A Sermon by Rev. Brian W. Keith
Preached in Glenview, Illinois November 1, 1987

“The Lord has provided that there should be angels and spirits with each individual, and that a person should be led by the Lord through them” (HH 247).

In today’s world many people are loath to admit the existence of spirits. While around Hallowe’en, ghosts and goblins come out aplenty, and the supernatural is often used in fiction, most people do not take it seriously. Indeed, by relegating the possibility of spiritual associates to horror shows and childish events, we push the reality of the other world further away from US.

For the spiritual world is the great unknown for most. It is not seen. It is not heard from. It cannot be scientifically explored. All of our natural tools for seeing and understanding worldly phenomena reveal nothing at all about the existence of life after death and how people there might affect us.

What’s more, a spiritual reality has frequently been discredited. Spirits used to be blamed for virtually everything that could not be scientifically explained. From head colds to earthquakes, spirits were thought to cause it all. So now that we have learned more about the laws of this world and found that there are natural causes, the existence and influence of spirits has been brought into question.

And for money or fame, the supernatural has always been an instrument for the unscrupulous. There has been no end of frauds willing to dupe those who long to contact those who have passed away. Magic tricks which give the appearance of psychic ability are often employed, casting doubt upon everything not of this world.

The pity of these abuses is that they obscure the truth that life is eternal, that we will all live forever in the other world. For those who can look beyond the charlatans, for those who admit to the possibility of there being more to life than our bodies, there is ample evidence of the spirit world.

In the Old Testament there were strict laws against attempts to communicate with “the dead.” “There shall not be found among you … one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord . . . ” (Deut. 18:10-12). Laws are not enacted unless there has been a problem. It was well known then that it was possible to call someone from the grave – and the consequences were not good.

In the New Testament the Lord often healed people who were possessed, whose bodies were in the power of evil spirits. The evil spirit whose name was Legion, because he was many, was spoken to by the Lord, and cast into a herd of swine (see Luke 8:26-39). Myth? Or miracle?

More recently, observers have noted the “near-death experience. ” Amazingly similar stories are told by a wide array of people who were very close to death but then revived. They speak of being greeted by friends or relatives; of a brilliant light, and comforting warmth; of a certainty afterward that when their bodies die they will live – in happiness forever.

And if we will but think of ourselves, we can see how sensible it is to believe that life goes on. For we are not our bodies. Our minds -what we think about, what we care about – define who we are. This is why love grows even when bodies deteriorate, why getting older is meant to be getting better.

If we look within ourselves, we can see more evidence of a spiritual realm. Where do those ideas come from that just pop into our heads? Where do the changes in feelings come from? In our dreams, are we just hallucinating or is there something more there? A spiritual presence?

For those with open minds, for those willing to consider, the Lord has given a new vision of truth of the spiritual reality which awaits us all. By means of a revelation through Emanuel Swedenborg the Lord has described the nature of the life to come and its influence upon us now. For even as the Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be of service to our neighbors on this earth, so in the next life He continues that source of joy. He allows the angels to participate in the wonderful process of leading people to experience the joys of heaven. Or, as the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church state: “The Lord has provided that there should be angels and spirits with each individual, and that a person should be led by the Lord through them.”

When we die we do not evaporate or depart to a far distant realm. Our existence after we put away our bodies is more real than before. For then our inner loves come out, and our highest hopes are realized. And since our life then is but a continuation of our life here, the spiritual world is very closely connected with this world. No, people in the next life are no more aware of our presence than we are of theirs. But they are still with us, influencing us.

We can be aware of the presence of the hells. They are legion with us. We may joke about “the devil made me do it,” but there is some truth in the claim. For when we allow our selfish nature to take the lead, the hells are very close to us. Their presence promotes selfishness; they sway us to feel that horrible and insane actions are fine as long as they feel good. Those who have felt suicidal urges have sensed their power. Rages, the inability to keep our mouths shut even when we know that no good can come from getting in the last word, all point to the influence the hells can have. And we also can see them in depressions – in feelings of worthlessness and listlessness.

Many have experienced their influence at night. How common is it for a person to have trouble getting to sleep because he or she is worried about something? The person frets, tossing and turning, because of the severity of the problem and the impossibility of solving it. Then, after sleep finally comes, and the person awakes, the problem looks different. In fact, it does not look nearly as big or knotty in the light of day. Why such anxiety the night before? In part, because the evil spirits had stoked our fears, troubling us beyond all measure.

Evil spirits also distort our thinking whenever possible, confusing, obscuring, or misdirecting our thoughts. How often have we taken a position, defending it, only to realize later that what we said made little or no sense? How could we have been so stupid? How could we have been so blind? Easily, for hell twists our thinking whenever we permit it.

