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

Exploring the Meaning of Luke 1      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter One

From Mark to Luke

1. Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things which are most surely believed among us,
2. Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
3. It seemed fitting for me as well, having had perfect understanding, to investigate everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;
4. So that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were 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, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was 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. And it came to pass, that 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 burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer 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 shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
16. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
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 am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long 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: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
23. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25. Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on 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. 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.


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

These miraculous births come about through “the power of the Highest.” As human beings, we can create a better possibility for receiving these births—for example, through meditation, prayer, and reading the Word—and we can gratefully accept them. But we cannot produce them. We read therefore, these words of the angel, spoken to Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…. For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:31, 35, 37). New insights can come to us through study and reflection. Like Zacharias, we can receive visions, but the willingness to live according to those insights and visions is a greater miracle. And it comes as a free gift from on high; it is the “power of the Highest.”

To sum up: the birth of John the Baptist in us requires the cooperation of our understanding. It has to do with an appreciation for the literal truths of the Word. While it is a miracle in its own right, the willingness to live according to those truths is a much greater miracle. It is the power of the Highest being born in us, miraculously, without a human father; that is, without the cooperation of our finite understanding. Whenever this happens, all we can do is say, as Mary said to the angel, “Let it be to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38).

The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth (Good Meets Truth)

39. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40. And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42. And she spake out with a loud voice, 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 to me?
44. For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told 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 regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: 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 on them that fear him from generation to generation.
51. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55. As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
57. Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon 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, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his 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, how he would have him called.
63. And he asked for a writing table, 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, and praised 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 they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70. As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71. That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75. In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
76. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in 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 shewing 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

  Stories and their meanings:



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
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

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
The Lord, in some places, calls Himself 'the son of God,' at other times, 'the son of man (ἄνθρωπος).' This is always according to the...

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The Magnificat

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Resources for parents and teachers

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


 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

 

You Shall Bear a Son

     

By Rev. Eric Carswell

The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
By Henry Ossawa Tanner - http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/annunciation.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4864374

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35

What amazing words these must have been to Mary, a young woman, when she first heard them. Just minutes before she had probably been engaged in some mundane task of daily life in her mother's home, perhaps grinding flour or baking bread, maybe weaving or spinning wool into yarn. If she was like most young women who are shortly to be married, her mind would have been turned to her future life with Joseph, what their home would be like, the children they would have and the life that they would lead together. Happy images of the future would have filled her thoughts. She would have had her hopes, dreams and expectations--images of how her life would be as the future wife of Joseph.

Suddenly with the appearance of the angel Gabriel, her visions of the future contained a new and dramatically different element. The angel told her that she was highly favored and blessed among women, that the Lord was with her and that she would soon conceive and bring forth a son whose name would be Jesus. This child would be given the throne of Mary's ancient forebear, King David, and reign forever.

Mary voiced the question of how this would take place. She knew the order of natural conception and knew that the angel's message did not fit into this order. In explanation the angel Gabriel told her of the greatest miracle of all time saying, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

We are called to believe that miracles do occur. Some people are troubled by the idea of miracles based on their picture of cause and effect in this world. They have accepted that the only causes are natural ones, the laws of physics and so on. For such a person the idea of Jesus being born without a natural father is fantastic beyond belief.

But we are called to believe that miracles have and do occur. There are forces that attack this belief. We have grown up in a culture that has a strong sense of natural order. Science today is capable of explaining so many events that previously were mysteries. It is capable of explaining them by means of fundamental laws of nature. For some this sense of natural law can become so strong that the Lord's active presence within creation vanishes. For some there is no Divine intervention within this system. All is fixed and moves along with changes taking place by mere random accident. But it could be noted that according to natural law most changes result in more chaos, not less chaos. Changes tend toward the break down of a higher order into a lower one.

Think of the example of a person quickly typing out a document on a computer. You would expect that errors would be introduced into the typing. What is the likelihood that the errors would improve the original document? It’s possible, but rather unexpected. But the argument for pure natural evolution is that given enough time and the forces of natural selection life as we now know it has developed. Asserting that human life came about purely by random accidents starting with the genetic code of the most primitive life millions of years ago seems akin to saying that given enough time and enough typed copies a simple child’s nursery rhyme could evolve into a Shakespearean play without any plan or higher thought being involved.

We are called to believe that miracles do occur. However, the Writings for the New Church have taught us that we are not to expect to see the miracles of the Old and New Testaments performed today in the same way they were performed in the time those books were written. We read:

The reason miracles are not done at this day, as before, is that miracles compel, and take away free will in spiritual things; and from being spiritual, they make a person natural. All in the Christian world . . . can become spiritual; and they become spiritual solely from the Lord through the Word; and the faculty for this would perish if they were brought to believe through miracles. (True Christian Religion 501)

Partially based on statements such as this, a person can come to a pattern of thinking that does not believe in the Lord’s ability to affect things for good in a miraculous way even today. A person could believe in God, but still tend to view the progression of his or her life as following laws of a machine-like system. Anything that does not fit into this fixed system is believed to be a miracle that would take away spiritual freedom--the very freedom that the Lord was born into the world to reestablish.

Perhaps, though, it is too easy for us to become too limited in our view. So limited that we block out a sight of the miracles that can occur within our own lives without taking away our spiritual freedom. Perhaps it is too easy for this limited point of view to block out a sense of the Lord's presence, a sense of the Holy Spirit's presence. How does the Lord reach out to touch our lives?

What of Mary's life? The events surrounding the first Christmas were a major intervention within her life. The same is true of her husband to be, Joseph. Both of them could have denied the possibility of a miraculous conception and this state of denial would have been far more damaging than that of Zacharias's. Could the Lord's birth ever have taken place if Mary was not willing to accept the angel's words? Her firstborn was to have a continuing effect throughout her whole life. His presence was not without many events that brought a sense of awe and wonder to both Mary and Joseph. We know of at least one event that showed that raising Jesus was not always easy. At age 12, they spent three anxious days searching for Him, only to find Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of teachers, listening and asking questions.

In addition to the way in which Jesus' birth and life intervened in Joseph and Mary's life, think of the way His presence affected the disciples. Many of them were happily going about their daily jobs when they were called to leave all behind and follow Him. While this intervention sometimes involved something of the miraculous, it also involved an element of free will. Just as Joseph and Mary could have resisted the words of the angel announcing that the Lord would be born, so also the disciples could have heard the Lord call them to follow and shook their heads and returned to their work. There were many, many others who were influenced in this same way. Many others who heard the Lord's words calling to them and had their lives profoundly influenced by what He said.

The Lord comes to each of us in our lives many times each day. While we may not have anything occur in our lives that an objective observer would call miraculous, it is not true that our lives will follow some pre-established route, set by our inborn nature and directed by compelling experience of the natural world. The Lord's first birth represents the way in which He comes in any age to anyone who will receive Him. Just as the words of the angel Gabriel would have been a dramatic intervention within the happy normalcy of the future that Mary would have envisioned, so also the Lord can come to us announcing the conception of a future for us that is far different from the one our natural mind would envision. The Lord comes to us offering and promising a far different set of reactions to daily events from the ones we presently have--a different perspective, a far greater patience in some areas and a stronger resolve and commitment in others. He comes to us bringing light to areas of thoughts that we had resigned ourselves to being in deep darkness and bringing warmth to much that we might otherwise have done from need or duty.

The angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin, whose name was Mary. Ancient prophecies had promised that the Messiah would be born as the child of a young woman. Several hundred years after this prophecy was given, a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, introduced a new element of the miraculous by using a word in this prophecy that was not the general one for a young woman, but rather the distinctive Greek term for "virgin." When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, the gospel of Matthew records that he quoted this prophecy according to the way it is presented in the Septuagint. The Writings for the New Church make it quite clear that this seemingly added idea is correct and even essential in our understanding of the Lord's advent.

There are two distinct reasons for the importance of a belief in the virgin birth. One reason has to do with the essential need for Jesus to be born with a natural mother but without a natural father if He was going to become our Savior and Redeemer. It was crucial for the work of Jesus that He not derive from His birth any of the internal evils that are passed on through the soul provided by the natural father in any natural conception. His soul and life came directly from the infinite God. His developing mind and life were the ever more perfect manifestation in human form of the Father and creator, our Lord and God. But it was important that He take on a natural mind at first empty of any experience and knowledge as you and I were born with. It was important that He take on the hereditary inclinations to evil that birth to a natural mother brought to His life.

The second reason for believing in the virgin birth exists because of the representation of the term virgin and what this says about how the Lord comes to us in our lives. We are told that a virgin represents someone who willing to have his or her life affected by truth. In this story, Mary represents a state of mind in each of our lives that is not controlled by self interest nor committed to a determined course of action. It is a state of mind that is open to new possibilities.

The Lord comes to us to each of us bringing the promise of a new conception of life just as the angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary. He comes promising a rebirth or regeneration of life that is radically different from the one we come by naturally. It is not to the hustle and bustle of established life that He appears, but rather to those states of mind that, like the virgin Mary, look forward to something new and different and most importantly are willing to receive the conception of this new life. The life that comes to us naturally, apart from any presence of the Lord, is like a child conceived of a human father and mother. Without the Lord's presence, this life cannot have any other basis than self-interest and worldly concern. Experience may teach us to broaden this self-interest and to temper these concerns, but apart from the Lord's advent within our lives they will never rise above this level. The Lord is born within each of our lives within the states of mind that are willing to be affected by what the Word teaches--by the states of mind that are willing to rise above the prompting of our natural inclinations to be self-serving and natural in our interests, thoughts and actions. He is born within the states of mind that are willing to turn outward to recognize and serve the needs of those around us. He is born within the states of mind that are willing to recognize that natural things exist to serve the needs of mankind and creation as a whole and have their proper uses as well as their abuses.

Our preparation for the celebration of Christmas, more than any other event of the season, tends to turn people outward to others. It is a time that can help us to recognize the community of caring people that we live in. And it is a time that can remind us that many are in need--there are many people who can use our help. This help may be a matter of providing food, clothing and shelter for those have not been able to or have not yet come to be provident enough to provide them for themselves. It can be a matter of giving a hand to someone who could use some help with a job, sharing some burden with them. Christmas is a time when we give gifts that symbolize and love and friendship for others. The most lasting gifts are those that we give when we recognize the spiritual needs of others—when we recognize that, by our words and actions, we can help the Lord bring loving warmth to another person's life. We, by our words and actions, can bring the light of greater understanding to another person's life. We have the capability of helping others receive far greater blessings in life than they might otherwise. Our preparation for and celebration of Christmas can remind us of how a truly Christian life is one of wisely giving and of serving. The state of mind that receives this reminder is the one imaged by the virgin, Mary.

The Lord comes to each of us in our lives, just as the angel Gabriel came to Mary. He comes telling of events that can take place, if we are willing, which far exceed anything we might picture ourselves. He promises us a new life, born within our own, but not taking its source from us. He promises the presence of the Holy Spirit within this new life. He comes with a miraculous intervention in the natural course of events. The words of the angel Gabriel to Mary are also words to us with the promise of a new life that will profoundly affect what we care about, think and do each day throughout the year. These words are the promise of a new life for each of us.

After the close of this service you are invited to take the sacrament of the Holy Supper. This act of worship represents our desire to receive the Lord’s gifts of love and wisdom within our lives, represented by our eating of the bread and drinking of the wine. There is a powerful reminder of the words of the angel Gabriel in The True Christian Religion description of this sacrament

...the Holy Supper for those who approach it worthily is a kind of guarantee and seal put on their adoption as sons of God ... the Lord is then present and introduces into heaven those who are born of Him, that is, who are regenerated. (True Christian Religion 728)

As the angel Gabriel said to Mary, so the Lord would say to us, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1573; Isaiah 7:1-15; Luke 1:26-38)

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #376

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376. It has thus far been shown that "oil" signifies celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord; it shall now be shown that "wine" signifies spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbor and the good of faith; and as this good in its essence is truth, it is said in the general explanation that "the oil and the wine hurt not," which signifies that there must no harm be done to the internal or spiritual sense of the Word in respect either to good or to truth, or what is the same, that there must no harm be done to the goods and truths which are in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word. The good of charity and the good of faith in their essence are truth, because that good is implanted by the Lord in man's intellectual part by means of the truths that are called the truths of faith, and when man lives according to these truths they become goods; for by means of truths a new will is formed in that part, and whatever proceeds from the will is called good. This will, moreover, is the same as conscience, and conscience is a conscience of truth, for it is formed by truths of every kind from the doctrine of the church, and from the sense of the letter of the Word (but on this subject see further in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 130-138; and the extracts from the Arcana Coelestia 139-141). From this now it is that "wine" signifies truth.

(References: Revelation 6:6; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 139-141)


[2] Furthermore, there are goods and truths internal and external; internal goods and truths are signified by "the oil and the wine" that must not be hurt; but external goods and truths are signified by "wheat and barley." External goods and truths are those that are in the sense of the letter of the Word, while internal goods and truths are those that are in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; or external goods and truths are such as are in the lower heavens with the angels there, that is, in the ultimates of heaven, while internal goods and truths are such as are in the higher heavens with the angels there, that is, in the third and second heavens. These goods and truths are genuine goods and truths themselves, but the former are truths and goods because they correspond, thus are correspondences; internal goods and truths have immediate communication with the angels of heaven, while external goods and truths have not an immediate but a mediate communication through correspondences. This is why the Jews, because they were only in the sense of the letter and had no knowledge of the signification of things in the spiritual sense, were unable to do harm to the spiritual sense in respect either to good or to truth, and consequently were unable to do harm to genuine goods and truths. So the Christian Church at this day is unable to do harm to the genuine goods and truths which are in the spiritual sense of the Word, for it has been ignorant of that sense, and at the same time ignorant of genuine goods and truths.

