VII. The Origin of Evil
“Man himself is the origin of evil: not that that origin was put into man from creation, but that he himself, by turning from God to himself, put it into himself.”—C.L. 444.
INQUIRER.—My knowledge of the New Church doctrines is limited; but I understand that your views on religious subjects are essentially different from those generally taught.
MISSIONARY.—The idea may be new to you, as it is to many, but the fact is that we have a system of doctrine which has been Divinely revealed for the spiritual enlightenment of the world, and thus for the salvation of the human race. That is, the genuine truths of the Divine Word are now made known by the revelation of its internal sense. And this we have in the Writings of the New Church.
I.—What do you mean by the genuine truths of the Word? The expression is new to me.
M.—We employ new terms to express distinctively new truths, and to convey definitely spiritual ideas, respecting religious subjects. By genuine truths we mean the spirit, or real import, of the Word, which is within the mere letter, as the soul is within the body. For the mere letter is no more the essential Word than the merely physical body is the actual man. Both of these, indeed, are only the outward form.
I.—There is a passage where the Lord Jesus Christ says: “The words that I speak unto you are spirit, and they are life” (John vi. 63). I suppose the terms spirit and life have reference to the spiritual sense?
M.—Yes; the Apostle Paul also emphatically declares that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. iii. 6). It is by virtue of the spiritual sense of the Word that we obtain a knowledge of its genuine truths, and from these are derived the living, rational, definite ideas, which alone can make us really intelligent. The literal sense in itself, though also Divine, is full of contradictions, because these are mere appearances of truth.
I.—The Scriptures say that God is love, also that He is angry with the wicked every day. This is surely a contradiction, and it looks as if this must be an apparent truth; for God certainly cannot be infinite love and infinite wrath at the same time. The idea does not agree with the revealed truth of His immutability. Since God is love, and is also unchangeable— the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,—it seems to me that He must be love only, and that He cannot be angry with any one.
M.—Your remarks are in accordance with sound logic, and your conclusion is quite correct. That God is angry, that He manifests feelings of wrath or revenge, that He caused evil and created a hell, that He is arbitrary and cruel in the treatment of some of His creatures, that He casts the wicked into hell, and consigns His enemies to eternal torment in unquenchable fire, and a thousand other things, are all mere appearances of truth in the literal sense of the Scriptures.
I.—How, then, did evil originate? If God did not create hell, who did? And in what manner are the wicked punished, if God does not punish them?
M.—Ah! there you propound questions that require a great deal of time and consideration to answer properly. I fear it may not be possible for me to reply to them as fully as the importance of the subject demands. But we shall make as good use of the time at our disposal as we can.
I.—It is frequently much easier to ask questions than to answer them. But I want light on these dark problems; for it seems to me there is in the old systems of belief a fearful confusion of ideas concerning the points I have indicated.
M.—There is no doubt but that many of the theologians of the day are without any rational doctrine, to enable them satisfactorily to explain matters of this nature. There is great need for light. And He who is Himself the Light of the World desires that all His children should be brought from the darkness of ignorance to the light of intelligence and wisdom.
I.—That surely must be so.
M.—Let us now consider your questions, in the order in which you have put them. As to the first, respecting the. origin of evil, allow me to premise that God, our Creator, gives to man, His creature, the prerogative of thinking, of willing, and of acting in freedom. In the exercise of the faculties with which he is endowed, man has the ability to receive truth into his understanding, and at the same time good into his will, and thus to live according to Divine order. Or, he can do the reverse of this—think what is false, will what is evil, and also live contrary to Divine order. And to come into a life contrary to Divine order is to confirm the false and the evil, and thus wilfully to transgress the laws of God, and so to become wicked and perverse.
I.—Why did God not create man so that it was impossible for him to sin?
M.—Because He could not do so.
I.—Is that not, an unwarrantable assertion? Do you mean to say that anything is impossible with God? Surely there is no limit to His power.
M.—In the true sense of the word, there is no limit to the power of the Almighty. But it is impossible for the Lord to do anything that is contrary to His Divine order. The Lord is the God of heaven; and “order is heaven’s first law.” It is an absolute law of the Divine order that man should be a free agent. As a matter of fact, God could not create man, to be man in the true sense of the word, without endowing him with distinctively human faculties, and giving him the ability to exercise these faculties in freedom. Without free agency, man would be a sort of mechanical creature, and not really a human being.
I.—Very true; but how is man’s free agency related to the origin of evil?
M.—We shall see presently. And here let me assure you that our doctrine, fully considered, satisfactorily explains (to any one that can understand rational truth) the difficult problem as to the origin of evil.
I.—I am greatly pleased to learn that there is such a doctrine.
M.—In most ancient times, men, from the purely natural state to which they were created, passed by stages of development into the spiritual state; and thereafter by orderly progression they at length reached the celestial state. These things are described in the sublime symbolism of the first chapter of Genesis. Then, in times immemorial, the fall of man took place. The fall of man was a gradual degeneracy, continuing through many ages, and not a sudden transition from a good and holy to an evil and wicked state. The beginning of the fall originated in the desire, in the minds of the ancients, to understand things heavenly and Divine by means of the senses, that is, to prefer the evidence of the senses to revealed truth; or, as it may also be expressed, to believe the apparent truth from without rather than the real truth from within.
I.—What about the forbidden fruit? It has always seemed to me a queer thing that sin and death, disease, and all but universal misery, should be introduced into our world by the simple act of a person eating an apple.
M.—The account in Genesis is not to be taken literally, of course. It is purely symbolic language; and it is nonsense to imagine that physical, spiritual, and eternal death could come in consequence of eating any natural fruit. In fact, the literal interpretation of the Scripture in question quite defeats itself. We read: “Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Gen. ii. 16, 17). But he did not literally die in that day. For again we read: “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died” (Gen. v. 5). The Scripture, therefore, has no reference to physical death, as the literalists suppose. It is exclusively spiritual death, the death of the soul, that is treated of.
I.—How do you define the term “spiritual death”?
M.—When man ceases to receive life from the Lord, who is the infinite Fountain of life, he is spiritually dead. A man may be alive as to his body, but nevertheless be dead as to his soul. Of himself, man is spiritually dead, because of the perversion of his life, which is, by inheritance, his natural state. For this reason man requires to be regenerated, or born anew. But to those who confirm themselves in evil, and will not permit themselves to be brought into a state of good, the Lord says: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life” (John v. 40).
I.—Now I should like you to explain something of the spirit of the passages you have quoted from Genesis.
M.—We will try. In the first place, then, let us consider that we do not understand the words of our Lord in their literal sense, when, for example, He says: “Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you” (John vi. 53). Nor does a consistent method of interpretation require us to take the Scripture literally, when we read in Genesis about eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For this, in like manner as the Lord’s words in John, has a spiritual sense. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man, means to receive and to appropriate the Divine good and the Divine truth from the Lord, in order that we may have spiritual and eternal life.
I.—Quite different from the notion of transubstantiation, to which millions in the Christian world still adhere.
M.—Eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the symbolic style of expressing ideas, signifies man’s ascribing life and all things of his being, to himself, instead of to the Lord. But from what is revealed to us in the Word and the Writings, we learn that for man to be truly human, he must freely acknowledge that he receives life and all things good and true,—all pure motives, heavenly aspirations, ennobling thoughts and affections,—only from the Divine. Of himself, man is nothing but evil, and prone to confirm himself in false notions of every kind. Whatever is of the genuine human character in him, is from above. It is written: “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John iii. 27).
I.—All very true! And the ancient philosophers were therefore quite right when they said, that “in God we live, and move, and have our being.” It appears that in this respect they were really wiser than many of the learned of modern times, because these do not acknowledge this grand truth.
M.—It is the fundamental truth of the philosophy of human existence. God the Lord alone is self-existent, essential Life, Infinite, Divine, All-Good, All-Wise, Omnipotent, and Omniscient. Man, on the other hand, is a recipient of life, and of all human qualities, by influx from the Lord. The flowers and trees, the things of universal nature,—the countless forms of use and beauty, which adorn the bosom of the earth,—would immediately be dissipated, if the inflowing of the heat and light of the sun were to be withdrawn. The Lord is to the human soul, and to the forms in man recipient of life, what the sun is to the forms and substances of nature.
I.—Your comparisons seem to me quite legitimate, and they help to make the subject intelligible. But I must not interrupt you.
M.—We shall be able to understand this matter of the origin of evil more clearly, when we consider that both evil and falsity are the perversion of good and truth. That is to say, when men come into a state in which they were inclined to abuse their freedom, by thinking and willing, and hence acting, contrary to Divine order, then good and truth from the Lord (the essential principles which form the interiors of the human mind) were turned .into the opposite. Thus evil and falsity had their beginning in man.
I.—But how did men come into a state such as you describe?
M.—Because they permitted themselves to be deceived by the serpent. That is, they were not content to allow themselves to be led by the Lord; but came into a state in which they desired to be led by their own intelligence. They gave way to an inclination to love self and to depend upon their own prudence, instead of continuing to love the Lord supremely, and to trust implicitly in His Divine Providence. Their self-love then induced them to begin to believe nothing but what they could comprehend by means of the senses. This was the very origin of the degeneracy of the human race. And it continued to operate, until, in the fullness of time, the Lord Jesus Christ—who was “God manifest in the flesh”—said to the sensuous-minded Jews: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matt. xxiii. 33).
I.—You said the language about those things in Genesis is symbolic. I suppose, then, we are not to understand that a serpent ever actually talked with a woman, and persuaded her to eat fruit?
M.—It is certain that no serpent ever literally talked. Nor did the knowledge of good and evil ever literally grow on a tree. The serpent is mentioned in the Word to represent the sensual principle in man, that is, all things which belong to his senses. To be a full and perfect man, one requires the sensual principle also. But this must be made subordinate. The higher principles of human nature should rule in man, and not those of his lower nature. To allow the sensuous propensities to become predominant, is the beguilement of the serpent.
I.—I now begin to get some light upon the subject. And it is gratifying, for I have been in the dark quite long enough.
M.—Let me endeavour to make it still more plain. When men, in most ancient times, began to feel inclined to think that they were wise and good from themselves, and so gradually ceased to be willing to acknowledge that they could only be really wise and good from the Lord, then they did that which is meant by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The celestial man—the man of the celestial Church—so long as he remained in a state of integrity, delighted to acknowledge that the Lord is All in all; that He every instant imparts life and the power to think and act; and that in His infinite mercy He will confer upon His children the joys of angelic life to all eternity. But it is evident that man fell from a state of innocence and purity; that a gradual degeneracy ensued; that men in the process of the ages became wicked, hard-hearted, and cruel; “earthly, sensual, and devilish.”
I.—No one can deny that such has been the outcome. And it is lamentable to think of the state of the Christian world to-day. The effects of the degeneration of the race are, in one form or another, constantly brought under our notice. There are shams, frauds, and deceptions of all sorts. There is a vast deal of disregard for the rights of one’s fellow-man. The Golden Rule is at this day at a fearful discount, although it is the only rule of life and conduct by which we can practise the principles of true religion. Men are careless as to what they believe, and equally so as to how they live. Large numbers in Christendom have become, or are becoming, sceptics, scoffers, rationalists, and atheists. In fact, when one reads so much about the evil doings of people as we read nowadays, it sometimes actually makes one feel ashamed of human nature. But I do not wish to change the subject. Please go on with your explanations.
M.—I was about to say something in reply to your question as to who created hell. Evil and false principles, in the aggregate, constitute hell. The angels receive the Divine good and the Divine truth from the lord, and of these the heavens are formed. But evil spirits, who are devils and satans, in the very act of reception, turn good and truth into the opposite, and of these the hells are composed. We know that reception is according to the character or quality of the recipient.
I.—It evidently could not be otherwise.
M.—We have illustrations of this in nature. Look at the difference existing in the forms of the vegetable and animal kingdoms. The wheat and the tares come up together. The rose and the thorn may grow side by side. The fruit-tree and the poison-producing plant flourish in the same soil. The same physical conditions surround the wolf and the lamb. The owl and the dove breathe the same atmosphere. All these things are developed, and live by virtue of the influences of the heat and light of the sun. But the forms, receiving these influences, being essentially different, the effects produced are various accordingly. The wheat gives us bread for our nourishment; the tares are useless weeds. The bloom and fragrance of the rose delight our senses of sight and smell; but there is nothing very attractive about the thorn. The luscious fruit gratifies our taste, and promotes good health; but the poisonous will destroy the body altogether. The wolf and the lamb are as opposite in their dispositions as they can be; and so are the owl and the dove.
I.—The Lord says: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. x. 16). By the sheep are evidently meant the good, and by wolves the evil.
M.—I have not quite finished the point of my illustration. I was about to add, that the Divine love and the Divine wisdom proceed from the Lord as the sun of heaven, for the benefit of all, irrespective of state. That He is no respecter of persons is plainly stated in the Scriptures; and is also meant when it is declared that “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. v. 45). Love and wisdom, received by an angel, make him a form of heaven; but the same influences are with a devil turned into the opposite, and he becomes a form of hell. The angel is in pure, genuine, heavenly delight; and the evil spirit is in his own impure, sensual, infernal delight, agreeable to his state.
I.—I should like to hear an explanation of the difference between devils and satans.
M.—The devils are those in whom evil predominates, and who from evils are in falsities. The satans are those in whom falsity predominates, and who from falsities are in evils. The Lord said: “One of you is a devil,” because the one referred to, namely, Judas Iscariot, was under the influences of evil to such a degree that he finally betrayed the Lord (John vi. 70). And the Lord on one occasion called Peter, Satan, because that disciple objected to the Lord’s passing through those things which were necessary for Him to fully glorify His human, and to finish the work of redemption (Matt. xvi. 23).
I.—Your view seems to militate against the idea of a personal devil. How about His Satanic Majesty?
M.—There is no personal devil, in the sense of one big devil, or evil deity, who has supreme power in the internal regions, and rules there, as many have imagined. It is written: “I am the First, and I am the Last, and beside me there is no God” (Isa. xliv. 6). By devil and satan are respectively meant all evil and falsity in the aggregate. In the Apocalypse, for example, we read of “the dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (xii. 9).
I.—I must now remind you of the question concerning the punishment of the wicked.
M.—The Lord says of those who confirm themselves in evil and in falsity, and make infernal loves the chief delight of their lives: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. xxv. 46). This expresses the truth of the matter. The wicked go away from the Lord. They turn their back upon heaven, with all its shining splendours, its glories, and its unspeakable felicities, and of their own free choice go down into the regions of eternal darkness and spiritual death. They have perverted the order of their life, have become forms of evil, and hence are like owls that cannot endure the light of the sun. They cannot abide in the presence of the beneficent Lord of heaven. And thus we read in the Apocalypse, that they hide themselves in dens, and say to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Matt. vi. 15, 16).
I.—The Lord, then, is not responsible for the sufferings of the wicked?
M.—Certainly not. The Lord desires all to be happy, in time and throughout eternity. And all who come unto Him that they may have life truly human, shall be blessed for evermore. But the Lord cannot compel any one to do right, to live a good life, and go to heaven; because this would be contrary to the Divine law of human free agency. It is sad to think that it should be so; but it is the insane delight of the wicked to violate the laws of Divine order, which have been ordained of God for the direction and guidance, the well-being and spiritual prosperity, of His children. And by the wilful violation of these beneficent laws, without which the universe could not exist for a moment, the evil bring punishment upon themselves; and this as inevitably as effects succeed causes. Let us remember that there is absolutely nothing arbitrary about the Lord’s dealings with His creatures. He is just in all His ways. He doeth all things well. He is, most truly, our Father in the heavens. We, His children, may confidently trust in Him, and in all circumstances of life look up to Him; for His Divine hand will lead us, and His Divine Providence will protect us, that no evil may do us harm. The Lord, whom alone we ought to acknowledge and worship, is pure Love Itself, infinite and unchanging. And it is a genuine truth, expressed in the letter of the Divine Word, where we read: “The Lord is good unto all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. cxlv. 9).
The Lord Jesus Christ and The Divine Trinity
by Philip N. Odhner
Swedenborg teaches that there is one Infinite Supreme Being who created the universe and all things in it out of His Divine Love and Wisdom.
The human mind can see that God is infinite. For if God were finite, or limited, there would have to be something that made Him finite and limited. And in that case that thing which made Him finite and limited would be the real source and origin of all things, and thus would be the real God. So also the human mind can see that God is eternal. For if God were not eternal, then He had a beginning in time. And if He had a beginning in time, then there was something previous to Him from which He had origin, and that previously existing thing would be God.
Because God is infinite and eternal He is one. There cannot be two infinite Beings. If there were two or more supposedly infinite Beings, one would limit and finite the other, and thus neither would be infinite. To think or speak of two or more infinite Beings is a contradiction in itself. Such an idea cannot enter the understanding of man.
That the one infinite God is Wisdom can be seen by man from a view of the starry heavens, in which the suns and planets can be seen held in a wonderful order. It can be seen also from a view of anything in nature in its smallest parts. For the microscope reveals the most wonderful order in the least things of creation, even as the telescope reveals such an order in the greatest things.
God is Love. This can be acknowledged by man from the fact that the order existing in the created universe bespeaks a Divine Purpose therein. And especially can it be seen that God is Love in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who showed forth the most perfect love for the eternal salvation of the whole human race.
God is Love and Wisdom. In all that He does His Love and His Wisdom are present. Everything that exists is therefore part of His Purpose in creation. But what is the Divine Purpose in creation? Can this be expressed in a way that the human mind can grasp? Swedenborg teaches as follows: “There are two things that make the Essence of God. Love and Wisdom; but there are three things that make the essence of His Love: to others outside of Himself, to will to be one with them, and to bless them from Himself. . . . These things of the Divine Love were the cause of the creation of the universe, and are the cause of its conservation.” (The True Christian Religion, 43, 46.)
It is the nature of love to love others outside of self, to will to be conjoined with them in love, and to make them happy. This is evident in all true human relationships. It is preeminently true of God. In Him is all life, all love and all wisdom. His will therefore is to create others outside of Himself whom He can bless with the gift of His Life, His Love, His Wisdom. His will is to give to others that which is in Him. This is the cause of all creation.
But God, being infinite, cannot create another infinite Being, or another God or gods, to receive His Love and Wisdom. It is impossible for there to be two or more infinite Beings. If there were a God from God, that God from God would either have to be not infinite and not eternal, and thus not a real God, or He would have to be infinite and eternal and thus absolutely one with the first God. For God to create and love another God would thus be God loving Himself in Himself. And this is contrary to the essence of God, which is to love others outside Himself.
