The Bible

 

Genesis 1

Study the Inner Meaning

Next →         

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first Day.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Next →

   Study the Inner Meaning

Genesis 1: The Creation and Development of our Spiritual Life      

By Rev. William Woofenden

The first book of the Bible is "Genesis", which means "creation". It's a very, very ancient story - one of the oldest stories of humankind, and it's full of symbolic meaning that - still - gets to the core of what it is to be truly human.

The first three days of creation describe the development of the natural degree of man's life. They come first as a preparation for the opening of the spiritual degree of our minds. The creation of the grass, herbs, and trees took place on the third day, and constitutes the third step in regeneration. The creation of the fowl and fish was on the fifth day. Between these on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars were created.

From the beginning man had light, for all light is from the Lord, but it was not direct light. He was not at first in the clear light of the sun, moon, and stars, which are set in the firmament. The firmament is the internal man. There is a preparation that has to be made before the internal man is opened. At first we think we see the truth and do good from ourselves. Hence only inanimate things are produced. All truth and good are from the Lord who alone is truth and goodness, and only when we come to acknowledge this can we have true love from him, true faith in Him, and true knowledge of spiritual things. These are not seen from the external or natural degree of life.

Again we should note a change of language. It was said, "Let the earth bring forth" the grass, herb, and fruit trees. Now and through the remaining days it is said that "God created." Man has a part to play in his regeneration. There must be in his mind forms into which the warmth of love and the light of faith and of spiritual truths can flow.

When the mind is so prepared, influx from the Lord can be received, with greater power. "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." It should be noted that it is the waters that are commanded to bring forth the moving creature that hath life, and that it is not the seas but the waters which are to produce the living creatures. The seas represent the gathering together of knowledges, but by the "waters" are meant the spiritual truths in the mind. So in the Lord's words to the woman of Samaria, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:14). In Ezekiel it is the "waters" issuing from the sanctuary that give life (Ezekiel 47:1). The Psalmist writes, "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters" (Psalm 104:3). It is not in natural waters that the Lord lays the beams of His chambers. His chambers are the interior principles of His church; the beams give them support and strength. These are said to be laid in the waters because they rest and have their foundation in the genuine truths of the Word. So in Revelation the Word itself is described as a pure river of water of life.

The will faculty in man embraces all his affections and is the internal man. When the sun, moon, and stars—love, faith, and knowledges of spiritual truth—are set in this heaven and begin to impart their warmth and light to the external man, enabling him to think and act from these higher and purer principles, then the external man is gifted with a new life. There may be no apparent change in his outward conduct—he may already be living a moral life—but the motives that direct his acts will be wholly different. And it is the motive that gives character to the act as well as to the actor. He no longer thinks of the truths that he has learned, either natural or spiritual, as the product of his own mind nor of the good, that he does as the result of his own efforts, but thinks of them as wholly from the Lord, who alone is the source of all true light and life.

Before one recognizes clearly that all good and truth come from the Lord, he can bring forth only inanimate things, the grass, herb, and fruit tree, however good and useful these may be. But when he is enlightened by genuine love and faith, his knowledges become the basis for the development of spiritual life and God can create in him the living creatures that have life. First the fishes are created; then the fowl of the air. There is a difference between fishes and birds. The fishes, living in water, represent our affections for natural truths. The great whales, the largest of living creatures, are affections for the great general principles that control the mind. The principle may be either true or false. Of Pharaoh or Egypt it is written, "Thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou earnest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouled at their rivers" (Ezekiel 32:2) Here is pictured a ruling false principle from the natural degree of the mind — Egypt. That is, when the ruling principle is false, it will be a monster making the truths in the mind obscure like filthy or muddy waters.

Another example of the meaning of the whale in a bad sense is in the story of Jonah. When the principle is false it swallows up for a time all the truths that are in the mind. This is the whale swallowing Jonah the prophet. But Divine truth cannot be used by a false principle so as to become a part of its organic structure. Nor can the Divine truth perish. So the whale could not digest Jonah, nor could the prophet perish, but the whale vomited him up.

Spiritually there are whales trying to swallow prophets today, evil principles that try to use Divine truths to attain their ends. In the creation story, however, the whales are affections for the principles of natural truth for the sake of uses to the spiritual man. There is one source of genuine love. The creatures of the fifth day are living because they are animated by this love. Birds fly in the air above the earth. They have the power of flight and enjoy broader views. They represent affections for truth that rise above the natural. They are the thoughts that look at life from the heights of spiritual perception, ideas about the Lord, heaven, and spiritual things. Isaiah writes, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31). Birds represent spiritual intelligence, the power to lift us up to understand spiritual truth in heavenly light, through which truth the Lord can impart to us something of the Divine intelligence. So at the baptism of the Lord "The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him" (Matthew 3:16). So a new knowledge of heavenly life is given, a new perception of our possibilities, and in this higher intelligence a basis for further development is laid. This further development is pictured in the creation of the living creatures upon the earth. These are symbols of the affections. Here, too, it is said, "Let the earth bring forth" and also "And God made the beast of the earth." The creation of living animals on the earth and of man in the image and likeness of God marks the completion of the six days of creation—the six stages in regeneration. Man has first to learn what is to be believed and done and then to do it.

It is the office of the understanding to hear the Word and of the will to do it. In this way the truths are made our own, and the will and understanding make one mind. And when one begins to act from love as well as from faith, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image of God, and is given dominion over all things. Thus all things natural and spiritual come to be a delight to him and serviceable to him. To be an image and likeness of God one must act from impulses similar to those of God. This he cannot do until he comes into the final state of regeneration. Then he will not act from selfish motives, as does the natural man, nor from mere obedience to truth, but from love to the Lord and the neighbor. When these loves are developed and rule, to them is given the dominion over all subordinate affections and the fruits of all the growths of intelligence. These are what make man to be a man and cause him to be in the image and likeness of his Maker. Each step in the formation of a truly human character the Lord saw and pronounced good, but of the work of the sixth day it is said, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Arcana Coelestia 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, ...

Apocalypse Explained 257

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 402


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 246, 300, 476, 478, 480, 670, 709, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 200, 414

Conjugial Love 132, 156

Divine Love and Wisdom 11, 18, 287, 358

Divine Providence 123, 328

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 14, 103

Heaven and Hell 137

The Last Judgement 20

True Christian Religion 20, 34, 46, 48, 364, 490


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 229, 294, 401, 513, 526, 527, 555, ...

Canons of the New Church 45

Charity 91

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 23, 25, 28

De Verbo (The Word) 14

Spiritual Experiences 1973, 1974, 5605, 6110

Marriage 20, 34, 46, 48, 71

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 2:3, 7, 16, 19, 5:1, 2, 6:1, 21, 8:17, 9:1, 2, 3, 6, 11:7

Exodus 20:11

Deuteronomy 4:19, 32:4

2 Kings 19:15

2 Chronicles 2:11

Nehemiah 9:6

Job 12:7, 9, 26:8, 38:8

Psalms 8:4, 7, 19:2, 24:2, 33:6, 7, 9, 74:16, 95:5, 104:6, 14, 19, 25, 115:15, 16, 121:2, 136:5, 7, 9, 148:4, 7

Proverbs 8:29

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Isaiah 40:26, 45:7, 61:11

Jeremiah 4:23, 10:12, 31:35

Jonah 1:9

Zechariah 12:1

Matthew 19:4

Mark 4:28, 10:6

Luke 3:38

Acts of the Apostles 4:24, 17:29

1 Corinthians 11:7, 15:38

2 Corinthians 4:6, 6:14

Colossians 3:10

1 Timothy 4:4

Hebrews 6:8, 11:3

James 3:9

2 Peter 5, 6

Revelation 4:11

Bible Word Meanings

beginning
In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

God
When the Bible speaks of "Jehovah," it is representing love itself, the inmost love that is the essence of the Lord. That divine love is...

created
The creation of heaven and earth in the first chapter of Genesis means the new creation of the celestial church called 'Man'.

heaven
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

earth
Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

form
A person who has yet to be regenerated is called 'a void and an empty earth', and also 'ground where no good or truth has...

darkness
"Darkness" is a state without light. "Light" is truth from the Lord, so "darkness" represents a state where truth is lacking. Here's a cogent passage...

