Category Archives: New Church Day

A New Age and a New Beginning

By Rev. Ian Arnold

“The reason why the Word is interiorly revealed that is, as to the spiritual sense before the Church is fully devastated is that a new Church will then be established, into which those who belong to the former Church are invited. And interior Divine truth is revealed for the new Church which could not be revealed before …

The case herein is similar to what took place at the end of the Jewish Church: for at its end, which was when the Lord came into the world, the interior Word was opened; for the Lord, when He was in the world, revealed interior Divine truths which were serviceable to the new Church [that is, to the Christian Church] to be established by Him ….

At this day also, for similar reasons, the interior Word is opened and Divine truths still more interior are revealed therefrom for the uses of the new Church, which will be called the New Jerusalem.”

(Apocalypse Explained, paragraph 948.2)

Turning, friends, to the book of Revelation, chapter 21, and reading verses 9, 10, and part of verse 11:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lambs wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.

You will probably not be surprised when I tell you that when the Christian church, in its early decades, was grappling with the question of which books it would regard as scripture, and include in the New Testament, the greatest question and the longest-running debate rested over the book of Revelation. And in fact, for the first 300 years of the Christian church, more or less up until the Council of Nicaea, the debate continued, and uncertainty surrounded, the book of Revelation as to whether it qualified as a book of scripture: whether it measured up to be regarded as an equal partner of other books, the 26 other books, which comprise the New Testament.

One of the words I found used to describe Revelation, all those centuries ago, and which was behind the uncertainties and questions going on, was that people found it “strange”. And to this day, people find the book of Revelation strange. Even at the time of the Reformation in the 1500s, there was a renewed debate about the book of Revelation and whether it qualified to remain a book of the New Testament. But in our day, I’ve come across references to the book of Revelation as being “weird”, “impenetrable”, “difficult to get into”, “off-putting” and its contents “seemingly random”. Now all of these I’ve heard or read or come across: ways in which people have described the book of Revelation.

Now as far as the book of Revelation being off-putting is concerned, I want you friends to realise that it is a book that is based within the spiritual world. The apostle John, in his old age, had his spiritual eyes opened so that he saw all sorts of things represented before him, strange and weird. The words are applicable: strange and weird. But we’ve got to remember that when it comes to the book of Revelation, in many ways it’s not unlike dreams: because in dreams, all sorts of imagery can cross our mind, and even trouble us, but behind it all there can be disappointments or changes, decisions to be made, or crises being gone through. And the dream can often be penetrated and interpreted, so we get to bottom of what lies behind: the cause, the truth, of what is going on with us or with the person who is dreaming.

And so far as the book coming across as random is concerned, it is not random. It is not nearly as random or as disconnected as it first may seem. The reality is that the contents of the book of Revelation fall into three main sections, and each follows the other in wonderful sequence. The book begins with a vision of the Lord, and a call to a right relationship with him. What follows next are chapters of what seem like chaos and upheaval: beasts, and strange things happening. And finally there comes breakthrough and a new beginning: the holy city New Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God. Which brings us back to the words I chose as my text:

“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lambs wife,” and he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.

In this book of the Writings of our church called The Last Judgement, in paragraph 40, the statement is made that “all things contained in the book of Revelation are, at this day, being fulfilled”. So the book warrants, it demands, our attention because it is speaking to us about a time you and I are living in. To illustrate this, we need to stop just for a moment on the second of the three great parts within the book: from chapter 4 to chapter 19, and the descriptions of chaos and upheaval. We would have to have our heads buried in the sand to deny that we live in an age of chaos and upheaval. Just contemplate for a moment the things that are going on in the world: the anxieties, for example, with regard to the proliferation of nuclear war and armaments; the concern there is over the environment, global warming; and the difficulty that even the greatest and most powerful nation on earth is having containing and controlling and resisting terrorism. How can we, as we look out on the world, deny that this is a time of chaos, anxiety and upheaval?

