Commentary

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

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Footnotes:

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.

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From Swedenborg's Works

True Christian Religion #19

True Christian Religion (Chadwick translation)

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19. (i) THE ONE GOD IS NAMED JEHOVAH FROM HIS BEING, THAT IS, FROM THE FACT THAT HE ALONE IS, [WAS] AND WILL BE, AND BECAUSE HE IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, ALPHA AND OMEGA.

It is well known that Jehovah means 'I am' and 'Being'. It is clear from the Book of Creation, called Genesis, that God was so called from most ancient times; for there He is called God in the first chapter, but in the second and subsequent ones Jehovah God. Later on when the descendants of Abraham, starting with Jacob, forgot the name of God owing to their long stay in Egypt, it was recalled to their memory. About this we read:

Moses said to God, What is your name? God said, I am who I am; thus

shall you say to the Children of Israel, I am has sent me to you; and you shall say, Jehovah the God of your fathers has sent me to you. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation, Exodus 3:13-15.

Since God alone is I am or Being, that is, Jehovah, therefore there cannot be anything in the created universe which does not owe its being to Him; how this happens will be seen below. The same is meant also by these words:

I am the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:8, 11; 22:13.

This means that He is the one single source from beginning to end, from which everything comes.

[2] God is called Alpha and Omega 1 , the Beginning and the End, because alpha is the first and omega the last letter in the Greek alphabet, and they thus mean everything taken together. The reason is that every letter of the alphabet in the spiritual world stands for some thing. Vowels, which allow words to be pronounced, stand for something to do with affection or love. This is the origin of the speech of spirits or angels, and also of their writing-systems. But this is a mystery not previously known: there is a universal language used by all angels and spirits, which has nothing in common with any human language in the world. Everyone comes into possession of this language after death, for it is inborn in everyone from his creation. Therefore everyone throughout the spiritual world can understand everyone else. I have often been permitted to hear that language, and I have compared it with languages in the world, and found that it does not agree in the slightest detail with any natural language on earth. It differs from them in its basic principle, which is that each letter of every word stands for some thing. That can now be seen to be the reason why God is called Alpha and Omega, the one single source from beginning to end, from which everything comes. On this language and its writing-system, which is derived from the spiritual thought of angels, see CONJUGIAL LOVE 326-329, and also further in this book [280, 365, 386].

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Footnotes:

1. This passage is repeated with minor changes from Apocalypse Revealed 29.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

True Christian Religion 81


   Parallel Passages:

Apocalypse Revealed 29

Other New Christian Commentary

Jehovah 1, 1


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

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Revealed #29

Apocalypse Revealed (Rogers translation)

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29. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." (1:8) This symbolically means, who is the one and only reality from firsts to lasts, from whom springs all else, thus who is the one and only love, the one and only wisdom, and the one and only life in itself, and so the one and only Creator, Savior and Enlightener from Himself, and therefore the all in all of the church and heaven.

These and still more are the ideas contained in these words, which describe the Lord. It is clearly apparent that they are said of the Lord, and indeed of His humanity, for we are told next that John heard a voice saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," that he turned to see the voice that spoke with him, and that he saw the Son of Man in the midst of the seven lampstands (Revelation 1:10-13) - who shortly also said, "I am the First and the Last, and am He who lives, and was put to death" (Revelation 1:17-18, cf. 2:8).

As for all the particulars listed above, however, it is impossible to confirm these briefly, since to confirm them to people's comprehension would take many pages. Still, we have confirmed them in part in Angelic Wisdom Regarding Divine Love and Wisdom, recently published in Amsterdam, q.v.

The Lord calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, because Alpha and Omega have reference to His Divine love, while Beginning and End have reference to His Divine wisdom. For present in every particular of the Word is a marriage of love and wisdom or of goodness and truth, on which subject see The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Regarding the Sacred Scripture, nos. 80-90.

(References: Teachings about the Sacred Scripture 80-90)


[2] The Lord is called the Alpha and the Omega because alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and they consequently symbolize all things in their entirety. That is because in the spiritual world every alphabetic letter has some symbolic meaning, and a vowel, since it serves to provide tone, symbolizes something having to do with affection or love. From this origin springs spiritual and angelic speech, and also writing. But this is an arcanum previously unknown. For there is a universal language, which all angels and spirits possess, and it has nothing in common with any language of people in the world. Everyone comes into use of this language after death, as it is implanted in everyone from creation. Everyone can therefore understand everyone else throughout the whole spiritual world. I have been granted often to hear that language, and also to speak it, and I have compared it with languages in the world and found that it does not accord, even in the least particular, with any natural language on earth. It differs from them from its first characteristic, which is that every letter in each word has some symbolic meaning, both in speaking and in writing.

That, then, is why the Lord is called the Alpha and the Omega, which symbolically means that He is the all in all things of heaven and the church. And because they are both vowels, they have reference to love, as said above.

Regarding this language and the writing of it flowing from the spiritual thought of angels, see also some observations in Angelic Wisdom Regarding Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, no. Divine Love and Wisdom ccc295.

(References: Divine Love and Wisdom 295)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 1, 38, 57, 92, 248, 522, 686, 798, 888


   Parallel Passages:

True Christian Religion 19

Other New Christian Commentary

Omega and alpha 1


Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation.


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