The Bible

 

Matthew 17:24-27 : The Temple Tax

Study the Inner Meaning

        

24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 17      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 17.

Glimpses of Heaven

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1. And after six days Jesus takes Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain by themselves,

2. And was transformed before them; and His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light.

3. And behold, there was seen by them Moses and Elijah, speaking with Him.

4. And Peter answering said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if Thou willest, let us make here three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5. While he was yet speaking, behold, an illuminated cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

6. And the disciples, hearing, fell on their face, and feared exceedingly.

7. And Jesus coming touched them, and said, “Arise, and be not afraid.”

8. And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus only.
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At the end of the previous episode, Jesus promised that “there are some standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” In this next episode, He fulfills His promise — but not in the way that the disciples had expected. While they are thinking about a natural kingdom with thrones, imperial status, and political power, Jesus is preparing them for a spiritual kingdom that is governed by divine truth and filled with divine love. In this next episode, Jesus gives a few of His disciples a glimpse of that kingdom.

The disciples chosen for this special privilege are Peter, James and John. Leaving Caesarea Philippi, which is situated at the foot of Mt. Hermon, Jesus now takes these three disciples to the top of that mountain and there reveals Himself to them: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (17:1-2). 1

This mountain-top moment, known as “the Transfiguration,” is the spiritual fulfillment of what Jesus promised at the end of the preceding episode This is “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” It is a picture of what it is like to be in the presence of divine truth (“the Son of Man”) as it shines forth from the Word. The words “His face shone like the sun” is an image of God’s love, and “His clothes became as white as light” is an image of the truth that shines forth from that love. It is at moments like this that doubts about the divinity of the Word and the divinity of the Lord are overcome. The truth of Jesus’ divinity shines forth in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In that day … the light of the sun shall be as the light of seven days” (Isaiah 30:26).

This glimpse of divinity is granted everyone who undergoes the combats of temptation. It is granted to all who willingly lay down their life in the service of love and wisdom, and therefore find their life. In the Word, the labors of temptation are represented by the number “six.” As it is written, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:9). And as this episode begins, we read “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up on a high mountain.” 2

In the preceding episodes, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the necessity of temptation, and preparing them for it. Jesus Himself will have to go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things before He will be raised up again. Similarly, we also must go through temptations so that our lower nature may be humbled and our higher nature “raised up.” These are the struggles that give us the opportunity to lay aside our selfish concerns. While the struggle can be difficult and arduous, it leads to mountain-top states. In the language of sacred scripture, this peak experience is described as “being on a high mountain with Jesus.”

When Jesus told His disciples that some of them “would not taste of death” until they saw Him coming in His kingdom, they could not have known that He was referring to Peter, James, and John. The question arises, therefore, why were these three selected, and not the others? Was it because they were specially favored? Or was it, perhaps, because of what they represented? As mentioned earlier, every disciple represents a specific spiritual principle. In this case, Peter, James, and John represent the three leading principles of our awakening spiritual life: Peter represents the principle of faith; James represents the principle of charity; and John,, who is the brother of James, represents the works of charity — that is, useful service to others. Note how closely related charity and the works of charity are: they are brothers. Since these are the three leading principles of our spiritual life, they are described as being separate from all the others: “He brought them up on a high mountain by themselves.” 3

Jesus now begins to perform another great wonder. Temporarily withdrawing them from the concerns of the body and the world, He opens their spiritual sight so that they might see heavenly things. 4 We, too, are sometimes granted an unearned glimpse of heaven so that we may be inspired to continue our journey. In this case, Peter, James, and John, are brought into an elevated spiritual state because Jesus wants to prepare them and strengthen them for the eventual temptations they will endure. Glimpses of heaven, such as this, are necessary in the beginning of regeneration. It is like the beginning of marriage when people experience a pure, heavenly love for their partner. They are convinced that they have found their true love, and will do anything for that person — even lay down their life. Recalling these glimpses of heaven can strengthen them when temptations arise. 5

On the mountain, Peter, James, and John are given a fleeting glimpse of Jesus in His Divine Humanity. The memory of this miraculous moment will serve them well throughout the temptations that lay ahead. It will also be important for them to know that Jesus is intimately connected to the Hebrew scriptures. We read therefore that “Moses and Elijah were seen along with Jesus, talking with Him” (17:3). This is a wonderful picture of the Law (Moses), the Prophets (Elijah) and Gospels (Jesus), now together as the complete Word of God — “speaking together.” In our temptation combats we need more than pleasant and delightful memories. We need more than “glimpses” of heaven. We also need the living truth of the Word, active in our minds, the law of Moses, the words of the Prophets, and the teachings of Jesus. And we need to see essential agreement among these teachings; we need to see them “speaking together.”

Peter, amazed and overwhelmed by this wonderful vision, expresses his desire to enshrine this memory in his heart forever: “Lord,” he says, “It is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You; one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (17:4). But even while Peter is still speaking, a response comes from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him’” (17:5). The voice from heaven does not say, “These are my three prophets. Hear them.” It says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.”

The seamless connection of every episode — even very sentence — becomes especially clear in moments like this. Our spiritual rebirth may begin with seeing some truth shining from Word — the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. But the birth process cannot stop there. It’s not just about seeing the truth; it’s about hearing the truth. “Hear Him” says the voice.

The sense of hearing surpasses the sense of sight in that what is heard goes beyond what is seen. If we say to someone, “I hear you,” it means that we not only understand the meaning of the words; we also feel the affection behind the words. In scripture, “hearing the Word of the Lord,” is not just about listening; it’s also about having an inner perception of the truth and, at the same time, a worshipful desire to obey what has been heard. 6

Accordingly, when the disciples hear this voice from heaven, they fall on their faces and are greatly afraid (17:7). True adoration and worship is from a state of profoundest humility. It is the awe one feels in the presence of divinity. In states like this we experience something akin to reverential fear — the sense of how great God is, and how humbling it feels to be in His presence. It is from this state of utmost humility that we can be touched by the warmth and light of heaven. Therefore, we read, “Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, do not be afraid’” (17:7). They obey, and immediately they experience the profoundest, most interior moment of all. We read, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (17:8). 7

The words, “They saw no one, but Jesus only” indicates that the whole Word points to Jesus only. In the words and life of Jesus, the whole of the law and the whole of the prophets is not only fulfilled but also infilled with more interior wisdom. Jesus becomes the way in which we understand the sacred truths contained within the Hebrew scriptures. As we read those scriptures in the light of Jesus’ teachings — lifting up our eyes — we are not just reading the words, we are hearing from the author Himself.

The Faith that Moves Mountains

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9. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one, until the Son of Man rise again from the dead.”

10. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?”

11. And Jesus answering said to them, “Elijah indeed comes first, and shall restore all things.

12. But I say unto you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but have done unto him whatever they willed; so also the Son of Man is about to suffer by them”.

13. Then understood the disciples that He spoke to them concerning John the Baptist.

14. And when they had come to the crowd, there came to Him a man kneeling before Him, and saying,

15. “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffers badly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

16. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17. And Jesus answering said, “O faithless and perverse generation, till when shall I be with you? Till when shall I bear with you? Bring him hither to Me.”

18. And Jesus rebuked him; and the demon came out of him; and the boy was cured from that [very] hour.

19. Then the disciples, coming to Jesus by themselves, said, “Why could not we cast him out?”

20. And Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for amen I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, ‘Pass on from here to there’; and it shall pass on; and nothing shall be impossible to you.

21. But this kind goes not out, except by prayer and fasting.”
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When Peter, James and John “lifted up their eyes” and saw “Jesus only” it was the end of their mountain-top vision. While it was merely a glimpse of heaven, it was an essential part of their preparation for the spiritual combats that they would soon have to undergo. It was now time to come down from the mountain and take on the normal routines of daily life.

The case is similar in our own lives. From time to time God allows us to experience “mountaintop states” in which we catch a glimpse of how wonderfully He has been working in our lives. Perhaps some truth from the Word shines forth with great glory, and we feel uplifted and inspired. Or maybe in a moment of reflection — whether it be on a mountaintop, or even in front of the mirror while brushing our teeth — we are given an insight which brings together a number of questions that have been on our mind. We feel elevated, and lifted to new heights.

