The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh
A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory” (John 1:14).

The Lord loves each of us and wants us to be as happy as we
can be to eternity. He loves us. He has loved every human being who
has lived in the past. He loves all the people who have yet to be born.
Love that is genuine has three qualities. We read in the Writings of
the New Church: “It is the essence of Love to love others outside of
one self, to desire to be one with them, and to render them blessed
from oneself.” (True Christian Religion 43)

God has this love in perfection at the very core of who He is. He
loves us so much that we’re told that no matter what we have done,
He cannot even look at us with a stern countenance. (True Christian
Religion 56e) There is a part of human nature that cannot possibly
believe that this is the case. Since it isn’t the way we react to people
when they’ve been destructive or just frustrating, it doesn’t make
sense to us that the Lord would have such a different reaction. The
only way we can easily imagine this perspective, before we’ve grown
spiritually to feel something of it ourselves, is to picture God as being
like a foolishly doting parent who will overlook or not recognize any
fault, forgive any transgression, and give in eventually to any request.
Such a parent is viewed by a child as a pushover and the child will
hold him or her in very low respect. A child who is unfortunate to grow
up with parenting like this will face a huge number of unnecessary
problems as he or she gets older. The child will tend to become adept
at being manipulative. He or she will tend to have trouble recognizing
that one’s own needs and wants need to be balanced or tempered by
those of people around oneself. If the child runs into an adult who
does present obstacles or boundaries to the child’s wishes, that child
can be furious or hurt by this intrusion. To the extent that the child
continues to believe that the foolish parent’s responses are the ways
things are supposed to be, he or she will be a danger to self and
others.

The Lord loves us perfectly and this love is expressed through
perfect wisdom. Wisdom is what gives form to love. A woman can
have a deep desire to bake a delicious meal for a friend, but if she is
too ignorant, too inexperienced in the kitchen she may instead
produce food that is nearly inedible. Desire or love by itself is blind.
The woman needs to know how to cook and what to cook if she
wants to achieve her goal of a delicious meal for a friend. When she
succeeds, at the core of her efforts will be her love, and this will be
guided each step of the way by an understanding of how to reach the
goal she seeks.

The opening sentences of the Gospel of John describe the
relationship of love and wisdom within the Lord, the infinite God from
eternity, the creator and sustainer of all life. These sentences use the
term “the Word.” It is a translation of the original Greek, logos. It
means the word by which inner thought is expressed or the inner
thought and reason itself. The Logos spoken of in the Gospel of John
is the infinite wisdom that gives form to the Divine Love. It is both one
with this love and can be thought of as a separate quality. All of
creation, whose goal is an expression of Divine love was guided by
this Logos or perfect wisdom.

So we read in the opening of this gospel: “In the beginning was
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He
was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John1:1-3)
The goal of creation was and is the fulfillment of the Divine love.
The first quality of which is that true love must have another or others
outside of self to love. Concerning this quality of the Lord we are told:
The first essential, which is to love others outside of one’s self, is
recognized in God’s love for the whole human race; and for its sake
God loves all things that He has created because they are means; for
when the end is loved the means also are loved. All human beings
and things in the universe are outside of God, because they are finite
and God is infinite. The love of God goes forth and extends not only
to good people and good things, but also to evil people and evil
things; consequently not only to the people and things in heaven but
also in hell, thus not only to Michael and Gabriel but also to the devil
and satan; for God is everywhere, and is from eternity to eternity the
same. He says also that “He makes the sun to rise on the good and
on the evil, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew
5:45)

But the reason why evil people continue to be evil, and evil
things continue to be evil, lies in the subjects and objects themselves,
in that they do not receive the love of God as it is, and as it is in
mostly in them, but as they themselves are; in the same way as
thorns and thistles receive the heat of the sun and the rain of heaven.
(True Christian Religion 43)

Each of us is a focus of the Lord’s love. He has created us with
the goal and intention of serving us and bringing us joy. When we
think of the billions of human beings alive today in this world, it is
almost impossible to envision that the Lord views each of us as
individuals. We look at a forest of trees and can say I love every one
of the leaves in this forest, but we are speaking abstractly. But the
Lord is very different. He is our loving heavenly Father. Just as an
attentive parent sees each of his children as wonderfully unique
individuals, beloved each in their own right, needing a special kind of
parenting and guidance, experiencing his or her own joys and
challenges, so the Lord loves each of us as individuals. In fact, He
knows infinitely more about each of us than the most attentive parent
could ever know about a child. It is His joy to share in our lives.
But just having created “others” in existence isn’t enough to
fulfill true Love. The second quality of this love is described with these
words:

The second essential of the love of God, which is a desire to be
one with others, is recognized in His conjunction with the angelic
heaven, with the church on earth, with every one there, and with
every thing good and true that enters into and constitutes each
person and the church. Moreover, love viewed in itself is nothing but
an endeavor towards conjunction; therefore that this aim of the
essence of love might be realized each and every human being was
created by God into His own image and likeness, with which a
conjunction is possible. That the Divine love continually seeks
conjunction is evident from the Lord’s own words: That He wishes
them to be one, He in them and they in Him, and that the love of God
might be in them. (John 17:21-23, 26 and True Christian Religion 43)

“Love viewed in itself is nothing but an endeavor towards
conjunction.” What do these words mean? Specifically, what does
“conjunction” mean? It is a desire to share in common goals and
common understandings. It is a desire for a deep relationship of trust
and mutual goodwill. Conjunction or a deep relationship of love is
impossible without freedom to choose that relationship. Imagine the
child of very wealthy parents who feels lonely and is told, “Don’t
worry, we’ll pay someone to be your friend.” Or consider the boss
who suspects that the only reason an employee is so solicitous of his
ideas and welfare is the fear of being fired if they expressed their real
opinion. What kind of relationships would these be? Would they be
anything more than very superficial? Would there be anything more
than a temporary “oneness of purpose” so long as there was
payment or continuing fear of consequences for not going along.
There could be no real love or real conjunction in these cases. So
likewise, it is essential to the Lord that we be free to choose to love
what He loves, to accept His wisdom, or to reject them both. We can
choose to be with Him or choose to distance ourselves from His life.
But for us to choose a relationship of love with the Lord we
have to know of Him, His goals, and His thoughts. Otherwise we
would not know what we were choosing and not choosing. For this
reason, the Lord has made sure that everyone has the essential
knowledge of His qualities. Concerning this we read the following
from the book the Divine Providence, “Everyone acknowledges God
and is conjoined to Him according to the good of his life. All can have
a knowledge of God who know anything from religion….The general
principles of all religions by which everyone can be saved are: To
acknowledge God; and to refrain from doing evil because it is against
God. These are the two things which make religion to be religion. If
one of them is wanting it cannot be called religion, since to
acknowledge God and to do evil is a contradiction; so also is to do
good and yet not acknowledge God, for one is not possible without
the other. It has been provided by the Lord that almost everywhere
there should be some form of religion, and that in every religion there
should be these two principles; and it has also been provided by the
Lord that everyone who acknowledges God and refrains from doing
evil because it is against God should have a place in heaven.” (Divine
Providence 326:6,9)

The Lord has worked to make sure that the essential
knowledge for salvation has been available to all people. But He also
wants more than just the essential. He has provided that there be
specific revelation to form a church of human beings that could know
Him more clearly and worship Him as He truly is. For this reason the
Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings of the New
Church have been revealed. By itself written revelation describing
what we are to do would not have been enough. It was essential that
the Lord, the infinite God and Creator, be born into this world and
make His essential Humanity visible and knowable to us. Mere words
would not have done it. And so we read in the Gospel of John: “And
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory.” (John 1:14) The Advent of the otherwise invisible and
unknowable Infinite Creator into this world is the event that we will
celebrate on December 25th. Christmas is the celebration of the
Lord’s birth into this world as a human being who we can see in our
mind’s eye. We can read of how He taught, healed, lived, allowed
Himself to be put to death, and rose as our Savior and Redeemer.
Without this clear example we would not be able to freely follow Him
and freely love Him. He would be too distant and unknowable to us.
The final fulfillment of true love is shown in its third quality.
The third essential of the love of God, which is to render others
blessed from Himself, is recognized in eternal life, which Is the
endless blessedness, happiness, and joy that God gives to those who
receive into themselves His love. For as God is love itself, so is He
blessedness itself; for all love breathes forth delight from itself, and
the Divine love breathes forth blessedness itself, happiness, and joy
to eternity. Thus God from Himself renders the angels blessed, and
people after death; and this He does by conjunction with them. (True
Christian Religion 43)

If we are to receive these blessings of happiness and peace,
we must be joined in a deep relationship of love with the Lord. We
must freely choose to turn to His Word, learn what it teaches, and
consciously compel ourselves to think, speak, and live better than we
naturally incline to. We must turn to the Lord in prayer asking for His
help and guidance. Gradually He will help us to recognize His love
and His order more and more clearly. Gradually He will help us to
think and will more and more as He does. Gradually He will bring us
into a oneness with Him. If we cooperate with the Lord He will conjoin
us in heart, mind, and life with Him and from this conjunction comes
true happiness for us and for Him. This is the most wonderful gift
anyone could ever receive.
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 40:9-11, John 1:1-5, 14, 13:15, True Christian
Religion 339:1-2

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Loving the truth is intending and doing it.”

