4. God is omniscient; that is, he is aware of, sees, and knows everything down to the least detail that happens in keeping with the divine design, and by contrast is aware of, sees, and knows what goes against the divine design.

God is omniscient, that is, he is aware of, sees, and knows all things, because he is wisdom itself and light itself. Wisdom itself is aware of all things. Light itself sees all things.

We showed above [Section 37] that God is wisdom itself. He is light itself because he is the sun of the angelic heaven that enlightens the intellect of all, both angels and people. As our eye is illuminated by the light of the physical sun, so our intellect is illuminated by the light of the spiritual sun—not only illuminated, but also filled with intelligence (depending on how much we love receiving it), since spiritual light is essentially wisdom.

This is why it says in David that God dwells in inaccessible light [Psalms 104:2; see also 1 Timothy 6:16]; and why it says in the Book of Revelation that in the New Jerusalem they do not need lamps because the Lord God enlightens them [Revelation 21:23]; and why it says in John that the Word that was with God and was God is the light that enlightens everyone who comes into the world [John 1:1, 9]. The “Word” in this last reference means divine wisdom. This is why the more wisdom angels have, the brighter a light they are in; and why when “light” is mentioned in the Word it means wisdom.

God is aware of, sees, and knows everything down to the least detail that happens in keeping with the divine design because it is a universal design that encompasses the smallest individual designs. (Individual things taken collectively are called universal, just as particular instances are collectively called something common or general.)

The universal design with [all] its individual designs is a masterwork so well connected together into one thing that you cannot touch or affect one part without something of a sensation flowing back to the others. Every created thing in this world has something comparable to this quality of the divine design in the universe.

Comparisons with observable phenomena will shed light on this. Throughout a human being, there are connective membranes and individual parts. The membranes enclose the individual parts, creating such a thorough connection that they become part of each other. This is accomplished through a common membrane around every unit in the body. This membrane wraps around the individual parts inside so that they act in a unified way to do whatever function or service that unit provides.

For example, the membrane around each muscle extends between individual motor fibers and wraps them with itself. The membrane around the liver, the membrane around the pancreas, and the membrane around the spleen also extend into the smaller parts inside these organs. The membrane around the lungs, called the pleura, extends in a similar way into the individual parts inside the lungs, as the pericardium also extends into each and every part of the heart. Likewise the peritoneum in general goes through anastomoses [points of communication] to join with all the membranes around individual organs. The same is also true of the meninges, the membranes around the brain. Using projecting filaments, these membranes extend into all the glands below, and extend through the glands into fibers, and through the fibers into every single thing in the body. This is how the head uses the brains to control everything under its power.

The sole purpose in mentioning these examples is to show you observable phenomena, so that you may have some idea of how God is aware of, sees, and knows everything down to the least detail that happens in keeping with the divine design.

from True Christianity, Sections 59, 60

3. In the universe and everything in it, God’s omnipotence follows and works through the laws of its design. (Continued)

If, as the modern-day belief goes, God’s omnipotence was as absolute for doing evil as it is for doing good, surely it would be possible, even easy, for God to lift the whole of hell to heaven. He could turn devils and satans into angels. In a moment he could take all the ungodly people on earth, purify them from sin, make them new, holy, and reborn, and justify them, turning them from children of wrath into children of grace [Ephesians 2:3–8] solely by assigning and attributing to them the justice of his Son.

God cannot do this with his omnipotence. It is against the laws of his design for the universe. It is also against the laws of his design for human beings, which dictate that the individual and God have to form a mutual partnership. (From later sections in this book [Sections 89, 99, 100, 110:4–6, 368–372] you will see that this is the case.)

The ridiculous modern-day belief about God’s omnipotence would mean that God could turn all goat people into sheep people and move them at will from his left side to his right [Matthew 25:31–46]. He could transform the dragon’s spirits into Michael’s angels [Revelation 12:7]. He could give the sight of an eagle to someone with an intellect like a mole. In a word, he could make a dove person out of an owl person.

God cannot do these things, because doing so is against the laws of his design, although he never stops wanting to or trying. If he could have done things like this he would not have let Adam listen to the serpent, pluck a piece of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and bring it to his mouth. If God could have avoided it, he would not have let Cain kill his brother. He would not have let David take a census of the people; he would not have let Solomon build shrines for idols, or let the kings of Judah and Israel desecrate the Temple, which they did a number of times. Indeed if he could have, he would have saved the whole human race without exception through his Son’s redemption and would have uprooted hell in its entirety.

Ancient gentiles ascribed this kind of omnipotence to their gods and goddesses, as you can see from their myths. For example, in the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, the stones they throw behind their backs become people; in another story Apollo turns Daphne into a laurel tree; in another, Diana turns a hunter into a deer. And there is a myth that one of their gods turned the young maidens of Parnassus into magpies.

The belief about divine omnipotence today is similar to these ancient myths. In every region where there is religion many fanatical and heretical ideas have been brought into the world as a result.

from True Christianity, Section 58

3. In the universe and everything in it, God’s omnipotence follows and works through the laws of its design. (Continued)

The dominant opinion nowadays is that the omnipotence of God is like the absolute power of a monarch in the world, who can do whatever she or he wishes on a whim: absolve and condemn at will, make the guilty innocent, declare the unfaithful to be faithful, promote undeserving and unworthy people above those who are worthy and deserving. Under any pretext whatever, he or she can even seize citizens’ assets, sentence them to death, and so on.

Through this ridiculous opinion, belief, and teaching about divine omnipotence, the same number of falsities, errors, and fabled monsters have poured into the church as there are movements, branches, and new sects of the faith. There is still room for more—as many more as the jars you could fill with water from a great lake, or as many as the snakes in an Arabian desert that could crawl out of their caves to enjoy basking in the sunshine. All you would need [to start a new movement, branch, or sect] are those two little words, “omnipotence” and “faith,” and a program to spread enough conjectures, fables, and blithering to be physically stimulating.

Each of those two words pushes reason aside. Once our reason is disengaged, our thought process is no better than that of a bird flying overhead. What then becomes of the spiritual aspect that we have but animals lack? It becomes like the smell in a zoo: it suits the wild animals that are there but does not suit people unless they are particularly beastly.

If divine omnipotence extended to doing evil as well as good, what difference would there be between God and the Devil? They would be no different than two rulers, one of whom is a monarch and also a tyrant, while the other is a tyrant whose power has been curtailed so that he or she cannot be called a monarch anymore. They would be no different than a shepherd who is allowed to keep a sheep and a leopard, and another shepherd who is not allowed to do the same. Surely anyone can see that good and evil are opposites, and that if God by his omnipotence were able to will and do both good and evil, he could do absolutely nothing. He would have no power at all, much less omnipotence.

This situation would be much like the way two wheels going in opposite directions act against one another, causing each wheel to come to a stop. It would be like a ship whose course ran against a strong current in the opposite direction. If the ship did not drop anchor and stay still, it would be carried off to its doom. It would be like a human being with two wills that disagreed with each other. When one of them acted, the other would have to be still. Otherwise, if both acted at once, a dizzying madness would assault the mind.

from True Christianity, Section 57

3. In the universe and everything in it, God’s omnipotence follows and works through the laws of its design.

God is omnipotent, because he has all power from himself. All others have power from him. God’s power and his will are one. Because he wills nothing but what is good, he cannot do anything but what is good. In the spiritual world no one can do anything against his or her will—a condition there that comes from God, from the fact that his power and his will are one. God is in fact goodness itself. When he does something good, he is in himself. He cannot walk away from himself.

Clearly then, his omnipotence fills, and works within, the sphere of the extension of goodness, a sphere that is infinite. At a deep level, this sphere pervades the universe and everything in it. At a deep level, this sphere also governs things outside of itself to the extent that they become part of it through their own design. If things do not become part of that sphere, it still sustains them. It tries in every way to bring them back to a design in harmony with the universal design that God inhabits with his omnipotence and follows in his actions. If things against the design are not brought back into the design, they are cast out of God; but there he still sustains them from deep within.

From all this you can see that divine omnipotence cannot move outside itself into contact with any evil, nor can it move evil away from itself. Evil turns itself away, which is how it ends up being completely separated from God and thrown into hell. Between heaven, where God is, and hell, there is a huge chasm.

From these few points you can see how insane people are who think that God can condemn anyone, curse anyone, throw anyone into hell, predestine anyone’s soul to eternal death, avenge wrongs, or rage against or punish anyone. People are even more insane if they actually believe this, let alone teach it. In reality, God cannot turn away from us or even look at us with a frown. To do any such thing would be against his essence, and what is against his essence is against himself.

from True Christianity, Section 56

2. We cannot comprehend God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence unless we know what the divine design is, and unless we learn that God is the divine design and that he imposed that design on the universe as a whole and on everything in it as he created it. (Continued)

Explaining the type of design that was built into the universe at creation would take many volumes. (A little sketch of it will appear under the next subheading, on creation [Sections 75–80]).

One point that needs to be understood is this: Each and every thing in the universe was created with its own design so that it would continue to exist on its own. This happened from the very beginning so that each thing could become part of the overall design of the universe. The purpose is that the individual designs shall continue to exist within the universal design so that all are one.

Now for some examples. The human being was created with a design of its own, and also each individual part of a human being was created with a design of its own. The head has its own design, the body has its. The heart, the lungs, the liver, the pancreas, and the stomach have their own designs. Every organ of motion called a muscle has its own design. Every organ of sensation, such as the eye, the ear, and the tongue, has its own design. In fact, there is not a capillary or a fibril in the human body that lacks its own design. Yet all these countless parts connect with the overall design and join up with it in such a way that together they form one overall design.

The same applies to all other things. A mere list of them is enough for illustration. Every animal on land, every bird in the sky, every fish in the sea, every reptile, in fact, every insect even down to a grub has its own design built in from creation. Likewise every tree, shrub, bush, and vegetable has its own design. Furthermore, every stone and every mineral, even down to every type of dust on the earth has its own design.

As everyone can see, all well-established empires, countries, counties, republics, cities, and homes have laws that constitute the design and form of their government. In each of those arenas, the laws of justice are at the top, political laws are in second place, and business laws are in third place. If these laws are compared with a human being, the laws of justice constitute the head, political laws the body, and business laws the clothes. This is why business laws can be changed like clothes.

As for the design that God incorporated into the church, it is that God is part of every aspect of the church, and so is our neighbor, for whose sake we are to follow the design. There are as many laws of the design belonging to the church as there are truths in the Word. Laws related to God are to constitute its head, laws related to our neighbor its body, and rituals its clothing.

If the church’s higher laws were not embodied in its rituals, the church would be like a body stripped naked, exposed to the heat in summer and the cold in winter. This would be like taking the walls and vaulted ceilings away from a church building so that the sanctuary, altar, and pulpit stood in the open air exposed to violent forces of different kinds.

from True Christianity, Sections 54, 55

2. We cannot comprehend God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence unless we know what the divine design is, and unless we learn that God is the divine design and that he imposed that design on the universe as a whole and on everything in it as he created it.

Astounding quantities and varieties of folly have crept into human minds and slithered into the church through the heads of its founders as a result of their not understanding the design that God built into the universe and everything in it. A mere list of these foolish notions, which appears below [Sections 56–58], will make this clear.

For now let me open a discussion of the divine design with a general definition: A “design” is the quality of arrangement, boundaries, and interaction among parts, substances, or entities that together make up a form. This quality results in a state—a state that is perfect when produced by wisdom acting on the basis of love, and imperfect when spawned by unsound reasoning acting on the basis of mere desire.

This definition uses the terms substance, form, and state. By substance we mean form as well, because every substance is a form, and the quality of that form is its state. The perfection or imperfection of that state is a result of the design it has.

Because these points are metaphysical, though, they are unavoidably cloaked in thick darkness; but in the ensuing discussion, application of these terms in illustrative examples will dispel this darkness.

God is the divine design because he is substance itself and form itself. He is substance because from him come all things that subsist, that came into existence in the past, and that are coming into existence now. He is form because every quality of [these] substances arose and arises from him. Quality comes from no other source than form.

Now, because God is the absolute, the first, and the only substance and form and is also the absolute and only love and the absolute and only wisdom, and because wisdom produces form on the basis of love, and the state and quality of the form depend on its design, it follows that God is the design itself. It also follows that from himself God imposed a design on the universe and on every single thing in it, and the design imposed was absolutely perfect because all that he created was good, as we read in Genesis, the Book of Creation.

(In its own place we will show that evil of every kind and hell itself came into existence after creation.) Now we turn to thoughts that are more accessible to, clearer for, and gentler on the mind.

from True Christianity, Sections

1. It is divine wisdom, acting on behalf of divine love, that has omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.

Omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence belong to divine wisdom acting on behalf of divine love, not to divine love acting through divine wisdom. This is a secret from heaven that has never yet dawned on anyone’s understanding, because before this no one has known what love is in its essence, or what wisdom is in its essence, much less how the one flows into the other. Love, with everything that belongs to it, flows into wisdom and takes up residence there like a monarch of a realm or a head of a household. The actual administration of justice is something love leaves to wisdom’s judgment; and since justice relates to love and judgment to wisdom, this means that love leaves the administration of love to its [partner,] wisdom. More light will be shed on this secret in what follows. For now, the statement above will have to serve as a general rule.

The following words in John mean that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent through the wisdom of his love:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by it, and nothing that was made came about without it. In it there was life, and that life was the light for humankind. And the world was made by it; and the Word became flesh. (John 1:1, 3, 4, 10, 14)

In this passage “the Word” means divine truth or, what amounts to the same thing, divine wisdom. This is why the Word is also called “life” and “light,” since life and light are nothing but wisdom.

In the Word, “justice” is associated with love and “judgment” with wisdom. For this reason I will present some passages to the effect that God governs the world with these two qualities.

Jehovah, justice and judgment are the support of your throne. (Psalms 89:14)

Those who wish to glory should glory in this, that Jehovah creates judgment and justice on earth. (Jeremiah 9:24)

Jehovah should be exalted because he filled the earth with judgment and justice. (Isaiah 33:5)

Judgment will flow like water and justice like a mighty stream. (Amos 5:24)

Jehovah, your justice is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like a great deep. (Psalms 36:6)

Jehovah will bring out his justice like a light, and [his] judgment like noonday. (Psalms 37:6)

Jehovah will judge his people in justice and his poor ones in judgment. (Psalms 72:2)

When I learn the judgments of your justice, seven times a day I praise you for the judgments of your justice. (Psalms 119:7, 164)

I will betroth myself to you in justice and judgment. (Hosea 2:19)

Zion will be redeemed with justice, and its returned exiles with judgment. (Isaiah 1:27)

He will sit on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it with judgment and justice. (Isaiah 9:7)

I will raise up for David a righteous offshoot who will reign as king and execute judgment and justice on earth. (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15)

Elsewhere we read that we ought to practice justice and judgment, as in Isaiah 1:21; 5:16; 58:2; Jeremiah 4:2; 22:3, 13, 15; Ezekiel 18:5; 33:14, 16, 19; Amos 6:12; Micah 7:9; Deuteronomy 33:21; and John 16:8, 10, 11.

from True Christianity, Sections 50, 51

God’s Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence

We have discussed divine love and wisdom and have shown that these two qualities make up the divine essence. We turn next to God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence because these three attributes come from divine love and divine wisdom much the way the sun’s power and presence everywhere on earth come from the sun’s heat and light. In fact, the heat of the sun in the spiritual world (the sun that surrounds Jehovah God) is essentially divine love, and its light is essentially divine wisdom. Clearly then, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are attributes of the divine essence the way infinity, immensity, and eternity are attributes of the underlying divine reality.

Up until now these three universal attributes of divine essence have not been understood, because it has not been known that they keep to their own pathways, meaning the laws of the divine design. Therefore these attributes need to be elucidated in an examination of the following points:

1. It is divine wisdom, acting on behalf of divine love, that has omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.

2. We cannot comprehend God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence unless we know what the divine design is, and unless we learn that God is the divine design, and that he imposed that design on the universe as a whole and on everything in it as he created it.

3. In the universe and everything in it, God’s omnipotence follows and works through the laws of its design.

4. God is omniscient; that is, he is aware of, sees, and knows everything down to the least detail that happens in keeping with the divine design, and by contrast is aware of, sees, and knows what goes against the divine design.

5. God is omnipresent in his design from beginning to end.

6. Human beings were created as forms of the divine design.

7. The more we follow the divine design in the way we live, the more we receive power against evil and falsity from God’s omnipotence, receive wisdom about goodness and truth from God’s omniscience, and are in God because of God’s omnipresence.

These points need to be unfolded one by one.

from True Christianity, Section 49

The Essence of God: 6. These essentials of divine love were the reason the universe was created, and they are the reason it is maintained.

By examining and scrutinizing the three essentials of divine love, one can come to see that they were the reason for creation. The first essential, loving others outside of himself, was a reason for creation in that the universe is outside God (just as the world is outside the sun). The universe is something to which God could extend his love and in which he could put his love into action and so find rest. We read that after God had created heaven and earth he rested; and that he made the Sabbath day for that reason (Genesis 2:2–3).

You can see that the second essential, God’s wanting to be one with others, was also a reason for creation from the fact that people were created in the image and likeness of God. The “image” and the “likeness” mean that we were made as forms that are receptive to love and wisdom from God—forms that God could be one with, and on whose account he could be one with all the other things in the universe, which are all nothing but means. A connection with the final cause is also a connection with the intermediate causes. Genesis, the Book of Creation, makes it clear that all things were created for the sake of humankind (Genesis 1:28–30).

That the third essential, God’s blessing others from himself, is a reason for creation you can see from the fact that the angelic heaven was provided for everyone who has let God’s love in, a place where the blessings of all come from God alone.

The three essentials of God’s love are the reason the universe is maintained as well, because maintaining is an ongoing creation, just as continuing to exist is the same as perpetually coming into being. Divine love is the same from eternity to eternity. The nature God’s love has now and will have in the future is the same nature it had when creating the world.

If you understand all this in the right way, you will be able to see the universe as a coherent work from beginning to end, a work holding purposes, means, and results in indissoluble connection.

Every love has a purpose. All wisdom moves toward fulfilling that purpose by intermediate means, using those means to achieve effective, useful results. Therefore it follows that the universe is a work that embodies divine love, divine wisdom, and usefulness of all kinds. In every conceivable way, then, it is a coherent work from beginning to end. The fact that the universe consists of constant useful functions produced by wisdom under love’s initiative is something all wise people can contemplate as if they were seeing it in a mirror. Once they acquire a general picture of how the universe was created, they can focus on the details. This is because parts adapt to the whole, and the whole places the parts in a harmonious arrangement. In what follows, the truth of this will come to light in many ways.

from True Christianity, Sections 46, 47

The Essence of God: 5. The essence of love is loving others who are outside oneself, wanting to be one with them, and blessing them from oneself. (Continued)

The true nature of divine love is recognizable from its sphere, which pervades the universe and affects each of us in different ways depending on our state. That sphere of divine love has a special influence on parents. Because of it, they tenderly love their children (who are outside themselves), they want to be one with them, and they want to bless them from themselves. The sphere of divine love affects not only the good but also the evil, and not only people but also animals and birds of every kind.

Surely in the course of giving birth every mother’s only thought is of bonding with and caring for her offspring. Every bird hatching chicks from eggs thinks only of cherishing them under her wings and putting food in their mouths with kisses. Even poisonous snakes and vipers love their offspring, as is commonly known.

This universal sphere has a special influence on those who let God’s love in—those who believe in God and love their neighbor. The goodwill that is in them is an image of God’s love.

Even among people who are not good, friendship emulates this love. At her or his own table, the host will give the guest the better food. Friends will kiss, hug, and join hands, and promise each other help and support. This love is also the sole origin of alliances and the tendency for like-minded and compatible people to form partnerships.

Even in inanimate things like trees and plants that same divine sphere is at work, although in this case it operates through the sun in this world, and its heat and light. Heat comes from the outside into trees and plants and becomes a part of them, causing them to sprout and then develop flowers and fruit, which are in turn blessings to animals. Physical heat has this effect because it corresponds to spiritual heat, which is love.

In fact, even among various substances of the mineral kingdom there are representations of divine love at work. Allegories of divine love appear in the processes for refining these substances to increase their usefulness and value.

From this description of divine love’s essence, you can also see what the essence of diabolical love is like; it becomes visible by contrast.

Diabolical love is a love for oneself. This is called love, but seen in its own right it is really hatred. It does not love anyone outside itself. It does not want to form a partnership with others in order to bless them; it wants to bless only itself. From deep inside, it constantly strives to dominate all others and to own the good things they have.

Eventually it wants to be adored as God. This is why those who are in hell do not acknowledge God. Instead they acknowledge as gods those who have power over others. From hell’s point of view, then, there are lower and higher gods, or lesser and greater gods, according to the reach of each one’s power. Because all who are in hell carry love for themselves in their heart, they burn with hatred against their “god.”

The “gods” in turn burn with hatred against all who are under their thumb; they think of them as vile slaves. They manage to speak softly to them as long as their followers keep showing adoration. They openly rage against all others. Inwardly or at heart, they rage against their followers as well.

Love for oneself is the same love you see among thieves, who kiss each other when they are on a job together, but later each burn with a desire to kill the others and take their share.

In hell, love for oneself is the dominant force. It causes the people there and their selfish lusts to appear at a distance as various species of wild animal. Some people there look like foxes and leopards, some like wolves and tigers, some like crocodiles and venomous snakes. Their love for themselves also causes the deserts they live in to consist of mere piles of stones and bare gravel, with swamps here and there that contain croaking frogs. Over their huts fly miserable screeching birds. These animals and birds are the same as the owls, the wild beasts of the desert, and the jackals mentioned in the prophetical books of the Word in reference to the love of dominating that comes from love for oneself (Isaiah 13:21; Jeremiah 50:39; Psalms 74:14).

from True Christianity, Sections 44, 45