Monday, December 11, 2017

Book Review: The Symbolism of the Psalms, A Spiritual Commentary

I recently authored a book, The Symbolism of the Psalms, which is a comprehensive spiritual commentary on Psalms 1-41 based on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. It is also a new translation of the Psalms based on modern Biblical research, which affects the interpretation of certain passages. I have been waiting for the right moment to publish volumes 2 and 3, but I am currently involved in investigating some secret numerical codes hidden in the Psalms which I discovered by analyzing Hebrew poetic structures of the Psalms, and it is becoming a completely separate work in itself (thus the lack of blog posts). A reader of this blog, David Deaton, decided to write a book review, and after several attempts at finding an avenue for publication I suggested I could post it here on this blog.  Here is the full review, unedited, although I am tempted to explain the hidden meaning behind the book cover [hint, read the back cover]:

Book Review-


The Symbolism of the Psalms: A Spiritual Commentary
Volume 1 (Psalms 1-41)
Theodore D. Webber
Apocryphile Press, 2017, 557 pp.

It’s hard to believe that one of the greatest achievements of New Church collateral literature has just been made by a person with no extraordinary academic qualifications or even formal affiliation to the organized New Church, but the proof is in the reading...

Those who are curious as to the author’s background may know that Theodore D. Webber has a degree in Near Eastern Studies from U.C. Berkeley and has made his living these last twenty years as an IT director at a large financial firm in New Jersey. During his off-hours, Webber maintains an eclectic, religiously-themed blog called “Spirituality, Dreams and Prophecy,” which can be visited at:

In brief, Webber has done for the book of Psalms what Emmanuel Swedenborg, has done for the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Revelation, in providing a detailed exegesis of Sacred Scripture, using the very system of correspondences revealed to Swedenborg. When Webber’s work is published in full, it will comprise three stout volumes of textual analysis, most of which is drawn directly from the Writings themselves. References scattered over thirty volumes of the Rotch Edition will be gathered into one easily accessed collection. “This work brings together this information to create a comprehensive spiritual commentary for each Psalm,” writes Webber. “In this manner, scripture is used to systematically explain scripture.”

In his excellent introduction “The Spiritual Meaning of the Psalms,” Webber poses this challenge to any prospective reader who may never before have heard of the Writings. “Most who read the Bible take it on faith, or on the basis of church authority and tradition, that it is Divinely inspired. But what about a systematic proof, using internal evidence from the text itself, to demonstrate that it is indeed Divinely inspired?”

Webber answers his own challenge by deciphering the variously authored Old Testament liturgy known as the book of Psalms to show its internal consistency. For each and every Psalm, he provides his own fresh translation, a terse summary taken straight from the treatise informally known as Prophets and Psalms (contained in Posthumous Theological Works, Vol. 2), and then an exhaustive exposition proceeding line-by-line, sometimes word-by-word, replete with copious biblical cross-references. There’s everything here but the sheet music! (Not available to us, anyway.)

Webber does more than collate scattered references to the Psalms into one harmonious whole. The man can write as surely as he can edit, and, when the text demands greater clarity, he thinks for himself. Below is a brief example of Webber’s editorial grappling, which, whether one agrees with it or not, demonstrates that one can have an independent mind and still be (to use an old-fashioned term) a true New Churchman:

But You have made him a little lower than God,
And have crowned him with glory and grandeur.  (Ps. 8:5)

The word for “God” is mistranslated as “angels” in most translations to make this Psalm refer to mankind in general. However this is a prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord, who lowered Himself to become incarnate in human form and is thus described as “a little lower than God.” The elevation of His human form to Divinity is then described as being crowned, which also signifies a state of wisdom from love. [Scriptural citations follow.] To give glory and grandeur means to ascribe all truth and good to the Lord.

Let it stay moot just which translation of the word Elohim is the more accurate. Webber’s observation is clear and concise, and does not distract from the rest of his commentary, solidly based on the Writings. What else matters? It isn’t often that Webber asserts himself over received opinion and conventional translation, but he never does so without providing just cause and due diligence. In such instances, it’s exhilarating to see familiar material explored by an original mind.

