The Four Ages

- from the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

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Concerning the statue of Nebuchadnezzar we read as follows:

This dream did not signify four political kingdoms on this earth, but four churches, which should follow one after another, may be evident from the following considerations:

  1. That such kingdoms, one after another, have not existed on this earth.
  2. That the Divine Word, in its bosom, does not treat of the kingdoms of the world, but of churches, which constitute the kingdom of God on the earth.
  3. Also, because it is said that the God of the heavens shall raise up a kingdom which shall not be destroyed to the ages, and that a stone, cut out, not by hands, became a great rock, which filled the whole earth.
  4. And, because the Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ, in the Word of both Testaments, is called the "Stone" and "Rock," it is manifest that His kingdom is meant by the last words in this passage.
  5. Moreover, the state of the church is described, in innumerable passages of the Word, by "gold," "silver," "brass," and "iron;" its spiritual state as to the good of love by "gold," its spiritual state as to the truth of wisdom by "silver," its natural state as to the good of charity by "brass," and its natural state as to the truth of faith by "iron," as may be seen confirmed from the Word in the Apocalypse Revealed (AR n. 913), and elsewhere.

For this reason, the wise in the first ages, who knew the significations of metals, compared the ages, which were to follow one another from the first to the last, to those four metals, and called the first age "golden," the second age "silver," the third age "copper," and the fourth age "iron;" and they described them thus according to goods and truths; and because genuine goods and truths are from no other origin than from the God of heaven, they described them according to the states of the church with those who lived in those ages; for from these, and according to these, all the civil states of kingdoms as to justice and judgment exist, flourish and live.

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