Arcana Coelestia #8918

Study this Passage

/ 10837  

8918. 'And stood afar off' means remoteness from internal things. This is clear from the meaning of 'standing a long way off' as existing remotely, in this instance remotely from internal things, since it was Mount Sinai - by which heaven and the Divine there is meant, 8805 - that they stood away from. Whether you say remotely from the Divine, or from heaven, or from internal things, it amounts to the same thing, since heaven consists in internal things. For inwardly a person resides in the light of heaven, and outwardly in the light of the world; or what amounts to the same thing, a person's soul or spirit resides in heaven, but his body in the world. Heaven is nearer the Divine than the world is, because there the Lord's Divine is what reigns and is the All in all.

Before any further consideration is given to the meaning of 'afar off', it should be recognized that 'afar off' in the spiritual sense has no regard to spatial distance but to the Divine, and so to goodness and truth. Distance from actual goodness that emanates from the Divine produces appearances of spatial distances in heaven. Angelic communities appear distinct and separate there, indeed at a distance from one another; but this notion of space between them comes about as a result of their distance from goodness and truth which emanate, as has been stated, from the Lord's Divine. This is bound to seem incomprehensible, indeed as something absurd, to many in the world. The reason for this is that a person's thoughts and ideas are based on spatial distances and lengths of time, so much so that a person cannot engage in thought without them. Consequently if you take away lengths of time and spatial distances from a person's thought he can grasp scarcely anything. Yet the thinking of angels in heaven is altogether free from anything temporal or spatial, so completely that their thoughts are a thousand times, indeed ten thousand times superior in intelligence and wisdom to man's thoughts. And what is astounding, if with them an idea of a temporal or spatial origin intrudes, shadow and thick darkness immediately overtakes their minds, because they then fall from the superior light of heaven into the inferior light of the natural order, which to them is thick darkness.

[2] The fact that there are no spatial distances or periods of time in the next life, but states instead, or that appearances of them exist as a result of variations of state in respect of goodness and truth, see 2625, 2837, 3356, 3387, 3404, 4321, 4882, 5605, 7381. From this one may now see what 'standing afar off' means in the spiritual sense, namely remoteness from heaven where the Divine is, at this point remoteness from internal things, because as stated above, that nation which stood at that time a long way off from Mount Sinai was most remote from internal things. They were interested solely in outward things, and considered worship of God to consist wholly in them. That nation was also allowed to do this because they were then able to represent heavenly and Divine realities; for in order that these may be represented an outward form is necessary, and this may exist devoid of anything internal, 3147, 3670, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4307, 8588.

[3] 'Afar off' means remote from goodness and truth that come from the Lord, and so remote from internal things, in the following places as well: In Luke,

The rich man in hell lifting up his eyes saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Abraham said to him, Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass across from here to you cannot, nor can those who are there pass across to us. Luke 16:23, 25, 26.

'Abraham' here is not used to mean Abraham, for he is not known in heaven, but in the highest sense to mean the Lord, and in the relative sense to mean those in heaven who are governed by the good of love to and faith in the Lord, 1834, 1876, 1965, 1989, 2011, 3245, 3305 (end), 6098, 6185, 6276, 6804. Those in hell are said 'to see afar off' those in heaven because they are in a state extremely remote from goodness and truth. 'A great gulf' between them is the actual remoteness from good, which also produces the appearance of a gulf lying in between.

[4] Those who whenever they think rely on spatial ideas, as all people in the world do, inevitably envisage hell, and also heaven, to be a place far away from a person. But the truth of the matter is that hell and heaven are near a person; indeed they are in a person, hell being in a bad person, heaven in a good person. Everyone after death also enters that hell or that heaven he was in when in the world. But after death a change of state takes place, in that the hell which was not recognized in the world becomes recognizable, and the heaven which too was not recognized in the world becomes recognizable, the heaven being full of all happiness, and the hell of all unhappiness. The truth that heaven is within us is what the Lord teaches in Luke,

The kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21.

In Isaiah,

They are coming from a land far away, from the end of heaven. Isaiah 13:5; Jeremiah 5:15.

In Isaiah,

Hear, you that are afar off what I have done; and know, you that are near, My strength. Isaiah 33:13.

In the same prophet,

I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Do not withhold. Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the end of the earth. Bring forth the blind people who have eyes, and the deaf who have ears. Isaiah 43:6, 8; 49:12.

In the same prophet,

Listen to Me, O islands, and hearken, O peoples from afar. Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 31:10.

In Jeremiah,

Behold, the voice of the cry of the daughter of My people from a land far away, Is not Jehovah in Zion? Is not her king in her? Jeremiah 8:19.

In the same prophet,

O Jehovah, You have planted them, and they have also taken root. You are near in their mouth but far away from their heart. 1 Jeremiah 12:2.

In the same prophet, I am a God near at hand, and not a God afar off. Jeremiah 23:23.

In all these places 'afar off' means remote from good.


1. literally, reins or kidneys

/ 10837  

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.