Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: A New Church
Our last talk was on the subject of Babylon, that it means the love of rule or dominion, especially the love of dominating the minds and souls of others. It is this dreadful love of dominion which has caused the many wars for the enslavement and subjugation of other people. And we may well believe that it was owing to this love that the Babylonish empire came into existence. Nor can we doubt that it was this very love in the hearts of the Jewish people that led them to sin so much until they were punished by being taken captive and led away to Babylon.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, He came in order to lead people away from thoughts of dominion and the love of it. He did not wish to control others. He did not wish to make others His slaves. He taught people that instead of trying to control each other, they should love each other, and serve them. You may remember that He showed this very plainly by doing the lowest service anyone can perform for another: He washed the feet of His disciples. (John 13:4-17)
Before the Lord's coming, then, people, even those who had the Word of the Old Testament, and those other nations that had had the Ancient Word, thought of dominion and wealth and lusted after them. This removed people from the Lord and brought the Church to an end. Even the prophets did not themselves understand what was the real reason for the calamities that had overtaken Israel and Judah, and so the Lord could not, through them, teach people plainly about it: He could tell people only by pictures, or representatives. When He Himself came into the world, He taught them more plainly; but He also taught them through pictures, as through the picture of being born poor and in a stable; through the picture of not having a place to lay His head; through the picture of washing His disciples' feet.
It was necessary that people should know, hundreds of years before the Lord came, that He was going to come and to establish a new kingdom, and so the Lord told it through the prophets.
The prophet Zechariah, as you know, lived at the time when the Jews were in the Babylonish captivity, and when they were returning to rebuild the temple. The Lord made use of the pictures about Jerusalem and Zion that were in the mind of Zechariah to have him tell about things that were going to be done by the Lord when He would come into the world. Zechariah himself did not at all understand what the Lord's meaning was that He put into the words which Zechariah heard and wrote, and into the visions which he saw and told about in his prophecy.
But the Lord has taught us in the Writings of the New Church what He meant by Zechariah's prophecy.
You know that the name of our Church, "The New Jerusalem" means "the New Church." It is a name that was given by the Lord Himself, in the book of Revelation. "Jerusalem" means the Church. Wherever "Jerusalem" is mentioned in the Word, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, it means the Church, sometimes the true church, sometimes the false church. Now, you know what constitutes the Church. You know that having a church building, going to it on Sundays and other days, praying, singing, listening to the sermon, reading the Word and the Writings—that all this, important as it is, does not of itself constitute the Church. You know that the Church consists in doing all this, but for the purpose of learning the truth from the Lord, loving that truth, and living according to it every day.
There are therefore two things to a Church - one is the Lord’s teaching received into our understanding, the other is the goodness received into our heart by loving the Lord and living according to the teaching.
These are the two essentials of the Church. We cannot have the one without the other, and be the Lord’s Church.
Because it is altogether necessary to have both, therefore the Lord always refers to both. Over and over again, when He speaks of Jerusalem, He also speaks of Zion, for Jerusalem means the Church as to the truths of its doctrine, and Zion means the Church as to the good of its life. You will notice this in this chapter by Zechariah.
All cities signify teachings, or doctrines, for "doctrine" means exactly the same thing as "teaching." But a mountain, because it is a high piece of land, signifies love. Jerusalem is called a city. Zion is called a mountain.
The first three verses of this chapter therefore teach that the Lord would institute a church in which would be the doctrine of truth and goodness. He did not institute this Church when the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, rebuilding the temple and settling down again in Jerusalem and the surrounding country, but He instituted it when He came into the world five hundred years later. And because the Church He then instituted eventually became Babylon, therefore He again instituted the New Church, after the Last Judgment in the year 1757. All that is said in this chapter tells of what will be in the New Church, which is beginning very small, like a grain of mustard seed, but which in the course of thousands of years will grow like a tree; it will have all these beautiful things that are described in this chapter.
And what are these beautiful things? Well, beginning with the beautiful doctrines that we have, the "Doctrines of the New Jerusalem," when people generally live according to them with all their heart, there will be wisdom and innocence. Wisdom does not mean to know many things, it means to act prudently in accordance with the true order of life; and innocence does not mean to be ignorant, but to be devoid of all deceit and guile, and of all desire to harm others in thought, word, or deed. Wisdom is pictured by "old men and old women who should dwell in the streets of Jerusalem," for old men and old women, who have all their lives worked hard to overcome their selfishness and love of the world, have become wise. Innocence is pictured forth by the "boys and girls playing in the streets," for little children are still surrounded by the innocent angels of the highest or celestial heaven.
As you grow older, you will love to study the spiritual sense of the prophecy of Zechariah, as it is glorious. But for the present, it may be enough to dwell on what we have been learning just now, and to think how very important the Lord thinks it is that there should be a Church in which people are wise and innocent, for He foretold it thousands of years before He could begin the institution of such a Church. You have the great privilege of being in this Church. You ought to realize that you need to become actually a member of it, and you become one by loving to read the Word, trying to understand its heavenly teaching, and then faithfully, persistently, and lovingly living according to it. Look forward to your old age, as being the time when, through having fought against evil and false thoughts and desires and words and actions, you will become truly wise and innocent, and so be able to perform the very highest and best use for people in this world, and for angels in heaven. Then, when you go to sleep for the last time, you will awake in heaven, your spiritual body will grow young again, you yourself will grow wiser and wiser and more and more innocent, finding the greatest happiness in doing some heavenly work to make others in heaven and on earth happy.