Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Salvation is through Repentance: A Simple Guide



Salvation does not come through belief alone, or through one's belief system of the memory, but rather it comes through repentance, which is turning away from evil.  In the New Church, the central doctrine of salvation is that Jesus saved humanity by uniting His human form with the Divine, to become a Divine God-Man.  This salvation is effected when we repent of our sins, for it is the Lord who fights against evil within us when we repent.  For when Jesus glorified His human form, He fought against all the hells to do this; and as He resisted and fought against the hells in His human form, so He enters our heart and mind to help us fight against falsity and evil.  This is the real reason for how Jesus saved humanity, and not through vicarious atonement or "automatic sin transfer."  Sins are not transferred or removed until one repents.  Do not be deceived: sins are not transferred or removed until one repents.

Vicarious atonement was a doctrine that was introduced into the Catholic Church in the 11th century and the Protestants inherited it, the original doctrine was that of Christus Victor, or Jesus conquering the hells to deliver humanity.  It has to be called out here: the theology of vicarious atonement is a false doctrine, which is not in agreement with repentance.  It is because of this false theology that a New Church is needed.  For this see A Rational Explanation for Atonement: Christus Victor, the Divine Human.  The Divine Human is the central doctrine of the New Church which declares that Jesus united the Divine with the human in One Person by which humanity is saved.  I thought I would cover here its corollary doctrine: that salvation is effected through repentance through the Lord, who had united His human with the Divine in His person.

THE PATH OF REPENTANCE

The path of repentance is first laid out in Swedenborg's work, The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines.  It is easy to understand, but hard to do.  No one likes looking in the mirror, and people tend to get comfortable with their habits.  But habits lead to an endless cycle that repeats, to break the cycle of behavior, one must repent.  Swedenborg summarizes the steps as follows:
"To confess sins is to know one's evils, to see them in himself, to acknowledge them, to account himself guilty, and to condemn himself on account of them. When this is done before God, it is confessing sins.
"To do the work of repentance is, after having thus confessed one's sins and made supplication from a humble heart for their remission, to desist from them and lead a new life according to the precepts of charity and faith." (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, n. 160-161)

STEP 1: ACKNOWLEDGE THE SELFISH EGO IS THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Each person's selfish ego is the origin of evil.  Paul said "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10).  This is only partially true.  In the New Church, it is known that the love of self is the root of all evil - the love of money and the world is secondary.  This truth is what distinguishes Christianity from "self help" programs, and certain religions that elevate the self to godhood.  Elevation of the self was actually the sin of Adam.  Christianity goes in the opposite direction: it acknowledges that each selfish ego is the origin of evil.  Swedenborg was shown what the selfish ego looks like and it is not good:
"With regard to the rule of the regenerate man over lusts, it is to be known that those are in the greatest error, and are never regenerated, who believe that they can of themselves rule over evils. For man is nothing but evil, he is a mass of evils, all his will is merely evil — which is what is said in the preceding chapter (viii. 21), that "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." It has been shown me by living experience that a man and spirit, even an angel, in himself regarded, that is, as to all that is his own, is but vilest excrement; and that left to himself he breathes nothing but hatred, revenge, cruelty, and most foul adultery.
"These things are his own, these are his will, as may also be evident to every one, if he reflects, merely from this, that man when born is the vilest creature living, among all wild animals and beasts. And when he grows up and becomes his own master, if not hindered by outward bonds, of the law, and bonds which he imposes on himself for the purpose of gaining great honor and wealth, he would rush into every crime, and not rest before he had subjugated all in the universe, and raked together the wealth of all in the universe; nor would he spare any but those who submitted to be his humble servants." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 987.1-2)
The philosophy of men likes to tell everyone to say "I am wonderful, I am great."  In Christianity it is the opposite: "The LORD is wonderful, the LORD is great."  Thus the corollary of this is, the Lord alone is the source of all good and truth within us.  For the Lord alone is the God-Man, and we are but small images or reflections of that inasmuch as we receive good and truth in our will and thoughts.  This is the reason why there should be worship of the One God: without God, everyone is in the worship of their pride of their own self and in the pride of their own intelligence.  The worship of God withdraws one from the love of self - worship is demanded not for the sake of God, but for our salvation.

STEP 2: IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC SIN IN ONE'S LIFE

It is not enough to declare one's self a sinner and not perfect.  We all know we are not perfect.  The next step is to explore one self, identify a specific sin, call it out, and desist from it.  This requires humility, and requires for one to go against one's self pride.  This is important:
"He who only acknowledges in a general way that he is a sinner, and accounts himself guilty of all evils, and does not explore himself, that is, see his sins, makes indeed confession, but not the confession of repentance. Such an one, because he has not known his evils, lives afterward as before." (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, n. 162)
I want to point out a bad habit that is the opposite of repentance: always pointing out the faults of others.  Jesus said first try to point out the fault in yourself:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)
As with all scripture, there is a hidden spiritual sense behind the words.  One's eye represents one's understanding of the truth.  One's internal sin blinds one's self to the truth, for truth is from good, and evil blocks what is good.  The reason why Jesus uses a "speck" and a "log" is that wood in scripture refers to one's good or evil.  Also a brother is not simply another person, but in the spiritual sense it represents someone who is in a similar good or evil to yourself.  It also represents, that when one clears out one sin, further light is given to clear out others.

Identification of a particular sin is important, because what one sees as a single sin, actually contains within it a mass of evils and falsehoods that are attached together:
"...there are numberless evils interiorly in man; yea, that there are numberless evils in every lust. Every lust of which man becomes conscious, is a mass and a heap of many things. These things the man does not see, but only the one mass. When, therefore, the man by repentance removes this, the Lord, who sees the interior and inmost things of man, removes them. Unless, therefore, a man approaches the Lord, he labors in vain to render himself free from sin." (Invitation to the New Church, n. 8)
STEP 3: RESIST TEMPTATION, AND ASK THE LORD FOR DELIVERANCE