And so it is also, friends, when we go a little bit deeper and look at things on a spiritual level, where there are competing religious teachings and philosophies. It may be the same with you as it is for me, that when I see a rabid Islamic cleric shouting and screaming into a microphone to try to energise his followers to acts of terrorism, I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed because I’m a representative of a religion, and I am in some oblique way tarred with the same brush by people out there who would prefer not to have anything to do with religion, if through their television screens and the news bulletins of the night-time, they’re confronted with religious fervour that leads to division and people hurting, maiming and killing one another. How can we say that this is not a time of chaos and upheaval, even, as I say, at a spiritual level? And it is also, when it comes to our actions and lives, that this is, and it will be known as, an age of moral relativism. In other words, there is a resistance to the whole idea that there are any such things as moral absolutes: that what is moral is what suits me as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. What is right is what’s right for me: that’s moral relativism. And it is rampant is our society, in our western society, at the moment. People don’t like to hear about moral absolutes.

So friends, I go back to what I said, that you and I would have to have our heads buried in the sand not to see that we live in this age of chaos and upheaval, of anxiety and uncertainty. And it beings home to us the truth of this statement here in paragraph 40: that the things that are said in the book of Revelation are at this day being fulfilled.

But the book of Revelation, as we saw before, doesn’t end there. And it is so important for us to grasp this: yes, this occupies the chapters 4 to 19, but that’s not where the book cuts off. The book goes on to describe a wonderful breakthrough, a new beginning: the holy city New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven:

“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lambs wife,” and he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.

How important and how useful it is for us also friends, to pause a moment and to realise that what has just been said with regard to humankind as a whole also applies to you and me in our individual lives. Of course there are times of chaos and upheaval that we go though, times of anxiety and uncertainty, times when we feel challenged and can’t make sense often enough of what is happening. The book also, you see, speaks to us personally. But hold on to this again: that it doesn’t finish at chapter 19. It doesn’t finish with chaos and upheaval: it goes on to talk about breakthrough and new beginnings. And so it is with our own experience and lives. Though there be dark and difficult, anxious and uncertain, troubled and challenging times we go through, beyond it there is breakthrough and a new beginning. Light dawns:

“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lambs wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.

There is an amazing passage in the first volume of the Arcana Caelestia, which, ever since my attention was drawn to it years and years and years ago, I have never forgotten. I have often gone back to and drawn a lot of strength from it. And I just want to read the early part of it, its 842:

Before anything is restored to order, it is very common for everything to be reduced, first of all, to a state of confusion resembling chaos, so that things that are not compatible may be separated from one another. Once these have been separated, the Lord arranges them into order.

Phenomena comparable to this take place in nature. There too, every single thing is first reduced to a state of confusion before being put into its proper place. Unless atmospheric conditions included strong winds to disperse alien substances, the air could not possibly be cleared, and harmful toxic substances would accumulate in it. The same applies to the human body. Unless all things in the bloodstream, those that are alien as well as those that are congenial, were flowing along together unceasingly and repeatedly into the same heart where they are mixed together, the vital fluids would be in danger of clotting and each constituent could not possibly be precisely disposed to perform its proper function.

The same also applies to a persons regeneration.

…842 from the Arcana Caelestia.

Chaos, yes. Expect it; don’t be surprised by it. But hold on to what lies beyond it: break-through and new beginnings.

Friends, its one of those things, always so important to remember: that with regard to our times of chaos and uncertainty, when things are so much in upheaval whether personally or collectively the Lord doesn’t come riding in over human freedom and personal responsibility, openly intervening to rescue us. We would all like Him to, that’s for sure! At such times we would like Him to set everything back on track, right the obvious wrongs, replace strife with peace and take away hardened hearts. But it’s not the way He operates. Its not what would be in our best, eternal interests.

If we think back 2000 years, that’s exactly what people expected of the Lord when He made His first coming into the world. There is a description in Lukes gospel of two of the disciples returning from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection with their faces as long as a wet week. When the Lord unknowingly came in alongside them, they complained that “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel; we were hoping that He was going to openly intervene and rescue us; and He didn’t do it.” That says so much of how it was with people and their expectations of the coming of the Messiah.

