Can you handle a hot potato from God?


Would you share important information with people you could not trust? Of course not. It is the same with God.

Much of what goes wrong in the world seems to stem from our species having favored self-gain and domination over the attributes of wisdom or sincere love of the neighbor.

This cosmic propensity for blunder is the real outcome of our species having spiritually fallen from grace and having been removed from the Garden of Eden. And Scripture informs us that God had even taken drastic measures to ensure that there is no easy way back into paradise. God placed special cherubim yielding flaming swords to guard access to the Tree of Life.

How could this behavior represent a God of infinite love and a God who is eternally concerned with our salvation? To explain this mystery of faith in a satisfactory way will require releasing the very information that God has been so carefully trying to keep secret. I am revealing this sacred information because I believe and trust that God’s Providence has brought you to this post.

In Revelation we are introduced to a “future” event where the Holy City, The New Jerusalem, will descend to earth from heaven. In this wonderful city, humankind will again have access to the Tree of Life – minus the frightening cherubim guards.

At face value, neither cherubim guarding a special tree or a city descending out of the sky makes any scientific sense. And how did the Tree of Life find its way into heaven before descending back to earth between these two biblical events? There must be more to these stories then meets the eye.

Gaining a deeper understanding of biblical stories is precisely the secret information that God wishes to share with us, but from divine foresight, and taking into account human behavior, is forced to protect. So let me release this trial balloon on you.

The Garden of Eden was not a physical garden. It was a pristine state of wisdom and innocence. Therefore, being removed from such a psychical paradise is to be removed from wisdom. Similarly, the descent of a Holy City from heaven cannot involve a physical city, but is a return of wisdom and innocence to humanity based on a heavenly design for proper living.

This holy design gains super clarity as deeper levels of meaning within Scripture are revealed to us. But this cannot be allowed as long as we prefer our own prudence to God’s wisdom, and continue to prefer self-love over love of others. The human preference for self-guidance over God-guidance is the obstacle that keeps men and women from having access to the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is God’s wisdom.

So why does God need cherubim with flaming swords to protect it? The reason is, that when the various images depicted in this biblical drama are interpreted from a more elevated meaning, we learn that cherubim represent God’s foresight in protecting divine truth. Flaming swords symbolize the intense (burning) desire to forge our own belief systems (which cut us off from God’s influence). That these swords can be turned “every which way” represents all the various corporeal conclusions we make from the principle of self-love, and self-pride which seeks knowledge only through the senses and material world.

So a deeper interpretation of the Genesis story reveals a drama that takes place within the human heart and mind. Human misjudgments and delusions are what stymie God’s attempts at revealing hidden things to us. If God were to offer this information to people who were not prepared to resist the intoxicating power of self-love or favoring their own prudence, they would screw it up badly and be in a worse situation than before. What you don’t know you can’t profane.

The reason why sacred information is so easily profaned by unprepared individuals, is because such a condition always causes men and women to revert back to their original egocentric impulses and pollute what belongs to God. As long as these negative impulses are alive and well within the human heart and mind, “cherubim” must stand guard to spare us from making a mistake with eternal consequences.

When an individual is prepared to make the proper changes in his or her life, it is a sign to God that it is safe to begin the process of spiritual enlightenment. Revealing deeper levels of meaning within the Holy Word is the big secret behind the true nature of the Lord’s Second Coming. It happens when you are ready!

I pray that you have not stumbled upon this sacred information prematurely.

Is Scripture a Fairy Tale?

Is the Bible the inspired Word of God? Or, are they the stories of simple people, who lacking scientific sophistication, had to rely on their imagination to make sense of the cosmos. Look at the biblical passage below:

Babel, the ornament of kingdoms, shall be as God’s overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah; the tziim shall lie there, their houses shall be filled with ochim, and the daughters of the owl shall dwell there, and the satyrs shall dance there; the ijim shall answer in her palaces, and the dragons in the palaces of her delight. (Isa. 13:19, 21, 22)

The Holy World contains stories of talking serpents, fearful giants, satyrs, and great dragons. These are also the sorts of creatures that one expects to find in mythologies and fairy tales. To say that something is a myth or fairy tale is to imply that it has no ontological status—that it isn’t something real. Why then would an all-foreseeing and infinitely wise Creator make use of such fantastic creatures knowing full well that these stories would eventually come under the scrutiny of the post modern world?

Can entities have real existence independent of what the physical world shows us? Can creatures exist within the laws of higher orders of reality? And, could these creatures be relevant to our everyday lives by having a real causal influence on what happens in the world?

We often describe Hitler as a monster. Yet, physically, he fully possessed the same human features as everyone else. So where does the hideous disfigurement reside?

When we see someone perform self-less acts to help others why do we say to that person “How big of you to do that?” And, why do we often refer to a selfish individual as a “small person?” What kind of non-physical metrics are we instinctively applying to the stature of people that we deal with everyday?

Why are the people we encounter in life seen on the one hand as being sharks, snakes in the grass, parasites, or wolves in sheep’s clothing, and on the other hand, seen as being innocent as doves or gentle as lambs? Isn’t it obvious that these images help to portray qualities that we are detecting from people’s true inner realities?

Therefore, are we abandoning modern scientific positivism and degenerating into superstitious goat-herders by such imaginative forays? If we can make use of this symbolic representation to express a more real picture of things operating underneath the surface, why can’t God?

In terms of salvation, isn’t it this inner reality of the human heart and mind that religion seeks to address and offer its guidance?

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A Sermon by Rev. Terry Schnarr

Preached in Sydney, Australia August 25, 1996

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

The Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we follow Him, our lives are easy and light. When we don’t follow Him our lives become heavy, burdensome, and tiring.

The Lord is a loving, kind, and merciful Creator. He created us to enjoy life. He does not create us and then make life hard and cumbersome for us. We make life difficult and hard for ourselves just so far as we try to lead ourselves.

“It is not so difficult to live the life that leads to heaven as is believed” (HH 528), the Heavenly Doctrines teach us. But why does it seem so hard? We make it difficult by not looking to the Word for guidance in our daily lives.

When the Lord was in the world He said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all people unto Me.” As you know, He conquered death and was lifted up. In the process He conquered the hells, subjecting them to His control. He now has the power to control the hells influencing each one of us, and He uses that power to draw us into heaven.

It is harder to go to hell than heaven because to go to hell you have to fight against the power of the Lord leading you to heaven. He has all power in heaven and on earth, and therefore it is harder to go against His power than to go against the power of the hells.

Some people think that the Lord’s yoke is hard and His burden is heavy because they think “they must discard worldly things, which consist chiefly in riches and honors; that they must walk continually in pious meditation of God, salvation, and eternal life; and must spend their life in prayers and in reading the Word and pious books. Such is their idea of renouncing the world, and living in the spirit and not in the flesh” (HH 528). This is a heavy burden, but it is a false idea of becoming spiritual.

In fact, people who do this acquire a sorrowful life that is not receptive of heavenly joy because they focus on negative things, evils and falsities in themselves and others. They are often quite judgmental. The truth is, we read, “to receive the life of heaven a person needs to live in the world and engage in its business and employments and by means of a moral and civil life there receive the spiritual life. In no other way can the spiritual life be formed in a person, or his spirit be prepared for heaven” (Ibid., emphasis added).

Only two things are necessary for heavenly life: thinking rightly and doing rightly. Spiritual life consists in thinking rightly, and civil and moral life consist of doing rightly. If a person thinks rightly but does not act accordingly, then his spiritual life does not really exist. If a person does good but is thinking about himself and how it is advantageous for him to act well, then his thinking is natural and not spiritual.

Going to heaven is as easy as obeying ten rules. The first three commandments are concerned with spiritual lifewith thinking rightly. We shall have no other Gods before the Lord; we shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, passing over His Word lightly; and we shall keep the Sabbath day as a day focused on the Lord and the good and truth which come from Him.

These three commandments tell us how to think spiritually. They tell us to think of the Lord first, not of ourselves. They tell us to take to heart the things that are from the Lord in His Word, to keep the Word in our hearts at all times and not merely to pay them lip service once a week. They tell us to be in constant communication with the Lord through prayer and reading His Word, especially on Sunday, and to respect what is the Lord’s in other people. In other words, the first three commandments tell us what mental attitudes we need to have toward the Lord, toward others, and toward ourselves. By consciously observing and thinking about our attitudes we can easily train ourselves to think rightly.

The last seven commandments teach us how we should and should not act. Most of us live according to the civil and moral life these seven commandments describe. However, some of us live this way for the sake of ourselves, disregarding the first three commandments. If we are guilty of neglecting the first three commandments, we are not spiritual and are not living the life which will lead us to heaven. We are living a civil and moral life with a fundamentally selfish attitude, simply for civil and moral reasons, not because God commands it.

The spiritual person lives the civil and moral life also, and the actions of his life are not distinguishable from the actions of a merely civil and moral person, but the spiritual person lives according to those laws because they are Divine laws. His attitude is that God is always watching him and always cares about the thoughts which produce his acts.

The major difference between a good moral person and a spiritual person is their motivation. The spiritual person believes in the Lord and has the Lord in mind, not himself, in everything he does. The good moral person thinks about himself and lives a moral and civil life for the sake of himself.

Because a spiritual person is consciously thinking about the Lord’s love and the truths of His Word in what He does, he has communication with the angels of heaven. His mind is linked with them unconsciously, and is open to receive their influence. This is accomplished simply by thinking the right way, by thinking of the Lord, His Word, and His truth and goodness in others.

It is a spiritual law that thought brings presence. When we think about the Lord, He draws closer to us. When we think of our own honor and reputation, the hells draw closer to us. When we think about the spiritual truths revealed in the Lord’s Word, the angels of heaven who live those truths are drawn closer to us. So when we think about these things and dwell on them in our thoughts, the Lord and the angels draw nearer, inspiring in us a love for these things and a desire to act on them for the sake of others. “It is a sure and immutable law,” we read, “that so far as a person approaches the Lord, so far does the Lord approach the person.”

Some people think they have to know everything about the Lord and His Word before they think rightly. Not true. “The Lord,” we read,”requires no more of a person than to live according to what he knows” (AC 6706).

When a person lives the spiritual life described in the first three commandments, and brings the attitudes and thoughts of that life to bear on his civil and moral life, his spiritual mind is opened to receive the influences of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, through the angels of heaven. The Holy Spirit then leads his affections and thoughts imperceptibly, stirring up good loves and enlightened thoughts. He ministers to the person so gently that there is nothing whatever of yoke or dominion. The person is led by means of his heavenly delights.

On the other hand, the person who lives a civil and moral life without a spiritual life at the same time has his mind closed to the influence of the angels and the Holy Spirit. The reason is simple. He does not look to the Lord and His Word for guidance, but to himself instead. He is filled with the pride of self-intelligence and chooses to ignore or deny the Lord and His Word. When the angels are in this way shut out, evil spirits from hell are allowed to enter the person. They puff him up with self-esteem and self-love. They lead him in the direction of satisfying his own selfish loves and worldly desires. They sneak in and begin to dominate him, and drive him on. They do not care about him, but only about getting him to do evil so they can feel some selfish delights by being associated with him. Insofar as they can they try to enslave him quite the opposite of the leading the angels do. He who sins becomes a slave of sin.

Yet even then the situation is not hopeless for such a person. All he needs to do is to return to the Lord, study His Word, and train himself to think about Divine things as he goes through his daily routine. “All a person needs to do,” we read, “is to learn truths from the Word and to live according to them” (AE 790:14e). If a person will merely reform the externals of his life, the Lord will regenerate his internals.

