02. The New Jerusalem

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)

The foundations of the wall of the city, the new Jerusalem, were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. Rev. 21:19, 20. These precious stones mean the Church’s truths, which are God’s truths. This is clear from the meaning of ‘the city, the new Jerusalem’, ‘the wall of it’, and ‘the foundations of the wall’. ‘The new Jerusalem’ means a new Church which will take the place of the one that is ours at the present day; for the Book of Revelation deals with the state of the Church that exists now, through to its end, and then with a new Church, which is the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. ‘The wall of it’ means the truths of faith that serve to defend it, and ‘the foundations’ truths that spring from good. Those actual truths in their proper order are specified by the precious stones mentioned by name there. Anyone may see that no Jerusalem is going to come down out of heaven or that anything else mentioned there is literally going to take place, but that this description in every detail means such things as have to do with the Church. The fact that the truths of faith are meant by the foundations of its wall is clear from the consideration that they are the things which guard the Church from every attack, as walls do a city. (Arcana Coelestia 9863)

In our look last time at this passage of Scripture we focused on the change of state represented by the passing away of the first heaven and earth and the establishment of a new heaven and earth in its place. Essentially heaven and earth are terms that refer to the internal and external man and in the context of our regeneration, the goal of course is to come into states of life in which we feel with the loves of heaven and think in accordance with those loves which is what it means to think from what is true. The first heaven and earth refers to the human mind when it has yet to undergo a spiritual transformation in which our sense of our self is removed from the lower loves of the natural man, belonging to self and the world, to drawing its life from heavenly loves, love to the Lord and love to the neighbour.

This transformation cannot occur without our obeying the injunctions of the Word to continual daily self-examination and repentance. If we want to do this then we need to take the opportunity to create for ourselves conditions which can remind us to do this work, because without conscious effort we won’t do it, and if we don’t do it our spiritual affection for truth will inevitably lose force. In a way we end up falling asleep, spiritually speaking, forgetting our purpose and reason for being here in the world. For it is the truths which we find in the Word that empowers us to do this spiritual work. They empower us because when we know what is true we are able to choose what is good through resisting our evils as they present themselves in the feelings, thoughts and behaviours which have self interest at their centre. The Word has this power, because the Word is the Lord. And this is where the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity differs from the traditional Christianity which places it focus is on the historical personage of Jesus Christ or the First Advent. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity by contrast take their reference point from the Lord’s Second Advent, which is not a second coming of Jesus in person but a coming of the Lord in and through the opening of the spiritual sense of the Word.

This is what these words describing the descent of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation illustrate. These words were never meant to be taken literally; they are clearly symbolic and as such represent spiritual realities that belong to the inner spiritual life of people. In one sense these words have been brought to their fulfilment in that have already occurred in time but in another sense, they are continually being fulfilled as they find their expression within the minds of all those who are being regenerated by the Word. In terms of the spiritual history of the human race, the descent of the New Jerusalem began when the possibility was being created for a new heaven and a new earth to come into being. This heaven and earth describes the human mind and it becomes possible with the introduction of new concepts and ideas that have the power of opening up a new spiritual consciousness or a new way of feeling and thinking about spiritual realities found in the Word. This is what is meant by a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and earth being a mind fixed in natural and worldly concepts in regard to spiritual realities that has to pass away if a person is to think from a spiritual base in regard to spiritual things.

We can illustrate this from this very text. Natural thought about spiritual realities presents itself when we read words like these and get stuck in their literally meaning, which is the same as not being able to see their spiritual meaning. To think naturally about spiritual things in this case would be to view them as describing an actual city that will descend from on high at some point in the future. But the Word, as a spiritual text, is first and foremost concerned with spiritual things and such things are those of the mind, or what belongs to the will and the understanding of a person. We know this from the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity for they teach that everything in the Word is representative of the inner mental states of people in relation to the Divine Life and that the things mentioned in the Word should not be read as referring to things belonging to the outer, physical world.

So the phrase “holy city” has nothing to do with a holy city, much less a city that descends from on high called Jerusalem. A little spiritual thought can establish this fairly quickly. The quality of holiness is attributable to the Lord alone. Nothing other than the Lord and what comes forth from Him can be described as holy. The Lord Himself is Divine Love and Wisdom and what comes forth from Him is everything good and true and it is these, and these alone, that are holy. What comes forth from the Lord is His Word and it is the Word that is described here as holy for the Word contains the fullness of the Divine Love and Wisdom, accommodated to angelic and human comprehension.

