Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Symbolism of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation



The book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse, is a long term prophecy concerning the final end of the Christian Church before the Second Coming, and the establishment of a New Church.  The book is highly symbolic, and subject to a lot of commentaries, but very few have been able to interpret it due to the amount of symbolism involved.  When I first encountered Emanuel Swedenborg, one of the first works I examined was Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained - all in all, about nine volumes of works explaining in detail the Apocalypse.  It is by far the most comprehensive interpretation of the book of Revelation I have ever seen.  Swedenborg claimed that for over a period of 27 years his vision was opened to explore heaven and hell, to the end that the internal spiritual sense of scripture could be explained.  And one of the strongest evidences that indeed he was receiving visions from a higher source is his writings where he explains the symbolism of scripture, showing how and why it is Divinely Inspired.

The Apocalypse begins with the Apostle John in exile on the isle of Patmos, when his vision is opened to be shown the future of the Christian Church in its very last state.  Thus it is fitting that the book should be finally revealed in these times by Emanuel Swedenborg whose vision was opened to explain the symbolism of this work. Similar to John, he was also on an island in the west - England - and he was forced to go there as he could freely publish his works and not be subject to the religious censors in Sweden. In a sense, like John, Swedenborg has been exiled and rejected by the Christian Churches, for in the revelations explained many errors that have crept into the Christian church and corrupted it. What errors? We have this passage:
Blessed is he who reads, and they who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Rev. 1:3)
Or some translations states, "for the time is near." This does not refer to time, but the state when the Christians church is near its end:
"For the time is at hand, signifies that the state of the church is such that it can no longer continue to have conjunction with the Lord. There are two essentials by which conjunction with the Lord is effected, and hence salvation, — the acknowledgment of one God, and repentance of life. But at this day, instead of the acknowledgment of one God, there is acknowledgment of three; and instead of repentance of life, there is repentance of the mouth only that one is a sinner; and by these two there is no conjunction: therefore, unless a new church rises up, which acknowledges these two essentials, and lives them, no one can be saved. On account of this peril, the time has been shortened by the Lord, according to His words in Matthew: Then shall be great affliction, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor shall be; yea, except those days should be shortened, no flesh would be saved (xxiv. 21, 22)." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 9)
There is thus no "date" for an "end of the world" - the time is at hand when one recognizes the church is corrupt. Tritheism pervades the belief system detracting worship from Jesus (see The False Belief of a Trinity of three beings: TRITHEISM), and a theology of "vicarious atonement" detracts from repentance (see Did Jesus Die to Appease an Angry God? Is Vicarious Atonement True or False?). Although this is a central tenet of both Catholic and Protestant churches, it is not so for the Orthodox. For these churches religion is a matter of belief only, but not in one's life. One God as one person in Jesus Christ, and salvation through repentance are the two essentials of the New Church is, which are symbolized by the two witnesses of Revelation 11 which torment those of the earth. These witnesses cause torment, for many of the older churches do not want to acknowledge these two truths and admit that their belief system is wrong, This is described in the blog post The Identity of the Two Witnesses of Revelation.

The Apocalypse begins with seven letters dictated by Jesus Christ to seven churches in Asia, or modern day Turkey.  Many have recognized that these letters are symbolic, written to the Christian churches of all ages. While many have attempted to find historical periods within the age of the Christian church to which each church corresponds, this is getting too literal. In the spiritual sense, the number seven means "all" or what is complete, thus these are letters written to all churches. And by "church" here is anyone who does good by the spiritual truth that they acknowledge. They do not represent historical periods, but seven different types of people within the church in its last days. They are letters to all of Christianity to prepare them for the revelation to come. When one uncovers the spiritual sense of these letters, one can easily see in which spiritual category one belongs, and what should be done to correct one's errors.

The spiritual meaning of each church are as follows:

EPHESUS: those who are in spiritual knowledge only, but not in the goods of life.

