The Bible

 

Luke 1:26-38 : The Annunciation to Mary

Study the Inner Meaning

        

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Luke 1: Build your Spiritual Mind      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

A frozen bubble shines with light.

Chapter One

[See this side by side with the text of Luke 1.]

From Mark to Luke

1. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us,
2. even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,
3. it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus;
4. that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed.


Thinking above

As we have seen, the Gospel According to Mark begins with John the Baptist preaching repentance for the remission of sins. It is, in many ways, the major theme of Mark. But like any fine symphony, there are minor themes as well. One of those minor themes in Mark is the importance of belief. Therefore, in Mark the first words spoken by Jesus contain both themes—the major theme of repentance, and the minor theme of belief. As Jesus says in His opening comment in that gospel, “The kingdom of God has come near, Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15).

In the original Greek, the word for repentance is μετάνοια (metanoia), which means, quite literally, “thinking above” (meta = above + noia = thinking). Repentance begins with the recognition and acknowledgement of sin in ourselves. As self-love and personal ambition are subordinated, higher ideals begin to predominate. We begin to focus on loving God and serving our neighbor. In other words, we begin to think above and beyond our usual modes of thought. We see that there is more to life than the satisfaction of our temporal desires. In the process, we come to believe in and be led by higher truth. That’s why the words “repent” and “believe” are tied so closely together. In the last chapter of Mark, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16) 1 .

Focusing on belief

In Mark, as we have seen, there was a gradual transition from a focus on repentance to a focus on belief—a focus that continues as we begin the Gospel According to Luke. Consider, for example, the opening words of Luke: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us . . .” (Luke 1:1).

These opening words are significant. Things are not merely “believed”; they are “most surely believed.” 2

Belief, like faith, is associated with our understanding. It is about the rational, intellectual side of the human mind. Belief, however, is not blind faith. Quite the opposite; we come to believe or to have true faith through the disciplined use of our understanding. It is an intellectual process involving a rational sight of truth—whether it be a natural truth about physics or a spiritual truth about the incarnation. For example, after thinking about a point someone has made, and seeing the truth contained in the person’s comments, we might say, “I believe you have a point there,” or “I see what you mean.” The opening words of Luke, then, with so many references to “belief” indicate that this gospel will focus on the opening of the intellect, and the deepening of the understanding. In fact, it is in Luke where we read the words, “He opened their understanding” (Luke 24:45). 3

The opening verses of Luke contain several words and phrases that suggest the intellect. As we have already pointed out, verse 1 speaks about those things that are “most surely believed.” In verse 2, the author of Luke speaks about “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2). In the Word, terms that refers to the “eyes,” or “vision,” or “sight” represent inner vision, or the lack of it. In common speech, the expressions “Now I understand,” and “Now I see” are synonymous. We also say, “None are so blind as they who will not see,” “Look on the bright side,” and “That was a real ‘eye-opening’ experience.” In each case, we are using physical imagery to describe mental and spiritual conditions. That’s why the term “eye-witnesses” in this verse signifies some aspect of the understanding. Then, in verse 3 the author tells us that he “had perfect understanding” (Luke 1:3). 4

In our study of Matthew and Mark, we noted the importance of the first and last words of each gospel. We pointed out that the opening and closing words provide the key to the leading message in that gospel. Glancing ahead to the conclusion of Luke we find that the last words are, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). Here the references to “Jerusalem” and “temple” indicate that we are dealing with the human intellect, the level of the mind that is involved in thoughts and reasons rather than emotions and feelings. This is because the correspondence of the word “Jerusalem” is with matters of learning, teaching, doctrine and instruction. The people went to Jerusalem to learn about the truths of faith. 5

Similarly, when we read that “they were continually in the temple,” we can know that this, too, treats of our thinking and reasoning faculty. The temple in Jerusalem was made of whole stones, and stones throughout the Word represent truths. So, this reference to being “continually in the temple” also refers to that side of the human mind which is concerned with matters of truth, faith, and belief. 6

The Gospel of Luke, then, begins with a brief introduction which is filled with references to faith, belief, instruction, and understanding. As the four-verse introduction ends, we are left with a very clear reference to the intellectual level of the mind: “That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:4).

With so many references to belief, knowledge, and instruction in the opening verses, it is clear that this gospel will focus on matters that involve the intellect, and the deepening of our understanding. It will be an attempt “to set in order” an account of those things “which are most surely believed.” It will be about that “holy temple”—the place in our minds where we deeply contemplate truth, meditate on the Word, and turn to the Lord in prayer. All of this is what it means to be “in the temple.” 7

The Angel Gabriel Comes to Zacharias

5. There was in the days of Herod, king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah: and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were [now] well stricken in years.
8. Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
9. according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense.
11. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of altar of incense.
12. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw [him], and fear fell upon him.
13. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
16. And many of the children of Israel shall be turn unto the Lord their God.
17. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient [to walk] in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared [for him].
18. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.


After the brief introduction, filled with words that suggest the intellect and the understanding, we read of Zacharias, a priest: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest, named Zacharias” (Luke 1:5). It is important to note that the first episode in Luke tells the story of a priest who is employed in the temple. A priest working in the temple is a picture of the human understanding doing its proper work. 8

As the story continues, we learn that Zacharias is serving “in the days of Herod, the king of Judea” (Luke 1:5). Herod pictures the corrupt hereditary will. It is our lower nature, the part of us that is hell-bent on making itself king by declaring itself as all-powerful and all-knowing. It is the part of the human mind that sets itself up as sole arbiter of right and wrong. It will not tolerate any competitors—not even the King of Kings. This is the same Herod who murdered his wife, his three sons, his uncle, his mother-in-law. his brother-in-law, and commanded that all boys in Bethlehem, two years of age and younger, should be put to death. Suspicious of all threats to his power, he will not only refuse to acknowledge any truth that opposes his corrupt will, but he endeavors to destroy it at its birth. For Herod, the only power that exists is his own (see Matthew 2:16).

Zacharias, however, who represents our ability to understand higher truth, acknowledges that there is a power greater than himself and obediently submits to it. We read, therefore, that Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Unlike Herod, Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, are both righteous before God. At this point in the story, however, they have no children “because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). 9

When we first encounter Zacharias, he is burning incense in the temple of the Lord. It is an image of the life of prayer. The gentle, sweet-smelling smoke of incense rising upwards in the temple, symbolizes the way prayers ascend heavenwards in our mind. Suddenly, while Zacharias is at prayer, the angel Gabriel appears to him, and says, “Do not fear Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). 10

The son that will be born will be named “John.” He will grow up to become John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Lord. What is it in our own lives that “prepares the way for the Lord?” It is our desire to understand truth, beginning with a genuine affection for the letter of the Word — those basic stories and literal truths that we first encounter. This is the first step in our spiritual development, and it is represented by the birth of John the Baptist in us. As the angel puts it, John’s coming into the world will bring “joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” The angel goes on to promise that “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). In other words, John the Baptist (the literal sense of the Word) will also contain the internal sense—the very soul of the Word. He will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Gradually, as our understanding deepens, the literal meaning of the Word seems to disappear while the spiritual meaning shines forth. Even as the body fades, the spirit continues to grow. 11

But this does not happen immediately. Even though Gabriel proclaims that Elizabeth will indeed bear a child, Zacharias remains doubtful. He wonders how this can happen: “How can this be?” he says. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” (Luke 1:13). Zacharias’ question represents the human understanding in a state of doubt as to whether it can learn anything new. “I am old in age” says Zacharias. His question represents a state of doubt. At such time times, questions may arise. Is it too late to learn anything new? we might ask. Is it too late to change my mind? Have I become so ingrained in a certain way of thinking that I cannot conceive of anything else? The answer, which is contained in this episode, is “No. It is not too late. For those who trust in the Lord and walk in His ways, new truth can always be learned. For those who truly desire to be wise, it is never too late to learn. Our spiritual instruction and learning can continue forever. 12

Elizabeth Conceives

19. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.
20. And behold, thou shalt be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall come to pass, because thou believedst not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21. And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marvelled while he tarried in the temple.
22. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: and he continued making signs unto them, and remained dumb.
23. And it came to pass, when the days of his ministration were fulfilled, he departed unto his house.
24. And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25. Thus hath the Lord done unto me in the days wherein he looked upon [me], to take away my reproach among men.


It is one thing to know what is true, and to offer prayers to God. like incense rising toward heaven. This is the part of the mind that Zacharias represents. But it is quite another to receive that truth in heart, to be deeply affected by it, and to bring it forth, as a woman brings forth a child—into life, into our daily actions. This is the part of the mind that Elizabeth is about to represent. But until she does so, she will be in a state of spiritual barrenness. Whatever the cause of that barrenness—whether it can be attributed to a doubtful understanding (Zacharias) or a hesitant will (Elizabeth) or both—spiritual barrenness has its origin in a lack of complete faith. It is the inability to totally believe the Word of the Lord. When belief is sure (“most surely believed”), there is no distinction between faith and action. An individual then bears spiritual fruit. But whenever there is doubt, uncertainty and hesitation, there will be barrenness.

In Zacharias, this state of uncertainty is represented by muteness—the inability to confess the Lord because of a faith that is not yet complete, an understanding that is not yet fully opened. This is why Gabriel tells Zacharias that he will be mute till these things actually happen. Glancing back to the end of Mark we notice that one of the signs which followed belief was that “they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17).

But there is a positive side to Zacharias’ muteness. As he quiets the internal chatter—as each of us must—the questions, doubts and uncertainties begin to subside. He enters a deeper level of contemplation and prayer. This is Zacharias in the temple, praying — a beautiful picture of the understanding in a state of humility, willing to learn; it is receptive, and eager to be instructed. It is a time of patient waiting, searching the scriptures, meditating on them, and pondering the wonders of the Lord’s Word.

It is during these quiet times of introspection in the light of the Lord’s Word that spiritual vision arises; we come to see the truth about ourselves, and we get a clearer understanding of our relationship to God and to others. This is why quiet reflection is so important. It is a time to grow closer to God so that He might open our spiritual eyes. In the language of sacred scripture, this is contained in the following words: “And the people waited for Zacharias and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. But when he came out … they perceived that he had seen a vision” (Luke 1:22)

It should be noted that it was necessary for Zacharias to come out of the temple, but not until his service was completed there. It was then that his wife was able to conceive. In every human being there is a Zacharias, a side which must perform the temple duties—the reading and meditating upon the Word of God. It is the part of us that tarries in the temple, leading a life of contemplation and prayer. Although this is essential, new life cannot be conceived in this state. We must leave the temple of study and prayer; we must go forth into life. Like Zacharias, we must first develop our understanding; we must tarry in the temple long enough to get the vision. And then we must allow the vision to lead us onwards to useful endeavor. And so we read, “Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived” (Luke 1:24).

It should also be noted that in the last chapter of this gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to “Tarry in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high” (Luke 24:49). So, this gospel—the gospel that focuses on the reformation of the understanding—begins and ends in the temple.

A Greater Miracle

26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27. to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28. And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord [is] with thee.
29. But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be.
30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.
31. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33. and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34. And Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.
36. And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren.
37. For no word from God shall be void of power.
38. And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.


The conception of John the Baptist is indeed a miracle, for he is born to an elderly couple that has never been able to bear children. But in the next episode we learn of an even greater miracle—Jesus is born to a virgin. We read, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women’” (Luke 1:26-28).

While the birth of John represents an awakened understanding of the literal sense of the Word, it is still relatively external—something that takes the cooperation of our human understanding, even as it takes Zacharias’ cooperation to produce an offspring. But when it comes to the deeper matters of the spirit, the human understanding plays a limited role. Its primary function, represented by Joseph, is to humbly recognize and accept the birth of new insights and new affections, while acknowledging that we have contributed nothing from ourselves: these miraculous births have a Divine—not a human—origin. They are from God, not from man. 13

The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth (Good Meets Truth)

39. And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah;
40. and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth.
41. And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit;
42. and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb.
43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?
44. For behold, when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45. And blessed [is] she that believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord.
46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48. For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name.
50. And his mercy is unto generations and generations On them that fear him.
51. He hath showed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
52. He hath put down princes from [their] thrones, And hath exalted them of low degree.
53. The hungry he hath filled with good things; And the rich he hath sent empty away.
54. He hath given help to Israel his servant, That he might remember mercy
55. (As he spake unto our fathers) Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.
56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned unto her house.
57. Now Elisabeth's time was fulfilled that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58. And her neighbors and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her; and they rejoiced with her.


There is a certain level of excitement generated when people come into a new sight of the truth, and when their minds are raised into the light of some clearer understanding. And yet, there is a vast difference in degree between this sort of intellectual excitement, and the joy which can be experienced when that new level of understanding is combined with the birth of the desire to live according to it.

This moment of great joy, when goodness meets truth, is represented in these beautiful words of scripture: “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:39-41).

Elizabeth is delighted and amazed by this wondrous experience. But she also wonders why it has been granted to her. This experience is available to each of us. It takes place whenever a good impulse arises in us. This “arising” is represented by Mary’s taking the initiative and visiting her cousin, Elizabeth who is pregnant with a son who will be called “John the Baptist.” As soon as Mary arrives Elizabeth’s son leaps in the womb. Spiritually seen, this is a picture of some truth in our lives (John the Baptist) springing to life when touched with goodness.

Elizabeth wonders why she has been granted such a privilege, saying: “Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Her question is an important one. What is it that gives life to the truth that we carry in the womb of our minds? The answer is given by Elizabeth herself, as she praises Mary: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).

Blessed is she who believed.” This is a key statement, and it is fundamental to understanding the central message of this gospel. As we shall see, in episode after episode, those who believe will be blessed. Those who have faith will be saved. Again and again, people will hear Jesus saying to them, “Your faith has made you well.” Goodness will come to those who hold truth in their minds and long to put it into their lives.

True faith — the kind that can “make us well” — must be distinguished from blind faith. Genuine belief, is not a matter of believing something because others tell us it is true. Nor is it a matter of believing things that make no sense to us, even if learned authorities tell us that ‘these things must be taken on faith.” True faith is much deeper and more personal. It is the blessed acknowledgment that something is really so because it is really true. For example, God is good — all the time. God loves everyone — all the time. There are no exceptions. It is really so. In spite of any appearances to the contrary, we simply know that this is true, This is the gift of perception, the blessed ability to believe the truth because we perceive it to be true. This blessed assurance is given to all who trust in God and believe in God’s goodness: “Blessed is she who believed.” 14

Whenever we come into a state of belief, there comes with it a sense of something flowing into us from within; it is as though God is with us, reassuring us that “this is true.” It is an inner perception that something is true or not. And the central most universal truth of the Christian faith is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is confidence that he saves. The more we strive to do His will, the more confident do we become that He will save us. This is true faith. This is what it means, most deeply, to believe. 15

The Naming of John

59. And it came to pass on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of the father.
60. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
61. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62. And they made signs to his father, what he would have him called.
63. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
64. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue [loosed], and he spake, blessing God.
65. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66. And all that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, What then shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.
67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,
68. Blessed [be] the Lord, the God of Israel; For he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people,
69. And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David
70. (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old),
71. Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72. To show mercy towards, our fathers, And To remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he spake unto Abraham our father,
74. To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies Should serve him without fear,
75. In holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76. Yea and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways;
77. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people In the remission of their sins,
78. Because of the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,
79. To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; To guide our feet into the way of peace.
80. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.


After Elizabeth gave birth to her son, the time came for the naming of the baby. Everyone thought that the baby would be named “Zacharias,” after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No, his name shall be John” (Luke 1:60). This was a surprise to everyone because none of the relatives had ever had that name. When it came time for Zacharias to speak, he asked for a writing tablet and wrote the simple words, “His name is John” (Luke 1:63). Immediately afterwards the muteness that had descended upon Zacharias departed, and he begins to speak words of praise for the Lord. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,” he said, “for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David … that we should be saved from our enemies” (Luke 1:68-71).

Something wonderful has happened to Zacharias. His spirit-filled words are full of confidence in the saving power of God. As his prophecy continues, he speaks directly about the mission that his newly born son is to fulfill: “And you, child will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way, to give knowledge of salvation to His people … to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76, 77, 79).

Originally, we saw Zacharias as an old priest performing rituals in the temple. But now we see Zacharias as a transformed being, filled with the Holy Spirit. He is no longer the old priest who represented the faith of the former church—a faith that was based on obedience to rituals and traditions, however well-meaning or righteous. That was the “former church” in us—a state of mind where we may have indeed gone through the motions of prayer, but without a solid faith. In our former faith there may have been doubt as to whether God even heard our prayers. This is why the angel spoke to Zacharias, removing his doubt by saying, “Your prayer is heard.” The angel then added this promise: “Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).

This, of course, is what came to pass. The angel’s words were true, and a son was born. Zacharias now knows that God does indeed answer prayers. In the spiritual dimension of our lives, this is a significant lesson about the power of faith. Every anxiety, every worry, and every concern can be taken away if we have faith in God. While our pleas for riches and fame may not be satisfied, our prayers for patience, courage, love, and understanding will always be fulfilled. God answers our prayers, and responds to our needs, but we must first have faith that our prayers are heard, and that our needs are understood. This is to “believe in Him.” It is to have confidence that He gives us the light “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

As this episode draws to a conclusion, we read that John “grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80). This pictures the way our understanding of the literal sense of the Word continues to grow and develop as we continue to meditate on it and dwell upon its significance in our lives. Though we may not see immediate results, or any specific connection between the stories in the Word and our daily activities, something is nevertheless taking place deeply within our spirit. The time will come when those literal words of scripture will take on new meaning for us. Just as Mary, the mother Jesus came to Elizabeth, the mother of John, we will begin to sense the Lord’s goodness touching the literal truth of the Word we hold in our minds, and new applications will spring to mind.

The message then is to remain rooted in sacred scripture. If we hold the Word of God in mind, even the most literal stories, God can work miracles within us at a deeper level. Although John the Baptist in us will remain “in the desert” for a while, as long as we remain faithful to the Word, and to Him who gave it to us, those literal truths will take on more and more power. They will grow “stronger in spirit” until they come forth as loving actions in our lives. In the words of sacred scripture, John the Baptist “grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80)

Footnotes:

1. Arcana Coelestia 9032: “In the internal sense ‘being baptized’ means being regenerated, and being regenerated is being led into the good of love and charity by means of the truths of faith. From this it is clear that the truth as stated in the literal sense of the Word agrees with the truth as presented in religious teachings, provided that what is meant spiritually by ‘being baptized’ is understood. And the reason why it says that ‘one who does not believe will be condemned’ is that an unbeliever cannot be baptized, that is, be regenerated.”

2. It should be recalled that at the end of Mark, we pointed out that repentance comes first. Next in order is the reformation of the mind, or the establishment of a sound belief based on understanding. See True Christian Religion 571: “After repentance, next in order comes reformation…. Reformation is a state of thought from the understanding.”

3. Apocalypse Explained 1100:23: “There are people at the present day who wish the understanding to be kept under obedience to faith, holding even that a thing must be believed and not understood, and claiming that intellectual faith is not true faith.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 914: “Blind faith is faith separated from the understanding…. Hence it is, that they are: ‘Blind leaders of the blind. And when the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch’ (Matthew 15:14)…. Therefore, my friend, go to the Lord, and shun evils as sins, and reject faith alone, and then your understanding will be opened, and you will see wonderful things, and be affected by them.”

4. Arcana Coelestia 2148: “By ‘eyes’ in the Word is signified the interior sight, or the understanding.”

5. Apocalypse Explained 204:6: “The reason that Jerusalem is called the holy city is that it signifies the church where the doctrinal things of truth are taught.”

6. Arcana Coelestia 8988:5: “By ‘stones’ in general signify truths, and ‘precious stones’ [gemstones] signify truths which are [directly] from the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1298: “It was commanded that the altar [in the temple] should be built of whole stones, not hewn, and it was forbidden that any iron should be moved upon them (Deuteronomy 27:5-7; Joshua 8:31). This is because hewn stones, and stones on which iron has been used, signify what is artificial … and what is from a person’s own reasoning and imagining.”

7. Arcana Coelestia 2048: “The word ‘temple’ signifies the truth of faith in a person.” See also Arcana Coelestia 3700:2: “When a temple is mentioned there occurs to the angels the idea of truth.” This is because temples are built of stone, and stones, throughout the Word signify truth. In this regard we read the following in Arcana Coelestia 8941:6: “The temple at Jerusalem was built of whole stones…. For the ‘temple of the Lord’ represented the Divine Truth.”

8. Arcana Coelestia 10327: “A priest signifies a representative of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom . . . and the incense of spices signifies a representative of worship from truths.”

9. Apocalypse Explained 638:13: “In the internal sense, which is the sense of the spirit of the Word, by ‘wife’ is signified the affection for truth.”

10. Arcana Coelestia 9475: “Incense signifies the things of worship that are perceived with delight, such as acts of thanksgiving, adoration, prayer.”

11. Arcana Coelestia 5620:12: “John the Baptist represents the Lord as to the Word, which is the Divine Truth on earth….The ‘clothing of camel's hair’ signifies that the Word, such as is its literal sense as to truth (which sense is a clothing for the internal sense), is natural; for what is natural is signified by ‘hair,’ and also by ‘camels.’ His ‘food being of locusts and wild honey’ signifies the Word such as is its literal sense as to good; the delight of this is signified by ‘wild honey.’” See also Arcana Coelestia 4857:3: “The spiritual sense lives within the literal sense as a person's spirit lives within a person’s body. Like a person's spirit the spiritual sense continues live when the literal sense fades away. Therefore, the internal sense may be called the soul of the Word.”

12. Divine Providence 334: “Every angel is perfected in wisdom to eternity. But each is thus perfected in keeping with the degree of his affection for goodness and truth which he had when he departed from the world. It is this degree that is perfected to eternity.