Fortunately, the Lord always counterbalances with heavenly influx any influence the hells might have. There are always angels with us, angels who care more for us than for themselves. When they are near they inspire us with healthy and uplifting feelings. From them we can feel optimistic about the future. From them we are stirred to go the extra mile for others. From them we have the ability to rise above selfishness to express love to our spouse, family, and friends.

Angels also provide us with insights and perception. Whenever we can say, “that is true, ” it is because they have shed heavenly light upon our minds. Enlightenment, our sight of ideals or principles which should govern our lives, is actually a Divine spark provided us by the angels. They inspire us to recognize what is true, even when we may feel that we are less than brilliant.

And angels are especially active when we are in spiritual pain. When we are tempted, or struggling, they strive to diminish the hellish influence we are feeling. They also call forth the truths we believe and the goods we have made our own that we overcome. They uphold us lest we “dash our feet against stones.”

These spiritual influences are so important that without them we would have no source for our thinking and imagination. We would have no ability to feel and live. For the Lord uses these people in the other world as His agents to lead and guide us. And without them we would be cut off from an essential source of spiritual nourishment.

But this does not mean that we are controlled by people or events in the other world. They are influences upon us, even as our culture and our friends are. Influences do not dominate over us. We have the freedom to respond to them – to follow suggestions or reject them. We can go along with the crowd or take a different path. As we can with natural friends, so we can with our spiritual friends. We determine which spirits are present with us. We determine whom we are listening to.

And to preserve our freedom, the Lord has protected us against any direct contact with people from the other world. Yes, there may be times when we sense their presence – dreams, near-death experiences, or when one feels the nearness of a departed spouse, for the veil between the two worlds is very thin and can be bridged easily. But these are not sought-after experiences, like seances or the use of Ouija boards.

We are not to seek contact with spirits. The ancient laws of the Old Testament still apply. The Lord has given us all that we need – the Word – that we might lead heavenly lives. We do not need anything more. As He said to the Pharisees when they asked that someone from the other world instruct them: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

Even if we were certain of contacting an angelic spirit, there is nothing he or she could add to our lives. In fact, if we did begin to listen to one, like a spiritual “Dear Abby,” it would diminish our looking to the Lord in His Word for guidance. It would create a dependency upon spirits rather than on our own efforts to understand the truth and do what is right.

And there are tremendous dangers associated with spirit communication. It is only the evil spirits who long to return to this world where they can do harm without fear of certain punishment. So we are more likely to come into contact with them rather than angels. And evil spirits are so devious that we cannot tell who or what they are.

So what is the value in recognizing the place that spirits play in our lives if we are not to contact them or be conscious of their presence? Three reasons come to the fore.

The first is that they provide us with a sense of continuity. By recognizing that life goes on, and that the life that goes on is productive and happy, we gain a perspective on what we should do here. Our contributions, our usefulness, are never over but only beginning. This is especially important for marriages. To know that death does not destroy but temporarily separates strengthens love and a commitment to marriage. To think of being reunited is to rob death of its finality, and to see hope.

The second value in recognizing the role spirits play is the tremendous support which the Lord provides us. We are never alone. We are never in a hopeless situation. The Lord and His angels are always near, lending a silent hand, quietly guiding and helping, as much as we will allow them. No matter how depressed or sad we may be, the Lord provides uncounted angelic support to see us through.

And the final value is in recognizing how much freedom we have. Because we are influenced by both heaven and hell, we have absolute spiritual freedom to place ourselves in one camp or the other. What is more, we do not have to take responsibility for what is not ours. As the Lord said, “not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15: 11). What evil spirits inspire is what comes in. The fact that we have urges to be selfish or break the commandments does not mean we are evil. All people experience such influences, so we do not have to judge ourselves based upon what comes in. Our freedom is in determining what comes out.

By the same token, by recognizing that good stems from angelic influence, we can avoid taking undue credit for the good that is done. Conceit can be diminished when we acknowledge that it is the Lord’s doing and not our own.

Of the Lord’s Providence we are surrounded by spiritual influences. We are placed in the center that we may turn this way or that. With angelic inspiration we can learn what the Word teaches. With heavenly guidance we can take small steps on the Lord’s way. And eventually, we can join with them and share with others the spiritual bounty we have received. Amen.

Lessons: Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Matthew 15:1-20, AC 5992

Arcana Coelestia 5992

5992. The angels, through whom the Lord leads and also protects a man. are near his head. It is their office to inspire charity and faith, and to observe in what direction the man’s delights turn, and in so far as they can, without interfering with the man’s freedom, moderate them and bend them to good. They are forbidden to act with violence and thus break the man’s cupidities and principles; but are enjoined to act gently. It is also their office to rule the evil spirits who are from hell, which is done in innumerable ways, of which the following only may be mentioned. When the evil spirits pour in evils and falsities, the angels insinuate truths and goods, which, if not received, are nevertheless the means of tempering. Infernal spirits continually attack, and the angels protect; such is the order.