God could not create others who have life and love and wisdom in themselves, but He could create finite beings who could be formed into vessels of His Life and Love and Wisdom. For this reason God first created the physical universe. Out of His own Love and Wisdom, which are the origins of all life and motion, He made the physical universe and the dead and inert matters therein. Some idea of how God so created the physical universe out of His Love and Wisdom can be gathered from the discoveries of modern science, in which it is seen that the dead and inert matters of the earth are in fact composed of things in the highest motion.
Out of the dead and fixed things of nature God formed vessels which can receive His Life. These vessels are men, the human race. These vessels God gifts with liberty and rationality, so that they can if they will receive understanding from God in ever increasing measure, and by the perfection of their lives receive the Love of God in ever increasing measure. These vessels can become images and likenesses of God. In such images and likenesses of God the Divine Purpose of creation can find its fulfillment, for such beings can receive God’s love and wisdom freely, can feel them to be their own, and can freely return the love of God. Between the infinite God and such beings there can be eternal conjunction. In this way a true and everlasting relationship can be established between God and those created by Him outside of Himself. But because God’s Love is infinite therefore He looks to an eternal increase of those who can receive His life, and out of them He forms for Himself an eternal Heaven in an eternal world, which is the Spiritual World. In this Heaven those who have become images and likenesses of God advance forever in the understanding and love of God and their neighbours.
Consider carefully the Divine Purpose of creation here set forth. It means that God’s Purpose in creating you is to make you an image and likeness of Himself, to make you an angel of heaven, to give you into eternity an increasing understanding of Him and an increasing love of what is good and true from Him. That is His interest and concern with you and with everyone in the human race.
Consider whether there can be any other cause of creation, or any other reason for your existence? Have you heard of any other explanation that is in agreement with the Scriptures and with the dictates of your own reason concerning God?
The Advent of the Lord into the World.
Swedenborg teaches that mankind in their first state of creation were as children, innocent and obedient. From the influx of the Love of God into their minds they were able to perceive the truths concerning God in all things of creation. They loved God and they loved their neighbour. This is the state of mankind that is described in the Bible as the Paradise of Eden.
But as the knowledge and the natural understanding of mankind increased they began to feel and believe that they could lead themselves in all matters of faith and wisdom. They began to believe that they were good and wise, and denied the truth that they were only vessels of good and of wisdom from God. This is represented in the Scriptures by the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of this disorder men fell from their state of love and wisdom. More and more they removed themselves from the influx of God into their souls and minds. Finally the human race came into a state in which the Divine Purpose of creation was threatened and the human race itself was threatened with spiritual destruction.
Because of the removal of man from his first state of reception of the Love of God, it was necessary that a new kind of conjunction between God and man should be established. This was accomplished by the coming of God the Creator into the world.
In the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which were Divinely inspired and given to men by God during man’s gradual decline from his first state, it is foretold and promised many times that He who created the world would come into the world to redeem and save mankind.
We here quote a few such places from the Old Testament:
“For thus saith the Lord (Jehovah) that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain. . . . He formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord (Jehovah) and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:18.)
“Behold the Lord God (Lord Jehovih) will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.” (Isaiah 40:10.)
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord (Jehovah). (Zechar. 2:10.)
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord (Jehovah), that I will raise up unto David a just Branch . . . and this is His Name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD (Jehovah) OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5,6.)
“And all flesh shall know that I Jehovah am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26.)
“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19:25.)
“Let Israel hope in Jehovah … He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Ps. 130:7,8.)
“Yet I am Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt . . . and thou shalt know no other God but me; for there is no Saviour beside me.” (Hosea 13:4.)
From these passages it is clear that the Old Testament teaches that there is one God, who is called Jehovah God, and that this God calls Himself the Saviour and the Redeemer, as well as the Creator. But now consider the following passages from the Old Testament, which foretell the Coming of the Creator into the world, and which clearly refer to the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord (the way of Jehovah), make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3.) It is said in the New Testament that this is a prophecy of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, in the Old Testament, the one for whom John prepared the way is called Jehovah and “our God.”
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14.) This prophecy is quoted in Matthew with reference to the birth of the Lord, and it is there added about the name Immanuel, “which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matt. 1:23.) Here therefore the Lord is called God with us, in both the Old and the New Testaments.
“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord (this is Jehovah) ; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9.)
“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6.)
From the above passages from the Old Testament it is clear that the one infinite and eternal God, Jehovah God, the Creator of the universe, promised that He would come into the world, and that this promise refers to the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Swedenborg in his works shows not only that the Old Testament prophesies the coming of the Creator into the world, but also that the New Testament teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is that Creator come into the world. This is taught in John, as follows:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (or, God was the Word.) The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-3, 14.)
How the Incarnation of God Took Place.
But how did God come into the world, and what did He do here that brings about the Redemption and salvation of the human race and makes possible again the conjunction of mankind with Him in the reception of His Love and Wisdom?
Swedenborg teaches that God came into the world by taking on a human body by means of birth from the virgin Mary. Consider what is said in the New Testament concerning the conception of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35.)
This teaching can mean nothing else than that the one Infinite God was Himself the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord had no human father, as do all other human beings, but the infinite and eternal God was His Father. This means that the Lord had that in Him which was infinite and eternal, that which was life in itself. But because the Infinite cannot be divided as can the finite, this also means that God Himself was in Jesus Christ.
In the Lord Jesus Christ when He was first born into the world there were two distinct natures: that which He derived from Ilis Father, which was infinite and Divine, and that which He derived from Mary, which was merely human and which had within it the heredity of the human race.
Because the Lord had with Him that heredity from Mary He had with Him that which was mortal and vulnerable. In the heredity from Mary was the heriditary evil of the human race. He thus took on Himself the sins and iniquities of us all, and in His life in the world He overcame those evils in Himself. In that maternal heredity, which Swedenborg calls the maternal human of the Lord, the Lord met and conquered the evils which had taken possession of human minds and bodies. Through that maternal human the hells could attack His Divine Love for the salvation of the human race, and in it the Lord from His Divine soul met and conquered that attack.
Swedenborg teaches that two things took place by the incarnation of the Divine in the Lord Jesus Christ. First, the evil of the human race, hell itself, was subjugated by the Lord. The second thing was that the Lord during His life in the world reordered that human mind and body which He assumed through Mary, and conjoined and at length united it to His own Divine soul which He had from conception. This is what is called the Lord’s glorification. Through His glorification the Lord put off what He had derived from Mary and put on a new Human, the Divine Human, from His own Divine soul. Thus He made His Human Divine, and the Divine Human in Himself. Even as to the Human He became Life itself, Love itself and Wisdom itself.
As to His very soul, and also as to those things of His mind and body which the Lord had made one with the Divine, Jesus Christ was altogether one with the Father. As to those things of His human which had not yet been made Divine, He was as another person. This is why the Lord sometimes spoke of Himself as one with His Father, and at other times spoke as if the Father were another than Himself. But at His Resurrection the process of the glorification of His Human was complete, and then He was altogether one with the Father as to person and essence.
This may be illustrated in the following diagrams:
The Lord in His Human made Divine (D) is not another person than the Father, or another infinite and eternal God, but is the Father Himself clothed with the Human made Divine.
The Lord’s soul was Divine from conception. It was the Father in Him. And this is why the Lord taught that the Father was in Him. As the Lord glorified His Human, so that Human also was made Divine, and this is why the Lord says that He is one with the Father.
The one infinite and eternal God, now clothed in His Divine Human, is the Lord Jesus Christ glorified. He is God made Man, and Man made God. And in His Divine Human He has power over all things in heaven and on earth, as the Lord Himself says in Matthew:
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18.)
In the Divine Human the one infinite and eternal God has so embodied and accommodated His Divine Love and Wisdom that He may be seen and approached by man in man’s fallen state. In His Divine Human He can inflow into our minds and influence us in the love of what is good and true in spite of the heriditary corruption of our nature. And in the Divine Human we can if we are willing come to the idea of God in a truly rational human form. Thus through His incarnation we can see Him and understand Him and love Him in a way that is far superior to anything that ever existed previous to His Advent into the world. For in His Divine Human the Lord is seeable, approachable, able to be understood and loved.
These things God has done out of His infinite Mercy and Love for the human race, to make possible again His Divine Purpose with men, that He might bless them with eternal life and be conjoined with them in Love.
These things are meant by this in John:
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (John 1:18.)
The Fruit or result of the Advent and Glorification of the Lord may be illustrated in the following diagrams:
1. A represents the Love and Wisdom of the one Infinite God flowing into men.
B is the interior mind of man, into which the Lord could inflow before the fall.
C. is the conscious or external mind of man into which the Lord also inflowed through the interior mind with those before the fall.
2. After the fall of man the interior mind was blocked up with evils, and the influx of God into man was obstructed.
3. A here represents the infinite Love and Wisdom clothed in the Divine Human. By means of this accommodation God can inflow directly into the conscious mind of man and enlighten it with truth and affect it with good. Through this man receives from the Lord the ability to fight against and remove the evils obstructing the interiors of his mind.
The Divine Trinity.
The New Testament speaks of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Many have understood this to mean that God is in three Divine Persons, each of whom is infinite and eternal, and each of whom is God and Lord. But the New Testament does not speak of Persons in God at all, much less of three Divine Persons existing from eternity.
It is admitted by many that the question of how three persons make one God is past all human understanding. And because of this mystery many people do not think deeply about God, believing that their minds are not capable of entering into such thought.
What does Swedenborg teach concerning the Divine Trinity?
From what has gone before in this lecture it can be seen that the Father, the one infinite and eternal God, is not one Divine Person and the Son another Divine Person. but that they are one. as soul and body are one. The Son. the Divine Human, is the Divine Body, and the Father is the Divine Soul in that Divine Bodv. Even as the soul and body of a man are not two people, but one person, so the Father and the Son, the Divine and the Divine Human of the Lord are one Divine Person.
But what then of the Holy Spirit?
Swedenborg teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Lord’s own Divine Spirit going forth from Him to men and angels. It is the Divine Love and Wisdom proceeding out of the Divine Human of the Lord to work the regeneration and salvation of mankind. This can be seen perfectly represented in the Gospel of .John:
“And when He had said this. He breathed on them and said. Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
This was said after the Lord’s Resurrection. The Holy Spirit is there represented as the Breath of the Lord. His Breath is His Divine Truth going forth from Himself to men. Swedenborg calls this the Divine Proceeding, or, the Divine Operation.
That the Holy Spirit is the Divine proceeding from the glorified Human of the Lord is also taught in these passages from the New Testament: “But this He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39.) The original Greek reads “The Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
“It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7.)
After the Lord was glorified, that is, after His Human was made Divine, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which leads men into all truth, could come to men, because through the Divine Human the Divine Good and Truth can inflow into our minds.
The conclusion therefore is that the Divine Trinity is not a Trinity of Persons, but that it is a Trinity of essentials in the one Divine Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is the Divine itself, present in Him as the Soul. The Son is the Divine Human, which is the Body of that Divine Soul, and the Holy Spirit is the Divine Operation, the Divine Good and Truth proceeding from God to men.
This is taught also by Paul, in these words concerning the Lord:
“For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.)
If you see God as one Divine Person, one Divine Man, and the Trinity in Him as Soul, Body and Proceeding, you will have an understandable idea of God and of the Divine Trinity in Him. This teaching is that which is given in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. It is the Supreme Truth concerning the Lord.
This truth may be summarized thus: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth, that He is Jehovah, the Lord from eternity, that He is the Creator from eternity, that He is the Redeemer in time, that He is the regenerator into eternity, and thus that He is at the same time the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our God. There is no other. To Him we owe all that is good and all that is true. All power in heaven and on earth is His. To Him alone should we pray. To Him alone should be our worship, our love, and the service of our lives.
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The New Church Idea of the Trinity
Chapter 2 from “The City of God”
by Rev. Karl Alden
The Scriptural Evidence
Let us contemplate the idea of the Trinity from what is revealed in the Old Testament, from the idea that the Messiah, God Himself, was to come into the world…. [In a discussion once, a minister] handed me a…volume on the Trinity, and I will never forget the first sentence. It read: “There is very little evidence in the Old Testament for a trinity of Persons.” That theologian was correct, for there is no real evidence at all in the Old Testament for a trinity of persons. Search it as you will, the only things you may seize upon to confirm a trinity are the words, “Let us make man in our image” and the three angels that appeared to Abraham to tell him of Isaac’s birth. The first one is dearly a plural of majesty, for it goes on to say, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him.” (Genesis 1:27) It does not say, “created They him!”
In regard to the occasion when three angels appeared to Abraham, if we argued from this that there were three persons in God, we might just as well argue that God is a multitude, for a multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on Christmas night. Furthermore, in the next chapter of Genesis only two angels appeared to Lot. If they represented the trinity, who was left out?….
But let us look at the other side of the picture from the Old Testament. What evidence of God in one person does it give? We find it full of statements which declare this truth. “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Dent. 6:4) This is so definite, so positive, so clear. Or consider Isaiah 43:11, “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside Me there is no Savior.” Imagine, if there had been a trinity of persons from eternity, the Father looking and seeing no Savior, passing by the Son as if He did not exist. Yet according to the Athanasian Creed, which all Christian orthodoxy swears by, “The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord, yet there be not three Gods and three Lords, but one God and one Lord.” (AE 1091)
Let us turn to a positive statement in Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the Trinity. “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (9:6) There has been no doubt in the Christian mind that the Child concerning whom Isaiah prophesied was the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly Handel, in his beautiful oratorio “The Messiah” so interpreted it. He uses that passage to great advantage and he leaves no shadow of doubt but that the Son who was to be born into the world was the babe that was born in Bethlehem on the first Christmas night.
“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” What government? The government of the universe, all government, the laws and order of all creation. “The government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called . . .” Whose name? The Lord Jesus Christ’s name. He actually was called “Jesus”, but the prophet said that in addition He should be called “Wonderful.” He was the Wonder-Child, the child born without human father – the mystery of the ages. His name shall be called “Counselor.” He was to give man the truth that should guide him and make him free. But He should also be called “The Mighty God”, and furthermore He was to be called “The Everlasting Father.” I do not know whether you ever thought about it before, or noticed it, but here in the Old Testament, when it is being foretold that the God of heaven would come upon the earth, in the same sentence He is called Son and Father, “a Son shall be given us” who “shall be called the Everlasting Father.” That Son was the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was called by Isaiah “the Everlasting Father.” What could more clearly indicate that there is one Person in God, and that the Everlasting Father is the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ? Therefore, we find this great harmony between the Old and the New Testaments, for in each the one Person who is God is called both Son and Father.
The Trinity in God
There is not the least shadow of a doubt that there is a trinity in God. That is not the point. The point is: Is God a trinity of Persons, or is God one Person in whom dwelleth a trinity of attributes? The New Church believes that He is not a trinity of persons. A belief in a trinity of persons must lead inevitably, although perhaps not explicitly, to a belief in three separate Divine Beings, which amounts to a belief in three Gods, because to each Person in the Trinity is assigned a different office or function to perform, as that the Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. The New Church believes in a trinity, but it believes that it is a trinity of functions that cluster about one Personality who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is impossible to maintain the trinity of persons from Scripture. In the first place, there is no mention of a trinity of three persons. The Father is mentioned, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but they are never called separate persons. They represent real relationships. If we were inclined to specious reasonings, we might even note that every man has many aspects. For example: to my father I was a son, to my son I am father. Thus I am both father and son according to the relationship in which I find myself, but I am never two persons. In respect to the Divine from eternity, the Divine born in time as Jesus was certainly its Son, but not a separate person, because the Divine dwelt in Him and was His soul; thus it is easy to see the Oneness of God when we think of Christ’s soul as the Father, His body as the Son, and His influence among men as the Holy Spirit, but how can one who believes in three Divine persons explain such passages as “I and My Father are one”, (John 10:30) “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”, (John 14:9) “Before Abraham was, I am”, (John 8:58) “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” (John 14:11) A true religion will be able to understand and explain all of these passages.
In the first part of this chapter, I have endeavored to show that if Philip had really seen the Lord, he would have seen the Father in the Divine and mighty acts which the Lord did. I then endeavored to show that in the Old Testament there is a solidarity of teaching to the effect that there is one God in one Person, and that when His advent into the world was foretold by Isaiah he leaves no shadow of a doubt but that the Son and the Father were one in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Soul, Body, and Activity in Man
There is still another approach to the understanding of the Trinity. God created man in His own image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26,27) If, then, there is a trinity in God there is a trinity in man. This we find to be the fact. For in man we discover the trinity of soul, body, and use; the finite image and likeness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let us look at this trinity in man. What is it that is the architect of the child that is growing in the womb of the mother? Our Writings say that it is the invisible soul given by the father, which, after it has produced conception, orders the destiny of the multiplying cells, giving to some the office of neural canal, to some the formation of a primitive heart, causing some to form bones, and others skin. The soul of man directs all this. Thus the soul builds for itself a body, a palace to dwell in, a temple into every minutest part of which it is able to enter.
The soul is always on a higher plane than the body. It can never be seen by the natural eye any more than the Lord could show Philip’s natural eye the Father. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (John 1:18) Dissect the body as cleverly as you can, you will never find the soul; weigh the body immediately before and after death, you cannot find the weight of the soul; yet the soul is there and we may know of it by the work that it does in the body. The soul in each one of us, invisible though it be, governs all of our organs, all of those things that go on unconsciously – the beating of the heart, the respiration, the digestion of our food, the circulation of our blood, the thousands of muscular contractions that are necessary to perform any movement – all of these are ruled by the soul, the invisible soul of man.
The Writings tell us that this invisible soul is to the trinity in man, what the Father is to the trinity in the Lord. The infinite Divine Father is invisible in His universe. Only by taking on a body from Mary did He become visible on earth. So we say the Lord Jesus Christ reveals the Divine, just as we say our body reveals our soul.
The Divine Embodiment
When Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28) and told her that she was to become the mother of the Messiah, Mary was the first to doubt the virgin birth. She said, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34) Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
The Divine flowed into Mary without any finite, limiting, separating vessel so that the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ, which caused the growth of His body, just as our soul has caused the growth of our body – that soul of His was Father to His body in that relationship, just as truly as our soul has been father to our body. But our soul has been cut off from the human father from whom we sprung, whereas the Divine Substance is continuous and cannot be separated. The Lord’s soul, therefore, flowed in and was never cut off from the Divine Soul which still governed the universe. That Divine – Jehovah from eternity – was always present as the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ. So the Father always dwelt in Him, and the Son more and more manifested the Father, so that at the end of His life in this world He could say to Philip, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”
The Lord said, “No man hath seen God at any time.” The Father, the Infinite Divine within all nature, is above man’s poor power to comprehend. “No man hath seen God at any time.” The God that Abraham spoke with was an angel filled with the spirit of Jehovah. The God that Gideon saw, and the God that called to and spoke with Moses was also an angel filled with God’s spirit. “No man,” the Lord said, “hath seen God at any time.” The “Only Begotten”, because when the Lord came down into the world through the instrumentality of the Virgin Mary, that was the only vessel that had been prepared to receive the Divine, and to manifest the Divine on earth. “The Only Begotten Son hath declared Him.” That is, the Babe, the Lord Jesus Christ alone has declared the Father and through His many deeds and words manifested Him in this world.
