from Robert H. Kirven, "A Concise Overview of  Swedenborg's Theology, (Appleseed & Co. MA 2003)

Table of  Contents


Chapter 11


God; The Trinity, The Second Coming

FOR SEVERAL DECADES AROUND THE TURN of the twentieth century, when scientific knowledge was expanding at such an explosive rate that some people wondered how long it would be until there was nothing more to be learned about the material world, some theologians became infected with a similar delusion. It seemed only a matter of time, with each generation of scholars building on the accomplishments of its predecessors, that the ancient inability to express the mysteries of faith would be overcome. Combining science and religion would bring new certainty and unanimity to theology. Soon the ancient squabbles over doctrinal details would be resolved, as nations united into one, and the old divisions of the church would disappear. Soon people would be able to talk sensibly and comprehensively about the nature of God. Perhaps God's existence and the qualities of Divine Being would be demonstrated with the same certainty and precision as, say, Newton's laws of motion.

The dream of a commonwealth of nations exploded in 1914—a "humpty-dumpty" that never quite got put together again—despite earnest efforts in Geneva and New York. Newton's laws of motion faded into the greater complexities of Einstein's General Field Theory. And a number of theologians, forcefully and eloquently led by Karl Barth, came to the realization that the only thing that human beings ever could say meaningfully about God is what he is not. Theology had come full circle back to Augustine, who said that he wrote theology, not because he was able to speak of God, but because he could not keep silent about him.

The dream of a natural theology was not new in 1900, nor did it end with World War I. Leibniz hoped that mathematical reasoning would resolve the riddle of the Eucharistic Substance, reuniting Catholics and Protestants (and he designed one of history's first computers to assist the project). Swedenborg envisioned something much more complex and profound in his temple inscription, "Now it is permitted to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith." And as late as 1960, Paul Tillich felt compelled to rebuke Harvard President Nathan Pusey (to his face, in Harvard Chapel) for publicly hoping that the day would come "when educated men could speak the name of God without embarrassment." For Tillich, the name of God embraced all the infinity that God is, so that it can never be spoken without "a sublime embarrassment," except in ignorance or profanity. "The Divine, when called, does not leave man unanswered," Tillich said. "If he does not heal, he may destroy."

Nothing Swedenborg wrote would encourage any lighter use of the name of God (see, e.g., True Christianity 297-300). Even though, following negligibly in the giant footsteps of my predecessors, I cannot keep silent about God, I do not pretend to describe him, much less define him, and still less— in the full biblical sense of the words—to "know his name." I hope that in your study of this chapter's assignments, you will share the awe that I feel in commenting on them. It's a healthy feeling, one that opens the mind to depths and heights of meaning that otherwise outreach all human attempts at understanding.

Surely there is more to say of God than the most that Barth could say, "Gott ist der ganz Andere" (God is the wholly Other), or than Tillich would, "The question to whether there is a point at which a non-symbolic assertion about God must be made. There is such a point, namely, the statement that everything we say about God is symbolic."

But if we go beyond Barth and Tillich, we must acknowledge their central point: there is a genuine dilemma inherent in any attempt to use a vocabulary drawn from finite experience to describe an infinite reality. It has seemed to me that the only adequate response to a genuine dilemma is a paradox, and paradox is precisely what Swedenborg uses to carry theology to realms of meaning that stretch the limits of human understanding to their utmost.

Most directly, the paradox is this: God is One; but God is love itself and wisdom itself and the life that proceeds from them; for in God, love and wisdom are one in such a way that they remain distinguishable.

Once again, Swedenborg resolves a set of ancient theological disputes by replacing an "either-or" with a "both-and." Traditionally, the question of whether God's love or God's justice is supreme was patched over by the doctrine of vicarious atonement. Such unresolving patchwork is unnecessary from a Swedenborgian perspective; love and wisdom in God make One distinguishably. That is a deep paradox, but a satisfying one, which may be adequately clarified in the assigned readings.

Behind that paradox, however, stands a far deeper one, surely one of the most radical theological statements of the eighteenth century: "Divinum Esse est Esse in se, et simul Existere in se." Divine being is being in itself, and at the same time, presence (or manifestation) in itself (True Christianity 21).

This assertion must be examined. In the first place, it must be recognized as an assertion in which language is radically inadequate. The verb "to be" is at once the simplest and most complex and difficult verb we know. In the first clause of this statement, it must serve as the subject nominative, copula, and predicate nominative. Divine "isness" is "is-ness" itself. Among the myriad implications of that truly mammoth proposition, focus for a moment on this one: Esse is the present infinitive, so Esse in itself is eternal, for it never came to be and never will not be. Esse in se (being [reality] in itself) predicates absolute reality, unconditioned by time, space, origin, or end; and it predicates this more clearly and unequivocally than is possible with any other linguistic device. To say that divine being is being in itself, is to formulate the primary truth of all Judeo-Christian theological traditions. By itself, it is not a radical statement, except in its radical precision. But Swedenborg says more. Not only is divine being "being in itself," Divinum Esse est Existere in se, divine being is presence itself. Once more language fails, but not as radically as before. The Latin loses something in translation.

As a first step in finding an adequate meaning for the Latin Existere, look no further than True Christianity 21, to see one thing it does not mean. "The terms 'being' and 'presence' [manifestation] are used, and not essence and existence (Esse et Existere, et non Essentia et Existentia). Existere is the present infinitive of a verb whose root meaning is "to stand out from." "To become plain" or "to become manifest" are reasonable equivalents. "To take form" (stand out from formlessness) is not inappropriate, either. I once was tempted to borrow from Sorokin's book title, Being and Becoming, and read, "Divine being is being itself, and at the same time becoming itself." That might work for this passage, out of the context of Swedenborg's total work; but in True Christianity 210, he says that "in everything divine there is ...being, becoming, and presence" (esse, fieri, et existere). Since "becoming" is the only translation of fieri, it cannot be used for existere, too. Dr. George Dole has suggested "to become present," in the sense of standing out from the indistinguishable background, as a translation of existere used as a verb, and "presence" when it is used as a noun. This works especially well in Divine Love and Wisdom 14: "In the God-man, being and presence are one in such a way that they are distinguishable (Esse et Existere in Deo Homine distincte unum sunt)." So, all things considered, I prefer reading True Christianity 21: "Divine being is being itself and presence itself."

Esse, or "being" as a noun, or "reality," denotes what is eternal, unconditioned, and therefore unchanging. Existere, "presence," on the other hand, carries from the root of its origin an implication of what is in process, conditioned (by what it is from) and, therefore, changing. It is not simply, originally, apart from something; it is in the process or the act of becoming present out of something. This is why "Divine being is being itself and at the same time presence itself" is such a radical theological assertion. It says that God is eternal, unconditioned and permanent, and at the same time, in process, conditioned and changing. It not only claims these qualities for God, it says that he is permanence itself and at the same time he is process itself. Notice that this does not detract from the eternal, unconditioned permanence of God; but it paradoxically asserts the opposite—that his permanence is in process.

This statement is so radical for the eighteenth century that the nineteenth century offers no comment, sequel, or even refutation to it. Only in the twentieth century have men like Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, and John B. Cobb, Jr., been writing something called "process theology," which explores the implications of a conception of God that embraces both a "Primordial Nature" and a "Consequent Nature" (Whitehead's terms), or "Absolute" and "Relative" Dimensions (Hartshorne)—a concept formulated by Swedenborg in True Christianity 21.

Not all of these implications can be explored here, but notice one important connection to the doctrine of the Lord's glorification. The emphasis on process was unmistakable there, in reference to the Lord's life on earth as a human being. But notice in True Christianity 82, 89, and especially 101, that God acted, assumed a nature he had not had before in the same way, and became present to the human race. Then, after God became Man and Man became God (!), it is implied in True Christianity 170 that God came to be more than he had been before; the Trinity "was accomplished!" Such an assertion would be heretical if it denied or qualified the eternal, unconditioned permanence of God's being; but it does not. It paradoxically adds to the non-symbolic assertions that can be made about God, conveying meaning that traditional, categorical thought cannot conceive, much less express. Something more will be said of this in Chapter 13, but it is enough for now to begin to contemplate the immensity of Swedenborg's concept of divine being.

The Trinity in Swedenborg's theology differs more from the trinitarian conceptions of his time than it does from Augustine's idea of the Trinity or from the trinitarian thought of certain modern theologians. The idea of a trinity is firmly rooted in the Word, but theologians have struggled (with varying degrees of success) to say what there can be three of in a God who is one. Three "persons" (Latin personae), which had come into such simplistic misuse, entered the theological vocabulary through Augustine. He used it in its original Latin meaning of mask (like those that actors wore in Greek tragedies and comedies). He spoke, as it were, of the "three faces" of God. Interestingly, Augustine said that he was using personae to translate hypostasis (equals "essence" in classical Greek, and "reflection" or "accurate representation" in New Testament Greek (Hebrews 1:3)). So persona picked up the representative idea in hypostasis, and Swedenborg went back to the idea of "essence." But notice: Swedenborg did not speak of three essences, for that would have been about as bad in his view as speaking of three persons. Instead he fell back on what has become familiar in this course, a substantive adjective. "Three essentials" is a distinctly different formulation than "three essences," for the latter could be divided into three gods, each of which would have an essence. However, the former refers to three aspects, masks, faces, or (original) personae—each essential to the nature of God but inseparable from that one nature.

