As the article “‘Christian Beliefs’ that the Bible Doesn’t Teach” points out, many of the old dogmas taught by Christian preachers and churches aren’t even in the Bible—and in some cases the Bible specifically rejects them.
Strange but true!
A Trinity of Persons in God? Salvation by faith alone? Only Christians can be saved? The Bible doesn’t teach any of these things! They were invented by human beings hundreds of years after the Bible was written.
The Bible is far more concerned with how we live our life than with what we believe. The Bible is a practical book, not an abstract theological treatise.
Still, the Bible does provide us with a foundation of basic beliefs that we can trust and use as guides for everyday life.
Here are some Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach:
- There is one God, and Jesus Christ is that God
- Believing in Jesus Christ leads to salvation
- We must not do evil and destructive things
- We must do things that are good and right
- We must recognize that the power to do these things comes from God
Let’s take a look at each of these Christian beliefs, and what the Bible has to say about it.
There is one God, and Jesus Christ is that God
Because this is such an important teaching, we’ll spend more time on it than on the rest.
Wherever the Bible attaches a number to God, that number is one. Here are just a few examples:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29)
“Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me.” (Isaiah 45:21)
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6)
And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)
In the Gospels, Jesus continues to speak of God as one, and of himself as being one with that God:
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
Though even today many people do not understand what Jesus meant, his opponents at the time understood it perfectly well:
The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” (John 10:33)
When one of his disciples spoke as if Jesus were someone different from the Father, Jesus corrected him:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does the works.” (John 14:8–10)
In the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is called by the same names as God was in the Old Testament. For example:
These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life. (Revelation 2:8, emphasis added)
And listen to the words of this well-known prophecy:
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
The one named “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father,” upon whose shoulders the authority rests, is Jesus Christ:
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
Jesus knew that he was God come to earth:
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:54–59)
Why were they about to stone him? Because his seemingly strange statement, “Before Abraham was, I am” is a reference to Jehovah or Yahweh, the sacred name of the Lord in the Old Testament:
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘Jehovah, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.” (Exodus 3:13–15)
In this famous passage from the scene of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, God connects the Hebrew word for “I Am” with the most sacred name of God, here translated as “Jehovah.” In Hebrew, the two words sound similar. When Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” he was stating that he was, in fact, the very same God that the Hebrew people had known and worshiped from ancient times. In effect, he was saying, “I am Jehovah.”
That’s why, after an angel spoke to Joseph about the child that Mary had conceived, the Gospel writer adds:
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22–23)
And the prologue of the Gospel of John makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is God come to earth:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory. (John 1:1–3, 14)
These should be enough to show that the Bible does teach that there is one God, and that Jesus Christ is that God.
For more, see:
- Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus
Believing in Jesus Christ leads to salvation
Many Christians think that the only way to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach this (see Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?). But it does teach that belief in Jesus Christ leads to salvation.
Here are a few among many passages that teach this:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
Jesus said to them . . . “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.” (John 10:7, 9)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)
He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:30–31)
Of course, in the Bible “belief” does not mean a mere intellectual acceptance of Jesus Christ. And it certainly doesn’t mean repeating some formulaic “sinner’s prayer” that supposedly causes us to be saved just by saying it. Believing in Jesus Christ means accepting the Lord Jesus into our heart and into our life so deeply that we are transformed step by step into a whole new person.
What we truly believe is shown not by what we think or by what we say, but by how we live. If we live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ by actively loving God and loving our neighbor, we are believing in Jesus Christ through our actions even if we don’t intellectually accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
For more, see:
- Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
- If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
- Did Jesus Really Die to Pay the Penalty for our Sins?
We must not do evil and destructive things
This one should be obvious. But since there are still many Christians who believe that faith is the only thing that matters for salvation, here are some passages commanding us not to do evil things, and telling us that those who do evil will be condemned to the spiritual death symbolized by the fires of hell.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil. (Isaiah 1:16)
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. (Ezekiel 18:30–32)
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7–9)
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” (Luke 13:1–5)
But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:5–11)
These are just a few of many, many passages teaching us that we must stop doing evil and destructive things if we wish to find our way to heaven.
How can we be in heaven if we keep on doing hellish things? If we say we believe in God, but violate God’s commandments, our “belief” means nothing.
For more, see:
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
- Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
- Repentance: The Unpopular Partner of Forgiveness
- Is it Easy or Hard to Get to Heaven?
We must do things that are good and right
Many Christians have gotten confused by a misunderstanding of Paul’s teachings about faith and works. They think Paul meant that all we need is faith in Jesus, and we don’t have to do good works in order to be saved. But as you can see from Romans 2:5–11, quoted just above, that is not what Paul meant. (For what he really did mean, see: Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does.)
Here are just a few of many Bible passages teaching that we must love our neighbor and do what is good and right if we want to have life and salvation:
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16–17)
If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right—if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully—such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 18:5–9)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:20)
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40)
What does Jesus Christ himself say about what saves us and what condemns us? He is very clear. It is not just believing in Jesus—and it applies to all the nations, not just the Christian nations:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’
“Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31–46)
Jesus really couldn’t be any clearer that those who do what is good and right will go to heaven, while those who do not will go to hell.
For more, see:
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
- What Does Religion Have to Do with My Profession and My Daily Work?