I learned something profoundly new when I read Webber’s analysis of the much loved 23rd Psalm, especially his parsing of “Your rod and staff comfort me.” I was made to realize that rod (often made of iron) corresponds to truth while a staff (usually made of wood) corresponds to good, both of which we receive from the Lord when we allow Him to shepherd us. Maybe these correspondences have been expounded elsewhere, but it was Webber’s explanation that finally unfolded the meaning of this familiar line to me. I’m still pondering the heartening implications of the word, “comfort,” which I learned means “to protect.” Now apply the same meaning of that word to the mysterious Divine function sometimes referred to as “The Comforter.” Consider that with the Lord’s Glorification, in which He assumed Divinely Human power, He can protect us that much more. What a comforting thought! Such insights fulfill Webber’s promise at the outset of his tome: “Once one’s mind becomes abstracted from the literal sense, it is lifted up towards higher concepts of love and truth, and the most obscure passages become relevant to one’s everyday life.”

We in the New Church know that beyond everyday life, the Psalms refer to the greatest—indeed the only—life ever lived. Were it not for the Writings, we might never guess at the genuinely merciful spirit behind the so-called “vengeful Psalms,” of which even their composers were apparently unaware. It is no mere background information to be apprised that “David” represents the Lord as to His Divine Human—God become man in the Person of Jesus Christ. Some readers have been put off by David’s all-too human failings, which can make his apparent self-righteousness expressed in the Psalms that much more insufferable. It helps us to know that what may appear as self-pitying complaining or vindictive score-settling reflects a deeper reality of the Lord’s direful spiritual combats against the hells. While David was fighting for his life and reputation, the Lord on earth was fighting to rescue the human race from total damnation. So severe were the Lord’s spiritual struggles (known to us by the mild term “temptations”), only the highly charged language of the Psalms can give us some idea of what He suffered on our behalf. Keeping this thought in mind raises even the most bloody-minded Psalm into a higher dimension. The personal becomes metaphysical.

Elaborating on this point, Webber produces a list of prophecies recorded therein that Jesus literally fulfilled while on earth—but then draws up a list of prophecies seemingly not fulfilled by Him. How are we to understand the latter? “Many now” he relates, “assume these will be fulfilled in the future when He returns in the Second Coming. But is this the proper way to interpret these prophecies, that God will come in anger to judge the world, destroy the wicked by fire, and rule over the kingdoms of the earth?”

This is no idle question when one ponders the vast popularity of the Left Behind fiction series or such “apocalyptic” works as The Late Great Planet Earth, whose author, Hal Lindsey, was invited to lecture on the imminence of Armageddon to high-level personnel at the Pentagon. Only a deeper, more spiritual understanding of Scripture may save us from the designs of a Military-Eschatological Complex. It can only be hoped that Jewish apocalypticians, who have great influence on the government of Israel, may yet become acquainted with a more enlightened interpretation of the Psalms. They are still focused on religious and geo-political conflict, rather than spiritual warfare. Some zealots have taken Psalm 83 in particular as a literal, Divinely-mandated prescription for all-out war on each of Israel’s neighbors. When the world understands that our real enemies are not those of other nations, but the evils and falsities of own selfish nature, it will become a safer place—and not a moment too soon!

While there is so much to say in praise of Webber’s magnificent work, no author’s book is perfect, especially one that seems to be one notch above being self-published. At the risk of appearing petty, it must be noted that his manuscript could have benefited from the oversight of a keen copy-editor: typographical errors abound. Not to call it an error, but it takes some getting used to Webber’s reference to Heavenly Arcana, which seems like a compromise between the Latin title Arcana Coelestia and the New Century Edition title Secrets of Heaven. I prefer the old familiar titles, and so does Webber, apparently, with this exception. If only for the sake of consistency, it’s too bad he didn’t stay with the titles listed in the Rotch Edition, which would have enabled him to use abbreviated titles for the Writings, a real space-saver.

It must be said that in its ambition to be as compendious as Pott’s Concordance, there occurs some unnecessary repetition of material from the Writings. Textual redundancy can give this opus the feel of a generalized cut-and-paste job, which is all but inevitable with a one-man publishing project. O for a professional editor, who knows just when and where to prune!

