And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. -Revelation 21:10
Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,
June 19 is celebrated by all Swedenborgians as the New Church Day. The tradition was started long ago in relation to Swedenborg’s vision that is written in True Christianity: Jesus sent the twelves disciples who followed him in the world to the entire spiritual world to preach the gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns and that his kingdom will last for ages of ages. Swedenborg had this vision on June 19, 1770. Yet, a more in-depth explanation of the New Church is found in his other book, Apocalypse Revealed, which is Swedenborg’s spiritual commentary on the book of Revelation. According to Swedenborg, the New Church is symbolized by the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and will be the ultimate and final form of the relationship between Creator and humanity. Therefore, as the New Jerusalem has 12 gates, the New Church will be an all-encompassing form of religion that is entirely different from all existing religions.
To Swedenborg, a church does not necessarily mean a religious entity as we commonly understand it. In its spiritual form, a church is the union of goodness and truth. In Swedenborg’s worldview, goodness and truth are the Yin & Yang of everything. In a way, we could simplify that all things created in the universe are made of the union of goodness and truth. Yet, there is one place where goodness and truth are not united by the design of Creator: the human mind. In the human mind alone goodness and truth are united through voluntary choices made by each person. The reason is because a human mind is a replica of the Creator, meaning something can only become real to a human mind when it has been chosen voluntarily. When a human mind chooses truth over falsity, and decides to live according to the truth because it is right thing to do, the life lived by truth produces goodness. Thus, the truth is united with goodness in that individual. In other words, a church is formed inside that person. Therefore, a church is not only the union of goodness and truth, but also a human who has accepted truth and cultivated one’s life according to it.
The New Church, according to Swedenborg, is the community of people who are willing to accept and live by the truth, and thus cultivate goodness in their lives. However, Swedenborg believed that the New Church will take a long time to reach its fullness. In his Apocalypse Explained, he shares three reasons why. First, “its doctrine, which is the doctrine of love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor, cannot be acknowledged and thus received except by those who are interiorly affected by truths, and those only can be interiorly affected by truths who have the ability to see them, and those only see truths who have cultivated their intellectual faculty, and have not destroyed it in themselves by the loves of self and of the world.” In other words, we need to overcome desires from selfish love and worldly love, and be willing to acknowledge and see matters objectively before we can receive the truths. Second, “the doctrine of that church cannot be acknowledged and thence received but by those who have not confirmed themselves by doctrine and at the same time by life in faith alone.” “Faith alone” is one of matters that Swedenborg deeply warns us about. In a very simple way, faith alone means an unwillingness to do what one knows to be true or right because it is against one’s benefit or pleasure. The danger of faith alone is that it does not stop with unwillingness, but grows into a destructive power against anything that does not agree with its principle. Third, “the New Church on the earth grows according to its increase in the world of spirits.” Swedenborg does not believe that angels were created before humans, but that angels were spirits of humans who once lived on earth. Thus, his hope was that as more people who learned and lived the principles of the New Church moved to the other realm and became angels, more people on earth would then be inspired by those same principles.
The dream of the New Church is that one day all people on earth will realize and accept the simple truth: loving each other and finding a way to nurture each other’s well-being and happiness is much more important than anything else including scriptures, rituals, traditions, and other -isims. The existence of our very world depends on how we get along with each other consciously, thoughtfully, and compassionately. If we create a destructive world, then the world will become a destructive place for our body, mind and life. But if we create a nurturing world, then the world will nurture us to grow, be happy and content.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee