The Bible

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

Study the Inner Meaning

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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

Word/Phrase Explanations

days
"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

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

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...

Wilderness
'Wilderness' signifies something with little life in it, as described in the internal sense in Luke 1:80 'Wilderness' signifies somewhere there is no good because...

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
"Heaven" and "heavens" are used many times in the Bible, with a couple of variations of meaning. Sometimes it is relatively literal, including times when...

hand
Scientists believe that one of the most crucial developments in the evolution of humans was bipedalism – walking on two legs. That left our hands...

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...

prophet
The idea of a "prophet" is very closely tied to the idea of the Bible itself, since the Bible was largely written by prophets. At...

voice of one crying
'A voice crying,' and 'the voice of a cry,' are common expressions in the Word, and are applied whenever there is a noise or disturbance,...

Voice
'Voice' signifies what is announced from the Word. 'Voice' often refers and is applied to things that cannot have a voice, as in Exodus 4,...

one
A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

crying
As with most common verbs, the spiritual meaning of “crying” or “crying out” (meaning a shout or wail, not weeping) is highly dependent on context....

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

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.

Camel
A camel (Matt. 22:24) signifies scientific knowledge. Camels are confirming scientifics, and cattle are the knowledges of good and truth (Jer. 49:32.)

hair
The hair is the very outermost part of the body, and "hair" in the Bible represents the outermost expression of whatever the body represents. In...

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

girdle
In a sense, the whole point of trying to accept the Lord and align ourselves with His love and His leading is so that we...

Loins
'Loins' in general, signify love, and when referring to the Lord, divine love. 'Loins' signify the interiors of conjugial love. Loins,' as in Isaiah 11:5,...

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

Locusts
'Locusts' signify falsities in the extremes, which consume the truths and goods of the church in a person. 'The locusts' which John the Baptist ate...

Honey
'Honey' signifies the delight derived from good and truth or from the affection thereof, and specifically the external delight. Thus it signifies the delight of...

Round
Something 'round' relates to good. 'A small round thing,' as in Exodus 16:14, refers to the good of truth in its first formation. This is...

Round about
'Round about' denotes the things most distant from the middle, or from good and truth.

Jordan
The land of Jordan,' as in Psalm 42:6, signifies what is lowly, consequently, what is distant from the celestial, as the external parts of a...

sins
'Bound up transgressions,' as in Lamentations 1:14, stands for falsities coming up towards interior or rational 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...

many
Intellectual things – ideas, knowledge, facts, even insight and understanding – are more separate and free-standing than emotional things, and it’s easier to imagine numbering...

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",...

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

Flee
To flee signifies to escape, and be rescued. To flee signifies to be overcome.

wrath
'Wrath,' as in Genesis 49:7, signifies aversion from truth. 'Great wrath,' as in Revelation 12:12, signifies hatred against the new church.

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

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...

father
Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

God
The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

stones
Stones in the Bible in general represent truths, or things we know concerning the Lord and what He wants from us and for us in...

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

Axe
The work of the hands of the workman with the axe, signifies that which is from man's proprium and from his own intelligence.

Root
'A root,' as in Malachi 4:1, signifies charity. The dried up root,' as in Hosea 9:16, 17, signifies charity which could not bear fruit.

tree
In general, plants in the Bible represent facts, thoughts and ideas – intellectual things. This makes sense: Plants are rooted in place, but can grow...

good
It seems rather circular to say that “good” in the Bible represents good, but in a general sense it’s true! The case is this: The...

fruit
We tend to think of "fruit" in two ways in natural language. One is as food that grows on trees and vines, sweet and delicious,...

down
"Down" is used many different ways in natural language, and its spiritual meaning in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Phrases like "bowing down,"...

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....

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

water
Water was obviously of tremendous importance in Biblical times (and every other time). It is the basis of life, the essential ingredient in all drinks,...