But we cannot remain there. We need to take these new insights with us as we descend the mountain, and resume our lives in the world. While Peter wants to remain on the mountain and build a tabernacle there, the reality is that the true tabernacle is in our hearts, and remains with us wherever we go. It is a living tabernacle of flesh and blood and spirit. It is an inner tabernacle that, according to Isaiah, “will not be taken down, nor shall one of its stakes ever be removed, nor any of its cords be broken” (Isaiah 33:20).

The goal, then, is to come down from the mountain without losing our inspiration. The mountaintop vision should become an integral part of us as we reach out in useful service to others. This is, of course, what Jesus has in mind for His disciples, but He cautions them about the importance of keeping this experience confidential. As they come down from the mountain, Jesus says, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (17:9).

This is not the first time that Jesus tells His disciples to be quiet about their knowledge of His divinity. Just after Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus commands the disciples to tell no one about it (16:20). And here He says something similar: “Tell the vision to no one.” Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi and the vision on the mountaintop are important moments in the gradual revelation of Jesus’ divinity, but the disciples have still not undergone any serious spiritual challenges. They have not experienced the “sign of the prophet Jonah” — spiritual resurrection — in their own hearts. Neither have they experienced “the Son of man rising from the dead” — not just Jesus’ physical resurrection, but also some truth that Jesus has taught them rising up within them to give them life. Therefore, while they have witnessed amazing miracles and seen great visions, this is not the testimony Jesus is seeking. The only testimony He seeks from them — and from us — is the testimony which comes from a purified heart after the struggles of temptation. 8

This is why we must continually return to the plain of our everyday lives, no matter how high we have climbed in the mountains of elevated insight, no matter what kind of “emotional high” we may have experienced. No matter how high we have risen, we must return to the world of application and service. And so, as Jesus and His three disciples return from their mountaintop adventure, they are immediately given an opportunity to be useful: a man approaches the disciples and asks them to heal his son. The disciples, who have been given the power to heal and the cast out demons, are unsuccessful: “I brought him to your disciples,” the man says to Jesus, “But they were unable to cure him” (17:16).

This is the first time that the disciples have attempted to cure someone — and this first attempt is a failure. 9 Jesus appears to be displeased with them: “O faithless and perverse generation,” He says, “How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (17:17). Jesus then cures the boy instantly: “And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

It seems as though Jesus is upset with the disciples, calling them “faithless” and “perverse” — rather strong language — simply because they are unable to cure the demon-possessed child. What can this mean? They have just come down from a mountaintop experience where they have been given a special glimpse of Jesus’ divinity. Their faith must have been at an all-time high. Earlier, Jesus promised to give them “power over unclean spirits, to cast them out” and He commanded them to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons” (10:8). Why, then, could they not do so now?

Speaking privately with Jesus, they ask: “Why could we not cast him out?” And Jesus answers, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (17:20).

The story of enlightenment on the mountain followed by failure in the valley contains a vital spiritual lesson. If enlightenment is not followed by strong faith in the source of that enlightenment, the experience can lead to feelings of conceit, of being specially chosen, of being highly privileged, and therefore of being better than others. True enlightenment is just the opposite. It is always attended with a sense of humility and gratitude. It reveals to us our essentially sinful nature. We come to see that we are less worthy than others, and that we deserve hell rather than heaven. This is enlightenment. While Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of this on the mountaintop when they fell on their faces in reverential fear, it is a lesson in humility that the disciples would still need to learn. 10

The power of humility, which is the only thing that can receive the Lord’s power, can move mountains — mountains of self-love, inordinate pride, and superiority. But this takes a special kind of faith, the faith that we have no power at all from ourselves, and that all power is from the Lord alone. 11

Jesus then explains how this faith should be practiced. Referring to the demons that had been possessing the boy, Jesus says, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting” (17:21). “Prayer,” in essence, is turning to the Lord and receiving the good and truth that flow in from Him; “fasting” is refusing to accept the evil and falsity that flow in from hell. 12

This is the faith that not only casts out demons, but also moves mountains.

Paying Taxes

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22. And while they were occupied in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men;

23. And they shall kill Him; and on the third day He shall be raised up.” And they sorrowed greatly.

24. And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the didrachma came to Peter, and said, “Does not your Teacher pay the didrachma?”

25. He says, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus came before him, saying, “What thinkest thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or duty? From their own sons, or from strangers?”

26. Peter says to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus declares to him, “Therefore the sons are free.

27. But lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, cast a hook, and take up the fish that first comes up, and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; that take, and give unto them for Me and thee.”
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As we descend the mountain of enlightenment, and enter daily life, there will not only be demons to cast out, but also civic duties to fulfill. A simple duty that awaits us when we “come down from the mountain” is that of paying taxes. Although tax-paying cannot compare with the majesty of our mountaintop states, or the essential work of removing evils, it still must be done. True spirituality involves all aspects of life, spiritual like as well as natural life. While we are in this world, we cannot be purely spiritual beings without also caring for temporal and worldly things. In fact, a responsible civic life provides a firm foundation for a spiritual life, even as the body provides a solid structure through which the spirit can operate. 13

Therefore, it is fitting that in the next episode Jesus is confronted with the question of whether or not it is appropriate for Him and His disciples to pay the temple tax. This was an annual tax, required of all Israelites, for the support and maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem. Since Jesus and His disciples were under the constant criticism of the corrupt temple authorities, the question of whether Jesus should pay the temple tax, or refuse to do so, is an important one. Should Jesus and His disciples continue to support a corrupt religious establishment?

Jesus is planning to pay the temple tax, but in a way that demonstrates that He does not directly support what the religious leaders have been doing. Moreover, He will use this situation as an opportunity to teach an enduring spiritual lesson about how the cares and concerns of everyday life must be subordinated to more interior, spiritual principles. In other words, spiritual values should never be ruled over, or be submissive to, materialistic concerns. The higher must rule over the lower — and never the other way around.

This is the interior lesson contained in Jesus’ words to Peter. “Go to the sea,” He says, “cast in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open the fish’s mouth, you will find a coin” (17:27). Peter does so, and, miraculously, out of the sea containing thousands of fish, the first fish he catches has a coin in its mouth. Moreover,

the coin is exactly the amount needed to pay the temple tax for both Jesus and Peter. “Take the coin,” says Jesus, “and give it to them for Me and for you” (17:27).

This is a further manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. How could He have known that a coin would be in the mouth of a fish, and that the value of the coin would be exactly enough to pay the temple tax for Him and for Peter? And, at a more interior level, how could He have had the wisdom to provide an incident that perfectly answers the difficult question about paying the temple tax?

The question is answered on two levels. First, on the most external level, Jesus seems to be saying that the Lord will always provide, even in the most miraculous of ways. Therefore, there is never any need to worry. But at a more interior level Jesus is saying that natural life, represented by a fish in the water, must serve the higher, spiritual principles of our life represented by Jesus and Peter. The fact that neither Jesus nor Peter is directly providing that support — but rather paying indirectly from a fish caught in the water — demonstrates that neither Jesus (who represents that which is Divine) and Peter (who represents faith in that which is Divine) directly supports the temple. 14

A further wonder contained in this incident involves the details of the fishing incident. These include going fishing in the sea, the hook used to catch the fish, opening the mouth of the fish, and the silver coin that is extracted from the fish’s mouth. Whenever we go to the Word and search for some truth, we are “going fishing.” The “hook” that we use is our sincere desire to be enlightened so that we might discover some truth that will help us lead better lives. The “fish” that we catch is a literal teaching from the Word; and the silver coin that we extract from the fish’s mouth is the more interior truth contained within that literal teaching; this more interior truth shines forth, like bright silver, with a direct application to our lives.

In all of this, however, we should keep in mind the most general teaching of this entire sequence episodes, beginning with the transfiguration on the mountaintop. No matter how high we rise spiritually, it all must be brought down into practical life. While this chapter begins on the mountaintop where Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples in His transfigured glory, it ends by the sea, in a simple rustic scene describing a coin found in the mouth of a fish. In this closing scene, Jesus reveals both His omniscience and His omnipotence, demonstrating that His shining glory on the mountaintop is as universal as His splendor by the sea. It is everywhere, filling the universe, and providing for each of us at every moment.