- Money Can’t Buy Happiness . . . But Service Can
We must recognize that the power to do these things comes from God
As we go about our daily lives, doing this or that for our fellow human beings, we naturally suppose that we are doing it by ourselves and from our own power. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t think it’s really true. Because the reality is that by ourselves, we can’t do anything at all.
Our very life comes from God. Without the spirit and life of God within us we are nothing but dust:
Then the Lord God formed a human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
God didn’t just breathe life into us in the beginning. God breathes life into us every moment. When that breath from God is withdrawn, our life is over:
When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. (Psalm 104:29)
Psalm 127 recognizes poetically that everything we do, if it is anything at all, must come from God:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
In the Gospels, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ himself tell us that everything we have, everything we do, and everything we are is given to us from heaven—which means that it comes from the Lord our God:
John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” (John 3:27)
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)
Traditional Christians often reject the idea that our works, or our actions, have anything to do with our salvation. One reason for this is the mistaken idea that doing good works is something we do by ourselves in order to earn our way into heaven.
But the fact is that every good thing we do comes from God, and is done by God’s power working through us. When we take credit for our good works, we are stealing the credit from God, who actually does the works. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does the works” (John 14:10).
Doing good works doesn’t earn us salvation. When it comes from God, it is salvation.
When we love our neighbor by doing good deeds for them, that is God’s love and God’s power filling us and flowing through us. When we accept God into our life, and become filled with God’s love, wisdom, and power, that is the very definition of being saved.
For more, see:
Where does this come from? What does it mean?
To give credit where credit is due, this particular selection of five basic Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach was not my idea. It is based on what Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) wrote in True Christianity #3. (You can read the original “specifics of faith” here. Just scroll down to the paragraph that starts with “.”)
But you don’t have to take Swedenborg’s word for it.
You don’t even have to take my word for it.
You can take the Bible’s word for it.
As you can see if you read the many Bible passages offered above, these Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach are solidly founded on the plain words of the Bible itself. If you read the entire Bible with these things in mind, you will find these simple, basic, practical teachings all through it.
Here is an even shorter version of these Christian beliefs:
- Believe in one God, who is the Lord God Jesus Christ.
- Stop doing evil things, and do what is good instead.
- Realize that everything good you do comes from God.
There is no need to consult fancy theologians or engage in fancy interpretations to understand and believe these things. Unlike the many traditional but non-Biblical “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach, these are Christian beliefs that the Bible does teach plainly and clearly for anyone to see. They are simple and practical.
That’s why we can trust them and use them as guides for everyday life.
If you would like to know more about this type of genuine Christianity based on an open-minded, enlightened view of the Bible, we invite you to explore the articles linked above, and to browse through the other posts here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. We hope your mind and heart will be opened to new inspirations about God and spirit in your everyday life.
Right on! Keep up the good work.
Thanks! Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well with you and yours.
Lee I’m a christian and I learned that GOD will always be my Heavenly Father for all time.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Good inspiration!
I have some questions about reading the bible, I don’t get it.
What do you or Swedenborg think of the parts that explicitly say very few people get to Heaven?
Peter 4:18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
It seems to imply without any hidden spiritual translation, that even the most righteous people will scarcely be saved, so what of the average sinful person like me? I just thought this directly contradicted Swedenborg who though it was easy. Now, the bible sometimes says it’s easy with Jesus saying “my burden is light”… But when God says he’s jealous and angry, and then says “God is love”, one has to be false or misread, right?
Obviously I’m not mentally prepared to read the bible without misunderstanding. This is why I avoid reading the bible even though I want to try, I just can’t get through it without getting confused like I’ve shown you. Swedenborg didn’t translate the whole bible, only a few parts, not sure why he never did the rest. I just don’t want to read it and come to a wrong conclusion. Is there a way to read the bible fast without misunderstanding any parts?
I assume that
1) God can’t punish because he’s not vengeful (even though He claims He is jealous and angry)
2) It seems God wants people to fear hell to avoid us going there (lying for our own good, Swedenborg said Hell is more pleasurable than anything you can imagine) BUT this backfires and is why so many people hate religion
3) I assume if I understood the bible, I wouldn’t disagree with anything. So the parts that seem unfair to me are probably just my own misunderstanding, right?
Is the above a good way to start reading the bible or do you have better tips?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. These are all very good questions! You are certainly not alone in finding the Bible confusing. It is a very complex book! Millions of people have spent thousands of years studying it, and we’ve never yet managed to fully comprehend it. So don’t be too concerned if you, too, find it difficult to understand some of what’s written there.
Here are three articles that should help with your questions:
It’s not that God lies to us, but that God must speak to us in a language that we can understand. And when our minds and hearts are far from God, that may mean speaking in language that looks dark and terrible to us, but really represents love and compassion in God. This is explained more fully in these three articles.
About 1 Peter 4:18, from the context it’s clear that Peter is not talking so much about few people getting saved as he is about the struggle and ordeal of “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
And about Jesus’ statement, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14), please see my comment here. (I’ve now linked to that comment twice within the past week. Maybe it’s time to turn it into an article of its own!)
Yes, unfortunately Swedenborg wrote full commentaries on only the first two books of the Bible—Genesis and Exodus—and the last book of the Bible—Revelation.
Someone once calculated that for Swedenborg to write that level of commentary on the entire Bible (as he apparently thought he would do early on), he would have had to live to be at least 150 years old! There simply wasn’t time for him to explain the spiritual meaning of the entire Bible.
However, in Secrets of Heaven, and especially in Apocalypse Explained (which he never published in his lifetime), he explained many verses and sections from other parts of the Bible. And over the years various scholars and ministers of Swedenborg’s teachings have published commentaries on many other books of the Bible, and their spiritual meaning.
If you truly want to put in the time to study the Bible and gain a sense of its message, my best recommendation would be for you to purchase the set of Bible Study Notes by Anita S. Dole. They are available for a reasonable price from the Swedenborg Foundation. And if buying the entire set at one time is more than you can afford, you can also buy them one volume at a time.
Unfortunately, the Bible Study Notes are not available online. But an earlier set of notes, The Sower, written largely by the Rev. William L. Worcester, is available online here. (But ignore the “Warning” at the top of that contents page, which the author of the notes would have considered to be entirely without merit.) The Sower is not quite as good as the Dole Bible Study Notes, but it does cover a wider range of stories in the Bible, even if it covers each story more briefly. Both sets were originally intended for Sunday School use, but both are great for adult reading and study of the Bible, too.
If, after reading these two comments and the three articles linked in my previous comment, you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Oh, and Swedenborg didn’t say that “hell is more pleasurable than anything you can imagine.” He said that it is a mixture of the sorts of sick pleasures that evil people love to indulge in and the pain and punishment that inevitably results from indulging in those pleasures. For more on this, see: Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
[…] a start, please see: “Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach,” and the articles linked from […]
Thanks for reblogging “Today’s Christianity: Vastly Void of Truth.” I’m glad you enjoyed the article!
I am a Christian who loves jesus and god but what i dont understand is that if jesus is god then who created people to come down to earth In Jesus’ time if god wasn’t in heaven. My ancestors aren’t from Israel so as well as having no god in heaven to pray to they would have had no jesus to listen to. As god loves all what must Jesus’ thoughts be on the fact that most people in his lifetime he would never meet as Jesus was in a small space in the world and most would have no link to God including my European ancestors. But if jesus is the son of god a part of him but not actually him then the whole god have his one and only son for me takes away from the belief that we are all gods children and he created all of us. I am a Christian who loves jesus and god but am confused
These are all excellent questions! A good question is the beginning of understanding.
And to understand God, and how Jesus was and is God, it is necessary to expand our mind beyond our usual limited, material human conceptions of things. For you personally to understand these things, you’ll need to stretch your mind to grasp concepts that you may not have thought of before. So if what I’m about to say to you sounds complicated at first, please bear with me, and at the end I’ll link you to some articles that explain it all further. Though understanding God is a challenge for us small-minded humans, it is not impossible. And as we gain an understanding of God, we gain an understanding of the meaning and purpose of our life here on earth as well, and everything starts to fall into place for us.
Consider that unlike our limited human nature, God has no limitations of space or time. We humans can be in only one place at a time—or perhaps in our minds in several places at a time through imagination or technology. But God is present in all places and in all time simultaneously. That is not by being stretched out in time and space like a material object. God is divine, not material. And we now know from modern physics that time and space are properties of physical matter. So our usual conceptions of time and space simply don’t apply to God. God is present in all time and space from a divine state of being outside of and beyond time and space.
This means that when God came to earth in a particular time and place as Jesus Christ, God did not stop being present in all other times and places. Rather, God had a special presence in that one time and place while continuing to be God in heaven. So God was still running the universe and creating new people all over the earth while being present in Jesus Christ in 1st century Palestine.
Jesus was the Son of God, but not in our usual earthly conception of human fathers and sons. According to the Gospels, Jesus had no earthly father, but did have an earthly mother. The Bible says that Mary conceived through the presence of the Spirit of God. So Jesus was born on earth with God as his Father, but with an ordinary human being, Mary, as his mother. This means that when he was born, he had both an infinite divine side and a limited, fallible human side. However, Jesus did not separate from God as human children separate from their fathers. Rather, since Jesus’ Father was God, God remained within Jesus as his soul and his higher self within his limited human side that came from Mary.
This means, though, that from his birth Jesus was not fully God. Rather, Jesus had two natures: an infinite divine nature within that was God, and a finite, limited, and fallible nature from his human mother Mary, which was his outward nature. During his lifetime on earth, Jesus was sometimes more aware of and connected with his infinite divine nature, and sometimes more aware of and connected with his finite human nature. That’s why in the Gospels we see him sometimes praying to the Father as if to a different being, and other times saying that he and the Father are one. Jesus went back and forth between these two states of awareness and being throughout his entire lifetime on earth.
Also during his lifetime, Jesus was continually battling against hell, evil, and the Devil (which are really just different words for the same thing), which got access to him through the faulty, sin-prone nature that he received from his mother Mary.
There is absolutely no basis in the Bible for the Catholic idea that Mary was born without any inherited evil or “original sin.” In fact, if she were born by an “immaculate conception” as held in Catholic dogma, it would destroy the whole reason God came to earth through a human mother. It was precisely so that God could confront and defeat the Devil on the Devil’s own turf that God was born of a human woman.
The Devil cannot face and fight against God’s infinite divine nature directly. If the Devil attempted to do that, the Devil would be instantly destroyed by the infinite power of God. It would be like our trying to fight the sun by flying into it. We would be instantly vaporized. However, through the ordinary, sin-prone nature of Jesus’ human mother Mary, the Devil was able to approach God and fight against God in Jesus Christ. And God, in Jesus Christ, was able to confront and defeat the Devil, thus saving everyone on earth from the Devil’s mounting power.
If Jesus had not done this, the Devil would have wreaked his full fury upon us. And unlike God, we are finite and weak, and would have succumbed to the Devil’s power. Every single one of us would have been dragged down to eternal hell. But throughout his entire lifetime on earth Jesus was standing between us and the Devil, taking all of the Devil’s furious attacks and blows so that they would not fall upon us, and fighting many battles for us against the Devil, always winning them through the power of his Divine soul within, which the Bible calls “the Father.”
Further through a lifetime of facing, battling, and always overcoming the Devil that had gained access to him through his finite human heredity, Jesus gradually set aside all of the finite human nature that he gotten from his mother Mary, and replaced it with an infinite divine human nature that was God. This means that by the time Jesus rose from death after his crucifixion, there was no longer anything of Mary left in him. He was now fully God, but also fully and infinitely human. That is why, after his death, Jesus did not recognize Mary as his mother, but instead gave her to his disciple John as a mother to him. And that is why we on earth can now know God personally, and have a direct, personal relationship with God through his human presence as Jesus Christ.
All of this means that unlike during his lifetime on earth, Jesus Christ is now fully God, and fully present everywhere in the world, with every human being. It doesn’t matter whether a person is Christian or Hindu or Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim or aboriginal or atheist. Jesus Christ is present with everyone on earth with the power to save them if they are willing to live a good life of love and service to their fellow human beings as Jesus taught us to do while he was living here on earth among us. For Jesus’ own teaching on who, from all the nations, is saved, see Matthew 25:31–46. Here he says nothing about believing the correct thing. Only about doing good for one’s neighbor, which, he says, is the same as doing good for him.
This also means that all people on earth are God’s children, though not in quite the same way that Jesus was God’s Son. Jesus was conceived directly from God within Mary’s womb. The rest of us are conceived and born indirectly from God, through a human father and mother. So we are God’s children, created by God, but created by God through two human parents. And we especially become God’s children if we believe in God—or at least in the good qualities that come from God, such as truth and justice and love for our fellow human beings—and live according to God’s teachings.
For Christians, this means living according to the teachings that Jesus Christ gave us in the Gospels—especially the teaching that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
For people of other religions, it means living a good life as their religion teaches them to live it. And every major religion on earth teaches its people that they must live good lives of love and service to their fellow human beings.
For atheists, it means living according to some higher principle of life and seeking some greater good that goes beyond serving only their own interests. That higher principle and greater good is God for them.
I hope this begins to open your mind to some satisfying answers to your very good questions. I realize that all this can seem complicated and daunting at first. But if you consider it and meditate on it, and continue to learn more, in time it will become a light in your mind and a flame in your heart, guiding you toward everything good.
So that you can continue to learn and grow in understanding, here are some further articles that explain different parts of this in more detail, and expand it into other areas of life as well:
And there are plenty more where these came from! Of course, if you have further thoughts or questions as you read, please don’t hesitate to leave further comments.
Also, I hope you don’t mind if I post this, together with your comment, as a new blog post all its own within the next day or two. With Christmas fast approaching, your question and this answer would provide many good thoughts for people seeking to understand what really happened 2,000 years ago in a small town in Palestine.
Meanwhile, may God richly bless you and those you love.
Thanks again for your good questions. I have now posted an edited and expanded version of my reply here:
If Jesus was God, How was God Still in Heaven?
In the post I do a little more explaining of some of the points I made in my reply to you.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I’d be happy for you to use whatever you want in your blog. It’s been so uplifting for me to read insights from a Christian who doesn’t show intolerance to people of different faiths. I had been questioning whether or not to leave the Christian faith as my church like a lot out there preach this you are either with us or against us mentality judging people not on the contents of their character but on their religious background. In Martin Luther King’s famous ‘If I can dream’ speech he states “I have a dream that one day my four little children will be judged not on the color of their skin but by the contents of their character” and I personally can’t justify how judging someone by their faith is any better as well as by any other form of prejudice (gender, age, class etc.) Christians around me seem to judge people not on who they are but on what they are. I was raised with Christian values being values of love, forgiveness and kindness but a sermon recently was filled with hate on all who don’t believe in Jesus. They even stated Anne Frank and Gandhi are eternally being burned in hells lake of fire and while most churchgoers could seem to justify this by this idea that as long as I’m okay there’s no way I can especially by the names of Anne Frank and Gandhi who by their kindness and inspirational beliefs they showed in their life are prime examples to me as why I couldn’t except this Christian taught ideal especially knowing how tolerant they were of other faiths in a time when so many people were intolerant of them. The idea of the belief of a hell being not just being a place for people like Hitler, but also a place for his victims that he persecuted sounds so unjust and horrific to me. If only born-again Christians go to heaven, the piles of suitcases and bags of human hair displayed at the Holocaust Museum represents thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children suffering eternal agony at the hands of an angry God. If salvation is available only to Christians, then the gospel isn’t good news at all. For most of the human race, it is terrible news.
However, since coming across your blogs and seeing a kinder and truer in my eyes interpretation of the bible its made me feel like I can still be a Christian in an accepting of others way which seems to me to be a much more Christ like way and truer to the Christian values I was first associated with.
Still, coming from a more, this is the truth and don’t ever question it way, with a your burn in hell and experience the wrath of god if you do feel I’m only just starting to get some answers through a more accepting perspective.