The Lord will overcome the evils in each individual as easily as He overcame them in Himself when He was in the world. “By a like Divine power the Lord fights at this day against hell in every person who is being regenerated,” we read, “for hell attacks with such diabolical fury, unless the Lord resisted and tamed that fury a person could not but give in” (TCR 123:6). A person needs to shun only one evil thought or attitude to be saved so long as he continues in that path. We read, “If a person by means of combat against evils as sins has acquired anything spiritual in the world, be it ever so small, he is saved, and afterwards his uses grow like a grain of mustard seed into a tree” (D. Love XVII:5e).

The Lord maintains a balance, or equilibrium, between the forces of heaven and the forces of hell operating on our minds. We are free and able to control the subjects of our thoughts. “Evil and falsity are injected into the thoughts of people from hell and are sent back again. These things cannot defile the person,” we read, “because they are sent back. A person cannot stand apart from thinking evil, but from doing it” (AC 8910:3). In other words, we cannot stop evil thoughts from coming into our minds, but we can send them out again. This is simply a matter of mental discipline, a matter of habit.

This habit is formed first by reading and studying the Word so that you know what is evil and from hell. Secondly, through prayer several times a day in which you ask the Lord to help you recognize the evil thoughts when they come, the habit begins to be formed. Eventually, the state described in the following passage becomes the norm:

When any thing presents itself to a person that he knows to be dishonest and unjust but to which his mind is borne, it is simply necessary for him to think that it ought not to be done because it is opposed to the Divine precepts. If a person accustoms himself so to think, and from so doing establishes a habit of so thinking, he is gradually linked to heaven. So far as he is linked to heaven the higher regions of his mind are opened. So far as these are opened he sees whatever is dishonest and unjust, and so far as he sees these evils they can be dispersed. For no evil can be dispersed until it is seen. Into this state a person is able to enter because of his freedom, for is not anyone able from his freedom so to think? Furthermore, when a person has made a beginning, the Lord quickens all that is good in him, and causes him not only to see evils, but also to refrain from willing them, and finally to turn away from them. This is meant by the Lord’s words, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (HH 533).

The passage adds:

The difficulty of so thinking and of resisting evils increases so far as a person from his will does evils, for in the same measure he becomes accustomed to them until he no longer sees them, and at length loves them and from the delight of his love excuses them, and confirms them by every kind of fallacy, and declares them to be allowable and good. This is the fate of those who in early youth plunge into evils without restraint (Ibid.)

The Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. If life is a laborious burden for you, go to the Lord and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you and learn from Him. He is gentle and loving, and will give you peace. Peace is described as “bliss of heart and soul arising from the Lord’s relationship with heaven and the church, and this is from the relationship of good and truth with those who are there; consequently there is no longer combat of evil and falsity” (AE 365:18). “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” says the Lord. Amen.

Lessons: Ezekiel 34, Matt. 11:28-31, HH 359

Heaven and Hell 359

Since a man can live outwardly as others do, can grow rich, keep a plentiful table, dwell in an elegant house and wear fine clothing according to his condition and function, can enjoy delights and gratifications, and engage in worldly affairs for the sake of his occupation and business and for the life of both the mind and body, provided he inwardly acknowledges the Divine and wishes well to the neighbor, it is evident that to enter upon the way to heaven is not so difficult as many believe. The sole difficulty lies in being able to resist the love of self and the world, and to prevent their becoming dominant; for this is the source of all evils. That this is not so difficult as is believed is meant by these words of the Lord: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls; for My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:29,30).

The Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden light because a man is led by the Lord and not by self just to the extent that he resists the evils that flow forth from love of self and of the world, and because the Lord then resists these evils in man and removes them.



A Sermon by Rev. Patrick A. Rose Preached in Cincinnati, Ohio April 19, 1992

“And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

The story of the Lord’s resurrection, the story of Easter, is a story of the most beautiful simplicity. Men had tried to kill the Lord, but when His followers returned to His sepulcher, the Lord’s body was no longer there. The Lord could not die, for He was God. He had risen from the dead. He was alive. He was alive for evermore.

It is a simple story. But it is also profound. When the Lord rose from the sepulcher, He showed clearly that He was God. He was Divine. He had power over death. But He also showed something else. He showed that He had the power to save. Earlier the Lord had told His followers, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). When, therefore, the Lord rose from the sepulcher, when He was lifted up from the earth, it showed not only that He had the power to save Himself from death, but that He also had the power to save mankind. The Lord, by rising from the sepulcher, showed that He was the Savior of the human race. And so it is that the Easter story is not simply a story about the Divinity of the Lord. It is also a story about salvation.

This is why the story of Easter occurs during the celebration of the Jewish Passover. Passover, together with the feast of unleavened bread which followed it, was a commemoration and a celebration of the time that Jehovah had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Jehovah as God did not just have Divine power, but He also had used this power to deliver His people Israel. The Passover was the most important of three annual Jewish festivals. And it was during the celebration of this annual festival that the events of the Easter story occurred. Indeed, the story of Easter cannot be separated from the celebration of Passover.

Consider, for example, the events surrounding Palm Sunday. When the Lord rode into Jerusalem, multitudes of people came out to greet Him, spreading branches of palm trees in the road. The reason there were so many people in Jerusalem at the time was because of the Passover. A great number of people had traveled into Jerusalem to purify themselves in preparation for the feast (see John 11:55). Not only that; many of them were looking out for the Lord, thinking that He would probably come to Jerusalem for the Passover (see John 11:56). When news came, then, that the Lord was approaching the city, this great multitude of people, people who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, ran out to greet Him (see John 12:12,13). The Passover itself became the central focus the evening before the Lord was arrested. The Lord gathered with His disciples to eat the Passover. It was the last meal He would eat with them before His crucifixion. And it was at that time the Lord established a new feast, a feast which would also celebrate the Lord’s salvation. He established the Holy Supper.

