Elijah Fed by Ravens

(The Intention of the Will)

Living Courageously Week 1

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

I.       This is the first of a series of 7 sermons supporting the Living Courageously spiritual growth program. Each of the 7 weeks will begin with a sermon on some aspect of the Elijah story as found in the 1st and 2nd books of Kings.

A.   Elijah lived in the 9th Century BC, about 850 years before the Lord was born. He lived in the kingdom of Israel after it had separated from the kingdom of Judah at the death of Solomon.

B.   The temple in Jerusalem was in the kingdom of Judah and therefore inaccessible to the people in the kingdom of Israel.

C.   If the king of Israel wanted to keep his position, he had to make sure that his people didn’t drift back to Judah, he had to make sure that they had something even more exiting and interesting to worship in the northern capital of Samaria. So, after the division of the kingdom, we see each successive king of Israel borrowing idolatrous practices from the surrounding Canaanites and encouraging the people to follow them. This, of course, was exactly the opposite of what the Lord had in mind for them when He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, across the wilderness, and brought them into a land to call their own, a land of milk and honey.

D.   The king of Israel at the time of Elijah is Ahab, son of Omri. Ahab’s wife is Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Tyre.

E.    Ahab and Jezebel worshipped Baal. There are even indications that they were the main supporters of the priesthood of Baal.

1.     You may be surprised to learn that there are groups that still worship Baal, and that there is even a web site dedicated to worshipping Baal.[1]

F.    So, we can see that the sense of the letter is setting us up for a monumental battle between good and evil, between Elijah and Ahab, between Jehovah and Baal.

II.    (1 KI 16:29-33) In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. {30} Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.

A.   He walked in the sins of Jeroboam, married Jezebel, and put a statue of Baal in the temple in Samaria. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord to anger than all the other kings who were before him.

B.   Ahab, by promoting the false worship of Baal was substituting falsity for truth. Since truth is represented by water, the way that the incredibly lack of truth in Ahab’s kingdom could be represented was for there to be a severe drought – a lack of water/truth.

1.     So, seeing the story from our perspective, seeing the big picture, we can say that the cause of the drought is the falsity of Baal worship introduced by Ahab and Jezebel.

2.     The Lord sent Elijah to announce the situation to Ahab. He said, “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.[2]

C.   We also know that human nature being what it is, Ahab and Jezebel were unable to accept the blame themselves, and instead blamed the messenger – Elijah.

1.     So the Lord spoke to Elijah and sent him into the Wilderness where he would be safe until the danger passed.

III. This is one of the places in the Word where the lesson is both extremely important and non-intuitive.

A.   Our natural response to a perceived attack is to defend.

1.     We have lots of stories in the Word where people use the sword of truth to slay the dragon, or defeat the enemy. Our natural instinct is to believe that the Lord wants us to fight against evil, and that’s true – but the fighting valiantly and defeating the enemy part comes later.

2.     But listen to this:  he who does not search out any evil with himself and flee from it as a sin against God, which is done solely by repentance, after death becomes a demon[3]

a.     There are lots of other passages that say the same thing.

b.     Evil is a powerful, dangerous thing. If we try to stand up and face it alone, we put ourselves in grave spiritual danger.

c.      The Lord wants us to turn and run, to flee for our lives when we come face to face with evil.

d.     When Saul tried to kill David, he flees into the wilderness.

e.      When Absalom rebels against King David, David’s response was to flee into the wilderness.

f.       Here, Elijah flees into the wilderness during a drought.

B.   Why?

1.     In the Word, the “wilderness” state represents our feeling that we are alone (in a deserted place), that we don’t know what to do (lack of truth represented by a lack of water) and that we are feeling unloved – or unloving – (represented by little food).

2.     Our normal mode is to go about our daily business through habit our routine. We can often go days or weeks without really examining our motives because we are not be asked to make a difficult or unusual decision.

3.     Then, usually without warning, something happens to draw our attention to a problem that’s been sitting there all along and we’ve been ignoring.