Heaven and Hell 15 

John Chapter 1

JOHN 1      Other translations  –  next  –  meaning  –  John  –  BM Home  –  Full Page

Chapter 1 THE INTERNAL SENSE.
  1. IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with god, and god was the Word.
  2. The same was in the beginning with god,
THAT the lord, as to his Divine Human [principle], which is divine truth, existed from eternity, in undivided union with the divine good, which is jehovah, verses 1, 2.
  1. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
That by divine truth from the lord was effected the all of creation, both natural and spiritual, thus the production of the all of outward nature, and likewise the regeneration of man, and the establishment of the church, vs 3.
  1. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
That divine truth is always in union with divine love, and by virtue of that union is the source of all wisdom, intelligence, and rationality, amongst mankind, vs 4.
  1. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
But that mankind had so immersed themselves in external and natural things, and thus in false principles, that they no longer acknowledged divine truth, vs 5.
  1. There was a man sent from god, whose name was John.
  2. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.
  3. He was not the light, but that he might bear witness of the light.
  4. [That] was the true light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world.
That divine truth has its appointed representatives here on earth, amongst those who are principled in charity and faith, whose office it is to testify concerning the lord’s Divine Humanity, and thus to lead mankind to acknowledge and receive it, as the only source of all wisdom, intelligence, and rationality, vs 6, 7, 8, 9.
  1. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
  2. He came to his own, and his own received him not.
  3. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of god, to them who believe in his name.
  4. Who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of god.
That the lord, by his divine truth, or the Word, was present with the Jewish church, but that he was not in general known and acknowledged, yet that all, who did know and acknowledge him, were made regenerate, and thus delivered from the guilt of doing violence to charity, and of profaning truth, being cleansed from all the principles of evil and error, vs 10, 11, 12, 13.
  1. And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled amongst us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.
That the lord, by assuming the human nature, and thus becoming a man, made himself divine truth in ultimates, as he had before been divine truth in first principles, and thus gained fuller access to man, by imparting a fuller measure of his divine love and wisdom, vs 14.
  1. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that comes after me, was before me, because he was prior to me.
  2. And of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.
  3. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by jesus christ.
Therefore all, who are principled in charity and faith, acknowledge from the heart, that the lord in his Divine Humanity is the eternal god, and that all good and truth are from him, and that he came into the world to open those interior things of his Word, for the benefit of mankind, vs 15, 16, 17.
  1. No one has seen god at any time; the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the father, he has brought him forth to view.
They acknowledge also, that no right apprehension can be had of the invisible jehovah, but by or through the visible humanity, which he assumed and glorified for that purpose, vs 18.
  1. And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who are you?
  2. And he confessed, and denied not, and confessed, I am not the christ.
  3. And they asked him, What then? Art you Elias? And he says, I am not. Art you the Prophet? And he answered, No.
  4. Then they said to him, Who are you? that we may give an answer to them who went us: What say you of yourself?
  5. He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the lord, as said Esaias the prophet.
Thus they testify concerning themselves, to those of the perverted church who are inquisitive about them, that they possess no truth or good of themselves, but only from the Word, and that from the Word all in the vastated church are admonished to prepare themselves to receive the lord in his divine humanity, vs 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.
  1. And they who were sent were of the Pharisees.
  2. And they asked him, and said to him, Why baptizest you then, if you are not the christ, nor Elias, nor the Prophet?
  3. John answered them, saying, I baptize with water, but there stands one in the midst of you, whom you know not.
They testify further, that they can teach only external truth, but that the truth itself is the lord as to his Divine Humanity, who is yet unacknowledged, although he is the very central life of all truths, vs 24, 25, 26.
  1. He it is who, coming after me, was before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
And has thus pre-eminence over all, since the lowest order of internal truth is above the highest of what is external, vs 27.
  1. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
  2. On the morrow John sees jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world!
Such is the testimony of external truth, derived from the letter of the Word, which testimony presently conducts to a view of internal truth as it is in connection with the lord’s Divine Humanity, by virtue of which internal truth confession is made that the lord in his Divine Humanity is the purest innocence, and that human disorder can never be removed, only so far as that innocence is implanted in human minds, vs 28, 29.
  1. He it is of whom I said, After me comes a man, who was before me; for he was prior to me.
  2. And I knew him not, but that he should be made manifest to Israel, on which account I am come baptizing with water.
Confession is further made from internal truth, that the lord, in his Divine Humanity, is the eternal god, and that all good and truth are from him, and that he is to be made known to the church by the teaching of external truth from the Word, vs 30, 31.
  1. And John bare witness, saying, I saw the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon him.
  2. And I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, On whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, he it is who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.
  3. And I saw and bare witness, that he is the Son of god.
Which truth testifies, that all the good and truth of faith, thus all purification and regeneration, are from the Divine Humanity of the lord, and that consequently all internal truth is from the same source, vs 32, 33, 34, 35.
  1. Again on the morrow, John stood and two of his disciples.
  2. And looking upon jesus as he walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of god !
  3. And the two disciples heard him speaking, and they followed jesus.
That they who are principled in charity, and in the faith of charity, have their spiritual sight opened to behold and to confess the lord in his Divine Humanity, whom therefore they immediately acknowledge and obey as the only god, vs 35, 36, 37.
    1. But jesus turning, and seeing them following, says to them, What seek you? They said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master) where abide you ?

  1. He says to them, Come and see. They came and saw where he abode, and remained with him that day, and it was about the tenth hour.
And being led by an internal dictate in their own minds to explore and examine the end of all truth, or knowledge, they are led further to inquire after the good of love and charity, to which all truth and knowledge point, and thus attain conjunction with the lord in that good, vs 38, 39.
  1. Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard from John, and followed him.
  2. He first finds his own brother Simon, and says to him, We have found the Messiah,—which is, being interpreted, the christ.
  3. And he led him to jesus, and jesus looking on him, said, You are Simon the son of Jona: You shall be called Cephas, which is, bring interpreted, a stone, (or Peter.)
That they who are principled in the good of charity instruct those who are principled in the good of faith, concerning the lord in his Divine Humanity, and thus conduct them to the incarnate god, by whom they are taught that they, who are principled in truth derived from good, ought to attach themselves to divine truth, or to truth proceeding from, and in conjunction with, the lord’s Divine Humanity, vs 40, 41, 42.
  1. On the morrow, jesus willed to go forth into Galilee, and he finds Philip, and says to him, Follow me.
  2. But Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrewand Peter.
  3. Philip finds Nathaniel, and says to him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.
That they of the church, who are principled in intelligence, are next instructed to acknowledge all intelligence to be derived from the lord’s Divine Humanity, and that when they are so instructed, they again instruct those who are principled in charity and its faith, that the lord is manifested in his Divine Humanity, as was predicted, vs 43, 44, 45.
  1. And Nathaniel said to him, Can any good thing be from Nazareth? Philip says to him, Come and see.
  2. jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him, and says of him, Behold, truly an Israelite, in whom is no guile.
  3. Nathaniel says to him, Whence know you me? jesus answered, and said to him, Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig-tree, I saw you.
  4. Nathaniel answered, and says to him, Rabbi, You are the Son of god, you are the King of Israel!
Which instruction is received with doubt, until conviction is worked of the divine wisdom of that humanity, by the distinction which it makes between spiritual good and natural good, and by setting the former above the latter, vs 46, 47, 48, 49.
  1. jesus answered, and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig-tree, believe you? You shall see greater things than these.
  2. And he says to him, Verily, verily, I say to you, now on you shall see heaven open, and the angels of god ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
That this distinction, however, does not produce a conviction equal to that which arises in the course of regeneration, when the internal man is opened to see the several orders of truth in their connection with their divine source, by virtue of which man’s ascent to god is first effected, and afterwards the descent of god to man, vs 50, 51.

