Heaven and Hell/54

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Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg
Chapter LIV, No One Enters Heaven by Mercy Apart from Means

LIV
No One Enters Heaven by Mercy Apart from Means[edit]

521. Those that have not been instructed about heaven and the way to heaven, and about the life of heaven in man, suppose that being received into heaven is a mere matter of mercy, and is granted to those that have faith, and for whom the Lord intercedes; thus that it is an admission from mere favor; consequently that all men without exception might be saved if the Lord so pleased, and some even believe that all in hell might be so saved. But those who so think know nothing about man, that he is just such as his life is, and that his life is such as his love is, both in respect to the interiors pertaining to his will and understanding and in respect to the exteriors pertaining to his body; also that his bodily form is merely the external form in which the interiors exhibit themselves in effect; consequently that one's love is the whole man (see above, n. 363). Nor do they know that the body lives not from itself, but from its spirit, and that a man's spirit is his essential affection, and his spiritual body is nothing else than his affection in human form, and in such a form it appears after death (see above, n. 453-460). So long as man remains ignorant of all this he may be induced to believe that salvation involves nothing but the Divine good pleasure, which is called mercy and grace.


522. But first let us consider what the Divine mercy is. The divine mercy is pure mercy towards the whole human race, to save it; and it is also unceasing towards every man, and is never withdrawn from any one; so that everyone is saved who can be saved. And yet no one can be saved except by Divine means, which means the Lord reveals in the Word. The Divine means are what are called Divine truths, which teach how man must live in order to be saved. By these truths the Lord leads man to heaven, and by them He implants in man the life of heaven. This the Lord does for all. But the life of heaven can be implanted in no one unless he abstains from evil, for evil obstructs. So far, therefore, as man abstains from evil he is led by the Lord out of pure mercy by His Divine means, and this from infancy to the end of his life in the world and afterwards to eternity. This is what is meant by the Divine mercy. And from this it is evident that the mercy of the Lord is pure mercy, but not apart from means, that is, it does not look to saving all out of mere good pleasure, however they may have lived.


523. The Lord never does anything contrary to order, because He Himself is Order. The Divine truth that goes forth from the Lord is what constitutes order; and Divine truths are the laws of order. It is in accord with these laws that the Lord leads man. Consequently to save man by mercy apart from means would be contrary to Divine order, and what is contrary to Divine order is contrary to the Divine. Divine order is heaven in man, and man has perverted this in himself by a life contrary to the laws of order, which are Divine truths. Into this order man is brought back by the Lord out of pure mercy by means of the laws of order; and so far as he is brought back into this order he receives heaven in himself; and he that receives heaven in himself enters heaven. This again makes evident that the Lord's Divine mercy is pure mercy, and not mercy apart from means.[1]


524. If men could be saved by mercy apart from means all would be saved, even those in hell; in fact, there would be no hell, because the Lord is mercy itself, love itself, and goodness itself. Therefore it is inconsistent with His Divine to say that He is able to save all apart from means and does not save them. It is known from the Word that the Lord wills the salvation of all, and the damnation of no one.


525. Most of those who enter the other life from the Christian world bring with them this belief that they can be saved by mercy apart from means, and pray for that mercy; but when examined they are found to believe that entering heaven is merely gaining admission, and that those who are let in are in heavenly joy. They are wholly ignorant of what heaven is and what heavenly joy is, and consequently are told that the Lord denies heaven to no one, and that they can be admitted and can stay there if they desire it. Those who so desired were admitted; but as soon as they reached the first threshold they were seized with such anguish of heart from a draught of heavenly heat, which is the love in which angels are, and from an inflow of heavenly light, which is Divine truth, that they felt in themselves infernal torment instead of heavenly joy, and struck with dismay they cast themselves down headlong. Thus they were taught by living experience that it is impossible to grant heaven to any one from mercy apart from means.


526. I have occasionally talked with angels about this, and have told them that most of those in the world who live in evil, when they talk with others about heaven and eternal life, express no other idea than that entering heaven is merely being admitted from mercy alone. And this is believed by those especially who make faith the only medium of salvation. For such from the principles of their religion have no regard to the life and the deeds of love that make life, and thus to none of the other means by which the Lord implants heaven in man and renders him receptive of heavenly joy; and as they thus reject every actual mediation they conclude, as a necessary consequence of the principle, that man enters heaven from mercy alone, to which mercy God the Father is believed to be moved by the intercession of the Son.

[2] To all this the angels said that they knew such a tenet follows of necessity from the assumption that man is saved by faith alone, and since that tenet is the head of all the rest, and since into it, because it is not true, no light from heaven can flow, this is the source of the ignorance that prevails in the church at this day in regard to the Lord, heaven, the life after death, heavenly joy, the essence of love and charity, and in general, in regard to good and its conjunction with truth, consequently in regard to the life of man, whence it is and what it is; when it should be known that thought never constitutes any one's life, but the will and the consequent deeds; and that the life is from the thought only to the extent that the thought is derived from the will; neither is life from the faith except so far as the faith is derived from love. Angels are grieved that these persons do not know that faith alone is impossible in any one, since faith apart from its origin, which is love, is nothing but knowledge, and in some is merely a sort of persuasion that has the semblance of faith (see above, n. 482). Such a persuasion is not in the life of man, but outside of it, since it is separated from man unless it coheres with his love.

