Your Book Of Life

 The Spiritual Frontier

Topics relating to the
Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
and the Lord’s Second Coming :

by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Rev. 20:12).


For many Christians the book of Revelation has little clear meaning. Most people probably consider it to be ignorable. Those who try to understand it find it challenging. Fundamentalists see it as a prediction of a cataclysmic finale to the story of human life on this earth, and countless people have wondered when this finale would occur. Many words have been written trying to link past and present events with the images of destruction spoken of in Revelation to try to see when the second coming will take place. Its immanent arrival has been confidently predicted innumerable times over the last two thousand years.

The misunderstanding that surrounds this book is to be expected. None but the Lord Himself could reveal its true meaning. Human intelligence could spend five times the nearly two millennium that it has already had to try to interpret the book of Revelation and would still not find its true meaning. It is a fundamental truth of the New Church that the book of Revelation as well as the other books of the Old and New Testaments speak on a far deeper level than is seen merely in the literal sense. The book of Revelation does not primarily predict natural historical events any more than did the prophecies of the Lord’s first coming in the Old Testament.

Understood merely literally, the Old Testament prophecies appeared to promise a great and everlasting kingdom of the Messiah in which the Jewish people would have great prominence. Those alive at the time of the first coming who expected Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom were confused and bewildered by the way He lived His life in this world. Some probably lost faith when the Old Testament prophecies were not fulfilled by Jesus as they expected them to be. Likewise, many Christians have been confused and bewildered by the apparent lack of literal fulfillment of the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Some have lost faith, giving up on the prophecies of a last judgment and a second coming as having any meaning.

The traditional Christian interpretation of the last judgment has several features that differ quite strongly from the one presented by the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church. The traditional view of all people waiting in the grave till the sounding of the great trumpet is one of those differences. The Writings for the New Church teach that life after death begins for each individual shortly after his natural life has ended. Another is that the crucial judgment of a person’s life does not take place by some objective individual apart from the person himself. A third is that life after death is not primarily a reward or punishment for our deeds in this world. There are many, many other differences. Many of them arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the book of Revelation. Traditional Christianity has viewed the book of Revelation as speaking of earthly events that will some day take place in this world, while the books revealed for the New Church would have us recognize the images of that book as being spiritual realities, much of which has already occurred in the spiritual world.

The reality that the book of Revelation speaks of is that of a great judgment that has already occurred in the spiritual world. To understand what this book speaks of, a person must know a number of things about how judgment takes place after death. In the normal order of the life after death, both the good and evil seek the company of like-minded individuals with all being prepared over a period of time for their eternal home either in heaven or hell. From a mixture of good and evil, just as exists in this world, the different people separate themselves, with the evil seeking hell and the good, heaven. The evil do not desire to be in heaven because they cannot stand to be around those who are genuinely good. They rapidly lose their power to lead others astray, because the light of genuine truth existing in the spiritual world shows them for what they really are. This is a brief description of how the normal process of judgment occurs after each person’s death.

This process is absolutely dependent on the light of truth existing in that intermediate area between heaven and hell which is called the world of spirits. When the truth revealed to mankind ceased to provide the necessary basis for that light, disorder occurred in that intermediate world. The normal process of judgment could not go on. Rather than having hidden evil revealed, they could continue to hide. Rather than having the evil find their proper places in hell, they continued to dwell in the world of spirits and there they established a false life for themselves. It was false in that the true reality of their lives was hidden and they surrounded themselves with things that also did not reflect their true qualities. Their cities, gardens, rivers, even their sun, moon and stars were not from the Lord but from themselves and their own evil. As long as the light of truth did not shine in that world they could maintain the illusion of a false heaven. The images of great destruction recorded in the book of Revelation really did occur in the world of spirits when the light of truth once again shone in that world and the normal process of judgment could once again be reestablished.

Why is it important what a person thinks of the book of Revelation? The Lord has revealed all that He has for us in the world because He wants us to live as happy and as productive lives as we can, both now in our relatively brief natural life and also in our life after death continuing to eternity. Some of the wrong ideas that one can get from the book of Revelation could cause a person to spiritually stumble and fall. Some of them make for a sadder and more self-centered life than the Lord wishes for us.