One of the more obvious takeaways is that Peter would not have to worry about the temple tax; in his case, the funds would be miraculously provided. While this should not be interpreted to mean that the Lord will always cover our financial obligations, it does provide assurance that He will abundantly fill our spiritual needs in ways that are often surprising — even as the disciples found a coin in the mouth of a fish. In His omniscience, God is guiding us at all times, arranging the circumstances of our life in every least detail — from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea — so as to lead us into the greatest joy we can possibly receive.

In His omniscience, the Lord perceives the possible outcomes of every decision we make. Because of this, He is with us every step of the way; He foresees the possibilities of wrong turns we might take, while simultaneously leading us — if we are willing to follow — into paths that lead to greatest joy. As the psalmist writes, “Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). 15

In the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth, Jesus reveals the omniscience of God — a divine omniscience that both foresees and provides a wonderful pathway for each of us to follow. The awareness of this profound truth can lead us into surrender to the Lord’s will, faith in His leading, and, finally, into states of profoundest humility. 16

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Footnotes:

1. Some scholars have claimed that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Tabor in Galilee. But in the previous episode Jesus was in Caesarea Phillipi (in the foothills of Mt. Hermon). Moreover, Mt. Tabor is not a “high mountain,” being only 1,750 feet tall, while Mt. Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel, reaching upwards to 9,400 feet. It would, therefore, seem appropriate that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Hermon — not on Mt. Tabor. 2. Arcana Coelestia 737:2: “Genesis 1 describes the six days of a person’s regeneration prior to becoming celestial. During those six days there is constant conflict, but on the seventh day comes rest. Consequently there are six days of labor, and the seventh is the Sabbath, a word which means rest. This also is why a Hebrew slave was to serve for six years and in the seventh was to go free” See also, Arcana Coelestia 8494: “ The word ‘rest’ signifies a state of peace when there is no temptation . . . such as there was on the days of the Sabbath. . . . But the six preceding days represented the combat and labor, consequently the temptations, which precede a state of peace; for after temptations comes a state of peace, and then there is the conjunction of good and truth.”

3. Apocalypse Explained 64[2]: “The Lord took Peter, James, and John, because by them the church in respect to faith, charity, and the works of charity was represented; He took them ‘into a high mountain,’ because ‘mountain’ signifies heaven; ‘His face did shine as the sun,’ because ‘face’ signifies the interiors, and it did shine as the sun because His interiors were Divine, for the ‘sun’ signifies Divine love.” See also Arcana Coelestia 7038:3: “The Lord loved John more than the rest; but this was not for his own sake, but because he represented the exercises of charity, that is, uses.”

4. Heaven and Hell 119: “The Lord was seen by the disciples when they were withdrawn from the body and were in the light of heaven.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1530: “He so appeared to them because their interior sight was opened.”

5. Conjugial Love 333: “Are there not and have there not been men who, for the woman they long for and implore to be their bride, regard their very life as worthless and wish to die if she does not consent to their entreaty — evidence, as also testified to by the many battles of rival suitors even to their death, that this love exceeds love of life?

6. Apocalypse Explained 14: “The things that enter by the sense of sight, enter into the understanding and enlighten it … but the things that enter by the sense of hearing, enter into the understanding and at the same time into the will…. That the things which enter by hearing, enter directly by the understanding into the will, may be further illustrated from the instruction of the angels of the celestial kingdom, who are the wisest; these receive all their wisdom by hearing and not by sight; for whatever they hear of Divine things, they receive in the will from veneration and love, and make a part of their life.”

7. Arcana Coelestia 3719: “In the internal sense ‘fear’ signifies what is sacred … [It is a state of] veneration and reverence, or reverential fear.”

8. This will become a major theme in the Gospel According to Mark. 9. It is recorded that Jesus gave them “power over unclean spirits” (10:1) and commanded them to “cast out demons” (10:8), but up to this point Matthew does not record any instances of them performing any of these actions.

10. Arcana Coelestia 2273: “A person is not saved on account of temptations if he places anything of merit in them; for if he does this, it is from the love of self, in that he congratulates himself on their account, and believes that he has merited heaven more than others, and at the same time he is thinking of his own preeminence over others by despising others in comparison with himself; all of which things are contrary to mutual love, and therefore to heavenly blessedness. The temptations in which a person overcomes are attended with a belief that all others are more worthy than himself, and that he is infernal rather than heavenly.”

11. Apocalypse Explained 405: “The Lord spoke those things to the disciples when they supposed that they could do miracles from their own faith, thus from themselves, when notwithstanding such things are only done by faith derived from the Lord, and thus by the Lord.”

12. Arcana Coelestia 6206: “All evil flows in from hell, and all good through heaven from the Lord.”

13. Heaven and Hell 528: “To receive the life of heaven a person must needs live in the world and engage in the duties and employments there, and by means of a moral and civil life receive the spiritual life. In no other way can the spiritual life be formed with a person, or a person’s spirit prepared for heaven; for to live an internal life and not at the same time an external life is like dwelling in a house that has no foundation, that gradually sinks or becomes cracked and rent asunder, or totters till it falls.”

14. Apocalypse Explained 513:18: “What is natural is subject to what is spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is like a lord, and the natural man like a servant; and as the natural are servants, and are therefore meant by those who pay tribute, so it was brought about that neither the Lord nor Peter, but the ‘fish,’ which signified the natural man, should furnish the tribute.” See also Arcana Coelestia 6394: “Peter’s catching a fish out of the sea and finding in its mouth a piece of money which he was to give [to pay the temple tax], represented that the lowest natural, which serves, should do this; for ‘fishes’ signify this natural.”

15. Spiritual Diary 5002: “The life of every person is foreseen by the Lord, as to how long he will live, and in what manner; therefore, each person is directed from earliest infancy with a regard to a life to eternity. The Providence of the Lord, therefore, commences from earliest infancy.” It should be noted that Divine foresight is such that it foresees every possibility. However, because of human free will, which is never taken away, nothing is inevitable.

16. Arcana Coelestia 5122:3: “The Lord knows all things, and every single thing, provides for them every moment. If He were to pause even for an instant, all the progressions would be disturbed; for what is prior looks to what follows in a continuous series and produces a series of consequences to eternity. Therefore, it is plain that the Divine foresight and providence are in everything, even the very least; and that unless this were so, or if they were only universal, the human race would perish.”

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From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 6394

Apocalypse Revealed 405


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 513, 820

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 30:12, 16

2 Kings 6:7

2 Chronicles 24:6, 9

Nehemiah 10:33

Bible Word Meanings

come
Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

peter
Peter – born Simon, son of Jonah – is certainly one of the Bible's most important figures, second only to Jesus in the New Testament....

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...

saith
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...

simon
'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

sea
'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

cast
For something to be cast down or cast out generally refers to a rather dramatic move from a higher spiritual state to a lower one....

fish
Fish signify sensual affections which are the ultimate affections of the natural man. Also, those who are in common truths, which are also ultimates of...

opened
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

Resources for parents and teachers

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 The Lord Is Transfigured
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Transfiguration
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 Transfiguration
Since His resurrection, the Lord appears in heaven much as He looked when He was transfigured so this is a wonderful project for children to do! 
Project | Ages 4 - 10

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

 The Transfiguration (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Transfiguration (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Transfiguration (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Transfiguration: A Wonderful Vision
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Transfiguration: One Lord, Two Prophets, Three Disciples
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Ways That the Lord Appeared to People on Earth
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 17

     

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 17.