One of the things that stood out for me in your answer to my previous message was when you said Jesus gave Mary to be John’s mother (by the way this is something I’ve always known from Sunday school but in a fed to me rather than in a let’s talk about it way). When Jesus became like God and didn’t acknowledge Mary as his mother because he was then fully present to God’s light and love, do you think his relationship with Mary completely broken. I understand I’m coming from the human perspective of can a son ever break off completely from a loving parent and why would he want to. But while he was so thankful to his followers wouldn’t he be so indebted to Mary beyond all for having received life in the first place only through her and her having raised him for him to then be able to go out into the world and spread his message in the same way all mothers do in a way. Did him being one with God mean that he turned his back on her love or that he could never need her in a human way? Also as someone who understands human love having taken on life as a human wouldn’t Jesus understand how hurtful it would seem for Mary to not only lose her son but then realise he doesn’t acknowledge her as the parent who raised him? I’m guessing giving John to Mary was his consolation to her for losing him but especially at this time of year when Mary is fully present in Christianity for having brought Jesus into the world these questions puzzle me.
I know about Mary looking for Jesus when he was twelve and finding him in his fathers house but so much of the bible I know of is very much based on his relationship with his disciples and the healing and miracles he showed to others but as someone who I’m sure knows a lot more of the scripture
What is shown in the relationship between Jesus and Mary throughout his time on earth and also with joseph?
But in particular with Mary do you think that when Mary went to heaven their relationship would of meant something more than some of the others passing through as he was never so closely connected in life to another human being.
By the way I am not a catholic so don’t believe in the immaculate conception of Mary but when the angel Gabriel said God has chosen you to be the mother of this baby who you must call Jesus did god know what he was doing in choosing her. Did he seek her out for specific reasons or was it just randomly selected?
May God also richly bless you and those you love
Thanks for your reply. I’m very happy to hear that the Christian perspective we offer here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life is making it possible for you to still be a Christian.
I understand why some of the harsher Christian churches feel the need to preach an angry, wrathful God. Unfortunately, there are many people who have to believe that God is angry with them or they will not be motivated to stop sinning and change their lives. It’s like young children who have to believe that their parents are mad at them if they do bad things, so that they’ll stop doing those bad things. However, in reality their parents (if they’re good parents) are not actually mad at them, but are simply showing them a stern face when they misbehave in order to to save their children from growing into bad, selfish, and greedy adults heading toward a bad life and a bad end. Having been a parent myself, I recall times when I had to suppress a chuckle in order to make it clear to my children that they could not behave in the way that they were behaving.
Unfortunately, for those adult Christians who are in that type of immature spiritual state, their personal need for an angry God spills over into bad theology and a condemnation of everyone outside their small group of “saved” people.
The Bible does talk about the wrath of God exactly because some people need it for their own long-term spiritual good. Really, though, what God is feeling is more sadness and pain at the harm we humans keep doing to others and to ourselves, and sorrow at the downward path that so many of us are traveling on. This is the place of parental pain that Jesus was speaking from when he said:
It’s not that God is angry with us for our sins, even if it may appear that way. Rather, it’s that God feels pain and sadness when we are unwilling to change our ways, and therefore set ourselves up for a world of hurt.
Meanwhile, for people who do not require an angry God kicking their butt to keep them on the strait and narrow, there is a deeper, and truer, message in the Bible. And it is a universal message, not one limited to a particular group of people who believe “the right thing.”
Read Matthew 25:31–46 and Romans 2:1–16. These passages talk very clearly about how people of all nations, including non-Jews and non-Christians, are saved if they do good deeds of kindness for their fellow human beings, and live according to their own conscience. And both passages make it very clear that it is Jesus Christ who presides over the salvation of good people of all nations. So the idea that God / Christ sends all non-Christians to hell is simply false, according to the plain teachings of the Bible itself.
The fact of the matter is that the Bible never says that all non-Christians will go to hell. In fact, it says the opposite. (See, for example, my article, “Did Jesus ever actually say, ‘If you don’t believe in me you will go to hell’?”) The verses conservative Christians read as saying that all non-Christians go to hell don’t actually say that. They are reading those verses through the lens of human doctrines that the Bible itself simply doesn’t teach.
For an example of this, see my most recent (at the moment) article on the blog: “Does John 3:18 Mean that All Non-Christians Go to Hell?” As that article points out, only a very superficial and faulty reading of John 3:18, taking it completely out of context, supports the idea that non-Christians go to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus. If we read that passage in the context of Jesus’ whole message to Nicodemus, it is very clear there is no possible way that that’s what Jesus said, or meant.
I don’t condemn those Christians who believe and preach all of these faulty doctrines. They themselves seem to need those doctrines for their own reasons. But the reality is that no matter how many times those who believe in them thump the Bible and say, “This is what the Bible says,” those doctrines are false and contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible.
For over twenty years now I have been challenging conservative Protestants to show me even one passage in the Bible that says what they believe, such as that Christ paid the penalty for our sins or that we are saved by faith alone. Though I’ve challenged dozens, if not hundreds of Protestants in this way, not a single one of them has ever been able to show me such a passage. And as I just said earlier, there is also not a single passage in the Bible that says that all non-Christians go to hell.
The reality is that these beliefs are not even Christian beliefs. They are beliefs that various human beings have made up over the centuries, and substituted for what’s taught in the Bible. So those “Christian” churches that teach them are not really Christian at all. They are basically pagan churches (because in practice, if not in theory, they worship three gods, not one God) with a Christian veneer. I don’t make that statement lightly, but I won’t go into it further here. However, if you’re interested in delving into it further, there are more articles here that I can refer you to.
I also want to be very clear that even though I totally reject their doctrines as non-Biblical and therefore non-Christian, that doesn’t mean I think everyone who believes those doctrines is going to hell. Rather, they will go to heaven or hell based on the same criteria as everyone else: Do they love God above all and love their neighbor as themselves?
And Jesus makes it clear through his teachings and his own example that loving the neighbor as oneself means doing good things for other people regardless of their background or beliefs or appearance or social status or anything else. Those who live good lives of kindness and service toward their fellow human beings will go to heaven regardless of any false beliefs they may hold to. And despite their harsh rhetoric, there are many conservative and fundamentalist Christians who are good, thoughtful people. Jesus will bring them into heaven as well.
If our blog is helping you to return to the Christian values you were originally taught, then it is helping you to return to genuine Christianity, and to turn away from “Christian” churches that are Christian in name only, and not in substance and reality.
And if we can help you to return to genuine Christianity, that is a matter of great joy for us!
In answer to your questions about the relationship between Jesus and Mary:
Though Jesus himself never in the Gospels acknowledges Mary as his mother (instead, he generally calls her “woman”—which was not a term of disrespect), that doesn’t mean their relationship was broken. Rather, it means that they no longer had a parent/child relationship. Or if anything, that that relationship was reversed.
We know that Mary did not take offense at Jesus referring to her as “woman” rather than as “mother.” Notice their interaction in the story of the wedding at Cana, here quoted in the King James Version, which stays closer to the original Greek than most other translations:
Many translations gloss over what Jesus said to Mary. But the KJV doesn’t paper it over. First, he called her “woman,” not “mother.” Then he asked the rhetorical question, “What do I have to do with you?” In other words, he disassociated himself from any blood or familial relationship with her.
And how did she respond? Instead of taking offense, she instructed servants to do whatever he told them to do. Though it could not have been without some struggle on her part, she was moving beyond the parent/child relationship she had had with Jesus when he was a young child. She recognized that he had moved beyond that. And she was not offended.
About Jesus giving his disciple John to her as her son, and she as his mother, this is commonly read as a way of Jesus making sure that his mother was taken care of after his death. But we know that Mary had other biological sons (Catholic doctrine to the contrary notwithstanding) who were younger than Jesus. So it was not necessary for Jesus to provide Mary with a son to take care of her in her old age. Rather, he was assigning them more as spiritual mother and son. John was Jesus’ closest disciple. Jesus wanted the two of them to have a special relationship so that Mary would have someone to take spiritual care of her in her old age. And of course, there is also a deeper significance for us, as there is in everything in the Bible. But that would take too long to go into here.
We do know from various mentions in the Acts that Mary herself became one of Jesus’ followers. So although there would certainly be the experience and memory in Mary’s mind of his being her child, that relationship was transformed into one in which he was her Lord and she was his spiritual child. And her relationship with Jesus’ closest disciple John ensured that she would have spiritual sustenance and connection with the group of Jesus’ followers.
As for Jesus’ relationship with Mary today, certainly Jesus (who is God) is aware of the fact that she was his earthly mother during his lifetime here on earth. However, that doesn’t mean God loves Mary more or differently than God loves anyone else. God’s love is infinite for all of his children. That love extends to every individual quality of character and experience in every one of us. So I would not want to say that God/Jesus loves Mary any more, or more specially, than anyone else. The Lord God Jesus Christ is a being of infinite love and light, and is fully present with every one of us. The only limitations on that relationship are the ones that we put on it from our end.
I also do believe that God chose Mary, not at random, but because she was a woman of love and of good character. God doesn’t do anything by accident. When the angel spoke to Mary, though she had some pointed questions, she made it clear that she readily accepted God’s will for her life, and was very willing to do what God asked of her. And the struggles she and Joseph went through, having to leave their home and live in Egypt to escape a death sentence on their infant son, shows that they were willing to put themselves on the line to do God’s will. So no, it was no accident that God chose Mary to be the woman through whom he was born into the world, and Joseph to be his human adoptive father.
Related to this, you might be interested in my article, “Is the Bible a Book about Men? What about Women?” Toward the end of the article there is a section on Mary.
What are your thoughts on the use of the NAME YHWH and the teachings of us told to call upon the NAME in the bible? For God and Lord are but titles?
Hi Spiritual Thought by Fry,
Thanks for stopping by, for your comment, and for your “likes” of various articles here. I’m glad you’re enjoying and benefiting from our blog. Good luck on your new blog as well!
About the Tetragrammaton (YHVH), the sacred name of God in the Hebrew Bible, I think it’s more important to pay attention to its meaning than to get stuck upon using that particular name for God.
I would also point out that when the New Testament quotes passages in the Old Testament that use YHVH, it regularly translates it as κύριος (kyrios), which is the regular Greek word for “Lord.” This is presumably based on the Septuagint translating the Hebrew name יְהֹוָה (Yĕhovah) as κύριος, “Lord.” So we also have a New Testament imprimatur for using “Lord” where the Old Testament has יְהֹוָה.
Having said that, I do think it’s good to keep in mind the Hebrew name יְהֹוָה and its meaning. That meaning is related in the Old Testament itself to the verb “to be,” with the idea that the LORD is the one who IS. In philosophical language, it refers to God as the one who is ultimate reality, and the source of all other reality. Here is the relevant passage in the Old Testament:
This passage is very difficult to translate into English that really represents it well, both because of the cryptic nature of the phrase translated here “I am who I am” and because of the Hebrew play on words this makes with the Hebrew name YHVH (LORD) that follows in the next verse. Another way of translating that cryptic phrase would be “I am I who am.”
At any rate, it provides what modern linguists might call a folk etymology of the sacred Hebrew name of the Lord. But for us as people of faith it says that this Lord is self-existent being, ultimate reality, from which all else comes.
It is good to keep in mind that unlike us moderns, who commonly call our children by names that we just happen to like, in ancient cultures and in many traditional cultures even today, the name given to someone was meant to call to mind some quality that that person had, or that the parents aspired for him or her to have.
In assigning the various names to God, what the Bible is really doing is describing the various qualities of God. And that’s why, though I think it’s good to keep in mind YHVH, the sacred Hebrew name of God, I believe it’s even more important to keep in mind the quality of God that it refers to: that God is the one who exists in Godself, from whom all other beings in the universe come.
I hope this helps.
Hi Lee. According to Swedenborg, do humans beings have freewill? In traditional Christianity the vast majority of theologians believe that we truly have it and that it’s a very important part of our spiritual life. However, most secular philosophers seem to believe in the idea that we don’t really have free will, that we act mostly based on our feelings and since we don’t choose what we are gonna feel then our freewill is just illusory (or at least that is how I understand their view). Personally I believe that we do have freewill because no matter what we are feeling I think we always have the choice of doing or not doing something, now matter how hard it might be to make this or that choice.
Just a quick response for now.
Yes, according to Swedenborg, humans do have free will, and without it, we would not be human.
Secular philosophers tend to reject free will because, being materialists, they veer toward a mechanistic and deterministic view of the universe. However, modern physics no longer gives the support to mechanism and determinism that science once did. I believe philosophers who still reject free will are behind the times conceptually.
For a related article that delves into one of the conundrums of the human free will position, please see:
If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?
Thank you. I was thinking about it because I was listening to a podcast where they said that among modern philosophers it is almost a consensus that freewill does not exist, it just feels like it does (but no statistics were given to support the idea that most philosophers agree with that so I don’t know if that’s accurate).
Free will is also primarily a spiritual capability, which means that secular philosophers will tend to reject it. Here is one other article that delves into the subject of free will:
God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?
Hi there! I wasn’t sure where to post this question, so I’m posting it in this article. What is your view on contemplative prayer, or to be more specific, the so-called “Jesus prayer”? It’s an ancient prayer in traditional Christianity.
Short version: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
Long version: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
This prayer is particularly popular among the Orthodox. The idea is to repeat the prayer several times, for example, spending 15 minutes a day silently and slowly repeating it (and also saying it in an informal way during the rest of the day), and because it focuses on the name of Jesus and you are asking for mercy, it can have a huge effect on the soul if it is done with faith and love. One of the objectives is to achieve the “prayer of the heart”, that is, to be all the time with Jesus in your heart and mind, even doing chores throughout the day you are always conscious of Him, His Name is always on the background.
I’ve been saying this prayer for years and it’s a huge part of my spiritual practice, it helps me to put myself in God’s presence, specially when I’m tired, sad or need help. There are other variations, it can be “O God, make speed to save me; O Lord, make haste to help me”, or it can be as simple as “Lord, have mercy”, etc.
What do you think of this beautiful devotion?
In general, if a particular type of prayer helps you in your spiritual and daily life, then it is a good thing. The Jesus prayer does have scriptural roots, especially in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9–14, in which the tax collector’s prayer is, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Of course, the tax collector didn’t repeat that prayer over and over, and Jesus does speak against “heaping up empty phrases” in Matthew 6:7. This seems to be why Protestants, in particular, tend not to like repetitive prayers. But if, as you say, it is done with faith and love, and while keeping the Lord in mind as the one you are praying to, then it is not “empty phrases” but rather focusing your mind and heart on the Lord in everything you do.
What I don’t think is good is people spending all of their time in prayer and contemplation instead of engaging in useful service to other people. If prayer has any effect at all, it should have the effect of opening our heart and mind to love our neighbor as ourselves, as the Lord taught us to do. An ascetic life of praying all the time off by oneself, and not serving people in the community, is not a “spiritual” life, but an empty life.
But if a person’s prayer life is part of a life of actively loving and serving other people, then the prayer life fills the life of service with greater meaning, and makes it spiritual. It becomes spiritual because then, when we engage in our daily work and our daily tasks, we are acting as God’s hands among God’s people, doing God’s work, as Jesus himself taught us to do.
Hi Lee. Sure, I agree. The Jesus prayer is not used only by monks and nuns, since theologians, bishops and priests always encourage everyone to say it, including lay people, and not only among the Orthodox, since that prayer is getting more popular in the West, specially among Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans. It is only considered “babbling words” if the person prays mechanically thinking that the prayer is some kind of magic formula. When Jesus warned about heaping up empty phrases I think He was talking about praying mechanically, as well as people who think that they can twist God’s arm through long elaborate prayers. That is not necessary because five words said with devotion are better than a thousand words said with no love.
I also agree that engaging with the world is better than asceticism, which would be in accord with the ideas of Swedenborg, Judaism, and other traditions that don’t encourage asceticism. But I would only add that people who become monks and nuns do contribute to society in one way or another, since in monasteries and convents they don’t spend all the time praying but also working. They usually have their craft making and selling religious objects (icons, rosaries, candles, etc.) as well as things like bread, cheese, wine, among other things. So even though I don’t think that asceticism is the best path, still, I do believe that those people are contributing to society by providing services of some kind.
Yes, monks and nuns do often provide services to the community, though not always. In general, the idea that celibacy and withdrawing from the community in monasteries is really not particularly spiritual at all. It is spiritual to live in the community and serve people out of love for them. And a married state is more spiritual than a celibate state. But of course, that is a personal choice.
Oh, I forgot one more thing: in Getsemani Jesus did pray “repeating the same words” during His affliction as the Bible says. He didn’t have to do that, but he did again and again. If Jesus was opposed to repeting the same prayer with the same words I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t that, since Jesus of course is not a hypocrite!
Just to be clear, in Gethsemane Jesus prayed using the same words, but on three different occasions. He didn’t repeat the same prayer three times right in a row. But once again, if a particular prayer practice helps you in your spiritual life, then it is a good thing. There’s no need for me or anyone else to get all technical about the “right” way to pray. The “right” way to pray is the way that is most meaningful to a particular person, and that brings that person closest to the Lord and to spiritual life.
Yes, I get the idea. Thank you!
Hi Lee. Please tell me where the world of spirits is directly referenced in the bible if at all. It must be since it plays a big part in most people’s afterlife.
The Bible speaks mostly in metaphors about the afterlife in general, including its statements about heaven, hell, and the area between them that Swedenborg calls the world of spirits. Trying to get a literal picture from the Bible of what the spiritual world is like has led to all sorts of faulty and superficial ideas about the afterlife among traditional Christians.
Having said that, the Bible does refer metaphorically to the world of spirits. For example in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham says to the rich man who is in Hades (i.e., hell):
This tells us that:
About point 1, the “chasm” between heaven and hell is a reference to what Swedenborg calls the world of spirits.
About point 2, according to Swedenborg people who have chosen a life that leads to hell stay there forever, and cannot go to heaven, while people who have chosen a life that leads to heaven stay there forever, and will never end out in hell. This is the meaning of the statement in the parable that people from either side of the gulf or chasm cannot cross over to the other side of it.
Once again, Jesus’ language is the language of parable, or metaphor. He is not speaking of a literal chasm or gulf between heaven and hell. He is speaking of a great separation of them from one another. That separation between heaven and hell is where the world of spirits is located.
We also know that at least some people do spend time in a place or state that is neither heaven nor hell, from these metaphorical words in the book of Revelation:
Clearly these people are not in heaven, nor are they in hell. Their souls—not their bodies—are waiting “under the altar” for the time when they can finally move into their eternal homes. In other words, their souls, which are spiritual, are in a spiritual place of waiting until the time of the final Judgment, when they will be released from their time and place of waiting.
This, Swedenborg says, is a reference to people who were detained in the world of spirits, some of them for centuries, during the many centuries of increasing corruption in the Christian Church. Swedenborg said that in the year 1757, during his own lifetime, a Last Judgment occurred in the spiritual world in which the Lord finally “released the souls under the altar,” while simultaneously banishing to hell the corrupt “Christian” leaders who were holding them in false heavens that were metaphorically “under the altar” in the world of spirits.
Whether or not people accept Swedenborg’s interpretation of this passage, clearly there were souls in the spiritual world who were living neither in heaven nor in hell for a long period of time. Catholics would probably say they were in purgatory. Swedenborg says no, purgatory doesn’t exist; rather, they were in the world of spirits. Either way, they were in some area of the spiritual world that is neither heaven nor hell. Therefore, biblically, some such area does exist in the spiritual world.
More passages could be brought forward, but these are a couple of the clearer ones—once again, in the metaphorical language of the Bible.
For a more general Swedenborgian presentation on the afterlife and the Last Judgment, including many references to the Bible in support of them, please see Lectures 4 and 5 of Great Truths on Great Subjects, by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley. These are transcriptions of six public lectures that Bayley delivered in Brighton, England in the 1850s, together with the discussions that followed them. The link is to the Amazon page for the Kindle version of the edition I edited and published. (I do receive a small royalty and commission from any sales via this link.) You can also read them free on the web here. (Note that this website is now unattended; not all the links work properly.)
Wait a minute. So the part where he saw people standing before the Great White Throne and being cast into the lake of fire. That part really happened in the spirit world? Btw, I know the Lake of Fire is a metaphor for sinful people basically being allowed to engage in what they like.
Once again, the book of Revelation is to be read metaphorically, not literally. There is no literal Great White Throne in heaven, before which the throngs of people stand for judgment. A throne is the seat of royalty, so metaphorically, God’s throne is God’s royalty, which, as Jesus said, is the truth:
Standing before the Great White Throne metaphorically is standing in the presence of divine truth. After death, and in any of the great Last Judgments that have taken place at the end of particular “worlds,” or spiritual eras, people are judged by having the truth of their character exposed. This happens by the light of heaven, which is divine truth, shining on them and showing them for exactly what they are, whether good or bad.