Nearly everyone has seen the cartoon image of the man walking around in sackcloth through the busy streets of a city carrying a sign that announces that the end of the world is coming. His message is that we should turn our lives from our daily concerns. While it is very important that we recognize that each day gives us precious opportunities to serve the Lord, these opportunities will not be best fulfilled if we withdraw from the world, nor will they be best fulfilled if we cling desperately to each minute as our last, nor if we throw everything aside and live for the moment. The Lord does not want us to wait with bated breath for his arrival, thinking only of our own concerns and needs. He wants us to serve those around us. He wants us to live full, useful lives. Too great a fear of the end of natural life can lead to an impoverished approach to each day.

An important concept presented by the Writings about life after death is that the essential quality of our natural life will continue to eternity as our spiritual character. The lesson read today spoke of the judgment that win take place after death, and uses the image of a book of life that will be read. What is this book of life? One of the most horrible of all Christian heresies is that everyone’s spiritual destiny has been predestined from the beginning of time-written as in a book of who will go to heaven and who will not. Part of the reason this is horrible is because of the quality it ascribes to God. What kind of God would create some people to be inevitably damned to eternity just to satisfy some arbitrary balance? If God did not create each and every individual with the possibility of going to heaven, He would be more cruel than the worst individual could be in this world. Concerning this idea of predestination the book The Divine Providence makes the following observation:

It is cruel to believe that the Lord, who is Love itself and Mercy itself, suffers such a vast multitude of men to be born for hell, or that so many myriads of myriads are born damned and doomed, that is, are born devils and satans; and that He does not from His Divine Wisdom provide that they who live well and acknowledge God should not be cast into eternal fire and torment. The Lord is ever the Creator and Savior of all; and He alone leads all, and desires the death of no one. (DP 330).

Another reason why predestination is such a horrible idea is because of the spiritual apathy that it can arouse. If our spiritual fate is already predetermined, why bother trying to do anything about it? A person could become a complete fatalist, accepting everything that happened to him as inevitable. He would never try to work to make his life better or improve the lot of others, because all things would be accepted as being the way God intended them to be.

While very few people today would subscribe to an idea of absolute predestination by God, all of us are susceptible to the apathy that says we ourselves are fixed and unchanging or that those whom we have to deal with are the way they are due to an unchangeable nature. In some states of mind it is all too easy just to accept things as they are rather than use our best insight to try to improve them.

A person’s book of life is not something that is set before he has lived his life in this world. A person’s book of life is the sum total quality that he has gathered to his life by his choices in this world. It is the record of what he has thought and cared about each day of his life. It is not just a fist of good and bad deeds. We know quite well that actions seen by others in the world may have little relationship to the inner thoughts and motives behind them.

When we leave this world, we will have established what is more important to us than anything else. We will have accepted a ruling love that has worked to orchestrate all the other affections of our mind and from these all our thoughts and deeds. It is this ruling love that determines our eternal home after death. It is our book of life. Its pages are being recorded each day we spend in this world. Everything that we have thought, intended, spoken and done in the world is recorded there.

Swedenborg tells us of some people who after death still tried to pretend. As we learn of the basic rules in the Old Testament, the role of forgiveness in the New Testament, and comprehend why this is good in the explanations of the Writings, then we can re-direct our thinking and grow to be more in harmony with the Lord’s ways.

This is why He speaks to us in His Word. This is why He has revealed truths that can touch and stimulate every area of our minds. And this is the Lord’s second coming in truth. His Spirit of truth leads to all truth as our minds are opened to the wonders of His Word, and as we let that light shine our way. From the essence of love within the Lord that causes Him to speak to us, the Word in its threefold form would lead us back to that love. This is the male child that came from the woman clothed with the sun. This is the Heavenly Doctrine given us by the Lord. This is the Lord with us as we see and do His words. Amen.

Lessons: Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17, AE 724:1,2

Presented in Pittsburgh June 12, 1988


Apocalypse Explained 724:1, 2

And she brought forth a son, a male, signifies the doctrine of truth for the New Church that is called the New Jerusalem. This is evident from the signification of “son” as meaning truth, and of “a son, a male,’ as meaning the genuine truth of the church, consequently also its doctrine, for the truth of the church from the Word is its doctrine since doctrine contains the truths that are for the church. But the genuine doctrine of the church is the doctrine of good, thus the doctrine of life, which is of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor; but yet it is the doctrine of truth, since doctrine teaches life, love, and charity, and so far as it teaches it is truth; for when a man knows and understands what good is, what life is, what love is, and what charity is, he knows and understands these things as truths, since he knows and understands what good is, how he ought to live, and what love and charity are, and of what quality a man is who is in the life of love and charity; and as long as these are matters of knowledge and understanding they are nothing but truths and thus doctrines; but as soon as they pass over from knowledge and from the understanding into the will, and thus into act, they are no longer truths but goods; for interiorly man wills nothing but what he loves, and that which he loves is to him good. From this it can be seen that every doctrine of the church is a doctrine of truth, and that the truth of doctrine becomes good and comes to be of love and charity when from doctrine it passes into life.

This doctrine that is here signified by ‘the son, a male’ is especially the doctrine of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor, thus the doctrine of the good of life, which nevertheless is still the doctrine of truth. That the doctrine of the good of love, and thus of life, is here signified by “the son, a male’ can be seen from this, that ‘the woman’ who brought forth the son was seen “arrayed with the sun, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,’ and ‘the sun” signifies love to the Lord, and “the crown of twelve stars’ signifies the knowledges of good and truth, and from such a woman and mother nothing else is begotten except what pertains to love and good, thus the doctrine respecting these.

http://spiritualfrontier.org/lifebook.html

Generated by: timlig@pacbell.net – April 1995

BOOK OF LIFE

BOOK OF LIFE

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJune 4, 1995

 

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Rev.3:5)

Our ability to remember serves as the foundation of our character. This God-given faculty is what makes us human. Unlike other animals, we can use our memories to develop spiritual loves. In fact, how we fill our memories and use them determines the type of disposition we will develop. If we continually learn good things and generally remember pleasant and wonderful events, we will become a more affirmative person. However, if past disappointments and troubles dominate our memories, it will be more difficult for us to have a positive outlook regarding life. The more we are able to develop the discipline of using our memories in a constructive way, the more enjoyable our lives become. The Word teaches us how we can use our memories wisely.

The Book of Revelation specifically refers to our memories as the “Book of Life”. The Book of Life is everything we ever thought and intended throughout our lives. Everything we ever did and desired is permanently recorded in our internal memories. Regardless of whether or not other people were able to recognize our innermost thoughts, they are recorded and for ever remain with us. Eventually, when we pass from this world to the spiritual world, our inner most desires will become fully disclosed. Heaven’s light will expose our deepest thoughts and heaven’s heat will manifest our deepest intentions and loves. We will no longer have the ability to hid our true desires and thoughts. Nor will we be able to act one way in our external actions and think or desire something else in our spirits. When we enter into the spiritual world, our true character will eventually shine forth.

This process will not be threatening to those who are good and sincere in their efforts to live a useful life towards others. In fact, nothing pleases a spiritual person more than to have their true loves brought to view. A characteristic of a heavenly love is to assure others, especially those to whom a service is provided, that the effort is done in sincerity. Such a person wants others to be certain that the act of charity is strictly for their sakes and benefits. It is not merely done for selfish gain and advancement. The more sincere we are, the more we want our inner intentions to be brought to view. Therefore, when good people leave this earth and enter heaven, they are excited in having their inner most lives brought out more vividly in their outward actions. This process makes them even more expressive of serving their neighbor and allows them to experience an even greater delight in performing acts of charity towards their neighbor.

The exact opposite is the case for those who are evil and deceitful. They strongly resist having their true nature and intentions brought to light. They are careful to hid their true motives. They try to avoid having their deceitful motivations openly brought to view.

Those who are sincerely good are said to be “fitted for heaven”. In fact, each person that is receptive of the Lord is a unique heaven. Their uniqueness can contribute to the activities and perfection of the entire heavens. And it is because each is a heaven of themselves, they are able to function in heaven with others.

