After the Earthquake
February 20, 2005
Elijah traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."
The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
(1 Kings 19:8-13)
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
Then Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences! For offences must come, but woe to the one by whom the offence comes!"
But the Lord was not in the strong wind, nor the earthquake, nor in the fire; but then there came a voice that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Who would have thought that after a week following the terrible disaster in Asia, criminal elements would have already made their move to exploit the orphaned children for their evil profits? Could we have foreseen this? Could we have ever imagined that we might say, "Those that died were the lucky ones"? Because those who have survived may have years of misery and abuse ahead of them.
Of course, all the children survived; but we can be far more certain about those who woke up from their terrifying ordeal in heaven, and were received with great love and a deep understanding of how to cleanse them of the memories of their last hours on earth. If we believe in the Lord, then his words in our reading from Matthew will reassure us. How significant and up-to-date these words are--even mentioning the drowning in the depths of the sea! The next chapter goes on to say:
Then little children were brought to him that he might put his hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked them. Then Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:13-14)
That is where the little ones who died are now: in the arms of the Lord, and with the angels who care for them.
Meanwhile, those who sin against them will be dragged by their own evil, as by a millstone, into the depths, where they will find their own milieu in a company of like-minded people. But there are no children there! The hellish scenes in which children are involved belong to this world (to our great shame), but not to the afterlife.
Here on earth we are free to express and practice our perverse desires, no matter who gets hurt. But in the spiritual world, the evil will be powerfully drawn toward their own kind, "as by a rope," our doctrines teach, or by the weight of their own evil . . . by the millstone--a vivid illustration, which clearly shows that evil is an exceedingly heavy burden round our neck. The Lord could not have been more specific.
Let us turn to more beautiful thoughts, drawn from Heavenly Secrets #2289 and #2302:
The State of Young Children in the Next Life
I have been given to know for certain that all young children in any part of the world who die are raised up by the Lord and taken to heaven, where they are brought up and trained among angels who look after them, and where they grow to maturity as they advance in intelligence and wisdom. From this it becomes clear how vast the Lord's heaven is from young children alone; for all of them are taught about the truths of faith and the goods that stem from mutual love, and become angels. . . .
There are particular, indeed many, communities of angels that look after small children. They are drawn primarily from angel women who during their lifetime have had a very tender love for young children.
Perhaps we imagine that such a vast disaster that we saw on our screens may cause some panic in the spiritual world, like an emergency ward after a train crash, when more and more patients are brought in, and have to wait their turn while the staff is trying to find them beds, operating theaters, and surgeons.
But in heaven every new arrival is foreseen and expected; and since many thousands die every day, the facilities are never over-stretched. Holy and quiet conditions meet every person and every child as he or she regains consciousness, or "wakes up," in an atmosphere of great love. Each person is received as an individual, and given all the attention and care needed.
Those who have had Near Death Experiences perceived this great sphere of love, and often are disappointed when told that their time has not yet come, and that they must return to the material body, in which they may have had much pain.
Children, especially babies, are placed in the care of women who love children. And because children are so receptive of love, they can respond and accept their foster mothers as their own.
Naturally, we grieve for those parents and relatives who have lost their children so tragically. But if they understood the beautiful world into which their little darlings are so lovingly received, surely their grief would be tempered in some measure, and their fears quieted.
Further, Swedenborg writes:
Many may suppose that young children stay as young children in the next life, and are as young children among the angels. Those who do not know what an angel is may have become confirmed in this notion by the depictions seen here and there in places of worship and in other places, where young children are portrayed to represent angels.
But in fact, it is not at all as they suppose. What makes an angel is intelligence and wisdom. As long as young children do not possess these, though they do indeed live with angels, they themselves are not angels. But as soon as they have become intelligent and wise, they become angels for the first time. Indeed, what has amazed me, they no longer appear as young children, but as adults; for their character is no longer that of a young child, but of a more adult angelic disposition. (Heavenly Secrets #2304)
Indeed, to remain a child forever would be to atrophy and stay unfulfilled. All in heaven long to become useful and to be of service to others, and also to find a partner with whom they may become one. So let us leave them all safely in the Lord's arms, and to the loving ministry of the angels. We still have responsibilities toward those who remain here, who should be preparing themselves for that beautiful life in heaven.
I already suggested that in the spiritual world, all children are completely under the Lord's protection, and cannot be abused in any way. There is a great gulf fixed between them and the abusers.
Alas, in this world children are not safe. And we are talking about millions of children! Evil spirits find great delight in possessing and inflaming the evil passions of men and women on earth. We all have an inner association with two good and two evil spirits throughout our life. From them we get our impulses toward good or evil, and we make a choice between them. It is the constant endeavor of the evil to excite our lowest cravings, and to focus on those who are innocent and vulnerable. That means children! The huge pornographic market on the Internet and the sexual abuse of children shows how successful these endeavors of evil spirits are. Millions are enslaved by these lusts, while the evil spirits gain a sense of freedom from the restrictions they normally experience in hell. They find new fulfillment through our lusts.
They also make sure that we do not get tired of these practices, but crave for new and more violent ones. The prophet Habakkuk is worth reading in full (it is only three chapters) because it is all about these inordinate desires that take over our life.
He enlarges his desire as hell,
And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied.
He gathers up for himself all nations
And enslaves for himself all peoples.
So that is what we are against: this passion that yearns to destroy purity and innocence. Yet no evil gives a lasting satisfaction.
Next time there is a disaster and we wonder where it all came from, or where God was, let us remember that we live in a natural, material world. This is our temporary home--or rather, a classroom, in which we have to learn an important lesson.
The lesson is about our "real" life, in which there is a battle going on: not a battle for our terrestrial survival, but for our eternal life. It is a battle between good and evil--and there are forces that are constantly trying to capture us and enslave us through our fascination with violence, sexual appetites, lusts, and greed. Our inner freedom is continuously being attacked, and unless we also received angelic help, we would not even know the difference.
Nature around us demonstrates this battle for life and survival, and indeed illustrates it quite clearly. The apostle Peter realized the correspondences between the inner and the outer worlds:
Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he may devour. Resist him; be steadfast in faith. (1 Peter 5:8)
When all the flames of passion are burning, or our life is shaken up, we should know that God in not in these violent things, but is that still, small voice within us. We should listen to it, and let it guide us to what is right and heavenly. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, let us find peace in you especially during times of great trials and upheavals, when we do not know where to turn, and cannot understand what is happening and why it is happening. Help us to quiet ourselves and listen to that still small voice, and to feel the inner quietness and peace that we can share with those who are distressed, ill, or bereaved. We are not searching for smart answers--for people in distress need our love, our sense of hope and peace. Let us share this with the world, and especially with our children. Amen.
Rev. Christopher Hasler