Worthy
People in truths from the Lord, because they are in conjunction with Him, are called 'worthy,' as in Revelation 3:4. All worth in the spiritual...

bear
Like many verbs, the spiritual meaning of "bearing" something depends greatly on context – what it is that's being borne, and why. It is further...

holy
The Bible describes many things as being holy, or sacred. The Ark of the Covenant is one very holy object. The inmost chamber of the...

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...

Gather
To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

wheat
As the finest of the grains, wheat fittingly represents the finest of spiritual food, what Swedenborg calls "the good of love and charity" – which...

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.

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 by following this link.


 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)
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 #9818

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9818. 'Whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom' means who have Divine Truth inscribed upon them. This is clear from the meaning of 'the spirit of wisdom', when used in reference to those governed by celestial good, as Divine Truth, dealt with below. People are said to be filled with it when it is inscribed permanently on them. The situation is that those in the Lord's celestial kingdom are acquainted with truths not as a result of coming to know and consequently believe them, but as a result of inward perception; for they are governed by the good of love received from the Lord, and this good has all truths rooted within it. The actual good itself has been implanted in the will part of their minds, and truth springing from it in the understanding part. And with these people the will and understanding parts act altogether as one, quite differently from the way the two parts act with those who are in the spiritual kingdom. So it is that the understanding part of the mind in those who are in the Lord's celestial kingdom serves to give them not a knowledge but a perception of truths. For the good implanted in the will presents itself - its inward nature and its outward form - in the understanding, and in so to speak blazing light there. For those people the outward form of the good and its inward nature is truth, which they do not see, but instead perceive from good. For this reason they never argue about truths; they so avoid it that whenever there is talk about truths they say Yes or No, and no more than that. For if they said anything more it would not come from good. These are the ones who are meant in Matthew,

Let your words be Yes, yes; No, no; anything beyond this is from evil. 1 Matthew 5:37.

The fact that those who are in the Lord's celestial kingdom are like this, see 2715, 2718, 3246, 4448, 5113, 6367, 7877, 9166 (end), 9543. What the difference is between those who are in the celestial kingdom and those who are in the spiritual kingdom, see the places referred to in 9277.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 9276)


[2] From all this people may now recognize what should be understood when it is said that Divine Truths have been inscribed upon someone. Many places in the Word use the term 'spirit', and when they use it in reference to a person his 'spirit' means goodness and truth inscribed on the understanding part of his mind and consequently on the life of that part of it. The reason why 'spirit', when attributed to a person, has this meaning is that inwardly a person is a spirit, indeed inwardly is in the company of spirits. See what has already been shown abundantly on this matter in the following places,

Spirits and angels reside with a person, and the person is governed by the Lord through them, 50, 697, 986, 2796, 2886, 2887, 4047, 4048, 5846-5866, 5976-5993.

A person is among spirits and angels such as he himself is like, 4067, 4073, 4077, 4111.

Every person has a spirit through which his body has life, 4622.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2886-2887, 4047-4048)


[3] From this one may know what 'spirit' means when used in reference to the Lord, namely that it is Divine Truth emanating from His Divine Good, and that when this Divine Truth flows in and is received by a person it is the Spirit of truth, Spirit of God, and Holy Spirit; for it flows directly from the Lord, and also indirectly through angels and spirits, see the places referred to in 9682. The fact that the Spirit of truth, Spirit of God, and Holy Spirit have this meaning will be seen further on below; for prior to that it must be shown that, when used in the Word in reference to a person, 'spirit' means goodness and truth inscribed on the understanding part of a person's mind and consequently means the life of that part of it. For there is the life of the understanding part, and there is the life of the will part. That of the understanding part consists in knowing, seeing, and understanding that truth is indeed truth and good is indeed good. But the life of the will part consists in willing and loving truth for truth's sake and good for goodness' sake. In the Word the life of the will is called 'heart', but that of the understanding 'spirit'.

[4] The following places in the Word show that this is so: In Ezekiel,

Make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:31.

And in the same prophet,

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I give in the midst of you. Ezekiel 36:26.

