And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman
A New Sabbath
1. And in the twilight of [the] Sabbaths, as it dawned toward the first [day] of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, to behold the tomb.
The meaning of “Sabbath”
This chapter begins with the words, “In the end of the Sabbath.” Traditionally, the Sabbath began at the end of the day on Friday and was completed at the end of the day on Saturday. Because the honoring of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments, the religious authorities considered this twenty-four-hour period most holy. Therefore, the biblical injunction that no work of any kind was to be done on the Sabbath was strictly enforced. As it is written in the Hebrew scriptures, “Work is to be done for six days, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death” (Exodus 31:15; emphasis added).
The word, “Sabbath,” in the Hebrew language is שַׁבּתָ (shabbat) which means “rest” or
“peace.” The religious leaders interpreted this to mean rest from any kind of physical labor. On one occasion, when a man was caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath, he was brought before Moses, Aaron, and all the people for a decision about what should happen to him. As it is written, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must be put to death, and the whole assembly should stone him with stones outside the camp.’ So, as the Lord commanded Moses, they took him outside the camp and stoned him to death” (Numbers 15:35-36).
This is a glimpse at the state of the religious world that Jesus was born into, a world where the commandments were understood literally and enforced rigorously. We have already seen how offended the religious leaders were when Jesus’ disciples plucked corn on the Sabbath (12:1-4). Similarly, when Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, the religious leaders were so enraged that “they went out and took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him” (12:14). In their eyes, Jesus was “working” on the Sabbath. He was flaunting a sacred tradition, the violation of which was punishable by death.
This view of the Sabbath is based on the idea that God is rigid, rule-oriented, and determined to destroy anyone who might violate the Sabbath, even if it is something as innocent as picking up sticks, or plucking corn, or healing the sick. People were not even allowed to carry anything that was heavy on the Sabbath. As the prophet Jeremiah puts it, “Thus says the Lord, ‘For the sake of your lives, do not carry a burden on the Sabbath…. But if you do not obey Me, I will destroy the palaces of Jerusalem with a fire that cannot be quenched” (Jeremiah 17:21; 27).
Statements like these, which imply that God is angry and vengeful, can be found throughout the Hebrew scriptures. It is evident that this is not an accurate picture of a loving God who is mercy itself; but it is an accurate picture of how people saw God at that time. Although the Hebrew scriptures contain infinite depths of wisdom when spiritually understood, the literal words, apart from their spiritual meaning, reveal more about the nature of the people who wrote them than they do about the true nature of God. 1
These were the kinds of false ideas that God had to correct. And so, God Himself had to come in person to show us His true nature and to deepen our understanding of the commandments. He taught that hatred is a form of murder, that lust is a form of adultery, and that the Sabbath is not just about doing physical work or carrying heavy burdens. That is why, when He deliberately spoke about burdens, He was not referring to physical objects. On a more interior level, He was speaking about the inner burdens of worry, anxiety, and fear that we carry; He was speaking about the resentments, anger, and hatreds we are unable to put down. These are the things that weigh heavily upon the soul. That is why He said, “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy burdened … and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden light” (11:28-29).
We find “rest for our souls” whenever we rest in the Lord. This, then, is the more interior meaning of the Sabbath. It should also be noted that the Sabbath follows what is called in sacred scripture “six days of labor.” These “six days” are times of spiritual trial. During these times we have the opportunity to live according to the truth that we know and believe, even when it is difficult to do so. As we go through this process, we experience an increasingly profound sense of peace as our inner nature becomes more perfectly aligned with God’s will. Every victory along the way introduces us to a heavenly state of mind, which, in the language of sacred scripture, is called “the seventh day” and “the Sabbath.” 2
In the previous episode, when Jesus hung on the cross, He modeled this process for us. He suffered the most agonizing trials, but did not become bitter; He endured the most excruciating pain, but did not get angry; He underwent the darkest despair, but never lost sight of His mission — the salvation of the human race. In the process, Jesus conquered the hells and made His humanity Divine. This was the end of His temptations, and the beginning of a new, more exalted idea of the Sabbath. It is the Sabbath of peace that follows our efforts to align our will with God’s will. Whenever we allow God to work through us, and with us, we rest from our labors.
This episode, then, marks the end of our old ideas about the Sabbath, about God, and even about ourselves. As the evening ends and the darkness subsides, the light of a new understanding begins to arise in us. We read, therefore, that after the old Sabbath had ended, “the first day of the week began to dawn” (28:1). Sunday was coming.
Rolling Away the Stone
2. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven [and] coming, rolled away the stone from the door, and sat on it.
3. And his countenance was as lightning, and his clothing white as snow;
The opening words of this final chapter speak of both an ending and a beginning. It is the end of our old way of feeling and thinking about things; we are no longer driven by selfish concerns or ruled by the demands of our lower nature. As new ways of thinking about life arise in our consciousness, we begin to realize that the Lord is in charge of the least details of our life. Knowing this, we can allow ourselves to be governed by God, ready to do His will. We can drop the inner burdens while spiritually resting in the Lord. A new Sabbath is about to begin. 3
In this new “Sabbath state,” we find ourselves once again with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in front of the Lord’s tomb. Two days ago, Jesus was crucified and laid in a tomb. Friday evening and Saturday have passed, and it seems as though nothing has happened. Jesus still remains in the tomb. This represents those times when the Word does not seem to be speaking to us; it seems to be lifeless and dead. Although we know that God is within His Word, we do not hear His voice, sense His presence, or feel His touch. It appears as though He is “dead and buried.” The truth, however, is just the opposite. Although God is always speaking to us through His Word, we do not always hear what He says.
In order to understand this more clearly, it must be remembered that Jesus was buried in a cave, and a stone was rolled across the mouth of the cave to seal it. Before we can properly hear the Word of God and sense Jesus’ presence within it, the stone must be rolled away. This “stone” represents whatever it is that stands between us and God. Whether it be selfishness, pre-occupation with worldly matters, or, simply, a lack of faith in God’s leading, this stone must be rolled away. Sometimes, it takes a great upheaval in our lives before we come to our spiritual senses and understand that there is a whole new way to live. It can be like an earthquake in our consciousness — the human equivalent of the Lord’s crucifixion. We read, therefore, that “there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled away the stone from the door, and sat on it” (28:2).
The earthquake that shook the earth on the morning of the third day calls to mind the earthquake that occurred during Jesus’ crucifixion — the earthquake that caused the curtain of the temple to be torn in two and the dead to rise from their graves. It also calls to mind another time when an earthquake shook the foundations of the earth. As it is written, “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning … and the whole mountain shook violently” (Exodus 19:16-18). That earthquake occurred as the divine prelude to the Lord’s giving of the Ten Commandments. The voice of divine truth sometimes comes to us with earth-shaking power.
We, too, have our times of crucifixion, times of earth-shaking upheavals in our life. These spiritual shake-ups invite us to go within and summon up every ounce of courage and faith that we possess. Like Jesus, we can also go through our micro-crucifixions with the conviction that we have a mission to fulfill, not on the same level as Jesus, but nevertheless a God-given mission. Sustained by our faith in God, we can refuse to surrender to anger, self-pity, or despair. Instead, we can rest in the Lord, even while engaged in combat, relying on Him for strength and wisdom.
This is when an angel descends to roll away the stone.
In the literal story, the religious leaders had sealed the stone. The sealing of the stone by the religious leaders represents the way we seal ourselves off from any hope of connecting with the living God. So the angel rolling away the stone and sitting on it pictures how a truth from the Lord’s Word, descending into our minds from heaven, can push a false belief to the side so that a truer idea might prevail. This can be an earthquake moment in our lives. 4
This, then, is our task. It is to allow truth to roll away the stone of selfishness and greed that prevents us from loving others. It is to allow truth to roll away the stone of despair and self-pity that prevents us from experiencing the joy of life. It is to allow truth to roll away the stone of ignorance that prevents us from seeing and understanding who God truly is. In essence, our task is to allow truth from God’s Word — the angel that descends — to roll away every false and twisted belief that stands like an obstructing stone between us and God. 5
The countenance of the angel who rolls away the stone is described as being “like lightning” and his clothing “as white as snow” (28:3). The description of the angel suggests the brightness and purity of the divine truth that comes into our life with insights that flash across the inner sky of our minds like lightning, and shine within our consciousness with perceptions as pure as freshly fallen snow. In sacred scripture, these brilliant insights and clear perceptions that come to us from heaven are described as “angels descending.” They roll away the stone of falsity and reveal to us the light of truth. As mentioned earlier, when the Ten Commandments were given amidst an earthquake, there were flashes of lightning in the sky. It signifies divine truth coming into our life like lightning. 6
The Women Rejoice
4. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead.
5. And the angel answering said to the women, “Fear ye not; for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.
6. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7. And going quickly, say to His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and behold, He goes before you into Galilee; there you shall see Him; behold, I have told you.”
8. And going out quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy, they ran to report [this] to His disciples.
9. And as they went to report to His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Hail.” And they coming, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him.
10. Then says Jesus to them, “Fear not; go, report to My brothers, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”
Before the light of a new understanding can dawn, anxious thoughts must be quieted, inner turbulence must be calmed, and troubling fears must be quelled. This is when the new Sabbath begins. In the early dawn of each new state, the stone must be rolled away. To those who have been waiting patiently for the Lord, this represents the coming of a new understanding; it is the first light of a new awareness.
The two Marys, whose hearts were waiting and longing for Jesus, are ready for the stone to be rolled away. Unlike the guards, who “shook with fear and became like dead men” (28:4) when the angel rolled away the stone, the women are comforted by the angel’s words. “Do not be afraid,” the angel says to the women. “I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (28:5-6). As the women approach the tomb and look inside, they see that the angel’s words are true. Jesus is not there! “Go quickly,” says the angel, “and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; and there you will see Him” (28:7).
As the two women run to meet the disciples and tell them the wonderful news, Jesus meets them along the way. “Greetings,” He says. (28:9). Behind them is the empty tomb; before them the living God. This is a picture of the change that takes place in our lives when the angel rolls away the stone and proclaims the eternal truth, “He is not here; for He is risen.”
When the stone of doubt and disbelief is rolled away, we see that the living God is present everywhere, pervading the universe with His Divine life, flowing continuously into nature to produce vibrant colors and sweet fragrances, flowing continuously into human hearts and minds to produce noble thoughts and loving affections. No matter where we are in our life, God is always there, urging to be received. 7
When Jesus’ greets the two Marys, they respond with reverent awe. As it is written, “They took hold of His feet and worshipped Him” (28:10). The words, “They took hold of His feet and worshipped Him” suggest that this is much more than an ordinary reunion of good friends; rather, it is a spontaneous, heart-felt acknowledgment of Jesus’ divinity. There were moments throughout His earthly ministry when people were inspired to worship Jesus. When the wise men came to Bethlehem, “they worshipped Him” (2:11); when Jesus calmed the sea and walked on water, His disciples “worshipped Him” (14:33); and when the woman came to Jesus, begging Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter, “she worshipped Him” (15:25). Similarly, in this episode, the two Marys take hold of His feet and worship Him. 8
For the most part, every incident that led to the worship of the Lord was based on a miracle, whether it was His miracle birth in Bethlehem, His walking on water in Galilee, or His rising from the dead in Jerusalem. But worship based on miracles, while it can initiate worship, is not true worship. It is merely an external persuasion that can compel belief, but does not become a part of a person’s essential character. 9
Genuine worship of the Lord is not based on external miracles, no matter how convincing they might be. It is simply a matter of keeping the commandments — that is, doing God’s will, and not our own, even if it means that our egotistical tendencies and self-serving attitudes must go through agonies in Gethsemane and crucifixions at Calvary. Whenever we do this, the subsequent changes that take place in our spirit are the truest confirmation of God’s ability to bring about inner miracles. This alone is what leads us into true worship. 10
While the two Marys are still at His feet worshipping Him, Jesus repeats the comforting words of the angel. “Do not be afraid” He says. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me” (28:10). Earlier in this gospel, Jesus promised His disciples that no matter what happened to Him, He would eventually meet them in Galilee. They were, therefore, not to be discouraged. “Even though the shepherd would be struck,” He told them at that time, He would rise again. “After I have been raised,” He said, “I will go before you into Galilee” (26:32). And now, in the closing words of this episode, Jesus repeats His promise. This time, however, He adds an important detail; He says, “There they will see Me.” To “see the Lord” is to understand His teachings and do His will. “Blessed are the pure in heart” He said during the Sermon on the Mount, “for they shall see God.”
As we shall see, this is what it means to be in a state called “Galilee.” 11
The Report of the Temple Guards
11. And as they were going, behold, some of the guard, coming into the city, reported to the chief priests all things that were done.
12. And being gathered together with the elders, and taking counsel, they gave considerable silver to the soldiers,
13. Saying, “Say ye that His disciples, coming by night, stole Him while we slumbered.
14. And if this shall be heard by the governor, we will persuade him, and will make you safe.”
15. And they, receiving the silver, did as they were taught; and this word was made public among the Jews even to this day.
Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the religious leaders are extremely troubled. The temple guards have just come to them and reported about the things they had witnessed (28:11) — the earthquake, the appearance of the angel, the rolling away of the stone, and the empty tomb. These are the same guards who “shook with fear” in the presence of the angel “and became like dead men.”
When the religious leaders hear this alarming news, they immediately gather together with the elders and come up with a plan to dispel belief in the possibility of an actual resurrection. They decide to offer the guards a large sum of money to say nothing about what actually happened. Instead, if anyone should ask what happened, the guards are to tell them, “His disciples came at night and stole Him while we were sleeping” (28:13). In addition, the religious leaders tell the guards that if Pilate should find out about their negligence (sleeping while on duty), they will take care of everything and keep the guards out of trouble (28:14). The guards accept the bribe. As it is written, “They took the silver and did as they were directed” (28:15).
The reality of the resurrection
It’s interesting to compare how the news of the resurrection is received by those who hate Jesus and those who love Him. For the women who love Jesus, the news of His resurrection is thrilling. Overjoyed, they race off to tell the disciples the good news. And when they meet Jesus along the way, they grasp His feet and worship Him” (28:9).
But for those who hate Jesus, the news brings no joy. Instead, the religious leaders are deeply concerned. All along, they have believed that if Jesus were destroyed, it would put an end to His growing influence; He would no longer be a threat to their power base. However, if word got out that Jesus had somehow survived the crucifixion, it would be disastrous to their efforts to prove that Jesus was a blasphemer. Therefore, they resort to bribery and lies, paying off the guards instructing them to spread a false report.
The stubborn disbelief of the religious leaders and their persistent refusal to admit that their assessment of Jesus might be wrong — even in face of the impartial testimony of the guards — represents a hardened-heart that will not change. For those who do not want to believe, no amount of evidence will ever be enough. Therefore, the religious leaders, representing our lower selves, remain hell-bent on destroying Jesus. Even if they cannot do this physically, they will endeavor to discredit Him and destroy His reputation among the people who believe in Him. 12
These are the inner voices that strive to convince us that the resurrection is not real. They insinuate the idea that the resurrection is far-fetched. When it is said that God came to earth as Jesus Christ, was crucified, and rose again, these voices raise doubts. They suggest that it is more plausible to believe that Jesus was a human being, like anyone else, and that after He was crucified, His followers stole the body from the tomb while the guards were sleeping — just as the religious leaders instructed the guards. According to the gospel account, the story that the guards reported was widely circulated among the people of that day (28:15).
Doubts about the reality of the resurrection are as old as the resurrection itself. It has been called a gigantic hoax, a pagan myth, and even a smoke and mirrors magic act. Some scholars have asserted that belief in the resurrection is a form of intellectual suicide — an outright denial of reason and logic. Clever explanations that explain away the resurrection are available for all who seek them. We are left in freedom to either accept or reject the resurrection. In the same way, we have the freedom to accept or reject the Word of God, and even God Himself.
We can also reject the idea that the earth is round; instead, we can believe that it is flat. We can reject the idea that the earth revolves around the sun; instead, we can believe that the sun revolves around the earth. To our physical eyes and natural senses, a belief in a flat earth and a rising sun certainly seems to be true. In the same way, it certainly seems to be true that we have life from ourselves and not from God. But revelation teaches, and reason confirms that there is a God and that all life is from Him alone. Although a spiritual reality like this is not observable to the naked eye, it can be rationally seen that it is true. 13
Similarly, we need not take the report about the reality of Jesus’ resurrection “on faith.” Not at all, for there is a rationally satisfying reason for the resurrection. It’s as simple as this. God cannot die. This is a reality that each of us can understand if we are willing to undergo inner crucifixions and inner resurrections. If we have been faithful in “taking up our cross and following Jesus” (16:24), we know what it means to go through the combats of temptation. We know the agony to be sure, but we also know the peace that comes to us on the other side of temptation combats. And we know that this is how we grow spiritually, through shunning evils, through calling upon God for help and strength, and through recognizing that it is the Lord alone who fights for us during times of trial. Every time we go through a combat of temptation, relying on the Lord’s truth and power, there is a resurrection in our lives. At such times, we come to know and understand, interiorly and experientially, that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is real — for it takes place in us over and over again. It is not just an historical fact, but an ongoing reality. We can experience His rising daily in us, and even in every moment. 14
A New Promised Land
16. And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, into the mountain where Jesus had directed them.
17. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; and [yet] they doubted.
18. And Jesus coming spoke to them, saying, “All authority is given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19. Going [forth], therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
20. “Teaching them to keep all things whatever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age. Amen.”
The angel has given the two women a simple message: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee” (28:7). As the women hurried off to tell the disciples, Jesus Himself met them, and gave them a further message to convey: “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee,” said Jesus, “and there they will see Me” (28:10).
As we come to the final episode in this gospel, we discover that Jesus’ promise is true. We read, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him” (28:16). Just a few verses earlier, the women took hold of Jesus’ feet and “worshipped Him” (28:9). And now, just seven verses later, the disciples do likewise. In both cases, the immediate response is one of reverence and awe. They worshipped Him. It should also be noted that there are “eleven” disciples, not twelve. On the literal level, this is because Judas is no longer with them. But as we pointed out in the parable about the workers in the vineyard, those who came at the “eleventh hour” represented the innocent, receptive states in us that are capable of responding to God and receiving what flows in from Him. 15
Galilee in us
All of this happens on a mountain in Galilee. But why Galilee? After all, it is at least seventy miles from Jerusalem to Galilee, a journey of two or three days. Why not meet somewhere in Jerusalem, or in Jericho? Why Galilee? The reasons are many. One of the more obvious reasons is that it would be safer to meet in Galilee, far away from the religious leaders who were still seeking to destroy Jesus. Another reason could be that Galilee is the original place where Jesus first gathered His disciples together. It would be a time of re-union, an opportunity to re-connect and to remember the joy and excitement of the early days when everything was fresh, new, and exciting.
Jesus does the same for us. After our struggles in Jerusalem (temptations), He takes us back, again and again, to our first love; He rekindles our initial passion for following Him. He summons us back to Galilee — back to a simple, uncomplicated faith and trust in Him. 16
Just as the number “eleven” represents the receptivity and innocence of childhood, Galilee represents a time of innocent, childlike trust in the Lord. The people of Galilee were not sophisticated intellectuals, nor were they theologically trained. For the most part, they were uncomplicated people who lived far from the intellectual and cultural center at Jerusalem. They were country folk, farmers and fishermen who had little learning, but receptive hearts. This is where Jesus began His ministry, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, and unstopping deaf ears. He made the lame to walk and the mute to speak. While He did some preaching, and spent some time instructing His disciples, He devoted most of His energies to meeting the physical needs of these innocent, receptive people — in preparation for the time when He would also meet their spiritual needs.
Galilee, then, represents that place of simple, uncomplicated faith in each of us — a faith that is easily received by all those who lead good lives. When our hearts are in the right place, we receive truth easily. This is because we are eager to learn what is true because we long to do what is good. It is fitting, therefore, that Jesus would call together His eleven disciples in Galilee — a place that represents an innocent faith, a willingness to learn the truth, and a desire to do good. 17
The Great Commission
Having brought His disciples to Galilee — spiritually and geographically — Jesus is about to give the disciples their great commission. We can imagine their excitement and enthusiasm. Jesus, who has defeated death, has now returned to them. But even then, “some doubted” (28:17). This is understandable. After all, the disciples are still learning. And that’s what the term “disciple” means in the original Greek — μαθητής (mathētḗs) — one who is learning. It has not been easy for them. In addition to many times of wonder and awe, there have been times of confusion, bewilderment, disappointment, and fear. There also have been times when they have had to come face to face with their own weakness and selfishness. They have come far, to be sure, but they have farther to go and more to learn.
Similarly, the Lord does not expect us to be perfect or to have perfect faith. He continues to protect our freedom so that we can doubt if we choose to. The Lord knows that doubts will arise along the journey of faith and that we will have times of weakness. But He also knows our strengths. When doubts assail us — and they will — Jesus comes near, speaking words of blessed assurance, just as He now speaks to His disciples in Galilee, saying “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (28:18). With these words and this promise, He strengthens His disciples for their Great Commission: “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations,” He says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (28:19).
The disciples are now to carry on, as if on their own, Jesus’ work. They are to “baptize all nations” — not just the people of Galilee, or the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but all people everywhere who have ears to hear and hearts to receive. Those who receive the water of baptism will know and understand that this represents a willingness to be instructed in the truths of genuine Christianity. This baptism will be in the name of “the Father” — the Divine love in the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the name of “the Son” — the Divine truth that comes from Jesus’ lips, and in the name of “the Holy Spirit” — the Divine Energy and Power proceeding from Jesus’ risen and glorified Humanity. All authority and all power is in Him and from Him — a Divine Trinity, not of three persons, but of three attributes in One Divine Person. 18
The closing scene
As this episode draws to a close, we are left with a beautiful picture of Jesus on the mountaintop with His disciples. We are reminded of Moses, who also stood on a mountaintop many years before, overlooking the Promised Land. Moses, however, was still mortal. It was there, on Mount Nebo that Moses died. The Lord then commissioned
Joshua to become the new leader of the people. “Moses, My servant, is dead,” the Lord said to Joshua. “Therefore, arise, go over this Jordan … every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you … Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’” (Joshua 1:2-3; 9).
Just as the Lord commissioned Joshua, Jesus similarly commissions His disciples to go forward — into a Promised Land of human hearts and minds. As they enter this new Promised Land, they are to seek only what is good and true in people. And they are to baptize all nations with the new and glorious truths that Jesus has taught them, preparing the way for a new religious era. They are not to be afraid, but rather they are to be strong and courageous. Just as the Lord told Joshua that He would be with him wherever he would go, Jesus says to His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (28:20).
The End of the Age
Jesus has spoken of the “end of the age,” several times in this gospel (13:39; 13:49; 24:3) and He ends by referring to it once again (28:20). What does it mean? When will it be? Jesus does not give a specific time, nor does He indicate a certain place. This is because the “end of the age” does not take place in time and space. 19
On one level, the “end of the age” refers to the end, the close, or the consummation of a corrupt religious dispensation. Taken literally, this refers to the end of the religious era that had so dominated the people before Jesus’ coming. At the same time, it also refers to the beginning of a new religious era based on Jesus’ literal teachings. On a more interior level, however, the end of a former age and the beginning of a new age pertains not so much to religious institutions but rather to our inner lives. In other words, “the end of the age” is much more than the end of a religious establishment headed by corrupt religious leaders and the beginning of a new religion whose leaders live in integrity. More deeply, the “end of the age” is about each of us as we come to the end of our self-absorption and begin to focus more on the needs of others. It is about each of us as we come to the end of our arrogant attitudes and begin to cultivate humility and the willingness to be instructed. 20
As we come to the end of the age of self-absorption and arrogance, we enter a new age, a new era, a new dimension of existence. When this happens within us, we experience a major shift in consciousness. The old age in us gradually comes to an end, and a new age begins to dawn. When this occurs, we know that the “generation of Jesus Christ” (1:1) has begun to take place in our souls, and we are becoming ready to proclaim His divinity. No longer do we see Him as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1), but rather as the Son of God.
Therefore, we now turn to the next gospel in the continuous series, which begins with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
1. Arcana Coelestia 3605:3-4: “People who are under the influence of evil … believe that Jehovah, like themselves, is capable of hatred, anger, wrath, and fury. Therefore, it is so expressed in the Word according to the appearance, for such as is a person’s quality, such the Lord appears to that person. See also BE 62: “God is not angry with people, but people, from the anger within themselves, are angry with God…. When evil-doers are punished by their own evil, it appears to them that the punishment is from God.”
2. Arcana Coelestia 8893: “Before a person is regenerated, or created anew, there is no serenity or rest because a person’s natural life then fights against one’s spiritual life and wishes to rule over it. Consequently, the Lord labors during this time, for He fights for a person against the hells which assault. But as soon as the good of love has been implanted [in a person], the combat ceases, and rest ensues, for the person is then introduced into heaven, and is led by the Lord according to the laws of order there, thus into a state of peace. These things are signified by ‘Jehovah rested on the seventh day.’” See also Arcana Coelestia 8494: “[A sabbath] rest signifies a state of peace when there is no temptation. This is evident from the signification of ‘a rest’ such as there was on the days of the Sabbath, as being a representative of a state of peace, in which is effected the conjunction of good and truth [in a person].”
3. Arcana Coelestia 8455: “Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end.”
4. True Christian Religion 71: “It is a law of order that people from their micro-heaven or little spiritual world should control their microcosm or little natural world, just as God from His macro-heaven or spiritual world controls the macrocosm or natural world in all its parts.”
5. Apocalypse Explained 400:14: “The angel rolling away the stone from the mouth [of the cave] and sitting upon it, signifies that the Lord removed all the falsity that cut off approach to Him, and that He opened Divine truth…. The chief-priests and Pharisees sealed the stone with a watch, but an angel from heaven removed it, and sat upon it.” See also Apocalypse Explained 655:4: “The word ‘stone’ signifies truth, and, in the opposite sense, falsity.”
6. Apocalypse Explained 687:18: “The stone that was rolled away by the angel signifies Divine truth, thus the Word, which had been closed up…. [And now] was being opened by the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 8914:2: “The Ten Commandments were declared from Mount Sinai amid thundering and lightning … the flashes of lightning were signs of the brilliant flashes that truths from good possess [or] Divine Truths emanating from the Lord’s Divine Good.”
7. True Christian Religion 49: “God is present everywhere.” See also True Christian Religion 341: “God is continuously present with everyone, giving life [along with] the ability to understand and the capacity to love” and Inv 23: “The Lord is perpetually present with every person, the evil as well as the good. Without His presence, no one can live; and the Lord constantly acts, urges and strives to be received.”
8. Apocalypse Explained 75: “The words ‘fell at His feet’ signify worship from humility of heart in the presence of the Divine.”
9. Divine Providence 130: “No one is reformed by miracles and signs, because they compel…. It cannot be denied that miracles induce a belief and a strong persuasion that what is said and taught by the one who performs the miracles is true. This, at first, so occupies the external of a person’s thought as to hold it spell-bound. When this happens, however, people are deprived of their two faculties called freedom and rationality, and therefore their ability to act from freedom and in accord with reason.”
10. Apocalypse Explained 815:4: “At that time, faith was based on miracles…. The Lord allowed Himself to be worshiped like this … because faith based on miracles must precede. It becomes saving faith, however, when a person learns truths from the Word, and lives according to them.” See also 10143:5: “In short, acting in accord with the Lord’s commandments constitutes true worship of Him…. There is nothing that a person who loves another and who believes in another would rather do than to will and do what that other wills and thinks. The person’s only desire, then, is to know the will and thought of the other person, and to do what is pleasing to that person.”
11. Arcana Coelestia 8767: “A person who leads a life in accordance with the commandments is joined to the Lord. For the commandments teach about life and also impart life, thereby opening the way to heaven and opening one's eyes to see the Lord.” See also Apocalypse Explained 447:5: “Galilee … signifies the establishment of the church with those who are in the good of life and receive truths.”
12. Apocalypse Explained 1014:2: “All who are in evils as to life, and in the falsities therefrom, are murderers; for they are enemies and haters of good and truth, since evil hates good and falsity hates truth. See also Apocalypse Explained 1012:4: “In the highest sense, the commandment, ‘You shall not murder," means that one shall not take away from anyone the faith and love of God, and thus a person’s spiritual life. This is murder itself.”
13. Arcana Coelestia 1378: “There are some who have believed nothing to be true that they did not see with their eyes . . . for example, the sailing of a ship around the globe. They who suffer themselves to be carried away by the fallacies of the senses, might believe that the ship and the sailors would fall off when they came to the opposite side, and that the people at the antipodes could never stand upon their feet. Such also is the case with many things in the other life that are contrary to the fallacies of the senses, and yet are true — as that a person has no life of himself, but from the Lord; and very many other things.”
14. Arcana Coelestia 2405: “The Lord’s resurrection on the third morning contains … the truth that He rises daily, indeed every single moment, in the minds of those who are regenerating.”
15. Apocalypse Explained 194: “The number ‘eleven’ signifies a state not yet full, but yet a state of reception, such as that of well-disposed children and infants.” (See the commentary at 20:9)
16. Arcana Coelestia 2094:2: “At the present day there are many who believe nothing unless they know from reason that it is so…. These persons cannot possibly receive any faith unless they first comprehend in some measure how it can be so, and this is why these things have been explained. However, they who believe the Word in simplicity have no need to know all these things, for they are already in the end to which the others just described cannot come except by a knowledge of such things.”
17. Apocalypse Explained 447: “The word ‘Galilee’ signifies the establishment of the church with those who are in the good of life.” See also Arcana Coelestia 2986: ““All those who are in the good of life receive truths easily.”
18. Divine Providence 262: “It is clear from the preceding and following verses that He said this to make known that in Himself now glorified there was the Divine Trinity. In the verse immediately preceding He says that to Him is given all power in heaven and on earth; and in the verse immediately following He says that He would be with them until the end of the age; thus, He speaks of Himself alone, and not of three.”
19. Arcana Coelestia 4535:5: “It is the end of the age in a church when there is no longer any charity and therefore no faith.”
20. Arcana Coelestia 2243:8: “The end of the age [or consummation of the age] in regard to a church is when evil has reached its peak. The case is similar with every person. See also Apocalypse Explained 870: “The end of the age refers to the end of the old church and the beginning of the new church…. The Lord’s coming in person is the revelation of Himself in the Word that He is Jehovah the Lord of heaven and earth, and that all who will be in His New Church which is meant by the New Jerusalem will adore Him alone. For this purpose, He has now opened the internal or spiritual sense of the Word.”