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

Table of  Contents


Chapter 10


The Lord; Glorification; Redemption

I FIRST HEARD ATTRIBUTED TO PAUL LEHMAN of Harvard Divinity School the aphorism that it is impossible to formulate a Christological statement without erring on the side of Arianism or Docetism, unless the statement is in narrative form. Arianism, like Socinianism and a few other factions from the history of theology, refers to the kind of heresy (heresy = error so great that it distorts the basic Christian message) that does not take seriously enough the Divine of the Lord, while Docetism, Patripassionism, and a few other heresies do not take the Lord's Human seriously enough.

The history of Christian thought provides ample evidence that Lehman was right. The perfect christological statement, the Gospels, is of course in narrative form. After that, one theologian erred on one side; another, trying to correct the first error, erred on the other, and the pattern of christological thought swung through history like a giant pendulum. The Arian error, epitomized by the Nicene Creed, was often singled out by Swedenborg as the most damaging to the Christian faith. However, his doctrine of the Lord implies rejection of the Docetic heresies as well, and parallels to a notable degree the christology that most modern scholars consider the best developed formulation from the church's formative centuries—the christology of the Chalcedonian Creed and of Augustine of Hippo.

Theories about the nature, person, and work of the Lord are complex, with far-reaching implications. Therefore, this chapter especially illustrates the difficulty of selecting brief readings for an overview of Swedenborg's theology. Chapter 2 of True Christianity, Doctrine of the Lord  and the explications of Genesis 12 through 50 in Secrets of Heaven are his principal christological statements. The first of these (this chapter's assignment) is only a slight revision of the second, and the third is much too long for the present purpose. The difficulty presented by this situation is that Chapter 2 of True Christianity and Doctrine of the Lord were written with special emphasis on counteracting the prevalent error of Swedenborg's time—the Arian or Socinian heresy—with the result that modern readers, seeing these treatments alone without the larger and more detailed context of the treatment in Secrets of Heaven, have misunderstood Swedenborg as erring on the side of Docetism! To avoid this misunderstanding, notice especially the implications of order in True Christianity 89 and elsewhere. Also note Swedenborg's emphasis on progress, or process, in the Lord's Glorification. I will expand on this latter emphasis.

Process is the essence of narrative, so Swedenborg's christology is a prime demonstration of the truth of Paul Lehman's dictum. Nothing that Swedenborg says about the nature or the person of Jesus as the Christ—the Lord as he lived on earth—is to be understood outside the context of the process of glorification. Briefly, that process began with the intersection of two poles: divine nature and initiative on one hand, and human nature and response on the other.

Swedenborg defined incarnation as the result of the impregnating of a human ovum with direct influx from God. This definition is distinguished from Docetism by its close parallel to his understanding of ordinary human conception, in which an ovum is impregnated with a soul "in the image and after the likeness" of God (see, e.g., Secrets of Heaven 714). Modern genetics complicate this starting-point, but do not necessarily invalidate it, for at least two reasons. The understanding of the transmission of genetic characteristics does not include a definition of the origin of the human soul in normal conception. Also, all scientific principles are inductive conclusions, drawn from the observation of enough cases to permit the reasonable assumption that under the same conditions, the same results always occur. Divine incarnation, however, is a unique case. Since no principle can be induced from a single observation, there are no physiological laws that are applicable to this particular case. These two negative considerations may eliminate scientific objections to the positive evidence of the Word's literal statements and Swedenborg's revelation of their inner meaning.

On this basis, we can assume the possibility of a virgin birth parallel to normal human birth, and look more closely at the details of that parallel. In any human being, the image of God is the person's inmost essence and last-revealed potential. In Jesus, the similarly concealed inner telos was God Himself. This bears superficial resemblances to Apollinarianism, and other heresies that tried to bridge the Arian-Docetic dilemma by speaking of a divine soul in a human body. That kind of compromise failed, however, by excluding everything divine from the body, and excluding everything human from the soul. In other words, neither one took either the Divine or the Human of the Divine-Human seriously enough. The Chalcedonian formula rejected this along with the two extremes by insisting that the Lord was "fully God and fully man, yet not two natures, but one." Swedenborg avoided the problem by his conception of process. In that conception, the sense in which Jesus' soul was divine cannot be separated from the struggle and development of Jesus the man. Swedenborg saw no omniscient logos simply inhabiting a body that went through the motions of an apparently human life. He saw the logos uniquely present in the potential of the infant Jesus and becoming fully actual and conscious only after a life-long process. That process is called "glorification."

At birth, the reality of God in Jesus was almost entirely limited to the presence of divine potential, and during infancy and childhood Jesus was "a boy as other boys and a man as other men" (True Christianity 89) with only brief and isolated exceptions (exceptions which were inherent in the nature of the process). As a child, he experienced no consciousness of divine mission or destiny, except in others (like Simeon) to whom insight into God's working was revealed, and momentarily in Jesus in the height of his excitement after discussing theology with the scholars in the Temple. The boy Jesus acquired knowledge through experiences and instruction as other children do. He "knew" things that were not compatible with divine thought and enjoyed things that could not be combined with divine love (Secrets of Heaven 1542). The fact that such ideas and emotions were rejected in the course of intense spiritual struggles testifies to the implication that occurs often, but is not clearly specified: imperfect knowledge and self-centered human motivations were real in early stages of the developing consciousness of the child Jesus. Awareness of divine potential came later, and complete transformation of his intellectual and emotional nature took all of his life.

Through experiences of struggle with temptation, the divine inner potential became successively more and more actual and conscious, while human nature—including habits and inclinations as well as physical form—was successively transformed in accordance with its divine potential. This was not a linear progression, but fluctuated in and between each experience of struggle, from more-human-and-less-divine to more-divine-and-less-human (in the sense of "merely human"). The nadirs of this alternating progression were states of divine self-limitation or "self-emptying" (Greek kenosis, Latin exinanitio) and the peaks were states of human self-emptying, or divine self-awareness (glorification). The former was characterized by separation of Jesus' human nature from its divine essence and potential, and the latter by a more complete union of the two. Swedenborg referred to both the low points of the process and the entire period of incarnation, as the state of exinanition. The peaks of the process, as well as the final outcome after the Resurrection, are called the state of glorification.

The paradigm of the incarnation as a whole, and of the recurrent cycle of relative separation and relative union, is the universal human situation of struggle with temptation. During temptation, a person feels isolated from the Lord's presence in the Word and in the church, and aligned with the temptation. Resisting temptation "as if of ourselves" we come into a closer relationship with God. This results in the transformation of our will, the process called regeneration (Chapter 4). Swedenborg's philosophy of "as if" was his principal means of negotiating the dilemma between predestination and autosoterism (Pelagius' heresy that man can save himself by his own effort and good works independently of God's initiative).

Temptations encountered in regeneration are proportionate to the person's ability to overcome them, according to the principle of equilibrium (Chapter 2). Jesus' human nature was tempted during his process of glorification, parallel to our being tempted in the process of our regeneration. Because of the power of his divine potential that became progressively more actual and more conscious, he was subjected eventually to the most powerful temptations possible. With each temptation, he evolved further toward his divine potential, with consequent transformation of his human nature. The forty days in the wilderness, the withdrawals for prayer, Gethsemane, and ultimately the Cross, describe and symbolize the states of separation, divine self-emptying, and human temptation. The Baptism, the working of miracles, the Transfiguration, such statements as "I and the Father are one," and finally the post-Resurrection appearances, describe and symbolize glorification, transformed human nature, and the union of God and man. The alternation and progressive intensity of these symbols of exinanition and glorification in the Gospels is descriptive of the process; no other conception of the nature of Christ can account for those alternations and that progression in the Gospel narratives.

