Arcana Coelestia #9014

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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9014. 'You shall take him from My altar to die' means damnation even though he flees to worship the Lord, pleads for forgiveness, and promises to repent. This is clear from the meaning of Jehovah's altar' as the chief representative of worship of the Lord, dealt with in 921, 2777, 2811, 4541, 8935, 8940, and since the altar was representative of worship 'fleeing to the altar' means going to the Lord, pleading for forgiveness, and also promising to repent, for one action follows the other; and from the meaning of 'dying' as damnation, dealt with in 5407, 6119, 9008.

[2] The implications of all this may be recognized from what has been shown in paragraph 9013 above, to the effect that guile in spiritual things, that is, hypocrisy, is not able to be forgiven. The reason why is that guile is like poison that penetrates right through to the inward parts; it kills all of the faith and charity there, and destroys remnants, which are the truths and forms of the good of faith and charity stored away by the Lord in a person inwardly. And when these have been destroyed no spiritual life at all survives any longer. Regarding remnants, see 468, 530, 560-563, 660, 661, 798, 1050, 1738, 1906, 2284, 5135, 5342, 5344, 5897, 5898, 6156, 7560, 7564. Consequently when people full of guile plead with the Lord to be forgiven and promise to repent, meant by 'fleeing to the altar', their pleas and promises do not come at all from the heart but are made only with the lips. Therefore they are not heard, for the Lord looks on the heart, not on words separated and isolated from the heart. So it is that there is no forgiveness for them, because they are not capable of any repentance.

[3] The majority within the Church think that the forgiveness of sins involves wiping and washing them away, like the removal of dirt by water, and that after forgiveness people go about clean and pure. This idea reigns especially with those who attribute all of salvation to faith alone. But let it be known that the situation with the forgiveness of sins is altogether different from that being Mercy itself, the Lord forgives everyone their sins. Nevertheless they do not come to be forgiven unless the person sincerely repents, refrains from evils, and after that leads a life of faith and charity, doing so to the end of his life. When this happens the person receives spiritual life from the Lord, called new life. Then when with this new life he looks at the evils of his former life, turns away from them, and abhors them, his evils have for the first time been forgiven. For the person is now maintained in truths and forms of good by the Lord and held back from evils. This shows what the forgiveness of sins is, and that it cannot take place within an hour, nor within a year. The Church knows this to be so, for it says to those who attend the Holy Supper that their sins are forgiven if they begin a new life by refraining from evils and abhorring them.

[4] All this now shows what the situation is with hypocrites who through guile are inwardly eaten up by evils - they are incapable of repenting. For the actual remnants of goodness and truth present with them have been destroyed and lost, and everything of spiritual life with them. And being incapable of repenting they cannot be forgiven. This is meant by the law that those who kill their neighbour with guile must be taken from the altar to die.

[5] Their damnation was described by the following prophetic utterance made by David regarding Joab, who had killed Abner with guile,

There will always be in the house of Joab 1 one who suffers from a discharge, or is a leper, or supports himself with a rod, or falls by the sword, or lacks bread. 2 Samuel 3:27, 29.

'One suffering from a discharge' means profanation of the good of love; 'a leper' means profanation of the truth of faith, 6963; 'one supporting himself with a rod', or a person who is lame, means those with whom all good has been lost, 4302, 4314; 'one falling by the sword' means those constantly dying through falsities, 4499, 6353, 7102, 8294; and 'one lacking bread' means those deprived of all spiritual life, for 'bread' is the sustainment of spiritual life by means of good, 6118, 8410. Because such people were meant by 'Joab' he was killed by the command of Solomon at the altar to which he had fled, 1 Kings 2:28-32.


1. lit There will not be cut off from the house of Joab

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