Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Prophecy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse appear in the final prophecy of the Bible, and there is much confusion as to what they mean.  The book of Revelation is full of symbolism, and the tendency among fundamentalist religious leaders has been to interpret the book in a very literal way, trying to make the book fit historical and future events.  The confusion can be summed up by looking at an article on BeforeItsNews - from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
To the skeptic, these riders are nothing more than symbolic sound bites.  To your average unstudied Christian, these four riders represent a mysterious symbolism that can’t be known.  The Preterist and Amillennialist see them as either historic or figurative leaders who have long since come and gone. But to those who hold to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture view, we recognize these riders as those who will be unleashed after the church have been caught up to heaven during the 70th Week of Daniel.
So, overall, the book of Revelation or the Apocalypse is still a closed book. Other than historical interpretations, the tendency among Protestant churches is to always place things in the "future" - always future, but never applicable to our present day reality.  Futurist interpretations are based on a false interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel 9 (the "70th week"), which happened to predict the exact year Jesus would appear and be rejected by the Jews over 500 years in advance. Also common among futurist interpretations of the Bible is a belief in a "rapture" in which believers are caught up in heaven, but in reality what the apostle Paul was seeing is an ascension of souls into the higher heavenly realms in the spiritual world (another topic for another day).

So its easy for a reader to get lost with the various opinions of men to interpret the book.  But there is only one person who can interpret the book, showing that it could only be made known by Divine revelation:
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Rev. 5:1-5)

In other words, only Jesus Christ would reveal the contents of this book - the "Lion from the tribe of Judah," in the spiritual sense means by the power of the Divine Truth.  The other higher spiritual meaning of the passage is that only God is allowed to explore the true spiritual state of each individual and the church on earth. For we all see people's outward actions, but no one can explore each person's internal intentions. Only God can explore the thoughts of each person, and from that foresee the future.

So among all the interpretations of the book of Revelation, the only one I have seen that explains the symbolism of the book of Revelation or the Apocalypse are the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. In 1745 his vision was opened, had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and while in waking vision in the spiritual world he would read scripture and the spiritual sense would be explained to him.  And this Swedenborg stated was not from any spirit or angel, but from God, whom he saw as a central light in the heavenly world, in which was his visible form we know as Jesus Christ. The spiritual sense of scripture would be given to him by an internal perception of the truth.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. For this claim, we have 3 volumes of Apocalypse Revealed, preceded by six volumes known as Apocalypse Explained. The explanation is massive - the symbolism of each word, with its spiritual meaning, is always shown by referring to other portions of scripture.  Before I knew about Swedenborg, I had read several attempts by many authors. They all failed, or were incomplete.  Back before the internet was popular I managed to find an old copy of Apocalypse Explained in a university library, opened it, and was literally stunned - here it was, the entire Apocalypse explained in great detail. And it all made sense.

It was a mind shift. There is no literal rapture, but rather an ascension of souls caught in the middle world up into heaven in the spiritual world. There is no individual "Antichrist" that sets himself as god in a future temple in Jerusalem - but rather, there will be an antichristian system of thought that would become the center of worship in the very churches themselves. This anti-christian system of theology would regard evils as nothing, and evils can simply be "transferred away" without any reformation of one's life. And yet, with this shift in thinking, everything remains focused on the Lord and his spiritual kingdom in scripture.

It's a hard message. How does the present day church as it is on earth look in God's eyes?  Is everything angelic and perfect?

Or, if one looks more closely in the mirror, one will find something else?

So let's take a look in the mirror.


All religions go through dispensations, or world ages.  At the end of an age, love and charity is replaced by selfishness and materialism, and truth becomes distorted with falsities until nothing of truth is left.  There is no "end of the world" but rather an "end of an age."  We are at the end of the Christian dispensation. This was preceded by the Jewish dispensation under Moses, which in turn was preceded by two other more ancient churches of the Middle East. There are fragments of this lost faith, but now distorted by idolatry and stories now regarded as myths. We are now at the end of the Christian dispensation, yet the promise is Jesus will be present with a remnant few who follow his commandments:
[Teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)
Unfortunately, the King James version mistranslates "end of the age" as "end of the world."  So at what point in the time did the church on earth begin to deviate from what Jesus commanded? This actually happened very early on in the history of the Christian Church. The book of Revelation speaks of "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).  By that many theologians thought that referred to a second person of a trinity before creation. In reality, the "foundation of the world" in the spiritual sense represents the foundation of the present day Christian Church; the "lamb" is the Divine human of the Lord; to be "slain" means that the acknowledgement that Jesus very human became Divine was rejected. So this is not in regards just to the Jews of Jesus's day, but the present church, and this is readily apparent to anyone who examines the early theological debates which led to the church to split Jesus into a Divine and human nature. For by making his very human body Divine, one with his Divinity, is how the entire human race was saved. As He entered a human form under his control, so by His spirit he can enter each human being to help them resist sin and temptation through repentance.


The four horsemen of the Apocalypse represents the successive stages of the Christian Church, beginning to conquer falsity by the truth, and declining until there is nothing good and true left in it. Some have noted that the white horse is similar to the white horse at the end, and they do have a similar meaning. But the book of Revelation is strange: each time a seal of the scroll is broken and opened, out of the scroll pops out a horse. So why is there a horse popping out of a book?  No one has been explain it. Its just weird.

The meaning of a horse coming out of a scroll or book becomes quite clear when reading the spiritual symbolism revealed to Swedenborg in his visions, but he demonstrates it by referring to other scripture:
I will smite every horse with astonishment, and every horse of the people with blindness (Zech. xii. 4). A horse in the spiritual sense is the understanding of the Word... (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 48)
Knowing that, other passages in scripture begin to make sense:
Because God has made her forget wisdom, nor has imparted understanding; at what time she raises herself on high, she scorns the horse and his rider (Job xxxix. 17, 18, etc).
Its a bit strange, but such symbolism is common in the spiritual world, where animals appear that represent each person's internal character.  We say such things as "clever as a fox," or "he eats like an ox," or "low like a dog."  In the spiritual world, horses represent one's understanding of the Word - understanding is above the level of mere knowledge and reasoning.

