Exploring the Meaning of John 15

By Ray and Star Silverman
In this photo, entitled Reaching Out, two bean plants are climbing adjacent poles, and they have each reached out a tendril to bridge the gap.

Chapter Fifteen

The Vine and the Branches

1. I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.

2. Every branch in Me that brings not [forth] fruit, He takes it away; and every [one] that brings [forth] fruit, He prunes it, that it may bring [forth] more fruit.

3. Already you are clean through the word that I have spoken to you.

4. Remain in Me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bring [forth] fruit from itself, unless it remain in the vine, no more can you, unless you remain in Me.

5. I am the Vine, you [are] the branches; he that remains in Me, and I in him, this brings [forth] much fruit; for apart Me you can do nothing.

6. If anyone remain not in Me, he is cast out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned.

7. If you have remained in Me, and My sayings have remained in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done to you.

8. In this My Father is glorified, that you bring [forth] much fruit, and you shall become My disciples.

The message of the previous chapter was primarily one of comfort and consolation. Beginning with the assuring words, “Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them, that the Holy Spirit would be with them, and that He would give them His peace. These were some of the many promises and assurances that Jesus made as He began His farewell discourse. Jesus also said to them, “You believe in God. Believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Even though their hearts were troubled, Jesus encouraged His disciples to believe in Him, place their trust in Him, and have faith in Him.

Although faith is foundational, it must be more than mere belief. True faith must be expressed in our life, especially in acts of loving service. Otherwise, it is like a seed that has not been planted. It will never come to fruition. Therefore, as Jesus concludes the first part of His farewell discourse, He says to His disciples, “Arise, let us go from here” (John 14:31). Through these words, Jesus is exhorting His disciples not just to rest in faith, but to arise and translate that faith into fruitful action. As Jesus says in the next verse, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). 1

The imagery of a vineyard is important. Each year, just before the beginning of the next growing season, the vinedresser goes through the vineyard, first clearing out the dead branches, and then pruning the living ones so that they might produce more fruit. Just as a vineyard must be cleaned out each year before new growth can begin, the word that Jesus has spoken has had a cleansing effect on His disciples. As Jesus says, “You are already clean through the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Jesus has taught His disciples many things. He has taught them that life is about more than selfish ambition and material gain. He has taught them about the kingdom of heaven and the things that prevent them from experiencing it. Most importantly, He has taught them that true faith is about believing in God and keeping the commandments. In brief, they know what to do. In that regard, they are “clean.”

But if their lives are to bear fruit, they need to take Jesus’ teachings to heart and live them. It is in the doing, not just in the thinking, that the disciples will stay connected to Jesus. His love, wisdom, and power will flow into and through them as the sap of the vine flows into the branches. As Jesus says to them, “Remain in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bring forth fruit unless it remains in the vine, no more can you, unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4). 2

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus speaks about the “fruit of the vine” during the administration of the Holy Supper. In each of those first three gospels, Jesus says to His disciples, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29; see also Mark 14:25 and Luke 22:18). In the Gospel According to John, however, Jesus says nothing about drinking the fruit of the vine at some future time in His Father’s kingdom. Instead, Jesus says to His disciples, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He that remains in Me, and I in him, shall bring forth much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

These are not the words of an ordinary person, or even a highly evolved one. These are the words of Him who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). These are the words of Him who said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). These are the words of Him who said, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

Jesus then adds this warning: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:6). Taken literally, this sounds like the threat of eternal punishment in the fires of hell. More deeply, however, the phrase “gathered and thrown into the fire and burned” refers to a life that is burning with selfish desires. This includes “burning” with lust, “burning” with anger, getting “burnt-up” when we don’t get our way, and feeling “burnt-out” because we do not rest in the Lord. This is the spiritual meaning of “hellfire.” 3

Dead branches might be good for firewood, but they cannot bear fruit. Neither can we unless we are connected to the Lord. In this regard, the parable of the vine and the branches warns against a life that is focused merely on the pursuit of worldly ambitions and the gratification of selfish desire. Even if we appear to be highly productive, if the Lord is not in our efforts, we are dead branches. Therefore, Jesus compares these efforts to a branch that is severed from the tree and cast into the fire. 4

This parable is not just a strong warning against the feverish pursuit of worldly ambitions without resting in God. It is also a warning against idleness. While the Word teaches that in heaven we will rest from our labors, it does not mean that we should be idle. It simply means that we should rest in God, rather than laboring from self, no matter what we are doing. In this parable, as in many other places, Jesus does not encourage His disciples to be idle, but rather to be fruitful. This is because heavenly joy is in usefulness. It is both a place and a state of mind where God is working within us and through us so that we might bear fruit. 5

“My Father is the Vinedresser”

When Jesus describes Himself as the True Vine, He refers to His Father as the Vinedresser. The job of the vinedresser is to care for the vineyard, making sure that the vines are in the best health, thus ensuring that they will continue to produce fruit. This includes regularly cutting away dead branches and pruning good branches so that they might produce more fruit.

