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The New Jerusalem: A Meditation
by the Rev. Carl Yenetchi,
Swedenborgian Minister
In the June, 1996 Issue of Our Daily Bread

[Note: Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that the entire Word was a study of our inner spiritual states - as found in each individual and collectively as mankind. King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as interpreted by Daniel was about the spiritual ages of mankind and not earthly kingdoms as traditional theology has taught us. For more information, please click here. Just use your browser's back button to return to this page.]

The Pre-Adamites. This period of human spiritual evolution is comparable to the state of an individual's spiritual development before birth. Emanuel Swedenborg describes these early proto-humans as having little of spirit in them, but he noted a unity of life that is often lacking in people of our own era. He noted that their internals or spiritual selves and their externals or natural selves were one with each other, so that the natural served in all ways the spirit. There was no hypocrisy in them. They were humanity before the Fall, one in thought and deed, one in emotion and word. Their voices echo today in the Scriptures:

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. (Psalm 139)

The Most Ancient Church. This stage in the spiritual development of humanity corresponds with the spiritual state of our infancy and early childhood. They were learning of the separation of the internal and external, the spirit and the body, but as yet the two parts had not evolved far from each other. Emanuel Swedenborg describes them as gentle nomadic gatherers who built simple shelters, and who could read the things of nature as we read the Bible, and who could draw from nature spiritual as well as natural sustenance. In Psalm 22 we find:

You brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me.

The Ancient Church. With the evolving of the early civilizations the human race underwent another dramatic change in spiritual state. Our internal and external states were separated to the extent that doctrines first appeared. We were ruled by our understandings; our emotions began to serve our intellect. The people of this time read and studied a written code of religion, rather than discerning the will of God in the things of nature. But still nature had meaning. The people of the Ancient era were taught that the things of nature had a meaning that was spiritual, but they would see nature only as an environment and not as a teacher. This spiritual state corresponds to the childhood states in individuals. Rules were important and from these rules were ordered our lives. Freedom and individuality were subjected to the rules of life; innocent was being lost because now there was a code by which to judge ourselves. But judgment is not the way of our Lord. Do you remember the account in Matthew of the children who wanted to come to Him?

Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The Representative Church. Here we have come to the ruling of the external in people. Rituals and laws passed down from the Ancient Church have now become themselves the focus of worship. People are subject to ritual and serve it rather than ritual serving the people by enhancing their worship. This is comparable to the spiritual state we experience in adolescence. Peer pressure, wanting to be like other people, wanting to fit in with the world around us, are signs of this spiritual state. Our conscience is not fully our own. We have given it to others to judge us and to let us know if we are "all right." There is at once a feeling of freedom if others accept us, and then we believe that our only responsibility is to keep that acceptance, as the people of the Representative Church believed their only responsibility was to keep their rituals. King Solomon, himself a man of the Representative era, described this state in Ecclesiastes:

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them" - before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails - given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

The First Christian Church. Jesus is born, and has taken it upon Himself to lead us all back to the internal worship of our Most Ancient ancestors. He reminds us that the Law was made to serve us and that we were not made to serve the Law. He reminds us that there are two commandments that outweigh all others; do you remember them? You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength. And you shall love the neighbor as thyself. Adulthood has been reached by the human race. We began in the innocence of ignorance, and are now moving toward the innocence of wisdom. We are to take responsibility for what we do, and seek ways of doing that which is good. St. Paul, a man of the First Christian era, wrote to the Church in Corinth:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

The Second Christian Church. This corresponds to the older adult stages in spiritual development. We have lived and we have learned. Personal conscience rules us and we are aware that we must give this same freedom to others, and submit ourselves to the Lord and trust Him. Our faith now permits this, and we have left behind ego, and the need to be right and to control the thoughts and actions of others. We are entering the stream of Divine Providence. Historically we see the rise of denominationalism. We no longer have one Church but many churches, and people choose the path that suits them. Tolerance grows and in some parts of the world at least, people of different beliefs live side by side in unity and mutual respect. We are still faced with the remnants of earlier ages and strife remains in our world, but we are working toward spiritual advancement. Our Lord told the Apostle Peter of this time:

"I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go...Follow me!"

The New Jerusalem. We have arrived. Our external and internal states are reunited or at least the potential for them to be reunited has been given to humankind. Emanuel Swedenborg wrote, "After this work was finished the Lord called together [in the Spiritual World] his twelve disciples who followed him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages, according to the prediction in Daniel and in the Revelation." We have the potential now to act and speak as we think and feel, but now we are also blessed with the potential of wisdom. Innocence and wisdom together mark the heavenly state of the people of the New Jerusalem.

The coming of this age was prophesied by Daniel; the Apostle John saw the Holy City in the vision he wrote of in Revelation; and Emanuel Swedenborg witnessed the coming of the City on June 19, 1770. Have you witnessed it in your life?

He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making everything new!" Even so come, Lord Jesus!

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Music: Fragments of My Soul
1999 Bruce DeBoer

 
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