The Bible

Matthew 3:1-12 : John the Baptist (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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

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

Marriage 113

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

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Leviticus 11:22

1 Samuel 14:25

2 Kings 1:8

Isaiah 40:3, 56:1, 57:14, 59:5

Jeremiah 7:4

Daniel 2:44

Resources for parents and teachers

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

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The Lord’s Baptism

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The Lord’s Baptism (6-8 years)

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The Lord's Baptism: Matthew

A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.

Teaching Support | Ages over 3

You Are My Beloved Son (sheet music)

Song | Ages over 11

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

Arcana Coelestia #5620

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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5620. 'A little resin and a little honey' means the truths of exterior natural good, and the delight that goes with these. This is clear from the meaning of 'resin' as the truth of good, which is truth derived from good, dealt with in 4748. The reason 'resin' has this meaning is that it belongs among unguent like substances and also among aromatic ones. Aromatic substances mean those kinds of entities that belong to truth derived from good, the more so when those substances also resemble unguents and consequently have oil among their ingredients; for 'oil' means good, 886, 3728, 4582. Since this resin was aromatic, see Genesis 37:25, the same word in the original language also means balm; it was also, it is clear, unguent-like or thick with oil. From this one may now see that 'resin' means the truth of good present in the natural, in this case in the exterior natural since 'resin' is mentioned first, then 'honey', meaning the delight there, is added. 'Honey' means delight because it is sweet and everything sweet in the natural world corresponds to some delight or pleasure in the spiritual world. The reason for the use of the expression 'the delight that goes with this' - that is to say, with truth derived from good present in the exterior natural - is that every truth, and more so every truth of good, possesses its own delight. But that delight springs from an affection for such truths and consequently for the use they serve.

[2] The fact that 'honey' means delight may be seen also from other places in the Word, as in Isaiah,

A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and will call His name Immanuel (God with us). Butter and honey will He eat that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. Isaiah 7:14-15.

This refers to the Lord. 'Butter' stands for what is celestial, 'honey' for what is derived from the celestial.

[3] In the same prophet,

It will be, because of the abundance of the milk which they give, that he will eat butter; both butter and honey will everyone eat that is left in the midst of the land. Isaiah 7:22.

This refers to the Lord's kingdom. 'Milk' stands for spiritual good, 'butter' for celestial good, and 'honey' for what is derived from these, namely happiness, pleasure, and delight.

[4] In Ezekiel,

Thus were you adorned with gold and silver, and your robes were fine linen, and silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, and honey, and oil; therefore you became extremely beautiful, and attained to a kingdom. With fine flour, oil, and honey I fed you; but you set this before them as a pacifying odour. Ezekiel 16:13, 19.

This refers to Jerusalem, by which the spiritual Church is meant; it describes what that Church was like among the Ancients, and what it came to be like after that. Its adornment with gold and silver is the furnishment of it with celestial and spiritual good and truth. Its robes of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth stand for truths present in the rational and in both parts of the natural. 'Fine flour' stands for what is spiritual, 'honey' for the pleasure accompanying this, and 'oil' for the good that goes with it. The fact that all these, each one, mean things of a heavenly nature may be recognized by anyone.

[5] In the same prophet,

Judah and the land of Israel were your traders in wheat of minnith and pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm. Ezekiel 27:17.

This refers to Tyre, by which is meant the spiritual Church, what it was like initially and what it came to be like subsequently so far as cognitions of good and truth were concerned, 1201. Also, 'honey' in this quotation stands for the pleasure and delight gained from affections for knowing and learning about celestial and spiritual forms of goodness and truth.

[6] In Moses,

He causes 1 him to ride over the heights of the land and He feeds [him] with the produce of the fields; he causes him to suck honey out of the crag, and oil out of the stony rock. Deuteronomy 32:13.

This too refers to the spiritual Ancient Church. 'Sucking honey from the crag' stands for the delight taken in factual knowledge that holds truths within it.

[7] In David,

I feed them with the fat of wheat, and with honey out of the rock I satisfy them. Psalms 81:16.

'Satisfying with honey out of the rock' stands for the delight gained from the truths of faith.

[8] In Deuteronomy,

Jehovah is bringing you to a good land, a land of rivers of water, springs, and depths gushing out of valleys and mountains; a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey. Deuteronomy 8:7-8.

This refers to the land of Canaan, in the internal sense to the Lord's kingdom in heaven. 'A land of olive oil and honey' stands for spiritual good and the pleasure that goes with it.

[9] For the same reason the land of Canaan is called 'a land flowing with milk and honey', Numbers 13:27; 14:7-8; Deuteronomy 26:9, 15; 27:3; Jeremiah 11:5; 32:22; Ezekiel 20:6. In these places 'the land of Canaan' is used, as has been stated, to mean in the internal sense the Lord's kingdom. 'Flowing with milk' stands for an abundance of celestial-spiritual things, while 'honey' stands for an abundance of forms of happiness and delight received from these.

(References: Numbers 14:8)


[10] In David,

The judgements of Jehovah are truth; they are righteous altogether - more desirable than gold, and much fine gold; and sweeter than honey and what drops from honeycombs. Psalms 19:9-10.

