What's New about the New Church, Part 6

The New Jerusalem

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:2)

  1. The New Jerusalem

    1. Jerusalem was originally a Canaanite city, occupied by the Jebusites at the time of the Judges of Israel.

      1. David selected it to be his capital city when he became king, and conceived the plan where warriors conquered it by getting into the spring that fed the city's well and swimming under the walls so that they could open the gates from within to allow his army to enter and capture the city.

      2. The natural reason for selecting Jerusalem as the capital was its location within the tribe of Benjamin

        1. This is a reminder of the continuing rivalry between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel.

          1. The northern kingdom of Israel was dominated by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh - named after Joseph's sons.

          2. The southern kingdom of Judah was primarily the tribe of Judah, although it incorporated the tribe of Simeon, two of Leah's sons; Judah being the most powerful and dynamic of them all.

          3. The tribe of Benjamin stood between these two warring nations as a buffer zone, just as the boy Benjamin was a pawn that Joseph used in the game he played with his brothers when he was ruler in Egypt.

        2. David, a man of Judah, needed his capital to be in the neutral tribe of Benjamin in order for the men of Israel to accept his leadership.

        3. The city itself was located on a mountain -- Mt. Zion. The peak of Mt. Zion, within the city walls, was where Solomon built his temple to the Lord.

          1. The mountain itself, as mountains in the Word do, represented love to the Lord, or the celestial of the church.

          2. The city that was built upon the mountain represented, as cities in the Word do, the doctrine of the church, or the Lord's Spiritual Kingdom.

    2. It is because the physical city of Jerusalem represented so many aspects of the Lord's church on earth that when He was on earth He repeatedly visited Jerusalem.

      1. Bishop deCharms based his works Life of the Lord and The Harmony of the Gospels on the idea that the Lord deliberately made seven visits to Jerusalem to mark the changing states of His own process of glorification.

        1. Certainly we would agree that many of the key events in His life on earth took place in or near the temple in Jerusalem.

  2. It should not be surprising, then, that when the Lord opened John's spiritual eyes to show him a vision of His Heavenly kingdom, a new, heavenly Jerusalem would be the central image.

    1. (Rev 21:2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

      1. Why would someone describe a city as a bride? Perhaps simply to present the idea that there is a close conjunction between the Lord and heaven, a marriage, a union of will and action between the Lord and His people. Another way of thinking of it is as the covenant between husband and wife represents the covenant between the Lord and each of us.

      2. Another reason might be to draw our minds to qualities that make it so that every bride is the most beautiful bride -- because the wedding day is the culmination of dream and much hard, practical work. What John was perceiving from the states of the angels was that they had worked hard and long for this moment, and in his experience the only similar kind of joy he had felt was that of a wedding. As in the rest of the Word, to explain heavenly things, the Lord and the prophets had to resort to comparisons to things known and understood in the natural world.

    2. (Rev 21:9-14) 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 Lamb's wife." {10} 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, {11} having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. {12} Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: {13} three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. {14} Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

      1. Twelve gates, three on each side of the cube

        1. In the Word, "twelve" represent all good and truths in their complex, so the twelve gates represent the idea that heaven is open to all who approach it from the good works inspired by the truth that they know, no matter the name of their belief structure.

          1. No matter what spiritual direction one approaches that city from, there will always be an open gate.

      2. (Rev 21:21) The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl.

        1. Each gate is a single pearl, the so called "pearly gates", representing that "great pearl" that is the treasure of life, the knowledge and acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One God of heaven and earth.

      3. (Rev 21:15-17) And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. {16} The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. {17} Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.

        1. Shaped like a cube

          1. Equal in good, truth, and usefulness, these three forces present in every created thing in total harmony and balance.

    3. John's vision continues at some length, describing many other aspects of the heavenly New Jerusalem, all of which combine to give us a picture of the Lord's heavenly kingdom.

  3. This is a manifestation of the revelation of the doctrine of the New Church

    1. True Christian Religion 787.

      1. This New Church is the crown of all the churches that have hitherto existed on the earth, because it is to worship one visible God in whom is the invisible like the soul in the body.

      2. Thus, and not otherwise, is a conjunction of God with man possible because man is natural, and therefore thinks naturally, and conjunction must exist in his thought, and thus in his love's affection, and this is the case when he thinks of God as a Man.

      3. That before the assumption of the Human, God was not visible, the Lord Himself also teaches in John:-

        1. (5:37) "And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.

      4. But that He is visible through His Humanity is stated in John:-

        1. (14:6-9) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

        2. 7} "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." {9} ... He who has seen Me has seen the Father.

      5. That there is a conjunction with the invisible God through the visible, that is, through the Lord, He teaches in the following passages:-

        1. (15:4-5) "Abide in Me, and I in you. ... He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.

