The Bible

John 3

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

← John 2   John 4 →

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

24 For John was not yet cast into prison.

25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.

26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

← John 2   John 4 →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 30, 38, 97, 124, 675, 1017, 1608, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 17, 20, 23, 49, 50, 60, 81, ...

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 44, 101, 111, 120

Conjugial Love 82, 117, 525

Divine Providence 82, 88, 159, 173, 200, 230, 324

Doctrine of the Lord 1, 9, 19, 20, 25, 27, 31, ...

Sacred Scripture 51, 87, 114

Doctrine of Life 2, 17, 24, 39, 50

Heaven and Hell 5, 129

Interaction of the Soul and Body 6

True Christian Religion 2, 8, 85, 92, 107, 111, 113, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 154, 173, 181, 186, 204, 209, 282, ...


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 27, 70, 71, 84, 102, 126, 130, ...

Canons of the New Church 18, 31, 43

Charity 170, 201

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 21, 25, 54, 59

Spiritual Experiences 479

Marriage 2, 8, 85, 92, 107, 111, 113

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 7, 14, 25, 70, 88

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Numbers 21:9

1 Kings 17:24, 22:8, 18

2 Kings 17:9

Job 14:4, 24:13, 17, 36:22

Proverbs 30:4

Ecclesiastes 11:5

Ezekiel 8:12, 36:25, 26

Daniel 7:14

Word/Phrase Explanations

man of the
'The man of the right hand,' as in Psalm 80:17, signifies the Lord with respect to the Word. He is called 'the man of the...

man
"Man" is a tricky word to discuss, because the Hebrew of the Old Testament uses six different words that are generally translated as "man," with...

Pharisees
The Pharisees were a sect of the Jewish church at the time of the New Testament. The name comes from a root that means "separate",...

Ruler
'A ruler' or 'governor' signifies goods of the church, and in the opposite sense, falsities.

jews
It would be simple to think that when the Bible mentions "Jews" it is simply talking about the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the...

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...

know
Like so many common verbs, the meaning of "know" in the Bible is varied and dependent on context. And in some cases – when it...

come
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

God
The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

miracles
The Bible often speaks of signs and miracles as things that convinced people of the Lord's leading. Swedenborg divides the two, identifying "signs" as things...

say
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...

born
In a general sense, being "born" in the Bible represents one spiritual state producing another, usually some form of love or affection producing or "giving...

see
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...

kingdom
In the most general sense, a kingdom in the Bible represents a church. In a more specific sense, a kingdom represents a church in regards...

old
Swedenborg tells us that space and time in the physical world correspond to states of life in the spiritual world. So when the Bible talks...

enter
All changes of place in the Bible represent changes in spiritual state. “Entering” – usually used as entering someone’s house or “going in unto” someone...

second
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...

time
Time is an aspect of the physical world, but according to Swedenborg is not an aspect of the spiritual world. The same is true of...

mother
In general, mothers in the Bible represent the Lord's church on earth, or the church among those who know and follow the Lord. In some...

Womb
'Womb,' as in Genesis 49:25, signifies the conjunction of good and truth. The term 'belly' is used where truths are being discussed, and the term...

water
Water was obviously of tremendous importance in Biblical times (and every other time). It is the basis of life, the essential ingredient in all drinks,...

spirit
There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

flesh
Flesh has several meanings just in its most obvious form. It can mean all living creatures as when the Lord talks about the flood "destroying...

marvel
Used as nouns, "marvels" and "wonders" are generally synonymous with miracles, which are expressions of the Lord's power in the world. In particular, the Lord...

wind
In the Bible, the wind represents the power of the Lord working on us through the heavens. The Lord is love itself, and by extending...

Tell
'To tell' signifies perceiving, because in the spiritual world, or in heaven, they do not need to tell what they think because they communicate every...

goeth
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

Every one
The phrase “Every one,” where it occurs in Genesis 20:7, signifies every thing or all things.

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...

Israel
'Israel,' in Jeremiah 23:8, signifies the spiritual natural church. The children of Israel dispersed all the literal sense of the Word by falsities. 'The children...

witness
In court, a witness is someone who saw a crime being committed, or observed something that could help determine the guilt or innocence of the...

heaven
"Heaven" and "heavens" are used many times in the Bible, with a couple of variations of meaning. Sometimes it is relatively literal, including times when...

