The Big Ideas

A girl gazes into a lighted globe, showing the solar system.

Here we are in the 21st century. We know that the universe is an enormous place. We're just bursting with scientific knowledge. But how are we doing with the even-bigger ideas? Our human societies seem to be erasing them, or ignoring them - maybe we think we're too busy for them.

Here on the New Christian Bible Study site, we'll buck the trend. We want to explore the big ideas that give us a framework for living better lives. Here's a start on a list of big ideas from a New Christian perspective. For each idea, there is a footnote that lists some references in Swedenborg's theological works:

1. God exists. Just one God, who created and sustains the entire universe in all its dimensions, spiritual and physical. 1

2. God's essence is love itself. It's the force that drives everything. 2

3. God's essence comes into being, that is, it exists, in and through creation. 3

4. There are levels, or degrees, of creation - ranging from spiritual ones that we can't detect with our physical senses or sensors, to the level of the physical universe where most of our awareness is when we're alive here. 4

5. The created universe emanates from God, and it's sustained by God, but in an important way it is separate from God. He wants it to be separate, so that freedom can exist. 5

6. God operates from love through wisdom - willing good things, and understanding how to bring them about. 6

7. The physical level of creation exists to provide human beings with an opportunity to choose in freedom, with rationality, whether or not to acknowledge and cooperate with God. 7

8. God provides all people everywhere, regardless of their religion, the freedom to choose to live a life of love to God and to the neighbor. 8

9. God loves everyone. He knows that true happiness only comes when we're unselfish; when we're truly motivated by a love of the Lord which is grounded out in a love of the neighbor. He seeks to lead everyone, but will not force us to follow against our will. 9

10. God doesn't judge us. He tells us what's good, and what's evil, and flows into our minds to lead us towards good. However, we're free to reject his leading, and instead opt to love ourselves most. Day by day, we create habits of generosity or of selfishness, and live out a life in accordance with those habits. Those habits become the real "us", our ruling love. 10

11. Our physical bodies die eventually, but the spiritual part of our minds keeps going. It's been operating on a spiritual plane already, but our awareness shifts - so that we become fully aware of spiritual reality. 11


1Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 15, 16, 23, 301, Divine Providence 46, True Christian Religion 11, 19.

2Divine Love and Wisdom 4, 29, 30,Apocalypse Explained 297, Heaven and Hell 13, 545.

3Divine Love and Wisdom 31, 32, 57, 59, 84, 169-171, 329, 330, Divine Providence 3, 27.

4Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 179, 180, 213, 230, 363.

5Divine Love and Wisdom 44, 45, 55.

6Divine Love and Wisdom 42, 43, 52, 154, Divine Providence 3, 5.

7Divine Providence 27, 71, 72, 75, 129, True Christian Religion 459, 490.

8Divine Providence 145, 322, 324, 325, 328, Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 522, True Christian Religion 457.

9Divine Providence 67, 322, 333, 334, Heaven and Hell 312, 319, 324.

10Apocalypse Explained 986, Heaven and Hell 479, 481, 525, 598. The True Christian Religion 795.

11Arcana Coelestia 168, 1854, 3016, 5078, 6008, 8939, Heaven and Hell 445, 461, 493, 498, Divine Love and Wisdom 90, Last Judgment 25.


From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #297

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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297. (v. 1) And I saw in the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. That this signifies the Lord as to omnipotence and as to omniscience, is evident from the signification of the right hand when said of the Lord, as denoting omnipotence and also omniscience (concerning which we shall speak presently): and from the signification of Him that sat upon the throne, as denoting the Lord as to Divine good in heaven. For throne signifies heaven in general, specifically the spiritual heaven, and, in the abstract, the Divine truth proceeding, from which heaven is, and by which judgment is effected (as may be seen above, n. 253). The reason why the Lord is meant by Him that sat upon the throne, and also by the Lamb which took the book from Him that sat upon the throne, is, because by Him that sat upon the throne is meant the Lord as to Divine good, and by the Lamb the Lord as to Divine truth: for there are two things that proceed from the Lord as the Sun of heaven, namely, Divine good and Divine truth. Divine good from the Lord is called the Father in the heavens, and this is meant by Him that sat upon the throne; and Divine truth from the Lord is called the Son of man, but in this case the Lamb. And because Divine good judges no one, but Divine truth, it is therefore said here, that the Lamb took the book from Him that sat upon the throne. That the Divine good judges no one, but Divine truth, is meant by the Lord's words in John:

"The Father judgeth no one, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, because he is the Son of man" (v. 22, 27).

By the Father is meant the Lord as to Divine good; and by the Son of man, the Lord as to Divine truth. The reason why Divine good judges no one, is, because it explores no one: but Divine truth [judges], for this explores every one. But still it must be known that the Lord Himself does not judge any one from the Divine truth that proceeds from Him, for this is united to the Divine good, so that they are one, but that a man-spirit judges himself: for it is the Divine truth received by him that judges him; and because it appears as if the Lord judges him, it is therefore said in the Word that all are judged by the Lord. This also the Lord teaches in John:

Jesus said, "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejected me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the Word that I have spoken, it shall judge him in the last day" (xii. 47, 48).

