Arcana Coelestia #2910

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2910. 'And Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her' means a state in which the Lord grieved, that is to say, because it was night as regards the truths of faith within the Church. This is clear from the representation of 'Abraham' as the Lord, dealt with in 1893, 1965, 1989, 2011, 2172, 2501, 2833, 2836. That 'mourning' and 'weeping' mean a state involving grief is clear without explanation. 'Mourning' has regard to grief on account of its being night as regards goods within the Church, and 'weeping' as regards truths. These two verses have dealt with the end of the Church, which arrives when charity does not exist any longer. The end of the Church is the subject many times in the Word, especially in the Prophets and in John, in the Book of Revelation. The Lord too in the Gospels describes that end extensively, calling it the close of the age, and also night.

(References: Revelation 1:1)

[2] The situation with all Churches is that initially every Church regards charity as being fundamental. At that time every individual person loves every other as his brother and is moved by good - not on his own account but on account of that person, of the general good of all, of the Lord's kingdom, and above all of the Lord Himself. But with the passage of time charity starts to grow cold and to cease to exist. After that, hatred of one person against another enters in, which - though not apparent outwardly because people in organized society are subject to laws and to external restraints which keep them in check - is nevertheless being fostered inwardly. The external restraints keeping them in check stem from self-love and love of the world, being the love of position and importance, the love of wealth and also of the power that wealth brings, and so the love of reputation. Beneath these loves there lurks hatred of the neighbour, such as leads people to desire dominion over all and to possess everything that belongs to anyone else. And when these desires are opposed, such persons harbour in their mind contempt for that neighbour, breathe revenge, and take delight in his ruin, and indeed perform acts of cruelty on him insofar as they dare. It is into ways such as these that the charity of the Church ultimately goes when it reaches its end. At that time it is said of the Church that faith does not exist any longer, for when there is no charity there is no faith, as has been shown many times.

[3] There have been many Churches, which are known of from the Word, that have come to an end in this fashion. The Most Ancient Church breathed its last in such circumstances around the time of the Flood. So in a similar way did the Ancient Church which existed after the Flood, as also did the second Ancient Church called the Hebrew Church; and later on the Jewish Church. This never was a Church that had charity at the outset, but was merely the representative of a Church whose role was to preserve by means of representatives a communication with heaven until the Lord came into the world. After that a new Church was established by the Lord, which was called the gentile Church and was an internal Church since interior truths from the Lord had then been revealed. But even this Church has now reached its end, for now not only is charity non-existent but also hatred is present instead of charity. Although that hatred is not apparent outwardly it is nevertheless there inwardly and breaks out when at all possible, that is, as often as external restraints do not keep people in check.

[4] In addition to these Churches there have been many others which have not been described so specifically [in the Word] but which deteriorated in a similar way and destroyed themselves. There are many reasons why they have so deteriorated and destroyed themselves. One reason is that parents pile up evils, and from practicing these frequently until at length they become habitual, introduce them into their own nature and disposition, and in so doing hand them down by heredity to their offspring. For what parents acquire through frequent practice in their actual living takes root within their natural disposition and is transmitted by heredity to their descendants. And unless these are reformed or regenerated, that which is transmitted is perpetuated in succeeding generations, increasing all the time as it is passed down. Consequently the will becomes even more bent on evils and falsities. But when the Church reaches its close and perishes the Lord always raises up a new Church somewhere else. Yet rarely, if ever, has He done so from members of the previous Church, but from gentiles who dwelt in ignorance. Those gentiles are the subject in what follows next.

(References: Genesis 23:2)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 3318, 4317, 8876

The White Horse 9

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 83, 246

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 104

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Related New Christian Commentary

  Spiritual Topics:

A Church is Not a Building

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Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.