The Bible


Matthew 3:5

English: King James Version      

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5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Apocalypse Revealed 378

True Christian Religion 668, 677

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 724

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

Word/Phrase Explanations

Something 'round' relates to good. 'A small round thing,' as in Exodus 16:14, refers to the good of truth in its first formation. This is...

Round about
'Round about' denotes the things most distant from the middle, or from good and truth.

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...

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.

 Baptism of the Lord
Use felt tip markers to draw a picture of John baptizing the Lord in the Jordan River. Then dip a paintbrush in water and go over the picture to give the effect of watercolor. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Dove Poster or Mobile
The dove symbolizes purification by Divine truth. Make a poster or mobile with the color picture of a dove and truths which can help us "clean up" our lives.
Project | Ages 11 - 17

 Flight into Egypt
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 God Is a Divine Man
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Jesus Comes to John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Lord's Baptism
Put together this project to make a picture of the Lord that can be moved to show Him going into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized. 
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Quotes: The Promise of Baptism
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 The Dove
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Lord’s Baptism
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord’s Baptism (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord’s Baptism (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord’s Baptism (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Lord's Baptism: Matthew
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

 You Are My Beloved Son (sheet music)
Song | Ages over 11



The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand      

By Rev. William Woofenden

"Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:3
Additional readings: Isaiah 1:1-20

In the childhood of the human race, before men had departed from right ways of life, heaven was near to them. They could be led directly by the Lord, for their hearts and minds were open to him. Of this Golden Age of the human race it is written, "Man walked with God." But we have all read in the history of the human race as revealed in the Scripture the account of how many departed from the way of life and, following the devices of his own heart, closed his mind to the direct reception of goodness and truth from the Lord, until finally he reached a state in which all true knowledge of God and heaven was lost.

Then the Lord came to bring salvation to mankind, and preparation for His reception was made through John the Baptist, the messenger sent in fulfillment of a prophecy given centuries before. John’s message is our text: "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And when John was put to death, and the Lord began His active ministry in the world, the words of our text were also His first message. For He came to make clear the way of life, and wrong ideas held possession of the minds of men then, as they do of many minds today.

It is not by chance that this first message turns our thoughts to heaven. The purpose of our creation is that we may so live that we shall find our homes in heaven. Belief in heaven had been lost, along with the knowledge about it. And today belief in heaven is for the most part vague, and many think that eternal life does not mean personal existence in the spiritual world, but only the persistence of one’s influence in this world. Great men like Homer, Plato, Moses, Shakespeare, Gladstone, Lincoln, Pasteur, and many others perpetuate themselves in the influence they exert in the minds of living men. This, they say, is what is meant by immortality, by everlasting life. But we should realize that this type of everlasting life is open to the evil as well as to the good. A Diocletian may be remembered forever as well as the beloved Apostle. We need to know the truth that men and women, as individuals, live forever after death in the spiritual world.

But this is not the implication of the text which I have chosen for consideration this morning." The kingdom of heaven is at hand." We know that heaven is not in some remote part of the natural sky, that we cannot say, "Lo, here, or Lo, there" (Luke 17:21). But we are still apt to think of it as far away. We are also inclined to think of it as remote in time. We speak commonly of the "future" world. In the thought of some even, it lies at the indefinitely remote time, when they expect a general resurrection along with others; death is the gateway of heaven, but heaven still seems too distant to be of much practical and present interest.

But the truth is that heaven is far away neither in space nor in time. It is here, it is now, it is "at hand." We live in it now, or we may do so. It is a present reality, the most real and the most important element of the life we are now living. When we speak of heaven, and of living for heaven, we are not, as some charge, setting our hearts on something far away, and despising the real world in which we now are. If one lives for a far-off heaven — and no doubt some have lived so — he may be careless of this world’s joys and sorrows, of opportunities for usefulness, keeping his eyes fixed on some vision of the future. But we may live for heaven and still live thoroughly in the present. We ought to value heaven as the most real of present realities. The Gospel is true: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."

We are taught in the New Church that heaven is essentially a state of human feeling, thought and life, a state in which love to the Lord and love to the neighbor are the ruling motives. We are taught that no outward paradise which could be made by human or by Divine skill would be a heaven if those affections were absent from the heart, that there is no real or lasting satisfaction except in the exercise of these affections. It follows that we can come into heaven in this world, and live in heaven while we live on earth, for we may learn here to love the Lord and one another, and to find our chief enjoyment in the exercise of these heavenly loves.

But this is an abstract way of speaking. Concretely, heaven is not merely a heavenly state in ourselves; it is the great world of human beings who are living in that state, those people in whose hearts are heavenly affections, whose minds are bright with spiritual light, and whose hands are busy with heavenly works. There are many such people in this world. There are countless more who have gone from the earth to the spiritual world, and are there living the same good life under freer and happier conditions. All these people are heaven.

When we have love to the Lord and the neighbor in ourselves, we are brought spiritually near to those in like affections, both of this world and of the spiritual world. It is not a figure of speech when we say that heaven is about us when we are in heavenly states. It is a literal and positive fact. Heaven is so really around us at such times that if it were granted to us, as it was to Elisha’s servant and to others in Bible days to have our spiritual eyes opened, we should see the angels who are our companions and the beautiful land in which they dwell. Among them we should see and recognize some who were dear to us on earth, who still love and help us, and there would be some whom we had not known before but who would from the first glance seem to us as old friends, because they have similar desires and thoughts. And we should recognize them as the source of our happiness.

The Lord created the world and all things in it. All things in the world were made for man to use and enjoy, from the very materials of the earth to all the myriad things of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the beast of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea. For man’s needs of food, clothing, shelter, for gratification of his senses, and the improvement of his mind these things were made. All these were created and given to man for blessings. But they are subject to one important condition: man must indeed labor to make these things of service to himself, but he must also use them in the service of others. Only so can he have any security or peace. The world of nature and of human beings is not for one man, or a few men, or a nation to control or exploit. Indeed we cannot rightly claim sovereignty over ourselves. We need the guidance of the Lord. And whatever under the Divine Providence we have been able to acquire, whether of material wealth, or of skill, or of learning, we did not acquire it by our unaided efforts. Our daily knowledge of the happenings in the world, our libraries, our schools are made possible by the labor of mind and body of other men and women, great or humble, living or dead. We depend on others and they on us, and life and security today, as always, depend upon the honesty and good will of the community in which we live.

Yet we should also realize that behind the labors and sufferings and the honesty and good will of men stands the Lord. Through His power alone man achieves progress. It is a law of the Divine Providence that man must act in freedom according to reason. This applies to the life of nations as well as to the life of individuals. But the Lord is present and operative always.

For infinitely wise and good reasons, the Lord does not draw the veil aside for us and allow us to see the heavenly world. Some argue that if only they could see heaven, they would believe in it. But to see that world as an outward, objective reality would destroy our freedom. We should be lured by its outward attractiveness, and it would be less possible for us to come into its true spirit.

When we are living in selfish and evil affections, we are in hell. Not only is hell within us at such times but it is also about us, not by a figure of speech, but actually. We are breathing its poisoned atmosphere and, if our eyes were opened, we should see the forms and faces of those who find their life in evil and who exult in influencing others to evil. Why, at least then, does the Lord not draw the veil aside and show us the terribleness of evil? The sight might for the moment frighten us, but we should be less able to shun evil freely because it is evil, and our power to escape permanently from it would be greatly lessened.

If we are tempted to question the Lord’s Providence in not revealing to us more openly the conditions of the good and evil in the spiritual world, we do well to remember His words, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them….If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:29-31).

The Lord said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). We should seek those good things which endure forever, and should not sacrifice them for the sake of money or health or life itself. To acquire love to the Lord and to the neighbor is the only thing worth living for. Our business dealings should have as their motive the love of use, of service to others. The most necessary thing in making a home is having in it the sunshine of heaven. The only absolute requirement for our happiness as we go to and fro in the ways of the world is that heaven shall go with us. This is to live for heaven, and yet to live must fully in the present. This is the practical meaning of living for heaven.

It may be stated still more simply. Heaven is not heaven from locality, neither is it heaven from anything which belongs to the angels as their own. It is heaven from what is received from the Lord into the lives and hearts of the angels. To be near the Lord, not in place merely, but in heart, to feel the protection and peace of His presence is heaven. Heaven is being near to the Lord and keeping near to Him. There is no other heaven for men or angels.

"The kingdom of heaven is at hand." When John first spoke this message, the kingdom of heaven was in a special sense at hand, because the Lord had come to live with men and to make Himself accessible to them. A power to heal and bless went forth from the Lord during His life on earth. Men obsessed felt his saving power and sat at His feet clothed and in their right mind.

At the Transfiguration Peter said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" (Matthew 17:4, Mark 9:5, Luke 9:33). In following the Lord, in hearing His Word and in doing His work, they were tasting of heaven. But we need to note that the mere physical nearness of the Lord did not make heaven. Some cried out with fear at His approach. It was not heaven to them. It was not heaven to those who followed Him to accuse and to betray Him. His presence was a blessing only to those who in some measure drew near to Him in spirit.

Even in the Lord’s coming on earth the kingdom of heaven was not forced on me. It was made accessible to them; it was brought within their reach.

It is brought within our reach. Just as there is no royal road to knowledge, there is no royal road to heaven. We must cease to do evil before we can learn to do well. Repentance, the willingness to recognize and acknowledge our faults and weaknesses and to struggle to overcome them opens the door. Heavenly life comes into the soul when selfish desires are replaced by kindly thoughts and the desire to serve. The Lord tell us to seek these heavenly virtues now, not for the sake of honor for ourselves, but that we may be really kind and helpful to others, that our lives may have something of the Lord’s love in them. Then we shall find that life here makes one with heavenly life, and that our Heavenly Father is the Source of happiness in both alike.

From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #6997

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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6997. 'And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Moses' means leniency. This is clear from the meaning of 'the anger of Jehovah' as not anger but the opposite of anger, which is mercy or in this instance leniency. The absence of any anger in Jehovah is evident from the consideration that He is love itself, goodness itself, and mercy itself, while anger is the opposite and is also a failing, which is inapplicable to God. For this reason when anger in the Word is attributed to Jehovah or the Lord, the angels do not discern anger but either mercy or the removal of the wicked from heaven. Here they discern leniency because what is said is addressed to Moses, who represents the Lord when He was in the world in respect of Divine Truth.

[2] The Word attributes anger to Jehovah or the Lord because of the very general truth that all things come from God, thus the bad as well as the good. But this very general truth, which young children, older ones, and simple people need to have, must at a later stage be clarified. That is to say, it must be shown that bad things are assignable to man, though they may seem to be assignable to God, and have been declared to be so to the end that people may learn to fear God, so as not to be destroyed by wicked things they themselves do, and may then come to love Him. Fear must come before love in order that love may have holy fear within it; for when fear is instilled into love that fear is made holy by the holiness of love. Once it is made holy it is not a fear that the Lord will be angry and punish them, but a fear that they may act contrary to Goodness itself; for to do that will torment their conscience.

[3] Furthermore it was by means of punishments that the Israelites and the Jews were compelled to fulfill the external and formal requirements of religious laws and commands. This led them to think that Jehovah was angry and punished them, when in fact they themselves through their idolatrous behaviour were the ones who brought such things upon themselves and cut themselves off from heaven. Their own behaviour brought about their punishments, as it also says in Isaiah,

Your iniquities cause division between you and your God; and your sins hide [His] face from you. Isaiah 59:1.

And since the Israelites and the Jews were confined to the fulfillment of external requirements and knew nothing internal they continued to believe that Jehovah was angry and punished them. For people who concern themselves only with things of an external nature but not with anything internal do everything out of fear and nothing out of love.

(References: Isaiah 59:2)

[4] From all this one may now see what 'the anger' and 'the wrath' of Jehovah are used to mean in the Word, namely punishments, as in Isaiah,

Behold, the name of Jehovah comes from afar, burning with His anger, and the heaviness of the burden. His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue like a burning fire. Isaiah 30:27.

'Anger' stands for reproof, and for a warning in order that evils may not destroy them. In the same prophet,

In an overflowing of anger I hid My face from you for a moment. Isaiah 54:8.

'An overflowing of anger' stands for temptation, during which evils bring pain and torment. In Jeremiah,

I Myself will fight with you with an outstretched hand and a strong arm, and in anger, and in fury, and in great indignation. Lest My fury go forth like fire, and burn so that there is none to quench it because of the wickedness of your works. Jeremiah 21:5, 12.

In the same prophet,

. . . to fill those places with the corpses of people whom I smote in My anger and in My wrath. Jeremiah 33:5.

In Zephaniah,

I will pour out onto them My indignation, all My fierce anger, 1 for in the fire of My zeal the whole earth will be devoured. Zephaniah 3:8.

In David,

He let loose on them His fierce anger, 2 indignation, fury, distress, and a mission of evil angels. Psalms 78:49.

[5] In addition to these there are many other places in which, as in these, 'anger , 'wrath', 'fury', and 'fire' are used to mean states of punishment or damnation into which a person casts himself when he enters into evil ways. For it is in keeping with Divine order that rewards should go with ways that are good, and therefore that punishments should go with those that are evil, so much so that they are bound up in one another. Punishment and damnation are also meant by the day of Jehovah's anger in Isaiah 13:9, 17; Lamentations 2:1; Zephaniah 2:3; Revelation 6:17; 11:18; also by the wine of God's anger and the cup of God's anger in Jeremiah 25:15, 28; Revelation 14:10; 16:19; as well as by the winepress of God's anger and fury in Revelation 14:19; 19:15.

(References: Isaiah 13:13; Revelation 14:19-20)

[6] The fact that punishment and damnation are meant by 'anger' is also evident in Matthew,

Brood of vipers, who has shown you to flee from the anger to come? Matthew 3:7.

In John,

He who does not believe in the Son will not see life, but the anger of God rests upon him. John 3:36.

In Luke,

In the final period there will be great distress over the earth, and anger on that people. Luke 21:23.

From these places it is evident that 'the anger of Jehovah' means forms of punishment and damnation. The reason why 'anger' is used to mean leniency and mercy is that all forms of punishment that the evil suffer arise because of the Lord's mercy shown towards the good to protect them from harm done by the evil. Yet the Lord does not inflict punishments on the evil; rather, it is they who inflict them on themselves since evils and forms of punishment in the next life are bound up with one another. The evil especially inflict punishments on themselves when the Lord acts mercifully towards the good, for at such times the evils and the resulting punishments are on the increase in them. This explains why instead of 'the anger of Jehovah', which means forms of punishment suffered by the evil, angels understand mercy.

[7] From all this one may recognize what the Word in the sense of the letter is like and also what God's truth in its most general form is like - that it presents matters in ways that accord with outward appearances. The reason for this is that man is by nature such that he believes what he can see and apprehend with his senses, but does not believe and for that reason does not accept what he cannot see or apprehend with his senses. This is why the Word in the sense of the letter presents matters in accordance with outward appearances; nevertheless it has genuine truths concealed in its more internal recesses, while in its inmost recesses it conceals God's truth itself going forth directly from the Lord, and so Divine Good, which is the Lord Himself.


1. literally, all the wrath of My anger

2. literally, the wrath of His anger


(References: Exodus 4:14)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 7032, 7533, 7632, 7706, 7877, 8151, 8186, 8228, 8284, 8483, 8875, 8989, 9010, 9033, 9143, 9204, 9306

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 170, 308

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 194, 315

Spiritual Experiences 3427

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