Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Revelation on the Incarnation of the Word, the Logos, the Pre-Existence of Christ

The New Testament reveals that Jesus Christ, before He was born, had a pre-existence. This is made apparent in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is the "Word made flesh" (John 1:14). Here the Gospel of John uses the Greek word Logos, which had various meanings in ancient Greek philosophy. It simply meant "word," or "discourse" or "opinion" or it could mean "reason" among other meanings. Plato used the word Logos to mean not just the word, but also the unspoken word, the rational principle that governs order in the universe. The Hellenistic Jew Philo of Alexandria used this meaning: Logos was an intermediary between God and the material world, and even called it the "first born of God" - similar to how Paul called Christ "the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15). It is this meaning, from the philosopher Plato, that the apostle John uses in opening the Gospel on the Word. Thus many of the early church fathers saw the philosophy of Plato as a precursor to the revelation of Christianity (see Take It from the Church Fathers: You Should Read Plato).

The Greek concept of Logos fits in with ancient Jewish thought in the Old Testament, as God creates everything through His Word. Just as the Law provides order on how man should live, so His word commands and orders all of creation. This has been continually confirmed in the discoveries of modern science, which continues to describe how the material world is governed by physical laws. While science can trace the origin of the universe to the Big Bang, in which time and space were created, it was revealed to Swedenborg that the universe was not created out of nothing, but from the Divine Truth, from the spiritual world in which there is no time or space.

Concerning the pre-existent Word, John says this:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1)
From this we know there are two aspects to God: the Divine itself (God) and the Word of God.  But the Word of God in itself is also Divine.  We can also view the Word of God as an emanation of the Divine, which in itself is also Divine.  But what is the distinction? Swedenborg offers some insights here: the Word of God is not just the mere speech of God, it is the Divine Truth:
"...truth Divine which is from the Lord fills the heavens, and makes the heavens; and if you will believe it, all things are made and created by it. The Word, which was in the beginning with God, and which was God, by which all things were created, and by which the world was made (John i. 1-14), is Divine truth. That this is the one only substantial thing, from which are all things, few are able to apprehend, as no other idea is at this day held concerning Divine truth than as of the speech of the mouth of one in authority, in accordance with which his commands are executed" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9410.5)
The Divine Truth progresses through several spiritual levels: it first emanates from God and passes through the highest celestial heaven, then the middle spiritual heaven, then the lower heaven, and from there into the natural world, where it becomes speech and words and has been preserved in the literal sense of scripture (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9407). The Bible is the Word of God, written in symbolic correspondences, and through the Word of God contained in scripture man has the power to become spiritual:
" becomes spiritual by means of the knowledges of truth and good from the Word applied to the uses of life. Why men become spiritual by means of knowledges from the Word, and not by means of other knowledges, shall now be told. All things that are in the Word are Divine, and they are Divine for the reason that they have in them a spiritual sense, and by that sense communicate with heaven and with the angels there. When, therefore, man has knowledges from the Word and applies them to life, then through these he has communication with heaven and by that communication becomes spiritual; for man becomes spiritual by his being in like or in corresponding truths with the angels of heaven. It is said in "corresponding" truths, because each and all things in the sense of the letter of the Word are correspondences, for they correspond to the truths that angels have. But the knowledges derived from other books, which set forth and by various means establish the doctrines of the church, do not effect communication with heaven except by the knowledges from the Word they contain; such knowledges do give communication if they are rightly understood and are applied to life, and not to faith alone. Everyone can see that this is so from this, that the Word in itself is Divine, and what is Divine in itself can become Divine with man by his applying it to life. "Becoming Divine with man" means that the Lord can have His abode with man (John 14:23), thus dwelling with him in what is His own (that the Lord dwells in His own with man and angel, and not in what is their own [proprio illorum], see in the work on Heaven and Hell, n. 12). The Lord dwells in His own when He dwells in those things with man that are from the Word, for the Lord is the Word (John 1:1, 2, 14); and the words that He spoke, that is, that are in the Word: Are spirit and life (John 6:63, 68; 12:50)" (Apocalypse Explained, n. 195.4).
Swedenborg was revealed something further concerning God and His Word (or Logos): God is not just the Divine itself, but the Divine Love itself, and the Divine Truth emanates from the Divine Love as light emanates from fire in the natural world:
"The Lord is the Word, because it is the Divine Truth of the Divine Good. That the Lord is the Word, He teaches in John in these words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, and the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us (John i. 1, 14). Because this has been hitherto understood to mean only that God taught man through the Word, therefore it has been explained as a hyperbolical expression; and its being so called implies that the Lord is not the Word itself. This is because they did not know that the Word means the Divine Truth of the Divine Good, or, which is the same, the Divine Wisdom of the Divine Love. That these are the Lord Himself is shown in Part First of the treatise concerning the "Divine Love and Wisdom:" and that they are the Word, is shown in the "Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture" (n. 1-86). How the Lord is the Divine Truth of the Divine Good, shall also be here briefly told. No man is man from the face and the body, but from the good of his love and from the truths of his wisdom; and because a man is man from these, every man also is his truth and his good, or his love and his wisdom; without them, he is not man. But the Lord is Good itself and Truth itself, or, which is the same, is Love itself and Wisdom itself; and these are the Word which was in the beginning with God, and which was God, and which was made Flesh" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Providence, n. 172).
That God is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, which act as one as the will and understanding in each person, is something that has been kept hidden from the Christian church until now.  In scripture the Divine Love is known as the Father, whom no man has ever seen, and this became manifest in the incarnation of the Divine Truth in Jesus Christ.

The concept of Divine Love and Divine Truth pervades the entire revelation of Christianity in the writings of Swedenborg: the Father and Son are one in Jesus Christ as the soul and body are one. Love and faith must work in conjunction with each other to produce the fruits of faith.  All words in scripture have relation to aspects of love and truth, which is spelled in detail in Heavenly Arcana, providing proof that the Bible is Divinely Inspired. The union of love and truth manifests in the marriage of one woman with one man, as women are forms of love and men are forms of truth, and this is why all sexual relations outside of marriage are forbidden, for it is a spiritual relationship from the Divine which forms the love between man and woman.

God as Divine Love and Divine Truth is explained in detail in Swedenborg's work, Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom.  It does, at first, look like something new.  Once one understands it, scripture begins to open up in a new light, for every word in scripture is related to the union of love and truth, or to its opposite, evil and falsity.  What is interesting is that over 2000 years ago, Philo of Alexandria, who also attempted to uncover the spiritual sense of scripture, was given a brief revelation of this truth:
"I have also, on one occasion, heard a more ingenious train of reasoning from my own soul, which was accustomed frequently to be seized with a certain divine inspiration, even concerning matters which it could not explain even to itself; which now, if I am able to remember it accurately, I will relate. It told me that in the one living and true God there were two supreme and primary powers - goodness and authority; and that by his goodness he had created every thing, and by his authority he governed all that he had created; and that the third thing which was between the two, and had the effect of bringing them together was reason, for that it was owing to reason that God was both a ruler and good(On the Cherubim, 1.27-28).
This passage from Philo is so close to the revelation that Swedenborg received that God is Divine Love and Divine Truth that it is simply amazing. It is one of the few occasions where Philo states he received this from inspiration, not his thought from reasoning. God here is good, which is the same as Divine love, and authority, or God as ruler, is the same as Divine Truth. In fact Swedenborg explains that Jehovah, or the Lord, is given the title of King as kingship is a symbolic office that signifies Divine Truth, as kings rule from the law. Moreover, Swedenborg explained that the human rational acted as an intermediary between man's internal spiritual nature and man's external knowledges and memory from the senses of the body. Unfortunately, besides this brief moment of inspiration, Philo did not develop the thought further and did not associate the Divine "authority" with the concept of Logos, or the Word which we see in the gospel of John. Instead rather, he viewed Logos as what unites the two aspects of the Divine. The revelations given to Swedenborg is more complete on this matter, as it was explained that Divine Truth passes through several levels or degrees, and does at length descend in the form of a Divine Rational that is an intermediary between the Divine Love and the more external form of Divine Truth.

