Explanations or references:
References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:
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
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
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6
Article | Ages 15 - 17
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14
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
Teaching Support | Ages over 15
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10
Project | Ages 4 - 6
Project | Ages 7 - 10
Project | Ages 11 - 14
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
Song | Ages over 11
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.
724. And she brought forth a male child.- That this signifies the doctrine of truth, which is for the New Church, which is called the New Jerusalem, is plain from the signification of a son, as denoting truth, and of a male (masculus) child, as denoting the genuine truth of the church, consequently its doctrine, for the truth of the church from the Word is its doctrine, since doctrine contains the truths that are for the church. But the genuine doctrine of the church is the doctrine of good, that is the doctrine of life, which is that of love to the Lord and of charity towards the neighbour; still it is doctrine of truth, for doctrine teaches life, love, and charity, and so far as it teaches these it is truth. For when a man knows and understands what good is, what life is, what love is, and what charity is, he then knows and understands those things as truths, since he knows and understands what good is, how he ought to live, what love and charity are, and what kind of man he is who is in the life of love and charity. And as long as these things are matters of knowledge (scientia) and of the understanding, they are merely truths, and thus doctrines; but as soon as they, from being knowledge and understanding, pass over into the will, and thus into act, they are then no longer truths but goods, for interiorly man wills nothing but what he loves, and that which he loves is to him good.
From these things it is evident, that every doctrine of the church is a doctrine of truth, and that the truth of doctrine becomes good, and becomes that of love and charity, when from doctrine it passes into life.
(References: Revelation 12:5)
 This doctrine, signified here by a male child, is especially the doctrine of love to the Lord, and of charity towards the neighbour, thus it is the doctrine of the good of life, but which is yet the doctrine of truth. That the doctrine of the good of love, and thence of life, is here signified by a male child, is evident from this, that the woman, who brought forth the son, was seen encompassed with the sun, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And the sun signifies love to the Lord, and the crown of twelve stars signifies the knowledges of good and truth; and from such a woman and mother, nothing could be born except what pertains to love and good, thus doctrine concerning them. This therefore is the male (masculus) child.
 That doctrine is for the New Church, which is called the New Jerusalem, because the woman treated of in this chapter is the one that is called the bride, the Lamb's wife, which was the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (xxi. 9, 10). This is why she was seen encompassed with the sun, for the sun means the Lord as to Divine Love, as may be seen above (n. 401, 525, 527, 708). The male child also signifies the doctrine of the church, because a son, in the Word, signifies truth, and the doctrine of the church is truth in its whole extent.
That a son, in the Word, signifies truth, is evident from what has been said before concerning the woman, the womb, and bringing forth, namely, that woman signifies the church, womb the inmost of love and the reception of truth from good, while to bring forth signifies the production and fructification of these. See above concerning woman (n. 707); the womb (n. 710); and bringing forth (n. 721). From this it follows that sons and daughters, since they are births, signify the truths and goods of the church, sons its truths, and daughters its goods; in a word, that all terms relating to marriage and thus to procreation on earth, signify such things as belong to the marriage of good and truth, thus father, mother, sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandsons, and several other terms, signify goods and truths procreating, and goods and truths procreated, and in fact derivative goods and truths in their order.
 But it must be understood that goods and truths procreating are in the spiritual man, and those which are procreated are in the natural man; and that those which are in the spiritual man are like the father and mother, and those which are from these in the natural man are like brothers and sisters; and again that the truths and goods that are further procreated as if from sons married within marriageable limits, and from daughters married also within the same, are in the natural man, after these, as parents, have been raised up into the spiritual man. For all conception, and all travail or gestation in the womb take place in the spiritual man, but birth itself takes place in the natural man. The spiritual man is therefore continually enriched by the elevation into it out of the natural man, of truths and goods, which, like parents, will procreate anew; therein also all things are associated like the societies of heaven, according to the affections for truth and good, and their relationships and affinities. It is therefore clear that those spiritual procreations, like the natural procreations from a father and mother, are multiplied like families and houses on earth, and are made fruitful like trees from seeds, from which arise in the spiritual man gardens, called paradises, but groves and orchards in the natural, and shady forests in the sensual man.
(References: John 12:36)
 But because sons are mentioned in many places in the Word, and since it has not yet been known that they signify the truths of the church and of doctrine, out of many passages I will cite only the following for the purpose of proof.
In the Evangelists:
Jesus said, "He who leaveth houses, brethren, sisters, father, mother, wife, children, lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall obtain the inheritance of life eternal" (Matt. xix. 29; Mark x. 29, 30).
"Every one who cometh to me, and hateth not his father, mother, wife, children, brethren, and sisters, yea, his own soul, is not my disciple" (Luke xiv. 26).
Who cannot see that father, mother, wife, children, brethren, and sisters, also houses and lands, are not here meant, but such things as belong to man himself, and are called his own? For these things a man must leave and hate, if he desires to worship the Lord, to be His disciple, to receive a hundredfold, and to obtain the inheritance of life eternal. The things that are a man's own are those that are of his love, and thus of his life into which he is born, consequently they are evils and falsities of every kind; and because these are of his love and life, it is therefore said that he must also hate his own soul. These evils and falsities are signified by father and mother, wife, children, brethren, and sisters; for all those things, which belong to the love and life of man, or to the affection and the thought therefrom, or to the will and thus to the understanding, are formed and conjoined like generations, descending from one father and one mother, and are also distinguished as into families and houses. The love of self and consequent love of the world are their father and mother, and the desires arising therefrom, and their evils and falsities are the children, which are brethren and sisters. That this is the meaning is clearly evident from this, that the Lord could not desire that any one should hate his father and mother, or wife or children, or brethren or sisters, since this would be contrary to the spiritual love implanted in every one from heaven, which is that of parents for their children, of children for their parents, and also contrary to conjugial love, which is that of the husband for his wife, and of the wife for her husband, also contrary to mutual love, which is that of brothers and sisters for one another; in fact, the Lord even teaches that enemies must not be hated, but loved. It is evident from these things that the terms denoting consanguinities, affinities, and relationships in the Word, mean consanguinities, affinities, and relationships in a spiritual sense.
 In the same:
Jesus said to His disciples, "The brother shall deliver the brother to death, the father the son, and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall deliver them to death" (Matt. x. 21; Mark xiii. 12).
"The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law" (Luke xii. 53).
That these things are not to be understood according to the letter is clear from what precedes, where Jesus says that He came not to give peace upon the earth, but division; and that "there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three," which signifies that falsities and evils will fight against truths and goods, and truths and goods against falsities and evils - which is the case when man comes into temptations and is being reformed; this combat is signified by division and rising up. That "the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father," signifies that evil will fight against truth, and truth against evil, the father there denoting the evil, which is man's proprium, and the son the truth which man has from the Lord. That the desire for falsity will fight against affection for truth, and affection for truth against the desire for falsity, is signified by "the mother shall be divided against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother," mother here denoting the desire for falsity, and daughter affection for truth; and so on. That this is the meaning is also evident from the words of the Lord elsewhere, where He says, that in Him "they shall have peace," thus not division (John xiv. 27; xvi. 33).
 In Luke, the angel said to Zechariah concerning John,
"He shall go before" the Lord "in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons" (i. 17).
And in Malachi:
"I will send to you Elijah the prophet, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh, that he may turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (iv. 5, 6).
John the Baptist was sent before to prepare the people for the reception of the Lord by baptism, for baptism represented and signified purification from evils and falsities, and also regeneration through the Word by the Lord. Unless this representation had preceded, the Lord could not have manifested Himself and taught and lived in Judea and Jerusalem, since He was God of heaven and God of earth under a human form, and could not have been in the midst of a nation which was in mere falsities as to doctrine, and in mere evils as to life. Unless therefore that nation had been prepared for the reception of the Lord by a representative of purification from falsities and evils by baptism, it would have been destroyed by diseases of every kind at the presence of the Divine Itself. This then is the signification of the words, "Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." That this would have been the case is well known in the spiritual world, for there those who are in falsities and evils are direfully tormented and spiritually die at the presence of the Lord.
 The baptism of John was able to produce such an effect, because the Jewish church was a representative church, and with them all conjunction of heaven was effected by representatives, as is also evident from the washings commanded therein. As for example all who became unclean had to wash themselves and their garments, and were then regarded as clean; similarly the priests and Levites washed themselves before they entered the tent of assembly and afterwards the temple, to perform their sacred duties; also Naaman was cleansed from leprosy by washing in Jordan. Washing and baptism did not themselves purify them from falsities and evils, but they only represented, and thus signified, purification from these; nevertheless this was received in heaven, as though they themselves had been purified. It was in this way that heaven was conjoined with the people of that church through the baptism of John; and when heaven was thus conjoined to them, the Lord, who was the God of heaven, could manifest Himself to them, teach them, and dwell among them. That Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region about Jordan went out to John, and were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins, is evident in Matthew (chap. iii. 5, 6), and that he said to them,
"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come" (Luke iii. 7).
That the Jews and Israelites were conjoined to heaven by means of representatives may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem (n. 248).
This now was the reason why John was sent before to prepare the way of the Lord, and to prepare the people for Him. It may be concluded from these things what is signified by turning the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to the fathers, namely, that it means to induce a representation of the conjunction of spiritual goods with truths, and of truths with goods, thus of regeneration by the Lord by means of the Word. For regeneration is the conjunction of goods with truths, and of truths with goods, and it is the Lord who regenerates, and the Word which teaches.
 It was said of this John that he should go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, and that he was Elijah, because John, like Elijah, represented the Lord as to the Word, and thus signified the Word, which is from the Lord; and as there is Divine Wisdom and Divine Power in the Word, these are meant by the spirit and power of Elijah. That the Word is of such a nature may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 303-310), and in the small work on the White Horse.
(References: Heaven and Hell 303-310)
 That sons signify truths from the Word, is also evident from the following passages.
"Lo, sons are a heritage of Jehovah, the fruit of the belly a reward; as darts in the hand of a mighty man, so are sons of youth; happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them, they shall not be ashamed when they speak with enemies in the gate" (Psalm cxxvii. 3-5).
Sons who are a heritage of Jehovah, and the fruit of the belly which is a reward, mean the truths and goods of the church; sons mean truths, and the fruit of the belly means goods, for both of these are a reward and a heritage of Jehovah, that is, heaven, which is from truths and goods, namely, from the reception of them. Sons of youth, who are as darts in the hands of a mighty man, signify the truths of the Ancient Church, which were natural truths from a spiritual source; this church is meant by youth. And because these truths have all power against evils and falsities, it is therefore said, "As darts in the hand of a mighty man," darts signifying truths destroying falsities. Doctrine from truths is signified by quiver because it is also signified by bow; and as those who are in doctrine from those truths fear nothing from falsities, it is said, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed when they speak with enemies in the gate;" not to be ashamed denoting not to be conquered, and enemies in the gate the falsities of evil which are from hell.
(References: Psalms 127:3-5)
 In the same:
"Deliver me out of the hand of the sons of the stranger, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is the right hand of a lie; for our sons are as plants, become great in their youth, and our daughters as cornerstones hewn out in the model of a palace" (Psalm cxliv. 11, 12).
That the sons of the stranger here mean falsities is plain, for it is said, "Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is the right hand of a lie;" and that our sons signify truths is also plain, for it is said, "They are as plants, become [great] in their youth," plants also denoting truths, and youth denoting here, as above, the Ancient Church, which possessed genuine truths. Our daughters signify the affections for truth, which are therefore compared to cornerstones hewn out in the model of a palace, because a palace is a representative of the understanding in which truths are in a beautiful form, and they are in a beautiful form when they are from affection for truth.
(References: Psalms 144:11-12)
 In Micah:
"Make thee bald and poll thee, because of the sons of thy delights; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle, for they have gone away from thee" (i. 16).
Mourning because the truths of the church are destroyed is described by making bald, and by polling themselves, for the hair signifies truths in ultimates, and those who are without truths in ultimates are also without internal truths; for this reason those in the spiritual world who have no truths from good appear bald. That truths are destroyed is signified by "the sons of thy delights have gone away from thee"; they are called sons of delights from the love of truths and consequent delights.
(References: Micah 1:16)
 In Zechariah:
"He saw two olive trees at the right hand of the lampstand and at the left, and he said, These are the two sons of the olive standing by the Lord of the whole earth" (iv. 11, 14).
The two olive trees signify the two churches, the celestial church and the spiritual church, the former at the right hand of the lampstand, and the latter at the left; the sons of the olive signify the truths of those churches, which are doctrinals.
