Friday, March 24, 2017

Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?



Jesus promised his disciples and those who followed Him that He would come again. This is known as the Second Coming. There are several "mainstream" interpretations of the Second Coming which has formed some false expectations in the minds of many. With these false expectations, many will not see the reality of the true Second Coming. False expectations can blind people to the truth - for example, the Jews expected a literal Messianic King, who would lead them to conquer the world. This false expectation is diametrically opposed to the spiritual truth of the Word, and because of it, the Jews completely missed recognizing the identity of Jesus Christ.

As it was then, so it is now. There are several false expectations that have been formed regarding the Second Coming. To be specific:

  1. There will be a visible appearance of Jesus in the sky, seen by everyone.
  2. At some point in time, Jesus will descend upon the Mount of Olives.
  3. Related to #2, there will be a third temple established in Jerusalem.
  4. There will be a rapture of Christians into the clouds of the sky.
  5. There will be a literal physical resurrection of the body.

So lets examine expectations surrounding each of these subjects, and look at what the New Testament actually has to say on this.


IS THE SECOND COMING A PHYSICAL RETURN OR A SPIRITUAL REVELATION?




Let's start with a verse may indicate that there will be a physical return, visible to everyone:
Behold, he comes with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Rev. 1:7)

There is a similar passage in Matt. 24:30. This at first seems that He will make a visible appearance, and that every eye shall see Him. But Jesus counters this argument in what at first seems to be a conflicting statement:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21).

This is important, the word "observation" means "visible evidence" or "outward show" - something that can be seen with one's literal eyes. This means there will not be outward visible evidence of the Second Coming.  So what does it mean that "every eye shall see him"? What it means is that those who have spiritual sight, that is spiritual understanding, will be able to see the truth of the Second Coming. That this is the spiritual meaning of "eye" can be seen from the following passage:
And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:29)

This Jesus commands after stating one should not look upon a woman lustfully, for even the thought of it is considered adultery (Matt. 5:28). It's one's internal thought or intent that counts. Thus he is of course not literally stating that we should pluck our eye out, but rather, that one should correct how one sees things. These false thoughts should be searched out and removed. Thus "eyes" in the spiritual sense signify one's spiritual understanding in a good sense, or a false understanding in the bad sense.  Correcting how one sees things falsely is again portrayed as removing a "beam" out of one's "eye" before removing a speck of dust out of another person's "eye" (Matt. 7:3-5).

So let's pick out another passage, which causes problems to many:
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Truly I say unto you, There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:27-28)
Some early Christians had interpreted this that the Second Coming should have taken place in the lifetime of the disciples. That the early Christians had this expectation, can be seen from the following passage, where Jesus singles out the disciple John after Peter asks what would become of him:
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
So the saying spread abroad among the brothers  that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:21-23)
And, in the literal sense, it was John who literally saw the Second Coming take place, in a spiritual vision as recorded in the book of Revelation.  That Jesus is talking about one's spiritual vision is easily proven in the book of Revelation. Before John's grand vision, John states this:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day (Rev. 1:10)

Which means he was in a spiritual visionary state. That "in the spirit" means one was in a spiritual visionary state can be seen from Ezekiel:
The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah (Eze. 37:1)
After which Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley of bones coming to life. John would later mention he was caught up into heaven "in the Spirit" (Rev. 4:1), that he was carried away to a wilderness "in the Spirit" (Rev. 17:3), and he was taken to see the New Jerusalem "in the Spirit" (Rev. 21:10). 

Combining Jesus' statement of His Second Coming, with the fulfillment of it by John seeing it in a spiritual vision, we can infer that John is a type of the future, where the Second Coming will be seen in spiritual vision.


THE MOUNT OF OLIVES PROPHECY



There are a couple of passages that are used as proof that Jesus will return in physical form upon the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem. One is the scene of the ascension of Jesus at the Mount of Olives. After Jesus commands his disciples to return to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, He then ascends into heaven. There is unfortunately a mistranslation here in most English translations, I will select the NASB:
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
This is stating that Jesus will return "in just the same way" or as other translations have it, "in like manner" (KJV).  The problem here is this phrase is added by the translators, the Greek simply has "as."  So the last sentence should read as follows:

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
It simply says He will come again from heaven.  It does not say "in just the same way" or "in like manner."  This phrase was added by translators.  I double checked this with an online Greek interlinear tool, you can see the entire chapter here: Greek Interlinear of Acts 1The same Greek word (Strongs #5158) is simply translated as "as" in Acts 7:28, 15:11, 27:25.

Another point, when Jesus appeared to others after the resurrection, in many cases He manifests Himself by opening up their spiritual vision:
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)
With the corrected translation of Acts 1:11, it is saying Jesus will come "as you have watched" or "as you have seen." If they were seeing Him with their spiritual vision opened, then this means He will return in a manner that is seen in spiritual vision.

Now, there is the case of a prophecy of Zechariah which speaks of the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives:

Jehovah shall go forth, and fight against the nations. . . . His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before the face of Jerusalem . . . and the mount of Olives shall cleave asunder, that a part thereof shall remove toward the east, and [a part] toward the sea, with a great valley; and a part of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and a part of it toward the south (xiv. 3, 4).

This many have taken to be a prophecy of the Second Coming. But that is not the case, it is a prophecy of the First Coming, foretelling how a new church would be established that would withdraw from the Jews and go out towards the Gentiles. The spiritual sense of this prophecy is explained by Swedenborg in Heavenly Arcana:
"Here the Lord and His coming are the subject; by the mount of Olives is signified the good of love and of charity and thus the church, for these goods make the church. That the church would remove from the Jewish nation, and would be established among the Gentiles, is signified by the mountain being cleft asunder toward the east, toward the sea [the west], and toward the north, and the south; in like manner as by the words of the Lord in Luke: Ye shall be cast forth without. And they shall come from the east, and the west, and from the north, and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God (xiii. 28, 29). In a universal sense by Jehovah going forth and fighting against the nations, and by His feet standing upon the mount of Olives which is before the face of Jerusalem, is meant that the Lord from the Divine love would fight against the hells; for the nations are the evils which are from the hells (n. 1868, 6306), and the mount of Olives, on which were His feet, is the Divine love." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9780.13)
The massive work Heavenly Arcana goes through several passages that prove that in the spiritual sense, mountains signify love (or in the opposite sense selfish pride), and nations in a bad sense signify the evils of hell. It is also known to some that Jesus made a descent into hell between his death and resurrection and effected a last judgment. In these spiritual judgments, this is portrayed in the spiritual world as the upheaval and upturning of mountains (see Rev. 6:14-16). The upturning of mountains in the spiritual world is further described in Swedenborg's vision in the work The Final Judgment. That "mountain" has a spiritual meaning can simply be seen from the gospels:
For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)
Jesus is obviously not literally speaking of a literal mountain. Following the description of the splitting of the Mount of Olives, Zechariah then describes a river that proceeds out of Jerusalem toward the west, and toward the east through the split Mount of Olives, which again has a spiritual meaning:
"In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; part of them to the eastern sea, and part of them to the hinder sea (xiv. 8).
"Living waters from Jerusalem" signify truths from a spiritual origin in the church, which are the truths that are received by man when he is illustrated by the Lord while he is reading the Word. "Jerusalem" is the church in respect to doctrine, the "sea" signifies the natural man, into which those things that are in the spiritual man descend; the "eastern sea" signifies the natural man in respect to good; and the "hinder sea" the natural man in respect to truth; and as the natural man is in the generals of truth, "sea" also signifies the general of truth." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 275.20)

This river is again described in the vision of a new temple in Jerusalem in Ezekiel, which literalists interpret as a future third temple. However it is symbolic, and it spiritually signifies the Christian Church that would be established. This is shown in detail in the blog post The Spiritual Symbolism of Ezekiel's Vision of the Third Temple. There are several items in Ezekiel's vision which show that it cannot be taken literally, but should be interpreted in a spiritual manner.


IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A RAPTURE?



Next, associated with many Christians' expectation of a physical Second Coming of Jesus is the idea of a rapture, where they will suddenly be caught up in heaven to be with the Lord. This mainly comes from the letters of Paul:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thes. 4:7)
The original prophecy of this was probably taken from the gospel of Matthew:
And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:30-31)
The original does not even mention the word "rapture" but instead "gather together." Nevertheless, from the letter of Paul he mentions that those who are alive and remain will be "caught up" and from this Greek word we have the word "rapture."  There are two interpretations of this. It can indeed mean a sudden physical transportation, as in the case of Philip:
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:39-40)
The word "caught away" is the same as "caught up" in 1 Thes. 4:7 where we get the term rapture. So from this, many assume there will be an actual physical ascension into the sky. However there is another, perhaps more interesting interpretation. The same word is used by Paul in a completely different context:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)
Some surmise Paul had this near death experience when he nearly died from being stoned to death. The word "caught up" or "rapture" is used twice in this verse. Here it does not refer to a physical ascension, but rather the rapture is to be caught up or enraptured in a spiritual visionary state.  And this is exactly what happens to John in his vision of the Apocalypse:
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. (Rev. 4:1-2)
With the apostles and select individuals throughout history, such visions took place on a limited individual basis. But the promise of the future is that such a visionary state will become more widespread:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)
In parallel with that, the majority of cases have been of those who are false prophets. So in each case they should be tested to determine if what they are stating is valid. But the point here is this: the expectation of a "rapture" can be fulfilled by a widespread outpouring of the Spirit, allowing people to enter a visionary state. At the moment, this is not permitted for most everyone, as most people's minds have been lowered into material and carnal desires away from the love of the Spirit.


IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE PHYSICAL BODY, OR THE SPIRITUAL BODY?




So somewhat related to all this is the doctrine of the resurrection. There are many, at this day, who expect a literal physical resurrection, where people will rise out of their graves. This view is related to a literal appearance of the Second Coming, where everyone assumes all things take place in this material physical world. But this is not the case: one is resurrected in the spiritual world, in a spiritual body. One can take the same passages and interpret them either way. For example:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)
This would indicate we will be raised in a spiritual glorified body. Will it be visible in this world? Not necessarily. And then there is this one:
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)
To interpret these references to a resurrection, one must have spiritual knowledge of the afterlife. In the spiritual world, midway between heaven and hell, there is an intermediate state where souls gather, good and evil, who were not judged right after death. Many enter into a state of sleep. John sees them in one of his visions of the Apocalypse, where souls "under the altar" are told they must rest or sleep a little longer (Rev. 6:9-11). There are three heavens signified by the three divisions of the temple; the lowest heaven is represented by the outer court and this is where the altar was located. Those "under the altar" are those in this intermediate state between heaven and hell.

It is in this intermediate state, where many are unaware or asleep, is where the last judgment takes place. One is judged after death, some immediately who go to heaven or hell, but many will gather in this intermediate spiritual world. Thus, it is in the spiritual world where last judgments take place. And indeed, the Second Coming is this event - a judgment of souls in the spiritual world:
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matt. 16:27)
At this time, there is a separation between the good and evil. This is described in the parable of Matthew 25, where the righteous are signified by "sheep" and the evil by "goats" -
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt. 25:31-32)
As this is a common misconception, one of the primary revelations given to Swedenborg is a complete explanation of the afterlife, the spiritual resurrection there, and how people are judged according to their works in a complete life review. For further information on this see Heaven and Hell as well as The Final Judgment.  This is becoming more well known among those who study the Near Death Experience from a variety of witnesses who have been brought back to life.


IF THE SECOND COMING IS "NONE OF THE ABOVE" THEN WHAT IS IT?



So its not a literal physical return, there is no literal physical resurrection, there is no rapture into the sky... all I have said so far is what it isn't, and that one must look for a higher spiritual explanation.  It is very simple: in the First Coming, the "Word was made flesh." The Word, or Greek Logos, is the Lord as to Divine truth made manifest in human form. In the Second Coming, the Word or Divine truth has been made manifest in the spiritual sense of the Word itself. This spiritual sense has been made manifest in the many volumes of revelations given in waking visions to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century. It is a more internal revelation, not an external visible revelation.