[2] The angels especially regulate the affections, for these make the man’s life, and also his freedom. The angels also observe whether any hells are open that were not open before, and from which there is influx with the man, which takes place when the man brings himself into any new evil. These hells the angels close so far as the man allows, and remove any spirits who attempt to emerge therefrom. They also disperse strange and new influxes that produce evil effects.

[3] Especially do the angels call forth the goods and truths that are with a man, and set them in opposition to the evils and falsities which the evil spirits excite. Thus the man is in the midst, and does not perceive either the evil or the good; and being in the midst, he is in freedom to turn himself either to the one or to the other. By such means do angels from the Lord lead and protect a man, and this every moment, and every moment of a moment; for if the angels were to intermit their care for a single moment, the man would be precipitated into evil from which he could never afterward be brought out. These things the angels do from the love they have from the Lord, for they perceive nothing more delightful and happy than to remove evils from a man, and lead him to heaven. That this is a joy to them, see Luke 15:7. Scarcely any man believes that the Lord takes such care of a man, and this continually from the first thread of his life to the last of it, and afterward to eternity.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida March 31, 1991

“And Jesus came and spoke to them saying: `All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matthew 28:18).

The message of Easter is one of victory and new life. It is fitting, on this occasion, that we give thanks to the Lord for His glorification and redemption. In the Lord’s resurrection we also have His assurance of our own resurrection into the spiritual world, and the heartening assurance of His Divine power over the hells. By His resurrection we are also assured that good can, and always will, prevail over evil. If we are willing to receive power from the Lord evil will have no power over us. He freely imparts His power to all who look to Him, love Him and keep His commandments.

“All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Not only had the Lord risen victorious from the death imposed by the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Church, not only had He conquered natural death, but in doing so He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth. The concentrated forces of all the hells, through the agency of evil and selfish men, had sought to destroy Him; and in the moment of their apparent success, their utter failure was revealed.

Here we see clearly the impotence of evil against good dramatically demonstrated. Because the apostles had to perceive this truth, the Lord, in commissioning them to establish a new church, said:”All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations … ” Secure in the knowledge of this truth, that the Lord had all power in heaven and on earth, they could fearlessly preach the Gospel, confident that nothing could defeat their mission. For, working with them and through them was the Lord Who, after His resurrection, had confidently proclaimed:”All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth … And, lo, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

In the revelation of His Second Advent, the Lord has fully revealed the nature, quality and operation of His Divine power to bring mankind into the happiness of eternal life. He has revealed the glory, beauty and wonder of His eternal kingdom. His power in is the laws of His Divine providence, all of which operate to draw all people to heaven as many as do not will fully refuse.

His kingdom is one of love and wisdom conjoined in use a kingdom where all are brought into such a harmony that the joy of one is communicated to and shared by all, and the joy of all is felt in each one individually; a kingdom where the delight of living increases and deepens to eternity a kingdom where the mutual love of husband and wife grows deeper and stronger to all eternity.

But, like the disciples of old, we live in an age which is, for the most part, far removed from the reception of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. On every side, in the place of love and charity, we see hatred and envy; in the place of wisdom we see bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and empty sentimentality; in the place of use we see the lust for pleasure and reward; in the place of conjugial love we see the lust of self-gratification.

The message of Easter is that in the midst of this hostile environment, and in spite of it, we can, nevertheless, receive the spiritual things of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom within ourselves. We can receive genuine love for the neighbor, true wisdom from the Word, the good of use from the Lord, and love truly conjugial, and manifest them in our lives and the life of the church.

In the midst of a sphere of hatred and contempt for others we can receive the Divine love of humanity into our hearts. In the midst of a sphere of intellectual pride and an overwhelming trust in scientific achievement, and contempt for spiritual values, we can nurture, by devotion to duty, a spiritual love of use and a deep and joyful love for our marriage partners. All this is possible because the Lord has established His kingdom a kingdom not of this world, and revealed its nature to us because after His resurrection He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth.

While in the world, the Lord preached a doctrine of love and charity toward the neighbor, a doctrine of mercy and human compassion. He taught a doctrine of spiritual and moral values. He revealed, and His life was an example of, devotion to others. But the hells, through their human agents, the Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees, tried to destroy these spiritual values. They were not interested in spiritual things nor were they interested in a spiritual kingdom. They wanted a Messiah Who would establish for them a natural kingdom a kingdom where they would enjoy power over their neighbors, a kingdom in which they would be able to satisfy all their natural longings and sensual appetites. But because the Lord’s kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), they sought to destroy Him and all that He stood for.

