CONCERNING THE HOLY SCRIPTURE OR WORD, IN WHICH ARE STORED UP DIVINE THINGS, WHICH ARE OPEN BEFORE GOOD SPIRITS AND ANGELS
Inspiration implies that in every particular of the Word (as well in the historicals as in the other parts) there are celestial things which are of love or good, and spiritual things which are of faith or truth, thus Divine things. For that which is inspired by the Lord descends from Him, and does so through the angelic heaven, and so through the world of spirits down to man, with whom it is presented such as it is in the letter; but in its first origin it is altogether different. In heaven there is never any worldly history, but all is representative of Divine things, and there is no perception there of anything else, as may also be known from the fact that the things which are there are unutterable. Unless therefore the historicals were representative of Divine things, and in this way were heavenly, they could not possibly be Divinely inspired. The Word as it exists in the heavens can be known solely from the internal sense, for the internal sense is the Word of the Lord in the heavens. Emanuel Swedenborg [AC 1887]
How is the Internal or Spiritual Sense of the Word related to the External or Literal Sense ?
Answer. The relation is the vital one of the soul to the body in man. The internal sense is the pure truth of life; it reveals God as he really is and as he always appears to the pure in heart; a God of unchanging love; our Heavenly Father, full of tender compassion for all His children. The internal sense is free from all apparent contradictions and inconsistencies.
Many people are disappointed by the Bible when they read that God is angry and revengeful. But this is not how God is; it is how God appears to us when we are in self-love and self-intelligence. Similarly, from our own perspective on earth, the sun appears to rise and set but it is in fact the earth’s motion that is causing this. The Truth is that the sun is always at the center of the solar system and shining its Light upon the Earth. By correspondence, the Lord’s Divine Truth is always flowing into our mind and His Divine Love is always flowing into our heart. And, in order to experience God’s true nature, we are the ones that must change our mind and purify our heart. When our mind is reformed and our heart is regenerated, we experience God as He is in Reality: a God of Mercy and Love.
It seems odd that the Bible, a book of stories, should be considered so holy, sacred and powerful. But this is because the Bible is unlike any other book written by human beings. In the Bible itself, we are told that the Bible is the Word of God, that the universe itself was created by the Word (or Bible), that Jesus is the Word (or Bible), that “the Word was in the beginning with God and the Word was God.” In the New Testament, Jesus says that the Old Testament was about Him. These are amazing facts about a book of stories. The Bible must be very important.
Now, a book is not just ink and paper. It is words. And these words convey meaning and ideas to our mind. Swedenborg tells us that, besides its obvious literal sense (or meaning), the Bible contains two other senses: the Spiritual and Celestial senses. The literal or Natural sense contains the spiritual history and prophecy of humanity, the Spiritual sense is about the Lord’s kingdom (or Heaven) and the Celestial sense is about the Lord Himself. If the higher dimensions of the universe are dimensions of mind and spirit, we can see how the Bible corresponds to the universe.
Swedenborg says the Bible or Word is the means by which we can be conjoined with the Lord, Heaven and angels in Love and Wisdom. When we read the Bible and understand its higher senses, we are in effect entering the corresponding Heavens in our mind and heart. The Word in fact descended from the Lord and into the various levels of Heaven by correspondence before it was manifested as a book of stories on earth. This also means that all the natural objects, places, lands, tribes, nations, minerals, plants, fish, birds, animals and persons that constitute those strange Bible stories correspond to Celestial and Spiritual realities.
The Spiritual sense is about the Kingdom of Heaven and how human beings can reform their mind and regenerate their will. We are reformed through repentance and regenerated through spiritual temptation.
The Celestial Sense of the Old Testament is about the inner spiritual combats and temptations that took place within the Lord’s mind and heart when He was on Earth. This is how He restored equilibrium and paved a way for our salvation. This is why in the New Testament Jesus says that He came to fulfill the Scriptures.
How heaven is conjoined with man by means of the Word I will illustrate by some passages from it. "The New Jerusalem" is described in Revelation in these words:
By "the new heaven and the new earth" they understand a new Church; by "the city Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven" they understand its heavenly doctrine revealed by the Lord; by "its length, breadth, and height, which are equal", and "twelve thousand furlongs", they understand all the goods and truths of that doctrine in the complex; by its "wall" they understand the truths protecting it; by "the measure of the wall, a hundred and forty-four cubits, which is the measure of a man, that is, of an angel", they understand all those protecting truths in the complex and their character; by its "twelve gates, which were of pearls", they understand introductory truths, "pearls" signifying such truths; by "the foundations of the wall, which were of precious stones", they understand the knowledge on which that doctrine is founded; by "the gold like unto pure glass", of which the city and its street were made, they understand the good of love which makes the doctrine and its truths transparent. Thus do angels perceive all these things; and therefore not as man perceives them. The natural ideas of man thus pass into the spiritual ideas with the angels without their knowing anything of the sense of the letter of the Word, that is, about "a new heaven and a new earth", "a new city Jerusalem", its "wall, the foundations of the wall, and its dimensions". And yet the thoughts of angels make one with the thoughts of man, because they correspond; they make one almost as the words of a speaker make one with the understanding of them by a hearer who attends solely to the meaning and not to the words.