It doesn’t happen that way. The Lord never openly intervenes and rescues us, plucks us out of a situation. But what He does do is that He restores and replenishes the resources that we need to deal with the situation in which we are, or into which we have entered; and that’s very important. As recently as last night, you may have seen it yourself, there was just a little news item about a one-armed shearer; he lost his arm when another vehicle collided with his truck, but it hit him on the drivers door and his arm was crushed and he lost it. And he was interviewed, but was so remarkably positive about it; and I only cite this because the help, the strength, is available to be called upon. Can you imagine how dark it must have seemed him: a shearer, a country man, who needed his hands, his arms, his body, his strength, his muscles? Can you imagine what chaos he must have gone through when the doctors said, “Sorry, but your arm is going to have to come off”? And yet he found the resources to deal with the situation that had arisen. And that’s promise of the Lord: that He will always restore and replenish the resources that are needed for us to deal with the situations that have come up on us, or like I said, into which we have entered. And that’s the case today.

In this day and age, the Lord has restored and renewed the resources that the human race needs to negotiate these uncertain, difficult, challenging, chaotic times we are living in, and these renewed resources are sufficient to bring us through to the other side to breakthrough and a new beginning. As we saw from that reading from Apocalypse Explained earlier in the service, when He came on earth, when Jesus was here in this world in Galilee, what did he do? He opened the Word to people, the Word that He said the people had made of no effect by their tradition. He showed them that there was beauty and truth and light and insight, treasures within that they had not even begun to see. And so it is, that reading goes on to say, so it is in our own time and age, that the Lord has opened the Word again, so that we may discover levels of meaning and treasures that you never dreamt of exist within there. He has provided, He has restored, and He has renewed the spiritual resources that the human race needs to find its way forward in the age we are living in and to come through to breakthrough and a new beginning.

The Lord has restored the Word to us. He has restored the truths that have become lost to humanity. He has brought back in to focus the great foundational truths on which decent human living exists and which make for connectedness with God, and they have been known from the beginning of time. The twelve foundations of the holy city New Jerusalem are the great eternal truths which have been known though the ages, which have been known in different cultures, and which now the Lord has regathered and reclaimed for us and given us again in His revelation that is so precious to us, the revelation of His second coming. We have the resources.

Friends, I mentioned earlier in my sermon things like concern over the environment, global warming, anxiety about the proliferation of nuclear armaments, the wasting away of our mineral resources, the religious ideologies which have people at one anothers’ throats and at loggerheads with one another. It’s not surprising, it’s surely not surprising, that at times it seems as if this planet, and this race, is winding down and will eventually come to an end of its own doing. And maybe it will do. But that is not what the Lord has in mind! The Lord has lead the human race down though the ages, through its infancy, through its childhood, through its adolescence, through its early adulthood; and He has now brought it to the cusp of its adulthood. In other words, the human race is only now at the point at which the Lord hoped from the beginning would be the case: when with insight and understanding, people everywhere could enter into a mature, equal, insightful partnership with Him, understanding and seeing the truths of human existence in a new way, and so connecting more closely with the Lord, and enabling Him to connect more closely with us.

I’ve often said, and I say it again, that though we love our children as infants, the richest relationship that it is possible for us to have with them is when they are adults, because then they have entered into that relationship of their own free will and choice. And so it is with the human race: that now we have come to this point of adulthood, the Lord can enter into the richest kind of relationship with us as a race.

We seem, I know, to be going against the crowd. I know that as a group and as a church we are struggling with issue to do with our future, and so might well we do that, that’s healthy! But friends, the struggle is not new. The Lord Himself struggled against the crowd, against the flow of human perception. He stood, a very lonely figure, against all that was going on around Him. Not, even at times to His closest followers, truly appreciated for who He was and what He was about.