'A new heart' stands for a new will. and 'a new spirit' for a new understanding. In Zechariah,

Jehovah stretches out the heavens, and founds the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. Zechariah 12:1.

'Stretching out the heavens and founding the earth' stands for the establishment of a new Church, this Church being meant by 'heaven and earth', see 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118 (end), 3355 (end), 4535. 'Forming the spirit of man within him' stands for regenerating a person as to his understanding of truth and good.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2117-2118)


[5] In David,

Create for me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from before You, and do not take the spirit of Your holiness from me. Bring back to me the joy of Your salvation, and let a generous spirit uphold me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. 2 Psalms 51:10-12, 17.

'A clean heart' stands for a will that detests evils, which are forms of uncleanness; 'a steadfast spirit' stands for an understanding of and belief in truth; 'a broken spirit' and 'a broken heart' stand for a state of temptation and the consequent humbling of the life in both. The fact that 'spirit' means life is evident from every detail in these verses. Divine Truth, from which that life springs, is meant by 'the spirit of holiness'. In the same author,

A generation that did not make its heart right, nor was its spirit steadfast with God. Psalms 78:8.

'Heart that is not right' stands for a will that is not right, and 'spirit that is not steadfast with God' stands for an understanding of and belief in God's truth that are not steadfast.

[6] In Moses,

Jehovah God had hardened the spirit of Sihon king of Heshbon and made his heart obstinate. Deuteronomy 2:30.

Here also 'spirit' and 'heart' stand for the life in both parts, which is said to have been 'made obstinate' when the will has no desire to understand truth and good and put them into practice. In Ezekiel,

Every heart will melt, and all hands will hang down, and every spirit will shrink. Ezekiel 21:7.

Here the meaning is similar. In Isaiah,

Jehovah is He who gives soul 3 to the people on the earth, and spirit to those who walk on it. Isaiah 42:5.

'Giving soul to the people' stands for endowing with the life of faith, 'soul' meaning the life of faith, see 9050; and 'giving spirit' stands for providing with an understanding of truth. In the same prophet,

With my soul I desired You in the night; even with my spirit within me I waited for You early. Isaiah 26:9.

Here the meaning is similar.

[7] In the same prophet,

Conceive chaff, bring forth stubble; fire will devour your spirit. Isaiah 33:11.

'Spirit' which fire will devour stands for an understanding of truth, and so for intelligence; 'fire' stands for a craving which, because it springs from evil, is destructive.

[8] In Ezekiel,

Woe to the foolish prophets, who go away after their own spirit! Ezekiel 13:3.

In the same prophet,

What comes up onto your spirit 4 will not ever be brought about. Ezekiel 20:32.

In Malachi,

Not one has done so, nor those remaining who had spirit. Why then is there one seeking God's seed? Therefore take heed through your spirit, to see that it does not act treacherously against the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15.

In David,

Blessed is the person to whom Jehovah does not impute iniquity; only let there be no guile in his spirit. Psalms 32:2.

In Matthew,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3.

In the same gospel,

Jesus said to the disciples, Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is eager, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41.

In these places, as is plainly evident, 'spirit' is used to mean the actual life in a person. That the life of the understanding, or the life of truth, is meant becomes clear from the consideration that in the natural sense 'spirit' is used to mean human life and breath. And drawing breath, which is the work of the lungs, corresponds to the life of truth, which is the life of faith and consequently of the understanding, whereas the beating of the heart corresponds to the life of the will and so of love. For this correspondence of lungs and heart, see 3635, 3883-3896, 9300, 9495. All this makes clear what type of life is meant in the spiritual sense by 'spirit'.

[9] The fact that 'spirit' in the ordinary sense means human life and breath is clearly evident in David,

You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You gather up their spirit, they breathe their last. You send forth Your spirit, they are created. Psalms 104:29-30.

In the same author,

Answer me, O Jehovah. My spirit is consumed. Do not hide Your face from Me. Psalms 143:7.

In Job,

My spirit is consumed, my days are extinguished. Job 17:1.

