The Word’s Inner Meaning

This, then, is the Word’s inner meaning, the true and genuine life in it, which does not reveal itself at all in the literal meaning. But the number of secrets hidden within is so large that volumes would fail to unfold all of them. I have offered just a few, of a type confirming that regeneration is the theme and that it progresses from outer to inner self.

That is what angels see in the Word. They know nothing whatever of the literal contents, or the most obvious meaning of even one word, still less the names of different lands, cities, rivers, and people that come up so frequently in the narrative and prophetic parts. All they picture are the things those words and names symbolize.

Adam in Paradise, for instance, brings the earliest church to their minds—and not even the church itself but its belief in the Lord.

Noah brings up the picture of that church’s remnant among its successors, lasting up to Abram’s time.

Abraham never makes them think of a man who lived long ago but of a saving faith, which he represented. And so on.

In sum, they see spiritual and heavenly realities in the Word, completely separate from the words and names.

Several people found themselves carried up into heaven’s outermost entry hall while I was reading the Word, and they spoke to me from there. They said that they had no inkling of a single word or letter there but saw only the things symbolized on the next deeper level of meaning.

These things, according to their description, were so beautiful, followed in such a perfect sequence, and affected them so deeply that they called it glory.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Sections 64-65

Notes:

Previously Cited: 10/22/2018

3. Even if we are well informed and insightful, if we do not turn our backs on evil deeds because they are sins, we are not wise

This too is for the reason just given [Sections 21, 24, 25], that our wisdom comes from ourselves and not from the Lord. For example, if we know the theology of our church right down to the last detail and know how to support it on the basis of the Word and of reason; if we know the theologies of all the churches through the ages, along with the edicts of all the councils; in fact, if we know truths and see and understand them as well—if, for example, we know what faith is, what caring is, what piety is, what repentance and the forgiveness of sins are, what regeneration is, what baptism and the Holy Supper are, what the Lord is and what redemption and salvation are—we still are not wise unless we turn our backs on evils because they are sins. These are lifeless pieces of information, because they involve only our power of understanding and not at the same time our power of willing. Things like this perish in the course of time for the reasons given in Section 15 above. After death we ourselves actually discard them because they do not agree with the love that belongs to our will.

All the same, these pieces of information are absolutely necessary because they tell us how we are to behave; and when we do them they come to life for us, but not before.

from Life/Faith, Section 27

Notes:

Section 21:

This makes it very clear that to the extent that we turn our backs on evil deeds we are with the Lord and in the Lord; and to the extent that we are in the Lord the good deeds we do come not from ourselves but from the Lord. This yields the following general law: To the extent that we turn our backs on evil deeds, we do good deeds.

Section 24: Published 3/31/2019

Section 25: Published 4/1/2019

Section 19: Published 3/30/2019

Genesis 1:24-25 and Its Inner Meaning (Continued)

More evidence that these words enfold the mysteries of regeneration can be seen in differences between the present verse and the last. The last says that the earth produced the living soul, the beast, and the wild animal of the earth. The present one employs a different order, saying that God made the wild animal of the earth and then the beast. At first we produce results as if on our own, as we do later, too, before developing a heavenly nature. Regeneration, then, starts with the outer self and moves to the inner, which is why a change in the order occurs, and outermost things come first.

All this verifies the premise: In the fifth stage we speak with conviction (an attribute of the intellect) and in the process strengthen ourselves in truth and goodness. The things we then produce have life in them and are called the fish of the sea and the birds in the heavens. And in the sixth stage we act with conviction (an attribute of the intellect) and therefore with love (an attribute of the will) in speaking truth and doing good. What we then produce is called a living soul, an animal. Because this is the point at which we begin to act as much with love as with conviction, we become spiritual people, who are called [God’s] image—the very next subject.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Sections 47-48

Genesis 1:11-12 and Its Inner Meaning

And God said, “Let the earth cause the sprouting on the earth of the tender plant, of the plant bearing its seed, of the fruit tree making the fruit that holds its seed, each in the way of its kind”; and so it was done. And the earth produced the tender plant, the plant bearing its seed in the way of its kind, and the tree making the fruit that held its seed in the way of its kind. And God saw that it was good. — Genesis 1:11-12

When the earth (a person) is so well prepared as to be able to accept heavenly seed from the Lord and to produce good and truth in some degree, that is the time when the Lord first causes the sprouting of something tender, called the tender plant or grass. Next he stimulates something more useful that reseeds itself—the plant bearing its seed. Finally he germinates something good, which reproduces fruitfully—the tree making the fruit that holds its seed, each of these in the way of its kind.