13. Apocalypse Explained 475:20: “John only inaugurated them [the Jewish people] into knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord, and thus prepared them to receive Him, but the Lord Himself regenerates people by means of divine truth and divine good proceeding from Him.”

14. Faith 1-2: “At the present day the term ‘faith’ is taken to mean the mere thought that the thing is so because the church so teaches, and because it is not evident to the understanding. For we are told to believe and not to doubt, and if we say that we do not comprehend, we are told that this is just the reason for believing. So that the faith of the present day is a faith in the unknown and may be called blind faith…. This is not spiritual faith. Real faith is nothing else than an acknowledgment that the thing is so because it is true; for one who is in real faith thinks and says, ‘This is true, and therefore I believe it.’”

15. Faith 36: “The Universal of the Christian Faith is to believe in the Lord, for through believing in Him there is effected conjunction with Him, by which comes salvation. To believe in Him is to have confidence that He will save, and as no one can have this confidence except one who lives aright, therefore this also is meant by believing in Him.”

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2798, 2921, 3305, 3421, 5313, 9229, 10248

Apocalypse Revealed 56, 173, 294, 373, 481, 504, 520, ...

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 44, 120

Conjugial Love 82

Doctrine of the Lord 19, 29, 40, 42

True Christian Religion 82, 88, 92, 93, 98, 111, 112, ...


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 253, 328, 376, 677, 815, 852, 1069, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 30, 38, 216

Canons of the New Church 17, 39, 40, 43

De Domino 38

Justification 10, 13

Spiritual Experiences 4332

Marriage 82, 88, 92, 93, 98, 111, 112

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 13

Related New Christian Commentary
Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Judges 5:24, 6:12, 16

Ruth 3:11

2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 16, 23:5

1 Chronicles 17:12

Psalms 2:7, 45:7, 132:11

Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 49:1, 5

Jeremiah 23:5

Daniel 2:44, 7:14

Obadiah 1:21

Micah 4:7

Bible Word Meanings

sixth
Like most numbers in the Bible, "six" can have various meanings depending on context, but has a couple that are primary. When used in relation...

angel
"Angels" in the Bible represent qualities of the Lord himself, or a variety of things that come directly from the Lord. On a lower level...

Gabriel
Gabriel signifies an angelic society in heaven that is made up of people who teach from the Word, particularly about the Lord’s advent.

city
Cities of the mountain and cities of the plain (Jeremiah 33:13) signify doctrines of charity and faith.

galilee
when Galilee is mentioned in the Bible, it's referring to the "gentiles", to the spiritual states of people who were not in the Jewish church....

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...

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...

Fear not
Fear not, as in Revelation 1:17; Daniel 10:5, 12; Matthew 17:5, 7; 28:10, etc., signifies resuscitation to life, and at the same time adoration from...

name
It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

highest
'Highest' denotes the 'inmost,' because interior things, with person who is in space, appear as higher things, and exterior things as lower. But when the...

over
'Over' or 'upon' in the Word, signifies being within, because the highest part in successive order becomes inmost in simultaneous order. This is why the...

Jacob
Jacob is told twice that his name will now be Israel. The first time is when he wrestles with an angel on his journey to...

ever
“Age” is used in slightly different ways in natural language, and those differences are reflected in the word’s spiritual meanings. All the variations, though, reflect...

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...

seeing
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

answered
To "answer" generally indicates a state of spiritual receptivity. Ultimately this means being receptive to the Lord, who is constantly trying to pour true ideas...

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...

upon
'Over' or 'upon' in the Word, signifies being within, because the highest part in successive order becomes inmost in simultaneous order. This is why the...

son of god
Swedenborg offers different angles on the phrase "the Son of God," sometimes saying that it refers to the "divine human" and sometimes saying it refers...

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How to Understand the Trinity - Swedenborg and Life

“The Trinity is well known to the Christian world, yet in other ways it is unknown.” Swedenborg asserts the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one the way our soul, body, and actions are one.

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The Magnificat

Solomon Keal

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.


 Angel Appears to Joseph
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Appears to Zacharias
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angelic Appearances at the Time of the Advent
A sermon about the angel Gabriel's appearances to different people and how this pictures aspects of the preparation we must do for the Lord's birth in our own lives. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Angel with Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel with Zacharias
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Annunciation
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Blessings: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Call His Name Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Joy and Happiness
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Elizabeth Greets Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Name Is John
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Name Will Be Called: The Development of the Lord in Our Lives
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 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

 Mary and Elizabeth
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary's Song of Praise
Mary's song of praise, often called the Magnificat, in a color border.
Picture | Ages over 15

 Mary Visits Elizabeth
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Naming John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Our Savior
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Picture of the Angel Gabriel
Project | Ages up to 10

 Prophecies of the Advent
Prophecies of Jesus' advent on earth often use the image of new light dawning in darkness to describe the spiritual impact His birth would have on the world.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angel Appearing to Mary
Use oil pastels and watercolors to show the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Angel Appears to Mary
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Angel Appears to Mary
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Angel Appears to Mary Mobile
Make a simple mobile to show the angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary that she would give birth to a Son and should name Him Jesus.
Project | Ages 3 - 8

 The Angel's Promise to Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Annunciation
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Birth of John
Zacharias and Elizabeth were very good people who wanted a child very much. The Lord answered their prayers. John was born to help prepare people to learn from the Lord. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Introductory Level, for ages 5-6.
Religion Lesson | Ages 5 - 6

 The Birth of John the Baptist
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

 The Birth of John the Baptist
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Magnificat
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Maidservant of the Lord
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Mother of the Lord
Imagine what it must have been like to suddenly see an angel and be told such great news.
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 The Name Mary
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Savior
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Spread of the Lord's Word
We can be like the shepherds and others who have spread the good news as we learn about the Lord and find ways to tell people. Maybe this Christmas you can share your enjoyment of the story of the Lord’s birth with a friend or neighbor. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 5, for ages 10-11.
Religion Lesson | Ages 10 - 11

 Understanding the Virgin Birth
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Zacharias and the Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Zacharias’s Dumbness
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Zacharias Sees Angel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

Commentary

 

Luke 1: Build your Spiritual Mind

     

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

A frozen bubble shines with light.

Chapter One

[See this side by side with the text of Luke 1.]

From Mark to Luke

1. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us,
2. even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,
3. it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus;
4. that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed.


Thinking above

As we have seen, the Gospel According to Mark begins with John the Baptist preaching repentance for the remission of sins. It is, in many ways, the major theme of Mark. But like any fine symphony, there are minor themes as well. One of those minor themes in Mark is the importance of belief. Therefore, in Mark the first words spoken by Jesus contain both themes—the major theme of repentance, and the minor theme of belief. As Jesus says in His opening comment in that gospel, “The kingdom of God has come near, Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15).

In the original Greek, the word for repentance is μετάνοια (metanoia), which means, quite literally, “thinking above” (meta = above + noia = thinking). Repentance begins with the recognition and acknowledgement of sin in ourselves. As self-love and personal ambition are subordinated, higher ideals begin to predominate. We begin to focus on loving God and serving our neighbor. In other words, we begin to think above and beyond our usual modes of thought. We see that there is more to life than the satisfaction of our temporal desires. In the process, we come to believe in and be led by higher truth. That’s why the words “repent” and “believe” are tied so closely together. In the last chapter of Mark, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16) 1 .

Focusing on belief

In Mark, as we have seen, there was a gradual transition from a focus on repentance to a focus on belief—a focus that continues as we begin the Gospel According to Luke. Consider, for example, the opening words of Luke: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us . . .” (Luke 1:1).

These opening words are significant. Things are not merely “believed”; they are “most surely believed.” 2

Belief, like faith, is associated with our understanding. It is about the rational, intellectual side of the human mind. Belief, however, is not blind faith. Quite the opposite; we come to believe or to have true faith through the disciplined use of our understanding. It is an intellectual process involving a rational sight of truth—whether it be a natural truth about physics or a spiritual truth about the incarnation. For example, after thinking about a point someone has made, and seeing the truth contained in the person’s comments, we might say, “I believe you have a point there,” or “I see what you mean.” The opening words of Luke, then, with so many references to “belief” indicate that this gospel will focus on the opening of the intellect, and the deepening of the understanding. In fact, it is in Luke where we read the words, “He opened their understanding” (Luke 24:45). 3

The opening verses of Luke contain several words and phrases that suggest the intellect. As we have already pointed out, verse 1 speaks about those things that are “most surely believed.” In verse 2, the author of Luke speaks about “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2). In the Word, terms that refers to the “eyes,” or “vision,” or “sight” represent inner vision, or the lack of it. In common speech, the expressions “Now I understand,” and “Now I see” are synonymous. We also say, “None are so blind as they who will not see,” “Look on the bright side,” and “That was a real ‘eye-opening’ experience.” In each case, we are using physical imagery to describe mental and spiritual conditions. That’s why the term “eye-witnesses” in this verse signifies some aspect of the understanding. Then, in verse 3 the author tells us that he “had perfect understanding” (Luke 1:3). 4

In our study of Matthew and Mark, we noted the importance of the first and last words of each gospel. We pointed out that the opening and closing words provide the key to the leading message in that gospel. Glancing ahead to the conclusion of Luke we find that the last words are, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). Here the references to “Jerusalem” and “temple” indicate that we are dealing with the human intellect, the level of the mind that is involved in thoughts and reasons rather than emotions and feelings. This is because the correspondence of the word “Jerusalem” is with matters of learning, teaching, doctrine and instruction. The people went to Jerusalem to learn about the truths of faith. 5

Similarly, when we read that “they were continually in the temple,” we can know that this, too, treats of our thinking and reasoning faculty. The temple in Jerusalem was made of whole stones, and stones throughout the Word represent truths. So, this reference to being “continually in the temple” also refers to that side of the human mind which is concerned with matters of truth, faith, and belief. 6

The Gospel of Luke, then, begins with a brief introduction which is filled with references to faith, belief, instruction, and understanding. As the four-verse introduction ends, we are left with a very clear reference to the intellectual level of the mind: “That you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:4).

With so many references to belief, knowledge, and instruction in the opening verses, it is clear that this gospel will focus on matters that involve the intellect, and the deepening of our understanding. It will be an attempt “to set in order” an account of those things “which are most surely believed.” It will be about that “holy temple”—the place in our minds where we deeply contemplate truth, meditate on the Word, and turn to the Lord in prayer. All of this is what it means to be “in the temple.” 7

The Angel Gabriel Comes to Zacharias

5. There was in the days of Herod, king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah: and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
6. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were [now] well stricken in years.
8. Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
9. according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense.
11. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of altar of incense.
12. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw [him], and fear fell upon him.
13. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
16. And many of the children of Israel shall be turn unto the Lord their God.
17. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient [to walk] in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared [for him].
18. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.


