Friday, August 18, 2017

Spiritual Insights into Psalm 1 by Swedenborg: True Spiritual Happiness



I recently authored the book The Symbolism of the Psalms, a massive work which combines a new translation with commentary from Swedenborg, which I previously blogged about here: The Symbolism of the Psalms: A Comprehensive Spiritual Commentary (updated with this new release). This originally began as a project to correct the translation of the Psalms, which one can read about in a blog post here from 2014: A Clairvoyant Dream of a New Translation of the Psalms. The translation follows the Masoretic Hebrew original.

The reason for the translation is that it quite apparent from Swedenborg's interpretation of scripture that every word of scripture is important. A slight mistranslation of the original Hebrew can significantly alter the meaning.  A spiritual interpretation demands more exactness, and translators unaware of the spiritual meaning have been very inconsistent in their translations. The translation then evolved into collecting quotes from Swedenborg on different passages of the Psalms as an aid for study.  And so, a full fledged commentary on the Psalms was born. It is now available from Apocryphile Press.  The work also restores the original poetic structure of each Psalm exposing the reader to the Hebrew parallelism where parallel lines are clearly shown.

I will discuss here in detail some points brought up by Swedenborg on the very first word of the first line of Psalm 1. It is based on the commentary of this work so readers can see how it can be useful in opening the spiritual sense of the Psalms and all of scripture.

WHAT IS TRUE SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS?

The first Psalm starts with this line:

Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked

The word for "happy" is also the same Hebrew word as for the tribe of Asher, and is distinct from another word that is translated as "blessed."  Swedenborg, who had visions of the heavenly world, states that this happiness exceeds all understanding, and is based on the internal good within us that we receive and act upon. We will only discover it when we shed off the anxieties and cares of the physical world:
"As regards the happiness of eternal life, the man who is in affection for good and truth cannot perceive it when he is living in the world, but a certain enjoyment instead. The reason is, that in the body he is in worldly cares and in anxieties thence which prevent the happiness of eternal life, which is inwardly in him, from being manifested in any other way at that time." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3938.7)
This is where the commentary from Swedenborg has the advantage over other Biblical commentaries: none of them had the direct spiritual experiences he did. This experience of true spiritual happiness goes beyond the normal enjoyments of everyday life, many witnesses who have had a Near Death Experience have experienced this, and it has been life changing for them where they have a new perspective on life.

So what do we carry with us to the afterlife? It is the good we do to others, for the sake of making them happy. The happiness of being useful is what leads to eternal happiness, and it grows to eternity. We will exist in harmony with others, who we will all know as if they were our long lost childhood friends. Sometimes we make a connection with another, many times not, and circumstances may separate us from our true friends and loves. That love we have in our heart is what will grow to eternity.

The Divine love flows in from the spiritual world into our physical forms; Divine love finds rest in us when we do good to others.  True spiritual happiness makes a descent into several lower levels, or degrees, which Swedenborg describes in the work Apocalypse Revealed when discussing the tribe of Asher (which means "happiness" in Hebrew):
"[Asher] signifies mutual love, which is the love of doing good use to the community or society, with those who will be of the Lord's New Heaven and New Church. By Asher in the highest sense eternity is signified, in the spiritual sense eternal blessedness, and in the natural sense affection for good and truth; but by Asher here is signified the love of doing uses, which is with those who are in the Lord's celestial kingdom, and is there called mutual love. This love descends proximately from love to the Lord, since the Lord's love is to do uses to the community and to each society in the community; and He does them through men who are in love to Him." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 353)
The different degrees of happiness are as follows:

  1. Eternity (the highest celestial level), or the Eternal Good
  2. Eternal happiness (the intermediate spiritual level)
  3. Affection for good and truth (which we experience in the physical)

Achieving spiritual happiness can be achieved by simply focusing on it, and withdrawing from things of the sense, which Swedenborg discusses at length (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6201). Most do not even think of it, as people's minds think of external things of the body and the world. They thus discount anything spiritual as they cannot see it. It is also necessary to have combats against evil in order to attain eternal life (Heavenly Arcana, n. 59)

One's eternal happiness is not just entering the afterlife, it is based on one's affections for good and truth in this life. This is why it is said that every man will be judged according to their works (Matt. 16:27). We should not see judgment in a negative way; but rather this life is a chance to open up these higher spiritual levels, the more good we do, the greater the happiness. This is what Jesus meant by laying one's treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:20-21). But to build up one's treasure, one should seek to lead an active and useful life, with intent on serving the Lord. For all actions are governed by intent, and the highest intent is to serve the highest Good, which is God Himself.



Monday, July 31, 2017

The Spiritual Meaning of the Woman of the Apocalypse



The book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse, is a highly symbolic work.  The most comprehensive interpretation can be found in the works of Emanuel Swedenborg (he wrote 3 volumes entitled Apocalypse Revealed, which was drawn from about 6 volumes of an unpublished work entitled Apocalypse Explained, combined here in one work: The Apocalypse Revealed and Explained). Many others have tried to interpret and failed, and where they failed Swedenborg only succeeded as the internal spiritual meaning was revealed in spiritual visions. Whether or not one believes in visions, the interpretation is rational and consistent.

I would like to focus here on the symbolism of the woman of the Apocalypse, mentioned in chapter 12:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Rev. 12:1-6)
In the traditional interpretation, the woman is the church or the virgin Mary, the child is Jesus, the dragon that wishes to devour the child is Herod who tried to kill Jesus after he was born, and the child being caught up to heaven is a reference to the ascension of Jesus. As for the woman dwelling in the wilderness, the Seventh Day Adventists (and others) apply this to a 1260 year period of Roman Catholic dominion ending in the 18th century, which happens to coincide with the time Swedenborg began receiving heavenly revelations concerning scripture, the afterlife, and the Second Coming.

There is an inherent problem in this interpretation: with the way the book of Revelation is structured, this describes future events from John's time, not a flashback of what already happened. That this is so, can be seen from the following earlier commandment of Jesus to the apostle John:
Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this (Rev. 1:19)
The "things which you have seen" are the past, which covers chapter 1, "those that are" are the present, which covers chapters 2-3, "those that are to take place after this" is the future state of the church and the last judgment, covered in chapters 4-22. This can be seen at the beginning of chapter 4:
Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this (Rev. 4:1)
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THE WOMAN

This means the woman, the child, and the dragon describes a future spiritual conflict from John's time. Overall, the book of Revelation describes the final end state of the Christian church itself, and the establishment of a New Christian Church. The woman of the apocalypse seen in heaven represents this New Christian Church, which is seen in heaven as it will be first established in the spiritual realms before being manifested here on earth. Thus the traditional interpretation that identified the woman with the Church is correct, which is supported in scripture as the church is described as the bride of Christ. What the traditional interpretation does not know, however, is that the woman of the apocalypse represents a new age of the Christian church.

So why is the woman clothed with the sun, has a crown of stars, and has the moon under her feet? Some have interpreted these as an astronomical references.  However that is not the case: throughout scripture, the physical sky is used as symbolic reference to the spiritual heaven. The sun, moon and stars have the following meaning:
  1. The Sun is a symbolic reference to love of the Lord. The reason for this is that in the spiritual heaven, the Lord lights all of heaven as a spiritual Sun. This central Sun of heaven has been seen by visionaries and in Near Death Experience accounts. This is the origin of "sun worship" in the ancient world. For the woman to be clothed with the sun signifies that this new Church will consider love to the Lord as primary, and faith or religious belief as secondary.
  2. The moon, in general, is a spiritual symbol of those who follow the commandments according to their faith. They act primarily from truth, instead of first from love. In the spiritual heaven they are more distant, thus the central sun of heaven appears to them like a moon, as truth is but a reflection of love.
  3. The stars, in general, represent different angelic societies of heaven which appear at a distance as a star. Stars in the spiritual sense also signify spiritual knowledges. One is first introduced to higher spirituality through knowledge, and this is represented by the Magi who followed the star of Bethlehem.
Thus in the prophetic last days, it is said the sun will turn black, and the moon will be blood red. This is not an astronomical event, but rather signifies that spiritual love and charity will die, and truths will be falsified and profaned. One can see this in that most people talk about religious "faith," but only rarely do they first talk of love and charity, and living a life according to the commandments. If love was the focus, all the religious disputes would disappear.

The spiritual meaning is governed by context, and for the woman to be standing on the moon has an interesting meaning. In this sense, it signifies a state of the New Christian church revealed from heaven, but not yet in conjunction with a church on earth that follows the doctrines of the New Church. If what was revealed from heaven was in union with a church on earth, the woman would have been seen as standing upon the earth. But she is not, which signifies a state in which a revelation is made that is not yet accepted in practice on earth. This is the state where we are today: we have one of the most spectacular Christian revelation sitting right in front of us in the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, and yet so few Christians are aware of it.