4.     There are lots of other places in the Word where this happens, but in the Elijah series it’s shown as the way that idolatrous worship has been creeping into their way of life.

a.     First, they stop worshipping in Jerusalem

b.     Then they start worshipping Canaanite gods in the high places

c.      Then the king marries a Canaanite woman.

d.     It built up over time, but suddenly it is all too much, and Elijah is sent to bring a judgement.

5.     When we are suddenly awakened, as it were, to the true state that we have fallen into, it can be a very painful and embarrassing thing. We want to go somewhere and hide.

a.     If we were to fight at this moment, we would be striking out blindly and perhaps doing harm to people we love.

b.     And so Elijah flees into the wilderness where he can rest, gather his resources, and prepare for the coming battle.

IV.The wonderful thing about this story is that fleeing into the wilderness is not the end of the story.

A.   It’s not about the angry God sending us into the wilderness to punish us for being bad.

B.   It’s about the loving God sending us someplace safe, someplace away from our spiritual enemies, away from further damage where we can begin to heal. He tells us over and over in His Word that we are to flee from evil.

1.     1 KI 17 {5} So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. {6} The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

C.   We need to think about how Elijah is being cared for.

1.     Ravens are birds, so they can represent truth or doctrine, but they’re not nice birds. They’re big and black and don’t have a nice song.

2.     Ravens are carrion eaters and scavengers. What does that tell us about the quality of the bread and meat that they brought to Elijah?

3.     And the brook? It’s not a big refreshing spring that would represent the Word, rather it’s just seasonal run-off, and about to fail.

D.   This sounds pretty bad – but remember this is a step up from being murdered by Ahab.

1.     We can also imagine Elijah, in hiding, being thankful for the food at first, but eventually wanting something better.

E.    This is exactly the point.

1.     Each time we have a temptation, a spiritual combat, each time we are brought tumbling down and begin to see ourselves as others see us – as the Lord sees us – the Lord is gently leading us in small, appropriate steps, from the spiritual place where we are to the place where we ought to be.

a.     Mediate goods: things that are not in themselves good, but lead to good, are acceptable to the Lord.

b.     It’s not where you start from, but where you are headed; it’s the journey that’s important.

2.     He doesn’t condemn us for not being angels. He knows that we are dust[4] And so He leads us with those things that will be exactly suited to our spiritual states.

3.     Elijah, hiding in the wilderness, begins to look at the food being brought by the ravens.

a.     It’s food, but not very high quality.

b.     Just like our motives. We like to think that we act from good motives and probably on the balance our motives are pretty good.

c.      But what this story is telling us is that the Lord is asking us to look at the food we’re eating, to look critically at its source, and to see if we can make some better decisions and move to a better place.

d.     We’re not ready to take on Ahab and Jezebel yet, but we can at least get ourselves out of the wilderness with the Lord’s gentle care and leadership.

F.    More about that part of the journey next week. Amen.

First Lesson:

(This reading is previous to that of the Children’s Talk, and explains why the Lord caused a drought.)

(1 KI 16:29-33) In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. {30} Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. {31} And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. {32} Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. {33} And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. Amen.

Second Lesson:

(Mark 10:35-37) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” {36} And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” {37} They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

(Mark 10:41-45) And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. {42} But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {43} “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. {44} “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. {45} “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Third Lesson:

AC 4145 [2] With everyone who is being regenerated good is at first intermediate good, for the purpose that it may serve in the introduction of genuine goods and truths. But once it has served that use it is separated; and that person is guided towards good which flows in along the direct line of descent. So a person who is being regenerated is perfected gradually.

For example: a person who is being regenerated believes at first that the good which he thinks and which he does begins in himself, and also that he earns some reward, for he does not yet know, or if he does know does not comprehend, that good is able to flow in from some other source. Neither does he know of or comprehend any other possibility than that he should be rewarded because he does it of himself. If he did not believe this at first he would never do anything good. But by this means he is introduced not only into the affection for doing good but also into cognitions concerning good and also concerning merit.