 In the same:
"I will bend Judah for me, I will fill Ephraim with the bow, and I will stir up thy sons, O Zion, with thy sons, O Javan; and I will set thee as the sword of a mighty man" (ix. 13).
The sons of Zion and the sons of Javan signify the internal and external truths of the Word, the sons of Zion internal truths, and the sons of Javan external truths. The signification of the rest of the passage may be seen above (n. 357:1, 433:8), where it is explained. Because sons signify truths, it is said, that they shall be set as the sword of a mighty man, the sword of a mighty man signifying truth effectually destroying falsity.
 In Isaiah:
"I will raise up against them the Medes, whose bows shall dash in pieces the young men, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the belly, their eye will not spare the sons" (xiii. 17, 18).
Because the Medes mean those who make no account of the truths and goods of the church, it is also therefore, said, "Their eye will not spare the sons," for sons denote the truths of the Word and of the church; but these things may be seen explained above (n. 710:24).
 In Jeremiah:
"My tent is laid waste, and all my cords plucked away; my sons have departed from me, and they are not" (x. 20).
The tent which is laid waste, signifies the church as to the good of love and worship from it, for all worship in ancient times was performed in tents, and afterwards in the tent of assembly, in memory of which the feast of tents or tabernacles was instituted. All my cords are plucked away, signifies that there is no conjunction of truth with good, or of truths with each other, which thus fall apart; and consequently no conjunction of heaven with the church. My sons have departed from me, and they are not, signifies that the truths of the church from the Word have been dissipated, and that man has thus removed himself from the Lord.
(References: Jeremiah 10:20)
 In the same:
"Behold, I bring back the captivity of the tents of Jacob, and I will have pity on his dwelling-places, that the city may be built upon her own heap, and the palace shall be inhabited after its own manner, and his sons shall be as aforetime, and his congregation shall be established before me" (xxx. 18, 20).
The tents of Jacob and his dwelling-places, signify all things of the church and its doctrine; tents signify its goods, and dwelling-places its truths; their captivity signifies spiritual captivity which exists when the truths and goods of the Word cannot be perceived, because of the dominion of falsities. To shake off falsities and to teach truths is signified by bringing back the captivity. That the city may be built upon its own heap, signifies doctrine from truths, which has become a ruin through falsities, city meaning doctrine; and the palace shall be inhabited after its manner, signifies the spiritual understanding of truths, as was the case with the ancients, palace denoting the understanding of spiritual truths; for in the understanding there are spiritual truths in their own forms, which appear like palaces when they are presented to the sight. His sons shall be as aforetime, and his congregation shall be established before Me, signifies that the truths of the church shall be as they were with the ancients, and that their forms shall remain as they did with them in a restored conjunction, sons here denoting truths, and congregation their conjunction and arrangement into forms, such as exists in the understanding of the man of the church, from which he has intelligence; after its manner and aforetime, mean as with the ancients.
 In Lamentations:
"Mine eye runneth down with waters, because the counsellor who refresheth my soul is far from me; my sons are made desolate, because the enemy hath prevailed" (i. 16).
Mourning because the church is devastated is meant by Mine eye runneth down with waters; its devastation as to truths is signified by My sons are made desolate; that this is done by the falsities of evil, is signified by The enemy hath prevailed, - the enemy denoting falsity of evil and the hell from which it springs.
(References: Lamentations 1:16)
 In Isaiah:
"Awake, awake, rise up, O Jerusalem, who hast drunk out of the hand of Jehovah the cup of his anger; thou hast sucked out the dregs of the cup of trembling; there is none to lead her of all the sons whom she hath brought forth, nor any to take her by the hand of all the sons whom she hath brought up. Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets" (li. 17, 18, 20).
The restoration of the church, which had fallen into mere falsities of evil, is signified by Awake, awake, rise up, O Jerusalem, who hast drunk out of the hand of Jehovah the cup of His anger, thou hast sucked out the dregs of the cup of trembling. Jerusalem denotes the church as to doctrine, to awake and rise up denotes its restoration, to drink the cup of anger denotes falsity, and the dregs of the cup mere falsities from which are evils, and to attract these is signified by drinking and sucking. There is none to lead her of all the sons whom she hath brought forth, nor any to take her by the hand of all the sons whom she hath brought up, signifies that none of the truths of the Word which she has learned and imbibed will lead her away from falsities, sons here meaning truths. Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, signifies that truths are dispersed by falsities of every kind; because sons denote truths, fainting signifies to be dissipated, and to lie at the head of all the streets signifies by means of falsities of every kind, for the streets of a city signify true doctrinals, here false doctrinals.