'The judgements of Jehovah' stands for Divine truth, 'sweeter than honey and what drops from honeycombs' for the delights received from good and the pleasures received from truth. In the same author,

Sweet are Your words to my taste, 2 more than honey to my mouth. Psalms 119:103.

Here the meaning is similar.

[11] The manna which the descendants of Jacob received in the wilderness as their bread is described in Moses as follows,

The manna was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers made with honey. Exodus 16:31.

Because 'the manna' meant the Divine truth which came down from the Lord by way of heaven, it is the Lord's own Divine Human, as He Himself teaches in John 6:51, 58. For the Lord's Divine Human is the source from which every truth that is Divine springs; indeed it is what every truth that is Divine has reference to. This being so, the manna, the taste of which gave delight and pleasure, is described as being 'like wafers made with honey' - 'taste' being the delight which good provides and the pleasure that truth affords, see 3502.

[12] Because John the Baptist represented the Lord as to the Word, which is Divine Truth on the earth - in the same way as Elijah had represented Him, 2762, 5247(end), making him the Elijah who was to come ahead of the Lord, Malachi 4:5; Matthew 17:10-12; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17 - his clothing and food were therefore meaningful signs. They are described in Matthew as follows,

John had a garment of camel hair and a skin girdle around his waist; his food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6.

'A garment of camel hair' was a sign of what the literal sense of the Word is like so far as truth there is concerned. That sense - the natural sense - serves as a garment for the internal sense; for 'hair' and also 'camels' mean what is natural. Food consisting of 'locusts and wild honey' was a sign of what the literal sense is like so far as good there is concerned, the delight belonging to that good being meant by 'wild honey'.

[13] In addition the delight afforded by Divine truth as this exists in the external sense is described by 'honey', in Ezekiel,

He said to me, Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your inward parts with this scroll that I am giving you. And when I ate it, it was in my mouth like honey as regards sweetness. Ezekiel 3:3.

And in John,

The angel said to me, Take the little book and eat it up; it will indeed make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey. I therefore took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it up, and it was in my mouth like sweet honey. But when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. Then he said to me, You must prophesy again over many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and many kings. Revelation 10:9-11.

'The scroll' in Ezekiel, and 'the little book' in John, stand for Divine truth. The delight this appears to possess in the outward form it takes is meant by the taste being sweet as honey; for Divine truth, like the Word, is full of delight in the outward form it takes, which is the literal sense, because this allows everyone to interpret and explain it in whatever way it suits him. But the internal sense does not allow him to do so, and this is meant by its bitter taste; for the internal sense discloses what man is like inwardly. The external sense is full of delight for the reason just stated, that a person can explain things there in whatever way it suits him. The truths contained in the external sense are all general ones and remain such until particular truths are added to qualify them, and specific ones to qualify these. The external sense is also full of delight because it is natural, concealing what is spiritual within itself. It needs to be full of delight too if a person is to accept it, that is, to be taken into it and not left standing on the threshold.

[14] The honeycomb and the broiled fish which after His resurrection the Lord ate in the presence of the disciples was also a sign of the external sense of the Word, 'the fish' meaning the truth associated with that sense and 'the honeycomb' the pleasure attached to it, described in Luke as follows,

Jesus said, Do you have any food at all here? They gave Him part of a broiled fish and some honeycomb, which He took and ate in their presence. Luke 24:41-43.

And because the fish and the honeycomb had that meaning the Lord therefore tells them,

These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Me. Luke 24:44.

The appearance is that nothing of the sort is meant, for it seems to have been purely by chance that they had part of a broiled fish and a honeycomb. But in fact their possession of these was providential - as is not only this but every other smallest fact mentioned in the Word. Because matters such as have been described were indeed meant, the Lord therefore referred to the Word, declaring that the things written in it had reference to Himself. But the things which have been written in the Old Testament Word regarding the Lord are but few in the sense of the letter, whereas everything contained in the internal sense has to do with Him; and it is from this that the Word gets its holiness. Everything contained in the internal sense is what is meant in the statement that 'all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him'.

(References: Luke 24:41-44)


[15] From all this one may now see that 'honey' means the delight that is received from goodness and truth, that is, from the affection for these, and that specifically external delight and so that belonging to the exterior natural is meant. Because this delight is the kind that is gained from the world through the senses, and so contains within it much that springs from love of the world, people were forbidden to use honey in their minchahs. This is expressed in Leviticus as follows,

Every minchah which you bring to Jehovah shall be made without yeast; for no yeast nor any honey shall be used along with the fire-offering you burn to Jehovah. Leviticus 2:11.

'Honey' stands for the kind of external delight which, containing something of love of the world within it, was similar to yeast and therefore forbidden. What yeast or made with yeast implies, see 1342.

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Footnotes:

1. The Latin means You cause, but the Hebrew means He causes, which Swedenborg has in other places where he quotes this verse.

2. literally, palate

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(References: Arcana Coelestia 2342, Genesis 43:12; Luke 24:41-44)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 6857, 7643, 8056, 8522, 9372, 9780, 10137, 10530

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 47, 121, 196


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 513

Other New Christian Commentary

Gum 1

Honey 1

Honey-comb 1

Roll and little book 1

Sweet 1

Resources for parents and teachers

The Walk to Emmaus

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


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