Explanation(s) or references from Swedenborg's works:
Bible Studies:The Nexus, Part 3: Internal Work
By Rev. William Woofenden
"Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:3
Additional readings: Isaiah 1:1-20
In the childhood of the human race, before men had departed from right ways of life, heaven was near to them. They could be led directly by the Lord, for their hearts and minds were open to him. Of this Golden Age of the human race it is written, "Man walked with God." But we have all read in the history of the human race as revealed in the Scripture the account of how many departed from the way of life and, following the devices of his own heart, closed his mind to the direct reception of goodness and truth from the Lord, until finally he reached a state in which all true knowledge of God and heaven was lost.
Then the Lord came to bring salvation to mankind, and preparation for His reception was made through John the Baptist, the messenger sent in fulfillment of a prophecy given centuries before. John’s message is our text: "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And when John was put to death, and the Lord began His active ministry in the world, the words of our text were also His first message. For He came to make clear the way of life, and wrong ideas held possession of the minds of men then, as they do of many minds today.
It is not by chance that this first message turns our thoughts to heaven. The purpose of our creation is that we may so live that we shall find our homes in heaven. Belief in heaven had been lost, along with the knowledge about it. And today belief in heaven is for the most part vague, and many think that eternal life does not mean personal existence in the spiritual world, but only the persistence of one’s influence in this world. Great men like Homer, Plato, Moses, Shakespeare, Gladstone, Lincoln, Pasteur, and many others perpetuate themselves in the influence they exert in the minds of living men. This, they say, is what is meant by immortality, by everlasting life. But we should realize that this type of everlasting life is open to the evil as well as to the good. A Diocletian may be remembered forever as well as the beloved Apostle. We need to know the truth that men and women, as individuals, live forever after death in the spiritual world.
But this is not the implication of the text which I have chosen for consideration this morning." The kingdom of heaven is at hand." We know that heaven is not in some remote part of the natural sky, that we cannot say, "Lo, here, or Lo, there" (Luke 17:21). But we are still apt to think of it as far away. We are also inclined to think of it as remote in time. We speak commonly of the "future" world. In the thought of some even, it lies at the indefinitely remote time, when they expect a general resurrection along with others; death is the gateway of heaven, but heaven still seems too distant to be of much practical and present interest.
But the truth is that heaven is far away neither in space nor in time. It is here, it is now, it is "at hand." We live in it now, or we may do so. It is a present reality, the most real and the most important element of the life we are now living. When we speak of heaven, and of living for heaven, we are not, as some charge, setting our hearts on something far away, and despising the real world in which we now are. If one lives for a far-off heaven — and no doubt some have lived so — he may be careless of this world’s joys and sorrows, of opportunities for usefulness, keeping his eyes fixed on some vision of the future. But we may live for heaven and still live thoroughly in the present. We ought to value heaven as the most real of present realities. The Gospel is true: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
We are taught in the New Church that heaven is essentially a state of human feeling, thought and life, a state in which love to the Lord and love to the neighbor are the ruling motives. We are taught that no outward paradise which could be made by human or by Divine skill would be a heaven if those affections were absent from the heart, that there is no real or lasting satisfaction except in the exercise of these affections. It follows that we can come into heaven in this world, and live in heaven while we live on earth, for we may learn here to love the Lord and one another, and to find our chief enjoyment in the exercise of these heavenly loves.
But this is an abstract way of speaking. Concretely, heaven is not merely a heavenly state in ourselves; it is the great world of human beings who are living in that state, those people in whose hearts are heavenly affections, whose minds are bright with spiritual light, and whose hands are busy with heavenly works. There are many such people in this world. There are countless more who have gone from the earth to the spiritual world, and are there living the same good life under freer and happier conditions. All these people are heaven.
When we have love to the Lord and the neighbor in ourselves, we are brought spiritually near to those in like affections, both of this world and of the spiritual world. It is not a figure of speech when we say that heaven is about us when we are in heavenly states. It is a literal and positive fact. Heaven is so really around us at such times that if it were granted to us, as it was to Elisha’s servant and to others in Bible days to have our spiritual eyes opened, we should see the angels who are our companions and the beautiful land in which they dwell. Among them we should see and recognize some who were dear to us on earth, who still love and help us, and there would be some whom we had not known before but who would from the first glance seem to us as old friends, because they have similar desires and thoughts. And we should recognize them as the source of our happiness.
The Lord created the world and all things in it. All things in the world were made for man to use and enjoy, from the very materials of the earth to all the myriad things of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the beast of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea. For man’s needs of food, clothing, shelter, for gratification of his senses, and the improvement of his mind these things were made. All these were created and given to man for blessings. But they are subject to one important condition: man must indeed labor to make these things of service to himself, but he must also use them in the service of others. Only so can he have any security or peace. The world of nature and of human beings is not for one man, or a few men, or a nation to control or exploit. Indeed we cannot rightly claim sovereignty over ourselves. We need the guidance of the Lord. And whatever under the Divine Providence we have been able to acquire, whether of material wealth, or of skill, or of learning, we did not acquire it by our unaided efforts. Our daily knowledge of the happenings in the world, our libraries, our schools are made possible by the labor of mind and body of other men and women, great or humble, living or dead. We depend on others and they on us, and life and security today, as always, depend upon the honesty and good will of the community in which we live.
Yet we should also realize that behind the labors and sufferings and the honesty and good will of men stands the Lord. Through His power alone man achieves progress. It is a law of the Divine Providence that man must act in freedom according to reason. This applies to the life of nations as well as to the life of individuals. But the Lord is present and operative always.
For infinitely wise and good reasons, the Lord does not draw the veil aside for us and allow us to see the heavenly world. Some argue that if only they could see heaven, they would believe in it. But to see that world as an outward, objective reality would destroy our freedom. We should be lured by its outward attractiveness, and it would be less possible for us to come into its true spirit.
When we are living in selfish and evil affections, we are in hell. Not only is hell within us at such times but it is also about us, not by a figure of speech, but actually. We are breathing its poisoned atmosphere and, if our eyes were opened, we should see the forms and faces of those who find their life in evil and who exult in influencing others to evil. Why, at least then, does the Lord not draw the veil aside and show us the terribleness of evil? The sight might for the moment frighten us, but we should be less able to shun evil freely because it is evil, and our power to escape permanently from it would be greatly lessened.
If we are tempted to question the Lord’s Providence in not revealing to us more openly the conditions of the good and evil in the spiritual world, we do well to remember His words, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them….If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:29-31).
The Lord said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). We should seek those good things which endure forever, and should not sacrifice them for the sake of money or health or life itself. To acquire love to the Lord and to the neighbor is the only thing worth living for. Our business dealings should have as their motive the love of use, of service to others. The most necessary thing in making a home is having in it the sunshine of heaven. The only absolute requirement for our happiness as we go to and fro in the ways of the world is that heaven shall go with us. This is to live for heaven, and yet to live must fully in the present. This is the practical meaning of living for heaven.
It may be stated still more simply. Heaven is not heaven from locality, neither is it heaven from anything which belongs to the angels as their own. It is heaven from what is received from the Lord into the lives and hearts of the angels. To be near the Lord, not in place merely, but in heart, to feel the protection and peace of His presence is heaven. Heaven is being near to the Lord and keeping near to Him. There is no other heaven for men or angels.
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand." When John first spoke this message, the kingdom of heaven was in a special sense at hand, because the Lord had come to live with men and to make Himself accessible to them. A power to heal and bless went forth from the Lord during His life on earth. Men obsessed felt his saving power and sat at His feet clothed and in their right mind.
At the Transfiguration Peter said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" (Matthew 17:4, Mark 9:5, Luke 9:33). In following the Lord, in hearing His Word and in doing His work, they were tasting of heaven. But we need to note that the mere physical nearness of the Lord did not make heaven. Some cried out with fear at His approach. It was not heaven to them. It was not heaven to those who followed Him to accuse and to betray Him. His presence was a blessing only to those who in some measure drew near to Him in spirit.
Even in the Lord’s coming on earth the kingdom of heaven was not forced on me. It was made accessible to them; it was brought within their reach.
It is brought within our reach. Just as there is no royal road to knowledge, there is no royal road to heaven. We must cease to do evil before we can learn to do well. Repentance, the willingness to recognize and acknowledge our faults and weaknesses and to struggle to overcome them opens the door. Heavenly life comes into the soul when selfish desires are replaced by kindly thoughts and the desire to serve. The Lord tell us to seek these heavenly virtues now, not for the sake of honor for ourselves, but that we may be really kind and helpful to others, that our lives may have something of the Lord’s love in them. Then we shall find that life here makes one with heavenly life, and that our Heavenly Father is the Source of happiness in both alike.
183. These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God. That this signifies the Lord from whom come all the truths of heaven and of the church is evident from the fact that it is the Son of man who says these things, and also those which are addressed to the angels of the other churches; and the Son of man is the Lord as to the Divine Human (as may be seen above, n. 63, 151). By the seven spirits of God are meant all the truths of heaven and of the church, because the Spirit of God in the Word signifies the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord. In many passages in the Word mention is made of spirit, and this, when said of man, signifies Divine truth received in his life, thus his spiritual life; but when said of the Lord it signifies the Divine which proceeds from Him, which in general terms is called Divine truth. But because few at this day know what is meant by spirit in the Word, I desire first to show from quotations, that spirit, when said of man, signifies Divine truth received in the life, thus his spiritual life. Now as these two things, the good of love and the truth of faith, constitute the spiritual life of man, therefore, in several passages in the Word, mention is made of heart and spirit, and also of heart and soul; by heart is signified the good of love, and by spirit the truth of faith; the latter is also signified by soul, for by this term in the Word is meant man's spirit.
That by spirit, when said of man, is signified truth received in the life, is evident from the following passages.
 In Ezekiel:
"Make you a new heart and a new spirit; why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (xviii. 31).
In the same:
"A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I give in the midst of you" (xxxvi. 26).
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a firm spirit within me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart God does not despise" (Ps. li. 10, 17).
In these passages heart signifies the good of love, and spirit the truth of faith, from which man has spiritual life; for there are two things that constitute man's life, good and truth; these his spiritual life.
 Because heart signifies good, and spirit truth, when both are received in the life, therefore heart, in the opposite sense, signifies evil, and spirit falsity; for most expressions in the Word have also an opposite sense. Heart and spirit are used in this sense in the following passages in David:
"A generation that sets not their heart aright, and whose spirit is not steadfast with God" (Ps. lxxviii. 8).
"Every heart shall melt, and every spirit shall faint" (xxi. 7).
"Jehovah hath made heavy the spirit of the king of Heshbon, and hath hardened his heart" (Deut. ii. 30).
"Conceive chaff, bring forth stubble; fire shall devour your spirit" (xxxiii. 11).
"Woe unto the foolish prophets, who go away after their own spirit" (xiii. 3).
In the same:
"That which ascendeth upon your spirit shall never come to pass" (xx. 32).
 From these considerations it is evident, that the whole of man's life is meant by heart and spirit; and because his whole life has reference to these two, namely, to good and truth, and, in the spiritual sense, to love and faith, therefore, by heart and spirit those two lives are meant. This is also why heart and spirit signify man's will and understanding, because these two faculties constitute his life; for a man has no life but in those faculties; the reason is, that the will is the receptacle of good and its love, or of evil and its love, and the understanding is the receptacle of truth and its faith, or of falsity and its faith, and, as has been said, all things in man have reference to good and truth or to evil and falsity, and, in the spiritual sense, to love and faith (see The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 28-35). The reason why by spirit, when said of man, is signified truth or falsity, and hence his life from the one or the other is, that by spirit is properly meant the spirit which is in man, and which thinks, and this it does either from truths or from falsities. But, as said above, the two things that constitute man's life are understanding and will. The life of the understanding is to think from either truths or falsities, and the life of the will is to affect, or inflame with love, those things which the understanding thinks. These two lives of a man's spirit correspond to the two lives of his body, which are the life of the respiration of the lungs and the life of the pulse of the heart; man's spirit is united to the body by this correspondence (as may be seen above, n. 167, and in the work, Heaven and Hell, n. 446, 447).
 Because of this correspondence, the spirit is so named from a term which, in the original, and in several other languages, signifies wind; therefore to expire is frequently expressed in the Word by giving up the spirit. Thus in David:
"I have taken away their spirit, he has expired" (Ps. civ. 29).
The Lord Jehovih said to the dry bones, "Behold, I bring spirit into you, that ye may live: and the Lord Jehovih said, Come from the four winds, O spirit, and breathe into these slain; and the spirit came into them, and they lived again" (xxxvii. 5, 9, 10).
In the Apocalypse:
"The two witnesses were slain by the beast that came up out of the abyss, but after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet" (xi. 7, 11).
Jesus, taking the hand of the dead maid, "cried, saying, Maid, arise; and her spirit came again, and she arose straightway" (viii. 54, 55).
 When these passages are understood it will be evident what is signified by spirit when said of man, in numerous places in the Word, from which the following only shall be adduced; as in John:
"Except anyone be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the spirit" (iii. 5, 8).
In the same:
The Lord breathed on the disciples, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (xx. 21, 22).
In the Book of Genesis:
"Jehovah breathed into man's nostrils the breath of lives" (ii. 7);
besides other places.
 That spirit, in the spiritual sense, signifies truth, and man's life thence derived, which is intelligence, is quite clear from the following passages. In John:
"The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (iv. 23).
"In him was an excellent spirit of knowledge and understanding. I have heard concerning thee that the spirit of God is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in thee" (v. 12, 14).
"Thou shalt speak unto all the wise in heart, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom" (Exod. xxviii. 3).
John "grew, and waxed strong in spirit" (i. 80).
And concerning the Lord,
Jesus "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was filled with wisdom" (ii. 40).
 When it is known what is signified by the term spirit when used in reference to man, its meaning may be known when said of Jehovah, or the Lord, to whom are attributed all the things which a man has, face, eyes, ears, arms, hands, as also heart and soul, thus also spirit, which in the Word is called the spirit of God, the spirit of Jehovah, the spirit of His nostrils, the spirit of His mouth, the spirit of truth, the spirit of holiness, and the Holy Spirit, by which is meant Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, as is evident from many passages in the Word.
The reason why Divine truth proceeding from the Lord is the spirit of God is, that all the life which men possess is therefrom, as also the heavenly life of those who receive that Divine truth in faith and life. That this is the spirit of God, the Lord himself teaches in John:
"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (vi. 63).
"There shall go forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse: the spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might" (xi. 1, 2).
"I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the nations" (xlii. 1).
"When [the enemy] shall come like a river, the spirit of Jehovah shall lift up a standard against him" (lix. 19).
"The spirit of the Lord Jehovih is upon me, therefore Jehovah hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor" (lxi. 1).
And in John:
"He whom the Father hath sent, speaketh the words of God; for God hath not given the spirit by measure" (iii. 34);
this is said of the Lord. That the Holy Spirit is Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, is evident in John:
"I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. When he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you" (xvi. 7, 13, 14).
 That the Comforter, here mentioned, is Divine truth proceeding from the Lord is quite clear; for it is said the Lord himself spoke "the truth" to them, and declared that, when He should go away, He would send the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who should guide them into all truth, and that He would not speak from himself but from the Lord. It is here said, he shall receive of mine, because Divine truths proceed from the Lord; and mine is said of what proceeds; for the Lord himself is Divine love, and that which proceeds from Him is Divine truth, thus is His own (see what is said in the work, Heaven and Hell, n. 139, 140, and the preceding numbers, and in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 307). That to go forth and to proceed is meant by being sent and sending, may be seen in Arcana Coelestia, n. 2397, 4710, 6831, 10,561; in like manner here by I will send Him unto you.
 That the Comforter is the Holy Spirit is evident in John:
"The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, he shall teach you all things " (xiv. 26).
In the same:
Jesus stood and cried with a loud voice: "Saying, If anyone thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. This spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (vii. 37-39).
That the Holy Spirit is Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, which flows into man, both immediately from the Lord Himself and mediately by angels and spirits, is clear also from the above words. For the Lord declares that he who believes on Him, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; and then it is added that He spake this concerning the Spirit which they should receive; for water, in the spiritual sense, signifies truth, and rivers of living water, Divine truth from the Lord in abundance; the same is therefore meant by the Spirit which they should receive. (That water signifies truth, and living water Divine truth, may be seen above, n. 71.) And because Divine truth proceeds from the Lord's Human glorified, and not immediately from His Divine itself, because this was glorified in itself from eternity, it is therefore here said,
"The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
(That to glorify is to make Divine, and that the Lord fully glorified His Human, that is, made it Divine by his last temptation and victory on the cross, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 293-295, 300-306.)
 In heaven they greatly wonder that those who form the church do not know that the Holy Spirit, which is Divine truth, proceeds from the Lord's Human, and not immediately from His Divine, when, notwithstanding, the doctrine received in the whole Christian world teaches that, - "As is the Father, so also is the Son, uncreate, infinite, eternal, omnipotent, God, Lord; neither of them is first or last, nor greatest or least. Christ is God and man: God from the nature of the Father, and man from the nature of the mother; but although He is God and man, yet nevertheless there are not two, but one Christ; He is one, not by changing the Divinity into the humanity, but by the Divinity receiving to itself the humanity. He is altogether one, not by a commixing of two natures, but one person alone, because as the body and soul are one man, so God and man is one Christ." This is from the creed of Athanasius.
Now because the Lord's Divine and Human are not two, but one Person alone, and are united as the soul and body, it can be known that the Divine which is called the Holy Spirit goes forth and proceeds from His Divine by means of the Human, thus from the Divine Human; for nothing whatever can proceed from the body except out of the soul by means of the body, because all the life of the body is from its soul. And because, as is the Father so is the Son, uncreate, infinite, eternal, omnipotent, God and Lord, and neither of them is first or last, nor greatest or least, it follows that the proceeding Divine, which is called the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Divine itself of the Lord by means of His Human, and not from another Divine which is called the Father; for the Lord teaches that He and the Father are one, and that the Father is in Him and He in the Father (concerning which, see below, n. 200). But the reason why most of those in the Christian world think otherwise in their hearts, and consequently believe otherwise, the angels have said is from the fact that they think of the Human of the Lord as separate from His Divine; which nevertheless is contrary to the doctrine that teaches that the Divine and Human of the Lord are not two persons, but one Person alone, and united as soul and body.
That this is in the doctrine of the whole Christian world was provided by the Lord, because it is the essential of the church, and the essential of the salvation of all. But that they have divided the Divine and Human of the Lord into two natures, and have said that the Lord is God from the nature of the Father, and man from the nature of the mother, was because they did not know that when the Lord fully glorified His Human He put off the Human taken from the mother, and put on that from the Father (according to what is shown in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 295). That this distinction was also made in a certain council, on account of the Pope, by those who were then present, in order that he might be acknowledged as the Lord's vicar, may be seen in Arcana Coelestia, n. 4738.
 That the Spirit of God is Divine truth, and hence spiritual life to the man who receives it, is further evident from the following passages. In Micah:
"I am full of power with the Spirit of Jehovah, and of judgment" (iii. 8).
"I will pour out waters upon him that is thirsty, and rivulets upon the dry ground, and my spirit upon thy seed" (xliv. 3).
"In that day shall Jehovah of hosts be for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them" (xxviii. 5, 6).
"That ye may know that I will put my spirit in you that ye may live" (xxxvii. 14).
"I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and also upon the men-servants, and upon the handmaids" (ii. 28).
In the Apocalypse:
"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (xix. 10).
Because the Spirit of God signifies Divine truth, it is therefore called
the Spirit of the mouth of Jehovah (Ps. xxxiii. 6)
"the spirit of his lips" (Isa. xi. 4);
"the breath of God," and "the spirit of his nostrils" (Lam. iv. 20; Ps. xviii. 15; Job. iv. 9).
John said, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (iii. 11).
To baptize, in the spiritual sense, signifies to regenerate; the Holy Spirit is Divine truth, and fire is Divine good. (That to baptize signifies to regenerate, may be see above, n. 71; and that fire is the good of love, n. 68.)
(References: Acts of the Apostles 4:9; Ezekiel 37:14, Ezekiel 37:13-14; Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 28:5-6, Isaiah 44:3; Job 4:9; Joel 2:28, Joel 2:28-29; Lamentations 4:20; Matthew 3:11; Micah 3:8; Psalms 18:16, 18:15, 33:6; Revelation 19:10; The Apocalypse Explained 68, 71)
 From these considerations it is now evident what is meant by the words of the Lord to His disciples:
"Going . . . baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (xxviii. 19).
Here by the Father is meant the Divine itself, by the Son, the Divine Human, and by the Holy Spirit, the proceeding Divine which is Divine truth: thus one Divine, and yet a trinity. That this is the case, the Lord teaches in John:
"From these things ye know" the Father, "and have seen him. He that seeth me seeth the Father. I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (xiv. 7, 9, 10).
 Because the proceeding Divine, which is Divine truth, flows into man both immediately and mediately by angels and spirits, it is therefore believed that the Holy Spirit is a third person, distinct from the two called Father and Son; but I can assert that no one in heaven knows any other Holy Divine Spirit but the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord. And because the Divine truth is communicated to men also mediately by means of angels, it is therefore said of Jehovah in David,
"Jehovah God maketh his angels spirits" (Ps. civ. 1, 4).
These things are now adduced to show that by the seven spirits are signified all the truths of heaven and the church from the Lord. That the seven spirits denote all the truths of heaven and the church, becomes more evident from these passages in the Apocalypse:
"The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne are the seven spirits of God" (iv. 5).
"In the midst of the elders stood a lamb, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth" (v. 6).
That the spirits there mentioned do not mean spirits, is clear from the fact that the lamps, and the eyes of the Lamb are called spirits; for lamps signify Divine truths and eyes the understanding of truth; and when these are said of the Lord, His Divine wisdom and intelligence are meant (concerning which see above, n. 152).