It was during the night which followed that the Lord was betrayed and arrested. The next day the Passover is once again an element in the story. Because it was the most important of the Jewish festivals, the Romans had, as a gesture of good will, made it a custom to release a prisoner at the festival (see Mark 15:6). Pilate tried to have the Lord released as that prisoner. But the multitude – now an angry multitude – would have none of it. They demanded instead the release of a robber, a man called Barabbas (see John 18:40). Here was a sad irony. The Passover was a festival celebrating the Lord’s power of salvation. He had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Now He had come to save once again. This time He had come to rescue men from a deeper slavery. And yet at the Passover they rejected the Lord. They demanded that the Lord be crucified. They chose a robber over the Lord Himself.

There were indeed dark forces at work during the week which led up to the Lord’s resurrection. The Lord had come to save mankind. Yet evil men, men guided by the hells, were seeking the Lord’s destruction. Still, this also was an integral part of the story of Easter. When the Lord rose from the sepulcher, He rose as the Savior of the human race. The very fact that the-Lord was a Savior implied that mankind had needed saving. It meant that the Lord had rescued them from danger.

It is in this sense that the meaning of the Easter story is neither as simple nor as obvious as it might appear. When the Lord had saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, it was clear who the enemy was. It was clear that the Lord had rescued them from the Egyptians. But the enemies -the spiritual enemies – who threatened mankind at the time of the Lord’s coming were by no means as obvious a threat. Indeed, most people were completely unaware of being in any danger at all. People were blissfully ignorant of the fact that a multitude of evil spirits from hell was threatening the very survival of the human race. The Lord had come to save people from a danger they didn’t even know existed. But the danger was nevertheless very real. Indeed, the spiritual enemies of mankind were a far greater threat than the Egyptians had been. The underlying drama of the Easter week was just as great, just as intense, as was the drama of the Exodus.

Consider the extraordinary events that occurred on the night when the Passover was first eaten. Time and time again the Egyptians had suffered plagues. But time and time again the Pharaoh had refused to let the Israelites go. The Israelites seemed to be completely and hopelessly enslaved in Egypt. But then there came the plague on the firstborn. It must have been an absolutely frightening and horrible night. All of a sudden, at midnight, destruction came upon the people of Egypt. We are told that “there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (Exodus 12:30). That night not a single Egyptian household escaped tragedy.

During that same terrible night, though, not a single Israelite was harmed. Four days earlier each Israelitish household had been commanded to set aside a lamb (see Exodus 12:3-4). Then, during the evening preceding that terrible night, the lamb had been killed, and its blood had been splattered on the posts and lintels of their doors (see Exodus 12:6-7). They then roasted the lamb and ate it with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs (see Exodus 12:8). The Israelites were safe, safe from the destruction that came upon the Egyptians, for the blood on their doors served as a sign that they were not to be harmed.

Now it might seem from the story that it was the Lord who destroyed the firstborn, and that the blood was serving to protect the Israelites from the Lord. But this terrible act of destruction was in fact brought about by evil spirits, evil spirits who are referred to as “the destroyer.” “The Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23). What in fact happened during the night of the Passover was that the hells were let loose upon the land of Egypt. But the Israelites were protected from harm by the power of the Lord. They were delivered from destruction, and that same night they were released from their slavery.

So it was that on a dark and dreadful night, the Israelites were protected by the powerful arm of the Lord, and were led forth to freedom. Israel became a free people. And from that time on, this event was etched deep into the consciousness of the Israelites. Each year, on the fourteenth day of the first month, they were to reenact the Passover, by eating a roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. During this most important festival of the year, they were to recall that night when the Lord saved them from the slavery of Egypt.

Why did the Passover have such great importance? It of course had immense historical significance. But there was something else. The real importance of the Passover lay in what it represented. The Passover represented that work of salvation that the Lord would do when He came to earth. It stood for the Lord’s presence, and for the way in which He would free mankind from the dominion of the hells (see AC 8017). The actual Passover supper represented the conjunction that would then be possible between mankind and the Lord Himself (see AC 9965:4). And, because this work of salvation was completed in the glorification of the Lord’s Human, therefore the Passover is said to have represented the glorification itself (see AC 3994:6). It was therefore no accident, no accident at all, that the events of Easter took place during the celebration of the Passover. The Lord had told His disciples that He would be betrayed during the feast of the Passover (see Matt. 26:2). And it was at that feast that He would rise again. The primary reason the Passover had been instituted was as a memorial that the Lord would one day glorify His Human and rise triumphant as the eternal Savior of the human race (see AC 10655). And so it was at this very festival that the Lord fulfilled His promise, fulfilled the prophecy contained within the Passover.

The Passover, that night when the Lord protected the Israelites and delivered them from slavery in Egypt, was but a picture, a representation, of a far greater redemption. To begin with, the Lord had used His Divine power to save a particular group of people – the Israelites – from slavery. Now, as the Lord rose from the grave, He redeemed the entire human race. He made it possible for people to be freed from the dominion of the hells, set free from the slavery of evil.

This is what we celebrate and remember at Easter time. We rejoice and give thanks for the Lord’s salvation. When Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), the power He spoke to them about, the power He offered them, was the power of salvation, the power to save people from the influence of the hells.

What the Lord accomplished at Easter might sound more abstract than what He had done during the original Passover. The Israelites knew and clearly understood what Jehovah had done for them when He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The Lord has rescued us, though, from a deeper slavery, from the slavery of the hells. And the importance of this can be difficult to grasp fully. As we have noted, most people at the time of the Lord’s coming were unaware of the spiritual danger they were in. They did not realize how terrible the threats from the hells really were. To a large extent it is the same with us. We have trouble fully appreciating the danger of evil.

We have trouble realizing just how great a threat the hells can be. This is because spiritual dangers are extremely subtle. Physical dangers come from outside of us, where we can see and notice them, and avoid them. Spiritual dangers are different. Evil lurks within the mind, and-so we don’t notice evil in the same way. The greatest danger posed by evil lies in the fact that it doesn’t seem dangerous to us at all. In fact, we tend to enjoy evil. We tend to love it. It is inside of us. It seems a part of us. When we are in evil we don’t see how dangerous it is. It is only as we are lifted out of this evil that we can come to understand how great the danger really was.

That is why the Lord had to come to earth. That is why He had to assume a Human and make that Human Divine. He did this so that we could come to see and understand Him, come to see and understand His love and compassion, and could turn to Him and follow His commandments. And it is as we do this, as we turn to and follow the Lord, that we can then, for the first time, fully appreciate the real horror of evil. In the Arcana, in our third lesson, it was said, “the hells are around every man, because every man is born into evils of every kind; and where evils are, there are the hells” (AC 10659). This is why, we are told, we need the Divine power of the Lord. Only the Lord has the power to cast away those evil spirits of hell. There is then added a very telling statement. It is said that this is something which can be understood by 44 all those … who admit the Lord into their life” (see ibid.). It is those who admit the Lord into their lives, and only they, who can truly appreciate the dangers of evil. It is only those who are willing to turn to the Lord and obey His commandments who can understand that evil is very, very real, and very, very dangerous.

That is why we must follow the Lord. We cannot rely upon our own judgment as to what is good and what is evil. We will always tend to excuse those things we love. We will tend to make light of our own weaknesses and our own follies. And so we must turn to the Lord. The Lord is our Savior, our only Savior. We must do what He says. And if we do, then He will save us. Amen.

Lessons: John 11:55-57; 12:1,12-15; Matt. 28:1-18; AC 10659:1,3

Arcana Coelestia 10659:1,3

… it can be seen that the feast of the Passover, which was also called the feast of unleavened things, was instituted in remembrance of man’s liberation from hell by the Lord. That this liberation was effected by the Lord’s subjugating the hells and glorifying His Human may be seen just above (n. 10655) …

But to those who are in enlightenment the Lord grants that they shall understand what they believe; and when they are reading the Word, those are enlightened and understand it who acknowledge the Lord and love to live according to His commandments, but not those who say that they believe but do not live; for the Lord flows into the life of man and from this into his faith, but not into faith separate from life. Consequently, those who are enlightened by the Lord through the Word understand that the Lord came into the world in order to subjugate the hells, and-reduce into order all things there and in the heavens; and that this could not possibly be done except by means of the Human; for from this He could fight against the hells, but not from the Divine without the Human; and also that He might glorify His Human in order that He might thereby forever keep all things in the order into which He had reduced them. From this comes the salvation of man, for the hells are around every man, because everyone is born into evils of every kind, and where evils are, there are the hells; and unless these were cast back by the Divine power of the Lord, no one could ever have been saved. That this is so the Word teaches, and all those apprehend who admit the Lord into their life; and these as before said are those who acknowledge Him, and love to live according to His commandments.


A Sermon by Rt. Rev. Louis B. King
Preached in Bryn Athyn on November 16, 1986

“Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14).

Samson’s riddle which he put forth to his Philistine companions on the eve of his marriage to the Philistine woman of Timnath contains in summary the whole spiritual meaning of his dramatic life as it relates to a person’s regeneration. Interiorly it illustrates how the ferocious attacks of evil and falsity can be met and rent asunder by the power of Divine truth entrusted by the Lord to our care and for our regeneration. A transformation is effected. In place of temptation there comes perception, or meat for the soul, and from the very strength of evil that would have destroyed us there is charity or sweetness of life anew.

In general Samson represents the letter of the Word and its supreme power over evil and falsity. He takes on this representation because of his long, uncut hair. Hair is the last and ultimate outgrowth of the external skin, and as such it is the final termination of the life of the body. Similarly, the letter of the Word is the ultimate or outmost termination of all degrees of revealed truth. The Word exists, and has from the beginning, because the Lord wills that men be saved. Salvation, because it is an eternal reception of the Lord’s love, is possible only where a state of conjunction exists; and conjunction is possible because the Lord has accommodated His infinite love and wisdom so that they may be received by finite man as if his own. In the Word, which is the only medium of conjunction between God and man, we actually find the whole of the Divine so accommodated that it may be received by finite minds (see AE 918:11; AC 1461, 1489, 1496, 1542, 1661).

There are many degrees whereby truth is accommodated, as many as there are planes of human life. The celestial angels receive the Lord’s revelation in its highest form — in celestial or inmost appearances of truth. To the spiritual angels these forms of truth are further accommodated by grosser forms and thus adapted to their spiritual state. Again, natural angels receive a further adaptation of the truth. The form of their revelation consists of appearances of truth adapted to their natural state. Yet within these natural appearances dwells the spiritual sense; and within this is the celestial, and inmostly is the Divine of the Lord, which is the very essence of the Word itself.

As Divine truth descends through the heavens, it is successively clothed with forms which adapt or accommodate it for reception by angels and men, so that all may be conjoined to the Lord by an eternal reception of His Divine love.

The final resting place or outmost termination of the Word is in the literal statements of the three testaments, particularly the Old and New Testaments, wherein Divine truth is accommodated for reception by natural and sensual men on earth. In the literal sense of the Word, Divine truth is in its fullness and power not because of the literal form itself, but because into it are gathered all degrees of revelation. Power is in the ultimate but not from it. When a little child reads the Word with affection, the whole of the heavens benefit — each angel receives and delights in the particular sense directed to his state. Yet the child knows nothing of this. He is unaware that myriads of angels worship the Lord when he reads the Word, communicating to him as much of their affection as he can receive.

This conjunction with the Lord through the heavens not only applies to little children but to all men on earth who will read the Word with affection and humility. The Word of God has power in man’s life not because of its literal form, but because of the angels who depend on man’s reading of it for their perception, and who share with man the power of their love to the Lord.