Now, as the Divine Truth descends through various degrees of order, from the Divine itself, through the heavens, to the material world in which we reside, Swedenborg was shown something else: the union of the Divine love with Divine Truth takes on the human form: The human form is the form of truth.
"In conclusion I would mention a certain arcanum [secret] as yet unknown, namely, that every good and truth which proceeds from the Lord and makes heaven, is in a human form; and this not only in the whole and in what is greatest, but also in every part and in what is least; and that this form affects every one who receives good and truth from the Lord, and causes every one in heaven to be in a human form according to reception. Hence it is that heaven is like to itself in general and in particular, and that the human form belongs to the whole, to every society, and to every angel, as was shown in the four chapters from n. 59 to 86; to which it is here to be added, that it belongs to every thing of thought from heavenly love with the angels. This arcanum [secret], however, falls with difficulty into the understanding of any man, but clearly into the understanding of angels, because they are in the light of heaven" (Heaven and Hell, n. 460)
Thus literally, man is made in the image of God, for the human form is a receptacle of love and truth in man's understanding. Because of this, the angels only see God through the human form (Heaven and Hell, n. 79). God is a Divine Man, a Divine Human, from Whom proceeds Divine Truth, and this proceeding Divine from the Lord is known as the Holy Spirit which sanctifies us through the truth.

So now we come to the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. As He is the Word made flesh, before He became incarnate in human form, which human form is the Son of God, He was seen by the angels as a Divine Human in the heavens:
"Before the coming of the Lord there was a Divine Human of Jehovah in the heavens, for by passing through the heavens He presented Himself as a Divine Man before many on earth. But at that time the Divine Human was not so one with the Divine itself, which is called the Father, as when the Lord made it in Himself altogether one." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6000.7)
The reason why Jehovah as to His Divine Truth had to become incarnate in human form to save humanity, is that before the coming of Jesus Christ the Divine Human could only flow into man through the angelic heavens, but man was becoming cut off from the angelic heavens due to sin:
"...the Divine Human before the Lord's coming into the world, was Jehovah Himself flowing in through heaven when He spake the Word; for Jehovah was above the heavens, but what passed from Him through the heavens, was then the Divine Human, inasmuch as by the influx of Jehovah into heaven, heaven was in the form of man, and the Divine Itself thence was the Divine man. This now is the Divine Human from eternity... But because Jehovah by this His Divine Human could not flow in longer with men, since they had so far removed themselves from that Divine, therefore He assumed the Human and made this Divine, and thus by influx thereby into heaven He was able to reach even those of the human race who received the good of charity and the truth of faith from the Divine Human, which was thus made visible, and thereby deliver them from hell" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6280.1-2)
This Divine Human that was in the heavens through the angels ceased, or was made more manifest, once God became incarnate in Jesus Christ (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6371.2). Up until that time the Divine could only become manifest to humanity be temporarily investing its presence in an angelic being, which scripture calls the "angel of the Lord." With the Lord, however, the Divine Truth became incarnate in human form so that the Divine was the soul to the human body born in time. Through this human body, the Divine launched an attack against all the hells, as the hells were able to tempt Jesus through the human body. Though born with two natures, upon the resurrection Jesus Christ had one Divine nature - a new nature, which Swedenborg calls the "Divine Natural," where the Divine can interact with us and be a direct intermediary. Up until the incarnation, there were only two degrees of the Divine: the Divine celestial, and the Divine spiritual, through which the Divine Human could descend through the heavens of the angels. And Swedenborg was told this:
"I have been told from heaven that in the Lord from eternity, Who is Jehovah, before the assumption of the Human in the world, there were the two prior degrees actually, and the third degree in potency, such as they are also with the angels; but that after the assumption of the Human in the world, He put on also the third degree, which is called the natural, and that thereby He became a man similar to man in the world, with the difference, however, that this degree, like the prior degrees, is infinite and uncreated in Him, while these degrees in angel and in man are finite and created." (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 233)
This "Divine Natural" is the Divine Human of the Lord, and is the Son of God.  Only when the Divine was able to completely unite the body to Himself and make it Divine was the Divine could flow from Him in the form of the Holy Spirit, thus the Holy Spirit did not exist until Jesus was glorified as to His body (John 7:39). How the Lord progressively united His Divine essence to His human form is described in detail in Heavenly Arcana, and in truth it is the most detailed revelation of the Christology of Christ, solving many of the theological disputes that had occurred in the early Christian church, as their thought was hindered by some falsehoods inherent in Greek philosophy. With this revelation, we no longer have to speculate on the nature of Jesus Christ: He is the Divine Truth incarnate, and His body has been made completely Divine so that He can now interact directly with us through the Holy Spirit, as well as by living according to His Word - for to read and learn by the Word, is to be taught directly by the Lord Himself.

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