As our selfish ego is the origin of evil, it in itself has no power to resist evil.  However the Lord, the one God-Man, operates within our will and thoughts to resist and remove evils.  If the evil is strong, one will then go through a period of temptation and sadness, even to the point of despair and losing hope.  Here, trust and hope in the Lord can help in deliverance.  Resist the temptation, but acknowledge it is the Lord who does this through your own will and thoughts.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30)
Undergoing temptation is spiritual warfare and combat.  The wars described in scripture are but historical and symbolic representations of the spiritual warfare we must all undergo.  What we experience as internal temptation, is actually an experience of spiritual combat in the spiritual world between the Lord and the evil spirits of hell.  We are but in the middle of the conflict:
"For temptations and afflictions in the state of vastation and oppression are nothing else but combats of the Lord with the devil respecting man, that is, respecting his soul, which shall possess it. And of that state it may be said that the God of Israel, or the Lord the Messiah, stands on one side, and Beelzebub and the serpent the devil on the other, and that the latter casts forth blasphemies against the Lord out of his mouth like a river, but that the Lord turns them aside and removes them, and thus delivers man from spiritual captivity and servitude. This combat is felt in the man as if from himself. That temptation is such a combat, and there is such a perception by man, and hence cooperation, I can testify upon oath, for, having often experienced it, I know it. That it is carried on outside the man, and is felt in him as from himself, and that man is standing in the middle and cooperates, is for the end that reward may be imputed to him when he conquers; but that man alone conquers who looks to the Lord, and trusts in him alone for help." (Coronis, n. 3)
The ancient and modern parable of an angel standing on one shoulder, and the devil on the other, is actually true.  But it is true in the spiritual dimension, which we experience internally:
“As regards temptations, they take place when man is in the process of regeneration; for no one can be regenerated, unless he also undergoes temptations, and they then arise from evil spirits who are about him. For man is then let into the state of evil in which he is, that is, in which is that itself which constitutes his proprium; and when he comes into this state, evil or infernal spirits encompass him, and when they perceive that he is interiorly protected by angels, the evil spirits excite the falsities which he has thought, and the evils which he has done, but the angels defend him from within. It is this combat which is perceived in man as temptation, but so obscurely that he scarce knows otherwise than that it is merely an anxiety; for man, especially if he believes nothing concerning influx, is in a state that is wholly obscure, and apperceives scarcely a thousandth part of the things about which evil spirits and angels are contending. And yet the battle is then being fought for the man and his eternal salvation, and it is fought from the man himself; for they fight from those things which are in man, and concerning them. That this is the case, has been given me to know with the utmost certainty. I have heard the combat, I have perceived the influx, I have seen the spirits and angels, and at the time and afterward have conversed with them on the subject.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5036.2) 
There are two kinds of tempations: the first is temptations of our understanding or mind, and this is light.  The second is temptation of the will, and this is severe.  Swedenborg describes this in his spiritual interpretation of the flood of Noah:
"There are two kinds of temptations, one as to things of the understanding, the other as to those of the will. When a man is tempted as to things of the understanding, evil spirits call up only his evil deeds that he has done — which are signified here by the unclean beasts — and accuse and condemn him; they do indeed also call up his good deeds — signified here by the clean beasts — but pervert them in a thousand ways. At the same time they call up what he has thought — here signified by the fowl — and such things too as are signified by "everything that creepeth upon the ground."
"But this temptation is light, and is perceived only by the recalling of such things to mind and a certain anxiety therefrom. But when a man is tempted as to things of the will, his thoughts and doings are not so much called up, but there are evil genii — as evil spirits of this kind may be called — who inflame him with their lusts and the filthy loves with which he is imbued, and thus fight through the man's own lusts — which they do so maliciously and secretly that it could not be believed to be from them. For in a moment they pour themselves into the life of his lusts, and almost instantly invert and change an affection for good and truth into an affection for evil and falsity, so that the man cannot know but it is done of his own self and comes forth of his own will. This temptation is most severe, and is perceived as an inward grief and tormenting fire.
(Heavenly Arcana, n. 751.2-3)
So I want to stress here: temptation is normal in the process of repentance.  It requires discipline and internal focus on the Lord.  It is "uncomfortable" to point at one self for one's faults.  But the person who does this is wise.  Those who point out the faults of others are foolish.  To fight against temptation, one must make use of the knowledges one has from the truth of scripture.  The Word is a sword against falsity.  Use it.  But always acknowledge it is the Lord who fights for us within us, with our cooperation:
"It is the Lord alone also Who fights in men who are in the combats of temptations, and Who overcomes. Man from his own power can effect nothing at all against evil or infernal spirits; for they are so connected with the hells that if one were overcome, another would rush in, and so on forever. They are like the sea which presses upon every part of a dike; if the dike should be broken through by a cleft or a crack, the sea would not stop, but would burst through and overflow, till nothing would be left standing. So would it be unless the Lord alone sustained the combats of temptations in man." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1692)

STEP 4: DESIST FROM EVILS

The next step is to live a life where one desists from the sins and evils of one's former life.  Don't try to do good until evil is first rooted out.  Evils and falsehoods have to be removed first, before the Lord can dwell in our heart.  This is represented in the history of the Jews, where they first had to drive out the Canaanites in order to possess the land of Israel.  The Canaanites represent the evils within that possess and control us; driving them out is the combat of temptation; possessing the land of Israel is becoming a part of the kingdom of heaven.  Do not trust ministers who use the Bible to support the apartheid policies of the State of Israel.  Israel does not refer to the Jews, the Jews were just a representation of the spiritual Church.  At the time the Jews were quite evil, and spiritual truths could only be given to them in external representations and rituals.  The land of Israel is symbolic of the internal kingdom of heaven.

Self examination is hard, but there is an easier kind of repentance, where one keeps temptation in check:
"...an easier kind of repentance will be here presented, which is, that when one is considering evil with the mind, and is intending it, he should say to himself, "I am thinking of this intending it; but because it is sin, I will not do it." By this means the temptation injected from hell is checked, and its further entrance prevented. It is wonderful that one can find fault with another who is intending evil, and say, "Do not do that, because it is sin," and yet it is hard for him to say so to himself; this is because the latter moves the will, but the other only the thought nearest to the hearing. Inquiry was made in the spiritual world who could practise this second kind of repentance; and they were found as rare as doves in a vast desert; and some said that they could indeed do this, but that they were not able to examine themselves and confess their sins before God. But still, all they who do good from religion avoid actual evils; and yet how very rarely do they reflect upon the interiors, which are of the will, in the belief that they are not in evils because they are in good, yes, that the good covers the evil. But, my friend, the first of charity is to shun evils; the Word teaches this, the Decalogue, Baptism, the Holy Supper, and also reason; for how can any one flee from evils and banish them without some self-inspection? and how can good become good unless it has been inwardly purified?" (True Christian Religion, n. 535)
STEP 5: LIVE A NEW LIFE

As one begins the process of repentance, one will start to live a new life.  As evils and falsities are rooted out, one will begin to desire and be affected by good and truth.  It is important that one's religion is not one of belief alone: belief alone is the origin of senseless religious wars.  One must live a life according to good and truth.  Note that the Decalogue, the 10 commandments, always begin with "Thou shalt not."  This is because evils must be removed first.  Inasmuch as one withdraws from the self, one turns to the Lord.  Inasmuch as one does not kill or hate the neighbour, one begins to love them.  Inasmuch as one turns against adultery, one begins to love marriage with one wife.  Inasmuch one does not steal, one does what is right towards others.  Inasmuch as one does not lie, one begins to love and testify of the truth.  Inasmuch as one does not covet, greed is removed, happiness begins to dwell in the heart.

STEP X: REPEAT REPENTANCE DAILY

It is not enough to repent once, declare one self a sinner, and then assume "one is saved."  There is no such thing as immediate salvation from instantaneous mercy. Repentance is continual:
"He who lives the life of charity and faith does the work of repentance daily, reflects upon the evils that are in him, acknowledges them, guards against them, and supplicates the Lord for help. For of himself a man is continually falling away, but is continually being upheld by the Lord and led to good. Such is the state of those who are in good." (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, n. 160-161)
Repentance takes place in succession:
"...there are innumerable lusts inherent, rolled up as it were, in every evil, and they cannot be moved in a moment, but successively, as the man suffers himself to be reformed and regenerated." (Ture Christian Religion, n. 559)
And here, we need to call out the false belief that one is merely saved by a lip confession, that it happens immediately from Divine mercy:
"They who are of the church at this day know so little about regeneration, that it is scarce anything. They do not know even this, that regeneration goes on through the whole course of the life of the one who is regenerated, and that it is continued in the other life; also that the arcana of regeneration are so innumerable that scarcely a ten thousandth part of them can be known by the angels, and that those which they do know are what constitute their intelligence and wisdom. The reason that they who are of the church at this day know so little about regeneration, is, that they talk so much about the remission of sins and about justification, and believe that sins are remitted in a moment, and some that they are wiped away like filth from the body by water, and that man is justified by faith alone or by the confidence of a single moment. The reason why the men of the church so believe, is, that they do not know what sin or evil is. If they knew this, they would know that sins can by no means be wiped away from any one, but that they are separated or rejected to the sides that they may not rise up, when man is kept in good by the Lord; also that this cannot be effected unless evil is continually cast out, and this by means which are indefinite in number, and for the most part ineffable.
"They in the other life who have brought with them the opinion that man is justified in a moment by faith, and wholly cleansed from sins, are astounded when they see that regeneration is effected by means indefinite in number and ineffable; and then they laugh at and call insane the ignorance in which they were in the world as to the instantaneous remission of sins and justification." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5398.1-2)
Here again, we see how the current modern theology of Christianity has falsified the truth of Christianity.  Again this is the reason why a New Church is needed, to withdraw from the errors and falsehoods of the former churches.

