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Matthew 3:1-12 : John the Baptist (Gospel of Matthew)

        

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1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

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

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 794, 1017, 1861, 2371, 2708, 3301, 3540, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 315, 350, 378, 400, 553, 749, 839, ...

Doctrine of the Lord 15, 30, 51

Doctrine of Life 93, 104

Heaven and Hell 570

True Christian Religion 113, 144, 468, 483, 668, 677, 684, ...


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 109, 183, 374, 376, 395, 475, 504, ...

Marriage 113

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 4, 6, 13, 33, 67

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



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Bible Word Meanings

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

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

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

heaven
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

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

prepare
In general, when something is "prepared" in the Bible it means that it is in the proper spiritual order, which happens when our hearts and...

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

make
'To make,' as in Hosea 8:11, refers to good. In the opposite sense it refers to evil. To make heaven, and earth, and the sea,...

paths
These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

raiment
Soft raiment,' as in Matthew 11:9, represents the internal sense of the Word.

leathern girdle
'The leathern girdle' which John the Baptist wore signifies an external band that receives and contains interior things.

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...

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

come
Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

said
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...

vipers
'Viper' signifies mortal hatreds and also extremely deceitful people.

say
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

Abraham
Abraham (or Abram, as he is named in the beginning of his story) is one of the major characters in the story of the sacred...

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....

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

Fan
A fan, referred to in Matthew 3:12, signifies the separation of falsities from goods.

floor
The floor, as in Matthew 3:12, signifies the world of spirits which is between heaven and hell, and where the separation of evils and falsities...

Wheat
In Revelation 18:13, 'wine, oil, flour, and wheat' signify celestial principles of worship.

Garner
A garner, granary, or barn, as in as in Matthew 3:12 and 8:30, signify where there is a collection of the good.

chaff
Chaff is mentioned in Matthew 3:12 signifies falsity of every kind, derived from an in­fernal origin.

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Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


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

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

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

 God Is a Divine Man
Article | Ages 15 - 17

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

 John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

 The Dove
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

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

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

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

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

 The Lord's Baptism: Matthew
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 You Are My Beloved Son (sheet music)
Sheet music for a beautiful song about the Lord’s baptism.
Song | Ages over 11

Commentary

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand      

By Rev. William Woofenden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #475

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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475. And have washed their robes, signifies the removal of falsities by means of temptations. This is evident from the signification of "to wash," as being to purify from falsities and evils, consequently to remove them; for the evils and falsities that are with man, spirit, and angel, are not taken away, but are removed, and when they have been removed the appearance is that they have been taken away (respecting this see in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 166, 170) thence "to wash" signifies to remove falsities, and thus to purify. Also from the signification of "robes," as being protecting truths in general (of which above, n. 395; but "robes" here, before they have been washed and made white, signify falsities from which they have [not yet] been purified; for those who are in falsities from ignorance appear in the spiritual world at first in dusky garments of diverse colors, and while they are in temptations in filthy garments; but when they come out of temptations they appear in white robes, glistening according to their purification from falsities. Each one in the other life appears in garments according to the truths and according to the falsities that are with him; 1 this is why "garments" signify truths, and in the contrary sense falsities (see above, n. 195, 271). From this the signification of "they have washed their robes and have made them white" can be seen.

(References: Revelation 7:14; The Apocalypse Explained 195, 271, 395)


[2] In ancient times, when all the externals of the church were representative and significative of things spiritual and celestial, washings were made use of, and they represented purifications from falsities and evils; "washings" had this signification because "waters" signified truths, and "filth" falsities and evils, and all purification from falsities and evils is effected by truths (that "waters" signify truths see above, n. 71). This is why washings were instituted with the sons of Israel by command; for with them there was a representative church, all things of which were significative of things spiritual, and "washings" signified purifications from falsities and evils, and thence regeneration. For this purpose:

A laver of brass was placed at the entrance of the tent of meeting (Exodus 30:18-20);

Also lavers of brass were placed outside of the temple, one great laver which was called the sea of brass, and ten smaller ones (1 Kings 7:23-39).

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 71)


[3] Because of this signification of "washings," when Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the priesthood:

Moses was commanded to wash them with water at the entrance of the tent, and thus to sanctify them (Exodus 29:4; 40:12; Leviticus 8:6);

for the priests represented the Lord in relation to Divine good, as kings represented Him in relation to Divine truth, consequently the priests represented also the Divine holiness which is pure without blemish. Aaron and his sons were inducted into this representation by the washing by Moses; therefore it is said that "thus they should be sanctified," although no sanctity was conferred upon them by the washing.

[4] It was therefore also commanded that:

Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet before entering into the tent of meeting, and before they came near to the altar to minister; and it is said that they were to do this that they die not; and that it should be to them a statute of an age (Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30, 31).

