The Apocalypse Revealed, Disclosing the Arcana Foretold There, Which Have Previously Lain Hidden
by Emanuel Swedenborg [First published 1766]
[Translator's Table of Contents:]
- The Doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and Religion in Summary
- The Doctrines of the Protestant Reformed Church and Religion in Summary
Exposition of the Book of Revelation:
Chapter 1 (nos. 1-67)
Chapter 2 (nos. 68-153)
Chapter 3 (nos. 154-224)
Chapter 4 (nos. 225-255)
Chapter 5 (nos. 256-294)
Chapter 6 (nos. 295-341)
Chapter 7 (nos. 342-386)
Chapter 8 (nos. 387-417)
Chapter 9 (nos. 419-463)
Chapter 10 (nos. 464-484)
Chapter 11 (nos. 485-531)
Chapter 12 (nos. 532-566)
Chapter 13 (nos. 567-611)
Chapter 14 (nos. 612-655)
Chapter 15 (nos. 656-675)
Chapter 16 (nos. 676-716)
Chapter 17 (nos. 717-752)
Chapter 18 (nos. 753-802)
Chapter 19 (nos. 803-839)
Chapter 20 (nos. 840-875)
Chapter 21 (nos. 876-926)
Chapter 22 (nos. 932-962)
Many people have toiled at an explanation of the book of Revelation, but since the spiritual meaning of the Word has been previously unknown, they have been unable to see the arcana that lie hidden in it. For only the spiritual meaning discloses these. Expositors have therefore produced various conjectures, and most have applied the contents there to the circumstances of empires, mixing in as well some observations regarding matters affecting the church.
In its spiritual meaning, however, the book of Revelation, like the rest of the Word, does not deal at all with worldly affairs, but with heavenly ones - dealing thus not with empires and kingdoms, but with heaven and the church.
It should be known that following the Last Judgment - which was completed in the spiritual world in 1757 (as described in a special small work published in London in 1758) - a new heaven was formed of Christians, but only of those who could accept that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, according to His words in Matthew 28:18, and who at the same time repented of their evil deeds in the world. From this heaven has descended and will continue to descend a new church on earth, which is the New Jerusalem.
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" (Matthew 28:18)
That this new church will acknowledge the Lord alone is apparent from these words in Revelation:
...one of the seven angels... came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." And he... showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God... (Revelation 21:9-10)
Let us be glad and rejoice..., because (the time of) the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready... Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:7, 9)
The fact that there will be a new heaven, and that a new church on earth will descend from it, is apparent from these words there:
I saw a new heaven and a new earth... And... I... saw the holy city Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband? And He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, because these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21:1-2, 5)
The new heaven is a new heaven of Christians. The new Jerusalem is a new church on earth, which will exist in union with that new heaven. The Lamb is the Lord in respect to his Divine Humanity.
To this I will add some remarks to illuminate the matter. The Christian heaven exists below the ancient heavens. Into it have been admitted people who, from the time when the Lord was in the world, worshiped one God in the form of three persons, without at the same time having an idea of three gods, and this for the reason that a trinity of persons was accepted throughout the Christian world. On the other hand, those who entertained no other idea of the Lord's Humanity than of its being like the humanity of any other person could not accept the faith of the New Jerusalem, namely, that the Lord is the only God, in whom is the trinity. These people were separated therefore, and sent off in various directions. It was granted me to see the separations after the Last Judgment, and the banishments.
The fact is that heaven in its entirety is founded on a right idea of God, and so, too, the entire church on earth, and all religion in general. For that idea leads to conjunction, and through conjunction to light, wisdom, and eternal happiness.
Everyone can see that the book of Revelation cannot possibly be explained except by the Lord alone, for every single word in it contains arcana - arcana which never would be known without a singular enlightenment and thus revelation. Consequently it has pleased the Lord to open for me the sight of my spirit and teach me. Do not suppose therefore that I have acquired anything there on my own, or from any angel, but from the Lord alone.
The Lord also said through the angel to John, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:10), which means that they are to be presented to view.
THE DOCTRINES OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND RELIGION IN SUMMARY
Since chapters 17, 18 and 19 in the book of Revelation deal also with Babylon, which is the Roman Catholic religion, we need at the outset to set forth its teachings, and these in the following order: namely, regarding Baptism, the Eucharist or Holy Supper, Masses, Penance, Justification, Purgatory, the Seven Sacraments, Saints, and Authority.
1. Regarding Baptism, Roman Catholics teach that:
After the offense of his transgression, Adam was completely changed for the worse in both body and soul.
This sin was transmitted throughout the whole human race.
This original sin is taken away solely through the merit of Christ; the merit of Christ is applied by the sacrament of baptism; and the guilt of original sin is thus totally removed by baptism.
Lust still remains in the baptized as a stimulus to sin, but not as sin.
The baptized thus put on Christ, become new creatures, and gain full and complete forgiveness of sins.
Baptism is called the laver of regeneration and faith.
When the baptized grow up, they are to be questioned regarding the promises made by their sponsors, which is the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Owing to lapses following baptism, the sacrament of penance is necessary.
2. Regarding the Eucharist or Holy Supper:
Immediately after consecration of the elements, the actual body and actual blood of Jesus Christ are, by virtue of the words, 1 really and substantially contained in them under the appearance of bread and wine - His body under the appearance of bread, and His blood under the appearance of wine - together with His soul and Divinity. And yet the same body is present there under the appearance of wine, and the same blood under the appearance of bread, and the soul under the appearance of both, by virtue of the natural connection and concomitant existence by which the parts of Christ the Lord are coupled together, including as well His Divinity, owing to its wonderful hypostatic union with the body and soul. Thus the same content is contained under the one appearance as under both. In a word, Christ exists wholly and completely under the appearance of the bread and under every part of that appearance, and wholly also under the appearance of the wine and its constituent parts. The two appearances are therefore separated, with the bread given to the laity, and the wine to the clergy.
Water is to be mixed with the wine in the chalice.
The laity must receive Communion from the clergy, while the clergy administer Communion to themselves.
After the consecration of the elements, the actual body and actual blood of Christ exist in the consecrated pieces of the host; 2 and the host is therefore to be venerated when it is displayed and conveyed about.
This marvelous and singular conversion of the entire substance of the bread into Christ's body, and of the entire substance of the wine into His blood, is called transubstantiation.
Under certain conditions an administration of Communion with both elements may be granted by the Pope.
The bread is called supersubstantial and the bread of angels, which they eat without any veilings. It is also called spiritual food, and the antidote by which they are set free from sins.
3. Regarding Masses:
Roman Catholics call it the sacrifice of the mass, since the sacrifice by which Christ offered Himself to God the Father is represented in it under the appearance of the bread and wine. It is a truly propitiatory sacrifice, therefore, and a pure one, having nothing but what is holy in it.
If the people do not receive Communion in the sacrament, but only the celebrator of it, the people in that case receive it spiritually, because the celebrators of it celebrate it not for themselves only, but for all the faithful who belong to the body of Christ.
Masses ought not to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue, because they contain the great learning of the congregation of the faithful, but the celebrators may make some explanation on the Lord's days.
The practice has been established to pronounce some of the mystical words in a low voice, and others in a louder voice; and, for the majesty of so great a sacrifice being offered to God, to use lights, fumigations with incense, vestments, and other like things.
The sacrifice is to be offered for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and anything else required of the living, and for the dead.
Masses in commemoration of saints are expressions of thanksgiving for their interceding when implored.
4. Regarding Penance:
In addition to baptism there is the sacrament of penance, by which the benefit of the death and merit of Christ is applied to people who have lapsed after baptism. Therefore it is called a kind of elaboration of baptism.
The steps of penance are contrition, confession, and satisfaction.
Contrition is a gift of God, and an impulse of the Holy Spirit not yet indwelling, but only moving in a person; thus it is a disposition.
Confession ought to be made of all mortal sins, even the most hidden, and of one's intentions.
Sins retained are not forgiven; but those which, after examination, do not recur, are included in the confession.
Confession ought to be made at least once a year.
Sins are to be absolved by ordained holders of the keys, 3 and sins are forgiven when these say, "I absolve you." Absolution is like the act of a judge when he pronounces sentence.
The more grievous sins must be absolved by bishops, and still more grievous ones by the Pope.
Satisfaction is made by having expiatory penalties imposed by a cleric at his discretion, commensurate with the offense.
When eternal punishment is set aside, so too is the temporal penalty.
The authority to grant indulgences was left to the Church by Christ, and employment of them is especially saving.
5. Regarding Justification:
Passage from the state in which a person is born a child of Adam, into a state of grace through the Savior as a second Adam, is impossible without the washing of regeneration and faith, or baptism.
A second commencement of justification results from a prevenient grace, which is a calling with which a person cooperates by changing himself.
A disposition is formed by faith, to which a person is freely moved, when he believes what has been revealed to be true. After that, by hope, when he believes that God is gracious for the sake of Christ. And by charity, as he begins to love the neighbor and hate sin.
The justification which follows means not only a forgiveness of sins, but a sanctification and renewal of the inner self. People are then not regarded as righteous, but are in fact righteous, admitting righteousness into themselves; and because they receive the merit of Christ's passion, their justification is thus introduced through faith, hope and charity.
Faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of justification, and this is what it means to be justified by faith.
Moreover, because none of the things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace of justification, to be justified is to be justified by grace, for it is a prevenient grace.
Yet a person is nevertheless justified by works, and not by faith only.
The righteous may fall into light and venial sins and still be righteous.
Therefore the righteous ought also to continually labor by prayers, offerings, alms and fasts not to fall, because they have been reborn into the hope of glory, and not into glory.
If the righteous fall from the grace of justification, they may be justified again by the sacrament of penance.
By every mortal sin grace is lost, but not faith, whereas by infidelity, which is a turning away from religion, faith also is lost.
The works of one who has been justified are meritorious; and by the works which they do by the grace of God and the merit of Christ, the justified merit eternal life.
Free will was not lost or extinguished by the sin of Adam. A person cooperates by acceding to the calling of God. Otherwise he would be an inanimate body.
Roman Catholics assert predestination, saying that no one knows whether he is among the number of the predestinated, or among those whom God has chosen for Himself, except by a special revelation.
6. Regarding Purgatory:
Justification does not remove all the guilt of a temporal penalty paid. All therefore enter into purgatory to be set free of the guilt, before the entrance to heaven lies open.
The souls of the faithful detained there are helped by intercessory prayers, and especially by the sacrifice of the mass; and this must be diligently taught and preached.
(The torments there are variously described, but they are inventions, mere fictions.)
7. Regarding the Seven Sacraments:
There are seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony. There are no more, nor fewer.
One is of more worth than another.
They contain grace, and grace is conferred by them ex opere operato [simply by the performance of them].
The same number of sacraments existed in the ancient law [of the Old Testament].
(We have dealt already with baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, and penance.)
Regarding the Sacrament of Extreme Unction:
It is administered to the ill near the end of life, which is why it is called the sacrament of the departing.
If the recipients recover, it may be administered again.
It is administered with oil blessed by a bishop, and uses these words: "God grant you indulgence for whatever offense you have committed by fault of the eyes, nostrils or touch."
Regarding the Sacrament of Orders:
The service of the priesthood has in it seven orders, which differ in rank and together are called the ecclesiastical hierarchy, a hierarchy ordered like the battle lines of an army camp.
Inaugurations into the service are effected by anointings, and by transfers of the Holy Spirit into those inaugurated.
Ordinations of bishops and priests do not require any secular authority, or the consent, calling, or authority of a magistrate. Men who ascend to the service merely by the appointment of such secular authorities, at their calling, are not ministers, but thieves and robbers, who do not "enter by the door." 5
Regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony:
Dispensation in regard to degrees [of consanguinity and affinity] and divorce belong to the Church.
Clergy may not contract matrimony.
It is possible for all to have the gift of chastity, and if anyone says he is not capable of it, even though he has vowed it, he is an anathema, because God does not deny it to those who rightly ask it, nor does He allow anyone to be tempted beyond what he can bear.
The state of virginity and celibacy is to be preferred to the state of marriage. And so on.
8. Regarding Saints:
The saints reigning together with Christ offer their prayers to God for mankind.
Christ is to be adored and saints invoked. The invoking of saints is not idolatrous, neither is it contrary to the honor due the one Mediator between God and man. It is called dulia. 6
Images of Christ, of Mary, mother of God, and of saints are to be venerated and honored - not that they should be believed to have any Divinity or power in them, but that the honor shown them may be assigned to the original people whom they represent. Moreover, through the images which Roman Catholics kiss, and before which they kneel and bare their heads, they adore Christ and venerate the saints.
The miracles performed by saints are miracles of God.
9. Regarding Authority:
The Roman Pope is the successor of the Apostle Peter, and is the Vicar of Christ, the Head of the Church, and Universal Bishop. He is above councils.
He has the keys to open and close heaven, thus the power to forgive and retain sins. As the key-bearer of eternal life, he has right, therefore, to earthly and heavenly rule.
From him flows the same power to bishops and priests as well, because it was given also to the rest of the apostles, and they are therefore called ministers of the keys.
It belongs to the Church to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of the Holy Scripture, and those who contradict this are to be punished with penalties established by law.
It is not fitting for laity to read the Holy Scripture, since no one but the Church knows its meaning. Therefore its ministers boast of their knowing it.
10. These tenets come from councils and bulls, especially from the Council of Trent 7 and the papal bull confirming [its decrees], 8 in which they condemn by anathema all who think, believe and act contrary to what it has decreed, which in general are what we have cited above.
THE DOCTRINES OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMED CHURCH AND RELIGION IN SUMMARY
Since in its spiritual sense the book of Revelation deals at length with the Protestant Reformed, therefore before embarking on the expositions we need to set forth its teachings also, and these in the following order: namely, regarding God, Christ the Lord, Justification by Faith and Good Works, the Law and the Gospel, Repentance and Confession, Original Sin, baptism, Holy Supper, Free Will, and the Church.
1. Regarding God:
People also know that they believe in God the Father as the Creator and Preserver, in God the Son as the Savior and Redeemer, and in the Holy Spirit as the Enlightener and Sanctifier.
2. Regarding Christ the Lord:
Regarding the person of Christ the Protestant Reformed do not all teach the same thing.
Lutherans teach that:
The virgin Mary conceived and bore not only a real person, but also the real Son of God, on which account she is rightly called, and truly is, the Mother of God. Christ has in Him two natures, Divine and human - Divine from eternity, and human in time.
These two natures are united as to person, so completely united that there are not two Christs, one the Son of God, the other the Son of Man, but so that the one and the same person is the Son of God and the Son of Man - not that the two natures were commingled into one essence, nor that one was changed into the other, but that each nature retains its own essential properties, and what these are is also described.
The union of these natures is a hypostatic union, and it is a most perfect partnership, like that of soul and body. It is therefore rightly said that in Christ God is Man and Man is God.
He suffered for us not as a mere man only, but as a man whose human nature had such a close and indescribable union and partnership with the Son of God as to form one person with it.
Truly the Son of God suffered for us, but only in respect to the properties of His human nature.
The Son of Man, meaning Christ as to His human nature, was in fact raised to the right hand of God when He was taken up into God, which happened as soon as He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in His mother's womb.
Christ always had that majesty by reason of the union in His person, but in His state of exinanition He exercised it only to the extent that it seemed good to Him. After the resurrection, however, He fully and completely put off the form of a servant and set His human nature or essence into complete appropriation of the Divine majesty; and in this way He entered into glory.
In a word, Christ is true God and man in one indivisible person, and remains so to eternity. And as true, omnipotent, and eternal God, He also, in respect to His humanity abiding at the right hand of God, governs all things in heaven and on earth, and moreover fills all things, is present with us, and dwells and operates in us.
There is no difference in adoration [of the Divine and human natures], because through the nature that is seen, the Divinity is adored that is not seen.
The Divine essence communicates and imparts its own excellent properties to the human nature, and it performs its Divine operations through the body as through its instrument. Thus all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily, as Paul said, Colossians 2:9.
The Incarnation took place in order that He might reconcile the Father to us, and become a sacrificial victim for the sins of the whole world, both original sin and sins actually committed. He was incarnated from the essence of the Holy Spirit, but the human nature came from the Virgin Mary, which He, as the Word, took on and united to Himself.
He sanctifies those who believe in Him, by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts to govern, comfort, and animate them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin.
Christ descended to those below and destroyed hell for all believers. 11 How this was accomplished, however, He does not wish to be closely investigated. Rather knowledge of this occurrence is reserved for another age, when not only this mystery, but many others too will be revealed.
Some of the Protestant Reformed, as discussed also in The Formula of Concord, believe that:
Christ, in keeping with His human nature, received by His exaltation created gifts and finite power only, so that He is a man like any other, retaining the properties of the flesh. In respect to His human nature He is therefore not omnipresent or omniscient. Although absent, He rules as a king does matters at a distance from Him.
As God from eternity He abides with the Father, while as a man born in time He abides with angels in heaven. The saying that in Christ God is Man and Man is God is a figure of speech. Along with other like statements.
This disagreement, however, is settled by the Athanasian Creed, which everyone in the Christian world accepts, where we find these words:
The true faith... is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man- being God, having been begotten from the essence of the Father before the world was, and being man, having been born from the essence of the mother in the world - being perfect God and perfect man... But although He is God and man, nevertheless there are not two Christs but one, ...one not by a conversion of His Divine essence into flesh, but by an assumption of His humanity into God; being completely one, but not by a confounding of any essence, but by the unity of His person. For as a rational soul and flesh are one person, so God and man are one Christ.
3. Regarding Justification by Faith, and Good Works:
The justifying and saving faith of the clergy is this: God the Father turned away from the human race because of its iniquities, and so in accord with justice condemned it to eternal death. Therefore He also sent His Son into the world to atone and redeem, and to make satisfaction and effect a reconciliation, and this the Son did by taking upon Himself the condemnation of the Law and suffering Himself to be crucified. In so doing, and by obedience, He fulfilled all the requirements of God's justice, even so that He became righteousness; and God the Father imputes and applies His merit to believers, and sends to them the Holy Spirit, which produces charity, good works, and repentance as a good tree produces good fruit, and so justifies, renews, regenerates, and sanctifies. This faith is also the one and only means of salvation, and by it alone are sins forgiven a person.
They draw a distinction between the act and state of justification. By the act of justification they mean the beginning of justification, which takes place the moment a person through that faith alone embraces with confidence the merit of Christ. By the state of justification they mean the progress of that faith, which results from an inner operation of the Holy Spirit, an operation that does not manifest itself beyond certain signs, concerning which they have various teachings. They speak also of manifest good works, which are done by a person and of his volition, and which follow that faith, but they do not include them as part of justification because a person's native character and thus his merit-seeking is in them.
This is today's faith in summary, but the arguments in its defense and the teachings concerning it are many and manifold, some of which we must also cite, as the following: People cannot be justified before God by their own powers, merits or works, but they are justified gratis for the sake of Christ, through faith, by believing that they are received into grace and that their sins are forgiven for the sake of Him who by His death made satisfaction for us, and that God the Father imputes this to believers as righteousness in His sight.
This faith includes not only the historical knowledge that Christ suffered and died for us, but also an assent of the heart, confidence and trust that sins are forgiven gratis for Christ's sake, and that they are justified. And these three elements then coincide: the unearned promise, the merit of Christ as the price, and propitiation.
Faith is the righteousness by which we are regarded as righteous before God because of the promise.
To be justified, then, is to be absolved of sins, and one may also be said to be in some measure animated and regenerated.
Faith is imputed to us as righteousness, not because it is so good a work, but because it embraces Christ's merit.
Christ's merit is His obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection.
It is necessary that there be something by which God can be approached, and it is nothing else than faith, which is the means of reception.
In the act of justification faith enters through the Word and the hearing, and it is not an act of the person, but is the operation of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, a person then does not cooperate any more than a pillar of salt, or a log or stone, doing nothing of himself and knowing nothing of its occurrence; but he cooperates after the act, though not with any will of his own in spiritual matters (otherwise than is the case in natural, civil and moral matters). Nevertheless, in spiritual matters people can then progress to the point that they will good and are delighted by it; but in fact this is owing not to their own will, but to the Holy Spirit, and thus they cooperate not by virtue of their own powers, but by virtue of new powers and gifts which the Holy Spirit initiated upon their conversion. In a true conversion, moreover, a transformation, renewal and movement take place in a person's intellect and heart.
Charity, good works, and repentance do not enter into the act of justification, but they are requisite in a state of justification, primarily because commanded by God; and through them people merit material rewards in this life, but not forgiveness of sins or the glory of eternal life, because faith alone justifies and saves without the works of the Law.
Faith justifies a person as regards the act, but renews him as regards the state.
Being commanded by God, the honorable works imposed by the Ten Commandments must of necessity be done during renewal, because God wills that the lusts of the flesh be restrained by civil discipline. It is for this reason that He has given us doctrine, laws, officials, and penalties.
It is consequently false to say, therefore, that we merit forgiveness of sins and salvation by our works, or that works contribute anything to preserving faith. And it is consequently also false to say that a person may be regarded as righteous because of the righteousness of his reason, or that his reason can by its own powers love God above all things and obey His law.