Here’s an example of what I mean:

From your rebuke, Jehovah,
From the breath of the spirit of Your nostrils. (Ps. 18:15)
A pithy commentary follows (scriptural references removed): “The rebuke of Jehovah is the punishment of evil; wind or breath of the Lord signifies Divine influx of the truth into the lower regions which punishes the falsehood of evil; spirit signifies Divine truth.”

Well said. But since some words have not yet been expounded (i.e. “breath”), there follow four more pages of biblical citation, quotation, and explication for just this one verse. Untried readers of the Writings may feel they’re being subjected to expository overkill. Sometimes less is more. When Webber has completed his multi-volume exegesis of all 150 Psalms, he might consider publishing a single condensed commentary of their internal sense, which may have wider appeal for first-time and even well-versed readers.

Finally, there is the question of the book’s cover. It’s a lovely picture, to be sure, but what is it doing on a staid reference text?

All of the above are quibbles, however, compared to the magnitude of Webber’s achievement. There is nothing said here in the way of criticism that can’t be fixed in a second edition, which surely deserves to happen.

New Church scholars may have stronger objections other than those raised here. If so, they should make their suggestions to the author while it is still a work-in-progress—or publish something of comparable scope and depth. For now at least, especially given its inspired content, this rendition of the Psalms stands above all others. This is a noble work, a labor of love, and a worthy addition to any New Church library.

Whether or not it is noticed by mainstream theological schools, The Symbolism of the Psalms deserves to be recognized as a major contribution to biblical hermeneutics. Here is an opportunity for those unacquainted with the Writings to learn the language of correspondences, whereby even more challenging portions of the Bible can become understandable to them. Imagine the thrill of realizing that the Symbolism of the Psalms, far from being an arbitrary interpretation, reveals a code of such surpassing ingenuity, it can only be Divine—and it applies to all of the rest of the Lord’s own Word, making it at last an open book for humanity!

We in the New Church cannot be so thrilled. The Symbolism of the Psalms is old news to us.
But this book is new—brand new—and should give cause for gratitude and wonder to anyone who reads it.

David Brooks Deaton

Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, November 10, 2017

Spiritual Gifts, the Spiritual Body and the Afterlife



Recently a friend introduced me to a person who has had similar spiritual experiences to that of Emanuel Swedenborg, but had the unfortunate experience of being honest and public about it as a child to his religious mother.  His mother than would call it "of the devil" and would proceed to take him to church so they could exorcise the demon out of him. Like Swedenborg, he had experienced out of the body astral projection and communication with the spiritual realm.  He would at times, when constantly prodded, deliver a "message" to a person and it would completely blow them away. He had a bit of clairvoyance: he could basically describe the contents of gifts under the Christmas tree, completely ruining the surprise out of it all.

Along with my friend we met for dinner, like me he is a working professional and for the most part is completely private about it.  My friend was seeking a scientific answer for spiritual phenomenon.  And this is the root of the problem: the scientific method has limitations.  The scientific method is based on what is observed, and the observation must be repeated. The weakness of the scientific method is that it is dependent on observation from the external senses. Spiritual phenomenon however is not based on the external senses, but internal perception which cannot be observed. And its not always repeatable. Witness testimony "does not count." Witness testimony, I explained, is good in a court of law, but in the scientific method it is completely rejected as "anecdotal." Religious revelations are founded on witness testimony, not on scientific evidence, hence the disagreement between science and religion. Religions also tend to degenerate based on traditions of men, and it is an inherent problem with institutions such as the Catholic Church, which use traditions and authority as major pillars of truth, often falsifying the original revelation of Christianity.

His comment was, with spiritual gifts one must not question, or try to explain it, he almost regarded it as a sin to try to put science on the whole matter. The other part I explained here, is that spiritual gifts are based on internal perception, and one must suspend analytical or rational thought, as that stops the internal flow of information. I explained some methods the CIA supposedly used in using psychic phenomenon to spy on others.

The other wanted an explanation, and the root of the problem is that the spiritual world interacts with our material world, but it is outside of time and space. I then explained that we all have a spiritual body that does not interact with light. Similar to dark matter - dark matter does not interact with light, but we know its there because it interacts with gravity. But if there is a material substance that does not interact with light or gravity, we would never directly observe it. That the soul is a spiritual substance that lives after death, is explained in several passages by Swedenborg:
"[A person] leaves absolutely nothing after death, excepting his bones and flesh, which, while he lived in the world, were not animated from themselves, but from the life of his spirit, which was his purer substance annexed to the things of the body." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2475)
"...it is to be known that the spirit of man is in his body, in the whole and in every part of it; and that it is its purer substance, both in its organs of motion and in those of sense, and everywhere else; and that the body is the material part that is everywhere annexed to it, adapted to the world in which it then is." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4659)
It was this passage in particular where one can derive that the spiritual world does not interact directly 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)
I did not explain the source of my knowledge, but after I said that we all have a spiritual body that does not interact with light, this person who has has certain remarkable spiritual gifts then looked at me and explained one event, in which he was in the hospital room visiting his brother-in-law. He was on his deathbed, and they were keeping him company. His spiritual vision opened, and he saw an energy of light then leave the body. He then told everyone in the room. "He is gone."  They at first did not know what he meant, but a few moments later he flat-lined. The material body, no longer enclosing the spiritual body, was no longer sustained, for it is one's spiritual body that gives life to the material one.

He later showed me various books he had been reading to understand his own experiences, I recommended to him Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg. He had never heard of him, I explained he had the same abilities as he, but much more extensive. Due to his adverse experience he was against traditional forms of religion, so I did not explain the Christian theology revealed to Emanuel Swedenborg but only stated that traditional religious leaders did not like what Swedenborg had to say due to their false teachings.

It is a bit sad traditional churches are where they are, not recognizing or discerning spiritual gifts. But people who have these gifts are out there, and since spiritual gifts are suppressed or looked down upon - or distorted for one's own self ego - they tend to be alienated by traditional churches. And in this manner, the churches have departed from Paul's instruction on this matter:
Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thes. 5:19-21)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Prophecy of Future Devastating Hurricanes for America



This year America has withdrawn from the Paris Climate accord, and due to global warming the hurricanes are destined to become more intense. And it just so happens that in this one year, there will be at least two devastating hurricanes: hurricane Harvey has hit Houston Texas with devastating effect, and hurricane Irma will probably devastate a large portion of southern Florida. Texas and Florida have traditionally voted Republican, and the Republican party has been largely responsible in lying to the public over the reality of global warming and sea level rise.

It is scientifically undeniable that human activity has been a major cause of global warming. From the NASA web site:
In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.
The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there's a better than 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth's temperatures over the past 50 years.
A major cause of global warming has been the burning of fossil fuels. And the oil industry has been tightly coupled with the American government in denying the environmental effects of burning fossil fuels, and there has been a secret suppression of alternative methods of energy in order to support the fossil fuel industry. It is also tightly coupled with the global economy: all countries must purchase oil in U.S. dollars. Thus the U.S. has economic leverage over the world, by maintaining a fiat currency that it can leverage over others. This is the reason why the U.S. went to war with Iraq, as the Iraqi regime began to shift the sale of oil from the U.S. dollar to the Euro. It is also the reason why we went to war against Libya, as the regime there sought to move Africa to an alternative currency (see Libyan Oil, Gold, and Qaddafi: The Strange Email Sidney Blumenthal Sent Hillary Clinton In 2011). The beauty of the internet, secrets are hard to keep secret.

