A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg/22 The Second Coming of the Lord
THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD.
'And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven" (Matt. xxiv. 30), signifies the appearing then of Divine Truth; a sign denotes an appearing; the Son of Man is the Lord as to Divine Truth. It is this appearing, or this sign, about which the disciples inquired when they said to the Lord, "Tell us when shall these things come to pass, and what is the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the age" (ver. 3). For they knew from the Word that when the age was consummated the Lord would come, and they knew from the Lord that He would come again; and they understood by this that the Lord would come again into the world, not knowing as yet that as often as the church has been vastated, so often the Lord has come. Not that He has come in person, as when by nativity He assumed the Human and made this Divine, but by appearings,—either manifest, as when He appeared to Abraham in Mamre, to Moses in the bush, to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, and to Joshua when he entered the land of Canaan; or not so manifest, as through the inspirations whereby the Word [was given], and afterwards through the Word. For the Lord is present in the Word; for all things of the Word are from Him and relate to Him, as is evident from what has been so frequently shown before. This is the appearing which is here signified by the sign of the Son of Man, and of which this verse treats. "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn," signifies that all who are in the good of love and in the truth of faith shall be in grief. That mourning has this signification may be seen in Zechariah, chap. xii. verses 10-14; and tribes signify all things of good and truth, or of love and faith, consequently those who are in love and faith. They are called tribes of the earth, because they that are within the church are signified; the earth is the church. "And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heavens, with power and great glory," signifies that then the Word shall be revealed as to its internal sense, in which the Lord is. The Son of Man is the Divine Truth which is therein. The clouds are the literal sense; power is predicated of the good, and glory of the truth that are therein. This is the coming of the Lord which is here meant; and not that according to the letter He will appear in the clouds. What now follows concerns the establishment of a New Church, which takes place when the old is vastated and rejected. "He shall send forth His angels with a trumpet and a great voice," signifies election; not that it is effected by visible angels, still less by trumpets and by great voices, but by an influx of holy good and holy truth from the Lord through the angels. Therefore angels in the Word signify something appertaining to the Lord; here things which are from the Lord and concerning the Lord. By a trumpet and a great voice evangelization is signified, as also elsewhere in the Word. "And they shall gather together the elect, from the four winds, from the end of the heavens even to the end of them," signifies the establishment of a New Church. The elect are they who are in the good of love and faith; the four winds, from which they shall be gathered together, are all states of good and truth; the end of the heavens even to the end of them are the internal and external things of the Church. These things then are what are signified by those words of the Lord. (A. C. n. 4060.)
This Second Coming of the Lord is not a Coming in Person, but in the Word, which is from Him, and is Himself.
It is written in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven; but as no one has known what was meant by the clouds of heaven, men have believed that He would come in them in Person. That the clouds of heaven mean the Word in the sense of the letter, and that the glory and power in which He will also then come mean the spiritual sense of the Word, has hitherto been hidden; because no one hitherto has even conjectured that there is any spiritual sense in the Word, such as this in itself is. Now, since the Lord has opened to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and has granted me to be in company with angels and spirits in their world, as one of them, it is disclosed that by the clouds of heaven the Word in the natural sense is meant, and by power the Lord's might through the Word. That the clouds of heaven have this signification may be seen from these passages in the Word:—"There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven, and in His greatness upon the clouds" (Deut. xxxiii. 26); "Sing unto God, praise His name, extol Him who rideth upon the clouds" (Ps. lxviii. 5); "Jehovah rideth upon a swift cloud" (Isa. xix. 1).
That the Lord is the Word is very certain from these words in John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, . . . and the Word was made flesh" (i. 1, 14). The Word here means Divine Truth; for Divine truth among Christians is from no other source than the Word. It is the fountain whence all churches bearing the name of Christ draw living waters in their fulness; although it is as in a cloud, in which its natural sense is, yet it is in glory and power, in which its spiritual and celestial sense is. It has been shown in the chapter on the Sacred Scripture, and in the chapter on the Decalogue or Catechism, that there are three senses in the Word, the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial, one within another. It is therefore clear that in John the Word means Divine Truth. . . . From all this it is plain that now also the Lord will appear in the Word. The reason why He will not appear in person is, that since His ascension into heaven He is in the glorified Human; and in this He cannot appear to any man unless He first open the eyes of his spirit; and these cannot be opened with any one who is in evils and thence in falsities; thus not with any of the goats which He sets at His left hand. Therefore when He manifested Himself to the disciples He first opened their eyes; for it is said, "And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight" (Luke xxiv. 31). The same occurred with the women at the sepulchre after the resurrection; and therefore they then also saw angels sitting in the sepulchre and talking with them, whom no man can see with the material eye. Neither did the apostles see the Lord in the glorified Human before the Lord's resurrection with the eyes of the body, but in the spirit,—which appears after waking as if it were in sleep. This is evident from His transfiguration before Peter, James, and John, in that "their eyes were heavy with sleep" (Luke ix. 32). It is therefore vain to think the Lord will appear in person in the clouds of heaven; but He will appear in the Word which is from Him, thus which is Himself. (T. C. R. n. 776, 777.)