After the brief introduction, filled with words that suggest the intellect and the understanding, we read of Zacharias, a priest: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest, named Zacharias” (Luke 1:5). It is important to note that the first episode in Luke tells the story of a priest who is employed in the temple. A priest working in the temple is a picture of the human understanding doing its proper work. 8

As the story continues, we learn that Zacharias is serving “in the days of Herod, the king of Judea” (Luke 1:5). Herod pictures the corrupt hereditary will. It is our lower nature, the part of us that is hell-bent on making itself king by declaring itself as all-powerful and all-knowing. It is the part of the human mind that sets itself up as sole arbiter of right and wrong. It will not tolerate any competitors—not even the King of Kings. This is the same Herod who murdered his wife, his three sons, his uncle, his mother-in-law. his brother-in-law, and commanded that all boys in Bethlehem, two years of age and younger, should be put to death. Suspicious of all threats to his power, he will not only refuse to acknowledge any truth that opposes his corrupt will, but he endeavors to destroy it at its birth. For Herod, the only power that exists is his own (see Matthew 2:16).

Zacharias, however, who represents our ability to understand higher truth, acknowledges that there is a power greater than himself and obediently submits to it. We read, therefore, that Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Unlike Herod, Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, are both righteous before God. At this point in the story, however, they have no children “because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). 9

When we first encounter Zacharias, he is burning incense in the temple of the Lord. It is an image of the life of prayer. The gentle, sweet-smelling smoke of incense rising upwards in the temple, symbolizes the way prayers ascend heavenwards in our mind. Suddenly, while Zacharias is at prayer, the angel Gabriel appears to him, and says, “Do not fear Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). 10

The son that will be born will be named “John.” He will grow up to become John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Lord. What is it in our own lives that “prepares the way for the Lord?” It is our desire to understand truth, beginning with a genuine affection for the letter of the Word — those basic stories and literal truths that we first encounter. This is the first step in our spiritual development, and it is represented by the birth of John the Baptist in us. As the angel puts it, John’s coming into the world will bring “joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” The angel goes on to promise that “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). In other words, John the Baptist (the literal sense of the Word) will also contain the internal sense—the very soul of the Word. He will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Gradually, as our understanding deepens, the literal meaning of the Word seems to disappear while the spiritual meaning shines forth. Even as the body fades, the spirit continues to grow. 11

But this does not happen immediately. Even though Gabriel proclaims that Elizabeth will indeed bear a child, Zacharias remains doubtful. He wonders how this can happen: “How can this be?” he says. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” (Luke 1:13). Zacharias’ question represents the human understanding in a state of doubt as to whether it can learn anything new. “I am old in age” says Zacharias. His question represents a state of doubt. At such time times, questions may arise. Is it too late to learn anything new? we might ask. Is it too late to change my mind? Have I become so ingrained in a certain way of thinking that I cannot conceive of anything else? The answer, which is contained in this episode, is “No. It is not too late. For those who trust in the Lord and walk in His ways, new truth can always be learned. For those who truly desire to be wise, it is never too late to learn. Our spiritual instruction and learning can continue forever. 12

Elizabeth Conceives

19. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.
20. And behold, thou shalt be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall come to pass, because thou believedst not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21. And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marvelled while he tarried in the temple.
22. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: and he continued making signs unto them, and remained dumb.
23. And it came to pass, when the days of his ministration were fulfilled, he departed unto his house.
24. And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
25. Thus hath the Lord done unto me in the days wherein he looked upon [me], to take away my reproach among men.


It is one thing to know what is true, and to offer prayers to God. like incense rising toward heaven. This is the part of the mind that Zacharias represents. But it is quite another to receive that truth in heart, to be deeply affected by it, and to bring it forth, as a woman brings forth a child—into life, into our daily actions. This is the part of the mind that Elizabeth is about to represent. But until she does so, she will be in a state of spiritual barrenness. Whatever the cause of that barrenness—whether it can be attributed to a doubtful understanding (Zacharias) or a hesitant will (Elizabeth) or both—spiritual barrenness has its origin in a lack of complete faith. It is the inability to totally believe the Word of the Lord. When belief is sure (“most surely believed”), there is no distinction between faith and action. An individual then bears spiritual fruit. But whenever there is doubt, uncertainty and hesitation, there will be barrenness.

In Zacharias, this state of uncertainty is represented by muteness—the inability to confess the Lord because of a faith that is not yet complete, an understanding that is not yet fully opened. This is why Gabriel tells Zacharias that he will be mute till these things actually happen. Glancing back to the end of Mark we notice that one of the signs which followed belief was that “they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17).

But there is a positive side to Zacharias’ muteness. As he quiets the internal chatter—as each of us must—the questions, doubts and uncertainties begin to subside. He enters a deeper level of contemplation and prayer. This is Zacharias in the temple, praying — a beautiful picture of the understanding in a state of humility, willing to learn; it is receptive, and eager to be instructed. It is a time of patient waiting, searching the scriptures, meditating on them, and pondering the wonders of the Lord’s Word.

It is during these quiet times of introspection in the light of the Lord’s Word that spiritual vision arises; we come to see the truth about ourselves, and we get a clearer understanding of our relationship to God and to others. This is why quiet reflection is so important. It is a time to grow closer to God so that He might open our spiritual eyes. In the language of sacred scripture, this is contained in the following words: “And the people waited for Zacharias and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. But when he came out … they perceived that he had seen a vision” (Luke 1:22)

It should be noted that it was necessary for Zacharias to come out of the temple, but not until his service was completed there. It was then that his wife was able to conceive. In every human being there is a Zacharias, a side which must perform the temple duties—the reading and meditating upon the Word of God. It is the part of us that tarries in the temple, leading a life of contemplation and prayer. Although this is essential, new life cannot be conceived in this state. We must leave the temple of study and prayer; we must go forth into life. Like Zacharias, we must first develop our understanding; we must tarry in the temple long enough to get the vision. And then we must allow the vision to lead us onwards to useful endeavor. And so we read, “Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived” (Luke 1:24).

It should also be noted that in the last chapter of this gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to “Tarry in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high” (Luke 24:49). So, this gospel—the gospel that focuses on the reformation of the understanding—begins and ends in the temple.

A Greater Miracle

26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27. to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28. And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord [is] with thee.
29. But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be.
30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.
31. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33. and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34. And Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.
36. And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren.
37. For no word from God shall be void of power.
38. And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.


The conception of John the Baptist is indeed a miracle, for he is born to an elderly couple that has never been able to bear children. But in the next episode we learn of an even greater miracle—Jesus is born to a virgin. We read, “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women’” (Luke 1:26-28).

While the birth of John represents an awakened understanding of the literal sense of the Word, it is still relatively external—something that takes the cooperation of our human understanding, even as it takes Zacharias’ cooperation to produce an offspring. But when it comes to the deeper matters of the spirit, the human understanding plays a limited role. Its primary function, represented by Joseph, is to humbly recognize and accept the birth of new insights and new affections, while acknowledging that we have contributed nothing from ourselves: these miraculous births have a Divine—not a human—origin. They are from God, not from man. 13

The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth (Good Meets Truth)

39. And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah;
40. and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth.
41. And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit;
42. and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb.
43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?
44. For behold, when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45. And blessed [is] she that believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord.
46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48. For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name.
50. And his mercy is unto generations and generations On them that fear him.
51. He hath showed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
52. He hath put down princes from [their] thrones, And hath exalted them of low degree.
53. The hungry he hath filled with good things; And the rich he hath sent empty away.
54. He hath given help to Israel his servant, That he might remember mercy
55. (As he spake unto our fathers) Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.
56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned unto her house.
57. Now Elisabeth's time was fulfilled that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58. And her neighbors and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her; and they rejoiced with her.


There is a certain level of excitement generated when people come into a new sight of the truth, and when their minds are raised into the light of some clearer understanding. And yet, there is a vast difference in degree between this sort of intellectual excitement, and the joy which can be experienced when that new level of understanding is combined with the birth of the desire to live according to it.

This moment of great joy, when goodness meets truth, is represented in these beautiful words of scripture: “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:39-41).

Elizabeth is delighted and amazed by this wondrous experience. But she also wonders why it has been granted to her. This experience is available to each of us. It takes place whenever a good impulse arises in us. This “arising” is represented by Mary’s taking the initiative and visiting her cousin, Elizabeth who is pregnant with a son who will be called “John the Baptist.” As soon as Mary arrives Elizabeth’s son leaps in the womb. Spiritually seen, this is a picture of some truth in our lives (John the Baptist) springing to life when touched with goodness.

Elizabeth wonders why she has been granted such a privilege, saying: “Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Her question is an important one. What is it that gives life to the truth that we carry in the womb of our minds? The answer is given by Elizabeth herself, as she praises Mary: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).

Blessed is she who believed.” This is a key statement, and it is fundamental to understanding the central message of this gospel. As we shall see, in episode after episode, those who believe will be blessed. Those who have faith will be saved. Again and again, people will hear Jesus saying to them, “Your faith has made you well.” Goodness will come to those who hold truth in their minds and long to put it into their lives.

True faith — the kind that can “make us well” — must be distinguished from blind faith. Genuine belief, is not a matter of believing something because others tell us it is true. Nor is it a matter of believing things that make no sense to us, even if learned authorities tell us that ‘these things must be taken on faith.” True faith is much deeper and more personal. It is the blessed acknowledgment that something is really so because it is really true. For example, God is good — all the time. God loves everyone — all the time. There are no exceptions. It is really so. In spite of any appearances to the contrary, we simply know that this is true, This is the gift of perception, the blessed ability to believe the truth because we perceive it to be true. This blessed assurance is given to all who trust in God and believe in God’s goodness: “Blessed is she who believed.” 14

Whenever we come into a state of belief, there comes with it a sense of something flowing into us from within; it is as though God is with us, reassuring us that “this is true.” It is an inner perception that something is true or not. And the central most universal truth of the Christian faith is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is confidence that he saves. The more we strive to do His will, the more confident do we become that He will save us. This is true faith. This is what it means, most deeply, to believe. 15

The Naming of John

59. And it came to pass on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of the father.
60. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
61. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62. And they made signs to his father, what he would have him called.
63. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
64. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue [loosed], and he spake, blessing God.
65. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
66. And all that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, What then shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.
67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,
68. Blessed [be] the Lord, the God of Israel; For he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people,
69. And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David
70. (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old),
71. Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72. To show mercy towards, our fathers, And To remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he spake unto Abraham our father,
74. To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies Should serve him without fear,
75. In holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76. Yea and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways;
77. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people In the remission of their sins,
78. Because of the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,
79. To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; To guide our feet into the way of peace.
80. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.


After Elizabeth gave birth to her son, the time came for the naming of the baby. Everyone thought that the baby would be named “Zacharias,” after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No, his name shall be John” (Luke 1:60). This was a surprise to everyone because none of the relatives had ever had that name. When it came time for Zacharias to speak, he asked for a writing tablet and wrote the simple words, “His name is John” (Luke 1:63). Immediately afterwards the muteness that had descended upon Zacharias departed, and he begins to speak words of praise for the Lord. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,” he said, “for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David … that we should be saved from our enemies” (Luke 1:68-71).