 In the same:
"Fear not, Jacob, I will bring thy seed from the east, and I will gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Keep not back, bring my sons from afar, my daughters from the end of the earth" (xliii. 5-6).
This is not said of the posterity of Jacob, but of the Gentiles, of whom the church is to be formed. Jacob and his seed mean those who will be of that church. That it must be formed of those who are in falsities from ignorance, and thus in obscurity as to truths, is signified by I will gather thee from the west, and I will say to the north, Give up; and that these must not be repelled but accepted by those who are in the good of love and in the truths of doctrine in their lucidity, is signified by I will bring thy seed from the east, and I will say to the south, Keep not back; for the east signifies the good of love in lucidity, the south the truth of doctrine in lucidity, the west the good of love in obscurity, and the north the truth of doctrine in obscurity, such as those are in who, from ignorance of truth, are in falsities, and yet desire truths. Those quarters have such significations, because, in the spiritual world, all dwell distinctly in those quarters according to the light of truth and the affection for good in which they are. These things have a similar signification in Matthew, where it is said that the elect are to be gathered together "from the four winds, from the ends of the heavens, even to the ends of them" (xxiv. 31). That all those who are in falsities from ignorance, and yet in the desire for truth, are to be brought into that church, is signified by Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the end of the earth; sons denoting those who are in truths, and daughters those who are in affection for truths; thus also, in a sense removed from persons, they signify truths and their affections; and afar off and the end of the earth signify removal from the light of truth, because they are in falsities from ignorance, through not possessing the Word, and having no understanding of its meaning.
 In the same prophet:
"They shall hasten thy sons; thy destroyers and they that lay thee waste shall go out from thee; behold, I will lift up my hand towards the nations, and towards the peoples will I raise up my sign, that they may bring thy sons in the bosom, and carry thy daughters upon the shoulder" (Isaiah xlix. 17, 22).
This also treats of the establishment of a new church by the Lord. The sons whom they shall hasten, and whom they shall bring in the bosom, and the daughters whom they shall carry upon the shoulder, mean all those who are in truths and in affection for them, and in a sense removed from persons, truths themselves and affections for them with those who will be of the new church; destroyers and they that lay waste signify falsities of evil; that these must be removed is signified by They shall go out from thee.
 In the same:
"The isles shall trust in me, and the ships of Tarshish in the beginning, to bring thy sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them" (lx. 9).
This also is said of the church of the Gentiles; and the sons who shall be brought, signify those who will receive truths. The rest of the passage may be seen explained above (n. 50, 406:10, 514:5).
"I will not destroy Ephraim, they shall go after Jehovah, like a lion he shall roar, because he shall roar, and with honour shall sons approach from the sea; with honour they shall come, as a bird from Egypt, and as a dove from the land of Assyria, and I will cause them to dwell in their own houses" (xi. 9-11).
Sons from the sea, signify truths scientific (vera scientifica) and rational truths; it is therefore said that "they shall come as a bird from Egypt, and as a dove from the land of Assyria"; Egypt signifying the Natural, and Assyria the Rational, both of them as to truths; but these things have also been explained above (n, 275:19, 601:7, 654:22).
 And in David:
"Hear this, all ye peoples, perceive in the ear, all ye inhabitants of the age, both the sons of man (homo) and the sons of man (vir), the rich and the poor together; my mouth shall speak wisdoms, and the meditation of my heart intelligences" (Psalm xlix. 1-3).
The sons of man (homo), signify spiritual truths which are from the Lord through the Word, and these are doctrinals, while the sons of man (vir), signify rational and natural truths, which are from the understanding, thus they signify the understanding of the Word; the rich and the poor, signify those who are wise from these in many things, and those who are wise in few things.
(References: Psalms 49:1-3)
 In the same:
Jehovah, "return, look down from the heavens, and see and visit this vine, and the shoot which thy right hand hath planted, and upon the son whom thou hast made strong for thyself; let thy hand be for the man (vir) of thy right hand, for the son of man (homo) whom thou hast made strong for thyself" (Psalm lxxx. 14, 15, 17).