(References: John 5:22, 5:27, 12:47-48; Revelation 5:1; The Apocalypse Explained 253)

[2] For with respect to judgment, the case is this: the Lord is present with all, and from Divine love wills to save all and also turns and leads all to Himself. Those who are in good, and thence in truths, follow, for they apply themselves; but those who are in evil, and thence in falsities, do not follow, but turn themselves away from the Lord, and to turn themselves away from the Lord is [to turn] from heaven to hell; for every man spirit is either his own good and the truth thence, or he is his own evil and the falsity thence. He who is in good and the truth therefrom, suffers himself to be led by the Lord; but he who is in evil and the falsity thence, does not suffer himself to be led. The latter resists with all his might and effort; for he wills according to his own love, which inspires and animates him; therefore his desire is to those who are in a similar love of evil. Hence it is evident that the Lord judges no one, but that the Divine truth received judges to heaven those who have received Divine truth in the heart, that is, in the love: and to hell those who have not received Divine truth in the heart, and have denied it. From these considerations it is evident how the Lord's words must be understood. "All judgment is [given] to the Son, because he is the Son of man." And elsewhere, that "he came not to judge the world but to save the world, and that the Word which he has spoken will judge him."

[3] But these things are such as do not fall into man's own intelligence, for they are amongst the arcana of the wisdom of the angels. This subject, however, is in some measure elucidated in the work concerning Heaven and Hell, n. 545-551, where this fact is treated of, that the Lord casts no one into hell, but that the spirit himself [casts] himself thither. That it is the Lord who is meant "by him that sat upon the throne," and not another whom they distinguish from Him, and call God the Father, is evident to every one from this consideration, that there was no other Divine which the Lord called Father, but His own Divine: for this assumed the Human, therefore this was His Father; and that this is infinite, eternal, uncreate, omnipotent, God, Lord, and in nothing differing from the very Divine, which they distinguish from Him and call "the Father," is evident from the received faith, called the Athanasian; where it is also said, That none of them is greatest and least, and none of them first and last, but that they are altogether equal; and that as one is, so is the other, infinite, eternal, uncreate, omnipotent, God, Lord: and yet there are not three infinites, but one: not three eternals, but one: not three uncreate, but one: not three omnipotents, but one: not three Gods and Lords, but one.

These things are mentioned, in order that it may be known that there are not two distinct [beings] meant by "Him that sat upon the throne," and by "the Lamb," nor in what follows "by God" and "the Lamb" but that by the one is meant the Divine good, and by the other the Divine truth in heaven, both proceeding from the Lord. That the Lord is meant by Him that sat upon the throne, also appears from all the particulars of chapter four, where a throne and one sitting thereon is treated of; this may be seen explained, n. 258-295: and, moreover, in Matthew:

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (xxv. 31: xix. 28, 29).

Again in Ezekiel:

"And above the expanse that was over the head of the cherubim was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man sitting upon it" (i. 26; x. 1)

And in Isaiah:

"I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his borders filled the temple" (vi. 1).

(References: Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1; Heaven and Hell 545-551; Isaiah 6:1; Matthew 19:28-29, 25:31; The Apocalypse Explained 258-295)

[4] Because by a throne is signified heaven, and by one sitting upon a throne, the Lord as to His Divine in heaven, therefore it is said above (in chap. iii.), "To him that overcometh, I will give to sit with me on my throne," by which is signified that he shall be in heaven where the Lord is (as may be seen above, n. 253); and therefore in what follows in this chapter, it is said,

"I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne a Lamb standing" (v. 6).

And in chapter xxii.,

"He shewed me a river of the water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (v. 1).

By the throne of God and of the Lamb, is meant heaven and the Lord there, as to Divine good, and as to Divine truth; God there denoting the Lord as to Divine good; and the Lamb, as to Divine truth. There is a distinction made here between them, because there are those who receive one more than the other; those who receive the Divine truth in good are saved; but those who receive the Divine truth, which is the Word, not in good, are not saved, because all Divine truth is in good, and nowhere else. Therefore those who do not receive it in good, reject and deny it, if not openly yet tacitly, and if not with the mouth yet with the heart; for the heart of such is evil, and evil rejects. To receive Divine truth in good, is to receive it in the good of charity; for those who are in that good receive.

(References: Isaiah 3:21; Revelation 3:6, 3:21, Revelation 5:6, 22:1-2, 22:1; The Apocalypse Explained 253)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 296, 303, 315, 319, 327, 343, 412, 430, 460, 479, 482, 630, 687, 850, 851, 858, 865, 936, 966

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