Therefore, by our names being written in the Book of Life, this is speaking of a way of life. It is a process of living a life that manifests the loves and thoughts that exists in heaven. Just as a book aids our memory, so if our memories are filled with the Lord’s truths and motivated with the desires to sincerely worship the Lord and help other people, we are being prepared to function with the angels of heaven.

The Lord has made this process simple. All that is required to have a memory that can lead to positive things is to live according to the Lord’s commandments. That is how our interiors are receptive of the Lord. The more we are receptive of the Lord’s guidance, the more our memories will be used effectively and productively.

However, we can destroy our memories by adding or take away from the Word. This is the stern warning we read at the end of the Book of Revelation. This makes the Word ineffective. When we insist of what we will do and what we will not do, we are adding and taking away from the Lord’s Word. This attitude results in our memories only serving our selfish interest. This would be an abuse of our memory.

Therefore, The Book of Life is more than just a guarantee of getting into heaven. It is a process of overcoming the evil tendencies that are within us. The Book of Life means having an active knowledge of the Word. The key word here is active. Having the Book of Life means having the Knowledge of truth from the Word in our minds that is not dormant but alive.

This is why this process is called the Book of Life. It allows us to become engaged in a life of heavenly loves. When we are able to display heavenly loves and thoughts, we are spiritually alive. This manner of living is salvation, and it allows us to show forth the Lord’s Divinity in our own special way. When our lives are receptive of heavenly loves and thoughts, our names are written in the Book of Life.

The Book of Life is especially made active when evil spirits come and arouse selfish thoughts and delights from our heredity. Angels then come and awaken the good thoughts and affections in our memory. A combat between the forces of good and evil ensues, which is called temptations. We must choose which path we will follow. If we choose to follow what the angels are stirring within us, heavenly loves are instilled in our lives in a greater degree.

At the same time, our selfish thoughts and delights, in our natural degree of life, is made more and more quiescent or dormant. The more our evil delights and attitudes are made inactive, the more our Book of Life will influence our inner desires and affections that motivate our external actions before others.

Nevertheless, we all know how difficult it is to control our thoughts. It seems that certain ideas and fantasies enter our minds that we find impossible to control. We are assured that we are not held responsible for the thoughts that enter our consciousness. However, we are responsible for how we do react to the stimulus. If a thought enters our minds that we know degrades others and can inflict harm to them, we must put forth the effort not to indulge in it. The more we dwell upon that thought and revel in it, the more it controls our lives.

Each one of us can develop the necessary discipline to effectively react to negative and evil thoughts and fantasies. The more this is actually done the more our names, or our true character, will manifest the Lord’s love and wisdom as it exists in the heavens.

Also, we all have some form of past experiences that still can cause us great grief. There are some things that are vividly displayed that can be a strong barrier to enjoy life or have the inspiration to enjoy being of use to others. How can we overcome the grief of past experience that are so severe that they continue to dominate our thoughts and lives? It is not easy. It may require a great deal of time, effort, and perhaps some form of professional help to break free from such domination. However, we can still develop the necessary knowledge in our memories that can be used to counteract the domination of past negative experiences. We can still find life fulfilling and satisfying in the use we called upon to perform for others. The more we know what the Word says, and how we can apply the Word to our lives, the more the Lord is able to direct our lives, whereby a healing can occur that can break us free from such negative domination.

Peter provides a wonderful example of not having a sense of regret and guilt control our lives. He experienced a tremendous amount of grief and guilt after he denied the Lord three times. However, he was able to actively preach the Lord’s Gospel. This activity allowed him to experience many precious moments he otherwise would not have experienced. If we can still actively pursue our use which the Lord has called us to perform, that can give us positive experiences which can serve to counter-balance the grief we may have to continually deal with from our past. Our memories are very involved in this process.

Our memory does serve a vital role in our spiritual growth. The more we fill our memories with what the Word teaches us, it will influence our lives. Quite often, we may read the Word and seemingly forget what we read a short time later. But even then, what we have read does remain with us, and internally is active within us as we put forth the effort to be a true disciple of the Lord. The more we reflect upon what the Word teaches us, and put forth the effort to order our lives according to the Lord’s commandments, the more our memories will serve as a foundation to live angelic lives. This will happen if we apply these words to Joshua: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Josh. 1:8)