And once he has been guided in this way into the affection for doing good he starts to think differently and to believe differently. That is to say, he starts to think and to believe that good flows in from the Lord and that he merits nothing through good which he does from the proprium. And when at length true affection lies behind his willing and doing of what is good he rejects merit altogether and indeed loathes it, and he is moved by an affection for good for the sake of what is good. When this state is reached good is flowing in down a direct line.


[1]Www.baal.com – really!

[2]1 KI 17:1

[3]AR 458

[4]Psalm 103:14

8 thoughts on “Elijah Fed by Ravens

  1. “he who does not search out any evil with himself and flee from it as a sin against God, which is done solely by repentance, after death becomes a demon”

    I’ve not heard this before, that if you die without repenting of your sins, you become a demon. I understand going to hell, but you actually become a demon? Are the minions of Satan, then, the spirits of humans that failed to repent?

    Like

    • The Influence of Hell in Our Lives

      The Influence of Hell in Our Lives

      A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

      If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me (PSA 139:8,10)

      It is much nicer to talk about heaven. It’s something we can look forward to; it’s something that’s pleasant. But we do have to acknowledge that evil greatly affects our daily life, and that the source of all evil is hell. We all have evil thoughts. We all have fantasies about what we would do if we were no longer under our present restraints and obligations. We all feel guilty about these thoughts because we are led to believe they are our own, when yet they are fleeting thoughts that originate in hell.

      Divine Providence 320 teaches: If man believed, as is the truth, that all good and truth originate from the Lord, and all evil and falsity from hell, he would not appropriate good to himself and account it meritorious, nor would he appropriate evil to himself and account himself responsible for it.

      If we can learn something about hell and the way it operates, we can then become more objective about evil; we can stand back and say “that is rubbish from hell and I don’t wish to have anything to do with it” and find that it goes away and torments us no longer. We can become free, genuinely, spiritually free to do and think as we choose.

      One more thing needs to be clarified: In the New Church, we often speak of “hell” in much the same way that others speak of “the Devil.” However, the Heavenly Doctrines tell us that the basis for the belief in some one individual who presides over the hells is because the Devil, Satan, and Lucifer are mentioned by name in the Word, and those references have been understood only in the sense of the letter. When understood in the internal sense, it can be seen that these are names which signify different qualities or attributes of hell.

      The idea of one ruling devil is also based on the idea that is held in some Christian Churches that heaven is a place where God and the angels dwell, angels being His messengers, spiritual beings created in heaven to serve Him, and have never lived upon the earth. There is the belief that some of these angels rebelled and were cast down into hell, and these fallen “sons of light” became the devils.

      There cannot be one devil who rules the hells, because all who are in hell, like all those in heaven, are from the human race. Just as there is a logical inconsistency in having more than one all-powerful God, there an even greater problem with having two Gods, one of whom has fallen and become evil and the leader of evil beings. Therefore, there is no devil as a distinct individual, although we may speak of the common effort of all those in hell as “the devil” in the same way that we can refer to a joint effort by many individuals in this country as something done by “Canada.”

      Keeping these first principles in mind, let us see what else we can learn about hell that will help us to keep free of its insidious influence in our lives.

      Everyone knows that the Lord is the King of Heaven. And because Heaven and Hell are opposites that balance once another, the ruler of one must be the ruler of both. This is because from the action and reaction there is an equilibrium which gives permanence to all things. It should also be obvious that there must be a supreme, all powerful governor who can restrain the violence, uprisings, and insanities which would erupt from hell, destroy the equilibrium, and bring down everything else with it. Therefore, although it sounds strange at first, it should be clear that the Lord must be the governor of both heaven and hell.

      The equilibrium or balance that is maintained between the power of heaven and hell on our lives in the world of nature is extremely important, for when two things mutually act against each other, since there is equal power on either side, neither has any effect, and both can be acted upon by a third force which then acts without opposition.