Face of the deep
The face of the deep (Gen. 1:2) signifies the lust of the unregenerate man, and the falsities thence originating.

face
“The eyes are the windows of the soul.” That’s a sentiment with roots somewhere in murky antiquity, but one that has become hopelessly cliché because...

Spirit of God
'The spirit of God,' as in Genesis 1:2, signifies the divine mercy of the Lord. 'The spirit of God' is His emanation. 'The spirit of...

Face of the waters
The face of the water (Gen. 1:2) signifies the knowledges of good and truth.

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

light
In the Word, “light” in the highest sense represents Divine Truth: knowledge, ideas, understanding that come to us from the Lord. In lesser degrees...

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

good
It seems rather circular to say that “good” in the Bible represents good, but in a general sense it’s true! The case is this: The...

called
'To proclaim' signifies exploration from influx of the Lord.

day
The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

night
The sun in the Bible represents the Lord, with its heat representing His love and its light representing His wisdom. “Daytime,” then, represents a state...

evening
Since the light and warmth of the sun represent the Lord’s wisdom and love, it makes sense that evening, a time when the light and...

morning
Morning comes with the rising of the sun, and the sun – which gives life to the earth with its warmth and light – represents...

Firmament
The firmament, as in Genesis 1, signifies the internal man. The firmament of heaven is mutual love.

midst
The "midst" of something in the Bible represents the thing that is most central and most important to the spiritual state being described, the motivation...

under
Generally speaking things that are seen as lower physically in the Bible represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases this...

one
A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

place
'A room' or 'place' denotes state.

land
Generally in the Bible a "country" means a political subdivision ruled by a king, or sometimes a tribe with a territory ruled by a king...

seas
Water generally represents what Swedenborg calls “natural truth,” or true concepts about day-to-day matters and physical things. Since all water ultimately flows into the seas,...

grass
Every herb in the Word signifies some species of scientifics. 'Herb bearing seed,' as mentioned in Genesis 1:29, signifies every truth which regards use. 'Green...

herb
Every herb in the Word signifies some species of scientifics. 'Herb bearing seed,' as mentioned in Genesis 1:29, signifies every truth which regards use. 'Green...

seed
'A seed' signifies love, and everyone who has love, as in Genesis 12:7. 8:15, 16. 'A seed' signifies faith grounded in charity. 'A seed' signifies...

fruit
We tend to think of "fruit" in two ways in natural language. One is as food that grows on trees and vines, sweet and delicious,...

tree
'Trees,' in general, signify the perceptions when discussing the celestial self, but when related to the spiritual church, they signify knowledges. A person in the...

Third day
'The third day' signifies the end of a state of preparation for reception, and so an end of purification, as in Exodus 19:16. 'The third...

third
'Three' denotes fullness, and 'a third,' not full.

lights
'The two luminaries' denote love and faith in the internal self.

signs
'A token,' as in Genesis 9:12, 13, 17, signifies causing it to be.

days
"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

two
The number "two" has two different meanings in the Bible. In most cases "two" indicates a joining together or unification. This is easy to see...

Great lights
Great lights, as in luminaries, signify love and faith, and are called in Genesis 1:14-17, the sun, moon, and stars.

great
The word "great" is used in the Bible to represent a state with a strong degree of love and affection, of the desire for good;...

greater
The word "great" is used in the Bible to represent a state with a strong degree of love and affection, of the desire for good;...

give
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

fourth
The number "four" in the Bible represents things being linked together or joined. This is partly because four is two times two, and two represents...

life
'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

fowl
Fowl signify spiritual truth; a bird, natural truth; and a winged thing, sensual truth. Fowl signify intellectual things. Fowl signify thoughts, and all that creeps...

fly
To fly, when spoken of the Lord, signifies to foresee and to provide. To fly, when predicated of the Lord, also signifies omnipresence. To fly...

open
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

whales
'A whale,' as in Jeremiah 51:34, signifies people who possess the universal aspects of the knowledges of faith, as known, and apply them to evil...

living
'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

winged
'Wings' signify spiritual truths. 'Wings,' when related to the Lord, signify the divine spiritual. In the opposite sense, 'wings' relate to falsities and rationalizations from...

blessed
The Lord is perfect love expressed as perfect wisdom. He created us so that He could love us, could give us love and wisdom of...

fruitful
To be fruitful is predicated of goodnesses, and to be multiplied, of truths.

multiply
'Spreading themselves on the earth,' as in Genesis 8:17, signifies the internal self operating on the external.

fill
There are two ways something can be filled: It can be filled with something bad against the wishes of its owner, or it can be...

beast
"Beasts" represent the affection for doing good things, a true desire to do them from the heart. In the negative sense, "beasts" stand for the...

us
Angels do give us guidance, but they are mere helpers; the Lord alone governs us, through angels and spirits. Since angels have their assisting role,...

image
'An image' signifies falsities from self-derived intelligence.

sea
'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

air
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

male
Because of their understanding of spiritual marriage, the people of the Most Ancient church perceived 'male and female' as two faculties in the spiritual self:...

male and female
Because of their understanding of spiritual marriage, the people of the Most Ancient church perceived 'male and female' as two faculties in the spiritual self:...

female
Female signifies good.

given
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

sixth
Like most numbers in the Bible, "six" can have various meanings depending on context, but has a couple that are primary. When used in relation...

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here: swedenborg.com.


Our Bodies Connect to God's Design of the Universe

The human body is a microcosm of the divine design. Join us to learn about its connection to heaven and what its form can teach us about spiritual reality and how our minds work.


The Creation Story: Signs of Life - S&L Short Clips

The Biblical creation story is about the re-creation of our minds. Learn how the first signs of life on the third day symbolize heavenly ideas taking root in our lives.


Swedenborg 101: The Basic Nature of Everything - Swedenborg and Life

In this episode, host Curtis Childs and featured guests explore what eighteenth-century Christian mystic and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg learned during his mystical explorations of the spiritual world. They delve into his life, spiritual awakening, and resulting philosophies about the relationship between this life and the afterlife.


What the 7 Days of Creation Mean - Swedenborg and Life

Was everything we see around us really created in seven days? Could that story in Genesis actually have something to say to each of us, right now? Join us as we discuss Swedenborg's accounts of his spiritual experiences and what he learned through them.