When we first meet somebody, and see only his body, we see little of the real person. But as we get to know him and live with him and see how he reacts to sorrow and in the presence of joy; and how he meets adversity and how the various vicissitudes of life affect him, more and more we forget the body, and more and more we see the soul through the body, so at length we can say to our friends and quite truly: “You have never seen my soul, but all of my soul that you ever will see you will observe in the actions of my body.” We can never see the soul of anyone apart from the character manifested by the deeds of his body. Think of a man like Lincoln, for example. If we knew nothing of his character and his life, and we saw a picture of him we might say, “What an ugly man!” But when you and I look at a picture of Lincoln we do not say that because we know the soul of the man through his deeds and these we see shining through the features of his face. His mighty spirit irradiates his body.
The Holy Spirit
What about the Holy Spirit, which has also been called a separate person? It is truly difficult to understand how men could have thought of that as a separate person! After the Lord had risen from the dead, He appeared unto ten of His disciples and said, “Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21,22) His breath, His Divine majestic magnetism which has swept down through the ages, and has made men change their lives because of His teachings. He breathed on them and so He gave them His spirit, which, because He was holy, was the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity in Man
What about the trinity in man? What is there in him that corresponds to this breath of the Lord? It is what we do; it is the use we perform; it is our influence among the people with whom we live, our effect on other men; it is the spirit that goes forth from each one of us. We can often see the effect of man’s spirit when we contemplate the lives of the great men of the earth.
The story of Napoleon comes to mind. He had been exiled to the Island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. After a hundred days he conspired to come back to France and land in the southern portion with a handful of men. Louis XVIII sent an army to capture him. When this army met Napoleon he stepped out before it and said, “Capture me, or fall in behind me.” So great was his magnetic personality that they fell in behind him. This happened four times on his way north to Paris and by the time that he got there all of Louis’ soldiers were Napoleon’s. Such was the spirit that went forth from that man!
We are in the image and likeness of God. As He has the Father within Him, so we have our soul. As He had the body from Mary to manifest that Father, so we have our bodies by which we show to the world the quality of our character. And as the Lord’s presence with us is called the Holy Spirit, because it is His spirit, so we, by our spirit, exert an influence among the men with whom we live.
A Trinity in Nature
But we can see the Trinity in an even simpler way than this. Because the Lord is the Creator of all, He has left an image of Himself in all things of creation. There is nothing that exists that does not have an invisible soul, a visible body, and a use. Take for example a watch: the invisible soul is the idea of it in the mind of its inventor. Its body is the materials that have embodied the inventor’s idea. Its use is indicating time. As long as someone’s idea is not embodied it remains invisible. We cannot see it. But when it is worked out and given a body, we can say of it, “Now I see what its inventor had in mind.”
The Father, like the idea, is invisible, but if you have really seen the Son you have seen the Father, just as when you have seen the finished object you have seen the idea which was in the mind of its inventor. The Lord came on earth that men might see Him, and through Him see the Divine Spirit that moves the universe, and having seen Him, that they might be inspired to receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit or inspiration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thus, if Philip had really seen the Lord, he would have seen the Father also. Had the Jews understood the Old Testament, they would have seen the Father, their God, in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we understand the trinity of soul, body, and use in ourselves we will understand the Trinity in God, and we will come to see that there is not a created thing in the universe which does not declare the trinity of an invisible idea, a material body, and a continuing use. The all pervading likeness of the Creator can be seen everywhere, by those who have eyes to see.
Chapter 3: Solving Some Perplexities Concerning the Trinity
In our last chapter we endeavored to show that there is one God in one person who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the testimony of the Old Testament, the testimony of the New Testament, and the testimony of reason all join together to establish the fact of the oneness of God, and the fact that that one God is in one Person who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now and then there occur certain passages of Scripture which seem to indicate the existence of more than one person in the Trinity, passages which have perplexed the minds of earnest seekers after the truth.
First let us consider the passage which describes the Lord’s baptism in the River Jordan. We read in Matthew: “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him … And Jesus when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him: and lo, a voice from heaven saying, `This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’.” (3:13,16,17)
Some have read into this description a trinity of persons,, whereas all that is actually mentioned is a trinity of a Son, a dove, and a voice. We should not understand from this a trinity of a Son, a Holy Spirit, and God the Father speaking out of heaven and saying that He was pleased with His Son. If it had been the intention of the Gospel to teach us that there are three Divine persons in the Godhead, it would have been easy to have written that, as Jesus came up out of the water, the person of the Holy Spirit was seen descending upon Him, and that God the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; John 1:32) But the facts of the case are that there was only one person seen, and that was the person of the Son; the Spirit was not a dove, but was seen descending “like a dove”; and a voice was heard out of heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son.” In order to understand this we must have some comprehension of what was taking place with the Lord, and the manner of His incarnation, that is, His coming down to dwell among men in the flesh, and how that incarnation led to His glorification.
The Doctrine of the Incarnation and Glorification
At birth the Lord had a soul which was continuous with the Divine. He had a body which was purely material, which He had assumed from the Virgin Mary, so that the Christ-Child that the shepherds adored on Christmas night had a human body and a Divine soul. He was the Son of Mary as to His body, but was also the Son of God because He had a Divine soul which was continuous with the Father, that is, with the Infinite God of the universe. It is true that the God of heaven and earth was just as present in Bethlehem the night before He was manifest to the shepherds as He was the night that He became manifest. But before Christmas night His presence was invisible. However, when He was born in Bethlehem He took on a body visible in this world which should more and more clearly reveal the Divine soul within it.
The babe, Jesus, gradually grew up, and as He matured the process of glorification was taking place. Therefore, the Lord said in prayer to the Father, “Glorify Thou Me with Thine ownself with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” (John 17:5)
Every man was created into the image of God, and man is human because God is Divinely human; and God was Divinely human before any man was ever created. In the process of His glorification the Lord gradually, little by little, put off the human which He had taken purely from His mother Mary, and in its place put on the Divine Human which He had with the Father. This was the Divine Human quality into whose image and likeness man was originally created.
Let me illustrate this principle with sight. When the Lord was born in Bethlehem as a babe, He could see only as far as His natural sight extended. This human sight He derived from His mother Mary. But as the Lord was glorified He put off the limited sight from Mary, and in its place He put on unlimited sight from the Father, that is, omniscience, the ability to see everywhere. To give an example of what I mean: On the occasion when He sat at the table of Simon the Pharisee and a woman came in and anointed His head with precious ointment and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head, the Lord saw not merely Simon, but He saw into Simon’s heart as well, and disclosed what Simon had said within himself: “This man if He were a prophet would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touched Him for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) By reading Simon’s thoughts the Lord showed that He had put off the human limited sight from Mary, and had put on the Divine Human sight from the Father.
The teaching about our Lord’s glorification is profound, but it can be comprehended rationally. Permit me to recall for you Samuel Noble’s comparison: Suppose that a linen handkerchief represents the natural body that the Lord took on from Mary. If we pull out a thread of linen, and in its place weave in a thread of gold, and if we do this for every thread of the warp, and then for every thread of the woof, in the end we will have a handkerchief that is the same shape, and the same size as the original, but it is all transformed into gold. The point of the illustration is this: The Lord came into the world primarily to give us an image of God that we can know, see, worship, and love; and, if, when He departed out of the world He had left no image of Himself, the work of the incarnation would have been in vain. But He did leave such an image because, although He gradually glorified the body taken from Mary, and put off everything human and finite from her, nevertheless, He has given to our minds the picture of His earthly personality, in that although He is now glorified, we can still see Him as the Lord Jesus Christ.
This process of glorification with Him was gradual. It did not happen suddenly. When He was twelve years of age, He began to realize that the temple was His Father’s house. He be came conscious that He was not Joseph’s son. He therefore said to Mary and Joseph, when they found Him in the temple, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) He was beginning to perceive that God’s temple was His Father’s temple, and that the worship o£ God was His Father’s business, and so from those words we know that there was commencing to come into His consciousness the idea of His Messiahship. But this realization took place gradually in Him.
At the time that He was baptized in the River Jordan He was thirty years of age. In the letter of the Word we have no hint except for His appearance in the temple at twelve years of age as to the states which He passed through, but in Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia – where the spiritual sense of the Word is given – we have many, many details as to the progressive states that He underwent as He gradually glorified the human taken from Mary by putting it off and replacing it with the Divine Human from the Father.
