The Bible

John 21:1-14 : Breakfast by the Sea of Galilee

Study the Inner Meaning

1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, and hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2921, 4973, 7852, 10061

Apocalypse Revealed 405, 890

Conjugial Love 316


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 513, 600, 820

De Domino 45

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Psalms 127:2

Word/Phrase Explanations

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!...

sea
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,...

simon
Peter – born Simon, son of Jonah – is certainly one of the Bible's most important figures, second only to Jesus in the New Testament....

Peter
Key of David,' as in Revelation 3:7, signifies the Lord's omnipotence over heaven and hell. 'The keys of Peter,' in Matthew 18:18, signify the same...

called
To call someone or summon someone in the Bible represents a desire for conjunction between higher and lower states of life. For instance, imagine someone...

Cana
Cana of Galilee signifies the church among the Gentiles.

galilee
Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

sons
Marriages in the Bible represent the union we all can have between the desire for good and the understanding of truth (or an understanding of...

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...

saith
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...

go
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...

entered
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...

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...

caught
"Catching" is used in a variety of ways in the Bible, both positive and negative. Thieves get caught; the Egyptians caught up with the Children...

children
A child is a young boy or girl in the care of parents, older than a suckling or an infant, but not yet an adolescent....

Meat
'Meat,' as in Genesis 40:17, signifies celestial good, because 'the meat of the angels' are nothing but the goods of love and charity, which not...

cast
For something to be cast down or cast out generally refers to a rather dramatic move from a higher spiritual state to a lower one....

Net
To cast the net on the right side,' as in John 21:6, signifies teaching the good of life.

Side
'Side' signifies good or spiritual love.

Find
To not to be found any more, signifies not to rise again.

multitude
A company, congregation, and a multitude, in the Word, are predicated of truths.

Disciple
A disciple in Matthew 10:41 signifies charity and at the same time, faith from the Lord. It disciple signifies the truth of life, and a...

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...

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

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...

Fisher
Fishers from Engedi unto Eneglaim, as in Ezekiel 47:10, signifies those who shall instruct the natural man in the truths of faith.

Coat
A coat, as in Matthew 10:10, signifies interior natural truth, or truth of the natural principle. The Lord's coat without seam, woven from above throughout...

naked
Clothing in general represents day-to-day knowledge about spiritual things, held in the memory so it can be used for the goodness of life. For someone...

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...

hundred
It's a landmark for a young child to count to 100; it sort of covers all the "ordinary" numbers. One hundred is obviously significant for...

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...

fire
Just as natural fire can be both comforting in keeping you warm or scary in burning down your house, so fire in the spiritual sense...

Coals
Coals of fire being scattered over the cities (Ezek. 10:1, 7), signify that men were to be left to their wild lusts, rather than they...

Fish
Fish signify sensual affections which are the ultimate affections of the natural man. Also, those who are in common truths, which are also ultimates of...

bread
The word “bread” is used two ways in the Bible. In some cases it means actual bread; in others it stands for food in general....

bring
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “bring” is highly dependent on context, but in general it represents an introduction to a new...

drew
"Drawing" is used a number of different ways in the Bible, generally in the sense of pulling, leading or moving: People most commonly draw water,...

Full
'To satiate' relates to the extent of a person's will, for good or evil.

many
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...

none
'No one,' or 'none' denotes the negative side of something.

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

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

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

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...

risen
It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

Dead
Dead (Gen. 23:8) signifies night, in respect to the goodnesses and truths of faith.

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.


 Breakfast with the Risen Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Genuine Faith in Marriage
The pathway to conjugial love in marriage involves looking to the Lord for enlightenment by reading His Word and applying it to our lives. We must be willing to work together in marriage and use the truths of the Word to serve others.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus Appears
The Lord was not like you and me. When we die we lay aside our earthy body for ever. The Lord did not lay aside His earthly body—He made it Divine.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Having Faith in the Risen Lord
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Seeing the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Charge to Peter
This sermon describes the meaning of the Lord's charge to Peter to feed and tend His flocks. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Disciples See the Lord After His Resurrection
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Drawing Power Of Love
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Lord and His Disciple, Simon Peter
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 The Lord's Breakfast by the Sea
This is a re-telling of John 21:1-14 for young children with beautiful color pictures. 
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Miraculous Catch of Fish
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Miraculous Catch of Fishes
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 To Love Is To Do
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

Commentary

The Breakfast by the Sea of Galilee

By Joe David

The net was so full that they could not draw it into the boat.

Near the end of the gospel of John, (in John 21:1-14), we find a story where, some days after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, seven of Jesus's disciples have travelled north from Jerusalem, to the sea of Galilee. At Peter's suggestion they have all gone out in Peter's boat to fish. But they try all night, and have no luck and catch nothing. They are close to the shore, and as the early morning light begins to grow they see a man standing by the water. He calls out to them asking if they have caught anything. When they answer "no" He tells them, "try the other side of the boat". When they do this they catch so many fish they can't haul the net into the boat, it's too heavy. So they row toward shore letting the net full of fish drag on the bottom.

At first they don't recognize that the man they are seeing is Jesus. He has a small fire burning, and is cooking fish, and He invites them to have breakfast with Him. Then John says quietly to Peter that it's Jesus. Peter grabs his cloak, belts it around himself to cover his nakedness, and jumps in to swim to shore, since they are very close already.

This story has some interesting details to explore. The first of the stories of things that happened after the Lord's rising took place in or near Jerusalem, but this one is in Galilee. Five of these disciples are named, and at least four of the five we know are from Galilee, so in coming there they are at home, and these are fishermen, so to go fishing is in their blood. The five named are Simon (or Peter), the brothers James and John, Thomas, and Nathanael, and then two more who are not named, to make up the seven. It would be reasonable to guess that the unnamed two are Andrew, Peter's brother, and Philip, a friend of Nathaniel's, both of whom we know are from that area near the lake.

The angels that Peter and John saw at the sepulcher had told them that Jesus would meet them in Galilee on "the mountain", and perhaps these seven, because they came from Galilee, hurried on ahead of the others.

Let's look at their names and see what the literal meaning is, and what they represent in a spiritual way.

- Simon was renamed by Jesus as ‘Peter' which in the Greek means a rock, and in his case, the firmest and most critical rock, or truth, of Christianity, that Jesus was from God.

- John means love or charity.

- John's brother James means the doing of charity.

- Nathaniel means a gift from God, and being a friend of Philip, I think it might be that the gift from God that he represents is the love of learning things that fill the understanding, our curiosity.

- Thomas, in Greek, means a twin, and since he is named right after Peter perhaps he has a similar representation. Peter believes in the Lord easily because of what he has seen and what the Lord has told him whereas Thomas believes, and believes just as strongly, but only after his doubts have been erased, after he has been shown.

The towns most mentioned in the stories that take place around the "Sea of Galilee" in the gospels are Bethsaida, Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth. Bethsaida itself means "a place of fishing." The maps I have of the area are small scale and not all exactly the same, but the indication is that it is at the northern end of the lake or even on the upper Jordan river just before it runs into the lake. Capernaum and Magdala are on the northwestern shore and Cana and Nazareth are inland, but only four or five miles west of this corner of the lake. This area was where most of these disciples had been brought up, and fishing was a common occupation.

The name Galilee means "a circuit". The Word teaches us that Jesus taught in the towns all around the lake, so that a reading of all that Jesus taught and did in that country could be thought of as a "circuit" of His teachings.

The next detail of interest is that when the Lord suggests the other side of the boat and the result is a large catch of fish after a long night of nothing. This is reminiscent of the fishing incident given in Luke 5:4-7. Since the disciples are to become "fishers of men" (as in Matthew 4:19) and they are to persuade people into the knowledge and worship of the Lord, the Christ, it is perhaps a lesson that in their ministry they must always be guided by the Lord.

Then John realizes, and whispers to Peter, "it's the Lord" (John 21:7) and Peter quickly puts his cloak on and jumps in to get to shore faster. Why is it John that first realizes? John represents love and affection while Peter represents faith or truth. While truth is the means of acting, as Peter does, love is the means of connecting, which is what John did. And why did Peter need to grab his cloak and put it on? Clothing in the Word represents the truths about spiritual things that all people may have if they look for them and it is the particular truths that form Peter as a disciple, "Thou art the Christ" (Matthew 16:16-18) that he answers to the Lord, and this truth is the rock of the Christian church. Having this truth as part of himself is necessary to meet the Lord.

When they are all on shore, Jesus says to them to bring some of the fish they have caught, so Peter goes to the water and drags the full net up onto the sand and counts out the fish, one hundred and fifty three. Then Jesus invites them all to come and eat.

Now a strange comment is put into the story: "…none of the disciples durst ask him, 'who art thou?', knowing that it was the Lord." (John 21:12). It seems that they should have known, they had been following Him for several years. I wonder if this is a reminder that the Christian church has yet to understand the true reality of the Lord - was He God, or was He man? The Catholic church argued this for more than three hundred years, and the council that was supposed to decide came up with three separate persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all in one Godhead. Some of the Christian churches of today seem to focus on two, the Father, and a Son born from eternity, who apparently both rule together.

The New Christian Church understands that Jesus was born both God and man but that there was a slow but inevitable change going on during His lifetime. He was born with God, Jehovah, as His inmost, and a human heredity and body from Mary as a covering or cloak over this inmost. Mary was, you may recall, of the royal house of David, so her heredity was both strong and inclusive, and thus represented all that was connected to the Jewish form of worship. During Jesus' life (and starting early, though we don't know just how early), He put off things from Mary, and put on what was a corresponding Divine, from His inmost, in its place, until on Easter morning He was wholly divine, with all that came from His mother being dispersed and gone. There is only One God.

Why is it that in this little story the number of fishes that were caught in the net is mentioned, and why does it seem now so important that Peter took the time to count them as everyone waited? Something that has been revealed to the New Christian Church is that all the numbers used in the stories of the Word have a meaning that belongs to that number even outside the literal use in the story. The number 153 can be seen as the combination of 150 and 3, and both of these are strongly meaningful. Starting with the "three", there should be little doubt that it means something since it is used so often. Jesus rose on the third day. Also three is the number of things that, put together, make anything complete, the wish or desire to do it, the knowledge of how to do it, and the actual doing. This is true of any task - from baking a cake right up to the Lord's love, His wisdom, and His act put forth in creating the universe. One hundred and fifty is not so plain. I am aware of only two places it is used in the Word, and we are told that it means a total change, an ending of something and the beginning of something different. It is used here and in the story of the flood, at the end of Genesis 7 and in Genesis 8:3; "And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days." "… And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the one hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." The use here is that it means the end of the Church called "Adam" and the start of the church called "Noah" (See on this website "The Churches", and for the meaning, see Arcana Coelestia 812, 846). In the story we are considering it means the end of the Church called Israel and the start of the Christian church, though that is probably complete a day or two later when the Lord meets with all of His disciples on the mountain and sends them out to preach and heal.

This first part of this story ends with all of the seven disciples on the shore with Jesus, and His giving to them a breakfast of bread and roasted fish, and with this giving perhaps they all fully realized who He was, as with the two at Emmaus, and the Gospel comments, "This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to his disciples after that He was risen from the dead.

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #600

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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600. And he set his right foot upon the sea, and the left upon the earth.- That this signifies the sense of the letter, which is natural, in which are all things of heaven and the church, is evident from the signification of feet, when used in reference to the angel, who means the Lord as to the Word, as denoting the Divine Truth in ultimates, or the Word in the natural sense, which is the sense of the letter (see above, n. 65, 69); feet, in a general sense (communi sensu), signify natural things, because man, from the head to the soles of the feet, corresponds to heaven, which in its whole compass has reference to one Man (unum Hominem); the head corresponds to the inmost or third heaven, the angels of which are celestial; the breast even to the loins corresponds to the middle or second heaven, the angels of which are called spiritual, while the feet correspond to the ultimate or first heaven, the angels of which are celestial-natural and spiritual-natural; but the soles of the feet correspond to the world, in which everything is natural; the reason why the feet signify natural things, is evident from these facts. More may be seen concerning this correspondence, in Heaven and Hell (n. 59-86, and 87-102).

(References: Heaven and Hell 59-86, 87-102; Revelation 10:2; The Apocalypse Explained 65, 69)


[2] It is therefore evident, why the feet of the angel, by whom the Lord as to the Word is represented, signify the natural sense of the Word which is the sense of its letter; and from the signification of his right foot upon the sea, and the left foot upon the earth, as denoting all things of heaven and the church; for by the right are signified all things of good from which is truth, and by the left, all things of truth from good, and by the sea and the earth are signified all things exterior and interior, pertaining to heaven and the church, by the sea, exterior things, and by the earth, interior things. And because all things of heaven and the church have reference to good and to truth, and also to things exterior and interior, therefore these words signify generally all things pertaining to heaven and the church. The reason why the angel was seen to stand upon the sea, and upon the earth, is, that the outward appearance of things, in the spiritual world, is similar to that of things in the natural world; for example, in the former as in the latter there are seas, and also lands, circumflowing seas, and lands between them (see above, n. 275, 342, 538). From this fact it is clear, that by sea and earth are signified all things of heaven, and also of the church.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 275, The Apocalypse Explained 342, The Apocalypse Explained 538)


[3] Since right and left are mentioned in the Word throughout, and in some places, the right alone, or the left alone is named, I desire to explain, in a few words, the signification of each used separately, and of both together. This may be known by the position of the quarters in the spiritual world, where to the right is the south, to the left the north, in front the east, and behind the west. For an angel is continually turned to the Lord as the Sun, therefore before him is the Lord as the east, and behind him is the Lord as the west, and at his right hand is the south, and at his left hand the north. It is in consequence of this turning, that the right signifies truth in light, and the left, truth in shade; or, what is the same thing, that the right signifies spiritual good, which is truth in light, and the left spiritual truth, which is truth in shade; thus also the right signifies good from which is truth, and the left, truth from good. Such things are signified by all the right and left parts of the body, and also by the right and left parts of the head; as by the right and left eye, the right and left hand, the right and left foot, and so on, the signification peculiar to each member or part being still retained. The general and particular signification of right and left, in the Word of both the New and the Old Testaments, is clear from these few observations, as in the following places.

[4] Thus in Matthew:

"When thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; that thine alms may be in secret" (vi. 3, 4).

These words signify that good must be done from good, and for the sake of good, and not for the sake of self and the world in order to be seen; by alms is meant every good work; and let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, signifies that good must be done from good itself, and not without good, for otherwise it is not good. The right hand signifies good from which [is truth], and the left hand, truth from good, as stated above; these act as one with those who are in the good of love and charity, but not so with those who in their good actions consider themselves and the world, therefore the left hand here means to know, and to act without good. That thine alms may be in secret, signifies that it may not be for the sake of appearance.

(References: Matthew 6:3-4)


[5] Again:

"And" the king "shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. And he shall say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. And he shall say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (xxv. 33, 34, 41).

He who does not know the signification of sheep and goats in the proper sense, may suppose, that sheep mean all the good, and goats all the evil; but in the proper sense, the sheep mean those who are in the good of charity towards their neighbour, and consequently in faith, and the goats those who are in faith separated from charity, thus all those upon whom judgment is to take place in the last time of the church.

For all those who were in the good of love to the Lord, and therefore in the good of charity and faith, were taken up into heaven before the Last Judgment, and all those who were not in the good of charity, and therefore not in faith, consequently all those who were interiorly and at the same time exteriorly evil, were cast down into hell before the Last Judgment; but those who were interiorly good and not equally so exteriorly, also those who were interiorly evil but exteriorly in good, were all left till the Last Judgment, then those who were interiorly good were taken up into heaven, and those who were interiorly evil were cast down into hell. See what is said upon this fact, from things heard and seen, in the small work on the Last Judgment. From these things it is evident, that goats mean those who were in faith separated from charity, and this is also meant by the he-goat in Daniel (viii. 5-25); and in Ezekiel (xxxiv. 17). It is therefore evident, that by the right hand, where the sheep are, is meant the good of charity and of faith therefrom, and the left hand, where the goats are, means faith separated from charity. The reason why it is said to the sheep, that they should inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, is, that, in the heavens, at the right hand is the south, where are all those who are in truths from good, for in the southern part the proceeding Divine itself is of such a quality, as is meant by the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world, therefore they are also called "the blessed of my Father." By the Father is meant the Divine Good, from which are all things of heaven. It is not said of the goats at the left hand, "prepared from the foundation of the world," but "eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," because the evil make hell for themselves. They are called cursed, because the cursed in the Word mean all those who turn themselves away from the Lord, for such reject the charity and faith of the church. The signification of eternal fire may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 566, 575).

(References: Daniel 8:5-25; Ezekiel 34:17; Heaven and Hell 566-575; Matthew 25:33-34, 25:41)


[6] The two robbers who were crucified, one on the right, and the other on the left of the Lord, have a similar signification to the sheep and the goats; therefore it was said to the one who acknowledged the Lord, that he should be with Him in paradise (Matt. xxvii. 38; Mark xv. 27; Luke xxiii. 39-43). And in John,

Jesus said to His disciples who were fishing, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and were no longer able to draw it for the multitude of fishes" (xxi. 6).

(References: Luke 23:39-43; Mark 15:27; Matthew 27:38)


[7] Since fishing, in the Word, signifies the instruction and conversion of men who are in external or natural good, in which good most of the Gentiles were at that time, for fish signify the things pertaining to the natural man, and a ship signifies doctrine from the Word, therefore the right side of the ship signifies the good of life. It is therefore evident that the signification of the Lord's commanding them to cast the net on the right side of the ship, is, that they should teach the good of life. That thus they would convert the Gentiles to the church, is signified by their finding in such abundance that they could not draw the net for the multitude of fishes. It must be clear to every one, that the Lord would not have commanded them to cast the net on the right side of the ship, if the right side had not been significative.

(References: John 21:6)


[8] Again, in Matthew:

"And if thy right eye hath caused thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. And if thy right [hand] hath caused thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee" (iv. 29, 30).

That by the right eye and the right hand the Lord did not mean the right eye and the right hand, every one can see from this fact, that the eye was to be plucked out, and the hand to be cut off, if they caused to stumble. But because the eye, in the spiritual sense, signifies everything pertaining to the understanding and thought therefrom, and the right hand everything pertaining to the will and affection thence, it is obvious that by plucking out the right eye, if it caused to stumble, is signified, that if evil be thought, it must be rejected from the thought; and that by cutting off the right hand, if it caused to stumble, is signified, that if evil be willed, it must be shaken off from the will. For neither the eye nor the right hand can cause to stumble, but the thought of the understanding and the affection of the will to which they correspond, can cause to stumble. The reason why the right eye and the right hand are mentioned, and not the left eye and the left hand, is, that by the right is signified good, and in the opposite sense evil, but by the left is signified truth, and, in the opposite sense falsity, and every cause of stumbling is from evil, but not from falsity, unless the falsity be the falsity of evil.

That these things are said concerning the internal man, whose function is to think and will, and not concerning the external, whose function is to see and act, is evident also from the words which immediately precede concerning the woman of another, that merely to look upon her to lust after her is to commit adultery.

(References: Matthew 5:27-28, 5:28, Matthew 5:29-30)


[9] In the Gospels, the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked Jesus that one of her sons should sit on His right hand and the other on the left in His kingdom; "Jesus said, Ye know not what ye ask, to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, except to those whom it is granted by the Father" (Matt. xx. 20-23; Mark x. 35-40).

The reason why the mother of Zebedee's children, James and John, made this request was, that by mother is meant the church, by James, charity, and by John, the good of charity in act. These two, or those who are in them, in heaven are at the right and left hand of the Lord. There to the right hand is the south, to the left the north, and in the south are those who are in the clear light of truth from good, while in the north are those who are in the obscure light of truth from good. The Divine itself, proceeding from the Lord as the Sun, produces a Divine sphere of such a nature in those quarters, on which account none can possibly dwell there but those who are in such truths from good. This is signified by its being said, that to sit on the right hand, and on the left hand of the Lord, is only for those to whom it is given or prepared by the Father. By the Father is meant the Divine Good of the Divine Love, from which is heaven, and everything pertaining to heaven. These words of the Lord therefore mean, that the Lord gives to sit on His right hand and on His left in the heavens to those for whom an inheritance in the south and north has been prepared from the foundation of the world.

(References: Mark 10:35-40; Matthew 20:20-23, Matthew 20:22-23)


[10] That the right hand means the south in the heavens, is evident in David:

"The heavens are thine, and the earth is thine; thou hast founded the world, and the fulness thereof. The north and the right hand thou hast created them" (Psalm lxxxix. 11, 12).

The heaven and the earth mean the higher and lower heavens, and also the internal and external church. The world and the fulness thereof, mean the heavens, and the church in general as to good and truth, the world means heaven and the church as to good, and the fulness thereof, heaven and the church as to truth. And because these, or those who are in them, are in the north and in the south, and the south is at the right hand of the Lord, therefore it is said, the north and the right hand; and since such is the quality of Divine Truth united to Divine Good in those quarters from the foundation of the world, as said above, it is therefore said, "thou hast founded" and "thou hast created."

(References: Psalms 89:11-12)


[11] And in Isaiah:

"The Lord gave you the bread of adversity, and the waters of affliction, but shall not thy teachers be forced to fly away any more, and thine eyes shall again look to thy teachers; and thine ears shall hear the word saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye go to the right hand, and when ye go to the left" (xxx. 20, 21).

These words treat of the state of those who are in temptations, and who, by means of temptations, and after they are past, admit and receive instruction in the truths of doctrine. The temptations themselves are signified by the bread of adversity, and the waters of affliction; by the bread of adversity are signified temptations as to the good of love, and by waters of affliction are signified temptations as to the truths of faith.

For temptations are of two kinds, as to good which is of love, and as to truth which is of faith; bread signifies the good of love, and waters signify the truths of faith, while adversity and affliction signify states of temptation. Instruction in the truths of doctrine is signified by, thine eyes shall again look to thy teachers, eyes denoting understanding and faith, and teachers doctrine. The good of life according to truths of doctrine is signified by, thine ears shall hear the word, ears denoting obedience, and since obedience is of the life, therefore by hearing the word is signified a life according to the truths of doctrine. Instruction and obedience are further described by the words, "saying, This is the way, walk, ye in it, when ye go to the right hand, and when ye go to the left;" by way is signified truth leading; truth leading to the south in heaven is meant by going to the right, and truth leading to the north there is signified by going to the left.

(References: Isaiah 30:20-21)


[12] Again, in the same prophet:

"Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; hinder not, lengthen thy cords, and make firm thy nails; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the nations, and they shall cause the desolate cities to be inhabited" (liv. 2, 3).

The subject here treated of is the establishment of the church among the Gentiles. To enlarge the place of the tent, signifies the increase of the church in regard to worship from good. To stretch forth the curtains of the habitations, signifies the increase of the church as to truths of doctrine. To lengthen the cords, signifies the extension of those doctrines; to make firm the nails, signifies confirmation from the Word. By breaking forth on the right and on the left, is signified amplification as to the good of charity, and the truth of faith, on the right denoting as to the good of charity, and on the left, as to the truth of faith from that good. By the seed which shall inherit the nations, is signified truth by means of which there are goods, seed denoting truth, and nations goods; and by the desolate cities, which the nations shall cause to be inhabited, are signified truths from the goods of life, desolate cities denoting truths of doctrine, where truths did not exist before, nations denoting the goods of life from which are truths, and to dwell denoting to live.

(References: Isaiah 54:2-3)


[13] So again:

"In the wrath of Jehovah of hosts is the land darkened, and the people are become as fuel for the fire; they shall not spare a man (vir) his brother. And if he cut off on the right hand, he shall yet be hungry; and if he eat on the left hand, they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat a man (vir) the flesh of his own arm" (ix. 19-21).

These words describe the extinction of good by falsity, and of truth by evil; the extinction of all good and truth, however they may be enquired for, is signified by, if he cut off on the right hand, he shall yet be hungry, and if he eat on the left hand, they shall not be satisfied. The right hand denotes good from which truth comes; the left hand denotes truth from good; to cut and to eat towards those, signify inquiry; to be hungry and not to be satisfied, denotes not to be found, and if found, still not to be received. The rest of the passage is explained above (n. 386:2).

(References: Isaiah 9:19-21; The Apocalypse Explained 386)


[14] And in Ezekiel:

"The likeness of the faces" of the cherubim, "they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and the face of an ox on the left side, and they four had the face of an eagle" (i. 10).

The signification of the cherubim, and of their faces, which were as the face of a man, of a lion, of all ox, and of an eagle, may be seen above (n. 277-291). The reason why the face of a man and the face of a lion were seen on the right side, is, that by man is signified Divine Truth in light and intelligence, and by the lion, Divine Truth thence in power, such as it is in heaven in the south; and the face of the ox seen on the left side, signifies the good of truth in obscurity, for an ox signifies the good of the natural man, which is in obscurity with those who dwell in heaven to the north.

(References: Ezekiel 1:10; The Apocalypse Explained 277-281)


[15] So in Zechariah:

"In that day will I make the governors of Judah like a furnace of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they may devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left; that Jerusalem may yet dwell under herself in Jerusalem" (xii. 6).

The subject here treated of is the establishment of the celestial church, or the church which will be in the good of love to the Lord, and which is meant by the house of Judah. Her governors mean the goods together with the truths of that church; the dispersion of evils and falsities by these is signified by their being made like a furnace of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in the sheaf, and by their devouring all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left. The evils that shall be dispersed by that church are signified by the words, "like a furnace among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf;" and the falsities that shall also be dispersed, are signified by the people round about, whom they shall devour or consume. That that church shall be safe from the infestation of evils and falsities, and shall live in the good of life according to truths of doctrine, is signified by the words, "that Jerusalem shall yet dwell under herself in Jerusalem." To dwell is used in reference to the good of life, and Jerusalem signifies the church as to the truths of doctrine.

(References: Zechariah 12:6)


[16] Again, in Ezekiel:

"I will set the point of the sword against all their gates; it is made into lightning, it is sharpened for the slaughter. Gather thyself, turn to the right hand, arrange thyself, turn to the left hand, whither thy faces nod" (xxi. 15, 16).

These words describe the destruction of truth by deadly falsities. The sword signifies such falsity destroying truth, while the deadly character and enormity of such falsity is denoted by the sword made into lightning, sharpened for the slaughter. That those who are in such falsity are destitute of any good and truth, although they may make diligent enquiry, is signified by, Gather thyself, turn to the right hand, arrange thyself, turn to the left hand, whither thy faces nod.

(References: Ezekiel 21:15-16)


[17] And in Zechariah:

"Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and the eye of his right side shall be utterly darkened" (xi. 17).

By the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock, are meant those who do not teach truth and by it lead to the good of life, and who do not care, whether that which they teach be true or false. By the sword being upon his arm is signified falsity destroying all the good of the will, and by its being upon the eye of his right side falsity destroying all the truth of the understanding. That they shall be deprived of all good and truth is signified by, his arm shall be clean dried up, and the eye of his right side shall be utterly darkened. These words are further explained (n. 131:13, 152).

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 131, 152; Zechariah 11:17)


[18] Since the right side of the body, and the members of the right side, signify good by means of which there is truth, therefore when Aaron and his sons were inaugurated into the priesthood, it was commanded, that the blood of the ram should be taken, and put upon the tip (auricula) of their right ear, upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot (Exod. xxix. 20).

This was commanded, because blood signified Divine Truth, by means of which is the good of love, for the latter was represented by Aaron, and the former by his sons; and because for the purpose of representing the Divine Good of love, all inauguration is effected by Divine truth, therefore blood was put upon the tip of the right ear, upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot. The tip of the right ear signifies obedience from perception; the thumb of the right hand signifies good in the will, and the great toe of the right foot, good in act.

(References: Exodus 29:20)


[19] Since leprosy signifies good consumed by falsities, the way in which this evil can be remedied by Divine means is described by the process of the cleansing of the leper, understood according to the spiritual sense. We shall give only a brief summary of this. The priest was to take of the blood of the offering for sin and put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that was to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, and the priest was to take of the oil from the log and pour it upon the palm of his left hand, and the priest was to dip his right finger in the oil which was in his left palm and sprinkle of the oil with his right finger seven times before Jehovah (Levit. xiv. 14-17, 24-28). Similar things to those above are here signified by the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot. The same is also signified by the blood, that is, the Divine Truth, for this purifies man from the falsities which have destroyed the goods pertaining to him; and when he is purified from these, good may be brought forth by means of truths and the man be thus cured of his leprosy.

From what has been stated then it is clear that the right and left signify good from which is truth, and truth from good, as shown above. What other reason could there be for sprinkling the blood upon the right part of those members, and for pouring the oil into the left palm, and sprinkling with the right finger?

(References: Leviticus 14:14-17, 14:24-28)


[20] Similarly the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to lie upon his left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it (Ezekiel iv. 4). A prophet signifies one who teaches, and, in the abstract sense, the doctrine of the church. The left side signifies the doctrine of truth from good, and by means of truths from good, man is purified from his iniquities.

(References: Ezekiel 4:4)


[21] Solomon placed the lavers,

"five near the shoulder of the house on the right hand, and five near the shoulder of the house on the left hand; and he set the" brazen "sea at the right shoulder of the house eastward over against the south" (1 Kings vii. 39).

The reason of this was, that the house or temple represented heaven and the church, and the lavers represented purifications from falsities and evils, and thus preparations for entrance into heaven and the church. The right shoulder of the house signified the south in the heavens, where Divine Truth is in its light, and the left shoulder signified the north, where Divine Truth is in its shade. Thus the ten lavers signified all things pertaining to purification, and all who are purified, and by five on the one side, and five on the other, were signified those, or that kind of men, with whom Divine Truth is in light, and with whom it is in shade. For ten signifies all things and all persons, and five, one part or one kind; the brazen sea represented the common purifier (purificatorium), and the reason why this was placed at the right shoulder of the house eastward over against the south, was, that the Divine Truth, which purifies, proceeds from the Divine Love of the Lord, for the east is where the Lord appears as the Sun; and the Divine Truth, which is the light of heaven from that Sun, is in its clearness and brightness in the south. This was the reason why the common purifier was placed eastward over against the south. These interior things (arcana) of the Word cannot be understood in the world, except from a knowledge of the quarters in heaven, which are different from those in the world. Concerning the quarters in heaven, see what has been said from things seen and heard, in Heaven and Hell (n. 141-153).

(References: 1 Kings 7:39; Heaven and Hell 141-153)


[22] In the spiritual world, every one enters and walks in ways which lead to those who are in a similar ruling love, and every one is free to go which way he desires, thus in that way into which, and by which, his love leads him, and the ways to the right and the left tend to the one or to the other love, that is, to that which is implanted; for this reason therefore the right and left also signify what is pleasant, free, and desired. Thus in the book of Genesis:

Abraham said unto Lot, "Separate thyself; if to the left hand, I will go to the right; if to the right hand, I will go to the left" (Gen. xiii. 9).

And again, when Abraham's servant asked Rebecca as a wife for Isaac, he said to Laban:

"Tell me, that I may look to the right hand, or to the left" (Gen. xxiv. 49).

By not departing and going to the right or to the left, is also signified not to go any other way than that in which the Lord Himself leads, and in which the good and truth of heaven and the church lead, thus not to walk erroneously, as that they should not depart from the word of the priest the Levite, and the judge, nor from the precepts in the Word, to the right hand or to the left (Deut. xvii. 11, 20; xxviii. 14; Joshua i. 7; 2 Sam. xiv. 19), and that the sons of Israel should not turn to the right hand or to the left, but should go by the way of the king when they passed through the land of Edom, (Num. xx. 17); and also when they passed through the land of the king of Sihon (Deut. ii. 27). That the right hand signifies complete power, and, when used in reference to the Lord, the Divine Omnipotence, may be seen above (n. 298).

(References: 2 Samuel 14:19; Deuteronomy 2:27, 17:11, 17:20, 28:14; Genesis 13:9, 24:49; Joshua 1:7; Matthew 5:28-30, Matthew 20:22-23; Numbers 20:17; Revelation 10:2; The Apocalypse Explained 298)

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 573, 598, 606, 609, 615, 617, 666, 708, 746, 774, 781, 876, 1120

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Needy 1

Feet of the angel 1

Net 1

Right hand and left hand 1

Sheep and goats 1

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 Ezekiel's Vision
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.
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