[3] The spiritual sense of the Word was not disclosed to Christians, because genuine goods and truths, such as are in the higher heavens, lie concealed in the spiritual sense of the Word; and so long as these goods and truths were unperceived and unknown that sense could not be opened, since these goods and truths could not be seen. In the Christian churches genuine goods and truths have not been perceived and known for the reason that those churches have been divided, in general, into the Papal and the Evangelical; and those in the Papal Church are utterly ignorant of truths, because they do not depend upon the Word, thus upon the Lord who is the Word, that is, Divine truth, but upon the pope, from whose mouth scarcely anything proceeds except what is from the love of ruling, and that love is from hell; therefore with them scarcely a single truth of the church exists; while in the Evangelical churches faith alone has been assumed as the essential means of salvation, and as a consequence the good of love and charity has been rejected as nonessential, and where good is rejected no truth which is truth in itself can exist, since all truth is from good; for the Lord flows into man's good, and by means of good illustrates him and gives him the light to perceive truths, therefore without that light, which is man's very spiritual life, there is no truth, however much it may sound like truth because it is from the Word; it is truth falsified by the ideas that are held in respect to it; for from faith separate from charity, or from truths without good, no other result can follow. This is why the spiritual sense of the Word could not be disclosed to the Christian churches, for if it had been disclosed, they would have falsified and perverted it by ideas from fallacies, and thus would have profaned it. This also is why no one will ever hereafter be admitted into the spiritual sense of the Word unless he is in genuine truths from good, and no one can be in genuine truths from good unless in heart he acknowledges the Lord alone as the God of heaven and earth, for from Him is every good and thence every truth. The spiritual sense of the Word is at this day opened, and therewith also genuine truths and goods are disclosed, because the Last Judgment has been accomplished by the Lord, and thus all things in the heavens and in the hells have been reduced to order; and for this reason it can be provided by the Lord that no harm can be done to genuine truths and goods, which are in the spiritual sense of the Word, and this could not have been provided before (see in the small work on The Last Judgment 73).

[4] That "wine" signifies spiritual good, or the good of charity and the good of faith, which in its essence is truth, can be seen from the following passages in the Word. In Isaiah:

Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no silver; come ye, buy and eat; buy wine and milk without silver and without price (Isaiah 55:1).

Anyone can see that this does not mean that wine and milk may be bought without silver, "wine and milk" therefore signify things spiritual, namely, "wine" spiritual good, which in its essence is truth, as was said above, but "milk" the good of that truth. That these are given by the Lord freely to those who are ignorant of truth and good, and yet in a desire for these, is signified by "he that hath no silver, come ye, buy and eat; buy without silver;" "to buy" signifies to acquire for oneself, and "to eat" signifies to make one's own, which is done by application as from oneself. Those who are ignorant of truth and good, and yet are in a desire for them, are evidently meant, for it is said, "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," "to thirst" signifying to desire, and "waters" signifying truths, here the Word where truths are.

[5] In Joel:

It shall come to pass in that day, the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk; all the water-courses of Judah shall flow with waters (Joel 3:18).

This treats of the Lord's coming, and of the new heaven and the new church from Him. It is well known that the mountains in the land of Canaan, or in Judea, did not then drop down sweet wine, nor the hills flow with milk, nor the water-courses of Judah flow with waters more than before, therefore these words must mean something else than new wine, milk, and waters, or than mountains, hills, and water-courses, namely, "that the mountains shall drop down sweet wine" [mustum] or wine [vinum], means that from the good of love to the Lord there shall be genuine truth; "the hills shall flow with milk" means that from the good of charity towards the neighbor there shall be spiritual life; and "all the water-courses of Judah shall flow with waters" means that from the particulars of the Word there shall be truths. (For "Judah" signifies the Lord's celestial kingdom, and also the Word, see Arcana Coelestia 3881 Arcana Coelestia 3881[1-11], 6363; therefore "its water-courses" signify the particulars of the Word; that "mountains" signify the good of love to the Lord, n. Arcana Coelestia 795, 4210, 6435, 8327, 8758, 10438, 10608; and "hills" the good of charity towards the neighbor, n. 6435, 10438; and this because in heaven those who are in the good of love to the Lord dwell upon mountains, and those who are in the good of charity towards the neighbor dwell upon hills, n. Arcana Coelestia 10438, and Heaven and Hell, n. 188.)

[6] In Amos:

Behold the days come, that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that draweth forth seed; and the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and all the hills shall dissolve. I will bring back the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities; and they shall inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof, and they shall make gardens and eat the fruit of them. Then will I plant them upon their ground (Amos 9:13-15).

This chapter treats first of the vastation of the church, and then of its restoration by the Lord; and "the people Israel" do not mean that people, but those with whom the church was to be established; and "the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that draweth forth the seed," signifies that he who receives good and truth shall also perform uses, or bear fruit, thus that with the man of the church the two shall be present at the same time; "the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and all the hills shall dissolve," signifies, as just above, that from the good of love to the Lord and from the good of charity towards the neighbor there shall be truths in abundance, "sweet wine" here, or "wine," meaning truth; that "the captivity of the people Israel shall be brought back" signifies the restoration of the church among the Gentiles, for "captivity" means spiritual captivity, in which those are who are remote from goods and truths, and yet in a desire for them (see Arcana Coelestia 9164). "The waste cities that they shall build" signify the doctrinals of truth and good from the Word, before destroyed and at that time to be restored; "the vineyards which they shall plant," and "the wine of which they shall drink," signify all things of the church from which there is intelligence, "a vineyard" signifies the spiritual church, and therefore "vineyards" signify all things of the church; "wine" signifies the truth of the church in general, and "to drink it" signifies to be instructed and become intelligent, thus intelligence; and "the gardens which they shall make, and the fruit of which they shall eat," signifies wisdom, "gardens" meaning all things of intelligence, and their "fruit" signifying the goods of life, thus "to eat their fruit" signifies the appropriation of good, thus wisdom, for wisdom comes when truths are committed to the life; and because this is what is meant, therefore it is said of Israel, "I will plant them upon their ground."

[7] In Moses:

He bindeth his foal to the vine, the son of his she-ass unto the noble vine; he washeth his vesture in wine, and his covering in the blood of the grapes. His eyes are red with wine, and his teeth white with milk (Genesis 49:1, 12).

This is in the prophecy of Israel the father respecting Judah, by whom here Judah is not meant, but the Lord in relation to the celestial kingdom; and "wine" and the "blood of grapes" mean the Divine truth. (What the rest signifies, and that "wine" signifies Divine truth, because this has reference to the Lord, see Arcana Coelestia 6375-6381.)

(References: Genesis 49:11-12)


[8] In the same:

Jacob brought of his venison to his father Isaac, and he did eat; and he brought him wine, and he drank. And Isaac blessed him, saying, God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatnesses of the earth, and plenty of corn and new wine (Genesis 27:25, 27-28, 37).

Those who do not know that the Word is spiritual in its particulars may suppose that by "Isaac" here is meant Isaac, and by "Jacob" Jacob, and therefore that by "the fatnesses of the earth," and "the corn and new wine," no other and deeper things are meant; but "Isaac" here represents the Lord, and "Jacob" the church; thence the "fatnesses of the earth" mean the celestial things that are of the good of love; and "corn and new wine" every good and truth of the church. (But these words may also be seen explained in Arcana Coelestia (Arcana Coelestia 3570), n. 3570, 3579, 3580.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3579-3580, Genesis 27:26-28)


[9] In the same:

If ye shall harken to My commandments, I will give rain to your land in its time, the former rain and the latter rain; and thou shall gather in thy corn, and thy new wine, and thy fresh oil (Deuteronomy 11:13-14).