The Roman Catholic interpretation is based on their false practice of Marian veneration, and is thus a superficial interpretation. It is "superficial" in the sense that Mary herself is a symbol of the church, but inasmuch as one identifies the woman with Mary the individual it becomes a false interpretation. Both the Roman Catholic and Protestant versions of Christianity will be replaced by this New Christian Church which is first established in heaven. The falsification of Christianity by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches are represented by the woman Jezebel in the letter to the church of Thyatira, and the whore of Babylon described in chapters 17-18. As many will hold onto their old traditions with their inherent falsehoods, this will lead to a spiritual conflict between the older traditional Christian churches and the new. This conflict is first described in chapter 11 (see The Identity of the Two Witnesses of Revelation) and continues in chapter 12 of the Apocalypse.

THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THE CHILD CAUGHT UP TO HEAVEN

In the traditional interpretation, the child born to the woman that is caught up to heaven is Jesus Christ. Another interpretation is that the child collectively refers to the saints who are "raptured" before a final tribulation (for a more spiritual interpretation of the rapture, see Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?).

The spiritual interpretation is not so literal as the above two interpretations. In the spiritual sense, for the woman to be in pain and travailing to give birth signifies the difficult reception of a doctrine in regard to Jesus Christ. In dreams, when one sees woman who is pregnant that signifies a troublesome time, and to be in pain giving birth means to accept a very hard truth. In this particular case, the child that is born represents the doctrine that Jesus is the Divine God Man, who is Divine even as to his human. His human form is known as the Son of God.  It is a difficult truth, because of three primary false doctrines that have infested the traditional Christian church:
  1. The division of God into three personal beings, a form of tritheism, and,
  2. The division of Jesus Christ into a permanent Divine and human nature, and,
  3. The separation of faith from charity or good works, that living a good life contributes nothing to salvation.
The above three points, unfortunately, forms the foundation of modern traditional Christian churches. They accept it without question as the foundation, even though these particular doctrines were not known or generally defined until centuries after Jesus had come. The primary doctrine of the New Church is centered on the Divine Human, and that the true Trinity is the Divine itself, the Divine Human, and the Divine proceeding, which is present in one person, Jesus Christ.

For the child to be caught up into heaven signifies that the doctrine of the Divine Human of the Lord will be protected by heavenly angels, despite intense opposition from those who make God three and separate faith from charity, represented by the dragon. The woman then flees to the wilderness, which signifies that the doctrines of the New Church will be in obscurity and known to a select few people for a long period of time. This represents the present state of the New Christian Church. The story of Enoch ascending into heaven has a similar meaning, which signifies the spiritual knowledge of the ancient church was preserved among a select few for future posterity.

Although Swedenborg does not make the connection, the interpretation that the child born to the woman seen in heaven is the doctrine of the Divine Human can be seen in the spiritual sense of Joseph's dreams (Genesis 37), where Joseph sees the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing down to his sheaf. This is explained in detail in the work Heavenly Arcana (aka Arcana Coelestia or Heavenly Secrets).

OLD IDEAS DIE HARD

Old traditions die hard, and it takes time for those who have been falsely taught since childhood to change their mind. Preconceived falsehoods prevent people from understanding and accepting the truth. I recently heard a minister divide doctrines into three buckets: essential doctrine, bible teachings, and a "gray area" of teachings that don't matter which cause useless arguments. The first thing he mentioned for essential doctrine was of course the trinity, and by that meant a trinity of three persons. Anything outside of that he classified as "heresy" and was worth fighting against. And that immediately brought to mind the image of the dragon fighting against the woman and child of the Apocalypse. He got his buckets right, but dropped the wrong thing into the wrong bucket. What most do not realize is that it is possible to drop that Nicene Creed into the bucket of "gray areas" that do not matter and yet still follow essential doctrines of Christianity (see Oneness Theology vs. a Trinity of Three Persons and Is the Nicene Creed Biblical? Does the Nicene Creed define True Christianity?).


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Spiritual Meaning of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden


The story of Adam and Eve, and their fall by the serpent in the Garden of Eden is still treated as a literal story by many literalists and creationists, causing many to discount Christianity as a whole. Literalists fail to understand a symbolic allegory when presented with one, and indeed will vehemently deny it when presented with that view. In the New Church view, the first 11 chapters of Genesis is written in the form of an allegory, and true history only begins with the 12th chapter of Genesis. Many still believe that the serpent of the Garden of Eden was an actual talking snake, although the Catholic Church has officially moved away from that view and regards the serpent as allegorical.

So if the serpent of the Garden of Eden is an allegorical symbol, what does it symbolize? The most simple answer is that it is simply the personification of evil, and some would go further to say it is a personification of the devil or Satan. However in the revelations of the New Church, there is no individual devil or Satan - hell as a whole is called the devil and Satan. And the origin of evil is man himself from the abuse of the free will he has been given. An individual devil or Satan is a later belief that came as part of tradition, and perhaps the early influence of the Zoroastrian religion from ancient Persia.

The spiritual meaning of a serpent is one who withdraws from heavenly things towards things of the senses and this world. Those who withdraw from their core spirituality towards external material things are called serpents, because serpents crawl on their belly closest to earth, and do not walk upright like men which signify those who live a spiritual life. Those who withdraw from their spirituality and fall into their lower natural desires are represented by beasts, and as the serpent is the lowest it represents those who depend and follow their external senses to the denial of everything else:
"The Most Ancient people did not compare all things in man to beasts and birds, but called them so. Such was their language. Such also it remained in the Ancient Church, after the flood; and similar language is preserved in the Prophets. The things of sense with man they called serpents; for just as serpents are next to the earth, so are things of sense next to the body. Reasonings from things of sense concerning the mysteries of faith, they therefore called the poison of the serpent; and the reasoners themselves they called serpents. And because these reason much from things that are of sense, or visible — as are things earthly, corporeal, worldly, and natural — it is said 'the serpent was subtle beyond every wild animal of the field.'" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 195)
Thus those who state that the serpent represents Satan before his fall are mistaken, and those who believe in an actual serpent in a Garden are deceived by an extreme literal interpretation of scripture. The serpent represents those who only believe in what they receive from their senses. And in modern times, it is worse, where the philosophies of naturalism and materialism prevail, and it affects our way of thinking:
"In ancient times they were called serpents who had faith in things of sense rather than in things revealed. At this day it is still worse; for there are not only those that believe nothing but what they see and feel, but those who confirm themselves by deductions of science unknown to those of most ancient time, and thus blind themselves to a much greater degree. That it may be known how they blind themselves who form conclusions respecting heavenly things from things sensual, scientific, and philosophical, so that they then see and hear nothing at all, and are not only deaf serpents but also flying serpents, which are much more destructive" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 196)
Thus, with this understanding, the "seed of the serpent" represents all belief which comes from arguing from the senses, and the "head of the serpent" is the dominion of evil whose power was destroyed when God chose to become incarnate in human form to fight directly against the hells. So what about the serpent being cursed, so that it was now forced to crawl on its belly? Again it is symbolic:
"That the serpent should go upon his belly means that the sensual could no longer look upward to heavenly things, as before, but looked downward to things corporeal and worldly, is evident from the fact that in the ancient time by the belly were signified things nearest to the earth, by the breast, those that are above the earth, and by the head, those that are highest. So here, the meaning is that the sensual, which in itself is the lowest of man, should go upon its belly, because it turned itself to what is earthly... Therefore when man looked to heavenly things it was said that he walked erect, and that he looked upward or forward, which is the same; and when he looked to corporeal and earthly things, that he was bowed down to the earth, and looked downward or backward." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 247-248)
This is why, in many ancient religions and customs, people would bow down to the earth before God, acknowledging their natural lowness and that heavenly things were higher than the things of the self or one's ego. That this signifies a withdrawal from communion with heaven, can be seen in the book of Revelation where Jesus declares that the "tree of life" is present in paradise or heaven (Rev. 2:7).

OVERCOMING THE SENSES AND BECOMING MORE SPIRITUAL

With this understanding, to become more spiritual one must learn how to withdraw one's desires from material things, and even to withdraw oneself from the senses:
"Unless man's thought can be elevated above sensual things, so that these are beheld as below him, he cannot understand any interior thing in the Word, still less such things as are of heaven abstracted from those which are of the world; for sensual things absorb and suffocate them. It is for this reason that those who are sensual and have zealously devoted themselves to mere outward knowledges, rarely apprehend anything of the things of heaven; for they have immersed their thoughts in such things as are of the world, that is, in terms and distinctions drawn from them, and thus in sensuals, from which they can no longer be elevated and so be kept in a point of view above them..." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5089)
There are several external means for withdrawing from the senses:

  1. Quiet meditation and prayer, closing one's eyes. This withdraws one's thoughts from the senses.
  2. Fasting. This withdraws one's will from one's cravings.
  3. Chanting, certain kinds of music, affecting the hearing.
  4. Incense, affecting the smell.