Glimpses of Heaven

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1. And after six days Jesus takes Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain by themselves,

2. And was transformed before them; and His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light.

3. And behold, there was seen by them Moses and Elijah, speaking with Him.

4. And Peter answering said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if Thou willest, let us make here three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5. While he was yet speaking, behold, an illuminated cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

6. And the disciples, hearing, fell on their face, and feared exceedingly.

7. And Jesus coming touched them, and said, “Arise, and be not afraid.”

8. And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus only.
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At the end of the previous episode, Jesus promised that “there are some standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” In this next episode, He fulfills His promise — but not in the way that the disciples had expected. While they are thinking about a natural kingdom with thrones, imperial status, and political power, Jesus is preparing them for a spiritual kingdom that is governed by divine truth and filled with divine love. In this next episode, Jesus gives a few of His disciples a glimpse of that kingdom.

The disciples chosen for this special privilege are Peter, James and John. Leaving Caesarea Philippi, which is situated at the foot of Mt. Hermon, Jesus now takes these three disciples to the top of that mountain and there reveals Himself to them: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (17:1-2). 1

This mountain-top moment, known as “the Transfiguration,” is the spiritual fulfillment of what Jesus promised at the end of the preceding episode This is “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” It is a picture of what it is like to be in the presence of divine truth (“the Son of Man”) as it shines forth from the Word. The words “His face shone like the sun” is an image of God’s love, and “His clothes became as white as light” is an image of the truth that shines forth from that love. It is at moments like this that doubts about the divinity of the Word and the divinity of the Lord are overcome. The truth of Jesus’ divinity shines forth in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In that day … the light of the sun shall be as the light of seven days” (Isaiah 30:26).

This glimpse of divinity is granted everyone who undergoes the combats of temptation. It is granted to all who willingly lay down their life in the service of love and wisdom, and therefore find their life. In the Word, the labors of temptation are represented by the number “six.” As it is written, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:9). And as this episode begins, we read “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up on a high mountain.” 2

In the preceding episodes, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the necessity of temptation, and preparing them for it. Jesus Himself will have to go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things before He will be raised up again. Similarly, we also must go through temptations so that our lower nature may be humbled and our higher nature “raised up.” These are the struggles that give us the opportunity to lay aside our selfish concerns. While the struggle can be difficult and arduous, it leads to mountain-top states. In the language of sacred scripture, this peak experience is described as “being on a high mountain with Jesus.”

When Jesus told His disciples that some of them “would not taste of death” until they saw Him coming in His kingdom, they could not have known that He was referring to Peter, James, and John. The question arises, therefore, why were these three selected, and not the others? Was it because they were specially favored? Or was it, perhaps, because of what they represented? As mentioned earlier, every disciple represents a specific spiritual principle. In this case, Peter, James, and John represent the three leading principles of our awakening spiritual life: Peter represents the principle of faith; James represents the principle of charity; and John,, who is the brother of James, represents the works of charity — that is, useful service to others. Note how closely related charity and the works of charity are: they are brothers. Since these are the three leading principles of our spiritual life, they are described as being separate from all the others: “He brought them up on a high mountain by themselves.” 3

Jesus now begins to perform another great wonder. Temporarily withdrawing them from the concerns of the body and the world, He opens their spiritual sight so that they might see heavenly things. 4 We, too, are sometimes granted an unearned glimpse of heaven so that we may be inspired to continue our journey. In this case, Peter, James, and John, are brought into an elevated spiritual state because Jesus wants to prepare them and strengthen them for the eventual temptations they will endure. Glimpses of heaven, such as this, are necessary in the beginning of regeneration. It is like the beginning of marriage when people experience a pure, heavenly love for their partner. They are convinced that they have found their true love, and will do anything for that person — even lay down their life. Recalling these glimpses of heaven can strengthen them when temptations arise. 5

On the mountain, Peter, James, and John are given a fleeting glimpse of Jesus in His Divine Humanity. The memory of this miraculous moment will serve them well throughout the temptations that lay ahead. It will also be important for them to know that Jesus is intimately connected to the Hebrew scriptures. We read therefore that “Moses and Elijah were seen along with Jesus, talking with Him” (17:3). This is a wonderful picture of the Law (Moses), the Prophets (Elijah) and Gospels (Jesus), now together as the complete Word of God — “speaking together.” In our temptation combats we need more than pleasant and delightful memories. We need more than “glimpses” of heaven. We also need the living truth of the Word, active in our minds, the law of Moses, the words of the Prophets, and the teachings of Jesus. And we need to see essential agreement among these teachings; we need to see them “speaking together.”

Peter, amazed and overwhelmed by this wonderful vision, expresses his desire to enshrine this memory in his heart forever: “Lord,” he says, “It is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You; one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (17:4). But even while Peter is still speaking, a response comes from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him’” (17:5). The voice from heaven does not say, “These are my three prophets. Hear them.” It says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.”

The seamless connection of every episode — even very sentence — becomes especially clear in moments like this. Our spiritual rebirth may begin with seeing some truth shining from Word — the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. But the birth process cannot stop there. It’s not just about seeing the truth; it’s about hearing the truth. “Hear Him” says the voice.

The sense of hearing surpasses the sense of sight in that what is heard goes beyond what is seen. If we say to someone, “I hear you,” it means that we not only understand the meaning of the words; we also feel the affection behind the words. In scripture, “hearing the Word of the Lord,” is not just about listening; it’s also about having an inner perception of the truth and, at the same time, a worshipful desire to obey what has been heard. 6

Accordingly, when the disciples hear this voice from heaven, they fall on their faces and are greatly afraid (17:7). True adoration and worship is from a state of profoundest humility. It is the awe one feels in the presence of divinity. In states like this we experience something akin to reverential fear — the sense of how great God is, and how humbling it feels to be in His presence. It is from this state of utmost humility that we can be touched by the warmth and light of heaven. Therefore, we read, “Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, do not be afraid’” (17:7). They obey, and immediately they experience the profoundest, most interior moment of all. We read, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (17:8). 7

The words, “They saw no one, but Jesus only” indicates that the whole Word points to Jesus only. In the words and life of Jesus, the whole of the law and the whole of the prophets is not only fulfilled but also infilled with more interior wisdom. Jesus becomes the way in which we understand the sacred truths contained within the Hebrew scriptures. As we read those scriptures in the light of Jesus’ teachings — lifting up our eyes — we are not just reading the words, we are hearing from the author Himself.

The Faith that Moves Mountains

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9. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one, until the Son of Man rise again from the dead.”

10. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?”

11. And Jesus answering said to them, “Elijah indeed comes first, and shall restore all things.

12. But I say unto you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but have done unto him whatever they willed; so also the Son of Man is about to suffer by them”.

13. Then understood the disciples that He spoke to them concerning John the Baptist.

14. And when they had come to the crowd, there came to Him a man kneeling before Him, and saying,

15. “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffers badly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

16. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17. And Jesus answering said, “O faithless and perverse generation, till when shall I be with you? Till when shall I bear with you? Bring him hither to Me.”

18. And Jesus rebuked him; and the demon came out of him; and the boy was cured from that [very] hour.

19. Then the disciples, coming to Jesus by themselves, said, “Why could not we cast him out?”

20. And Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for amen I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, ‘Pass on from here to there’; and it shall pass on; and nothing shall be impossible to you.

21. But this kind goes not out, except by prayer and fasting.”
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When Peter, James and John “lifted up their eyes” and saw “Jesus only” it was the end of their mountain-top vision. While it was merely a glimpse of heaven, it was an essential part of their preparation for the spiritual combats that they would soon have to undergo. It was now time to come down from the mountain and take on the normal routines of daily life.

The case is similar in our own lives. From time to time God allows us to experience “mountaintop states” in which we catch a glimpse of how wonderfully He has been working in our lives. Perhaps some truth from the Word shines forth with great glory, and we feel uplifted and inspired. Or maybe in a moment of reflection — whether it be on a mountaintop, or even in front of the mirror while brushing our teeth — we are given an insight which brings together a number of questions that have been on our mind. We feel elevated, and lifted to new heights.

But we cannot remain there. We need to take these new insights with us as we descend the mountain, and resume our lives in the world. While Peter wants to remain on the mountain and build a tabernacle there, the reality is that the true tabernacle is in our hearts, and remains with us wherever we go. It is a living tabernacle of flesh and blood and spirit. It is an inner tabernacle that, according to Isaiah, “will not be taken down, nor shall one of its stakes ever be removed, nor any of its cords be broken” (Isaiah 33:20).