During regeneration we naturally suppose at first that the good we do and the truth we speak come from ourselves, when the reality is that all good and truth come from the Lord. If we imagine they come from ourselves, then, we are not yet in possession of the life force belonging to true faith (although we can receive it later). We cannot believe yet that they come from the Lord, because we are being prepared to receive the living power of faith. This stage is represented in the story by things that have no living soul; animate creatures represent the stage of living faith to come.

The Lord is the sower of seeds, the seed is his Word, and the earth is the human being, as he saw fit to say in Matthew 13:19–23, 37, 38, 39; Mark 4:14–20; and Luke 8:11–15. A similar description:

So God’s kingdom is like one who tosses seed into the earth and sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; how it happens, the person does not know. For the earth bears fruit readily—first a shoot, then an ear, then the full grain in the ear. (Mark 4:26, 27, 28)

“God’s kingdom” in its broadest sense means the whole of heaven. Less broadly it means the Lord’s true church. In its narrow sense it refers to everyone with true faith, which is to say, all who become reborn by living out their faith. Each of these people is also called a heaven (since they have heaven in them) and God’s kingdom (since they have God’s kingdom in them). The Lord himself teaches this in Luke:

Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, “When is God’s kingdom coming?” He answered them and said, “God’s kingdom does not come in an observable way, nor will they say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ because—look!—God’s kingdom is within you.” (Luke 17:20, 21)

This is the third step in our regeneration and the stage at which we repent. The process continues to advance from shadow to light, from evening to morning, and so it says:

Genesis 1:13. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 29

Genesis 1:1 and Its Inner Meaning

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. — Genesis 1:1

The word beginning is being used for the very earliest times. The prophets frequently call them “the days of old.”

“The beginning” includes the first period of regeneration too, as that is when people are being born anew and receiving life.

Because of this, regeneration itself is called our new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15]. Almost everywhere in the prophetic books, the words creating, forming, and making stand for regenerating, though with differences.

In Isaiah, for example:

All have been called by my name, and I have created them for my glory; I have formed them; yes, I have made them. (Isaiah 43:7)

This is why the Lord is called Redeemer, One-Who-Forms-from-the-Womb, Maker, and Creator, as in the same prophet:

I am Jehovah, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your Monarch. (Isaiah 43:15)

In David: The people created will praise Jah. (Psalms 102:18)

In the same author:

You send out your spirit—they will continue to be created—and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalms 104:30)

Heaven, or the sky, symbolizes the inner self, and the earth, before regeneration occurs, symbolizes the outer self.

from Secrets of Heaven, Volume 1, Section 16

Notes:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! — 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. — Galatians 6:15 (NLT)

REFORMATION AND REGENERATION

Now that repentance has been treated, the next topic in order is our reformation and regeneration. These two both follow our repentance and are moved forward by it.

There are two states that we all inevitably enter into and go through if we are to turn from an earthly person into a spiritual person. The first state is called reformation; the second is called regeneration. In the first state we look from our earthly self toward having a spiritual self; being spiritual is what we long for. In the second state we become someone who is both spiritual and earthly. The first state is brought about by truths (these have to be truths related to faith); through these truths we aim to develop goodwill. The second state is brought about by good actions that come from goodwill; through these actions we come [more deeply] into truths related to faith.

To put it another way, the first state is a state of thought that occurs in our understanding; the second state is a state of love that occurs in our will. As the second state begins and progresses, a change takes place in our minds. There is a reversal, because then the love in our will flows into our understanding and leads and drives it to think in agreement and harmony with what we love. As good actions that come from love take on a primary role, and the truths related to faith are relegated to a secondary role, we become spiritual and are a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15]. Then our actions come from goodwill and our words come from faith; we develop a sense of the goodness that comes from goodwill and a perception of the truth that is related to faith; and we are in the Lord and in a state of peace. In brief, we are reborn.

If we begin the first state while we are in this world, we can be brought into the second state after we die. If we do not begin the first state while we are in this world, we cannot be brought into the second state or be reborn after we die.

These two states can be compared to the increase of light and heat that occurs as the day progresses in springtime. The first state is like the early light before dawn, when the rooster crows. The second state is like the dawn and the morning. The further development within the second state is like the increase of light and heat as the day progresses toward noon.