Each physical sense corresponds to something internal:
"The sensual which is especially subject to the intellectual part is the sight; that which is subject to the intellectual part and secondarily to the voluntary is the hearing; that which is subject to both together is the sense of smell, and still more the taste; but that which is subject to the voluntary part is the touch." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5077.3)
One's external senses of the body must be brought under control in order to become more spiritual:
"All the external sensuals of man have relation to his internal sensuals, for they are given to man and placed in his body, that they may serve the internal man while it is in the world, and be subject to its sensuals; when therefore a man's external sensuals begin to rule over his internal, the man is lost; for then the internal sensuals are considered merely as servants, to serve for confirming those things which the external sensuals command with authority." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5077.2)
One first becomes introduced to spiritual matters through means of knowledges, but the goal is to become elevated above mere natural knowledges to more internal spiritual things by living by the truth:
"The regeneration of the natural is effected by the instilling of spiritual life by the Lord through the internal man into the knowledges therein. This instilling has been treated of in this chapter. But when man is thus far regenerated, if he be such that he can be further regenerated, he is elevated thence to the interior natural, which is under the immediate auspices of the internal. But if the man is not such, his spiritual life is then in the exterior natural. The elevation is effected by a withdrawing from what is of sense and outward knowledge, thus by elevation above them, and then the man comes into a state of interior thought and affection, thus interiorly into heaven." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6183)
When one understands this, one understands the power of a spiritual life in Jesus Christ:
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
This means, in the spiritual sense, that those who live a spiritual life will overcome all falsehoods of evil:
"That the Lord has [all Divine] power He Himself teaches in express words in Matthew: All power is given to Me in the heavens and on earth (xxviii. 18); and in Luke: Jesus said to the seventy who returned saying that the devils were obedient to them, Behold I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing at all shall hurt you. . . . All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father (x. 19, 22). By these words is described the power of the Lord over the hells; devils are they who are in the hells; serpents and scorpions are evils and the falsities of evil; to tread upon them is to destroy the evils and falsities; the hells are also meant by the enemy over which they were to have power." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10019.4)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Who are the 144,000?



The book of Revelation, a highly symbolic work, describes a group of 144,000 who are sealed and protected from the last judgment. So who are they? Literalists will assume 144,000 are literally selected from ethnic Jews, but they miss the point that the Jewish religion was meant to be a symbolic representation of the spiritual Church. Others will recognize it is symbolic, as the number 144,000 is 12 x 12 x 1000, and all numbers in scripture have a symbolic meaning (see Spiritual Meaning of Numbers, or Numerology). Just as there were 12 tribes of Israel, so Jesus selected 12 apostles to begin the Christian Church, and so in the last times 144,000 will be selected. Likewise, in the New Jerusalem there are 12 foundations and on them is written the name of the 12 apostles (see Rev. 21:14).

So if they are symbolic, symbolic of what? The most obvious answer is they represent the Christian church as a whole. This is close to the truth, but right after the sealing of the 144,000 the apostle John encounters a great multitude of people from every nation and people worshiping the Lord (Rev. 7:9-17). So what is the distinction between the 144,000 and the great multitude?  And not only that, no one can answer the question: why is the tribe of Dan missing from the list of the tribes of the 144,000?

These questions, and many others, went unanswered until they were explained in heavenly visions to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century. The spiritual explanation of the book of Revelation can be found in his work Apocalypse Revealed as well as an unpublished work Apocalypse Explained. Together they form 9 volumes, which I have combined in one work as Apocalypse Revealed and Explained. I will try to summarize here the identity of the 144,000 based on these works.

THE FINAL JUDGMENT TAKES PLACE IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD

Our material plane is "sandwiched" between two other spiritual planes: heaven and hell. This is the origin of our free will to commit good or evil. The spiritual planes are governed by our own internal spiritual states of being. After death most experience a judgment according to how they live their life and go to either heaven or hell. But others are not ready to be explored in judgment after they die, and they enter a "waiting" state, in a sort of spiritual unawareness, in a spiritual plane between heaven and hell. Here souls gather, until a final judgment takes place to separate the good from the evil.

This final judgment in the spiritual world is described in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43), in which the good and evil are mixed together because it is hard to tell them apart. The period before a final spiritual judgment takes place is described in this verse:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. (Rev. 7:1)
The four angels symbolically describe all of heaven:
"By the four angels here the entire heaven is signified; by the four corners of the earth is signified the entire world of spirits, which is in the midst between heaven and hell: for the final judgment was executed upon those who were in the world of spirits, but not upon any in heaven, nor upon any in hell." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 342)
The "wind" is representative of Divine influx into the lower spiritual planes, to explore the good and evil before the final judgment. This is something that cannot be known without revelation of the nature of the spiritual world:
"Without revelation, who would not think that "winds" here mean winds held back by angels... But "the winds of the earth," here as elsewhere in the Word signify everything Divine that is from the Lord in heaven, in particular, Divine truth, and because Divine truth flows from the Lord as a sun into the whole heaven, and from that into the whole earth, so "holding the winds" signifies to moderate influx. ...The Lord is the sun of the angelic heaven; from Him as a sun all light and all heat there proceed. The light that proceeds is in its essence Divine truth, because it is spiritual light; and the heat that proceeds is in its essence Divine good, because it is spiritual heat. From the Lord as a sun these flow out into all the heavens accommodated to reception by the angels there, thus sometimes more moderately sometimes more intensely. When they flow out more moderately the good are separated from the evil, but when more intensely the evil are cast out. When, therefore, the Last Judgment is at hand the Lord first flows in moderately, in order that the good may be separated from the evil." (Apocalypse, Explained, n. 418)
That "wind" signifies Divine influx, especially of Divine truth, and thus the Holy Spirit, can be proven by many passages from scripture. Throughout the revelations given to Swedenborg, he saw the Lord in heaven as the central sun, and this has been partially confirmed by the modern Near Death Experience phenomenon.

THE SEALING OF THE 144,000 ON THE FOREHEAD

The 144,000 are sealed on their foreheads. Each part of the body is representative of a different aspect of heaven; the forehead signifies the good of love in a person:
"The whole face, where the organs of sight, smell, hearing, and taste, are situated, corresponds to the affections and the thoughts therefrom in general, the eyes corresponding to the understanding, the nose to perception, the ears to hearkening and obedience, and the taste to the desire to know and be wise; but the forehead corresponds to the good of love, from which all these are, for it forms the highest part of the face, and directly encloses the front and primary part of the brain, which is the seat of man's intellect. This is why the Lord looks upon angels in the forehead, and the angels look to the Lord through the eyes; this is so because the forehead corresponds to the love, from which the Lord looks upon them, and the eyes correspond to the understanding from which they look to the Lord; for the Lord grants Himself to be seen through the influx of love into their understanding." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 427)
This can be seen from scripture:
"...it was also commanded that these words, Thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, should be upon the hand and upon the forehead (Deut. vi. 5, 8; xi. 18)." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 347).
This is the origin of the Jewish custom to wear phylacteries (or Hebrew tefillin) on the forehead. The forehead signifies one's purpose or intent, the hand signifies one's power to execute one's intention. To "seal" the 144,000 on the forehead is to separate out those who are in the good of love in the spiritual world. That sealing signifies protection of the good before judgment, can also be seen in Ezekiel chapter 9 where the good are sealed on the forehead before judgment was executed upon Jerusalem.

THE SYMBOLISM OF EACH TRIBE OF THE 144,000

That the Jewish church is a symbolic representation of the spiritual Christian church is known to many, but the modern trend has been towards greater literalism and literalists believe 144,000 Jews will be sealed. But this is not the case: the 12 tribes of Israel, similar to the 12 apostles, signify the entire church of the Lord. However what each tribe in particular signifies has been unknown until this was revealed to Swedenborg in the 18th century:
"Sealed out of every tribe of Israel, signifies the Lord's heaven and church from them. By a tribe is signified religion as to good of life, and by every tribe is signified the church as to all the good of love and as to all the truth from that good, from both of which is the good of life. For there are two things which make the church, the good of love and truth of doctrine: their marriage is the church. The twelve tribes of Israel represented and hence signified the church as to that marriage, and each tribe some universal truth of good or good of truth in it. But what each tribe signified has not hitherto been revealed to any one; nor could it be revealed, lest by wrongly connected explanation the holiness which lies hid in them when united into one should be profaned" (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 349)
What the spiritual meaning of each tribe represents is explained from multiple passages of scripture; however the meaning of each tribe gets slightly modified depending on the order in which each tribe is mentioned. In the spiritual meaning, the context and sequence is important, and the first in a series determines and modifies the meaning of the following terms in the series. In this list of the 12 tribes, Judah comes first, and in a spiritual sense Judah signifies those who are in love to the Lord, In a negative sense, Judah signifies those who are in the love of self and consider themselves better than all others. Thus is a negative sense, Judah represents narcissists or those who elevate their ego above all others.