Also that Aaron should wash his flesh before he put on the garments of ministry (Leviticus 16:4, 24).

"Washing the hands and feet" signified the purification of the natural man, and "washing the flesh" the purification of the spiritual man. It was therefore commanded also:

That the Levites should be sanctified by being sprinkled with the water of expiation, and by causing a razor to pass over their flesh, and that they should wash their garments (Numbers 8:6, 7).

This was done to the Levites because they ministered in the external things of the church under Aaron and his sons, and the purification of the external things of the church was represented by the sprinkling of the water of expiation, by shaving the hairs of the flesh, and by washing the garments.

(References: Exodus 40:30-31, 40:30-32; Numbers 8:6-7)


[5] Furthermore, all who were made unclean by touching unclean things also washed themselves and their garments, and were said to be made clean thereby, as:

Those who ate of the dead body of a clean beast, or of what was torn (Leviticus 17:15, 16).

One who touched the bed of one who had an issue, or sat upon the vessel that he sat on, or who touched his flesh (Leviticus 15:4-12).

It was also commanded that the leper, after his cleansing, should wash his garments, shave off his hair, and wash himself with water (Leviticus 14:8, 9).

Also that such vessels as had become unclean by the touch of the unclean, should be passed through water (Leviticus 11:32; besides other statutes).

He is much mistaken who supposes that those who washed their flesh or hands and feet, or garments, were cleansed and sanctified, that is, purified from their sins; for sins are not washed away or taken away by water as filth is, but they are washed away, that is, removed, by means of truths and a life according to them, and this alone was what was represented by the washings; for "waters" signify truths, and truths when there is life according to them, purify the man.

(References: Leviticus 14:8-9, 15:5-13, Leviticus 17:15-16)


[6] That these external things contribute nothing to purification from evils and falsities, is clearly taught by the Lord in Matthew:

Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter that the outside of them may become clean also (Matthew 23:25, 26).

Like things were taught by the Lord when the Jews and Pharisees rebuked His disciples for not washing their hands before eating, for He taught:

That by this a man is not rendered unclean, but by every evil that goeth forth from the heart (Matthew 15:1-2, 19-20; Mark 7:1-23; Luke 11:38, 39).

From this it can be seen that the Jews by their washings were never sanctified and cleansed from their spiritual defilements, which are the evils going forth from the heart, since these evils reside within; and in the world they have nothing in common with the filth that adheres to the body. It is said that "the inside of the cup and platter must be cleansed that the outside may become clean also;" for the outside with man cannot be cleansed until the inside is cleansed, for the outside is cleansed by means of the inside. "The cup and platter" signify the interiors and exteriors of man, which receive truth and good, for the cup is what contains wine, and the platter is what contains food, and "wine" signifies truth, and "food" has a similar signification as "bread," namely, good. This makes clear the signification in the spiritual sense of "cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside may become clean also."

(References: Luke 11:38-39; Matthew 15:11, Matthew 15:17-20, Matthew 23:25-26)


[7] What the Lord says here has a similar meaning as His washing the feet of the disciples, respecting which He thus said to Peter, in John:

He that hath bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is wholly clean (John 13:10).

"He that hath bathed" signifies one who is inwardly clean; and "needeth not save to wash his feet" signifies that then he must be cleansed outwardly, for "the feet" signify the external or natural man (see above, n. 69. More may be seen respecting this arcanum in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 179, 181; and in Arcana Coelestia, where the following are made clear: For a man to be purified, both the internal or spiritual and the external or natural must be purified, and the external by means of the internal, n. 3868, 3870, 3872, 3876, 3877, 3882. The internal man is purified before the external, because the internal is in the light of heaven, and the external in the light of the world, n. 3321, 3325, 3469, 3493, 4353, 8746, 9325. The external or natural man is purified by the Lord through the internal or spiritual, n. 3286, 3288, 3321. A man is not purified until the external or natural man is also purified, n. 8742-8747, 9043, 9046, 9061, 9325, 9334. If the natural man is not purified the spiritual man is closed up, n. 6299; and in respect to the truths and goods of faith and love, it is as it were blind, n. 3493, 3969). The internal man is purified by knowing, understanding, and thinking the truths of the Word, and the external man by willing and doing them. This makes clear how the Lord's words to Peter must be understood, "He that hath bathed needeth not save to wash his feet;" likewise how the Lord's words to the Pharisees must be understood, "cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside may become clean also."

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3876-3877, 6299; The Apocalypse Explained 69)


[8] That the internal man is purified by truths which are of faith, and the external by a life according to them, is meant also by these words of the Lord:

Except one be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

"Water" signifying the truths of faith, and "spirit" a life according to them.

