by Hugo Lj. Odhner
The story of the peoples and lands of scripute and their spiritual significance as revealed in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1954)
The Land of the Gospel
CANAAN - SCENE OF THE ADVENT
It was therefore in Canaan, the land of Divine prophecy, that the Lord Jesus Christ - "the Desire of all nations" as well as the Messiah of Jewish hopes - was born in obscure Bethlehen.... His early sojourn in Egypt is only mentioned, but His adolescence is associated with Nazareth where His foster father Joseph was a carpenter. The Lord was therefore known as a Galilean, and it was in "Galilee of the gentiles (Isaiah 9:1) that He did most of His preaching and His ministrations to those who were sick in body and soul.
Galilee signified those in a gentile state, who are in the good of life and are receptive of instruction (AE 447:5). But Nazareth had sometimes a negative correspondence, since a prophet is without honor in his own country and in his own house. It was in Capernaum and in the district near the Sea of Galilee where He was most eagerly sought after. This lake with its deep, pure waters, was symbolic of the Word of God and its profundities, and the Lord therefore sometimes gave forth His doctrine from a boat by its shore. There He aided His disciples to net their fish - to signify that they were to become "fishers of men". In its opposite sense, the lake, when whipped up by treacherous winds, signified states of anxiety and temptation.
Aside from His circuits in Galilee, the journeys of the Lord usually centered in Jerusalem, but seem to have extended also into the borders of Phoenicia - a land representing the knowledge of truth and good, which can be falsified and perverted - as well as into Samaria (representing the spiritual whose truths had been turned into falsities) and the land to the east of Jordan which signified external states of the Church. The parable of the Good Samaritan suggested that the future of the Church lay among those of relatively gentile states.
The Jordan river, where the Lord was baptized of John, was always symbolic of the entrance into the Church. John therefore offered a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins so that the repentant Israelite might be spiritually associated with those in the other world who awaited the Lordís advent. It was therefore of order that the Lord should enter upon His redemptive mission by submitting to a similar baptism (Matthew 3:15, TCR 689, 691). And after this was done, the Lord retired for forty days to the Judean wilderness "to be tempted of the devil". It was the state of the Church in both worlds which was described as a desolate wilderness.
Jerusalem was the scene of the Lordís most public appearances. It was the center of Jewish religious life, and the seat both of the Roman provincial government and of the "king" which Caesar had appointed over Judea. Spiritually, it represented the Church as to doctrine, and especially the interiors of the Church. Jerusalem represents the celestial church when Samaria or Israel stands for the spiritual church; for in Jerusalem alone were ceremonial worship and sacrifices authorized.
To the east of Jerusalem rose Mount Olivet, which represents love to the Lord. There, in Bethany, lived His friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, with whom He was wont to make His home. There Mary anointed Him with precious ointment, against the protest of Judas Iscariot. And below, in the valley of the royal tombs, lay the garden of Gethsemane, where the Lord poured out His soul as He entered His final temptation.
Since, at the time of the Lord, no spiritual life remained in the Jewish religion, Jerusalem often stands as a symbol of a church which has reached its end and can no longer fulfill its spiritual function of introducing menís spirits into heaven. The city was dominated over by a corrupt priestly caste, by hypocritical Pharisees, literalistic Scribes, and agnostic Sadducees, and external order was assured only through a wholesome fear of the Roman legions.
Thus the Lord, at His triumphal entry, weeps over Jerusalem, knowing its impending doom (Luke 19:41). A few days before His passion He led His disciples up to Mount Olivet where they saw the city and the temple roofs silhouetted against the darkening sky; and there He predicted that no stone of the temple would remain, on another, and described the signs that would precede His final return "in the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 24).
The magnificent temple, which had taken forty years to complete, was the chief glory of Jerusalem. It was built by Herod "the Great", who, though of Edomite descent, was professedly a Jew, and had in this manner sought to make the populace forget his many brutalities. Because its pattern was basically that of the tabernacle of Israel, it had the same symbolic significance. That the Lord respected its sanctity is clear, for, using His prerogative as a prophet, He drove out the merchants and money-changers who had made the house of prayer into a den of thieves.