In our own lives, evil desires and false ideas must be cut away because they have no life from the Lord in them. They are simply dead branches. Hatred, revenge, and cruelty are some of the dead branches that must be cut off and burned in the fire.

At the same time, there may be some useful desires and thoughts that need pruning. For example, it’s normal to feel pride in the good things we do. Along the way, however, we may begin to see that there is intrinsic joy in a useful task, whether or not we are recompensed or recognized for what we do. Eventually, we come to see and understand that all goodness is from the Lord alone, that it is the Lord in us who is doing good, and is even in the joy that we feel. In this state, it is no longer about pride, or recognition, or remuneration. Instead, we humbly say, “Thank you, Lord.” 6

Regeneration and glorification

The process of removing dead branches and pruning good ones, then, relates to our regeneration. Whatever is useless in us, that is, those desires and thoughts which lead to dead ends, the Lord will mercifully take away. And whatever is useful in us, or has potential, the Lord will prune so that we can continue to grow into useful, fruitful individuals.

This is also true of the Lord’s glorification process. In His case, the dead branches were the inclinations to evils of every kind that He inherited through His human birth. Throughout His life, these inclinations would need to be cut away, like dead branches. In this regard, every attack from the hells allowed Him to deal with another aspect of this inheritance, gradually putting off every falsity and every inclination to evil, so that it could be replaced with the divinity that was His own soul. 7

It should be pointed out, however, that Jesus’ glorification process is not exactly the same as our regeneration process. In Jesus’ case, the divine love within Him, which He called “the Father,” enabled Him to prevail in every temptation combat. It was from this divine love, which was His very soul, that Jesus was able to receive divine perceptions that gave him the ability to distinguish between falsity and truth, evil and goodness.

Because of these divinely given perceptions from within, Jesus was able to continually separate Himself from what was evil and false while receiving what was good and true. This He did throughout His entire life, even unto the cross. It was a cutting and pruning process which could only take place because of the perceptions of divine truth that flowed from the divine love within Him. This is why Jesus says, “My Father is the Vinedresser.” 8

Unlike Jesus, we do not have a divine soul. Rather, we have a soul that is designed to receive what flows in from God through His Word. We are not the Vine, and we are not the Vinedresser. We are simply the branches that receive what flows in from God so that we might bear fruit. As long as we remain in Him, and He remains in us, His truth and His goodness will flow into us with the discernment and the power to overcome in the temptation combats we will inevitably face.

As a result, the evils and falsities that impeded our progress for so long will be cut away, and all that is good and true in us will be pruned—that is, further developed—so that we might become even more fruitful. As Jesus puts it, “If you remain in Me, and My sayings remain in you, you shall ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done to you” (John 15:7).

“You shall be My disciples”

The goal, then, is to bear fruit. None of us can produce fruit. Only the Lord can do that. But if we remain connected to the source, we can “bear” fruit, even as the branches of a tree serve as a part of the fruit-bearing process. To the extent that we do this, we glorify our Father in heaven. As Jesus says, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:9). Serving others from a loving heart, through the truth Jesus has given us, is what brings glory to God. This includes doing the work of one’s occupation sincerely, honestly, and diligently. This is how we bear fruit. 9

To this Jesus adds the words, “so you shall be My disciples.” This is the third time in this gospel that Jesus has spoken about what it takes to be His disciple. The first occasion was in chapter eight when Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). Here the emphasis is on the reformation of the understanding. It’s about truth.

The second occasion was in chapter thirteen, just after Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet. At that time, Jesus said to them, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Here the emphasis is on the development of a new will. It’s about love.

And now, in chapter fifteen, Jesus once again returns to the theme of what it takes to be a disciple. “By this is My father glorified,” He says. “That you bear much fruit: so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). Here the emphasis is on remaining in the Lord so that we might lead useful lives. It’s about service.