Son
'A son,' as in Genesis 5:28, signifies the rise of a new church. 'Son,' as in Genesis 24:3, signifies the Lord’s rationality regarding good. 'A...

moses
Moses's name appears 814 times in the Bible (KJV), third-most of any one character (Jesus at 961 actually trails David at 991). He himself wrote...

lifted
The idea of "lifting" is used in a number of different ways in the Bible. In general, it means connecting with a higher spiritual state...

serpent
Serpents in the Bible represent reasoning that is based on what we know through our senses. This is the lowest and most outward mode of...

Wilderness
'Wilderness' signifies something with little life in it, as described in the internal sense in Luke 1:80 'Wilderness' signifies somewhere there is no good because...

Perish
'To perish,' or 'die,' relates to damnation, or the state in hell.

eternal
In many cases, the use of “eternity” in the Bible is pretty literal, simple meaning forever. This is especially true when the text is referring...

loved
To some degree, there really is no spiritual meaning to the word “love” in the Bible. Why? Because if you truly love another, that is...

Sent
'Being sent' everywhere signifies, in an internal sense, going forth, as in John 17:8. In similar manner, it is said of the holy of the...

Might
'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

saved
To be saved or rescued means getting true ideas that we can hold to even in the face of a storm of false thinking. Sometimes...

believed
The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

name
It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

Son of God
The Lord, in some places, calls Himself 'the son of God,' at other times, 'the son of man (ἄνθρωπος).' This is always according to the...

light
Nov. 4, 1879: Thomas Edison filed a patent for a long-burning light bulb. Nov. 5, 1879: The light bulb was universally accepted as the symbol...

men
The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

darkness
"Darkness" is a state without light. "Light" is truth from the Lord, so "darkness" is a state where truth is lacking.

truth
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

Wrought
wrought (also entwined or entwisted) is predicated of the natural scientific principle, and in Isaiah 45:13, of divine natural truth.

disciples
When we read the Gospels and see Jesus addressing the disciples, we assume His words are meant for us as well. And indeed they are!...

Land
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...

land of
'The land of Rameses,' as in Genesis 47:11, signifies the inmost of the spiritual principle in the natural mind.

john
Jesus as a man in the Bible represents Divine Truth, the pure and perfect expression of the Lord's infinite love. That truth is contained within...

Near
'Near,' in the Word, signifies presence and conjunction. 'To be near' signifies being on internal levels. Near,' as in Genesis 19:20, signifies truth bordering upon...

much
Intellectual things – ideas, knowledge, facts, even insight and understanding – are more separate and free-standing than emotional things, and it’s easier to imagine numbering...

Prison
'The house of the prison' denotes the vastation of falsity, and also falsity itself.

jordan
The river Jordan separates the land of Canaan from the lands to the east. This separation represents the division of the human mind into an internal...

bear
Like many verbs, the spiritual meaning of "bearing" something depends greatly on context – what it is that's being borne, and why. It is further...

christ
Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

before
In most cases, the meaning of "before" is pretty straightforward, both as a way of assessing relative time, and in its use meaning "in someone's...

bride
It is because of a celestial and angelic proprium, or selfhood, that the church is called 'a woman,' 'a wife,' 'a bride,' 'a virgin,' and...

bridegroom
On a human level, a bride represents the affection for what is true, and the bridegroom represents the affection for what is good. Most references...

friend
In the Bible, there is a careful distinction between the word “brother” and the word “companion” or “friend.” That’s partly because the people of Israel...

rejoiceth
Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

voice
In Genesis 27:22, 'voice' relates to truth, and 'hand,' to good.

Fulfilled
When the Lord said that all things which were written concerning him were fulfilled, he meant that all things were fulfilled in their inmost sense.

increase
'Produce' denotes fruit derived from the good of charity, and truth of faith.

earth
"Earth" in the Bible can mean a person or a group of like-minded people as in a church. But it refers specifically to the external...

speaketh
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

heard
Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

Words
'Words,' as in Exodus 34:28, signify everything pertaining to doctrine.

giveth
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...

Measure
'To measure' signifies knowing and exploring the quality of something.

father
Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

all things
The Lord is life itself, is the Creator of the universe, and is the source of life on an ongoing basis. So in a literal...

hand
Scientists believe that one of the most crucial developments in the evolution of humans was bipedalism – walking on two legs. That left our hands...

wrath
'Wrath,' as in Genesis 49:7, signifies aversion from truth. 'Great wrath,' as in Revelation 12:12, signifies hatred against the new church.

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.


 Food for Thought: Baptism - A Doorway to Eternal Life
Baptism creates an introductory link between a person and the Lord.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Man Who Visited the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Memory Verse: Jacob's Ladder
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 New Beginnings
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Nicodemus
Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus reveals important insights into Jesus' mission on earth.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Prayers for Teens: Water and Baptism
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 The Lord and Nicodemus
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 Lord and Nicodemus (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord and Nicodemus (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord and Nicodemus (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Meaning and Purpose of Baptism
Explains how baptism creates an inner link to the Lord through the angels and an outer link via the Word and the church. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Power of the Lord’s Word
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 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

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

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

Commentary

Explanation of John 3

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 3

Verses 3:1, 2. That some in the perverted church, in consequence of the miracles which the Lord worked, seek conjunction with him, and acknowledge his doctrine to be divine.

Verse 3:3. To whom it is taught, that man cannot attain any perception of heavenly good and truth, except by regeneration.

Verses 3:4, 5. This however is understood by those of the perverted church, according to a natural idea, and not according to a spiritual idea, and therefore they are further instructed, that regeneration is effected by a reception of the truths of faith in man's understanding, and by a love and life in conformity with those truths.

Verses 3:6, 7. Because man is at first born merely natural, but has the capacity of afterwards becoming spiritual, by a life according to truths derived from the Word, and therefore he ought not to regard regeneration as a strange, or irrational operation.

Verse 3:8. Yet that scarcely any of the innumerable arcana of regeneration come to the knowledge and perception of man.

Verses 3:9, 10. This cannot be comprehended by those of the perverted church, who are in the knowledges of external truth, when yet those knowledges ought to have conducted them to the apprehension of internal truth.

Verses 3:11, 12. For the literal or external sense of the Word proceeds from, and is filled with, the interior things of the divine truth and wisdom, which things are rejected by those who remain in the love of mere natural things, and who, on that account, cannot comprehend celestial and spiritual things.

Verse 3:13. For celestial and spiritual things can only be comprehended by those who receive into their minds and lives the divine truth, inasmuch as the divine truth alone comes down from heaven, and therefore is alone capable of elevating any into the things of heaven.

Verses 3:14, 15. That this divine truth therefore assumed a sensual corporeal principle here on earth, to the intent that sensual corporeal men might have a divine object of faith presented to them, and being thus elevated to conjunction with that object, might be preserved from the defilement and death of merely sensual and corporeal life.

Verse 3:16. That this was effected from the divine love, to the intent that mankind might no longer continue immersed in mere natural love, but might be raised into the sphere of celestial and spiritual love.

Verses 3:17, 18. Wherefore God assumed the Human [nature] to the intent that mankind might conjoin goodness and truth in their minds and lives, since a right faith in the Divine Humanity of the Lord leads to such conjunction, whereas a want of that faith leads to separation.

Verses 3:19, 20. For the Divine Humanity of the Lord is divine truth, and if divine truth be rejected in consequence of evil love, then nothing appertains to man but the false principle of evil.

Verse 3:21. On the other hand, if divine truth be loved and obeyed, man is conducted to the Lord's Divine Humanity, because he is willing to acknowledge that all the good which he wills and does is from that divine source.

Verses 3:22, 23, 24. That when the Lord had finished these sayings, he instructs the perverted church in the truths of purification, which truths also were taught in abundance by those who were principled in charity and faith, whilst they were in a state of freedom.

Verses 3:25, 26, 27. Nevertheless these truths are received with doubt by those of the perverted church, and therefore it is taught that all purifying truth is from the Divine Truth, and thus that all wisdom, intelligence, reason, and science, are not of man, but of the Lord in his Divine Humanity.

Verses 3:28, 29. And that the design of all representative truth is only to prepare mankind for the reception of the Divine Truth, that thus good and truth may be conjoined in the church, and the church may rejoice in being instructed concerning the precepts of faith, and in receiving them in faith and obedience.

Verses 3:30, 31. Thus the Divine Truth becomes all in all in the church, as being inmost truth, and all other good and truth only administer externally.

Verses 3:32, 33. For the Divine Truth testifies concerning the Lord, both as to his divine wisdom and divine love, and notwithstanding its being rejected by the generality of mankind, brings conviction along with it to those who receive it.

Verses 3:34, 35. Which truth is from the Lord's Divine Humanity, whose intelligence and wisdom are infinite, being in eternal union with the divine good, and thus possessing the all of that good.

Verse 3:36. Whosoever therefore receives truth from that Divine Humanity with a right faith, is made partaker also of the divine good, but whoever rejects it, can have no apprehension of that good, but remains in his own natural evils.

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #2335

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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2335. 'For we will spend the night in the street' means that He was willing, so to speak, to judge from truth. This becomes clear from the meaning of 'the street' and from the meaning of 'spending the night'. 'Street' is mentioned in various places in the Word, and in the internal sense has a similar meaning to 'a way', namely, truth; for a street is a way within a city, as will be clear from the places quoted in the next paragraph. That here 'speeding the night' is judging may become clear from the meaning of 'the night'. It has been shown above in 2323 that 'the evening' means the penultimate state of the Church when faith is starting to be no more. It also means the visitation which takes place prior to judgement. From this it is evident that night which follows is the last state when faith is no more, and also when judgement takes place. From this it is plain that in the internal sense 'speeding the night in the street' means judging from truth.

[2] As for judgement it is twofold, that is to say, there is judgement from good and judgement from truth. People who have faith are judged from good, but those who do not have it are judged from truth. The fact that those who have faith are judged from good is quite clear in Matthew 25:34-40, while those who do not have it are judged from truth, in verses Genesis 19:41-46. Those judged from good are saved since they have accepted good, but those judged from truth are condemned because they have rejected good. Good is the Lord's, and those who acknowledge this in life and faith are the Lord's, and are therefore saved; but those who do not acknowledge it in life, nor consequently in faith, cannot be the Lord's nor thus be saved. They are judged therefore according to the actions done in their life and according to their thoughts and ends in view. And when judged according to these they are inevitably condemned, for the truth is that of himself man can do, think, and intend nothing but evil, and of himself rushes towards hell insofar as he is not held back from that place by the Lord.

(References: Matthew 25:41-46)


[3] The situation with regard to judgement from truth is this: The Lord never judges anyone except from good, for His will is to lift all men, however many these may be, up to heaven, indeed if it were possible, up to Himself. For the Lord is mercy itself and good itself, and mercy itself and good itself cannot possibly condemn anyone. It is man who, in rejecting good, condemns himself. As a person has fled habitually from good during his lifetime, so in the next life he flees from it, and therefore from heaven and the Lord. For the Lord cannot be present except within good. He is present in truth as well, but not in truth separated from good. That the Lord does not condemn anyone, that is, does not judge them to hell, He Himself declares in John,

God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him. This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:17, 19.

And in the same gospel,

If anyone hears My words, yet does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. John 12:47.

[4] See in addition what has been said already on these matters in 223, 245, 592, 696, 1093, 1683, 1874, 2258. When judgement was dealt with above in 2320, 2321, it was shown that all judgement belongs to the Lord's Divine Human and His Holy proceeding, according to the Lord's words in John,

The Father does not judge anyone, but has given all judgement to the Son. John 5:22.

Now however it is said that the Lord does not judge anyone by condemning him. This shows the nature of the Word in the letter - that unless understood from a sense other than the letter, namely from the internal sense, it would be unintelligible. The internal sense alone shows what is really involved in judgement.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2320-2321, Genesis 19:2)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 2345, 2769, 2826, 5120, 9260

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 22, 121, 308

Other New Christian Commentary

Judgment 1

Spend the night 1

Judgment 1


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


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