'Resurrection' signifies salvation and eternal life. 'The first,' mentioned in Revelation 20:5, 6, does not mean a first resurrection, but the essence and primary part of resurrection, which is salvation and eternal life. There is only one resurrection to life. A second does not happen, and is not mentioned anywhere in the Word.
By Rev. William Woofenden
"The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." Psalm 24:1-2
Additional readings: Daniel 7:1, 15-28, John 10:1-17
Before the rise of modern science it was thought that the ocean was the basis of creation and that the world was literally founded on it, as some sort of large floating, yet stationary island. This concept, while not true literally, is a correspondential image of the truth that is conveyed in the internal sense by the words of our text.
"The word ‘earth’ or ‘land’ in the Word…denotes the people who are in it, and in fact the people of the church, thus the church itself" (Arcana Coelestia 1066). When we read, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1), a new church or spiritual development is what is meant. And when we read, "the fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, " not monarchical sovereignties but the states of the church are signified. So in our text the church is meant. The church is the Lord’s kingdom on earth, and it is founded upon the eternal truths of the Word in ultimates. Our text reads, "The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." Here we find the two words "earth" and "world." They are not used for literary effect, though the dual expressions that abound throughout the Word add much to its literary beauty. The earth refers to the church as to its truths and the fullness to their abundance, and the world refers to the church as to its goodness. "They that dwell therein" are the people in whom this truth and goodness dwell.
Thus we learn from these verses that the church is the Lord’s as to its good and truth. And the reason is given: "For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." In the Hebrew the word translated floods is the term used for large rivers; so a more accurate translation would be "founded it upon the rivers."
The seas upon which the church is founded are the knowledges of truth that are contained in the Word. We recall that rivers watered the Garden of Eden. Rivers represent doctrines drawn from the Word that make these truths applicable to life, and because both are needed, it is said that He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
When we stand on the shore of the Atlantic, we cannot see its utmost limits; we can see but a small part of it, while rivers, which terminate in the sea, are those more particularly defined truths which terminate finally in general truths but have their source as it were in the mountains and hills of heaven. Thus these two verses with which the twenty-fourth Psalm opens in their spiritual meaning teach us that the church is founded upon the knowledge of truth and good rationally understood.
The church is founded upon the seas of the sense of the letter of the Word, or on Divine revelation, upon the whole vast, indefinable mass of knowledge expressed in the written statements of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, but it is established upon the doctrines through which it is rationally understood—the flowing, living truths that enter the mind of each individual from God out of heaven. And just as the earth is said to be founded, built up, and established, so the church is founded on revelation and established in the hearts and minds of men as that revelation is received and understood.
The Writings of the church put this very clearly in these words: "The church is from the Word, and it is such as its understanding of the Word is…The Word is the Word according to the understanding of it with man; that is, as it is understood. If it is not understood, the Word is indeed called the Word, but with man it is not." (Doctrine of Sacred Scripture 76-77). And again, "The Word is not understood without doctrine" (Doctrine of Sacred Scripture 50). The text has a very practical lesson for us. By the truths of the Word we are brought in touch with the Lord, who is the Word. Man does not live from himself. He was created by a power outside of himself. And this same power keeps him alive from day to day and gives him eternal life.
The importance to us of truths from the Word is emphasized throughout the Writings. We are living in a time of amazing increase in knowledge about the external world, knowledge that has made this and other nations immensely prosperous. Yet only obedience to the truths that the Lord has given us can make prosperity a safe blessing. Listen to what the Writings of our church say about the truths of the Word: "Faith is formed by truth. By truth is charity to the neighbor. By truth is conscience. By truth is innocence. By truth is purification from evil. By truths is intelligence and wisdom. By truths is the beauty of angels, and thus of men internally as to the spirit. By truths is the order of heaven. By truths man becomes truly man. Yet all these come through good, and not through truths without good, and all good is from the Lord." This is a magnificent, yet exactly just description of the office of truth revealed in its strength.
The church should be the gathering and distributing point of spiritual life. Her purpose is to proclaim the Lord’s words, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:22), and to draw men into a living relationship with the Lord. She is here to help us to a knowledge of what is right and just, that our hearts may be inspired with a desire to establish the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
This past year was one of the most prosperous in our nation’s history. At the beginning of every year people hope that it will be a highly prosperous one. The desire for prosperity seems to be the passion of the day. But is the world alive to the duty of self-conquest, to the duty of learning and doing the Lord’s will? What is all this abundance for? What is it worth unless well-dispositioned souls possess and administer it?
The Gospel teaches us, "A man’s life consisteth not in the things that he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). Possessions do not make the man. In these words, the Lord is trying to make us see that it is the quality of the possessor which is the important thing. Otherwise, his possessions, however great, are of no essential value to him. Even abundance of worldly learning without self-conquest cannot be a lasting blessing. Neither worldly possessions nor worldly knowledge can make a man rich.
"The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof." The earth with all its fullness was made for man. The Word was given that the way of life might be made known. The Lord came into the world to make life more abundant.
We need to know that He spoke the truth when He said, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18), and that He can say and He alone, "I have the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18).
The Lord cannot found and establish His church among people by whom He is not acknowledged to be the All in All. Those who claim His Divine things as their own are thieves and robbers who seek to climb up another way than the true one. But those who acknowledge that "the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" and that without Him they can do nothing are those who enter through the door into the sheepfold, for the Lord is the Door, and it is He Who really enters and to Whom the porter opens. Those who come before Him, who put their own desires and ambitions first, do not hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him (John 10:1-17). But those who find their greatest strength and security in humility and in self-abnegation cannot want any good thing, for the Lord is their Shepherd and they know from the heart that "The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein: for He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." Enlightened by the Lord, they see and follow the truths which are born in them of the Lord and the church, and they know, acknowledge, and believe that "there is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: god shall help her, and that right early" (Psalm 46:4).