The goal, then, is to come down from the mountain without losing our inspiration. The mountaintop vision should become an integral part of us as we reach out in useful service to others. This is, of course, what Jesus has in mind for His disciples, but He cautions them about the importance of keeping this experience confidential. As they come down from the mountain, Jesus says, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (17:9).

This is not the first time that Jesus tells His disciples to be quiet about their knowledge of His divinity. Just after Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus commands the disciples to tell no one about it (16:20). And here He says something similar: “Tell the vision to no one.” Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi and the vision on the mountaintop are important moments in the gradual revelation of Jesus’ divinity, but the disciples have still not undergone any serious spiritual challenges. They have not experienced the “sign of the prophet Jonah” — spiritual resurrection — in their own hearts. Neither have they experienced “the Son of man rising from the dead” — not just Jesus’ physical resurrection, but also some truth that Jesus has taught them rising up within them to give them life. Therefore, while they have witnessed amazing miracles and seen great visions, this is not the testimony Jesus is seeking. The only testimony He seeks from them — and from us — is the testimony which comes from a purified heart after the struggles of temptation. 8

This is why we must continually return to the plain of our everyday lives, no matter how high we have climbed in the mountains of elevated insight, no matter what kind of “emotional high” we may have experienced. No matter how high we have risen, we must return to the world of application and service. And so, as Jesus and His three disciples return from their mountaintop adventure, they are immediately given an opportunity to be useful: a man approaches the disciples and asks them to heal his son. The disciples, who have been given the power to heal and the cast out demons, are unsuccessful: “I brought him to your disciples,” the man says to Jesus, “But they were unable to cure him” (17:16).

This is the first time that the disciples have attempted to cure someone — and this first attempt is a failure. 9 Jesus appears to be displeased with them: “O faithless and perverse generation,” He says, “How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (17:17). Jesus then cures the boy instantly: “And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

It seems as though Jesus is upset with the disciples, calling them “faithless” and “perverse” — rather strong language — simply because they are unable to cure the demon-possessed child. What can this mean? They have just come down from a mountaintop experience where they have been given a special glimpse of Jesus’ divinity. Their faith must have been at an all-time high. Earlier, Jesus promised to give them “power over unclean spirits, to cast them out” and He commanded them to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons” (10:8). Why, then, could they not do so now?

Speaking privately with Jesus, they ask: “Why could we not cast him out?” And Jesus answers, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (17:20).

The story of enlightenment on the mountain followed by failure in the valley contains a vital spiritual lesson. If enlightenment is not followed by strong faith in the source of that enlightenment, the experience can lead to feelings of conceit, of being specially chosen, of being highly privileged, and therefore of being better than others. True enlightenment is just the opposite. It is always attended with a sense of humility and gratitude. It reveals to us our essentially sinful nature. We come to see that we are less worthy than others, and that we deserve hell rather than heaven. This is enlightenment. While Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of this on the mountaintop when they fell on their faces in reverential fear, it is a lesson in humility that the disciples would still need to learn. 10

The power of humility, which is the only thing that can receive the Lord’s power, can move mountains — mountains of self-love, inordinate pride, and superiority. But this takes a special kind of faith, the faith that we have no power at all from ourselves, and that all power is from the Lord alone. 11

Jesus then explains how this faith should be practiced. Referring to the demons that had been possessing the boy, Jesus says, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting” (17:21). “Prayer,” in essence, is turning to the Lord and receiving the good and truth that flow in from Him; “fasting” is refusing to accept the evil and falsity that flow in from hell. 12

This is the faith that not only casts out demons, but also moves mountains.

Paying Taxes

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22. And while they were occupied in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men;

23. And they shall kill Him; and on the third day He shall be raised up.” And they sorrowed greatly.

24. And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the didrachma came to Peter, and said, “Does not your Teacher pay the didrachma?”

25. He says, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus came before him, saying, “What thinkest thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or duty? From their own sons, or from strangers?”

26. Peter says to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus declares to him, “Therefore the sons are free.

27. But lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, cast a hook, and take up the fish that first comes up, and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; that take, and give unto them for Me and thee.”
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As we descend the mountain of enlightenment, and enter daily life, there will not only be demons to cast out, but also civic duties to fulfill. A simple duty that awaits us when we “come down from the mountain” is that of paying taxes. Although tax-paying cannot compare with the majesty of our mountaintop states, or the essential work of removing evils, it still must be done. True spirituality involves all aspects of life, spiritual like as well as natural life. While we are in this world, we cannot be purely spiritual beings without also caring for temporal and worldly things. In fact, a responsible civic life provides a firm foundation for a spiritual life, even as the body provides a solid structure through which the spirit can operate. 13

Therefore, it is fitting that in the next episode Jesus is confronted with the question of whether or not it is appropriate for Him and His disciples to pay the temple tax. This was an annual tax, required of all Israelites, for the support and maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem. Since Jesus and His disciples were under the constant criticism of the corrupt temple authorities, the question of whether Jesus should pay the temple tax, or refuse to do so, is an important one. Should Jesus and His disciples continue to support a corrupt religious establishment?

Jesus is planning to pay the temple tax, but in a way that demonstrates that He does not directly support what the religious leaders have been doing. Moreover, He will use this situation as an opportunity to teach an enduring spiritual lesson about how the cares and concerns of everyday life must be subordinated to more interior, spiritual principles. In other words, spiritual values should never be ruled over, or be submissive to, materialistic concerns. The higher must rule over the lower — and never the other way around.

This is the interior lesson contained in Jesus’ words to Peter. “Go to the sea,” He says, “cast in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open the fish’s mouth, you will find a coin” (17:27). Peter does so, and, miraculously, out of the sea containing thousands of fish, the first fish he catches has a coin in its mouth. Moreover,

the coin is exactly the amount needed to pay the temple tax for both Jesus and Peter. “Take the coin,” says Jesus, “and give it to them for Me and for you” (17:27).

This is a further manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. How could He have known that a coin would be in the mouth of a fish, and that the value of the coin would be exactly enough to pay the temple tax for Him and for Peter? And, at a more interior level, how could He have had the wisdom to provide an incident that perfectly answers the difficult question about paying the temple tax?

The question is answered on two levels. First, on the most external level, Jesus seems to be saying that the Lord will always provide, even in the most miraculous of ways. Therefore, there is never any need to worry. But at a more interior level Jesus is saying that natural life, represented by a fish in the water, must serve the higher, spiritual principles of our life represented by Jesus and Peter. The fact that neither Jesus nor Peter is directly providing that support — but rather paying indirectly from a fish caught in the water — demonstrates that neither Jesus (who represents that which is Divine) and Peter (who represents faith in that which is Divine) directly supports the temple. 14

A further wonder contained in this incident involves the details of the fishing incident. These include going fishing in the sea, the hook used to catch the fish, opening the mouth of the fish, and the silver coin that is extracted from the fish’s mouth. Whenever we go to the Word and search for some truth, we are “going fishing.” The “hook” that we use is our sincere desire to be enlightened so that we might discover some truth that will help us lead better lives. The “fish” that we catch is a literal teaching from the Word; and the silver coin that we extract from the fish’s mouth is the more interior truth contained within that literal teaching; this more interior truth shines forth, like bright silver, with a direct application to our lives.

In all of this, however, we should keep in mind the most general teaching of this entire sequence episodes, beginning with the transfiguration on the mountaintop. No matter how high we rise spiritually, it all must be brought down into practical life. While this chapter begins on the mountaintop where Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples in His transfigured glory, it ends by the sea, in a simple rustic scene describing a coin found in the mouth of a fish. In this closing scene, Jesus reveals both His omniscience and His omnipotence, demonstrating that His shining glory on the mountaintop is as universal as His splendor by the sea. It is everywhere, filling the universe, and providing for each of us at every moment.

One of the more obvious takeaways is that Peter would not have to worry about the temple tax; in his case, the funds would be miraculously provided. While this should not be interpreted to mean that the Lord will always cover our financial obligations, it does provide assurance that He will abundantly fill our spiritual needs in ways that are often surprising — even as the disciples found a coin in the mouth of a fish. In His omniscience, God is guiding us at all times, arranging the circumstances of our life in every least detail — from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea — so as to lead us into the greatest joy we can possibly receive.

