opened to perceive an inner or deeper meaning within the Word.

By means of the Word the spiritual world was opened up to him. He entered the inner worlds of heaven and hell, and through direct experience of these worlds and their inhabitants, he was provided with illustrations of the principles drawn from the Word that governed these states of existence. His training in the sciences meant that his powers of observation and discipline in recording these observations could be brought to bear on ensuring that what he experienced in his study of the Word could be published and made available to anyone who was interested. What flowed forth from his pen was a whole range of works that have as their central focus the presentation of a just and true idea of the nature of God as Divine love and wisdom, how He works in the lives of people always looking to their spiritual welfare and eternal happiness and how the Word is the Lord in our midst. Through his study of the Scriptures, the Lord enlightened his understanding as to the nature of the Word. He was brought to see that every word held a spiritual meaning that transcended the literal meaning of the text. That this level of meaning supports the life of angels who know nothing of the literal meaning. This inner meaning is not restricted to angels, for it is now accessible to all who seek it with a view to living a genuine spiritual life. 

Above all, the crowning ideas contained in the works that make up the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth and that that God, the Lord, is a Divine Human in which there are not three person’s in the Godhead but that God is and has always been, One. That He is love, mercy and compassion itself. That the Lord is incapable of causing harm or unhappiness to anyone and that this idea of a loving and merciful God should govern our understanding of the Scriptures. These ideas found within these works, are doctrine drawn from the Word. Through their publication they are available for anyone interested to investigate and evaluate for themselves.

The key questions for me when I approached them with an open mind are, Do they help me understand the Word in a way that is consistent with the idea of a God of love? Do the teachings found within them empower me to love others in more appropriate ways? Do they bring healing and wholeness into my life? Do they enrich my connection with the Lord and others? If they can do this then they must reflect the true nature of God, a God who is love, who forces Himself on no one, who comes to us in ideas we can take into our minds and think about and choose to accept or reject. This is a God who leaves us in freedom, who desires our love not for His own sake but for our wholeness.

Swedenborg never wanted his name tied to these works seen in that he published the majority of them anonymously. He didn’t found a church or seek to start a movement – he simply went about his work as a servant of the Lord, presenting the ideas he received from the Word to the minds of people everywhere, leaving it to them to assess their quality for themselves. These ideas form the basis for a new understanding of spiritual realities found in the Word and when the Word is read keeping the idea of God revealed in these writings, the sincere seeker of the Lord will see the Word open up before them and Lord coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory.

Swedenborg’s own statement concerning himself was…

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. (True Christian Religion 779)

This was his statement, it’s for us to assess it.

We read in many passages that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven*; e.g. Matt. 17:5; 24:30; 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 9:34, 35; 21:27; Rev. 1:7; 14:14; Dan. 7:13. But no one up to the present has known what the clouds of heaven mean; they have thought that He would appear in them in person. It has so far been unknown that the clouds of heaven mean the Word in its literal sense, and that glory and power, with which He is to come at that time (Matt. 24:30), mean the spiritual sense of the Word. This is because no one has even guessed that there is a spiritual sense in the Word, as there is in essence in this example. Since the Lord has now revealed to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and has allowed me to associate with angels and spirits in their world, as if I were one of them, it has been disclosed that the cloud of heaven means the Word in its natural sense, glory the Word in its spiritual sense, and power means the Lord’s strength through the Word. (True Christian Religion 776)

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