In this article we will look at the cause of the Second Coming in history. In previous articles I have shown that second coming is the revealing of the internal sense of the Word, and how it took place at the enlightenment period. Now I will show the declined state of religion on earth that led up to the second coming in 1757 CE. I will not do an in depth study of history showing all the corruptions of the Catholic and Protestant churches, for that would be book. I will demonstrate the principles by which these churches became corrupt in both the earthly world and heavenly world. From these principles one can look and see many examples in history. I will also show how it is referenced in scripture.
I believe Babylon, in the Book of Revelation, refers to the old Catholic Church. Many have claimed this before Swedenborg, though there are many views on the subject. (Various views, and particularly those of several protestant leaders and historians that claim it refers to the Catholic Church can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Whore_of_Babylon). As we shall see Swedenborg asserts that Babylon has a general meaning, and that specifically Babylon refers to the old Catholic Church. He also describes how the dragon refers to the corruptions of the Protestant Church, which I will present in a separate article. Below is Swedenborg’s summary of the state of the Catholic Church leading up to the Second Coming (he refers to Catholics as the papists). Swedenborg was writing this around 1758 CE; it refers to the Catholic Church from somewhere in the timeframe of 1400 to 1800 CE. It does not refer to the present day Catholic Church, but there are of course remnants of these characteristics. The following quote is from Swedenborg’s ‘The Last Judgment’ (n. 55-60):
“But Babylon treated of in the Apocalypse, is the Babylon of this day and is known to be with the Papists. This Babylon is more pernicious and more heinous than the church at the time of Jesus’ birth, because it profanes the interior goods and truths of the church, which the Lord revealed to the world from His life and from the the Christian church He instituted. How pernicious, how inwardly heinous it is may appear from the following summary. They acknowledge and adore the Lord apart from the power of saving; they separate His Divine from His Human, and transfer to themselves His Divine power…for they remit sins; they send to heaven; they cast into hell; they save whom they will; they sell salvation; thus they arrogate to themselves what belongs to the Divine power alone: and since they exercise this power, it follows that they make gods of themselves, each one according to his station, by transference from the highest of them, whom they call Christ’s vicar, down to the lowest; thus they regard themselves as the Lord, and adore Him, not for His own sake, but for theirs.
They not only adulterate and falsify the Word, but even take it away from the people, lest they should enter into the smallest light of truth; and not satisfied with this, they moreover annihilate it, acknowledging the Divine in the decrees of Rome, superior to the Divine in the Word; so that they exclude all from the way to heaven; for the acknowledgment of the Lord, faith in Him, and love to Him, are the way to heaven; and the Word is what teaches the way. They strive with all diligence to extinguish the light of heaven, which is from Divine truth, in order that ignorance may exist in the place of it, and the denser the ignorance, the more acceptable it is to them. They extinguish the light of heaven, by prohibiting the reading of the Word, and of books which contain doctrines from the Word; instituting worship by masses in a language not understood by the simple… They likewise persuade the common people, that they have life in the faith of their priests, thus in the faith of another and not in their own. Besides this, they introduce idolatries of various kinds. They make and multiply saints; they see and tolerate the adoration of these saints, and even the prayers offered to them almost as to gods; they set up their idols everywhere; boast of the great abundance of miracles done by them; set them over cities, temples, and monasteries; their bones taken out of their tombs they account holy, which yet are most vile; thus turning the minds of all from the worship of God, to the worship of men. Moreover, they use much artful precaution lest any one should come out of that thick darkness into light, from idolatrous worship to Divine worship; for they multiply monasteries, from which they send out spies and guards in all directions; they extort the confessions of the heart, which are also confessions of the thoughts and intentions, and if any one will not confess, they threaten him with infernal re and torments in purgatory; and those who dare to speak against the Papal throne, and their dominion, they shut up in a horrible prison, which is called the inquisition. All these things they do for the sole end that they may possess the world and its treasures, and live in luxury and be the greatest, while the rest are slaves. But domination such as this, is not that of heaven over hell, but of hell over heaven, for as far as the love of having dominion is with man, especially with the man of the church, so far hell reigns… From this summary it may appear that they have no church there, but Babylon, for the church is where the Lord himself is worshiped and where he Word is read”. (Last Judgment, n. 55)
The above things are said of the earthly church in Swedenborg’s time (1700 to 1800 CE). Below is a description of the Catholics in the spiritual world and what took place at the Second Coming (Last Judgment, 56). What follows gives a specific, tangible understanding of how the machinations of the religious leaders on earth continued in the world of spirits. This is a description of the false heavens they set up, why they were allowed to hold the people captive, and how they were finally destroyed. The same dynamics occurred with the other religions, but I will let these descriptions of the Catholic Church serve as an example of how it worked:
“The quality of those in the other life who are Babylon can appear only to one to whom it has been given by the Lord to be together with those who are in the spiritual world. Since this has been granted to me, I am able to speak from experience, for I have seen them, I have heard them, and I have spoken with them. Every man after death is in a life similar to his life in the world. It is the same with the life of those now treated of; which is altogether such as it was in the world, with this difference, that the hidden things of their hearts are there uncovered, for they are in the spirit, in which reside the interior things of the thoughts and intentions, which they had concealed in the world, and had covered over with a holy external. It was perceived that more than half of those who had usurped the power of opening and shutting heaven, were altogether atheists; but since dominion resides in their minds as in the world, and is based on this principle that all power was given by the Father to the Lord himself, and that it was transferred to Peter, and by order of succession to the primates of the church, therefore an oral confession about the Lord remains adjoined to their atheism; but even this remains only so long as they enjoy some dominion by means of it. But the rest of them, who are not atheists, are so empty, as to be entirely ignorant of man’s spiritual life and they know nothing at all of heavenly faith and love, believing that heaven may be granted of the Pope’s favor to any one, whatever he be.
Now since the spiritual world, as regards its external appearance, is altogether like the natural world therefore they also live a similar moral and civil life, and above all have similar worship, for this is in-rooted, and inheres to man in his inmost, nor can anyone be a er death be withdrawn form it, except he be in good from truths, and in truths from good. But it is more difficult to withdraw the Catholic nation from its worship, than other nations, because they are not in goods from truths and still less in truths from good; for its truths are not from the Word, with the exception of some few, which they have falsified by applying them to dominion. These things are said, in order that it may be known, that the worship of this nation, in the spiritual world, is altogether similar to its worship in the natural world. These things premised, I will now relate some particulars of the worship and life of the Papists in the spiritual world. They have a certain council, in place of the council or consistory at Rome, in which their primates meet, and consult on various matters of their religion, especially on the means of holding the common people in blind obedience, and of enlarging their dominion. This council is situated in the southern quarter, near the east; but no one who has been a Pope or a cardinal in the world dares to enter it, because the semblance of Divine authority possesses their minds, from their having in the world arrogated the Lord’s power to themselves; wherefore, as soon as they present themselves there, they are carried out, and cast to their like in a desert. But those among them, who have been upright in mind, and have not from confirmed belief usurped such power, are in a certain obscure chamber behind this council. ere is another assembly in the western quarter, near the north; the business there, is the intromission of the credulous common people into heaven. They there dispose around them a number of societies which live in various external delights; in some of the societies they play, in some they dance, in some they compose the face into the various expressions of hilarity and mirthfulness; in some they converse in a friendly manner; in some they discuss civil a airs, in others religious matters; in other societies again, they talk obscenities; and so on. They call these places heaven; but all of them, a er being there a few hours, are wearied and depart, because those joys are external, and not eternal. In this way, moreover, many are withdrawn from a belief in their doctrinal concerning intromission into heaven.
As regards their worship in particular, it is almost like their worship in the world; as in the world, it consists in masses, not performed in the common language of spirits, but in one composed of lo y-sounding words, which induce an external holiness and awe, and are utterly unintelligible. In like manner they adore saints, and expose idols to view; but their saints are nowhere to be seen, for all those who have sought to be worshiped as deities, are in hell; the rest who did not seek to be worshiped, are among common spirits. This their prelates know, for they seek and find them, and when found they despise them; yet they conceal it from the people, that the saints may still be worshiped as tutelar deities, but that the primates themselves, who are set over the people, may be worshiped as the lords of heaven. In like manner, moreover, they multiply temples and monasteries as they did in the world; they scrape together riches, and accumulate costly things, which they hide in cellars; for costly things exist in the spiritual, as well as in the natural world, and far more abundantly. In like manner they send forth monks, to allure the Gentiles to their religious persuasion, in order that they may subject them to their rule. ey commonly have watch towers erected in the middle of their assemblies, from which they are enabled to enjoy an extended view into all the surrounding region. And moreover, by various means and arts they establish for themselves communications with persons far and near, joining in league with them, and drawing them over to their own party.
They still counterfeit holiness in externals; yet this holiness in itself is profane, because in their internals there is no acknowledgment of the Divine. Hence it is that they communicate with certain societies of the lowest heaven by a holy external, and with the hells by a profane internal, so that they are in both; on which account, moreover, they allure simple good spirits, and give them habitations near themselves, and also congregate wicked spirits, and dispose them around the society in all directions, by the simple good conjoining themselves with heaven, and by the wicked with hell. Hence they are enabled to accomplish heinous things which they perpetrate from hell. For the simple good who are in the lowest heavens look only to their holy external, and their very holy adoration of the Lord in externals, but they do not see their wickedness, and therefore they favor them, and this is their greatest protection; yet in process of time they all recede from their holy external, and then, being separated from heaven, they are cast into hell. From these things it may be known in some degree, what is the quality of those in the other life who are from Babylon”. (Last Judgment, n. 56)
From this remarkable description of the false heavens in the world of spirits, one receives a realistic sense of what they were like.