In Luke,

Jesus took the dead girl's hand, saying, Girl, arise. Her spirit therefore returned, and she arose at once. Luke 8:54-55.

In Jeremiah,

Every person has been made stupid by knowledge; his graven image is a lie, and there is no spirit in it. Jeremiah 10:14; 51:17.

In Ezekiel,

He brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah and set me down in the midst of the valley. And there the Lord Jehovih said to the dry bones, Behold, I am bringing spirit into you that you may live. Thus said the Lord Jehovih, Come from the four winds, O spirit, and breathe into these killed. And spirit came into them, and they were alive again. Ezekiel 37:1, 5, 9-10.

In the Book of Revelation,

The two witnesses were killed by the beast ascending from the abyss. But after three and a half days the spirit of life from God entered them, so that they stood on their feet. Revelation 11:7, 11.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 17:1; Ezekiel 36:1, 36:5, 36:9-10)


[10] From these places it is plainly evident that 'spirit' is a person's life. The fact that more specifically it is the life of truth, which is the life of the understanding part of a person's mind, and is called intelligence, is made plain in John,

The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. God is a Spirit, therefore those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24.

In Daniel,

... that there was in him an excellent spirit, both of knowledge and of intelligence. Daniel 5:12, 14.

In Luke,

John grew and became strong in spirit. Luke 1:80.

And regarding the Lord, in the same gospel,

The child Jesus grew and became strong in spirit, and was filled with wisdom. Luke 2:40.

In John,

He whom the Father has sent speaks the words of God, for God has not given Him the spirit by measure. 5 John 3:34.

Here 'the spirit' stands for intelligence and wisdom; 'speaking the words of God' means declaring Divine Truths.

[11] From all this it may now be seen what 'spirit' means in John,

Jesus said to Nicodemus, Unless a person has been born from water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which has been born of the flesh is flesh, but that which has been born from the spirit is spirit. John 3:5-6.

'Being born from water' means [being regenerated] by means of truth, and 'being born from the spirit' means life from the Lord which comes as a result of this, called spiritual life. For the meaning of 'water' as the truth by means of which regeneration is accomplished, see 2702, 3058, 3424, 4976, 5668, 8568, 9323. 'Flesh' however means the human proprium or selfhood, in which there is no spiritual life at all, 3813, 8409.

[12] Something similar is meant by 'spirit' and 'flesh' in the same gospel,

It is the Spirit which bestows life, the flesh does not profit anything. The words which I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. John 6:63.

'The words' which the Lord spoke are Divine Truths, the life which comes as a result being 'the spirit'. In Isaiah,

Egypt is man (homo), not God, and his horses are flesh and not spirit. Isaiah 31:3.

'Egypt' stands for knowledge in general, 'his horses' for factual knowledge supplied from the understanding, which is spoken of as 'flesh and not spirit' when it does not have any spiritual life at all within it.

'Egypt' is knowledge, see the places referred to in 9340, 9391. 'Horses' are the power of understanding, 2761, 2762, 3217, 5321. 'The horses of Egypt' are known facts supplied from the understanding, 6125, 8146, 8148.

Anyone who does not know what is meant by 'Egypt', what is meant by 'his horses', and also what is meant by 'flesh' and 'spirit', cannot possibly know what these words [in Isaiah 31:3] imply.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2761-2762)


[13] Once people know what 'spirit' present in a person means they may know what is meant by 'spirit' when this term is used in reference to Jehovah or the Lord. Everything a human being has, such as face, eyes, ears, arms, and hands, also heart and soul, He is said to have. Thus spirit as well is attributed to Him, and in the Word it is called Spirit of God, Spirit of Jehovah, Spirit of His mouth, and Spirit of Holiness or Holy Spirit. The fact that the term is used to mean Divine Truth emanating from the Lord is clear from a large number of places in the Word. The reason why Divine Truth emanating from the Lord is meant by 'Spirit of God' is that all of a person's life comes from there, as does the heavenly life possessed by those who receive that Divine Truth in faith and love. The Lord Himself teaches in John that this is what 'Spirit of God' means,

The words which I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. John 6:63.

'The words' which the Lord spoke are Divine Truths.

[14] In the same gospel,

Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water. This He said about the Spirit which those believing in Him were to receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39.

'The Spirit' which those believing in the Lord were to receive from Him means the life coming from the Lord that is the life of faith and love, as is evident from the specific expressions used in these verses. For 'thirsting' and 'drinking' means the desire to know and understand truth; and 'rivers of living water' which will flow from the belly are God's truths. From this it is clear that 'the Spirit' which believers were to receive, also called 'the Holy Spirit', means the life brought by Divine Truth emanating from the Lord. This life, as stated just above, is called the life of faith and love, being the spiritual and heavenly life itself present in a person. The reason why it says 'the Holy Spirit was not yet because Jesus was not yet glorified' is that while He was in the world the Lord Himself taught Divine Truth; but when He had been glorified, which was after the Resurrection, He taught it through angels and spirits. That holy influence present with a person, emanating from the Lord through angels and spirits, whether in a discernible manner or an indiscernible one, is the Holy Spirit there. For in the Word Divine Truth emanating from the Lord is called that which is holy, 9680.

[15] This explains why the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth and why it is said that He would lead into all truth, that He would not speak on His own [authority], but speak what He hears from the Lord, and that He would receive from the Lord what He was to declare, John 16:13-14. It also explains why the Lord, when He was going to leave the disciples, breathed into them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit, John 20:21-22. 'Breathing' means the life of faith, 9229, 9281, so that the Lord's breathing into someone means imparting the ability to understand Divine Truths and thereby receive that life. So it is also that 'the Spirit', being a name derived from 'breathing', is a derivation also of 'blowing' and of 'wind'; and this is why the spirit is frequently called the wind. Breathing, which is the work of the lungs, corresponds to the life of faith, while the beating of the heart corresponds to the life of love, see 3883-3896, 9300, 9495.

[16] Something similar is meant by 'breathing into' in the Book of Genesis,

And Jehovah breathed into man's nostrils the soul of life. Genesis 2:7.

This is why in Lamentations 4:20 the Lord is called the Spirit of our nostrils; and since Divine Truth consumes and devastates the evil it says in David,

The foundations of the world were revealed at the blast of the Spirit of Your nose. Psalms 18:15.

And in Job,

By the breath of God they perish, and by the Spirit of His nose they are consumed. Job 4:9.

In David,

By the Word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all their host by the Spirit of His mouth. Psalms 33:6.

'The Word of Jehovah' is Divine Truth, as is 'the Spirit of His mouth'. The fact that the Lord is that Word is clear in John,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made though Him. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:1-3, 14.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 4:9; John 1:1, 1:3)


[17] The fact that Divine Truth, from which heavenly life comes to a person, is the Holy Spirit is further evident from the following places: In Isaiah,

There will come forth a shoot from the trunk of Jesse, and the Spirit of Jehovah will rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and intelligence, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of Jehovah. Isaiah 11:1-2.

These words refer to the Lord, in whom there is Divine Truth. Consequently Divine Wisdom and Intelligence is called 'the Spirit of Jehovah', and in these verses 'the Spirit of wisdom and intelligence, counsel, strength, and knowledge'. In the same prophet,

I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth judgement to the nations. Isaiah 42:1.

These words too refer to the Lord. 'The Spirit of Jehovah' upon Him is Divine Truth, and consequently Divine Wisdom and Intelligence. Divine Truth is also called 'judgement', 2235.

[18] In the same prophet,

He will come like a rushing 6 river; the Spirit of Jehovah will place a sign on Him. Isaiah 59:19.

In the same prophet,

The Spirit of the Lord Jehovih is upon Me, therefore Jehovah has anointed Me to bring good tidings to the poor. Isaiah 61:1.

This too refers to the Lord. Divine Truth, which was in the Lord when He was in the world, and which He was then, is meant by 'the Spirit of Jehovah'.

[19] The fact that 'the Spirit of Jehovah' means Divine Truth and consequently heavenly life that comes to the person who receives that Truth is further evident from the following places: In Isaiah,

... until the Spirit is poured out on us from on high; then the wilderness will become a ploughed field, then judgement will dwell in the wilderness. Isaiah 32:15-16.

The subject here is regeneration. 'The Spirit from on high' is life from the Divine; for the promises that 'the wilderness will become a ploughed field' and that 'judgement will dwell in the wilderness' mean the presence of intelligence where none existed previously, thus new life there.

[20] Something similar occurs in Ezekiel,

... in order that you may know that I will put My Spirit in you, in order that you may live. Ezekiel 37:14.

In the same prophet,

I will no longer hide My face from them, because I shall pour out My Spirit on the house of Israel. Ezekiel 39:29.

In Joel,

I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and on men servants and women servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit. Joel 2:28-29.

In Micah,

I have been filled with strength by 7 the Spirit of Jehovah, and with judgement and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. Micah 3:8.

In Zechariah,

The horses going out into the north land have caused My Spirit to rest on the north land. Zechariah 6:8.

In Isaiah,

I will pour out waters upon the thirsty land, and streams upon the dry. I will pour out My Spirit upon your seed. Isaiah 44:3.

In these places it is evident that 'the Spirit of Jehovah' means Divine Truth and the life of faith and love which come through that Truth. It flows in directly from the Lord, also indirectly from Him through spirits and angels, see 9682 (end).

(References: Ezekiel 37:13-14)


[21] Something similar occurs elsewhere in Isaiah,

On that day Jehovah Zebaoth will be a crown of adornment and a tiara of beauty for the remnant of His people, and a Spirit of judgement to him who sits in judgement, and strength to those ... Isaiah 28:5-6.

'A crown of adornment' stands for the wisdom that comes with good, 'a tiara of beauty' for the intelligence that comes with truth, and 'a Spirit of judgement' for Divine Truth, since 'judgement' is spoken of in reference to truth , 2235, 6397, 7206, 8685, 8695, 9260, 9383.

[22] In the same prophet,

The angel of Jehovah's face 8 delivered them; because of His love and His pity He redeemed them. But they rebelled, and exasperated the Spirit of His holiness; consequently He was turned by them into an enemy. He put the Spirit of His holiness in the midst of them. The Spirit of Jehovah led them. Isaiah 63:9-11, 14.

'The Spirit of holiness' here is the Lord in respect of Divine Truth, thus Divine Truth which comes from the Lord; 'the angel of His face' is the Lord in respect of Divine Good, for 'Jehovah's face' is love, mercy, and good. In the Book of Revelation,

The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:10.

'The testimony of Jesus' is Divine Truth that comes from Him and has regard to Him, 9503.

[23] In David,

Jehovah God makes His angels spirits, 9 and [His] ministers flaming fire. Psalms 104:4.

'Making angels spirits' stands for making them recipients of Divine Truth; 'making them flaming fire' stands for making them recipients of Divine Good or Divine Love. In Matthew,

John said, I baptize you with water for repentance. But He who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11.

'Baptizing' means regenerating; 'with the Holy Spirit' means doing so through Divine Truth; and 'with fire' means springing from the Divine Good of Divine Love. For the meaning of 'baptizing' as regenerating, see 5120 (end), 9088; and for that of 'fire' as the Divine Good of Divine Love, 4906, 5215, 6314, 6832, 6834, 6849, 7324.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4849)


[24] In Luke,

If you, being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? Luke 11:13.

'Giving the Holy Spirit' means enlightening with Divine Truth and endowing with life from that Truth, which is the life of intelligence and wisdom. In the Book of Revelation,

The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne are the seven spirits of God. Revelation 4:5.

And in addition,

In the midst of the elders [there was] a Lamb standing, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Revelation 5:6.

It is self-evident that the word 'spirits' in these places is not used to mean spirits, since they say that the lamps and the Lamb's eyes are the spirits of God . For Divine Truths are meant by 'lamps', 4638, 7072; the understanding of truth is meant by 'the eyes', or Divine Intelligence and Wisdom when the expression refers to the Lord, 2701, 4403-4421, 4523-4534, 9051; and the power of truth derived from good is meant by 'horns' 2832, 9081, 9719-9721. From all this it is evident that Divine Truths are meant by 'the spirits of God'.

[25] When people know therefore that the Holy Spirit is the Divine Truth emanating from the Lord, which is real Holiness, they may know the Divine meaning in the Word wherever the terms 'Spirit of God' and 'Holy Spirit' are used, as in the following places: In John,

I will ask the Father to give you another Paraclete, to remain with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and remind you of all that I said to you. John 14:16-18, 26.

And in another place,

When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes forth from the Father, He will bear witness to Me. And you will bear witness. John 15:26-27.

And in yet another place,

I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away. If I do not go away the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go away I will send Him to you. John 16:7.

[26] From these places it is again evident that the Divine Truth which emanates from Divine Good, or from the Father, is the Paraclete and Holy Spirit. This also explains why He is called 'the Spirit of truth', and why it is said that He will remain in them, teach them all things, and bear witness to the Lord. In the spiritual sense 'bearing witness to the Lord' means teaching about Him. The reason why [in the first of these quotations] it is said that the Paraclete, who is the Holy Spirit, is sent in the Lord's name from the Father, then [in the second] that the Lord Himself will send Him from the Father, and after this [in the third] that the Lord will send Him, is that 'the Father' means the Divine [Being] Himself within the Lord, so that the Father and He are one, as the Lord teaches explicitly in John 10:30; 14:9-11.

[27] In Matthew,

Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy of the Spirit will not be forgiven people. If anyone speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come. Matthew 12:31-32.

'Speaking a word against the Son of Man' takes place when a person goes against God's truth that has not yet been implanted in or inscribed on his life; for 'the Son of Man' is Divine Truth, see above in 9807. But 'speaking a word against the Holy Spirit' takes place when a person goes against Divine Truth, especially Divine Truth concerning the Lord, that has been implanted in or inscribed on his life. Speaking against or denying that Truth when it has formerly been acknowledged is profanation; and profanation is such that it completely destroys a person interiorly. This is why it says that this sin cannot be forgiven. What profanation is, see 3398, 3898, 4289, 4601, 6348, 6960, 6963, 6971, 8394, 8882, 9298.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 6959)


[28] And in the same gospel,

Jesus said to the disciples, Go and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19.

'The Father' is the Divine [Being] Himself, 'the Son' is that Divine [Being] Himself in a human form, and 'the Holy Spirit' is the emanation from the Divine [Being], so that there is one Divine [Being] yet still a Trinity. The truth that the Lord is the Divine [Being] Himself under human form is His own teaching in John,

From now on you know the Father and have seen Him. He who sees Me sees the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. John 14:7, 9-10.

-----
Footnotes:

1. or from the evil one

2. The Latin means God does not despise but the Hebrew means O God, You will not despise

3. or breath

4. i.e. What you have in mind

5. Swedenborg here follows the Latin version of Sebastian Schmidt. The Greek means He who God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the spirit by measure.

6. literally, narrow

7. literally, with

8. i.e. presence

9. or makes winds His messengers

-----

(References: Exodus 28:3)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 9819, 9820, 9857, 9932, 9954, 9956, 10053, 10069, 10098, 10111, 10128, 10149, 10240, 10267, 10276, 10302, 10306, 10330, 10570

Heaven and Hell 86

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 209, 306


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 10, 24, 27, 108, 375

Other New Christian Commentary

Explanation of Matthew 5:3 1

Spirit 1

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 Jesus' Final Words
After the crucifixion Jesus appeared to His disciples, offering reassurance of His continued presence and commissioning them to love and follow Him.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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