That this is so, is indicated by Jesus, who always describes the Second Coming as the coming of the "Son of Man."  In the New Testament, "son of Mary" is used to refer to Jesus in His ordinary human form, "Son of God" is used to refer to Jesus in His glorified Divine Human form, but "Son of Man" is used to refer to the Lord as to the Divine truth. To appear "in the clouds of heaven" does not mean He will appear in the sky, but rather He will appear in spiritual vision. The "clouds" is the obscure truth that appears in the literal sense of the Word; for the Son of Man to "appear in glory" signifies the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word. This He did in the 18th century to Emanuel Swedenborg over a period of 27 years of continuous waking visions, where incorrect doctrines of Christianity have been corrected, for there are many false teachings that have corrupted the core of Christianity where very little truth means. And that is the other point: the Second Coming will take place when there is little or no faith left on earth:
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)
And there will be a general falling away from Christianity, where a false religion will come to take its place:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (1 Thes. 2:3-5)
This particular prophecy is probably taken from Dan. 11:45. A "falling away" is an apostasy from the true faith, a "man of sin" indicates that the falling away is where sin is disregarded, and to show oneself as God is to have an incorrect understanding of God Himself. Thus to see and recognize the Second Coming, one has to first recognize the falsehoods that are propagated in one's own religion. Very few question what they are taught to believe. Falsehoods from within is what causes a true church to come to its end:
"A church is brought to an end by various means, especially by such as cause falsity to appear as truth; and when falsity appears to be truth, then the good which in itself is good and is called spiritual, is found no more." (True Christian Religion, n. 754)
Thus what to expect? A true revelation of Jesus Christ and Christianity, a revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, revealed through spiritual vision. This will establish a New Church, which will be among the few and opposed by the many. This is signified by the 2 witnesses (Rev. 11), the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev. 7 and 14), and the woman who flees to the wilderness (Rev 12) which signifies a state of truth in obscurity known to few. This will be opposed by a false form of Christianity, signified by the dragon, beast and false prophet (Rev. 13) as well as the whore of Babylon (Rev. 17-18). That the Second Coming is a heavenly revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, can be seen by the coming of the Lord on a white horse, where we have this statement:
And his name is called The Word of God (Rev. 19:13)
As for the hidden spiritual sense of the Apocalypse, see further in the works Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained. The good news here, is the Second Coming has taken place, to reveal a more spiritual Christianity where further heavenly secrets are revealed. This was revealed in spiritual vision by Jesus Christ to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century:
"We read in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven (as in Matt. xxiv. 30; xxvi. 64; Mark xiv. 62; Luke xxi. 27; Apoc. i. 7; xiv. 14; Dan. vii. 13; see also Matt. xvii. 5; Luke ix. 34, 35). But hitherto no one has known what was meant by the clouds of heaven; they have believed that He is to appear in them in person. But that by the clouds of heaven the Word in the sense of the letter is meant, and by the glory and power in which also He is then to come (Matt. xxiv. 30) the spiritual sense of the Word is meant, has been heretofore concealed, because hitherto no one has even by conjecture reached the conclusion that there is a spiritual sense in the Word such as this sense is in itself. Now because the Lord has opened to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and it has been granted me to be together with angels and spirits in their world as one of them, it has been disclosed that by the clouds of heaven is meant the Word in the natural sense, and by glory the Word in the spiritual sense, and by power the Lord's power through the Word." (True Christian Religion, n. 776)







63 comments:

  1. Thank you! I did not know that the Mount of Olives prophecy was about the first coming. Truly an eye opener!

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    1. Yes that Mount of Olives prophecy, as well as that mistranslation in Acts 1:11, I think is a barrier to acceptance of the revelation of the Second Coming. It puzzled me for a while until I researched it further. One must learn to avoid the "slippery slope" of literalism when it comes to the Mount of Olives.

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  2. I am very grateful for your work on this. I may have some follow up questions for you.

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  3. Hi, Doug. I published your comment on my blog 3 Minute Apologetics. Would love to engage in dialogue with you re: religion/Christianity/Catholicism.

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    1. Thank you apologist. There were a few other posts I was thinking of leaving a comment, but feel free to leave a comment here as well. For this particular post I was thinking of adding a few of the prophecies of Hildegard von Bingen but the post started to get too long.

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    2. I am interested in your response to my point that you wouldn't know that God is love, except through a tacit submission to the revelation of Christianity. Is this something you acknowledge?

      Also, I am curious what your thoughts are on Pastor Timothy Keller's assertion: "If your god never disagrees with you, you may be worshipping an idealized version of yourself". If you agree, can you offer an example of something which you've conceded to, as far as belief, because that's what God ordained? Or does your theology happen to match every single thing you, as a human person, endorse of your own accord?

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    3. Hello Apologist,
      Just saw your comment...

      We would not know of God, of heaven and hell, or how to live, without revelation. There have been successive revelations throughout history. Periodically a revelation is given, and when corrupted by men over time, a new revelation follows. Some think they can prove all this through logic/reason, but to do so one has to make a certain set of assumptions, and our knowledge from the senses and reason is limited.

      As far as examining my own beliefs, I once grew up Protestant. However I began to recognize disagreements among the different branches of Christianity. And then I made the logical exercise: everyone who grows up in a certain religion, believes their own religion is the one true religion, without question. Instead of pointing fault at others, I began to point at my own beliefs, and examine, how much of what I have been taught is true? I decided to read scripture and determine how much of what the church is saying is correct. I discovered some false belief systems, and it was not an easy thing to do. One must be willing to go through a certain inner examination. No one likes to admit that they are wrong, and no one likes to admit the foundation of their own religion is wrong. There is a certain sadness, when one discovers one has been deceived, but it is followed by joy when one discovers the truth.

      Most depend on truth on the basis of authority and tradition. Very few will seek a rationale for their belief. In the New Church, it is a teaching that all spiritual truth must be in agreement according to reason, but one cannot by reason alone explore the higher mysteries of faith. However certain revelations have been made where those "mysteries" are no longer a mystery. Faith is not "blind belief" as many assume, one should not suspend one's understanding in ignorance.

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    4. Interesting comments, Doug.

      What is it you use to gauge whether a putative "revelation" is true?
      What if there is a proposed revelation from God which declares that all women are inferior spiritually to men? How do you know if this is true or not?

      Also, could you address Timothy Keller's comment?

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    5. Scripture of course is the baseline, and evidence that a revelation was made outside of human knowledge or reasoning (e.g., they give evidence of prophecy, clairvoyance, healing, etc). For scripture, doctrine determines how to read it, and scripture itself confirms doctrine. This is somewhat circular, thus you have to go to the Lord Himself and ask for enlightenment.

      As for your question on women, what if I told you there was a revelation that explains why humans were created male and female? Its actually an interesting question, you have cells that divide without the need to have 2 different sexes. Ask why there are two sexes in higher forms of life, and if you know that, to call one sex "inferior" is a complete falsehood. You would see one side of the coin and it would lead to an imbalanced life.

      I am not sure who Timothy Keller is, but I would say first, that when I read "True Christian Religion," I realized I had to question the doctrine of a trinity of three persons.

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    6. Scripture is the baseline--but who determines what's Scripture? How do you know that the Gospel of Mark is revelation but that the Epistle of Clement is not?

      Regarding the dogma of the Trinity--why would God's nature be something to which you would have to agree or accede?

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    7. Hello Apologist,
      As for the first question, I already answered it in previous posts. There is internal evidence within each book which indicates whether or not it is Divinely inspired or not. See What books are Divinely Inspired? and The Divine Inspiration of the Epistles of Paul, and a Lost Epistle of Paul. There are, also, different levels of inspiration so I can't give you a short answer. As for the Epistle of Clement, I would classify it as close to the letters of Paul. As for the epistles of Ignatius they may have been tampered with. The Shepherd of Hermas looks like it has a valid vision in it, but it also has been tampered with. See The Ancient Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas and The Shepherd of Hermas and Swedenborg: Fictional Parable or Vision?. The Didache is also a good candidate close to the letters of Paul.

      I am not understanding the latter question. If one does not accept something it is not believed, and something not believed is not then acted upon.

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    8. Good morning! Quick questions: so, the Epistles of Clement is "close" to the letters of Paul, but not theopneustos? How do you know? Also, you only put it as a singular letter. Which one of Clement's epistles do you believe to be "close" to Paul? And what does this mean as far as evaluating truth--do we use the Epistles of Clement as one of our sources of revelation or not?

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    9. The initial criteria for the New Testament was simply do they contain the words of Jesus or those of the apostles, and forgeries were eliminated. In terms of Divine inspiration, strictly speaking here, Divine inspiration are those spoken directly by God. So in the New Testament, the words of Jesus have priority, which would be the Gospels and the Apocalypse. The letters of Paul, strictly speaking, are not Divinely inspired but Divinely influenced, and are useful for doctrinal teaching to the general public. So as far as I could see, the epistle of Clement falls into this category. Second epistle of Clement was not written by Clement as far as I remember.

      So again, the source of truth is Divine revelation because God is Truth. The further one moves away from direct Divine revelation, the lower the inspiration, and the more one falls into the traditions of men. You can see this in the Jewish canon, where scripture is divided between the law, prophets and Psalms, but the Jews included other writings that were useful for instruction or history, which they classified as the "Writings" or "Ketuvim" in Hebrew.

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    10. What about the Epistle to the Hebrews? We don't even know the author, so how do you know it's theopneustos? And how do you know that all of the other ancient Christian texts which purportedly contained the words of Jesus aren't inspired?

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    11. Also, who decided what the "initial criteria" were for the NT?

      And, yes, we are agreed that the source of truth is Divine Revelation, but you have to defer to a man-made authority to discern what actually belongs in the Bible. You rely on someone else to tell you what this is.

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    12. Yes the author is unknown, but Eusebius said tradition associated it with Paul even though he may not have actually written it. Its included because its theology is sound. The actual author was not the primary consideration, thus you have Mark who was not an apostle but wrote down the work at the dictation of Peter. The main thing the New Testament does is eliminate all the Gnostic forgeries and false gospels that were going around at the time.

      So, a Divinely inspired text is written differently than the works of men, in which the way the story or words are formed are according to heavenly correspondences, or what we would also call using a system of symbolic meanings. This is the Second Coming, in which it is revealed how and why certain books of the Bible are Divinely Inspired - the Divine Word is revealed in the literal sense of the letter, whereas in the First Coming the Divine Word was made flesh. The proof has been provided in a multi-volume work known as "Heavenly Arcana" or "Arcana Coelestia," in which there is a word by word analysis of Genesis and Exodus but much of the rest of the Bible is covered in that analysis. Another useful work is Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained, which again covers the hidden spiritual sense in scripture. With these works the proof is now there for anyone to examine to see for themselves.

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    13. Now, surely you see that this doesn't make sense--"its theology is sound".

      If one gets his theology from Scripture---which is your position--you can't look at something and then say, "Well, its theology is sound so therefore it's Scripture".

      Right?

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    14. Also, how do you know that the Gnostic gospels are forgeries, unless you already received Revelation?

      Again, you can't say, "I get all my religious truth from the Scriptures, and I know something is Scripture because it tells religious truth!"

      It's circular, no?

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    15. Which one came first for you, Doug? You receive the kerygma through some special gnosis (infused into your heart perhaps?) and then you read all of the over 400 ancient texts and discern which ones conform to your gnosis...and then say, "Yes, this one is theopneustos, and this one is not..."...meaning YOU determine what books actually belong in the Bible...

      OR...

      You have the writings, given to you, and then all religious assertions are evaluated in light of what these writings declare.

      Which is the paradigm you embrace?

      It certainly sounds like it's the latter...

      and if so, then that means you submit to the authority of men, Catholic men, Catholic bishops to be exact, to tell you what books belong in the Bible.

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    16. As I said before, doctrine is received from scripture and scripture is understood by doctrine, which is circular, and everyone will have their own bias. Thus you have to go to the Lord for enlightenment. You will not know unless you go to the Lord, it will be kept hidden if you do not.

      As to what text is Divinely inspired, it is the internal evidence from the text itself. "Argument from authority," as you must know, is a logical fallacy. However at the beginning it was necessary because the masses did not have the discernment, so there is a reason from Divine providence why power was first centralized with the Catholic Church. However, it is not going to meet the needs of a modern world that wants a rational argument, and its not going to address the attacks from Biblical criticism. The church is failing in that regard. Paul said one must be ready to give a rational defense for one's faith.

      Again, I did not depend on my own knowledge for this, I looked for evidence of Divine revelation. I actually had to change a lot of what I used to think was true, and I had to be willing to question it.

      As for the Gnostic texts, the only one that I am ambivalent on is the Gospel of Thomas. That one I prefer to remain "agnostic," that is, I take the position of "I don't know."

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    17. I'm glad you acknowledge that your paradigm is circular.
      What needs to be acknowledged now is that this circular paradigm for discerning what's the Word of God is UNTENABLE.

      What you are really saying is that you don't actually know how you know something is theopneustos.

      And that's a very, very perilous position to embrace.

      It permits you to believe things which come from other sources (perhaps the evil one?) and think that they are actually the Word of God.

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    18. Regarding "internal evidence"--firstly, what "internal evidence" tells you that Hebrews is theopneustos, and the Shepherd of Hermes is not?

      Argument from authority is a logical fallacy? I think you are actually begging the question here. First you must prove that the Catholic Church is not the authority on what belongs in the Bible.

      As such, right now, you simply defer to her authority each and every time you quote from the NT as being theopneustos.

      OR, you reserve for yourself the right to say, "Well, I think that this book in the NT is not inspired, but I think that the Gospel of X (not in the bible) is"...and that's a very, very dangerous position for the people of God to be in.

      Just what the Devil ordered, IMHO. He wants there to be chaos and confusion about what's the Word of God. He want people to splinter into groups that say, "We don't believe Paul's writings are inspired!" and "We believe that the Epistles of Mary are inspired!".

      No, Doug. You don't get to decide what's theopneustos. That's beyond your paygrade.

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    19. Regarding the Gospel of Thomas, why are you "ambivalent" about it? What criteria are you using to determine whether something is theopneustos?

      If you're using what's already discerned (by the Catholic Church) to be theopneustos, then that's fine, but that still means you're deferring to the authority of the CC. And that also means you believe her to be infallible.

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    20. Circular reasoning, and truth from authority are both fallacies, and that is why one needs to go to the Lord. And to make this easy for you, you can consider the Lord to be head of the Catholic Church, and the priests are His representatives. But the problem with "everything I say is the truth" one fails to recognize and acknowledge the falsehoods that have crept into the church. It is not enough to say I believe this to be the truth, it is better to know WHY it is the truth. Then you can give rational arguments for one's faith to any outsider. Jesus warns against making void the Word of God by religious tradition (Matt. 15:3,6).

      Scripture is written in such a way to protect that which is holy from what is profane, so it leaves things hidden to the general audience. Again, I said the rational proof of Divine inspiration has been spelled out in Heavenly Arcana for anyone to examine. And so, from that one can see what is inspired and what isn't. I did not say I did not know on that matter. It forms the basis of an objective and consistent proof.