There are three levels of spiritual development, which is based upon the golden rule or greatest commandment (Matt. 12:30-31):
  1. Those who are in love to the Lord, who consider love as primary, otherwise known as the "celestial" class. This is represented by the first 6 tribes beginning with Judah.
  2. Those who are in love to the neighbor, who consider truth as primary, otherwise known as the "spiritual" class. They first know the truth, then act on the truth. This is represented by the latter 6 tribes beginning with Simeon.
  3. Those who are in external obedience to religious principles, who are essentially good, but who are governed by false appearances and even false beliefs. This is the "great multitude" that is mentioned after the 144,000.
Below is the spiritual meaning of each tribe of the 144,000 in the list of Revelation chapter 7, which generally follow the three principles of love, truth and usefulness in order. Note how the sequence progresses from higher to lower things:
  1. Judah = those who are in love to the Lord.
  2. Reuben = those who are in wisdom from love to the Lord.
  3. Gad = those who are in the uses from wisdom of love to the Lord.
  4. Asher = those who are the love of doing good uses to others/society.
  5. Naphtali = those who are in the perception of use and what good use is.
  6. Manasseh = those who are in the will of serving and doing what is of use.
  7. Simeon = those who are in love towards the neighbor
  8. Levi = those who are in the love for affection for the truth
  9. Issachar = those who are in the good of life from affection for the truth
  10. Zebulon = those who are in the marriage love of good and truth, or the marriage love of the Lord and the church
  11. Joseph = those who are the doctrine of good and truth of the New Church.
  12. Benjamin = those who are in the life of truth from good according to doctrine of the New Church.
WHY IS THE TRIBE OF DAN MISSING?

One particular mystery has popped up in multiple commentaries, where they ask why the tribe of Dan is missing from the list. This cannot be known until the spiritual significance of the tribe of Dan is known, which happens to be the same as the "great multitude" that follows the sealing of the 144,000:
"Among these twelve tribes, out of each of which twelve thousand are said to have been sealed, the tribe of Dan is not mentioned, but in its stead the tribe of Manasseh. The tribe of Dan is not mentioned because that tribe represented and signified such as are treated of in what now follows in this chapter, whom John thus describes, "After these things I saw, and behold a great multitude which no one could number, out of every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands" (verse 9 seq.). For these are such as were not in the very truths of heaven and the church, but in the good of life according to the doctrinals of their religion, and these were for the most part not genuine truths but falsities, and yet these falsities were accepted by the Lord as truths, because such were in the good of life, and on account of this the falsities of their religion were not tainted with evil, but inclined to good. The others were taken in place of the tribe of Dan because the tribe of Dan was the last of the tribes, and therefore signified, in the Lord's kingdom, the ultimates in which those are who are in the good of life and of faith according to their religion in which there are no genuine truths." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 450)
It is important to realize, God cares more about the good of your life, over that of the religion you believe in. However certain falsehoods can affect one's life, therefore for this latter group the angel states that the Lord will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Crying or tears is mourning for falsehoods that have destroyed or profaned the truth. It also represents a truth that is very hard to accept due to falsehoods, this is the spiritual meaning that corresponds to the physical act of crying.

THE 144,000 REPRESENT THOSE OF THE NEW CHRISTIAN CHURCH

Swedenborg saw that in the 18th century a spiritual judgment was performed and a new Christian revelation was given, in order to remove falsehoods out of the Christian church. A new Christian heaven was formed, this is represented by the 144,000. In a very specific sense, it refers to those Christians who have the following criteria:
  1. Those who acknowledge God in one person, Jesus Christ, and who acknowledge the Divine in His human. Those who believe in the traditional trinity of three persons do not belong to the 144,000.
  2. They live a life according to the 10 commandments, and love the truth for the sake of truth.
  3. They are are not affected by the falsehood of justification by faith alone which is particular to the Protestant churches.
That the 144,000 are those who acknowledge God in one person, Jesus Christ, can be seen in Rev. 14:1 where they appear on Mount Zion with the lamb of God, with the "name of the Father" written on their foreheads:
"Having His Father's name written in their foreheads, signifies their acknowledgment of the Lord's Divine and Divine Human from love and faith. By the name of the Father is meant the Lord as to the Divine from which all things are, which is called the Father, and at the same time as to the Divine Human which is called the Son; since they are one, and one person, united like the soul and the body. Therefore in heaven by God the Father no other is meant than the Lord; and in the New Heaven the Lord is also called Father. The reason that the name of the Father is here said to be in their foreheads, is also, that the Divine good of the Lord's Divine love is meant by the Father; which is everywhere meant by the Father in the Word of the Evangelists, where He is named by the Lord; and the Divine truth of His Divine wisdom is meant by the Son: which two were united as the soul to the body and the body to the soul, when the Lord glorified His Human" (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 613)
That "the name of the Father" means the Divine with Jesus Christ, can be shown from the fact that even though Jesus commanded the disciples to baptize in the "name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19) in the book of Acts they baptized in the name of Jesus, plus many other passages. The acknowledgment of the Father as the Divine itself in Jesus is the distinguishing factor of the 144,000, which is indicated by a "new song" given to them that only they could know, and not others:
"And no one could learn that song but the hundred forty-four thousand, signifies that no others from among Christians could understand, and thus acknowledge from love and faith, that the Lord alone is the God of heaven and earth, but they who were received by the Lord into this New Heaven. By this song is signified the acknowledgment of the Lord, that He is the God of heaven and earth (n. 279, 617). By learning is signified to perceive interiorly in one's self that it is so; which is to understand, and thus to receive and acknowledge. He who learns in any other way, learns and does not learn, because he does not retain. By the hundred and forty-four thousand are meant they who acknowledge the Lord alone as the God of heaven and earth (n. 612). No other from among Christians could learn this song, that is, could acknowledge that the Lord alone is the God of heaven and earth, because they have imbibed from infancy the idea that there were three Persons in the Divinity, distinct from each other." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 618)
Thus among Christian denominations, I know of only two that follow this doctrine: the New Church, and Oneness Pentecostals. While the New Church is small, the latter has been spreading their message more effectively.

The second distinguishing factor of the 144,000, is that they love truth for the sake of truth, for the sake of living one's life according to God's commandments. This is in opposition to those of spiritual Babylon, who use religion for the sake of gaining power and authority. This is the spiritual meaning of the 144,000 being declared to be "virgins" who have not "defiled themselves with women." This it to be interpreted spiritually, in that they do not adulterate truth:
"These are they who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins, signifies that they did not adulterate the truths of the church, and defile them with falsities of faith; but that they loved truths because they are truths. That a woman signifies the church from affection for truth, and hence in the opposite sense the church from affection for falsity, may be seen above (n. 434, 533); here the church from affection for truth, because it is said not defiled with women. To be defiled with women signifies the same as to commit adultery and fornication. That to commit adultery and fornication signifies to adulterate and falsify the Word, may be seen above (n. 134). For they are virgins signifies because they have loved truths because they are truths, thus from spiritual affection. The reason that these are meant by virgins is that a virgin signifies the church as a bride, who wishes to be conjoined to the Lord, and to become a wife: and the church who wishes to be conjoined to the Lord, loves truths because they are truths; for by truths, when the life is according to them, conjunction is effected." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 620)
Those who read scripture in the literal sense may use this passage as an argument for celibacy, but that is simply not the case. It is spiritually better for one to live a married life. This is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted passages in the book of Revelation.

The third distinguishing factor is the 144,000 are not affected by the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, that one merely has to believe and commit no effort to one's spiritual development. This is described, in the spiritual sense, of how locusts arise from the abyss to torment men, but could not touch or harm any of the 144,000 sealed in their forehead as described in Rev. 9:
"By them who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads they are signified who are not in charity and thence in faith; for the forehead signifies love and charity (n. 347); and to have a seal signifies to know and distinguish these from others (n. 345). They who have confirmed faith alone even to the arcana of justification and salvation by it, cannot take away any truth and good of faith, nor affection and perception, from any but those who are not in the faith of charity, because scarce any one except the prelate who teaches and preaches them, comprehends those things. The layman hears them; but they pass in through one ear, and out at the other: which the mystery-preaching priest himself may know from this, that he has himself expended all the force of his talent in imbibing them in his youth, and afterward in retaining them in his subsequent age; also that he esteems himself supremely learned by reason of them. What then shall the layman do, who simply thinks of faith from charity, when he hears these mystic notions? It may be seen from this, that faith alone justifying is the faith of the clergy, and not of the laity, except of those who live carelessly. These draw from those mysteries only this, that faith alone saves; that they cannot do good of themselves; that neither can they fulfil the law; that Christ suffered for them: besides a few more general propositions like these." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 426)
This is the mystery of the sealing of the 144,000. If one acknowledges that God is one Being, one person who has manifested Himself in Jesus Christ, and lives according to His commandments, then that person belongs to the 144,000. These are they who belong to the New Christian movement, and are able and willing to see the truth and live by them.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Oneness Theology vs. a Trinity of Three Persons



Oneness theology originated from the Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century, which states that God is one in person in Jesus Christ. This conclusion was reached when it was noticed that the apostles baptized in the name of Lord Jesus or Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), and not in the "name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" as commanded by Jesus (Matt. 28:19). It was then realized that the apostles understood the "name" to be none other than Jesus Christ, and that the fullness of the entire Godhead resides in Jesus Christ bodily (Col. 2:9). Thus God is one in person in Jesus Christ.