In His omniscience, the Lord perceives the possible outcomes of every decision we make. Because of this, He is with us every step of the way; He foresees the possibilities of wrong turns we might take, while simultaneously leading us — if we are willing to follow — into paths that lead to greatest joy. As the psalmist writes, “Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). 15

In the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth, Jesus reveals the omniscience of God — a divine omniscience that both foresees and provides a wonderful pathway for each of us to follow. The awareness of this profound truth can lead us into surrender to the Lord’s will, faith in His leading, and, finally, into states of profoundest humility. 16

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Footnotes:

1. Some scholars have claimed that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Tabor in Galilee. But in the previous episode Jesus was in Caesarea Phillipi (in the foothills of Mt. Hermon). Moreover, Mt. Tabor is not a “high mountain,” being only 1,750 feet tall, while Mt. Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel, reaching upwards to 9,400 feet. It would, therefore, seem appropriate that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Hermon — not on Mt. Tabor.

2Arcana Coelestia 737:2: “Genesis 1 describes the six days of a person’s regeneration prior to becoming celestial. During those six days there is constant conflict, but on the seventh day comes rest. Consequently there are six days of labor, and the seventh is the Sabbath, a word which means rest. This also is why a Hebrew slave was to serve for six years and in the seventh was to go free” See also, Arcana Coelestia 8494: “ The word ‘rest’ signifies a state of peace when there is no temptation . . . such as there was on the days of the Sabbath. . . . But the six preceding days represented the combat and labor, consequently the temptations, which precede a state of peace; for after temptations comes a state of peace, and then there is the conjunction of good and truth.”

3Apocalypse Explained 64[2]: “The Lord took Peter, James, and John, because by them the church in respect to faith, charity, and the works of charity was represented; He took them ‘into a high mountain,’ because ‘mountain’ signifies heaven; ‘His face did shine as the sun,’ because ‘face’ signifies the interiors, and it did shine as the sun because His interiors were Divine, for the ‘sun’ signifies Divine love.” See also Arcana Coelestia 7038:3: “The Lord loved John more than the rest; but this was not for his own sake, but because he represented the exercises of charity, that is, uses.”

4Heaven and Hell 119: “The Lord was seen by the disciples when they were withdrawn from the body and were in the light of heaven.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1530: “He so appeared to them because their interior sight was opened.”

5Conjugial Love 333: “Are there not and have there not been men who, for the woman they long for and implore to be their bride, regard their very life as worthless and wish to die if she does not consent to their entreaty — evidence, as also testified to by the many battles of rival suitors even to their death, that this love exceeds love of life?

6Apocalypse Explained 14: “The things that enter by the sense of sight, enter into the understanding and enlighten it … but the things that enter by the sense of hearing, enter into the understanding and at the same time into the will…. That the things which enter by hearing, enter directly by the understanding into the will, may be further illustrated from the instruction of the angels of the celestial kingdom, who are the wisest; these receive all their wisdom by hearing and not by sight; for whatever they hear of Divine things, they receive in the will from veneration and love, and make a part of their life.”

7Arcana Coelestia 3719: “In the internal sense ‘fear’ signifies what is sacred … [It is a state of] veneration and reverence, or reverential fear.”

8. This will become a major theme in the Gospel According to Mark.

9. It is recorded that Jesus gave them “power over unclean spirits” (10:1) and commanded them to “cast out demons” (10:8), but up to this point Matthew does not record any instances of them performing any of these actions.

10Arcana Coelestia 2273: “A person is not saved on account of temptations if he places anything of merit in them; for if he does this, it is from the love of self, in that he congratulates himself on their account, and believes that he has merited heaven more than others, and at the same time he is thinking of his own preeminence over others by despising others in comparison with himself; all of which things are contrary to mutual love, and therefore to heavenly blessedness. The temptations in which a person overcomes are attended with a belief that all others are more worthy than himself, and that he is infernal rather than heavenly.”

11Apocalypse Explained 405: “The Lord spoke those things to the disciples when they supposed that they could do miracles from their own faith, thus from themselves, when notwithstanding such things are only done by faith derived from the Lord, and thus by the Lord.”

12Arcana Coelestia 6206: “All evil flows in from hell, and all good through heaven from the Lord.”

13Heaven and Hell 528: “To receive the life of heaven a person must needs live in the world and engage in the duties and employments there, and by means of a moral and civil life receive the spiritual life. In no other way can the spiritual life be formed with a person, or a person’s spirit prepared for heaven; for to live an internal life and not at the same time an external life is like dwelling in a house that has no foundation, that gradually sinks or becomes cracked and rent asunder, or totters till it falls.”

14Apocalypse Explained 513:18: “What is natural is subject to what is spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is like a lord, and the natural man like a servant; and as the natural are servants, and are therefore meant by those who pay tribute, so it was brought about that neither the Lord nor Peter, but the ‘fish,’ which signified the natural man, should furnish the tribute.” See also Arcana Coelestia 6394: “Peter’s catching a fish out of the sea and finding in its mouth a piece of money which he was to give [to pay the temple tax], represented that the lowest natural, which serves, should do this; for ‘fishes’ signify this natural.”

15Spiritual Diary 5002: “The life of every person is foreseen by the Lord, as to how long he will live, and in what manner; therefore, each person is directed from earliest infancy with a regard to a life to eternity. The Providence of the Lord, therefore, commences from earliest infancy.” It should be noted that Divine foresight is such that it foresees every possibility. However, because of human free will, which is never taken away, nothing is inevitable.

16Arcana Coelestia 5122:3: “The Lord knows all things, and every single thing, provides for them every moment. If He were to pause even for an instant, all the progressions would be disturbed; for what is prior looks to what follows in a continuous series and produces a series of consequences to eternity. Therefore, it is plain that the Divine foresight and providence are in everything, even the very least; and that unless this were so, or if they were only universal, the human race would perish.”

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The Bible

 

Genesis 1

Study the Inner Meaning

        

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first Day.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Genesis 1: The Creation and Development of our Spiritual Life      

By Rev. William Woofenden

The first book of the Bible is "Genesis", which means "creation". It's a very, very ancient story - one of the oldest stories of humankind, and it's full of symbolic meaning that - still - gets to the core of what it is to be truly human.

The first three days of creation describe the development of the natural degree of man's life. They come first as a preparation for the opening of the spiritual degree of our minds. The creation of the grass, herbs, and trees took place on the third day, and constitutes the third step in regeneration. The creation of the fowl and fish was on the fifth day. Between these on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars were created.

From the beginning man had light, for all light is from the Lord, but it was not direct light. He was not at first in the clear light of the sun, moon, and stars, which are set in the firmament. The firmament is the internal man. There is a preparation that has to be made before the internal man is opened. At first we think we see the truth and do good from ourselves. Hence only inanimate things are produced. All truth and good are from the Lord who alone is truth and goodness, and only when we come to acknowledge this can we have true love from him, true faith in Him, and true knowledge of spiritual things. These are not seen from the external or natural degree of life.

Again we should note a change of language. It was said, "Let the earth bring forth" the grass, herb, and fruit trees. Now and through the remaining days it is said that "God created." Man has a part to play in his regeneration. There must be in his mind forms into which the warmth of love and the light of faith and of spiritual truths can flow.

When the mind is so prepared, influx from the Lord can be received, with greater power. "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." It should be noted that it is the waters that are commanded to bring forth the moving creature that hath life, and that it is not the seas but the waters which are to produce the living creatures. The seas represent the gathering together of knowledges, but by the "waters" are meant the spiritual truths in the mind. So in the Lord's words to the woman of Samaria, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:14). In Ezekiel it is the "waters" issuing from the sanctuary that give life (Ezekiel 47:1). The Psalmist writes, "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters" (Psalm 104:3). It is not in natural waters that the Lord lays the beams of His chambers. His chambers are the interior principles of His church; the beams give them support and strength. These are said to be laid in the waters because they rest and have their foundation in the genuine truths of the Word. So in Revelation the Word itself is described as a pure river of water of life.