The end of the process, the state of final glorification at or after the Resurrection, was antipodal to the beginning. The original divine potential was fully actualized; the human nature (similar to ours) was transformed and glorified. Both full divinity and full humanity were present in the beginning, process, and end. The separation that characterized the beginning was overcome by the process. Thus, the Chalcedonian formula in full applies to Swedenborg's concept of the final outcome of the incarnation: at conception and during his ministry, Jesus was indeed "fully man and fully God," but only at the glorification was he "not two natures, but one."

The Redemption, the purpose of the Incarnation (True Christianity 82), was a three-fold work (True Christianity 115). The first part (conquering the hells) was accomplished by the glorification process itself. The second (reordering of the heavens) occurred through the outcome of the process. The third (founding the church) was the new reality which the process made possible.

In the context of the irreducible and indestructible freedom of choice at the core of human nature (Chapter 2), individual redemption requires human cooperation. Autosoterism is excluded from this teaching by a compound limitation on our ability to save ourselves. In the first place, human freedom is limited to choices by an essentially inert human being who chooses between good and evil influences. Secondly, even the wisdom to make the choice is exerted only "as if" it were ours. Swedenborg attributes all but our choice of intention to God. At the same time, predestination is excluded from this teaching by that free choice, because God does not redeem anyone against his or her will. He has made people free. Redemption requires cooperation to this extent.

Restoring and preserving the balance of power between good and evil influences in human life was the first redemptive work of Christ. A situation had developed in the general atmosphere of the human condition in which this balance was endangered to the point that it could be restored only by divine intervention. It is here that the necessity for real humanity in the nature of Christ appears. In the detailed ramifications of Swedenborg's theology, God's infinite goodness could have no direct contact with the evil influences that threatened the spiritual life of the human race, because God would utterly destroy evil, thereby destroying the equilibrium between good and evil. Only a human being could be capable of such contact—capable of being tempted. Therefore, God had to become a man in order to meet the temptations that all people meet, but still be God to resist temptations that no other person could resist. To accomplish this purpose, neither mere appearance of humanity, nor mere humanity, would suffice. Thus, Swedenborg's exclusion of Docetic and Arian heresies about the nature of Christ (overemphasizing either the divinity or the humanity of the divine-and-human-One) is implicit in his conception of the work of Christ. Through the process of intense struggle, the man with divine potential met and overcame all temptations. Actualizing his potential in the same struggles, he became God in human form. This has parallels in the traditions of recapitulation theories: there is a sense in which Christ typified all lives and the temptations he overcame typified all temptations.

Swedenborg's construction excludes theories of sacrificial redemption and substitutionary atonement. It views the Passion as the final, climactic, and definitive temptation, followed by the ontological development of the New Being, the God-man. This development will be treated more specifically in Chapter 13, but one implication of it is essential here. The Lord, who overcame every temptation that any human being ever can face, became one with the God who is omnipresent. Therefore, the loving strength of his human experience is immediately accessible to all who will avail themselves of it. This power has no effect upon our lives except insofar as we choose to accept it, but to the extent that we do choose it, it is absolute in its power to save.

The metaphysical abstractions of this discussion, and of the remaining chapters of the course, are strenuous intellectual challenges. However, they are no further from the experience of life than your breath or heartbeat. Consider the hymn: "O bless the Lord, my soul... He who redeemed our souls from hell hath sovereign power to save." What does that mean, exactly, in practical terms? Especially, how does that happen; how does it work? That is what this chapter is about.


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

True Christianity Chapter 2, esp. 81-109, 114-133.


The Lord; Glorification; Redemption

TC 81

....By the Lord the Redeemer I mean Jehovah in his human nature. The following pages will show that Jehovah himself descended and assumed human nature in order to accomplish redemption. I call him "the Lord"—not "Jehovah"—because the Jehovah of the Old Testament is called "the Lord" in the New Testament.... The Lord also ordered his disciples to call him Lord, so that is what he was called by the disciples in their letters, and later by the Apostolic Church—as evidenced by its creed, the so-called Apostles' Creed. This was because the Jews did not dare to speak Jehovah's name because of his holiness and because "Jehovah" means the entire Divine Reality which existed from eternity—while the human (which he took upon himself in time) was not that Reality....