The doctrine of the Second Coming has been called the boldest of Swedenborg's teachings (by William Wunsch, in his Outline of New Church Teachings) and it certainly is no less radical than True Christianity 21, discussed above. For centuries, Christians had viewed the Second Coming of the Lord as the Jews had viewed the Messiah, that is, "coming soon" (most Christians and Jews still do). Swedenborg's claim that the Second Coming has in fact occurred is, indeed, a bold christological assertion. But it is also complicated. While the Second Coming has already happened, it still is happening and is yet to happen. Swedenborg's "timetable" for the Lord's return is much like the one Jesus used in reference to the Reign of God: it is "at hand" (eggizo)—"already but not yet." Thus the Lord's Second Coming among men and the descent of the Holy City out of heaven are both "already but not yet."

This timetable is to be understood in the context of Swedenborg's commission and revelation. As an accomplished fact, it predates June 19, 1770 ( True Christianity 1, 108, 791) and correlates approximately with the Ultimate Judgment in 1757 (True Christianity 115, 121), although it is a separate event. In one sense, it began with Swedenborg's call and revelatory experiences while reading the Word; in another sense, however, the first advent (coming) is not realized in an individual person until the Lord is received and acknowledged (True Christianity 766), and the subsequent second advent is not fully realized until the Holy City is fully descended out of heaven (and the Reign of God is a total reality). "Already but not yet" summarizes all this perhaps as neatly as it can be summarized.

As in Chapter 10, I must recall again that the complexity of all this is more than abstract, intellectual "hairsplitting." Notice the first sentence of this assignment: "The recognition of God which comes from knowing him is the essence and soul of everything involving theology." "Recognition" is an act of intentionality, not the understanding, and "knowing" is more dependent on influx than on study and analysis. But we are thinking beings, which is to say questioning beings; we live in a world of questions. If the leaven of our "knowing" God is not kneaded throughout our entire understanding, questions will challenge and threaten it. The work of this chapter is part of that kneading process: as with kneading bread dough, it is a pretty sticky business at first!


Read the following passages from Swedenborg. For further reading in other published versions, see the passages listed just below:

True Christianity 5-8, 12, 18-24, 36-42, 49-55, 163-171, 768, 771-785
Revelation Unveiled (Apocalypse Revealed in older translations) 1109 (Subsections 2-3).


God; The Trinity, The Second Coming

The Oneness of God

TC 5

The recognition of God that comes from knowing him is the essence and soul of everything involving theology. I must begin by speaking of the oneness of God....

TC 6

(i) The entirety of Sacred Scripture and all the teachings drawn from it by churches throughout the Christian world teach that there is a God and that he is one.

The entirety of Sacred Scripture teaches the existence of God, because its inmost meaning concerns nothing but God—that is, the Divine which proceeds from God. This is because Scripture was spoken by God and nothing can proceed from God except what he himself is. This is what we call the Divine. This resides in the inmost meaning of Scripture; but in its lower forms (still derived from the Divine) the Holy Scripture is adapted to angelic and human perceptions. It is divine in those forms, too, but in a different way: the Divine is called heavenly, spiritual, and natural. These are merely the veils of God, since God himself (as he exists in the inmost meaning of the Word) cannot be looked on by any created being. When Moses pleaded to see the glory of Jehovah, God said that no one can see God and live. It is the same with the inmost meaning of the Word, in which God is in his being and his essence.

Nevertheless, the Divine—the Word's most profound secret, shielded by veils that adapt it to the perceptions of angels and humans—shines out like light passing through crystalline structures, so that the light appears to vary according to the state of mind which we have acquired from God or from ourselves. If you have acquired your state of mind from God, the Sacred Scripture is like a mirror in which you see God in the way most suitable to yourself. The mirror is made out of truths which you have learned from the Word and absorbed by living your life according to them. A primary conclusion from this is that Scripture is the fullness of God.

Thus the Word teaches not only the reality of God, but that he is one. As I have said, the truths which form that mirror are held together in a single bond, so that they prevent us from thinking of God except as one. That is why—if you have absorbed some holiness from the Word—you know, as if of yourself, that God is one. You regard talking about several Gods as a kind of insanity. Angels are unable to open their mouths to speak the word, "Gods," for the heavenly aura in which they live contradicts it....

TC 7

Doctrines of churches throughout the Christian world teach that God is one. They do this because all their teachings, which are drawn from the Word, form a whole as long as one God is acknowledged—not only from the lips but also in the heart. To those who acknowledge one God only with their lips while they think three in their hearts (which is the case with many in the Christian world today), "God" is nothing more than a verbal expression. The entire theology of those people is a golden idol locked in a case—a case to which only their leaders have the key—so when they read the Word they receive no light concerning it or from it. Thus, they do not perceive even that God is one. They read the Word as if it were stained and blotted where it speaks of the oneness of God....

TC 8

(ii) An influence, predisposing us to believe that there is a God and that he is one, flows from God into every human soul.

We can see that God predisposes people to believe things. For example, everyone admits that God is the source of every good thing which is good in itself and which we do because it is present in us....Jesus said, "Without me, you can do nothing" ( John 15:5), that is, we can do nothing charitable or faithful.

This influence affects the human soul because our soul is our inmost and highest part. Divine influence enters there and descends from there into the lower parts, giving them life as far as it is accepted. Truths which will be incorporated into faith are received through our hearing and thus implanted in our mind (that is, at a lower level than the soul); but these truths predispose us to be influenced by God through the soul. The extent to which they are accepted depends on this conditioning, and our natural faith is transformed into spiritual faith in the same proportion....

TC 12

(v) Many things in the world make it possible for human reason to see and conclude, if it wishes, that there is a God and that he is one.

This truth can be supported by many things in the natural world, for the universe is like a theater: demonstrations of the reality of God and his oneness are presented continually upon its stage....Those who want to find the working of God in the details of nature pay attention to amazing sights in the reproduction of plants and animals. In plants, a tiny seed cast into the ground produces a root, a stem by means of the root, and in the same way branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruit—all in order—as if the seed knew the pattern of sequential phases or processes which lead to its renewal. Can any rational person think that the sun—which is nothing but fire—can have this knowledge or that it can instruct its heat and light to produce such effects or that it can act purposefully? If your ability to think is elevated, seeing and considering these facts will lead you inevitably to think that they come from God, the one who possesses infinite wisdom. If you recognize God's working in the details of nature, your idea will be further confirmed by seeing these things. On the other hand, if you do not recognize him, you will see these things with eyes in the back of your head instead of with the eyes of reason,...saying..."Something you cannot see cannot be anything."

[5]....[Or] consider the birds of the air: each species knows its proper food and where to find it, recognizes its own kind by sight and sound, knows which birds are its friends and which its enemies. [Each bird] knows how to nestle under its plumage, form pairs, cleverly construct nests, lay eggs, and sit on them. They know how long to sit and in due season they hatch their chicks (whom they love dearly), protecting them under their wings and providing food and nourishing them until they can look after themselves and perform the same service. Anyone willing to think how the Divine influences the natural world by means of the spiritual can see this in these facts....

TC 19

(i) The one God is named Jehovah from his reality—that is, from the fact that he alone is and will be—and because he alone is first and last, beginning and end, alpha and omega.[25. Notes]

It is known that Jehovah means "I am" and "reality." The Book of Creation (Genesis)[26. Notes] shows that God was called Jehovah from earliest times. He is called "God" in the first chapter, but "Jehovah God" in the second and subsequent ones. Later, when the descendents of Abraham (starting with Jacob) forgot the name of God after their long stay in Egypt, it was recalled to their memory. We read of this [in Exodus]: 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 forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation" (Exodus 3: [13], 14, 15).

Since God alone is "I am" or reality—that is, Jehovah—there cannot be anything in the created universe which does not owe its reality to him....

TC 21

[iii] The divine being is reality itself and simultaneously presence itself.

Jehovah God is reality itself because he is "I am," the specific, sole, and primary source from eternity to eternity, of everything in existence—the source that allows everything to exist. In this sense and no other, he is beginning and end, first and last, alpha and omega. One cannot say that his reality is "from itself" because "something out of itself" implies something earlier— and thus implies time. However, time is inconsistent with the infinite, which we say is outside of time. It also presupposes another God (who is God in himself); that is, God originating from God, or God forming himself—in which case he could not be either uncreated or infinite, because he would have distinguished himself either from himself or from another.

From this fact—that God is reality in itself—it follows that he is love in itself, wisdom in itself, and life in itself. It also follows that it is God who is the source of everything—the point of reference of everything—that is present. This is confirmed by the Lord's words that "God is life in itself," and thus is God, as in Isaiah: I, Jehovah, make all things. I alone spread out the heavens and stretch out the earth by myself ( Isaiah 44:24), and that he is the only God and there is no God beside him (Isaiah 45:14, 15, 21, 22; Hosea 13:4).

[2] God is not only reality in itself but also presence in itself because there is no reality that is not present and nothing is present that is not real. Therefore, one presupposes the other. In the same way, there is no form without substance and no substance without a form; anything that has no qualities is not anything. The terms reality [esse] and presence [existere] are used here—and not essence and existence [existentia] because reality needs to be distinguished from essence and, therefore, presence needs to be distinguished from existence. The distinction is similar to that between something precedent and something subsequent: what precedes is more universal than what follows from it....

TC 22

There is no way for us to know from our natural reason that God is the specific, sole and primary source, called reality and presence, from which is derived everything that is—everything present. If we rely on our natural reason, we can attribute these things only to nature: from our childhood on, nothing else has been supplied to our natural reason. However, we were created so that we should be spiritual, too, because our destiny transcends death and our life then will be among spirits in their world. Consequently, God has provided the Word. In the Word, he has revealed not only himself but also the existence of heaven and hell. Each of us will live to eternity in either heaven or hell, depending in each case on the way we lived and at the same time what we believed. In the Word, too, God has revealed that he is "I am" or reality, and that he is the specific, sole source which is self-existing, thus the origin or beginning from which each specific thing comes.

TC 23

[iv] Divine presence and reality in itself cannot produce another divine being which is reality and presence in itself so another God of the same essence is impossible.

We have shown so far that the one God, the creator of the universe, is reality and presence in itself, thus God in itself. It follows from this that a God derived from God is impossible, because the specific essential of the Divine—reality and presence in itself—could not exist in that other God. It makes no difference whether you say, "begotten by God" or "proceeding from God:" both imply being produced by God, and there is little difference between this and being created. Therefore, introducing the belief into the church that there are three divine persons—each of whom is severally God and of the same essence (one born from eternity and the third proceeding from eternity)—has the effect of utterly destroying the idea of the oneness of God.

Destroying this idea destroys all comprehension of divinity, thus banishing all of reason's spiritual side....

The essence of God, which is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom

TC 36

We made a distinction between the reality and the essence of God because there is a distinction between God's infinity and his love. The term "infinity" is applicable to God's reality; the term "love" is applicable to his essence. As stated above, God's reality is more universal than his essence. In the same way, his infinity is more universal than his love. For this reason, "infinite" is the adjective appropriate to the essentials and attributes of God (all of which are called infinite: divine love is infinite, divine wisdom is infinite and so is divine power). It is not that God's reality existed before his essence, rather, that it entered into his essence as into an inseparable adjunct—directing it, forming it and simultaneously raising it to a higher plane....

TC 37

(i) God is love itself and wisdom itself and these two make up the essence of God.

Our earliest ancestors perceived that love and wisdom are the two essentials to which all infinite qualities—qualities of God and qualities emanating from God—are to be ascribed. However, succeeding ages gradually lost this vision, as they allowed their minds to sink down from heaven and plunge into worldly and bodily matters. They began to be unaware of what love essentially is and so what wisdom essentially is. They did not know that love cannot exist without form, but works in and through a form. Since God is the specific, sole and primary substance and form—the essence of which is love and wisdom—all created things came from him. It follows that he created the universe and all its parts out of love by means of wisdom. It follows from this that divine love, together with divine wisdom, is present in every single created thing. Also, love is not only the essence which forms everything, it also unites and joins them, thus keeping together what has been formed....

TC 38

(ii) God is good itself and truth itself because good refers to love and truth refers to wisdom.

Everyone knows that all things are measured by what is good and what is true, indicating that all things owe their origin to love and wisdom. Everything coming from love is called good because it feels good (because the pleasure by which love shows itself is each person's good). Everything coming from wisdom is called true (for wisdom is composed of nothing but what is true, bathing its objects in beautiful light, and the perception of this beauty is truth arising from good). Therefore, love is a compound of all kinds of good, and wisdom a compound of all kinds of truth. All of these are from God, who is love itself and thus what is good in itself, and is wisdom itself and thus what is true in itself. This is why the church has two essentials, called charity and faith, which make up its whole structure and are in every part of it. The reason for this is that all kinds of good belonging to the church are part of charity (and are called charity) and all its truths are part of faith (and are called faith)....

TC 39

(iii) God is all of love and all of wisdom, so he is all of life, that is, he is life itself.

It is written in the Gospel of John: The Word was with God, and the Word was God; him was life and the life was the light of humanity (John 1:1, 4). Here, "God" means divine love, and "Word" (logos) means divine wisdom; divine wisdom really is life, and life really is the light radiated by the sun of the spiritual world. Jehovah God is in the midst of that sun. Divine love forms life just as fire forms light. Fire has two qualities: burning and shining. Its burning radiates heat as its shining radiates light. Similarly, love has two properties. The one to which fire's burning corresponds is something that acts intimately on our will. The other, to which fire's shining corresponds, is something that acts intimately on our ability to think. This is the source of human love and intelligence. As I have said several times before, the sun of the spiritual world radiates heat (which, in its essence, is love) and light (which, in its essence, is wisdom)....

TC 40

....You should beware of convincing yourself that you owe your life (or your intelligence, belief, love, perception of truth, or your willing or doing good) to yourself. As far as you convince yourself of these ideas, so far do you cast your mind earthward from heaven; so far do you change yourself to be natural instead of spiritual, influenced by the senses and the body. For this shuts off the higher regions of your mind; you become blinded to God, heaven, and the church. Everything you think, reason and say becomes foolishness; you are in darkness (though, at the same time, you become confident that your thinking and speech are the products of wisdom).

TC 41

(iv) Love and wisdom are one in God.

All wise church people know that everything good in love and charity comes from God, as well as all that is true in wisdom and faith. Human reason can see that this is so, as long as it knows that the origin of love and wisdom is the sun of the spiritual world with Jehovah God in the midst of it or, what is the same, that they come from Jehovah God through the sun that surrounds him....The sun of the spiritual world can serve to demonstrate this. It is pure fire, its fiery property producing heat and the brilliance of its fire producing light, so that these two are one at their source.

TC 50

(i) Omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are properties of divine wisdom resulting from divine love.

There is a secret from heaven that has not yet dawned on anyone's understanding: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are qualities of divine wisdom resulting from divine love—not qualities of divine love by means of divine wisdom. This has remained secret because no one has known what love is in its essence and they know even less about what wisdom derived from it is, or how one influences the other. Love (with all the details that comprise it) flows into wisdom, living there like a king in his realm or a master in his house, leaving all administration of justice to wisdom's judgment. Since righteousness is an attribute of love and judgment an attribute of wisdom, love leaves all its control to wisdom. The fact that God's omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence arise through the wisdom of his love is what is meant by this passage from John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him and without him nothing that was made was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity; and the world was made through him; and the Word was made flesh (Excerpted from John 1:1, 3, 4, 10, 14).

Here, "Word" means divine truth or, in other words, divine wisdom. That is why it is also called life and light, for these are nothing but wisdom.

TC 52

(ii) The omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God cannot be really known without information about order, without realizing that God is order, and that he introduced order into the universe (as a whole, and in all its parts) at the same time that he created it.

....Absurdities have crept into human minds—and thus into the church through the heads of its founders—as a result of failing to understand the order with which, from creation, God endowed the universe and all its parts. . . . Order is the quality of arrangement, direction and activation of the parts, substances and entities making up a form. Order determines the condition of the form, and the perfection of the form's condition is the product of wisdom from its love. Its imperfection is forged by insanity of reason from lust.

This definition employs the terms "substance," "form," and "condition." By "substance" I also mean "form," for all substance is a form; the quality of a form is its "condition," and the perfection or imperfection of its condition is the result of order [applied to it].

TC 53

God is order because he is substance itself and form itself. He is substance because everything substantial came to be, and continues to be, from him. He is form because all attributes of all substances arose and are maintained by him. Attributes cannot come from any source but form.

God is the precise, sole, and primary substance and form. Simultaneously, he is precisely and solely love, and precisely and solely wisdom. Since wisdom from love produces form, and the condition and quality of the form depends on the order in it, it follows that God is order itself. It follows, too, that out of himself he introduced order into the universe and each of its parts. It was perfect order that he introduced, because all that he created was good, as we read in the Book of Creation....[27. Notes]

TC 54

....Human beings are created with their own order, as is each and every one of their parts. The head has its own order, the body its order; the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, and stomach each has its own; as does every organ of movement called a muscle and every organ of sense (such as the eye, ear, or tongue). Indeed, there is not a single capillary or minor nerve fiber in the body which does not have its own proper order. Furthermore, these innumerable parts are connected with each other in such a way that they are linked to the common body to make a whole.... Every land animal, every bird of the air, every fish of the sea, every creeping thing, every worm, every moth, was created with its own order. Similarly, every tree, bush, shrub and vegetable has it's order; also every stone and mineral, down to every speck of dust.

TC 55

Who does not see that every empire, kingdom, dukedom, republic, state, or private family is founded upon laws of order that constitute its own government?....God has established the church with these laws of order: God shall be in every part of it and the neighbor shall be the object toward which order is directed... The laws of this order are truths contained in the Word....

The Divine Trinity

TC 63

(i) There is a divine Trinity, which is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This is plainly established in the Word in passages like the following: The angel Gabriel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you, so that the holy thing that is born of you will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Here, all three are named: the Most High (who is God the Father), the Holy Spirit, and the Son of God.

When Jesus was baptized, "Behold, the heavens were opened," and John saw "the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and alighting upon Him; and a voice from heaven saying, 'This is my beloved in whom I am well-pleased'" (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; John 1:32).

It is even clearer in the words which the Lord used to the disciples: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19)....In addition to which, the Lord prayed to his Father, spoke about him with him, saying that he would send the Holy Spirit (which he did)....

TC 166

(ii) These three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are three essentials of one God, which make One—as soul, body, and action make one person.

In everything, general essentials as well as particular essentials together form a single essence. A person's general essentials are the soul, the body, and their actions. These form a single essence, as we can see from the fact that one arises from the next and exists for the sake of the next, in a continual series....

TC 168

Saying that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three essentials of one God—in the same way that soul, body, and action are in a person—may sound to the human mind as if the three essentials are three persons, but that is not possible. Realizing that the three essentials of the one God are the Father's Divine (making up the soul), the Son's Divine (making up the body), and the Holy Spirit's Divine (or the Divine which proceeds, making up the activity), lets it be grasped by our understanding. For God the Father is his own Divine, the Son out of the Father is his own, and the Holy Spirit out of both is his own. Since these are of one essence and unanimous, they make up one God. However, if those three Divines are called "Persons," and his own attributes are assigned to each—imputation to the Father, mediation to the Son, and activity to the Holy Spirit—then the divine essence is divided (although, in fact, it is one and indivisible). Then, no one of the three is fully God,...which a sound mind cannot accept.

TC 170

(iii) Before the creation of the world, there was no such Trinity; it was provided and made after the world was created—when God became incarnate—and then it was in the Lord God, the Redeemer, and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Christian Church today recognizes a divine trinity existing before the creation of the world (that is, Jehovah God fathered a Son from eternity and the Holy Spirit issued from both of them). Each of the three is by himself (or singly) God, because each is a person who exists from himself (since this lies beyond reason's grasp, it is called a mystery).... This trinity is a trinity of three gods and, therefore, in no sense a divine trinity....

The Divine Trinity is in the Lord God, the Redeemer, and Savior, Jesus Christ, because the three essentials of one God (making up a single essence) are in him. All the fullness of the Godhead is in him, as Paul says. This is clear from the words of the Lord himself: that all things of the Father's are his and the Holy Spirit does not speak from himself but from him (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:5, 6; Luke 24:1-3)....

TC 768

The Second Coming of the Lord is not his coming to destroy the visible sky and the habitable earth and recreate a new sky and a new earth, as many have supposed through not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word.

The prevailing opinion in the churches is that when the Lord comes to perform the last judgment, he will appear in the clouds with angels and with the sound of trumpets, and will gather together all the inhabitants of the earth as well as all who have died. Then he will separate the evil from the good—as a shepherd separates goats from sheep—and will cast the evil (the goats) into hell and raise the good (the sheep) into heaven. At the same time, he will create a new visible sky and a new habitable earth, sending down upon it a city—to be called the New Jerusalem—built according to the description in Revelation 21. It will be built of jasper and gold, to be sure; the foundations of its walls made of all precious stones. Its height, width, and length will be equal (each measuring 12,000 stadia [about 1,364 miles]). All the elect will be gathered into this city—both those then living and those who have died since the creation of the world (the latter returning to their bodies)—and enjoy everlasting bliss in this city as their heaven....

TC 771

In the chapter on Sacred Scripture [in True Christianity (see above, Chapter 7)], I showed that the literal sense of the Word is written by appearances and correspondences. Therefore, it contains a spiritual sense which reveals truth in its light (while the literal sense is in shadow). So, the Lord has been pleased to open the sight of my spirit (thus admitting me to the spiritual world) to prevent people of the new church from going astray (as those of the old church did) in the shadows surrounding the Word's literal sense—particularly concerning heaven and hell, life after death and the coming of the Lord.

TC 772

This coming of the Lord, which is the Second Coming, is occurring so that the evil might be separated from the good and those who believe and have believed in him might be saved; and so that a new heaven and a new earth might be formed from them....The last judgment took place in the spiritual world in the year 1757, as was shown in Last Judgment, published in London in 1758, and also in Supplement to the Last Judgment, published in Amsterdam in 1763. I solemnly bear witness to this because I saw it with my own eyes while I was fully conscious.

TC 774

The Lord is always present with every person, evil as well as good (for no one could live without his presence), but his coming is only to those who receive him—those who believe in him and keep his commandments. The Lord's continual presence gives everyone the power to be rational and become spiritual. This occurs by means of the light which comes from the Lord (as sun of the spiritual world),...truth which can give us power to reason. The Lord's coming, however, occurs with those who combine heat with that light, that is, combine love with truth....

TC 776

This Second Coming of the Lord is not in person, but in the Word—which is from him, and which he is.

We read in many passages that the Lord will come in the clouds, as in Matthew 17:5; 24:30; 26:64; Luke 9:34, 35; 21:27; Revelation 1:7; 14:14; and Daniel 7:13. Until now, however, no one has known what the clouds mean....Clouds of the sky [or clouds of heaven] mean the Word in its literal sense; the glory and power with which he is to come at that time (Matthew 24:30) mean the spiritual sense of the Word....

[3]....The spiritual world has clouds, just as the natural world does, but they are of a different origin....Shining clouds over the angels' heaven indicate obscurity resulting from the literal sense of the Word. The dispersal of those clouds means the spiritual sense has brought its clarity. On the other hand, dark clouds over the hells indicate falsification and profanation of the Word.

TC 779

(viii) This Second Coming of the Lord occurs by means of a man—a man to whom the Lord has shown himself in person and opened his spirit's eyes—so that he may teach doctrines of the new church (which is the New Jerusalem) through use of the Word.

Since the Lord cannot show himself in person (as was just demonstrated)—and still he predicted that he would come again and establish a new church, which is the New Jerusalem—it follows that he will do this by means of a man who can intellectually receive the doctrines of this church and, additionally, have them printed and published. I testify in truth that the Lord has shown himself before me, his servant, commissioned me to do this job and opened the sight of my spirit. This has enabled me to see the heavens and the hells, and talk with angels and spirits, which I have been doing continually for many years now. I state just as strongly that, from the first day of my commission, I have not learned any doctrines of that church from any angel, but only from the Lord.

RU 1109

[2] From divine providence, each and every point of Athanasian teaching about the trinity and the Lord is true and harmonious when, instead of three persons, we understand one person in whom is the trinity (if it is believed that the Lord is that person). At that time [when the Athanasian Creed was adopted], if the trinity of persons had not been accepted, people would have become either Arians or Socinians.[28. Notes] In that case, the Lord would have been recognized as a mere man and not as God. This would have destroyed the Christian Church, for no one is bonded with heaven (and after death admitted to heaven), unless he thinks of God as human and simultaneously believes God to be one essence and one person. It is by this that non-Christians are saved. Also, recognition of the Lord's Divine and his Human is necessary for bonding with heaven (Christians are saved by this, provided that they also live as Christians).

[3] It was by divine toleration that the doctrine concerning God and the Lord—primary among doctrines—was conceived by Athanasius in the way it was. It was foreseen by the Lord that Roman Catholics would recognize the Divine of the Lord in no other way,...nor would the Reformed have seen the Divine in the Lord's Human. Nevertheless, both of them recognize the Lord in the divine trinity of persons.


True Christianity 5-8, 12, 18-24, 36-42, 49-55, 163-171, 768, 771-785
Revelation Unveiled (Apocalypse Revealed in older translations) 1109 (Subsections 2-3).


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a "natural theology" was in vogue that looked toward an ever-increasing knowledge of God through the expansion of the natural sciences. Compare and contrast this with True Christianity 12.

How do you relate divine love and wisdom with divine being (Latin: esse) and divine presence (Latin: existere)?

Discuss the relationship between God's being (esse), presence (existere), and the Trinity's coming into being.

What questions or issues does the lesson raise for you?

To Chapter 12