The will faculty in man embraces all his affections and is the internal man. When the sun, moon, and stars—love, faith, and knowledges of spiritual truth—are set in this heaven and begin to impart their warmth and light to the external man, enabling him to think and act from these higher and purer principles, then the external man is gifted with a new life. There may be no apparent change in his outward conduct—he may already be living a moral life—but the motives that direct his acts will be wholly different. And it is the motive that gives character to the act as well as to the actor. He no longer thinks of the truths that he has learned, either natural or spiritual, as the product of his own mind nor of the good, that he does as the result of his own efforts, but thinks of them as wholly from the Lord, who alone is the source of all true light and life.

Before one recognizes clearly that all good and truth come from the Lord, he can bring forth only inanimate things, the grass, herb, and fruit tree, however good and useful these may be. But when he is enlightened by genuine love and faith, his knowledges become the basis for the development of spiritual life and God can create in him the living creatures that have life. First the fishes are created; then the fowl of the air. There is a difference between fishes and birds. The fishes, living in water, represent our affections for natural truths. The great whales, the largest of living creatures, are affections for the great general principles that control the mind. The principle may be either true or false. Of Pharaoh or Egypt it is written, "Thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou earnest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouled at their rivers" (Ezekiel 32:2) Here is pictured a ruling false principle from the natural degree of the mind — Egypt. That is, when the ruling principle is false, it will be a monster making the truths in the mind obscure like filthy or muddy waters.

Another example of the meaning of the whale in a bad sense is in the story of Jonah. When the principle is false it swallows up for a time all the truths that are in the mind. This is the whale swallowing Jonah the prophet. But Divine truth cannot be used by a false principle so as to become a part of its organic structure. Nor can the Divine truth perish. So the whale could not digest Jonah, nor could the prophet perish, but the whale vomited him up.

Spiritually there are whales trying to swallow prophets today, evil principles that try to use Divine truths to attain their ends. In the creation story, however, the whales are affections for the principles of natural truth for the sake of uses to the spiritual man. There is one source of genuine love. The creatures of the fifth day are living because they are animated by this love. Birds fly in the air above the earth. They have the power of flight and enjoy broader views. They represent affections for truth that rise above the natural. They are the thoughts that look at life from the heights of spiritual perception, ideas about the Lord, heaven, and spiritual things. Isaiah writes, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31). Birds represent spiritual intelligence, the power to lift us up to understand spiritual truth in heavenly light, through which truth the Lord can impart to us something of the Divine intelligence. So at the baptism of the Lord "The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him" (Matthew 3:16). So a new knowledge of heavenly life is given, a new perception of our possibilities, and in this higher intelligence a basis for further development is laid. This further development is pictured in the creation of the living creatures upon the earth. These are symbols of the affections. Here, too, it is said, "Let the earth bring forth" and also "And God made the beast of the earth." The creation of living animals on the earth and of man in the image and likeness of God marks the completion of the six days of creation—the six stages in regeneration. Man has first to learn what is to be believed and done and then to do it.

It is the office of the understanding to hear the Word and of the will to do it. In this way the truths are made our own, and the will and understanding make one mind. And when one begins to act from love as well as from faith, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image of God, and is given dominion over all things. Thus all things natural and spiritual come to be a delight to him and serviceable to him. To be an image and likeness of God one must act from impulses similar to those of God. This he cannot do until he comes into the final state of regeneration. Then he will not act from selfish motives, as does the natural man, nor from mere obedience to truth, but from love to the Lord and the neighbor. When these loves are developed and rule, to them is given the dominion over all subordinate affections and the fruits of all the growths of intelligence. These are what make man to be a man and cause him to be in the image and likeness of his Maker. Each step in the formation of a truly human character the Lord saw and pronounced good, but of the work of the sixth day it is said, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Arcana Coelestia 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, ...

Apocalypse Explained 257

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 402


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 246, 300, 476, 478, 480, 670, 709, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 200, 414

Conjugial Love 132, 156

Divine Love and Wisdom 11, 18, 287, 358

Divine Providence 123, 328

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 14, 103

Heaven and Hell 137

The Last Judgement 20

True Christian Religion 20, 34, 46, 48, 364, 490


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 229, 294, 401, 513, 526, 527, 555, ...

Canons of the New Church 45

Charity 91

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 23, 25, 28

De Verbo (The Word) 14

Spiritual Experiences 1973, 1974, 5605, 6110

Marriage 20, 34, 46, 48, 71

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 2:3, 7, 16, 19, 5:1, 2, 6:1, 21, 8:17, 9:1, 2, 3, 6, 11:7

Exodus 20:11

Deuteronomy 4:19, 32:4

2 Kings 19:15

2 Chronicles 2:11

Nehemiah 9:6

Job 12:7, 9, 26:8, 38:8

Psalms 8:4, 7, 19:2, 24:2, 33:6, 7, 9, 74:16, 95:5, 104:6, 14, 19, 25, 115:15, 16, 121:2, 136:5, 7, 9, 148:4, 7

Proverbs 8:29

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Isaiah 40:26, 45:7, 61:11

Jeremiah 4:23, 10:12, 31:35

Jonah 1:9

Zechariah 12:1

Matthew 19:4

Mark 4:28, 10:6

Luke 3:38

Acts 4:24, 17:29

1 Corinthians 11:7, 15:38

2 Corinthians 4:6, 6:14

Colossians 3:10

1 Timothy 4:4

Hebrews 6:8, 11:3

James 3:9

2 Peter 5, 6

Revelation 4:11

Bible Word Meanings

beginning
In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

God
When the Bible speaks of "Jehovah," it is representing love itself, the inmost love that is the essence of the Lord. That divine love is...

created
The creation of heaven and earth in the first chapter of Genesis means the new creation of the celestial church called 'Man'.

heaven
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

earth
Is there any difference in meaning between “earth” and “ground”? At first it doesn’t seem so; both refer to the soil making up the land...

form
A person who has yet to be regenerated is called 'a void and an empty earth', and also 'ground where no good or truth has...

darkness
"Darkness" is a state without light. "Light" is truth from the Lord, so "darkness" represents a state where truth is lacking. Here's a cogent passage...

Face of the deep
The face of the deep (Gen. 1:2) signifies the lust of the unregenerate man, and the falsities thence originating.

face
“The eyes are the windows of the soul.” That’s a sentiment with roots somewhere in murky antiquity, but one that has become hopelessly cliché because...

Spirit of God
'The spirit of God,' as in Genesis 1:2, signifies the divine mercy of the Lord. 'The spirit of God' is His emanation. 'The spirit of...

Face of the waters
The face of the water (Gen. 1:2) signifies the knowledges of good and truth.

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...

light
In the Word, “light” in the highest sense represents Divine Truth: knowledge, ideas, understanding that come to us from the Lord. In lesser degrees...

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...

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

called
'To proclaim' signifies exploration from influx of the Lord.

day
The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

night
The sun in the Bible represents the Lord, with its heat representing His love and its light representing His wisdom. “Daytime,” then, represents a state...

evening
Since the light and warmth of the sun represent the Lord’s wisdom and love, it makes sense that evening, a time when the light and...

morning
Morning comes with the rising of the sun, and the sun – which gives life to the earth with its warmth and light – represents...

Firmament
The firmament, as in Genesis 1, signifies the internal man. The firmament of heaven is mutual love.

midst
'Middle' denotes what is primary, principal, or inmost.

under
In the Bible, things that are lower down, or under, physically, generally represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases, the...

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

place
'A room' or 'place' denotes state.

land
Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

seas
Water generally represents what Swedenborg calls “natural truth,” or true concepts about day-to-day matters and physical things. Since all water ultimately flows into the seas,...

grass
Every herb in the Word signifies some species of scientifics. 'Herb bearing seed,' as mentioned in Genesis 1:29, signifies every truth which regards use. 'Green...

herb
Every herb in the Word signifies some species of scientifics. 'Herb bearing seed,' as mentioned in Genesis 1:29, signifies every truth which regards use. 'Green...

seed
'A seed' signifies love, and everyone who has love, as in Genesis 12:7. 8:15, 16. 'A seed' signifies faith grounded in charity. 'A seed' signifies...

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

tree
'Trees,' in general, signify the perceptions when discussing the celestial self, but when related to the spiritual church, they signify knowledges. A person in the...

Third day
'The third day' signifies the end of a state of preparation for reception, and so an end of purification, as in Exodus 19:16. 'The third...

third
'Three' denotes fullness, and 'a third,' not full.

lights
'The two luminaries' denote love and faith in the internal self.

signs
'A token,' as in Genesis 9:12, 13, 17, signifies causing it to be.

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

two
The number "two" has two different meanings in the Bible. In most cases "two" indicates a joining together or unification. This is easy to see...

Great lights
Great lights, as in luminaries, signify love and faith, and are called in Genesis 1:14-17, the sun, moon, and stars.

great
The word "great" is used in the Bible to represent a state with a strong degree of love and affection, of the desire for good;...

greater
The word "great" is used in the Bible to represent a state with a strong degree of love and affection, of the desire for good;...

give
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

fourth
'The fourth watch' signifies the first state of the church at break of day, when good begins to act by truth.

life
'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

fowl
Fowl signify spiritual truth; a bird, natural truth; and a winged thing, sensual truth. Fowl signify intellectual things. Fowl signify thoughts, and all that creeps...

fly
To fly, when spoken of the Lord, signifies to foresee and to provide. To fly, when predicated of the Lord, also signifies omnipresence. To fly...

open
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

whales
'A whale,' as in Jeremiah 51:34, signifies people who possess the universal aspects of the knowledges of faith, as known, and apply them to evil...

living
'Lives' is used in the plural, because of the will and understanding, and because these two lives make one.

winged
'Wings' signify spiritual truths. 'Wings,' when related to the Lord, signify the divine spiritual. In the opposite sense, 'wings' relate to falsities and rationalizations from...

blessed
The Lord is perfect love expressed as perfect wisdom. He created us so that He could love us, could give us love and wisdom of...

fruitful
To be fruitful is predicated of goodnesses, and to be multiplied, of truths.

multiply
'Spreading themselves on the earth,' as in Genesis 8:17, signifies the internal self operating on the external.

fill
'To satiate' relates to the extent of a person's will, for good or evil.

beast
"Beasts" represent the affection for doing good things, a true desire to do them from the heart. In the negative sense, "beasts" stand for the...

us
Angels do give us guidance, but they are mere helpers; the Lord alone governs us, through angels and spirits. Since angels have their assisting role,...

image
'An image' signifies falsities from self-derived intelligence.

sea
'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

air
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

male
Because of their understanding of spiritual marriage, the people of the Most Ancient church perceived 'male and female' as two faculties in the spiritual self:...

male and female
Because of their understanding of spiritual marriage, the people of the Most Ancient church perceived 'male and female' as two faculties in the spiritual self:...

female
Because of their understanding of spiritual marriage, the people of the Most Ancient church perceived 'male and female' as two faculties in the spiritual self:...

given
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

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...

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here: swedenborg.com.


Our Bodies Connect to God's Design of the Universe

The human body is a microcosm of the divine design. Join us to learn about its connection to heaven and what its form can teach us about spiritual reality and how our minds work.


The Creation Story: Signs of Life - S&L Short Clips

The Biblical creation story is about the re-creation of our minds. Learn how the first signs of life on the third day symbolize heavenly ideas taking root in our lives.


Swedenborg 101: The Basic Nature of Everything - Swedenborg and Life

In this episode, host Curtis Childs and featured guests explore what eighteenth-century Christian mystic and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg learned during his mystical explorations of the spiritual world. They delve into his life, spiritual awakening, and resulting philosophies about the relationship between this life and the afterlife.


What the 7 Days of Creation Mean - Swedenborg and Life

Was everything we see around us really created in seven days? Could that story in Genesis actually have something to say to each of us, right now? Join us as we discuss Swedenborg's accounts of his spiritual experiences and what he learned through them.

Genesis 1:1-5 >> 03:55
, 10:28
, 15:10
, 27:16
, 31:59
, 40:26

Does God Want us to Dominate Nature? - Swedenborg Minute

Is there a religious call to exploit nature? Here, Swedenborg tackles a bit of text that has led some people to believe just that.

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.


 Animals and Plants in Heaven
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Celebrating the Seven Days of Creation
Offers a wide array of ideas for play time, art projects, field trips, and more.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Correspondences of Light
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that talk about light. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Creation Chain
Make a paper chain with the names (or pictures) of the people in your family and other things that the Lord has made. Or make a paper chain that illustrates several things in creation that depend on one another. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Creation Diorama
A great family project to build and display in your home.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Creation Mobile
Assemble this lovely mobile to remind you of all the Lord's precious gifts to us.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Creation Poem with Hand Motions
A lovely poem about creation with hand motions.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Creation | Seas to Trees Pop-up
Color cut-and-fold pop-up project showing dry land rising out of the water and then growing a tree illustrating Genesis 1:9-13. Sample activity from Creation: reflection of God, Level C, ages 11-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Creation Sequencing Cards
Children can color and cut out these cards, then practice putting them in order from day 1-7.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Creation Story (circle book project)
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Creation | The First Day - Level A
Complete lesson with activity choices: light and darkness game and song, separate light and darkness collage, scripted story discussion, coloring page, and a memory verse. Sample lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level A, ages 3-6.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 6

 Creation | The First Day - Level B
Complete lesson with activity choices: light and darkness experiment with accompanying video, let there be light folding paper project, scripted story discussion, coloring page, and a memory verse. Sample lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level B, ages 7-10.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Creation | The First Day - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: living in the dark--group blindfold games, video and discussion on the bible, creation and a can of peaches, scripted story discussion, and an illustrated quotation card. Sample Lesson from Creation: reflection of God, Level C.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Family Worship: The Story of Creation
Ideas for reading and discussing the story of creation in Genesis 1. Includes suggestions for extending the experience such as going for a nature walk.
Religion Lesson | Ages 3 - 15

 God Said What? The Creation Story
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Memory Verse: Giving Thanks for Creation
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Life Is Eternal
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Men and Women Are Different
Studies confirm that differences between men and women extend beyond the physical body, affecting engagement on all levels of life.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Overview of Creation Reflection of God Levels A, B, C for ages 3-14
Overview of Creation: reflection of God, Levels A, B, C for ages 3-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 14

 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

 Qualities of the Lord
Look at colored pictures of stories from the Word. Using a word bank, identify the quality of the Lord shown in each picture.
Project | Ages 9 - 14

 Quotes: Giving Thanks for Creation
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Stars
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Summary of Creation and Thankfulness
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Sun and the Fruit of Creation
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Thankfulness
A Thanksgiving "wreath" to color and display.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Thanking the Lord for Creation
How can your words and actions show the Lord that you appreciate His creation?
Activity | Ages over 15

 The Creation
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Creation: A General View
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 Creation: The Fifth and Sixth Days
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 Creation: The First Four Days
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 Days of Creation Collage Book or Mural
Ideas from an art teacher for making a creation book or mural.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 The Fifth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Fifth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The First Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The First Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Fourth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Fourth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Greatest Gift
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Meaning of the Tree of Life
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Purpose of Creation
Birth brings a person into the natural world, but God's ultimate purpose is that a person be born again into heavenly life, the life of the spirit.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Second Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Second Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Seven Days of Creation
An illustrated story of the seven days of creation.
Story | Ages 3 - 7

 The Sixth Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Sixth Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Story of Creation
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Story of Creation: Family Worship Ideas
Detailed notes on the seven days of creation.
Article | Ages over 18

 The Third Day of Creation
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Third Day of Creation
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Universe
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Word Made Flesh
Like Genesis, the Gospel of John begins with creation. While Genesis describes the creation of natural light, John describes a second creation into spiritual light.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Two Great Lights
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Using the Lord’s Creation
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Where Did Everything Come From?
Grandpa explains to Annika and Peter where everything came from.
Story | Ages 4 - 6

 Why Are We Here?
Lesson and activities to explore why we were created - what God intends for us.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15


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