      This is a simple idea that can be illustrated by springs, or the game of tug of war. But when we are thinking about true spiritual equilibrium we must beware falling into the idea that heaven and hell are balanced because they are of the same strength. The strengths of heaven and hell are not equal. There is far greater strength on the part of heaven, but it is held in restraint. Hell rushes in as far as it is able, to the absolute limit of its power, with the intent of drawing a person into its own sphere. It acts on and stimulates the evil tendencies of our hereditary nature, making us believe that these loves and desires are from ourselves, and not from hell.

      Heaven, for its part, wants nothing more than for us to act in genuine freedom of choice. Therefore, although there is infinite power for good in heaven, its power is carefully moderated so that it balances the evil influences, preventing us from being overpowered by them. From superior power and practised restraint, the power of heaven leaves us free to choose our own course, to do what is right from our own decision to act according to the truth that we have from the Lord.

      As an illustration, we might think of a young father playfully wrestling with his little boy. The little boy attacks furiously, at the limit of his strength and skill, and the father easily controls and directs that energy so that there is no harm through his far superior strength and skill.

      Yes, there is an effective equilibrium in our spiritual lives, but that is because of the infinitely greater power of heaven exercised out of love and concern for our eternal well-being. The purpose and effect on our spiritual lives is to allow us, through our puny and feeble efforts, to co-operate with heaven and lift ourselves up and out of the sphere of hell – and stay out of it!

      Hell reaches out to stimulate evil loves and hereditary tendencies to evils of every kind in such a way as to make us think that these ideas and desires are our own. It hides itself, tries to keep its true nature unseen, but the sphere of hell is like a perpetual effort to destroy all that is good and true, combined with anger and a kind of fury at not being able to do so.

      The spirits of hell are particularly in the desire to destroy the Divine of the Lord, (that is, to make Jesus Christ no longer Divine and authoritative, but to make Him to be just a man. Just as the acknowledgement of His divinity is the one pearl that forms each of the twelve gates of the Holy City New Jerusalem, the wish to destroy or hide His divinity is the one clod of dirt that guards the entrances to hell.)

      The hells wish to destroy the Divinity of the Lord, because that is the source of all that is good and true, therefore the source of all the things that frustrate them and bring them pain because they oppose the loves of self and the world.

      A sphere of good and truth proceeds from the Lord out of heaven to restrain and balance the spheres of hell. It is from the Lord alone as a source, although it appears to be from the angels of heaven, and this because it is through them as a means. While they serve the Lord’s uses, they happily and completely acknowledge that the power for what they do comes from the Lord alone and not anything from themselves.

      Heaven watches, like a gentle parent, and stimulates the good loves and delightful feelings that we have gotten through the experience of being loved and well-treated by others while in the world. And while in that state, the two forces balance each other out, allowing, as before said, a third force to act as if alone: That third force is the free will of each individual.

      When we, in our freedom, make choices, we are the third force acting on our spiritual state. When we choose what is good, the net effect is to add to the forces of heaven, thus moving our spiritual state out of equilibrium toward heaven – and that’s good. Our continual effort and goal should be to co-operate with heaven against hell to push the marker off centre and toward heaven as far as we can, and hold it there as long as we can! Then we will have moved our normal state out of equilibrium into the state of heaven through our own efforts! Truly, this is what the Lord wants for us!

      It has already been said that the Lord rules and governs the hells. The Heavenly Doctrines reveal how He does this both in general, and in particular: In general the hells are ruled by a general outflow of Divine good and truth from heaven which counters the flows of evil and falsity flowing forth from hell. The hells are governed in particular by an outflow from each heaven and from each society of heaven which serves to balance their counterparts. There are also angels who look into the hells and restrain insanities and disturbances there. They moderate these insanities and disturbances by their very presence, for the evil spirits fear the power of heaven, and fear is the most effective tool for governing the hells.

