A Heaven from the Human Race
by Rev. Frederik L. Schnarr
The New Church man has often heard and read the teaching that the final end and purpose in all creation is a heaven from the human race. Much emphasis has been placed on that teaching, for the knowledge and acknowledgment of it as a central truth of the church are necessary for a real understanding of the entire revelation in which the Lord has made His second coming. As it refers to the final end and purpose of all things, it enters in to qualify and direct every single doctrine of the New Church.
For this reason it is wise for us to examine the teaching from time to time, especially in regard to our knowledge of and idea concerning the nature of heaven itself; for there can be no real acknowledgment that the purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race unless we have some definite and clear idea about what heaven itself it. Unless we can see why heaven should be the goal and final reward of our struggles and combats, why it should be the eternal home of our spirits, our acknowledgement will not be genuine.
That the Writings reveal such a purpose in creation as a new concept may sound somewhat absurd to anyone who has thought seriously about God and the things of religion. When we read it, we may ask ourselves: "What other purpose could a loving and merciful God possibly have in creating man? Surely this idea is nothing new?" Yet, if we will but look, we may turn the pages of the doctrines of all the great religions of the world, past and present, and nowhere will we find this purpose so stated. Certainly it is true that nearly all the great religions of the world have some concept of a life after death, however abstract, mystical and vague some of their ideas may be. The fact that they do has not led them, however, to the sight or acknowledgment of the real purpose in creation; and the reason is that there can be no idea of the purpose of creation where there is no knowledge or true idea of the nature of heaven. When heaven is pictured as a place where human beings lose their human qualities-where, for example, the most beautiful love that man ever feels, namely, conjugial love, is lost in the idea of a sexless existence to eternity; when human qualities take on ghostlike or shapeless forms after death, and human uses become abstract wanderings in ethereal mists; in these instances there can be no true idea of the real purpose in creation.
The fact is, that the human mind cannot really conceive of anything that does not in some way represent or reflect some human qualities and characteristics, such as it observes man to have in this world. When these qualities and characteristics cannot be thought of as forming the real life of the angels of heaven, then neither can the supreme use and purpose of creation be understood.
Now this applies to New Church men as much as it does to anyone else. Because we have been taught clearly in the Lord's second coming what the purpose of creation is, and because we have agreed that this is a logical and intelligent purpose, thus confirming it intellectually, it does not follow that our understanding and acknowledgment of it are either true or useful. As with anyone else, we cannot really acknowledge and understand the purpose of creation unless we know something about the nature of heaven, and can see in that nature a living and true picture of the Divinely human qualities that have established and that constantly preserve it.
Because our minds are essentially unregenerate and lazy, and are influenced largely by the loves of self and the world, we incline to form in our imaginations ideas of heaven which are in keeping with our own particular loves and desires, whether they be good or evil; and if these ideas were to be examined in the light of heaven, they would show anything but a real acknowledgment of the Lord's purpose in creation, or of the true nature of heaven. How many of us are apt to think of heaven as a place where we will someday achieve wealth and prosperity, where we will have all the luxuries and delightful things we have ever wanted? How many of us, not considered as very important in the eyes of the world, long in the imagination of our thought for the time when we will be outstanding and famous, our names whispered in awe? How many of us, feeling the constant pressure of duty or public responsibility, long for a time when we can shake off our cares, and, for a change, lead our own private lives away from the demands of public opinion? How many of us, performing the seeming drudgeries of our occupation or household tasks, look forward to a blissful existence in which no work or task will arise to interrupt the pleasures of the day? All of us look for a state in heaven in which we can do what we please, and not be restrained by the countless ties that bind us here on earth. Nor are all these desires necessarily wrong, when they are modified and subordinated to take their proper place. In themselves, however, they reflect more of the things of hell than of heaven.
The Lord's merciful foresight and providence are such that He does not permit heaven to be the state which fulfills every imagination of man's heart. We recall how, as is .related at the beginning of Conjugial Love, the Lord permits man after the death of his natural body to enter into the heaven of his imagination, if that should be necessary. He allows this temporary state to occur in order that man may be impressed by the fact that heaven does not lie in the things of his own imagination. For after man has lived for a time in his imagined heaven he finds that it does not bring him all the delight and happiness he had supposed, but rather that it begins to enclose and limit him; and this more and more so, until he desires nothing else than to escape from it. (See CL 1-10)
The fact is that man does not know, nor can he foresee, wherein his eternal peace and happiness will lie. Only the Lord can build man's final dwelling place, and this in such a way that man will live there in every possible joy and delight forever. To this end the Lord is constantly leading and guiding him. If only man is willing to be led by the Lord, if only he is willing to allow the Lord to build his heaven, and does not rebel against His leadership by placing the imaginations of his heart-those seeming sources of happiness-above the provisions which the Lord reveals in the truths of His Word, his pathway to heaven will be assured and the Divine purpose in creating him will be fulfilled.
In His second coming the Lord has revealed fully the nature of heaven - the heaven which is His purpose and end - because without such knowledge man could form no real desire and love for the things of heaven, and would make no effort whatsoever to lead a life according to its principles. The picture of heaven the Lord offers us is not one of a mystical world, a world of miracles and fantastic phenomena! It is not an ethereal world that is pictured; one in which phantom-like forms rest in bliss, devoting all their time to pious thought and meditation. Nor is it a world consisting only of recreation and play, of easy and carefree existence. Heaven, we are told, is a state wherein love finds its delight in use.
In heaven, as in the world, there is a great range and variety of uses: spiritual uses, civil uses, domestic uses. In outward appearance the angels do all the things pertaining to these uses very much in the same way as they are done by men on earth. The essential difference between the uses of heaven and the uses of this world does not lie, then, in the nature of the uses themselves, but in the way in which the uses are done; for whereas we often grumble and complain about our many labors and responsibilities, thinking mostly of the things that pertain to our own welfare and security, to our own particular state of satisfaction and reward, the angels think about how the Lord created them to perform some particular use in heaven-some use which they can perform that will add to the joy and happiness of everyone else in heaven and of those on earth. Because their thought is always concerned with the providing of joy and happiness for others, and because they see how what they do fits into the marvelous pattern of uses, a pattern which the Lord established at the beginning of creation, they find untold delight and happiness in performing every kind of use, whether it be spiritual, civil or domestic, and whether it occurs in work or in recreation. Through this attitude, which fills the entire heaven with a sphere of love to the Lord and toward the neighbor, the Lord is able to provide them with every possible blessing that His bountiful love and wisdom can provide.
That is the state to which the Lord wills to bring all men. It is the state He intended and provided for in His human creation and in every revelation of His Word to mankind.
Now we are not angelic beings, for our states of delight alternate between the things of heaven and the things of hell. Our understanding of the Lord's end and purpose in creation is perhaps hampered and limited somewhat because we are inclined to be lazy about approaching the Word for knowledge and direction. Besides this, we live in a world in which perversions and disorders, diseases, wars and catastrophes, evils and falsities make necessary temporary uses, duties and responsibilities in and from which there can be little delight. In the midst of such states, even when there is a knowledge of the things of heaven, that peaceful and happy state which the Lord promises us as the reward of strife and temptation seems somewhat abstract, if not impossible. We are tempted to find delight in the opportunity of the present, giving little thought to the consequences either to ourselves or to others, and scant consideration to our state in the future. The heaven that seems closest, and most real to us, is the heaven of our imagining.
The Lord knows our nature. He knows how hard it is for man to think of anything as real that cannot be experienced by his senses; and that is why He has done everything in His power to reveal Himself and the nature of His kingdom to us. He has done as much as He can do without destroying man's freedom; but He cannot miraculously place knowledge in man's mind, nor can He instill in man's heart the loves of heaven unless the knowledge thereof is present. Heaven can never become a living reality for us, nor can its loves be felt as our own, unless we first make the effort to see and understand its form and structure as the fulfillment of the Divine purpose in creation.
When we endeavor to do this, and then seek to use the information gained to guide and direct the various uses and concerns of our own lives, we not only fulfill the purpose of creation to the best of our ability, but we aid in re-establishing the Lord's kingdom on earth: a kingdom in which He wills that man shall live in order, harmony and peace; a kingdom in which the loves of heaven are not only received with every delight but also inspire men to strive for their even greater realization in heaven itself.
-New Church Life 1963;83:113-118