Genesis 1:1-5 >> 03:55
Genesis 1:6-8 >> 10:28
Genesis 1:9-13 >> 15:10
Genesis 1:14-19 >> 27:16
Genesis 1:20-23 >> 31:59
Genesis 1:24-31 >> 40:26

Does God Want us to Dominate Nature? - Swedenborg Minute

Is there a religious call to exploit nature? Here, Swedenborg tackles a bit of text that has led some people to believe just that.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Animals and Plants in Heaven
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Celebrating the Seven Days of Creation
Offers a wide array of ideas for play time, art projects, field trips, and more.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Correspondences of Light
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that talk about light. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Creation Chain
Make a paper chain with the names (or pictures) of the people in your family and other things that the Lord has made. Or make a paper chain that illustrates several things in creation that depend on one another. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Creation Diorama
A great family project to build and display in your home.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Creation Mobile
Assemble this lovely mobile to remind you of all the Lord's precious gifts to us.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Creation Poem with Hand Motions
A lovely poem about creation with hand motions.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Creation | Seas to Trees Pop-up
Color cut-and-fold pop-up project showing dry land rising out of the water and then growing a tree illustrating Genesis 1:9-13. Sample activity from Creation: reflection of God, Level C, ages 11-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Creation Sequencing Cards
Children can color and cut out these cards, then practice putting them in order from day 1-7.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Creation Story (circle book project)
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Creation | The First Day - Level A
Complete lesson with activity choices: light and darkness game and song, separate light and darkness collage, scripted story discussion, coloring page, and a memory verse. Sample lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level A, ages 3-6.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 6

 Creation | The First Day - Level B
Complete lesson with activity choices: light and darkness experiment with accompanying video, let there be light folding paper project, scripted story discussion, coloring page, and a memory verse. Sample lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level B, ages 7-10.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Creation | The First Day - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: living in the dark--group blindfold games, video and discussion on the bible, creation and a can of peaches, scripted story discussion, and an illustrated quotation card. Sample Lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level C.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Family Worship: The Story of Creation
Ideas for reading and discussing the story of creation in Genesis 1. Includes suggestions for extending the experience such as going for a nature walk.
Religion Lesson | Ages 3 - 15

 God Said What? The Creation Story
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Memory Verse: Giving Thanks for Creation
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Life Is Eternal
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Men and Women Are Different
Studies confirm that differences between men and women extend beyond the physical body, affecting engagement on all levels of life.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Overview of Creation Reflection of God Levels A, B, C for ages 3-14
Overview of Creation: reflection of God, Levels A, B, C for ages 3-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 14

 Prophecies of the Advent
Prophecies of Jesus' advent on earth often use the image of new light dawning in darkness to describe the spiritual impact His birth would have on the world.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Qualities of the Lord
Look at colored pictures of stories from the Word. Using a word bank, identify the quality of the Lord shown in each picture.
Project | Ages 9 - 14

 Quotes: Giving Thanks for Creation
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Stars
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Summary of Creation and Thankfulness
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Sun and the Fruit of Creation
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Thankfulness
A Thanksgiving "wreath" to color and display.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Thanking the Lord for Creation
How can your words and actions show the Lord that you appreciate His creation?
Activity | Ages over 15

 The Creation
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Creation: A General View
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Creation: The Fifth and Sixth Days
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Creation: The First Four Days
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Days of Creation Collage Book or Mural
Ideas from an art teacher for making a creation book or mural.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 The Fifth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Fifth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The First Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The First Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Fourth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Fourth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Greatest Gift
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Meaning of the Tree of Life
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Purpose of Creation
Birth brings a person into the natural world, but God's ultimate purpose is that a person be born again into heavenly life, the life of the spirit.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Second Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Second Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Seven Days of Creation
An illustrated story of the seven days of creation.
Story | Ages 3 - 7

 The Sixth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Sixth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Story of Creation
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Story of Creation: Family Worship Ideas
Detailed notes on the seven days of creation.
Article | Ages over 18

 The Third Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Third Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Universe
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Word Made Flesh
Like Genesis, the Gospel of John begins with creation. While Genesis describes the creation of natural light, John describes a second creation into spiritual light.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Two Great Lights
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Using the Lord’s Creation
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Where Did Everything Come From?
Grandpa explains to Annika and Peter where everything came from.
Story | Ages 4 - 6

 Why Are We Here?
Lesson and activities to explore why we were created - what God intends for us.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Arcana Coelestia #487

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

Study this Passage

Go to section / 10837  

← Previous   Next →

487. 'Days means periods of time and states in general. This has been shown in Chapter 1, where the 'days of creation' have no other meaning. In the Word it is very common for a whole period of time to be called 'a day', as it clearly is in the present verse and in verses 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 27, 31, below; and therefore the states that belong to periods of time in general are meant by 'days' as well. And when 'years' is attached, then periods of years mean the natures of those states, and so the states in particular.

[2] The most ancient people had their own particular numbers which they would use to mean different aspects of the Church - for instance, the numbers three, seven, ten, twelve, and many which they obtained from these and other numbers - and in so doing incorporated states of the Church. These numbers therefore contain arcana that would require considerable effort to unravel. Really a number was an evaluation of the states of the Church. The same feature occurs throughout the Word, especially in the prophetical. And the religious ceremonies of the Jewish Church also entail numbers specifying periods of time as well as quantities; for example, in connection with sacrifices, minchahs, oblations, and other practices, which in every case have special reference to holy things. Consequently eight hundred in this verse, nine hundred and thirty in the next, and the numbers of years mentioned in the verses that follow after that, embody in particular more matters than can possibly be retold; matters, that is to say, which have to do with changes in the state of their Church in relationship to their own general state. Later on, in the Lord's Divine mercy, the meaning of the simple numbers up to twelve will be given, for without knowing these first of all no one can grasp what compound numbers mean.

(References: Genesis 5:4)

Go to section / 10837  

← Previous   Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 893, 931, 1105, 1332, 1429, 1963, 1988, 2075, 2103, 2109, 2111, 2199, 2213, 2252, 2269, 2575, 2636, 2649, 2726, 2788, 2838, 2905, 3016, 3176, 3251, 3252, 3281, 3298, 3390, 3405, 3419, 3462, 3469, 3498, 3613, 3703, 3785, 3824, ...

The White Horse 10

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 1, 259


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 39, 124


   Swedenborg Research Tools


Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.

The Bible

 

Matthew 19:4

Study the Inner Meaning

← Previous    Full Chapter    Next →         

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 19      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 19.

Teachings About Marriage

---
1. And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judea, across the Jordan.

2. And many crowds followed Him; and He cured them there.

3. And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him, and saying to Him, “Is it permitted for a man to send away his wife for every cause?”

4. And He answering said to them, “Have you not read that He who made [them] from the beginning made them male and female,

5. And said, ‘On this account shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’

6. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

7. They say unto Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a document of divorce, and to send her away?”

8. He says to them, “Moses, because of your hard-heartedness, permitted you to send away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so.

9. And I say unto you that whoever shall send away his wife, except over scortation, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and he who marries her that is sent away commits adultery.”
---

The decline of marriage

Jesus has just finished speaking about what it means to be “great” in the kingdom of heaven. He illustrated this by placing a child in the midst of His disciples, urging them to become as little children. He then added that they should “humble themselves” as a little child — the very opposite of any attempt to exalt themselves.

In their early years, little children store up precious memories of how it feels to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven. Their tender hearts are open to the gentle and direct influences of heaven. As Jesus said at the beginning of the previous chapter, “their angels continually look at the face of My Father in heaven” (18:10).