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THE

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN,

Translated from the Greek,

AND

ILLUSTRATED BY EXTRACTS

FROM THE

THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS OF THAT EMINENT SERVANT OF THE LORD,

THE

HON. EMANUEL SWEDENBORG,

TOGETHER WITH

NOTES & OBSERVATIONS OF THE TRANSLATOR ANNEXED TO EACH CHAPTER.

BY THE REV. J. CLOWES, M.A.

RECTOR OF ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, MANCHESTER, AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.

” Whoso readeth, let him understand.”—Matt. xxiv. 15.

 

Second Edition.

MANCHESTER:
PRINTED BY HENRY SMITH, ST, ANN’S-SQUARE,

AND SOLD BY

  1. HODSON. 112, FLEET-STREET, LONDON; AND BY E. BAYLIS,
    ST. ANN’S-STREET, MANCHESTER.

MDCCCXXXVIII.

Ten Questions About The Life After Death

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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Ten Questions About The Life After Death

A lecture by The Rt. Rev. Philip N. Odhner,
based upon the teachings given through Emanuel Swedenborg.

* * *

  • Is the spiritual world a real place? Are there lands and cities, mountains, oceans and forests there, as on this earth?
  • Does our personality survive the death of the natural body? Will we look the same in body and face? Will we have the same loves and thoughts?
  • Do we meet again those whom we have known and loved, our married partners, children, parents and friends?
  • Does marriage continue after death?
  • What is the form of society in the spiritual world?
  • Will we have occupations and employments there?
  • Are we judged there according to the quality of our life on earth?
  • Does everyone go to heaven?
  • Do we see God there?
  • How can we tell whether that which we hear about heaven is true?

* * *

The knowledge of eternal life is most important to the good of religion with men. The question of whether there is a life after death, and of what quality is that life is one of vital concern to us, not only when we are confronted with the death of those whom we love or with our own death, but also in connection with our consideration of every problem of religion. Without a knowledge of eternal life we cannot possibly understand God’s purpose in creating us, and without this we cannot grasp the nature of His Love, nor the nature of His will with us. Ignorance of the spiritual world may lead men to the doubt and denial of all things spiritual, and thus leave our religion a mere materialistic, worldly thing, without reason and without life.

Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian of the Eighteenth Century, stated that he was permitted by the Lord to be with the angels, and to speak with them as man with man, and that he was commissioned by the Lord to write down and publish the things thus revealed to him for the sake of mankind. To quote from the introduction of his work, “Heaven and Hell,” “The man of the Church at this day knows scarcely anything about heaven and hell, or about his life after death, although all things are set forth and described in the Word; yea, many even who have been born within the Church deny them, saying in their heart, ‘Who has come thence and told us?’ Lest therefore such a spirit of denial, which prevails especially with those who have much worldly wisdom, should also infect and corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith, it has been granted to me to associate with angels and to talk with them as man with man, and also to see the things which are in the heavens, and those which are in the hells, and this for thirteen years; also from what I have thus heard and seen I am now permitted to describe these, in the hope that ignorance may thus be enlightened, and unbelief dissipated.” (Heaven and Hell, no. l)

Because we believe that the wonderful things revealed about heaven and hell through Swedenborg constitute an entirely new basis for the thought of mankind in the understanding of spiritual things, we present here the answers given in his Writings to ten questions commonly asked about the life after death.

* * * *

1. Is the spiritual world a real world?

The spiritual world is a real world. By comparison with it, this world is relatively unreal. In the spiritual world there are all things that are in this world, and many more of which we are not conscious while we live here in the body. There are lands, and cities, forests, fields and oceans, as in this world. Everyone there has a body as in this world, with its five senses, and a mind, with its love and thought. The only difference is that the senses are keener after the death of the material body, the thought clearer, and the love more free.

So real is that world that if you were to die at this moment you would come into the consciousness of your spirit without noticing any difference in your surroundings. You would see the same room, the same city with its buildings. You would not realize in any way that you had passed into another world except that you would be surrounded by different people. Swedenborg relates that many men, on coining into the consciousness of the spirit, which takes place shortly after their death, refuse to believe that they are not still in the natural world before they have been instructed and shown by many wonderful experiments that this is indeed the case.

Many at this day think of angels and spirits as ghost-like creatures of no substance and form, as breaths of wind with no feeling or determined thought. This is because of the materialistic thought that prevails in the world, even in the churches, which supposes nothing to be real unless it is material, and unless it can be perceived through the senses of the physical body. Such people say that if there were a spiritual world, they could see it, and that surely by the aid of all our scientific instruments, by which we pierce into the inmost things of nature and by which we see into the farthest corners of the universe, we could detect some evidence of it.

The simplest reflection on the nature of your own spirit should be sufficient to dispel the fantasies of this materialistic thought. Consider for yourself, do you not live? Do you not have loves and thoughts? Are these not real things? The fact is that your love and thought are what direct your whole life, and that they are so real that nothing else can have any reality to you except that which touches or affects your love and thought. Can you mention anything that has any real meaning, apart from those things that enter and affect the love and thought of men? In a very true sense, love and its thought are the only real things to you. And yet has anyone ever seen love or thought with his eyes, or felt it with the hand? Can you measure them with a yardstick, or weigh them on scales? Has any microscope ever revealed any evidence of what they are in themselves? Or has any telescope revealed their presence in the far reaches of the universe? And yet would you say that for this reason they are not real, and that they have no substance and form?

The truth is that man’s spirit and all things of it have nothing in common with nature and the material world, except while the spirit lives in the natural body. It has a spiritual substance and form which are the verimost realities, and yet which are not material and therefore have not the properties of matter. It exists in a spiritual world of its own, apart from the spaces and times of the natural world. Many people ask, Where is heaven? To this the Lord replied, “The “kingdom of heaven is within you.” By this the Lord did not mean inside your body, in any spatial sense, but that the spiritual world is in the realm of your love and thought. These are spaceless, and yet they are within all natural things that have life. The spiritual world is therefore in and around us, as the reality which creates and brings forth all things in the natural world, just as our own spirit forms our body in the womb. When our body dies we come into the consciousness of that inner world. We do not fly off to some star at the end of the universe; we merely come into a consciousness of that which is within and above the material sphere. We then sense spiritual things even as the spirit in the body sensed natural things.

That the spiritual world is more real than the natural world can be seen from this, that in this world men can hide their real thoughts and feelings by means of the natural body and their material surroundings. They can pretend to be that which they are not, using natural things to mask their true character. So much is this so that we often hear people say that the whole world is nothing but a sham, most of the men in it being hypocrites to such an extent that You can’t count on their being what they appear to be. In the spiritual world this is not so. There the love and thought of men appear in their own true form. There is nothing with which to hide that form. Thus in the spiritual world things really are what they appear to be, whereas in this natural world they often are not what they appear to be. In this world a man may appear selfish when he is unselfish. He may appear old when in spirit he is young. He may appear generous when at heart he is a miser, and so on. In the spiritual world this is not so. The body and form of man in that world reflects in every detail the true character of his love and thought.

2. Does our personality survive the death of the body?

After death a man lives on in every respect the same as before except that he is no longer clothed with a material body, but lives in a spiritual body which is the true form of his love. Man retains everything of his love and its affections, every thing of his thought, everything of his memory. The whole of what we call his personality continues without the least change. Indeed the truth is that a man’s character there comes into its own, for there is much in our spirit which we cannot express in this world due to imperfections of the natural body, but the spiritual body is of living spiritual substance and not of dead material substance, and in it the love and thought of man are imaged forth perfectly. The face, the hands, everything of the spiritual body reveal to all the character of the man. Certain changes would be brought about in our external appearance because of this. Those of deformed body in this world would not so appear in the other world, since such deformity is of the material alone, and not of the spirit. Those who are old and worn out with age would appear once again young and beautiful, since age with its decrepitude and wrinkles are of the material body, and not of the spirit. On the other hand, those of a deformed spirit, those who are selfish and avaricious and cruel, would appear in the spiritual world as ugly and monstrous, thus as their true selves, no matter how young and beautiful they may have seemed here.

