The Second Advent
by the Rev. Dave Sonmor
Mark 13:24-27 and Revelation 21
Christmas time is here again and the fact is driven home hourly by all the ads on TV and in the News Papers and flyers that come into our mail boxes. I was impressed with one TV ad that showed an elderly woman wearing an old coat, a babushka and horn-rimmed glasses, shuffling down a long mall hallway carrying several large shopping bags; as she comes to the end of the hallway she turns around a corner and stops abruptly as she is facing a large pair of black boots that are taller than herself. They are Santa Clause's boots. A deep, loud voice say's' "Christmas is just around the corner." The lady looks slowly up to the top of Santa and then turns around and shuffles back up the Mall as fast as she can go. This ad really got me thinking about what our modern day Christmas is all about. The pressure to spend more money and buy more presents was so evident in that ad, which wasn't even promoting a particular business; just, "hurry up and buy!"
I had been working on a theme that focuses on the The Second Coming of the Lord, and trying to look at the whole Christmas celebration from the New Church perspective of the Second Advent. If we look at it from the idea that the second coming is happening now then the present forms of celebration must apply to that advent, as well as the first one, and I find that rather disconcerting. The lady in the ad was overwhelmed by facing this huge Santa Clause right on. I suppose many people are overwhelmed when facing the financial burden and increased social pressures that our current practices place on them. Somehow I don't think that it is the Lord's plan to put increased stress on us in order to celebrate His Advents into the world.
This is the Advent Season. It is a time in which we celebrate the coming of the Lord into the world. Thomas Cahill notes in his most recent book, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, that; "The first words Jesus spoke in the Gospel of Mark were, 'The time has come: the kingdom of God draws near. Open your hearts and believe the Good News.' " Perhaps what we really need to do to celebrate is to believe in what Jesus taught us while He was here on earth. He came as Jesus Christ, an infant child who was the long awaited Messiah of Jewish tradition, and he became the man who is our personal savior. The Divine Human with whom our human nature can associate and have a personal relationship. He is the redeemer of the world, who provides salvation and eternal life for all people who believe in Him and keep the commandments of His Word.
In the New Church we expound the doctrine that the Lord has come again. He said, "I will come again", and we believe this has happened; His presence is a present day reality. We understand that He has not come in the flesh as He did the first time, but that He has come through enlightenment and understanding of His Word, and with a new emphasis on the inner qualities of love.
What is the good news that this second coming brings? What is the gift of the Second Advent? We can rejoice in the knowledge that: THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD IS A PRESENT DAY REALITY! Do you realize the full implications of this claim?
God is not going to destroy the world! And - HUMAN
EXISTENCE WILL CONTINUE INDEFINITELY! We might destroy parts of it and the forces of nature continually destroy and rebuild parts of it but God will not destroy what He created. If this is so, then we can stop acting as if our world might blow up at any time. We can take a long-range view in the way we treat our earth. Environmental management makes sense so that the world can support future generations. Instead of just expecting God to completely change everything about our world, we can see ourselves as becoming, once again, the custodians or caretakers of the world, as the Adamic people were in ancient times. On the esoteric side, we can be assured that knowledge and understanding will continue to increase at a rapid pace, and more and more problems and dangers of living in this physical world will be solved. The area where we seem to be the slowest is our human and social relations. But this too, will change.
The second advent also brings other gifts and assurances:
The Lord provides religion for all people and everyone who acknowledges God and practices good, as he/she understands it, will enter the heavenly kingdom. Imagine what it will be like when all religions embrace this philosophy.
The Bible is the Word of God and speaks everywhere of Him and of His Church both in heaven and on earth. It is not about the condition of the physical world and our social and political life.
The spiritual condition of the human race is continuously improving and will continue to do so until the state of joy and perfection described by the Holy City New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven is realized.
Our present life is continued into the next life. Death is an immediate transition of our life, from the natural world to the spiritual world.
God does not destroy, He creates. He does not punish anyone, but He loves us so much that He gives us complete freedom to choose His way or not.
All humans are created to become angels in heaven as the purpose of creation is a heaven of angels from the human race. We do not need to compete for a place on God's team as there is plenty of room for everyone.
The growth in science and technology and the improvements in the world political situation along with the expansion of human rights are reflections of the general spiritual growth of the human race. Our doctrine of cause and effect teaches us that the cause of things is spiritual and the effect is natural. Therefore, as we open our lives more and more to spiritual influences from the Lord we will increasingly receive the benefits of spiritual growth.
This is a wonderfully optimistic message, but one can argue that it is not a true picture of what is going on in the world today. We see wars in Bosnia and Afghanistan and other places. We hear of all the injustices and abuses that are taking place in every country. We sometimes see things as getting worse instead of better so wonder if there is any legitimacy to these claims. We must keep in mind that the religious philosophy of the New Church is in its infancy. The birth of this new era begins with a promise of a better future so that people will become favorably disposed to the idea that things can and will improve. It also requires the exposure of all that is wrong and false and evil in the world and such exposure reveals much that is painful and negative. But many things are brought out in the open now that only a few years ago would have been veiled in a cloud of secrecy.
The early prophetic descriptions of the second coming all contain images of death and destruction; earthquakes and storms and wars. All of this upheaval is reflected in what is going on now. The Book of Matthew reports that Jesus said, "Soon after the trouble of those days, the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in the space will be driven off their courses. Then the Son of Man will appear in the sky; and all the peoples of earth will weep as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." When the world is on the brink of being devoid of love, represented by the sun, and truth as represented by the moon and everything seems to be about to be destroyed because all genuine knowledges of truth derived from the Word will be banished, then the Son of Man will appear. This is the grand announcement of the Lord's second coming. " For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
Now we can move on to the more optimistic prophesies in the latter part of John's Book of Revelation, where he says, "I saw a new sky and a new land. The first sky and the first land had disappeared…Then I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of the sky like a bride ready for her husband. Here is what the details of this passage mean according to the understanding of angels in heaven:
"A new sky and a new land" refer to a new religion in heaven and on earth."
The city Jerusalem coming down from God out of the sky" means the philosophy of this new religion."
The City's "length, width, and height," which were equal, refer to all the good qualities and true ideas in this philosophy, seen as whole.
"The city's wall" means the true ideas that protect it.
The measurements of its wall, "144 cubits by human standards of measurement which an angel was using," refers to all this protecting truth seen as a whole and what it is like.
The "twelve gates" made of pearls, and the "twelve angels" at them, mean the true ideas that bring people into the religion.
The wall's foundations, "made out of every kind of precious stone," mean the pure concepts this religious philosophy is based upon.
"Israel's twelve tribes" means everything about the religion, seen as a whole and in all its different aspects. The "twelve apostles" mean the same thing.
The "gold-like pure glass" that the city and its highway were made of means the good qualities that come from love, which make the true ideas of this philosophy shine through.
"The nations that have been rescued" and "the world's kings" who will "bring their magnificence and dignity to it" refer to all religious people who do good things and have true ideas.
This beautiful image of the Holy City New Jerusalem coming down out of the sky is the image that we of the New Church can keep in our hearts and picture in our minds as we once again celebrate the Lord's advent.
"Listen" says Jesus, "I am coming soon! Happy are they who obey the prophetic words of this book." Amen.
©Robert Meyers, entitled, Oh Holy Night