This David said of the church and of himself, which is the sense of the letter, for by the shoot and by the son he meant himself; but in the spiritual sense, the vine and the shoot which Jehovah planted signify the spiritual church, represented by the sons of Israel. The son whom He made strong for Himself, signifies the truth of doctrine from the Word; the man of the right hand, for whom is the hand, and the son of man, whom He had made strong for Himself, signify the truth of the Word in the natural sense, which is the sense of the letter, and the truth of the Word in the spiritual sense, which is the internal sense.
 In Ezekiel:
"Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the greatness of my strength, the desire of your eyes, and the fondness of your soul; and your sons and your daughters, whom ye have left, shall fall by the sword" (xxiv. 21, 25).
This describes the devastation of all truth which those have who are of the church. The sanctuary which He will profane signifies the Word from which is the church, for this is the sanctuary itself, since it is Divine Truth; from its power against falsities and evils, which are from hell, it is called The greatness of the strength of Jehovah; from intelligence and heavenly life therefrom, it is called The desire of your eyes, and the fondness of your soul. That all truths with affection for them will perish through falsities is signified by Your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, - sons denoting truths, daughters, affections for truth, and the sword, falsity destroying the truth.
 In Moses:
"When the Most High gave the nations an inheritance, when he separated the sons of man, he set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the sons of Israel" (Deut. xxxii. 8).
This is said of the ancient churches which preceded the Israelitish, and of the establishment of these by the Lord; the nations mean those who were in the good of love, and the sons of man those who were in truths of doctrine from that good; that these had all truths and goods is signified by He set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the sons of Israel. That the twelve sons of Israel, or the twelve tribes, represented and thus signified the church as to all truths and goods, may be seen above (n. 39, 430, 657).
 In Jeremiah:
"Shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our childhood, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters; we lie down in our shame, and our reproach doth cover us" (iii, 24, 25).
In the same:
"Behold, I bring upon you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, which shall devour thy harvest and thy bread; it shall devour thy sons and thy daughters; it shall devour thy flock and thy herd, it shall devour thy vine and thy fig tree, it shall impoverish thy fortified [cities] in which thou trustest, with the sword" (v. 15, 17).
These words in the spiritual sense, describe the devastation of all things of the church with the Israelites. The nation from afar, signifies the falsity of evil, which is the falsity of the sensual man, destroying truths; harvest, bread, sons, daughters, flock, herd, vine, and fig-tree, which that nation will devour, signify all things of the church; harvest and bread, its truths and goods in regard to nourishment; sons and daughters, its truths and goods in regard to generation; flock and herd, spiritual and natural truths and goods; vine and fig-tree, the internal and external spiritual church therefrom.
 In Ezekiel:
"Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in the midst of it, as I live, if they delivered their sons or their daughters, they only shall be delivered, and the land shall become a desolation; I will bring a sword upon the land, and I will cut off from it man and beast" (xiv. 14, 16-18, 20).
By these words the devastation of the church is also described as to all the truths of good and the goods of truth, except with those who are reformed by means of truths from the Word, and by temptations; these are signified by Noah, Daniel, and Job. That with the rest all the truths of good and goods of truth will perish is signified by They should not deliver their sons or their daughters, but they only would be delivered; the devastation of the church by falsities is signified by The land shall become a desolation, and I will bring a sword upon the land, - land denoting the church, and sword falsity destroying truth. That all spiritual and natural truth will be destroyed, and that all intelligence and knowledge (scientia) of truth will consequently perish, is signified by I will cut off from it man and beast.
 In the same:
"The fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; I will execute judgments in thee, and all thy remnant I will scatter unto every wind" (v. 10).
"[It was said] among the curses, that they should eat the flesh of their sons and of their daughters" (Levit. xxvi. 29).
The fathers shall eat the sons, and the sons the fathers, signifies that evils will destroy truths, and falsities goods, fathers denoting evils and goods, and sons falsities and truths; and because everything of spiritual life with man thus perishes, it is said that judgments will be executed, and the remnant scattered unto every wind, the remnant denoting the truths and goods stored up by the Lord in man from his infancy and childhood.