And this is why we so often find such strange language and metaphors or "figures of speech" in the Bible - for inspiration proceeds directly from heaven, and ultimately falls into objects we are familiar with - and these objects are symbols that correspond to the spiritual reality behind it. In most cases, the objects are in terms of the human language and culture, so that one can receive it. Thus in his spiritual visions, Swedenborg explained the reality of the book of the seven seals in the spiritual world:
" is to be known that such predictions were not seen and read in a book when its seals were opened, but were made manifest through the heavens from the Lord before the angels of the inmost heaven; and were represented in the ultimates of heaven by such things as are related in this chapter, namely, by horses of various colors, and afterwards by earthquakes, by the darkenings of the sun and moon, and by the falling of the stars to the earth." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 369)
In the following, I will give a summary of the symbolism of each horse, but what is interesting here is that the sequential stages as shown in the Apocalypse for the end of the church follows exactly the sequeential stages for the end of the age as described by Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 24. Surprisingly, although Swedenborg interpreted both passages, he failed to note the correspondence between these two prophecies.


The symbolism of "white" is easy - it signifies truth. Truth has the power of conquering and defeating what is false and evil:
And he went forth conquering and to conquer, signifies victory over falsities and evils for ever. Conquering and to conquer, is said, because he who overcomes in the world in spiritual combats, which are temptations, overcomes for ever; for the hells cannot assault any one who has overcome. (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 301)
This signifies the early stage of the Christian church at its beginning - the gospel was unadulterated by those seeking power, nor by external philosophies or paganism. It was simple: a baptism of repentance, and following Jesus by keeping the commandments. New light was given to the old ancient prophecies and myths, and representative worship was abolished.


The red horse signifies the next stage of the Christian church, which began to suffer from internal disputes:
"And there went forth another horse that was red," signifies the understanding of the Word destroyed as to good and hence as to the life with them. "And unto him who sat upon him it was given to take peace from the earth," signifies the taking away of charity, spiritual security, and internal rest. "That they should kill one another," signifies intestine hatreds, infestations from the hells, and internal unrest. "And there was given unto him a great sword," signifies the destruction of truth by the falsities of evil. (Apocalypse Revealed, chapter 6)
This particular stage of spiritual development is described in the spiritual sense in Jesus discourse in Matthew 24, in which he describes successive stages in the decline of the church until the end of the age:
The disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what is the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the age I And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. For many shall come in My Name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled; for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall be stirred up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. But all these things are the beginning of sorrows (xxiv. 3-8). They who keep in the sense of the letter cannot know whether these things, and those which follow in the chapter, were spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish nation, or concerning the end of days, which is called the final judgment; but they who are in the internal sense see clearly that the end of the church is here treated of, which end is what is here and elsewhere called the coming of the Lord and the consummation of the age. And because that is the end which is meant, it may be known that all those expressions signify things of the church; but what they signify may be evident from the several particulars in the internal sense — as when it is said that many shall come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and shall lead many astray; where name does not signify name, nor Christ Christ; but name signifies that by which the Lord is worshipped (n. 2724, 3006); and Christ signifies truth itself (n. 3009, 3010); thus it is meant that there would come those who would say, This is of faith, or This is true, when yet it is neither of faith, nor true, but false: that they should hear of wars and rumors of wars, is, that there would be disputes and strife concerning truths, which are wars in the spiritual sense; that nation should be stirred up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, signifies that evil would fight with evil, and falsity with falsity... (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3353.2)
This is the first state of perversion of the church, when disputes arise as to what is true or false. The next state (Matt. 24:8-14) also corresponds to the red horse of the Apocalypse, where people would turn against and hate what was good and true:
All these things are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you unto affliction and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all the nations for My name's sake. And then many shall be offended, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. But he who endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth, for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come
By the words that precede and have been already explained (n. 3353-3356), was described the first state of the perversion of the church, which was, that they would begin no longer to know what was good and what true, but would dispute about it among themselves, from which falsities would originate. By the words now cited is described a second state of the perversion of the church, which is, that they would despise good and truth, and also turn away from them, and thus that faith in the Lord would expire, in proportion as charity should cease. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3486-87)

The black horse represents the next spiritual state of the Christian church - the internal disputes have ended, but in the place of disputes there is falsity put in its place - which is symbolized by the color of black - the opposite of white, which is truth:
"And when he had opened the third seal," signifies prediction respecting the state that next follows with those who are of the church where the Word is (n. 369); "I heard the third animal saying," signifies out of the inmost heaven from the Lord (n. 370); "Come and see," signifies attention and perception (n. 371); "and behold, a black horse," signifies the understanding of the Word destroyed in respect to truth (n. 372); "and he who sat upon him had a balance in his hand," signifies the estimation of truth from the Word in that state of the church (n. 373). "A measure of wheat for a denary, and three measures of barley for a denary," signifies that the genuine good of the church, as well as the genuine truth of the church, is of no account to them (n. 374); "and the oil and the wine hurt thou not" signifies that it is provided that the internal or spiritual sense of the Word should suffer no harm either in respect to good or in respect to truth (n. 375, 376). (Apocalypse Revealed, chapter 6)
Again, this corresponds with the next passage found in Matthew 24, verses 15-18:
When therefore ye shall see the abomination of desolation which was foretold by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, let him who readeth understand, then let them who are in Judea flee unto the mountains: let him who is upon the house not go down to take anything out of his house: and let him who is in the field not return back to take his garments.
According to the internal sense the signification is this: "When therefore ye shall see the abomination of desolation" signifies the vastation of the church, which occurs when the Lord is no longer acknowledged, consequently when there is no love and no faith in Him; also when there is no longer any charity toward the neighbor; and consequently when there is not any faith of good and truth. When this is the case in the church, or rather in the land where the Word is possessed and read — that is, when men are such in the thoughts of the heart, even if not such in the teaching of the lips — then there is desolation, and the particulars just now mentioned are its abomination; hence, when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, means when any one observes such things; what is to be done in such case, is told afterward (verses 16-18). (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3652)
The abomination of desolation signifies when there is no longer any truth in the church, or when the spiritual truth is no longer acknowledged in one's life - this corresponds to the black horse. Those who are in Judea who flee to the mountains do not concern the Jews, but rather those who are in love towards the Lord, the others are those who are in the good of charity or truth of doctrine - these will be protected, just as the internal truths of the Church will be protected (the oil and the wine) in the vision of the black horse.

The advice given here: even though the church itself may be corrupt at large, as individuals, maintain a life of usefulness, charity and love towards others and the Lord. Don't get distracted or misled by religious fundamentalism which stresses belief alone.


The pale horse represents the next spiritual state of the Christian church - in which there is no good, nor truth - or its not internally acknowledged in life among those who know.  And without the protection of truth, evils of life begin to become dominate. Church is there as an external shell, but people will go do as they will as it has lost its moral and spiritual authority:
And I saw, and behold, a pale horse," signifies the understanding of the Word destroyed both as to good and as to truth. "And the name of him who sat upon him was Death, and hell followed with him," signifies the extinction of spiritual life, and hence damnation. "And there was given unto them power over the fourth part of the earth to kill," signifies the destruction of every good of the church. "With the sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the beasts of the earth," signifies by falsities of doctrine, by evils of life, by the love of self-life, and by lusts. (Apocalypse Revealed, chapter 6)
This corresponds with the next state in Matthew 24 concerning the end of the age: for when one knows the truth, but internally denies it, and goes against it in the way one lives, all that is holy becomes profaned and distorted. False religions and doctrines predominate, and religion becomes superficial. Thus Jesus says "woe to those who are with child" - signifying innocent ones who know no better will be spiritually destroyed. This is the time of "great affliction" - where internal spiritual truths are falsified and profaned. This will all happen from within the church, not outside the church - thus Jesus described false christs, who will attempt to deceive the elect.


One can see, from the sample above, is that with the revelations shown to Swedenborg, even the most obscure passages of scripture become applicable to one's own life.  The different spiritual stages of the Christian church is shown, how it declines from love and truth, to internal doubts about the truth, to aversion to what is good and true, and finally, until all religion is profaned as evil is mixed with good, and falsity with truth. When doubt is sowed into people's minds by skeptics, or people become averse due to religious fanaticism, the power of spiritual truth declines, and evil becomes predominate. It is gradual, takes place over time - and many will probably be surprised to learn that the church has declined to such a state. These different spiritual states can be applied personally, perhaps to those who were first attracted to Christianity, but then left for a variety of reasons, until it is rejected in the final state. Or it can be applied to personal relationships, how they can successfully decline over time if one departs from love and truth. For Divine spiritual truth, in its essence, is universal.

There are two reactions people may have to this revelation concerning the four horsemen of the Apocalypse - to reject it entirely, or perhaps to see there is truth in it.  Those who do see the truth will be a small remnant few, who will be rejected by others - these people are represented by "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God" that John sees in the spiritual world under the altar - they are consoled a bit by being given white robes, in that they will be protected by living according to the truth.


Tolkien, a Catholic, understood much of this symbolism, and it took him years to incorporate this stuff into Lord of the Rings. One can see that especially in the following scene, which one may compare to crossing of the Jordan river, the cleansing of falsehood by the water of truth, and how evils and falsehoods attempt to extinguish and kill any small remnant of the truth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The New Church ("Swedenborgian" Church): the Most Christian Church

So what defines a Christian Church?

After over 2,000 years, many changes have taken place within the Christian Church, where a large portion of its original message has been distorted in the current theology of present-day Christian churches.  As a religion develops, doctrines and teachings are often added to the original revelation, and people begin following things based on tradition or what religious leaders tell them. Religious leaders and theologians are more often than not bound by the doctrines and traditions of men that have been added since the original revelation.

The mind becomes bound inside of a "box," where there is no freedom of thought to examine the assumptions behind their theology. These assumptions are used as a "measuring stick" to judge what is true or false. These assumptions then persuasively rule over their mind, and one argues more from persuasion from traditional beliefs rather than investigation of the scriptures.

But what if one's foundation or "measuring stick" is false?  Of course, they would arrive at false conclusions. Such was the reaction of the Jewish Pharisees when confronted with Jesus. What was true then, is true today.

In the 18th century, revelations of God, salvation, Christian doctrines, the spiritual meaning of scripture, and the afterlife were received over a 27 year period in waking visions to a Swedish scientist and noble, Emanuel Swedenborg. He published many works anonymously, and after his death, various groups got together and established small groups based on the doctrines that were received. These are generally called the New Church, but others have named it the "Swedenborgian" church after Swedenborg.

In these revelations, some fundamental problems were revealed in the theology of the Christian churches. At the same time, answers were given to what were previously called "mysteries of faith," as our knowledge had matured and some would be ready to receive it. Point to any problem skeptics give for Christianity; it has been answered in these revelations. No stone has been unturned. However, basic tenets of the Protestant faith of the 16th century were shown to be quite in error. So the attacks generally come from the Protestant quarter.


The first tendency of Protestants was initially to label the New Church as a "heresy" or a "cult" - which I addressed earlier in Was Swedenborg a Cult Leader, and is the New Church a cult? It is an obvious false accusation, considering the New Church tends not to evangelize, and respects people's free will in thinking on their own. Nor does it condemn other religions to hell. It is obviously not a cult.

However, I recently became aware of a more honest critique of the theology of the New Church, this time by the Lutheran church. Which is interesting, as Emanuel Swedenborg's father was a well known pastor of the Lutheran church. As it turns out, in September 2013 the Lutheran Missouri Synod concluded this:

The Swedenborgian church cannot be characterized as Christian

The very short assessment can be found here: Swedenborgianism (New Church) - An Evaluation from the Theological Perspective of The Lutheran Church. It can be readily seen that the assessment was limited, and the author used so-called "measuring sticks" - the Formula of Concord, the foundation of Lutheran doctrine, as well as doctrines they inherited from their mother, the Catholic Church (Swedenborg, in turn, earlier showed in his analysis in Summary Exposition that the Protestant and Catholic faiths are essentially one and the same, quoting from the Formula of Concord).

So this I thought was interesting. The Lutheran church is saying that the New Church cannot be considered to be a  Christian Church. Why? Here is the first part of their conclusion:
The Swedenborgian church cannot be characterized as Christian because of its denial of the Holy Trinity and its rejection of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. As Lutherans, we confess the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the truth that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons in one God. The Augsburg Confession states, “The churches among us teach…there is one divine essence which is called God and is God…Yet, there are three persons, coeternal and of the same essence and power: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” In the Smalcald Articles, Martin Luther notes that “neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit, but the Son, became a human being.” 
I omitted the latter half which is not only irrelevant, but makes no sense whatsoever and shows a misunderstanding of the New Church doctrine. So again, we are back to the Trinity.  But note above: nowhere do they directly reference scripture. All references are their own doctrinal interpretations of scripture.  In every single case, all doctrines of the New Church are carefully supported by scripture. This is not true of the Protestant and Catholic churches. But lets examine the assessment, point by point.


So the first question is, does the New Church believe in the Holy Trinity? The answer to that is yes, there is a Holy Trinity, its just that the Holy Trinity is not "three distinct persons." This is an interpretation overlaid upon the gospels, moreover, the Trinity appears nowhere in the Old Testament. The definition of the Holy Trinity as "three distinct persons" first began to appear over 300 YEARS AFTER JESUS. So if we are to believe this argument, the Lutheran church is asking us to believe that in the first 300 years of the Christian Church, there was no Christian Church.

To be Christian, one has to believe that Jesus Christ is the Divine incarnation, the Word made flesh, who is the image of the unseen God. Period. There was no such thing as a trinity of three persons in the early church. This teaching on the Holy Trinity comes from a church council of men, not from revelation.

In the Old Testament, God reveals that He is Jehovah. The name Jehovah means "being" or "self existent one."  Are there three beings? No, that is tritheism. The New Church doctrine is that Jesus Christ is Jehovah in human form. Jehovah was called "Lord" in the Old Testament, just as Jesus is called "Lord" in the New Testament. For example, we have this in the Old Testament:

Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 
I, I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no saviour. (Isa. 43:10-11)

All titles of Jehovah in the Old Testament, including saviour, were adopted by Jesus in the New Testament.  This is spelled out in Doctrine of the Lord, which the Lutheran church failed to quote. The teaching of the New Church is simple: Jesus Christ is Jehovah in human form. The human form is the Son, his visible manifestation to us.

The part where many theologians have been confused is that obviously in the gospels, it is quite apparent that not only Jesus made himself equal to God, but he also prays to the Father as another person. This to them, plus the use of Greek personal pronouns, "proves" that there are multiple persons involved here.  But this is clarified in Doctrine of the Lord: Jesus, born as human, had two states of being: one of humiliation, of being separate to the Divine, in which he could be tempted. In these states he prayed to his Father for help. The other state of being was a state of glorification, or being at one with the Divine. This again is spelled out in Doctrine of the Lord.

So what, exactly, is the Holy Trinity as revealed in the New Church?  It is not three beings, but rather, a trine in the emanation of One Being:
"An idea of three in one Person is had when it is thought that the Father is in the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Lord. The trine then in the Lord is the Divine Itself which is called the Father, the Divine Human which is called the Son, and the Divine proceeding which is the Holy Spirit." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10822).
Moreover, Jesus himself said that the Father is not a separate person, but resides within him:
"...the Divine Itself, which is called the Father, is in the Divine Human, which is called the Son of God, mutually and reciprocally, according to the words of the Lord Himself in John: Jesus saith . . . Philip, he who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father. . . . Believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me (xiv. 9-11; x. 38)." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3960)
The Holy Trinity, as different aspects of one Being, is described as monotheistic in the New Church (see True Christian Religion for a complete assessment). The Holy Trinity, as described by the Lutheran Church, is tritheistic. With the mouth they say one but in the mind, there are three personal beings.

In the Lutheran assessment, there are three persons, the second makes a descent and becomes human. In the New Church assessment, there is one Being, one Person, who makes a descent and assumes a human form.

In each human person, there is a trine of soul, body in spirit. In Jesus Christ, this became the Holy Trinity. Thus the saying of Paul is true: For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col. 2:9). Notice Paul did not say "one-third" as Martin Luther did.


The Lutheran assessment of the New Church makes the claim that it rejects salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. My reaction to this was, huh?  It is a complete falsehood, and I would be guessing as to how the author reached that conclusion.  So, I will simply quote from the beginning of True Christian Religion:
"The particulars of faith on man's part are these: —
1. That God is One, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and He is the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ.
2. That saving faith is to believe in Him.
3. That evils are not to be done, because they are of the devil and from the devil.
4. That goods are to be done, because they are of God and from God.
5. And that these are to be done by man as from himself; but it must be believed that they are from the Lord, with man and through him." (True Christian Religion, n. 3)
Moreover, there is whole book of doctrine on this subject for the New Church, entitled Doctrine concerning Faith.


The next critique of the New Church by the Lutheran Church is interesting.  They want to point out, the Bible is simple, easy to understand, and there is nothing "hidden" within it:
"The Bible is not a book of hidden correspondences and secret meanings that can
only be revealed by an enlightened individual. Scripture is a “pure, clear fountain” that describes in ordinary human language the mighty acts of God in time and history. Martin Luther described the Scriptures as “the richest of mines” containing divine wisdom “which God here lays before you in such simple guise as to quench all pride.”"
Yes, this is true, the Bible has a simple message, easy enough for a child to understand. But it is incorrect to state that the literal outward meaning is the only meaning. Jesus himself said there were hidden spiritual meanings to be found in scripture:
All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:  “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 13:34-35)
And Jesus revealed the inner spiritual meaning only to his disciples. Yes, Jesus had a simple message. But it is also true that there is hidden spiritual meanings in scripture, this is especially apparent in symbolic writings of the prophets and the book of Revelation.