The inner reason for His action was that the temple inmostly represented the Human of the Lord who "spoke of the temple of His body" when He said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days" (John 2). For a similar reason the veil of the temple was rent at His crucifixion, not only as a sign of the end of the Jewish dispensation but as a token that the Divine and the Human were being united in the Lord.
Since Jerusalem also signified the Church as to doctrine, the Lord observed, "It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:33). It was in this city that the Lord was brought before the high priest and condemned on a charge of blasphemy. Here pagan Pilate learned with agnostic indifference that Jesus claimed a kingdom not of this world, having come only to testify of the Truth. And here the Lord was mocked and crucified, even as the Divine truth had been tortured in the minds of men.
With this event, the Jerusalem of Jewry lost its representation as "the holy city". After its destruction by Titus, in 70 A.D. it became a mere garrison city. In A.D. 135 a Jewish rebellion under a false "Messiah" resulted in the final dispersion of the Jews from Judea. Hundreds of towns were laid in ashes, and Emperor Hadrian made Jerusalem a Roman city. After Constantine had issued the edict of toleration, the city became a goal for Christian pilgrims. It is significant that since the Moslem conquest in A.D. 636, Jerusalem has been in the hands of monotheists - Mohammedans and Jews. Even during the Crusades, Christians maintained themselves in Jerusalem only for eighty-eight years. The recent return of the Jews to Palestine might have been hailed by some as a fulfillment of prophecy, were it not for the secular outlook of the Jewish colonizers.
But prophecy has now found a spiritual fulfillment, and the old Jerusalem has lost the significance it used to carry. Christians, increasingly disillusioned as the ages passed without any personal return of Christ in the clouds, also forgot the prophecy of a New Jerusalem that should in fullness of time descend "from God out of heaven". It was to be a city of truth, crystal clear, and the nations shall "walk in the light of it" (Revelations 21, 22). This heavenly Jerusalem, as shown to John in vision, had the names of Israelís tribes and of the Lordís apostles inscribed on its gates and foundations. It represents a Divinely revealed doctrine which has always been implied within the symbolic language in which the Old, and New Testaments are both written. This doctrine is thus a one with the spiritual sense of the Word and expresses the angelic understanding of the Word. And since it could be brought to earth only through the instrumentality of a man, the Lord inspired Emanuel Swedenborg (who subscribes himself "Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ") to disclose the spiritual teachings within the Scripture in a systematic doctrinal form - as a logical structure - a New Jerusalem within whose walls the minds of men may again find enlightenment and spiritual safety, and where the tree of life may again yield its leaves "for the healing of the nations."
THE ALLEGORY OF REGENERATION
The Jewish world, the Palestine which we associate with the Gospel stories - a world wherein every shade of human vice and frailty merges with the tender and the pure and is contrasted with the majesty and inconceivable love of the Divine Redeemer - is a cross-section of human life in any age. In our own minds we may recognize states which reflect the character of the Herods and the Pharisees, the scribes and the Sadducees, of the sinning Magdalene and the vacillating Peter, of the publicans and the sinners, the proud Romans, the wise men and the shepherds and the traitor Iscariot, as well as the sick and lame and blind, the lost sheep of Israel.
It is into this mental world that the Lord must be born today - received now in the virginal affection of spiritual truth as once in the womb of Mary. For He must enter our hearts through our understanding if, He is to work within us the miracle of regeneration. He must enter as revealed truth such as He offers in His Word of Scripture and Doctrine. As such He walks the reaches of our mind as once He journeyed on the soil of Canaan: healing our spiritual diseases and opening our eyes to penetrate the parables of His teaching and visualize the heavenly goals of charity and faith.
Our thoughts must be converted into His disciples. Yet, in our despair - we have to confess that in our evil heart, and by our self-love and conceit, we torment the truth Divine and crucify it by our prudence, and bury it in the tomb of our misunderstandings. Only by a Divine miracle is it raised up into glory - so that we can acknowledge its complete Divinity, and see it as the infinite and eternal Truth which was not conceived of man or born of our own hopes, but which is God-with-us, our Lord and our God.
Only then can our thoughts be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and - like the disciples, "beginning at Jerusalem" - commence to "teach all nations", so that the kingdom of God might be extended into all the boundaries of human knowledge and over the ever widening spheres of man's usefulness.