Something wonderful has happened to Zacharias. His spirit-filled words are full of confidence in the saving power of God. As his prophecy continues, he speaks directly about the mission that his newly born son is to fulfill: “And you, child will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way, to give knowledge of salvation to His people … to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76, 77, 79).

Originally, we saw Zacharias as an old priest performing rituals in the temple. But now we see Zacharias as a transformed being, filled with the Holy Spirit. He is no longer the old priest who represented the faith of the former church—a faith that was based on obedience to rituals and traditions, however well-meaning or righteous. That was the “former church” in us—a state of mind where we may have indeed gone through the motions of prayer, but without a solid faith. In our former faith there may have been doubt as to whether God even heard our prayers. This is why the angel spoke to Zacharias, removing his doubt by saying, “Your prayer is heard.” The angel then added this promise: “Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).

This, of course, is what came to pass. The angel’s words were true, and a son was born. Zacharias now knows that God does indeed answer prayers. In the spiritual dimension of our lives, this is a significant lesson about the power of faith. Every anxiety, every worry, and every concern can be taken away if we have faith in God. While our pleas for riches and fame may not be satisfied, our prayers for patience, courage, love, and understanding will always be fulfilled. God answers our prayers, and responds to our needs, but we must first have faith that our prayers are heard, and that our needs are understood. This is to “believe in Him.” It is to have confidence that He gives us the light “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

As this episode draws to a conclusion, we read that John “grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80). This pictures the way our understanding of the literal sense of the Word continues to grow and develop as we continue to meditate on it and dwell upon its significance in our lives. Though we may not see immediate results, or any specific connection between the stories in the Word and our daily activities, something is nevertheless taking place deeply within our spirit. The time will come when those literal words of scripture will take on new meaning for us. Just as Mary, the mother Jesus came to Elizabeth, the mother of John, we will begin to sense the Lord’s goodness touching the literal truth of the Word we hold in our minds, and new applications will spring to mind.

The message then is to remain rooted in sacred scripture. If we hold the Word of God in mind, even the most literal stories, God can work miracles within us at a deeper level. Although John the Baptist in us will remain “in the desert” for a while, as long as we remain faithful to the Word, and to Him who gave it to us, those literal truths will take on more and more power. They will grow “stronger in spirit” until they come forth as loving actions in our lives. In the words of sacred scripture, John the Baptist “grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desert till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80)

Footnotes:

1Arcana Coelestia 9032: “In the internal sense ‘being baptized’ means being regenerated, and being regenerated is being led into the good of love and charity by means of the truths of faith. From this it is clear that the truth as stated in the literal sense of the Word agrees with the truth as presented in religious teachings, provided that what is meant spiritually by ‘being baptized’ is understood. And the reason why it says that ‘one who does not believe will be condemned’ is that an unbeliever cannot be baptized, that is, be regenerated.”

2. It should be recalled that at the end of Mark, we pointed out that repentance comes first. Next in order is the reformation of the mind, or the establishment of a sound belief based on understanding. See True Christian Religion 571: “After repentance, next in order comes reformation…. Reformation is a state of thought from the understanding.”

3Apocalypse Explained 1100:23: “There are people at the present day who wish the understanding to be kept under obedience to faith, holding even that a thing must be believed and not understood, and claiming that intellectual faith is not true faith.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 914: “Blind faith is faith separated from the understanding…. Hence it is, that they are: ‘Blind leaders of the blind. And when the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch’ (Matthew 15:14)…. Therefore, my friend, go to the Lord, and shun evils as sins, and reject faith alone, and then your understanding will be opened, and you will see wonderful things, and be affected by them.”

4Arcana Coelestia 2148: “By ‘eyes’ in the Word is signified the interior sight, or the understanding.”

5Apocalypse Explained 204:6: “The reason that Jerusalem is called the holy city is that it signifies the church where the doctrinal things of truth are taught.”

6Arcana Coelestia 8988:5: “By ‘stones’ in general signify truths, and ‘precious stones’ [gemstones] signify truths which are [directly] from the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1298: “It was commanded that the altar [in the temple] should be built of whole stones, not hewn, and it was forbidden that any iron should be moved upon them (Deuteronomy 27:5-7; Joshua 8:31). This is because hewn stones, and stones on which iron has been used, signify what is artificial … and what is from a person’s own reasoning and imagining.”

7Arcana Coelestia 2048: “The word ‘temple’ signifies the truth of faith in a person.” See also Arcana Coelestia 3700:2: “When a temple is mentioned there occurs to the angels the idea of truth.” This is because temples are built of stone, and stones, throughout the Word signify truth. In this regard we read the following in Arcana Coelestia 8941:6: “The temple at Jerusalem was built of whole stones…. For the ‘temple of the Lord’ represented the Divine Truth.”

8Arcana Coelestia 10327: “A priest signifies a representative of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom . . . and the incense of spices signifies a representative of worship from truths.”

9Apocalypse Explained 638:13: “In the internal sense, which is the sense of the spirit of the Word, by ‘wife’ is signified the affection for truth.”

10Arcana Coelestia 9475: “Incense signifies the things of worship that are perceived with delight, such as acts of thanksgiving, adoration, prayer.”

11Arcana Coelestia 5620:12: “John the Baptist represents the Lord as to the Word, which is the Divine Truth on earth….The ‘clothing of camel's hair’ signifies that the Word, such as is its literal sense as to truth (which sense is a clothing for the internal sense), is natural; for what is natural is signified by ‘hair,’ and also by ‘camels.’ His ‘food being of locusts and wild honey’ signifies the Word such as is its literal sense as to good; the delight of this is signified by ‘wild honey.’” See also Arcana Coelestia 4857:3: “The spiritual sense lives within the literal sense as a person's spirit lives within a person’s body. Like a person's spirit the spiritual sense continues live when the literal sense fades away. Therefore, the internal sense may be called the soul of the Word.”

12Divine Providence 334: “Every angel is perfected in wisdom to eternity. But each is thus perfected in keeping with the degree of his affection for goodness and truth which he had when he departed from the world. It is this degree that is perfected to eternity.

13Apocalypse Explained 475:20: “John only inaugurated them [the Jewish people] into knowledges from the Word respecting the Lord, and thus prepared them to receive Him, but the Lord Himself regenerates people by means of divine truth and divine good proceeding from Him.”

14Faith 1-2: “At the present day the term ‘faith’ is taken to mean the mere thought that the thing is so because the church so teaches, and because it is not evident to the understanding. For we are told to believe and not to doubt, and if we say that we do not comprehend, we are told that this is just the reason for believing. So that the faith of the present day is a faith in the unknown and may be called blind faith…. This is not spiritual faith. Real faith is nothing else than an acknowledgment that the thing is so because it is true; for one who is in real faith thinks and says, ‘This is true, and therefore I believe it.’”

15Faith 36: “The Universal of the Christian Faith is to believe in the Lord, for through believing in Him there is effected conjunction with Him, by which comes salvation. To believe in Him is to have confidence that He will save, and as no one can have this confidence except one who lives aright, therefore this also is meant by believing in Him.”

From Swedenborg's Works

 

True Christian Religion #571

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571. CHAPTER TEN

REFORMATION AND REGENERATION

After dealing with repentance we come next in order to reformation and regeneration, because these come after repentance and it is by repentance that they advance. There are two states which a person must enter upon and undergo to pass from being natural to being spiritual. The first state is called reformation, the second regeneration. In his first state a person looks from his natural to his spiritual man and desires to be spiritual; in the second state he becomes spiritual-natural. The first state is formed by means of the truths which must become part of faith, and these enable him to look towards charity. The second state is formed by the kinds of good which make up charity, and from them he enters into the truths of faith. To put this in other terms, the first state is one of thought on the part of the understanding, but the second is one of love on the part of the will. When this state begins and develops, a mental change takes place; for there is a turning-point, following which the love of the will flows into the understanding, and drives and guides it to think in harmony and in keeping with its love. In so far therefore as the good of love then plays the leading role, and the truths of faith take second place, to that extent he is a spiritual man and a new creature. Then charity inspires his actions, faith his speech; he feels the good of charity and perceives the truth of faith. Then he is in the Lord and in a state of peace, and so he is regenerated.

[2] Anyone who has begun the first state while in the world can after death be brought into the second. But anyone who has not entered upon the first state while in the world cannot be brought into the second after death, and so cannot be regenerated. These two states can be compared with the advance of light and heat in spring days; the first state can be compared with twilight and cock-crow, the second with morning and dawn; and its development with the day advancing to noon, and so growing in light and heat. It can also be compared with a harvest, which begins with the blade, then grows into awns and ears and finally becomes the wheat in them. Or again with a tree: first it springs from a seed in the ground, then becomes a stalk from which branches come forth; these are decked with leaves, and then it flowers, and the inmost part of the flower is the beginning of the fruit; and as the fruits ripen they produce new seeds as their offspring. The first state, that of reformation, can also be compared with the state of a silk-worm, when it draws silk thread out of itself and wraps itself in it; and after its hard labour is over, it flies out into the air, and feeds, not as formerly on leaves, but on the juices in flowers.

  
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Table of Contents
THE FAITH OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW CHURCH 1-3 (i) THE WHOLE OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURE AND ALL THE DOCTRINES EXTRACTED FROM IT BY CHURCHES THROUGHOUT CHRISTENDOM TEACH THAT THERE IS A GOD AND HE IS ONE. 6-7 (ii) THERE IS A GENERAL FEELING EMANATING FROM GOD AND FLOWING INTO MEN'S SOULS THAT THERE IS A GOD, AND THAT HE IS ONE. 8 (iii) THAT IS WHY THERE IS NO NATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD POSSESSED OF RELIGION AND SOUND REASON WHICH DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE GOD AND THE FACT THAT HE IS ONE. 9-10 (iv) THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY NATIONS AND PEOPLES HAVE FORMED VARYING IDEAS OF THE NATURE OF THAT ONE GOD, AND CONTINUE TO DO SO. 11 (v) THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN LEAD THE HUMAN REASON, IF IT WISHES, TO GRASP AND DEDUCE THAT THERE IS A GOD AND THAT HE IS ONE. 12 (vi) IF THERE HAD NOT BEEN ONE GOD, THE UNIVERSE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN CREATED AND KEPT IN EXISTENCE. 13 (vii) ANY PERSON WHO DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE GOD IS EXCOMMUNICATED FROM THE CHURCH AND DAMNED. 14 (viii) THE CHURCH CANNOT HOLD TOGETHER AT ALL IN THE CASE OF A PERSON WHO ACKNOWLEDGES NOT ONE GOD, BUT SEVERAL. 15 (i) THE ONE GOD IS NAMED JEHOVAH FROM HIS BEING, THAT IS, FROM THE FACT THAT HE ALONE IS, [WAS] AND WILL BE, AND BECAUSE HE IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, ALPHA AND OMEGA. 19 (ii) THE ONE GOD IS SUBSTANCE ITSELF AND FORM ITSELF, AND ANGELS AND MEN ARE SUBSTANCES AND FORMS DERIVED FROM HIM; TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY ARE IN HIM AND HE IN THEM, SO FAR ARE THEY IMAGES AND LIKENESSES OF HIM. 20 (iii) THE DIVINE BEING IS BEING (ESSE) IN ITSELF, AND AT THE SAME TIME COMING-INTO-BEING (EXISTERE) IN ITSELF. 21-22 (iv) THE DIVINE BEING AND COMING-INTO-BEING IN ITSELF CANNOT GIVE RISE TO ANOTHER DIVINE WHICH IS BEING AND COMING-INTO-BEING IN ITSELF. CONSEQUENTLY ANOTHER GOD OF THE SAME ESSENCE IS IMPOSSIBLE. 23 (v) THE PLURALITY OF GODS IN ANCIENT TIMES, AS WELL AS TODAY, WAS ENTIRELY THE RESULT OF A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THE DIVINE BEING. 24 (i) GOD IS INFINITE, BECAUSE HE-IS AND COMES INTO BEING IN HIMSELF, AND EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS AND COMES INTO BEING FROM HIM. 28 (ii) GOD IS INFINITE, BECAUSE HE EXISTED BEFORE THE WORLD DID, AND THUS BEFORE SPACE AND TIME CAME INTO EXISTENCE. 29 (iii) SINCE THE MAKING OF THE WORLD GOD IS NON-SPATIALLY IN SPACE AND NON-TEMPORALLY IN TIME. 30 (iv) THE INFINITY OF GOD AS PREDICATED OF SPACE IS CALLED IMMENSITY, AND AS PREDICATED OF TIME IS CALLED ETERNITY. DESPITE THESE PREDICATIONS HIS IMMENSITY IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF SPACE AND HIS ETERNITY IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF TIME. 31 (v) THERE IS MUCH IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN ENABLE ENLIGHTENED REASON TO SEE THE INFINITY OF GOD THE CREATOR. 32 (vi) EVERY CREATED OBJECT IS FINITE, AND THE INFINITE IS CONTAINED IN FINITE OBJECTS AS IN RECEIVERS, AND IN HUMAN BEINGS AS IMAGES OF IT. 33-34 (i) GOD IS LOVE ITSELF AND WISDOM ITSELF, THESE TWO MAKING UP HIS ESSENCE. 37 (ii) GOD IS GOOD ITSELF AND TRUTH ITSELF, BECAUSE GOOD REFERS TO LOVE AND TRUTH TO WISDOM. 38 (iii) SINCE GOD IS LOVE ITSELF AND WISDOM ITSELF, HE IS LIFE ITSELF, OR LIFE IN ITSELF. 39-40 (iv) LOVE AND WISDOM ARE ONE IN GOD. 41-42 (v) THE ESSENCE OF LOVE IS LOVING OTHERS THAN ONESELF, WISHING TO BE ONE WITH THEM AND DEVOTING ONESELF TO THEIR HAPPINESS. 43-45 (vi) THESE PROPERTIES OF THE DIVINE LOVE WERE THE REASON THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED, AND ARE THE REASON IT IS PRESERVED IN EXISTENCE. 46-47 (i) OMNIPOTENCE, OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE ARE PROPERTIES OF THE DIVINE WISDOM RESULTING FROM THE DIVINE LOVE. 50-51 (ii) THE OMNIPOTENCE, OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD CANNOT BE RECOGNISED EXCEPT THROUGH A KNOWLEDGE OF ORDER, AND THESE FACTS ABOUT ORDER: THAT GOD IS ORDER, AND THAT HE INTRODUCED ORDER INTO THE UNIVERSE AND ALL ITS PARTS SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH ITS CREATION. 52-55 (iii) GOD'S OMNIPOTENCE PROCEEDS AND WORKS IN THE UNIVERSE AND ALL ITS PARTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF HIS ORDER. 56-58 (iv) GOD IS OMNISCIENT, THAT IS, HE PERCEIVES, SEES AND KNOWS DOWN TO THE TINIEST DETAIL EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS ACCORDING TO ORDER; AND FROM THESE THINGS ALSO WHAT HAPPENS CONTRARY TO ORDER. 59-62 (v) GOD IS PRESENT EVERYWHERE FROM FIRST TO LAST IN HIS ORDER. 63-64 (vi) MAN WAS CREATED TO BE A FORM FOR DIVINE ORDER. 65-67 (vii) MAN HAS FROM DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE POWER AGAINST EVIL AND FALSITY, AND FROM DIVINE OMNISCIENCE WISDOM ABOUT GOOD AND TRUTH, AND FROM DIVINE OMNIPRESENCE IS IN GOD, TO THE EXTENT THAT HE LIVES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIVINE ORDER. 68-70 THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE 75-80 CHAPTER TWO 81-84 (ii) JEHOVAH GOD CAME DOWN AS THE DIVINE TRUTH, WHICH IS THE WORD, YET HE DID NOT SEPARATE THE DIVINE GOOD FROM IT. 85-88 (iii) HE TOOK UPON HIMSELF HUMAN FORM IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS DIVINE ORDER. 89-91 (iv) THE HUMAN BY WHICH HE BROUGHT HIMSELF INTO THE WORLD IS THE SON OF GOD. 92-94 (v) THE LORD BY ACTS OF REDEMPTION MADE HIMSELF RIGHTEOUSNESS. 95-96 (vi) BY THE SAME ACTS THE LORD UNITED HIMSELF WITH THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER WITH HIM. 97-100 (vii) THUS GOD BECAME MAN, AND MAN GOD, IN ONE PERSON. It follows that Jehovah God became man and man became God in one person as the consequence of all the previous propositions in this chapter, and particularly these two: Jehovah the Creator of the universe came down and took upon Himself 101-103 (viii) HIS PROGRESS TOWARDS UNION WAS HIS STATE OF EXINANITION, AND THE UNION ITSELF IS HIS STATE OF GLORIFICATION. 104-106 (ix) FROM THIS TIME ON NO ONE FROM CHRISTIAN COUNTRIES CAN COME INTO HEAVEN, UNLESS HE BELIEVES IN THE LORD GOD THE SAVIOUR, AND APPROACHES HIM ALONE. 107-108 ADDITIONAL NOTE 109 (i) THE REAL REDEMPTION WAS THE CONQUEST OF THE HELLS AND THE ORDERING OF THE HEAVENS, AND PREPARATION BY THIS MEANS FOR A NEW SPIRITUAL CHURCH. 115-117 (ii) BUT FOR THAT REDEMPTION NO PERSON COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, NOR COULD THE ANGELS HAVE REMAINED UNHARMED. 118-120 (iii) THE LORD THUS REDEEMED NOT ONLY MEN, BUT ALSO ANGELS. 121-122 (iv) REDEMPTION WAS AN ENTIRELY DIVINE DEED. 123 (v) THIS REDEMPTION COULD ONLY BE EFFECTED BY AN INCARNATE GOD. 124-125 (vi) THE PASSION ON THE CROSS WAS THE LAST TEMPTATION WHICH THE LORD UNDERWENT AS THE GREATEST PROPHET; THIS WAS THE MEANS BY WHICH HE GLORIFIED HIS HUMAN, THAT IS, UNITED IT WITH HIS FATHER'S DIVINE; SO THIS WAS NOT IN ITSELF THE REDEMPTION. 126-131 (vii) IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL ERROR ON THE PART OF THE CHURCH TO BELIEVE THAT THE PASSION ON THE CROSS WAS THE REAL ACT OF REDEMPTION. THAT ERROR, TOGETHER WITH THE ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN THREE DIVINE PERSONS EXISTING FROM ETERNITY, HAS SO PERVERTED THE WHOLE CHURCH THAT THERE IS NO REMAINDER OF 132-133 (i) THE HOLY SPIRIT IS DIVINE TRUTH, AND ALSO THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY WHICH PROCEEDS FROM THE ONE GOD, IN WHOM IS THE DIVINE TRINITY, AND SO FROM THE LORD GOD THE SAVIOUR. 139-141 (ii) THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY MEANT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE, GENERALLY SPEAKING, REFORMATION AND REGENERATION, WHICH LEAD TO RENEWAL, QUICKENING, SANCTIFICATION. AND JUSTIFICATION; AND THESE LEAD TO PURIFICATION FROM EVILS AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, AND ULTIMATELY TO SALVATION. 142-145 (iii) THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY MEANT BY THE SENDING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WITH THE CLERGY TAKES THE PARTICULAR FORM OF ENLIGHTENMENT AND INSTRUCTION. 146-148 (iv) THE LORD CONFERS THESE BENEFITS ON THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIM. 149-152 (v) THE LORD WORKS OF HIMSELF FROM THE FATHER, AND NOT THE REVERSE. 153-155 (vi) A PERSON'S SPIRIT IS HIS MIND, AND WHATEVER COMES FROM IT. 156-157 ADDITIONAL NOTE 158 (i) THERE IS A DIVINE TRINITY CONSISTING OF FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT. 164-165 (ii) THOSE THREE, FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, ARE THE THREE ESSENTIALS OF A SINGLE GOD, WHICH MAKE ONE AS SOUL, BODY AND ACTIVITY DO WITH A PERSON. 166-169 (iii) THIS TRINITY DID NOT EXIST BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, BUT IT WAS PROVIDED AND MADE AFTER THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, WHEN GOD BECAME INCARNATE, AND THEN WAS IN THE LORD GOD, THE REDEEMER AND SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST. 170-171 (iv) A TRINITY OF DIVINE PERSONS FROM ETERNITY, OR EXISTING BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, IMPLIES THINKING ABOUT A TRINITY OF GODS; AND THIS THOUGHT CANNOT BE BANISHED BY A VERBAL CONFESSION OF BELIEF IN ONE GOD. 172-173 (v) THE TRINITY OF PERSONS WAS UNKNOWN TO THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, BUT WAS THE INVENTION OF THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA, LEADING TO ITS INTRODUCTION INTO THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, AND THUS TO THE CHURCHES WHICH SPLIT FROM IT. 174-176 (vi) THE TRINITY AS DEFINED BY THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA AND BY ATHANASIUS CAUSED A FAITH TO ARISE WHICH HAS PERVERTED THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. 177-178 (vii) THIS IS THE SOURCE OF THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION AND THE AFFLICTION SUCH AS HAS NEVER BEEN NOR SHALL BE, BOTH OF WHICH THE LORD PREDICTED IN DANIEL, THE GOSPELS AND REVELATION. We read in Daniel: 179-181 (viii) FURTHER, UNLESS A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW CHURCH ARE FOUNDED BY THE LORD, NO FLESH CAN BE SAVED. 182 (ix) FROM A TRINITY OF PERSONS, EACH OF WHICH INDIVIDUALLY IS GOD, AS ASSERTED BY THE ATHANASIAN CREED, MANY ABSURD IDEAS OF VARIOUS KINDS HAVE ARISEN ABOUT GOD, WHICH ARE MERE FANCIES AND ABORTIONS. 183-184 CHAPTER FOUR 189-192 II. The Word contains a spiritual sense unknown up to the present. 193 (i) WHAT THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IS. 194 From the Lord there proceed, one after the other, the celestial Divine, the spiritual Divine and the natural Divine. The name 'celestial Divine' is given to whatever proceeds from His Divine love, and it is good. 195 (ii) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IS PRESENT IN EVERY PART AND DETAIL OF THE WORD. 196-198 The Lord, when He was in the world, spoke by means of correspondences; so He spoke spiritually as well as naturally. This can be proved by His parables, the individual expressions of which contain a spiritual sense. Let us take as an example the parable of the ten virgins. He said: 199 (iii) IT IS THE SPIRITUAL SENSE WHICH MAKES THE WORD DIVINELY INSPIRED AND HOLY IN EVERY WORD. 200 (iv) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD HAS UP TO THE PRESENT BEEN UNKNOWN. 201-207 (v) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD WILL IN FUTURE ONLY BE GRANTED TO THOSE WHO ARE IN POSSESSION OF GENUINE TRUTHS FROM THE LORD. 208 (vi) REMARKABLE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE WORD FROM ITS SPIRITUAL SENSE. 209 III. The literal sense of the Word is the basis, container and support of its spiritual and celestial senses. 210-213 IV. The Divine truth in the literal sense of the Word is in its fulness, holiness and power. 214-216 (i) THE TRUTHS OF THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD ARE MEANT BY THE PRECIOUS STONES FORMING THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE NEW JERUSALEM IN Revelation 21:17-21). 217 (ii) THE FORMS OF GOOD AND TRUTH IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD ARE MEANT BY THE URIM AND THUMMIM ON AARON'S EPHOD. 218 (iii) THE PRECIOUS STONES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, IN WHICH THE KING OF TYRE IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN, HAVE A SIMILAR MEANING. We read in Ezekiel: 219 (iv) TRUTHS AND DIFFERENT KINDS OF GOOD IN THEIR OUTERMOST FORMS, OF THE SORT FOUND IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, WERE REPRESENTED BY THE CURTAINS, VEILS AND POSTS OF THE TABERNACLE. 220 (v) LIKEWISE, THE EXTERNAL FEATURES OF THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM. 221 (vi) THE WORD IN ITS GLORY WAS REPRESENTED IN THE LORD AT HIS TRANSFIGURATION. 222 (vii) THE POWER OF THE WORD AT ITS OUTERMOST LEVEL WAS REPRESENTED BY THE NAZIRITES. 223 (viii) THE WORD'S POWER IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION. 224 V. The doctrine of the church is to be drawn from the literal sense of the Word and supported by it. 225 (i) THE WORD IS NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT DOCTRINE. 226-228 (ii) DOCTRINE IS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, AND PROVED BY MEANS OF IT. 229-230 (iii) THE GENUINE TRUTH IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, ON WHICH DOCTRINE IS BASED, IS NOT VISIBLE TO ANY BUT THOSE WHO ARE ENLIGHTENED BY THE LORD. 231-233 VI. The literal sense of the Word produces a link with the Lord and association with the angels. 234-239 VII. The Word is to be found in all the heavens and is the source of the angels' wisdom. 240-242 VIII. The church depends on the Word, and what the church is like in the case of each person depends on how he understands the Word. 243-247 IX. The details of the Word all contain a marriage of the Lord and the church, and so a marriage of good and truth. 248-253 X. Heresies can be extracted from the literal sense of the Word, but confirming them leads to damnation. 254-260 An example from nature may serve to illustrate this idea, that many things in the literal sense of the Word are appearances of truth, in which genuine truths are hidden; and that it is not injurious to think and to speak in simple terms according to the appearances of truth, but that it is 257 The reason why it is injurious to confirm the appearances of truth in the Word, thus leading to the creation of a fallacy and so the destruction of the Divine truth hidden within it, is precisely because every detail of the literal sense of the Word communicates with heaven. 258 It should furthermore be known that the literal sense is a protection to prevent the genuine truths hidden within being harmed. It acts as a protection because that sense can be twisted in different directions and explained as it is understood, without its internal being harmed or violated. 260 It should furthermore be known that the literal sense is a protection to prevent the genuine truths hidden within being harmed. It acts as a protection because that sense can be twisted in different directions and explained as it is understood, without its internal being harmed or violated. 260 XI. The Lord when in the world fulfilled everything in the Word, and thus became the Word, that is, Divine truth, even in its outermost form. 261-263 XII. Before the time of the Word which we have in the world to-day, there was another Word, now lost. 264-266 XIII. The Word also serves to enlighten those who are outside the church and do not possess the Word. 267-272 XIV. If the Word did not exist, no one would know of the existence of God, heaven and hell, and life after death, even less of the Lord. 273-276 The Ten Commandments were the height of holiness for the Israelite church. 283-286 The literal sense of the Ten Commandments contains general instructions on doctrine and life; but their spiritual and celestial senses contain universal instructions. 287-290 THE FIRST COMMANDMENT 291-296 THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 297-300 THE THIRD COMMANDMENT 301-304 THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 305-308 THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 309-312 THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT 313-316 THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 317-320 THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 321-324 THE NINTH AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS 325-328 The Ten Commandments contain everything to do with love for God and everything to do with love towards the neighbour. 329-331 CHAPTER SIX. FAITH 336 I. Saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. 337-339 The reason why we must believe, that is, have faith in God the Saviour Jesus Christ is that it is faith in a visible God, in whom there is an invisible God; and faith in a visible God, who is man and at the same time God, enters into a person. 339 II. Faith in brief is this, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by the Lord. 340-342 The previous section (336-339) showed that saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. But the question may be raised, what is the leading point of faith in Him? The answer is that it is acknowledgment that He is the Son of God. 342 III. A person acquires faith by approaching the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living by them. 343-348 The being of the faith of the new church is: (1) Complete faith in the Lord God, the Saviour Jesus Christ; (2) Trust, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by Him. 344 Having given a summary of the things which go to make up spiritual faith, I shall now give too a summary of the things which go to make up purely natural faith. This is essentially a firm conviction which pretends to be faith, but is a conviction of falsity, known as heretical faith. 345-348 IV. The mass of truths, which cohere as it were in a bundle, raises the level of faith and brings it to perfection. 349-354 (i) It is evident that the truths of faith are capable of being multiplied to infinity from the wisdom of the angels in heaven being for ever increasing. The angels also say that there is never any limit to wisdom, and the only source of wisdom is from Divine truths analytically arranged by 350 (ii) The truths of faith are arranged into groupings, and thus, so to speak, into bundles, a fact that up to the present has been unknown. The reason for this ignorance is that the spiritual truths, out of which the whole of the Word is woven, have been rendered invisible, because of the 351 (iii) It follows from what has been said above that faith is brought to perfection in proportion to the volume and coherence of the truths. This is demonstrated in the case of everyone who assembles the reasons, and perceives the effectiveness of multiple groups, when they cohere as one. 352-353 (iv) However numerous the truths of faith are and however varied they appear, they are made one by the Lord, who is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or the church, the God of faith and light itself, truth and everlasting life. 354 (iv) However numerous the truths of faith are and however varied they appear, they are made one by the Lord, who is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or the church, the God of faith and light itself, truth and everlasting life. 354 V. Faith without charity is no faith, and charity without faith is no charity, and both are lifeless unless the Lord gives them life. 355-361 (i) It was shown above in the third section (343-348) that a person can acquire faith for himself. This showed that faith is in its essence truth, and anyone can acquire truths from the Word; and that in so far as anyone acquires them for himself and loves them, so far does he begin to acquire 356 (ii) A person can acquire charity for himself. 357 (iii) A person can acquire for himself a life of faith and charity. 358 (iv) But still faith, charity or life in either of them is not in the least created by man, but only by the Lord. 359 I stated before that faith present in a person is to begin with natural, and as he comes closer to the Lord it becomes spiritual, and the same with charity. But no one yet knows the distinction between natural and spiritual faith and charity. 360-361 VI. The Lord, charity and faith make one, just as in a person life, will and understanding do; if they are separated, each of them is destroyed, like a pearl collapsing into dust. 362-367 (i) The Lord flows into every human being with all His Divine love, all His Divine wisdom, and so with all His Divine life. 364 (ii) The Lord flows in likewise in the case of every person with the whole essence of faith and charity. 365 (iii) How the influences flowing in from the Lord are received by the person depends upon his form. Form here means the person's state as regards his love together with his wisdom, in other words, as regards his affections for the various kinds of good of charity, and at the same time his 366 (iv) The person, however, who separates the Lord, charity and faith is not a form which can receive them, but rather one which destroys them. 367 VII. The Lord is charity and faith in the person, and the person is charity and faith in the Lord. 368-372 (i) It is being linked with God, which affords a person salvation and everlasting life. 369 (ii) A link is impossible with God the Father, but it is possible with the Lord, and through Him with God the Father. 370 (iii) The link with the Lord is reciprocal, so that the Lord is in the person, and he is in the Lord. 371 (iv) This reciprocal link between the Lord and man is created by means of charity and faith. 372 VIII. Charity and faith are present together in good deeds. 373-377 (i) Charity is having good will, and good deeds are doing good from a good will. 374 (ii) Charity and faith are merely unstable mental concepts unless, when possible, they are realised in deeds and come into existence together in them. 375-376 (iii) Charity alone does not produce good deeds, much less does faith alone, but charity and faith together do. 377 IX. There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. 378 IX. There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. 378-381 (i) There is only one true faith, and this is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ, and is possessed by those who believe Him to be the Son of God, the God of heaven and earth, and one with the Father. 379 (ii) Spurious faith is any faith which departs from the true and only faith, and is possessed by those who climb up another way and look upon the Lord not as God, but merely as a human being. 380 (iii) Hypocritical faith is no faith at all. 381 X. The wicked have no faith. 382-384 (i) The wicked have no faith because evil belongs to hell and faith to heaven. 383 (ii) All those in the Christian world have no faith who reject the Lord and the Word, although they live moral lives, and talk, teach and write rationally, even about faith. 384 I 394-396 (i) THE WILL AND THE UNDERSTANDING. 397 (ii) GOOD AND TRUTH. 398 (iii) LOVE IN GENERAL. 399 (iv) SELF-LOVE AND THE LOVE OF THE WORLD IN PARTICULAR. 400 (v) THE INTERNAL MAN AND THE EXTERNAL MAN. 401 (vi) THE PURELY NATURAL AND SENSUAL MAN. 402 II. When the three loves are duly subordinated, they increase a person's perfection; but when they are not, they corrupt and turn him upside down. 403-405 III. Every person taken singly is the neighbour who is to be loved, but he should be loved according to the quality of his good. 406-411 IV. Man collectively, which is one's community, great or small, and as a group of communities, which is one's country, is the neighbour who is to be loved. 412-414 V. The neighbour who is to be loved in a higher degree is the church, and in the highest degree the Lord's kingdom. 415-416 VI. The essence of loving the neighbour is not loving a person, but the good in him. 417-419 VII. Charity and good deeds are two different things, as are wishing well and doing good. 420-421 VIII. Real charity is dealing fairly and faithfully in whatever position, business or work one is engaged in, and with those with whom one comes into contact. 422-424 IX. The kindnesses of charity are giving to the poor and helping the needy, but with prudence. 425-428 X. Some charitable duties are public, some domestic and some private. 429-432 XI. Charitable recreations are lunches, dinners and parties. 433-434 XII. The first thing in charity is to banish evils, the second is to do good deeds which may be of use to the neighbour. 435-438 XIII. In the exercise of charity a person avoids attributing merit to deeds, so long as he believes that all good is from the Lord. 439-442 XIV. When a moral life is at the same time spiritual, this is charity. 443-445 XV. A bosom friendship contracted with a person without regard to his spiritual character is harmful after death. 446-449 XVI. Spurious charity, hypocritical charity and dead charity. 450-453 XVII. Bosom friendship between the wicked is implacable hatred between them. 454-455 XVIII. The linking of love to God and love towards the neighbour. 456-458 CHAPTER EIGHT 463-465 I. The fact that two trees, one of life and one of the knowledge of good and evil, were put in the Garden of Eden, means that man was given free will in spiritual matters. 466-469 II. Man is not life, but a receiver of life from God. 470-474 III. So long as a person lives in the world, he is kept midway between heaven and hell, and he is there in spiritual equilibrium. This is free will. 475-478 IV. The fact that evil is permitted, a state enjoyed by everyone's internal man, makes it obvious that man has free will in spiritual matters. 479-482 V. Without free will in spiritual matters the Word would not be of any use, nor in consequence would the church be. 483-484 VI. Without free will in spiritual matters man would have no means of establishing a mutual link with the Lord. The result would be not imputation, but complete predestination, which is a detestable doctrine. 485 Predestination is the offspring of the faith of the church at the present time, because it is the product of a belief in man's utter impotence and lack of choice in spiritual matters. 486-488 VII. But for free will in spiritual matters God would be responsible for evil, and thus there could be no imputation of charity and faith. 489-492 VIII. Anything spiritual to do with the church which enters freely and is freely accepted lasts, anything that does not, does not last. 493-496 IX. A person's will and understanding enjoy this free will; but wrong doing in both the spiritual and natural worlds is curbed by laws, since otherwise society in either world would cease to exist. 497-499 X. If people did not have free will in spiritual matters, everyone throughout the world could in the course of a single day have been brought to believe in the Lord. But this would be impossible, because what a person does not accept of his own free will does not last. 500-502 The question is asked today why miracles do not happen as they once did; for people think that if they took place, everyone would acknowledge them in his heart. The reason why miracles do not take place at the present time as they did formerly is that they compel and take away free will in 501 I. Repentance is the first stage in the development of the church in a person. 510-511 II. Contrition, which is said at the present time to precede faith and to be followed by the consolation of the Gospel, is not repentance. 512-515 III. A mere verbal confession that one is a sinner is not repentance. 516-519 IV. Man is born with a tendency to every kind of evil, and if he does not partially remove evils by repentance, he remains subject to them, and if so cannot be saved. 520-524 The saying goes that no one can keep the law completely, and this is even more difficult, because the person who breaks one of the Ten Commandments breaks them all. Yet this manner of speaking does not mean what it sounds like. 523-524 V. Recognition of sin and a person's self-examination are the beginnings of repentance. 525-527 VI. Real repentance is examining oneself, recognising and acknowledging one's sins, appealing to the Lord and beginning a new life. 528-531 VII. True repentance means not only examining what one does in one's life, but also what one intends in one's will to do. 532-534 VIII. Those too repent who do not examine themselves, but still refrain from evil actions because they are sins. This kind of repentance is practised by those who perform charitable deeds for religious reasons. 535-537 IX. Confession ought to be made before the Lord God the Saviour, and then prayer should be offered for help and the power to resist evils. 538-560 X. Real repentance is easy for those who have repented a number of times, but highly distasteful to those who have not. 561-563 XI. A person who has never repented, or looked into himself and examined himself, ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and what the good that saves him, 564-566 I. Unless a person is born again and as it were created anew, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 572-575 II. A new birth or creation can only be brought about by the Lord through charity and faith as the two means with the person's co-operation. 576-578 III. Since all have been redeemed, everyone can be regenerated, in each case depending on the person's state. 579-582 IV. The process of regeneration is on the model of a person's conception, gestation in the womb, birth and upbringing. 583-586 Many scholars have maintained that the development not only of trees but of all plants corresponds to human reproduction. So by way of an appendix I shall add a few remarks on this subject. 585 V. The first stage of re-birth is called reformation, a process affecting the understanding; the second stage is called regeneration, a process affecting the will and thus the understanding, 587-590 VI. The internal man must be reformed first, and the external by means of the internal; that is how a person is regenerated. 591-595 VII. When this happens, a struggle ensues between the internal and the external man, and the victor then controls the other. 596-600 VIII. When a person is regenerated, he acquires a new will and a new understanding. 601-606 IX. A person who is regenerate is in touch with the angels of heaven, one who is not with the spirits of hell. 607-610 X. In so far as a person is regenerated, so far are his sins removed; this removal is the forgiveness of sins. 611-614 XI. Regeneration is impossible without free will in spiritual matters. 615-617 XII. Regeneration is impossible without truths through which faith may be formed, and with which charity may link itself. 618-620 CHAPTER ELEVEN 626-627 II. Imputation as part of present-day faith is a double concept. There is imputation of Christ's merit and imputation of salvation as a result. 628-631 III. The idea of faith imputing the merit and righteousness of Christ the Redeemer sprang first from the decrees of the Council of Nicaea concerning three Divine Persons from eternity; and this faith has been accepted by the whole Christian world from that time to the present. 632-635 IV. Faith which imputes Christ's merit was unknown to the earlier, Apostolic church, and is nowhere to be understood in the Word. 636-639 V. It is impossible for Christ's merit and righteousness to be imputed. 640-642 VI. There is imputation but it is of good and evil, and at the same time of faith. 643-646 VII. The faith and concept of imputation in the new church cannot by any means be combined with the faith and concept of imputation current in the former church. If they are combined, there is such a clash and conflict that a person loses all trace of anything to do with the church. 647-649 VIII. The Lord imputes good to everyone and hell imputes evil to everyone, 650-653 IX. It is what faith combines with which is the deciding factor. If true faith combines with good, that is a decision for everlasting life; but if faith combines with evil, that is a decision for everlasting death. 654-657 X. One's thoughts are not imputed to anyone, only one's will. 658-660 CHAPTER TWELVE 667-669 II. The washing called baptism means spiritual washing, which is purification from evils and falsities, and so regeneration. 670-673 III. Baptism was instituted to take the place of circumcision, because the circumcision of the foreskin was a representation of the circumcision of the heart. The purpose of baptism was so that the internal church should take the place of the external, which in every detail prefigured the 674-676 IV. The first purpose of baptism is to be introduced to the Christian Church, and at the same time brought into the company of Christians in the spiritual world. 677-680 V. The second purpose of baptism is so that a Christian may get to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and follow him. 681-683 VI. The third purpose of baptism, which is its end in view, is a person's regeneration. 684-687 VII. By John's baptism the way was prepared for Jehovah the Lord to come down into the world and carry out redemption. 688-691 CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THE HOLY SUPPER. 698-701 II. A knowledge of correspondences allows us to know what is meant by the Lord's flesh and blood, much the same as by bread and wine. This is that the Lord's flesh and the bread mean the Divine good of His love and also all the good of charity; and the Lord's blood and the wine mean the Divine 702-710 Anyone who has received enlightenment from heaven can perceive for himself that flesh here does not mean flesh, neither does blood mean blood, but that both in the natural sense mean the passion on the cross, of which they are a memorial. 704-705 The reason why the Lord's blood means His Divine truth and that of the Word is that His flesh means in the spiritual sense the Divine good of love, and these two are made one in the Lord. 706 It is clearly established from the Lord's words that bread has much the same meaning as flesh: 707 WINE MEANS MUCH THE SAME AS BLOOD, AS IS PERFECTLY CLEAR FROM THE LORD'S WORDS: 708 III. By understanding this it is possible to grasp the fact that the Holy Supper contains everything to do with the church and heaven, both at the universal and at the particular level. 711-715 IV. The Lord is wholly present in the Holy Supper, and so is the whole of redemption. 716-718 V. The Lord is present and opens heaven to those who worthily approach the Holy Supper. He is also present to those who approach it unworthily, but He does not open heaven to them. Consequently just as baptism is being introduced to the church, so the Holy Supper is being introduced to heaven. 719-721 VI. The people who worthily approach the Holy Supper are those who have faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbour, so those who have been regenerated. 722-724 VII. Those who worthily approach the Holy Supper are in the Lord and the Lord is in them. Thus it is through the Holy Supper that they are linked with the Lord. 725-727 VIII. The Holy Supper for those who approach it worthily is a kind of guarantee and seal put on their adoption as sons of God. 728-730 CHAPTER FOURTEEN 753-756 II. The present time is the final period of the Christian church foretold and described by the Lord in the Gospels and Revelation. 757-759 III. This final period of the Christian church is absolute night, in which the previous churches ended. 760-763 IV. This night is followed by morning, and morning is the Lord's coming. 764-767 V. The Lord's coming does not mean His coming to destroy the sky we see and the earth where we live, and to create a new heaven and a new earth, as many people up to now have imagined through not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word. 768-771 VI. This, which is the Lord's second coming, is taking place in order that the wicked should be separated from the good, and those should be saved who believe in Him and have done so; and so that a new heaven of angels and a new church on earth should be formed from them. 772-775 VII. This, the Lord's second coming, is not in person, but in the Word, which is from Him and which He is. 776-778 VIII. This, the Lord's second coming, is taking place by means of a man, to whom He has shown Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His spirit, so that he may teach the doctrines of the new church which come from the Lord through the Word. 779-780 IX. This is the meaning of the new heaven and the new earth, and of the New Jerusalem coming down from there, as described in Revelation. 781-785 X. This new church is the crown of all the churches which have up to now existed upon earth. 786-791 SUPPLEMENT 792-795 Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin in the spiritual world. 796 As for Melanchthon, I was allowed to learn a lot about his fate his first coming into the spiritual world, and what it was later upon on, not only from angels, but from himself, for I spoke with him a number of times, though not as often or at as close range as with Luther. 797 On the subject of Calvin, I heard the following. (1) When he first arrived in the spiritual world, he did not believe he was anywhere but still in the world in which he was born. 798-799 The Dutch in the spiritual world. 800-805 The British in the spiritual world. 806-812 The Germans in the spiritual world. 813-816 The Roman Catholics in the spiritual world. 817-821 The Saints of the Roman Catholics in the spiritual world. 822-827 The Mohammedans in the spiritual world. 828-834 The Africans in the spiritual world; also something about other nations. 835-840 The Jews in the spiritual world. 841-845
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Swedenborg 101: The Basic Nature of Everything - Swedenborg and Life

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 Nicodemus
Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus reveals important insights into Jesus' mission on earth.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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