These two states can also be compared to the growth of grain crops. In the first stage they are like grass; after that they develop ears or fruiting spikes; and finally the grain itself grows within those structures.

These two states can also be compared to the growth of a tree. It begins as a sprout growing out of a seed in the ground. This then becomes a shoot. Then branches form and are adorned with leaves. Then the tree blossoms and fruit begins to grow in the heart of the flowers. As the fruit grows and develops, it produces new seeds, which are in effect the tree’s offspring.

The first state, the state of reformation, can be compared to the state of a silkworm when it draws silky threads out of itself and wraps itself in them. After all its hard work [of transformation], it becomes able to fly in the air and feeds no longer on leaves as before but on the nectar of flowers. . . .

from Regeneration, Pages 49-50

Regeneration

Anyone who does not begin to live a spiritual life—that is, who is not born anew by means of the Lord—cannot come into heaven. This is what the Lord tells us in John: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

We are born by our parents into an earthly life, but not into a spiritual life. A spiritual life is loving the Lord above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and doing so by following the precepts of faith that the Lord has taught us in the Word. In contrast, an earthly life is loving ourselves and the world more than we love our neighbor, and in fact more than we love God himself.

We are all born from our parents with the evils of love for ourselves and for the world. Every evil that has become part of someone’s nature as a result of habitual indulgence is passed on to his or her progeny. Therefore we receive accumulated evil passed down from our parents, grandparents, and ancestors in a long chain going back into the past. The evil we derive from them has over time become so great that all our intrinsic characteristics are nothing but evil.

This continuous accumulation can be broken and changed only by a life of faith and caring from the Lord.

We constantly tend toward and lapse into what we have received by heredity, so we ourselves reinforce this evil in ourselves and also add even more to it.

These evils are absolutely opposed to a spiritual life. They destroy it. So unless we get from the Lord a new life, a spiritual life—unless, then, we are conceived anew, born anew, and raised anew (that is, created anew)—we are damned, because we want nothing and think about nothing but loving ourselves and the world, just as the people in hell do.

We cannot be regenerated unless we know the kinds of teachings that lead us to a new life, a spiritual life. What we must be taught in order to gain a new, spiritual life are the truths that we need to believe and the good things we need to do—the truths that need to become part of our faith and the good actions that need to become part of our caring.

There is no way any of us can know these on our own, because all we take in is what strikes our senses. From this input we gain the light that is called earthly, which makes it possible for us to see only what has to do with the world and with ourselves. It shows us nothing that has to do with heaven or with God. This we must learn from revelation.

It is only from revelation, for example, that we learn that the Lord who is God from eternity came into the world to save the human race; that he has all power in heaven and on earth; that everything that has to do with faith and caring, that is, all truth and goodness, comes from him; that there is a heaven and a hell; and that we are going to live forever—in heaven if we have led a life of goodness and in hell if we have led a life of evil.

These and much more are matters of faith that we need to know if we are to be regenerated, since if we know them we can think about them, then intend them, and finally do them, thereby having a new life.

For example, if we do not know that the Lord is the Savior of the human race we cannot have faith in him, love him, and therefore do what is good for his sake. If we do not know that everything good comes from him we cannot think that our salvation comes from him, let alone want it to be that way; so we cannot live from him. If we do not know that there is a hell and a heaven and an eternal life we can have no thought whatever about heavenly life, nor can we devote ourselves to receiving it. It is much the same in regard to the other points just mentioned.

Each of us has an inner self and an outer self. The inner self is called our spiritual self and the outer self is called our earthly self. If we are to be regenerated, each of these needs to be regenerated.

If we have not been regenerated, then our outer or earthly self is in control and our inner self is its servant; while if we have been regenerated our inner or spiritual self is in control and our outer self is its servant. So we can see that the proper order of life in us is inverted from birth—what ought to be in control is serving and what ought to serve is in control. This order has to be reversed if we are to be saved; and the only way this reversal can be realized is through our being regenerated by the Lord.

The following may illustrate what it means to say that the inner self is in control and the outer self is serving, or the reverse. If we make pleasure and money and our own pride our highest good, if we take delight in hatred and vengeance, and if we inwardly collect reasons in support of these attitudes, then our outer self is in control and our inner self is its servant.

If, though, we perceive it as a good thing and a pleasure to have thoughts and intentions that are benevolent, honest, and fair, and to have our words and deeds reflect these same qualities outwardly, then our inner self is in control and our outer self is its servant.

First the inner self and then the outer is regenerated by the Lord; and the outer is regenerated by means of the inner. The inner self is regenerated by thinking about what is involved in faith and caring, and the outer is regenerated by a life in accord with this.

That is the meaning of the Lord’s words: “Unless you have been born of water and the spirit you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Water,” spiritually understood, is the truth that belongs to religious faith, and “the spirit” is a life according to that truth.

When we have been regenerated, our inner self is in heaven and is an angel among the angels we are going to live with after we die. Then we will truly be able to live the life of heaven, love the Lord, love our neighbor, have an understanding of truth, be skilled in goodness, and feel the bliss that all these bring.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 173-182

Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins

If we want to be saved, we must confess our sins and repent.

Confessing sins is to recognize things that are evil, see them within ourselves, acknowledge them, accept that we are at fault, and condemn ourselves because of them. When this is done in the presence of God, it is confessing our sins.

After we have confessed our sins in this way and have prayed for forgiveness with a humble heart, repenting is to stop doing them and to lead a new life that follows the principles of caring and faith.

If all we do is make a blanket acknowledgment that we are sinners and declare ourselves guilty of all evils but without examining ourselves—that is, seeing our own particular evils—we are making some kind of confession, but not a confession that leads to repentance. Since we do not know what our evils are, we live the same way afterward as before.

If we are leading a life of caring and faith we repent every day. We reflect on the evils in ourselves, acknowledge them, take precautions against them, and pray to the Lord for help. You see, on our own we are constantly falling down, but the Lord is constantly raising us up and leading us toward goodness. This is our state if we devote our lives to doing good. If we spend our lives doing evil, then too we are constantly falling down and the Lord is constantly lifting us up, but the result is only that we are steered away from falling into those most serious evils to which we instinctively tend with all our might.

If we are practicing self-examination in order to repent, it is important that we examine our thoughts and the intentions of our will, and note what we would do if we could get away with it—that is, if we had no fear of the law or of losing our reputation, our job, or our wealth. Our evils live in our will; that is the source of all the evil things we do physically. Therefore if we do not search out evils in our thoughts and our will, we will be unable to repent, because afterward we will have the same thoughts and intentions as we had before; and intending evils is the same as doing them. This therefore is what self-examination entails.

Saying that we repent but not changing the way we live is no repentance at all. Our sins are not forgiven when we say we repent; they are forgiven when we change our lives. Our sins are of course constantly being forgiven by the Lord, because he is mercy itself. Nevertheless, despite what we may think about how our sins are forgiven, they actually still cling to us and are not put aside from us unless we live by the precepts of true faith. As we live by these precepts our sins are put aside, and as our sins are put aside they are forgiven.

People believe that when our sins are forgiven they are washed away or rinsed off the way dirt is rinsed off with water. However, our sins are not washed away; they are just put aside. That is, we are held back from doing them when we are kept focused by the Lord on doing what is good; and when we are focused on doing good it seems as though our sins are gone and therefore as though they have been washed away. Further, the more we have been reformed, the more capable we are of focusing on doing what is good; how we are reformed will be explained in the treatment of regeneration that follows [Sections 173–186]. If we think that our sins are forgiven in any other way, we are sadly mistaken.

Some signs that our sins have been forgiven (that is, put aside) are the following: we sense a pleasure in worshiping God for God’s sake and in helping our neighbor for our neighbor’s sake, which means in doing good for its own sake and in speaking truth for its own sake. We do not want credit for our caring or our faith. We reject and turn our backs on evils like enmity, hatred, vindictiveness, adultery, and even the very thoughts that go along with intentions in such directions.

In contrast, some signs that our sins have not been forgiven (that is, put aside) are the following: we worship God but not for God’s sake, we help our neighbor but not for our neighbor’s sake, which means that we do not do good for its own sake or speak truth for its own sake but for self-serving and worldly reasons. We want credit for what we do. We do not find evils like enmity, hatred, vindictiveness, and adultery at all distasteful, and entertain these evils in our thoughts with a complete lack of restraint.

When we repent in a state of freedom, it works; when we repent under duress, it does not. The following are states of duress: a state of sickness, a state of mental depression because of misfortune, a state in which death seems imminent, as well as any state of fear that robs us of the use of reason. Sometimes people who are evil and are in a state of duress do things that are good and make promises to repent, but when they find themselves in a state of freedom they return to their old life of evil. It is different for people who are good.

After we have examined ourselves, acknowledged our sins, and repented of them, we must for the rest of our lives remain constant in our devotion to doing what is good. If instead we backslide into our former evil life and embrace it again, then we commit profanation because we are then joining evil and goodness together. This makes our latter state worse than our former one, according to the Lord’s words:

When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it wanders through dry places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, “I will go back to my house, the house I left.” When the spirit comes and finds the house empty, swept, and decorated for it, then it goes and recruits seven other spirits worse than itself, and they come in and live there, and the latter times of that person become worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43, 44, 45)

from New Jerusalem, Sections 159-169

REFORMATION LEADS TO AN INTERNAL BATTLE

The reason why a battle develops at this point [in the process of regeneration] is that our inner self has been reformed through truths. These truths allow us to see what evil and falsity are; but we still have evil and falsity in our outer or earthly self. At first, therefore, a disagreement arises between our new will, which is above, and our old will, which is below. Because these two wills are in disagreement, what they delight in is incompatible as well.

As we know, the flesh is against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the flesh and its lusts have to be brought under control before the spirit can become active and we can be a new person [Romans 7:22–23; Galatians 5:16–17, 24–25; Ephesians 4:22–24; 1 Peter 2:11].

After this disagreement of wills occurs, a battle develops, which is what is known as a crisis of the spirit. This inner conflict, this battle, is not between good and evil [directly], but between truths that defend what is good and falsities that defend what is evil. Goodness cannot do its own fighting; it fights through truths. Evil, too, cannot do its own fighting; it fights through falsities. Likewise, the will is unable to do its own fighting; it fights through its understanding, where its truths are kept.

That battle is something we feel inside ourselves and nowhere else; we experience it as an attack of conscience. In reality, though, it is the Lord and the Devil (meaning hell) that are fighting inside us. They fight for control over us, or to see whose we will be. The Devil, or hell, attacks us and summons the evils that are inside us. The Lord protects us and summons the good things that are inside us.

Although this battle takes place in the spiritual world, it is also a battle inside ourselves between the truths that defend what is good and the falsities that defend what is evil within us. Therefore we have to join the fight as if we were acting completely on our own. We have free choice to act either on the Lord’s behalf or on the Devil’s behalf. We are on the Lord’s side if we stay with the truths that defend what is good. We are on the Devil’s side if we stay with the falsities that defend what is evil.

It follows from this that whichever self wins, whether it is our inner self or our outer self, it will control the other. It is entirely the same as two enemy monarchs who fight over which of them is going to rule the other’s country; the one who wins gains control of the other’s territory, and all who live there have to obey their new ruler.

In this case, if our inner self wins it rules and gains control of all the evils in our outer self; our regeneration then continues. If on the other hand our outer self wins, it rules and drives away all the good qualities in our inner self; our regeneration then ceases.

from Regeneration, Pages 66-68

THE LORD ALONE CREATES US ANEW

The sections on goodwill and faith have already shown that the Lord carries out the process of regenerating us by means of goodwill and faith. . . . Both of these things, goodwill and faith, I call means because they forge our partnership with the Lord. Together they ensure that our goodwill is real goodwill and that our faith is real faith. The process of our regeneration cannot occur without our having some part to play in it.

In preceding chapters, our cooperation with the Lord has come up several times; it will be illustrated again here, however, because the human mind is by nature unable to rid itself of the sensation that it carries out this process under its own power.

In every motion and every action there is an element that is active and another element that is responsive. The active element acts, and then the responsive element acts in response. As a result, a single action comes forth from the two elements. A mill is activated in this manner by a waterwheel; a carriage by a horse; a motion by a force; an effect by a cause; a dead force by a living force; and in general an instrumental cause by a principal cause. Everyone knows that each pair together completes a single action.

In the case of goodwill and faith, the Lord acts, and we act in response. There is an activity of the Lord that prompts our human response. The power to do good things comes from the Lord. As a result, there is a will to act that seems to be our own, because we have free choice. Either we can take action together with the Lord and by doing so, form a partnership with him; or else we can take action drawing on the power of hell, which is outside the Lord, and by doing so, separate ourselves from him. Actions of ours that are in harmony with the Lord’s actions are what I mean here by “cooperation.” To make this even clearer, it will be illustrated with comparisons below.

It follows from this that the Lord is constantly active in regenerating us. He is constantly active in saving us, and no one can be saved without being regenerated, as the Lord himself says in John:

“Those who are not born again cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5, 6).

Regeneration is therefore the means of being saved; and goodwill and faith are the means of being regenerated.

from Regeneration, Pages 50, 51