3. Do we meet again those whom we have known and loved?

Distance in the spiritual world is entirely according to the quality of a man’s love. Those are spiritually far from us whose loves are very different from our own, and those are near to us who have a similar love. From this law of the spiritual world we often speak in this life, saying that those we love are “very near” to us, and that those for whom we have no affection are remote from us. From this law of the spirit we can see that all who love each other meet in the life after death. Husbands and wives, children, parents, friends, all who love each other are re-united, and live together or near each other according to the nearness of their loves.

In heaven, however, only genuine loves survive. If we have loved someone here on a false basis, thinking them to be that which they are not, this is there made known and a consequent separation takes place. There are no natural relationships in the other life, but spiritual relationships, which arc those of love. A man then is not your brother because he had the same natural father and mother, but only if his love is of a similar quality. If there is a spiritual affinity as to love, then a natural brother is also your spiritual brother; if not, then a separation takes place, even as happens in this world between brothers who have nothing in common spiritually.

In a wide sense all in heaven are brothers, or sisters, since they all acknowledge the Lord as their common Father, but they are close or remote according to their loves. From this fact it also follows that the relationship of parents towards their children becomes a brotherly and sisterly relationship, and does not remain that of parents towards their children. This is in accord with the Lord’s words, “Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9.) Still it is a spiritual as well as a natural law that children derive from their parents a similar genius and a similar love. For this reason it would follow that those who have been in this relation on earth would for the most part live near each other in the life after death, if their spiritual development has been similar.

The joy of the reunion in heaven of those who have loved each other on the earth is boundless, and can only be measured by their joy in continuing to live together in the perpetual growth of their love and friendship into eternity.

4. Does marriage continue after death?

The teaching of the Writings of Swedenborg is that the genuine love of one man and one wife is the most blessed and happy that God gives to human beings. This love is called Conjugial Love, and is an inmost union of the two in love and thought and in every word and deed. In all true marriages on earth something of this love is present, and such a marriage continues on into eternity and is the inmost source of all heavenly joy and happiness. Those marriages on earth in which there is nothing of this true love are of themselves dissolved at death, since such marriages have been of the body alone, and not of the spirit. In this case, if the husband and wife are such as can enter into heavenly society, that is, if they are nevertheless unselfish people who have love to God and love towards their neighbors, a suitable partner is found for each of them with whom they can receive Conjugial Love, and with whom they can live in increasing happiness into eternity. Here again the same law holds true, that a similar love unites, and a dissimilar love separates; but in the case of man and wife the love is not only similar, but it is one with them both.

The Lord said, “They who are held worthy to attain to another age and to the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot die anymore.” This has been interpreted to mean that the angels are sexless, and that they do not live in a married state. But reflection will show that this teaching does not refer to the marriage of man and woman, but to the marriage of love and faith in each heart and mind. Otherwise, why should the words be added, “For they cannot die anymore”? It would make no sense to say this in connection with the marriage of man and woman. On the other hand the spiritual marriage of man’s love and faith in a good life is what brings him spiritual life. If this spiritual marriage has not taken place on earth, it cannot take place in heaven; and if it has taken place on earth, nothing can ever bring about its destruction in the life after death. Compare also the teachings in Genesis 5: 1, 2, “In the day that God created man in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them and called their name Adam.” Here it is evident that man and woman together are the likeness of God and His image. They together are as the Lord said, “one flesh,” and to think that they do not remain such after death is contrary to all the perception of those who are blessed with that true love which is called Conjugial.

Swedenborg testifies that all in the heavens live in the married state with that partner who is one with them in love.

5. What is the form of society in the spiritual world?

The teaching is that the angels for the most part live in societies, larger and smaller, corresponding to the cities and towns of this earth. Some also live apart, as it were in rural districts. Each society has its own form of government, just as each country in this world. The form of government is adapted to the genius of the people in those societies. But they are all alike in this, that the government is one of mutual love, and is administered through instruction. There is no necessity of compulsion since all in the heavens are in the love of the common good.

Wealth in heaven is measured only by the reception of wisdom from the Lord. This the angels receive each in accord with the use which he performs to his society. All their necessities, such as their spiritual food, clothing, and shelter, are given to them freely, in accordance with the needs of their functions and offices. There are rich and poor there, in the sense that some receive more of wisdom than others, and some perform more exalted uses than others. There is however no sense of proprietorship, as all acknowledge that what they have is from and of the Lord alone, and each one wills that all that is his should belong to everyone else. According to the teaching in the New Testament, the rulers consider themselves as the servants of all. All contribute to the common good, and receive the requirements of their happiness from the common good.

In this the form of heaven is as the form of the human body, in which each part contributes to the health of the whole, and each receives from the whole that which is necessary for its own good health. In fact the societies of heaven perform functions for each other corresponding in every way with the uses which the different parts of the body perform for each other. The whole of heaven is thus like one Grand Man, and is so seen by the Lord. This Grand Man may be called the Body of the Lord, in which He lives, and in which He rules as the soul of man lives and rules in his body.

*****

6. Do we have occupations and employments there?

Many people entertain the idea that heaven is a place of eternal rest, and by this they understand a place where men do no work, but sit around in eternal idleness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every man was created to be of service to the human race. All joy and happiness which are genuine come to man from the performance of the service for which he was created. Even in this world we can see that a man who does nothing, who contributes nothing to the good of his fellow men, cannot be happy. In heaven everyone performs some function or office in accordance with his genius and abilities, and in the performance of this work lies all heavenly joy for him.

The teaching that heaven is a perpetual Sabbath does not mean that the angels do nothing but attend church services and sing hymns or play on harps. By the perpetual Sabbath is meant rest from the combat against the evils of their self-love. They do indeed glorify God, but this they do in the performance of their daily work. To glorify God means, “to bring forth the fruits of love; that is, faithfully, sincerely, and diligently to do the work of one’s own function, for this is of the love of God and of the love of the neighbor. And this is the bond of society and its good. By this God is glorified, and then by worship at stated times. Have you not read these words of the Lord, Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples?” (Conjugial Love, no.9.)

7. Are we judged there according to the quality of our life on earth?

Every man is judged in the spiritual world according to the quality of his life on this earth for the reason that his love is according to his life, and all judgment in the spiritual world is according to the love. If the love is selfish, its quality is evil. If the love is unselfish, its quality is good. A man’s character takes on a certain fixation in his bodily life in this world, according to his free choice and determination in spiritual things. For this reason the essential quality and order of his loves is not changed by death. Nevertheless no man is to be judged by the external appearances of his quality in this life. It is his ruling love, his ruling motive, that determines a man’s true character, and this is not always seen in this life, but becomes evident in the life after death.

Although man’s essential character and ruling love remains the same after death, this does not mean that he does not progress. Every spirit progresses in the perfection of his life, increasing in knowledge, in wisdom, and in the extension of his .usefulness into eternity. This may be illustrated by the fact that as we progress in age in this world our loves, our essential character, become more and more fixed, but that we never cease to learn, and grow continually in wisdom of life.

8. Does everyone go to Heaven?

Every human being whatsoever that has been born into the world, even if he has lived but for a moment, is an immortal soul, and lives to eternity in the spiritual world. The question as to whether all in that spiritual world are in heaven, or whether some go to hell is clarified by this; that every man lives there in his own love, and if his love is unselfish, a love of God and the neighbor, he is in heaven, since heaven is made by those loves; if his love on the other hand is a selfish love, so that he loves self and the world above all things, then he is in hell, since those loves make hell, and are hell in themselves. The fire and brimstone of hell mentioned in the Bible are nothing more or less than the activity of the evil loves of self and the world and their enjoyments. Hell is then nothing more than a continuation of the life of the loves of self and the world with those who choose to remain in them during this life. It is not a place of torture or eternal punishment, but merely the fatuous life and happiness which are received by those who are ruled by those evil loves.

Every man, no matter what his religion may be, is brought into heaven and is instructed in such a way as to receive the truth according to his genius, if he lives according to his religion, and in some measure combats and overcomes the rule of his self-love.