A PROPHECY OF FUTURE HURRICANES FOR AMERICA

So, it is timely now to recall the prophecies of Anton Johansson, who was given heavenly visions of the future, and foresaw the sinking of the Titanic as well as the outbreak of World War I. His prophecies are both remarkable and dire. I covered his prophecies back in 2007 in the blog post Prophecies of a Future War with Russia. Here is the relevant portion:
Johansson foresaw three great hurricanes before the coming of the Franco-Spanish War. The hurricanes he describes are intense and nothing like we have ever seen before. Some interpreters have doubted what he said concerning these hurricanes, and thought he might be describing atomic weaponry. One hurricane will begin around Panama, affect the Gulf states and Florida, and will move in a wide belt along the Missisippi and gather strength around the Great Lakes. Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington and New York will suffer. Skyscrapers will rock and collapse, and wide areas will be set on fire. From Canada the hurricane will travel across the Atlantic and hit west and south-west Europe. No hurricane has ever behaved in this manner. We now know that the earth's weather is gradually warming, and due to global warming hurricanes and tornadoes are going to become more frequent and intense. America is primarily responsible for much of the global warming, though the government does not want to admit it. Global deforestation is also a contributing factor. What goes around, comes around. The hurricanes will be so great that America will not recover from the devastation.
What is even more sobering, is the other prophecies are even worse. Great plagues will break out and kill large portions of the human population. These will come out at the time of great wars, and they are so devastating that one suspects now it will be caused by biological weaponry. Anton Johansson's most famous future prophecy concerns a future invasion of Sweden by Russia, which at that time will become allied with France. And we now see a split between America and Russia over western intervention in Ukraine (see CIA Blowback in Ukraine, and Love your Neighbor and Pray for Peace in Ukraine) and the expansion of NATO. NATO has recognized the danger, and thus there are increased patrols over the Baltic states. The negative western media against Russia is non-stop, when in reality America and Russia should engage in cooperation and friendship with each other against future common threats.

So hopefully this is a wake-up call, both to those who deny the causes of global warming, and those who are pushing against Russia to make it yet again an "enemy" for the west to support its goals over dominating the world's resources.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Prophecy of the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet



The book of Revelation overall is a prophecy of the end times of the Christian Church, where two main enemies arise who will be opposed to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: the trinity of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, followed by the whore of Babylon that sits on top of the beast. Most Christian churches will teach that this will be fulfilled by some future political system headed by an antichrist.  But in the prophetic revelations of the New Church, something more concerning is revealed: it will not be some "always future" political system, it is a prophecy of a falsified version of Christianity. And this is the AntiChrist: for "anti-Christ" can mean anything opposed to Christianity, but the other meaning is "substitute Christ." The latter is the more dangerous threat: for it is a spiritual danger that arises within the church, not outside of it.

What this post will show is that the prophecy of the book of Revelation is something that can be applied now: for with it, one can identify false doctrines that have crept into the very Christian Church itself.  While most Christian churches will always talk about some always future event, in the spiritual sense the book of Revelation speaks of the false religious systems that will creep into the majority of churches, and will deceive many.

A FALSE TRINITY

It is blatantly obvious, that the dragon, beast and false prophet represent a falsified Christianity, in that they are presented in the book of Revelation as a triad or trinity of three beings:
And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (Rev. 16:13-14)
For frogs to come out of the mouth signifies a teaching that has a strong but false persuasive ability to convince others.  Frogs signify false persuasions, for their tongue can reach out and catch bugs in mid-air; things that fly in mid-air signify reasonings. The devastation of the ancient church that preceded Judaism was also signified by the plague of frogs before the Jewish exodus from Egypt (Ex. 8:2-13, see Heavenly Arcana, n. 7345-7357, 7379-7409). Egypt signifies the natural man opposed to the spiritual man, represented by Israel. The "kings of the whole world" are not political kings, but kings represent truths as kings uphold the laws of the land, the "whole world" are those of the church. The great battle here is a spiritual battle, for those under false religious persuasion will vehemently defend it.

Most Christian churches will state that this thus represents a "counterfeit trinity."  But this false religious system will be Christian in appearance, which we know from the description of the false prophet:
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. (Rev. 13:11)
To have two horns like a lamb is to have an appearance that it is Christian. To speak like a dragon, means that it teachings will be spiritually opposed to the truth and favor one's evils.

