Preparation for the Messiah – Part 1
The Period of Preparation
for the Second Advent of the Messiah
The period of preparation for the Second Advent of the Messiah was the four-hundred-year period from the Protestant Reformation in 1517 to the end of World War I in 1918. The character of this period was already summarized in comparison with the parallel period of preparation for the advent of the Messiah, but a more detailed examination will be made here. With respect to the providence of restoration, this period is divided into three periods: the period of the Reformation, the period of religious and ideological conflicts, and the period of the maturation of politics, economy and ideology.
The Period of the Reformation (1517-1648)
The 130-year period of the Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther raised the banner of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, and lasted until the wars of religion were settled by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The character of this period was shaped by the Renaissance and the Reformation, both products of medieval feudal society. When the purpose of God’s providence through medieval society was not fulfilled, the direction of providential history shifted and God worked to establish anew the foundation for the Second Advent of the Messiah through the Renaissance and the Reformation. Therefore, we cannot understand the nature of this period without studying these two events.
Let us begin by looking back at medieval society and examining what influences it exerted upon the original nature of the people of that age which led them to embark upon the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. In the late Middle Ages, man’s original mind was repressed, its free development blocked by the social environment of feudalism and the secularization and corruption of the Roman church. Faith is the path each person must walk in search of God. Faith should be nurtured through a direct vertical relationship between God and each individual. Yet in that age, the papacy and the clergy, with their rituals and dogmas, constrained the people’s devotional life. Moreover, the rigid social stratification of feudalism did not allow for religious freedom. Meanwhile, religious offices were bought and sold. Bishops and priests often exploited their offices to lead lives of luxury and decadence. As a consequence, the papacy lost its sanctity and became no different than other institutions of worldly power. It lost the ability to guide the spiritual lives of the people. In this way, the social environment of the late Middle Ages blocked the path through which the original nature of the people could be restored. Fettered by such circumstances, medieval Europeans were prompted by the impulses of their innermost hearts to break down their social environment to open the way for the restoration of their original nature.
Our original nature may be divided into two aspects: internal and external. Let us examine this with reference to the Principle of Creation. As the substantial object partners to God in image, we resonate with His dual characteristics and bear the likeness of His original internal nature and original external form. The give and take between our internal nature and external form is the basis upon which we exist and thrive. Accordingly, our original nature seeks to fulfill two types of desires: internal and external. When God conducts the providence to restore us, He accommodates these two pursuits of our original nature.
God created the physical self of the first humans before creating their spiritual self.1(Gen. 2:7)CEV|KJ|NI Accordingly, in the providence of restoration, God recreates us by restoring first what is external and then what is internal. It was explained earlier2(cf. Foundation 1.3) that we fallen people can make the substantial offering, which is internal, only after successfully completing the symbolic offering, which is external. After these are achieved, we establish the foundation for the Messiah, which is even more internal.
The process of restoring fallen people’s relationship to God has also progressed from external to internal. God first restored people to the position of servant of servants3(Gen. 9:25)CEV|KJ|NI in the period prior to the Old Testament Age by having them offer sacrifices. Next, He restored people to the position of servants4(Lev. 25:55)CEV|KJ|NI in the Old Testament Age through the Mosaic Law. In the New Testament Age, God has restored us to the position of adopted children5(Rom. 8:23)CEV|KJ|NI through our faith. Finally, in the Completed Testament Age, He will restore us to the position of true children through heart.6(cf. Moses and Jesus 3.3.2)
In the same way, God first worked to restore our external social environment through science and then worked to restore our spirituality through religion. In the order of creation, angels, who are external, were created before people, who are internal. In restoration, God first raises up the angelic world, which is external, and mobilizes it for restoring the external, physical world centering on the human body and then the internal, spirit world centering on the human spirit.