BEWARE OF FALSE THEOLOGY IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

The doctrine of repentance is the corollary doctrine to the Divine Human, the Divine God-Man, in the New Church.  What I am saying here is what many preachers say in their sermons.  But what is hidden from the public is that there is a false theology with Christian churches that subverts and destroys the gospel of Christianity.  It is important to have one's focus on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and to repent of one's sins.  There are innumerable falsities in the modern theology of Christian churches.  Let's enumerate some of them:

THEOLOGICAL FALSEHOODS THAT DETRACT FROM JESUS CHRIST:

1. A trinity of three persons.  There is one person, Jesus, who is Jehovah in human form.
2. Praying the Lord's prayer to a Father god that is a distinct person from Jesus Christ.
3. Offering prayer to Mary and the saints.
4. Teachings that emphasize a succession of a human priesthood, where the clergy have claim that which belongs to the Divine.

THEOLOGICAL FALSEHOODS THAT DETRACT FROM REPENTANCE

1. The belief in vicarious atonement, that sins are "automatically transferred" to Jesus.
2. The belief that the passion of the cross saved humanity.  It was actually the union of the Divine with the human in the Lord; the passion of the cross was the last temptation.
3. The belief that one is saved instantaneously from Divine mercy.
4. The belief that mere lip confession and baptism saves.  Baptism is but an external witness or testimony, it represent that one must cleanse one's sins by the truth, represented by water.
5. The definition of faith as "belief" is FALSE. It is a false theological definition.  Faith is living by the truth.
6.  The definition of grace as "unmerited favour" is FALSE.  It merely means "favour."  Grace and mercy are given to those who repent and live by the commandments.  See The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace"
7.  The definition of "works" in the writing of Paul as works of charity, works of one's life, is FALSE. Paul was talking about the works of the Jewish rituals.  All will be judged according to their works, and how they lived their life (see Matt. 16:27).  See A New Perspective on Paul and the New Church Perspective on Paul

So, the doctrine of repentance seems obvious and simple.  But what is not obvious, and what is hidden from the majority of Christians, is that there is a false theology among ministers that destroys the gospel from within.  This is the hidden reason for the modern decline of Christianity, where many are now identifying themselves as "spiritually independent."  Ministers don't see the root cause because they cannot see their own theological falsehoods, and they are not willing to see or admit they are wrong.  It is because of the falsifications within that have destroyed the churches.  This is the reason for the revelations of the New Church - to withdraw from the falsehoods of old Christianity, and to join with the truths of New Christianity: acknowledging that Jesus Christ alone is God in one person, in human form, and that one must follow the 10 commandments and repent in order to inherit eternal life.

This is, the New Jerusalem foretold in the Apocalypse.  For those who follow the falsehoods of the former churches, the Lord says: Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues (Rev. 18:4).  The former churches will pass away, the New Church is the new heaven and earth:  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Rev. 21:1), and then the Lord said, Behold, I am making all things new (Rev. 21:5).


Friday, May 27, 2016

The Shepherd of Hermas and Swedenborg: Fictional Parable or Vision?


Glory to God, by Tom DuBois

The Shepherd of Hermas is an early Christian work of the 1st and 2nd centuries, containing a series of visions and parables that a former Roman slave receives in dialogues with angels. It was quoted as scripture by the early church father Irenaeus, and it found its way into one of the earliest complete Bibles in existence, the Codex Sinaiticus.  The church father Eusebius stated it was still read in the churches in the fourth century.  The work has puzzled scholars: how could such a simplistic fictional parable find its way into the Bible and get quoted as scripture?

The work caught my attention because one of the visions describes a Christology that is unlike the typical trinitarian doctrine of the post-Nicene era, and is similar to the doctrine of the Divine Human of the New Church.  I covered this in detail in The Ancient Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas.  In parable it describes the Divine itself, the pre-existent Divine Human in heaven, and then Jesus as a man whose human form gets transformed to become one with the Divine.  The work was sent to Pope Clement of the Roman church, and from there it spread across to the Christian churches within the Roman Empire.  Would a work of fiction be treated in such a manner?

While modern readers would prefer to treat this work as a religious fiction, comparing it to Pilgrim's Progress, such a view is problematic.  This is summed up in an article by Henry Wace from A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography:
Are we to suppose that Hermas in relating his visions intended no more than to present edifying lessons in an allegorical form, and that it was merely as an instructive fiction that the book was regarded when it was introduced into public reading in the church? Donaldson says: "If the book be not inspired, then either the writer fancied he had seen these visions, or tried to make other people fancy this, or he clothed the work in a fictitious form designedly and undisguisedly. If he did the first, he must have been silly. If he did the second he must have been an impostor." But as he believes the author to have been "an honest upright, and thoughtful man," he concludes that he did the third, "as multitudes of others have done after him, with John Bunyan at their head." ...But we ourselves feel bound to reject this as altogether mistaken criticism, and as an application to the 2nd cent. of the standards of today. To us it seems plain that, whatever the author intended, the first readers of Hermas did not receive the book as mere allegorical fiction.
So let's take a deeper dive into this work.  For those who wish to read it, there is a critical text located here: Hermas Critical Text.  There are some older translations here: Early Christian Writings.

THE LATER FORGERY OF THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS

As I was reviewing the Shepherd of Hermas, to determine if its teachings were valid or not, I began to note several problems in the work.  The books is divided into 5 visions, 12 commandments, and 10 parables.  As I saw the problems I was about to toss out the work as one of fiction, but then I saw a pattern: all the internal problems with the Shepherd of Hermas are found only in the last 3 parables at the end of the work.

It then became apparent to me: the last 3 sections of the Shepherd of Hermas were added later by a clever forger.  So I decided to dig further - did any scholars on the Shepherd of Hermas reach the same conclusion?  The date and authorship is disputed among them, and the matter is by no means settled.  One scholar, Hilgenfeld, expressed the opinion that the last 3 parables were by a later author, who was the final editor of the work.  The original work was probably finished in the late 1st century A.D. under Pope Clement, and the last 3 parables were added by another author in the middle of the 2nd century A.D.  This is why there are conflicting opinions on the date of authorship.

The ninth parable is an obvious repeat of the original vision of the tower of the third vision.  In the ninth parable Hermas is strangely transported from Rome into Arcadia of Greece.  One scholar who analyzed it determined that the descriptions were probably borrowed from the Greek author Pausanius (see Hermas in Arcadia and Other Essays, 1896).  But there are deeper problems.  In the eighth parable, the archangel Michael is elevated so that it is this angel who inspires the "law into the hearts of them that believe" - and this is something that should be attributed to the Divine, not an angel.  From the visions of Swedenborg it is known one characteristic of angels is that they never claim anything as their own, but attribute everything to the Divine, and they themselves are but recipients.  The ninth describes twelve virgin angels, and then states that the Son of God "bears the name of the virgins."  This is false. It is the other way around: angels are recipients of the Divine, the Divine is not a recipient of properties of angels.  

In the original Shepherd of Hermas, Hermas is married with children, and in the very first vision is told to guard his thoughts against sexual immorality and adultery.  The warning is very strict.  And what happens in the ninth parable?  Hermas is now running around and frolicking with these 12 virgin angels, who kiss him on the cheek.  Moreover these 12 virgin angels are described as "holy spirits." 

So, what was the motive of the later forgery to the Shepherd of Hermas?  In the first four visions Hermas encounters a female angel, whom he mistakes for the oracle of the Sibyl.  It is explained that this female angel represents the church.  In the ninth parable, it is explained that the female angel really was not a woman, but rather the Son of God.  This is an obvious gloss.  Whoever added this forged section, had a problem with female teachers in the church.  This actually was an issue of the second century church, and it was suppressed by the male majority.

There was one other other motive of the forgery which is more subtle: it is to suppress the original Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas.  Whereas the original Hermas is not theologically minded, the forger has some theological ideas and wants to "correct" some of the things that Hermas wrote.  One thing that is obvious is that there is a preponderance of the phrase "Son of God" in this forged section which is absent in the earlier Hermas.  There is one statement that looks late, where it says that the Son of God was ""born before all His creation" which sounds like a post-Nicene statement (see The Nicene Creed: a distorted version of the Apostle's Creed and The False Belief of a Trinity of three beings: TRITHEISM).  The forger thus saw the original Christology of Hermas as problematic.  Hermas by this time had become popular in the Christian churches - they could not withdraw it, they could not change it, so the best option they thought of was to add this later section.

So those scholars who hold that Hermas was written as a fiction are partly correct.  More correctly, the latter portion was forged in order to suppress the early Christological teachings of Hermas.

THE NATURE OF THE VISIONS OF HERMAS

Unlike other apocryphal works, there is nothing "fantastic" that occurs in the visions of Hermas.  Instead, they are down to earth and give practical advice on how to live as a Christian, with an emphasis on reforming one's life and repentance.  The nature of the visions of Hermas, how they take place, vary.  In the first vision, as well as the second, Hermas is led to wander to a particular spot while under a trance:
"I fell into a trance as I walked. And an unseen-force seized me and carried me through a pathless region where no man could make his way, because it was very steep and eroded into ridges by the running waters."
This thus takes place while Hermas is fully awake.  Swedenborg experienced this mental state only once, and says it was often experienced by the ancient prophets:
"There are two kinds of visions that are not of the ordinary kind, into which I have been let only that I might know their nature, and what is meant by its being said in the Word that men were withdrawn from the body, and that they were carried by the spirit into another place.
"...As regards the other kind — being carried away by the spirit into another place — it has been shown me by living experience what it is, and how it is done, but this only two or three times. It may be well to present a single experience. Walking through the streets of a city and through the country, and being at the same time also in conversation with spirits, I did not know but that I was wide awake and saw as at other times; and so I walked on without mistake, and all the while I was in vision, seeing groves, rivers, palaces, houses, men, and many things besides. But after I had thus walked for hours, suddenly I was in the sight of the body, and became aware that I was in another place. Greatly amazed at this, I perceived that I had been in such a state as they were in, of whom it is said that they were led away by the spirit into another place; for while it lasts there is no reflection concerning the way, even if it be many miles; nor is there reflection on the time, even if it be many hours or days; nor is there perception of any fatigue. Then, too, one is led through ways of which he has no knowledge, even to the appointed place. This took place that I might know that a man can be led by the Lord without his knowing whence and whither." (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 1882, 1884)
In other cases, Hermas says the angel appeared to him in vision.  In others, he stated that it occurred while he slept through a dream.  Throughout he prays and fasts, and at one time is commanded to fast in order to receive further visions:
"Now in a night-vision, I beheld the old woman speaking to me, “Every question requires humility of spirit. Therefore, fast, and you will receive from the Lord what you ask.”"
This reminds me of the visions of Sarah Binayamo Boyanga, who was also commanded to fast in order to receive visions of heaven and hell (see A Divine Revelation from Africa, concerning Heaven and Hell).

In another instance Hermas hears a voice, or interior locution:
"As I was praising and giving thanks to him, an echo, as it were, of my voice answered me, “Do not be double-minded, Hermas.”"
This experience is well known among mystics of the Catholic Church.  Swedenborg states that in many cases the early prophets wrote down portions of the Bible from hearing a voice, called the "word of the Lord."

In the visions of Hermas, he has extended dialogues with angels, who present things to his vision in order to present a point.  To the modern mind which does not believe in visions, this in itself is "proof" enough that this is fictional and it is the safer view to take if one has a scholarly reputation to protect.  Although most would dismiss such an experience as impossible, there is a modern parallel in the waking visions of Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century.  Most of his works are purely theological, but his last work Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love.  It is part of a larger work containing the published works of Swedenborg, The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem.


In it is revealed that monogamous marriage is the ultimate expression of the highest spirituality here on earth.  The opposite, which is adultery, is the ultimate expression of hell on earth.   But instead of theological explanations, the entire work is through a series of extended waking visions in dialogues with angels.  It is very similar to the Shepherd of Hermas - both warn of the spiritual consequences of sexual immorality.  Swedenborg introduces his work as follows:
"I foresee that many who read the following Relations and those after the chapters will believe they are fictions of the imagination; but I declare in truth that they are not fictions, but things actually done and seen. Nor were they seen in any somnolent state of mind, but in a state of full wakefulness. For it has pleased the Lord to manifest himself to me, and to send me to teach the things that will be for the New Church which is meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse. To this end He has opened the interiors of my mind and spirit, whereby He has given me to be in the spiritual world with angels and at the same time in the natural world with men—and this now for five and twenty years." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 1)
THE VISION OF THE SEVEN FEMALE ANGELS


The Shepherd of Hermas and Angelic Wisdom of Marriage Love are two similar works, so similar they will prompt a similar reaction to a modern audience.  Are they works of fiction or not?  Independent of that question, one should simply read them and examine if the statements are according to truth.  However I want to show here something rather strange, and this concerns the third vision of Hermas, which describes a tower being built which represents the church.  Around the tower, Hermas sees seven women:

When I ceased asking questions about all these matters, she said to me, “Do you wish to see something else?”
As I was eager to see more, I was overjoyed at the prospect of seeing visions.
She looked at me with a smile and said, “Do you see seven women around the tower?”
“Yes, lady,” I said.
“This tower is being supported by them in accordance with the Lord’s command. Now let me tell you their functions. The first of them, who is clasping her hands together, is called Faith. God’s elect are saved through her. The second, who has her garment tucked up and acts with vigor, is called Continence. She is the daughter of Faith. Whoever follows her will be happy in his life, because he will abstain from all evil deeds in the assurance that, by abstaining from all evil desire, he will inherit eternal life.”
“But, the others, who are they, lady?”
“They are the daughters one of the other. Their names are: Simplicity, Knowledge, Innocence, Reverence, and Love. When you perform all the acts of their mother then you are able to live.”
“Lady,” I said, “I would like to know what power each of them possesses.”
“You shall be told what kinds of powers they have,” she said. “Their powers are regulated by each other, and they follow one another in the order in which they are born. Continence is the daughter of Faith, Simplicity of Continence, Innocence of Simplicity, Reverence of Innocence, Knowledge of Reverence, Love of Knowledge. Their acts then, are pure, reverent and divine. Whoever serves them and embraces their acts will have a dwelling in the tower along with God’s holy ones.”