Since the Lord cannot manifest Himself in Person, as shown just above, and yet has foretold that He would come and establish a New Church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that this will be effected by means of a man, who is able not only to receive the doctrines of that church into his understanding, but also to publish them by the press. I testify in truth, that the Lord manifested Himself to me His servant, and sent me to this office; and that afterwards He opened the sight of my spirit, and so intromitted me into the spiritual world, and has granted me to see the heavens and the hells, and also to converse with angels and spirits, and this now continually for many years; likewise that from the first day of that calling I have not received anything whatever relating to the doctrines of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while I was reading the Word.
To the end that the Lord might continually be present, He has opened 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 is no otherwise than by the spiritual sense. By the light of this He passes through into the shade in which the sense of the letter is; comparatively as the light of the sun in the daytime does through an interposing cloud. (T. C. R n. 779, 780.)
It has been given me to perceive distinctly what comes from the Lord, and what from the angels; what has come from the Lord has been written, and what from the angels has not been written. (A. E. n. 1183.)
The things which I have learned in representations, in visions, and from conversations with spirits, and with angels, are from the Lord alone.
Whenever there has been any representation, vision, or conversation, I was kept interiorly and most deeply in reflection upon it, as to what therefrom was useful and good, thus as to what I might learn, (which reflection was not particularly observed by those who produced the representations and visions, and who conversed; nay, sometimes they were indignant when they perceived that I was reflecting). Thus have I been instructed; therefore by no spirit, nor by any angel, but by the Lord only, from whom is all truth and good. On the contrary, when they wished to instruct me on various subjects, there was scarcely anything but was false; for which reason I was prohibited from believing anything they said; nor was I permitted to infer any such thing whatever as was of their proprium. Moreover, when they wished to persuade me, I perceived an interior or inmost persuasion that it is so,—not as they wished; at which also they marvelled. The perception was manifest, but cannot easily be described to the apprehension of man. (S. D. n. 1647.)
The things related by me are not miracles, but are proofs that for certain ends I have been introduced by the Lord into the spiritual world.
In order that the true Christian religion might be unfolded, it was necessary that one should be introduced into the spiritual world, and receive from the mouth of the Lord genuine truths out of the Word.
In addition to the most evident proofs that the spiritual sense of the Word has been laid open by the Lord through me, who ever before [has had such experiences] since the Word was revealed in the Israelitish writings? And this sense is the very Sanctuary of the Word. The Lord Himself is in this sense with His Divine; and in the natural sense with His Human. Not even one jot of this could be opened but by the Lord Himself. This excels (præstat) all the revelations that have been made hitherto since the creation of the world.
The manifestation of the Lord and immission into the spiritual world excels all miracles. This has not been granted to any one in the same manner as to me since the creation of the world. The men of the golden age talked indeed with angels; but it was not granted them to be in any other than natural light; while to me it has been granted to be both in natural and in spiritual light at the same time. Thereby it has been granted me to see the wonders of heaven; to be among the angels, as one of them; and at the same time to receive Divine Truths in the light, and so to perceive and teach them,—and therefore to be led of the Lord. (Invitation to the New Church, n. 29, 38, 44, 52.)
How the Lord's Advent becomes effective in the Individual Man.
The Lord's presence is perpetual with every man, the evil as well as the good; for without His presence no man lives. But His advent is to those only who receive Him,—who are those that believe in Him, and do His Commandments. The effect of the Lord's perpetual presence is, that man is made rational, and that he can become spiritual. This is effected by the light proceeding from the Lord as a sun in the spiritual world, which man receives in his understanding; and that light is the truth by which he has rationality. But the Lord's advent is to him who conjoins heat with that light, that is, love with the truth; for the heat proceeding from that same sun is love to God and towards the neighbor. The mere presence of the Lord, and enlightenment of the understanding thereby, may be compared to the presence of the light of the sun in the world; unless it is conjoined with heat all things on earth become desolate. But the advent of the Lord may be compared to the advent of heat, which takes place in the springtime; and because heat then conjoins itself with the light, the earth is softened, seeds shoot forth and bear fruit. Such a parallelism exists between the spiritual things in which a man's spirit dwells, and the natural things in which his body lives. (T. C. R. n. 774.)