      6. It is also taught that He and the Father are one, and that in order to have eternal life man must believe in Him.

    2. True Christian Religion 788.

      1. That this church is to follow those that have existed since the beginning of the world, and that it is to endure for ages of ages, and is thus to be the crown of all the churches that have preceded, was foretold by Daniel; first, when he narrated and explained to Nebuchadnezzar his dream of the four kingdoms (which mean the four churches that were represented by the statue that he saw), saying:-

        1. (Dan 2:44) "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

    3. True Christian Religion 789.

      1. Furthermore, the other prophets have made many predictions respecting this church, what its character would be, a few of which shall be cited: In Jeremiah:-

        1. (3:17) "At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.

      2. In Isaiah:-

        1. (33:20) Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home, A tabernacle that will not be taken down; Not one of its stakes will ever be removed, Nor will any of its cords be broken.

      3. In these passages "Jerusalem" means the new and holy Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse (chap. xxi.), by which the New Church is meant.

      4. That such things have not yet taken place in the churches, least of all in the last, is well known. In Jeremiah:-

        1. (31:31-33) "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; {32} "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. {33} "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

      5. That this state of things has not existed in the churches heretofore, is also, known. This was because men did not approach the visible God whom all shall know, because He is the Word or law which He will put in their inward parts and write upon their hearts.

  4. John's vision of the Holy City New Jerusalem is central to the identity and faith of the New Church because it incorporates all of the ideas that make this church new and unique.

    1. The idea that doctrine has to rest on love as its foundation as Jerusalem rests on Mt. Zion.

    2. The idea that being in the natural world must have a visible God to worship -- for we cannot be conjoined with or love something we cannot comprehend or understand because we cannot love it. And because the doctrines of the New Church show how the invisible Creator God dwelled within Jesus Christ as the soul within the body, we know God and love Him and live with Him to eternity in the Holy City.

    3. The twelve gates demonstrate the church's new teaching about membership: that no one denomination has a lock on the truth; that the Lord created all people to live to eternity in heaven. Membership in a particular group has nothing to do with it, except that some groups are more helpful than others in preparing people for eternal life.

    4. The vision of the City descending out of heaven as a Bride reminds us of our covenant with God, His promise to all of us that if we will learn what is true from the Word, and measure ourselves against His standards, He will give us the power to change ourselves, to become the spiritual beings we want to be, He will give us our spiritual wedding garments.

    5. The New Jerusalem is one way of picturing heaven. This beautiful vision provides us with a goal to work towards, something to keep us moving in the right direction when the actual work of daily living begins to wear us down.

      1. (Isa 62:1-4, 11-12) For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. {2} ... You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name. {3} You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. {4} ... For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married. ... 'Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.'" {12} And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. Amen.



Lessons

(2 Sam 5:1-10) Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, "Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. {2} "Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, 'You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.'" {3} Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel. {4} David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. {5} In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. {6} And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, "You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you," thinking, "David cannot come in here." {7} Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). {8} Now David said on that day, "Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David's soul), he shall be chief and captain." Therefore they say, "The blind and the lame shall not come into the house." {9} Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. {10} So David went on and became great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.

(John 8:21-29) Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come." {22} So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?" {23} And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. {24} "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." {25} Then they said to Him, "Who are You?" And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. {26} "I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him." {27} They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. {28} Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. {29} "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."

True Christian Religion 508.

One day there appeared to me a magnificent temple, square in form, the roof of which was crown-shaped, arched above and raised round about; its walls were continuous windows of crystal; its door was of a pearly substance. Within, on the south side, towards the west was a pulpit, on the right-hand side of which lay the open Word enveloped in a sphere of light, the splendor of which surrounded and illuminated the whole pulpit. In the center of the temple was a sanctuary, before which there was a veil, at that time raised, and there a golden cherub stood with a sword turning hither and thither in his hand.

[2] While I looked at these things, the significance of each one of them flowed into my meditation: The temple signified the New Church; the door of pearly substance, entrance into it; the windows of crystal, the truths that enlighten it; the pulpit, the priesthood and preaching; the Word lying open upon the pulpit and illuminating the upper part of it, signified the revelation of the internal sense of the Word, which is spiritual; the sanctuary in the center of the temple signified the conjunction of that church with the angelic heaven; the golden cherub therein, the Word in the sense of the letter; the sword waving in his hand signified that this sense can be turned in any direction, provided it is done in adaptation to some truth; the veil before the cherub being raised, signified that the Word is now laid open.

[3] Afterward, when I drew nearer, I saw this inscription above the door, Nunc Licet -- It is now permitted -- which signified that it is now permitted to enter understandingly into the mysteries of faith....

[5] But in the New Church the contrary is the case; there it is permitted to enter with the understanding and penetrate into all her secrets, and to confirm them by the Word, because her doctrines are continuous truths laid open by the Lord by means of the Word, and confirmations of these truths by rational means cause the understanding to be opened above more and more, and thus to be raised into the light in which the angels of heaven are. That light in its essence is truth, and in that light acknowledgment of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth shines in its glory. This is what is meant by the inscription Nunc Licet over the door of the temple, and also by the veil of the sanctuary before the cherub being raised. For it is a canon of the New Church, that falsities close the understanding, and that truths open it.