Editorial – New Church: Old Promise, New Promise

Note: Published with permission from the editor of The New Church in Victoria Newsletter


In preparation for New Church Day, we often focus on the promises in Revelation and Swedenborg’s writings about the holy city, the New Jerusalem, and the New Church. These promises are actually old promises as well. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Isaiah also told of new heavens and a new earth:

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind…
the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”
Isaiah 65: 17, 19

Revelation is a long letter written by the apostle John to the early Christian communities in what was then called Asia Minor, which is now most of Turkey. In the familiar Chapter 21, John reports a vision in which the One on the throne promises a New Jerusalem, and to make everything new.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. … I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem … descending out of heaven from God. … I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. “Look! I am making all things new!”
Revelation 21: 1-5

Eight centuries earlier, the same promise had been made by the prophet Isaiah to Jewish communities. The promise was then repeated by Swedenborg almost seventeen centuries later, to established Christian communities in Europe. Swedenborg wrote about the New Jerusalem vision:

This symbolizes the New Church to be established by the Lord at the end of the previous one. … It is called a city … because of its teaching and its life in accordance with that teaching.
Apocalypse Revealed 879

Swedenborg restated the ancient prophecy as a “New Church” to be established on earth, which is in harmony with and affiliated with heaven. Clearly, this is an important promise, repeatedly given in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in many other religious traditions as well. It is a hope-filled promise of a new and better way of living.

Throughout human history, a “new church” always follows an advent of the Divine. It brings new teachings, and a new way of relating to the Divine. Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21 and Swedenborg’s writings all promise a beautiful time when people will live in ways that bring heaven on earth, and bring more input from the Divine into human lives. What does this mean for the world we live in today?

Today Swedenborgian/ New Church organisations are bringing onto earth their understanding of heaven and the Divine – amongst themselves, to their local communities, to international communities, and to online communities. Many social movements that have been in part influenced by Swedenborg’s work have made the world a better place. We can see this New Jerusalem in public education, child welfare, anti-slavery movements, and human rights. Despite violence, human trafficking, corruption, and terrorism, the new and more heavenly stands up to what is not consistent with the realm of the Divine. We are already seeing a world more in harmony with heaven, which is likely the descent of the Holy City and the beginning of the New Jerusalem around us.

Roslyn Taylor

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