This city can’t be anything else, for the only thing that comes down from God out of Heaven is Divine Revelation. Without the specific revelation found in the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity we have no way of knowing this, and so our thought would remain weighed down in material thinking which would think that by city is meant something made up of physical structures like cities in the world. But when we see that that the Word is a spiritual text we can then understand that the term city must be a spiritual term that describes something from the Divine that takes its form as a structure, not in the outer material world, but within the human mind, which is what our spirit is. And what resides in the human mind? If we reflect, we see that the human mind holds belief structures made up of ideas and concepts. So this city from God must be heavenly teachings that teach what love and wisdom truly are. Such teachings are call doctrine. And it is this doctrine or spiritual teaching that is meant by the city New Jerusalem.

In historical terms, the giving of this doctrine, that teaches what the Bible has to say as to its inner meaning, descended from God through the heavens by means of a man who was able to see them published and that man happened to be Emanuel Swedenborg. From 1749 with the publishing of the first volume of the work Arcana Coelestia through to the publishing in 1771 of True Christian Religion, the human race was given a new set of spiritual teachings that made it possible to see how the content of the Word can be applied to the life of the human mind. This is what is described in the New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven in a universal historical sense. The works that make up these doctrines for a Spiritual Christianity, have come forth from the Word and now serve as a mirror in which false ideas concerning God can be dispersed and the true nature of the Lord as love and wisdom can be reflected into human consciousness. The doctrines themselves testify or bare witness to themselves that they are the means by which the Lord made His Second Advent in history, and by which He makes His Second Advent to each and every individual who is prepared to acknowledge that they are indeed the Lord in His Divine Human.

What John saw in his vision was a symbolic representation of these works coming into the world. This becomes clear from the quotes from Scripture that precede the work True Christian Religion. Two quotes are given, one from the book of Daniel and the other from the book of Revelation. These quotes are highly significant in the light of what the work True Christian Religion deals with in its contents…

I was watching in the visions of the night, and I saw the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. And to Him were given dominion and glory and the kingdom, and all peoples, nations and tongues will worship Him. His dominion will be a dominion for ever, which will not pass away, and His kingdom one that will not perish. (Daniel 7:13-14)

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; and I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. And the angel spoke with me, saying, Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the spirit onto a great and high mountain, and showed me the great, holy city of Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write, because these words are true and trustworthy. (Revelation 21:1,2,5,9,10)

Both these selections from Scripture are quoted at the beginning of the work True Christian Religion because they refer directly to it. The first statement from Daniel referring to the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven is a direct reference to the Lord coming as to the spiritual sense of the Word contained in the clouds of heaven or its literal sense. When the Word is read literally we read of natural things that involve the history of the Jewish nation and obscure prophecies that have to do with the nations of the world. This all clouds the spiritual content when our focus gets caught up in the literal meaning; hence the literal sense is called the clouds of heaven for it obscures the inner spiritual meaning of the Word. This inner spiritual meaning relates to the activity of the Divine life within our minds.

The clouds of the literal sense of the Word are dispersed when it is understood in accordance with the truths that are contained in the teachings found in the work True Christian Religion. These truths are called the Son of Man in the symbolic language of Scripture. Son’s in the Word spiritually correspond to truths, as daughters spiritually correspond to the affections of the mind and the term Man, more accurately, the term Human, refers, in the case of the Lord, to what is truly Human (love mercy compassion and goodness). Son of Man therefore speaks of truths that teach all about love and wisdom and when we make these the priority in our life then we hand over all glory and dominion to the Lord as the Word and enter into what it truly means to worship Him. This is described in this quote from Daniel as, “all peoples, nations and tongues” coming to worship Him. So the Son of Man is nothing else other than the truths of the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity and we see these coming with the clouds of heaven when we are able to see them shining forth from the Scriptures themselves.

The second quote from the book of Revelation comes alive when we read this as referring directly to the doctrine given to human race through the agency of Emanuel Swedenborg. Next time we will deal with the idea of the New Jerusalem prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Just hold in mind that this bride is the doctrine itself – what I want to finish on now is the last part of the statement that reads…

He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write, because these words are true and trustworthy.

There can be no doubt that this quote from the book of Revelation is given to make the point that the contents of True Christian Religion were inspired by the Lord Himself. Through the giving of truths that relate to the inner sense of the Word, the Lord makes all things new for us in regard to our understanding of the Scriptures. The obscure understanding of natural Christianity, as a religion based on tradition and a literal reading of the Scriptures, can be once and for all dispersed as the truths for a Spiritual Christianity shine their light within human minds. Swedenborg saw himself as called to bring these truths into the world in written form and so, the final statement doubles as a command to both John in regard to the book of Revelation and Swedenborg in regard to True Christian Religion, that command is, “Write, because these words are true and trustworthy.” What John saw in symbolic terms, Swedenborg delivers in plain language – that all now might enter into the mysteries of faith with understanding and know the transformative power of the Word to bring into our life the Lord’s love for the sake of others.

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