The Voice and the Dove
At His baptism, which took place at the beginning of His public ministry, there is recorded a further revelation to His own consciousness of the meaning of His Messianic mission. The voice from heaven which said, “Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, was the voice of the Divine soul within Him, giving Him a clearer perception as to His calling. It was not the voice of a second person sounding from heaven. For that matter, we know that heaven is not up in the clouds, but heaven is the perception of good ends, the perception of the real purpose of life. “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
As to the dove, surely we cannot think that the Holy Spirit is a dove, even if Luke states that it “descended in bodily appearance like a dove.” What could it be but a symbol, a representative appearance? Now, if we study a dove, as it is used in the Word of God, we will understand its true meaning. When Noah sent out a dove to make sure that the earth was dry, it first came back empty; it then brought back an olive leaf and finally it went forth and returned no more. Here the dove is the symbol of the truth of faith from good. We further learn that the dove is a bird which is peculiar for its monogamic mating instincts, and because of that has become a symbol of conjugial love; and in the deeper sense the dove is a symbol of the marriage of good and truth, which is the very fruit of regeneration, for when man tries to do the things he knows how to do, and turns the knowledge he has into the deeds of life, then good and truth with him are married, that is, the “desire” is wedded to the “know-how.” The end product is a state of regeneration. The dove which descended upon the Lord represented the communication between the Divine soul and the body which was being glorified – a communication which, as He progressed toward glorification, would end in a complete oneness; for, after the resurrection on Easter morning, we no longer find any mention of the Father and the Son, but He is always as Thomas expressed it, “My Lord and My God.” (John 20:28)
Let me leave one thought for you to ponder before turning from the scene of the baptism. If we dwell on the letter only, there is mention made of one person only, for a dove can hardly be thought to be another person, and certainly a voice cannot. In close connection with this, in the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, the same type of symbolism is used. John said that in his vision he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne. Before Him he saw seven golden candlesticks. Those seven golden candlesticks were said to be the spirit of the churches, the Holy Spirit. If we are inclined to take things literally, we cannot be satisfied with having one spirit, but now we have seven Holy Spirits. If we go on to the fifth chapter, again we have God upon the throne, and we have the Lamb mentioned; and the Lamb that had been slain and was alive again very obviously refers to the Lord’s life in this world. In order scrupulously to avoid any appearance of two persons, the symbolism, the innocence of the Lamb, is used so that there can be no shadow of a doubt but that there is only one person, the person sitting on the throne. And the chapter says that the Lamb that was before the throne, and which represents the Lord dwelling in this world, – this Lamb had seven eyes, and the seven eyes again were the spirit, the Holy Spirit, that went out through the church. Are there seven spirits? Is the Lord a Lamb? Of course the Lord is not a Lamb, but the Lamb represents the innocence of the Lord, the innocence by means of which He takes away the sins of the world, by bringing people into a state of innocence similar to the innocence which He Himself had.
The Witness of the Father
Another passage that presents some difficulty is one which occurs in one of the Lord’s discourses. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou bearest record of Thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of Myself, My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me. It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me. Then said they unto Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me nor My Father: if ye had known Me ye should have known My Father also.” (John 8:12-19)
It has been argued that the Lord spoke of two persons when He said, “It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true,” and added, “I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me He beareth witness of Me.” But let us look at the language itself. If this is rightly understood, it not only testifies that the Lord and the Father are not two persons, but it testifies to their complete and perfect oneness. “I am not alone” – “I and My Father that sent Me.” The Divine Soul within Him and the body that manifested Him were inseparably one, and consequently, wherever He was, the Father that sent Him was also present. Note that this is often misquoted as if it had meant, “I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father is another that beareth witness of Me.” But there is no such word as “another” in the text. The text reads, “I am one that beareth witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me.”
A falsity can usually be reduced to an absurdity. Suppose you apply the Mosaic law literally to the passage, with the idea that the Lord was using this means to prove to the Jews that He and the Father were two persons, and consequently, being two persons, they could bear a true witness. What would this imply? Would you not have to interpret it in one of two ways? Either the testimony of two men establishes the truth, or the testimony of two gods; either the Lord and the Father are two finite men that bear witness, or they are two Gods that bear witness; because otherwise you do not have the two men, in the mouths of whom an act is to be established. ‘I am one man, and My Father is another man’, or `I am one God and My Father is another God’. Both of these ideas are repugnant to our thought.
The Jews believed that the Lord was quite a different person than God. They did not believe that they were one person. Jesus had to convince them that the Father was in Him, and He was in the Father, and so He went on to say, “Ye neither know Me, nor My Father”, and they said, “Where is Thy Father?” And Jesus replied, “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also.” These words are an exact parallel to the words He spoke to Philip – His own disciple – and to the Lord’s answer to this wondering disciple. But the Jews were trying to corner Him, trying to prove that He was not the light of the world, that He had no right to say that He was the light of the world, and no right to claim any Messiahship; so that when they said, “Where is Thy Father?” – it was asked from malice and skepticism. When Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father”, it was asked from love and from a real desire to be instructed; and yet the Lord’s answer to the two questions was so very similar. To Philip He said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”; and to the Jews He said, “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also.”
Two Spiritual Witnesses
To the New Church person it is revealed that the whole of the Word is written to inspire man in his spiritual journey. It is not written for the purpose of teaching scientific facts, or merely as a guide for his life in this world. It is written to teach him about the world of spiritual life. So let us see what the subject of two witnesses yields when we take up Deuteronomy, the seventeenth chapter, where it says, “At the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death.” (v. 6) It does not take very much imagination to understand that as soon as you interpret the Hebrew law in a broader way than the letter you come to see spiritual values which apply to Christians, but which were never recognized by the Jews. For example: we do not enforce the rite of circumcision, but we do plead for purification of the heart, (Jer. 9:25) the reformation of baptism which it represented. All of the Jewish laws are part of the Word of God and contain a spiritual sense that relates to man’s regeneration in every age and nation.
The beautiful words of the Lord, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20) means that where a man has truths and goods wedded in his mind this makes possible the Lord’s presence with him. The two witnesses are the will and the understanding, which, if they are united in falsity and evil, condemn a man to hell, but if they are united in good and truth invite the presence of the Lord.
Returning to the text under consideration: the Lord says that He is one witness, and the Father is the other witness. This fits the parallel exactly. The Father is the Divine Love or Will, and the Son who manifested Him in this world is the Divine Wisdom, the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us, and makes the Divine Love visible. When the Lord said that He was the light of the world, and said that He was not alone, but was one that bore witness, and the Father bore witness of Him, the spiritual meaning is that the Divine Wisdom, of which He, as the Word made flesh, was the embodiment and the Divine Love dwelling within Him both bore witness and testified to the fact that He was the light of the world.
If the Jews had really known Him, they would have known the Father also, just as, if Philip had really seen the Lord, he too would have seen the Father, because the Father was present in Divine power and majesty in all the deeds which the Lord did: the feeding of the five thousand, the giving of sight to the blind, and the like. All of these acts were done through the power of His divine soul. Therefore, if we rightly understand this passage it not only does not teach that there are two persons in God, but it shows the unity between the Divine Soul and the Son who was born to manifest that Soul, and who, through glorification was ever progressing toward unity with that Soul.
But what is meant by the Hebrew law that no one should be condemned except from the mouth of two or three witnesses? This is very interesting and very important. We cannot imagine that when a man, shortly after death, is to be judged either to heaven or to hell, the Lord would have to call witnesses from among the angels who have known that person, and ‘that if two or more be found that agree together, he would be condemned. Rather does the Lord judge each man from the man’s own book of life – the book of life that is written on man’s internal memory. That book of life is composed of the affections of his will, which is one witness, and of the things inscribed on his understanding, which is the other witness. The two witnesses that go with man into the spiritual world are thus thoughts of his understanding, and the deeds of his will. No man is condemned to hell either from the will alone, or from the understanding alone. A man, through no fault of his own, may be brought up in many falsities for which he is not responsible. His understanding may need a great deal of instruction after he comes into the spiritual world, but if he has lived according to the conscience that he has, he will be taught the truth after death, and his understanding will be reformed and brought into a true marriage with his good will; so that the witness of man’s understanding alone, without witness of the will, would never condemn him to hell. Similarly we are taught that all who die as infants go to heaven, although no one has a regenerate will until it has been slowly and gradually formed by shunning evils as sins against God. No one is sent to hell unless intelligently, knowingly, he gave the consent of his understanding to the evil desire of his will. Only when the witnesses confirm each other, or when the will and the understanding are mated in the evil deed from set purpose, is he condemned. For then there are two witnesses to condemn him.
The Lord on the Cross
Another passage that has given some difficulty, when it was not rightly understood, concerns the Lord’s outcry on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) Some have supposed that because He cried out to God that this is evidence that God was somewhere else, and that the God to whom He cried was another person, supposedly the Father. But isn’t it strange that if there really were a trinity of persons that He did not call from the cross, “My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Orthodox Christianity believes that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. When He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” – did He then cry out to the God who was the Father, the God who was the Holy Spirit, or the God who He Himself was? Christianity is based firmly on the belief that Christ was God; why, then, should we suppose that He cried out to any other Divinity beside the Divinity that was within Himself? Since He is God, is it not most natural to suppose that He felt in the torture of the cross that His Divine Soul was slipping from Him? It seems most logical that, if the Father had been a Being apart from the Son, and He was appealing to the Father for help, crying in lamentation that He had been abandoned, He would have said, “My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But he did not. Comparison with human experience will show us why.
Each one of us has his ideals, and we all know that from time to time we fall short of living up to our ideals. Sometimes we do things that are contrary to our ideals, and looking back and reflecting on those deeds we wonder why we abandoned our ideals. David voices the same sentiment in the psalm, when he says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?” (Ps. 42:5) David was not talking to some one else; he was talking to his better self, to his higher nature, to the things that he really believed and strove for, for these things seemed to have deserted him.
So with the Lord on the cross. He had no evils to regret, but this was the last and final temptation by which He completely purified the body taken from Mary, and hence, there was, as it were, a last cry of despair of the human body from Mary which was now being put off by the Divine and seemed to be separated from it. It was not a prayer to a third person to intercede, nor a despairing cry to a third person because He had abandoned Him. This whole episode is another instance of how a knowledge that the Father was the Divine Soul within our Lord makes clear what might otherwise be construed as an evidence of more than one person in God. If we once gain the concept that the Divine was ever working in and through the human, these passages yield more and more light.
