In Swedenborgian theology, the term "church" usually doesn't refer to a building - like St. Patrick's Church on 10th Street - or to an organization, e.g. the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, a church is a state of spiritual belief, shared by a group of people, at a given time.
In the big picture, there have been 5 main churches in human history:
- The Most Ancient Church, represented by Adam in the Bible. It spanned the time from the dawn of human spirituality until the time represented by Noah, at around the time of the agricultural revolution. It didn't have a written Word.
- The Ancient Church, represented by Noah in the Bible. It lasted from the rise of civilization until the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses mentions books from an Ancient Word from that church - the Book of Annunciations, the Book of Jasher, and the Wars of Jehovah.
- The Israelitish church, which lasted from the time of the Patriarchs until the birth of Jesus Christ. Its main role was to preserve the sacred scriptures that form the Old Testament, and to preserve, by adhering to external rituals, the embers of an internal worship whose real meaning was largely forgotten. The prophets of the Old Testament, through recording the history of the Israelitish people.
- The First Christian Church, which started at the time of the Lord's ministry on earth. It gradually got corrupted by false understandings of the Trinity, which led to further confusion, and eventually the idea of salvation by faith separate from love.
- The New Christian Church, which has a new set of truths contained in Swedenborg's works. Starting from 1770, it is restoring and fulfilling Jesus Christ's original mission. The inner meaning of the Bible has been explained and clarified, and new concepts clear away the misunderstandings that hampered the First Christian Church.