There have been some incredible stories and theories written about the Second Coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Adherents of Judaism, observing the state of our world, believe the First Coming has not occurred. Large segments of Christianity believe that the Lord will come again in the flesh, at some point in the future. That He will rectify past injustices and reward the righteous.
What if there were a different way to understand Biblical visions of an Apocalypse? What if knowledge of this spiritual reality could awaken in you a rich and rewarding spiritual life today?
Join us, Sunday 18 June @ 10:00am at the Roseville New Church as we look at and even celebrate the Lord’s Second Coming.
The New Church views the Second Coming as a spiritual event that began on June 19, 1770.
A literal interpretation of the Second Coming can create a divisive "us versus them" mentality and potentially justify societal breakdown as part of end-time prophecies.
The New Church views the Second Coming as an ongoing spiritual transformation within individuals.
Despite modern advancements, personal spiritual battles persist. This can make the concept of a swift resolution through a literal Second Coming appealing.
The New Church encourages spiritual growth through continual personal spiritual transformation, paralleling the stories of Noah and the Flood, Exodus, and Jonah, with no shortcuts to this spiritual evolution.
(Celebrating the Second Coming)
On June 19th we in the New Church will celebrate the Second Coming. We do this because Emanuel Swedenborg, in his work True Christianity, noted that the Second Coming occurred in the spiritual world on 19 June 1770. With this date coming up I find myself reflecting on the pitfalls of several widely held Christian ideas about the Second Coming.
Generally speaking and acknowledging that there are some nuanced differences in their theological positions, Catholics and Protestants believe in the Second Coming as a literal, physical return of Jesus Christ to Earth. They believe that this event will occur at some point in the future, although the exact timing is unknown and has been the subject of much debate and speculation within the Christian community. Both also believe that the Second Coming will be preceded by a period of tribulation, during which there will be great turmoil and suffering on Earth, a time of intense spiritual warfare between the forces of good and evil. Finally both subscribe to the belief that an Antichrist will emerge and establish a one-world government and religion, and that there will be widespread persecution of Christians in the days leading up to Christ’s return.
Read that again and just let it sink in.
Do you notice how some part of you responds to those ideas? Maybe some part of you feels excited that if it were to happen this way, you would get to see Jesus in the flesh. Maybe some part of you rests secure in the knowledge that in this conflict between good and evil you would be on the right side. Or maybe, you look around at the world today and think it must be coming soon because the world is turned upside down and modern society has completely lost the plot.
The belief in a literal Second Coming can lead to a dualistic way of thinking that divides the world into two opposing camps: believers and non-believers. This can create an "us versus them" mentality and a sense of alienation from the broader society. A person who holds these beliefs may see themselves as separate from the rest of society and may even view the breakdown of social order as a necessary step toward the fulfilment of end-time prophecy. With a belief in the Second Coming often comes vivid and frightening apocalyptic imagery, which can reinforce a sense of impending doom and reinforce the belief that the social order is irredeemable. A belief news media of all stripes seems to be all too willing to reinforce. This imagery can include visions of earthquakes, wars, plagues, and other disasters that will precede the Second Coming. Some believers may even see themselves as agents of God's wrath, tasked with bringing about the destruction of the existing social order in preparation for the return of Christ.
Thankfully, Swedenborg frees a person from any such thinking by revealing the reality of the Second Coming. A reality that speaks not of literal events to occur in the future, but spiritual events that have already occurred and continue to occur within each of us as we seek to live the Lord’s Word into our lives.
One question I ask is why is the apocalyptic imagery so appealing to people? One way to look at this that helps us to understand the appeal is an acknowledgement of the human condition. Life is hard. Even today, when most of us in the western industrialised world have ready access to ample food, clean water, secure homes and opportunities our ancestors could only dream of, life is still hard. It is hard because the spiritual battles we experience are little changed from 50, 100, 1,000 years ago. Given the challenges, the spiritual assaults we experience, who wouldn’t want an easy solution? Who wouldn’t be excited by the prospect that someone will come and sort it all out, punishing the evil and rewarding the good? And, of course, who wouldn’t count themselves among “the good”?
While the underlying human condition is little changed in 1,000 years, one thing I see that has changed is our level of impatience in our modern world. We have become accustomed to a “just-in-time” way of living. “Just in time delivery” refers to the practice of delivering products or materials to a customer or production line at the exact time they are needed, in the exact quantity required, and in the correct condition. With a few clicks on our computers we can have just about anything we desire delivered to our door, some times the very day we ordered the item. In one respect I see this as making the idea of a literal Second Coming as even more appealing; “let’s make it happen so we can stop all the turmoil and spiritual struggles we experience in our lives.”
Of course, like so many other aspects of growth in our physical, intellectual and spiritual lives, there really are no short-cuts. I am reminded of the Lord’s words: “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). By reference to Jonah, the Lord was noting that the only sign for any of us would be the process of spiritual regeneration represented by the Jonah story, which involves facing and overcoming spiritual challenges and temptations in order to reach a higher level of consciousness and understanding. The big fish represented the "hellish" states of mind and heart that each of us must confront and overcome in order to be reborn spiritually.
There truly are no short-cuts, save for that the Lord has given us in the teachings for the New Church. Teachings that help us to understand that the Second Coming is not a literal event to happen at some unknown point in the future, but that the Second Coming is a spiritual event that that has already occurred and continues to occur within each of us as we continue to live the Lord’s Word into our lives. This in turn frees a person to live a heavenly life now and to eternity.
Come to think of it, maybe there is a bit of a short-cut; the revelation given Emanuel Swedenborg 250 years ago.
Rev. Howard A. Thompson