We become disciples, then, when the Lord’s truth, and the Lord’s love, come together in us so that we may “bear fruit” in some form of useful service. 10

A practical application

It is often said that you should, “Trust yourself,” Believe in yourself,” and “Follow your heart.” While these can be encouraging affirmations, if they leave out God, they can be empty platitudes. That’s because our “heart,” when left to itself, and without the guidance of truth, will generate its own rationalizations to justify whatever our lower nature desires. It is for this reason that Jesus says, “If you remain in Me, and My sayings remain in you, you shall ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). In that case—when Jesus’ sayings are in us—we can follow our heart and its desires. As it is written in the Hebrew scriptures, “Trust in the Lord and do good … and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:3-4). As a practical application, then, be careful about accepting sayings that are not connected to the vine. As Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches…. Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Love One Another

9. As the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; remain in My love.

10. If you keep My commandments, you shall remain in My love, as I have kept the commandments of My Father, and remain in His love.

11. These things have I spoken to you, that My joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be filled full.

12. This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

13. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his soul for his friends.

14. You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you.

15. I no longer call you servants, for the servant knows not what his lord does; but I have called you friends, because all things which I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

16. You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and placed you, that you may go and bring [forth] fruit, and your fruit may remain, that whatever you may ask the Father in My name He may give you.

17. These things I command you, that you may love one another.

Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches is a powerful reminder that we need to stay connected to the vine if we are to bear fruit. In this next section of the discourse. Jesus goes into further detail about what it takes to remain connected to the vine. He says, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love” (John 15:9-10).

The key, then, to remaining connected to the vine is to keep the commandments—and to do so from love. “If you keep My commandments,” says Jesus, “you will remain in My love.” As a result, we will experience the fullness of joy. “These things I have spoken to you,” says Jesus, “that my joy might be in you and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Just to be sure that His disciples get the point, Jesus repeats His instruction about what it takes to remain connected to the vine. He says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

This is exactly what Jesus told His disciples after He washed their feet. Here He repeats it again. To this He adds the following words: “Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

The word which is here translated as “life” is actually psychēn (ψυχὴν) which can also be translated as “soul,” “mind,” or “spirit.” This takes us deeper. It suggests that “laying down our life” does not just pertain to laying down our life on the physical battlefield. We are also called to the spiritual battlefront where we lay down every negative emotion and selfish attachment. This could include, but is not limited to, hatred, resentment, self-pity, envy, contempt, and fear.

In general, laying down our life is to willingly subordinate our loves of self and the world, which seem great to us, for a far greater love—the love of God and love of the neighbor. This is what it means to “lay down our life for our friends.” There is no greater love.

Jesus then says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Our relationship with God begins in simple obedience. But the time comes when we no longer do what God commands out of mere obedience. Rather, we begin to understand. We see the reasoning within God’s words. It makes sense to us. Therefore, Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what His master is doing. But I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). 11

As our spiritual development continues, we begin to see not only the reasoning within Jesus’ words, but also the goodness within His truth, especially as we apply that truth to our lives and experience the inner changes that come about. As we grow in our love for God and others, this love manifests in our lives as useful service. This is when we realize that this entire process—from obedience, to understanding, to love—has been the Lord’s doing, and not our own. As Jesus says in the next verse, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). 12

While the appearance is that we have chosen God, the reality is that God has always been present, quietly and gently urging to be received. It has been the Lord, all along, who first initiated the process and then leads us through it. Secretly, without our conscious awareness, the Lord has been working within us throughout our entire lives. In our earliest infancy and childhood, the Lord gave us opportunities to love our parents, caregivers, teachers, siblings, and playmates. This is how He “chose” us, even before we chose Him. 13

In our best states, we delighted in pleasing our parents, whether it was drawing a picture for them, helping to feed the pets, or sweeping the kitchen floor. There may have been moments when we felt sympathy for others, happily shared our toys, or humbly said the blessing before a meal. There may also have been times when we felt loved and protected, such as when we sat on a parent’s lap listening to a story, or when we held a grandparent’s hand while on a walk, or when we fell asleep in our mother’s arms while she sang a lullaby or said a prayer. These tender impressions are never lost. In fact, they can remain forever. 14

A simple way to refer to these blessed states that can remain forever is to call them “remains.” But this should not be confused with the more common term that suggests leftover food, an ancient relic, or the body of a deceased animal or person. In the highest and holiest sense, the term “remains” applies to every state of goodness and truth within us—states that were given to us freely as infants and children, states that are preserved in us wonderfully by the Lord and will remain throughout our life. Through them we become capable of receiving truth from the Lord. 15

As children, we received these states freely. The time comes, however, when we must ask to receive these loving states and the qualities that support them so that we can continue to bear fruit. Therefore, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (John 15:16). 16

The Lord’s “name” are His qualities with us. In order to make these qualities our own, however, we need to consciously practice them until they become our new nature—or second nature, so to speak. It is for this reason that Jesus concludes this section of the discourse with the frequently repeated admonition, “These things I command you, that you may love one another” (John 15:17).

