CHURCH >> The Lord's Heaven on Earth >> Bride

Church7_500_375 The Lord’s heaven in the natural world is called the church; an angel of this heaven is a man of the church who is conjoined to the Lord; on departure from this world he  also  becomes an angel of the spiritual heaven. What was said of the angelic heaven is evidently to be understood, then, of the human heaven also which is called the church.  The reciprocal conjunction with the Lord which makes heaven in the human being is revealed by the Lord in these words in John:

Abide in Me, and I in you; ... he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing (15:4, 5, 7). [DP 30]

It is plain from this that the Lord is heaven not only in general with all in heaven, but in particular with each one there. For each angel is a heaven in least form; of as many heavens as there are angels, does heaven in general consist. In substantiation see Heaven and Hell (nn.  51-58). Since this is so, let no one cherish the mistaken idea, which first visits the thought of so many, that the Lord dwells in heaven among the angels or is among them like a king in his kingdom. To the sight He is above them in the sun there; He is in them in their life of love and wisdom. [ DP 31]  

I will mention some strange things, which yet are not strange in heaven; they are as follow:--

(1) That the natural world could not exist except from the spiritual world; consequently, it could not subsist, inasmuch as subsistence is perpetual existence.

(2) That the church cannot exist in man, unless its internal be spiritual and its external natural. A church purely spiritual does not exist, nor a church merely natural.

(3) Consequently, that there cannot be raised up any church, nor anything of the church with man, without an angelic heaven, through which everything spiritual is derived and descends from the Lord.

(4) Since therefore the spiritual and the natural thus make one, it follows that the one cannot exist and subsist without the other; the angelic heaven not without the church with man, nor the church with him without the angelic heaven; for, unless the spiritual flow into and terminate in the natural, and rest therein, it is like a prior without a posterior, thus like an efficient cause without an effect, and like an active without a passive, which would be like a bird perpetually flying in the air without any resting place on the earth. It is also like the mind of a man perpetually thinking and willing, without any organ of sense and motion in the body, to which it may descend and produce the ideas of its thought and bring into operation the efforts of its will.

(5) These things are adduced, to the end that it may be perceived or known, that as the natural world cannot exist without the spiritual world, nor conversely the spiritual world without the natural world, so neither can there be a church on the earth unless there be an angelic heaven through which it may exist and subsist, nor conversely an angelic heaven unless there be a church on the earth. (6) The angels know this; on which account, they bitterly lament when the church on earth is desolated by falsities and consummated by evils; and then they compare the state of their life with drowsiness; for then heaven is to them as a seat withdrawn, and like a body deprived of feet; but when the church on the earth has been restored by the Lord, they compare the state of their life to wakefulness. [COR19] 

That which makes heaven with man also makes the Church, for the Church is the Lord's heaven on earth. Consequently from what has been previously said about heaven, it is evident what the Church is. [AC 10760]

That is called the Church where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word is; for the essentials of the Church are love to the Lord from the Lord, and faith in the Lord from the Lord; and the Word teaches how a man must live in order that he may receive love and faith from the Lord. [AC 10761]

The Lord's Church is internal and external; internal with those who do the Lord's commandments from love, for these are they who love the Lord; and external with those who do the Lord's commandments from faith, for these are they who believe in the Lord. [AC 10762]

In order that the Church may exist, there must be doctrine from the Word, because without doctrine the Word is not understood; yet doctrine alone in a man does not make the Church in him; but a life according thereto. From this it follows that faith alone does not make the Church; but the life of faith which is charity. [AC 10763]

The genuine doctrine of the Church is the doctrine of charity and at the same time of faith, and not the doctrine of faith without that of charity; for the doctrine of charity and at the same time of faith is the doctrine of life; but not the doctrine of faith without the doctrine of charity. [AC 10764]

Those who are outside the Church, and yet acknowledge one God, and live according to their religion in a kind of charity toward the neighbor, are in communion with those who are of the Church, because no one is condemned who believes in God, and lives well. From this it is evident that the Lord's Church is everywhere in the whole world, although specifically it is where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word is. [AC 10765]

Everyone in whom the Church is, is saved. But everyone in whom the Church is not, is condemned. [AC 10766]