In this chapter I have endeavored to point out how the voice, the dove, and the Son at the baptism can be regarded as a foreshadowing of the process of the glorification, preparatory to the Lord’s entrance into His public ministry. I have shown how the two witnesses, when rightly understood, represent the witness of the soul within, or the Divine good as manifested in the Divine wisdom, which was the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, the two witnesses being love and wisdom, or good and truth. Lastly, I explained that when the Lord cried out on the cross, He did not cry out to the Father, but to the God within Himself, which, during this last and most grievous of all His temptations seemed to have forsaken Him.
-from Rev. K.R. Alden, The City of God (Bryn Athyn, PA: The General Church Publication Committee, 1961)
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?…” Matt. 22:41-42
The question that our Lord Jesus puts here to the Pharisees is the most fundamental question concerning Christian thought and faith that can be put to anybody in any age. Jesus Christ Himself is the center of Christianity, so the most fundamental questions of faith are those that concern the Person of Christ. If a man really holds to right views concerning the Person of Jesus Christ, he will sooner or later get right views on every other question. If he holds a wrong view concerning the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is pretty sure to go wrong on everything else sooner or later. “What think ye of Christ?” That is the great central question; that is the vital question.
And the most fundamental question concerning the Person of Christ is — is Jesus Christ really God? Not merely, is He Divine, but, is He actually God? When I was a boy, to say you believed in the Divinity of Christ meant that you believed in the real Deity of Christ, that you believed that Jesus was actually a Divine Person, that He was God. It no longer means that. The Devil is wise, shrewd, and subtle, and he knows that the most effectual way to instill error into the minds of the inexpert and unwary is to use old and precious words and put a new meaning into them. So when his messengers masquerading as “ministers of righteousness” seek to lead, if possible, the elect astray, they use the old precious words, but with an entirely new and entirely different and entirely false meaning. They talk about the Divinity of Christ, but they do not mean at all what intelligent Christians in former days meant by it. Likewise, they talk of the atonement, but they do not mean at all the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ in our place by which eternal life is secured for us. And oftentimes when they talk about Christ, they do not mean at all our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the actual historic Jesus of the four gospels; they mean an ideal Christ, or a Christ principle.
So our subject is not the Divinity of Christ, but the Deity of Christ; and our question is not, is Jesus Christ Divine, but rather, is Jesus Christ God? Was that Person Who was born in Bethlehem nineteen hundred and twenty-one years ago, and Who lived thirty-three or thirty-four years here upon earth as recorded in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Who was crucified on Calvary’s cross, Who rose from the dead the third day, and was exalted from earth to heaven to the right hand of the Father — was He God manifest in the flesh, was He God embodied in a human being? Was He, and is He, a Being worthy of our absolute faith and supreme love and our unhesitating obedience and our wholehearted worship, just as God the Father is worthy of our absolute faith and supreme love and unhesitating obedience and our wholehearted worship? Should all men honour Jesus Christ even as they honour God the Father (John 5:23). Not merely is He an example that we can wisely follow, or a Master whom we can wisely serve, but is He a God Whom we can rightly worship? I presume that most of us do believe that He was God manifest in the flesh and that He is God today at the right hand of the Father, but why do you believe so? Are you so intelligent in your faith, and therefore, so well-grounded in your faith that no glib talker or reasoner, no Unitarian or Russellite (JW) or Christian Scientist or Theosophist, or other errorist can confuse you and upset you and lead you astray?
It is important that we be thoroughly sound in our faith at this point and thoroughly well-informed, wherever else we may be in ignorance or error, for we are distinctly told in John 20:31 that “these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” It is evident from these words of the inspired apostle John that this question is not merely a matter of theoretical opinion, but that it is a matter that concerns our salvation. It is to confirm and instruct you in your blessed faith, your saving faith in Jesus Christ as a Divine Person.
When I studied the subject of the Divinity of Christ in the theological seminary, I got the impression that there were a few texts in the Bible that conclusively proved that He was Divine. Years later I found that there were not merely a few proof texts that proved this, but that the Bible in many ways and in countless passages clearly taught that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh. Indeed, I found that the Doctrine of the Deity of Jesus Christ formed the very warp and woof of the Bible.
The first line of proof of the absolute Deity of our Lord Jesus is that many names and titles clearly implying Deity are used of Jesus Christ in the Bible, some of them over and over again, the total number of passages reaching far into the hundreds. Of course, I can only give you a few illustrations at this time. Turn with me first of all to Revelation 1:17, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last.” The text shows clearly that our Lord Jesus was the speaker, and here our Lord Jesus distinctly calls Himself “The First and the Last.” Now this, beyond a question, is a Divine name, for in Isaiah 44:6 we read, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” In Revelation 22:12,13, our Lord Jesus says that He is the Alpha and Omega. His words are, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Now in this same book in the first chapter and the eighth verse the Lord God declared that He is the Alpha and the Omega. His words are, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” In I Corinthians 2:8, the apostle Paul speaks of our crucified Lord Jesus as “The Lord of glory.” His exact words are, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” There can be no question that “The Lord of glory” is Jehovah God, for we read in Psalm 24:8-10, “Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.” And we are told in the passage already referred to that our crucified Lord Jesus was the King of glory; therefore, He must be Jehovah.
In John 20:28 Thomas addressed the Lord Jesus as his Lord and his God: “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” Unitarians have endeavored to get around the force of this utterance made by Thomas by saying that Thomas was excited and that he was not addressing the Lord Jesus, but was saying “my Lord and my God” as an ejaculation of astonishment, just the way that profane people sometimes use these exclamations today. But this interpretation is impossible and shows to what desperate straits the Unitarians are driven, for Jesus Himself commended Thomas for seeing it and saying it. Our Lord Jesus’ words immediately following those of Thomas are, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
In Titus 2:13 our Lord Jesus is spoken of as our “great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In Romans 9:5 Paul tells us that “Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” The Unitarians have made desperate efforts to overcome the force of these words, but the only fair translation and interpretation of these words are found in our Authorized Version. There can be no honest doubt to one who goes to the Bible to find out what it actually teaches, and not to read his own thought into it, that Jesus is spoken of by various names and titles that beyond a question imply deity, and that He in so many words is called God. In Hebrews 1:8 it is said in so many words, of the Son, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” If we should go no further it is evidently the clear and often repeated teaching of the Bible that Jesus is really God.
But there is a second line of proof that Jesus Christ is God, a proof equally convincing, and that is, all the five distinctively Divine attributes are ascribed to Jesus Christ, and “all the fulness of the Godhead” is said to dwell in Him. There are five distinctively Divine attributes, that is, five attributes that God alone possesses. These are Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Eternity and Immutability. Each one of these distinctively Divine attributes are ascribed to Jesus Christ.
First of all, omnipotence is ascribed to Jesus Christ. Not only are we taught that Jesus had power over diseases and death and winds and sea and demons, that they were all subject to His word, and that He is far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the world to come (Eph. 1:20-23), but in Hebrews 1:3 it is said in so many words that He “[upholdeth] all things by the word of his power.”
Omniscience is also ascribed to Him. We are taught in the Bible that Jesus knew men’s lives, even their secret history (John 4:16-19), that He knew the secret thoughts of men, knew all men, knew what was in man (Mark 2:8; Luke 5:22; John 2:24,25), which knowledge we are distinctly told in 2 Chronicles 6:30 and Jeremiah 17:9-10, that God alone possesses. We are told in so many words in John 16:30 that Jesus knew “all things,” and in Colossians 2:3 we find that in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Omnipresence is also ascribed to Him. We are told in Matthew 18:20 that where two or three are gathered together in His Name, that He is in the midst of them, and in Matthew 28:20 that wherever His obedient disciples should go, He would be with them, even unto the end of the age, and in John 14:20 and 2 Corinthians 13:5 we are told that He dwells in each believer, in all the millions of believers scattered over the earth. In Ephesians 1:23 we are told that He “filleth all in all.”
Eternity is also ascribed to Him. We are told in John 1:1 that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 8:58 Jesus Himself said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Note that the Lord Jesus did not merely say that “before Abraham was I was,” but that “before Abraham was, I AM,” thus declaring Himself to be the eternal “I AM.” Even in the Old Testament we have a declaration of the eternity of the Christ who was to be born in Bethlehem. In Micah 5:2 we read, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” And in Isaiah 9:6 we are told of the child that is to be born, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” And in Hebrews 13:8 we are told, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
His immutability is also taught in the passage just quoted from Hebrews, and in the first chapter of the same book, in verses eleven and twelve, we find that while even the heavens change, the Lord Jesus does not change. The exact words are, “They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as cloth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.”
Each one of the five distinctively Divine attributes were ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ. And in Colossians 2:9 we are told in so many words, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily [in a bodily form].” Here again we might rest our case, for what has been said under this heading, even if taken alone, clearly proves the absolute Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It shows that He possesses every perfection of nature and character that God the Father possesses.
But we do not need to rest the case here. There is a third unanswerable line of proof that Jesus Christ is God, namely, all the distinctively Divine offices are predicated of Jesus Christ. There are seven distinctively Divine offices. That is to say, there are seven things that God alone can do, and each one of these seven distinctively Divine offices is ascribed to Jesus Christ. The seven distinctively Divine offices are: Creation, Preservation, Forgiveness of Sin, the Raising of the Dead, the Transformation of Bodies, Judgment and the Bestowal of Eternal Life, and each of these is ascribed to Jesus Christ.