Medieval Europeans were to restore their original God-given nature by first severing their ties to Satan, who had defiled the society when the papacy failed its internal responsibility to restore the foundation of faith and sank into immorality. As people pursued the recovery of the internal and external aspects of their original nature, the thought of the age branched out into two movements to recover the heritage of the past, which we distinguish in relative terms as Abel-type and Cain-type. The Cain-type movement began as a revival of Hellenism, the culture and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. It gave rise to the Renaissance,7 whose core value was humanism. The Abel-type movement began as a revival of the Hebraic heritage of Israel and the early Christian Church. It gave rise to the Protestant Reformation, whose core value was faith in God.
The trends of Hebraism and Hellenism had formed long ago and had encountered each other several times in the course of prior history. From 2000 B.C., the Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete, succeeded by the Mycenaean civilization on the Greek mainland. By the eleventh century, these civilizations had created a Cain-type Hellenic civilization, whose guiding ideology was humanism. Around the same time in the Near East, the Abel-type Hebraic civilization was born, with Jewish monotheism as its guiding ideology. This was the period of the united kingdom. Had the kings of Israel in that period laid the foundation for the Messiah and received him, this flourishing Hebraic civilization could have assimilated the waning Hellenic civilization to form one worldwide civilization. However, when the kings failed to fulfill the Will of God, this dispensation was not accomplished. Instead, after the Jews were taken into exile in Babylon, they returned only to be put under subjection to the Greeks in 333 B.C. and then to Rome in 63 B.C. Thus, during the centuries leading up to and including Jesus’ time, Hebraism was placed under the dominion of Hellenism.
Had the Jewish people honored Jesus and united under him, the Roman Empire would have become the messianic kingdom under the reign of Christ. Hebraism then would have assimilated Hellenism to form one worldwide Hebraic civilization. Instead, when Jesus was rejected and this providence was frustrated, Hebraism remained under subjection to Hellenism. In 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine officially recognized Christianity by the Edict of Milan. From that time on, Hebraism gradually began to overcome Hellenism. By the beginning of the eighth century, it had formed two civilizations: Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic Christianity.
Had the popes and emperors who were responsible for restoring the foundation of faith in the Carolingian period not become faithless, the foundation for the Second Advent of the Messiah would have been established at that time. Hebraism would have completely assimilated Hellenism to form one worldwide civilization. Instead, their faithlessness and immorality allowed Satan to corrupt the guiding medieval ideology, which was founded upon Hebraism. As a consequence, God had to conduct a new dispensation for the separation of Satan. Just as God had divided fallen Adam into Cain and Abel to separate Satan, God divided the prevailing ideology of the Middle Ages into two trends of thought: the movements to revive Cain-type Hellenism and Abel-type Hebraism. These bore fruit in the Renaissance and the Reformation, respectively.
The Hellenic trend of thought, revived by the humanism of the Renaissance, soon took a dominant position over the Hebraic trend. This period was thus to restore through parallel indemnity conditions that phase in the period of preparation for the advent of the Messiah when the Jewish people were under the dominion of the Greeks and Hebraism was under subjection to Hellenism. We recall that only by Cain submitting to Abel could Satan be separated from Adam, thereby laying the foundation of substance necessary for receiving the Messiah in Adam’s family. Likewise, only by Cain-type Hellenism submitting to Abel-type Hebraism could Satan be separated from the prevailing spirit of the age. Then the foundation of substance necessary for receiving Christ at the Second Advent could be established worldwide.
It was explained above that the Renaissance grew out of the external pursuits of the original nature. What values were the medieval people pursuing? Why and how did they pursue these values?
According to the Principle of Creation, we are created to attain perfection by fulfilling our given responsibility of our own free will, without God’s direct assistance. We are then to attain oneness with God and acquire true autonomy. Therefore, it is the calling of our original nature to pursue freedom and autonomy. A person of perfect character understands the Will of God and puts it into practice through his own insight and reason, without the need to rely on revelations from God. Hence, it is only natural that we pursue reason and understanding. We also are endowed with the God-given right to master the natural world, to tame and cultivate it in order to create a pleasant living environment, by investigating the hidden laws of nature through science. Hence, we value the natural world, pursue science, and esteem the practical life.
