The Lord is the living Word made Flesh. This is a phrase Christians often say, but how is it to be understand.
Swedenborg describes this process in a way I have never seen anyone else articulate. He writes that the Lord progressively became divine truth while in the world by the actions of his life, particularly each time he fulfilled the prophecies about himself made by the prophets in the Word:
Because the Lord, by the assumption of a natural human, made himself divine truth in outmosts, he is called the ‘Word’, and it is said that ‘the Word was made flesh’; moreover, divine truth in outmosts is the Word in the sense of the letter. This the Lord made himself by fulfilling all things of the Word concerning himself in Moses and the Prophets. For while every man is his own good and his own truth, and a man is a man on no other ground, the Lord, by the assumption of a natural human, is divine good and divine truth itself (D.L.W. 221).
When Jesus declares in the synagogue the words, ‘This day the scriptures are fulfilled’, we realize that He is the fulfillment of the prophesies about the Messiah. It is an extraordinary moment that is the culmination of centuries of prophecy and preparation, and is the convergence of the divine truth of the Word with the divine good in the human, Jesus. In the light of this historical event (and many others like it where he fulfilled prophecy), the process Swedenborg is describing has profound implications that are readily understandable. Lets grapple with the basic process: the Word is divine truth itself that has been accommodated down to humans by discreet degrees. The celestial sense of the word is all about the Life and development of Christ from the time He was a baby. When the Lord came into the world He lived all that was prophesied about him, he fulfilled the prophecies by his life actions. Thus He embodied divine truth, and became the living Word. This is not a metaphor, but a historical accomplishment that was centuries and centuries in the making . So first I would like to describe how it is that the celestial sense of the Word is all about the life and development of Jesus Christ.
Gardner Perry has pioneered the insights I am about to share, except in far greater detail than I express here. His work has to do with the correspondences between the Old Testament Genesis and Exodus stories and the spiritual development of the Lords life and mind. The story of the Lord’s life is contained in these Old Testament stories in the inner sense. Many people are aware of this, but Rev. Perry has studied the details of these correspondences that chronicle the development of the Lord’s mind, body, and soul. He also studies this subject in the light of modern psychological developments.
For instance, his Study points out that Jesus’ first great awakening to the infinite potential of His soul corresponds to the Promise made to Abraham by Jehovah that all of humanity would become his progeny, like the ‘dust of the earth’. This is an expression that the Lords love and wisdom for humanity, and governorship over humanity would become infinite in content and depth. At the same time the Lord began to see the depth of Humanities suffering. The Lord saw the rampant nature of evil of His time, the great suffering, cruelty, and hate of humanity. Humanity was in an external state of worship and He would have to deal with this difficult circumstance. He knew his mission was to save humanity but at this point He did not know how He could accomplish it. His greatest anxiety/temptation was the uncertainty over how and whether He could save humanity from the terrible schemes of the evil forces. Like a diabolical terrorist evil sought to foil the Lord by torturing the humanity he so loved.
At the same time, while on the earth, the Lord was working in a community teaching people how to be in internal relationship and worship, and not in external worship: because the vast majority of society at this time was mired in external worship. This ministry of the Lord on earth developed the seed for the new church to develop from, while, at the same time, in the spiritual world, he was subjugating the hells and progressing toward divinity.
I share these few details of the Lord’s inner development according to the celestial sense to provide a deeper picture of the tension between the internal and the external state of the Lord. I also share this with the reader to give a feel for how the celestial sense of the Word is one with the life of the Lord, in the sense that He is the living Word. Holy Scripture is joined to the Divine of the Lord by discreet degrees: first there is the divine truth of the Lord, then the celestial sense is joined to the spiritual sense, and the spiritual sense is joined to the natural sense, and the natural to the literal sense, which is the published Bible. This is how the Word is the living body of Jesus, as Christians say. According to Swedenborg it is not a metaphor, but a metaphysical reality. The Word is a nexus that conjoins the Lord and humanity. This is important to keep in mind because divine love and truth is the first cause of all things and this is what the Lord was conjoining himself to as He progressively fulfilled the prophecies. I believe this is part of how He gradually “returned from whence He came”.
How the Lord is ‘the living Word’ is still an illusive idea to grasp, so lets look at this process from the perspective of our daily life. There is a common saying that holds a great truth – ‘A man or women becomes what they do’. What we believe and will leads to what we do. The essence of our humanness is in our will and understanding, and what we actually will to do forms our soul. When we are stripped away of all the externals, as we will be when we die, we are left with what we really love and believe, because this is what composes our internal soul.
It is the same thing with the Lord. He became what He did. By coming here he separated himself into an external and internal, which is the situation of all humans who are born. There are many places in the Bible where it says that Jesus performed a deed ‘for the sake of the fulfillment of prophecy’. I can’t repeat them all here, but there abut 20 to 30 in each Gospel. In his last temptation on the cross when Jesus speaks, “It is finished”, he accomplished fulfilling all prophecy. By progressively fulfilling all prophecy in the Word to the end, He made his external body and internal divine soul one, so there was no more separation. Therefore his physical body became divine, because that which merges with the divine is divine. When you break metal in two and then weld it back together, the weld becomes the strongest part. He became what He did, and what He did in his life is fulfill the prophesies about Himself from the passion in his soul. He embodied divine truth.
We take all this now as a foregone conclusion, but He risked everything by coming here. The fate of the universe was in a little baby. Unlike the disciples, all hell knew who he was on site, and they attacked him and tried to foil his mission with unrelenting fury. Evil spirits tried to bring despair upon him by destroying humanity, for the salvation of humanity was and is the love of loves in his heart. Evil used the age-old tactic of all terrorists – destroy the leader by destroying those he or she loves. Nevertheless, the Lord only willed love and mercy, and He defeated the evil forces continually. He did so by His might alone, a might far beyond our ability to imagine.