[3] The angels said further that those who hold to this principle concerning the essential means of salvation in man must needs believe in mercy apart from means, for they perceive both from natural light and from the experience of sight that faith separate does not constitute the life of man, since those who lead an evil life are able to think and to be persuaded the same as others; and from this comes the belief that the evil as well as the good can be saved, provided that at the hour of death they talk with confidence about intercession, and about the mercy that is granted through that intercession. The angels declared that they had never yet seen any one who had lived an evil life received into heaven from mercy apart from means, whatever trust or confidence (which is preeminently meant by faith) he had exhibited in his talk in the world.

[4] When asked about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the apostles, whether they were not received into heaven from mercy apart from means, the angels replied that not one of them was so received, but everyone in accordance with his life in the world; that they knew where these were, and that they were no more esteemed there than others. They said that these persons are mentioned with honor in the Word for the reason that in the internal sense the Lord is meant by them--by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord in respect to the Divine and the Divine Human; by David the Lord in respect to the Divine royalty; and by the apostles the Lord in respect to Divine truths; also that when the Word is read by man the angels have no perception whatever of these men, for their names do not enter heaven; but they have instead a perception of the Lord as He has just been described; consequently in the Word that is in heaven (see above, n. 259) there are no such names mentioned, since that Word is the internal sense of the Word that is in the world.[2]


527. I can testify from much experience that it is impossible to implant the life of heaven in those who in the world have lived a life opposite to the life of heaven. There were some who had believed that when after death they should hear Divine truths from the angels they would readily accept them and believe them, and consequently live a different life, and could thus be received into heaven. But this was tried with very many, although it was confined to those who held this belief, and was permitted in their case to teach them that repentance is not possible after death. Some of those with whom the experiment was made understood truths and seemed to accept them; but as soon as they turned to the life of their love they rejected them, and even spoke against them. Others were unwilling to hear them, and at once rejected them. Others wished to have the life of love that they had contracted from the world taken away from them, and to have the angelic life, or the life of heaven, infused in its place. This, too, was permitted to be done; but as soon as the life of their love was taken away they lay as if dead, with their powers gone. By these and other experiments the simple good were taught that no one's life can by any means be changed after death; and that an evil life can in no way be converted into a good life, or an infernal life into an angelic life, for every spirit from head to heel is such as his love is, and therefore such as his life is; and to convert his life into its opposite is to destroy the spirit completely. The angels declare that it would be easier to change a night-owl into a dove, or a horned-owl into a bird of paradise, than to change an infernal spirit into an angel of heaven. That man after death continues to be such as his life had been in the world can be seen above in its own chapter (n. 470-484). From all this it is evident that no one can be received into heaven from mercy apart from means.


  1. Divine truth going forth from the Lord is the source of order, and Divine good is the essential of order (n. 1728, 2258, 8700, 8988). Thus the Lord is order (n. 1919, 2011, 5110, 5703, 10336, 10619). Divine truths are the laws of order (n. 2447, 7995). The whole heaven is arranged by the Lord in accordance with His Divine order (n. 3038, 7211, 9128, 9338, 10125, 10151, 10157). Therefore the form of heaven is a form in accord with the Divine order (n. 4040-4043, 6607, 9877). So far as a man is living in accordance with order, that is, so far as he is living in good in accordance with Divine truths, he is receiving heaven in himself (n. 4839). Man is the being in whom are brought together all things of Divine order, and by creation he is Divine order in form, because he is a recipient of Divine order (n. 3628, 4219, 4220, 4223, 4523, 4524, 5214, 6013, 6057, 6605, 6626, 9706, 10156, 10472). Man is not born into good and truth but into evil and falsity, thus not into Divine order but into the opposite of order, and for this reason he is born into pure ignorance; consequently it is necessary for him to be born anew, that is, to be regenerated, which is effected by the Lord by means of Divine truths, that he may be brought back into order (n. 1047, 2307, 2308, 3518, 8480, 8550, 10283, 10284, 10286, 10731). When the Lord forms man anew, that is, regenerates him, He arranges all things in him in harmony with order, that is, in the form of heaven (n. 5700, 6690, 9931, 10303). Evils and falsities are contrary to order; nevertheless those who are in them are ruled by the Lord not in accordance with order but from order (n. 4839, 7877, 10777). It is impossible for a man who lives in evil to be saved by mercy alone, for that would be contrary to Divine order (n. 8700).
  2. In the internal sense of the Word by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord in respect to the Divine itself and the Divine Human is meant (n. 1893, 4615, 6098, 6185, 6276, 6804, 6847). In heaven Abraham is unknown (n. 1834, 1876, 3229). By David the Lord in respect to the Divine royalty is meant (n. 1888, 9954). The twelve apostles represented the Lord in respect to all things of the church, that is, all things pertaining to faith and love (n. 2129, 3354, 3488, 3858, 6397). Peter represented the lord in respect to faith, James in respect to charity, and John in respect to the works of charity (n. 3750, 10087). The twelve apostles sitting on twelve thrones and judging the twelve tribes of Israel, signified that the Lord will judge in accord with the truths and goods of faith and love (n. 2129, 6397). The names of persons and of places in the Word do not enter heaven, but are changed into things and states; and in heaven these names cannot even be uttered (n. 1876, 5225, 6516, 10216, 10282, 10432). Moreover, the angels think abstractedly from persons (n. 8343, 8985, 9007).