These blessings of the earth were promised to the sons of Israel if they would hear and do the commandments of Jehovah, and the blessings followed because with them the church was representative, and the things that were said and commanded by Jehovah corresponded to things spiritual, thus these blessings of the earth to the blessings of heaven. The blessings of heaven, to which the blessings of the earth correspond, all have reference to the things that are of the good of love and the truth of faith; these blessings therefore are signified by "the former rain and the latter rain," for "rain" in particular signifies Divine truth flowing in out of heaven, from which all things of the church and heaven with man are born, grow, and are brought forth; therefore "the corn, new wine, and oil, which they should gather in," signify every good and truth of the external and internal man.

[10] In the same:

Thus Israel dwelt securely, alone by the fountain of Jacob, in a land of corn and new wine; yea, his heavens shall drop down dew (Deuteronomy 33:28).

This was the conclusion of the blessings of the sons of Israel by Moses, which were all prophetical, and every son or every tribe of Israel signified something of the church (as in Genesis 49); and here "Israel" signifies the church itself; and "to dwell securely, alone by the fountain of Jacob," signifies to live without infestation from evils and falsities, and to be led by the Lord alone through Divine truth, the "fountain of Jacob" meaning Divine truth and the Word; and "to live in a land of corn and new wine" signifies in every good and truth of the church; and "yea, his heavens shall drop down dew," signifies influx out of heaven.

[11] In the same:

He made him ride upon the high places of the earth, and gave him butter of the herd, and milk of the flock, with the fat of lambs, and of rams, the sons of Bashan, and of he-goats, with the fat of the kidneys of wheat; and thou drinkest the blood of the grape, unmixed wine (Deuteronomy 32:13-14).

These things are said of the Ancient Church, which was the church previous to the Israelitish Church, and was in the good of charity and in truths of faith. The goods of every kind, in which it was, are meant by these things, namely, the "butter of the herd," the "milk of the flock," "the fat of lambs," "the fat of rams," "the fat of goats," "the fat of the kidneys of wheat;" and spiritual truths are meant by "the blood of the grape" and "unmixed wine."

[12] In Jeremiah:

They shall come and sing aloud in the height of Zion, and shall flow together unto the good of Jehovah, to the corn, and to the new wine, and to the fresh oil, and to the sons of the flock and of the herd (Jeremiah 31:12).

"Corn," "new wine," and "fresh oil," signify goods and truth of every kind (what these mean in particular, see above, n. 374). In Isaiah:

Jehovah hath sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength, Surely I will no longer give thy corn to be food for thine enemies, and the sons of the alien shall not drink thy new wine for which thou hast labored; but they that gather it shall eat it and praise Jehovah, and they that bring it together shall drink it in the courts of holiness (Isaiah 62:8-9).

This is said of Jerusalem, which signifies the church in relation to doctrine; therefore "the corn that shall no longer be given as food for the enemies, and the new wine that the sons of the alien shall not drink" signify in general the good and truth of the church, which shall no longer be consumed by evils and falsities; "enemies" here meaning evils, and "the sons of the alien" falsities, and "to eat," or "to have food given them," and "to drink," mean to consume. That goods and truths will remain with those who receive them, and thence make use of them, is signified by "they that gather it shall eat it," and "they that bring it together shall drink it;" worship from these is signified by "praising Jehovah," and "drinking in the courts of holiness."

(References: Isaiah 62:7-9; The Apocalypse Explained 374)


[13] In the same:

Gladness is taken away, and exultation from Carmel; and in the vineyards there is no singing aloud, no shouting for joy; the treader treadeth not out the wine in the wine-vats; I have made the vintage-shouting to cease (Isaiah 16:10).

This describes the taking away of the heavenly enjoyment that is from good and its truths, because good and truth itself is taken away; the good of the church is meant by "Carmel," and its truths by "vineyards" and by "treading out the wine in the wine-vats;" the enjoyments thereof that are taken away are meant by "gladness," "exultation," "singing aloud," "shouting," and "vintage-shouting," for it was a custom to sing in the vineyards, and in the winepresses when the grape was trodden into wine, that enjoyments from truths, which were signified by "wine," might be represented.

[14] In Jeremiah:

With more than the weeping of Jazer I will weep for thee, O vine of Sibmah; thy shoots are passed over the sea, they reach even to the sea of Jazer; upon thy autumn fruits, and upon thy vintage the devastator is fallen. Whence gladness and exultation is gathered out of Carmel, and out of the land of Moab; and I have caused the wine to cease in the wine-vats; none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting (Jeremiah 48:32-33).

This also treats of the taking away of the heavenly enjoyment that is from the good of love and the truths thence, for all heavenly enjoyment is in these and from these. Lamentation over it is meant by "weeping" [flere fletum]; deprivation of it is meant by "gladness and exultation is gathered out of Carmel," likewise by "the devastator falling upon it," "the wine failing," and "the shouting being no shouting;" the good that was taken away, for which there was lamentation, is meant by "the autumn fruits;" and the truths of good that were taken away are meant by "the vintage," and by "the wine in the wine-vats." That truths were banished, and that they perished through knowledges [scientifica] is meant by "the vine of Sibmah," and by its "shoots that have gone over the sea, even to the sea of Jazer," "sea" signifying the knowing faculty [scientificum].

[15] In Lamentations:

The infant and the suckling faint in the broad places of the city. They say to their mothers, Where is the corn and the wine? when they faint as one pierced in the broad places of the city, when their soul is poured out upon their mother's bosom (Lam. 2:11-12).

These words contain a lamentation over the Jewish Church, that every good and truth thereof has perished; and the lamentation is described by "the infant and the suckling who faint in the broad places of the city, and say to their mothers, Where is the corn and the wine?" The "infant and the suckling" signify those who are in the good of innocence, and in an abstract sense, the good of innocence itself; by this good every good of the church is meant, since it is the essential of all its goods (see in the work on Heaven and Hell, n. 276-283, 285, 288, 341, 382). "The broad places of the city" signify the truths of doctrine; "mothers" all things of the church; "corn and wine" all the good and truth of the church in general. It is said that "they faint as one pierced in the broad places of the city, when their soul is poured out upon their mother's bosom," because "one pierced" signifies those who perish spiritually from the deprivation of truth, and "soul" signifies spiritual life. (That "the broad places of the city, in which they faint," signify the truths of doctrine, see Arcana Coelestia, n. 2336; and that "the mother, into whose bosom the soul is poured out," signifies the church, n. 2691, 2717, 3703, 4257, 5581, 8897)

[16] In Zephaniah:

Their wealth shall be for plunder, and their houses for a waste, that they may build houses but not inhabit them, and plant vineyards but not drink the wine thereof (Zephaniah 1:13).

The "wealth that shall be for plunder" signifies spiritual wealth, which is the knowledges of good and truth; "the houses that shall be for devastation" signify the things of the church in man; that from these when devastated one profits nothing and receives nothing, even though he listens to them, and sees them in the Word, is signified by "building and not inhabiting, and planting vineyards and not drinking the wine thereof," "houses" meaning the goods of the church, and "vineyards" with "wine" its truths.

[17] Like things are meant in Micah:

Thou shalt sow but shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olive but shalt not anoint thee with oil, and the new wine but shall not drink wine (Micah 6:15).

In Amos:

Vineyards of desire shall ye plant, but ye shall not drink the wine of them (Amos 5:11).

And in Hosea:

The threshing-floor and the wine-vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall dissemble unto them. They shall not pour forth wine to Jehovah, and these shall not be agreeable unto Him (Hosea 9:2, 4).

The "threshing-floor and the wine-vat" signify the same as "corn and wine," because corn and wine are there collected; that they will not profit by what they hear is signified by "they shall not feed them, and the new wine shall dissemble unto them;" and that thence their worship is not accepted is signified by "they shall not pour forth wine to Jehovah, and these (that is, the offerings) shall not be agreeable unto Him."

[18] In Joel:

Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine which is cut off from your mouth. The field is devastated, the ground mourned, for the corn was devastated, the new wine was dried up, the fresh oil languisheth; the husbandmen were ashamed; the vine-dressers howled (Joel 1:5, 10-11).

What these words signify in the spiritual sense, may be seen above n. 374, where they are explained; "wine" and "sweet wine" meaning the truth of the church, and "vine-dressers" those who are in truths and teach them. This treats of a devastated church, in which goods and truths have perished.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 374)


[19] In Ezekiel:

Damascus was thy trader in the multitude of thy works, in the multitude of all riches, in the wine of Heshbon 1 and the wool of Zachar (Ezekiel 27:18).

This is said of Tyre, which signifies the church in relation to the knowledges of good and truth; and "Damascus," which was a city in Syria, signifies the concordant knowing faculty [scientificum]; and the "tradings" referred to in this chapter signify the acquisition and communication and also the use of these. Because "Damascus" signifies the concordant knowing faculty, it is called a "trader in the multitude of all works and riches," "works" by which uses are effected, signifying the knowledges of good, and "riches" the knowledges of truth; and as the knowledges of truth and good are in the natural man, for therein is everything pertaining to cognition and knowing that is perceptible, therefore it is said "in the wine of Heshbon and the wool of Zachar," the "wine of Heshbon" signifying natural truth, and the "wool of Zachar" natural good.

[20] In Isaiah:

A malediction shall devour the earth; the new wine shall mourn, the vine shall languish, all the glad of heart shall sigh. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it. The city of voidness shall be broken down; every house shall be shut, that no one come in (Isaiah 24:6-7, 9-10).

These words describe the perversion of the church, which takes place when falsity rules in place of truth, whence there is no longer any good; for man has good by means of truths. "The earth that the malediction will devour" signifies the church, "malediction" meaning its perversion; the "new wine that will mourn," and the "vine that will languish," signify all truth of the church, "to mourn" and "to languish" signifying deprivation of it; that there shall no longer be any heavenly enjoyment and blessedness is signified by "all the glad of heart shall sigh, they shall not drink wine with a song;" that they shall turn away from all things that agree with truths is signified by "strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it," "strong drink" signifying the things that are from truths and agree with them. But that the doctrine of falsity shall be destroyed is signified by "the city of voidness shall be broken down," "city" meaning doctrine, and "a void" falsity; and that there shall no longer be any good or wisdom with man is signified by "every house shall be shut, that no one come in," which takes place when there is no truth, but only falsity.

[21] In Amos:

Who drink out of bowls of wine, and anoint themselves with the firstfruits of the oils; but they are not grieved for the breach of Joseph (Amos 6:6).

This and what precedes in that chapter describes those who are in external worship without internal, such as the Jews were formerly and still are; the "bowls of wine out of which they drink" are the externals of truth from which is worship; and the "firstfruits of the oils with which they anoint themselves" are the externals of good, from which also is worship; "Joseph" signifies the internal of the church or its spiritual; not being affected because this perishes is signified by "they are not grieved for his breach." (That external worship without internal is no worship, see Arcana Coelestia 1094, 1175, 7724; that the Jews were formerly and still are in external worship without internal, n. 1200, 3147, 3479, 8871; that "Joseph" signifies the spiritual church, thus also the spiritual of the church, n. 3969, 3971, 4669, 6417)

[22] In Zechariah:

I will render the house of Judah mighty and I will save the house of Joseph; on this account they shall be as the mighty Ephraim, and their heart shall be glad as if with wine (Zechariah 10:6-7).

"The house of Judah" signifies the Lord's celestial church, and the "house of Joseph" the Lord's spiritual church; and "to render mighty their houses" signifies to multiply with them truths from good, for all might is of truth from good; therefore it is said, "they shall be as the mighty Ephraim;" "Ephraim" signifying the understanding of truth from good, which is called mighty from its multiplication; heavenly enjoyment therefrom is signified by "their heart shall be glad as if with wine," "wine" meaning truth from good from which that enjoyment comes. (That truths have all power from good, see in the work o n Heaven and Hell 228-233; and also above, n. 209, 333; that "Judah" in the Word signifies the Lord's celestial kingdom, Arcana Coelestia 3881 Arcana Coelestia 3881[1-11], 6363; and "Ephraim" the intellectual of the church, n. 3969, 5354, 6222, 6234, 6238, 6267, 6296.)

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 209, The Apocalypse Explained 333)


[23] In Daniel:

Belshazzar king of Babylon, and his magnates, and his wives, and his concubines, drank wine out of vessels of the temple of Jerusalem, and praised the gods of silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone. Therefore there was written on the wall, Numbered, weighed, and divided. And then he [Nebuchadnezzar] was driven out from the sons of man, and his dwelling was with the wild asses (Daniel 5:2-5, 21).

In the internal sense this describes the profanation of good and truth, which also is meant by "Babel" or "Babylon;" for "to drink wine out of the vessels of the temple of Jerusalem" signifies to draw the truths of the church from the Word, "to drink wine" meaning to draw truths, and "the vessels of the temple of Jerusalem" meaning the truths that belong to the doctrine of the church from the Word; and "to praise the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone" signifies worship from the love of self and the world; for these gods signify idolatrous worship of every kind, and profanation; that it was therefore written on the wall, "numbered, weighed, divided" signifies separation from all things of heaven and the church. That afterwards "the king was driven out from the sons of man, and his dwelling was with the wild asses" signifies separation from all truth, and the allotment of his life with the infernals, "sons of man" meaning the truths of the church, "wild asses" those who are in dire falsities like those in the hells, and "dwelling" meaning the allotment of the life.

(References: Daniel 5:24-25)


[24] In Joel:

They have cast a lot upon My people; for they have given a boy for a harlot, and sold a girl for wine, which they drank (Joel 3:3).

"To cast lots upon the people" signifies to dissipate the truths of the church, "to cast a lot" signifying to dissipate, and "people" signifying the church in relation to truths, thus also the truths of the church; "to give a boy for a harlot" signifies to falsify truth, "boy" meaning the truth of the church, and "harlot" falsity; and "to sell a girl for wine, which they drank" signifies to pervert the good of the church by truth falsified, "girl" meaning the good of the church, and "wine" truth falsified.

[25] Because "wine" signified the truth of the church that is from good, it was commanded that, with the sacrifices upon the altar, a meal-offering and a drink-offering should be offered, and the meal-offering was bread, and the drink-offering wine; these signified worship of the Lord from the good of love, and from the truths therefrom; for all worship is from these. (On the drink-offerings, the portions of wine with them at the different sacrifices, see Exodus 29:40, 41; Leviticus 23:13, 18; Numbers 6:1-4, 15, 17; 15:4-7, 10, 24; 28:7-10, 24, 31; 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 27, 28, 31, 34, 38, 39; and besides Genesis 35:14) This makes clear what is signified in Joel:

The meal-offering and the drink-offering was cut off from the house of Jehovah; the priests, the ministers (of the altar), mourned (Joel 1:9);

namely, that worship from the good of love, and from the truths therefrom, had perished. Who cannot see that the meal-offering and the drink-offering, which were bread and wine, were not pleasing to Jehovah in worship, unless they had signified such things as are of heaven and the church?

(References: Exodus 29:40-41; Numbers 29:27-28, 29:38-39)


[26] From this it can now be seen what the bread and wine in the Holy Supper involve, namely, the bread, the good of love to the Lord from the Lord, and the wine, the good of faith, which in its essence is truth. (But on the Holy Supper and the bread and wine of it, see The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 210-222.) Because "wine" signifies the good of faith, which in its essence is truth, when the Lord instituted the sacrament of the supper, He said:

I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this product of the vine until that day when I will drink it with you new in My Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

I say unto you, I will not drink of the product of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come (Luke 22:18).

"The product of the vine," that is, "wine," which the Lord "would drink with them new in His Father's kingdom," or "when the kingdom of God should come," means that all Divine truth in heaven and the church would then be from His Divine Human; He therefore calls it "new," and also He calls it "the new testament in his blood" (Luke 22:20); for "the Lord's blood" has a like signification as "wine" (see above, n. 30, 328, 329). And as everything Divine, since the Lord has risen, proceeds from Him, He says that He will drink it with them when the kingdom of God shall come, and it came when He reduced all things to order in the heavens and in the hells. That the kingdom of God came at the same time with the Lord and that it is from Him can be seen from Matthew 3:2; 4:8; 10:7; 12:28; 16:28; Mark 1:14, 15; 9:1; Luke 1:32, 33; 9:11, 27, 60; 10:11; 16:16; 17:20, 21; 23:42, 51; John 18:36. Now, because "bread" signifies the good of love, and "wine" the good of faith, which in its essence is the truth from that good, and in the highest sense, "bread" signifies the Lord in respect to Divine good, and "wine" the Lord in respect to Divine truth, and because there is a correspondence between spiritual things and natural, (and such a correspondence that when "bread" and "wine" are in man's thought, the good of love and the good of faith are in the angels' thoughts), and because all things of heaven and the church have reference to the good of love and the good of faith, therefore the Lord instituted the Holy Supper in order that by means of it there might be a conjunction of the angels of heaven with the men of the church.

(References: Luke 1:32-33, Luke 17:20-21; Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:17; The Apocalypse Explained 30, The Apocalypse Explained 328, 329)


[27] Because such things are meant by "bread and wine" in heaven, therefore:

Melchizedek, king of Salem, going out to meet Abram, brought out bread and wine; and he was a priest to God Most High. And he blessed Abram (Genesis 14:18-19).

"Melchizedek" here represents the Lord in relation to Divine good and in relation to Divine truth, as priest in relation to Divine good, and as king to Divine truth; therefore he "brought out bread and wine," "bread" signifying Divine good, and "wine" Divine truth; or when applied to man, "bread" signifying the good of love to the Lord, and "wine" the good of faith, which is from the reception of Divine truth.

[28] The "wine" spoken of by the Lord in the following passages has a like signification:

They do not put new wine into old wine-skins, else the skins burst, and the wine is spilled; but they put [new] wine into fresh wine-skins, and both are preserved (Matthew 9:17).

And no man having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is more useful (Luke 5:39).

This comparison, like all others in the Word, is from correspondences, "wine" signifying truth, "old wine" the truth of the old or Jewish Church, and "wine-skins" things that contain, "old wine-skins" the statutes and judgments of the Jewish Church, and "fresh wine-skins" the precepts and commandments of the Lord. That the statutes and judgments of the Jewish Church, which related especially to sacrifices and representative worship, are not in agreement with the truths of the Christian Church is meant by "they do not put new wine into old wine-skins, else the wine-skins burst and the wine is spilled; but they put [new] wine into fresh wine-skins, and both are preserved together." That those who have been born and educated in the externals of the Jewish Church cannot be brought immediately into the internals belonging to the Christian Church is signified by "no man having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, "The old is more useful."

(References: Luke 5:37-39)


[29] The same is signified by "the water turned into wine at Cana of Galilee," thus described in John:

At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, when the wine failed, there were six water-pots of stone set there, according to the cleansing of the Jews. Jesus said, Fill the water-pots; and they filled them to the brim. Then he said unto them Draw out now, and bear unto the ruler of the feast; and they bare it. While the ruler of the feast tasted the water that was made wine, he calleth the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man setteth on first the good wine; and when they have had enough, the inferior; thou hast kept the good wine until now (John 2:1-10).

It should be known that all the miracles done by the Lord, as well as all the miracles by Him spoken of in the Old Testament, signified, that is, contained within them, such things as belong to heaven and the church, and that thence His miracles were Divine (see Arcana Coelestia 7337, 8364, 9051). So with this miracle; here, as elsewhere in the Word, "a wedding" signifies the church; "in Cana of Galilee" means among the Gentiles; "water" the truth of the external church, such as was the truth of the Jewish Church from the sense of the letter of the Word, and "wine" the truth of the internal church, such as is the truth of the Christian Church; therefore the Lord's "making the water wine" signifies that of the truths of the external church He will make truths of the internal church by opening the internal things that have lain concealed in them. "The six water-pots of stone, set there according to the cleansing of the Jews," signify all these truths in the Word, and thence in the Jewish Church and its worship; these were all representative and significative of things Divine in the Lord and from the Lord, which contained things eternal. For this reason there were "six water-pots of stone, set for the cleansing of the Jews;" the number "six" signifies all, and is predicated of truths; "stone" signifies truth, and "the cleansing of the Jews" purification from sins; thus all things of the Jewish Church are signified, since that church regards purification from sins as its all, for so far as anyone is purified from sins, so far he becomes a church. "The ruler of the feast" means those who are in the knowledges of truth; his saying to the bridegroom, "every man setteth on first the good wine; and when men have had enough, the inferior; thou hast kept the good wine until now," signifies that every church has its beginning in truths from good, but falls away into truths not of good, but that now, at the end of the church, truth from good, or genuine truth, is granted, namely by the Lord.

