The Power of Heaven’s Angels

An excerpt from Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg, sections #229–33

In the spiritual world angels have so much power that if I were to highlight everything I have seen, it would strain credulity. If anything there is in the way and needs to be removed because it is opposed to the divine design, they raze and overturn it simply by an effort of will and a look. So I have seen mountains that were the abode of evil people leveled and overturned, sometimes shaken from end to end as happens in our earthquakes. I have seen cliffs split down the middle right to the bottom and the evil people on them swallowed up. I have also seen angels scatter some hundreds of thousands of evil spirits and cast them into hell. A vast multitude is powerless against them. The skills and wiles and alliances of evil spirits amount to nothing. Angels see everything and dispel it instantly. But there is more about this in the story of Babylon destroyed.

They do have this kind of power in the spiritual world.

The Word, too, shows that angels have power like this in the natural world when it is granted them. For example, they are said to have brought death upon whole armies, to have brought about a plague that killed seventy thousand people. We read of this latter angel:

The angel stretched out a hand against Jerusalem to destroy it; but Jehovah, repenting of his evil, said to the angel who was destroying the people, It is enough, now hold back your hand: and David saw the angel who was striking the people. (2 Samuel 24:15, 16, 17)

among other passages.

Because angels do have this kind of power they are called powers. It also says in David, “Bless Jehovah, you angels most powerful in strength” (Psalms 103:20).

It does need to be known, though, that angels have absolutely no power on their own, but that all the power they have comes from the Lord. Further, they are powers to the extent that they recognize this fact. Any of them who believe that their power comes from themselves immediately become so weak that they cannot resist even a single evil spirit. This is why angels take absolutely no credit to themselves and turn down any praise or admiration for anything they have done, but attribute it all to the Lord.

It is the divine truth emanating from the Lord that possesses all power in the heavens, because the Lord in heaven is divine truth united to divine good (see #126–140). To the extent that angels are open to this truth, they are powers.

Further, each individual angel is her or his own truth and own good, because the nature of each one is determined by her or his discernment and intent, discernment being a matter of what is true because all its functions originate in truths, and intent being a matter of what is good because all its functions originate in aspects of the good. You see, whatever we understand we call true and whatever we intend we call good. This is why each one of us is his or her own truth and own good. Therefore, to the extent to which an angel is truth from the Divine and good from the Divine, that angel is a power because the Lord is with her to that extent. Further, since no one enjoys exactly the same good and truth as anyone else (for in heaven and in this world there is constant variety, #20), one angel does not enjoy the same power as another. . .

It may be seen in #137 above that all power belongs to the divine truth that emanates from the Lord and that angels are powers to the extent that they accept divine truth from the Lord.  However, angels are open to divine truth to the extent that they are open to divine good, since all the power that truths have comes from good. Truths apart from good have none. Further, all the power good has is by means of truth; good has no power apart from truths. Power arises from the union of the two. The same holds true for faith and love, since it is all the same whether you say truth or faith, since everything that makes up faith is true, and whether you say good or love, since everything that makes up love is good.

I have been able to see how much power angels have through truths from good from the fact that when angels simply look at them, evil spirits fall down in a faint and no longer look human, and that this lasts until the angel looks away. The reason this sort of thing results from the gaze of angels is that their sight comes from the light of heaven, and heaven’s light is divine truth (see above, #126–132). Eyes correspond to truths from good.

Since all power belongs to truths from good, deliberate distortions have none. All the people in hell are preoccupied with deliberate distortions, so they have no power against what is true and good. However, I will be describing later the kind of power they have among each other and the kind of power evil spirits have before they are thrown into hell.

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