Swedenborg's massive work Heavenly Arcana not only shows this hidden spiritual meaning in scripture, but it also happens to be the only proof that shows that scripture is Divinely inspired. Moreover, he always uses scripture to interpret scripture.  This was not a product of his own intelligence - before his vision was opened, his view of the Bible was very similar to that of others. It was not Swedenborg who interpreted scripture, but rather Jesus Christ himself, using Swedenborg as an instrument. He would open scripture with his waking vision in the heavenly world, and began to write the spiritual interpretation of the words - and with this information, others who accept it can open up the spiritual meaning as well. No other writing has come close to Heavenly Arcana to revealing the internal meanings of scripture, which happens to be consistent with the simple gospel.


In the next point, the Lutheran assessment finally comes to the heart of the matter that probably bothers them most about the New Church, and for this they entirely focus on the letters of the apostle Paul:
"In its attempts to interpret secret meanings in Scripture, the Swedenborgian church does not distinguish the teachings of the Law and the Gospel in God’s Word. The Swedenborgian church denies the true Christian faith with its belief that people may, if they wish, choose a life of peace with God. According to Scripture, no one is able to justify themselves through obedience to the Law and find peace with God, since “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” (Galatians 3:10). We cannot earn forgiveness and eternal life through our own works or effort. We were “dead in our trespasses,” until God “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). The Gospel, the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus, is clearly taught in Scripture: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)."
In other words, faith is equated to belief, and by simply believing in a statement that is true, paying lip service, one inherits eternal salvation.  The logical conclusion of the theology of faith alone is that one should DO NOTHING (see Is Salvation a Free Gift?).  It leads to a DO NOTHING religion, where religion no longer matters. I have already blogged about this issue at length: see The Fundamental Error of the Protestant Faith and The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace".  But let me summarize the problem:
1. Paul, in some contexts, when speaking of "works of the law" is talking about the Mosaic Jewish rituals, not works of charity and love.
2. Paul, in some contexts, speaks against self-meritorious works - things done for self gain or appearance in front of others. The theology of the New Church speaks out against this behaviour as well.
3. Paul, in some contexts, speaks of works done out of love.
The problem in the letters of Paul, the same word "works" or "deeds" is used interchangeably for the above 3 use cases. The Protestant conclusion is based on arguments #1 (false) and #2 (true).  What they don't see is use case #3 - where the action differs from #2, based on one's intention. For it is through repentance and love that the spirit begins to fill our heart. Even in the days of Paul people were confused by his writings and he constantly had to defend himself by declaring he was not a liar.

But that true faith is faith in action and deed, is explicitly stated by Jesus:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24-27)
And we have this:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)
And what about this one:
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt. 16:27)
If works don't matter, how is it Jesus said he would judge each person according to their works?

So given that, what exactly is the difference between the law of the Old Testament, and the gospel of the New Testament?  The revelation to the Jews was given to them where the truth was not revealed to them completely. Everything was in external rituals, and truths were contained in the symbolism of the laws. When the truth was revealed, the external rituals and laws and statutes were no longer necessary. Instead of the commandments being written on stone, the commandments were now to be written in our hearts.

So yes, the New Church does have that distinction between the Mosaic law and the gospel. Moreover, because of the revelation of the symbolism hidden in scripture, the New Church can explain most every oddball law given to the Jews in the Old Testament, for each had a symbolic significance. The meaning of much of the old Jewish laws are for the most part hidden to the Lutheran church, as well as others, because they deny scripture has any hidden spiritual meaning. Spirituality is a matter of life, of acting and doing according to the truth, the way one lives - one can't just sit down and expect things to happen.


This point I found to be a bit of an odd criticism to the New Church.  The revelations contain one of the most detailed descriptions of the afterlife, too much to go into here.  The Lutheran assessment had this to say:
"Heaven and hell are not “present inner experiences,” but real places. Those who fall asleep in Jesus are with Him “in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), as they await the bodily resurrection on the Last Day. Hell is a place of eternal fire “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)."
So, are heaven and hell real places?  Real, yes. The best way to describe it is that there are higher dimensions that interact with this lower material dimension.  Without these higher spiritual planes interacting with this lower material plane, there would be no life.  One key difference: in these spiritual planes there is no time and there is no space. And remember, this was spelled out in the revelations long before Einstein came along or there was any Big Bang theory. Physicists now understand time and space are created things, in the 18th century this was completely unknown. The Lutheran response is indicating that they may think that heaven and hell are actual places in three dimensional space. The higher dimensions, or spiritual planes, are within us, our very soul. It is this latter point that the Lutheran assessment does not seem to understand well. But that heaven and hell are within, was declared by Jesus:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)


Here, for once, the Lutheran Church may or may not have a point. I, for one, do not accept the writings of Swedenborg as the "final revelation" on all matters.  What I will say is the revelations are centuries ahead of their time, and as time progresses, more and more people will see the value of them. They will look back and say, how could those people be so blind?

So the next point the Lutheran Church discusses the New Church view of the Second Coming, but it looks like it was not described well to the author:
Jesus’ Second Coming is not, as the Swedenborg church teaches, a current process within believers. Jesus will return bodily on the Last Day, as He has promised (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:20), to “judge the living and the dead” (John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-15).
I agree, the Second Coming is not "a current process within believers."  Its a poor description probably taken from a brief conversation at the Missouri synod.  In the New Church the Second Coming is a coming of the Divine Truth not in physical form, but in the Word itself.  See the works The Final Judgment and Apocalypse Revealed for a more detailed explanation. I will also say here that Swedenborg does not have the final say on this matter - even he said he could not foresee the future. The Second Coming is a bit of a big topic, so I may come back to that again later in this blog a "second time" around. Divine revelation is always progressive, according to world dispensations, and in each dispensation it is adapted to man's understanding.


The New Church is not only a Christian Church, it is the Most Christian Church.  How is it more Christian than others?  Here are a few points to consider:
1. The entire focus is on one person Jesus Christ, who is God in human form.  Priority is placed on Jesus Christ and his Divinity. Jesus is in first place, not in second place. Prayer is directed to Jesus alone, not another person. Moreover, the New Church is very clear: his entire human form was made Divine upon the resurrection, by which he saved the human race.
2. Emphasis is placed on love, and performing uses according to faith.  Faith is not belief: faith is living by the truth.  Action and thought must act as one. If all churches put love in the first place, there would be no divisions. Different people would be respected for their own opinions and understanding.
3. All doctrine is derived from scripture.  Scripture and Divine revelation have priority over the doctrines and traditions invented by men and church councils.
4. Scripture is proven to be Divinely inspired. When one understands the spiritual symbolism, large portions of the Bible are now open to provide spiritual guidance for daily living.
5. With the new revelation, Christianity is shown to be a rational faith. Faith is not used to blind the human mind, but rather, to work in concert with rational thinking. It is encouraged for people to learn and understand. A deeper spiritual understanding is given for the resurrection, scripture, baptism, communion, and other matters that were once were "mysteries of faith."
6. God is shown to be a God of love. God is love itself. God never gets angry, never punishes. It is one's own evil which leads to the punishment of evil, and separation from God. God only appears angry to the evil who do not admit to their evil nature and turn away from it.
7. The new revelation gives the most detailed account of the afterlife, of heaven, of hell, and the spiritual world in between.  All activities in the spiritual world are shown to have an effect on our mind.  The human being is shown to be a spiritual being, whose destiny is to have an eternal life of happiness in heaven.


Swedenborg had a vision concerning the New Church, in which he compares it with the Catholic and Protestant forms which preceded it:

"One day a magnificent temple, square in form, the roof crown-shaped, arched above, and raised round about appeared to me. Its walls were continuous windows of crystal, its gate of pearly substance. Within, on the south and near the west side, was a pulpit, on which at the right lay the open Word, enveloped with a sphere of light, the splendor of which surrounded and illuminated the whole pulpit. In the centre of the temple was a shrine, before which was a veil, but lifted now, where stood a cherub of gold with a sword turning hither and thither in hand. While I viewed these things, what they each signified flowed into my meditation: That temple signified the New Church; the gate, of pearly substance, entrance into it; the windows of crystal, the truths which enlightened it; the pulpit, the priesthood and preaching; the Word open upon the pulpit and illuminating its upper part, signified the internal sense of the Word which is spiritually revealed; the shrine in the centre of the temple, signified the conjunction of that church with the angelic heaven; the cherub of gold therein, the Word in the sense of the letter; the sword waving in his hand signified that this sense can be turned hither and thither, provided this is done in application to some truth; the veil lifted before the cherub signified the Word was laid open. Afterward, when I drew nearer, I saw above the gate this writing, Nunc licet, which signified that "it is now lawful" to enter with the understanding into the arcana of faith. Seeing this writing, it came into my thought that it is very harmful to enter with the understanding into dogmas of faith from one's own intelligence and thus from falsities, and still more to confirm them from the Word; the understanding is thereby closed above, and gradually below also, to such an extent that theological matters not only cause disgust, but are also obliterated as writing on paper by worms, and the wool of a cloth by moths; the understanding abiding only in political matters which regard a man's life in the dominion where he is, in the civil matters of his employment, and the domestic affairs belonging to his house. And in all these he constantly kisses nature, and from the allurements of her pleasures loves her as an idolater loves the golden image in his bosom. Now as the dogmas of the present Christian churches were not composed from the Word, but from men's own intelligence and thus from falsities, and as they were also confirmed by some things from the Word, the Word by the Lord's Divine Providence was taken from the laity among the Roman Catholics, and was opened but still was closed among the Protestants by their common declaration that the understanding must be kept under obedience to faith.

"But the contrary is the case in the New Church; in this church it is allowable to enter with the understanding and penetrate into all its secrets, and also to confirm them by the Word. This is because, its doctrines are continuous truths, laid open by the Lord through the Word; and confirmations of those truths by means of rationals cause the understanding to be opened above more and more, and thus to be raised into the light in which are the angels of heaven; and that light in its essence is truth, and in this light the acknowledgment of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth shines in its glory. This is meant by the writing over the door of the temple, Nunc licet; and also by the veil of the shrine before the cherub being lifted. For it is a canon of the New Church that falsities close the understanding, and that truths open it.

"After this, I saw overhead one like an infant, holding a paper in his hand. As he drew near me, he increased to the stature of an average man. He was an angel from the third heaven, where at a distance all look like infants. When he was with me, he handed me the paper; but as it was written with rounded letters, such as are in that heaven, I returned the paper, and begged that they would themselves explain the meaning of the words there, in terms adapted to the ideas of my thought. And he replied, "This is there written: Enter hereafter into the mysteries of the Word heretofore closed; for its several truths are so many mirrors of the Lord." (True Christian Religion, n. 508)

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, the world's largest natural mirror

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Prophecy of the Islamic Terrorist Attack in France

Today, nearly four million people are marching across France against Islamic terrorism, and in remembrance of those killed in the attacks. Here is one shot in Paris:

The terrorist attack began on Wednesday, when terrorists stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly newspaper, for publishing satires on the prophet Mohammed. Twelve people were killed, with more to follow. The result? Instead of publishing only 60,000 copies per week, the next edition is scheduled to publish over 1 million copies.

Video has emerged of one of the terrorists "pledging allegiance" to the Islamic State, or ISIS, which currently has control over northern Iraq and large swaths of Syria. Moreover, there has been a flow of terrorists from the EU to Syria through Turkey.  The Turkish intelligence agency, along with Erdogan, have been implicitly providing support to ISIS and Syrian rebel groups to overthrow Assad. This began several years back, with additional support from the CIA at Benghazi Libya - see A Love Triangle between the CIA, Turkey and Syria. The AKP party has since shutdown or censored most of the press in Turkey, where there is no longer freedom of the press.  See also: Bordering on Terrorism: Turkey's Syria Policy and the Rise of the Islamic State.