The names of these seven female angels, representing seven virtues, caught my attention.  However we have somewhat of a translation problem.  I checked the other translations and the original Greek, the names of the seven female angels should be as follows (Strong's number can be used to find instances of the word in the New Testament):

1. Faith (Greek Πίστεως, Strong's #4102)
2. Temperance/Self-control (Greek Ἐγκρατείας Strong's #1466)
3. Simplicity (Greek Ἁπλότης Strong's #572)
4. Guilelessness (Greek Ἀκακία - acacia)
5. Reverence / Respect (Greek Σεμνότης Strong's #4587)
6. Intelligence (Greek Ἐπιστήμη - episteme - means "justified true belief" in Plato) 
7. Love (Greek Ἀγάπη, Strong's #26)

The only question on translation is that of the Greek word episteme, from which we get epistemology.  The meaning of the word means different things to different Greek others, and for a convuluted analysis see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Episteme and Techne.  In Stoic philosophy, it means what is true and certain obtained through reason - see Stoicism - Epistemology.  In Hermas, it seems to be something different.  One might simply translate it as "knowledge." Roberts and Donaldson (1886) translated it as "intelligence" which I believe is correct from the context, as I will explain below.  Another mistranslation is corrected, "innocence" is more accurately rendered as "guilelessness" or "without guile."

THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL STAGES OF THE SEVEN DAYS OF CREATION


In Heavenly Arcana, Swedenborg from his waking visions describes how the seven days of creation are symbolic of seven stages of spiritual development.  It does not concern the creation of the world, as Creationists believe, but rather describes universal stages of spiritual development to create a new spiritual person (see Seven Stages of Spiritual Development for a brief overview).  In the Shepherd of Hermas - the seven virtues of the seven female angels closely correspond to the spiritual symbolism of the seven days of creation in the book of Genesis.  Not only do they correspond, but the sequence of virtues, where one virtues precedes the following, is very similar to the seven stages of spiritual development in which prior states must proceed the following.  How do they correspond?  One challenge we have here is the Shepherd of Hermas uses very simplistic terminology that Hermas could understand, as opposed to Swedenborg who was very exact in his language.  I will try to briefly summarize.

DAY 1: LET THERE BE LIGHT = FAITH FROM KNOWLEDGE

The first stage of spiritual development is knowledge of faith.  One cannot begin a spiritual process without first knowing about it.  Spiritual truth is symbolized by light, and as Jesus is the Divine truth incarnate He said "I am the light."  Spiritual truth first enters our mind through knowledge.  Knowledge is the first step.  In Shepherd of Hermas, this is described as the virtue of FAITH.  But I want to be clear here, there are two kinds of faith: a faith from knowledge in the memory, and a living faith where one lives by the truth.  What we are talking here is faith of knowledge of the memory:
"The progress of faith with those who are created anew is of this kind: at first they have no life, for there is no life in evil and falsity, but in good and truth; afterward they receive life from the Lord through faith — first through a faith of the memory, which is a faith of knowledge: then through faith in the understanding, which is an intellectual faith; after that through faith in the heart, which is a faith of love, or saving faith. Faith from knowledge and intellectual faith are represented, in verses 3 to 13, by things inanimate" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 30.2)
The first stage of development corresponds with the first virtue of Hermas, FAITH.  As knowledge is the first step, more specifically faith of knowledge, this is why I think the Greek word episteme used to describe the sixth state is a higher level concept.

DAY 2 - SEPARATION OF WATERS - TEMPTATION

In Heavenly Arcana, Swedenborg was shown how the second day of creation, as well as the flood of Noah, correspond with a state of temptation.  Once one receives and accepts faith from knowledge, one then should advance to the second stage, which is that of temptation.  What happens is that once one accepts the truth, there will be areas of one's life that do not correspond to the truth.  There will be sins and evils within us that need to be purged.  They can only be purged by going through a process of temptation.  The evils and falsities that flood the mind are literally compared to a flood of waters.

Compare this second state to the second virtue of Hermas: TEMPERANCE, SELF-CONTROL, CONTINENCE.  The parallel is unmistakable.  It is through temptation that one practices self control and restraint.

DAY 3 - DRY LAND, TREES - WORKS OF SELF EFFORT

In the third stage, one starts to practice the spiritual things one has learned.  But it is first done through self effort.  This closely corresponds, albeit with different language, to the third virtue of SIMPLICITY.  The virtue of simplicity I found hard to understand as to its original meaning, but it seems to have been well known among ancient Catholic theologians.  For this I consulted the article The Virtue of Simplicity in The Shepherd of Hermas by John Gibson, who states the following:
“In The Shepherd of Hermas the virtue of simplicity is emphasized as one of the most important virtues in the Christian life, and as we will see, simplicity for Hermas is the foundation of spirituality. Repeatedly, the book describes him something like this, “…Hermas the self-controlled, who abstains from every evil desire and is full of all simplicity and great innocence.” (Vision 1:2:4) No less than 17 times the Greek word ¡ploàj (haplous) for “simplicity” or some form of it appears in the book. The significant majority of the time it referred to simplicity in a moral sense. The few exceptions are when it refers to a way of giving to those in need and is usually translated “generously.”
Thus although the terminology is different, one can argue that the virtue of simplicity is indeed the same as works of charity through self effort.  Protestants, by the way, will have a hard time with this due to their false theology due to misunderstanding that Paul was talking about the "works" of the Jewish rituals (see A New Perspective on Paul and the New Church Perspective on Paul).

DAY 4 - SUN, MOON, STARS - SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT

In the fourth stage of spiritual development, one receives internal spiritual enlightenment.  Once one clears oneself of evil and falsity, one then makes room for the Divine influx of the Holy Spirit to flow in.  It first comes in as spiritual enlightenment.  One actually begins to enjoy living the Christian life, as one experiences an inner happiness and peace.

In the Shepherd of Hermas, instead of talking about an internal influx of spiritual enlightenment, the corresponding virtue is mentioned - GUILELESSNESS.  In other words, there are no lies or deceptions in one's words and deeds, one is completely honest.  Here we see a complex spiritual concept is described in simple terms for a former Roman slave to understand.

DAY 5 - FISH OF THE SEA, BIRDS OF THE AIR - LIVING FAITH

According to the revelations Swedenborg received on the spiritual sense of scripture, the fifth day of creation corresponds to a state where one lives by faith.  Faith is no longer merely knowledge, it is rather living by the truth.  And here we see there is a correspondence with the fifth virtue of Hermas, which is REVERENCE.  Reverence, respect or gravity has to do with fear of the Lord, where one reveres or fears the Lord in doing His will.  On the virtue of reverence, Hermas is later told the following:
"Clothe yourself with reverence in which there is no evil, which gives no stumbling-block, but in which is all smoothness and cheerfulness. Do good, and from the fruit of your labors which God gives you, give to all those in need"
In the Shepherd of Hermas it is a bit hard to distinguish between the virtue of simplicity and one of reverence, as this is the only passage where there is additional explanation given as to the meaning of the virtue.