 We read also, that they led away their sons to idols to be devoured, and for food, and through the fire; as in the following passages.
"Thou hast taken thy sons [and thy daughters] whom thou hast brought forth to me, and these thou hast sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter? Thou hast slaughtered my sons, and hast delivered them up, when thou madest them to pass through unto them. Thou art thy mother's daughter, and the sister of thy sisters, they loathed their husbands and their sons" (xvi. 20, 21, 45).
These things are said of the abominations of Jerusalem. And by sacrificing their sons and daughters to idols to be devoured is signified to destroy and consume all the truths and goods of the church; to do this to truths from the Word, is signified by slaughtering the sons, and making them to pass through unto them; that the truths and goods of the Word are destroyed by falsifications and adulterations, is signified by whoredoms here and elsewhere in that chapter.
 In the same:
"I will pollute them with their gifts, in that they led through [the fire] every opening of the womb, that I might make them desolate. Wherefore ye offer gifts, when ye led your sons through the fire ye are polluted by all your idols" (xx. 26, 31).
To destroy truths by the evils of the love of self, and by desires from the proprium, is signified by leading the sons through the fire and [to destroy them] by falsities, is signified by being polluted with idols. That idols signify falsities of doctrine, and worship from [man's] own intelligence, may be seen above (n. 587).
 In the same:
Oholah and Oholibah "committed whoredom, and blood was in their hands, and with their idols they committed whoredom; their sons also whom they begat to me they led through unto them for food" (Ezekiel xxiii. 37).
Oholah and Oholibah mean Samaria and Jerusalem, Samaria means the spiritual church, and Jerusalem the celestial, each as to doctrine. Falsifications and adulterations of the Word are signified by their committing whoredom, and by blood being in their hands; the falsities which thence spring up from [their] own intelligence are signified by their idols with which they committed whoredom; the signification of leading their sons through [the fire] to the idols for food, namely, that they destroyed the truths of the Word by falsities is therefore evident.
(References: Ezekiel 23:37)
 As sons signify truths, therefore "the seeds which fell into the good ground" are called by the Lord "sons of the kingdom; " and "the tares" which denote falsities, sons of the evil (Matt. xiii. 38). Also those who are in truths are called "sons of light" (John xii. 36); those who are in the marriage of truth and good from the Lord, are called "sons of the nuptials" (Mark ii. 19); and those who are regenerated, "sons of God" (John i. 11-13). Because stones, in the Word, signify truths, John the Baptist said, "God is able of these stones to raise up sons unto Abraham" (Luke iii. 8). That stones signify the truths upon which interior truths are based may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 643, 1298, 3720, 6426, 8609, 10,376).
 As sons signify truths, so in the opposite sense they also signify falsities, as in some of the passages quoted above, also in these words of Isaiah:
"Prepare the slaughter for her sons, for the iniquity of their fathers; that they may not rise and possess the land, and the faces of the earth be filled with cities. I will rise against them, and I will cut off from Babel the name and the residue, and the son and the grandson; and I will make her a heritage for the bittern, and pools of waters, and I will sweep her with the besom of destruction" (xiv. 21-23).
This is said of Babel, which signifies adulteration of the Word and profanation. Here the total vastation of truth with those who are meant by Babel is treated of. That truths with them were utterly destroyed through adulteration of the Word is signified by Prepare the slaughter for her sons, that they may not rise and possess the land, and the faces of the earth be filled with cities; the land means the church in which there are truths, and cities mean doctrinals from mere falsities. That all truths from primaries to ultimates would perish, is signified by cutting off from Babel the name and the residue, the son and the grandson; that nothing whatever of truth would remain, is signified by she shall be swept with the besom of destruction.
(References: Isaiah 14:21-23)
 It must be understood that sons, in the passages above quoted, signify those who are in truths, or those who are in falsities. But because the spiritual sense of the Word has nothing in common with persons, therefore in that sense sons signify truths or falsities apart from the idea of personality. The spiritual sense is of such a nature, because the idea of person limits thought and its extension into heaven in every direction; for all thought that proceeds from affection for truth extends through heaven on all sides, nor has it any termination except like light into shade; but when a person is at the same time thought of, then the idea together with intelligence has its termination, where the person is; this is why sons, in the spiritual sense, signify truths or falsities considered apart from personality.