The Oneness Pentecostal movement started completely independently of the heavenly revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century, which for the most part confirm that the Oneness Pentecostals are correct in their essential idea. Remarkably, Oneness Pentecostals and the New Church tend to be completely ignorant of each other.

Predictably, traditional trinitarian apologists who improperly divide God into three beings or persons have attacked Oneness theology, by using certain passages of scripture which they think confirm the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. So here, lets take a look at what trinitarian apologist have said against Oneness theology, and compare them with the doctrines of the New Church to shed more light on this issue.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ONENESS THEOLOGY AND TRINITARIAN BELIEF

A random search of Oneness theology brought up this article: Oneness Pentecostalism and the Trinity. The Oneness position is as follows:
"the doctrine that God is absolutely one in numerical value, that Jesus is the one God, and that God is not a plurality of persons."
Which is correct, as stated by Deuteronomy 6:4, which was quoted by Jesus as the greatest commandment. The article however subscribes to the traditional trinitarian view:
The doctrine of the Trinity was concisely stated by the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647): "In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons (personae), of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost." Thus, the Trinity is understood to be one God, yet three "persons." The Athanasian Creed explicitly rejects tritheism (belief in three Gods), stating that "they are not three Gods: but one God."
The statement of the Athanasian Creed is obviously logically inconsistent: it is in fact a tritheistic belief. If there is a "one" it is one substance, and from that God is not a person but a substance. And this goes against all of scripture, which declares the Lord, or Jehovah, to be one personal being - thus Jehovah states His name is "I AM" (Ex. 3:14), not "we are." This can also be seen from the name "Jehovah," which scholars have determined to be based on a word meaning "to be."

TRINITARIAN ARGUMENTS AGAINST ONENESS THEOLOGY

The article proceeds in arguments against Oneness theology. It starts with a definition of Father and Son in Oneness theology, and a quote from Isaiah 9:6 in which the Messiah (Christ) is declared to be the "eternal Father":
According to Oneness theology, the term "Father" designates Christ's deity, while "Son" designates either His humanity considered separately or His deity as manifested in the flesh. Therefore, while Oneness believers say that the Father is not the Son, they do hold that Jesus is both the Father and the Son. The most common proof text used to prove that Jesus is the Father is Isaiah 9:6, which gives Christ the name "Everlasting Father," or rather, "Father of eternity"
Instead of following scripture, the article then comes up with an interesting twist on Isaiah 9:6:
A number of proper names in the Old Testament use the term "ab" "in accordance with a custom usual in Hebrew and in Arabic, where he who possesses a thing is called the father of it."
This is a very weak argument. Indeed, there are names with the name "ab" or father in it, but personal names do not indicate the meaning, as the passage is not referencing mere personal names but indicating the Divine nature of the Messiah. Here is the full text of Isaiah 9:6:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)
This is an obvious prediction of the Lord's coming in human form. He is here called "mighty God" indicating He is God in human form, He is also the eternal Father. In the doctrines of the New Church, it was Jehovah God Himself who descended to become incarnate as man, not another person (True Christian Religion, n. 82.2). Also the Father and Son are one in Jesus Christ as the soul and body are one (True Christian Religion, n. 98, 101, 112,6, etc.). That Father and Son are one as soul and body are one is a doctrine of the New Church, but Oneness theology only implies or hints at this doctrine. The article continues:
In John 10:30, Jesus stated, "I and the Father are one." Oneness believers erroneously understand this to mean that they are one "person." As is often pointed out, such an interpretation is guarded against by the use of the neuter "heri" rather than the masculine "heis" for "one," thereby suggesting essential unity but not absolute identity. Also precluding a one-person interpretation is the first-person plural "we are" ("esmen"). If Jesus were the Father, He could have said, "I am the Father," or "the Son and the Father are one ("heis")," or some other equivalent; but as it stands, John 10:30 excludes modalism and Oneness...
That Father and Son are plural is indeed true, but that does not mean a plurality of persons as assumed by traditional trinitarian theology. In the New Church doctrine, the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is defined to be the Divine itself, the Divine Human, and the Divine proceeding.  The Father and Son are one as the soul and body are one, and are two aspects of the Divine Being. I will skip over the argument from Greek definitions for now, as it is not only unclear, but also quite likely Jesus spoke in Aramaic. The next significant weak argument comes in the following passage:
A favorite passage of Modalists in all centuries has been John 14:6-11, where Jesus says, among other things, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Jesus begins by asserting, "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (v. 6). The natural sense of these words is that Jesus is, not the Father, but a mediator between us and the Father. Then He states, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also" (v. 7a). This is true, not because Jesus is the Father, but because those who know Jesus are led by Him to know the Father as they see Him imaged perfectly in Jesus. Thus, says Jesus, "from now on you know Him, and have seen Him" (v. 7b). Existing with the Father as the one indivisible Divine Being, Jesus can say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (v. 9). Nevertheless, Jesus does not say, "I am the Father," but rather, "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me" (v. 10, repeated in v. 11; cf. 10:38).
The passage of John 14 is indeed hard for traditional trinitarian theology to explain away. Jesus Christ is indeed the perfect image of the Father (Col. 1:15, 2 Cor. 4:4), because the Father is the invisible Divine and the Son is the visible Divine in human form.  And note that Jesus said, "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me." If the Trinity is indeed three distinct persons, how can two of the distinct persons be inside one another? One knows the soul of the person by interacting with his or her visible outward form, the body. The article continues:
Oneness believers frequently cite the second part of this last statement, "the Father is in Me," to mean that the deity ("Father") dwells in the humanity ("Son") of Jesus. This view, however, fails to explain the first part of the sentence, "I am in the Father," which in Oneness terms would have to mean that the human nature of Jesus dwells in the deity -- the opposite of what they believe
Here New Church doctrine can clarify the matter. There are two points here: the human form of Jesus was made Divine and one with the Father upon the resurrection. The other point is that there are two primary aspects to the Divine: Divine love and Divine truth. The Divine descended in human form as to the Divine truth, which remains in perpetual union with Divine love. Divine love is in Divine truth, and vice versa: Divine truth is in the Divine love, because they are in perpetual union. Truth provides form to Love, and the ultimate form of Truth is the human form. The article continues:
Moreover, it fails to account for the fact that "in this same context," as well as elsewhere, Jesus uses this sort of expression to denote His unity with believers: "In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (v. 20; cf. 17:21-23).
The article omits the context of the entire passage (John 14:16-19), where it is quite apparent that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all Christians. And this is clearly problematic to trinitarians: Jesus refers to Himself as dwelling inside us through the Holy Spirit. According to trinitarian doctrine the Holy Spirit is defined as a distinct person. But Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit as Himself. In New Church doctrine, the Holy Spirit is not another distinct person, but the Divine proceeding. That the Holy Spirit emanates from Jesus Christ can be seen in the following passage:
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21-22)
The Holy Spirit is the Divine proceeding from the Divine Human, thus it is described here as the breath of Jesus.  It is obviously not a distinct person, it is simply the Divine Spirit that emanates from God Himself to all humanity through His human form. Jesus was sent into the world by being conceived by the Holy Spirit, in a similar manner we are sent into the world as a testimony when we receive the Holy Spirit. The article continues:
Since Colossians 2:9 says that the fullness of "the Godhead" dwells in Jesus, Oneness believers argue, the Godhead is in Jesus, not Jesus in the Godhead. This either/or approach, however, would force Colossians 2:9 to contradict John 10:38 where Jesus states, "the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father." Since "the Father" in Oneness terms is "the Godhead," John 10:38 in their terms means that the Godhead is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Godhead.
Col. 2:9 is problematic for trinitarians, who state that Jesus is a part of the Godhead. I doubt that Oneness theologians define the Father as the Godhead, thus this is probably a straw man argument. The Father is the Divine itself, which resides in the Son which is the Divine Human. Oneness theology in this sense is in perfect agreement with Col. 2:9, a trinity of three persons is not.