So I am going to state what should be obvious, which few will admit: the idea of a trinity of three persons is utterly foreign to both Judaism and the Christian church of the first three centuries. It simply did not exist until it was invented by a group of men in the fourth century A.D. in order to combat the Arian heresy. In the heavenly revelations of the New Church, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet are revealed to be the following:
"They in the present church are also treated of, who from doctrine believe in a trinity of Persons, and in the duality of the Person of Christ, and in justification by faith alone: these are meant by the dragon. The persecution of the New Church by these on account of its doctrine; and its protection by the Lord until from a few it spreads among many, are then treated of." (Apocalypse Revealed, ch. 12)
In other words, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet represent a false religious system that is common among Protestant and Reformed churches.  Why is this false theology opposed to the New Church? The New Church follows two simple principles:
  1. God is one person in Jesus Christ, He is the Divine God-Man. His human form is the Son. A theology of three persons is opposed to this.
  2. Salvation is through repentance by following the 10 commandments.  A theology that makes works of charity nothing is strongly opposed to this.
This is why certain Protestant theologians will declare the theology of the New Church as "dangerous" or "heretical."  For it is directly opposed to the theology that they assume to be the truth, when in fact their theology was invented by men.  The Nicene Creed was unknown until the fourth century A.D. (see Is the Nicene Creed Biblical? Does the Nicene Creed define True Christianity?)  Justification by faith alone was unknown until the 16th century A.D. This strong opposition is represented by the 11th chapter, where the beast arises from the abyss to kill the two witnesses. The two witnesses represent the theology of true monotheism (traditional Christianity is inherently tritheistic) as well as living by the 10 commandments (traditional Christianity follows vicarious atonement which contradicts a life of repentance) - see The Identity of the Two Witnesses of Revelation.

THE FALSE THEOLOGY OF THE PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC CHURCHES

The Protestant or Reformed tradition has a tendency to this false theology of justification by faith alone, based on a belief in a "vicarious atonement" where sins are automatically transferred without reforming one's life (for a better explanation of Christianity, see A Rational Explanation for Atonement: Christus Victor, the Divine Human). This belief system is founded on a false understanding of the writings of Paul, in which the works of the Mosaic law - the Jewish rituals - are confused with good works in general. The false theology makes the will of man passive, where God does everything, and we do nothing.

Some interpreters will interpret the beast, or the false prophet, as the Roman Catholic Church.  But that is incorrect.  The Roman Catholic Church is represented by the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17-18.  There are many false religious beliefs that the Catholic Church simply invented over time, but their primary interest above all others is the false belief in Papal primacy, or in the spiritual authority of their priesthood. In such a way they have transferred Divine authority to themselves. In the spiritual sense harlotry is the profanation of what is holy, and the worse profanation occurs when Divine worship is transferred away from God towards the worship of men. This does not apply to all Catholics:
And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. (Rev. 17:6)
To be drunk with blood is to profane the truth, to be drunk is to not have a correct understanding. There are thus many good people within the Catholic Church:
Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev. 18:4-5)
Thus most within the Catholic Church are simply ignorant of the truth, and do not recognize the falsehoods that have been mixed in with the original Christianity. But there are many who would rather have spiritual authority over others, and will put the authority of the Catholic church above that of scripture - for that, see the comments section in Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?  That kind of false religious reasoning is represented in the spiritual world as drinking blood from a cup.

This is why the "whore of Babylon" sits on top of the beast of 10 horns in Rev. 17-18 - for internally, the Protestant theology was completely inherited from the Roman Catholic Church. But in the prophecy of the book of Revelation, it the Protestant Reformation is foretold, for by Divine Providence the Reformation was initiated to break the political power of the Roman Catholic Church:
And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. (Rev. 17:16-17)
This was fulfilled during the religious wars of Europe, which lasted over 100 years, in which the power of the Roman Catholic Church was broken.  The beast is said to have "10 horns" as the Protestant churches gained power from the literal sense of the Word, which was used to oppose the falsehoods of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the word "Protestant", which persists to this day, based on "protest" against the authority of the Catholic Church. On the positive side, the Protestant churches tend to be greater light as they recognize the Word as having primary spiritual authority.

There are other interpretations of Daniel and Revelation that support this conclusion - a conclusion most religious authorities want to avoid or cannot see.  For most acknowledge that the beast of 10 horns is what arises out of the ashes of the Roman Empire. See The Spiritual Meaning of Daniel's Prophecy of the Statue of Nebuchadnezzar.

So, not exactly what everyone wants to hear: the revelation of the New Church is opposed against the majority theology of the Protestant-Catholic alliance.  The Old Testament does not give a favorable opinion for the Jews either: God does not mince His words.  But the truth must be revealed, and to reveal the truth, falsehoods must be exposed. This opposition between the two theologies is what is known in Revelation as the "battle of Armageddon," which is a spiritual battle against the revelation of the Second Coming of Christ.


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.