For Heaven's Sake, by Brian Kingslake

from Brian Kingslake, "Inner Light: Swedenborg Explores the Spiritual Dimension (J. Appleseed & Co. : Boston, MA 1991)

Table of  Contents

 

Chapter 11

Was Jesus Man or God?  The Divine-Human

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In our last chapter, we saw how Jesus Christ redeemed humanity nearly 2000 years ago. It was a definite act, which was performed once and for all. In this chapter we shall be dealing with the formation within him of the "Divine-Human," which became a permanent element in the divine nature. The two processes took place simultaneously, so there is bound to be some repetition in this chapter of what has already been said. But the emphasis will be different, for here we shall be leading up to what Jesus is today and the radical change that his life introduced into the relationship between God and humanity.

Before the days of Jesus Christ, there was no direct link or bridge between the divine and the human, between the infinite and the finite. Apart from a few religious geniuses, people could not approach their maker, except through a priesthood, and all wor­ship had to be in the form of ritual. This had lead to alienation of people from God, resulting in the uprise of the hells (as described in the last chapter). To prevent the situation from arising again, God took steps to assume a human nature, which would bring him into direct personal contact with every individual member of his human family. No more need of a sacrificial priesthood, not even of a temple! "The tabernacle of God" (Revelation 21:3) was to be with people.

The plan was for God to fertilize an ovum in the womb of a certain woman, Mary of Nazareth, who would bear a son to be called Jesus (meaning "Jehovah saves"). Jesus was to grow up as a normal human being. As he regenerated, God would replace, bit by bit, all that was finite in him, substituting for it what was infinite and divine, so that eventually the young man would be entirely infilled with the Godhead, and be (as it were) absorbed back into his divine Father. He was to "come forth from the Father and come into the world again, he was to leave the world and go to the Father." (John 16:28)

Like other children, Jesus had a dual heredity, paternal and maternal. His paternal heredity was, of course, divine. (His birth was not strictly a "virgin birth" or parthenogenesis, which would necessarily have produced a female offspring; Jesus did have a Father, but the Father was God.) His maternal heredity was like that of any other child. Mary gave him his flesh and bones, his physical senses, his natural intelligence. He began life in complete ignorance and had to learn everything, like any other child. He could grow weary. He could become angry and weep. In those days Jesus did not seem to be "God in human form." Indeed, if his divinity had been too obvious, how could he have lived and mixed with people on earth—or they with him? He could not have performed the work he was sent to do. The whole point was that he should be completely human as well as completely divine.

Due to his corrupt human heredity, Jesus could be, and was, tempted by evil spirits (as we saw in the last chapter). But, as he drove out the evil spirits who were tempting him, that "temptable" part of his nature was replaced bit by bit with divine substance from his Father. Therefore, as his infirm human grew less and less with regeneration, his Divine-Human grew more and more. (The three disciples saw something of the Divine-Human on the Mount of Transfiguration: the Lord's face shone as the sun, and even his garments glowed. [Matthew 7:2]) His infirm human was com­pletely destroyed by the crucifixion, after which his Divine-Human took over, even down to his flesh and bones, so that there was nothing left in the tomb.

An illustration can be taken from the building of a stone house. When a house is under construction, scaffold poles are first erected. Sometimes these rough poles are set up all around the site, and passers-by might even mistake them for the intended building! But when all is completed, the scaffold poles are removed, and there stands a beautiful stone edifice. In the case of Jesus, the parts of his nature that he inherited from Mary were like the scaffold poles, whereas the parts he inherited from his Father were the stones. The scaffold poles ensure that the stones are placed in the right position; they are afterwards removed. So, the parts from Mary enabled God to form his Divine-Human, but they were eventually discarded.

Never forget that the soul of Jesus was Jehovah God. Your soul is a finite vessel containing God's life; and, because it is finite, you will always be finite. You will never merge with God. But Jesus was different. God was his Father, so his soul was God. It was not a vessel containing God: it was God himself. Therefore, Jesus had no finite limitations. His regeneration went on and on without halting, until his humanity was dissolved into the divinity of God making one person only. Thereafter, Jesus was that part of God that could approach humanity, and that humanity could approach.

Stages in the Development of His Consciousness

(1) "The Lord from His earliest childhood up to the last hour of His life in the world, was assaulted by all the hells, against which He continually fought, and subjugated and overcame them." (Arcana Coelestia 1690:6) The evil spirits from the spiritual world could, of course, enter his "infirm humanity." However, Jesus told the Apostles almost nothing of his interior battle so there is almost nothing said in the Holy Scripture except for its treatment of the temptation in the wilderness. (Arcana Coelestia 1690:2)

During his childhood and youth in Nazareth, Jesus was conscious as the son of Mary.

(2) He resisted the evil spirits and drove them away to Hell. As he did so, God's life poured in and replaced the corruptible elements in his nature, and the "Divine-Human" began to develop. While tempted, he was conscious as the Son of God. His consciousness kept switching over from one side of his nature to the other (which, of course, is rather like what happens with us also, only both sides of our nature are finite).

(3) By the time of the crucifixion, he had put away almost everything which he had inherited from Mary. He still retained his physical body and his physical senses, including the sense of pain. His last temptation was in this area.

(4) In the sepulcher after the crucifixion, his Divine-Human impregnated the very atoms of the physical body, absorbing them into itself. Thus he was "glorified" or made wholly divine. The process was not completed all at once, so that for a few more weeks his disciples could still see him, and he retained the wound scars in his hands, feet and side.

(5) Eventually, nothing from Mary was left, except that he was still in the human form. He was now merged with God, having "all power in Heaven and on earth" (Mattthew 28: 18) no longer visible to finite human eyes.

Has God Changed?

Basically, God does not change; he is the same yesterday, today and forever. But, by taking upon himself a human nature and glorifying it, he added another aspect to his divinity. Previously, everything human was necessarily finite. That is why, when evil spirits attacked humanity, God could not directly intervene. But after the life, death and ascension of Jesus Christ, God himself became "human," in the sense that he now has a permanent foothold in humanity and can reach down into the hearts and minds of all humanity even penetrating down into Hell.
 

Previously, God had a divine celestial and a divine spiritual degree, but no divine natural degree. Jesus provided him with a divine natural degree.

It has become misleading now to use the term "Son of God." After all, Jesus was the Son of God for only some 33 years, long ages ago. After the ascension, Jesus became (as it were) the "body" of God. Jehovah was the soul, the newly-formed Divine-Human was the "body." And as, when we approach anyone, we go to him in his body, and communicate with his soul through his body, so, when we approach God, we meet him in his Divine-Human.

Worship Addressed to Jesus Christ

Jesus said we were to worship the Father through the Son. This does not mean we are to address our prayers to God-the­Father and add a formula at the end: "through Jesus Christ our Lord." What it means is that we must approach God in and through his Divine-Human. The Divine-Human (i.e., the glorified Jesus Christ) is the "mediator" between God and humanity: it is "God­with-us. " No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 6: 44) In other words, all our prayers should be addressed directly to Jesus Christ.

Our God is not a God afar off, but one very near to us— human, yet divine. And he has infinite power with which to help us. He does not take our cause to another person, his Father, for he and the Father are one and the same person. Jesus, after his resurrection from the dead, was worshipped by his disciples, and he accepted their worship. Even doubting Thomas declared, "My Lord and My God!" (John 20:28) The glorified Lord Jesus Christ has literally become One with our Creator. There is none other.


"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8)

Addendum

Swedenborg wrote, in True Christian Religion No. 827: "It was once granted me to speak with Mary. She was then passing by, and appeared in Heaven over my head, clothed in white raiment like silk. Pausing for a little, she said that she had been the mother of the Lord, for he was born of her; but that he, having become God, had put off all the human he had had from her; and therefore she now worships him as her God, and is unwilling that anyone should acknowledge him as her son, because the whole divinity is in him." See also True Christian Religion No. 102.

To Chapter 12