All this shows how heaven is conjoined with man by means of the Word. Emanuel Swedenborg [HH307]
SPIRITUAL CORRESPONDENCES OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
When countries are mentioned in the Word, the spiritual thought is not of places, but of different states and qualities of human life. Cities represent the true or false principles that belong to various states and give them strength. Especially the foundations and walls of a city represent such principles or doctrines. Of all the cities of the Word, Jerusalem especially is the type of a heavenly faith resting upon and protected by principles of Divine truth. "In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth truth may enter in." (Isaiah 26:1, 2) "Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth." (Zechariah 8:3)
Jerusalem everywhere in the Scriptures is a type of the Lord's church. Here in Revelation it represents the New Church in heaven and in this world, established as the judgment is effected and the hindering evils are removed. It is called both a bride and a city: a bride as to its life, and a city as to its doctrine. It is because the Holy City represents the New Church as to its doctrine from the Lord's Word that so much is said about its foundations and wall, its light, its river. (R.194, 881; E. 223; N. 1; T. 781-784; A. 8988)
The wall of the city had foundations of precious stones. Stones represent sure, unchanging truths or facts. There are common stones, like the facts of science and history; and there are precious stones, which represent holy truths about the Lord and heaven. These are transparent to heavenly light and shine with various colors more or less fiery according to the degree and kind of love which they express. Such holy truths are the foundation of the city's walls. (R. 914, 915) And what are the gates? They are a part of the wall; but they are the ways of entrance and represent truths that relate to life and give protection in a faithful life. They are especially the truth of the Lord's presence and saving power, which grows with one as he faithfully keeps the Lord's commandments. The gates were of pearl. This beautiful substance ranks with the gems, but it is a product of life, and is formed by the effort of the oyster to exclude particles that disturb its peace. In the highest sense it represents the knowledge of the Lord's saving power, which grows, as the pearl grows day by day, in faithfully keeping the commandments, and comes as a gate of protection from all things that would disturb our spiritual peace. (A. R. 727, 916)
There were twelve gates: why twelve? Three were on each side, east, north, south and west. In heaven a certain quality of character is associated with each quarter: interior affection with the east (why?), and goodness of an external kind with the west; the brightest intelligence with the south, and obscure intelligence with the north. What is the meaning of open gates on every side? Compare Matthew 8:11. (R. 901, 906) The direction east and west in the spiritual world is length, and the direction north and south is breadth. What does it mean, that the length and the breadth of the city were equal? An equal development of what is good and what is true. The height means these two in all degrees. The measure was a hundred and forty-four - a full and perfect development; "the measure of a man, that is, of an angel." (R. 906-910)
The names of the twelve apostles were on the foundations, and the names of the tribes were on the gates. Both the apostles and the tribes stand for all the various elements of the Lord's church. The apostles are strictly guiding, governing principles of truth, and the tribes the developments of good life in obedience to the truth. Compare the Lord's promise to the disciples, that they should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28; R. 900, 903) What had the tabernacle and temple of the Jews represented? The Lord once said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," and He spoke of the temple of His body. (John 2:19-22) In their highest sense, the tabernacle and temple represented the Lord's own Divine Humanity, the perfect dwelling-place of God with men. This is the meaning where we read in this chapter, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men." No temple building was seen, because the Lord would now be present and would be known in the fuller, truer way, which the temple only represented. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." (R. 918) Author: WILLIAM WORCESTER
THE KEY THAT UNLOCKS THE BIBLE
The Bible is probably the most difficult book on Earth to understand. Since most of its words have a double meaning, it can also be the most confusing book in the world. However, when we have the key to its meaning and purpose, it can be transformed into the most wondrous book we will ever read. Fortunately, the Lord gave Swedenborg the key to the Bible so that human beings would be enlightened by the Word.
The Bible was written by means of the science of correspondences and its literal sense corresponds to spiritual realities. And the reason most words have a double meaning is because the Bible is about Divine Truth and Good and when Truth and Good are distorted and perverted through improper reception they become Falsity and Evil. For example, the word “lion,” in a good sense, corresponds to the power of unselfish Love. In fact, the Lord is sometimes called “the Lion of Judah.” In the Israelitish church, the tribe of Israel corresponded to Truth and the tribe of Judah to Love. Hence, in a good sense, a lion corresponds to the power of unselfish or Divine Love. However, when Unselfish Love is received and perverted by selfish human beings, it becomes the power of of self-love. Hence, a lion also corresponds to the power of self-love to destroy the Truths and Goods of the Church:
The lion cometh up from his bramble, and the destroyer of the nations hath journeyed, he went forth from his place to reduce the land into a waste (Jer. 4:7).
When the power of Unselfish Love or Mercy is improperly received by our own being, it is transformed into the Judgment of God. When we disobey the merciful Laws of Heaven, we generate our own hell of judgment and cruelty.
Thus, the Bible is about our relationship with the Lord. The Lord’s Divine Love, Wisdom and Power are continually flowing into our will, understanding and body. This is how we are able to love, think and live. However, we are FREELY choosing how this Love, Wisdom and Power are received and reciprocated to others and God. When we pervert Unselfish Love, it becomes self-love and evil. When we distort Divine Truth, it is transformed into falsity and lies. And when we pervert the power to do Good, it becomes the power to perform evil actions in the world.
The Bible describes how humanity has evolved and devolved throughout the ages, and how the Lord descended into the world as the Messiah to restore spiritual equilibrium and teach us how to return into the merciful fields of Heaven. It is about Divine Good and Truth but it is also about evil and falsity because human beings have the freewill to use or abuse Love and Wisdom.
Image Credit: NASA
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