9. Do we see God in the life after death?

The God of Heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no God beside Him. The minds of Christians have been confused by a misinterpretation of the teachings of the New Testament, to the effect that the Father and the Holy Spirit are different in person from the Lord. The true Christian teaching is that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul said, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.) The Father is the Lord’s soul, which is in Him as the soul is in man. The Son is the Human which the Lord assumed by birth in this world. The Holy Spirit is the Divine which proceeds from Him into the minds of all human beings, regenerating them and raising them to Himself in heaven. There are not three Divines, but one; nor three persons, but one, and that one is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Lord appears in heaven at certain times before the eyes of the angels, and when He appears He is seen as He was in the world, of a like countenance and stature, His face”shining like the sun in its strength” as described by John in the Apocalypse (Apoc. 1:16.) But it must be known that the Lord is not among the angels as one of them, nor does He rule over them in person as a king of this world over his subjects. The Lord is with the angels as their life, as the Love and Wisdom of their will and understanding. He is thus most truly and intimately present in all their affections and thoughts, since these all are from Him, and are His; yea, it is He Himself in them. The angels also see the Lord represented outside of themselves as the sun of Heaven from which come their spiritual heat and light, which are their love and wisdom. The Lord is thus spiritually omnipresent with the angels as all that is good and true with them. So also He is present with the spirits of men while they live in this world. The angels thus see God in all that is good and true. But on occasion for the sake of special uses they see Him also in His Divine person.

10. How can we tell whether that which we hear about Heaven is true?

No one can scientifically prove or disprove anything that is said about the spiritual world, because that world lies entirely beyond the realm of merely physical demonstration. But if we believe in God we must also believe that He can give His creatures the ability to see what is true of the spirit, if they will to see it from Him. We believe what has been revealed through Swedenborg about the spiritual world because everything which he has written about it is in agreement with former revelations of the Word of God contained in the Bible. Also what is said in “Heaven and Hell” and in other theological works given to us through Swedenborg has the self evident authority of all that is Divinely true It is such as to bring order and light into our minds on this most vital subject when before there has been nothing but ignorance and confusion. Add to this that what is said is such as to appeal tosound reason with all men, and is in agreement with all rational thought concerning God and His purpose with men.

No man can believe anything unless there is within him an internal dictate that that thing is true, and unless he can see that it agrees with the Word of God or that it is the Word of God. If, in addition, a thing can be confirmed by his reason and by scientific observations that are seen to be in agreement with it, then that thing is not only seen to be true, but is firmly established as such in the mind. We believe that the revelations of the spiritual world given through Swedenborg more than meet all these requirements for full belief. We believe that ignorance and doubt with men can be entirely dispelled through that revelation, and that our life in this world can thus be given a meaning and a guidance that far exceeds anything that has ever been given to the human race before. We therefore urge you all to read and study “Heaven and Hell” and the other works of the Lord given through His Servant Emanuel Swedenborg.

http://www.swedenborgstudy.com/books/P.N.Odhner_Life-After-Death/index.html

  

 

What do you do in Heaven?

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What do you do in Heaven?

On earth we live in communities. So we will in heaven. But the heavenly communities will be structured and organised. Each community will have its own specific use and function within the whole.

We will determine our heavenly community and unique role within it by use of our specific skills and talents in this world to love and serve others. Each angel will thus feel comfortable and at home with those around and have a function which suits his or her own abilities and desires.  Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that ‘the Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of uses’. Heaven and Hell 387.

Work in heavenly communities will differ from work on earth because its motivation will be different. In heaven housing, clothing and food will be freely given to all angels.  The need to work for personal needs is gone. Perhaps it is like choosing how to be busy in early retirement!

People’s prime motivations on earth vary – use to the Lord, to others or to self – so in heaven they will vary too. The parallels in heavenly life might be seen to be: helping people in their spiritual life, civil life or domestic life. In each of these areas there will be work to do for other people, in loving them, caring for them and helping them.

It is possible to think of people who love working in each of the above areas in their life on earth. If it is their true love and skill it will continue into the next life. Thus each angel will be happy in the work which needs to be done. It is perhaps also evident that there will be an infinite variety of occupations to match the infinite variety of the angels. Swedenborg tells us that there are few tasks in the world by comparison.  Heaven and Hell 393.

Each angel is busy in activity which benefits the community and, thus the whole, using unique talents given by the Creator. There are fortunate people on earth whose work is like this for them. In heaven this will be achieved by all.

http://www.spiritualwisdom.org.uk/life-after-death.htm

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The Lord God Jesus Christ

The Lord God Jesus Christ
A Sermon by Rev. Grant R. Schnarr

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Our idea of God is the most important concept we can have.
Our spiritual lives are based on this concept. Our spiritual destiny,
including our homes in the other world, are formed by our view of
God. Every aspect of our eternal life revolves around our
understanding and our relationship with our Maker.
Developing a true and working concept of God, though, can be
a challenge. We bring our own conceptions and misconceptions to
this image. Historically humans have perverted or destroyed the
picture of God over and over again, and used a twisted
understanding of God and His will to do many twisted things. The
Spanish Inquisition, Hitler, and others claimed to worship the Lord,
and performed hurtful deeds in the name of the Lord. People can
make up their own God to suit their own bias rather than worship the
true God.

Culture and times can be biased against a true picture of God.
For instance, God the judge might be popular at times, the punisher,
the warrior, or a remote and uncaring Ruler. Or the opposite kind of
God can be held up as an ideal: the ineffective, permissive, enabling,
anything goes God, weak and unable to lead or effect change in the
world. The discussion of gender in relation to God is a good example
of the struggle between cultural bias on every side of the issue and a
struggle to understand Revelation.

In the past history of the Christian church, truth has certainly
taken precedence over good. The Writings tell us that a faith alone
world developed, where good did not count for much, if anything. A
natural outcome was that the world became perceived as a male’s
world, and even as good was suppressed and put down as nothing,
so were women treated the same. In a faith alone culture, male
attributes have been held up as an ideal, and it can be argued that
even much of the feminist movement in the western world in the past
quarter century has made the mistake of joining that illusion rather
than dispersing it. This has caused deep wounds in many, not to be
taken lightly or overlooked as an oddity. When love, perception,
gentleness, nurturing are looked upon as second rate feelings, many
of them to be shunned, those who excel in these areas receive the
constant message that they are not good enough, that they do not
count. From a truth dominated culture a false concept of God is
created, a static God firmly entrenched in a groundwork of rules
seemingly unconnected to life. God becomes a judge whose favor
limits the variety of the human race to those few who hold the correct
set of ideas, and punishes those who do not. God can seem to
become a distant Father who is never home, or who arrives home on
Sundays to lecture and scold, only to disappear again Monday
morning. What would it be like to have nothing at all in common with
this God and be told that this is the true God and you must worship
Him?

Cultural bias not only affects our view of God, but our lives, and
the wounds caused by false doctrines presenting false gods are real.
And so it is that the Heavenly Doctrines come into the world to bring
back the balance between truth and good, to honor both sexes in
their own right, and to offer everyone with an open mind a visible
image of God in a Divinely Human form for what actually is the first
time in religious history. (Read True Christian Religion #787 and
following.) The Writings call upon society to rethink the entire picture
of religion, the entire concept of God. They present a radically
different concept where love and wisdom both reign in the Divine and
in life. The Writings say no to a truth alone world and firmly present
the marriage of truth and good in use as the essence of perfection
(DLW 28-33).

However, while acknowledging the wounds created by false
doctrines of the past, how do we form a true picture of the Lord,
which reflects all of humanity, without bias from past or present
cultures? How do we begin to heal the wounds that many have felt by
cultural misconceptions of God, and at the same time not create more
wounds by creating more misconceptions? We want to see God
through our own eyes, but how do we do this without creating God
with our own hands, in our own image?

Wounds heal over time, and there is no quick solution, but there
are answers to all of life’s questions that can help heal. The Writings
are called the leaves of the Tree of Life, for the healing of the nations.
Revelation from God is the source of healing, if one can approach it
and accept it. Revelation was given to guide us to an ever growing
understanding of the Lord. Revelation presents a picture of the Lord,
a living picture, and through this Window into eternity we can behold
the face of our Creator, and see our own face reflected therein.

What does Revelation teach us? More than we can learn in a lifetime.
Truth from the Word is infinite, but we can take a few principles and
apply them to this issue, to begin to build a healthy and genuine
concept of God. First, the Heavenly Doctrines teach us to look to our
Maker from essence to person, and not from person to essence. This
is an important teaching to help us approach our Maker.
“Everyone who thinks of God from person only,” the Writings
say, “and not essence is thinking materially. For instance, a person
who thinks of the neighbor from the form only and not the quality is
thinking materially…

Think of God from essence, and from that of His person, and do
not think of His person and from that of His essence. For to think of
His essence from person is to think materially of the essence also;
but to think of His person from essence is to think spiritually of His
person” (Apocalypse Revealed 611:7).

