Friday, March 17, 2017

The Spiritual Meaning of Matthew 10

In the revelations of the New Church, it is revealed that the Second Coming of the Lord is not a Second Coming in person, but it is a heavenly revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word. In the first coming, the Word was made flesh. In the Second Coming, the Divine truth has revealed Himself in the literal sense of the Word, which is symbolically portrayed as "the clouds of heaven."  With this revelation, there is no need to look up to the sky, but rather, one should look for the kingdom of God within.

With this knowledge there are many passages of the Bible that open up and reveal higher level spiritual teachings. These areas of scripture are "closed off" to those of the older churches, so they simply pass over them. So I thought I would share here the spiritual sense of Matthew 10, where Jesus commissions his disciples to go out to declare the kingdom of God. Because as I read it I found some spiritual insight and direction as to how these teachings of the New Church should be handled with outsiders, or those who have no knowledge of the inner spiritual sense of the Word.

I will quote directly from scripture, then explain the spiritual sense, and here just reference some passages scattered throughout the writings of Swedenborg for those of you who want to dive deeper.


First off, this passage is given to the 12 disciples. In the spiritual sense, a disciple is anyone who is good and truth from the Lord, or one who follow's the Lord's teaching.

Go not into the way of the Gentiles,
And into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6)

In the literal sense, one may think one must go hunting around searching for the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel. Gentiles would be non-Jews, and the Samaritans is an ancient sect which only follows the first 5 books of Moses whose population is less than 800. So what to do with this passage of the Bible? Most will skip over it.  In fact, most of modern Christianity is composed entirely of Gentiles, and in the literal sense its stating we should look for Jewish people who forgot their ancestors were Jewish.  But that is not what it is saying at all. Here is the spiritual sense:

ISRAEL is the CHRISTIAN CHURCH, wherever they may be.
SAMARITANS are those in FALSE/ALTERNATIVE RELIGIONS who do not acknowledge or know Jesus Christ is Divine.
GENTILES are those outside the Church, who follow an evil way of life, who do not acknowledge sin. Gentiles are those whose priority is food, money, clothing, and their own selfish ego. (Heavenly Arcana, 4169.2, Apocalype Explained, 223.20)

What this is saying here, is the priority for the New Church is to address Christians who have been misled by false teachings. They are lost sheep, and don't know it. For most, Christianity is but an external appearance or ritual. To renew Christianity, one must expose the falsehoods, but this requires a bit of tact, because no one wants to hear their religious belief is incorrect. Most everyone has the "I am right you are wrong" kind of mentality.

The spiritual direction is to teach those who have some level of foundation or knowledge or openness to Christianity. Those who follow an evil way of life despise and hate any sort of religion. Those who follow false religions are locked in a particular sort of mindset. Gentiles are those who are not open to truth due to an evil will, Samaritans are not open to truth due to a false way of thinking.

Samaritans represent those who are in a false religion, but are not necessarily evil, in fact it refers to those who may be good, thus we have the parable of the "Good Samaritan." At this point its worth quoting this other passage about Samaritans:

And he sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. (Luke 9:52-56)

In the spiritual sense, to "command fire to come down from heaven" is to spiritually condemn someone to hell. Jesus here commands that no one should be condemned to hell on the basis of religion. Unfortunately many disobey this guidance. See here the previous post, What did Jesus say about Other Religions  This passage also confirms the spiritual interpretation of the Samaritans, referring to who those who have a particular religious mindset who are not open to receive the truth about Jesus Christ. So back to Matthew 10:

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons:
Freely ye have received, freely give (Matt. 10:7-8)

In the literal sense, it states we must perform miracles. But external physical healing is representative of internal spiritual healing. The kingdom of heaven is the Lord's kingdom of heaven on earth which is the church (Apocalypse Revealed, 749.2), for it to be at hand is a renewal of the church in love and truth after the former church has been falsified and corrupted. To be sick, in the spiritual sense, signifies suffering due to sin (Heavenly Arcana 10360.9) and to heal is salvation through repentance. Thus after physical healing, Jesus often commanded the person "to sin no more," showing a connection between physical health and internal sin. Leprosy is representive of profanation of holy things (Heavenly Arcana,  716.3, 3301.8) and thus there are several Old Testament laws for the priest to cleanse leprosy. "Death" in the spiritual sense is spiritual death of a mere natural life, to raise the dead is to lead one into spiritual regeneration to live a spiritual moral life (Apocalype Explained 899.12). To cast out demons in the literal sense is to heal demoniacs, but in a spiritual sense it refers to obsessive thoughts that control our behavior. It also refers to removing falsities that infest the church from within (Apocalype Explained 586.6).