In medieval feudal society, the original human nature had long been repressed. Hence, people were all the more ardent in their pursuit of these values, which arose from the external promptings of their original nature. They began to probe into the classical heritage of Hellenism, which they imported from the Muslims as a result of expanded contacts with the East after the Crusades. The classical Greeks and Romans had pursued the external aspirations of the original human nature. They valued freedom, autonomy, reason, the natural world and the practical life. They developed the sciences to a considerable degree. Since these were in full accord with the desire of the original nature in medieval man, the movement to revive the ancient heritage of Hellenism caught fire. Renaissance humanism thus rose to prominence.
The Renaissance came to life in fourteenth-century Italy, which was the center of the study of the classical Hellenic heritage. Though it began as a movement imitating the thought and life of ancient Greece and Rome, it soon developed into a wider movement which transformed the medieval way of life. It expanded beyond the sphere of culture to encompass every aspect of society, including politics, economic life and religion. In fact, it became the external driving force for the construction of the modern world.
The providence of restoration centering on the medieval papacy did not bear fruit due to the secularization and decadence of the Church leadership. Consequently, as the people advocated humanism, they also rebelled against the ritualism and rules of the Church which were constraining their free devotion. They fought against the stratified feudal system and papal authority which deprived them of autonomy. They protested the medieval view that faith required unquestioning obedience to the dictates of the Church in all areas of life, which denied them the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience based on their own reading of the Bible. They also questioned the other-worldly and ascetic monastic ideal which devalued the natural world, science and the practical affairs of life. Out of these grievances, many medieval Christians revolted against the rule of the papacy.
Accordingly, as medieval Europeans sought to realize the external aspirations of their original nature, they also began to pursue its repressed internal aspirations. They called for the revival of the spirit of early Christianity, when believers zealously lived for the Will of God, guided by the words of Jesus and the apostles. This medieval movement to revive Hebraism began with John Wycliffe (1324-1384), a professor of theology at Oxford University, who translated the Bible into English. He asserted that neither the papacy nor the priesthood could determine the standard of faith, but only the Bible itself. Demonstrating that many of the dogmas, ceremonies and rules of the Church had no basis in Scripture, he denounced the priesthood for its decadence, exploitation of the people and abuse of power.
The Protestant Reformation thus had roots in fourteenth-century England, when papal dignity was at a low point. Similar movements for reform also arose in fifteenth-century Bohemia and Italy, but they were crushed and their leaders executed. To raise funds to build St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Leo X began selling indulgences, which Catholic doctrine affirmed would remit the penalty for sin due in the next life. When this indulgence was proclaimed in Germany in 1517, a movement to protest this abuse ignited a fuse which exploded in the Protestant Reformation under the leadership of Martin Luther (1483-1546), a professor of biblical theology at the University of Wittenberg. The flames of the Reformation grew strong and soon spread to Switzerland under the leadership of Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), to France as led by John Calvin (1509-1564), and into such nations as England and the Netherlands.
The wars of religion which swirled around the Protestant movements continued for more than one hundred years until 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War. Protestantism triumphed in Northern Europe, while among the peoples of Southern Europe the Roman Catholic church solidified its influence.
The Thirty Years’ War between Protestants and Catholics was fought on the soil of Germany. However, this conflict was not simply a religious war. More than that, it was a civil and political conflict to decide the fate of the German states. The Treaty of Westphalia, which concluded this war, was both a religious settlement which established an accommodation between the Protestants and Catholics and a political settlement which resolved international territorial disputes among such nations as Austria, France, Sweden and Spain.
The Period of Religious and Ideological Conflicts
The period of religious and ideological conflicts refers to the 140 years beginning with the secure establishment of Protestantism at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and ending with the French Revolution in 1789. As modern people continued to pursue the internal and external desires flowing from their original nature, they could not avoid divisions in theology and disputes among philosophies which arose as they exercised freedom of faith and thought.
As previously discussed, God has worked His providence of restoration throughout the course of history by repeatedly separating those representing Abel from those representing Cain, from the individual level to the world level. In the Last Days, this fallen world is divided into the Cain-type communist world and the Abel-type democratic world. Just as the foundation of substance could have been laid in Adam’s family had Cain submitted to Abel and obeyed him, in the Last Days the Cain-type world is to submit to the Abel-type world to establish the worldwide foundation of substance. This is necessary before we can receive Christ at the Second Advent and realize the unified world. For this to happen, the two views of life which would later mature into these two worlds had to be developed in this period.
The pursuit of the external aspects of the original nature first aroused a movement to revive the ancient heritage of Hellenism and gave birth to the humanism of the Renaissance. Renaissance humanism opposed medieval culture by elevating the dignity of human beings and the value of the natural world over devotion to God and religious dedication. The medieval mind had prized obedience to God while belittling the natural world and regarding the human body as base and even sinful. The Renaissance established a new perspective on life, one which exalted the value of human beings and nature and sought to understand them through reason and experience, logic and experiment. Spurred by the progress of natural science, this view of life gave rise to two major schools of modern philosophy: rationalism, based on the deductive method and empiricism, based on the inductive method.
Rationalism, founded by the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650), maintained that the investigation of truth can be founded only on man’s innate reason. After doubting every truth received from history and tradition, Descartes was left with only his reason, as expressed in the proposition, “I think; therefore, I am.” From this first principle, he used the deductive method to affirm knowledge about the external world. Although Descartes accepted and even tried to prove the existence of God based on reason, later rationalists ended up doubting or even denying God’s existence.
The English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) founded empiricism, which held that truth can be investigated only through one’s experience. This school asserted that the human mind is like a blank sheet of paper (tabula rasa). It held that to attain new knowledge, one must erase all prejudices and try to comprehend the truth through experience and observation of the external world. Rationalism, which valued human reason while turning away from God, and empiricism, which prized human experience and experimental science, both did away with mysticism and superstition. Whether by using reason or empirical observation to guide human life, they both tended to divorce human beings and the natural world from God.
The Renaissance launched these two currents of thought, which were rooted in humanism. Instead of facilitating the internal inclination to seek God, it gave birth to a view of life which encouraged people to follow only external pursuits. This blocked their path to God and led them toward Satan’s realm. For this reason, it is called the Cain-type view of life. By the turn of the eighteenth century, the Cain-type view of life had broken down the verities enshrined by history and tradition. All matters in human life came to be judged by reason or empirical observation. Anything deemed irrational or other-worldly, including belief in the God of the Bible, was thoroughly discredited. People’s energies were narrowly directed toward the practical life. Such was the ideology of the Enlightenment, which developed out of the two trends of empiricism and rationalism. The Enlightenment was the driving force behind the French Revolution.
Representative of this Cain-type view of life was deism, founded by the English philosopher Edward Herbert (1583-1648). Deism propounded a theology rooted entirely in human reason. Deists rejected the notion that there could be any harmony between revelation and reason, a traditional view held since the time of Thomas Aquinas. They limited God to a Creator who set the universe in motion and left it to run of its own accord according to the laws of nature which He had set up. They denied that people had any need of divine revelation or miracles.
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the German philosopher G.W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) made a comprehensive synthesis of eighteenth-century idealism. However, many of the followers of Hegel were influenced by the atheism and materialism of the French Enlightenment and propounded the school of left-wing Hegelianism, which turned the logic of Hegel’s dialectic on its head. D.F. Strauss (1808-1874), a left-Hegelian, wrote The Life of Jesus, which denied the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’ miracles as fabrications by his credulous followers. Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) argued in The Essence of Christianity that God was nothing other than the projection of people’s inward psychological nature. Their arguments became foundational for modern atheism and materialism.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) systematized the logic of the left-wing Hegelians as dialectical materialism. They were influenced by Strauss and Feuerbach and also by French socialism. They combined dialectical materialism with atheism and socialism to create the ideology of communism. In this way, the Cain-type view of life, which budded after the Renaissance and grew through the Enlightenment into atheism and materialism, matured into the godless ideology of Marxism, which became the cornerstone of the communist world of today.
Some people regard the progress of history from the medieval to the modern world as a process which has alienated people from God and religion. This is because they view history according to the Cain-type view of life. The original nature, however, not only pursues external values; it also seeks internal values. As medieval people were prompted by their original nature to pursue internal values, a movement arose to revive Hebraism which bore fruit in the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation spawned philosophies and religious teachings which developed a multi-dimensional view of life seeking to realize the God-given, original nature of human beings. We call this the Abel-type view of life. Even as the Cain-type view of life led away from God and faith, the Abel-type view of life guided modern people to seek God in a deeper and more thoughtful way.
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) analyzed philosophically the internal and external pursuits of the original nature, thus pioneering the Abel-type view of life in the philosophical sphere.8 In his Critical Philosophy, he assimilated the conflicting theories of empiricism and rationalism. According to Kant, our various sensations occur by contact with external objects. These alone may give us the contents of cognition but cannot actualize the cognition itself. To have full cognition, one must possess certain forms of intuition and thought (which are a priori and transcendental) with which to unify the various contents (which are a posteriori and experiential) through a synthetic judgment. These forms of intuition and thought are the very subjectivity of the self. Therefore, cognition is actualized when the various sensations coming from external objects are integrated and unified with one’s subjective forms by the spontaneous action of thinking and understanding. Thus, Kant overturned empiricism, which held that cognition is determined by external objects, and established a new theory that cognition is governed by the subjective mind. Kant’s philosophy was succeeded by a number of idealist philosophers: Johann G. Fichte (1762-1814), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) and G.W. F. Hegel. Hegel, in particular, pioneered a new philosophy based on the Hegelian dialectic. Their idealism solidified the Abel-type view of life in the field of philosophy.
In the religious sphere, new movements emerged which opposed the prevailing influence of rationalism in religion and stressed the importance of religious zeal and the inner life. They valued mystical experience over doctrines and rituals. For example, Pietism appeared in Germany under the leadership of Philip Spener (1635-1705). This movement had a strong conservative bent and adhered to the traditional faith while simultaneously emphasizing mystical experience.
Pietism spread to England and flourished among the faithful there, giving rise to new church movements including Methodism, founded by the Wesley brothers (John, 1703-1791, and Charles, 1707-1788). Their work brought about a great revival in England, which had been in a state of spiritual stagnation.
George Fox (1624-1691), the English mystic who founded the Quakers, asserted that Christ is the inner light which illuminates the souls of believers. He insisted that unless one first receives the Holy Spirit, joins in mystical union with Jesus and experiences Christ’s inner light, he cannot understand the true meaning of the Bible. The Quakers endured severe persecution in England but eventually prospered in America.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a renowned scientist whose spiritual senses were awakened; he began a systematic investigation of the spirit world and discovered many of its secrets. Although his research was long ignored by theologians, recently, as increasing numbers of people have communicated with the spirit world, its value is gradually being recognized. In these diverse ways, the Abel-type view of life was maturing to form the democratic world of today.
7. “Renaissance” is a French word meaning rebirth.
8. Kant’s ethical theory may illustrate this point even more clearly. Kant believed that neither reason nor observation could provide a sound basis for knowledge of God. He argued that we can best apprehend the reality of God through moral law, which operates within the conscience of every person. Thus, he gave philosophical grounding for the Abel-type view of life. -Ed.