      Everyone in hell is governed and controlled by means of their fears. Some are ruled by fears implanted in them while in the world, and are still with them. But such fears are not sufficient, and they gradually subside as the memory of the world fades, and they are then replaced by the fears of punishment. In hell, the fear of punishment is the most effective means of deterring the evil from their activities. This is because in hell, the punishment is directly related to the evil desired, and is derived from it.

      The punishments of hell are wonderfully varied, and cause tremendous fear and respect from the evil spirits themselves. The punishments are lighter or more severe according to the severity of the evils. They are administered by other evil spirits, who derive pleasure from it. These spirits are in turn controlled by other spirits who protect and ensure that the punishment does not go too far.

      But what does “too far” mean when it comes to the eternal punishments of hell? First, hell is eternal, not the punishments. When evil spirits keep themselves in a state of relative order, they are not punished. They are fed, clothed, given shelter, and have simple tasks to do. It is only when their evil lusts well up and break forth that they are punished, that is, only when they are in a state of disorder. When such a state breaks forth, the punishment is as harsh and immediate as is necessary to counter the rush of evil. But – and this is essential for our understanding of how to effectively punish in this world – the moment the spirit brings himself back under self-control and into a state of order, the punishment ends. Evil spirits are never punished when they are in a state of external order, and if they get out of order, the punishment ends the moment their state of disorder is broken. Even in hell, there is nothing of revenge in punishment. It is simply a tool used to restore order when necessary.

      If fear is the most effective means of governing the hells, how can we take advantage of that fact in our own lives to control and defeat the effects of evil spirits? By bringing into our lives the one thing that the evil spirits fear the most: the light of heaven; the truth of the Word. When the light of heaven shines on an evil spirit, it reveals him as he truly is, a deformed and pitiful creature. It shows his gifts to be shoddy imitations, it shows his powers to be imaginary, like the beasts that dwell in the nursery shadows. The light of the Word shows them for what they really are, and shows us the way to what is of genuine eternal value.

      When we are faced with evil, when we feel the delights of evil within us, we must shine the light of truth on them, drive them back into the caves and holes where they belong, for we know that we are spiritually free, responsible only for what we freely choose to do, and not any passing thoughts. We cannot be harmed by hell unless we want it, for we are under the Lord’s own protection. As the psalmist himself said, I will glorify Your name forevermore. For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of hell. Amen

      Like

    • The Influence of Hell in Our Lives

      A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

      If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me (PSA 139:8,10)

      It is much nicer to talk about heaven. It’s something we can look forward to; it’s something that’s pleasant. But we do have to acknowledge that evil greatly affects our daily life, and that the source of all evil is hell. We all have evil thoughts. We all have fantasies about what we would do if we were no longer under our present restraints and obligations. We all feel guilty about these thoughts because we are led to believe they are our own, when yet they are fleeting thoughts that originate in hell.

      Divine Providence 320 teaches: If man believed, as is the truth, that all good and truth originate from the Lord, and all evil and falsity from hell, he would not appropriate good to himself and account it meritorious, nor would he appropriate evil to himself and account himself responsible for it.

      If we can learn something about hell and the way it operates, we can then become more objective about evil; we can stand back and say “that is rubbish from hell and I don’t wish to have anything to do with it” and find that it goes away and torments us no longer. We can become free, genuinely, spiritually free to do and think as we choose.

      One more thing needs to be clarified: In the New Church, we often speak of “hell” in much the same way that others speak of “the Devil.” However, the Heavenly Doctrines tell us that the basis for the belief in some one individual who presides over the hells is because the Devil, Satan, and Lucifer are mentioned by name in the Word, and those references have been understood only in the sense of the letter. When understood in the internal sense, it can be seen that these are names which signify different qualities or attributes of hell.

      The idea of one ruling devil is also based on the idea that is held in some Christian Churches that heaven is a place where God and the angels dwell, angels being His messengers, spiritual beings created in heaven to serve Him, and have never lived upon the earth. There is the belief that some of these angels rebelled and were cast down into hell, and these fallen “sons of light” became the devils.