The communion of angels and men is a very real thing. All our loves and affections come from the spiritual world, either through heaven or hell, depending upon the thoughts we entertain and rationally confirm. Thought brings presence or association, and continued association communicates affection, which in time conjoins or makes one. To entertain selfish and worldly thoughts is to associate with evil spirits who love such things and who desire nothing more than to share and thus insinuate with us their love of evil. Continued association with such spirits will bring about an eternal communion or sharing of their love, which will result in our damnation.

But the Word of God is given so that man may enter into a communion with angels and thereby, that is, through the heavens, be conjoined to the Lord. When we read the Word in a state of holiness, and our thoughts and rational judgments are guided by its truth, then we summon the inhabitants of heaven, and according to our state, receive the power of their affection by which we are conjoined to the Lord.

Samson, judge and mightiest hero of Israel, pictures most powerfully the office of Divine truth in man’s life. In the spiritual sense Samson can be likened to the Word in one whom the Lord is regenerating, his abundant hair and source of strength likened to the growing concept of truth in the natural mind. The Philistines are his enemies. They represent the power of faith alone — truths loved for the sake of self and the world rather than for the sake of good. They would make Samson their servant — they would induce the man who is being regenerated to delight merely in knowledges of truth, rejecting all applications to life. Philistines in the New Church are those who indeed possess the Writings but who remain in the seductive loves of the proprium. Their faith becomes an intellectual pastime. Serviceable though it may be for a time, such a spirit of historic or persuasive faith eventually must be destroyed by man, he himself taking the initiative.

Thus Samson, early in life, went down to Philistia and fell in love with a daughter of that land, symbolizing the conjunction of truth with an external affection in the natural mind — an affection which, because of its proprial nature, obscures truth rather than enlightening it (see AC 4855). Any truth learned that does not look to good is in danger of being perverted and becoming falsity. Nevertheless, this first affection with which truth can be conjoined in the natural mind is indeed of an external and somewhat selfish quality, but without it — without an affection of learning for the sake of one’s own honor, reputation and gain — man would never acquire the doctrines that he will one day love for their own sake — that is, for the sake of the good of life. So the first good produced by truth is called mediate good.

When Samson first entered the land of the Philistines to covenant with them for the bride he was to take, a young lion attacked him. So when Divine truth first enters the natural mind, the power of evil and falsity is aroused. Like a mighty lion they roar their hatred and contempt against the Divine. The power of truth when separated from good is thus turned against the Lord. Recall the Lord’s temptations in the wilderness, how the devil quoted Scripture to induce the Lord to obey him. With patience and strength, however, the Lord Himself used the letter of the Word to devastate and to make impotent the devil’s attack; so Samson rent the lion as if it were a lamb, demonstrating the power of truth rightly used, and its effortless destruction of evil wherever and if there is genuine faith in the Lord.

In time a swarm of bees built their nest in the carcass of the lion and filled it with wild honey. Discovering this, on a subsequent journey to Timnath to celebrate the nuptials of his forthcoming wedding, Samson tasted its sweetness and was refreshed. At the wedding feast he posed a riddle to his Philistine companions concerning this unusual condition of which he alone knew. “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14). The dead lion no longer possessed its terrible power. The devourer or destroyer of spiritual life, the eater representing evil and falsity in the natural mind, was put to death. This is accomplished in man by the shunning of evils as sins; for when man compels himself to shun evils because they are sins against the Lord, a miraculous change takes place called regeneration. The influx of hell is exchanged for the influx of heaven. The quality of one’s mental strength is changed from the ravenous to the peaceful, which is meat for the soul. The power of the mind is also redirected from selfishness to charity. When good affections express themselves in external act, the strength of man’s character becomes sweet and spiritually palatable. Honey, therefore, represents a new state of charity or mutual love (see AE 611:18). “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14).

Regeneration does not destroy man’s natural mind, nor does it deprive him of anything that causes him to be a man. It merely takes away evil by changing or bending the quality of his affections from evil to good. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings before My eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isaiah 1:16, 19).

When we are engaged in the battles of temptation, it seems to us that if we give up our natural desires we will lose everything that makes life worthwhile. But when we lay down our evil tendencies we find that we have not really lost anything. Our affections remain, but they have been cleansed, purified, sweetened, by the heavenly spirit of charity. Our natural affections, which prior to regeneration were strong against our salvation, when purified, become the new sweetness of regenerate life. But this sweetness cannot be ours until we allow the Samson of Divine truth to enter into us and slay the lion of proprial passion. Temptations are attacks upon our good loves by forces of evil. The Lord permits evils — softens conceit, provides an optional route to happiness.

Samson’s relationship with the Philistines became a series of contests, successively severe. With each encounter his great strength proved victorious, that is, until he fell in love with the Philistine woman Delilah, who represents the subtlest of our affections of truth, which in fact is an evil affection — to use truth to confirm the opposite, that we can save ourselves. It utilizes our inmost inclinations to justify selfishness and obstruct the process of self examination. That man is the unknowing victim of these cupidities is seen in the fact that Delilah and her Philistine cohorts attacked Samson and cut his hair while he slept. Then his strength departed and his eyes were bored out and he was imprisoned and made to grind corn.

So it is with man in his last and inmost temptations of regenerate life. It appears to him that truth has been taken away and with it the very power to do good. He despairs of his state; his doubts overwhelm him; his spiritual eyes are blind to perceptions he once enjoyed; he feels himself to be the servant of sin. The Lord, he believes, has abandoned him. All purpose has gone out of his life.

