Spiritual Meaning of JOEL      Other translations  -   Chap 1  -  Joel  -  BM Home  -  Full Page


WHEN, at Lystra, the apostle Paul declared that God "had not left Himself without witness," he probably did not refer to the fact that there has at all times existed in the world a Church of God. Yet of this Paul's declaration is true. God's truest witness is His Church: and He has never left mankind without its witness. Sometimes ideal, sometimes degraded; but whether ideal or degraded, it has always testified that God is, and requires the life of holiness and righteousness at the hands of man.

In the course of succeeding ages there have appeared on the earth four epoch churches, or successive dispensations: no one of which has been the same in character and constitution as another. The first, whose nature is described in the foremost chapters of Genesis, is called the Adamic, or the Most Ancient Church. Its character was of a celestial order. This passed away, and the Noahic succeeded. This is the church described by Noah and his immediate descendents. It is also called the Ancient Church, and was spiritual in character. Upon the decay of the Ancient Church, succeeded the Israelitish dispensation, being the third in sequence. This church, which existed among the children of Israel, was neither celestial nor spiritual in nature, but only a representative of those orders. That is to say, while it was full of symbolic rites (and all its doings were representative), representing the celestial and spiritual principles of life, nothing of their qualities existed interiorly with it, but they were only shadowed or imaged, as by types, by its sacred ceremonials, ordinances and acts.

With thisóthe Israelitish Church, the following prophecy has to do. The exposition of the prophecy, according to the laws whereby the representatives and symbols are unfolded, will thereby be reasonable and necessary. The end of this Church came when our Lord effected His first Advent. He then initiated still another dispensation, which was the same as the institution of the Christian, as the fourth Church in succession upon the earth. In the Christian Church representation was put away, and the open declaration of truth by the Divine Word was its charter. But the unfolding of the interior principles of Divine revelationófor the Lord had many things to tell His Church which they could not then bear, being scarcely weaned from the former church, in a measure its parentówas left for a yet later age. The Christian Church repeated the story of its predecessors: it has had its end, and now a new dispensation for a new age is descending from God out of Heavenó"The New Jerusalem," the New Christian Church is to be the crown and glory of them all. This latter is the Church promised by the Lord Himself in His Second Coming: it is the truly Christian Church.

Just as between the Most Ancient Church and the Ancient, between the Ancient and the Israelitish Churches, intermediate dispensations were raised up, so between the Israelitish and the Church of the Lord's second advent, that of His first advent was an intermediary Church. That Church was established that the Lord might preach from the Word, but by the New Christian Church the Lord has unfolded the interior sense and glory of His Word. That it descends from God out of Heaven is the evidence of its interior heavenly light and faithfulness: it is the Bride adorned for her Husband.

In reading the following exposition of Joel it must be borne in mind, that a distinction exists between the Internal Church, or the Church as it is in the Heavens and descends from God by them, and the church external as existing on the earth. The external of the Jewish Church, with the whole of its organization and ceremonies, was only representative of the Internal Church, which representation answered to nothing in the lives of the people composing the earthly church. Thus, the Church actual and the church apparent were quite distinct.

The former is strictly the spiritual principles embodied in the lives of all who truly worship God. The latter was a series of rites and performances representing the spiritual principles; and though the outward church was corrupt, as fully shown in this prophet, God yet provided that it should preserve the Inward Church by representation. The same relation and the same difference exist between the representative church and the Church represented as there are between the external sense and the internal sense of the Divine Word. The external church existing among the Jews, by its adaptation to the genius of the Jewish mind, preserved the Internal Church from violation and corruption. Again, just as the Jewish was a shadow of the Church to come, which was unfolded from it, so the Word in its external form prophesied the internal truths which are unfolded from it in these latter days. The condition, therefore, of the representative church is described by the prophet in such language, that, while it is adapted to the external nature of his hearer's minds, it is, at the same time, representative and symbolic of the more interior heavenly principles of true religion. The purpose of this style of writing is, that the higher planes of spiritual wisdom might be preserved from violence by presenting them to the depraved in an outward form adapted to their states: thus permitting them to be passed on to other ages whose condition may be such as to make it possible to unfold the inner senses without violence to the Word. At the same time, it was intended that the external church should be brought as far as possible into uniformity with the internal, and so prepare the way in time for opening and establishing a truly spiritual Church on earth. The medium between the one and the other was the first Christian Church. The unfolding referred to has now been made by the Lord Himself through the instrumentality of Emanuel Swedenborg, and the new Internal Church is at the same time being established, as represented by the descent of "the New Jerusalem."

Spiritual Meaning of JOEL      Other translations  -   Chap 1  -  Joel  -  BM Home  -  Full Page