Creation is ascribed to Him. In Hebrews 1:10 these words are spoken of our Lord: “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” The context clearly shows that the Lord addressed is the Lord Jesus. In John 1:3 we are told that “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Preservation of the universe and of everything is also ascribed to Him in Hebrews 1:3 where it is said of the Lord Jesus, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person [God’s], and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
The forgiveness of sin is ascribed to Him. He Himself says in Mark 2:5-10 when His power to forgive sins was questioned, because that was recognized as a Divine power, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.”
The future raising of the dead is distinctly ascribed to him in John 6:39,44, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The transformation of our bodies is ascribed to Him in Philippians 3:21. In 2 Timothy 4:1 judgment is ascribed to Him. We are told that He shall “judge the quick and the dead.” Jesus Himself declared that He would be the judge of all mankind and emphasized the fact of the Divine character of that office. In John 5:22,23 He said, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” The bestowal of eternal life is ascribed to Him time and time again. In John 10:28 He Himself says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” and in John 17:1,2, He says, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” Here then, we have the seven distinctively Divine offices all predicated of Jesus Christ. This alone would prove that He is God, and we might rest the case here, but there are still other proofs of His absolute Deity.
Statements Which in the Old Testament Are Made Distinctly of Jehovah, God, Taken in the New Testament to Refer to the Lord Jesus Christ
The fourth line of proof of the absolute Deity of Jesus Christ is found in the fact that over and over again statements which in the Old Testament are made distinctly of Jehovah, God, are taken in the New Testament to refer to Jesus Christ. We have not time to illustrate this at length, but will give but one illustration where many might be given. In Jeremiah 11:20 the prophet says, “But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.” Here the prophet distinctly says that it is Jehovah of Hosts Who judgest and triest the reins and the heart. And in the 17th chapter and the tenth verse Jeremiah represents Jehovah Himself as saying the same thing in these words, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” But in the New Testament in Revelation 2:23 the Lord Jesus says, “…I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” We are distinctly told in the context that it is “The Son of God” who is speaking here. So Jesus claims for Himself in the New Testament what the Lord in the Old Testament says is true of Himself and of Himself alone. In very many other instances, statements which in the Old Testament are made distinctly of God the Father, are taken to refer to Jesus Christ. That is to say, in New Testament thought and doctrine, Jesus Christ occupies the place that God the Father occupies in Old Testament thought and doctrine.
The Way the Name of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son Are Coupled Together
The fifth line of proof of the absolute Deity of our Lord is found in the way in which the name of Jesus Christ is coupled with that of God the Father. In numerous passages His name is coupled with the name of God the Father in a way in which it would be impossible to couple the name of any finite being with that of the Deity. We have time for but a few of the many illustrations that might be given. A striking instance is in the words of our Lord Himself in John 14:23 where we read, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Here our Lord Jesus does not hesitate to couple Himself with the Father in such a way as to say “We,” that is, God the Father and I, will come and make our abode with him. In John 14:1 He said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” If Jesus Christ was not God, this is shocking blasphemy. There is absolutely no middle ground between admitting the Deity of Jesus Christ and charging Christ with the most daring and appalling blasphemy of which any man was ever guilty.
Divine Worship to be Given to Jesus Christ
There is a sixth line of proof of the absolute Deity of our Lord Jesus. Those already given have been decisive, each one of the five have been decisive, but this, if possible, is the most decisive of them all, and that is that we are taught in so many words that Jesus Christ should be worshipped as God, both by angels and men. In numerous places in the gospels we see Jesus Christ accepting without hesitation a worship which good men and angels declined with fear and which He Himself taught should be rendered only to God (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:52; Matt.14:33; Acts 10:25,26; Rev. 22:8,9; Matt. 4:9,10). A curious and very misleading comment is made in the margin of the American Standard Revision upon the meaning of the word translated “worship” in these passages, and that is that “the Greek word translated worship denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a ‘creature’ or to the ‘Creator.”‘
Now this is true, but it is utterly misleading; for while this word is used to denote “an act of reverence paid to a creature” by idolaters, our Lord Jesus Himself distinctly says, using exactly the same Greek word, “thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” and on the other hand he says in John 5:23 that “all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the father.”
And in Revelation 5:8-13 the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders are represented as falling down before the Lamb and offering worship to Him just as worship is offered to Him that sitteth upon the throne, that is, God the Father. In Hebrews 1:6 we are told in so many words, “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
One night in the inquiry room in Chicago I stepped up to an intelligent looking man at the back of the room and said to him, “Are you a Christian?” He replied, “I do not suppose you would consider me a Christian.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “I am a Unitarian.” I said, “What you mean then is that you do not think that Jesus Christ is a person that should be worshipped.” He replied, “‘That is exactly what I think,” and added, “the Bible nowhere says we ought to worship Him.” I said, “Who told you that?” He replied, “My pastor,” mentioning a prominent Unitarian minister in the city of Boston. I said, “Let me show you something,” and I opened my Bible to Hebrews 1:6 and read, “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” And he said, “Does it say that?” I handed him the Bible and said, “Read it for yourself,” and he read it and said, “I did not know that was in the Bible.” I said, “Well it is there, isn’t it?” “Yes it is there.” Language could not make it plainer. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus, the Son of God, is to be worshipped as God by angels and men, even as God the Father is worshipped.
Incidental Proofs of the Deity of Jesus Christ
The six lines of proof of the Deity of Jesus Christ which I have given you leave no possibility of doubting that Jesus Christ is God, that Jesus of Nazareth is God manifest in a human person, that He is a being to be worshipped, even as God the Father is worshipped. But there are also incidental proofs of His absolute Deity which, if possible, are in some ways even more convincing than the direct assertions of His Deity.
1. Our Lord Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Now any one that makes a promise like that must either be God, or a lunatic, or an impostor. No one can give rest to all who labor and are heavy laden who come to him unless he is God, and yet Jesus Christ offers to do it. If He offers to do it and fails to do it when men come to Him, then He is either a lunatic or an impostor. If He actually does it, then beyond a question, He is God. And thousands can testify that He really does it. Thousands and tens of thousands who have labored and were heavy laden and crushed, and for whom there was no help in man, have come to Jesus Christ and He actually has given them rest. Surely then He is not merely a great man, but He is in fact God.
2. Again in John 14:1 Jesus Christ demands that we put the same faith in Him that we put in God the Father and promises that in such faith we will find a cure for all trouble and anxiety of heart. His words are, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” It is clear that He demands the same absolute faith to be put in Himself that is to be put in God Almighty. Now in Jeremiah 17:5, Scripture with which our Lord Jesus was perfectly familiar, we read “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,” and yet with this clear curse pronounced upon all who trust in man, Jesus Christ demands that we put trust in Him just as we put trust in God. It is the strongest possible assertion of Deity on His part. No one but God has a right to make such a demand, and Jesus Christ, when He makes this demand, must either be God or an impostor; but thousands and tens of thousands have found that when they did believe in Him just as they believe in God, their hearts were delivered from trouble no matter what their bereavement or circumstances might be.
3. Again, the Lord Jesus demanded supreme and absolute love for Himself. It is clear as day that no one but God has a right to demand such a love, but there can be no question that Jesus did demand it. In Matthew 10:37 He said to His disciples, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” and in Luke 14:26,33, he says. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” There can be no question that this is a demand on Jesus’ part of supreme and absolute love to Himself, a love that puts even the dearest relations of life in an entirely secondary place. No one but God has a right to make any such demand, but our Lord Jesus made it, and therefore, He must be God.
4. In John 10:30 the Lord Jesus claimed absolute equality with the Father. He said, “I and my Father are one.”
5. In John 14:9 our Lord Jesus went so far as to say, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” He claims here to be so absolutely God that to see Him is to see the Father Who dwelleth in Him.
6. In John 17:3 He says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” In other words, He claims that the knowledge of Himself is as essential a part of eternal life as knowledge of God the Father.
There is no room left to doubt the absolute Deity of Jesus Christ. It is a glorious truth. The Saviour in Whom we believe is God, a Saviour for Whom nothing is too hard, a Saviour Who can save from the uttermost and save to the uttermost. Oh, how we should rejoice that we have no merely human Saviour, but a Saviour Who is absolutely God in all of His fulness and perfection.
On the other hand, how black is the guilt of rejecting such a Saviour as this! Whoever refuses to accept Jesus as his Divine Saviour and Lord is guilty of the enormous sin of rejecting a Saviour Who is God. Many a man thinks he is good because he never stole, or committed murder, or cheated. “Of what great sin am I guilty?” he complacently asks. Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ? “No.” Well, then, you are guilty of the awful and damning sin of rejecting a Saviour Who is God.
“But,” you answer, “‘I do not believe that He is God.” That does not change the fact nor lessen your guilt before God. Questioning a fact or denying a fact never changes it, regardless of what Mary Baker Eddy may say to the contrary.
Suppose a man had a wife who was one of the noblest, purest, truest women that ever lived, would her husband’s questioning her purity and nobility change the fact? It would not. It would simply make that husband guilty of awful slander; it would simply prove that man to be an outrageous scoundrel.
So, denying the Deity of Jesus Christ does not make His Deity any less a fact, but it does make the denier of His Deity guilty of awful, incredible blasphemous slander against the Lord God of Heaven. It also proves that you who deny His Deity to be ________________ . I leave your own conscience to finish the sentence thus begun.
Copied by Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org from The Fundamental Doctrines of the Christian Faith by R. A. Torrey. New York: George H. Doran, ©1918.
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