To freely receive, and freely give, it to not hide spiritual teaching but to provide and give it to those in need. Jesus commands to not hide the truth that one knows (Matt. 5:15, Mark 4:21, Luke 8:16, 11:33, etc).

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves:
For the workman is worthy of his meat. (Matt. 10:9-10)

In the spiritual sense, this follows from the previous statement. In the spiritual sense, money represents spiritual knowledge. What this commands is the following: do not mix in self-derived knowledge with knowledge as revealed from the Lord through scripture. There are a lot of traditions that are "self derived," that is, someone just made it up and other people follow because someone said so. I have seen this sort of accusation leveled at Swedenborg, but it is false, all the statements he gives are supported from scripture, and the writing is so different from his earlier ones before his vision was opened up it is certainly not self derived.

Each particular word here has a hidden spiritual sense, which is hard to prove here so I will just summarize. A "coat" refers to interior truth from the Lord, "shoes" exterior truths, and "staff" the power of Divine truth (Heavenly Arcana 4169.2). To not have two of these is again not to mix this with anything that is derived from the self. One has to let go of the selfish ego, and acknowledge all good and truth within is from the Lord.

And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matt. 10:11-14)

A city, in the spiritual sense, signifies a particular sort of doctrine, which is explained extensively throughout Heavenly Arcana (aka Arcana Coelestia). Here it is stating some sorts of doctrines will be willing to receive the truth more than others as they will have some sort of similarity. For example, in terms of how Jesus saved humanity, the doctrines of the New Church is similar to those of "Christus Victor" and that of the Orthodox Church.

To "shake the dust off the feet," in the spiritual sense, means, those who are able to recognize the truth, and yet reject it because of a falsehood they hold true, will be condemned. They may try to vilify or will be threatened by any idea that opposes their falsehood. "Dust" in the spiritual sense refers to the condemnation of hell, to shake it off means despite the discomfort or argument caused by true teaching one will not be condemned from it (Apocalype Explained 365.8). "Dust" can also refer to false external appearances derived from the senses.

Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matt. 10:15)

Sodom and Gomorrah represent those who are condemned to hell due to an evil way of life, the original story in Genesis portrays how the Lord wished to save any remnant of humanity from the condemnation of hell. Those who are in knowledge of the truth and yet live an evil life will be condemned much more than those who just live an evil life and yet have no knowledge of truth (Heavenly Arcana 7418.2). Sodom spiritually represents the lusts of evil, and Gomorrah are the falsities derived from thence (Heavenly Arcana 2220.4). Judgment refers to one's judgment after death.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles (Matt. 10:16-18)

In scripture, each and every animal is representative of a different aspect of one's spiritual state. Sheep those in the good of faith, wolves are those who are against innocence (Heavenly Arcana 3994.3). "Wolves in sheep's clothing" are those who are externally religious but internally evil. To be "wise as serpents" means one must apply external wisdom and judgment in order to present the truth so that it can be received, to be "harmless as doves" is to not do so out of any sort of hatred but rather in the good from innocence of love towards the Lord (Heavenly Arcana 197, 6398.3; Apocalype Explained 581.9, Heavenly Arcana 10132.9)

To scourge is to pervert the Word (Apocalype Explained 655.9). Synagogues here signify false doctrine, as it was also a place of instruction (Apocalype Explained 120.3).

But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matt. 10:19-20)

The "spirit of the Father" is none other than the Holy Spirit. It is false to think of this as another person - the Holy Spirit is the Divine operation in us, which flows into those who reject any good and truth that is derived from the ego. To such, inspiration will be given.