(iii) Man himself is in fault if he is not saved. As soon as he hears it any rational man acknowledges the truth that evil cannot issue from good nor good from evil, for they are opposites; consequently only good comes of good and only evil of evil. When this truth is acknowledged this also is: that good can be turned into evil not by a good but by an evil recipient; for any form changes into its own nature what flows into it (see above, n. 292). Inasmuch as the Lord is good in its very essence or good itself, plainly evil cannot issue from Him or be produced by Him, but good can be turned into evil by a recipient subject whose form is a form of evil. Such a subject is man as to his proprium. This constantly receives good from the Lord and constantly turns it into the nature of its own form, which is one of evil. It follows that man is in fault if he is not saved. Evil is indeed from hell but as man receives it from hell as his and appropriates it to himself, it is the same whether one says that evil is from man or from hell. But whence there is an appropriation of evil until finally religion perishes will be told in this order:

1.  Every religion declines and comes to an end in the course of time.

2.  It does so through the inversion of God’s image in man.

3.  This takes place through a continual increase of hereditary evil over the generations.

4.  Nevertheless the Lord provides that everyone may be saved.

5.  It is also provided that a new church shall succeed in place of the former devastated church. [DP327] 

These points are to be demonstrated in the order given. First:

Every religion declines and comes to an end in the course of time. There have been several churches on this earth, one after another, for wherever mankind is, a church is. For, as was shown above, heaven, which is the goal of creation, is from mankind, and no one can enter heaven unless he is in the two universal marks of the church which, as was shown just above (n. 326), are the acknowledgment of God and living aright. It follows that there have been churches on this earth from the most ancient times to the present. These churches are described in the Word, but not historically except the Israelitish and Jewish church. There were churches before it which are only described in the Word under the names of nations and persons and in a few items about them.

[2] The first, the Most Ancient Church, is described under the names of Adam and his wife Eve. The next church, to be called the Ancient Church, is described by Noah, his three sons and their posterity. This church was widespread and extended over many of the kingdoms of Asia: the land of Canaan on both sides of the Jordan, Syria, Assyria and Chaldea, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Arabia, Tyre and Sidon. These had the Ancient Word (Doctrine of the New Jerusalem about Sacred Scripture, nn. 101-103).  That this church existed in those kingdoms is evident from various things recorded about them in the prophetical parts of the Word. This church was markedly altered by Eber, from whom arose the Hebrew church, in which worship by sacrifices was first instituted. From the Hebrew church the Israelitish and Jewish church was born and solemnly established for the sake of the Word which was composed in it.

[3] These four churches are meant by the statue seen by Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, the head of which was of pure gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, and the legs and feet of iron and clay (Da 2:32, 33). Nor is anything else meant by the golden, silver, copper and iron ages mentioned by ancient writers. Needless to say, the Christian church succeeded the Jewish. It can be seen from the Word that all these churches declined in the course of time, eventually coming to an end, called their consummation.

[4] The consummation of the Most Ancient Church, brought about by the eating of the tree of knowledge, meaning by the pride of one’s own intelligence, is depicted by the Flood. The consummation of the Ancient Church is depicted in the various devastations of nations mentioned in the historical as well as the prophetical Word and especially by the expulsion of the nations from the land of Canaan by the children of Israel. The consummation of the Israelitish and Jewish church is understood by the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem and by the carrying away of the people of Israel into permanent captivity and of the Jewish nation to Babylon, and finally by the second destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem at the same time, and by the dispersion of that nation. This consummation is foretold in many places in the Prophets and in Daniel 9:24-27. The gradual devastation of the Christian church even to its end is pictured by the Lord in Matthew (24), Mark (13) and Luke (21), but the end itself in the Apocalypse. Hence it may be manifest that in the course of time a church declines and comes to an end; so does a religion.

[5] Second: _Every religion declines and comes to an end through the inversion of God’s image in man._ It is known that the human being was created in the image and after the likeness of God (Ge 1:26), but let us say what the image and the likeness of God are. God alone is love and wisdom; man was created to be a receptacle of both love and wisdom, his will to be a receptacle of divine love and his understanding a receptacle of the divine wisdom. These two receptacles, it was shown above, are in man from creation, constitute him, and are formed in everyone in the womb. Man’s being an image of God thus means that he is a recipient of the divine wisdom, and his being a likeness of God means that he is a recipient of the divine love. Therefore the receptacle called the understanding is an image of God, and the receptacle called the will is a likeness of God. Since, then, man was created and formed to be a receptacle, it follows that he was created and formed that his will might receive love from God and his understanding wisdom from God. He receives these when he acknowledges God and lives according to His precepts, receiving them in lesser or larger measure as by religion he has some knowledge of God and of His precepts, consequently according to his knowledge of truths. For truths teach what God is and how He is to be acknowledged, also what His precepts are and how man is to live according to them.

[6] The image and likeness of God have not been destroyed in man, but seem to have been; they remain inherent in his two faculties called liberty and rationality, of which we have treated above at many places.  They seem to have been destroyed when man made the receptacle of divine love, namely, his will, a receptacle of self-love, and the receptacle of divine wisdom, namely, his understanding, a receptacle of his own intelligence. Doing this, he inverted the image and likeness of God and turned these receptacles away from God and towards himself. Consequently they have become closed above and open below, or closed in front and open behind, though by creation they were open in front and closed behind.  When they have been opened and closed contrariwise, the receptacle of love, the will, receives influx from hell or from one’s proprium; so does the receptacle of wisdom, the understanding. Hence worship of men arose in the churches instead of the worship of God, and worship by doctrines of falsity instead of worship by doctrines of truth, the latter arising from man’s own intelligence, and the former from love of self. Thence it is evident that religion falls away in the course of time and is ended by the inversion of God’s image in man.

[7] Third: _This takes place as a result of a continual increase of hereditary evil over the generations._ It was said and explained above that hereditary evil does not come from Adam and his wife Eve by their having eaten of the tree of knowledge, but is derived and transmitted successively from parents to offspring. Thus it grows by continual increase from generation to generation. When evil increases so among many, it spreads to many more, for in all evil there is a lust to lead astray, in some burning with anger against goodness—hence a contagion of evil. When the contagion reaches leaders, rulers and the prominent in the church, religion has become perverted, and the means of restoring it to health, namely truths, become corrupted by falsifications. As a result there is a gradual devastation of good and desolation of truth in the church on to its end.

[8] Fourth: Nevertheless the Lord provides that everyone may be saved. He provides that there shall be religion everywhere and in it the two essentials for salvation, acknowledgment of God and ceasing from evil because it is contrary to God. Other things, which pertain to the understanding and hence to the thinking, called matters of faith, are provided everyone in accord with his life, for they are accessory to life and if they have been given precedence, do not become living until they are subsidiary. It is also provided that those who have lived rightly and acknowledged God are instructed by angels after death. Then those who were in the two essentials of religion while in the world accept such truths of the church as are in the Word, and acknowledge the Lord as God of heaven and of the church. This last they receive more readily than do Christians who have brought with them from the world an idea of the Lord’s human nature parted from His divine. It is also provided by the Lord that all are saved who die as infants, no matter where they have been born.

[9] Furthermore, every person is given the opportunity after death of amending his life if possible. All are instructed and led by the Lord by means of angels. Knowing now that they live after death and that heaven and hell exist, they at first receive truths. But those who did not acknowledge God and shun evils as sins when in the world soon show a distaste for truths and draw back, and those who acknowledged truths with the lips but not with the heart are like the foolish virgins who had lamps but no oil and begged oil of others, also wentoff and bought some, but still were not admitted to the wedding. “Lamps” signify truths of faith and “oil” signifies the good of charity. It may be evident then that divine providence sees to it that everyone can be saved and that man is himself in fault if he is not saved.

[10] Fifth: _It is also provided that a new church shall succeed in place of a former devastated church._ It has been so from the most ancient days that on the devastation of a church a new one followed. The Ancient Church succeeded the Most Ancient; the Israelitish or Jewish Church followed the Ancient; after this came the Christian Church. And this, it is foretold in the Apocalypse, will be followed by a new church, signified in that book by the New Jerusalem descending from heaven. The reason why a new church is provided by the Lord to follow in place of a former devastated church may be seen in _Doctrine of the New Jerusalem about Sacred Scripture_ (nn. 104-113). [DP328]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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