Commentary

 

The Big Ideas

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By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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

Footnotes:

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #297

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297. Verse 1. And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne, signifies the Lord in respect to omnipotence and omniscience. This is evident from the signification of "right hand," as being, in reference to the Lord, omnipotence and also omniscience (of which presently); also from the signification of "Him that sat upon the throne," as being the Lord in respect to Divine good in heaven; for in general "throne" signifies heaven, in particular the spiritual heaven, and abstractly Divine truth proceeding, from which heaven is, and by which judgment is effected (see above, n. 253. By "Him that sat upon the throne," and also by "the Lamb," that took the book from Him that sat upon the throne, the Lord is meant, because by "Him that sat upon the throne" the Lord in respect to Divine good is meant, and by "the Lamb" the Lord in respect to Divine truth. 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 is here meant by "Him that sat upon the throne;" and Divine truth from the Lord is called "the Son of man," but here "the Lamb." And because Divine good judges no one, but Divine truth judges, therefore it is here said that "the Lamb took the book from Him that sat upon the throne." That Divine good judges no one, but Divine truth judges, is meant by the Lord's words in John:

The Father doth not judge anyone, but hath given all judgment unto the Son; because He is the Son of man (John 5:22, 27).

"Father" means the Lord in respect to Divine good; "the Son of man," the Lord in respect to Divine truth. Divine good "doth not judge anyone," because it explores no one; but Divine truth judges, for it explores everyone. Yet it should be known, that neither does the Lord Himself judge anyone from the Divine truth that proceeds from Him, for this is so united to Divine good that they are one; but the man-spirit judges himself; for it is the Divine truth received by himself that judges him; but because the appearance is that the Lord judges, therefore it is said in the Word that all are judged by the Lord. This the Lord also teaches in John:

Jesus said, If any man hear My words and yet believe not, I judge him not; for I have not come to judge the world but to save the world. He that rejecteth Me and receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:47-48).

[2] For in respect to judgment, the case is this: The Lord is present with all, and from Divine Love He wills to save all, and He turns and leads all towards Himself. Those who are in good and in truths therefrom follow, for they apply themselves, but those who are in evil and in falsities therefrom do not follow, but turn backwards from the Lord, and to turn themselves backwards from the Lord is to turn from heaven to hell; for every man-spirit is either his own good and the truth therefrom, or his own evil and the falsity therefrom. He who is a good and the truth therefrom permits himself to be led by the Lord; but he who is an evil and the falsity therefrom does not permit himself to be led; he resists with all his strength and endeavor, for his will is toward his own love; for this love is his breath and life; therefore his desire is toward those who are in a like love of evil. From this it can be seen that the Lord does not judge anyone, but that Divine truth received judges to heaven those who have received Divine truth in the heart, that is, in love; and it judges to hell those who have not received Divine truth in the heart, and who have denied it. Thence it is clear what is meant by the Lord's saying that "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 is to judge man. "

[3] These, however, are truths that do not fall into man's self-intelligence, for they are among the arcana of the wisdom of angels. (But the matter is somewhat elucidated in the work on Heaven and Hell 545-551, under the heading, The Lord casts no one into Hell, but the Spirit casts Himself Thither.) That it is the Lord who is meant by "Him that sat upon the throne," and not another whom some distinguish from the Lord and call "God the Father," can be seen by anyone from this, that the Divine that the Lord called "Father" was no other than His own Divine; for this took on the Human; consequently it was the Father of the Human; and that this Divine is infinite, eternal, uncreate, omnipotent, God, Lord, and in no way differing from the Divine Itself that some distinguish from Him and call the Father, can be seen from the received faith called Athanasian, where it is also said:

That no one of them is greatest or least, and no one of them first or last, but they are altogether equal; and that as is one, 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 uncreates, but one; not three omnipotents, but one; not three Gods and Lords, but one.

These things have been said that it may be known that by "Him that sat upon the throne" and "the Lamb," also in what follows by "God" and "the Lamb," not two, distinct from each other, are meant; but that by the one, Divine good is meant, and by the other, Divine truth in heaven, both proceeding from the Lord. That the Lord is meant by "Him that sat upon the throne," is clear also from the particulars of chapter 4 preceding, where the throne and One sitting thereon are treated of (which may be seen explained, n. 258-295); and still further 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 (Matthew 25:31; 19:28-29).

Also in Ezekiel:

Above the expanse that was over the head of the cherubim was as it were the appearance of a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne; and upon the likeness of the throne a likeness as the appearance of a man sitting upon it (Ezekiel 1:26; 10:1).

And in Isaiah:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1).

[4] Since by "throne" heaven is signified, and by "Him that sat upon the throne" the Lord in respect to His Divine in heaven, it is said above, in chapter 3:

He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit with Me on My throne (Revelation 3:21);

signifying that he shall be in heaven where the Lord is (see above, n. 253; and therefore in what follows in this chapter it is said:

I saw, and behold in the midst of the throne a Lamb standing (Revelation 3:6);

and in chapter 22:

He showed me a river of water of life, going forth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1).

"The throne of God and of the Lamb" means heaven and the Lord there in respect to Divine good and as to Divine truth; "God" meaning the Lord in respect to Divine good; and "the Lamb," the Lord in respect to Divine truth. A distinction is here made between the two, because there are those that receive the one more than the other. Those that receive Divine truth in good are saved; but those that receive Divine truth (which is the Word) not in good are not saved, since all Divine truth is in good and not elsewhere; consequently those that do not receive it in good reject it 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.

  
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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.