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matt. 10:21-22)

This means there will be internal dissension, but not literally among family members. This presents internal spiritual warfare from within. To deliver someone to death is to hate them, to the point of extinguishing their spiritual life (by condemning one to hell). In the spiritual sense a "brother" is one who in a similar good of faith, and this is the origin of calling one another "brethren." In the opposite sense a "brother" is one who is in evil from a false faith. A "father" is someone who is in evil, a "child" is one who is in truth from innocence, or in the opposite sense a "father" is one who is in good who is attacked by falsehoods. Every family relation here has a particular spiritual significance (Heavenly Arcana 10490.6, Apocalype Explained 724.6).  In the spiritual sense, the "Lord's name" is all doctrine concerning love and charity (Heavenly Arcana 2009.11).

But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come (Matt. 10:23)

To flee from a city is to withdraw from doctrines of falsehood (Apocalype Explained 223.21). If you find a falsehood in a religion, withdraw from it. Don't stay in something where the truth will be suppressed. To "flee from one city into the next" is also to go through a period of searching. If one is willing to question one's belief, that opens you up to receiving the truth. And eventually, one will find the Divine truth, which is signified by the coming of the Son of Man, which is the revelation of the Divine truth hidden within scripture itself (if you are reading this blog, you have found it). In the spiritual sense the "Son of Man" is a title that refers to the Lord as to the Divine truth, whereas "Son of God" refers to the Divinity in His human form.

In presenting the truth, be prepared to be rejected by the majority. But always remember:

In the end, expect to encounter a lot of hatred in presenting the truth, for falsehoods reign supreme in most people's understanding. But do it out of love, for out of the many who reject the truth, there will be a few who will hear and receive.

For He knows our form, 
He remembers that we are dust.
A man, his days are as grass, 
As a flower of the field, so he blossoms.
For the wind passes over it and it becomes nothing, 
And the place thereof shall recognize it no more.
But the mercy of Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting, 
Upon those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to sons' sons,
To those who keep His covenant, 
And to those who remember His precepts to do them. (Ps. 103:14-18)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why Muslims and Jews falsely reject Christianity, and the Divine Human

I was told by a Jewish person that he enjoyed the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, but he could not accept Jesus as Divine and had a problem with that.  This is also a problem for many Muslims who regard Jesus as just a prophet; moreover it is a problem for Christians in Muslim countries as it is viewed to worship something created as blasphemous against the Creator. So what is the answer?  It is quite a logical argument, something for which few Christians give a proper answer. So here is the summary of the problem I gave to the Jewish person:


Most Jews and Muslims have 2 problems with declaring Jesus as Divine:
  1. Worshiping something created as Creator, and,
  2. Multiple personal beings in the Godhood.
If you look deeply into what was revealed to Swedenborg, he was told this:
  1. The human personality is composed of multiple levels, to simplify, the internal soul and the external body. Jesus' external human form was indeed something created. But his internal form is Jehovah Himself. What happened is that Jesus successfully put off this external human form from the mother, until it was transformed into a Divine Human. This is why, in the Gospels, Jesus kept his identity secret until He rose from the dead.
  2. In New Church theology, Jehovah was born into a lower human state and had to progress back to a state of union with the Divine, as all humans must progress towards God by resisting sin and doing His will. What happened is that by becoming incarnate, Jehovah could do battle against all of hell by resisting sin and temptation through the human form that was inherited from Mary. This could not be done unless as a human He was born into a finite limited state of being. Jesus's prayers indicate the Divine can lower itself into a lower state of being, but it is a false appearance to regard Him as someone as distinct from the Divine.
So given that, the definition of a trinity of three persons is a definite falsehood. Many Muslims who see this teaching thus become attracted to the New Church, as the New Church also accepts that some sort of revelation was given to Muhammed.
As for Judaism, many of the rituals will not be understood until one understands the hidden spiritual sense, but much of it will remain hidden until one understands the doctrine of the Divine Human.
Before the incarnation, Jehovah could not reveal Himself except through an angelic being. What Swedenborg described was that angels would be invested with an influx from the Divine and speak as if they were Jehovah Himself. But as mankind become more sinful, this connection with the angelic realm became cut off. The only way to restore it was for Jehovah to become incarnate in human form.
Another point: the Divine, as an abstract concept, cannot be held in the thought without an external form. In New Church theology, the Divine itself is unreachable by human understanding, but is reachable in its external form, which is the Divine Human. The invisible Divine and the visible Divine is known as the Father and the Son. It is a mistake to assign separate distinct personal identities to different titles of the Divine.