SCRIPTURAL PASSAGES USED BY TRADITIONAL TRINITARIANS

The article includes a section where they try to support the idea that Father and Son are two persons, which it defines as a self aware subject. But even in the definition, the article comes into a logical contradiction:
If, then, the Father and the Son are consistently presented in Scripture as two self-aware subjects, then they are two persons, even if they are one being.
Got that? They are two persons but one being? And the difference between a person and a being is what? A traditional trinity of three persons is inherently logically contradictory, and this shows it is inherently false, as one can find similar logical contradictions in the Athanasian Creed itself - unless one admits this is in reality tritheism. The first passages the article uses to support a trinity of three persons is the following:
There are, first of all, two passages in John where Jesus states that He and the Father serve as two witnesses authenticating His ministry (John 5:31-32; 8:16-18). His statement, "there is another ("allos") who bears witness concerning Me (5:32), proves that Jesus is not the Father. The term "allos" is used here to mean someone "different {from} the subject who is speaking."
These passages, when one looks at them carefully, do not show they are two persons. In fact only one person is speaking throughout: Jesus alone is the only person speaking (thus the Jews asked, "Where is your Father?" - John 8:19 - because only one person was present). I already dealt with this passage in The Father and Son are one Person in Jesus Christ and I will quote it here:
Recently, I encountered a third objection from a trinitarian, who quoted this verse:
It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me. (John 8:17-18) 
So does this prove the Father and Son are two distinct persons? No it does not. One person is speaking here, and that is Jesus Christ, which is why the Jews next ask who is His Father. So if one person is speaking, how can Jesus claim there are two witnesses? Quite easy, Jesus explained this before:
But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, has borne witness of me (John 5:36-37) 
In other words there are two witnesses to confirm the identity of Jesus Christ:
  1. The teachings of Jesus which is centered upon Himself as Lord, and,
  2. The works of miracles He did
This is why the Jews found it so hard to confront Jesus, because of His miracles and the works that He did. The works, His doings, is of the Father, because the Father is the Divine love which was the will of Jesus. The Divine truth was His teaching, and they bear witness of each other. 
Here is another argument used by traditional trinitarians:
Further evidence is gained from the many passages that state that the Father sent the Son (John 3:17; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:10; etc.).
Since the assumption is that we have two persons it is assumed this proves their point. But the Father is the Divine itself, who sent the human form into this world by having it conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Son is the Divine in human form, and thus He was born as Jesus to the virgin Mary. The Divine Human was sent into the world by the Divine itself, through the emanation of the Divine proceeding, the Holy Spirit. And here comes the main argument of traditional trinitarians:
Devastating to the Oneness view are the passages where Jesus prays to the Father. Of course, they are aware of the problem and have an answer -- the human nature prayed to the divine nature. However, this runs into the same problem as with the love of the two for one another: natures do not talk, only persons do.
So as Jesus prays to the Father as another, that proves their point, correct?  No it does not. In this case the doctrines of the New Church offer a better explanation than that of Oneness theologians. In the New Church doctrine, Jesus was born into a lower state of being where He could be tempted. For His soul was Divine, but his external human form had inherited evil tendencies from the human mother. Temptation can only occur in a lowered state of being. In the New Church view, there are not two beings, but two states of being. For this point I will quote from Swedenborg in full:
"The Lord successively put off the human taken from the mother, and put on the Human from the Divine in Himself, which is the Divine Human and the Son of God. That the Lord had a Divine and a human, — the Divine from Jehovah the Father, and a human from the Virgin Mary, — is known. Thence it is that He was God and Man; and thus He had a Divine essence and a human nature, — the Divine essence from the Father, and the human nature from the mother; and thence He was equal to the Father as to the Divine, and less than the Father as to the human: also (as the doctrine of faith which is called the Athanasian Creed teaches) that He did not transmute this human nature from the mother into the Divine essence, nor commix it with it; for the human nature cannot be transmuted into the Divine essence, nor can it be commixed with it. And yet from the same creed is our doctrine, that the Divine took on the Human, that is, united itself to it, as the soul unites itself to its body, until they were not two, but one person. From this it follows, that He put off the human from the mother, which in itself was like the human of another man, and thus material, and put on the Human from the Father, which in itself was like His Divine, and thus substantial; from which the Human also was made Divine. Thence it is, that the Lord, in the Word of the Prophets, even as to the Human is called Jehovah and God; and in the Word of the Evangelists, the Lord, God, the Messiah or Christ, and the Son of God, in Whom men are to believe, and by Whom they are to be saved. Now, because the Lord had from the beginning a human from the mother, and put this off successively, therefore while He was in the world He had two states, which are called the state of humiliation or of exinanition, and the state of glorification or of union with the Divine which is called the Father,— the state of humiliation so far as and when He was in the human from the mother, and the state of glorification so far as and when He was in the Human from the Father. In the state of humiliation He prayed to the Father, as to one other than Himself; but in the state of glorification He spake with the Father as with Himself. In the latter state, He said that the Father was in Him, and He in the Father, and that the Father and He were one; but in the state of humiliation He underwent temptations, and suffered the cross, and prayed that the Father would not forsake Him: for the Divine could not be tempted, and still less suffer the cross." (Doctrine of the Lord, n. 35, found in The Doctrines of the New Jerusalem. See also True Christian Religion)
Initially Jesus had a Divine nature as to his soul, and a human nature as to his body, but associated with this were two states of being.  The state of "exinanition" can also be called a state of humiliation, a state of emptying, a state of enfeeblement, a lowered state. The apostle Paul understood this, who described the lowering of the Divine into a human form of a servant in Phil. 2:5-11. On this point, admittedly Oneness theologians do not describe it well as they define the Father and Son as two natures, whereas the New Church view is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit describe the emanation of the Divine Being. Also, although Jesus was born into two natures, upon the resurrection He had one Divine nature, and had become a Divine Human. Thus one does not find any prayers of Jesus praying to the Father after the resurrection.

WAS THE SON BORN IN TIME OR WAS THERE A SON BORN FROM ETERNITY?

All traditional trinitarians make the same mistake in assuming that there was a Son "born from eternity." The article makes the same mistake:
Since the "Son," in Oneness theology, is the incarnate Jesus Christ, they cannot allow the doctrine that the Son preexisted His incarnation to go unchallenged. The concept of "eternal Sonship," and especially "eternal generation," is, they say, both unbiblical and unreasonable. On this point, a number of respected Trinitarian, evangelical scholars can be found who agree.
This belief actually originates from the Nicene Creed, which invented a Son born from eternity in order to combat Arianism. The original apostolic belief was that the Son was born in time to the virgin Mary, and this is declared in scripture (Luke 1:35). So the Oneness doctrine is indeed Biblical. This is discussed in detail in the previous blog post, Is the Nicene Creed Biblical? Does the Nicene Creed define True Christianity?  The Nicene Creed is actually a modified version of the Apostle's Creed, which for the most part is in agreement with scripture (see The Nicene Creed: a distorted version of the Apostle's Creed). However, out of the entire Old Testament, the article comes up with a single passage to prove that there was an eternally pre-existent Son:
Proverbs 30:4 asks concerning God, "What is His name or His son's name?" This statement clearly implies that the Son existed at the time the passage was written. To circumvent this conclusion, Oneness writers argue that the passage is a "prophecy" (see 30:1, KJV, where this word appears), and is therefore referring to the future time when God would manifest Himself as the Son.
This passage does not prove an eternally existing Son. Again, Luke 1:35 is conclusive: the Son was born in time to the virgin Mary. Also we have this passage:
I will declare the decree: Jehovah has said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Ps. 2:7)
The phrase "this day" is in time, to be "begotten" refers to the virgin birth, being conceived by the Holy Spirit. That there is no eternal person besides Jehovah is explicitly stated in many passages of the Old Testament, showing that a trinity of three persons is foreign to scripture, and would be considered idolatry to the prophets:
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me (Deut. 32:39)
Thus says Jehovah, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isa. 44:6)
In the latter passage it is Jehovah who is King, it is Jehovah who is Redeemer, it is Jehovah who is first and last. There is only one Divine Being. It was Jehovah Himself who descended to become incarnate in human form, not another person. However the article continues in its error:
Then there are the many passages which state that the Word or Son created the universe (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 3:14; etc.) Hebrews 1:2 says that God made the ages through His "Son" -- to which Oneness writers reply that "God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world. He predicated the entire creation on the future arrival of Christ."
This again shows a misunderstanding of the Divine. There are two aspects to the Divine: Divine Love and Divine Truth, and it is the Divine Truth which descended and became flesh. This Divine Truth is known as "the Word" or Logos in the New Testament. And indeed all things were created by the Word or Divine Truth. The Word was made flesh, the flesh is the Son, which did not exist before the incarnation. The article continues with what it thinks is a conclusive argument:
Whenever in Scripture the Son is said to have said or done something, or even existed, prior to the Incarnation, it is explained as only being true in God's foreknowledge. This arbitrary handling of Scripture is justified by appealing to Revelation 13:8, which speaks of those "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (KJV). While this translation is grammatically possible, the parallel passage in Revelation 17:8 suggests that the correct rendering is, "whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain" (NASB). Once it is understood that Revelation 13:8 cannot be used to relegate anything said of the past to the foreknowledge of God, it becomes clear that Jesus existed prior to creation\with\the Father.
On these passages from the Apocalypse both Oneness theologians and traditional trinitarians are both incorrect. The phrase "foundation of the world" does not refer to the creation of the universe, but rather to the foundation of the present world-age, or the foundation of the Christian Church. Jesus was rejected and slain before the Christian Church was established. But it goes further than that: in the spiritual sense, it means the Christian Church in general does not acknowledge that the human nature of Jesus has been made Divine, and is the Divine Human:
"Slain from the foundation of the world, signifies the Lord's Divine Human not acknowledged from the first establishment of the church. That by the Lamb slain is signified that the Lord's Divine Human has not been acknowledged, may be seen above (n. 59, 269)... From the foundation of the world signifies the first establishment of the church, as well the Jewish as the Christian. It is known that the Jews did not acknowledge the Lord's Divine Human. That the Roman Catholics do not, is also known: and that neither do the Reformed, see above (n. 294). The creation of the world is not meant here by the foundation of the world, but the establishment of the church: for by the world, in the widest sense, the whole world is meant, and as well the good as the evil in it, and sometimes the evil only; but in a sense not the widest, the same is meant by the world as by the globe and by the earth, that is, the church." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 589)
Those who divide God into three persons, do not acknowledge the Divine Human. They thus will divide Jesus into two natures:
it is true that adherence to the two natures of Christ is critical to orthodoxy
Thus they do not acknowledging the human as Divine, yet it is His human form which is the Son. Jesus remains rejected, with the other persons of the trinity standing like two thieves on either side of Jesus.

THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE NAME OF THE FATHER

Oneness theologians gained the insight that the name of Jesus is in fact the name of the Father:
Central to the theology of Oneness Pentecostalism is an emphasis on the name "Jesus" as the name of God since the Incarnation. The Oneness movement began, in fact, with the "revelation" that the "name" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit spoken of in Matthew 28:19 was the name "Jesus," based on Acts 2:38 in particular. This is why Oneness Pentecostals are so adamant that baptism be administered in the name of "Jesus only."
The article goes into the other meanings of the word "name" and indeed it does have multiple meanings. But on this essential point the Oneness theologians are correct, and what is unusual they arrived at this conclusion completely independent of the revelations of the New Church. For example, in the Lord's prayer we say "Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name."  The name here is Jesus Christ, showing that we should not pray to the Father as a separate person, but to Jesus Christ directly:
"But let us return to the Lord's prayer, where it is said, Our Father who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come. You who are here understand by these words the Father in His Divine alone; but I understand Him in His Human, and this also is the Father's Name; for the Lord said, Father, glorify Thy Name; that is, Thy Human; and when this is done the kingdom of God comes; and this prayer was commanded for this end, namely, that God the Father may be approached through His Human. The Lord also said, No one cometh unto the Father but by Me; and by the prophet, Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name is God, Mighty, the Father of eternity; and in another place, Thou, O Jehovah, art our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is Thy Name; beside a thousand other places, where the Lord our Saviour is called Jehovah. This is the true explanation of the words of that prayer." (True Christian Religion, n. 112.6)

THE FALSE CONCLUSION OF TRADITIONAL TRINITARIANS

Oneness theology is monotheistic, the traditional trinitarian theology is tritheistic.  They use traditional doctrines and from those traditions try to make scripture fit their doctrine, and to do so they must distort or ignore certain passages of scripture. Despite this, the article grudgingly concedes that many tradition evangelicals consider Oneness Pentecostals to be Christian:
Evangelicals commonly suppose that a professed Christian movement may be judged orthodox or heretical simply on the basis of whether or not it affirms the full deity and humanity of Christ. Consequently, some Christians have concluded that the Oneness doctrine, despite its denial of the Trinity, is essentially Christian.
The article wants to say that this is too "simplistic" and wants to declare Oneness theology as a heresy, as if pure monotheism can lead to something bad. But the problem is the article is using traditional doctrines invented by men as the measure of truth, and these traditions distract people from an essential understanding of who Jesus really is.  They pray to a "Father God" as someone distinct from Jesus, and although they confess one God by mouth, in the mind they hold to a tritheistic belief.

With a true understanding of who Jesus really is, one will achieve new spiritual understanding and fulfill the Lord's Prayer.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Science of Creation and the Spiritual World as seen by Emanuel Swedenborg



To explore the science behind the idea of the spiritual world at first seems like an oxymoron, since modern science and religion are in conflict with each other. The reasons for the conflict between science and religion is due to both different criteria for truth, as well as false concepts in both science and and in religion. To summarize:
  1. Modern science in general espouses the false philosophy of Naturalism, that nature begets nature.
  2. Over time, religion becomes falsified by relying on the traditions and authority of men. Argument by authority is a logical fallacy and is rejected by the scientific method. 
  3. Science is based on factual evidence obtained from the senses. Witness testimony for any phenomenon or idea is classified as "anecdotal" until confirmed by the scientific method. Completely opposite to this method, true religion is based on heavenly revelations from witnesses which are adapted to the culture receiving the revelation.
The first two areas of conflict between science and religion is due to false concepts that are assumed to be true in both science and religion.  The third area is a difference in method for determining the truth. However, there are some rather unusual cases where an internal revelation is received which is later confirmed by science. Dmitry Mendeleyev discovered the periodic table once it was shown to him in a dream; after the dream he was able to layout all the elements on a piece of paper and only one correction was needed. Similarly, the structure of DNA was discovered only after Dr. James Watson had a dream of two intertwining serpents.

There is another case of this in terms of the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg in waking visions, but in this case the revelation preceded the scientific discovery by over 150 years. It concerns the science of space and time and the origin of the universe, and although Swedenborg did not have any idea about our current scientific discoveries, the heavenly revelations anticipated them far in advance.  To understand it, I will briefly describe the scientific revolution that occurred between the time of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, involving space and time and the creation of the universe.

THE SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS OF SPACE AND TIME

Our scientific concepts of space and time have evolved over the centuries, which is summarize well in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Newton's Views on Space, Time, and Motion. In Greek Antiquity, philosophers first proposed that space was a void or vacuum:
The most important question shaping 17th-century views on the nature of space, time and motion is whether or not a true void or vacuum is possible, i.e., a place devoid of body of any sort (including rarified substances such as air). Ancient atomism, dating back at least to the pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus (5th century, B. C.), held that not only is such possible, but in fact actually exists among the interstices of the smallest, indivisible parts of matter and extends without bound infinitely.
This idea was rejected by Aristotle, but when modern astronomy began to disprove many of the ideas of Aristotle, there was a revival of atomism and space as a vacuum in the 16th and 17th centuries.  It is upon this foundation that Isaac Newton founded classical physics in the 18th century, in which he assumed that space and time were absolutes:
Isaac Newton founded classical mechanics on the view that space is distinct from body and that time passes uniformly without regard to whether anything happens in the world. For this reason he spoke of absolute space and absolute time, so as to distinguish these entities from the various ways by which we measure them (which he called relative spaces and relative times)
This idea of space and time as absolutes, distinct from matter, dominated scientific theory until Einstein's theory of General Relativity in the early 20th century. As a consequence of this theory, space and time becomes a distinct object known as the "space-time continuum." Gravity from matter distorts space-time:


This warping has been confirmed by astronomical observations:


Recently, two black holes merged together and emitted a loud BURP in the form of gravitational waves which was detected by LIGO, as also predicted by Einstein's theory:


Moreover, another consequence of this theory is that it will dilate or expand time itself, according to the relative speed of the observer. The faster one approaches the speed of the light, the slower that time will flow.

Related to the concept of the space-time continuum of Einstein's theory of relativity, is the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2013. The Higgs boson is actually an excitation of the Higgs field, a field that permeates the entire universe. Among other things, this universal field explains why certain particles have mass. Although the Higgs field permeates all of space, it is distinct from the warping of the space-time continuum by gravity. See the article Why the Higgs and Gravity are Unrelated (the effect of mass has multiple causes; also the Higgs Boson has a quantum spin of 0 and the graviton has a quantum spin of 2).

SWEDENBORG: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PURE VACUUM OF NOTHING

Emanuel Swedenborg lived in the 18th century, and was contemporary with Isaac Newton during his childhood. Swedenborg was also a scientist and is estimated to have an IQ of over 200, but in his late 50s he began to have a spiritual awakening, which eventually caused his inner mind to open up and receive waking visions of the heavenly world for about 27 years. The main revelation concerns the spiritual sense of the Word, providing the only proof that the Bible is Divinely Inspired, and correcting many false doctrines that have entered and corrupted the Christian church. Another main objective of these revelations was to reveal that there is indeed an afterlife, our souls are eternal which continue to live after death.

Portrait of Isaac Newton

One of the people that Swedenborg encountered in the afterlife was Isaac Newton. Now, recall that in the 18th century, as a result of Isaac Newton's successful theories, everyone began to believe that space and time were absolute and that space was a pure vacuum. This was disproven in the 20th century with Einstein's theory of relativity, and by the discovery of the Higgs field which permeates the entire universe. Thus space is not a vaccum, nor is space or time independent abstract things from matter. Rather, space and time are created things.