Over these two most recent Monday evenings we have watched the ABCs “Australian Story” about a man who, at least until very recently, was marginalised and scoffed at because of his theories about land management and water conservation. Yet he had hung in there, so passionate and convinced has he been. We too, need to hold on to what we believe, notwithstanding all that would discourage us. We believe we have in our hands not just the key to good land management and water conservation, but both the promise of, and the basis for, a new spiritual Age for humanity:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lambs wife.” And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.”


The Awesomeness of the Word and Its Capacity to Transform Our Lives

By Rev. Ian Arnold
June 20th 2010

Ezekiel Chapter 1, verse 28: “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of One speaking.”

A time of uncertainty and transition

Please note, friends, that for all its complexity, and overawed and humbled by it, as he was, Ezekiel was in no doubt that this was a vision given to him of the Lord. He knew it to be from the Lord and of the Lord.

What is fascinating; and something it is important to hold on to; is that it was given to him at a time of uncertainty and transition.

This was a most uncertain time for the people of ancient Israel.

Unbelievably, their land had been over-run, and Jerusalem destroyed, by the invading and mighty Babylonians. And its leading people, including Ezekiel, had been taken away captive, into exile.

The old order; the old certainties and securities; the old mind-sets; and the way people had been seeing God; had all been reduced to rubble. Many, if not most, will have been asking if in fact God existed after all; and if he existed, whether He really cared. Hadn’t they been His special people? And wasn’t He supposed to have looked after them?

Touching base again

So – and by means of this vision – God touched base with them again.

He re-affirmed His existence; He re-assured them of His continuing involvement and of His ongoing connectedness with them; He re-asserted His care over them, even in the bewildering, new, set of circumstances in which they now found themselves.


There is a parallel here with, how it is with us; with the Age in which we are living: a parallel which, when we think about it, we can hardly miss.

The old order; the old certainties; the old securities and the old mindsets of a former Age; and the way people had been seeing God; either have passed or are in the process of passing away.

We, too, live in what can seem to be uncertain and unpredictable times. Organized religion, such as it has been, is in retreat. Secularism and excessive individualism are – as we all know – very much now to the fore.

Where is God in all this? Where has He been?

Reconnecting and touching base

God re-connected – as it will have seemed – with the people of ancient Israel by means of this vision experienced by His prophet, Ezekiel. The vision re-energized Ezekiel, in the first instance, and through him, the people. Their sense of God was renewed, and for all that it involved uncomfortable challenges, it was balanced by uplifting promises and new insights about God and about His involvement in their lives and affairs.

The Lord re-connecting and touching base with us

Both with regard to the human race as a whole and with respect to our very own, personally, unfolding, spiritual states and ages, the Lord from time to time re-connects with us: re-awakening our awareness of Him; of His involvement with us; re-affirming and opening up to us even more His purposes for us and His care over us. But with us, He does this not by means of visions as such but through, and by means of, His Word.

And, in the internal sense, this is what this vision holds up to us.

It is all about the Word.

It is about the Word renewed – in the sense of being made to come alive again.

It is about the Word, as we have it in our Bibles; the fact that confidence in it came to be so badly shaken and even remains so with many people and in many places. The fact, too, that it has been so misunderstood and argued over, wrongly interpreted and called upon, as it has been, to justify the unjustifiable.

Dr. Alan Crown, one time Professor of Hebrew and of Old Testament Studies at Sydney University, in his book, “Biblical Studies Today” wrote of modern day attitudes in these terms:

“There have always been groups of persons to whom the Bible has been a classic in the sense that it was of central relevance of their thinking, beliefs and ways of life. For these people theology remains the queen of sciences, never to be dethroned and to which all mist pay homage. In no way has the Bible ever come to be superseded. No form of critical study, scientific analysis, or historical insights could affect their understanding g that here is the plain Word of God miraculously revealed and preserved through the ages…

…On the other hand there have been those people, perhaps the majority in the Western World, who are dogmatically certain that the Bible is a collection of old wives’ tales, unworthy of serious study and certainly irrelevant to our contemporary situation. Many of the Bibles in circulation are treated like so many other ‘heirlooms’, as curious relics of days gone by, to be seen and never to be used.” (Page 2)

Just on Two thousand, six hundred years ago, the Lord touched base with the ancient Israelites to restore their faith in Him and in the reality and meaningfulness of the Word.