      As for knowing what is heavenly revelation and what is not, in the spiritual world no demon can acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, and much less even utter his name. They utterly despise Him. Go talk to a Catholic exorcist and they can tell you more on the matter. Or you can just read this: The Origin and Cause of Demoniac and Poltergeist Activity. The Jewish leaders, of course, when confronted with Jesus who did not conform to their traditions accused Him of having a demon.

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    21. Thanks for your comments, Doug, and am enjoying the dialogue immensely.

      However, the comments above are nonsequiturs.

      Let's address your acknowledgement that you use circular reasoning to discern what's inspired. You acknowledge in the above post that this is a fallacy.

      So please consider this, now that you've acknowledged your view as fallacious, that you ought to re-evaluate your paradigm.

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    22. Regarding "falsehoods that have crept into the (Catholic) church", could you identify which teachings you view to be false, and how you know them to be false?

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    23. Regarding "Scripture is written in such a way to protect that which is holy from what is profane, so it leaves things hidden to the general audience"--you first need to know what IS Scripture.

      For example, is this inspired? How do you know?

      Challenge to you here:

      You tell us whether each of these verses is inspired, and how you know this:

      • All generations shall call me blessed!
      • O you who believe! Remember God's favor to you when there came against you forces, so We sent against them a strong wind and forces which you did not see, and God is Ever- Seeing what you do.
      • My breath is offensive to my wife.
      • For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.
      • Moreover, what I have now said in regard to abstaining from wanton looks should be carefully observed, with due love for the persons and hatred of the sin, in observing, forbidding, reporting, reproving, and punishing of all other fault.
      • Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD.
      • And seek assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones.

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    24. Well first, I do not use circular reasoning, nor argument from authority, to determine what is inspired. I go by Divine revelation. Again, its hard to summarize here, but the methods are spelled out in Heavenly Arcana. And part of that is you have to take the passage in context, because every word is interpreted according to its predicate or context, and the series of what preceded and what follows.

      What happens is when one is taught certain doctrines, they use that as their world view when interpreting scripture. It becomes a self-confirming bias. To break the cycle, you have to admit that what you have been taught may be wrong, and that you don't know everything, and to ask the Lord for guidance. You can detect that your doctrines might be wrong when scripture is stretched to fit the doctrine. Such as the meaning of the ark of the covenant. So although what I described may seem circular, when a passage comes up that does not quite "fit" the doctrine one should examine the truth of the doctrine itself.

      Now, one's bias or world view is hard to break. So, what the Lord does is He will reveal things adapted in a manner so that it can be received, so that a falsehood can be bent towards the truth. So in pagan Rome, when Christianity became a state religion, the mother goddess was replaced with Mary and certain gods were replaced with saints. Zoroaster did the same thing, where he took older gods and said they were angels. Muhammed did the same thing, where the moon-god was replaced with Allah, although he did have some problems with certain other deities whose worship he did not immediately remove. So there are certain things in scripture, and in revelation, that are known as "appearances of truth."

      So in the New Testament, we have Mary, who indeed was blessed to be chosen to bear the Lord. But this blessing came with its own pain. Now in the literal sense, Mary is just Mary. But in the spiritual sense, Mary herself represents the Church. And blessedness, or happiness, can only come when one belongs to the Lord and His kingdom. So when Jesus tells John, "Behold your mother" (John 19:27) in the literal sense he is telling John to take care of Mary. But the spiritual sense is much larger and universal: the church is the mother, as the Lord God is our father. Thus the fifth commandment, says "Honor your father and mother" that you days may be long in the land that is given. In the literal sense it refers to one's parents, but in the spiritual sense it refers to the Lord and the church. For days to be long in the land is to inherit eternal life in heaven.

      So, just a small example, but thats how you move beyond the literal sense to the spiritual sense, and when you do that, particular events become universal or more applicable to one's life. This spiritual sense only comes up in scripture that is Divinely inspired.

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    25. Thanks for your response, Doug. Here in this post you say you do not use circular reasoning, yet earlier, did you not assert this: "As I said before, doctrine is received from scripture and scripture is understood by doctrine, which is circular, and everyone will have their own bias"?

      I think you can see that you can't say, "I judge a text on whether it's Scripture based on whether it teaches doctrine correctly or not"...when you assert that your doctrine comes from Scripture.

      Not to mention, no where in Scripture does it give you the authority to determine what's inspired and what's not!

      That's an idea that comes to you from someone who wants chaos and confusion to reign.

      If you get to decide what's Scripture, then so does everyone else. And that leaves folks free to say, "I don't like it where the Gospel of Matthew says 'X', so therefore I'm going to say it's not inspired! And I like it where the Gospel of Barnabas says 'Y' so therefore I'm going to say it is inspired!"

      That's truly what the Devil ordered, isn't it?

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    26. Apologist, you are not understanding my answers. And there were a few links I gave to determine what is inspired or not. So let me ask this question: do you recognize Jesus Christ as the authority for what is scripture or what is not? So Luke 24:44 says this:

      “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

      Do you accept that Jesus defined scripture as the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi'im) and the Psalms?

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    27. Yes, I do accept that Jesus is the authority for what Scripture is.

      And yes, I accept that Jesus defined Scripture as the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (TANAKH). He just didn't declare Scripture to be ONLY these things.

      However, it's a tributary/nonsequitur, as it applies to this discussion.

      We still need to have the acknowledgement that you defer to the authority of MEN to tell you which books are inspired.

      Since the Bible didn't float down from heaven from Jesus, but rather is the product of the Catholic Church, you can't know that Hebrews, 3 John, James, etc etc are theopneustos and that the Epistles of Clement, the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas...are not inspired...except through your tacit submission to the authority of the Catholic Church.

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    28. The Jewish Canon is composed of the Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi'im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). Yet Jesus only declares the Law, Prophets and Psalms as canonical here. He has already possibly excluded other books as found in the Writings, or not having the same authority as the other works.

      So the next question for you: the Word of God, or Jesus Christ, has priority over the traditions of men, correct? And we must judge the traditions of men according to the Word of God, correct? This Jesus declares in Matt. 15:3,6.

      The Bible is not in reality the product of the Catholic Church. Much of the canon was defined before the Catholic Church existed. It went like this:

      Jewish Canon -> Septuagint Canon -> Western/Eastern/Ethiopic Canon

      As for accepting the authority of men, that is argument of authority, and you just warned me not to just arbitrarily pick what is inspired and what isn't. So what I am saying is not nonsequitur, it follows from your statement.

      I can give you my opinion on the Catholic canon later, but to prepare you for what I am going to say: there are certain books added to the Bible from Divine providence which are not inspired, which were included in order to protect the Word of God from being profaned by the false teachings of men.

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    29. Regarding the TANAKH--as I said, it's a nonsequitur. It's interesting, but a nonsequitur nontheless.

      And yes, Jesus, the Word Incarnate, has priority over the traditions of men. Amen!

      And yes, we judge the traditions of men according to the Word of God. Amen to that as well!

      However, you aren't really addressing how you know whether Hebrews is theopneustos and the Epistle of Barnabas is not...except that you tacitly submit to the authority of men...Catholic men..Catholic bishops to be specific.