[9] From this it can now be seen what "washing" signifies in the following passages. In Ezekiel:

I washed thee with waters; yea, I rinsed away thy bloods from upon thee, and I anointed thee with oil (Ezekiel 16:9).

This was said of Jerusalem, by which the church is signified; its purification from falsities and from evils is signified by "I washed thee with waters; yea, I rinsed away thy bloods from upon thee," "to wash with waters" signifying to purify the church by truths, and "to rinse away the bloods" signifying purification from falsities and evils. To imbue the church with the good of love is signified by "I anointed thee with oil," "oil" meaning the good of love.

[10] In Isaiah:

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have washed away the bloods of Jerusalem out of the midst thereof, in the spirit of judgment, and in the spirit of cleansing (Isaiah 4:4).

"To wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion" signifies to purify the affections of those who are of a celestial church from the evils of love of self, "filth" meaning the evil of the love of self," "daughters" the affection, and "Zion" the church that is in love to the Lord, which is therefore called a celestial church; "to wash away the bloods of Jerusalem" signifies to purify the same affections from the falsities of evil, "bloods" meaning the falsities of evil; "in the spirit of judgment and in the spirit of cleansing" signifies by means of the understanding of truth and the affection of truth, "spirit" meaning the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, "the spirit of judgment" the understanding of truth therefrom, and "the spirit of cleansing" the spiritual affection of truth, for that is what cleanses.

[11] In Job:

If I shall wash myself in waters of snow, and cleanse my hands with soap, yet wilt thou plunge me into the pit, and mine own garments shall abhor me (Acts of the Apostles 9:30, 31).

This means that if one attempts to purify himself by his own efforts, although by means of truths and goods that are or that appear to be genuine, he will yet lead himself into falsities; "to wash oneself" means to purify oneself; "waters of snow" mean truths that are or that appear to be genuine; "soap" means the good from which they come, and "the pit" falsity. That from this come truths falsified is meant by "mine own garments shall abhor me;" "garments" meaning truths, which are said "to abhor one" when they are falsified, and this is done when man from self-intelligence speculates and draws conclusions.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 9:30-31; Job 9:30-31)


[12] In Moses:

He washed his vesture in wine, and his covering in the blood of grapes (Genesis 49:11).

This is said of Judah, by whom is here meant the Lord in relation to Divine truth; that He altogether purified this in His Human, when He was in the world, is signified by "he washed his vesture in wine, and his covering in the blood of grapes," "vesture" and "covering" signifying His Human, and "wine" and "the blood of grapes" Divine truth. (This may be seen explained in Arcana Coelestia 6377, 6378.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 6377-6378)


[13] That "to wash" signifies to purify from falsities and evils is clearly evident in Isaiah:

Wash you, make you pure; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil (Isaiah 1:16).

Because "to wash" signifies to put away falsities and evils, it is added, "put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil."

[14] In Jeremiah:

Wash thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall the thoughts of thine iniquity lodge in the midst of thee? (Jeremiah 4:14).

This has a similar signification. In David:

Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalms 51:2, 7).

Here "to wash" plainly means to purify from falsities and evils, for it is said, "Wash me from iniquity, and cleanse me from sin," and afterwards, "Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;" "to wash from iniquity" means from falsities, and "from sin" means from evils, for "iniquity" is predicated of falsities, and "sin" of evils; and because the water of expiation was prepared from hyssop, it is said, "Thou shalt purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. "

[15] In Jeremiah:

Although thou shalt wash thee with niter and take thee 2 much soap, thine iniquity shall still retain its spots before Me (Jeremiah 2:22).

Here, too, it is clear that washings only represented and thence signified spiritual washings, which are purifications from falsities and evils, for it is said, "Although thou shalt wash thee with niter, and take thee much soap, thine iniquity shall still retain its spots."

[16] Thus also in David:

In vain have I cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocence. All the day have I been plagued, and in the mornings was my reproof (Psalms 73:13, 14).

"To wash the hands in innocence" means to bear witness that one is innocent and pure from evils and falsities; for washing the hands was a testification of innocence; as can be seen also from the fact that:

Pilate washed his hands and said, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person (Matthew 27:24).

(References: Psalms 73:13-14)


[17] Because "washings" signified purifications from falsities and evils, and "one blind" signified those who do not see truths, and are therefore in falsities:

The Lord told the blind man whose eyes He anointed with clay made with spittle, to wash himself in the pool of Siloam, and when he had washed himself he came seeing (John 9:6, 7, 11, 15).