SMYRNA: those who live a good life, but are in falsity as to doctrine.

PERGAMOS: those who are self-righteous from the merit of their own works.

THYATIRA: those who teach faith separate from charity, and those who have charity from faith.

SARDIS: those who are in external worship only, following the rituals, but with no true inner spirituality or understanding.

PHILADELPHIA: those who are in truth from good, where love is primary. To such as these will be revealed the true doctrines of the New Church.

LAODICEA: those who sometimes follow the Word, and sometimes follow their own system of thought which they invented. Falsehood mixed in with that of truth, thus profaning what is holy.

So looking at the above, they refer to seven spiritual states, but this can only be known from examining the spiritual sense of the Apocalypse.  In some cases they refer to a specific sect of the Church, but most can take a look at these states of spirituality and may have passed through one or more of these states at different stages of one's life. For each spiritual state, if there is a fault a correction is offered to fix the fault. One can only spiritually develop if one recognizes one's fault, acknowledges it, and changes one's behavior.

EPHESUS: THOSE WHO ARE IN KNOWLEDGE ONLY

House of the virgin Mary in Ephesus, foreseen in the visions of Catherine Anne Emmerich

That Ephesus represents those who are spiritual knowledge only, who only seek enlightenment. That this is so, is Jesus describes himself as the one who holds seven stars in his hand, and walks among the seven candlesticks - this means He is the Divine source of all spiritual knowledge. In the symbolism of scripture, a "sun" represents love, the "moon" represents the light of faith, but "stars" represent knowledge. In the spiritual realm, God's light can appear as a star, or large like a moon, or in all its glory as a sun, depending on one's spiritual state. The emphasis is on the truth of doctrine, and distinguishing between truth and falsehood, thus they are said to have examined so-called apostles and found them to be liars. Their fault is clear:
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5)
What this means is that spiritual knowledge, without practicing it in a life of service or charity, will die out. Only when knowledge when applied to life is it living, otherwise it will dissipated and forgotten.

Many commentaries on Revelation give the proper spiritual interpretion of the church of Ephesus correctly, but this is not true for the following churches.

SMYRNA: THOSE WHO ARE IN GOOD, BUT IN FALSE BELIEFS

The church of Smyrna represents a completely opposite state from that of Ephesus. Essentially good people, but misguided by false beliefs. This would also include those born into false religions, or drawn into them from a disenchantment from established religions. That this is a state where they are in falsity of doctrine, is known from the meaning of the words "tribulation" or "affliction" - for in the spiritual sense, that is to be in falsity as to doctrine, and in a state where one does not know what is true or false. Thus in this state one is afflicted by those who say they are Jews, but are not, but commit blasphemy - showing they think they belong in a true church (symbolized by Jews), but they are not, thus committing blasphemy against what is holy or true. Thus they will suffer being thrown in "prison" - for a spiritual prison means to be bound for a period of time in false beliefs. When one is born into a religion, and one begins to recognize it is false, is it a very stressful time for that person until they come to realize what is true.

