Secrets of Heaven #0

By Emanuel Swedenborg

Study this Passage

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WHEN people stay with Scripture's literal meaning alone and do not seek out an inner meaning from other passages in the Word to explain it, they are delusional. The extent of their delusion can be plainly seen from the number of heresies that exist, each of which uses the Word's literal meaning to prove its own dogma. Consider especially the major heresy generated by self-love and materialism (in all their insanity and hellishness) on the basis of the Lord's words to Peter:

I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail over it. And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of the heavens; and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in the heavens, and whatever you unbind on earth will be unbound in the heavens. (Matthew 16:15, 16, 17, 18, 19)

[2] People who stress the literal meaning think that these words have to do with Peter and that he was personally given this immense power. Yet they know that Peter lived an extremely simple life, that he never exercised this kind of power, and that to do so would be an assault on God's divinity. Even so, self-love and materialism in all their insanity and hellishness prompt them to claim for themselves the highest power on earth and in heaven, and to make themselves gods. They therefore interpret the passage according to its literal meaning and vehemently defend their interpretation. In reality, the inner meaning of the words is that true faith in the Lord has this power (and such faith exists only in people who love the Lord and show kindness to their neighbor). Even at that, it is not faith but the Lord, the source of faith, who has the power. The rock here means this faith, just as it does everywhere else in the Word. It is on this rock that the church is built, and against it the gates of hell cannot prevail. Faith in the Lord has the keys to the kingdom of the heavens. It closes heaven to keep out evil and falsity, and it opens heaven to what is good and true. That is the inner meaning of the words.

[3] Like the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles actually represented all aspects of faith in the Lord (§§577, 2089, 2129, 2130 at the end). Peter represented faith itself; James represented neighborly love; and John represented the good done by neighborly love (see the preface to Genesis 18). Their representation resembled that of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (Jacob's first children in the representative Jewish and Israelite religion), as can be seen from a thousand places in the Word. The words above were addressed to Peter because he presented an image of faith.

This shows what thick darkness people plunge into-dragging others with them-by interpreting everything literally, as we see from this declaration to Peter, which they use in denying the Lord the power to save the human race and usurping it for themselves.

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Many thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation and its New Century Edition team.