The "blind man" here represented those who can see nothing of truth because they are sensual, and see only those things that appear before the external senses, from which come fallacies instead of truths, and to the confirmation of these they apply the sense of the letter of the Word; "the clay made of spittle" signifies sensual truth, such as the Word contains for such persons; "the waters of the lake or pool of Siloam" signify the truths of the Word, for all things, even to the waters in Jerusalem were significative; and "to wash" signifies to purify from fallacies, which in themselves are falsities. From this it can be seen what these things signify in series; for all the miracles and works of the Lord when He was in the world signified Divine celestial and Divine spiritual things, that is, such things as pertain to heaven and the church, and this because they were Divine, and the Divine always operates in ultimates from first things, and thus in fullness; ultimates are such as appear before the eyes in the world. This is why the Lord spoke and the Word was written by means of such things in nature as correspond.

(References: John 9:6-7)


[18] It is similar with the miracle performed on Naaman the leper by command of Elisha, which is thus described in the second book of Kings:

Naaman of Syria, being affected with leprosy, was commanded by a messenger from Elisha to wash himself seven times in the Jordan, and his flesh would come again and he would be clean. At length Naaman went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little lad, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:10, 14).

"Naaman a leper of Syria" represented and signified those who falsify the knowledges of truth and good from the Word, for "leprosy" signifies falsifications, and "Syria" the knowledges of truth and good. "The waters of Jordan" signified the truths that introduce into the church, which are the knowledges of truth and good from the Word, for the river Jordan was the first boundary across which the land of Canaan was entered, and "the land of Canaan" signified the church; this is why "the waters of Jordan" signified introductory truths, which are the first knowledges of truth and good from the Word. Because of this signification of "the waters of Jordan," Naaman was commanded to wash himself in them seven times, which signified purification from falsified truths; "seven times" signifies fully, and is predicated of things holy, such as truths Divine are. Because "seven times" has this signification, it is said that "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little lad," the flesh coming again signifying spiritual life, such as those have who are regenerated through Divine truths.

[19] Because "the waters of Jordan" signified the truths that introduce into the church, which are the knowledges of truth and good from the Word, and "washing" therein signified purification from falsities, and consequent reformation and regeneration by the Lord, therefore baptism was instituted, which was first performed in Jordan by John (Matthew 3:11-16; Mark 1:4-13). This rite signified initiation into the knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord, His coming, and salvation by Him; and as man is reformed and regenerated by the Lord by means of truths from the Word, baptism was commanded by the Lord (Matthew 28:19); for it is by means of truths from the Word that man is reformed and regenerated, and it is the Lord who reforms and regenerates. (Respecting this more may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 202-209.)

[20] It was said by John:

That he baptized with water; but that the Lord would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16; John 1:33).

This means that John only inaugurated them into knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord, and thus prepared them to receive Him, but that the Lord Himself regenerates man by means of Divine truth and Divine good proceeding from Him; for John represented the like as Elijah, namely, the Word; "the waters" with which John baptized signified introductory truths, which are knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord; "the Holy Spirit" signifies Divine truth proceeding from the Lord; and "fire" signifies Divine good proceeding from Him; and "baptism" signifies regeneration by the Lord by means of Divine truths from the Word.

[21] Washings were instituted in the ancient churches, and afterwards baptisms in their place, which nevertheless are only representative and significative rites, in order that heaven might be conjoined with the human race, and in particular with the man of the church; for heaven is conjoined to man when man is in ultimates, that is, in such things as are in the world in regard to his natural man, while he is in such things as are in heaven in regard to his spiritual man; in no other way is conjunction possible. This is why baptism was instituted; also the holy supper; likewise why the Word was written by means of such things as are in the world, while there is in it a spiritual sense, containing such things as are in heaven, that is, that the sense of the letter of the Word is natural, while in it there is a spiritual sense. (That by means of this sense the Word conjoins the angels of heaven with the men of the church, may be seen in the work on Heaven and Hell 303-310; and in the small work on The White Horse from beginning to end. That the holy supper likewise conjoins, see in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 210-222, and the same is true of baptism.) But he is much mistaken who believes that baptism contributes anything to a man's salvation unless he is at the same time in the truths of the church and in a life according to them; for baptism is an external thing, which without an internal contributes nothing to salvation, but it does contribute when the external is conjoined to an internal. The internal of baptism is, that by means of truths from the Word and a life according to them, falsities and evils may be removed by the Lord, and thus man be regenerated, as the Lord teaches (Matthew 23:26, 27), as explained above in this article.

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Footnotes:

1. The photolithograph has "them."

2. The photolithograph has "he take thee."

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(References: Leviticus 15:5-13; Matthew 15:11, Matthew 15:17-20, 23:25-26, Matthew 23:26-27; Revelation 7:14)

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 Elisha and Naaman
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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 John the Baptist
Compare the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus Christ. What do the births of these men mean in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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