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Hope for the Whole Human Race
Isaiah 25:6-9 John 20:1-20 Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26
The Easter message is a message of hope for the whole human race. On the natural level, it means that death is not the final word. Easter teaches that there is life after death. And that there is the hope of living in heaven forever in loving relationship with the risen and glorified Lord. On the spiritual level, Easter teaches that there is hope of deliverance from all the aspects of our lives that vex us. Easter gives us the hope that peace and love will prevail in the end, and that we will find a way to live in harmony with our God and with one another.
We live on earth but for a short time. Our true home is in the heavens. Swedenborg teaches us that God’s intention in creating us was to have a heaven from the human race. In Divine Love and Wisdom n. 330, Swedenborg writes, “The goal of creation is a heaven from the human race.” God is love itself, and it is God’s desire to enter into a loving relationship with the whole human race. Love is the happiest state a person can know, and when one considers that God’s love is infinite, there is no end to the joys that God can give us. Lovers want what is good for their beloved, and they want their beloved to be happy. And to the extent that it is possible, lovers try to give their beloved everything they can to make them happy. How much more is this the case with God, who is love itself. Swedenborg has much to say about this. And his discussion is so beautiful and clear I can’t resist quoting him at length.
Two things make up the essence of God, love and wisdom; but three things make the essence of His love–loving others outside of itself, desiring to be one with them, and making them happy from itself. . . . loving others outside of itself, is known from the love of God toward the whole human race; and for their sake God loves all the things He has created . . . desiring to be one with them, is known also from His conjunction with the angelic heaven, with the church upon earth, with every one there . . . . Love also, viewed in itself, is nothing else than an effort to conjunction; therefore, that this object of the essence of love might be attained, God created human beings into His image and likeness, with which conjunction may be effected. That the Divine love continually intends conjunction is manifest from the words of the Lord, that He wills that they be one, He in them and they in Him, and that the love of God may be in them (John 17:21-23). The third essential of God’s love, which is making them happy from itself, is known from the eternal life, which is blessedness, joy, and happiness without end, which God gives to those who accept His love in themselves; for God, as He is love itself, is also blessedness itself; for every love breathes forth from itself enjoyment, and the Divine love breathes forth blessing, joy, and happiness itself to eternity. Thus God from Himself blesses angels, and also people after death, which is effected by conjunction with them (TCR 43).
It is to give us all these blessings of love and happiness that we were created. And heaven, which is being in God and God in us, exists in order for us to live in these blessings of love and joy forever.
These blessings are ours when we are conjoined with God. And Easter gives us the hope that we can be joined with God. God came down to earth in the form of Jesus in order to make this conjunction possible. Before the incarnation, God Spirit was blocked. The forces of darkness were overpowering the forces of light. Therefore, in John’s Gospel we read, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (1:5).
Our understanding of the incarnation is different than that of traditional Christianity. Traditional Christians say that Christ came to earth in order to bear our sins on the cross. But we are responsible for our own sins. Jesus’ crucifixion did not take away our sins. A little introspection will show this. Rather, for us, God came to earth in order to unite the infinite Divine with the Human Christ so that God and man became one.
. . . a conjunction of the Infinite or Supreme Divine with the human race was effected through the Lord’s Human made Divine, and . . . this conjunction was the purpose of the Lord’s coming into the world (AC 2034).
Then, because God has a human body, God is now present to us in a more direct way than was possible before the incarnation. So Swedenborg writes,
When the Human was made Divine, and the Divine was made Human, in the Lord, there was an influx of the Infinite or Supreme Divine with man, which could not otherwise have existed at all (AC 2034).
This is the reason for God’s coming to the earth in the form of Jesus Christ. God is now present on earth in His Divine Human in a way that wasn’t possible before. The union of the Infinite Divine with the Divine Human is what gives us the power to receive God’s Spirit in our lives. God can come to each and every one of us directly through His Humanity. We can commune with Jesus as with any other human with one great exception. Jesus gives us all the life, love, and joy that we have. Jesus gives us the ability to enter into positive relationships with each other. And we can love each other and God because of the Spirit that comes to us through the Divine Humanity of the Lord. This is what salvation means for us.
The Lord came and united the Human Essence to the Divine Essence, so that they were altogether one . . . and at the same time He taught the way of truth, that every one who . . . should love Him and the things which are of Him, and should be in His love which is love toward the whole human race . . . should be conjoined and be saved (AC 2034).
It is God’s Spirit, acting through His Divine Human that gives us the power to resist and overcome sin. It is God’s Spirit, acting through His Divine Human that lifts us up and out of our fallen nature. Jesus Himself teaches this. He says, “But when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (John12:32).
This is what gives us hope spiritually. It means that we are not trapped in unhealthy behavior patterns that we may have acquired in our upbringing. It means that we are not doomed to follow self-destructive habits that we may have acquired. It means that there is another way. It means that the way we have been doing things does not have to be the way we always must do things. It means that God can lift us out of all limitations and bring us into joys we cannot imagine. God acts on us throughout our whole lives and even into eternity. He continually shows us how to move out of one lesser way of living into one better way of living–and then He gives us the power to change.
There is no limit to the progress we can make spiritually with God’s help. Step by step, inch by inch, we grow as seeds in a garden. As I suggested above, we are responsible for our own spiritual growth. God did not take away our sins on the cross. Through the process of self-examination and self-modification we are able to move out of sin and into love. (For sin is nothing else but love twisted.) This is what is meant by the blessing we sometimes use in our church. “God keep our going out and our coming in from this time forth, and even for ever more.” The blessing means that we go out of our shortcomings and come in to greater happiness and heavenly joy. The Easter story gives us the hope that this is possible. “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” We will find the insight to change, with God’s help. We will find the power to change, with God’s help. We will find people around us who can support us and lead us, with God’s help. So Swedenborg writes, “The man who is made new by regeneration . . . is withheld from evil by an influx of the life of the Lord`s love, and this with all power” (AC 3318).
This is what the resurrection did. God’s Infinite Being united with His Divine Humanity so that the Human became fully Divine and Divinity became fully Human in one person. This is what is meant by that passage in John, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him” (13:31). The Son of Man is glorified by God’s Spirit completely filling Him, and God is glorified by being in the Son of Man fully. Humanity and Divinity meet in one total union in the risen and glorified Christ. And that union gives us all the power to be children of God, as John puts it,
To all who received him, to them he gave the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13).
Now risen and glorified, Christ gives us all the joys that His infinite love can possibly give to His own beloved human race. It remains but for us to accept it–here on earth, and afterward eternally in heaven.