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
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

The Lord 19, 29, 40, 42

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

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

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

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

  Spiritual Topics:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

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

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Jeremiah 23:5

Daniel 2:44, 7:14

Obadiah 1:21

Micah 4:7

Word/Phrase Explanations

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...

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

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

Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

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...

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...

Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

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

'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

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...

“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...

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...

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...

'The seven spirits' in Matthew 12:45 signify all falsities of evil, and as a result, a total extinction of goodness and truth. 'The seven spirits'...

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...

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

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



You Shall Bear a Son      

By Rev. Eric Carswell

The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
By Henry Ossawa Tanner -, Public Domain,

"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


Arcana Coelestia #5313

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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5313. 'Only in the throne will I be great, more than you' means that the natural will be seen as sovereign, because the celestial of the spiritual acts through the natural. This is clear from the meaning of 'being great, more than another' as being greater, in this case so far as what is seen or appears to be so; and from the meaning of 'the throne' at this point as the natural. The natural is meant by 'the throne' when the celestial of the spiritual is meant by the one who is seated on it; for the natural is like a throne for the spiritual or in this case the celestial of the spiritual. Generally what is lower is like a throne for what is higher; for the higher exists and acts within the lower, indeed acts through the lower. What is done by it seems to be the work of the lower because, as stated, it acts through the lower. This is the meaning of what Pharaoh said to Joseph - Only in the throne will I be great, more than you.

[2] 'Throne' is used frequently in the Word when reference is made to Divine Truth and judgement based on this. In these places 'throne' means in the internal sense that which is the essence of Divine kingship, and 'the one seated on it' is the Lord Himself acting as King or Judge. But the exact meaning of 'the throne', as with the meaning of quite a number of other things, is determined by the context. When the Lord's essential Divine Being and His Divine Human are meant by 'the one seated on the throne', Divine Truth going forth from Him is meant by 'the throne'. When however Divine Truth going forth from the Lord is meant by 'the one seated on the throne', the whole of heaven, which Divine Truth suffuses, is meant by 'the throne'. And when the Lord present with Divine Truth in the higher heavens is meant by 'the one seated on the throne', Divine Truth as this exists in the lowest heaven, and also as it exists in the Church, is meant by 'the throne'. Thus the context decides whatever specific meaning 'the throne' may have. The reason 'the throne' means that which belongs to Divine Truth is that in the Word 'king' means truth, and so too does 'kingdom'. For the meaning of 'king', see 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069, 3009, 3670, 4581, 4966, 5044, 5068; and for that of 'kingdom', 1672, 2547, 4691.

(References: Revelation 21:2)

[3] The specific meaning that 'throne' has at any point in the Word is evident from the train of thought in which it occurs, as in Matthew,

I say to you, You shall not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Matthew 5:34-35.

And elsewhere in the same gospel,

He who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by Him who sits on it. Matthew 23:22.

Here it is explicitly stated that heaven is 'God's throne'. 'The earth', which is called 'a footstool', means that which is beneath heaven, and so means the Church - the Church being meant by 'the earth', see 566, 662, 1066, 1067, 1262, 1413, 1607, 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118, 2928, 3355, 4447, 4535. A similar usage is seen in Isaiah,

Thus said Jehovah, The heavens are My throne and the earth My footstool. Isaiah 66:1.

And in David,

Jehovah has established His throne in the heavens. Psalms 103:19.

In Matthew,

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. Matthew 25:31.

This refers to a last judgement, 'the one seated on the throne' being called 'the King', in verses 34, 40 In the internal sense here 'the throne of glory' is the Divine Truth that flows from Divine Good in heaven, 'the one seated on the throne' being the Lord, who - inasmuch as He is a judge by virtue of Divine Truth - is called 'the King'.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1068, Arcana Coelestia 2117-2118; Matthew 25:34, 25:40)

[4] In Luke,

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give Him the throne of David His father. Luke 1:32.

These words were spoken by the angel to Mary. It is clear to anyone that here 'the throne of David' is not the kingdom which David possessed; for it is not a kingdom on earth but one in heaven. Nor therefore is David meant by 'David' but the Lord's Divine kingship, while 'the throne' means Divine Truth that goes forth and constitutes His kingdom. In John,

I was in the spirit, and behold, a throne set in heaven, and one seated upon the throne. And the one seated was in appearance like a jasper stone and a sardis. There was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting. From the throne were coming forth lightnings and thunders and voices, and likewise seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. In addition, before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. Then in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind. Whenever the four living creatures gave glory and honour and thanks to the one seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders would fall down before the one seated on the throne and would worship the one who lives for ever and ever, and would cast their crowns before the throne. Revelation 4:2-end.

(References: Revelation 4:2-11, 4:2-10)

[5] This description of the throne of the Lord's glory is used to depict Divine Truth which goes forth from Him. Representatives are used, but if someone has no knowledge of what is meant by these he will hardly be able to know anything at all about what the details of this prophecy hold within them and will suppose that all such details are devoid of any deeper Divine content. The person who knows no better cannot do other than conceive of the heavenly kingdom as one that is similar to a kingdom in the world. But in fact 'a throne set in heaven' means Divine Truth there, and so heaven as regards Divine Truth. 'One seated upon a throne' is used to mean the Lord; and the reason why in appearance He looked like 'a jasper stone and a sardis' is that those stones, like all precious stones in the Word, mean Divine Truth, 114, 3858, 3862, while stones in general mean the truths of faith, 643, 1298, 3720, 3769, 3771, 3773, 3789, 3798.

[6] 'A rainbow around the throne' means truths made translucent by good, for in the next life colours are products of the light of heaven, and the light of heaven is Divine Truth. Regarding rainbows in the next life. see 1042, 1043, 1053, 1623-1625; and regarding colours there, 1053, 1624, 3993, 4530, 4922, 4677, 4741, 4742. By 'the thrones of the twenty-four elders around the throne' are meant all aspects of truth in their entirety, like the things meant by 'twelve'; for 'twelve' means all aspects of truth in their entirety, see 577, 2089, 2129, 2130, 3272, 3858, 3913. 'The lightnings, thunders, and voices which were coming forth from the throne' means the feelings of terror which Divine Truth produces in those who are not governed by good. 'The seven lamps of fire burning' are affections for truth which is rooted in good, which likewise usher in harmful consequences for those who are not governed by good and which are therefore called 'the seven spirits of God', who, as is evident from what comes later on, 1 did usher in harmful consequences.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1042-1043, Arcana Coelestia 2129-2130, Arcana Coelestia 4741-4742)

[7] 'The sea of glass before the throne' is every truth within the natural, thus the cognitions and the factual knowledge present there; for these are meant by 'the sea', see 28, 2850.'The four living creatures which were in the midst of the throne and around the throne, and which were full of eyes in front and behind' are ideas in the understanding which are received from the Divine in heaven. 'Four' means the joining of those ideas to desires present in the will; for truths belong to the understanding part and forms of good to the will part of the human mind. This explains why it is said that 'they were full of eyes in front and behind', for 'the eyes' means ideas in the understanding and therefore in a higher sense matters of belief, 2701, 3820, 4403-4421, 4523-4534. 'Four' means a joining together, as likewise does 'two', 1686, 3519, 5194. The holiness of Divine Truth going forth from the Lord is described in what follows at this point [in the Book of Revelation].

[8] Because 'the twenty-four thrones' and 'the twenty-four elders' mean all aspects of truth, or all aspects of faith, in their entirety, and 'twelve' has a similar meaning, as has just been stated, one may consequently see what 'the twelve thrones on which the twelve apostles were seated' is used to mean in the internal sense, namely all aspects of truth, the grounds upon which, and the standard by which judgement takes place. Their thrones are referred to in Matthew as follows,

Jesus said to the disciples, Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in this generation, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28.

And in Luke,

I bestow on you, just as My Father bestowed on Me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:29-30.

'The twelve apostles' means all aspects of truth, see 2129, 2553, 3354, 3488, 3858, as do 'the twelve sons of Jacob' and therefore 'the twelve tribes of Israel', 3858, 3921, 3926, 3939, 4060, 4603. The apostles have no power to judge anyone at all, 2129, 2557.

[9] Similarly in John,

I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgement was given to them. Revelation 20:4.

Here also 'thrones' means all aspects of truth, which are the grounds upon which, and the standard by which judgement takes place. Much the same is also meant by 'the angels' with whom the Lord will come to the judgement, in Matthew 25:31. When 'angels' are mentioned in the Word some attribute of the Lord is meant, see 1705, 1925, 2320, 2821, 3039, 4085, in this case truths received from the Divine, which truths are called 'judgements' in the Word, 2235.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2319)

[10] There are very many more places in which Jehovah or the Lord has a throne attributed to Him because thrones embody within themselves that which is representative of the kingdom. When in a higher heaven they are talking about Divine Truth and judgement, a throne is seen in the lowest heaven. This is the reason why a throne is, as has been stated, representative and therefore why a throne is mentioned so many times in the prophetical part of the Word. It is also the reason why in most ancient times a throne became the sign to distinguish the king and why as such a sign it now denotes the office of a monarch. Further examples of the attribution of a throne to the Lord occur in the following places: In Moses,

Moses built an altar, and called its name Jehovah Nissi. Moreover he said, Because the hand is upon the throne of Jah, Jehovah will have war against Amalek from generation to generation. Exodus 17:15-16.

No one can know what is meant by 'the hand upon the throne of Jah' or by 'Jehovah having war against Amalek from generation to generation except from the internal sense, and so unless he knows what is meant by 'the throne' and by 'Amalek'. In the Word 'Amalek' means falsities which assail truths, 1679, and 'the throne' the Divine Truth that is assailed.

[11] In David,

O Jehovah, You have maintained my judgement and my cause; You sat upon the throne, a Judge of righteousness. Jehovah will remain there for ever; He has prepared His throne for judgement. Psalms 9:4, 7.

In the same author,

Your throne, O God, will be for ever and ever (in saeculum et aeternum); a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Your kingdom. Psalms 45:6.

In the same author,

Cloud and thick darkness are round Him, righteousness and judgement are the foundation of His throne. Psalms 97:2.

In Jeremiah,

At that time they will call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah, and all the nations will be gathered to it. Jeremiah 3:17.

[12] 'Jerusalem" stands for the Lord's spiritual kingdom. This kingdom is again meant by the new Jerusalem in Ezekiel, and also by 'the holy Jerusalem coming down from heaven' in the Book of Revelation. The Lord's spiritual kingdom exists where that which is pre-eminent is Divine Truth holding Divine Good within it, whereas the Lord's celestial kingdom exists where that which is pre-eminent is Divine Good from which Divine Truth flows. From this one may see why Jerusalem is called 'the throne of Jehovah'. And in David,

In Jerusalem they sit - the thrones for judgement. Psalms 122:5.

But Zion is called 'the throne of Jehovah's glory' in Jeremiah,

Have you utterly rejected Judah, has your soul loathed Zion? Do not spurn [us], for Your name's sake; do not dishonour the throne of your glory. Jeremiah 14:19, 21.

'Zion' is used to mean the Lord's celestial kingdom.

(References: Ezekiel 1:1; Revelation 21:1, Revelation 22:1)

[13] The way in which the Lord when executing judgement is represented in heaven, where visual scenes like those described in various places in the Prophets come before people's eyes, may be seen in Daniel,

I saw, until thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days was seated. His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was a flame of fire, its wheels burning fire. A river of fire issued and came forth before Him, a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The judgement sat down, and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10.

Sights like this occur constantly in heaven; all are representatives. They have their origin in what angels are discussing in the higher heavens, which discussion comes down from there and manifests itself in visual scenes. The angelic spirits to whom the Lord imparts perception know what is meant by such scenes. They know what is meant by 'the Ancient of Days', 'clothing white as snow', 'hair of the head like pure wool', 'a throne like a flame of fire', 'wheels that are a burning fire', and 'a river of fire going forth from Him'. 'A flame of fire' and 'a river of fire' in this case represent the Good of Divine Love, 974, 4906, 5071, 5215.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 934, Arcana Coelestia 1906)

[14] It is similar with what is said in Ezekiel,

Above the expanse that was above the heads of the cherubim, in appearance like a sapphire stone, there was the likeness of a throne, and above the likeness of a throne there was a likeness as the appearance of a man upon it. Ezekiel 1:26; 10:1.

Likewise with what is said in the first Book of Kings,

I saw - the prophet Micah said - Jehovah sitting on His throne, and the entire host of heaven standing beside Him, on His right hand and on His left. 1 Kings 22:19.

Anyone who does not know what these particular descriptions represent, or what their consequent spiritual meanings are, cannot help supposing that the Lord has a throne in the way kings on earth do, and that things actually do exist as they are described by the prophets. But no such phenomena occur in the [higher] heavens; rather they are sights presented to those in the lowest heaven, within which - as within images - they see Divine arcana.

[15] The Lord's kingship, by which one means the Divine Truth that goes forth from Him, was also represented by the throne that Solomon built, described in the first Book of Kings as follows,

Solomon made a large throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold. There were six steps to the throne, and a rounded top to the throne at the back of it; there were armrests 2 on either side at the place of the seat, and two lions standing beside the armrests, 2 and twelve lions standing there, above the six steps on either side. 1 Kings 10:18-20.

It was a throne of glory that was represented by all this. 'Lions' are Divine Truths engaged in conflict and overcoming, 'twelve lions' being all those Truths in their entirety.

(References: 1 Kings 10:18-21)

[16] Since almost everything in the Word has a contrary meaning, 'a throne' has such too. Its contrary meaning is a kingdom of falsity, as in John,

To the angel of the Church which is in Pergamum, I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Revelation 1:12-13.

In the same book,

The dragon gave the beast coming up out of the sea his power, and his throne, and great authority. Revelation 13:2.

In the same book,

The fifth angel poured out his bowl onto the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened. Revelation 16:10.

In Isaiah,

You said in your heart, I will go up into the heavens, above the stars of God I will raise my throne. Isaiah 14:13.

This refers to Babel.


1. i.e. in Chapter 8 of the Book of Revelation

2. literally, hands


(References: Revelation 2:12-13, 2:13, 4:2-10)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 5321, 5322, 5417, 6524, 6832, 7779, 8625, 9166, 9407, 9408, 9714, 9741, 9857, 9917, 9930, 10360

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 121

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 25, 31, 134, 205, 448

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.