Friday, December 14, 2012

A Biblical Prophecy predicting the coming of Jesus



I still encounter people who deny that prophecy exists. And for that reason, I wrote a book on the prophecies of Nostradamus, to demonstrate that prophetic knowledge of the future does exist: and no one can say that they were published after the fact, as we have the original documents. Here I would like to discuss a Biblical prophecy, remarkable for the fact that it predicts the coming of the Messiah 490 years in advance. It predicts the exact year Jesus was crucified. As this prophecy exists in the Old Testament, I am not sure how Jews interpret this one. Most ignore it, as they still expect a future coming of the Messiah. Daniel was a prophet in exile in Babylon, and had noted that there was a prophecy of Jeremiah where the Jews would live in exile in Babylon for 70 years:
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Dan. 9:1-2)
When the 70 years were completed (ca. 604 - 534 B.C.), Babylon fell to the Persians, and king Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to the land of Canaan where they could worship Jehovah. As with all things in scripture, such historical events are symbolic and cyclical: the Jewish nation represents the Christian Church, "Jerusalem" its doctrine, and the number "7" a complete time period. This 70 years of captivity represents the time period that the Church would come under the dominion of the Papacy and Roman Catholicism. Thus, in the book of Apocalypse or Revelation, the apostle John sees a future spiritual Babylon which would come after the Roman Empire. Despite its efforts to promote Christianity, the Catholic Church errs in that it considers the authority of the priesthood higher than that of scripture, and used religion for the sake of self-dominion. This is what ancient Babylon did: religion was a means to obtain control over others, and have religion serve the interests of the state. To be fair the Catholic Church is correct as they do not separate faith from charity as the Protestants do. It is for that reason alone that there is more promise in the future that the doctrines of the New Church will be received among Catholics more so than Protestants.

The 70 years of captivity of the Jews in Babylon not only represents the future state of the church under the Roman Catholic Church, but also it represents a longer 490 year period for the Jewish church, or 70 years times 7. This is revealed in a vision by an angel to Daniel in the following passage:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Dan 9:24)
The phrase "70 weeks" is literally translated as "70 sevens." Nevertheless, in Biblical prophecy, one day can signify a period of one year (Num. 14:34, Ezek. 4:4-6), so this means a period of 70 x 7, or 490 years. The "ending of sins" occurred when Jehovah became incarnate as Jesus, and was able to resist all temptation and sin, until He made His human Divine. The "anointing of the most Holy," a reference to the temple, signifies the establishment of the Christian Church. All prophecy was fulfilled with His coming, which is the meaning of the phrase "to seal up the vision and prophecy." The angel continues:
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (Dan 9:25)
The decree to "restore and build Jerusalem" occurred in 457 B.C. under king Artaxerxes (see Ezra 7), when he issued a decree to allow the Jews to restore their worship under the leadership of Ezra. It is also under Ezra that the Biblical canon of the Old Testament became defined. "Jerusalem" does not just signify the literal city, but also the doctrine of the church, and in this case the Jewish worship was restored. The "seventy sevens" is divided into sub-periods: first, "seven sevens" (49 years), followed by "sixty-two sevens" (434 years). This is a total of 483 years, which from 457 B.C. comes to 26 A.D. This was the year in which Jesus began his ministry, and if I remember correctly it may have also been the year in which the restoration of the second temple was completed.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Dan 9:26)
This predicts that soon after the public ministry of Jesus, he would be "cut off, but not for himself" - this predicts His rejection by the Jewish people, but He sacrificed Himself in order to save humanity. Forty years later, the Romans came and destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. "Desolations" refers to the complete lack of truth among the Jews, where they became rejected by God and were once again expelled from the land of Israel.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Dan 9:24-27)
This refers to the last "week" of the prophecy: a period of seven years from 26 A.D. to 34 A.D. Jesus confirmed the covenant by fulfilling all things of the Word, but with His coming and the revelation of the spiritual Church, the Jewish form of representative worship came to an end. It was in the middle of this seven year period (31 A.D.) in which Jesus was crucified.  All in all, a highly accurate prophecy, which shows that Jesus is indeed the coming Messiah. The Jews don't recognize Jesus as such, because they were expecting a king to establish an earthly kingdom in which they would rule over the Gentiles, not a spiritual Church.