Here is where the Christian revelations of the New Church can give answers to those who have real rational and intelligent doubts about Jesus Christ, whereas older Christian churches cannot give a rational answer. And since they have no answer, they avoid the topic altogether. This is because in most older Christian churches, people are just taught to believe on the basis of authority. The other issue is there are hidden falsehoods in the theology of the older Christian churches. So Muslims and Jews actually have point.  These falsehoods in doctrine prevent Christians in general from providing a rational argument for their faith, to wit:

  1. There is no such thing as a trinity of three persons. In the New Church, this a complete non issue. There is one Divine being, One Personal Being who is Being itself. The True Trinity is that of the Divine itself, the Divine Human, and the Divine operation or Divine proceeding of God's spirit.
  2. The theology of vicarious atonement was adopted in the Catholic Church in the 11th century, and from there the Protestants inherited it. This is not the true method of salvation. Jesus saved humanity by fighting against the power of hell in His Human, and when he overcame hell He made His human Divine. From this, His spirit can now flow into us to resist sin and temptation, and live a spiritual life. A spiritual moral life, not a religious sort of apathy of belief only. Protestant churches in this regard fail in this regard as they have made religion of belief only, which is in fact not taught by the Bible.
  3. The Catholic Church further corrupts Christianity by encouraging prayer towards Mary, and an undue focus on the holiness of saints. In true Christianity, the focus is on Jesus, on the one God who alone is Holy. The more one worships the self or one's ego, the more one withdraws from God.


So, there are several falsehoods that have grown within the Christian church that originated from the thoughts of man and not from Divine revelation, which have corrupted the Christian church. When these falsehoods are removed, a lot of the disagreements that Muslims and Jews have with Christianity in general sort of go away. The true reality of the situation is that as it is now, no traditional religion is completely true, nor is it completely false. But it is hard for those who grew up in a religion to see their own bias and the hidden falsehood of their religion.

I have not, however, been able to find a falsehood in the Divine teachings as received in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Religious authorities have issues with Swedenborg because they are unable to let go of the falsehoods that they have received from their own tradition. And the problem here is ministers of a particular denomination do not exactly have freedom of thought or freedom of speech to publicly disagree.

So, for example, Catholics are taught that Mary was born perfect, and therefore Jesus was born perfect. Neither of these statements are actually true. Mary was a woman born in sin like us all, and Jehovah had to become incarnate from a human woman so that He could directly fight against the evil tendencies of that human form.  This is a concept most Christians are unfamiliar with, and thus they cannot give a rational explanation for Christianity. It is here that the Orthodox have a closer view of the truth, although they may not explicitly teach it well. 

As this is hidden from most Christians, I will here quote what was revealed to Swedenborg on the matter.


"[the Lord] was born as another man and instructed as another man, but the interiors with Him were celestial, which adapted the vessels for the reception of knowledges, and so that the knowledges would afterwards become vessels to receive the Divine. The interiors with Him were Divine, from Jehovah His Father; the exteriors were human, from Mary His mother." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1460)

In the following passage, the "first rational" is one's rational mind which is in love of the self, the "second rational" is one that one receives from the Lord which desires love and truth:

" is to be known that though a man be regenerated, still each and every thing of the first rational remains with him, and is only separated from the second rational, and this in a most wonderful manner by the Lord. But the Lord wholly exterminated His first rational, so that nothing of it remained; for what is merely human cannot be together with the Divine. Hence He was no longer the son of Mary, but Jehovah as to each Essence." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2657.7)

"That He was born of the virgin Mary is known, yet as another man; but when He was born again, or became Divine, it was from Jehovah who was in Him, and Who was Himself as to the very Being of life. The unition of the Divine and the Human Essence was effected mutually and reciprocally, so that He united the Divine Essence to the Human and the Human to the Divine" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2798.2)

This is from a passage where it is explained that the Lord had to expel hereditary evil he inherited from Mary:

"...this was hereditary evil from the mother, against which the Lord combated... and from His expelling it, so that at length He was not the son of Mary" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4563.1)

"The Lord was indeed born as another man, and had an infirm human from the mother; but this human the Lord entirely cast out, so that He was no longer the son of Mary, and made the Human in Himself Divine, which is meant by His being glorified; and He also showed to Peter, James, and John, when He was transfigured, that He was a Divine Man." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4692.5)

The following passage explains the difference between the regeneration of ordinary men and the glorification of the Lord's human:

"From this it may be evident that man is made altogether new when he is regenerated, for then all things and everything with him are so ordered as to receive heavenly loves. Nevertheless with man the prior forms are not destroyed, but only removed; but with the Lord the prior forms, which were from the maternal, were altogether destroyed and extirpated, and Divine forms received in their place. For the Divine love does not agree with any but a Divine form; all other forms it absolutely casts out; hence it is that the Lord when glorified was no longer the son of Mary." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6872.4)

"It is to be known that with man who is being regenerated, purification from evils and their falsities goes on continually, for so far as man is purified from evils and falsities, so far are implanted the truths which are of faith, and these are conjoined to the good which is of charity, and so far man then acts from the good of charity. Purification from evils and falsities with man is not liberation from them, but is their removal (see n. 868, 887, 894, 929, 1581, 2269, 2406, 4564, 8206, 8393, 8988, 9014, 9333, 9446-9451, 9938). With the Lord however there was not removal, but casting out of those which He derived from the mother, thus full liberation from them, even so that He was no longer the son of Mary" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10057.6)


This is why a new revelation for Christianity and Jesus Christ had to be made, for as it is now, there are so much falsehoods in the older traditional churches that many cannot make a rational argument to explain the truth of Christianity. So question what you have been taught, and as one removed the falsehoods from within, so many that are without will be willing to come closer to Jesus Christ, to live a spiritual life according to His commandments, where He dwells within each one of us through His spirit.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What did Jesus say about other Religions?

Lately, there has been a lot of intolerance expressed in the name of religion.  There are many, who grow up in a particular religion, and assume a prideful intolerance of others who are different.  Others will use people's ignorance to create a false fear of others. There are many, who assume that their religion is the one true religion, and if one does not believe the way they believe, you will be condemned to hell.  And unfortunately this turns a lot of people off to the truths contained in Divine revelations. The general public ends up avoiding religion altogether.

This is what happens when people focus on belief, and not on how one lives their life.

So what did Jesus say about other religions? Actually quite a bit, It so upset the religious leaders, it was the religious leaders who had Jesus killed.  Because if salvation is from how one lives their life, and not on head knowledge or belief, this lessens the strict exclusiveness of a religion. So lets take a look at what Jesus had to say on this matter.


Jesus, as it turns out, cares more about how you live your life over what you believe in terms of religion. This will come as a surprise to many, but it is true. It is more important how one lives one's life according to the Lord's will:
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)
Jesus also makes it clear that he does not care for people who use religion to get attention from others:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:5-6)
And Jesus is quite against religious people who do not life a life of charity and love towards others:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
He then follows the above quote that He does not care for those who just believe, but rather those who hear what He says and actually does it (Matt. 7:24-27)


Religious differences are not new, and there were different religions in the day of Jesus. Here is one episode that is only recorded in the gospel of Mark:
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,  and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40)
Which means, one should tolerate other religions that have similar beliefs.  Do not be focused on "who follows what" or if others do not recognize your belief as an authority. If the religion has a positive view of Jesus, all the better. For Jesus said He is the Truth, and if there is any truth in other religions, He is there present, but hidden.

Now, in Jesus' day there were multiple groups, but the Jews had a general dislike of another religious group known as the Samaritans. Not only did the Samaritans had different religious practices, but they only believed in the first five books of Moses.  All the other books they rejected. Sound familiar? Since they tended to hate each other, this is why Jesus selects a Samaritan in the parable of the good Samaritan:
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.And the next day he took out two denarii  and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)
Again, this shows that Jesus cares more about how you live your life, not your religious beliefs.


There are many Christians who do believe that if one is not a Christian, who do not know Jesus Christ, will be condemned. But this is really short sighted, and actually goes against what the Bible teaches. God is love, and all are judged according to their works (Matt. 16:27), not according to one's belief system. The New Testament makes clear that even those who did not know Jesus Christ had made it to heaven:

  1. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are listed as among those in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11, Luke 13:28).
  2. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are listed as currently alive in heaven (Matt. 22:32).
  3. Abraham is shown to be in heaven (Luke 16:22-30)

The reason why Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are mentioned, is that in a higher sense these patriarchs refer to the three levels of heaven. Paul mentions the third heaven in one of his personal experiences (see 2 Cor. 12:2). So these patriarchs refer to those who were righteous.

So what about those who did not necessarily live such a good life, because they were unaware? This is actually mentioned in a parable in the gospel of Luke, where a master of a household entrusts his possessions to his servants, who then abuse the responsibility they have been given, beating other servants, and living a slothful life. Note the end, where punishment is different between those who know and those who do not know:
 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)
In other words, religious knowledge and religious belief do not help if you choose to live an evil life. In fact, those who know and live an evil life will be judged more severely than those who lived an evil life and did not know.

Moreover, one other point here, after the crucifixion Jesus made a descent into the netherworld, and released souls from spiritual captivity:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah (2 Pet. 3:18-20)
This goes a bit beyond the scope of this blog post, but this refers to an intermediate spiritual world between heaven and hell, where periodic judgments are made to separate the good from the evil. These are typically those who lived a good life but in external appearance only, or those who were good but followed some false ideas. The point is here, that even if one does not know the truth, they will have a chance to learn more in the other life. Lack of knowledge does not mean condemnation. However if one does evil intentionally, and enjoys it, that does mean condemnation.


Swedenborg spent a full 27 years having waking visions of heaven and hell, and recording the spiritual sense of scripture. He confirmed that just because one was not born into Christianity and had no knowledge of Jesus Christ, it does not mean one is condemned. One is judged according to how one lived their life.  Here is the passage in particular, which may come as a surprise to many Christians, who would falsely reject it if they were not aware of scripture:
"It is a common opinion that those born out of the Church, who are called heathen or gentiles, cannot be saved, because they have not the Word and thus do not know the Lord, and without the Lord there is no salvation. But still it may be known that they also are saved, from this alone, that the mercy of the Lord is universal, that is, toward every one; that they are born men as well as those within the Church, who are respectively few; and that it is not their fault that they do not know the Lord. Every one who thinks from any enlightened reason, may see that no man is born for hell, for the Lord is love itself, and His love is to will to save all. Therefore He has provided that all may have religion, and by it acknowledgment of the Divine, and interior life; for to live according to one's religious belief is to live interiorly, as he then looks to the Divine; and as far as he looks to This, so far he does not look to the world, but removes himself from the world, thus from the life of the world, which is exterior life.
"That gentiles are saved as well as Christians, may be known by those who know what it is that makes heaven with man; for heaven is in man, and those who have heaven in themselves come into heaven. Heaven in man is to acknowledge the Divine and to be led by the Divine. The first and primary thing of every religion is to acknowledge the Divine. A religion which does not acknowledge the Divine, is not religion; and the precepts of every religion look to worship; thus they teach how the Divine is to be worshipped, so that the worship may be acceptable to Him; and when this is fixed in one's mind, thus as far as he wills it, or as far as he loves it, he is led by the Lord. It is known that gentiles live a moral life as well as Christians, and many of them a better life than Christians. Moral life is lived either for the sake of the Divine, or for the sake of men in the world; the moral life which is lived for the sake of the Divine is spiritual life. Moral life and spiritual life appear alike in outward form, but in inward form they are altogether different; the one saves man, the other does not save him. For he who lives a moral life for the sake of the Divine, is led by the Divine, but he who lives a moral life for the sake of men in the world, is led by himself." (Heaven and Hell, n. 318-319)
I emphasize the latter part, because one's actions are judged by one's purpose or intent.  Doing good for the sake of self, for selfish gain, is not good, that is just being done for self gain.  All is judged according to how one loved others, for in loving others one is loving God, for God is love.  Love is the answer to all things. Just as "all roads lead to Rome," so all truths lead to One God, who is love itself.

To make it clear, I am not saying that religion is completely irrelevant, but rather, truth becomes one's guide as to how one lives one's life. I would say the advantage that Christianity has is that it reveals God is a personal being, who became incarnate in human form, to show that He loves us. More accurately, God is Being, God is Man, we are His image. There is a closer and deeper connection, more so than thinking of God as something abstract. And when one understands He became incarnate to fight directly against the hells, so He can fight for you to overcome sin and temptation, and to live a better spiritual life.