      There cannot be one devil who rules the hells, because all who are in hell, like all those in heaven, are from the human race. Just as there is a logical inconsistency in having more than one all-powerful God, there an even greater problem with having two Gods, one of whom has fallen and become evil and the leader of evil beings. Therefore, there is no devil as a distinct individual, although we may speak of the common effort of all those in hell as “the devil” in the same way that we can refer to a joint effort by many individuals in this country as something done by “Canada.”

      Keeping these first principles in mind, let us see what else we can learn about hell that will help us to keep free of its insidious influence in our lives.

      Everyone knows that the Lord is the King of Heaven. And because Heaven and Hell are opposites that balance once another, the ruler of one must be the ruler of both. This is because from the action and reaction there is an equilibrium which gives permanence to all things. It should also be obvious that there must be a supreme, all powerful governor who can restrain the violence, uprisings, and insanities which would erupt from hell, destroy the equilibrium, and bring down everything else with it. Therefore, although it sounds strange at first, it should be clear that the Lord must be the governor of both heaven and hell.

      The equilibrium or balance that is maintained between the power of heaven and hell on our lives in the world of nature is extremely important, for when two things mutually act against each other, since there is equal power on either side, neither has any effect, and both can be acted upon by a third force which then acts without opposition.

      This is a simple idea that can be illustrated by springs, or the game of tug of war. But when we are thinking about true spiritual equilibrium we must beware falling into the idea that heaven and hell are balanced because they are of the same strength. The strengths of heaven and hell are not equal. There is far greater strength on the part of heaven, but it is held in restraint. Hell rushes in as far as it is able, to the absolute limit of its power, with the intent of drawing a person into its own sphere. It acts on and stimulates the evil tendencies of our hereditary nature, making us believe that these loves and desires are from ourselves, and not from hell.

      Heaven, for its part, wants nothing more than for us to act in genuine freedom of choice. Therefore, although there is infinite power for good in heaven, its power is carefully moderated so that it balances the evil influences, preventing us from being overpowered by them. From superior power and practised restraint, the power of heaven leaves us free to choose our own course, to do what is right from our own decision to act according to the truth that we have from the Lord.

      As an illustration, we might think of a young father playfully wrestling with his little boy. The little boy attacks furiously, at the limit of his strength and skill, and the father easily controls and directs that energy so that there is no harm through his far superior strength and skill.

      Yes, there is an effective equilibrium in our spiritual lives, but that is because of the infinitely greater power of heaven exercised out of love and concern for our eternal well-being. The purpose and effect on our spiritual lives is to allow us, through our puny and feeble efforts, to co-operate with heaven and lift ourselves up and out of the sphere of hell – and stay out of it!

      Hell reaches out to stimulate evil loves and hereditary tendencies to evils of every kind in such a way as to make us think that these ideas and desires are our own. It hides itself, tries to keep its true nature unseen, but the sphere of hell is like a perpetual effort to destroy all that is good and true, combined with anger and a kind of fury at not being able to do so.

      The spirits of hell are particularly in the desire to destroy the Divine of the Lord, (that is, to make Jesus Christ no longer Divine and authoritative, but to make Him to be just a man. Just as the acknowledgement of His divinity is the one pearl that forms each of the twelve gates of the Holy City New Jerusalem, the wish to destroy or hide His divinity is the one clod of dirt that guards the entrances to hell.)

      The hells wish to destroy the Divinity of the Lord, because that is the source of all that is good and true, therefore the source of all the things that frustrate them and bring them pain because they oppose the loves of self and the world.

      A sphere of good and truth proceeds from the Lord out of heaven to restrain and balance the spheres of hell. It is from the Lord alone as a source, although it appears to be from the angels of heaven, and this because it is through them as a means. While they serve the Lord’s uses, they happily and completely acknowledge that the power for what they do comes from the Lord alone and not anything from themselves.

      Heaven watches, like a gentle parent, and stimulates the good loves and delightful feelings that we have gotten through the experience of being loved and well-treated by others while in the world. And while in that state, the two forces balance each other out, allowing, as before said, a third force to act as if alone: That third force is the free will of each individual.

      When we, in our freedom, make choices, we are the third force acting on our spiritual state. When we choose what is good, the net effect is to add to the forces of heaven, thus moving our spiritual state out of equilibrium toward heaven – and that’s good. Our continual effort and goal should be to co-operate with heaven against hell to push the marker off centre and toward heaven as far as we can, and hold it there as long as we can! Then we will have moved our normal state out of equilibrium into the state of heaven through our own efforts! Truly, this is what the Lord wants for us!

      It has already been said that the Lord rules and governs the hells. The Heavenly Doctrines reveal how He does this both in general, and in particular: In general the hells are ruled by a general outflow of Divine good and truth from heaven which counters the flows of evil and falsity flowing forth from hell. The hells are governed in particular by an outflow from each heaven and from each society of heaven which serves to balance their counterparts. There are also angels who look into the hells and restrain insanities and disturbances there. They moderate these insanities and disturbances by their very presence, for the evil spirits fear the power of heaven, and fear is the most effective tool for governing the hells.

      Everyone in hell is governed and controlled by means of their fears. Some are ruled by fears implanted in them while in the world, and are still with them. But such fears are not sufficient, and they gradually subside as the memory of the world fades, and they are then replaced by the fears of punishment. In hell, the fear of punishment is the most effective means of deterring the evil from their activities. This is because in hell, the punishment is directly related to the evil desired, and is derived from it.

      The punishments of hell are wonderfully varied, and cause tremendous fear and respect from the evil spirits themselves. The punishments are lighter or more severe according to the severity of the evils. They are administered by other evil spirits, who derive pleasure from it. These spirits are in turn controlled by other spirits who protect and ensure that the punishment does not go too far.

      But what does “too far” mean when it comes to the eternal punishments of hell? First, hell is eternal, not the punishments. When evil spirits keep themselves in a state of relative order, they are not punished. They are fed, clothed, given shelter, and have simple tasks to do. It is only when their evil lusts well up and break forth that they are punished, that is, only when they are in a state of disorder. When such a state breaks forth, the punishment is as harsh and immediate as is necessary to counter the rush of evil. But – and this is essential for our understanding of how to effectively punish in this world – the moment the spirit brings himself back under self-control and into a state of order, the punishment ends. Evil spirits are never punished when they are in a state of external order, and if they get out of order, the punishment ends the moment their state of disorder is broken. Even in hell, there is nothing of revenge in punishment. It is simply a tool used to restore order when necessary.

      If fear is the most effective means of governing the hells, how can we take advantage of that fact in our own lives to control and defeat the effects of evil spirits? By bringing into our lives the one thing that the evil spirits fear the most: the light of heaven; the truth of the Word. When the light of heaven shines on an evil spirit, it reveals him as he truly is, a deformed and pitiful creature. It shows his gifts to be shoddy imitations, it shows his powers to be imaginary, like the beasts that dwell in the nursery shadows. The light of the Word shows them for what they really are, and shows us the way to what is of genuine eternal value.

      When we are faced with evil, when we feel the delights of evil within us, we must shine the light of truth on them, drive them back into the caves and holes where they belong, for we know that we are spiritually free, responsible only for what we freely choose to do, and not any passing thoughts. We cannot be harmed by hell unless we want it, for we are under the Lord’s own protection. As the psalmist himself said, I will glorify Your name forevermore. For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of hell. Amen

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      • It said in the original post that those who fail to repent before they die become demons. I do not see anything in this sermon that says that. My father died full of hate. I tried to get him to let go of his hate before he died; he told me he would rather go to hell than to let go of his hate. Did he become a demon? Does his spirit torment others who still live? Does his spirit try to draw living humans toward darkness?

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      • being hateful is demonic,he becomes a demon like the evil spirit who influnenced him when he was alive, and joins him in hell, yes his evil spirit trys to draw other towards darkness like him, yes his spirit try’s, to torment others who still live, and don’t think like him

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