Now, back in the 18th century, Swedenborg describes an encounter between some angels and Isaac Newton, and the angels told Newton this: there is no such thing as a pure vacuum of nothingness:
"Something shall be said here concerning vacuum. I once heard angels talking with Newton about vacuum, and saying that they could not bear the idea of vacuum as nothing; because in their world which is spiritual, and within or above the spaces and times of the natural world, they equally feel, think, are affected, love, will, breathe, yea speak and act; which things are utterly impossible in vacuum as nothing; because nothing is nothing, and of nothing nothing can be predicated. Newton said that he knew that the Divine which is, fills all things, and that he himself shuddered at the idea of nothing respecting vacuum, because that idea is destructive of all things; and he exhorted those who talked with him about vacuum, to beware of the idea of nothing, calling it a swoon, because in nothing no real existence of mind is possible." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 82)
In another account of the same encounter, the angels were correcting Isaac Newton of his error:
"Concerning a vacuum [Isaac Newton] said, that in the world he had believed in the existence of a vacuum; but when the angels perceived that he had an idea of a vacuum, as an idea of nothing, they turned themselves away, saying that they cannot bear the idea of nothing, since when there is an idea of nothing the idea of the essence of things perishes." (Last Judgment Posthumous, n. 290)
Science would not confirm that Isaac Newton was wrong on this matter until almost 200 years later, and yet here we have an account of angels correcting Newton back in the 18th century. This is just one example among many, that Swedenborg indeed was receiving revelations from the heavenly world. I will note here he did not draw any doctrine or teaching from any spirit, but rather from the Lord alone (see Was Emanuel Swedenborg a Spiritualist or Occultist? against false accusation from religious leaders). These encounters were for the sake of countering the false ideas of atheism and naturalism.

THE SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT OF CREATION OR THE BIG BANG

Space is not a vacuum, but rather it is a field that is constantly expanding. As a consequence of Einstein's General theory of relativity, it became known the universe had a definite beginning about 14 billion years ago, and that everything started from a single point called a "singularity." The universe began as a "Big Bang" and from there, both space and time expanded to the present day universe:


Exrapolating backwards, it is known that the entire universe began from a single point or singularity of high temperature and high density. In this state of "singularity" both space and time lose their meaning. Moreover, this "singularity" has an infinite energy density, which is regarded as impossible in our current known laws of physics. As all laws of physics break down inside this singularity, it is not well known.

There are two singularities predicted by science: one right before the Big Bang that created the universe 14 billion years ago, and one inside a black hole that was created from the collapse of a dying star. Some scientists have noted the similarities between these two singularities, and in fact, some scientists propose that our universe was created from a black hole. The conclusion: at the center of a black hole is another universe. We thus live in a "multiverse." From Every Black Hole Contains a New Universe:
Successful as it is, there are notable unsolved questions with the standard big bang theory, which suggests that the universe began as a seemingly impossible "singularity," an infinitely small point containing an infinitely high concentration of matter, expanding in size to what we observe today. The theory of inflation, a super-fast expansion of space proposed in recent decades, fills in many important details, such as why slight lumps in the concentration of matter in the early universe coalesced into large celestial bodies such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
But these theories leave major questions unresolved. For example: What started the big bang? What caused inflation to end? What is the source of the mysterious dark energy that is apparently causing the universe to speed up its expansion?
The idea that our universe is entirely contained within a black hole provides answers to these problems and many more. It eliminates the notion of physically impossible singularities in our universe.
The theory is interesting: it explains the beginning singularity, the expansion of the universe, a possible origin for "dark energy" causing the expansion, as well as  the observed rotation of galaxies in different hemispheres of the universe.


REVELATIONS OF CREATION GIVEN TO SWEDENBORG

Modern science indicates that the natural universe originated from the Big Bang, a giant explosion of energy which led to the creation of suns and galaxies.  Emanuel Swedenborg, as a scientist, first proposed the Nebular hypothesis as the origin of are solar system in 1734. The Big Bang and expanding universe was unknown to him. When he started receiving spiritual revelations, he was shown there are two worlds: the spiritual world of heaven, and the natural world. In the spiritual world there is a spiritual sun in which the God-Man resides, whereas in the natural world we have the sun of our solar system. One should distinguish between the spiritual sun of the spiritual world, and the natural sun of the natural world:
"It is most necessary to know that there are two suns, one spiritual and the other natural — the spiritual sun for those who are in the spiritual world, and the natural sun for those who are in the natural world. Unless this is known, nothing can be rightly understood concerning the creation and concerning man" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 107).
The natural sun is the origin of all natural material things, but the spiritual sun is the origin of all forms of life. All life originates from the spiritual sun of the God-Man by influx into the natural world. Current science is deeply in error to assume that life comes from natural dead things. Since science is currently in denial of the spiritual world, it cannot explain the origin of life. The natural world is but a recipient and container for spiritual life, and life flows in from the Divine through spiritual influx. The soul is of a substance that does not interact with light:
"Spirits themselves are forms, that is, consist of continuous forms, equally with men, but of a purer nature, and not visible to the bodily sight. And because these forms or substances are not visible to the corporeal eye, man at this day apprehends no otherwise than that knowledges and thoughts are abstract things; hence also comes the folly of our age, that men do not believe that they have a spirit within them which is to live after the death of the body, when yet this spirit is a substance much more real than the material substance of its body; yea, if you will believe it, the spirit, after being freed from corporeal things, is that very purified body" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3726.4)
Now, concerning the natural sun from which all things originate, from the science of Swedenborg's day there was no knowledge of the Big Bang, but he did formulate the Nebular hypothesis for the origin of the solar system, and he knew that each star was its own solar system. But continually in his writings, Swedenborg speaks of the natural sun, as if there was one natural sun. In the following passage, Swedenborg describes the natural sun as something very close to the Big Bang and the expansion of the universe:
"...the expanse of the centre of life is called the spiritual world, which subsists from its own sun; and that the expanse of nature is called the natural world, which subsists from its sun." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 380)
Although the Sun of the spiritual world is distinct from the sun of the natural world, the sun of the natural world originates from the Sun of the spiritual world:
"Now, as the expanse springs from the centre, and not the reverse, as we have said before; and as the centre of life, which is the sun of the angelic heaven, is Divine love immediately proceeding from God, who is in the midst of that sun; and as from this is the expanse of that centre, which is called the spiritual world; and as from that sun sprang forth the sun of the world, and from this its expanse, which is called the natural world,—it is clear that the universe is created from the one God" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 380)
This at first does not seem true, as the sun of our solar system was formed by coalescing gases, which Swedenborg even first proposed in the Nebular hypothesis. Its possible, however, that in these revelations when Swedenborg speaks of the natural sun, what is being spoken of here is the Big Bang that arose from the original singularity at the beginning of the universe. It is known that this "singularity" was extremely dense, infinitely so according to our mathematics. Swedenborg stated the the natural world first began from the spiritual world. In the spiritual world there are successive "spiritual atmospheres" of increasing density. Compare the scientific concept of the original singularity with this passage:
"...because the [spiritual] atmospheres decrease in their progression downward, it follows that they become continually more compressed and inert, and at length in ultimates so compressed and inert that they are no longer atmospheres, but substances at rest, and in the natural world fixed substances, such as are in the earths and are called matter." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 302)
Now, in the singularity at the beginning of the universe, our concepts of space and time become meaningless. Beyond this singularity physicists do not know how to grasp it. But what Swedenborg stated is that space and time were proper only to the natural world, but not to the spiritual world. In the spiritual world, there is no such thing as space and time:
"There are two things proper to nature, space and time. From these man in the natural world forms the ideas of his thought, and thence his understanding. If he remains in these ideas, and does not elevate his mind above them, he can never perceive anything spiritual and Divine; for he involves the spiritual and Divine in ideas which come from space and time; and so far as he does this, the light of his understanding becomes merely natural." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 69)
When one dies and enters into the spiritual world, one enters the realm of pure ideas, which is that of the state of one's will and thought:
"All who die and become angels put off those two things proper to nature, which, as said above, are space and time; for they enter then into spiritual light, in which the objects of thought are truths, and the objects of sight are similar to the objects in the natural world, but correspondent to their thoughts. The objects of their thought which, as was said, are truths, derive nothing at all from space and time; and though the objects of their sight appear as in space and in time, still they do not think from them. The reason is that spaces and times there are not rigid as in the natural world, but changeable according to the states of their life. Hence in the ideas of their thought there are instead states of life — instead of spaces such things as have relation to states of love, and instead of times such things as have relation to states of wisdom." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 70)
So, according to this, what was prior to the Big Bang? Space and time cease to exist, so what was prior was the spiritual world. This spiritual world has a constant influx into the natural world, and is what causes life forms to be created in this natural world. We saw earlier that Swedenborg saw that the Divine expands and in its ultimate state, the spiritual atmosphere becomes dense to form matter; this comes very close to describing the singularity that caused the Big Bang.

So, there are two possible origins here for the Big Bang: one is from the spiritual world, by a compression of spiritual atmospheres that emanate from the Divine. Another is that the Big Bang of our universe is from the creation of a black hole. In our universe, each black hole is a singularity which contains another universe. Thus each universe is a parent to multiple child universes, ad infinitum. So which is true? I think both are true: from the spiritual world, the Divine is constantly creating new universes, and these universes in turn spawn baby universes which share the timeline of its parent universe. This is my personal opinion, but in several passages Swedenborg stated that the Divine loves variety, and from variety there is the perfection of the whole. Moreover, once there is Divine influx to create life, in that life the Divine gives life the ability to propagate itself. This same pattern may manifest itself in the initial creation of multiple universes, and each universe in turn keeps spawning other universes.

Thus, as the Divine is infinite, there will be infinite things for us to explore in heaven:
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)