The Inner Meaning of the Word/Bible

The Lord’s Word (the Bible) is the bedrock for true Christianity. God intended it as a user’s guide to life.

There are several different layers of meaning contained in the Word: the literal, historical, and spiritual meaning. Without an awareness of deeper meanings in the scripture, some passages can seem alienating and severe. The Word imparts its gems to us when we learn to understand the spiritual significance of biblical allegory. The New Church teaches that the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg reveal a deeper meaning in the scripture, explaining the Bible’s symbolism and showing how the Word of God can be applied to our everyday lives.

Much like a parent would explain complicated concepts to a child, the truths in the Bible are related through stories. Jesus consistently communicated in parables: “Without a parable He did not speak to them” (Matthew 13:34). Most of the Old Testament is metaphorical too. The stories hold within them lessons of spiritual growth which are both practical and useful. For example, the Children of Israel being enslaved in Egypt represents the way we can become enslaved to addictions of many kinds. Their suffering shows how a life dictated to by demands of the ego is really a type of slavery. Moses leading the slaves away from bondage is symbolic of how the Lord can set us free.

“These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.” – John 16:25

The inner meaning of the story of Creation from Genesis chapter one

The creation story from the opening pages of the book of Genesis is a wonderful story–reminding us of the truth that God is the source of all that is good in our lives.  We know that the Creation Story is not a historical account of actual incidents, but a parable or metaphor for our own spiritual lives.   I take great comfort in this truth.  For I am glad that I don’t have to explain how it is possible that God created the earth, stars, sun, plants, animals, humans, etc. all within six days.  

It is inevitable that at some point in the life of our children they will look at the Grand Canyon, the Rio Grande Gorge, or the Flatirons, and realize that it took wind, water, and movements in the earth’s crust, millions of years to form those beautiful works of nature (of course God is the Architech).  If we held a view of the Bible that said that it was only literally true without question, we would have a formidable task of trying to explain that to them, when all evidence points in a different direction.

I believe there is incredible value in believing something because God has said so in His Word.  But I think there is so much more power when the Word doesn’t contradict what we see and learn from the natural world we live in.

The book of Genesis describes the creation of the world.  So it must have happened that way, right?  Well then how come science is in complete disagreement with that theory.  We have a choice.  We can reject science or we can reject the Bible.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could embrace both?  And that’s exactly what I love about the New Church.  We can and are encouraged to embrace both.  

We are taught that the Bible from beginning to end is about our personal  spiritual development.  We see within its stories our progression from a lifeless, formless spiritual being to a thriving, living spiritual entity.  It is certainly fitting then that the creation story–the first story of the Word–is a metaphor for our own spiritual transformation.  A setting the stage for all that is to follow.

On the first day, or in the first stage in our development, we see the earth, previously without form and void, touched with light–separating light from darkness.  The promise of the first day is that if we will acknowledge a power outside of ourselves that is greater than we, in our minds the light of truth will begin to dawn.  

On the second day there is a separation of the waters below and the waters above.  If we remain in this attitude of mind and try to respond to the light of truth which the Lord has shined upon us, He will then grant us the ability to discern which knowledges, truths, and ideas are our own and which are God’s.  This enables us to then make good choices–knowingly choosing higher ideals.

On the third day the dry land appears and a distinction is made between the dry land and the seas.  The dry land begins to bring forth grass, herbs, and fruit trees that reproduce themselves.  This describes what happens when we begin to separate ourselves from false ideas and destructive tendencies.  Our mind (the dry land) then becomes fertile, ready to receive new living ideas from the Lord that can begin to grow into life.  We progress from actively thinking about heavenly truths to applying them to our lives.

On the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars are created and set in the sky.   Light is given to the earth and light is again divided from darkness.  In this fourth stage love, represented by the sun, is now present in the internal self, and faith, represented by the moon, is present in the external self or understanding.  Love to and faith in the Lord are born within us in the internal self, and with that, knowledges of heaven are also born.  These lights or truths shine from the internal self and begin to govern the activities of our minds and lives, and so we really begin to live for the first time guided from within by the Lord.

On the fifth day God created the fish and the sea creatures as well as the birds of the air.  This illustrates that when we are committed to following the Lord in life, He allows the ideas in our memory to begin to take form, and to come to life–beginning  to truly serve us.  When we are in doubt or feeling fear, the memory of an experience or an idea surfaces within us.   And our thoughts begin to soar to higher heights, as truths wing their way through our minds, lifting us above thoughts of only ourselves.

On the sixth day God created all the creatures that dwell on the earth–the cattle, the beasts of the field, and every creeping thing.  God also created His crowning work–the human being–the male and the female.  This is the promise that good affections and loves will be created within us by the Lord.  The selfish, angry, resentful, and fearful feelings will be replaced by feelings of hope, joy, delight, happiness, and kindness.  These feelings are represented by the warm blooded animals that God created.  And the male and the female and their union symbolize the unity within us of our will and our understanding.  What we love will be what we think about, and what we think about will be what we love.  There will be a marriage in our lives of goodness with true ideas–giving us strength and stability.

Finally on the seventh day, God rests from all of His labors.  The work is done.  God no longer has to fight so hard for us.  We are now operating in a spiritually healthy way from within and from true strength.  

This story illustrates a beautiful promise which the Lord has offered.  If we will turn to God in our lives, live by the truth of His Word, and ask for His strength, we will find true spirituality and true peace.