PERGAMOS: THOSE WHO ARE IN SELF-MERITORIOUS WORKS

This spiritual state is not so apparent from the sense of the letter, but it can be seen from the symbolism. This concerns those who think they are better or superior than others because of the good they do: it concerns those who are self-righteous. Mentioned among this church are those who hold onto the "doctrine of the Nicolaitans" - and this reference has puzzled commentators for centuries. From revelation, it was given to Swedenborg to know that the ancient Nicolaitans were those who placed self-merit in works - thus they were hated by those of Ephesus, who emphasized knowledge and faith more than good works. Swedenborg stated that most in the Christian churches fell either into this category or in the spiritual state of Sardis, of which later. But that this represents those who are in self-meritorious works, is known only from the spiritual sense from scripture:
"That thou hast there them who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit whoredom, signifies that among them are those who do hypocritical works, by which the worship of God in the church is defiled and adulterated. That by these words are meant those who do works by which worship is defiled and adulterated, is manifest from the historicals of the Word relating to Balaam and Balak the king of Moab. For Balaam was a hypocrite and a diviner; for he spoke well of the sons of Israel from Jehovah, and yet in heart cherished the desire to destroy them, and did also destroy some by the counsel given to Balak; from which it is manifest that his works were hypocritical." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 114)
When one realizes that good in itself is spiritual, and has a Divine origin, and that goods works are a result of love and good intent, then works cease to be self-meritorious and one reaches a new spiritual life. This is represented symbolically by the "hidden manna" - the bread of heaven. For bread and food in scripture symbolize love, and in loving others and being in service one's heart becomes one in conjunction with heaven. One must realize this truth in order to achieve this state, thus Jesus is said to be the one with the sharp two-edged sword, for sword signifies the Divine truth. Those who realize this truth, that good is not self-meritorious, but are done out of love, are given a "white stone":
"And I will give him a white stone, signifies truths favoring and united to good. A white stone signifies this, because in judgments the votes were collected by stones, and by white ones those which were affirmative. It is affirmative truths that are signified because white is predicated of truths (n. 167, 379). Hence by a white stone are signified truths favoring good. They are also united to the good, because the good draws them, and unites them to itself. For all good loves truth, and conjoins to itself such as accords with itself, especially the good of heavenly love: this so unites truth to itself, that they make altogether one." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 121)

THYATIRA: THOSE WHO ARE IN CHARITY FROM FAITH, OR IN FAITH SEPARATE FROM CHARITY

From the symbolism contained in the letter to the church of Thyatira, it becomes apparent in Apocalypse Revealed that this concerns mainly the Protestant or Reformed churches, who put emphasis on faith, among whom there are many who separate faith from charity. That this is so is known from the following passage:
I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first (Rev. 2:19)
In other words, faith and patience are prioritized above works, love and service. It thus refers to the Protestant faith. Among the Protestants, there are those who separate faith from charity turn themselves against repentance against the lusts of the will, which is symbolized by the idol of Baal. As the Word itself is adulterated to support faith alone, it is said that they will be cast into a bed of adultery (see The Fundamental Error of the Protestant Faith). The end result of this, for those who make this their primary doctrine, is that their church will become infested by falsities - thus the "sons are killed by death," where sons signify truths, which are extinguished by falsities. Thus the Protestant churches have a tendency to split into multiple sects. That faith separate from charity is false, is shown where it is said everyone will be given "according to their works." Those who teach the doctrine and reason according to it, are those who "know the depths of Satan," where Satan signifies what is false (the word Devil is used to indicate what is evil). Those who turn against this doctrine are those who "keep the works unto the end" and are given "power over the nations" - where nations signify evils, and power is given to those who resist evil from truth in repentance.

SARDIS: THOSE WHO ARE IN EXTERNAL WORSHIP ONLY

Other than those who are in self-meritorious works (represented by Pergamos), the other large majority of people who are in the church are in external worship only, where they follow the rituals but are not in knowledges of the truth are in a life according to good. These are represented by the church of Sardis, and have a tendency to only follow teachings from authority without question. Thus they have a name that they are alive, but are dead - for on the outside they look religious, but inwardly they are dead as to spiritual life. They are told not to sleep, but be "watchful" and to not defile their clothes and walk in white - which means to be in a life according to the truths.



PHILADELPHIA: THOSE WHO ARE IN TRUTHS FROM LOVE

Philadelphia means "brotherly love," and this church represents those who are primarily in love towards God and others and from that are in truths. To those who are in this state, there is an "open door" before them, which means they are open to receiving truths from heaven. As these truths are revealed, those who are say the are Jews, but are of the "synagogue of Satan" - will come to bow down at their feet - which means those who were in falsities of doctrine from the former churches will recognize their error. For "Satan" in the spiritual sense means those who are in falsehoods and lies. This church are those who "have not denied [the Lord's] name" - that is, they acknowledge God as one person in Jesus. This is the "pillar in the temple of God" - for in the highest sense, the Lord's body is the temple of God, which in the New Church is acknowledged to be the Divine Human, otherwise known as the Son of God. It is said that these will be kept from the hour of temptation, for the falsities will be exposed in the former churches and those who will belong to those will be afflicted by their falsehoods. These will belong to the New Church which will follow the former Christian Churches, which is also known as the New Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven following the final judgment. For those who are primarily in love, there is no correction here needed.