Thinking of God from person to essence is not helpful to us.
Looking at the Lord’s material body from a corporeal point of view,
and translating that into the essence of God, is not helpful. In modern
terms, getting hung up on the physical form of the Lord while He was
on earth, and allowing the physical form of the Lord to dictate how we
think of the essence is not helpful. An example of this would be
statements that say the essence of God is male or female. That is
thinking of God from person to essence. God is the I AM, while the
origin of gender, God in essence is above gender. To attribute
qualities of creation to the uncreated is like calling the Potter clay.
But that does not mean that all attributes of what we call humanity are
not from the Divine. Of course they are, and that is why every human
being, whether white, yellow, black, male, female, disadvantaged,
disabled or healthy and whole can approach and be conjoined with
the Lord.

But this is accomplished by approaching the Lord from essence
to person. Through a recognition of the all-encompassing God, the all
loving, all wise, ever creating, ever nurturing Force, from whom all
people and things come, we look to the Divine Human. We see these
infinite and Divine qualities in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this,
we allow the invisible to be visible, as the Writings say, in the air or on
the sea, with His arms opened inviting you into His embrace (True
Christian Religion 787). This is how conjunction with God takes place,
through the visible, tangible, lovable, approachable Lord Jesus Christ,
as revealed in His Word.

But we are to worship Him as the Lord as Jesus Christ and no
other. To worship Divine attributes by any other name is to make God
invisible. The Writings tell us, “In respect of His Divine Human the
Lord is the Mediator, and no one can come to the Divine Being itself
within the Lord, called the Father, except though the Son, that is, the
Divine Human… Thus the Lord as to His Divine Human is the actual
joining together. And if people cannot do this in thought how can they
be joined to the Divine itself in love.” (Arcana Coelestia 6804:4)
The Writings go on to say, “He was pleased to take upon Himself
human form, and this to allow people to approach Him … It is this
Human which is called the Son of God, and this it is which mediates…
This is why the Son of God, meaning the Human of God…is called
the Savior, and on earth Jesus, which means salvation.” (True
Christian Religion 135:4)

And so the Lord said, “I am the way the truth, and the Life. No
one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me,
you would have known the Father also; and from now on you know
Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:6-7)

The invisible soul of God is at once revealed and made
manifest in His own Humanity, now revealed in His Word, and
proclaimed to us in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord God Jesus
Christ. Can we see the essence of God within His person? Can we
allow God to be both Divine and Human? The image of the Divine
Human is a blessing to those who long to understand and be
conjoined with the Lord. A newcomer of the church once said, “When
I was young I heard about God, the great and powerful Almighty. He
clapped His hands, the thunders roared. He batted His eyes, the
lightening flashed. Boom! God? God scared me. But when I read in
the Writings that this gentle shepherd named Jesus, who Himself
called a lamb, who held the children, healed the sick, and taught so
many loving things, that this man was God, well, that did for me.” The
question might be asked,

“What does it do for you?”
The image of the Lord Jesus Christ as it appears in the Gospels
and as it is explained in the Heavenly Doctrines, is given to the
human race to bring conjunction with the Divine, the true Divine, and
with that — healing. Although it is no doubt difficult for some, because
of real abuse of false doctrines in the past, to approach this image as
presented in the Word will bring healing. This image when viewed
from essence to person can be in filled with a variety of descriptions
from the Word, which represent every aspect of humanity. Jesus
does bless the children, heal the sick, feed thousands of hungry
mouths, cries for His people, and calls each of us to arms of love and
compassion. He says,

“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He cries out to a church that has
gone astray in faith alone, He says, and listen to His words,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and
stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but
you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say
to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who
comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37-39 )

Can we say these words? Can we see our Lord and Savior as
all encompassing, containing the source of all that is human and
Divine? And can we worship Him as He has revealed Himself in His
own Word? Then we will truly be able to see Him, and say with full
hearts, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
What is the essential message of the New Church? Is the
message of the New Church that God is inaccessible to some people,
for no fault of their own? Is the message that if you have a hard time
picturing God that you should give up and go somewhere else? The
answer is NO! Is the message of the New Church that anything
goes? You can make up your own God here, in any fashion you
choose? The answer is NO! The message of the New Church is clear
in the Writings, preached by the lips of the apostles themselves, and
held as a hope for all people everywhere, from whatever background
or origin, so that they may be conjoined with their Creator. This
message is for everyone, to be in filled by every individual in a way
that she or he must, in order to see and feel what it means to them.
The message is that the Lord God Jesus Christ Reigns, and His
Kingdom shall be forever and ever. Blessed are they who come to the
marriage supper of the Lamb (True Christian Religion 791). The Lord
promises us, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me
to give to everyone according to their work” (Rev. 22:12). May
ourresponse be with open hearts and minds, and with joyful lips,
“Even so,come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 42:1-9; John 14:1-11; Arcana Coelestia 8705

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love wants to love and it wants to be loved.”

True Christian Religion 99

Man is Led and Taught By the Lord in Externals to All Appearance As Of Himself

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

In externals man is led and taught by the Lord in all appearance as if by himself. This takes place in man’s externals, but not in internals.

How the Lord leads and teaches man in his internals no one knows, as no one knows how the soul operates to cause the eye to see, the ear to hear, the tongue and mouth to speak, the heart to move the blood, the lungs to breathe, the stomach to digest, the liver and pancreas to assort, the kidneys to secrete, and countless other things. These things do not come to man’s perception and sensation.

The same is true of what is done by the Lord in the interior substances and forms of the mind, which are infinitely more numerous; the Lord’s operations in these are not manifest to man. But the effects, which are numerous, are manifest, as well as some of the causes producing the effects. These are the externals wherein man and the Lord are together. And because externals make one with internals (for they cohere in one series), the Lord can arrange things in internals only in accordance with the disposition that is effected by means of man in the externals.

Every one knows that man thinks, wills, speaks, and acts to all appearance as if from himself; and every one can see that without this appearance man would have no will or understanding, thus no affection or thought, also no reception of any good and truth from the Lord. This being so, it follows that without this appearance there would be no knowledge of God, no charity or faith, and consequently no reformation or regeneration, and therefore no salvation. From all this it is clear that this appearance is given to man by the Lord for the sake of all these uses, and chiefly that man may have the ability to receive and to reciprocate, whereby the Lord may be conjoined with him and he with the Lord, and that through this conjunction man may live forever. This is the appearance here meant.

(Divine Providence 174)
June 23, 2017

The First And Second Death

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<< THE FIRST AND SECOND DEATH. >>

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of those that
kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you who in ye shall fear : Fear him,
which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell ; yea, I
say unto you. Fear him.”
—Luke xii. 4, 5.

THERE is no subject, it would seem, which would interest man so much as that great change in his existence which is called death, and yet there are few questions concerning which so little is known and so many errors prevail. The most common opinions concerning it are that it is a mystery, a terror and an agony ; that it was sent upon man as a punishment for disobedience, and that it is a standing monument of the Divine displeasure. Consequently, men almost universally shrink from it with horror, and to many it is the one dark cloud and terrible dread of life. Poets and orators and Christian teachers hold it up as the most awful calamity, and it is the severest punishment known to human laws. But much of the mystery and terror that invests it is due to entire misconceptions of its origin and nature, and these misconceptions seem to have their origin in confounding the two deaths and attributing to one the qualities that belong to the other. Men have attributed to natural death the pains and sufferings that belong only to spiritual death. Indeed, most men overlook the second death entirely, and, if they think of the subject at all, think only of natural death.

A careful examination of the Sacred Scriptures and enlightened reason will show us that natural death, by which we understand the separation of the soul from the body, was not sent upon man as a punishment for sin, but is an orderly step in the progress of his life. It was not this- death that came into the world by sin. If man had never sinned he would still have cast off his material body and passed on into the spiritual world.