TC 82

(i) Jehovah God descended and assumed human form in order to redeem the human race. Christian churches today believe that God, creator of the universe, fathered a Son from eternity, and that this son descended and assumed human form to redeem and save mankind. But this belief is an error and collapses under its own weight. Just consider that God is one, then apply your reason to the fiction (or worse) that the one God fathered a Son from eternity; and then that God the Father, together with the Son, and Holy Spirit (each of whom severally is God) is one God. This fiction dissipates in a flash, like a meteorite in the atmosphere, when it is shown from the Word that it was Jehovah God himself who descended, became human, and was the Redeemer....

TC 85

(ii) Jehovah God descended as the Divine-True, which is the Word; yet he did not separate the Divine-Good from it. There are two aspects which make up God's essence: divine love and divine wisdom. Stated another way, God's essence is everything that is divine and good, as well as everything divine and true.... The same pair is meant in the Word by "Jehovah God" ("Jehovah" meaning divine love, or what is divine and good; "God" meaning divine wisdom, or what is divine and true)....

TC 86

Jehovah God descended into the world as the Divine-True for the purpose of accomplishing redemption. Redemption consisted of conquering the hells, straightening out the heavens, and (after those things were accomplished) founding the church. The divine-good alone is not capable of achieving all those goals, but the divine-true springing from the divine-good is. The divine-good itself is like a rounded sword-point, a blunt piece of stick, or a bow without arrows. However, what is divine-and-true because it is divine-and-good is like a sharpened sword, a stick pointed to make a spear, or a bow with arrows—a potent weapon against enemies. Swords, spears, and bows in the Word stand for militant truths.... There was no other way in which the falsities and evils—in which all of hell was plunged (and is, perpetually)—could be attacked, defeated, and conquered, except through the divine-true coming from the Word. There was no other way in which a new heaven could be founded, formed, and organized, as was then done. There was no other way in which a new church could be established on earth....

TC 87

The difference between what-is-good-separated-from-what-is-true and what-is-true-because-it-is-good can be seen clearly by contemplating ourselves. All in us that is good resides in our intentions and all of us that is true lies in our ability to understand. However, our intentions cannot do a thing on the strength of their being good, because only our understanding can make them work. They cannot act, speak, or feel on their own. All of their ability and power come through our ability to understand—therefore they come through what is true, because our understanding is the container and home of what is true.

It is similar to the way the heart and lungs work in your body. The heart cannot produce any movement or any sensation without the breathing of the lungs: together, life is the result of the lungs' breathing because the heart beats. This is obvious when someone suffocates or drowns: breathing stops (though systolic cardiac motion continues)...[and] there is neither movement nor sensation...because the heart corresponds to intentions and their various good qualities, and lungs correspond to understanding and its various truths....

TC 89

(iii) He assumed human form according to his divine order....Simultaneous with creation, God introduced order into the universe and into all its parts. His omnipotence functions and works according to his order in all the universe and each of its parts....Now, since God descended, and he is order, was necessary—if he were to become really human—for him to be conceived, carried in a womb and born, be taught, learn one thing at a time and be brought (by means of what he learned) into a condition of intelligence and wisdom. Therefore, in his human form, he was an infant like any other infant, a boy like any other boy, and so on—the only difference being that he achieved that progress more quickly, fully, and perfectly than others....

TC 92

(iv) The human by which he brought himself into the world is the Son of God. The Lord said on many occasions that the Father had sent him and that he was sent by the Father (e.g., Matthew 10:40; 15:24; John 3:34; 5:23, 24, 26-38; 6:29, 39, 40, 44, 57; 7:16, 18, 28, 29; 8:16, 18, 29, 42; 9:4; and very many other passages). He said this because "being sent into the world" means descending and being among human beings, which he accomplished by means of the human nature he assumed through Mary the virgin. Also, that human is really the Son of God, because he was conceived by Jehovah God as Father (as is stated in Luke 1:32, 35), and is called Son of God, Son of Humanity, and Son of Mary. Son of God means Jehovah God in his human, Son of Humanity means the Lord as to his Word, and Son of Mary means the specific human nature he took upon himself. You can see that Son of Mary means his purely human nature because, in the reproduction of all human beings, the soul comes from the father and the body from the mother. The father's semen contains the soul, and this is clothed with a body in the mother's womb. In other words, everything spiritual about you is from your father; every material aspect is from your mother.

In the Lord's case, what was divine in him was from his Father Jehovah and his human was from his mother. The union of these two is the Son of God. This is clearly stated in the story of the Lord's birth, in Luke: The angel Gabriel said to Mary, the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you; therefore the holy thing that shall be born of you shall be called Son of God (Luke 1:35)....

TC 95

(v) The lord made himself righteousness by acts of redemption. Christian churches today say and believe that the Lord—and he alone—achieved merit and righteousness while he was in the world by showing such complete obedience to God the Father, particularly by his passion on the cross. But they have assumed that his suffering on the cross was the actual act of redemption. However, that was the act of glorifying his human and not the act of redemption. This subject will be discussed in the following section about redemption.

The act of redemption—by which the Lord made himself righteousness— was the Last Judgment, which he carried out in the spiritual world. After that, he separated the bad from the good and the goats from the sheep, expelling from heaven those who allied with the beasts of the dragon. From those who were worthy, he established a new heaven, and he established a new hell from the unworthy. By stages, he brought everything everywhere back into order and also established a new church. These were the acts of redemption by which the Lord made himself righteousness, because righteousness consists in doing everything according to divine order and reorganizing everything that has fallen out of order. Divine order itself is righteousness....

TC 97

(vi) The Lord united himself with the Father, and the Father with himself, by the same acts. The union was accomplished by redeeming acts because the Lord performed these acts out of his human nature. As he did so, the Divine (by which is meant the Father) drew nearer, helped and cooperated, until they became not two, but one. This union is glorification, which will be described in what follows.

TC 99

This union is reciprocal...because no union or bond is possible between two people unless each approaches the other.... The same kind of reciprocal bond exists between soul and body in each individual, between your spirit and the sensory and motor organs of your body, between your heart and your lungs, your will and your understanding, and between all the members and viscera of your body in themselves and with each other. Such is the bond between those who love each other deeply....

TC 100

Because no bonding is possible unless there is a mutual and reciprocal linkage, the bond between the Lord and each of us is no different, as is obvious from the following passages (among others): He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (John 6:56). Remain in me, and I in you. Whoever remains in me and I in them bears much fruit (John: 15:4-5). If anyone opens the door, I will come in to them and dine with them, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).

This bond is produced by your approaching the Lord and the Lord approaching you, for it is a fixed and immutable law that the Lord approaches a person to the extent that the person approaches the Lord....

TC 101

(vii) Thus God became human and the human became God in one person....Jehovah, creator of the universe, descended and assumed human form in order to redeem and save humanity; [21. Notes] and the Lord united himself with the Father by redeeming acts, and the Father reciprocally and mutually united himself with the Lord.[22. Notes] We can plainly see from that reciprocal union that God became human and the human became God in one person....

....[2]Therefore Paul says that in Jesus the Christ all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9); John says that Jesus the Christ, Son of God, is the true God and everlasting life (I John 5:20)....

TC 102

Here I shall add something new. I was once allowed to speak with Mary the mother of Jesus. She happened to be passing and appeared in heaven above my head, dressed in white garments that looked like silk. Then she paused for a moment to say that she had been the Lord's mother. He had been born to her, but he became God by putting away all the human nature he had from her, so she worships him as her God. She did not want anyone to acknowledge him as her son, because all that is divine is in him....

TC 104

(viii) His progress toward union consisted of his acts of emptying himself and his acts of glorifying himself. The Lord went through these two states during his life in the world. This is known in the church. They are called self-emptying (exinanition) and glorification. The earlier state, self-emptying, is described in many passages of the Word, especially the Psalms of David, and also in the Prophets (in detail in Isaiah 53:12, where we read that he emptied his soul to the point of death). This state constitutes his humiliation before the Father: he prayed to the Father, said that he did the Father's will, and ascribed everything he did and said to the Father.... He could not have been crucified outside of that state.

The state of glorification, on the other hand, is also the state of union. He was in that phase when he was transfigured in the presence of three of his disciples, when he performed miracles, and whenever he said that the Father and he were one, that the Father was in him and he in the Father, and that all things of the Father's were his. Finally, after complete union, he had power over all flesh (John 17:2), all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), and many other things.

TC 105

The Lord had to go through these two stages—self-emptying and glorification. There is no other way to progress toward union because this way follows divine order, which is immutable. The way of divine order is that a person adjusts himself to be God-receiving, prepares himself to become a receptacle and home for God to enter and live in as his temple. A person must do this autonomously while still recognizing that the action is God's gift. We must recognize this even without feeling the presence and activity of God (although it is God who accomplishes every good thing anyone's love desires and provides every truth of anyone's faith). Every person must (and will) advance in this sequence to become spiritual instead of natural, and the Lord advanced in this same way to make his natural human divine.

It was for this reason that he prayed to the Father, did his will, attributed to him everything he did and said, and uttered the words on the cross, "My God, my God, why do you forsake me?" This is because, in that stage of life, God appears to be absent; but another stage follows, which is a state of union with God. . . . Everyone who becomes spiritual instead of natural passes through two stages of development; the first leads to the second and so passes from the world to heaven. . . . In the first stage, understanding takes the lead and intending follows; in the second stage, intending takes the lead and understanding follows. Nevertheless, understanding grows out of intending: we do not intend by means of understanding. What is good and what is true, caring and faith, our human insides and outsides, all are linked in exactly the same way.

TC 107

(ix) From this time on, no one from the Christian world can enter heaven who does not believe in the Lord God the Savior, and approach him alone. . .. But those who know nothing about the Lord ... are saved by their faith and their life if they believe in one god and live in accordance with the commandments of their own religion. Sin is imputed to those who know, not to those who are ignorant—just as blind people who knock things over are not blamed. The Lord says, "If you were blind, you would not have sin; but you say that you can see, therefore your sin remains" (John 9:41).

(i) Redemption itself was conquest of the hells and organization of the heavens, in preparation for a new spiritual church. I can say with absolute certainty that these three events constitute redemption because even today the Lord is exercising redemption, beginning with the Last Judgment in 1757 and continuing from that time to the present. That is because the Lord's Second Coming is occurring now; a new church is being established, something that could not happen until after the hells had been conquered and heaven organized. I have been permitted to witness all that has happened....

Redemption consisted of conquest of the hells, organization of the heavens, and establishment of a new church, because without these, no human being could have been saved. This is their proper order: the hells had to be conquered first before a new heaven of angels could be arranged; this had to be arranged before a new church could be instituted on earth. The sequence is necessary because people on earth are so bonded with angels in heaven and spirits in hell that they have to be identified with one side or the other....

TC 118

(ii) Without that redemption, no human could have been saved, nor could angels have remained unharmed. First, I must say what redemption is. To redeem means to free from damnation, reclaim from everlasting death, rescue from hell, and release those who are captured and bound at the hands of the devil. The Lord performed all this by conquering the hells and founding a new heaven. People could not have been saved by any other means because the spiritual world is so closely integrated with the natural world that they are inseparable. Principally, this affects people's interiors—what we call their souls and their minds. Good people are linked with souls and minds of angels, and bad people with souls and minds of spirits from hell. That union is so close that if you were deprived of it you would fall down, lifeless as a block of wood. Similarly, angels and spirits could not continue to exist either, if human beings were taken away from them. So it is plain why redemption took place in the spiritual world and why heaven and hell had to be brought into order before a church could be established on earth....

TC 119

Angels could not have remained unharmed except for redemption by the Lord, because the whole heaven of angels, together with the church on earth, forms a single person in the Lord's sight.[23. Notes] That person's inside comprises angels of heaven, and the outside comprises the church. In more detail, the highest heaven forms the head, the intermediate and lowest heavens the chest and mid-section; the church on earth the loins, legs, and feet. The Lord himself is the soul and life of this entire person, so if the Lord had not accomplished the acts of redemption, this person would have been destroyed....

TC 120

There are many reasons why injustice and wickedness would have spread throughout all Christians in either world (spiritual as well as natural) except for the redemption by the Lord. One reason is that everyone comes into the world of spirits after death and is at that time exactly what he was before. On arrival, no one is prevented from talking with his or her dead parents, siblings, family, and friends. Every husband first seeks out his wife, every wife her husband. They are introduced by one another into various companies of individuals who outwardly look like sheep but inwardly are like wolves, who are able to corrupt even those who had led religious lives. Thus, as a result of unspeakable tricks unknown in the natural world, the world of spirits is filled with wickedness—like a pool covered with the green slime of frogs' spawn....

[So,) without the redemption accomplished by the Lord, no one could be saved, nor could the angels remain unharmed. The Lord is the only refuge to avoid destruction. He says: Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch can bear no fruit by itself, but only if it remains part of its vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; because without me you can do nothing. Unless you remain in me, you are cast out, you wither, and are thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:4-6).

TC 121

(iii) The Lord thus redeemed not only the human race, but also angels....(1) At the time of the Lord's first coming, the hells had grown to such a height that they filled the whole world of spirits (which lies midway between heaven and hell). They had thrown the region called the lowest heaven into confusion, and— not only that—they had even attacked the middle heaven. It was being plagued in a thousand different ways, and would have been destroyed except for the Lord's protection....The hells had grown to such a height because at the time the Lord came into the world, the whole world had utterly alienated itself from God by worshipping idols and practicing magic; and the church established among the Children of Israel (and, at a later time, among the Jews) had been totally destroyed by falsifying and adulterating the Word. And the people who had done these things came after death into the world of spirits. They eventually grew and multiplied so that they could not be dislodged from there except by God himself descending and using the strength of his divine arm....

[3](2) ....Not only every human being, but every angel as well, is held back from bad things by the Lord and kept in a good situation. No one—angel or human—is in a good situation on their own, but everything good is from the Lord....The Lord came into the world to take hell away from humans, and he did this by fighting against hell and winning victories over it, until in this way he made it subject to his command....

TC 123

(iv) Redemption was a purely divine work. Hell had risen to flood the whole world of spirits at the time of the Lord's coming. The power of the Lord drove it out and scattered it (eventually imposing his organization on it, even as heaven was being reorganized). Anyone knowing the nature of hell must exclaim in wonder that redemption was an unconditionally divine work....

TC 124

(v) This redemption could not be accomplished except by God incarnate....Redemption ... could not have been accomplished except by Almighty God.

It could not have been accomplished without his incarnation, that is, making himself human. Jehovah God in his infinite essence cannot approach hell (much less enter it) since he is in fact the highest and most perfect Being. If he were even to breathe on those who are in hell (since he is essentially so high and perfect) he would destroy them instantly....Therefore, if Jehovah God had not assumed human form—thus clothing himself with a body of the lowest kind—attempting any kind of redemption would have been in vain. For how can anyone attack an enemy without coming near and arming for the battle?...

But you must realize that the Lord's battle with the hells was not a battle of words, like people arguing a point or disputing in a court of law. Such fighting is quite ineffectual here. It was spiritual battle—the Divine-True armed with the strength of Divine-Good (that is, the very life-force of the Lord...whose strength was illustrated in my small book, Last Judgment).

TC 126

(vi) The passion of the cross was the last temptation which the Lord underwent as the greatest prophet. This was the means by which he glorified his human—that is, united it with the Father's Divine—so in itself this was not the redemption. The Lord had two purposes in coming into the world, redemption and the glorification of his humanity. By these, he saved both the human and angelic races. However, the two purposes were quite distinct although they combined in achieving salvation....

TC 129

One reason the Lord was willing to undergo temptations, even to the point of suffering on the cross, was that he was the Prophet. In ancient times, prophets represented the church's doctrine from the Word, and consequently the church's condition at the time, by the various harsh, unfair, and even criminal acts imposed on them by God. However, since the Lord was the Word itself, his passion on the cross as the Prophet represented the way in which the Israelite church had profaned the Word.

Another reason was that in this way he would be recognized in the heavens as the Savior of both worlds. All the details of his passion stand for specific kinds of profanation of the Word....

TC 130

[ 3 ] ...For example,...his betrayal by Judas meant that he was betrayed by the nation of Israel, which possessed the Word ( Judas represented that nation). His arrest and conviction by the chief priests and elders meant that that entire church behaved that way; his being beaten, spat upon in the face, flogged, and his head struck with a reed meant similar treatment of divine truth contained in the Word. Crowning him with thorns meant that they falsified and adulterated those truths; dividing his garments and throwing lots for his tunic meant that they threw the Word's truths to the winds, but kept its spiritual sense (tunic means the spiritual sense). The crucifixion meant that they destroyed and profaned the whole Word; their giving him vinegar to drink meant that they offered only falsified truths (which is why he did not drink it). Their piercing his side meant that they utterly extinguished everything true and everything good in the Word. His burial meant his rejection of all he had left from his mother and his resurrection on the third day meant his glorification (or the union of his human with the Father's Divine).

TC 132

(vii) It is a fundamental error on the part of the church to believe that the passion on the cross was itself the redemption. That error, together with the error concerning three divine persons from eternity, has perverted the whole church to the point where there is no spirituality left in it. Does any subject fill more books of traditional theology today[24. Notes]—or is any subject taught more zealously in colleges or preached more often in pulpits—than this: the belief that God the Father not only drove the human race away from himself in anger, but included it in universal damnation (thus excommunicating the whole race). According to this tradition, God was gracious and compelled his own son to descend and assume the damnation to appease his father's anger. This was the only way in which the Father could look at all favorably on any human being!...

These and similar phrases ring through our churches, resounding from the walls like echoes in woodlands and filling the ears of all listeners. Is there anyone who cannot see that God is mercy and clemency itself? Anyone whose reasoning faculty has been illuminated and healed by reading the Word can see that these qualities are his essence. It is a contradiction to say that mercy itself and goodness itself could look on humanity in anger, pass a sentence of damnation upon all, and still remain what he is in his divine essence....

The reason...[for the error] is this: people have taken the passion on the cross to be redemption itself....One erroneous deduction leads to other theories of the same type (for errors lie hidden in the deduction and emerge one after the other). From the belief that suffering on the cross was the redeeming act, ideas about God can emerge and be extracted that are even more scandalous and ignoble until, as Isaiah says: Priest and prophet go astray through strong drink. They stumble in judgment, all the tables are covered with vomit brought up (Isaiah 28:7, 8).

TC 133

This idea of God and redemption has reduced all theology from the spiritual level to the lowest natural level by attributing purely natural characteristics to God. Everything in the church depends on our having an idea of Good and Redemption linked with our idea of salvation....


True Christianity Chapter 2, especially  81-109, 114-133.


How do you see the difference between what Jesus of Nazareth was and who Jesus Christ is?

Can you describe the states or stages in Jesus' glorification process illustrated by two pairs of consecutive events in the Gospel narratives?

How is our regeneration process similar to and/or dissimilar to the glorification process of Jesus Christ?

What questions or issues does the lesson raise for you?

To Chapter 11