In short, faith and salvation are preserved and maintained in people not by good works, but only by the Spirit of God and faith. Good works, however, are nevertheless testimonies to the presence of the Holy Spirit and to its indwelling in them.
Condemned as detrimental is the statement that good works are harmful to salvation, because good works are to be understood as the inner workings of the Holy Spirit, which are good, and not the outer works issuing from a person's own will, which, being merit-seeking, are not good but evil.
The Protestant Reformed say, furthermore, that at the Last Judgment Christ will pass sentence on good and evil works as effects belonging to or not belonging to a person's faith.
This faith reigns today throughout the Protestant Reformed Christian world among the clergy, but not among the laity, save for a very few. For laymen take faith to mean nothing more than to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and think that anyone who lives rightly and believes rightly is saved. Regarding the Lord, moreover, they believe that He is their Savior. For they do not know the mysteries of justification taught by their preachers, and even though the preachers preach them, still among their lay listeners these mysteries go in one ear and out the other. Indeed, the teachers themselves regard themselves as learned on account of their knowledge, and in their colleges and universities they toil mightily to comprehend those mysteries. That is why we said above that this faith is the faith of the clergy.
But even so, the preachers teach this same faith in kingdoms inhabited by the Protestant Reformed in different ways.
In Germany, Sweden, and Denmark they teach that the Holy Spirit operates through that faith and so justifies and sanctifies people, and that afterward it progressively renews and regenerates, but does so apart from works of the Law. Moreover they say that people who possess that faith as the result of trust and confidence are in a state of grace with God the Father. They say, too, that although the evils that they commit do indeed appear, still they are then continually forgiven.
In England they teach that this faith produces charity without the person's knowing, and that a person's feeling the Holy Spirit operating inwardly in him is also the good of charity. But if he does not feel it, and yet does good in order to be saved, it can be called good, but good that nevertheless derives from the person the character of having merit-seeking in it.
This faith, moreover, can produce the good of charity in the last hour of a person's life, although they do not know how.
In Holland they teach that through this faith God the Father justifies and purifies a person inwardly for the sake of the Son by means of the Holy Spirit, but only as far as his native will, from which it turns away without touching it - or as some say, touching it only lightly - and that thus the evils of the person's will do not appear before God.
Few of the laity, however, know anything of these mysteries of the clergy, nor do the clergy wish to proclaim them as they are, because they know that the laity have no taste for them.
4. Regarding the Law and the Gospel:
The Law was given by God to make known what sin is and thus to restrain it by threats and fear, and afterward by the promise and annunciation of grace. The chief function of the Law, therefore, is to reveal the reality of original sin and all its fruits, and to make known the horrendous extent to which human nature has fallen and become thoroughly depraved. In this way it terrifies, humiliates, and prostrates a person, to the point that he despairs of himself and anxiously wishes for help. This effect of the Law is called contrition, which is neither active nor imaginary, but passive and a torment of conscience.
The Gospel, on the other hand, is the whole doctrine regarding Christ and faith, and so the forgiveness of sins, thus a most welcome messenger, neither accusing nor terrifying, but comforting.
The Law reveals the wrath of God at all impiety and condemns mankind, so as to cause a person to pay attention to Christ and the Gospel. Both must be preached, because they are connected.
The Gospel teaches that Christ took upon Himself all the curse of the Law and atoned for all sins, and that we attain forgiveness through faith.
The Holy Spirit is not given or received, nor the human heart renewed, through preaching of the Law, but through preaching of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit then employs the ministry of the Law to teach, and in the Ten Commandments show, what the will and good pleasure of God are. Thus the Holy Spirit mortifies and animates.
A distinction must be drawn between works of the Law and works of the Holy Spirit. Consequently the faithful are, for that very reason, not under the Law but under grace.
The righteousness of the Law does not justify, which is to say, it does not reconcile or regenerate, nor does it by itself make people acceptable to God; but when the Holy Spirit has been given, fulfillment of the Law follows.
The works of the second table of the Ten Commandments do not justify, because they enable us to live in harmony with our fellow man, and not properly with God, and yet in a state of justification we must live in harmony with God.
Because Christ, though without sin, underwent the punishment of sin and became a sacrificial victim on our behalf, He bore the just burden of the Law so that it would not condemn believers, as He is the propitiatory substitute for them, on which account they are regarded as righteous.
5. Regarding Repentance and Confession:
Repentance consists of two components, one being contrition or a smiting of the conscience with terror due to sins, the other being faith conceived from the Gospel which comforts the conscience with the forgiveness of sins and liberates from terrors.
Someone who confesses his whole self to be sin encompasses all sins, excludes none, and forgets none. Being thus purged of his sins, the person is purified, rectified, and sanctified, since the Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, but curbs and restrains it.
Any enumeration of sins ought to be free, according as one chooses or does not choose. But the option of a private confession and absolution should be emphasized, so that if anyone wishes, he can confess his sins and receive absolution from a confessor, and have his sins then forgiven. The words that the minister is to say then in reply are, "May God be gracious to you and strengthen your faith; be it done to you according as you believe; and by the Lord's command I forgive you your sins." Others, however, say, "I proclaim to you the forgiveness of your sins."
Still, sins are nevertheless not forgiven through repentance, as they are not through works, but are forgiven through faith.
The repentance of the clergy is consequently only a confession before God that they are sinners, and a prayer that they may remain steadfast in their faith.
Atonements and the satisfaction of penalties are not necessary, because Christ is the atonement and satisfaction.
6. Regarding Original Sin the Protestant Reformed teach that:
After the fall of Adam, people begotten according to laws of nature are all born with sin, that is, without fear of God and with lusts, and this condemns and still inflicts eternal death now on those who are not reborn by baptism and by the Holy Spirit.
Sin is the loss of original righteousness and with it a disordered disposition of the constituents of the soul and a corrupt state of being.
There is a difference between the underlying nature into which mankind was created, which exists still after the Fall and remains a creation of God, and original sin. Thus there is a difference between a corrupt nature and a corruption that has been attached to people's nature by which the nature is corrupted. No one but God alone can separate the corruption of the nature from the underlying nature. This He will wholly do in the blessed resurrection, because the underlying nature that a person carries around in the world will then rise again without original sin and enjoy eternal happiness. The difference is like that between a work of God and a work of the devil. This is not the way this sin invaded people's nature, as though Satan created some evil in essence and commingled it with their nature, but the original righteousness created along with mankind was lost.
Original sin is something additional; and by reason of it a person is as though spiritually dead before God.
This evil is covered and pardoned only through Christ.
The seed itself from which a person is formed has been contaminated by this sin.
It is owing to this as well that a person receives corrupt inclinations from his parents and an inner uncleanness of heart.
7. Regarding baptism:
Baptism involves not water simply, but water employed by Divine command and sealed by the Word of God, and thus sanctified.
The power, work, fruit and goal of baptism is to save people and incorporate them into the Christian Communion.
Baptism confers victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, Christ with all His works, the Holy Spirit with all its gifts, and eternal blessedness, for each and every one who believes.
Whether faith also is granted by baptism in the case of little children is too deep a question for serious inquiry.
Immersion in the water symbolizes a dying of the old self and the rising of a new one. It may be called, therefore, the washing of regeneration, and in truth a washing in the Word, and in the death and burial of Christ.
A Christian's life is a daily baptism, once it is thus begun.
It is not the water that accomplishes this, but the Word of God which is present in and accompanies the water, and the faith in the Word of God added to the water. It follows, therefore, that baptism in the name of God may indeed be performed by men; yet it is not, but is performed by God Himself.
Baptism does not take away original sin by extinguishing base lust, but it takes away the guilt.
Others, however, of the Protestant Reformed believe that:
Baptism is an outward washing of water, which symbolizes an inner cleansing from sins.
It does not confer regeneration, faith, the grace of God, or salvation, but only symbolizes and seals them. Neither are these conferred in or with baptism, but afterward with a growing maturity. Moreover, only the elect attain the grace of Christ and the gift of faith.
Because salvation does not depend on baptism, furthermore, it is therefore permissible for someone else to administer it in the absence of a regular minister.
8. Regarding Holy Supper:
The Protestant Reformed called Lutherans teach that:
In Holy Supper or the Sacrament of the Altar, the body and blood of Christ are really and substantially present, and are actually distributed and received together with the bread and wine. Therefore the actual body and actual blood of Christ are also present in, with, and under the form of the bread and wine, and are given to Christians to eat and drink. Moreover, they are not simply bread and wine, therefore, but are encompassed by and joined to the Word of God, and this causes Christ's body and blood to be present. For it becomes a sacrament when the Word is added to the element.
Nevertheless, there is no transubstantiation such as exists for Roman Catholics.
Holy Supper is food for the soul, nourishing and strengthening the new self.
It was instituted so that faith might recover or receive its vitality, and that a forgiveness of sins might be granted, together with a new life, which Christ merited for us.
Thus the body and blood of Christ, by reason of their sacramental union with the bread and wine, are assimilated not only spiritually through faith, but also with the mouth, in a supernatural way.
The value of this Supper consists solely in obedience, and in the merit of Christ which is applied by a genuine faith.
In short, the sacraments of the Lord's Supper and baptism are testimony to God's will and grace toward men; and the sacrament of the Supper is a promise of the forgiveness of sins through faith. It moves hearts to believe; and the Holy Spirit works through the Word and the sacraments.
Consecration by the minister does not produce these effects, but they are to be attributed to the omnipotent power of the Lord alone.
Both worthy and unworthy people receive the actual body and actual blood of Christ as He hung upon the cross, but the worthy do so to their salvation, the unworthy to their condemnation. The worthy are those who have faith. No one is to be compelled to partake of the Supper, but everyone may come to it when a spiritual hunger prompts him.
Others, however, of the Protestant Reformed teach that:
In Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are assimilated only spiritually, and the bread and wine employed are merely signs, stamps, symbols, tokens, representations, and counterparts. Christ is present not bodily, but only by the power and operation emanating from His Divine essence. There is, however, a conjunction in heaven, according to the communication of specific phrases.
The value of this Supper depends not only on faith, but also on one's preparation.
Only the worthy receive its efficacy, and the unworthy merely the bread and wine.
Even though they have these disagreements, still all the Protestant Reformed agree on this, that people who wish to partake of that Holy Supper worthily must altogether repent - Lutherans saying that if people do not repent of their evil works, and yet approach, they are damned to eternity. And the English say that otherwise the Devil will enter into them as he did into Judas. This follows from their prayers recited prior to Communion. 17
9. Regarding Free Will:
The Protestant Reformed distinguish between the state before the Fall, the state since the Fall, the state following a person's reception of faith and renewal, and his state after his resurrection.
Since the Fall a person is utterly incapable by his own powers of embarking at all on spiritual and Divine matters, of thinking about them, of understanding them, of believing them, of willing them, of putting them into practice or of cooperating with them. Neither is he able to adapt or accommodate himself for grace. Rather his natural bent is solely for such things as are contrary to God and displease God. Consequently in spiritual matters a person is like a log, and yet he still has a capacity - not active but passive - by which he can be turned to good by the grace of God. Nevertheless, since the Fall a person has the free will remaining to him of being able to hear the Word of God or not, and so of having a spark of faith kindled in his heart, which includes a forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake and brings consolation.
At the same time the human will has the freedom to practice civil justice and to choose among matters subject to reason.
10. Regarding the Church:
The church is the congregation and communion of saints, and is spread throughout the entire world among people who have the same Christ and same Holy Spirit, and the same sacraments, whether they possess the same traditions or different ones.
It is above all, moreover, a society of faith. And this Church alone is the body of Christ, in which good people are the Church in fact and in name, but the evil in name only.
Evil people and hypocrites (being classed together) are members of the Church as regards its external manifestations, provided they have not been excommunicated; but they are not members of the body of Christ.
Church rites, called ceremonies, are not essential and do not constitute worship of God, not even a part of the worship of God. Therefore it falls within the freedom of the Church to institute, alter, or abrogate such things as differences in vestments, times, days, things ingested, and others. And accordingly no church ought to condemn another because of them.
11. These are the doctrines of the Protestant Reformed Church and religion in summary. However, doctrines taught by Schwenkfeldians, 18 Pelagians, 19 Manichaeans, 20 Donatists, 21 Anabaptists, 22 Arminians, 23 Zwinglians, 24 Antitrinitarians, 25 Socinians, 26 Arians, 27 and currently Quakers, 28 and Herrnhuters 29 - these we have passed over, as their adherents have been denounced and rejected as heretics.
"Whoever wishes to be saved must above all hold to the Catholic faith. And unless one has kept it intact and inviolate, he will surely perish to eternity.
"This now is the Catholic faith: that we revere one God in trinity, and the trinity in unity, neither confounding their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is one person, that of the Son another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit possess one Divinity, an equal glory, a coeternal majesty. As the nature of the Father is, such is the nature of the Son, and such also the nature of the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, and the Holy Spirit is immeasurable. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal Gods, but one eternal God. Even as there are not three uncreated Gods, nor three immeasurable Gods, but one uncreated God, and one immeasurable God. Similarly, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. And yet there are not three omnipotent Gods, but one omnipotent God. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God. Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord. For as Christian verity compels us to confess each person individually as God and Lord, so Catholic religion forbids us to say three Gods or Lords. The Father was not made by anyone, nor created or begotten. The Son exists from the Father, being neither made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit exists from the Father and Son, being neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but emanating. There is therefore one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. Moreover in this trinity nothing is prior or subsequent, nothing greater or lesser; but the three persons are altogether coeternal and coequal with each other. Thus, in every respect, we must, as stated already before, revere a unity in trinity, and a trinity in unity. Whoever wishes to be saved, therefore, let him think in this way about the trinity.
"For eternal salvation, however, it is necessary that one also faithfully believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. A right faith, therefore, is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man - being God, having been begotten from the essence of the Father before the world was, and being man, having been born from the essence of the mother in the world - being perfect God, perfect man, consisting of a rational soul and human flesh, equal to the Father as regards Divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity. But although He is God and man, nevertheless there are not two Christs but one, yet one not by a conversion of His Divinity into flesh, but by an assumption of His humanity into God; being completely one, but not by a confounding of any essence, but by the unity of His person. For as a rational soul and flesh are one person, so God and man are one Christ, who suffered for our salvation. He descended to hell. On the third day He rose from the dead. He ascended to heaven. He sits on the right hand of the Father. He will come from there to judge the living and the dead. At His coming all people will have to rise with their bodies and give an accounting of their individual deeds. And those who have done good deeds will enter into eternal life, while those who have done evil deeds will enter into eternal fire.
"This is the Catholic faith, and unless one believes it faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."
2. I.e., the bread.
3. I.e., ordained clergy.
4. "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
5. A reference to John 10:1.
6. A lesser veneration paid by Roman Catholics to saints and angels, in contrast to latria, the worship due only to God and Christ.
7. An ecumenical council convened in 1545 at Trento in northern Italy to answer the Protestant Reformation by formally defining the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and introducing certain moral and administrative reforms. The Council met off and on over a number of years, finally concluding its deliberations at the end of 1563.
8. "Benedictus Deus," issued by Pope Pius IV on January 26, 1764.
9. A profession of faith beginning with the words "Quicunque vult" and once widely used in western Christianity. Attributed in earlier centuries to Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria in the 4th century, it became known also as the Athanasian Creed; but modern scholarship no longer ascribes it to him but to some other, unknown, western writer(s), perhaps originating in Gaul toward the end of the 5th century.
10. As the Athanasian Creed is not, however, in everyone's hand today, we include our translation of it here:
11. See 1 Peter 3:18-20.
12. I.e., Martin Luther, 1483-1546, German leader of the Protestant Reformation, founder of Lutheranism, and author of numerous theological treatises.
13. A detailed confession of faith drawn up by Philipp Melanchthon primarily and approved by Martin Luther, which was presented to the Emperor Charles V at Augsburg in Bavaria on June 25, 1530, a confession which became the principal creed of the Lutheran Church.
14. A council convened by the Roman emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. at Nicea (now Iznik) in Bithynia, primarily to settle a theological controversy between eastern and western theologians over Arianism, which the council condemned in a statement known as the Nicene Creed. A second creed of unknown origin appearing somewhat later and bearing a close resemblance to the earlier creed is also known as the Nicene Creed, and is the one more often meant.
15. A doctrinal statement produced by Martin Luther and presented on February 23, 1537, to an assembly of Lutheran princes and theologians at Schmalkalden in Thuringia, Germany. The articles were subsequently published, and in 1580 included in the Book of Concord, a compilation of doctrinal formulations and creeds published in German at Dresden.
16. The last of the classical Lutheran statements of faith, composed in 1577 by a number of theologians in response to schisms in the Lutheran Church and subsequently published in 1580 along with other formulas and creeds in The Book of Concord.
17. The English text of their customary prayer is quoted in The Doctrine of Life 5, as follows: "The way and means to be received as worthy partakers of that Holy Table is First, to examine your lives and Conversations by the rule of God's commandments, and wherein soever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended either by will, word or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life; and if ye shall perceive your offences to be such, as are not only against God, but also against your neighbors, then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them, being ready to make restitution and satisfaction according to the utmost of your power, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other, and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences of God's hand, for otherwise the receiving of the Holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, or hinderer or slanderer of His word, or adulterer, or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to the Holy Table; lest after the taking of that Holy Sacrament the Devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you with all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul."
18. Followers of Kaspar von Schwenkfeld, 1490-1561, a German religious reformer who promoted a strict church discipline. Once an admirer of Luther, Schwenkfeld later withdrew from the Lutheran Church owing to doctrinal disputes, and after his death his followers, also known as Schwenkfelders, were persecuted and in the 18th century fled to America and other parts of Europe. The sect still exists in Pennsylvania.
19. Holders of the view - initially advanced by the British theologian Pelagius in the late 4th and early 5th centuries and later revived in the Reformation - that people have the freedom to choose between good and evil and can by their own efforts embark on the path of salvation and make themselves righteous.
20. Followers of the teachings of Mani in the 3rd and 4th centuries, whose ideas survived into medieval times, including belief in a dualistic universe of good and evil in constant conflict, and in extreme asceticism as the path of righteousness.
21. A schismatic group originating in 4th century North Africa which maintained that the sacraments were invalid if administered by priests who, during the Roman persecution, had weakened or given out any information. Named after Donatus, an early leader, the Donatist Church became a separate church lasting into the 8th century, which taught that the Church consisted of the elect who were holy and in whom the Holy Spirit was present.
22. "Rebaptizers," members of a separatist movement in the early Reformation arising in the 16th century who opposed infant baptism, insisting that one had to be an adult before baptism could be effective, and thus rebaptizing the first generation of their membership. They also disdained the civil state, often refusing to take up arms, and saw the Church as a spiritual body consisting of holy people only. Two of their groups survive today as Hutterites and Mennonites, including among the latter the Amish.
23. Disciples of Jacobus Arminius, 1560-1609, a Dutch theologian who denied the strict predestination taught by John Calvin and his followers, and taught instead human free will and a predestination qualified by God's foresight of a person's faith. Methodism and the more liberal Unitarianism, as well as some other sects, were influenced by Arminian ideas.
24. Followers of Huldreich (or Ulrich) Zwingli, 1484-1531, Swiss theologian and early Church Reformer, who broke with Martin Luther over the nature of the Eucharist. Whereas Luther maintained the actual presence of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine, Zwingli taught that the elements were essentially symbolic.
25. An umbrella term for various groups throughout the history of the Christian Church, including Arians and Socinians, which denied the orthodox doctrine of a trinity of persons in the Godhead. Antitrinitarianism survives most notably today in the Unitarian Universalist Association's denial of the Divinity of Christ and acknowledgment only of the Divine called the Father.
26. Disciples of Laelius Socinus (born Lelio Francesco Maria Sozini), 1525-1562, and his nephew Faustus Socinus (Fausto Paolo Sozzini), 1539-1604, who rejected a number of traditional Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, and original sin, and who held that Christ was miraculously begotten and that salvation is granted to those who adopt Christ's virtues as a model for their lives.
27. Adherents of Arianism, a theological view based on the teachings of Arius (c. 250-336), who taught that Christ the Son was a created being, not consubstantial with God the Father, and thus not fully Divine.
28. Members of the Religious Society of Friends, founded by George Fox, 1624-1691, in mid-17th-century England, now in the United States sometimes called the Friends Church, which taught and still teaches that the Holy Spirit by an "inner light" may operate in and through anyone. It therefore did away with formal creeds, an ordained ministry and external rituals, and is most known for its opposition to violence of any kind. Elsewhere the writer gives an unflattering account of Quakers in the spiritual world.
29. Moravian Brethren, called Herrnhuters after the name of a village in Saxony built and settled in 1722 by Hussite emigrants from Moravia. Moravians hold the Bible as the only rule in matters of faith and morals, and although retaining from their Roman Catholic roots in Bohemia among followers of John Huss a modified episcopal form of government, they appear to represent in their worship a simple form of other-worldly Christianity. Elsewhere the writer gives a condemnatory account of Moravians in the spiritual world.