Swedenborg was the son of a bishop, but for reasons not hard to understand, both he and his father had a difficult relationship with the established church. The 18th century generally was a time of revolt against faith. ‘In the higher circles of society, everyone laughs if one talks of religion,’ said Montesquieu on visiting England, where the church had sunk to new lows of worldliness. It was in this setting that John Wesley, a contemporary of Swedenborg, appeared as such a bright light.
In Sweden, the Church was equally sick. As one commentator said, ‘Its priesthood had become a mere corporation for reading so many prayers for so much money.’ It was at the time when the church was at its least convincing that Swedenborg’s revelations arrived.
He was not an orthodox reformer however, for Swedenborg explicitly rejected two key doctrines of the Lutheran church at that time. He rejected their understanding of the Trinity as a Trinity of Persons, which he claimed was not taught in the early Church. Swedenborg believed God exists in one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and claimed that ‘Mohammedans, Jews and Gentiles of all cults’ were put off Christianity by this strange doctrine of three Gods.
He was also at odds with the church concerning the doctrine of salvation through faith alone. Swedenborg believed both faith and charity were essential for heaven to exist in someone.
‘There is not a single genuine truth at this time remaining in the church,’ he declared bleakly. ‘The light of the truth derived from the bible is well-nigh extinguished, so that in this day there is scarcely any faith because there is not any charity.’
Heaven and hell
The mystery revealed in the following pages relates to heaven and hell and also to the life of the soul after death. Church people today know scarcely anything about heaven and hell or about their life after death, despite the fact that all these things are clearly described in scripture. Many of those born within the church refuse to believe in them, saying in their hearts, ‘Who has come from that world and told us?’
Therefore, lest such a spirit of denial - especially evident amongst the worldly wise - should also infect and corrupt the simple in heart and faith, it has been granted to me to associate with angels and to talk with them as man with man. It has also been granted to me to see inside the heavens and the hells, and this has been going on for thirteen years. So what I describe now is what I have seen and heard, and I do so in the hope that ignorance may be enlightened and unbelief dissipated. Such direct revelation is granted at this time because this is what is meant by the Coming of the Lord.
The Lord is the God of heaven
2. First of all it must be known who the God of heaven is, since upon that all the other things depend. Throughout the heavens, no one other than the Lord alone is acknowledged as the God of heaven. There it is said, as he himself taught, ‘That he is one with the Father that the Father is in him, and he is in the Father, that he who sees him sees the Father and that everything that is holy flows from him.’ (John 10:30, 38; 14:9-11; 16:13-15).
I have often talked with angels on this subject, and they have invariably declared that in heaven they are quite unable to divide the God into three, because they know and perceive that the divine is one and this one is the Lord. They also said that church people who come from this world with the idea of three divine beings cannot be admitted into heaven, since their thought keeps wandering from one divine being to another! And in heaven, no one is allowed to think three and say one, because in heaven every one speaks from their thought, since speech there is the immediate product of the thought.
But let it be known that in the next life, all those who have not separated what is true from what is good or separated faith from love, when it has been explained, have no trouble accepting the heavenly idea of the Lord being the God of the universe. But for those who have separated faith from life - who have not lived according to the precepts of true faith - it is different.
3. Those within the church who deny the Lord and acknowledge the Father only, and stick rigidly to this belief, are not in contact with heaven; and as they are unable to receive any refreshment from heaven, where the Lord alone is worshiped, they gradually lose the ability to think what is true about any subject whatever. In the end, they become like dumb people, or talk stupidly and ramble about aimlessly with their arms dangling and swinging, as if weak in the joints.
4. Infants, who form a third part of heaven, are all initiated into the acknowledgment and belief that the Lord is their Father, and afterwards that he is the Lord of all, and thus the God of heaven and earth. We’ll talk more of children in heaven later.
6. There were certain spirits who, while living in the world, claimed to believe in the Father. But concerning the Lord they had the same idea as that of any other person, and therefore did not believe him to be the God of heaven. For this reason, they were permitted to wander about and inquire wherever they wished, to find out if there were any other heaven apart from the Lord’s heaven. They searched for several days, but found nothing. These people were the sort who understand the happiness of heaven to be found in status and power; and as they were unable to get what they desired, and were told that heaven does not consist in such things, they became indignant, and wished for a heaven where they could lord it over others and be of high status as they were in the world.
The essence of the Lord makes heaven
7. The angels taken collectively are called heaven, for they constitute heaven; and yet that which makes heaven is the essence that flows out from the Lord and flows into the angels and is received by them. And as the essence that goes out from the Lord is the good of love and the truth of faith, the angels are angels and heaven according to the measure in which they receive this good and truth from the Lord.
8. Every one in the heavens knows, believes and understands that they can neither will nor do anything good from themselves; and neither do they imagine or believe that any truth comes from themselves, but only from the divine, who is the Lord. They are also aware that that any good from themselves is not good and any truth from themselves is not truth; because these things contain no life apart from the divine.
The angels of the innermost heaven clearly perceive and feel the divine refreshment; and the more of it they receive, the more they seem to themselves to be in heaven. This is because they increase both in love and faith and in the light of intelligence and wisdom, and therefore know the heavenly joy which springs from that. And since all these flow from the essence of the Lord, and since in these things the angels have their heaven, it is clear that it is the essence of the Lord, and not anything which the angels possess, which makes heaven. In what follows, I will explain just how the essence flows out from the Lord and fills heaven.
9. Angels in their wisdom are able to go still further. They say not only that every thing good and true is from the Lord, but that every aspect of life is also from the Lord. They confirm it by saying this: nothing can spring from itself, but only from something prior to itself. Therefore, all things spring from a first cause, which they call the true essence of the life of all things. And from the same cause, all things continue to exist, for continuous existence is a ceaseless outpouring; and whatever is not continually held by intermediates which are connected to the first cause, instantly disperses and loses its substance.
There is but one fountain of life and our life is a river which flows from it; and if this river does not unceasingly flow from its fountain, then it immediately empties. Since this is the belief of the angels, they refuse all thanks for the good they do, and are displeased and simply withdraw if any one attributes good to them. They wonder how any one can believe that they are wise from themselves or do anything good from themselves.
10. Spirits, however, who in their worldly life imagine that the good they do and the truth they believe is from them selves, or is appropriated to them as their own, are different. This is the belief of all who imagine themselves virtuous in their good actions and claim righteousness for themselves. These people are not received into heaven; indeed, angels avoid them. They look upon them as stupid and as thieves; as stupid because they continually have themselves in view and not God; and as thieves because they steal from the Lord what is his.
11. The Lord teaches that those who know heaven and the church, know the Lord and the Lord knows them. As he says, ‘Live in me and I will live in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but only as part of the vine, so neither can you, unless you live in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who live in me, and I in them, they bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15. 4, 5)
12. From all this it can now be seen that the Lord lives in the angels of heaven through what is his own. In this way, the Lord is the entire substance of heaven.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published February 2011
Size: 216 x 140 mm