A very popular prophecy in Christianity is the rapture, where Christians will be caught up into heaven to be with the Lord. It comes from the following writing of Paul:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thes. 4:17)This is preceded by a final judgment, in which those who "sleep" are raised up:
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thes. 4:7)From the revelations received by Emanuel Swedenborg, we now know that those who "sleep" are the souls who have not been judged immediately after death, who entered a state of sleep or unawareness in a place Swedenborg called the "world of spirits" which lies between heaven and hell. Periodically there are last judgments in this region to divide the good from the evil, where the good ascend into heaven and the evil are cast down to hell. These last judgments occur at the end of a dispensation of the church: one happened during the flood of Noah, another happened at the time of Jesus Christ, and another happened in the year 1757, to which Swedenborg was a witness. After each of these judgments, a new revelation is given which begins a new dispensation for the church. For the 18th century, it brought us the revelations of the New Church, and it ushered in the Age of Enlightenment and rational thinking, instead of blind belief in tradition and authority.
But what does it mean to be "caught up" or "raptured" to be with the Lord? I did explain before that we are not to take this literally: heaven is not the sky above, but it is the spiritual heaven, and the apostle John was also "caught up" into heaven in a spiritual vision (see Rev. 4) that was recorded in the book of Revelation (see the previous blog post, Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?, for more details). However I read a passage where we can be raptured with the Lord, not literally but in a spiritual sense.
In the book of Revelation, we read of the two witnesses who are killed and are brought back to life, and then are taken up into heaven:
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them (Rev. 11:12)The two witnesses are symbolic: they symbolically represent two principles of the New Church:
- That God is One Person in Jesus Christ, and that His Human is Divine, and,
- One must live a life according to the commandments.
However it has another meaning, which I thought was interesting. In scripture, the word "cloud" symbolically refers to the literal sense of the Word itself, which is a cover or veil for the glory of God. Hidden within the literal sense there is a higher spiritual sense which reveals the true spiritual meaning, and this is known as the "Son of Man coming in His glory" (Matt. 24:30). But here is a passage from Swedenborg on the meaning of the two witnesses ascending into the cloud of heaven:
"And they ascended up into heaven in a cloud, signifies them being taken up into heaven, and conjunction with the Lord there through the Divine truth of the Word in its literal sense. By going up into heaven is signified being taken up by the Lord into heaven... here also conjunction with the Lord there, because they went up in a cloud; for by a cloud the sense of the letter of the Word is signified (n. 24); and through this there is conjunction with the Lord, and consociation with the angels" (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 513)So in other words, when reading scripture, and understanding the spiritual sense hidden behind the literal sense, and applying it, means we are with the Lord in the clouds. For Swedenborg also saw that when scripture is read with an open heart, conjunction with the Lord and the angels are effected. However when we actually understand the spiritual meaning, as revealed in the revelations of the New Church, we are actually raptured and caught up with the Lord in our internal spiritual state, and have conjunction with the Lord when we apply it to our lives, fulfilling this prophecy. I thought, how beautiful. The spiritual rapture is thus fulfilled - and we can experience it whenever we so desire.
I do encourage everyone who reads this to read scripture in light of the revelations of the New Church, for understanding what scripture means in the spiritual sense opens the spiritual understanding, and allows for us to come into closer communion with the Lord in love and truth.