That Emanuel Swedenborg recognized the significance of this prophecy is shown in the following passages:
The number seven, as is known, was held to be holy, on account of the six days of creation, and the seventh day, which is the celestial man, in whom is peace and rest — the sabbath. Hence it is that the number seven so often occurs in the rites of the Jewish church, and everywhere is held to be sacred. Hence both greater and less intervals of time were distinguished into sevens, and were called weeks — as the long periods to the coming of the Messiah (Dan. ix. 24, 25) (Heavenly Arcana, n. 395)
In another passage, Swedenborg confirms that the phrase "to anoint the most Holy" (the inner sanctuary of the temple was called the "Holy of Holies" or the "most Holy") concerns the establishment of the Christian church. This is the true restoration of Jerusalem:
...seventy weeks and seven weeks signify the same as seven days, namely, the coming of the Lord. But as here there is a manifest prophecy, the times are still more sacredly and certainly designated by septenary numbers. It is evident then not only that seven thus applied to times signifies the coming of the Lord, but that the beginning also of a new church at that time is signified by the anointing of the holy of holies, and by Jerusalem's being restored and built. And at the same time the last vastation is signified by the words — "Seventy weeks are decreed upon . . . the city of holiness, to consummate the transgression, and to seal up sins." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 728.2).
Swedenborg confirms that the rebuilding of Jerusalem does not mean the literal rebuilding of its physical buildings and walls. Such a literal interpretation has led some to suggesting a false start date in the time of Nehemiah (ca. 445). As the city of Jerusalem signifies the doctrine of the church, the streets signify the truths which lead to God:
That "it shall be restored with street and moat" means that there will then be truth and good. That Jerusalem was not then restored and built, is well known; and that it is not to be restored and built anew every one may also know, if he does not keep his ideas on a worldly kingdom, but on the heavenly kingdom meant by Jerusalem in the internal sense. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2336.3, see also n. 6508.4).
One question I always had, is why are the first 69 weeks (69 x 7, or 483 years) divided into 7 weeks and 62 weeks? The meaning of this can be derived from the symbolism of the numbers themselves:
Three and seven are holy, two and six which precede, are not holy, but relatively profane (Heavenly Arcana, n. 900)
Thus the division of the 69 weeks into 7 weeks and 62 weeks seems to represent a period of time in which that which is holy, or the souls who are good, are separated from those who are evil. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the harvest is delayed until the wheat and the tares have blossomed, so that they could be distinguished from each other. The spiritual significance of this is that before any last judgment, there must be a period of time in which the good can be separated from the evil. These last judgments do not occur on earth, but in the spiritual world, a realm that lies between heaven and hell for those who are not ready to be judged yet. This is described in more detail in Swedenborg's visions.

So if in scripture there is a prophecy predicted the coming of Jesus over 500 years in advance - should we not pay more attention to the Bible?  This particular prophecy was the main piece of evidence I discovered that shows that it is Divinely inspired, before encountering the writings of Swedenborg.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Spiritual Meaning of the Apocalypse, or End of the World

It is December 2012, and yet again people are expecting another end of the world.  This time its coming from the Mayan Calendar, and as far as I can tell this is when all of the digits in its calendar set to 0, similar to what happened in our calendar for the year 2000.  Then another cycle of the calendar begins.  According to ancient Aztec or Mayan traditions, there are various world ages, and some state that 2012 is the beginning of another world age.

This is similar to numerous other occasions where various Christian sects have predicted the second coming....and all failed.  And the reason for the failure?  There is no such thing as an "end of the world."  This idea comes from a misinterpretation of scripture, which is interpreted literally.  But Jesus did promise He would return, and there are numerous prophecies to that effect in the scripture.  So let's, once and for all, dispel misconceptions about the Second Coming and the end of the age once and for all:

PRINCIPLE #1: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE "END OF THE WORLD"

The phrase "end of the world" comes from the last statement of Jesus in the book of Matthew:
And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28:20)
That is the King James translation.  Lets look at the New King James translation (which I often personally prefer):
And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)
The point here, is that the church passes through dispensations, or world ages. Thus you have the time from Adam to the Flood, then the time after the Flood, then the Jewish dispensation, followed by the Christian.  The Christian dispensation closely follows the astrological age of Pisces, the time when Jesus made regular fishers from Galilee "fishers of men."  And as with all dispensations, the Christian age is coming to an end.