A practical application

The command to love one another has been frequently repeated throughout this portion of the farewell discourse. Only through the continuous practice of loving one another can the Lord’s love become a part of our new, higher nature. While we might tend to believe that we are “basically good people,” this is only because the Lord has gifted us from our birth with remains of goodness and truth. But these gifts do not become a part of us until we consciously and continuously use them. Therefore, as a practical application, take every opportunity to act on loving thoughts and intentions. To assist you in the process, call to mind your “remains”—those blessed states that are stored up within you. This might include times when you spontaneously loved your parents, caregivers, and friends, times when you felt loved, cared for, and protected, and times when you had a sense of God’s presence in your life. The recall of specific memories will be helpful. Fill yourself with these reflections, remembering that these states were foretastes of the heavenly joy you will experience every time you practice Jesus’ command, “love one another.”

“They Hated Me Without a Cause”

18. If the world hate you, know that it hated Me before you.

19. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, on account of this the world hates you.

20. Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My word, they will also keep yours.

21. But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they know not Him that sent Me.

22. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no pretense for their sin.

23. He that hates Me hates My Father also.

24. If I had not done among them the works which none other has done, they would not have had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father.

25. But [this comes to pass] that the Word might be fulfilled that is written in their Law, They hated Me without a cause.

When Jesus began His farewell discourse, His message was filled with words of comfort and assurance. He then went on to exhort His disciples to remain in Him, even as the branch must remain in the vine so that it might bear fruit. He also told them that the way to remain connected to Him was to keep His commandments, and, especially, to love one another.

Jesus tells them all this knowing that great difficulties lie ahead, both for Him and for His disciples. Therefore, Jesus says to them, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before you” (John 15:18). On the literal level, Jesus is saying that there will be people who will hate the disciples because of their willingness to follow Him and proclaim His message. In fact, history records that many Christians suffered cruel persecutions. For example, Stephen, one of the early followers of Jesus, was stoned to death (see Acts 7:56-60), James, the brother of John, was executed with a sword (see Acts 12:2), Peter was imprisoned (see Acts 12:3-6), and John was exiled to the island called Patmos (see Revelation 1:9).

At a deeper level, Jesus is speaking about the kind of internal persecutions we will experience as we strive to live according to our faith in Him and in His teachings. The struggle to overcome our inherited and acquired inclinations to evil will not be easy. Every step in our upward advance will be met by an equal and opposing tendency to bring us back down. To the extent that we have grown comfortable with our destructive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, even normalizing them, the harder it will be to shake ourselves loose from their grasp. Worldly desires and immobilizing doubts will be at war against spiritual aspirations and faith in God.

But Jesus assures His disciples that as long as they continue to follow Him, they will not be ruled by these desires and doubts. Nevertheless, they will still face opposition. As Jesus puts it, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, on account of this, the world hates you” (John 15:19).

Jesus then reminds them of His previous teaching when He spoke to them about why He was willing to wash their feet. Repeating it once more, but in this new context, Jesus says, “The servant is not greater than his lord” (John 15:20; see also John 13:16). In the previous context, Jesus was saying that if He, their Lord and teacher, was willing to wash their feet, they should be willing to wash one another’s feet. In this new context, Jesus is saying that if He is going to be persecuted, His disciples should understand that they will be persecuted as well. As Jesus puts it, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

Just as Jesus is being persecuted for the truth that He came to teach, so will the disciples be persecuted. Persecution, however, takes place on both an outward and an inward level. Outwardly, there will be people who violently oppose what the disciples have to say, just as the scribes and Pharisees opposed Jesus and plotted to kill Him. At the same time, there will also be inward opposition by evil spirits who hate the truth. After all, when the light of truth shines on them, evil spirits will either flee for their lives or cruelly fight back, endeavoring to put out that light. As it is written earlier in this gospel, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20). 17

On a brighter note, Jesus adds that “if they have kept My word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). While there will be severe persecutions by those who hate the truth, there will also be grateful reception among those who love the truth. This is not only true on the outer plane of our lives, but also on the inward plane. There are states in us that will rejoice in hearing the truth. It will serve to nourish, fortify, and sustain all that we have believed in our heart of hearts to be true. When good seed falls on good ground it bears good fruit.

This interior goodness, as we mentioned previously, is a gift from the Lord called “remains.” It is given to us freely in our infancy and earliest years so that we might be able to receive the truth when it comes to us. There are other moments, too, throughout our lives, when deeply embedded remains of goodness are stirred, and new remains, especially related to understanding truth, are secretly implanted. 18

These remains, or holy impressions, are freely given and never taken away. Whether we call them by the name of mercy, grace, love, compassion, or tenderness, they are all “the name of the Lord”—the attributes and qualities of God with us. Even the most corrupt individuals still have remains. Unfortunately, they have suppressed these tender qualities in themselves to such a great extent that remains are virtually non-existent in them.

Devoid of love, they hate the name of God—that is, God’s qualities. And they are determined to persecute anyone who dares to share the truth with them. Speaking to this condition, Jesus says to His disciples, “But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they know not Him that sent Me” (John 15:21).

Jesus is telling His disciples that corrupt individuals do not know, nor do they want to know, what truth is, what love is, or who God is. This is what Jesus means when He says, “They do not know Him that sent Me.” This has been the case throughout Jesus’ ministry. Whenever Jesus revealed His divine nature through His words and actions, He was violently opposed by the scribes and Pharisees. When Jesus forgave sins, they accused Him of blasphemy. When Jesus healed the sick, they accused Him of working on the Sabbath. Nothing Jesus said or did could convince them.

Therefore, Jesus now says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). The scribes and Pharisees simply did not want to believe what Jesus had to say; nor were they moved by His miraculous abilities. Their hatred for both truth and the love from which it comes was too strong. As Jesus puts it, “He that hates Me hates My Father also” (John 15:23).

In the literal sense, Jesus is talking about the scribes and Pharisees who hated Him because His words and actions have been exposing their hypocrisy and corruption. Before Jesus’ coming, they had maintained their power and kept the people in fear through their rigid interpretation of scripture, especially through their portrayal of God as angry, punishing, and vengeful.

Throughout this gospel, Jesus has been very clear about the corrupt nature of the scribes and Pharisees. He has also been presenting the truth to them all along, but it is not what they want to hear. Of course, none of us can be held responsible for what we do not know. But when we are presented with the truth, and when it is made abundantly clear that the truth is filled with God’s love, it is a different situation. If we turn away, saying, “That is not what I want to hear,” especially because it does not support the desires of our lower nature, we have brought upon ourselves our own condemnation. As Jesus says, “If I had not done among them the works which none other has done, they would not have had sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father” (John 15:24).

As Jesus concludes this portion of His farewell address, He assures His disciples that all this will come to pass because it is necessary to fulfill the scriptures. As Jesus says, “But all this is to fulfill what is written in the Law: ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:25). The statement, “They hated Me without a cause,” can be found in Psalms 35:19 where it is written, “Let not my enemies gloat over me without a cause, nor those who hate me without reason.” Again, in Psalms 69:4 it is written, “Those who hate me without a cause outnumber the hairs of my head,” and in Psalms 109:3 it is written, “They surround me with hateful words and attack me without a cause.”

There can be no just cause for hating what is honorable and noble in a fellow human being. Nor can there be any just cause for hating what is good and true in the Lord. Every attack on truth and every persecution of goodness has its origin in an unjust cause—that is, in hell. Hellish spirits have ingrained antipathy to anything that is good and true, and especially antipathy against Jesus who they decided to murder. Their hatred against Jesus was deep and pervasive. They hated Him without a cause. 19

A practical application

Whenever a conflict arises within us, especially when it involves our desire to live according to the truth, there will be a combat. It is a conflict of evil desires against good intentions, with evil attacking through falsity, and good defending through truth. In every combat of this nature, our only means of defense is truth from the Word of the Lord. To us, this combat may only feel like anxiety. But much more is going on. The Lord Himself is working through the truth we have brought to mind to dispel falsity and protect goodness. This is how the Lord brings about victory for us during times of temptation. Therefore, as a practical application, when you find yourself in a conflict, whether external or internal, let it be a time for rising higher, relying on the Lord and the truth of His Word. Do not give in. As it is written in the Hebrew scriptures, “The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Exodus 1:12). 20

“When the Comforter Has Come”

26. And when the Comforter has come, which I will send to you from the Father, the spirit of Truth, which goes out from the Father, this will testify concerning Me.

27. And you also shall testify, because you are with Me from the beginning.

The truth that defends and strengthens us during times of temptation is called the “Comforter.” It is the assurance of the Lord’s presence. As Jesus puts it, “And when the Comforter has come, which I will send to you from the Father, the spirit of Truth, which goes out from the Father, this will testify concerning Me” (John 15:26). One of the functions of the Comforter, then, is to remind us that the Lord is present. As Jesus said to His disciples in the previous chapter, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:8).

The Greek word, which is translated as Comforter, is Paraklētos (Παράκλητος). It means, literally “to come alongside” from para meaning “beside” and kletos meaning “called, or invited.” For this reason, it has also been translated as “Helper” or “Advocate.” In any case, whether we prefer the term “Comforter,” “Helper,” or “Advocate,” it suggests that we are not alone in the combats of temptation. We are not orphans. We can invite the Lord to be by our side.

It is also important to note that Jesus consistently refers to the Comforter, or Helper, or Advocate, as the Holy Spirit. For example, towards the end of the previous chapter, Jesus said to His disciples, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). 21

Before His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus consistently speaks about sending the Comforter and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the future tense. This is because the glorification process is not yet complete. As John said earlier in this gospel, “The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). But the time of that future event is growing closer. Therefore Jesus says, “When the Comforter has come … this will testify concerning Me” (John 15:26).

In other words, once Jesus is glorified, and is no longer with them in Person, He will come to them again—not in the material form that He took on while He was with them in the world, but, more deeply, He will be with them in spirit. Jesus will be with them at all times as the Holy Spirit, even in the midst of their adversities. He will be there to comfort them, to strengthen them, and to bring His truth, and the spirit of His truth, to their remembrance.

Just as Jesus comes to us as the Holy Spirit, bringing to our remembrance the truth that testifies of Him, we, too, will be given the mission of testifying to others about Jesus. He has not only been with us in our infancy and childhood, but also all along the way in the process of our regeneration. As Jesus says, “And you also shall testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:27). 22

A practical application

While the predominant tone of the preceding chapter was one of comfort and consolation, this chapter culminates with a focus on the hatred and persecution that the disciples will confront, especially as they strive to testify about Jesus. During these times of persecution, their only hope for overcoming will be in remaining connected to the Vine—that is, in abiding in the truth that Jesus has given them, especially the truth that they should love one another. As a practical application, then, be aware that persecutions are coming. Doubts will arise. You will be tempted to abandon your highest goals and spiritual aspirations. This is the time to stay connected to God, by dwelling in His Word and allowing Him to call to mind the truth you need in this moment. Call upon His name. That is, pray for His courage in place of fear. Pray for His understanding in place of resentment. Pray for His peace in place of anxiety. In this way, God will be with you as the Helper, the Spirit of truth, the One who will support you, strengthen you, and fight for you during times of temptation. Go forward in the name of the Lord. 23


1Arcana Coelestia 2839: “Charity without faith is not genuine charity, and faith without charity is not faith. That there may be charity, there must be faith; and that there may be faith, there must be charity; but the essential itself is charity; for in no other ground can the seed which is faith be implanted. From the conjunction of the two mutually and reciprocally is the heavenly marriage, that is, the Lord’s kingdom. Unless faith is implanted in charity, it is mere memory-knowledge, for it goes no further than the memory. There is no affection of the heart which receives it. But when it is implanted in charity, that is, in the life, it becomes intelligence and wisdom.”

2Apocalypse Explained 650:40: “The words, ‘The tree shall bear her fruit’ signify the bringing forth of the good of life through the knowledge [of good and truth]. This is because a ‘tree’ signifies … a mind imbued with knowledges, and ‘fruit’ signifies the good of life.” See also Conjugial Love 135: “A tree symbolizes a person; and its fruit, goodness of life. The tree of life therefore symbolizes a person living from God, or God living in the person. And because love and wisdom and charity and faith or good and truth constitute the life of God in a person, the tree of life symbolizes these qualities, from which a person has eternal life.”

3True Christian Religion 455: “Hell enjoys the pleasures of all kinds of evil; that is, the pleasure in hatred, in revenge, in killing; the pleasure in looting and stealing; the pleasure in verbal abuse and blasphemy; the pleasure in denying God and desecrating the Word…. Evil people burn with these pleasures like torches on fire. These pleasures are what the Word means by hellfire.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 766:2: “People who are in the love of self burn with anger … and are inflamed with hatred and revenge against those who oppose them.” See also Arcana Coelestia 10038: “The phrase ‘burning with fire’ signifies the self-love which consumes all the goods and truth of faith with a person … it is what is meant by ‘hell fire.’”

4Arcana Coelestia 3147:7: “Good works are evil works unless those things are removed which are of the love of self and of the world; for when works are done before these have been removed, they indeed appear good outwardly, but are inwardly evil; for they are done either for the sake of reputation, or for gain, or for the sake of one’s honor, or for recompense…. But when these evils are removed, celestial love and spiritual love flow in from the Lord into the works and cause them to be love and charity in action.”

5Arcana Coelestia 6410: “The delight from good and the pleasantness from truth which cause blessedness in heaven, do not consist in idleness, but in activity; for in idleness delight and pleasantness become undelight and unpleasantness; but in activity, delight and pleasantness are permanent and constantly uplift, and cause blessedness.” See also Charity 168: “Every worker who looks to the Lord and shuns evils as sins, shuns idleness, because it is the devil's pillow.”

6Arcana Coelestia 548: “The very nature of love is to find its joy in being of service to others, not for the sake of self but for the love’s own sake.” See also The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Teachings 105: “Those who have self-love and love of the world as their end in view … cannot understand that willing and doing good to the neighbor without seeking reward makes heaven in a person, and that inherent in this affection is a happiness as great as that of the angels in heaven.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 949:2: “A ‘reward’ is an intrinsic blessing called ‘peace’ … and this is solely from the Lord.”

7The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Teachings 295: “When the Lord fully glorified His humanity, then He put off the humanity He inherited from His mother, and put on the humanity He inherited from the Father, which is the Divine humanity.” See also The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Regarding The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Regarding the Lord 12: “It is known in the church that the Lord conquered death, by which is meant hell, and that He afterwards ascended with glory into heaven. But it is not yet known that the Lord conquered death, or hell, by combats, which are temptations, and at the same time by these glorified His Human; and that the passion of the cross was the last combat or temptation by which He effected this conquest and glorification…. Temptations are nothing else than combats against the hells.”

8Arcana Coelestia 2500:2: “The Lord’s instruction … was by continual revelations, and thus by divine perceptions and thoughts from Himself, that is, from His divine; which perceptions and thoughts He implanted in divine intelligence and wisdom, and this even to the perfect union of His human with His divine. This way of growing wise is not possible with any person; for it flowed in from the divine itself, which was His inmost, being of the Father, of whom He was conceived; thus from the Divine Love Itself, which the Lord alone had.”

9Conjugial Love 9:4: “The glorification of God … means to bring forth the fruits of love, that is, to perform the work of one’s occupation faithfully, honestly, and diligently. For this is the effect of love of God and love of the neighbor.”

10Conjugial Love 10:7: “The joys of heaven and eternal happiness do not have to do with location, but with the state of a person’s life. The state of heavenly life comes from love and wisdom. And because useful service is the containing vessel of both love and wisdom, the state of heavenly life comes from a combination of these two in useful service.” See also True Christian Religion 737:3: “The soul’s delight … comes from love and wisdom from the Lord. Love is what produces this delight, and wisdom is how it produces it. Both love and wisdom find a home in the effect they have, and that effect is usefulness…. In a heavenly garden paradise, there is not a single thing, not even the least little leaf, that does not come from the marriage of love and wisdom in usefulness. Therefore, if we have that marriage within ourselves, then we are in a heavenly paradise, and therefore in heaven itself.”

11Arcana Coelestia 8979:2: “The person of the external church acts from obedience because it has been so commanded. It follows from this that the person of the internal church is free, but the person of the external church is relatively a servant. Whoever acts from the affection of love, acts from freedom, but the person who acts from obedience does not act from freedom, for to obey is not freedom.”

12Apocalypse Explained 409:9: “That they are not servants, but friends or free people who receive the divine truth in doctrine and in life from the Lord, is taught by these words, ‘If ye do whatsoever I command you, no longer do I call you servants, but friends.’ This is also taught by these words, ‘All things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.’ To command, and to make known, has reference to doctrine, and to bear fruit has reference to life. That these are from the Lord is thus taught, ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and appointed you.”

13True Christian Religion 498: “The Lord is present in everyone through human freedom. In that freedom, and through that freedom, the Lord is constantly urging people to receive Him. At the same time, however, He never removes or takes away that freedom. This is because no spiritual action can remain unless it is done in freedom. Therefore, it can be said that it is this freedom that permits the Lord to dwell in a person’s soul.”

14Arcana Coelestia 561: “Remains are not only the goods and truths that a man has learned from the Lord’s Word from infancy, and has thus impressed on his memory, but they are also all the states thence derived, such as states of innocence from infancy; states of love toward parents, brothers, teachers, friends; states of charity toward the neighbor, and also of pity for the poor and needy; in a word, all states of good and truth. These states together with the goods and truths impressed on the memory, are called remains…. The Lord preserves these states in people in such a way that not the least of them is lost…. When states of evil and falsity recur—for each and all of these, even the smallest, also remain and return—then these states are tempered by the Lord by means of the good states.”

15Arcana Coelestia 10110:4: “Good is implanted in people from infancy that it may be a plane for receiving truth.”

16Apocalypse Explained 295:3: “The reason why it is said that whatsoever they should will and ask, should be done to those who remain in the Lord, and in whom His words remain, is that in such case they will nothing but what the Lord gives them to will, and this is good, and good is from Himself.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 951: “People who are in the Lord do not wish for and so do not ask for anything that does not come from the Lord; and whatever they wish for and ask from the Lord, this comes to pass…. The angels in heaven have only to wish for something in order to obtain it. This is because they wish only for things that may be of useful service, wishing this as though of themselves, but in fact from the Lord.”

17Arcana Coelestia 59: “In the hour of conflict, evil spirits are present who absolutely hate everything that is good and true, that is, every element of love and faith in the Lord--elements that alone are good and true because they contain eternal life. See also Arcana Coelestia 2349:2: “They who are against the good of charity are against the Lord; or what is the same, they who are in evil hate the light, and do not come to the light. The ‘light’ is faith in the Lord, and is the Lord Himself.”

18Arcana Coelestia 1906:2-3: “Without remains, which are states of goodness … people would be more savage than any animal. These states of goodness are given by the Lord and implanted in a person’s natural disposition when the person is not aware of it. In later life, people still receive remains, but they are states that have more to do with truth than with goodness…. They enable people to think and also to understand what is good and what is true in both public and private life…. By ‘remains’ is meant all those states by which a person becomes human, the Lord alone doing the work.”

19Arcana Coelestia 5061: “Concerning those who have hatred without cause …. When such spirits merely perceive the sphere of the person whom they have hated, they breathe his destruction…. For hatred is opposite to love and charity, and is an aversion, and as it were a spiritual antipathy; and therefore, the moment that such spirits perceive in the other life the sphere of the person against whom they have borne hatred, they come as it were into a fury.” See also Arcana Coelestia 3340: “In hell, there is maniacal rage against what is good and true, and above all against the Lord…. If the Lord was not constantly driving back that rage the entire human race would perish.” See also Apocalypse Explained 1013:4: “The hatred of hellish spirits is against all who are in good… It is a fire that burns with the lust for destroying souls. Moreover, this is not from hatred against those whom they attempt to destroy, but from hatred against the Lord Himself. Now since a human is a human from the Lord, and the human which is from the Lord is good and truth, and since those who are in hell are, from a hatred against the Lord, eager to kill the human, which is good and truth, it follows that hell is the source of murder itself.”

20Arcana Coelestia 6663: “Before people who have lived the life of the Lord’s commandments can be uplifted into heaven and joined to societies there, they are infested by the evils and falsities pertaining to them so that these evils and falsities might be removed…. Spirits who are in like evils and falsities are present, and labor by every means to lead them away from truth and good. But still they are not immersed so deeply in their evils and falsities that the influx through the angels from the Lord may not prevail; and the balance is maintained with exactness. The purpose of this is, that people who are infested may seem to themselves to be in freedom, and thus to fight against the evils and falsities of themselves, yet with the acknowledgment, if not at the time, yet afterward, that all the power of resisting was from the Lord. When this is being done, not only are the truths and goods strengthened which had been implanted before, but more are instilled; this being the result of every spiritual combat in which the combatant is victorious.”

21True Christian Religion 139: “Since the Lord is absolute truth, everything that radiates from Him is truth. All this truth is known as the Comforter, which is also called the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit.”

22Arcana Coelestia 6993:1-2: “The whole trinity, namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is perfect in the Lord, and thus there is one God, and not three…. In the Word, mention is made of ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ so that people might acknowledge the Lord and also the Divine in Him. For people were in such thick darkness, as they are also at this day. Otherwise, they would not have acknowledged any Divine in the Lord’s Human; for this, being wholly incomprehensible, would have been to them beyond all belief. And, moreover, it is a truth that there is a Trine, but in one, namely, in the Lord; and it is also acknowledged in Christian churches that the Trine dwells perfectly in Him.”

23The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Teachings 191 195: “Temptations are fought by means of the truths of faith which come from the Word. People must use them to fight against evils and falsities. If they use other means than these, they do not win, for it is only in these that the Lord is present…. It is only the Lord who fights for people in temptations. If they do not believe that it is the Lord alone who fights for them and wins for them, then they undergo merely external temptation, which does not do them any good.”