[30] It is because "wine" signifies the truth of the church, and "oil" the good of the church, that the Lord says, in the parable of the man who was wounded by thieves:

That the Samaritan poured oil and wine into his wounds (Luke 10:33-34);

where "the man wounded by thieves" means those who are infested and have their conscience hurt by evil men, who are "robbers;" and "the Samaritan" means the Gentiles that are in the good of charity; therefore "his pouring into his wounds oil and wine" signifies the spiritual things that heal a man thus injured, "oil" meaning the good of love, and "wine" the good of faith, or truth. What the rest signifies, namely, "that he set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and told them to take care of him," may be seen above (n. 375

(References: Hosea 7:4-5; Isaiah 1:21-22; Psalms 104:15; The Apocalypse Explained 375; Zechariah 9:15-17)


[8]), where they are explained. That "wine" signifies the truth of the church can be seen not only from the passages cited, but also from others in the Word (as Isaiah 1:21, 22; 25:6; 36:17; Hosea 7:4, 5, 14; 14:5-7; Amos 2:8; Zechariah 9:15, 17; Psalms 104:14-16).

[31] As most things in the Word have also a contrary sense, so, too, has "wine," and in that sense it signifies truth falsified, and also falsity, as in the following passages. In Isaiah:

Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, to the flower of his fading adornment, which is on the head of the valley of the fat ones frenzied with wine; the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, they shall be trampled under the feet; these go astray through wine, and through strong drink they err; the priest and the prophet go astray through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they err through wine, 2 they go astray among the seeing, they waver in judgment (Isaiah 28:1, 3, 7).

This is said of those who are insane in things spiritual because they believe themselves to be intelligent of themselves, and glory in it; the state of such is here described by pure correspondences; those who are insane in things spiritual or in truths are meant by "the drunkards," and those who thence believe themselves intelligent by "Ephraim," and hence glorying in intelligence or learning is meant by the "crown of pride;" for those who are in falsities of doctrine and have confirmed themselves in them, when they are illustrated and see truths, in the other life become like drunkards. The learned who have confirmed themselves in falsities become such, and to confirm oneself in falsities is to confirm from oneself and not from the Lord. This makes clear what is signified by "woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim;" "the flower of the fading adornment that is on the head of the valley of the fat ones frenzied with wine" signifies the truth of the church destroyed even as it is born by the glorying of the self-intelligence that is of the natural man separated from the spiritual, when falsity is seen instead of truth, "the flower of the adornment" meaning truth as it is born declining or perished; "the head of the valley of the fat ones" means the intelligence of the natural man; "frenzied with wine" means those who see falsity in place of truth; "the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, they shall be trampled under the feet," signifies that this intelligence shall utterly perish; "these go astray through wine, and through strong drink they err," signifies through falsities and through such things as are from falsities; "the priest and the prophet go astray through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are gone astray through strong drink," signifies that such are those who ought to be in the doctrine of good and truth, and in a sense abstracted from persons that such is their doctrine itself; "they go astray among the seeing, they waver in judgment," signifies that they do not see the truths of intelligence. That these words have such a signification no one can see except from the spiritual sense; without that it could not be known that "crown" and "head" signify intelligence, that "drunkards" signify those who are insane in things spiritual, that "Ephraim" signifies here man's own understanding, or that which is from himself, that "valley" signifies the lower things of the mind, which are natural and sensual, and that "priest and prophet" signify the doctrine of good and truth.

[32] In the same:

Linger ye, wonder, be astounded, and cry out; they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink; for Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed up your eyes; the prophets and your heads, the seers hath He covered (Isaiah 29:9-10).

This is said of those who can see nothing of truth when they hear or read it from the Word; those who are such are called "drunken but not with wine," and "they stagger, but not with strong drink," "wine" signifying in particular the truth of the spiritual and thus of the rational man, and "strong drink" the truth of the natural man therefrom. Because such are meant it is said, "Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed up your eyes," "the spirit of deep sleep" meaning no perception, and the "eyes closed up" no understanding. "The prophets and your heads [the seers] hath He covered," signifies those who are in the doctrine of truth and were wise and intelligent thence; "prophets" signify those who are in the doctrine of truth, and in an abstract sense, doctrine itself, "heads" signify the wise, and in an abstract sense, wisdom, and "seers" signify the intelligent, and in an abstract sense, intelligence. Wonder at such gross stupidity is described by "Linger ye, wonder, be astounded," and lamentation over it by "cry out." Such are those who are in a life of evil, and at the same time in the principles of falsity, however learned they are believed to be; for a life of evil shuts out the perception of good by which thought has life and light, and the principles of falsity shut out the understanding of truth, on which account they see from the sensual man only, and not at all from the spiritual.

[33] In the same:

The dogs are strong of soul, they know not satiety; and they are shepherds who know not intelligence. Come, I will take wine and we will be drunk with strong drink (Isaiah 56:11-12).

This is said of those who care for nothing but worldly and earthly things, which close the internal spiritual man. These, from having no perception of good and no understanding of truth, are called "dogs strong of soul, they know not satiety," that is, they are unable to receive good, "to know" here signifies to be able, and "satiety" reception of good, for satiety is predicated of food, by which spiritual nourishment is signified. That they have no understanding of truth is meant by "they are shepherds who know not intelligence;" those are called "shepherds" who believe themselves able to instruct others, for "to feed" means to instruct; and because such persons love falsities and things falsified, it is added, "Come, I will take wine, and we will be drunk with strong drink."

[34] In Jeremiah:

Thus said Jehovah, God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine. Behold I fill all the inhabitants of this land, and the kings sitting for David upon his throne, and the priests and the prophets, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with drunkenness (Jeremiah 13:12-13).

Here, too, "wine" signifies falsity, and "every bottle that shall be filled with wine" signifies the mind of man, since the mind is a recipient of truth or of falsity, as a bottle is of wine; "the kings sitting for David upon his throne" signify those who would otherwise be in Divine truths, "priests" those who would be in Divine goods, "prophets," those who would be in doctrine, "the inhabitants of Jerusalem" all who are of the church; and "the drunkenness with which they shall be filled" signifies insanity in spiritual things.

[35] In the same:

I am become like a drunkard, and like a man into whom wine hath passed, because of Jehovah, and because of the words of His Holiness. For the land is full of adulterers (Jeremiah 23:9-10).

This is a lamentation over the adulteration of good and falsification of truth in the church, which is signified by "the land is full of adulterers;" these are meant by "adulteries," and the church by "land." Insanity in spiritual things through reasonings from evils against Divine goods and from falsities against Divine truth is signified by, "I am become like a drunkard, and like a man into whom wine has passed, because of Jehovah, and because of the words of His Holiness;" "to become like a drunkard and like a man into whom wine hath passed" signifies confusion of mind and insanity by reasoning from evils and falsities; "because of Jehovah" signifies because of Divine goods, and "because of the words of his holiness" signifies because of Divine truths.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2465, Genesis 19:32-33, Genesis 19:32-35; Isaiah 19:11-12, 24:20; Joel 1:5-6, 1:7; Leviticus 10:8-9)


[36] In Isaiah:

Hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken but not with wine (Isaiah 51:21).