Some may dispute the translation of "world" or "age" in the above verse.  But just to settle that, "world" does have the meaning of an age.  The Apocalypse mentions the Lamb slain "from the foundation of the world."  (Rev. 13:8) That does not mean before the world was created, it means that Jesus was crucified and rejected at the beginning of the foundation of the Christian dispensation.  And here are some other common passages that are misinterpreted:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Matt. 24:35)
I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. (Rev. 20:11)
This does not mean the visible sky above will pass away, nor the earth under our feet will pass away.  "Earth" or "land" in scripture means where the church is on earth, and "heaven" the angels associated with that church in the spiritual heavens.  Many hold onto the believe that the church they grew up will always preserve the truth.  That is not necessarily true.  As Jesus said, what lasts forever is God's Word.  The churches on earth, however, have a beginning, middle and an end.  And all good things must come to an end.

PRINCIPLE #2: THE END COMES WHEN THE CHURCH BECOMES CORRUPT, AND INSTEAD OF TRUTH FOLLOWS WHAT IS FALSE

This principle is harder for people to accept. No one wants to believe that the religion they were born in teaches what is false. Everyone assumes the religion that they were born in, what they were taught by their parents, is the absolute truth.  But for those who desire true spiritual understanding, they are the ones who will follow the truth for the sake of the truth, wherever it leads them.  They will make the decisions for themselves, instead of trusting some authority.  You should not believe something because someone told you so.  Investigate it for yourself. And be willing and open to accept, that you might be wrong.  Then you open your mind to receiving truth, for that which is false will block it.

That the end comes when the church becomes corrupted, can be seen with what happened in the first coming of Jesus: the Jews completely rejected Him, and crucified Him.  They were not willing to reject what was taught to them by their elders and scribes.  They had become so entrenched in their falsity, their hypocritical belief that they were better than others, that they could not see the Messiah right before their eyes.  And, they did not want a spiritual Messiah, they wanted an earthly one. So they crucified Him.

And this, readers, is exactly what will happen with the Christian Church.  Like the Jewish Church, many will follow the old way of thinking, and not even know that their church has come to an end in the eyes of heaven.  When He comes again, He will be rejected by many, because they no longer believe in what is true:
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! (Mark 6:11)
Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains... (Matt. 24:15-16)
The first is self explanatory: there will be very little faith when the Second Coming occurs.  And by "faith" I am not talking about belief. I am talking about living by what you believe.  Living by your belief, reforming your life from sin, that is faith. If you just go to church, and say that you believe, that is not faith.  Secondly, the day will be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah: only one family was saved out of a whole city.  Again, faith will be there among the few.  Thirdly, before the end comes one must recognize the "abomination of desolation" standing in the "holy place."  The holy place is the church, and that which it believes is corrupt, where there is no truth left.

PRINCIPLE #3: THE NEW REVELATION WILL NOT BE OBVIOUS AND VISIBLE

Here is another false principle: when the Second Coming occurs, everyone will see and know it, right?  Wrong.  It will not be visible in front of our eyes.  However towards the end, when people become sensual and materialistic, they will expect something in front of their eyes that will allow them to believe.  But this is not so:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. (Luke 17:20-23)
Another false principle is people expect God to actually form a political kingdom here on earth during a millenium. Again that is false: God's kingdom on earth is the church. And God's kingdom exists inside your heart, not in an outward visible manifestation.  But before we proceed further, there is one other passage I would like to discuss concerning the Second Coming:
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Rev. 1:7)
Again, many who interpret scripture in a literal manner will come to a misunderstanding that they expect to see Jesus up in the sky, somewhere in the clouds.  And since it says "every eye will see Him," doesn't that mean everybody will see it?  The answer is, no.  As said earlier, it will first be seen by few.  The phrase "every eye" does not mean everybody, it means everyone who has eyes of spiritual understanding, who have a spiritual affection for truth, they will see that the new revelation is true.  That "eyes" signifiy spiritual enlightenment, is shown by the following:
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death. (Ps. 13:3)
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Ps. 19:8)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. (Ps. 32:8)
Plus many others.  As for those who will see who "pierced Him," it means, when the truth is revealed, and people understand it, there will be sadness for how wrong they have been taught, how wrong they have believed, and there will be mourning due to a lack of truth of what is taught in the church.

PRINCIPLE #4: THE SECOND COMING WILL NOT BE IN PERSON, BUT IT HAS COME IN THE WORD ITSELF

This last principle is known to few, for few know that there is a hidden spiritual sense inside all of scripture. And when said, I know it will be a surprise to many who still expect a visible coming in front of their eyes.  This hidden spiritual sense, the revelation of it, is the Second Coming.  Why is it the Second Coming?  Because, it is known that Jesus Himself is the Word of God in human form:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)
The Word of God, or Divine Truth, which became incarnate in Jesus, is ever present in scripture itself.  The revelation that there is a spiritual sense inside of scripture, hidden behind the literal sense of every word, is the Second Coming: it is also the proof that scripture is Divine Inspired.  It is often said that the Son of Man will come in "the clouds of heaven."  Heaven is not the sky above, it is the spiritual heaven, and revelations from the spiritual heaven take place in visions.  Thus it is said:
I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them." (Rev. 10:1-4)
And then later it is said:
Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. (Rev. 22:10)
So what is the spiritual sense of scripture, and the Apocalypse? What are those seven thunders that were never written?  This was revealed in visions, over a period of over 25 years, in multiple volumes published by Emanuel Swedenborg.

THE APOCALYPSE REVEALED AND EXPLAINED

I cannot summarize multiple volumes in a blog, showing the hidden spiritual sense of scripture. I have given you a sense of the spiritual meaning of scripture with a verse or two.  Swedenborg revealed the hidden sense of the Apocalypse in six volumes which he never published, which you can find online, or in the following work which I just published on Amazon (click here).  It has the advantage where every paragraph number is hyper-linked (Swedenborg always makes tons of references to prove each point from scripture), and in many cases updated to modern English:


Some may think I selected this cover because of its spiritual overtones, and the clouds of heaven.  Partly true. I also selected this cover, because the person has his or her back turned.  And it looks like the person is on an island, on the edge of a cliff. It reminded me of this passage:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet...And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. (Rev. 1:10, 12)
When the spiritual sense of scripture is opened, even the smallest details has meaning. The fact that the apostle John has his back turned, and Jesus is behind him, and he has to turn around, means that at the end of the age the Christian Church will be facing in the wrong direction. They will not know who Jesus is, and instead follow a trinity of three persons.

The "Apocalypse Explained" for some mysterious reason was never published by Swedenborg, and instead opted to publish a much shorter version called "Apocalypse Revealed."  But in so doing, he left out the many discourses where he dives into other portions of scripture to explain the symbolic meaning. Some consider the "Apocalypse Explained" to be the better work, but it was still draft, and the published version at times corrects minor points, or clarifies a meaning. In one particular case "Apocalypse Explained" has the better reading. I decided to put both works together - a total of nine volumes in one work.  It is perhaps the most comprehensive interpretation of the Apocalypse ever published -- and there are many. Unlike the others, this author claims to have received the information from revelation.  You do not have to believe that, the explanations are quite insightful, and obscure passages never before known are explained in full - nothing is skipped or glossed over.  Not only that, but to make comparison and referencing easier, paragraph numbers in Apocalypse Revealed are hyper-linked to each other in the following work on Amazon (click here).