Which, of course, leads to an interesting situation as both France and Turkey are part of NATO.  Turkey has begun to shift its focus east instead of west, and Turkey is in danger of falling into this kind of radical form of Islam, in which religion blinds, and education and tolerance is the enemy.  Up until now, Turkey has been a model democracy in the Middle East. But it is now changing direction, for which someone I know saw a bad future for Istanbul, in which the waters would begin to rise in the city.


Radical Islamic clerics, following western wars against Iraq, may feel that they are "justified" in such actions.  But this was unrelated - it was against a satirical newspaper, which to some imams committed an act of blasphemy. Not thinking this through, they just gave this newspaper a huge boost in publicity. When examining the history of the two brothers who committed these atrocities, they were both orphans, barely making it monetarily, and were the kind of perfect targets for religious brainwashing. So not only are they to blame, but the so-called religious teachers they followed are to blame as well.

But lets go to the source, what does God himself think of this issue?  Is God a God of love and forgiveness, or is he a God of anger, hate and vengeance?  Are we to believe that God supports Islamic jihad based on some twisted interpretation of the Quran, which is full of grammatical errors and incomplete sentences in the original Arabic? Even the Quran itself states that the prophet Muhammed was illiterate. Islam, to begin with, is a religion of peace, and of submission of one's will to God. Are these acts according to the "will of God" as certain religious teachers would tell their congregations?

As it turns out, back in 1984 a man had a Near Death Experience and had a vision of the future - one is which the rise of ISIS in the Middle East was foretold, which would then spread to isolated attacks across Europe.  This would be accompanied by an event in Russia, which is happening now with the situation in Ukraine.  It would also be accompanied by multiple floods of the eastern seaboard of the United States, which began with hurricane Sandy in 2012 - right after the civil war in Syria broke out. For this, see the blog post A Prophecy of September 11, Fanatical Terrorism (ISIS), Russia and America, which was published in August of last year. However I will highlight certain quotes which provide a prophetic vision of the future:
"The Lady of Light appeared in the room before me. She stood next to a large globe of Earth, which was suspended in a large circular frame attached to the marble floor. The Lady of Light began to speak to me about the future of the world as she pointed to the globe. I watched as she pointed to the Middle East, and I saw a flashpoint of light. She then pointed to Italy, and I saw another flashpoint. Then flashpoints broke out rapidly throughout the Middle East and Europe representing major incidents, world events caused by mankind: acts of aggression, terrorism, and war. Fanatical, self-proclaimed religious groups supposedly acting in the name of God performed many of these acts, but I was told that acts of war and aggression were not part of God's plan."
The prophecy is accompanied by prophecies on September 11, events in Russia, and hurricane Sandy of 2012. But notice the above prophecy, it says after the events in the Middle East, there would be a "flashpoint" in Italy.  This most certain regards the Roman Catholic Church.  As it turns out, it was in 2013 that Pope Benedict XVI dramatically resigned his position as Pope.

As to why he did so is a matter of speculation, but it may be related to the homosexual scandal among certain priests of the Catholic Church.  A matter that could easily be rectified, or limited, by permitting marriage among priests, as celibacy was never a requirement in the early Christian Church. See A Precognitive Dream concerning the Papacy.  Plus see the original post from 2005: A Dream of the Catholic Papacy.

In the New Church, based on the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg, the most spiritual and blessed relationship here on earth is the marriage union between one man and one woman.  Marriages, when truly spiritual, continue afterwards in the afterlife.


Marching in public is one thing, but what is the solution to preventing this in the future?  First, the future is not set in stone, we can change it. How?  The "Lady of Light" in the vision gave the answer:
The Lady of Light told me that none of these future events would have to take place if mankind began to recognize and work with God's plan. The Lady of Light told me:
"The way to understand and work with God's plan is through prayer and meditation, through prayer to call to God, and through meditation to receive His message."
Moreover, revelation has been given of God's will and his nature, both in scripture and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.  For it is revealed that God is not only a God of Love, but GOD IS LOVE, Every time each of us does an act out of kindness, of loving others, of serving our duties and responsibilities, we are not only acting according God's will, but moreover, God begins to live with us in our hearts.  This leads to peace and happiness. The opposite to this leads to hatred and revenge.

So clearly, any religious teaching which is based on hatred and revenge is not part of God's will, regardless of the religion. Every religion is subject to corruption over time. No exception.  So seek the truth for yourself from within, don't depend on religious authority.

Each person is a physical form of love and truth, which manifests in our will and thought.  Every person, will commit acts according to what they think is true:
"It is according to Divine order that good and truth should be conjoined, and not separated; and thus that they should be one, and not two; for they proceed conjoined from the Divine, and are conjoined in heaven, and must therefore be conjoined in the church. The conjunction of good and truth is called in heaven the heavenly marriage, for in this marriage are all who are there." (Doctrines of the New Jerusalem, n. 13)
What is the way to heaven?  A person I know had a dream where this answer was given (see What is the Way to Heaven?):
"All go to heaven who who treat other people well, and with love."
And this from an angel who was helping young boys who had recently died from acts of terrorism.

Knowledge of the truth, once gained, can be used to fight against falsehoods.  This act of terrorism was based on brainwashing and falsity - it was an evil that originated from false thoughts and principles:
"As it is with good and truth, so it is by opposition with evil and falsity, namely, that as all things in the universe which are according to Divine order, have reference to good and truth, so all things which are contrary to Divine order have reference to evil and falsity. Also that as good loves to be conjoined to truth, and truth to good, so evil loves to be conjoined to falsity, and falsity to evil." (Doctrines of the New Jerusalem, n. 17)
In scripture, truth is symbolized by weapons such as a sword, for it is by truth that war takes place against what is false.  So how to stop terrorism? Shine the light where you see there is darkness. Learn what is truth, and do the good you know according to that truth.  Learn your own faults first before pointing at the faults of others, only then can one help correct others.

As this vision of the future, with its warning, was given by a "lady of light," I thought I would show a scene from Lord of the Rings of the mirror of Galadriel. Tolkien was Catholic, and many have noted similarities between Galadriel and the virgin Mary (see The Secret of Marian Apparitions, and Tolkien's Mirror of Galadriel). How to change the future? Small acts of kindness, amending one's ways, however small, will change the future.

See also The Hidden Prophecy of the Lord of the Rings and The Hidden Prophecy of the Lord of the Rings (part 2).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Is Salvation a Free Gift?

Lets take a close look at what pastors are saying to the public about Christianity. There are many pastors who are saying salvation is a "free gift" - that one has to do nothing, but just believe, and then all is said and done. This teaching is based on some fundamental errors of Protestant reformers of the 16th century - for a background, see The Fundamental Error of the Protestant Faith and The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace".  It is based on false readings of the letters of the Apostle Paul - for which see Christus Victor, Pauline Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. As I said before, stress is placed on belief alone, and the will of the person is made passive, where one should DO NOTHING.  Yes, that's right, they are telling people that one should DO NOTHING to receive salvation.

The message of DO NOTHING is quite apparent in this theology.  Here is a good example from a daily devotion of a popular pastor Rick Warren, from Is Salvation Really Free?:
If you were to ask 100 people on the sidewalk, “How do you get to Heaven?” you’d get a lot of different answers that could be summarized by the idea that you have to earn your way to Heaven. You’d hear things like, “Try to be good and do your best” or “Work really hard at being a moral person” or “Do more good things in life than you do bad things.” All of these ideas are based on works, not grace.
But salvation is a gift, and you don’t work for a gift. It’s free! You can’t earn it, you can’t buy it, and you can’t work for it.
This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and every other religion. Christianity is the only religion that’s built on grace. Every other religion is based on works, and you can summarize them in one word: “do.” There are certain things you have do in order to gain God’s approval, to gain bliss, to gain heaven. There are always rules, regulations, and rituals — something you have to do.
On the other hand, if you were to summarize Christianity in one word, it’s the word “done.” Jesus Christ has already paid the price for you on the cross. It’s done!
A guy asked me one time, “Pastor Rick, what can I do to be saved?” I said, “You’re too late!” (That kind of shocked him.) “You’re about 2,000 years too late! What needed to be done for your salvation has already been done, and you can’t do anything about it.”
Several falsehoods are being taught here. One, religion is made to be of belief and lip service only, making the will passive. Two, the word "works" in the letters of the apostle Paul are taken to mean ALL ACTIONS, when from context it is clear he is talking about the Jewish rituals. Three, Jesus did everything, so we should do nothing. Four, salvation is being taught in terms of "vicarious atonement," where sins are transferred from one person to another automatically. Five, this is the teaching of all of Christianity, when in fact it is the teaching of Protestant theology only.

Is it any wonder that Christianity has lost its moral authority? For there is nothing about morality in this teaching. And when one examines what Jesus taught, there is truly nothing Christian about what these popular pastors are teaching.

That this is clearly a false teaching, and that there is truly nothing Christian about it, is shown by just referencing the teachings of Jesus himself.  For one, Jesus commanded us to not just believe, but DO:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24-27)
And what did Jesus command? First, repentance from sin:
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)
Repent means to turn away from sin.  And what else did he command? Jesus said this:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)
And that, is really it. Repentance from sin, and love one another. Really simple.


This is the question that will come up when someone can't take a simple answer. But in the simple answer, that Christianity is all about repentance and love, there is the answer.

To repent, this is done out of free will, and done according to the truth one is taught. And what is free will?  Free will in humanity has a spiritual origin: it originates from a balance between heaven and hell, which plays itself out in our own conscience. Every thought we have has a spiritual origin.

By the time Jesus came, hell had obtained dominion over humanity, and even started to rise into the lower heavens of the spiritual world.  The angelic realm was losing its influence over humanity, and the former truths that had been revealed had been perverted and darkened.  To correct this, God himself descended and became incarnate as a human. From his soul, he was Divinity itself, but from the body he inherited from Mary, he could be tempted to commit a sin. So once the incarnation took place, a great spiritual battle took place between the Lord and all of hell. This continued until he glorified his human body and made it one with the Divine. That he launched an attack directly against hell, Jesus so declared to his disciples:
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matt. 12:28-29)
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)
And again:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:17-18)
And between the time Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, something interesting happened: he made a descent into the underworld and hell to release captive souls held there. For that see Jesus the Shaman - Descent into the Underworld. It is not discussed much in modern churches, but that in reality is how he saved humanity: by a spiritual battle against the power of hell.


As Jesus fought against spiritual temptation and sin within himself, so He now can fight for us in our battles against temptation and sin.  But it involves not us alone, but asking for his help. This is done through the Holy Spirit, which is available to all who turn away from sin. It is a life long process. It involves not just the thought, but our very will itself. It takes place within, when we ask Jesus to come dwell in our heart:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev. 3:20-21)
As I said before, the answer is all within repentance, and loving each other according to the Lord's commandment. That is the way of salvation. Repentance must of a necessity be done before acts of love and goodness, for evils must be removed before goods can be implanted in the heart. Inasmuch one withdraws from evil, the person will drawn towards the good. It is through repentance that the redemption of Jesus Christ is effected in each and every person, for each time we repent, we put ourselves in conjunction with the Lord who can then act through us.

So is salvation a free gift? If by free gift one means that each person should do nothing, the answer is no.  If by free gift, that God came to dwell among us while we were yet sinners to save us, then the answer is yes. If one recognizes that the good that one does originates from God who is goodness itself, it is even more true that salvation is a free gift. For that is the spiritual meaning of a "covenant" - inasmuch as each person approaches God, so God will approach that person. It is a two way relationship. And this is done first by repentance, and then by living by his commandments through love.