He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens (Rev. 3:8)

LAODICEA: THOSE WHO MIX FALSEHOODS WITH TRUTH

The last church represents the general last and worst state, which is when falsehoods are intermixed with the truths of the church. The "beginning of the work of God" is the Word itself, from which truths should be derived, rather than one's own self intelligence. These are neither "cold or hot" - which means sometimes they confirm the Word, and sometimes deny, vacillating between the truth of scripture and their own framework that they invented. When falsehoods are mixed in with truth, that which is holy is profaned, thus the Lord speaks of them as "spewn from the mouth." These people think they know everything, are superior to others, and thus say they to themselves that they are "rich and increased in goods" - when in fact they are "miserable and poor" - lacking in knowledge, and "blind" in spiritual truth - although they have no idea in what poor situation they are in spiritually, due to their self pride. For these it is recommended that they should acquire "gold tried by fire" - which are the goods of love - and "white garments" - which are truths derived from scripture. As these have turned away from the truths of the Christian Church, the Lord says he stands outside the door knocking, waiting to be accepted into their heart.

THE SEVEN STATES OF THOSE WHO ARE IN LIGHT OF TRUTH

The seven candlesticks represent our physical life here on earth, and the seven stars represent the angels who guide us.  Every person who follows truth in one form or another - no matter what religion - is represented here, for in the spiritual sense everything is abstracted from the particulars.  One's spiritual state can also change at different stages in one's life. For we are all forms of good and truth, and we each receive it in a different and unique way.  Understanding the principles of good and truth in one's own life can lead to greater understanding, and directing one's life towards a life of love and service towards others (see The Universal Philosophy of Good and Truth). When is open to self examination, and knowing and acknowledging one's shortcomings, one prepares oneself for greater revelations to come - and this is symbolically represented by the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, a New Church based on revelations direct from God. For it is this which is truly the Second Coming, but one has to prepare one self to receive it.

People who look up to the sky, expecting some visible sign from heaven, are going to be disappointed. But for those who open their spiritual eye, looking within, they will be very happy with what they find.

John O`Callaghan ft. Audrey Gallagher - Big Sky




Release yourself - it's a big sky. 

Reveal yourself, it's a big sky. 

We love, we leave. We take, we give. 
Release yourself - it's a big sky. 



Breathe in this moment... (4)



I know this silence - been here before. 

I'm walking blinded through your door. 
This is a sense of things to come, 
This innocence... oh, oh. 



Breathe in this moment - it's come and gone 

Further and faster through your soul. 
Open your eyes and breathe some more, 
Open your mind... oh, oh. 



Release yourself - it's a big sky. 

Reveal yourself, it's a big sky. 
We love, we leave, we take, we give. 
Release yourself - it's a big sky. 



It's a big sky... 



I know this silence - been here before. 

I'm walking blinded through your door. 
This is a sense of things to come, 
This innocence... oh, oh. 



Breathe in this moment - it's come and gone 

Further and faster through your soul. 
Open your eyes and breathe some more, 
Open your mind... oh, oh. 



Release yourself - it's a big sky. 

Reveal yourself, it's a big sky. 
We love, we leave. We take, we give. 
Release yourself - it's a big sky. 



Breathe in this moment... (4)



Release yourself - it's a big sky. 

Reveal yourself, it's a big sky. 
We love, we leave, we take, we give. 
Release yourself - it's a big sky. 



It's a big sky... (4)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

External Morality vs. Spiritual Morality - Self-Worship vs. the Divine

In October, North Korea surprised the world by initiating high level meetings with South Korea, during the time that Kim Jong mysteriously "vanished" from the public eye:


There were no immediate breakthroughs, and the specific topics discussed were unknown. Yet the media was rather excited over the meeting. From One more twist in the mystery of the vanishing Kim Jong: Now his 'deputy' flies to South Korea offering peace talks:
The meeting allowed valuable contact between North Korea's authoritarian leader and senior South Korean officials after a year that has seen a steady stream of insults between the divided neighbors and an unusual number of North Korean missile and rocket test firings.One analyst called it a 'golden opportunity' for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to test North Korea's willingness to improve shaky ties
So what was the result of the talks so far?  Apparently, North Korea mentioned that they did not like a certain lighted Christmas tree in South Korea near the neutral zone, so they had the South Korean government tear it down since it was deemed to be "religious propaganda":


From South Korea pulls down 'Christmas tree' condemned by North as propaganda warfare:


South Korea has pulled down a “Christmas tree” on its border with the North after the totalitarian state threatened to bomb it as “religious propaganda”.
Christian groups had previously decorated the 60ft tower, near the city of Gimpo, with lights and topped it with a cross during the festive season.
But being only two miles from the border, it could be seen by North Koreans in nearby towns and was condemned as propaganda warfare.
Well maybe North Korea has a point. Because western media has engaged in propaganda warfare against North Korea.  One example is the upcoming movie, The Interview, in which two reporters are hired to assassinate the North Korean dictator, or even worse, Kim Jong singing "I'm so ronery" in the awful movie Team America: World Police:



Movies, such as these, are designed as propaganda, with very low level humor to reach the masses. For North Korea, unfortunately, caught in the middle of this political situation there is very intense persecutions of Christians in North Korea, which happens to be the worst in the world. This is also due to the fact that all North Koreans are forced to bow down and worship the leader of North Korea as god. Here is a documentary concerning their situation, in which many witnesses identities have been hidden for their own protection:



North Korea literally has a policy of torturing and executing Christians.

EXTERNAL MORALITY VS. SPIRITUAL MORALITY

The human rights records for North Korea, like similar atheist regimes, is very low. Compare with the millions who died under Stalin in Russia, and the millions of Chinese who were starved under Mao Tse-Tung. Why are human rights standards so low for atheist regimes? This is due to the fact that true morality is not just civil. True morality has as its origin a spiritual Divine that flows into us. When we cut off that spiritual Divine, then the love of self and power prevails. This is because the origin of all good originates not from our selves, our own egos, but from the Divine, who is Good itself.

Without acknowledgment of the Divine, morality becomes external, or is done merely out of the fear from punishment or opinion of others:
"All who are in the knowledges of truth and good, but not, conformably to these, in the good of life, may live a moral life equally with those who are in knowledges and through these in the good of life; yet their moral life is not spiritual but natural, because in their life they do not live sincerely, justly, and well from religion; and those who do not live well from religion cannot be conjoined with heaven; for it is religion that makes a man spiritual and conjoins him with the angels, who are purely spiritual. To live well from religion is to think, to will, and to do because it has been so enjoined in the Word, and because the Lord has commanded it; but to live not from religion is to think, to will, and to do from a regard solely to civil and moral laws. Such as these, since they have regard only to these laws, conjoin themselves to this world alone, for which these laws are; but the former have regard to the Lord, and thereby conjoin themselves to Him. Gentiles are saved solely by this, that in their life they have regard to religion, thinking and saying that they ought to do thus and not otherwise, because to do otherwise would be contrary to the laws of their religion, thus contrary to the Divine; and when they thus think, and act accordingly, they are endowed with spiritual life, which with them is of such quality that afterwards, in the spiritual world, they receive truths more readily than those Christians who, in what they do, give no thought to the Word, or to the doctrine of the church, which is from the Word. Those who do not think from religion do not have conscience, because they are not spiritual; consequently, if their external bonds, which are fears respecting the law and reputation, should be loosened with them, they would rush into every wickedness; while on the other hand, if external bonds, which are fears respecting the law and reputation, should be taken away from those who think from religion, they would still act sincerely, justly, and well; for they fear God, and are kept in a life of obedience and charity out of heaven from the Lord, to whom they are conjoined." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 107.3-4)
Thus those who make morality one of external appearance, or done for sake of avoiding punishment, or separate from religious life, are very much deceived.  True spirituality is one where an acknowledgment of the Divine is conjoined with one's morality, and from civil morality it becomes truly spiritual.  Truly spiritual morality is one where sins are avoided not from fear of punishment, but rather they are contrary to what is Divine, and should be regarded as sin from the truth that one knows. For the Divine flows into each one of us through our conscience. An even higher spiritual morality is one where it is done out of love for what is good and useful for service. How we are judged depends on the intentions of our actions. On this path, one prepares oneself to become a recipient of the Divine influx, which flows into us as a spirit into our heart:


Friday, October 17, 2014

God is a God of Life, not Religion

I tried to start a discussion on false principles that have invaded the Christian Church, and posted two blog posts in a Christian forum: Is the Trinity Three Distinct Persons? and The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace".  These two posts essentially show the false foundation on which most present day theology rests. Instead of discussion, the posts got immediately censored.  Not to be deterred, I tried posting A Prophecy of September 11, Radical Terrorism (ISIS), Russia and America in a Islamic forum, making it clear that I consider Islam a religion of peace. That got censored as well.

Both examples show a problem: how accepting a religion blindly can put one's mind in a box, a box that does not question the underlying principles. And to maintain one's "box" just any sort of self criticism is unacceptable. For most accept the truth on the basis of authority. One becomes mature when one learns to question religious teachings with one's own research, and determine if what one believes is true or not. I remember one time looking on the shelf, seeing a closed Bible. I thought, "I better open that book and find out if what the church is teaching is true or not." What I found is a core of truth, mixed in with many falsehoods. But it took a lot of searching.

The principle I took: most people who grow up in a religion never question it, and assume that the religion they grew up is the one source of truth. So when I thought about it, I thought, "And how do I know if the religion I have been told is true or not?"  Honestly I did not.  That Jesus was Divine, I knew to be true, but there were many other problems with the Christian Church. It had split into many factions. Most church goers go out of ritual.  There were many unanswered questions.

And the more I asked questions, the more I got, why are you asking questions? Asking questions are certainly discouraged. And then I discovered something very hard: there were a certain number of essential false assumptions in the teachings. It is at this moment, I began to get an uncomfortable feeling. Something was not quite right. I could not put my finger on it. Sort of like this:


And so, that led to a period of searching. It is said, Seek and ye shall find.  It is certainly true. For seeking, questioning one's assumptions, begins to open one's mind. But Jesus warned against false christs pointing here and there for the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of God is within us:


And when one begins to search, one realizes one must keep an open mind. This means always questioning one's assumptions. When you do so, it leaves the mind open for discovery.


There is always, of course, the danger of emptying one's mind a bit too much:


God is not an abstract nothingness. And religion is not just one of meditation. There is of course an invisible God, a universal energy, beyond our conception. God is good itself, and truth itself. While most religions believe in an invisible God, fewer reach the conclusion of a personal God - one that has a human form, that can dwell in our heart.


And this is where all paths of truth lead - towards the center of the heart. For how true a religious truth is is dependent on how applicable it is to use, service, life, and ultimately love itself.  But in order to reach love, one must first remove the roadblocks that we have created in our own self. When the roadblocks are removed, we are then ready to receive the Divine, and become His instrument.


Truth is universal. There are many ways to reach the end of the path, which is love: