29. The Two Witnesses (Jn 5:30-37)

John Chapter 5:30-37
I am able to do nothing from Myself; just as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, for I do not seek My will, but the will of the One sending Me, the Father. (31) If I witness concerning Myself, My witness is not true; (32) it is Another that witnesses concerning Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses concerning Me is true. (33) You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. (34) But I do not receive witness from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. (35) That one was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to exult in his light for an hour. (36) But I have the greater witness than John’s, for the works which the Father has given Me, that I should finish them, the works which I do, themselves, witness concerning Me, that the Father has sent Me. (37) And the Father, the One sending Me, has Himself borne witness concerning Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor have you seen His form.

Apocalypse Explained 635 by Emanuel Swedenborg
[2] The reason why…goods and truths are meant by witnesses, is, that…goods and truths, or, all who are in them, acknowledge and confess the Lord. For it is the proceeding Divine that is called Divine Good and Divine Truth, from which comes the good of love to God and the good of charity towards the neighbour, and thence the truth of doctrine and the truth of faith, which witness concerning Him; it therefore follows that they who are in them also witness concerning the Lord, that is, acknowledge and confess Him. For it is the Divine that witnesses concerning the Divine, and not man from himself; consequently it is the Lord in the good of love, and in the truth of doctrine from that, which are with man, that do this.

[3] Since all acknowledgment and confession of the Lord, and principally the acknowledgment and confession of the Divine in His Human, is from the Lord Himself, and since to witness signifies to acknowledge and confess this, therefore “to witness ” is used in the following passages to denote acknowledgment and confession from the Lord Himself concerning Himself.

In John:

“Search the Scriptures, for they are they which bear witness of me” (v. 3 9).

The Sacred Scripture, or the Word, is the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, and the proceeding Divine is the Lord Himself in heaven and in the church, so when it is said that the Scriptures bear witness of Him, it is meant that the Lord Himself bears witness of Himself.

Again:

“I am he that bears witness of myself, and my Father who sent me, bears witness of me” (viii. 18).

Here it is openly declared that the Lord Himself, or the Divine in Him, bears witness of Him.


Truth in order for it to be true can never be something separate from love or good. The very definition of truth given in these words is that it speaks of love and goodness and of these alone. Now because the Word is the Truth we can trust it to lead and guide us into a genuine spiritual life. So here in these verses the Lord teaches us what the nature and quality of Divine truth is. Yet how can we be sure that the Word is the truth? If we come at it intellectually and claim it to be the truth because it says so, or that the church teaches it is so, but don’t take it any further then we remain in what the Heavenly Doctrines call a historical faith which is not a saving faith. You see the Lord gives us the ability to read and understand statements of truth by giving us an intellectual faculty. But having an intellectual understanding of truth means that it remains outside of us. Truth doesn’t become something in our life until we actually live our lives from it.

We can make the mistake of thinking that because we have truths from the Word in our minds and can think about them and speak about them that they are in us. But nothing spiritual is actually in us until it becomes one with our will. This is because our intellect is not where our sense of self lies, it lies in our will. The Heavenly Doctrines state that a person is their will. The will is the seat of all our desires and loves, so, just as the understanding contains those things belonging to the intellect the will contains those things belonging to loves and affections. We need to understand that the will of the natural man is corrupt to its core and all that is connected with it is opposed to what is spiritual and so to the loves belonging to heaven. In fact the Heavenly Doctrines teach us that until a person becomes spiritual they don’t actually have a proper will. Rather that they are driven by an infinite variety of lusts or desires that arise within their minds and compete for gratification.

It’s a spiritual fact that we are all born into the world natural, which means we are all born with our sense of self immersed in the loves or lusts of natural life. This level of life is nothing but selfishness and while it can’t be saved or redeemed, we, i.e. our sense of self, can be. The purpose for the giving of the Word or Divine truths is so that we can have our sense of ourselves lifted out of the things the old will delights in into a new will which the Lord looks to create from our understanding of truths.

The truths through which this lifting of our sense of self from its identification with the delights and pleasures that flow from the lower, fallen will are found in the Word. The desire to seek to investigate these truths to find out what it means to live a genuine spiritual life is built up by the Lord secretly despite the dire condition of the natural man. The desire to search flows from what the Heavenly Doctrines call remains. These remains are impressions of things good and true that a person has come into contact with over the course of their life.

They can be as simple as a kind word spoken in a moment of need, a look of acknowledgement, an act of empathy, or the gentle squeeze of a compassionate hand. The countless number of expressions of such acts each day is how the Lord breaks into the selfish world of the human existence; more often than not unacknowledged, yet they serve as the little that remains of His presence, urging every person on to something higher, to a better way where human beings are able to consciously acknowledge this witness. I am reminded of the statement in the opening chapter of John where it says of this…

Joh 1:5 and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

We need to remind ourselves often that the simple and great acts of love and usefulness expressed around us each day are the Lord impressing on human consciousness a sense of His abiding presence in the darkness of human selfishness and ignorance concerning spiritual life. These acts continue to be expressed despite this darkness and so keeps open the possibility of people being lifted into a spiritually meaningful life, indeed as the scripture states…”the light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t overcome it.” In this chapter we read…”My Father works until now, and I am working…”

The purpose of truth is to bring light, to enlighten our minds so that we can more fully appreciate the Lord’s presence with us as the Word. The light shines in the darkness of ignorance, yet it shines in the hope that peoples’ ignorance can be dispelled and that all might enter into a sense of conscious co-operation with the Lord in the processes of their recreation or spiritual regeneration.

We have seen how the terms Father and Son are to be understood in the Word and these verses from today’s reading extend and reinforce the teaching of their oneness. In verse 30 we have…

Joh 5:30 I am able to do nothing from Myself; just as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, for I do not seek My will, but the will of the One sending Me, the Father.

These words offer us deep insight into the nature of the Lord’s Human, or the Word. We need to remember that the Divine Love seeks one thing, to raise all into heavenly states of life. But no one can be raised into these states without being regenerated, for it is by regeneration that the mind is recreated into a form that is able to receive what is higher into itself. This process cannot be hurried and it progresses only to the degree that a person allows truths into their life. This is because truths you take into your life work to transform your mind into a form of heaven.

When the Word says…”I am able to do nothing from Myself…” it means that everything in the Word is from the Divine goodness or love and so is always working to bring about our salvation. The Lord always works with the eternal welfare of all as His objective. This means we can fully trust in the Word in every state of life we find ourselves to carry us forward in accordance with the plans and purposes God has for our life. In the words, “just as I hear, I judge” we learn that the Divine Truth “hears” or obeys (to hear spiritually means to obey or will), or is aligned with, the Divine Love and that the judgement it effects is in accordance with what the Divine Love seeks which is our salvation.

We learn that the judgement that proceeds from the Word is “just” for there is nothing of self interest in it. It seeks only the will of the Divine Love or “Father.” This judgement the Word makes has nothing to do with the Lord casting a person into hell or admitting them into heaven. This is how the natural man understands judgement in the Word. The natural man uses the letter of the Word to set itself up as judge over it and others. Spiritual judgement is not concerned with such things. Its concern is only focussed on a person’s spiritual welfare, for the Word, or the Divine Truth brings light that we might see the quality of what lies within us so that the thoughts and affections which are born of the hells might be acknowledged for what they are and cast out so that our sense of self might become established in what is of heaven.

The Lord’s human or body is the Word, or the Holy Scriptures. And so the words of Sacred Scripture acts like a body within which is its Soul, the Divine Love. On the surface the Scriptures appear very human, they use natural human language, terms and concepts and they do so for our benefit. For without this very human body of natural language we wouldn’t have anything with which we can connect with the Lord, nor could the Lord connect with us.

The Scriptures are the means by which the Divine Love works its purposes for our salvation, for we are left in freedom before the Word to choose whether we will live from it or not. If we choose to live from the Word so we will come more and more into a sense of the Divine presence within it as its spiritual sense begins to shine through and illuminate our life. The Glorification of the Lord is the Glorification of the Word and the Word is glorified as our spiritual perception is opened through the removal of evils in our life. The Divine Truth doesn’t act independently of the Divine Love; it acts from it as a body acts from its soul.

But for us to know this we must live from the Word. We must come to know it as a lived wisdom otherwise it will remain as something known in the head but not experienced on a heart level. Think of someone you love and trust. Your love for and trust in them arises from having had a lived, deep, personal experience of them through the sharing of your lives together. You trust them because your shared journey has taken you beyond the mere surface aspects of each others characters. We can approach the Word as a book that tells us about a divine man in history and fail to see that the divine man in history actually came into the world to point us to, and so restore to human consciousness, the living Word or the Sacred Scriptures as the very presence of the Lord in our midst.

The former view is that of the natural man who separates the Word from his idea of the Lord. They are seen as two distinct things. The Lord off in heaven somewhere and the Word here in a book that tells us about the Lord. The latter view is that of the spiritual man who sees the Word and the Lord as One and doesn’t separate them in his thought. For the Divine Truth IS the Word and this IS the Son and within the Son, which IS the Divine Human, IS the Father. If we separate in our thought the Lord and the Word, we separate the soul from its body or the Divine and the Human.

Whenever this takes place the Word becomes secondary in its importance to our conception of the Divine and it ends in a denial of the Divinity of the Lord’s human or the Word. What remains is an adherence to the letter of the Word and its surface meaning, but its inner meaning or spiritual sense is rejected because this challenges the natural man to its core and demands a response it is not willing to give. This is the natural state of life represented by “the Jews” of which we read…

Joh 5:33-35 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. (34) But I do not receive witness from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. (35) That one was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to exult in his light for an hour.

This speaks to having come into contact with what the letter of the Word declares concerning itself, for John represents the literal sense of the Word and so, to “send to John” is to inquire into what the Scripture teaches concerning the Lord. And it “testifies to the truth” which means that even the natural man if he is willing can see that the literal sense points to the truth that God is the Word. And while this can be intellectually acknowledged by the natural man and be held as a belief for a time so that he is able to exult or rejoice in its light for an hour if the belief has no real impact on how he approaches life then how can he be saved?

There are two witnesses that must be held together if we are to be saved. The first is to acknowledge that the Lord’s human is Divine, or to acknowledge that the Word is God. This is the witness of John or the literal sense of the Word and it is an external witness belonging to the understanding, and is called the witness from man. The second witness is that of the will, and has to do with our response to what we understand. This is the witness of the living experience of truth operating within and transforming the life of our thoughts and affections. This is…

Joh 5:36-37 … the greater witness than John’s, for the works which the Father has given Me, that I should finish them, the works which I do, themselves, witness concerning Me, that the Father has sent Me. (37) And the Father, the One sending Me, has Himself borne witness concerning Me.

How can we know that the Word is the Divine Truth…we must live from it for in living from it we become first hand witnesses of the power of the Word to deliver us from all evils.

Amen.

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