The other works of Emanuel Swedenborg were previously published in a multi-volume work called "The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem" which is described in an earlier blog entry (click here).  When I began work on the Apocalypse Explained, I did not realize how big it was, nor did I realize when starting how many references it had to his other works.  So I decided to create an expanded edition which includes the Apocalypse Explained entitled The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem (Expanded Edition):


But, if you are just looking for the spiritual meaning of the Apocalypse or the book of Revelation, the previous work is sufficient, and a good study tool.  Enjoy!  It took me many hours of work.  Hopefully this will dispel once and for all the popular misconceptions concerning the end of the world and the Second Coming. And maybe it will give you fuller insight into the hidden mysteries of the Christian revelation.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Spiritual Origin of Free Will

Here is an interesting question: what is free will, and what is its origin?  This is something that distinguishes humans from animals: whereas animals are born with instincts, thus animals of one species all behave the same way, or have an innate knowledge, humans are not born with that but must be taught.  We, as humans, can choose our behaviour or inclination. We can choose between good and evil, and this is free will.  Aristotle thought that reason or rationality is what distinguished humans from animals.  For Swedenborg, our reason and rationality is spiritual in origin.  Not only that, but free will comes about from existing in a state of equilibrium between heaven and hell.  We are constantly faced with a choice of following the good, or following evil.  Here is Swedenborg's understanding of the spiritual origin of free will, which he was able to discover from his spiritual visions:
"That what free will is may be known, and its quality, it is necessary to know whence it is. From a knowledge of its origin, especially, it becomes well known not only that it is, but also of what quality it is. Its origin is from the spiritual world, where man's mind is kept by the Lord. The mind of man is his spirit which lives after death; and man's spirit is constantly in company with its like in the spiritual world, and by means of the material body with which it is compassed it is with men in the natural world. The reason why man does not know that he is in the midst of spirits as to his mind, is that the spirits with whom he is in company in the spiritual world think and speak spiritually; but man's spirit, so long as he is in the material body, thinks and speaks naturally; and spiritual thought and speech can be neither understood nor perceived by a natural man, nor the reverse; and it is from this that they cannot be seen. But when a man's spirit is in society with spirits in their world, he is then also in spiritual thought and speech with them, because his mind is inwardly spiritual but outwardly natural, and he therefore communicates with spirits by his interiors, but with men by his exteriors. By that communication man perceives, and thinks analytically; without it he would not think more or otherwise than a beast, as he would also die instantly if all relations with spirits were cut off. But to make comprehensible how man can be kept in the middle between heaven and hell, and thereby in spiritual equilibrium, from which he has free will, a few words shall be said. The spiritual world consists of heaven and hell; heaven is over head, and hell is there beneath the feet, not, however, in the centre of the planet inhabited by men, but under the earths of the spiritual world, which also are of spiritual origin, and therefore not in extension but in its appearance. Between heaven and hell there is a great interval, which to those who are there seems like a complete world. Into this interspace, from hell exhales evil in all abundance; and from heaven, on the other hand, good flows in thither, also in all abundance. It was this space of which Abraham said to the rich man in hell, Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from thence (Luke xvi. 26). In the midst of this space every man is as to his spirit, and solely for this, that he may be in free will." (True Christian Religion, n. 475).
If one looks at definitions of free will in western and eastern philosophy, it is a confusing mess.  Part of the confusion is that a spiritual world is for the most part not acknowledged when philosophers attempt to define human psychology, or do not understand the relationship between the spiritual and the natural.  Without understanding the spiritual world, one is always describing the effects rather than the causes.  A denial of free will - such as a belief in predestination or determinism - destroys the essence of religion and social and spiritual responsibility.

With an understanding of free will, one can develop the basis of a simple philosophy when it comes to religion.  Although we have free will, every choice we make puts us in alignment with heaven or hell.  That is why it is important to self-examine ourselves, to see where we fall short.  This art of self-examination is called "repentance" - to repent means to turn.  When we acknowledge our faults, and turn away from them, the Lord then releases us from the bondage of hell.  This means, do not assume you are always right, do not make the false assumption that you are better than others.  Look for ways to improve yourself, and look for ways to be useful.  The Christianity of the New Church as revealed to Swedenborg is thus utilitarian and pragmatic, and it comes from a spiritual understanding of the origin of free will.