DAY 6 - THE CREATION OF MAN AND WOMAN - LIVING LOVE FROM TRUTH

The sixth state is rarely reached, but represent the height of spiritual development, where one is wise and intelligence from the truth.  Here is Swedenborg's description of it:
"The sixth state is when man speaks truths and does good works from faith and thence from love. The things that he now produces are called the living soul, and the beast. And as he now begins to act at once both from faith and from love, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image. His spiritual life is delighted and sustained by the things that are of knowledges of faith, and that are of works of charity, which are called his food, and his natural life is delighted and sustained by those that belong to the body and the senses; from which a conflict arises, until love reigns and he becomes a celestial man." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 12)
Here I need to explain some terminology: a spiritual man is one who does good from truth, but a celestial man is one who does good from affection from love, and already knows truth from perception.  The spiritual man is in conflict with falsity and loves to debate about the truth, but a celestial person has no interest in this as they are in affections for love.  It is in the sixth stage that the spiritual person has reached the height of intellectual faith, described earlier.  In the spiritual person, the understanding is dominant:
"All things are called spiritual which are of the knowledges of faith; and all are called celestial which are of love to the Lord and the neighbor. The former pertain to man's understanding, the latter to his will." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 61) 
Thus the sixth virtue of Hermas corresponds to this state, which is here labelled as INTELLIGENCE.  We are not talking about mental intelligence here, but rather doing good according to one's spiritual understanding.  In another passage, Swedenborg in fact describes this state as the "good of intelligence":
"Good of a threefold kind is signified by remains, the good of infancy, the good of ignorance, and the good of intelligence. The good of infancy is that which is communicated to man from his very birth up to the age in which he is beginning to be instructed and to know something. The good of ignorance is what is communicated when he is being instructed and is beginning to know something. The good of intelligence is what is communicated when he can reflect upon what is good and what is true." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2282)
Thus we see there is an exact correspondence between the sixth virtue in the vision of Hermas, and the sixth state of spiritual development as described from the visions of Swedenborg.

DAY 7 - THE DAY OF REST - LOVE

In the first six stages of spiritual development, one is in constant combat against evils and falsities, at difference levels.  These six stages are of the understanding.  In the seventh state, love of the will becomes dominant over the truth of the understanding.  One cares more about love and its affections, about doing more so than understanding.  This Swedenborg calls the celestial state, which markedly differs from the former state, and is described in detail in the story of the Garden of Eden.  Here the parallel is obvious, for the seventh virtue of Hermas is LOVE.

PROOF OF A VISIONARY EXPERIENCE?

Is this a coincidence?  I do not think so.  Those who do not know the spiritual sense of scripture or the revelations received by Swedenborg would pass over the seven virtues described by the seven female angels in the Shepherd of Hermas as a mere "laundry list" of "nice things."  But there is an explicit pattern in them, according to a hidden spiritual law of order.  Compare it to the forged section of Hermas, where there are 12 virgin angels and the explanation of their virtues make no sense whatsoever.  Did Swedenborg simply borrow from the Shepherd of Hermas?  I do not think so.  He would have pointed it out.  In his day the work was all but forgotten.  According to Catholic Encyclopedia: Hermas the text of Hermas was made available to the public on the following dates:
"The "Shepherd" was first printed in Latin by Faber Stapulensis (Lefèvre d'Etaples) in "Liber trium virorum et trium spiritualium virginum" (Paris, 1513); better edition by Fell (Oxford, 1685), and especially by Hilgenfeld (Leipzig, 1873), and von Gebhardt (Leipzig, 1877)."
So, there is a possibility Swedenborg could have read the Shepherd of Hermas if he frequented the proper library.  But still it was an obscure work, and he was told in his waking visions to avoid theological works so that the spiritual information could come through uninfluenced.  Different terminology is used.  I consider this unlikely, as his work does contain evidence he was obtaining information from a spiritual source - such as he knew the contents of the book of Jasher, and he knew that Genesis chapters 1-11 was composed from earlier sources.  This he had from angels, which was later confirmed by archaeologists of the 19th century, long after Swedenborg had died.  Moreover, his clairvoyant experiences were well known and documented by his contemporaries.

Thus, we see we have an element of "proof" that both Swedenborg author of the Shepherd of Hermas received visions.  But again, it is important to examine and read the works themselves, and ask oneself do they describe the truth or not?  That is the ultimate test.

THE SEVEN FEMALE ANGELS OF THE FOUNTAIN


I want to point out one last parallel between the Shepherd of Hermas and Swedenborg's last work Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love.  We covered in detail the seven virtues of the seven women of the tower in the third vision of Hermas.  Both warn against sexual immorality.  Here, I thought was something funny - Swedenborg, in one of his waking visions, encountered seven female angels by a fountain in heaven, to discuss the merits of marriage love.
"I was once looking through a window toward the east and saw seven wives sitting on a bank of roses by a certain fountain, drinking of the water. I looked intently to see what they were doing, and the intentness of my gaze affected them. Whereupon one of them by nod invited me, and I left the house and speedily went to them. When I arrived I asked politely from whence they came.
They said:—"We are wives, and are having a conversation here about the delights of marriage love; and from much confirmation we conclude that those delights are also delights of wisdom."" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 293)
An interesting coincidence, we have seven female angels in the Shepherd of Hermas by a tower built on water, and in Swedenborg's vision seven female angels by a fountain.  And there they explain why the delights of marriage love between one man and one woman are the delights of wisdom.  In this discussion, the union between the male and female in heaven is at a higher level between love and truth, and is not one of the physical.  Similar to the admonition given to Hermas to keep his thought above lust, they likewise warn Swedenborg:
"Be careful that by the delights we have spoken of you do not understand the ultimate delights of the love. Of these we never speak, but of our bosom delights, the perpetual correspondence of which is with the state of wisdom of our husbands." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 293)
A little boy then comes and delivers a message to Swedenborg, which he commanded him to read to the seven "virgins of the fountain":
"And I read these words:—"Tell the inhabitants of the earth with whom you dwell that there is a true marriage love, the delights of which are myriads—scarcely any of which does the world yet know, but it will know when the church espouses herself to her Lord and marries."
And then I asked:—"Why did the boy call you Virgins of the Fountain?" They replied:—"We are called virgins when we are sitting at this fountain because we are affections for the truths of our husbands' wisdom, and an affection for truth is called a virgin. A fountain also signifies truth of wisdom, and the bank of roses whereon we are sitting signifies its delights."
Then one of the seven twined a wreath of roses and sprinkled it with water of the fountain, and placed it on the boy's cap around his little head, and said:—"Receive the delights of intelligence. Know that a cap signifies intelligence, and a wreath of roses, the delights of it." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 293)
And we thus come full circle back to the seven female angels of the vision of Hermas, the sixth of which is intelligence, and the seventh of which represents love.  It is thus fitting that the final work of Swedenborg neatly finishes off the vision of of Hermas at the beginning of the Christian era.  Perhaps not a coincidence at all.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Prophecy of Babylon and the Writing on the Wall


The Writing on the Wall, Rembrandt

In scripture Babylon plays a prominent role, first in the story of the tower of Babel, and later again when the Babylonian Empire conquered Judea, destroyed the temple, and took the Jews into exile.  All of these historical events which happened to the Jews are symbolic of future events which would happen to the Christian church.  In the book of Revelation, it is known that a spiritual Babylon would rise again (see Rev. 17-18), which is called "MYSTERY BABYLON."  So what does Babylon signify?  In the spiritual sense, Babylon signifies those who use religion to favour the love of self or their own selfish ego.  In Heavenly Arcana Swedenborg shows that this is the case by analyzing the spiritual sense of the Tower of Babel, which refers to an ancient priesthood of Babylon that used religion to gain control over the people.  Such a religion appears holy to those people who belong to it, but if the love of self is at the center it is internally profane.  Here are a couple of quotes that sums up Swedenborg's conclusion on the meaning of Babylon:
"...by Babylon are signified those who have turned aside all worship of the Lord to the worship of self, and who are thus in a profane internal while they are in a holy external" (Heavenly Arcana, 4748.5)
Here is another quote:
"There are in the world two religious systems which are from self-intelligence, — one in which the love of self and of the world is everything, which religion is that which is called in the Word Babel; it is inwardly profane from the love of self and of the world, and outwardly holy from the Word which has been applied to confirm. The other system of religion is that in which the light of nature is everything; they who are in it acknowledge nothing for truth which they do not apprehend." (Heavenly Arcana, 8941.3)
Thus one should be wary of religion that makes a human priesthood the center of all authority.  In Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained, it was revealed to Swedenborg in vision that MYSTERY BABYLON is the false doctrines of the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church.  Anyone who looks at history can see that the Catholic Church made use of religion in order to obtain political control.  Even now, they put the authority of the church and priesthood above that of scripture.  This does not of course apply to all Catholics, as scripture urges God's people to come out of her:
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev. 18:4-5)

