328. These propositions are now to be demonstrated in their order:
First: Every religion in process of time declines and is consummated. On this earth there have been several Churches, one after another; as wherever the human race exists there a Church exists; for, as was shown above, heaven which is the end of creation is from the human race; and no one can enter heaven unless he is in the two universals of the Church which, as was shown above (n. 326), are the acknowledgment of God and the leading of a good life. Hence it follows that there have been Churches on this earth from the most ancient times down to the present. These Churches are described in the Word, but not historically with the exception of the Israelitish and Jewish Church. Before that, however, there were Several that are only described in the Word under the names of nations and of persons, and by certain particulars concerning them.  The Most Ancient Church, which was the first, is described under the name of Adam and his wife Eve. The Church that followed, called the Ancient Church, is described under the name of Noah, his three sons and their posterity. This was a wide spread Church, extending over many of the kingdoms of Asia, namely, the land of Canaan on both sides of the Jordan, Syria, Assyria and Chaldea, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Arabia, Tyre and Sidon. These had the ancient Word referred to in THE DOCTRINE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM CONCERNING THE SACRED SCRIPTURE (n. 101-103). That such a Church existed in those kingdoms is evident from various particulars recorded concerning them in the prophetical parts of the Word. This Church, however, was notably changed by Eber, from whom arose the Hebrew Church, in which worship by sacrifices was first instituted. From the Hebrew Church sprang the Israelitish and Jewish Church, established with due solemnity for the sake of the Word which was there to be written.  These four Churches are meant by the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, the head of which was of pure gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, and the legs and feet of iron and clay (Dan. ii. 32, 33). The same is meant by the golden, the silver, the copper and the iron ages, mentioned by ancient writers. It is well known that the Christian Church succeeded the Jewish Church; and it may be seen from the Word that all these Churches in process of time declined until they reached their end, which is called their consummation.  The consummation of the Most Ancient Church, brought about by the eating of the tree of knowledge, by which is signified the pride of one's own intelligence, is described by the Flood. The consummation of the Ancient Church is described by various devastations of nations treated of both in the historical and in the prophetical parts of the Word, especially by the driving out of the nations from the land of Canaan by the Children of Israel. The consummation of the Church of Israel and Judah is under stood by the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and by the carrying away of the people of Israel into perpetual captivity, and of the Jewish nation to Babylon, and finally by the second destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem at the same time and the dispersion of that nation. This consummation is foretold in many places in the Prophets and in Daniel ix. 24-27; while the gradual devastation of the Christian Church until its end is described by the Lord in Matthew xxiv, in Mark xiii, and in Luke xxi, but the consummation itself in the Apocalypse. From these considerations it may be evident that a Church in process of time declines and is consummated; and so also does a religion.  Second: Every religion declines and is consummated by the inversion of the image of God in man. It is well known that man was created in the image of God, according to the likeness of God (Gen. i. 26). It will now be explained what the image and what the likeness of God is. God alone is Love and Wisdom; and man was created to be a receptacle of both, that his will might be a receptacle of the Divine Love and his understanding a receptacle of the Divine Wisdom. It was shown above that these two receptacles are in man from creation, that they constitute man and that they are formed in everyone in the womb. Thus man's being an image of God means that he is a recipient of the Divine Wisdom, and his being a likeness of God means that he is a recipient of the Divine Love. Therefore the receptacle called the understanding is an image of God, and the receptacle called the will is a likeness of God. Since man then was created and formed to be a receptacle, it follows that he was created and formed that his will might receive love from God and that his understanding might receive wisdom from God. These man receives when he acknowledges God and lives according to His commandments, but in a lesser or greater degree as he has from religion a knowledge of God and of His commandments; and consequently as he has a knowledge of truths; for truths teach what God is and how He is to be acknowledged, also what His commandments are and how man is to live according to them.  The image and likeness of God are not destroyed in man though they may be seemingly destroyed; for they remain inherent in his two faculties called liberty and rationality, which have been treated of above in many places. They have become seemingly destroyed when man has made the receptacle of Divine Love, that is, his will, a receptacle of self-love, and the receptacle of Divine Wisdom, that is, his understanding, a receptacle of his own intelligence. By doing this he has inverted the image and likeness of God, for he has turned these receptacles away from God and has turned them towards himself. Consequently they have become closed above and opened below, or closed in front and opened behind, although by creation they were opened in front and closed behind. When they have thus been inversely opened and closed, the receptacle of love, that is, the will, receives influx from hell or from one's own proprium; and so also does the receptacle of wisdom, that is, the understanding. Hence arose in the Churches the worship of men in place of the worship of God, and worship based on doctrines of falsity in place of worship based on doctrines of truth, the latter from one's own intelligence and the former from love of self. From this it is clear that religion in process of time declines and is consummated by the inversion of the image of God in man.  Third: This takes place from the continual increase of hereditary evil in successive generations. It was stated and explained above that hereditary evil is not what has come down from Adam and his wife Eve by their eating of the tree of knowledge, but that it is successively derived and transmitted from parents to their off-spring, and thus by continual increase grows from generation to generation. When evil thus increases among many, it spreads evil amongst many more; for in all evil there is the lust of leading astray, and in some this burns with anger against what is good, giving rise to the contagion of evil. When this has permeated the leaders, and the rulers, and those prominent in the Church, religion becomes perverted, and the means of restoring it to health, which are truths, become corrupted by falsification. Hence there now proceeds a gradual vastation of good and desolation of truth in the Church until its consummation is reached.  Fourth: Nevertheless it is provided by the Lord that everyone may be saved. It is provided by the Lord that there should be a religion everywhere; and that in every religion there should be the two essentials of salvation, namely, to acknowledge God and to refrain from evil because it is against God. All other things pertaining to the understanding and thence to thought, which are called matters of faith, are provided for everyone according to his life, for they are accessories of the life; and if these are given precedence (over the essentials) still they do not receive life. It is also provided that all who have lived well and have acknowledged God are instructed after death by angels; and then those who had observed these two essentials of religion while in the world accept the truths of the Church as they are in the Word, and acknowledge the Lord as the God of heaven and of the Church. This teaching they receive more readily than Christians who have brought with them from the world an idea of the Lord's Human separated from His Divine. It is moreover provided by the Lord that all are saved who die in infancy, no matter where they have been born.  Further, there is granted to everyone after death the opportunity of amending his life, if that is at all possible. All are instructed and led by the Lord by means of angels; and as they now know that they live after death, and that there is a heaven and a hell, they at first receive truths. Those, however, who have not acknowledged God and who have not shunned evils as sins when in the world soon show a distaste for truths and withdraw; while those who acknowledged truths with the lips but not with the heart are like the foolish virgins who had lamps but no oil, and who begged oil of others and also went away and bought it, and yet were not admitted to the wedding. Lamps signify truths of faith and oil signifies the good of charity. Hence it may be evident that the Divine Providence designs that everyone can be saved, and that man himself is in fault if he is not saved.  Fifth: It is also provided that a new Church should succeed in place of the former devastated Church. This has been the case from the most ancient times, namely, that when a former Church was devastated a new Church has taken its place. The Ancient Church succeeded the Most Ancient; after the Ancient Church the Israelitish or Jewish Church followed; and after this, the Christian Church. Moreover, it is foretold in the Apocalypse that this will be followed by a new Church which is there meant by the New Jerusalem descending from heaven. The reason why a new Church is being provided by the Lord to succeed in place of the former devastated Church may be seen in THE DOCTRINE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM CONCERNING THE SACRED SCRIPTURE (n. 104-113).