We need go no further than the first intimations of death which we have in the Sacred Scriptures to learn that it was not natural death that came by sin. The warning given to Adam and Eve was, ‘* In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. ii. 17.) But they did not die a natural death in that day. Either that was not the death referred to, therefore, or the warning was a false one. And this we cannot for a moment suppose. So when Moses said to the Israelites,” See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” (Deut. xxx. 15), he cannot mean natural life and death, for if they had obeyed every one of his commandments they would not have lived forever in this world. The Lord also commanded Jeremiah to say to the Jews, “Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” (Jer. xxi. 8.) In the Psalms also it is said, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. Ivi. 13 ; cxvi. 8.)

The apostles also often speak of death in this sense. But what our Lord said to Martha is conclusive upon the subject, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John xi. 26.) By this He could not mean natural death, for multitudes which no man can number have lived and believed in Him, and their bodies have returned to the dust from which they were formed. When the apostle says that death came by sin, and that death has passed upon all, for that all have sinned (Rom. v. 12), he evidently means the death of the soul. There is no evidence in the Bible that natural death was caused by sin. It is a mere human inference. It is no doubt true that much of the sickness and pain that generally precedes and attends our departure from this world is more or less remotely caused by sin, because evil desires and false principles lead to the violation of physical laws, to intemperance in eating and drinking, to anxieties and excitements and disorders of life. The average duration of human life in this world has without doubt also been much shortened by evil, for we know that the average duration of life increases as civilization advances and men become more observant of the laws of life. But there is no evidence that man would live forever in this world even if he lived a perfect life. Immortality in this world is certainly not taught in the Bible, and there are many rational considerations and inferences from the Sacred Scriptures that show conclusively that it is not according to the purposes of the Divine wisdom that man should live here forever.

So far as our knowledge extends, the existence of every living thing organized of matter is limited. It has laws of birth, growth, and decay. There is no exception. Every plant in the vegetable kingdom, for example, attains its growth and does not pass beyond a certain limit. It may remain stationary there for years, for centuries, and yet the moment it stands still it begins to decline, and eventually it will fall and perish. The same is true of the animal kingdom. There are no exceptions to the law. Now, it is worthy of notice that animals and vegetables have not sinned ; they live according to the true order of their creation. Man, as to his physical nature, is an animal, and the laws of his generation, development, and life are the same. There have been, and no doubt are still, multitudes of human beings who have lived in perfect health. And yet they grow old and die. Nor do they die of any disease ; when the body has done its work it shrivels and falls from the soul as the husk from the corn.

But again, so far as human observation extends, the development of organized beings and things proceeds by distinct steps, the prior acting as an instrument for the creation of the succeeding, and being left behind it in the ascent. In the vegetable kingdom, when the germ expands, the outer covering which contained it is thrown aside ; the blossom fades and perishes when the fruit is born and begins a distinct existence ; and again, the husk and chaff and rough covering which have served as a body and vessel and protection for the fine, fluent substances of the seed during its formation wither and die when the seed is ripe. The same order and method prevails in the animal kingdom. This is beautifully exemplified in insects. There are three distinct steps in insect life. A caterpillar is hatched from an egg then it becomes a chrysalis enclosed in a hard covering, and apparently almost lifeless, and then a moth or butterfly. During these metamorphoses, or changes of form, it never goes back and resumes its former state. The moth does not become a worm and the worm an egg. But it continually advances until it completes the cycle of its life, preparation being made in each state for the succeeding one.

Have these analogies and this method of the Divine wisdom, which is universal so far as we know, no significance ? So far as our observation extends, we find creation and life proceeding according to the same order and method in man as in all other creatures. Can we suppose that the order is reversed the moment we reach the limits of our own observation ? Man is a spiritual being. He has a spiritual body, for the apostle Paul declares, ” There is a spiritual body. ” Man has a nature of a degree distinctly higher than the animal, than any other created being. And is it not according to all the analogies of the Divine method of creating that man should attain his highest state by successive changes of state? continually throwing off and leaving behind those materials and instruments which have been used as means for its attainment ? If there is any force in reasoning from universal methods, I do not see how we can come to any other conclusion than that natural death is a step forward in life, if man has a distinctly spiritual nature, a spiritual body.

But if the laws of analogy did not point with sure indications to the great truth that natural death is only a step forward in life, we might infer it from the infinite nature of the Divine love and wisdom. Suppose it had been the original intention of the Creator that man should live immortal upon this earth, there must soon have been a limit to the number of human beings He could create ; for while man lives upon the earth clothed in a material body he must be fed with products from the earth, and even in the most perfect order of things the limits of its power to sustain human life must be reached ; and when that hmit is reached the whole order and nature of man must be changed. Society must to a great extent become stationary. No new elements could be constantly added to it ; no new varieties of character be constantly adding to its perfection. Conceive for a moment the earth to be crowded with a population to the full extent of its capacity to support life, and the same beings to dwell upon it forever, with no infancy, no childhood, no old age, nothing to call forth our sympathy, nothing to awaken fresh and lively hopes,—would not such a state be more like the dead level of a stagnant pool than the running stream of an ever-varying life? Would not some of the elements which seem most important and even essential to human happiness be wanting ? But suppose the earth to be filled with happy people. Could the comparatively few human beings the earth could sustain satisfy the infinite love of the Lord?

There is something of the infinite even in the material world. We see it in the variety which everywhere exists ; no two things or beings are alike. We see it in the tendency of every plant and animal to reproduction and multiplication. Can we for a moment suppose that man, who stands at the head of the Creator’s works, should be the only exception to this law? that while plants and animals are produced in endless variety in a circle of successive generations, man, who was created in the image and likeness of God, should soon reach the limit of his numbers, and beyond that limit could know no increase through the coming eternity ? How much grander the idea, and worthier of infinite love, and more in accordance with all we know of the Divine methods, that an endless succession of generations should be born upon the earth and transplanted into the heavens ! Thus human life upon the earth, instead of being the completed work of the Lord, is only its beginning. Earth is the nursery and seminary of heaven, where human souls capable of receiving the Divine life and reciprocating the Divine love, capable of loving and being loved, can be born with endless variety and number.

But again, if man was born to live forever in this world, what becomes of all the promised blessedness of heaven ? Are we not taught in the Sacred Scriptures, both by positive precept and inevitable inference, that heaven is a better and more perfect world than this? What becomes of the happiness which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived? Is heaven, the abode of the angels and the Lord, a mere refuge from this world? and does its principal excellence consist in the contrasts it furnishes to this life ? Would there have been no mansions in heaven for us if there had been no sin upon earth ? Would there have been no songs of joy there by human voices if there had been no wail of sorrow here ? Even upon the supposition that the angels are a race of beings distinct from men, would heaven be as perfect, would the angels be as happy in their bright abodes, without a constant accession of human beings from the earth to instruct and love ? If you insist that man was born to be immortal in this world, but that the happiness of heaven exceeds anything possible to this life, as the prevalent theology does, you admit that man has been a gainer by sin ; he has escaped from a world of material limitations and imperfections and gained entrance to one where all the conditions of his existence are perfect, where he can associate with angelic beings and enjoy a fulness and perfection of happiness impossible to this. If you admit that heaven would not be as perfect without a continual influx of life from this world, you admit that both angels and men are gainers by natural death.

Whatever view we take of the subject, then, I see but one escape from the inevitable conclusion that natural death has in itself no real terrors ; that it is an orderly step in man’s successive creation, and a part of the great original purpose of the Divine love and wisdom, according to which there is to be an endless succession of human souls created upon the earth, who, after passing through various stages here, are to find their final home in the spiritual world. I say I see but one escape from this conclusion, and that is in the admission that the spiritual world is not so real and perfect a world as this. And that admission involves so many and great absurdities, such an entire inversion of all the methods of the Divine order ; is so contrary to the whole tenor of the Word and subversive of the precious promises and immortal hopes it holds out to us, that it seems Impossible that any rational mind could entertain it for a moment. If the spiritual world is not the vain dream of an idle fancy ; if the Lord and the angels and the promises of heavenly blessedness are not fallacious hopes, then that change in our organization, that disrobing of the spirit by its resurrection from the material body, that escape from the imprisonment and bonds of the flesh, which men call death, has no real terror, and, instead of shrinking from it with horror, we ought to welcome it as our deliverer from bondage, as an introduction into life.