      There is no other way for you to know which books are the Word of God and which ones aren't.

      As far as the canon being defined before the CC existed--that's not true at all. The NT came WAY AFTER the kergyma, which was given by Christ to his apostles.

      The argument from authority is only a fallacy if it's been established that the one claiming authority is actually not an authority.

      But you first have to prove that the CC is not the authority. That's why I said you've been begging the question here, Doug.

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    30. Well I am getting there. The point here is Divine revelation and evidence of that has priority over the teachings of men. Priests and authorities are human and make mistakes. So here is another passage of interest:

      "And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
      And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:
      The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
      And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
      But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.
      And they answered, that they could not tell whence [it was].
      And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." (Luke 20:2-8)

      Note that Jesus and the Jews make a distinction between a heavenly revelation given to a prophet vs. a teaching that originated from a man. If ever someone said a heavenly revelation was from the teaching of men, it would be treated as blasphemy and at that time they would stone that person to death.

      Also, when the New Testament was formed, all they addressed at the time was were these valid testimonies of the words of Jesus and the apostles. The canon as we have it now does not really address the definition of Divine inspiration.

      Now, if you assume every work in the Bible as we have it now is Divinely inspired, there are a couple of thorny issues:

      1. Jude quotes the book of Enoch as scripture, and 2 Peter references it as well as a valid book.
      2. Paul, in the book of Romans, quotes from the Psalms but includes a later interpolation that was added in the Septuagint.

      If one regards the New Testament as a group of valid documents containing the words and testimony of Jesus and the apostles, these are non issues. But if everything is Divinely inspired, then there is a logical inconsistency here.

      If we restrict ourselves to the words of Jesus, who is the primary authority, then the New Testament can be divided between the Gospels and the Apocalypse, and everything else. Everything else would be mainly the epistles of the apostles, which are good for the edification of the church. The other works we discussed, Clement, Hermas, Barnabus, etc, would fall in the latter category, but they are of lesser authority as they are not directly related to the apostles.

      So for the NT, if we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the primary authority, we can define which books have primary authority over the others.

      We also have to acknowledge that the NT as we have it now may not be complete. For example, it is historically documented that the gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. It would be interesting if the Aramaic originals of the Gospels ever turned up.

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    31. Yes, you are very Catholic when you assert that God's teachings have priority over the teachings of men!

      However, again, the ONLY way you know what belongs in the NT is because of the testimony of men...Catholic men...Catholic bishops to be exact.

      So, when you quote Luke, as you do above, this is because you have trusted in the authority of men (Catholic bishops) who told you that the writings of Luke accurately represent what Jesus taught.

      You would not know it ANY OTHER WAY, save that you defer to the authority of the CC to tell you that these words come from an inspired author.

      For example, even though there is an ancient text that declares that these are the words of Jesus: "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man", you never quote these words and the inspired words of Christ because...you defer to the authority of the Catholic Church on this.

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    32. You wrote: "Also, when the New Testament was formed, all they addressed at the time was were these valid testimonies of the words of Jesus and the apostles." YES!!!! That is nothing but a testimony of your submission to Sacred Tradition.

      That means, your doctrines come NOT from the Bible Alone, Doug.

      This is exactly what I've been leading you to acknowledge!

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    33. Also, would you mind addressing whether you can look at all of those verses I cited (without Googling!), and tell us whether they are theopneustos or not? Thanks!

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    34. Apologist, I am not sure you missed it, but the canon as we have it now does not define what is Divinely inspired or not. And I am telling you, if you are saying that every word of Jude is Divinely inspired, you would be forced to include the book of Enoch, a definite mistake. And you know as well as I do that evidence of canonical formation started in areas that now belong to the Orthodox branch, I am not sure they would agree with you calling them Catholic. Mark founded the church in Alexandria long before the church in Rome existed, and it is from there, that the Christian church adopted the Septuagint canon as the basis. They still have their own line of Popes/Patriarchs.

      But this does not matter who declared it, you simply have to go by the internal evidence of the text itself whether or not it is valid testimony or not. Church officials obviously went by the internal evidence as criteria, it is that internal criteria which determines the truth of the matter.

      To determine what is Divinely inspired or not, I go by Divine revelation, and the only revelation that addresses what is Divinely inspired or not is the one received by Emanuel Swedenborg over a period of 27 years of waking visions. In it, he acknowledged that his only source of truth was Jesus Christ:

      "That the Lord manifested Himself before me His servant, and sent me to this office, and that He afterward opened the sight of my spirit, and so has admitted me into the spiritual world, and has granted to me to see the heavens and the hells, also to converse with angels and spirits, and this now continuously for many years, I testify in truth; likewise, that from the first day of that call I have not received any thing which pertains to the doctrines of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I read the Word. For the sake of the end that the Lord might be constantly present, He has disclosed to me the spiritual sense of His Word, in which Divine truth is in its light, and in this light He is continually present. For His presence in the Word comes only by the spiritual sense; through the light of this, He passes into the shade in which is the sense of the letter; comparatively, as it is with the light of the sun in the day time, passing through a cloud that is interposed." (True Christian Religion, n. 779-780)

      And to repeat what I said before, as it has been buried in numerious blog posts, the restricted canon of the Bible containing the books that are Divinely inspired are as follows:

      "The Word of the Old Testament was of old called the Law and the Prophets. By the Law were meant all the histories, which are contained in the five Books of Moses, the Books of Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, and the Kings: by the Prophets, all the prophecies, which are those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; and also the Psalms of David." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2606).

      "The books of the Word are all those which have an internal sense; and those which have not an internal sense are not the Word. The books of the Word in the Old Testament are the five books of Moses, the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of the Kings, the Psalms of David, the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah including the Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; and in the New Testament the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; and the Apocalypse." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10325).

      So I agree! Doctrines do not come from the Bible alone. You have to look for those who have received Divine inspiration, and each person must also go to the Lord. But all doctrines and teachings still need to be confirmed by scripture. The ultimate source is the Lord.

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    35. Thanks for continuing this dialogue, Doug!

      Quick question before dinner: where do you get the idea that because something is referenced in Scripture (Enoch, by Jude), this necessarily means it's Scripture? That's just a man-made tradition you've endorsed.

      St. Paul also references pagan authors...but we don't declare that because he references them that they, too, are inspired, right? Acts 17: "For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’* as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring."

      This is an allusion to the Stoic, Aratus. But no reasonable person says, "Hey, that means that the poems of Aratus are also divine revelation!"

      Right?

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    36. Paul's quotes are by nature different. Jude obviously regards Enoch as a prophet and having actually written the work, and Peter regards the visions as genuine. There is strong evidence it was regarded as scripture by the early Christian church - it is prominent among the Dead Sea scrolls for one. The Epistle of Barnabus explicitly quotes it as scripture (see v. 16:5). Some early church fathers regard it as scripture, and others because of that quote did not want Jude as part of the canon. Another indication is that the book of Enoch itself has later Christian interpolations added at the end.

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    37. You haven't answered the question, Doug. Where do you get the idea that because an inspired writer references another writer, we have to necessarily conclude that this other writer is inspired?

      That seems like (another) man-made tradition you've been duped into believing.

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    38. I am confused by your statement: "To determine what is Divinely inspired or not, I go by Divine revelation".

      You (and readers of this blog) must see how obviously circular this is, right?

      You first have to accept something as divine revelation (that is, from what the Catholic Church told you is inspired), and then you use what the CC has told you is divine revelation as the measure by which you evaluate all other ancient Christian texts.

      That's what you're doing--but, you simply need to acknowledge that you've accepted the testimony of men...Catholic men...specifically, Catholic bishops...to tell you what's divine revelation.

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    39. There is evidence that accompanies a prophet that indicates they have received a heavenly revelation, so no it is not circular. One should apply tests to any prophet or claim of Divine revelation, as most are fraudulent. In that way, one does not have to depend on circular reasoning (which the Protestants do) or argument from authority (as Catholics do). So in the New Church there is an "escape clause" from the dilemma that both Catholics and Protestants have. So sorry, I sort of found a loophole here.

      However, if you would prefer to go by tradition or Catholic bishops, you can reference Irenaeus who gave some rather interesting arguments as to why there are only four gospels, by referencing the four animals that appear in the book of Revelation. He is actually correct in a certain way in his assessment. Also before the canon was formed, the early church fathers would always make a distinction between the words of Jesus and the apostles. In this manner, a revelation has confirmed what was previously received solely by tradition.

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    40. Again, you have to have the template already, in order to "test any prophet", right, Doug?

      And you received this template from the Catholic Church.

      There is no other way around it, Doug.

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    41. When you say Irenaeus is "actually correct" here, what is the measure you are using to determine whether he's correct, Doug?

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    42. Lets do it this way, in a way you can understand. First, where did Mary spend the last years of her life?

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    43. Can you first answer my questions, Doug?

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    44. I am going to answer your question with this question. It is not a nonsequitur. It is a simple question, where did Mary spend the last years of her life?

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    45. Where did Mary spend the last years of her life?
      https://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/LASTHOME.HTM

      Now, please answer my questions.

      -Would you mind addressing whether you can look at all of those verses I cited (without Googling!), and tell us whether they are theopneustos or not? Thanks!
      -What internal evidence tells you that Hebrews is theopneustos?
      -In order to "test prophets", you have to have first received the template, right?


      Thanks, Doug!

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    46. Thanks apologist. The problem with your answer is that Catholic tradition states that Mary died in Jerusalem. So how would we know which is correct, was it Ephesus, or was it Jerusalem? For many centuries, if I went to a Catholic bishop for the answer, he would have said Jerusalem.

      So on the others:
      * To do this would require several pages, I gave you an example for the first. But again, you cannot demonstrate it by taking passages out of context, which is what you did with the quotes.
      * Hebrews is not theopneustos.
      * Deuteronomy has the test for prophets, but you are probably going to tell me I should accept the Catholic one.

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    47. I think you are confusing Catholic tradition with Sacred Tradition, Doug.

      They are not the same thing.

      You submit to Sacred Tradition, each and every time you quote from, say, Hebrews, as theopneustos.

      But the "tradition" that Mary died in Jerusalem--that's neither here nor there. The article I cited says Mary may also have died in Ephesus.

      Or that she didn't die at all--she was simply assumed into heaven at the end of her life!

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    48. I made sure I picked the most inconsequential tradition possible. The point is, some teachings have grown over the centuries within the churches that have become falsified or corrupted. Nevertheless tradition has its place. There are three general levels or degrees of truth:

      1. Truth by tradition or religious authority.
      2. Rational truth, or truth according to reason.
      3. Spiritual truth, from an inward perception or Divine revelation.

      Truth by tradition or religious authority is the lowest level of truth. Even though it is imperfect, it has its place. When one is first introduced to Christianity, it is normal to learn from tradition or authority. And most people do not progress beyond that. The next level of truth is when one asks why something is truth, and to give a reason for it. Very few progress to that level. The next level of truth, the highest, is Divine revelation, or an inward perception, which is very rare.

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    49. Perhaps it would be better if you used the word "custom" instead of tradition, for I fear you have made a very basic (and common, so don't feel bad, Doug) mistake of confusing the two.

      There has never been a "teaching" regarding Mary's place of death, Doug.

      Please don't confuse customs with doctrines and teachings of Catholicism.

      Best place to look for what's been the constant teaching of the Church is here:
      http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

      So, again, don't confuse a custom with a teaching! :)

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    50. Now, to address your comment that you don't believe that Hebrews is God-breathed---WHAT IN THE WORLD?

      Doug, seriously? You have done exactly what the Evil One has planned. He has whispered to you, "Did God really say..." and you have been led astray here.

      No better plan does Satan have for the downfall of man than to inject some doubt into man as to what is God-breathed.

      First you say Hebrews is not theopneustos...and next will be the descent into the belief that Jesus did not rise from the dead.

      This is perilous, Doug. Utterly perilous.

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/10/Descent_of_the_Modernists%2C_E._J._Pace%2C_Christian_Cartoons%2C_1922.jpg/784px-Descent_of_the_Modernists%2C_E._J._Pace%2C_Christian_Cartoons%2C_1922.jpg

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    51. Apologist, somehow I am losing your comments, just found the ones I posted. I think there are three others. This is beginning to take several threads so you might want to separate some of these under separate comments.

      So, I selected a custom rather than a dogmatic teaching, for once the Catholic Church makes an infallible pronouncement on something that ends all discussion. So since the Catholic Church has not made a pronouncement, presumably they are agnostic on the matter. But I doubt they are agnostic. All they said officially is indeed Mary's body was assumed into heaven (in 1950). The point here, is that there are two competing traditions: one for Ephesus, the other for Jerusalem. And you cannot use scripture to determine the truth, nor a dogmatic doctrine based on authority for truth. So the question for you is: which do you think is most likely correct? How do you determine the truth of the matter? Obviously something triggered the Pope to make that pronouncement in 1950. What was it?

      And before you jump to conclusions on Hebrews, scripture is written in a variety of different styles, with different levels of inspiration. Its not like a "black" and "white" matter as most people take it. Hebrews, along with the letters of Paul, are Divinely influenced in their subject matter. But they do not have the same level of inspiration as other works, e.g., the words of Jesus, or when a prophet writes down something from an inner locution. Again I had already addressed that question in an earlier post which I put at the beginning of this discussion so I did not bother explaining it again in detail here. You will see that the Israelites were not satisfied with the law of Moses, so they were given Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. It is similar with the early Christian church, who were given Paul, who was also formerly Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. That is not a coincidence.

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    52. The difference here is all former Christian churches are somewhat dependent on the doctrines and traditions of men in addition to scripture, whereas no such dependency exists in the New Church. We have, by Divine revelation, what scripture is inspired and what is not. It is Divine revelation which has priority over everything else. The other works, such as Hebrews, is included for the sake of edification for the church, and Paul was indeed Divinely influenced in his work but not to the same extent as Divine inspired scripture.

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  4. Doug, I'd be interested in your opinion to the following question: “Why is it not better for God to not create those he foresees will ULTIMATELY choose evil/backslide? Is it not possible?”
    In Divine Providence Swedenborg talks about seeing those in an even worse state than hell because they backslid mixing evil with good such that they could neither be in heaven or hell and they were left in an inhuman skeletal looking state.
    Given God’s foresight and loving nature I’m unable to understand why He would not prevent such people from existing in the first place.
    I find studying Swedenborg very interesting, but sometimes fear doing so leaves me vulnerable to this worst case scenario where backsliding is possible and wonder if I might not have been better off in a more ignorant state.
    Anyway I’d be very interested in your thoughts. Thank you.

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    1. Well that's the paradox, we have free will, and the highest spiritual development must be done out of free will and not out of coercion. Without free will there is no spiritual development, and the Divine does everything to lead us towards good and away from evil. As for God forseeing everything, the way I think of it is we experience time sequentially whereas the Divine sees everything as now.

      No one goes to hell unless they deserve it, and everyone who goes there will know exactly why they went there and it was purely their choice, their fault. All actions are judged according to one's intentions. And also according to what one knows. So we should periodically examine ourselves, and remove the faults we know exist in ourselves. So its important to do that in conjunction with gaining knowledge, for knowledge by itself will not save.

      So the state is worse for those who profane holy things. Due to this, the spiritual sense is hidden within the literal sense. If we do not take something into our life, our will, the knowledge of truth will become dissipated, forgotten, in order to protect from the state of profanation. But it is not possible for everyone, so as much as possible the punishment is made less.

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    2. I agree with you, and I don't deny those in hell (or worse) deserve it. However you can argue that if everyone got what they deserved none would be in heaven.


      Where I get confused is...say someone learns the truth and does attempt to apply it to their life. They abstain from evil (at least where they can see it) for a time but later decide that living contrary to their will is making their life too miserable to tolerate. And despite knowing how foolish it is to live according to their own will they then decide to do so anyway. Given the way Swedenborg says Providence works, why would God not choose for such a person to die as an infant or not be born to begin with?


      I'd also like to know if you think the mixing of good an evil within the internal self can still be corrected provided the person is still alive or if once that happens the damage has been done and there is no fixing it?

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    3. Well, not everyone can accept the whole truth. So what is interesting, in several cases Swedenborg makes clear that Divine revelation is given that is adapted to that time/culture so that they could receive it. So thats one point. If I see an individual/group is not ready to receive I am not going to tell them everything, but I will say something to guide them in the right direction.

      One can be very messed up in their life and just not know where to begin. It must be made clear here, that one must go to the Lord first and ask for His help, for only He knows how to reform and regenerate man, not our selfish ego. We must act as if from our self, but acknowledge it is the Lord who will enter our heart and cleanse us from within.

      Also its important to not just acknowledge one is a sinner, but to specifically acknowledge specific sins and identify them. Even if one corrects oneself in one small sin, just that simple step, Swedenborg saw correcting oneself removes many other unseen falsehoods and evils one was not aware of. This small step is known as the "faith of the mustard seed" (see A Dream and Parable of the Mustard Seed). But I will repeat the relevant passage:

      "The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; which indeed is less than all seeds, but when it is grown it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and make their nests in the branches thereof (Matt. xiii. 31, 32). The grain of mustard seed is the good of man before he becomes spiritual; which is the least of all seeds, because he thinks that he does good from himself. What is from himself is nothing but evil; but, as he is in a state of regeneration, there is something of good, yet the least of all. Afterward as faith is being conjoined to love it becomes greater, and an herb. At last when it is conjoined it becometh a tree; and then the birds of the heavens — which here also are truths, or things of the understanding — make their nests in its branches, which are knowledges." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 55.3-4)

      So another point here: regeneration is not instantaneous. It is normal to struggle with it. It takes time and effort and improves over time. Swedenborg stated that even the angels continue to be perfected to eternity, but will never reach that ultimate perfection. It is very bad to assume one can change instantaneously overnight, but unfortunately many churches assume this. Swedenborg makes it clear that this is false, but I would also say the Catholic/Orthodox churches tend to have better teachings in regard to repentance.

      So as for profaning what is holy, it really depends. There are different levels of profanation, and I think Swedenborg discussed them when discussing the spiritual meaning of the 10 commandments (specifically adultery, or perhaps it was not taking the Lord's name in vain.) If one looks back and says "Boy that was stupid" that means you are on the right path.

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    4. Regarding your post here: "Well that's the paradox, we have free will, and the highest spiritual development must be done out of free will and not out of coercion. Without free will there is no spiritual development, and the Divine does everything to lead us towards good and away from evil. As for God forseeing everything, the way I think of it is we experience time sequentially whereas the Divine sees everything as now.

      No one goes to hell unless they deserve it, and everyone who goes there will know exactly why they went there and it was purely their choice, their fault. All actions are judged according to one's intentions. And also according to what one knows. So we should periodically examine ourselves, and remove the faults we know exist in ourselves. So its important to do that in conjunction with gaining knowledge, for knowledge by itself will not save.

      So the state is worse for those who profane holy things. Due to this, the spiritual sense is hidden within the literal sense. If we do not take something into our life, our will, the knowledge of truth will become dissipated, forgotten, in order to protect from the state of profanation. But it is not possible for everyone, so as much as possible the punishment is made less."--if this were Facebook I'd click "LIKE!" Everything you say here is very Catholic!

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    5. Swedenborg may have spoken about profaning what is holy in multiple places but the most clear in my mind is in Divine Providence (S-229) where he lists 7 different types of profanation of varying levels of severity.
      And again, I agree with what you've said. But I don't understand how it addresses my question which is: Given God's loving nature and foresight of an individual's ultimate state, why would He not prevent people from existing who He knows will be in eternal misery? Regardless of it being their choice/fault it seems like the sort of thing He could prevent. I'm sure there's a good reason why He does not, I just don't understand it.

      Anyway thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I appreciate it.

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    6. To add here, in multiple places Swedenborg discusses the real spiritual danger of separating faith from charity. It is not a minor theological issue. Those who hold to this doctrine do not know what repentance is:

      "Because few in the Reformed Christian world practise repentance, it is here added, that he who has not looked into and searched himself, at length does not know what damning evil and saving good are; for he has no religion from which to know it: for the evil which a man does not see, know, and acknowledge, remains; and that which remains becomes more and more rooted, until it closes the interiors of his mind; hence man becomes first natural, then sensual, and at last corporeal, and neither the sensual nor the corporeal man knows any damning evil, or any saving good." (True Christian Religion, n. 564)

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