By New Christian Bible Study Staff
Wine played a key role in the ancient world, where safe, reliable water sources were scarce. It could be stored for long periods of time; if lightly fermented it was rich in sugar content; it was high in mineral content; it tasted good and generally had intoxicating qualities. Thus it was a valuable commodity and treated with reverence.
Wine is, of course, made from grapes. Grapes – sweet, juicy, nutritious and full of energy-rich fructose – represent the Lord's own exquisite desire to be good to us. That's powerful stuff! But grapes have a short shelf life; you might eat a bunch for a burst of energy, but you can't exactly carry them around with you for long-term sustenance. And so it is with desires for good: They tend to come to us in energizing bursts, but fade away fairly quickly. We need something more stable and lasting.
At some point in the distant past people figured out that if you squeeze the juice from the grapes and let it ferment, the result is a liquid that offers that stability: wine. The spiritual meaning works the same way; if we examine our desires for good, try to understand and think about how to apply them, what we will get are concepts about what good really is, how to recognize it and how to make it happen. And just like the wine, these ideas offer stability and portability. For instance, finding a wallet full of cash on the sidewalk might severely test our desire to be honest, but the idea that "you shall not steal" is pretty hard to shake.
Wine, then, on the deepest level represents divine truth flowing from divine goodness – the true principles that arise from the fact that the Lord loves us and desires everything good for us.
Wine comes in many varieties, though, and is used in many ways. Depending on context it can represent truth that arises from a desire for good on much more mundane levels. You want your children to be healthy so you make them brush their teeth even though they complain and it's a pain in the neck; the truth that brushing their teeth is good for them is wine on a very day-to-day level.
In some cases wine can also actually represent good things that arise from true ideas, something of a reverse from its inmost meaning. This happens when we are in transitional stages, setting higher ideas and principles above our less-worthy desires in an effort to reshape our actions. In that case our principles are the things being squeezed, with good habits the result.
There is also, of course, a darker side to wine. There is a good deal of debate about just how much alcohol wine had in Biblical times, and some of it may indeed have been more like concentrated grape juice. But there are also many references to wine and drunkeness, so some of it, at least, was fairly potent.
On a spiritual level, getting drunk on wine represents relying too much on our ideas, taking logic to such an extreme that we forget the good things we were trying to achieve in the first place.
(References: Apocalypse Revealed 316, 635; Arcana Coelestia 1071 [1-5], 1727, 3580 [1-4], 5117 , 6377, 10137 [1-10]; The Apocalypse Explained 329 [2-4], 376, 1152; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 219)