In his deep despair, when forces of evil are confident of their victory and would sport with their victim, the man of the church begins to feel, once again, the near presence of the Lord. The strength of truth slowly returns as be gropes in his blindness for the way that leads to its right application. A little child leads him — remains of innocence implanted long ago direct the regenerating man to the very house of his enemies — to the temple of Dagon, hypocrisy and conceit. There in the midst of his unseen foes he receives the full force of their mockery and contempt for truth. His hands, still guided by the innocence of remains, take hold of the two central supports of evil — the loves of self and the world (hatred of others and the desire to possess all means of domination, persuasion that he lives from self and controls his destiny). Lifting his head in prayerful acknowledgment of the Lord as the source of all good and truth, he bows himself with all the might that God effects through the as-of-self. “O Lord God, strengthen me just this once.”

With the destruction of the temple, the “persuasive of self-life” is broken. Samson and the lords of the Philistines lie buried beneath the rubble. Indeed, “the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16:30). But the angels know not what we mean by death and burial. When such is mentioned in the Word, they think of resurrection — of the beginning of life eternal. To lay down one’s natural life while destroying his spiritual enemies is really to take up eternal life in the service of the Lord. “Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.” May it be said of all those who seek the overthrow of the proprium through the medium of the Lord’s Word, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”

Lessons: Judges chapters 13-16 (portions), AE 1086

Apocalypse Explained 1086:6

The power of the Word in the sense of its letter is the power itself of opening heaven, by virtue whereof communication and conjunction with the Lord is effected and also the power of fighting against falsities and thus overcoming the hells. A man who is in genuine truths from the literal sense of the Word can cast down and dissipate all the diabolical crew and all of their arts in which they place their power and these are innumerable. Man can do this in a moment by only a look and effort of the will. In brief, the spiritual world is the world in which there is power, and there is nothing, nothing that can resist the power of genuine truth when it is confirmed from the literal sense of the Word.



A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinA Christmas SermonDevember 4/97


Why is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Lk 2:49)

There was a definite purpose for the Lord coming to this world nearly two-thousand years ago. In fact, the Lord’s coming was absolutely necessary for the human race to survive. Mankind was in a desperate situation when the Lord was born on the earth. People, for the most part, were not aware of the crises they were in. Externally, things appeared to proceed as usual. Sure, there was corruption, that made life difficult. But the immediate danger of mankind’s spiritual state was unnoticed. The human race was unaware that the ability to be spiritually conjoined with the Lord, which is our salvation, was on the verge of total collapse. This spiritual death would lead to the natural extinction of the human race on earth. Hence, the Lord Himself had to be born on the earth. The Lord’s main purpose for coming to earth was to protect man’s ability to be lead by the Divine, thus to make sure that the possibility of our salvation was constantly preserved.

Apparently, the Lord was aware of His mission when He was a young child. While He and His parents were in Jerusalem, observing the Passover, the Lord stayed behind, while His parents went back to Nazareth. When Mary and Joseph discovered that the Lord was not with them, they anxiously searched for Him in Jerusalem. They finally found Him conversing with the teachers in the temple. When Mary asked the Lord why He stayed in Jerusalem, He responded, “Why is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” The Lord knew, even at the age of twelve, that He was to gather knowledges about the Word so He could keep salvation open to mankind. Before the Lord could subdue the hells, He first had to be instructed in truths in order to perform His mission.

There were several other times the Lord stated why He came to earth. Later, when He was active in His public ministry, He quite often referred to the purpose for His coming to the earth. Once, when the Lord spoke to His followers, He stated:


Do not think that I come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Mt


Another time, the Lord said to His disciples:


The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (Mt 18:11)

And the Lord also stated to His disciples when He sent them out to various cities in Judea:


Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against here mother-in-law. And a man’s foes will be those of his own household. (Mt. 10_34-36)

Therefore, the Lord spoke quite often about the purpose for His coming to earth.

When these three statements by the Lord are examined closely, there can be seen a close relationship between them. Even though the form of their message may differ, their content fully agrees with one another. They all picture the infinite love the Lord has toward the human race, and the wisdom to know how we can be redeemed.

In the first statement, the Lord said He came to fulfill the Law. When the Lord fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, He was at the same time subduing the hells. (AE 504:31) Each prophecy in the Old Testament had a definite part in the Lord’s restoring spiritual order. The prophecies of the Old Testament were not given arbitrarily. Rather, they presented the Divine order in which the Lord would put the evil spirits in their proper place. The prophecies in the Old Testament not only proved that the Lord was the Christ, they were also the means of establishing order. The Lord did this by putting spiritual things above natural things.

Just as the Lord subdued the hells by fulfilling or accomplishing the prophecies about Him and His life, the same is also true concerning us. Our evils are only subdued or put away when we fulfill the commandments in the Word. The Word gives us direction and instruction in what we are to love and do. If they are applied to life, our evil loves along with their delights are removed. When we conform to the truths in the Word, that serves the same purpose as the prophecies in the Old Testament did for the Lord. Our salvation comes by fulfilling or applying the truths of the Word to or lives just as salvation for the human race was restored when the Lord fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. In both cases, evils are subdued. When evils are subdued, salvation has come.

The Lord also said that He came to save. He came for our welfare. Ever since the Fall, when mankind began to turn away from Him, the Lord foresaw the need to come to the earth. (AC 2661:2) There was no debate, no hesitation on the part of the Lord to come to this world. His Divine love toward mankind was so great that He could not do otherwise than to save mankind. Indeed, the nature of genuine love is to give of oneself for the sake of the other. To do what one can when he sees another in need. Thus, when the Lord saw the condition of mankind’s spiritual state, He immediately did what was necessary for our salvation. The Lord, who is Divine love itself can not do otherwise. Eventually, when man’s spiritual condition became so grave that his salvation could only be saved by the Lord Himself coming to earth, the Lord did so without hesitation. The Lord once described the love that comes from Him,

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s

life for his friends. (Jn 15:13)

The Lord is the embodiment of the love that is willing to give of oneself for the sake of others.

When the Lord did come to earth, He provided for our redemption by revealing Divine truths to our apprehension. (AC 2553) When the Lord came to earth, He revealed more interior truths than what were revealed in the Old Testament. The hells were defeated by this deeper revelation of truth. Also, the heavens were re-ordered, whereby we can once again have an eternal relationship with our Creator.

We need the revelation of truth for our salvation. Truth is the only way we can recognize what is good and what we should avoid. Everyone, regardless of intellectual capacity, has the capability to understand the Lord as the Source of all love, wisdom, and life, thus the God of all creation. Everyone has the capacity to know what we are to apply that is good and helpful for everyone. And everyone has the capacity to know what is harmful and needs to be rejected from one’s thoughts and intentions. The Lord wills to come into everyone’s lives and bring salvation. He comes through the revelation of truth. If we choose to comply with the truths the Lord does reveal, the salvation He promised to all has become fulfilled in us.

The third statement the Lord gave for coming to earth is somewhat puzzling on the surface. In this instance, while the Lord sent out His disciples, He said,

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth, I did

not come to bring peace but a sword. (Mt 10:34)

This is surprising because it seems to contradict the purpose and meaning for the Lord to come to earth. The Lord, Who is love itself, came to bring harmony and peace to everyone. But in this statement, the Lord makes a strong point that His coming would bring a division. Nevertheless, this statement can be reconciled with the teaching that the Lord came to bring love, peace, and harmony to everyone. This passage bears reference to the resulting temptation when the Lord makes His coming. Not everyone welcomed the Lord when He came to earth. King Herod, the Pharisees, and others hated the Lord and went to great lengths to try to kill Him. On the spiritual level, the evil spirits attacked the Lord, trying to subdue Him. The Lord did not seek intentionally to cause a conflict or division. But His presence caused this stir among those only in the love of self. The reaction to His coming by the evil caused the conflict. (AE 504:11) The Lord was warning His disciples that they too should expect resistance and strife.

We should also expect the same. If we choose to allow the Lord to make His coming in our individual lives, spiritual combats will result. Our evil loves will react against the closer presence of the Lord. As a result, there will be a division and conflict within us. Our tendency to regard only ourselves will fight against a closer, more knowledgeable presence of the Lord. This is why the Lord made the statement, “A man’s foes will be those of his own household” (Mt 10:36)

Therefore, the Lord’s coming was necessary for us to be able to be regenerated. The Lord had to come. But the Lord’s Advent came at the last possible moment. The Lord waited so mankind could not profane the more interior revelation of truth. (AC 3398:4) If the Lord had made His Advent to earth too soon, His coming would not save mankind, but put us in greater danger. There would have been the danger of perverting these interior truths. The Lord also does the same with each of us. He is closer with us only when it will not spiritually harm us. But He will come. And the more we make a commitment and actually do what the Lord wants us to do, the Lord will enter our lives and reward us with His peace. For He promises, “… the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his work”.

From the Writings

From the Writings

From the Writings – Life


Every man who has religion knows and acknowledges that he who leads a good life is saved, and that he who leads an evil life is damned; for he knows and acknowledges that the man who lives aright thinks aright, not only about God but also about his neighbor; but not so the man whose life is evil. The life of man is his love, and that which he loves he not only likes to be doing, but also likes to be thinking. The reason therefore why we say that the life is to do that which is good is that doing what is good acts as a one with thinking what is good, for if in a man these two things do not act as a one, they are not of his life.

DP 339. It is apparent now from this that all who think of salvation in terms of life think not of any instantaneous salvation out of mercy apart from means, but of the means of salvation into which and by which the Lord operates in accordance with the laws of His Divine providence, thus by which the Lord leads a person out of pure mercy.

On the other hand, people who do not think of salvation in terms of life, suppose there to be an instantaneous change in salvation and an absence of means in mercy, as those do who separate faith from charity (charity being life) and attribute an instantaneous change to faith, if not before, during the last hour of death. And those, too, do the same who believe that the forgiveness of sins is, without repentance, an absolution from sins and thus salvation, and go to Holy Supper. Likewise those who trust in the indulgences of monks, and in their prayers for the deceased, and in their dispensations by virtue of the power they claim to have over people’s souls.

AR 675 As for religion: Who can deny that religion consists in refraining from evil and doing good? Is there any religion where people are taught that faith alone saves, and not charity? Is there any religion where people are taught that charity emanating from people is nothing but moral and civic charity? Who does not see that in such charity there is no religion? Is there any deed or work in faith alone? And yet religion consists in doing.

From the Writings – Life/Mercy without Means

DP 338. Instantaneous salvation out of mercy apart from means is not possible. In the preceding discussions we showed that the operation of Divine providence to save a person begins at the person’s birth and continues to the end of his life, and afterward to eternity, and that this operation takes place unceasingly, through means, out of pure mercy. It follows from this that there is no instantaneous salvation, nor any mercy apart from means.

From The Writings – Natural Good Saves No One

AC 7761. A clear distinction must be made between spiritual good and natural good. As before said, spiritual good has its quality from the truths of faith, their abundance, and their connection; but natural good is born with the man, and also arises by accident, as by misfortunes, diseases, and the like. Natural good saves no one, but spiritual good saves all. The reason is that the good which is formed through the truths of faith is a plane into which heaven can flow, that is, the Lord through heaven, and lead man, and withhold him from evil, and afterward uplift him into heaven; but not so natural good; and therefore they who are in natural good can be as easily carried away by falsity as by truth, provided the falsity appears in the form of truth; and they can be as easily led by evil as by good, provided the evil is presented as good. They are like feathers in the wind.

From The Writings – Salvation as a Reward

AE 445 If a man is living according to the Lord’s commandments, it is permissible for him to think of eternal life, salvation, and heavenly joy; but it is not permissible for him to keep his mind intent upon reward, for if he does so he has reward as an end, and easily falls into the thought that by his life he deserves heaven and salvation, and this thought causes him to have regard to self in every particular, and such regard to self removes him from heaven; for so far as man looks to self in what he does, he does not look to heaven.