The "drunken but not with wine," mean here those who are in falsities from ignorance of truth. That:

Noah drank of the wine and was drunken, and therefore lay naked in the midst of his tent (Genesis 9:21);

means in the spiritual sense, something entirely different from the meaning in the letter; likewise:

Lot's being made drunken by his daughters, and their then lying with him (Genesis 19:32-34).

What is meant by the drunkenness of Noah in the spiritual sense may be seen in Arcana Coelestia 1070-1081); and what by the drunkenness of Lot (n. 2465 end). "Drunkenness" also elsewhere in the Word signifies insanity in spiritual things, and lapsing into errors (Isaiah 19:11, 12, 14; Jeremiah 25:27; Joel 1:5-7; Jeremiah 51:7; Leviticus 10:8, 9).

[37] That "wine" in a contrary sense signifies falsity, is also evident from Isaiah:

Woe unto them that rise early in the morning, that follow strong drink; to them that delay until twilight till wine inflames them. But they do not look upon the work of Jehovah, and they see not the working of His hands. Woe to the wise in their own eyes, and the intelligent before their own faces. Woe unto the mighty in drinking wine, and to men of strength to mingle strong drink (Isaiah 5:11-12, 21-22).

This is said of those who frame for themselves doctrinals from self-intelligence not from the Lord, or from Him out of the Word, which consequently are mere falsities. "Woe unto them who rise early in the morning, who follow strong drink, to them who delay until twilight till wine inflame them; but they do not look upon the work of Jehovah, and they see not the working of His hands" signifies therefore the perverted states of those who believe that they are illustrated of themselves, whence they are in falsities of doctrine, and care not for the Word, from which they might know goods and truths of life and of doctrine. "To rise early in the morning," and "to delay until twilight" signifies to be illustrated; and "to follow strong drink," and "to be inflamed with wine" signifies to hatch out doctrinals of themselves; "not to look upon the work of Jehovah," and "not to see the working of His hands" signifies not to care for the Word, or the goods of life and the truths of doctrine there disclosed; "the work of Jehovah" is predicated of the goods of life, and "the working of His hands" of the truths of doctrine, both from the Word; because such persons are meant, therefore it is said, "Woe to the wise in their own eyes, and the intelligent before their own faces;" "the wise in their own eyes" signifying those who are wise from their own intelligence, and "the intelligent before their own faces" signifying those who are intelligent from their own affection, "eyes" signifying the understanding, and "face" affection. And "woe unto the mighty in drinking wine, and to men of strength to mingle strong drink," signifies unto such as aspire after great things, and are ingenious in confirming the falsities that favor the loves of self and their own principles; "the mighty" are those who aspire to great things; "men of strength" those who are ingenious, and seem to themselves to be intelligent; "to drink wine" means to imbibe falsities, and "to mingle strong drink" means to confirm them. Such are all those who are in the love of self, and who seek after the reputation for learning, for such are in what is their own, and cannot be elevated above it; therefore their own thought is in the corporeal sensual, by which no truth is seen, and no spiritual good is perceived. But those who are not in the love of self, and who seek intelligence for the sake of the uses of life, are elevated by the Lord from what is their own into the light of heaven, and though not themselves aware of it, are illustrated.

[38] In Hosea:

Whoredom and new wine have taken up the heart. My people ask the wood, and their rod answereth them; for the spirit of whoredom hath led them astray, and they have committed whoredom under their God. Ephraim is joined to idols; their wine is gone; in whoring they commit whoredom (Hosea 4:11-12, 17-18).

This treats of those who falsify truths; the falsification of truth is signified by "whoredom," and the falsity therefrom by "new wine." This makes clear what is signified by "whoredom and new wine have taken up the heart; the spirit of whoredoms hath seduced them, they have committed whoredom under their God, and the wine hath departed, in whoring they commit whoredom," namely, that such falsify Divine truths, and consequently have no truth at all, "to commit whoredom under their God" signifies to falsify Divine truths, and "the wine hath departed" signifies that consequently they have no truth at all; "Ephraim, who is joined to idols" signifies those who are in self-intelligence, and the "idols to which he is joined" signify the falsities of religion. "My people ask the wood, and their rod answereth them" signifies that they consult their self-love, and favor it from self-intelligence; for "wood" or an idol of wood, which they ask, signifies self-love, and "the rod that answers" signifies power from what is one's own, thus intelligence.

[39] In Revelation:

Babylon is fallen is fallen, the great city, because of the wine of the wrath of her whoredom she hath made all nations to drink. If anyone worshipeth the beast he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which hath been mingled unmixed in the cup of the anger [of God]; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone (Revelation 14:8-10);

I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed whoredom, and they that dwell in the earth were made drunk from the wine of her whoredom (Revelation 17:1-2).

For of the wine of the wrath of her whoredom have all nations drunk, and the kings of the earth have committed whoredom with her (Revelation 18:3).

"The wine of the anger of God" signifies the falsity of evil, and "the wine of whoredom" signifies truth falsified; what the rest means will appear in the explanation of it, likewise what these words mean in Revelation:

Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the wrath of God's anger (Revelation 16:19);

"The wine of God's anger" having the same meaning as "the chalice, or cup, of God's anger."

(References: Daniel 5:24-25; Genesis 19:32-35, Genesis 27:25-28, Genesis 49:11-12; Isaiah 62:7-9; Joel 1:9-11; Revelation 6:6)


[40] In Jeremiah:

Babylon hath been a cup of gold in the hand of Jehovah, making the whole earth drunken; the nations have drunk of her wine, therefore the nations are mad (Jeremiah 51:7).

And in David:

There is a cup in the hand of Jehovah, and He hath mingled the wine, hath filled it with mixture, and hath poured out; but the lees of it all the wicked of the earth shall suck out and drink (Psalms 75:8).

As the "meal-offering" and the "drink-offering," which were bread and wine, signify worship from the good of love and the truths of faith, so in a contrary sense, the "meal-offering" and "drink-offering" signify worship from the evils that are of the love of evil, and from the falsities of faith; this was signified by the "meal-offering" and "drink-offering" that were offered to idols and to the gods (Isaiah 57:6; 65:11; Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19; Ezekiel 20:28; Deuteronomy 32:38). From the signification of "wine" it can be seen what "vineyard," "vine," its "branches," and "grapes" signify in the Word, namely, that "a vineyard" signifies the spiritual church, that is, the church that is in the truths and goods of doctrine from the Lord, "a vine" the doctrine itself, its "branches" truths from which doctrine is formed, and "the grapes" which are the fruit of vineyards and of vines, the goods of charity and the goods of faith (but of these elsewhere).

Footnotes:

1. Hebrew has "Helbon. "

2. In AC 6377 we read "strong drink."

  
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Apocalypse Explained 368, 405, 419, 433, 492, 619, 625, 638, 657, 811, 881, 887, 918, 919, 920, 962, 1035, 1049, 1152, 1154


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The Symbolism of Water and Wine

We dig into the correspondence of water and wine and how these two symbols can help us understand our own relationship to God and how to live spiritually.

Apocalypse Explained #376 >> 11:44, 19:50, 45:19
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 Jesus' First Sign at Cana
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