A topic which is of continuing interest to members of the New Church is why the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity within 300 years after the birth of Christ, while today only a handful of people scattered around the world have accepted the Crown of Revelations. We live over 200 years after Swedenborg had written the concluding volume of the Writings. Why so quickly in the first case, why so slowly has the New Church spread in the second? There is no clear-cut answer for the difference in time of the acceptance of the Christian Church compared with that of its successor, the New Church. Yet it may be profitable to explore some of the possible reasons.
The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem give us a new perspective from which to view the past. They tell us that every man, nation, and race was created to perform some specific use in the complex organization called the Grand Man of heaven (HH 59). Men from our earth are said to perform uses related to the skin in the human body (SD 1741, 1531). As individual men grow into the fullness of use, so the human race grew. History is the record of this growth. The study of history puts us into communication with the past. We cannot understand ourselves, who we are, and how we became what we are, without some idea of where we came from. How did we get here? What are our origins—our roots? It has been said "that a generation which ignores history is destined to repeat the mistakes of the past." But there is far more to it—a generation which ignores the past seriously limits its own present. Treasures ignored or not understood lie buried awaiting an enlightened age for rediscovery. The Writings enable scholars to dig into the past and discover rich veins of spiritually precious metals.
In order to understand New Church doctrinal truths, one of the impending necessities is to know what is meant by each theological term so often used in the Writings. This is true not only for theologians and general readers, but also for translators, whose duty is to represent the original texts in understandable indigenous language. With some conceivable risks to be taken, the above is true for me, in translating the Writings into Japanese. As many people already know, the Japanese language has little in common with the languages which our New Philosophy readers might know, much less with Latinic languages. It has a totally different orientation and background in terms of linguophonetics, grammatical syntax and etymo-philological background. Other differences can also be found by further analysis, in terms of ethno-historical, socio-anthropological and religio-cultural perspectives.