The gentleness of children is then contrasted with the hard-heartedness of the unforgiving servant — a man who was unwilling to forgive a minor debt even though he himself had been forgiven an enormous debt. Between the two episodes (setting a child in the midst of the disciples and the story of the unforgiving servant), Peter asks Jesus, “How often should I forgive someone who sins against me. Up to seven times?” “No,” says Jesus, “seventy times seven,” which means always and forever (see 18:21-22).

With these important teachings about forgiveness in mind, the gospel narrative now turns to the subject of marriage. Although marriage was God’s first blessing (Genesis 1:28), over the course of time it came to be seen as merely a convenience for men who wanted women to serve them as their domestic slaves, preparing meals and producing children. No longer seen as a sacred blessing from God, marriage had lost its grandeur and beauty; the beautiful ideal of two souls becoming as one was lost. Husbands no longer regarded their wives as their noble companions, but rather as their domestic servants. 1

Hardness of heart

This brief history of marriage and its decline provides an important context for the next episode. As Jesus comes into the land of Judea, He is approached by the religious leaders who ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” (19:3). Their question regards the proper interpretation of a well-known law: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she find no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, let him write her a certificate of divorce, put it in her hand, and send her out of his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1). This law seems to sanction divorce for any cause. However, not all of the religious leaders agreed. In fact, there was a dispute between two rabbinical schools of thought. One of the schools (Hillel) was teaching that it is literally true that a wife could be divorced for any cause; but an opposing school (Shammai) was teaching that a woman could be divorced only for adultery. 2

This was obviously a trick question, designed to trap Jesus into taking one of the sides in the debate. Because it was a “hot button” issue at the time, Jesus answer was sure to offend someone. Rather than get trapped in this literalistic debate, Jesus uses this opportunity to teach a higher lesson. “Have you not read,” He says, “that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ and said ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (19:6). Not content with this answer, the Pharisees press on, saying, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?” (19:7). Jesus’ response is simple and straightforward: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (19:8).

Jesus here refers to the “hardness of heart” that had set in over the years. Jesus is very careful about His choice of words. He says that Moses permitted it. This is to make it clear that this command came from Moses, as a permission, but that it is not the Lord’s will. 3

Many of the laws in the Hebrew scriptures were given in their literal form in accommodation to the states of the people, for it was all that they could understand at the time. But just because a law is written in the scriptures, the literal words of that law does not necessarily reflect the Lord’s will for all people at all times. Laws that permitted men to take many wives, or to divorce their wives whenever they wished, were permissions granted on account of the hardness of their hearts, less they perpetrate even more grievous evils. 4

We know for example that the famous law regarding revenge, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Leviticus 24:20), was given so that human beings, in their cruelty, would not retaliate beyond the offense that was given. Similarly, the many laws about animal sacrifice were given, not because God delights in the slaughter of animals, but because it was better than the sacrifice of children. 5

All of these permissions were granted because of the hardness of people’s hearts — that state of inordinate pride, self-love and arrogant self-confidence which is the very opposite of humility. In this state of mind people become unyielding and rigid, unwilling and therefore unable to see anything beyond their own world view. As a result there is no understanding of others, no forgiveness and no mercy. In the Word, it is called a “heart of stone.” (Ezekiel 36:26). 6

One indication of “hardness of heart” is a propensity to focus on our own understanding of truth, to the exclusion of love. Whenever we do this, we have a tendency to become stern, austere, harsh and unyielding. But when truth and love are united in us, and in our lives, we become gentle, soft-hearted, and compassionate. A mere understanding of truth does not become wisdom until it is filled with — or “married to” — goodness. This can be compared to the influence that a woman can have upon her husband as they become more and more one soul in the marital relationship. The wife can help her husband transform his innate hard-headed, hard-hearted intelligence into the true wisdom of a husband. 7

The marriage relationship, then, can be a transformative experience. It can transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. This is also true for every human being — whether married or not. This is because the marriage relationship between one man and one woman represents the deeper spiritual relationship between truth and goodness that takes place in every human soul. To the extent that the truth we know is united with goodness, we become more and more a human being — more and more an image of God. As it is written, “Male and female He created them. In the image of God He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Truth must be united with goodness. If we were to “put away our wife” (goodness) for any reason — that is, divorce ourselves from, love, mercy, and forgiveness — our hearts would remain hard, proud, unyielding, and full of self-love. On the other hand, as we become “one flesh” with these tender qualities, our hearts are softened; we become yielding and receptive to what flows in from the divine.

What God has joined together

In the previous chapter, Jesus instructed His disciples about the importance of humility by setting a child in their midst. And in the story of the unforgiving servant we saw the vital link between humility (awareness of our debt to the Lord) and forgiveness. Now, in this next chapter, the teaching continues in an area of human life where humility and forgiveness are of utmost practical importance — marriage.

Humility is directly related to the ability to see our own evils, to acknowledge them, and to pray for the power to overcome them. Without this essential virtue, a marriage relationship will eventually deteriorate into contempt and criticism, whether spoken outwardly or harbored silently in a hardened-heart. Moreover, without the spirit of humility, each strives for mastery over the other, seeking to have the upper hand, insisting on having the last word. Whether openly through physical coercion and verbal abuse, or secretly through various forms of manipulation, each will strive to dominate the other. The relentless desire to exert control inevitably leads to heated arguments and bitter strife, or to stubborn resistance and icey silence. Either way, what God intends to be our heaven on earth becomes a living hell at home. 8

But this need not be the case. As Jesus says, “From the beginning it was not so.” The beginning of a marriage, like the infancy of our lives, is a time of tender, spontaneous love. Hearts are soft and forgiving. But over the course of time, especially as selfishness sets in, hearts can begin to harden and grow cold; two people who once promised to love each other forever now begin to think about separation and divorce.

How, then, do we overcome “hardness of heart”? Or to say it differently, how can we transform a contemptuous, haughty attitude into an attitude that is humble, respectful and open to the viewpoints of others? As Jesus has shown, there is only one way. It is through the process of temptation. In the combats of temptation, the truth that we know is put to use. As a result, the love of self is subdued, contempt for others is put aside, and the Lord’s mercy flows in. A heart of stone is taken away, and a new heart is given. As it is written, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). This is what can happen to anyone who is willing to “take up one’s cross and follow Jesus” — that is, live according to the truth that Jesus teaches.

We can see, then, that Jesus uses this opportunity to teach eternal lessons about marriage — not only about the marriage between one man and one woman, but also about the marriage of truth and goodness that must take place within every individual. Whether married or not, this internal marriage takes place through the process of spiritual temptation, the perennial combat of truth against falsity, good against evil. While Jesus does not reveal these more interior teachings, it is all there, contained within spiritually loaded phrase, “because of the hardness of your hearts.”

Temptations serve to break up our arrogant self-confidence — our “hardness of heart.” As our hearts begin to soften, we come to realize that without God we can do nothing. Through this process we become truly human. During these times of trial, we come face to face with the question, “Do we truly believe this or not?” And if we do believe, the only way to demonstrate our belief is to we put it to use, even when our lower nature is being stubbornly resistant. If we are successful in subduing our lower nature while compelling our will to apply the truth, the result is an internal marriage of the truth we know with our desire to live according to it. This is the very marriage that God had in mind from the very beginning of creation — a heavenly marriage of goodness and truth within us. This, then, is the spiritual meaning of the words “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (19:9). 9

Is it Better Not to Marry?

---
10. His disciples say to Him, “If the case of the man be so with the wife, it is not expedient to wed.”

11. But He said to them, “All do not take in this word, but [they] to whom it is given.

12. For there are eunuchs who were so born from the mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens. He that is able to take it in, let him take it in.”
---

As we have seen, Jesus uses external situations to teach more interior spiritual lessons. In this case, He is teaching not only about the external marriage between a man and a woman, but also about the marriage of truth (represented by “a man”) and goodness (represented by a “woman”) — an internal marriage that can take place within every individual. Therefore, when Jesus teaches that “a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife,” we need to understand this at both the natural and spiritual level. The spiritual message is that every human being must leave behind inherited tendencies to evil in order to receive a new will (“a wife”), that is, a new will that loves what is good. All of this is contained within Jesus’ literal statements. 10

But the religious leaders were not ready for those kinds of explanations. They demanded specific “yes” and “no” answers for their trick questions. So, Jesus gave them what they needed to hear. He tells them, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” This was the clear, unequivocal message they needed to hear. Even if marriages were no longer considered sacred, they were still covenants for life. Jesus knew how destructive it would be for society if wives were simply put away for any reason. Therefore, He reinforced the teaching that the only reason for divorce could be adultery. Moreover, he took it a step further, saying, “And whoever marries her who has been put away also commits adultery” (19:9).

It’s easy to imagine that the disciples were confused. Jesus, who seems to be so open, so loving, and so forgiving about so many things, comes across as unusually firm about the law regarding divorce. So, they say to Jesus, “If such is the case, it is better not to marry” (19:10).

It should be remembered that it is the disciples — not Jesus — who suggest that it is perhaps better not to marry. Throughout the history of the Christian church there have been people who have believed that a celibate life is a higher spiritual path than a married one. Even Paul, who chose celibacy over marriage, said, “I wish that all men were as I myself [celibate] … and I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:7-9).

Though Paul acknowledges that it is not a sin to marry, he does not recommend it. His anti-marriage advice continues: “Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife…. For those who marry will face many troubles in this life and I want to spare you this” (1 Corinthians 7:27-28). And then, to sum it all up, he writes, “So then, he who marries a virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better” (1 Corinthians 7:38).

While some argue that Paul recommends celibacy only because there is an immediate crisis, others claim that he definitely teaches that celibacy is a higher path — not just for Paul’s time, but for all time. This is perhaps because Jesus Himself seems to teach the virtue of celibacy, especially when He adds these words: “There are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (19:12). It would seem, at least on the surface, that Jesus might indeed be recommending celibacy.

But we need to explore the inner meaning of Jesus’ words.

Jesus is here referring to three types of men: those who have no sexual interest in women because they were born with undeveloped testes (“eunuchs who were born thus”); those who no longer have sexual interest in women because their testes were removed by others (“eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men”); and men who no longer have sexual interest in women because they have removed their own testes for religious purposes (“eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”). In each of these cases the common denominator seems to be no sexual interest in women.

But if this is really Jesus’ point, why does Jesus have such a high regard for marriage? Why does He, in the preceding episode, take the religious leaders back to the original plan of creation, reminding them that in the beginning God made people male and female and joined them together so that they would become “one flesh”? And why would He bless them and tell them to be fruitful and multiply? Obviously, God is not against marriage, nor is He against sexuality in marriage.

The “eunuch,” then, is a only symbol of spiritual purity — not a recommended religious path. In sacred symbolism a “eunuch” represents an individual who strives to shun adulterous lust out of love and respect for marriage. Such people have no desire to be united with evil, because they know that it is contrary to God’s will. Thus they have become spiritual “eunuchs” for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. 11

When God created the world, and everything in it, He said it is “good.” And when He created man and woman on the sixth day, blessing them, and commanding them to be fruitful and multiply, He said. “Behold, it is very good” (Genesis 1:31). Therefore, it makes sense to conclude that God considers marriage, sexuality, and the production of offspring as a part of His plan. He wants us to marry, to have beautiful sexual relations with our marriage partner, and to produce offspring. Nothing could be simpler, or more wonderful.

Celibacy, on the other hand, is a deviation from God’s order. It prevents us from experiencing the highest happiness and the greatest blessing given to humanity: marriage. The marriage relationship — spiritual and physical — is the container of all heavenly and earthly joys. Sexuality in marriage is the most intimate physical relationship that can take place between a husband and wife. It is no wonder, then, that God has blessed this relationship with the highest of all physical delights — for it corresponds to the delight that the soul experiences when good and truth are united. 12

When Jesus responded to the question about putting wives away, He said, simply, “from the beginning it was not so.” These words remind us that the experience of falling in love and entering the marriage relationship brings us back to the innocence and purity of our childhood, where we can once again be “naked and not ashamed.” It is a time to be open with one another about all things, to love one another deeply and tenderly, and to promise eternal fidelity to each other. In many ways it is a lovely symbol, and perfect representation of our relationship with God — childlike, innocent, trusting, open, and eternal. Jesus compares this to three kinds of eunuch: the eunuch from his mother’s womb; the eunuch made so by men; and the eunuch who makes himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven.

The three types of eunuchs perfectly describe three ways of achieving a marriage relationship that is free of licentious desires. In the highest, most heavenly way, the love flows from a heart that has been newborn from the Lord. The relationship is innocent, chaste, and pure — without lust. Though there are sexual feelings, they are focused only on the beloved. These are “eunuchs who are born thus from their mother’s womb.”

The next type of eunuch describes the individual who learns the truths of revelation and applies them to life. These are the truths that help him to rise above every evil affection, especially those lusts that would destroy a marriage relationship. Because the term “men” in the Word signifies “truths,” these are the kinds of people who are described as “eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men.” 13

The third type of eunuch commits himself to marriage out of obedience. The commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” is enough. This is not the same as rising above licentiousness through truths given in the Word (“made eunuchs by men”); nor is it the same as developing a new heart that detests the very thought of adultery.

Nevertheless, “eunuchs” of this type are still welcomed by the Lord. These are “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” 14

The kind of struggle represented by the second and third stages can be painful and difficult. Nevertheless, if we want to enter into true marriage, must be willing to cut away every illicit desire and every wandering lust. Only then can we experience true marriage love.

The description of three kinds of eunuchs is Jesus’ response to the statement of the disciples, who said to Him, “If such be the case, it is better not to marry.” While deeply embedded in spiritual language about eunuchs, Jesus’ response is clear. It is better to marry. But it’s even better to cultivate a chaste love for one’s spouse, purified of lustful desire. In His description of the eunuchs, Jesus is not talking about sexual abstinence. Rather, He is talking about cultivating a love for one’s spouse, devoid of licentiousness, and in accordance with the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” 15

Jesus, of course, knew that most of this would be beyond the understanding of His disciples, so He ends this illustration with the words, “”He who is able to comprehend, let him comprehend” (19:12).

Let the Little Children Come to Me

---
13. Then were there brought to Him little children, that He should lay [His] hands on them, and pray; but the disciples rebuked them.

14. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of the heavens.”

15. And laying hands on them, He went thence.
---

As we progress through these three stages in our marriage relationships, and in our lives, and if we strive to trust in the Lord through every stage, we will repeatedly return to that beginning state in which we are again like innocent, trusting children. Therefore, the very next episode begins with these words: “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray” (19:13). This represents the return of our innocent, trusting states — the “little ones” that Jesus spoke of in the preceding chapter.

These “little ones” never leave us, though they may be forgotten, apparently lost, and covered over by the love of self and cares of the world. It is therefore necessary that these tender states in us be once again drawn out; this happens whenever we feel touched by the hand of the Lord. “Then little children were brought to Him, that He might put His hands on them.”

The disciples are still confused and do not fully understanding what Jesus is doing. Like Peter, who rebuked the Lord for saying that He would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things (17:21), the disciples now rebuke those who bring little children to Jesus. Peter did not understand that the Lord’s temptations would be necessary for the salvation of the human race, just as our temptations are necessary for our regeneration. Nor did he realize that the “little children” that Jesus touched represent those tender aspects of ourselves that the Lord touches from time to time. This occurs especially after the combats of temptation when we realize that we have no power of our own, and that we are completely dependent upon the Lord — very much like children who are completely dependent on their parents.

This is our return to innocence, where we are once again like little children. Therefore, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven” (19:14). It is an invitation to each of us to come to the Lord, as His children, entirely dependent on Him for our spiritual sustenance. As the “little ones” in us feel the touch of His spirit, we receive His life. Therefore, this episode ends with the words, “And laying hands on them, He departed from there” (19:15).

The Rich Young Ruler

---
16. And behold, one coming said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

17. And He said to him, “Why callest thou Me good? None is good except One, God; but if thou willest to enter into the life, keep the commandments.”

18. He says to Him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “This, that thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness,

19. Honor thy father and mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

20. The young man says to Him, “All these things have I guarded from my youth; in what am I yet lacking?”

21. Jesus declared to him, “If thou willest to be perfect, go, sell thy belongings, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

22. But when the young man heard the word, he went away sorrowful; for he had many possessions.
---

The divine narrative now continues with the story of a rich young ruler who asks, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (19:16). Note the emphasis here upon action rather than attitude. In the preceding series, the primary focus has been upon an attitude of humility. Even forgiveness, though it is expressed in certain physical actions, is essentially an attitude. The rich young ruler, however, lives under the delusion that heaven can be merited by certain external actions, rather than a fundamental change of attitude. Therefore he asks, “What good thing shall I do . . .”

The young man’s need for a change of attitude is made very clear in Jesus’ response to his question. When the young man addresses Jesus as “Good, teacher,” Jesus points out that no person, from himself, is good. All goodness is from God alone. Therefore, He says, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (16:17). In other words, we should not take merit for the good that we do, since all good comes from God.

Nevertheless, Jesus says to the rich young ruler, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (19:17). This catches the young man’s attention, for he certainly seems desirous of doing “the right thing” so that he may get into heaven. Therefore, he asks, “Which ones?” as if certain commandments are of more help than others in meriting heaven. Jesus tells him explicitly: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (19:19). This is good news for the young man, who replies: “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” (19:20)

The young man still believes that he can merit heaven by all of his “doing.” He seems to be quite proud of himself, perhaps even bragging, when he says, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” He has not yet come to acknowledge that the good he does derives from God, and that without God, He can do nothing. It is this humility which he lacks. But rather than tell him this directly, Jesus responds in the language of parable, saying, “ If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (19:21). We read, however, that this is too much for the young man who goes away sorrowful, for he has great possessions” (19:22).

In the context of all that has preceded, Jesus’ words, “sell what you have” mean that we should get rid of the belief that our riches are our own, acknowledging instead that without God, we are indeed poor. But in so far as we do this — that is, in so far as we attribute all that we have to God — we become rich indeed. In acknowledging our spiritual poverty, God can fill us with the kingdom of heaven. “This is what Jesus means when He says, “give to the poor” (acknowledge our spiritual poverty), and you will have treasure in heaven (God will fill us with every spiritual blessing). It is another way of repeating the opening words from His Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3).

All of this, however, depends on whether or not we are willing to “follow” Jesus, that is, do His will. This is what is meant by Jesus’ invitation to the rich young ruler at the close of this episode, “Come, follow Me.”

Who then can be saved?

---
23. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Amen I say to you that with difficulty shall a rich [man] enter into the kingdom of the heavens.

24. And again, I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

25. And when His disciples heard [it], they wondered greatly, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

26. But Jesus looking at [them] said to them, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
---

The rich young ruler knew many truths and had “kept them” from his youth. In this regard, he was spiritually “rich.” We, too, are blessed to know spiritual truth, and even more blessed when we live according to it. But true blessing only comes when we acknowledge that every truth we have, along with the ability to understand it and apply it, is from the Lord alone. As long as we remain puffed up with pride and self-importance, no matter how much we know (spiritual riches), we can never enter the kingdom of God. As Jesus puts it, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (19:24).

Earthly wealth has never been, and never will be, a hindrance to the kingdom of God. 16 Conversely, physical poverty has never been, and never will be, a guarantee of admission. But pride of intellect and arrogant self-confidence will surely keep us out of heaven, while genuine humility, contriteness of heart, and trust in God, will surely open heaven’s gates. Ultimately, all of our knowledge, along with our achievements and successes, are useless unless we acknowledge that it is all from the Lord. This is what Jesus means when He says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples hear this, they are “exceedingly amazed” and say, “Who then can be saved?” (19:25). The disciples are amazed because they have never thought beyond the idea of personal merit. They have grown up in the traditional belief that people are saved by a rigid adherence to religious laws. But Jesus is teaching them something new. The rich young ruler has kept all the commandments. That’s good, but it’s not enough. Something more is needed. While keeping the commandments is commendable, they need to be kept with a right attitude. And that attitude is the humble acknowledgment that even the power to keep the commandments is from the Lord. It is for this reason that Jesus responds to their question, “Who then can be saved?” with this answer, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (19:26). 17

Sitting on Thrones

---
27. Then Peter answering said to Him, Behold, we have left all and followed Thee; what then shall we have?

28. And Jesus said to them, Amen I say to you, that you who have followed Me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29. And everyone that has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.

30. But many [who are] first shall be last, and the last first.
---

Peter is watching and listening intently. Remembering that Jesus told the young man to “Sell what you have … and follow Me,” Peter says to Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You.” He then adds, “Therefore what shall we have?” (19:27). Peter’s question,“What shall we have?” reveals that he doesn’t quite understand what Jesus is teaching. Peter still thinks of heaven as a reward — as something you receive for doing the right thing. His question is not very different from that of the young ruler who asks, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” For both Peter and the rich young ruler — as for each of us — it takes time and maturity to discover that the rewards of heavenly life consist in the delights of doing good — without any thought of reward. 18

Jesus, nevertheless, not wanting to discourage Peter or the disciples, says, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28). This must have sounded like wonderful news to the disciples, who all along had been hoping that Jesus would fulfill His role as Messiah and become the new King of Israel. And now, along with this exciting declaration, Jesus tells them that each of them will sit on a throne “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Though they have been with Jesus for quite some time and have been listening to His preaching about humility, they are still in a natural state, susceptible to worldly ambition, and probably delighted to hear that they will be sitting on thrones in the coming kingdom. 19

Jesus often speaks in accommodation to the merely natural state of His disciples. While He knows that the future holds no literal thrones for them, He also knows they will indeed sit on a different kind of throne — the throne of divine truth. From these thrones, they will have new perceptions; they will be able to identify evil tendencies in themselves, and notice false ideas arising in their minds. And then, like kings summoning their soldiers to battle, they will summon up truth to combat and overcome these spiritual invaders. 20

When Jesus says, “You will sit on twelve thrones,” He means that whenever we are willing to be led by the divine truth (the Son of Man), we will be able to dispel the evils and falsities that attempt to invade our mind. Our power will be like that of a king, for it will be power from divine truth. Nevertheless, we must never claim that power as our own. The moment we do so, we will instantly lose all power. 21

As the disciples come to realize that all power is from the Lord, they will have real spiritual power. This is what Jesus promises the disciples, even though His language is clothed in worldly appearances. Jesus’ words contain a great and wonderful promise for each of us — not just for the disciples. As we continue our spiritual development, successively letting go of all attachments and possessions (honor, reputation, and materialistic gain), we will receive in exchange, wondrous heavenly blessings. This is what Jesus means when He says in the next verse, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life” (19:29).

Returning to the connections between episodes, it should be noted that Jesus has just delivered a wonderful discourse on the beauty and sanctity of marriage (19:4-8). Therefore, it would not be reasonable for Him to suddenly switch gears and now speak against it, encouraging husbands to leave their wives in order to follow Him.

Unfortunately, in the history of Christianity, people have taken these words literally; they have actually abandoned their wives and their children in order to follow Jesus.

It should always be remembered that Jesus speaks in parables, using physical objects (seeds, water, houses, etc.) and relationships (wife, brother, father, etc.) to signify spiritual realities. 22 In this case Jesus is speaking about the false concepts and negative emotions that we are to leave behind in order to follow Him. The “houses” signify our old ways of thinking — our belief systems; “brothers and sisters” signify the specific thoughts and affections that are within these belief systems; “father and mother” signify the inherited tendencies toward falsity and evil we have acquired from parents; “wife and children and lands” signify additional tendencies toward falsity and evil acquired and passed on during our lives. 23

Thus, in order to follow Jesus, all this must be left behind — not literally our brothers and sisters, wives and children, but rather everything signified by these terms: our selfish habits of thought, our focus on earthly rather than heavenly rewards, our tendencies towards evils of every kind. All this is what we must leave behind if we are to inherit “everlasting life” (19:29). Clearly, this must have a spiritual meaning, for everywhere else Jesus urges us to love one another, especially parents, spouses, children, neighbors — and even our enemies. Jesus, then, is not calling is away from loving others; rather He is calling us away from those selfish loves that destroy our relationships with others.

As this episode draws to a close, Jesus provides the answer that the rich young ruler has been seeking. The original question was, “What good thing shall I do that I might have eternal life.” And the answer is simple: We must, of course, keep the commandments. But we must also be willing to give up everything that prevents us from receiving the kingdom of heaven. In order to do so, we must become as a child — humble, obedient, and willing to be led. Certainly, this is the very opposite of what the disciples understand by “sitting on thrones” where they envision themselves as ruling, commanding, and judging over others. But the disciples are still in training, and Jesus is patient with them — just as He is with us. For now, it is enough for them to look forward to pre-eminence and glory in His coming kingdom.

But it will be like no kingdom on earth, and they should expect surprises. Therefore, Jesus closes this episode with a warning about seeing themselves as “first” in the coming kingdom. Jesus says, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (19:30).

-----
Footnotes:

1. In the days of ancient Israel, women were considered second-class citizens, mere possessions of their fathers and husbands, with a social position only slightly higher than the status of slaves. A man was allowed to take any woman he wanted from among his captives and make her his wife. But if she did not please him, he could divorce her. See, for example, Deuteronomy 21:14: “She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, and remain in your house … a full month. After that, you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free.”

2. The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown, ed. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1968), “The Gospel According to Matthew,” p. 96 3. Conjugial Love 340: “The Lord says, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of their hearts, permitted them to divorce their wives, but from the beginning it was not so’ (Matthew 19:8). He says Moses permitted it, to make known that it was not the Lord.”

4. Apocalypse Explained 423: “There are also Divine commands not from the Divine Will, but of leave and permission, many of which were given to the sons of Israel. They were permitted, for example, to have several wives, and to give them bills of divorcement, besides other things of a similar nature. Those commands were of permission, and were given because of the hardness of their hearts.”

5. Arcana Coelestia 2818: “That it was known from the most ancient time that the Lord was to come into the world, and was to suffer death, is evident from the fact that the custom prevailed among the Gentiles of sacrificing their sons, believing that they were thus purified, and propitiated to God; in which abominable custom they could not have placed their most important religious observance, unless they had learned from the ancients that the Son of God was to come, who would, as they believed, be made a sacrifice. To this abomination even the sons of Israel were inclined, and Abraham also; for no one is tempted except by that to which he is inclined. That the sons of Jacob were so inclined is evident in the Prophets; but lest they should rush into that abomination, it was permitted to institute burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”

6. Arcana Coelestia 9377: “The Divine of the Lord cannot flow into a proud heart, that is, into a heart full of the love of self, for such a heart is hard; and is called in the Word a ‘heart of stone.’ But the Divine of the Lord can flow into a humble heart, because this is soft, and is called in the Word a ‘heart of flesh’”(Arcana Coelestia 9377). See also SD 4754: “The love of self is hard; and love to the Divine is soft.”.

7. Conjugial Love 56. “Women are created beauties not for their own sake but for men; that men, of themselves hard, may be softened; that their dispositions, of themselves severe, may become gentle; and their hearts, of themselves cold, may become warm. And such do they become when they become one flesh with their wives.

8. Conjugial Love 248: “Conjugial love looks to the union of wills and thus to freedom of decision. Rivalry for supremacy or rule, casts both of these out of the marriage; for it divides and cleaves asunder the wills and turns the freedom of decision into servitude.” See also LJP 22: “The desire of ruling in marriage takes away conjugial love.” [Note: The term “conjugial” as used by Swedenborg usually refers to a special love between one man and one woman that will continue to eternity. But Swedenborg also uses it to refer to marriage in general.]

9. Arcana Coelestia 3318: Good cannot be conjoined with truth in the natural man without combats, or what is the same, without temptations. That it may be known how the case herein is in respect to people, it shall be briefly told. A person is nothing but an organ, or vessel, which receives life from the Lord; for a person does not live from oneself. The life which flows in from the Lord is from His Divine love. This love inflows and applies itself to the vessels which are in a person’s rational mind… But these vessels are not obedient, being obstinately resistant, and hardening themselves against the heavenly order…. Therefore, before they can be rendered compliant and fit to receive anything of the life of the Lord’s love, they must be softened. This softening is brought about by no other means than by temptations; for temptations remove all that is of the love of self and of contempt for others in comparison with self, consequently all that is of self-glory, and also of hatred and revenge. When therefore the vessels have been somewhat tempered and subdued by temptations, they begin to become yielding to and compliant with the life of the Lord’s love, which continually flows in with a person. This is the reason why a person is regenerated, that is, made new, by temptations; or what is the same, by spiritual combats; and that he is afterwards gifted with another nature; being made mild, humble, single-minded, and contrite in heart.”

10. Conjugial Love 156r [repeated]: “An inclination and also a capacity for conjunction as though into one was implanted in man and woman from creation, and man and woman still have this inclination and capacity in them. That this is so appears from the book of creation [where it is written] … ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and they shall be as one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22-24). See also Conjugial Love 194: “In order that this might come about [the blessedness of marriage] it was enjoined on man that he leave father and mother and cling to his wife. The father and mother a man is to leave mean, in a spiritual sense, the inherent nature of his will and the inherent nature of his intellect (the inherent nature of a person’s will being to love itself, and the inherent nature of a person’s intellect being to love its own wisdom). And ‘to cling’ means to commit himself to love of his wife. These two inherent natures are evil and deadly to a man if they remain in him, but the love arising from the two is turned into conjugial love as a man clings to his wife, that is, as he acquires a love for her.”

11. Apocalypse Explained 710:28: “Eunuchs” [spiritually understood] mean those who have no desire to enter into marriage, that is, they have no desire to be conjoined with the affection of evil, because the understanding of truth and good would thus be perverted and dissipated…. Such are called ‘eunuchs’ because they have no lasciviousness, such as those have who, from the hardness of heart … take several wives, and divorce them for any cause.”

12. Conjugial Love 69: “Regarding its inmost delights — which are delights of the soul, where the conjugial union between love and wisdom, or goodness and truth, first flows in from the Lord — angels have said these delights are imperceptible and therefore indescribable, because they are at the same time delights of peace and innocence. But they said, too, that these same delights, in their descent, become more and more perceptible –as states of bliss in the higher regions of their mind, as states of happiness in the lower regions of their mind, and as consequent states of delight in their heart, at which point they spread from the heart into each and every part of the body, finally coming together in the last of these as the delight of delights.”

13. Arcana Coelestia 8338: “’Women’ signify affections of good, and ‘men’ signify affections of truth.”

14. Conjugial Love 156:2 “Eunuchs who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God” mean spiritual eunuchs, and these are people who in their marriages abstain from the evils of licentious relationships.” See also Arcana Coelestia 394: “Those in the heavenly marriage are called ‘eunuchs’; those so ‘born from the womb’ are such as resemble the celestial angels; those ‘made of men’ are such as are like the spiritual angels; and those ‘made so by themselves’ are like angelic spirits, who act not so much from charity as from obedience.”

15. Conjugial Love 145 “Conjugial love is more and more purified and becomes chaste in people who become spiritual from the Lord.” See also Conjugial Love 147: “Chastity in marriage comes about through total renunciation of licentious relationships in accordance with religion. The reason is that chastity is the removal of unchasteness. It is a universal rule that to the extent anyone removes evil, to the same extent an opportunity is given for goodness to succeed it. And furthermore, to the extent anyone hates evil, to the same extent he loves goodness. The reverse is also the case as well. Consequently, it follows that to the extent anyone renounces licentiousness, to the same extent he allows the chastity of marriage to enter.”

16. Heaven and Hell 365: “From this it can be established that the rich and the poor alike come into heaven, the one as easily as the other. The belief that the poor enter heaven easily and the rich with difficulty comes from not understanding the Word where the rich and the poor are mentioned. In the Word, those who have an abundance of cognitions of good and truth, thus who are within the church where the Word is, are meant in the spiritual sense by the ‘rich’; while those who lack these cognitions, and yet desire them, thus who are outside the Church and where there is no Word, are meant by the ‘poor.’”

17. Arcana Coelestia 9244: “All who are governed by heavenly love have confidence that the Lord saves them. For they believe that the Lord came into the world to impart eternal life to those who believe and lead lives in keeping with what He taught and prescribed; that He regenerates those people and so makes them fit for heaven; and that He alone does this without a person's aid, out of pure mercy. This is what believing in the Lord means.”

18. Arcana Coelestia 8037: “Those who have self-love and love of the world as their end in view cannot have any charity or faith at all within them. People ruled by those loves do not even know what charity is or what faith is; they do not begin to understand that when a person desires his neighbor’s good without thought of reward he has heaven within himself, or that this affection brings happiness as great as that enjoyed by the angels, which is indescribable. For those people think that if they are deprived of the joy received from the glory of holding important positions and possessing wealth, no joy at all exists any longer. But that is just when heavenly joy begins; and this joy is infinitely superior.”

19. Arcana Coelestia 3417: “[Jesus tells His disciples] ‘Ye shall eat and drink at My table in My kingdom; and shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ for at that time they did not know that heavenly delight is not the delight of greatness and preeminence, but is the delight of humility and of the affection of serving others; thus of desiring to be least, and not greatest.”

20. Arcana Coelestia 6397:3: “In the Word one reads that the twenty-four elders will sit on thrones and judge nations and peoples, and that the twelve apostles will similarly sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. A person with no knowledge of the internal sense of the Word will think that precisely that is going to happen. But how those descriptions should be understood becomes clear when one knows from the internal sense what ‘the twenty-four elders,’ ‘the twelve apostles,’ and also ‘thrones’ mean, namely all truths in their entirety, in accordance with which judgment takes place. The same goes for one’s understanding here of ‘judging his people as one of the tribes of Israel.’ The meaning is not that these or any other elders among them will act as judges, but that the actual truths meant by them, therefore the Lord alone since every truth that comes forth from Him will do so.”

21. Apocalypse Explained 333: “The angels indeed possess great power, but still they have no power from themselves; nay if anyone in heaven believes that he has power from himself, he is instantly deprived thereof, and then he is altogether impotent.”

22. Arcana Coelestia 4637: “The things which the Lord spoke in parables appear in the outward form like ordinary comparisons; but in their inward form they are of such a nature as to fill the universal heaven. For there is an internal sense within every detail.” See also Arcana Coelestia 10282: “All names of persons and places mentioned in the Word serve to mean spiritual realities” and Apocalypse Explained 119: “There is an internal sense in every particular of the Word, and also in the names of persons and places.”

23. Apocalypse Explained 724:5: “Evils and falsities are signified by father and mother, wife, children, brethren, and sisters; for all those things, which belong to the love and life of man, or to the affection and the thought therefrom, or to the will and thus to the understanding, are formed and conjoined like generations, descending from one father and one mother, and are also distinguished as into families and houses. The love of self and consequent love of the world are their father and mother, and the desires arising therefrom, and their evils and falsities are the children, which are brethren and sisters.”

-----

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2740, 3875, 10169

Conjugial Love 112, 156, 194, 276, 332, 339, 340, ...

Heaven and Hell 372


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 710, 725

Marriage 119

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 1:27, 2:24, 5:2

Bible Word Meanings

answered
To "answer" generally indicates a state of spiritual receptivity. Ultimately this means being receptive to the Lord, who is constantly trying to pour true ideas...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Introduction to Life After Death
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Let the Children Come to Me
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Like a Merchant Seeking Pearls
"We have to be able to recognize the pearl of great price when we find it and be willing to forsake all else for its sake. To know the source of happiness is a great thing; to be willing to sacrifice all else in the quest for it is even greater."
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Memory Verse: Marriage of Good and Truth
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Obtaining Conjugial Love
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Preparing to Receive Conjugial Love
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Face and Clothing of Love
Genuine love of marriage is seen in friendship, which is described as the face and clothing of conjugial love. To be a good spouse is to be a genuine friend.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord as Father
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Sense of Touch
Touch is an important aspect of relationships with others. When we touch another person we should keep in mind what's best for others as well as what's best for ourselves.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Truly Christian Charity
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Two Become One
Use 2 interlocking hearts to picture the way a couple can grow to become one in mind and heart.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 What God Hath Joined Together
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Why Be Religious? For the Sake of True Married Love
Article | Ages over 15


Translate: