Secrets of Heaven #1886

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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Preface

THE first two volumes explained [the first] fifteen chapters of Genesis and said what is contained in their inner meaning. Attached to each chapter [in those volumes] was a record of what the Lord in his divine mercy has given me the opportunity to see and hear in the world of spirits and the heaven of angels. Now comes the third volume, which includes similar reports likewise attached to each chapter. The article appended to the present chapter, Genesis 16 [§§19661983], concerns visions and dreams (including prophetic dreams) in the Word.

I know few will believe that anyone can see into the other world or report from there on the state of souls after death, because few believe in the resurrection, and even fewer of the well-educated than of the naive. It is true that they say with their lips that they will rise again, because this accords with official theology, but they deny it at heart.

[2] Some even confess openly that they would believe it if someone were to rise from the dead and they were to see, hear, and touch the person. If this happened, though, it would be an isolated experience and would fail to convince those who at heart deny the resurrection. A thousand objections would occur to them and harden them in their negative frame of mind.

Some do claim to believe they will rise again, but on the day of the Last Judgment. The picture they have formed of this is that everything in the visible world will cease to exist on that day; and since they have been awaiting it in vain for so many centuries, they too are dubious. What is meant by the Last Judgment mentioned in the Word, however, will be summarized at the end of the next chapter, Genesis 17, the Lord in his divine mercy willing [§§21172133].

[3] These attitudes indicate what kind of people make up the Christian world today. The Sadducees told of in Matthew 22:23 and the verses that follow openly denied the resurrection, but they acted better than people today who deny it at heart but claim they do not (since it is the official teaching, as noted) Their words contradict their beliefs, and their beliefs contradict their words.

To prevent them from growing even more firmly entrenched in this misguided opinion, the Lord in his divine mercy has given me the privilege of experiencing the next world in spirit while bodily present in this world (since a human being is a spirit clothed with a body). There I have spoken with souls recently revived after death, and in fact with almost everyone I knew during physical life who had since died. Every day now for several years I have also talked with spirits and angels and seen astounding sights that it has never occurred to anyone to imagine. No illusion of any kind was involved.

[4] Many people say that if someone comes to them from the other life, they will believe, so we shall see now whether they can be persuaded despite their hard hearts.

This I can assert positively: People who come into the next life from the Christian world are the worst of all. They hate their neighbor, they hate the religion, they deny the Lord (since it is the heart rather than the mouth that does the talking in the other world), not to mention the fact that they are more adulterous than anyone else. Because heaven is starting to move away from people inside the church, then, clearly the last days are at hand, as I have learned for certain.

To learn about the identity and nature of the Word’s inner meaning, see the statements and illustrations in the first two volumes, §§15, 64, 65, 66, 167, 605, 920, 937, 1143, 1224, 1404, 1405, 1408, 1409, 1502 at the end, 1540, 1659, 1756, 17671777 and 18691879 (particularly), 1783, 1807; and in the present volume, §§18861889.

1886. Genesis 16

THIS chapter has to do with Hagar and Ishmael, but until now no one has recognized what they represent and symbolize on an inner level. No one could have recognized it, because so far the world (even the scholarly world) has supposed that the stories of the Word are mere narratives, with no deeper implications. They have said that every jot is divinely inspired, but they do not mean much by it. All they mean is that the contents have been revealed [by God] and that some amount of doctrine relevant to their theology can be drawn from it and used by teachers and students. Because the stories have been divinely inspired (the world reasons), they have divine force in people's minds and do them more good than any other history.

Taken at face value, however, the narratives do little to improve us. They have no effect at all on our eternal life, because in the other world historical detail is obliterated from memory. What good would it do us there to know about Hagar the slave, about the fact that Sarai gave her to Abram, about Ishmael, or even about Abram? In order to go to heaven and partake of its joy (that is, of eternal life), our souls need only what belongs to and comes from the Lord. This is what his Word is for, and this is what it contains in its depths.

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