Let us realize that there is a similar struggle and conflict within each one of us. The hells, entering in through the loves of self and the world, and inflaming them, seek to destroy in us, the love of the Lord and His spiritual kingdom of charity, spiritual intelligence, devotion to use and conjugial love. They seek to persuade us that if God indeed exists, He would satisfy our every ambition and desire; He would provide for us every worldly comfort and pleasure; He would do away with famine, pestilence, disease and natural suffering; for, are not these the enemies of human happiness? They seek to persuade us that if there is a Kingdom of God it should be here and now, and not hereafter; that we should experience its joy and satisfaction without effort on our part. By the insinuation of these ideas, our belief in the Lord and our love for Him and the things of His Kingdom is undermined and threatened with destruction by the malice of hell acting through their agents the love of self and the love of the world.

For the regeneration person these are the trials of temptation. But unlike the Lord in temptation, we are not alone in ours. He is inmostly present with His infinite power to uphold us and sustain us if we will but turn to Him for help and guidance. And with His help we cannot fail, for by His resurrection He took to Himself all power in heaven and on earth.

We are told in the Heavenly Doctrine, that the Lord’s rising again on the third day, in reference to man, means that the Lord, working in love and faith, can rise, in the regenerating person, every day and every moment (AC 2405:7). In the same way He may also be present continuously in His church. When we are brought, through temptation, to the acknowledgment of our own helplessness, and at the same time realize that we may receive all power from the Lord, then we grasp the real significance of the Lord’s resurrection, for it is then being re-enacted in our own lives.

We would note that the sacrament of the Holy supper is intimately related to this festival. For the Lord instituted and partook of this supper with His disciples just prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. It is this acknowledgment the acknowledgment that we are entirely dependent on the Lord that is represented in that sacrament. For it is because we see that we can do nothing that is really good, nor think what is true of ourselves, that we approach the Lord to receive His Divine good and Divine truth, represented by the bread and wine.

In taking the bread we acknowledge that all good, every spiritual love is from the Lord alone, and we seek to receive it from Him. In taking the wine we acknowledge that all wisdom, truth and spiritual intelligence is from Him alone, and we seek to receive it.

Jesus said:”I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever … The words that I speak to you they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:51,63). If we truly acknowledge this in our hearts, then, as we partake of the Holy Supper, the Lord’s power will descend into our lives to uplift and sustain us to all eternity. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 28; AE 806:2,5,6

Apocalypse Explained 806:2,5,6

It has been shown in the preceding article what the faith is that has been accepted by the general body in the church, namely, a belief that God the Father sent the Son, that through Him there might be propitiation, mercy, redemption, and salvation; likewise that the Son of God bore our iniquities, that He intercedes for us, and that His merit is attributed to those who pray for it from trust and confidence; and it has been shown in a former article that these are all vain expressions, in which as interpreted by the learned there is nothing of truth and thus nothing of salvation. That these are vain expressions in which there is nothing of truth is evident from the teachings of the Word respecting the reason of the Lord’s coming and why He suffered, namely, that the Lord came into the world to save the human race, who otherwise would have perished in eternal death, and that He saved them by subjugating the hells, which infested every man coming into the world and going out of the world, and at the same time by glorifying His Human, since thus He is able to keep the hells subjugated to eternity. The subjugation of the hells, together with the glorification of His Human, was accomplished by means of temptations admitted into the human that He had from the mother, and by continual victories therein. His passion in Gethsemane and on the cross was the last temptation and complete victory.

That the Lord subjugated the hells He taught when the passion of the cross was at hand, in John: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:27, 28, 31). In the same: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In Luke: “Jesus said, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18). In Isaiah: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, walking in the multitude of his power? great to save; Mine arm brought salvation for Me; so He became their Savior” (Isa. 63:1, 5, 8; 59:16-21). Because the Lord subjugated the hells He gave the seventy disciples: “Authority over demons” (Luke 10:17, 19).

That the Lord glorified His Human, and that the passion of the cross was the last temptation and complete victory by which He glorified it, He teaches in John: “When Judas was gone out Jesus said, `Now is the Son of man glorified, and God shall glorify Him in Himself, and straightway shall He glorify Him'” (John 13:31, 32). In the same: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” (John 17:1, 5). In the same: “`Now is my soul troubled; Father, glorify Thy name.’ And there came a voice out of heaven, `I have both glorified it and will glorify it again'” (John 12:27, 28). And in Luke: “Ought not the Christ to suffer this and to enter into glory?” (Luke 24:26).

This was said of His passion. “To glorify” is to make Divine. From this it can be seen that unless the Lord had come into the world and had become Man, and by this means had liberated from hell all those who believe in Him and love Him, no mortal could have been saved. Thus it is understood that without the Lord there is no salvation. This, now, is the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation.