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Sermons

The Man with the Measuring Line

July 18, 2004

Bible Reading

Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, "Where are you going?"

He answered me, "To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is."

Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him, "Run, tell that young man, 'Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be its glory within,' declares the Lord."

(Zechariah 2:1-5)

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates, and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits, by human measurement, which is the measurement of an angel.

(Revelation 21:15-17)

Reading from Swedenborg

"Giving glory to him" means acknowledging and confessing that every truth of the Word is from the Lord. . . . It has this meaning because by "glory" the angels of heaven perceive nothing but divine truth. And because all divine truth is from the Lord, by "giving glory to him" they perceive acknowledging and confessing that all truth is from him--for all the glory in the heavens is from no other source. And to the extent that a community of heaven is engaged in divine truth, everything there is radiant, and its angels are in the splendor of glory. (Apocalypse Revealed #629)

Sermon

Zechariah was a prophet in Judah just after the return of the Israelites from exile. He was one of several prophets who were interested in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. He was also very keen on the idea of the coming of the Messiah, although he lived five hundred years before the Lord came into the world. Zechariah said that the Lord came to him and spoke to him, and opened his eyes in a vision to see things that were not of this world, but of the world of spirit. It was a vision of measuring Jerusalem, the holy city.

John, the beloved Apostle, had a similar experience. He said that he was carried away by the spirit, and he saw the holy city New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven--and that the one who spoke to him had a gold measuring rod in his hand, with which he was to measure the city and its gates and walls. What Zechariah and John saw was a builder's plan: the plans for new religions built on new foundations, with new truths and teachings fit for a changing world. God's plan!

Yes, God has a plan. From the beginning he has had a plan that humankind will form a heaven of angels. That is his plan, and that is his purpose in giving each of us life. He gives us life so that we may use it to grow and develop and become angels in his heavenly kingdom.

Part of his plan to help us achieve this goal is to provide a church in which we may learn of him and his plans for us, and in which we may worship him. I do not mean just one particular church building, although that is part of it, but also a Universal Church, which involves all true religions and all true worshipers of the One only God who is Creator, Redeemer, and Savior.

In the vision of Zechariah, the Jerusalem that the man was going to measure was not the physical city located in Judah. Jerusalem was the church that the Lord was going to establish in the world, which we know as the Christian church. Jerusalem is used for this representation because at the time of the vision, it was the center of worship for the Jewish church--the church that had the Word of God. The angel was not, therefore, involved in measuring the length, breadth, and height in order to determine its physical size. Rather than physical dimensions, he was to measure the spiritual qualities and conditions of the church that was to be established in the world.

Note that no actual measurements were given. The angel who was speaking with Zechariah was told by another angel that he should run and speak to the young man and tell him that "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and livestock in it." This meant that the city would not be contained within the limits of the walls, but there would be surrounding suburbs that would also be part of the city.

In the spiritual sense, which looks at the story in terms of Jerusalem representing the church that was to be developed at the coming of the Lord, we see a church that exceeds the limits of the church that preceded it. This is explained later in the same text:

"Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion! For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the Lord. "Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day, and will become my people." (Zechariah 2:10-11)

The Christian Church was not to be limited to the people of a single nation, as was the church of Israel. It would have its central core of people whose faith and love for the Lord was pure and strong. They would be those who representatively live in the midst, or center, of the city. But there would be a wide variety of people embracing the Christian faith from different backgrounds. This would result in infinite degrees of involvement and understanding spreading out from the core group, at first comprising the Apostles, to a fringe group who live outside the true doctrine of the church, but who nevertheless associate with it or spiritually trade with it, and are thus directly affected by it in various ways.

The former church was protected by the stone walls of the city. And as stones represent truth, that church was protected by the Word of God that was given to them from the time of Abraham. The Christian Church that was to begin at the coming of the Lord was to be protected by a wall of fire. "'For I myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be its glory within,' declares the Lord." Fire corresponds to the Lord's love. Therefore, though the inner core of this new church would have the benefit of the protection of the Lord's truth, or Word, they, along with the variety of new people from diverse backgrounds who would become Christians, would all have the protection of the Lord's love.

When we view the Christian church from this perspective, we can see why it continued to use the Bible for its Scriptures. The Old Testament contains the Law and the Prophets, which are to be studied and obeyed, and the New Testament is the Gospel of Love. The life of our Lord Jesus in the world was a life of good works--an act of love from beginning to end. His life opened up true religion for all people of all nations, Jews and Gentiles alike.

The spiritual sense portrays the inner condition of the Lord's church. The citizens who dwell within the walls are those in the church who received and understand the Word of God, both as it was passed on from the Jewish church and as it was added to by Christ. Important to the spiritual picture of the Christian church is that the Lord is "its glory within."

By measuring, the man was to explore and thus know what the Christian Church would be, and how great it would be. The breadth signifies the truth of its doctrine, and length the good of its love. He would know the form of it. Zechariah the prophet saw all this; therefore he could fulfill his role as a prophet and give the people knowledge that would help the Lord to bring into effect the first Christian Church.

The vision that John had was similar in many respects to that of Zechariah. However, the Holy City is referred to as the New Jerusalem, and it therefore refers to a new Christian Church. More knowledge and insight into the spiritual aspects of the church will be given: the dimensions are specifically revealed. The length and breadth are 12,000 stadia, and the wall is 144 cubits, which is said to be a "human measurement, which is the measurement of an angel." Who cannot see that by measuring is meant looking at qualities and characteristics? They are the same in both humans and angels, because angels develop from humans.

As in Zechariah's vision, the spiritual quality and conditions of the people of a new church are what was being revealed in these measurements. The number 12,000 symbolizes that all good and true things of religion in one system will be contained in this new church. All the good and true things given by God to the religions of the world will be part of the church universal. 144 cubits is 12 times 12, and therefore symbolizes all the good and true things of the church that come down through the world, and are seen in both humans and angels. Humans represent the church on earth, and angels represent heaven as to the good things of love and the true beliefs of faith that are within them.

As we measure the foundations of the new church, we should think of the spiritual quality and condition of its members, the quality of its worship, and the quality of its fellowship with one another. And we should make the entryway through its doors open and inviting to all who wish to enter.

In the New Jerusalem, we see that the city is once again a walled city, but not a closed walled city. It has many gates opening in all directions. This significant change from the city described in Zechariah shows us that it is once again up to the people to enter the city of their own free will.

Whereas in the first Christian Church, the city spread out to the people and nations. The new city, or new church, already contains all the teachings of love that were given to the world through the establishment of the first Christian Church. It also has all the laws and commandments, or truths, from the Jewish Church. But the time has come for the people to learn and to experience these teachings, and then choose to enter into the New Christian Religion through one of the many gates. The walls contain precious stones, which are beautiful truths that are clearly understood.

We can see in today's world, with its massive global communications systems, that virtually everyone comes in contact with the basic spiritual laws, and with the truth that we should love one another. We really do not need church organizations to teach us these things. We are all in a position to choose to live by them.

Each one of us is a temple and a church. Each one of us has heard the laws of the Old Testament and also the Gospel of Love. Each one of us is free to choose to enter through the gates of the New Jerusalem.

John said that in his vision of the Holy City, he saw no temple in its midst. He said that "the Lord God Almighty is its temple, and the Lamb." This means that in this church, the external expression will not be separate from the internal reality, since the Lord himself in his Divine Human form, from whom is the all of the church, will alone be approached, worshiped, and adored.

Yes, God has a plan that is being implemented in the world. The twelve foundation stones are now being shaped and fitted into place. We are a part of that foundation. So we must do our work in the building up of the new church with love and devotion, and with thanks to the Lord for making us an integral part of his most wondrous plan.

Prayer

Dear Lord, you have given us the precious blessing of the new revelation of your truth for the new church era that is now unfolding on this earth. Build each one of us, and all of us together, into a Holy City in which the inner reality of your love and truth is expressed in the outer reality of our lives every day. Amen.

Rev. David Sonmor