Within the Catholic Church there are many truths of Christianity that are true.  But there are many falsehoods and invented traditions of man.  The Papacy is said to be the Vicar of Christ, priests are said to forgive sins, and prayer is directed to Mary and the saints instead of Jesus Christ.  The theology surrounding the virgin Mary also obscures the atoning work of Jesus Christ.  Thus truth is mixed with falsehood, and as most Catholics don't read the Bible they don't know any better.  The profaning of truth by falsifying is represented in scripture as blood.  This profanation of the truth is mentioned in the following verse:
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth. (Rev. 18:24)
Prophets are those who teach the truth, saints are those who have sanctified their lives by the truth.  When truth is profaned or falsified, it loses its effect to reform one's life.  Truth, when profaned, leads to spiritual death and religion becomes one of external worship only.  It become a fake facade.

So to repeat, Mystery Babylon in the book of Revelation is a profaned Christian religion, and refers to the false doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church, and to any teaching which elevates the priesthood above that of the Lord or scripture.  Early Protestant reformers recognized this, and the visions of Swedenborg confirm it.  Even within the Catholic Church they have been given private Marian revelations, when the angel has told Catholics that Satan has entered the Vatican.  In the spiritual sense, Satan simply means falsehood.  Mystery Babylon does not refer to a political kingdom in the Middle East.  Mystery Babylon does not refer to an economic financial system.  These are falsehoods that I have seen come up in other interpretations of prophecies.

THE SEVENTY YEARS OF BABYLON ARE PROPHETIC

The Babylonian Empire ruled for about 70 years, from the fall of Assyria in 609 B.C. to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.  During this time period, the kingdom of Judah was destroyed and the Jews were taken into captivity.  As with all historical events that happened to the Jews, this event is prophetic.  The number seven and its multiples signify a complete time period, the Jews are symbolic of the Christian Church, to be taken into captivity is to become overcome and captivated by falsehoods, and the seventy year period of exile is prophetic of the time period in which Christianity would be dominated by the doctrines of the Catholic Church over a period of several centuries.  Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem and taking the treasures of the Jewish temple into Babylon (see Dan. 1:1-2) is symbolic of how the knowledges of good and truth within scripture would be subverted by Rome, and made use to elevate their political control over others.

SWEDENBORG'S VISION OF THE LAST JUDGMENT UPON SPIRITUAL BABYLON


For a time, the Catholic Church held dominion over the doctrines and truths of Christianity.  Many were externally religious but internally in love of their own self and power. Swedenborg was given a grand vision in which he saw many who died over the centuries began to occupy a spiritual region between heaven and hell.  These began to dominate and influence people's thoughts, to not think spiritually about Christianity but depend on religious authority.  In 1757, Swedenborg then saw a last judgment take place in the spiritual world, where all were judged and either taken to heaven or cast down to hell.  Many of those in this middle region were externally religious, but internally were not so.  Last judgments do not take place in the physical world, but rather in the spiritual world where everyone's thoughts can be explored.  Many who have died and went through a Near Death Experience have experienced this in terms of a "life review" which last for an instant, in which one can see the impact of one's actions and thoughts on others.  Although after death many immediately are judged and to heaven or hell, there are also many who remain in a spiritual world in between awaiting judgment.  This occurs especially among those who externally acted one way, but internally thought differently.

Swedenborg detailed the vision of what he saw took place in 1757 in two works, The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued.  He gives a very rational explanation of how this fulfilled many prophecies concerning the last judgment in scripture.  Those who were externally religious, but internally were evil, were judged first.  Judgment first began on the Protestants, and outwardly from there then on the Catholics, and lastly on Muslims.  Here I want to focus on one item: the Divine judgment that occurred upon the Catholics.  Swedenborg saw this as a judgment that occurred upon spiritual Babylon in the spiritual world:
"...here now follows how it was effected on the Papists, who are those meant by Babylon, so much treated of in the Apocalypse, and its destruction in particular in the eighteenth chapter, which is thus described: An angel cried with a mighty voice . . . Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of devils, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird (ver. 2). But before it is told how this destruction was effected, I shall premise:
I. What is meant by Babylon, and what is its quality.
II. What they are in the other life who are of Babylon.
III. Where their dwellings have hitherto been [in the spiritual world].
IV. Why they were tolerated there until the day of the final judgment." (The Final Judgment, n. 53)
Swedenborg again describes the spiritual nature of those who belong to Babylon:
"By Babylon are meant all who wish to rule by means of religion. To rule by religion is to rule over men's souls, thus over their very spiritual life, and to use the Divine things of religion as the means. All those who have dominion for an end, and religion as the means, are in general Babylon. They are called Babylon, because such dominion commenced in ancient times, but it was destroyed in its beginning. Its commencement is described by the city, and by the tower, whose head was to be in heaven; and its destruction by the confusion of lips; whence its name Babel (Gen. xi. 1-9). What is meant by all these particulars in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word, may be seen unfolded in the "Heavenly Arcana" (n. 1283-1328)." (The Final Judgment, n. 54.1)
For more information on the final judgment that occurred in the spiritual world in 1757, both works The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued can be found in The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem.  Or go here, to read it online for free: Sacred Texts: Emanuel Swedenborg.

THE 2300 YEAR PROPHECY 

In the previous blog post The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary, I discussed the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8, and showed evidence that it began in 539 B.C. with the fall of the literal kingdom of Babylon, and ended in the year 1762 A.D.  This is because the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. is a symbolic representation of the fall of spiritual Babylon in the last judgment of 1757 A.D.  Historically, we see that the Catholic Church began to lose its power in the 18th century, beginning with the disbanding of the Jesuits in 1759, followed by the French Revolution.  For skeptics, it should be noted that Swedenborg published his vision in 1758 before these events had occurred.

In 539 B.C., the night Babylon fell, Belshazzar the king of Babylon profaned the articles of the Jewish temple by using them in a religious ceremony to praise Babylonian gods.  Swedenborg states this also represents the religious dominion of the Catholic Church:
"Moreover that: such dominion commenced and was instituted in Babel, is evident in Daniel, where it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, that he set up an image which all were to adore (chap. iii.); and is also meant by Belshazzar and his princes drinking out of the gold and silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple of Jerusalem, and by his worshipping at the same time gods of gold, silver, copper, and iron, wherefore it was written on the wall, He hath numbered, He hath weighed, He hath divided; and the same night the king himself was slain (chap. v.). By the vessels of gold and of silver of the temple of Jerusalem, are signified the goods and truths of the church; by drinking from them, and at the same time worshipping the gods of gold, silver, copper, and iron, is signified profanation; by the writing on the wall, and by the death of the king, is signified visitation and destruction, denounced against those who have used Divine goods and truths as means.(The Final Judgment, n. 54.2)
Here is another passage, in which Swedenborg explains the spiritual significance of the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast:
"The gold and silver vessels belonging to the temple at Jerusalem," signify the good and truth of heaven and the church, "gold" meaning good, and "silver" truth; and "praising the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone," signifies idolatrous worship of every kind, thus external worship without any internal, such as is with those who are meant by Babylon. That there is no church at all with such, because there is nothing of the good and nothing of the truth of the church in them, is signified by the writing from heaven; for "numbered, numbered," signifies exploration in respect to good and in respect to truth; "weighed in the balance," signifies estimation in accordance with their quality, and judgment; "divided," signifies dispersion and expulsion from the good and truth of the church and separation therefrom; and "kingdom" signifies the church; from which it is clear that "weighed in the scale or balance," signifies estimation in accordance with their quality." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 373.3)
The 70 years of Babylon which ended in 539 B.C. is thus representative of the longer period in which the Papacy and the Catholic Church dominated the Christian church.  This spiritual domination ended with the last judgment of 1757 A.D., and was immediately followed by historical events in which the nations of Europe turned against the authority of the Papacy.

THE PROPHECY OF THE WRITING ON THE WALL

The Divine judgment that took place in the year 1757 A.D. is described in a symbolic manner by the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast in 539 B.C.  For the prophecy of the 2300 days in Daniel 8 (see The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary - read first before reading the rest of this post) I gave other reasons as to why the year 539 B.C. should be used as a start date for a 2300 year period.  This was when Babylon fell, but I want to here point out another item of interest - the writing on the wall that appeared at Belshazzar's feast.  The prophet Daniel is called in, who then gives the following interpretation:
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.And Darius the Median took the kingdom (Dan. 5:25-31)
The words MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN is given in Aramaic, but these are actually specific words that refer to weights.  MENE is a mina, TEKEL is a shekel, and UPHARSIN or PERES means "half."  Several interpreters have suggested that the value of these weights have a specific meaning, that when added up refer to a prophetic period beginning in 539 B.C.  This caught my attention - could there be something in the value of these weights that specifies a prophetic number of years?  Various suggestions have been made, but unfortunately many of these did not have the proper value for the weights and thus came out with the wrong answer.


The weight of a mina was known in both ancient Babylonia and Phoenicia, it generally had a weight of 60 shekels.  Some have suggested 50 shekels, but Ezek. 45:12 confirms that during the Babylonian period a mina had a value of 60 shekels:
The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina. (Eze. 45:12)
Here a shekel is given a value of 20 gerahs.  That a Hebrew shekel had a value of 20 gerahs is confirmed in several other passages of scripture (see Ex. 30:13, Lev. 27:25, Num 3:47, 18:16).

It should be noted that in the Jewish Talmud, a mina was given a value of 50 shekels (see Weights, Measures & Coins of the Biblical & Talmudic Periods).  There seem to have been 2 different weight systems: Babylon had a shekel of 24 gerahs, while the Jews had a shekel of 20 gerahs.  But in both Babylon and in Eze. 45:12 a mina has a value of 60 shekels.  For an interesting discussion by Jehovah's Witnesses on the matter, see Daniel 5:25 NWT-Cross Reference Why Half Shekel? Not half mene?  Here we are restricting ourselves to the weights as given in scripture.

So in the literal sense, the writing on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar literally says this:

MINA, MINA, SHEKEL, HALF.

In Hebrew it would look like this:


But probably cuneiform was used.

We know the value of the mina and shekel.  Half means half of something, but what?  Some have suggested it means half a mina.   It depends on context, the word can also mean half a zuz, an even smaller unit than the gerah (see Weights, Measures & Coins of the Biblical & Talmudic Periods).  Another Biblical scholar Otto Eissfeldt proposed that it is not a half mina, but half a shekel.  This would make sense as the weights are given from big units to small units.  However there is another reason why half a shekel is probably correct, and this comes from another passage on the importance of half a shekel in numbering the people of Israel:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When you take the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when you number them; that there be no plague among them, when you number them.  This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) a half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.  Every one that passes among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. (Ex. 30:11-14)
In the writing on the wall Daniel declares that God has "numbered" the kingdom of Babylon; likewise when the children of Israel were numbered in a census they were to each give a half shekel in order to not suffer from a plague.  Which is a very odd ritual which no one can explain unless one knows the spiritual symbolism of it (Swedenborg explains it in detail in Heavenly Arcana).  But half probably means a half shekel, it is given to the Medes and Persians, who thus do not suffer judgment.  This half shekel was an offering to the sanctuary, and Belshazzar had just profaned the articles of the sanctuary by praising idols.

In the ritual of the census, a shekel of 20 gerahs is associated with all men who have reached an age of 20 years (in the spiritual sense half a number signifies the same as a whole).  This implies that one gerah is equivalent to one year.  So let us convert each weight to its value in gerahs:

Mina = 60 shekels = 1200 gerahs
Mina = 60 shekels = 1200 gerahs
Shekel = 20 gerahs
Half shekel = 10 gerahs

Now, lets go through the handwriting on the wall, line by line:

MENE; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. (Dan. 5:26)

There are two minas, this adds up to 2400 gerahs.  The number 24 was common in the Babylonian sexadecimal system Note that Jesus had said the 12 apostles would judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28) and there were 24 elders on 24 thrones in John's vision of heaven (Rev. 4:4).  The numbers 12 and 24 signify all things of the Lord's kingdom; here the number 2400 signifies something similar for Babylon.

TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. (Dan. 5:27)

This is a shekel of 20 gerahs.  Most then add this value.  But one should not add, one should subtract, as Babylon was found wanting.  The shekel of 20 gerahs represents Belshazzar, who used wrong judgment in profaning the articles of the Jewish temple (20 is the age of judgment).  It should also be noted here that Belshazzar probably had a reign of 20 years.  The math we have now is this:  2400 gerahs - 20 gerahs = 2380 gerahs.

PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan. 5:28)

Peres means "half" and means half a shekel.  Half a shekel is thus taken away from Babylon and offered to the Medes and Persians, meaning they would escape the judgment being pronounced on Babylon.  Note that the shekel represents Belshazzar, who literally gets "divided" when his head gets cut off that night.  Half a shekel is 10 gerahs.  Again we subtract:  2380 gerahs - 10 gerahs = 2370 gerahs.

A gerah represents a year.  2370 gerahs is thus 2370 years.  This represents the kingdom of Babylon, which began in 609 B.C. with the fall of Assyria.  2370 years is equal to 70 + 2300 years.  Thus we have the following:

609 - 539 B.C. = 70 years of Babylonian rule (Jer. 25:11-12, Dan. 9:2)
539 B.C. - 1762 A.D. = 2300 years (see Dan. 8:13-14)

The number 2300 in Dan. 8:13-14 has puzzled many, but I think it is now explained.  Not only that, but the starting date to the 2300 years was there all along.  The writing was on the wall.  The year 1762 A.D. was when it was revealed that Jesus is Jehovah in human form, which was explained in the little book of Rev. 10, The Doctrine of the Lord. (see The Mystery of the Book of Seven Thunders Explained)

Perhaps in a future post, God willing, I will explain that the 70 years of Babylonian rule represents a future longer period of 1260 years, also described as a "time, times and half a time" (Dan. 7:25, 12:7).  Note that a 70 year period is equivalent to 70 gerahs, which of course is three and a half shekels.  This time period is also represented by the three and a half days of the 2 witnesses (Rev. 11:9-11).



As always, comments welcome: