The Bible

John 21:15-25 : Feed my lambs, Feed my sheep

Study the Inner Meaning

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1017, 2371, 2788, 2921, 3934, 3994, 4169, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 17, 23, 383, 505, 879

Divine Love and Wisdom 19

Sacred Scripture 29

The Last Judgment 39

True Christian Religion 211, 764

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 122


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 9, 10, 195, 228, 229, 250, 295, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 208

Divine Love 19

Divine Wisdom 11

An Invitation to the New Church 33

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 6, 36, 68

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Joshua 22:22

Psalms 116:1, 139:1

Word/Phrase Explanations

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...

Simon
'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

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...

son
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...

feed
When the Bible talks about "feeding" it is generally referring to instruction in spiritual things – teaching people the true concepts that can lead them...

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...

sheep
It’s pretty easy for most people to read the Bible and get a sense for what “sheep” means without any help. They are simple, peaceful,...

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

young
'The son of a cow' signifies the celestial natural level and natural exterior good.

Gird
To gird one’s self, as in John. 21:18, signifies to know and perceive truths in the light from good.

old
'Old waste places' signify the celestial aspects of faith.

hands
'Washing of the hands' was an ancient declaration of innocence, and signifies purification from evils and falsities, as in Psalms 73:13 and Matthew 27:24.

glorify
'To glorify' signifies acknowledgment and confession.

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...

turning
Swedenborg says that the Lord is the sun of heaven, and like the natural sun of our world shines on everyone, good or evil. What...

disciple
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!...

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...

following
The basic meaning of "follow" in the Bible is pretty obvious if we consider what it means to "follow the Lord." That obviously doesn't mean...

Breast
The breast (Ezek. 16:7), signifies natural good.

seeing
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...

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

Tarry
'To tarry,' as in Genesis 27:44, signifies almost the same thing as 'to dwell,' except that 'to tarry' relates to the life of truth with...

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...

Brethren
Brethren (Gen. 27:29) signify the affections of good.

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

wrote
In John 8:2-11, the Lord wrote twice on the ground, when the woman taken in adultery was brought to him, which signifies the condemnation of...

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...

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...

written
If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

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...

Amen
Amen signifies divine confirmation from truth, consequently from the Lord himself.Amen signifies truth, because the Lord was truth itself, therefore he so often said Amen...

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

An After-Breakfast Conversation

By Joe David

This inscription is on a stone at the church hall in South Ronaldsey, in the Orkneys, northeast of Scotland.

An After-Breakfast Conversation
(A commentary on John 21:15-25)

In the first part of this chapter, seven disciples had come home to Galilee. They had gone fishing, seen Jesus on the shore, followed his instructions to fish on the right side of the boat, dragged a net loaded with 153 fish to shore, and... as the second half of the chapter begins, they have just finished breaking their fast with Him. Now they are relaxing.

Jesus says to Peter,"Do you love me?" and Peter, perhaps a little startled at the question, thinking that the answer is obvious, answers "yes", and Jesus responds, "Feed my lambs". Twice more this sequence is repeated, but with some changes. Then, after this unusual conversation, the Lord tells them all a little parable about being young and later being old. Then the Lord tells Peter to follow him, and Peter, apparently jealous, asks what John is supposed to do. The Lord mildly rebukes Peter’s jealousy by saying, "If this man tarry until I come what is that to you?", but then He tells John also to follow him.

Finally, the gospel of John, and indeed the collection of all four gospels, closes with an explanation by John that he is the writer of this gospel.

So now, let’s look more closely at the conversation, the parable, and the outbreak of jealousy.

Only two of the seven disciples, Peter and John, are mentioned in this part of the story. Peter represents faith, or truth, but truth about spiritual things that we really believe are from God. John represents good, or love to the neighbor. The former resides in the understanding part of the mind and the latter in the will part of the mind.

In telling Peter to feed His sheep, the Lord is saying that to follow Him means to preach the truths that all the disciples now know about the Lord, His coming, and about how a life should be led, in order to be a follower of the Lord in a new church. In the conversation the Lord is direct and probing. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" I think Peter is being asked whether he loves the Lord, Jesus, more than he loves his fellow Galilean friends, though it’s ambiguous, it could mean "do you love me more than these other six do?’ When Peter answers the first time he says "Lord thou knowest that I love thee."

With this first of the three probing questions, the Lord answers "Feed my lambs," while after that the response is "Feed my sheep." Sheep and lambs both represent people who are in a love of doing good, but while sheep means those who love to do good for the sake of the neighbor, lambs mean those who do good for the sake of the Lord. The first is spiritual good, and the second is higher, and is called celestial good. But people who wish to do good at first don’t know what is good; they need to learn that from the Word and be taught. This is why Peter is told to "feed them", which is to say that truth must indicate how good is to be done. In order to do things that are good, the will's wanting to, and the understanding's knowing how to go about it, must be conjoined. For a successful Christian life, or on a larger scale, a Christian church, 'Peter' and 'John' must work in harmony.

Then comes the parable. "When you were young you got yourself ready and did what you wanted on your own. But when you become old, you have to reach out for help and another shall carry you where you don’t want to go."

This doesn’t seem to fit in here, but of course it does, and in two ways. The first way is given in the Biblical text; it is about the Lord’s death, that all the prophecies were leading Him to His crucifixion, as is mentioned. The second way is a lesson for all of us. When we are young, confident, and strong, we feel that we can do what we want and don’t need any help. Temptations to do evil we ourselves can deal with. But when we grow wiser we realize that all our strength comes from the lord, and if we continue to depend only on ourselves, the temptations from the hells will be too strong and we will be led into doing what the hells want for us, not what we want. We must learn at the start to follow the Lord and depend on Him. This he says at the end of the parable, where it seems not to fit until we understand the parable. "And when He had spoken this He saith unto (them), follow Me." That’s what we need to do also.

Peter is happy to do this preaching of the truth and maybe feels that he has been singled out, but he also realizes that John also loves the Lord and is loved in return. So he asks "And what is this man supposed to do?" It seems that the needed harmony is not yet present, and that Peter is jealous of the bond, and probably hopes to be assured that he is number one... but that doesn’t happen. Peter is simply told that it doesn’t matter; he needs to do the job he has been given.

I’m reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau, in Genesis 25, where Esau is the firstborn and will inherit the birthright and blessing from Isaac, as his due. Jacob by craft devised by his mother deceives Isaac and steals what is Esau’s. Then he runs off to Padan-Aram and stays there with his uncle and becomes rich. It is only on his return journey that he wrestles with the angel and has his name changed to Israel, that he again meets Esau. The change of name means that now that Jacob is rich with truth from the Word, now with the friendly meeting with Esau, also rich, that the two twins can in parable, be merged into one personage, called Israel, meaning the joining of good and truth in the mind.

Esau means something similar to John, they both represent goodness or true charity. Jacob means something similar to Peter, they both represent truth learned from the Word. Any seeming enmity between them as to which is more important can make them both useless, and in a person who is becoming angelic (as everyone should be aiming for), there is no enmity. Truth enables good, and good inspires truth in order to get something done. Although we can think and speak of them separately, they are (perfectly in the Lord and less so in angels) conjoined into a oneness so as to be seen as married. The marriage of the Lord's Divine good and Divine truth is the origin of all creation. Yes, all creation.

This marriage of good and truth, and the need for both to work in our lives, in balance and harmony, is a core New Christian concept.

In the Gospels, there is just one more story that takes place after this one. In it, the rest of the disciples join the seven mentioned here to hear the Lord’s last commands.

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #250

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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250. And open the door. That this signifies reception in the heart or life is evident from the signification of opening the door, as being to let in, for by the door is signified letting in (as may be seen above, n. 208). Here, however, by opening the door is signified reception in the heart or life, for it follows, "and I will come in to him." It is said, if any man open the door, as if man opened it, when, nevertheless, it is the Lord Himself who opens, according to what was said and shown above (n. 248). But it is thus said, because it appears so to man, from the free-will given him by the Lord; and, moreover, in the sense of the letter of the Word, many things are spoken according to appearances; but these are put off in heaven, where the internal or spiritual sense of the Word is. The sense of the letter of the Word is in many places according to appearances, in order that it may serve for a basis to the spiritual sense; otherwise there would be no basis or foundation to that sense. That many things are said in the Word according to appearances is evident from this one fact, that in the Word it is said that evil is from God; that wrath, anger and revenge are in God, and other similar things; although God does evil to no one; nor is there any anger or revenge in Him, for He is good itself, and love itself; but because it so appears to man when he does evil and is punished, therefore, in the sense of the letter, it is so said; but still it is otherwise understood in the spiritual sense of the Word. The case is the same with this expression, "If any man open the door."

(References: Luke 8:8, Luke 8:15; Matthew 7:19-27, Matthew 13:9; Revelation 3:20; The Apocalypse Explained 208, 248)


[2] It shall now be further explained what is meant by opening the door, when it is said to be done by man, as in the present instance. The case is this; the Lord is always present with the good and truth which a man has, and endeavours to open his spiritual mind, which is the door that the Lord desires to open, and impart to him celestial love and faith; for He says, "I stand at the door and knock"; but this endeavour, or this perpetual will of the Lord, is not perceived by man, for he thinks that he does good of himself, and that the endeavour or will is his own. It is sufficient in this case, that he should acknowledge from the doctrine of the church that all good is from God, and nothing from himself. The reason why this is not perceived by man is that there may be reception on the part of man, and by reception appropriation, for otherwise man cannot be reformed.

[3] It is clear, therefore, how greatly those are mistaken who hold the doctrine of faith alone; for they say and believe that faith saves and not the good of life, or that man is justified by faith alone, thus shutting out his application to receive. They know, indeed, that man must examine himself, must see and acknowledge the evils, not only of his works but also of his thoughts and intentions, and that afterwards he must abstain from, and shun them, and live a new life, which must be a life of good, and that unless he does there can be no remission, but damnation. The doctors and rulers of the church teach this when they preach from the Word; and they teach this, as from faith, to everyone when he approaches the Holy Supper; but as soon as they return, and look to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, they no longer believe those things, but say that all are led from evil to good by God after they have received faith; and some, as they connect false principles with truths, say that after a man is justified by faith, he is also led by God to examine himself, and confess his sins before God, to abstain from them, and so on.

But this is the case with no one who believes in justification by faith alone, but with those who live the life of charity; by this life a man is conjoined with heaven, but not by the life of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

He who is conjoined with heaven by the life of charity is led by the Lord to see his evils, both the evils of his thought and those of his will: a man sees evil from good, because evil is the opposite of good; but he who believes in salvation by faith alone says in his heart, "I have faith, because I believe the things that are said; nothing condemns me, I am justified"; and he who thus believes cannot be led by the Lord to examine himself and to repent of his evils. To this extent they teach truths before the people, who thence believe that to live well and believe aright are meant by being justified by faith, nor do they look deeper into the arcana of their doctrine. The latter are saved, but the former condemned. That these are in a state of condemnation they themselves may see if they will, for they believe from doctrine that the goods of life, which are works, contribute nothing to salvation, but faith alone, although works consist in abstaining from evils and living a new life, without which there is condemnation.

[4] That the preachings that are not from the arcana of their doctrine teach these things, and also the prayers received in the church, is evident from what is read before all the people who approach the altar to partake of the Sacrament of the Supper, which shall be here quoted in the language in which it is written: "The way and means to be received as worthy partakers of the Holy Table is, first, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours, then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your power, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God's hand; for otherwise the receiving of the Holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, a hinderer or slanderer of His Word, an adulterer, or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that Holy Table; lest after the taking of that Holy Sacrament the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you fall of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul. . . . Judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men. . . . Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to live a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking henceforth in His holy ways; draw near with faith, and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to Almighty God."

[5] From these words it may now be seen that the doctors and rulers of the church know, and yet do not know, that this way is the way to heaven, and not the way of faith without this; they know when they pray and preach before the people according to what is here adduced, but they do not know when they teach from their doctrine. The former way they call practical religion, but the latter the Christian religion; the former they believe to be for the simple, but the latter for the wise. However, I can assert that those who live according to the doctrine of faith alone and justification thereby have no spiritual faith at all, and that after their life in this world they come into damnation; but those who live according to the doctrine adduced from the above exhortations have spiritual faith, and after their life in this world come into heaven. This also perfectly agrees with the faith received throughout the Christian world, which is called the Athanasian faith, in the public confession of which are these words concerning the Lord; "At whose coming all men shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic faith."

[6] That these things are in perfect agreement with the Word is evident from the following passages:

"The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt. xvi. 27).

"They that have done good, shall go forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John v. 28, 29).

"Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; their works do follow them" (Apoc. xiv. 13).

"I will give unto every one of you according to his works" (Apoc. ii. 23).

"I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works" (Apoc. xx. 12, 13).

"Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according to his works" (Apoc. xxii. 12).

In what is written to the seven churches, it is also said to each of them, "I know thy works." Thus:

"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand; I know thy works" (Apoc. ii. 1, 2).

"Unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write, These things saith the first and the last, I know thy works (Apoc. ii. 8, 9).

"Unto the angel of the church in Pergamos write, These things saith he that hath the sharp sword with two edges: I know thy works" (verses 12, 13).

"Unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write, These things saith the Son of God; I know thy works and charity" (verses 18, 19).

"Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write, These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God; I know thy works" (chap. iii. 1).

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things saith he that is holy, he that is true; I know thy works" (verses 7, 8).

"Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness; I know thy works" (verses 14, 15).

In Jeremiah:

"And I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their hands" (xxv. 14).

Again:

O Jehovah, "thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men; to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (xxxii. 19).

In Hosea:

"I will visit upon his ways, and reward him for his works (iv. 9).

In Zechariah:

"Jehovah deals with us according to our ways, and according to our doings" (l. 6).

Also in the following passages.

In John:

"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (xiii. 17).

In Luke:

"Why call ye me, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" (vi. 46).

In Matthew:

"But whosoever doeth and shall teach, shall be called great in the kingdom of the heaven" (v. 19).

Again:

"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in the heavens. Whosoever heareth my words and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man. But whosoever heareth my words and doeth them not, I will liken unto a foolish man" (vii. 19-27).

Again:

"He that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the Word and understandeth it, which beareth fruit and bringeth forth" (xiii. 23).

In Mark:

These are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the Word and receive it, and bring forth fruit" (iv. 20).

In Luke:

"The seed that fell into the good ground are they which, in an honest and good heart, hear the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit" (viii. 15).

When the Lord had said these things, He cried, saying, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. xiii. 9; Mark iv. 9; Luke viii. 8). In Matthew:

"Thou shalt love the Lord [thy] God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets" (xxii. 37-40).

By the law and the prophets is meant the Word in its whole content.

(References: Hosea 4:9; Jeremiah 25:14, 32:19; John 5:28-29, 13:17; Luke 6:46, Luke 8:8, 8:15; Mark 4:9, Mark 4:20; Matthew 5:19, Matthew 7:19-27, 13:9, Matthew 13:23, 16:27, 22:37-40; Revelation 2:1-2, 2:8-9, Revelation 2:12-13, Revelation 2:18-19, 2:23, 3:1, 3:7-8, 3:12-13, 3:14-15, 3:18-19, Revelation 14:13, 20:12-13, 22:12; Zechariah 1:6)


[7] That to love the Lord God is to do His words or precepts He Himself teaches in John,

"He that loveth me, keepeth my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings" (xiv. 21, 23, 24).

So also in Matthew, the Lord declared that He will say to the goats on the left hand, that they should go into everlasting fire, and to the sheep on the right hand, that they should go into life eternal (xxv. 31-46). That by the goats are meant those who do not do the goods of charity, and by the sheep those who do, is evident from the words there; both said that they knew not that to do good to their neighbour was to do it to the Lord; but they are instructed, if not before, yet at the day of judgment, that to do good is to love the Lord. By the five foolish virgins who took no oil in their lamps are also meant those who are in faith and not in the good of charity; and by the five wise virgins who took oil in their lamps are meant those who are also in the good of charity; for lamps signify faith, and oil signifies the good of charity. Concerning the latter, it is said that "they went into the marriage," but of the former, who said, Lord, Lord, open to us," that they received this answer, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not" (Matt. xxv. 1-12). That in the last time of the church there would be no faith in the Lord, because no charity, is signified where it is written

That Peter denied the Lord thrice, before the cock crew (Matt. xxvi. 34, 69-74).

The same is signified by the Lord's saying to Peter, when Peter saw John follow the Lord,

"What is that to thee" Peter? "follow thou me" John; for Peter had said concerning John,

"What is this man?" (John xxi. 21, 22).

Peter, in a representative sense, signifies faith, and John the good of charity; therefore he leaned on the breast of the Lord (John xxi. 20).

(References: John 14:21, 14:23-24, John 21:20, John 21:21-22; Mark 4:9, Mark 4:20; Matthew 22:37-40, 25:1-12, 25:31-46, 26:34, 26:69-74, 26:69-75)


[8] That this good constitutes the church is signified by the words of the Lord from the cross to John:

"Jesus saw his mother and the disciple standing by whom he loved; he said unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then said he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (John xix. 26, 27).

By mother and woman is here meant the church, and by John the good of charity, and thus by those words is signified that the church will exist where the good of charity is. (But these things may be seen more fully explained in the passages quoted in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 122. And, moreover, that there is no faith where there is no charity, may be seen in the small work, The Last Judgment, n. 33-39. And that man after death is such as his life was in the world, and not such as his faith was, may be seen in the work, Heaven and Hell, n. 470-484. Also what charity is, and what faith is, in its essence, may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 84-122.)

(References: Heaven and Hell 470-484; John 19:26-27; The Last Judgment 33-39; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 84-122, 122)


[9] From what has been adduced consider whether to have faith is anything else than to live it; and whether to live according to it is not only to know and think, but also to will and do. For faith is not in a man while it is only in his knowledge and thought, but when it is also in his will and in his actions. Faith in man is faith of the life, but faith not yet in man is faith of the memory and of thought therefrom. By faith of the life is meant believing in God; but to believe those things that are from God, and not to believe in God, is mere historical faith, which is not saving. Who that is a true priest and good pastor does not desire that men should live well? and who does not know that the faith of knowledges, obtained from hearsay, is not faith of the life, but historical faith?

[10] Faith of the life is the faith of charity, for charity is life.

But although the case is thus clear, yet I foresee that those who have confirmed themselves in the doctrine of faith alone and justification thereby, will not give it up, because of their connecting falsities with truths; for they teach truths when they teach from the Word, but they teach falsities when they teach from doctrine; and hence they confound those things by saying that the fruits of faith are the goods of life and that these follow from faith, and yet that the goods of life contribute nothing to salvation, but faith alone. Thus do they unite and disunite things; and when they unite them they teach truths, but only before the people, who do not know that they invert matters, and say these things from necessity, in order to make their doctrine agree with the Word; but when they disunite them they teach falsities, for they say that faith saves, and not the goods of charity, which are works, in this case not knowing that charity and faith act as one, and that charity consists in acting well and faith in believing well, and that to believe well without acting well is impossible, thus that there can be no faith without charity; then charity is the esse of faith, and its soul, hence that faith alone is faith without a soul, and thus a dead faith; and because such faith is not faith, therefore justification by it is a mere non-entity.

(References: John 21:20-22; Matthew 26:69-75; Revelation 2:12-13, Revelation 2:18-19, Revelation 3:20)

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 226


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


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