In our day the Lord has “touched base” – for want of a better way of putting it – with the human race, re-invigorating the Word and for the purpose of restoring our faith and confidence in it, and to awaken anew our enthusiasm and love for it.

The vision of the Word

As challenging as Ezekiel found it to get his mind around what he saw; to adequately describe it; so it is challenging, if not impossible, for us to take in and to truly get a handle on the vastness and depth of the Word: its multiple levels of meaning; its unending richness; and the insights and understanding it brings us about ourselves and, most importantly, about the Lord, Who He is, how He operates, His ceaseless monitoring of the minutest details of our lives and of His plan and purpose which is at the very heart of creation and of our very own creation

Having said that, these – though – are some of the memorable features of the vision so usefully seen in relation to the Word which -as we now know – the vision is all about.

In verse 4 there is mention of a mighty whirlwind.

Secondly, fire is mentioned more than once. The whirlwind has fire in and around it and in verse 12, “fire was going back and forth among the living creatures.”

Thirdly, and with regard to the four living creatures, we read they had wings, hands under the wings, and overall the likeness of a man, each facing different directions.

And then there were the wheels, powerfully and purposefully driven: wheels within wheels.

A whirlwind – fire – four living creatures – and wheels within wheels.

Remember: this is all about the Word. It is highlighting features of the Word.

The whirlwind holds up to us how powerful and dynamic the Word is. It has the power to stir up things, to break down old defences and self-justifications. It brings home to us the power that the Word has to dismiss unreasonableness, negativity and thinking and influences impacting on us from hell.

The fire speaks of the Lord’s love burning at the heart of the Word. Remember? “Fire was going back and forth among the four creatures.” The Word is the Lord’s love clothed in admonitions, challenges, promises and encouragement; speaking to us through parable, example and ancient stories. It is Divine Love speaking to us.

The four living creatures are all about the Word being alive. And the fact that they had the appearance of being human brings home to us what the Word is all about – true humanness and each of us becoming a truly human being.

They had wings – remember – highlighting how the Word can both lift us up and also protect us.

And the wheels speak of the capacity the Word has; at all its different levels; meanings within meanings; wheels within wheels; to shift us and to move us to better places, spiritually.

The Second Coming

We honour each year, at this time, and as close to June 19th as possible, the renewing of the power of the Word in our midst; its dynamism; the expression of the Lord’s love, which it is; its ability to lift our minds and thinking on to a higher level; the protection it brings us when doubts, fears and self-centredness start to make inroads with us; its capacity to move us to new places; and, just so very significantly this new vision, appreciation and understanding of the Lord now possible for us. The Lord comes again to us in His restored, renewed, now opened Word, brought back to life and relevance, as it has been. This, indeed, is the Lord in His Second coming, the vehicle of which is of course the Writings or Heavenly Doctrines.

With us

There is nothing so powerful or so potentially life changing as the Word is. No saying of the wisest person or book written by the most renowned author. Nothing!

But we must be careful of mere hearsay in this regard, or the acknowledgement of our lips only, that this is so. I can say it; you can read about it; and we can both convince ourselves that we believe it. But…!

The thing is, we can only truly know its power; its capacity to lead us into true humanness; its protection against falsities and fears; its ability to move and shift us into heavenly states, and to keep us there, as we engage with it; wrestle with its challenges; and work the truths it enshrines into our lives.

Our transformation.

Our transformation, or regeneration, is the Lord’s total focus and goal, working with us – as He does – through His Word. Remember: Ezekiel saw Him on high, dazzling with the colours of the rainbow, directing operations.

And the Lord gives us His promise and a foretaste of the regenerate or transformed person we can become in the description of the holy city, New Jerusalem.

This is what the holy city, New Jerusalem, is. It is the now opened, restored and re-invigorated Word being worked into our lives; into thoughts, feelings, attitudes and reactions; into troubles that beset us and in response to doubts all too eager to ambush us.

There are, with respect to the new Jerusalem, its sure foundations, being the basic truths the Lord urges and presses on us, nothing complicated, all straightforward. For instance, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Such are the truths that make up the strong base on which all else is built. We know, too, of its golden streets, its transparent walls, the wonderful balance of everything it embodies – heart, mind and everyday life; will, understanding and action; length, breadth and height; each the equal of the other. And the Light of the Lord suffusing it all. “The city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminates it…” Revelation 21:22

Offered observation

The New Church is all about the Word – the Word restored, renewed, brought back into focus, opened up and shown to be full of the Lord’s Love and Wisdom and powerful beyond our being able to adequately take in. We are not in the business, as any kind of priority, of becoming a mega Church, a spiritual Disco setting out to attract thousands or a pressure group for social, economic and political reform.

This is so inspiring what we are shown in the Writings, or the Heavenly Doctrines, about it, that if we are sincere and earnest looking to the Lord, seeking help and guidance, we can hear the Lord speaking with us in His Word and He will shine light on it and bring it to life for us in powerful, inspiring, ways.

Let’s not scorn the fact that there are those in the scientific community who ridicule it because they can’t make sense of it and won’t buy into simplistic insistence on its literal accuracy or the fundamentalists who make nonsense of it insisting on that literal accuracy. Instead, this is the challenge for the New Church, and of the Swedenborgian community world wide, to go and point the way to this new understanding and appreciation of the Second Advent Word.

And this is promised, that as you and I embrace its power and energy, and take to heart its directives and its reassurances; as we rise to its challenges and as it becomes truly alive in us; so the holy city, new Jerusalem further descends and become more of a reality in our lives; in our midst and in the world more generally, than ever.

“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.”


The Lord’s Second Coming and the Descent of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, Which Follows

By Rev. Ian Arnold
June 19th 2011

Matthew 24: 29-31: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Revelation 21:5: “Then he who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’.”

The Lord and Nicodemus

From what we read in the Gospels it was obviously rare for Jesus to meet one on one with people. He did on several occasions but it was the exception rather than the rule. Usually we read of crowds thronging Him, people crowding around Him, groups following Him but only very occasionally of one on one encounters and conversations.

One such meeting was with Nicodemus, one of the most powerful and influential people of the time, described as being “a ruler of the Jews”. He was a member of the Sanhedrin which was a legislative body overseeing the administration of the Jewish legal and justice system. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a religious “Party” which was very much committed to preserving all that was distinctive about Judaism. And whilst that had its good side it also had its down side in that, as we also know from the Gospels and from Jesus encounters with Pharisees, it descended into suffocating legalism and nit-picking.

Nicodemus, clearly, was a searcher. He, however, obviously saw it to be prudent to come to Jesus “by night”. Reputation, what others might think of him, and how such a meeting might get him into hot water with his Sanhedrin colleagues, obviously enough was on his mind.

It was during the course of this meeting that Jesus spoke of the need to be “born again”.

This is for sure that Nicodemus didn’t understand at all, at first, what Jesus meant by this. But we do.

To be born again is to become other than what by inherited nature we incline to be and to do.

To be born again is to shift our focus from self-centredness to other people centredness.

To be born again is to re-order what are our priorities, shifting them away from what is material and external to what is spiritual and internal.

To be born again is to become regenerate.

A process

What we also know, from what we are taught, and also on the basis of what experience shows us and brings home to us, is that regeneration is a process. There is nothing overnight about it. There is no instant salvation.

Regeneration starts with us becoming aware of the Lord’s teachings, values and commandments. Then follows the need to honestly and bravely examine ourselves, not just what we actually do and say, but what we would do and say if it was safe to do so. Next we have to be prepared to change our thinking; to “reform” our understanding and whole approach to things. And what follows, of necessity, is a heartfelt commitment to carry out into life the ways of the Lord.

That a process is involved is hinted at even in the Old Testament where Moses is recorded as warning the ancient people of Israel that it would only be “little by little” that they would conquer and take over the Promised Land. (Exodus 33:20).

And we have it again, held up to us, in so much of what Jesus Himself taught. An excellent example is in Mark Chapter 4, the whole thing about gradualness, that regeneration is very much a step by step process. Quoting,

“And He said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself, first the stalk, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” (Verses 26-28)

Notice that – first, then, next.

Faith: also a development and acquired gradually

Like regeneration, faith too is also something that develops gradually, step by step. Indeed, regeneration and the development of faith go hand in hand. They are two sides of one coin.

Faith is about understanding, insights, and deep, heartfelt, appreciation of the Lord; of His work in our lives; of our need of His strength and guidance.

Where faith is concerned we move from what is external to what is internal. It is always the way and it cannot be otherwise.

On first reading the Word, and coming to faith, we think how much better the world would be if only other people (!!) would follow through with its ideals and principles. Then we come to see that it is up to us to do so and that it is this which matters.

How all of us, as young people, first see the Lord is a whole lot different from how we come to see Him from years of working through issues.

Early faith is our honouring the Lord as the Babe of Bethlehem or the man of Galilee.

But regeneration is behind our moving to a much more real and living sense of the Lord and faith in Him.

I commend to you teaching in the book of the Writings, “True Christian Religion” which discussed faith stages. It talks there of faith borrowed or persuasive faith as compared to the later development of faith which is truly one’s very own.

The rich young ruler: an example

In its way, there is no better example of this movement in faith than the rich young man who came to Jesus, anxious about what else he needed to do to inherit eternal life. (Mark 10:17)

For all that he had kept the Commandments he was told by Jesus to go away and “sell” all that he had. He was too self-interested still. Too much, still, in faith of a very external, surface, type; too caught up in merit and the idea of earning his way into the kingdom.

He was, it is said, “sad” at what Jesus told him to do and went away “grieved”.

And as he did so he cannot but have been in turmoil. His world had been turned upside down. The assumptions he had made were all undone.

It is like people who have been brought up to believe that evil attracts punishment and good attracts blessing; that it is the way it is and the way it should be.

In the real world it doesn’t seem to work out like that and so the believer is catapulted into inner turmoil. Why? How can it be? ‘Life is not fair!’

It is exactly this turmoil and questioning that is captured in the words recorded here in Matthew Chapter 24, about famines, pestilences, earthquakes and tribulation. Events happen which really shake our convictions and, simple as they have been. We feel a deep down rattling of our foundations. We hunger for answers. The love and faith, meant by the sun and moon, which previously shone for us, fail and withdraw their light. The stars which once guided us fall from heaven.

But as we work through these times a much more real sense of the Lord breaks in. And this is His second coming.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

The holy city, New Jerusalem

The Lord, so seen; so much more insightfully now; a new sense of the world; a deeper understanding of Him, of His Divine Providence, of His care over human affairs, of His purposes for us; a new appreciation of the underlying truth within His Word; opens up and introduces us to a new era in our spiritual life and development. And this is what is held up to us and represented by, the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.

The vision of the holy city is the Lord’s promise of what can be. It is the high point of the Bible; of the Word. It is the goal to which the Lord has been leading us all the way through our regeneration.

And it is about beauty and wonder, serenity and peacefulness, freedom from anxiety, a sense of protection security. It is also about openness and transparency. It is about the Lord being Himself the light of our lives; and about spiritual values – the tree of life – being the centre around which all else revolves.


This point is important, that the holy city is the high watermark of the Bible. All things lead to it. It is the goal of our creation. It is the Lord’s focus in all His dealings with us.

This is so with each of us, individually. It is, also, His focus with humankind collectively.

And, as with us, coming to it is emphatically a step by step process; one stage or age at a time; each having to be worked through and the whole process impossible to hurry.

Most recently of all, it involves, and has involved, the working through of very external approaches and understanding of things, even of so much that is said in the Bible, to something so much more internal.

History shows us how the Bible has been misapplied; its teachings falsified and externalized; its real meaning lost; it values degraded.

For example, it is 50 years this year since I first encountered apartheid in South Africa, a racially prejudiced philosophy buttressed as it was by a mischievous interpretation of a story in the Bible.

Then I recall my very first pastorate, a joint pastorate in the coal mining districts of northern England. At the time I didn’t have a car and used buses, two in fact, to travel from one to the other. At the rendezvous point there was an ancient church, its graveyard along the front wall, which I, from in the bus, could look down on. And it is seared into my memory, that along the fence there was a grave containing the bodies of 14 children as young as 5 all of whom had perished in a mining disaster 200 years ago. And yet the employment of such children was endorsed and encouraged on the basis of a false interpretation of yet another part of the Bible.

What, too, of the subjugation of women stoutly maintained on the basis of various Bible stories and passages?

Once again, it’s all about the sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light and the stars falling from heaven.

But new light is flooding the world, post Last Judgement, and captured as it is in the Heavenly Doctrines. The Lord is being seen anew in His Second Coming: and there are promising signs of a new world and a new spiritual Age breaking in.

For sure,

We see restlessness and, in our part of the world, rampant secularism and materialism. But within and behind it all is often disenchantment and despair and a deep hunger for something substantial and for a believable God. It’s the earthquakes and famines on a collective scale

The holy city, new Jerusalem

The Lord doesn’t play games with us.

He doesn’t promise what will never be.

The holy city, new Jerusalem, captures for us this new spiritual Age dawning over the world; an Age of fairness and justice; of racial equality and respect; of spiritual richness and healing; of God become truly visible on the clouds of heaven; God in His Divine human; the Lord in His Second Coming, understood and appreciated, reasonably and rationally.

But when?

In the little book, “The Last Judgement”, towards the end, there is a Chapter titled, “The state of the World and of the Church hereafter”, looking to the future as it does. It begins,

“The state of the world hereafter will be just the same as it has been hitherto, for that great change which has taken place in the spiritual world brings about no change in the natural world so far as the outward form is concerned. Wherefore, there will be henceforth civil affairs as before; there will be times of peace, treaties and wars as before, and the other things belonging to societies in general and in particular.”

And then it continues,

“I have spoken with angels about the varying state of the Church hereafter. They have said they have no knowledge of things to come, because such knowledge belongs to the Lord alone. But they said they do know that the servititude and captivity in which people of the Church have been hitherto, has been removed, and that, now from his restored liberty he is able, if he so wishes, the better to understand interior truths and thus to become internal.” (Paragraphs 73 & 74).

Whilst the timing is in the Lord’s wise hands, nevertheless the scene is set and the opportunities are opened up for us.

For sure, we can’t take on responsibility for the world. But we can do our small part, where we are and amongst whom we move and have contact with, to make the holy city just that little bit more real and evident in our midst and in this world.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven…and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

And he that sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.”‘



Matthew Chapter 24: verses 3 to 14 and 29 to 31
Revelation Chapter 21: verses 1 to 5
Arcana Caelestia 3900 & 9405
“The Lord’s Coming does not consist, as the letter has it, in His appearing once again in the world, but in His Presence within everyone. He is present there as often as the Gospel is preached and that which is holy is contemplated.”

(This arises from the fact) “that the Word is Divine Truth emanating from the Lord, and what emanates from the Lord is the Lord Himself. Consequently those who read the Word and at the same time look to the Lord, acknowledging that all truth and good come from Him, and none whatever from themselves, receive enlightenment; they see truth and perceive good from the Word…This is what accounts for the holiness of the Word, and also for the Lord’s Coming to and presence with those who, as they read the Word, have in mind the Lord and the neighbour, and not themselves. He comes to them and is present with them because they allow themselves to be raised by the Lord into the light of heaven.”