And without doubt we should regard death in this light if we had not invested it with terrors which belong to an entirely different subject, and lost air true idea of the nature and reality of the world to which it introduces us. Before man had so far receded from that world by a life of evil as almost to forget its existence, death had no terrors. It was the gate of entrance into a new life. He lay down to sleep with the delightful hope and perfect confidence that he would wake in a new world. Death was going home ; it was the conscious entrance into a higher state of being. It was the happy reunion with loved ones who had gone before. It was a step which brought him nearer to the Fountain of all life and the Author of all human blessedness. How could it be regarded with fear? How could the soul shrink from it with horror ? Suppose the chrysalis, imprisoned in that hard covering we may call its body, buried in the earth and limited to a bare existence, could have a perception of the change that is soon to take place in its state. It is soon to burst the gates of its present life and emerge into a new world of light and beauty. Instead of being buried in the dark earth, it is to soar aloft through the air, to bask in the light and warmth of the summer sun, to sport in joyous flights in happy bands, to feed upon the honeyed dews and the distilled sweets of flowers.

Do you think it would look forward to such a change with dread ? But the change from the chrysalis almost devoid of life, shut up in the dark, to the gay and beautiful insect is not so great as the change that takes place in man in his resurrection from the material body. This change, then, which men call death, this putting off of the material body, is not, cannot be, an interruption of the Divine plan, a thwarting of the Divine purposes of good towards His human children. It must be the fulfilment of those purposes. All Scripture properly understood, all right reason, teaches us that it must be so. To deny it is to plunge into inexplicable absurdities. But there is a death which we ought to fear, and from which we shall do well to shrink with horror, and that is spiritual death, sometimes called the “second death.” This death does not consist in a cessation of existence, nor in the departure from this world to the spiritual world, but in the inversion and destruction of the true order of man’s nature.

Man is said to be alive, in the Word, when he receives life from the Lord according to the original order and constitution of his nature. The Jews were promised life if they would obey the laws of the Lord. The whole Word is full of the same promises. ” If thou wilt enter into life,” said our Saviour, ”keep the commandments.” He came that men might have life. This was spiritual and not natural life. And the reason why life is promised on the condition of keeping the commandments, and often as a reward for keeping them, is because the commandments are the laws of life. The rewards are not arbitrarily given, but follow as a consequence, as the physician may promise health on the condition of our obeying the laws of physical life.

Man was created by infinite wisdom according to a certain order. By observing this order he would attain his life, a life ever increasing in fulness and degree. Any deviation from that order would be attended with some loss of life. It would prevent man from receiving life from the Lord in its fulness and perfection. The moment man violated a law of his spiritual nature he suffered some loss of spiritual capacity. Man began to die. This was the warning the Lord gave Adam and Eve, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And the warning was not an idle one. They did die in the day, not the natural day of twenty-four hours, but in the state and according to the degree that they ate of the forbidden fruit, which was evil. And this is a universal law in all orders and degrees of the creation. When the laws of vegetable life are broken, the plant begins to die. When the laws of animal life, of man’s physical life, are violated, the animal and the body begin to die. Death follows as an inevitable consequence. It is not arbitrarily inflicted. As the soul is immortal, spiritual death is not the cessation of existence, but the loss of the soul’s ability to receive life from the Lord in true order. The substances which compose the soul cannot be dissipated as the material elements which compose plants, animals, and the material body can. Man as a spiritual being must continue to exist, but in a state of spiritual death.

There are two principal characteristics of this death worthy of our notice. First, it is a loss of life. Man was created by the Lord with the power of perpetual and indefinite advancement in his capacity to know and love and be happy. The more we learn, the more we are capable of learning. The more we love, the more we are capable of loving. The more we enjoy, the more we are capable of enjoying. So that the feeblest child upon the earth may ultimately pass beyond the present state of the highest angel. But spiritual death arrests this development. It closes up the higher degrees of man’s mind against Divine influences, and shuts out the light and life of heaven. His whole nature becomes stunted and dwarfed. He stops in the grand and endless career of life at the beginning, and loses all the glory and blessedness of the eternal future. And no finite mind can estimate that loss. Men are often inconsolable at the loss of property or office, on account of hinderance in some earthly career, but that is a mere nothing compared with his loss who dies at the beginning of life. How sad it is to see a blind child ! By the death of his eyes how much he has lost ! He must wander in darkness through the earth, comparatively helpless, for ten, twenty, fifty years, unconscious of its beauty of form and color, of the significance of expressive faces and gestures, of the changing glories of the seasons, of day and night, and the ever-shifting play of things by which the web of human life is woven. How great, how irreparable, how sad the loss ! And yet what is that compared with the loss of one’s spiritual sight? Nothing,—absolutely nothing ! One is the loss for a few years of the sight of earthly things, the other the loss to eternity of the inexpressible beauty and glory of heaven. This is but one of the senses.

Suppose you had held in your hand the first grain of wheat that was created. You planted it, and in time it just pushed its head above the ground, and there its progress is arrested. It remains a green blade, but becomes nothing more. What a loss to humanity ! Thousands of millions of acres, waving with golden harvests, the staff of life for thousands of generations, broken. It surpasses the power of the finite mind to conceive the loss to humanity, and yet that is nothing compared with what every soul will lose whose progress is arrested in the first beginning of life by spiritual death. ” What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?”

You observe that I say nothing so far about pain and punishment, but speak merely of loss of attainment, of what man does not gain, of the endless and only less than infinite blessings the Lord intended for him which he fails to receive. And if he were to stop there, like the grain of wheat arrested in its growth, and suffer no pain, suffer nothing but the loss, can you conceive anything more terrible ? What a blasting of hopes ! What bankruptcy ! What eternal ruin ! Who would not fear a death which closes the gates of such hopes against us and bars us from the possession of such endless and ineffable joys ? But this is not all. By that inversion of life which we call spiritual death the soul comes into such a state of disorder and discord with the Fountain of life and with all outward things that it is filled with perpetual pain. It is not my purpose to describe the woes and agonies of the second death. We all know something of what they are, for there is not a sorrow or pain that afflicts human hearts that is not the effect of the second death. Count up your own sorrows, the pain from blasted hopes, the pangs of regret, the stings of remorse, the chafings from conflicting interests, the smarts of jealousy and shame, and the great shadow of fear that lies like a cloud upon all hearts ; measure the sum of human suffering in the hearts around you, and they will declare the awful consequences of this death in a language more forcible and eloquent than the painter’s colors or the writer’s words. Add to these, if you can, the future consequences of this death, the night that has no hope of a coming morning, the cup of misery that can never be drained, the feverish and tormenting desires that can never be appeased. Is there not reason in the Divine words, ” And I say unto you, my friends. Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you. Fear him” !

Is there not every reason to fear this death ? Human language is totally inadequate to express its horrors. Human imagination cannot adequately conceive its awful terrors. You may fear it ; you ought to fear it; teach your children to fear it ; warn your friends and neighbors to fear it. It is the most terrible thing in the universe. And yet men do not fear it. They play and dance with it ; they crown it with roses, and sink willingly into its embrace. Gentle and timid women, who would scream at a harmless insect and fall into a swoon at the sight of blood, will gayly and boldly toy with death ; will greet it with gay laughter and song, and cherish it with its hideous deformities and the sting of its endless pain in the secret shrine of their hearts. And men who call themselves ruined if they lose money, who are ashamed of goodness and have not sufficient courage to say, I have done wrong, are bold enough to do the wrong.

I know of no illusion of evil so cunning and destructive to human souls as that which conceals the horrors of real death with deceptive and vain delights, and invests a mere step in life with all the horrors of death. How we mourn when a beloved one is translated ! We look at the body which is cast off, and our eyes are blinded with tears. But who weeps over the dead souls that fill our houses and throng our streets ? The stir and bustle and noisy activity that everywhere meet the eye and fall upon the ear are not the sounds of life. The shout and song that come from festive halls are not the sounds of living souls, but too often the wild, mad revelry of death. And the earth, this beautiful and glorious earth, created to be the birthplace of immortal souls and the sweet cradle of infancy, the nursery of heaven, has become a vast sepulchre, a dwelling for the dead, a grave in which human souls are buried.

We die spiritually before we do naturally. The death of the body only lifts the veil and reveals to us in clear light the death of the soul that already exists, and permits us to pass on to its full consequences. When the body has performed its use, it fades like the blossom, it withers and falls like the husk, and reveals the life or death that exists within. It does not cause it ; it does not add to it or subtract from it, any more than the removal of the chaff adds to or subtracts from the wheat. Let us not, then, confound these two things so entirely distinct and different, and live in constant dread of that death which is but an orderly step in life and a provision of infinite mercy, while we forget the real danger of our souls.

Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895

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