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

 

Matthew 16:20

Study the Inner Meaning

              

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 16      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 16.

Requesting More Signs

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1. And the Pharisees and Sadducees coming, tempting, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.

2. And He answering said to them, “When it is evening, you say, [There will be] serenity, for the heaven is red;

3. And in the morning, Today [will be] a winter storm, for the heaven is red, being gloomy. Hypocrites! you indeed know how to discern the face of the heaven, but the signs of the time you cannot [discern].

4. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And leaving them He went away.
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From the lofty heights of the mountaintop, where Jesus feeds the multitudes, we return to the edge of the sea. The setting is in the region of Magdala, on the western shore of Galilee. It is here that the religious leaders confront Jesus again. Even though Jesus has done numerous miracles, they remain unconvinced. They want Jesus to show them a sign from heaven (16:1). This pictures something about the human condition. How often has God miraculously changed our state, lifting us out of our sadness and despair — even without changing any circumstances? And yet we, too, can remain unconvinced of His miraculous ability to renew our minds and revive our souls.

Therefore, like the disbelieving religious leaders, we too come to God and say, “Show us a sign from heaven,” not realizing that the beating of our hearts, the rising of the sun, and the laughter of a child are all signs from heaven. Aware that the religious leaders are not really interested in a sign, but are only testing Him, Jesus says, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites. You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (16:2-3). 1

By these words, Jesus suggests that these religious leaders may well be able to accurately forecast the weather, but they have no understanding of spiritual reality. The Messiah has come. Foreseen by the prophets, this long-awaited event — far more significant than any weather forecast — is now taking place before their very eyes. And yet, they see nothing. The Messiah Himself is standing in their midst, but their self-absorption prevents them from realizing that He is there.

The situation is not unlike our own. Absorbed in materialistic concerns about our future, we study weather forecasts, political trends, and stock market predictions, unaware of the many miracles taking place in the present moment. 2

The religious leaders know how to discern the face of the sky; they are adept at predicting the weather. But they are unable to see Jesus as the promised Messiah whose coming was forecasted by the prophets. Their inability to see past their self-righteousness has blinded them to the divine truth that stands before them.

Even so, they still demand “a sign from heaven.” Jesus has already performed numerous miracles, and yet they are unconvinced. Will another miraculous sign change anything? On two previous occasions, when Jesus cast out demons, the religious leaders claimed that His power to do so was from the devil (9:34 and 12:24). In other words, because they are already bound and determined to destroy Him, there is nothing more He can do for them; no sign will convince them that He is indeed the Messiah.

Moreover, it is contrary to divine order to persuade a person by force. God does not compel our belief. Each of us is kept in freedom so that we may freely choose to accept God — or reject Him — if we so choose. 3 And we accept Him by living according to His teachings, believing that He alone can give us the power to do so. In the process we become increasingly connected to the Lord, to the point where it seems that our will has become one with His will. This is the process of regeneration — the conscious laying down of our old life, so that we can be reborn to a new one. There is no other way, and there is no external “sign” that can prove this inner reality for us. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign,” Jesus says. “And no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (16:4).

As we have seen (12:39), the “sign of the prophet Jonah” is our individual experience of regeneration as we struggle daily to live according to the teachings of our religion. To the extent that we do this, we begin to notice subtle but significant changes in our character — changes that can only be experienced by those who strive to live their religion. The operant word here is “live.” Religion is not something merely to be believed — it must be lived. If we wait to have its validity proven in any other way, for example by waiting for a sign from heaven, we will wait in vain.

But the more we decide to live according to the Lord’s will we receive wonderful “signs” that progress is taking place. Some of these might include a softened heart, increased sensitivity to the needs of others, a forgiving attitude, a patient disposition, a growing ease at admitting mistakes, and a greater depth of contentment. These, and so much more, are the “signs of the prophet Jonah” (16:4). 4 And, in His mercy, the Lord allows us, to a certain extent, to perceive these wondrous inner changes. 5

If the religious leaders had truly practiced their religion — living by the commandments of God, rather than by “the traditions of the elders,” they would have had all the signs they needed. Through living a deeply spiritual life, they would have evolved to the point where they would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah. But this was not the case. They would not — and therefore could not — see beyond their own prejudices and preconceptions. As a result, there was very little that Jesus could do for them. So, “He left them and departed” (16:4).

Forgetting to Take Bread

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5. And when His disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6. And Jesus said to them, “See ye and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

7. And they reasoned within themselves, saying, “[It is] because we have not taken bread.”

8. And Jesus, knowing, said to them, “Why do you reason within yourselves, [O you] of little faith, because you have not taken bread?

9. Do you not yet consider, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took?

10. Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took?

11. How do you not consider that [it was] not concerning bread [that] I said to you, you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?”

12. Then they understood that He did not say they should beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
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By this time, it has become quite clear that the religious leaders want to destroy Jesus who directly challenges their teachings and their practices. Jesus is especially concerned with their arrogant, contemptuous attitudes, believing that they alone were “clean” while all others who did not believe what they taught were “unclean.” Like leaven in a loaf of bread, they are puffed up, bloated, and filled with self-importance. It is for this reason that Jesus now warns His disciples: “Take heed and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (16:6).

The disciples do not understand Jesus’ warning about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They think that Jesus is using the term “leaven” to refer to physical bread, because it is the essential ingredient that makes bread rise. Taking Jesus’ warning literally, they can only assume that Jesus does not want them to accept physical bread from the religious leaders. So, they say to each other, “This is because we have not brought bread with us” (16:7).

The disciples have missed the point. Jesus is not speaking about material bread, but about an arrogant, “puffed up” attitude — the “leaven of the Pharisees.” Jesus’ warning is for everyone. Whenever we feel ourselves slipping into contempt for others, feeling superior in some way, or believing that others should think the way we do and behave in the ways that we regard as “righteous,” we are indulging in “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” This “leaven” which Jesus tells us to “beware of” can secretly fill us with confidence in self rather than in God, inflates us with feelings of pride rather than humility, and delude us into thinking that we have risen above others

To avoid being “leavened” in this way, it’s important to remember that the Lord will always provide “the true bread” — not the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He will provide all we need and more, just as He miraculously fed the multitudes. Therefore, Jesus says to His disciples, “Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered, or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (16:10).

It was then that the disciples realized that Jesus had not been speaking to them about physical bread, but rather about the misleading teachings and arrogant attitudes of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were beginning to understand that if they were to follow the teachings and attitudes of the Pharisees and Sadducees, all of which are “leavened” with arrogance and contempt, they would be sadly misled.

Peter’s Confession of Faith

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13. And Jesus, coming into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, besought His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

14. And they said, “Some [say] John the Baptist; and some Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

15. He says to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16. And Simon Peter answering said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17. And Jesus answering said to him, “Happy art thou, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood has not revealed [it] to thee, but My Father who is in the heavens.

18. And I also say unto thee that thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever thou shalt bind on the earth shall be bound in the heavens; and whatever thou shalt loose on the earth shall be loosed in the heavens.”

20. Then He charged His disciples that they should say to no one that He is Jesus the Christ.
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In the previous episode, Jesus warned His disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Leavening, as we pointed out earlier, initiates a process of fermentation through which impurities are separated and bread is perfected (13:33). So, even though Jesus has warned His disciples about the leaven represented by the religious leaders, we still need to deal with “leaven” in our lives — the continual temptation to succumb to the beliefs and attitudes represented by the religious leaders. If dealt with properly, however, a process similar to the leavening of bread and the fermenting of wine can take place within us; we can make progress in our spiritual journey. 6

The leavening process, therefore, corresponds to what happens within us during times of spiritual temptation in our lives. Since there is no regeneration without temptation, this is vital stage in our spiritual development. 7 However, in order to triumph in the combats of temptation, we need to know that they are coming, that they cannot be avoided, and that there are spiritual truths for dealing with them. of all the truths that are available for successfully moving through these times of spiritual trial, one truth, above all, is necessary. It is the foundation of all other truths.

This episode is about that truth.

It begins in the foothills of Mt. Hermon, in the region of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (16:13). Reporting what they have heard others say, they reply, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (16:14). This is, of course, hearsay — merely the opinions of others, the gossip and rumor that were going around at the time. None of it is significant, for it matters little what others say about Jesus, or who they think He is. What really matters is what each of us thinks in our own heart. And so, Jesus says, “But who do you say that I am?” (16:15).

It’s a question that is the very center of this gospel, all the gospels, and Christianity itself: “Who do you say that I am?” (16:15).

Without a moment’s hesitation Peter responds and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16). And Jesus answers, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Obviously pleased with Peter’s answer, Jesus adds, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (16:17-18). This is the rock of truth; the foundation stone upon which all other truths will rest, and the fundamental teaching to keep in mind as we go through our own combats of temptation.

Earlier in this gospel, as Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount, He referred to this great truth as well, but was less specific about what it meant. It was the story about a man who built his house upon the rock: “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (7:25).

Now, as Jesus prepares His disciples for temptation combats, He reveals more information about the nature of “the rock.” Jesus acknowledges that He is “the Son of the living God.” This is the first thing the disciples will need to know as they prepare to defend themselves against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. So powerful is this truth that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (16:18); in other words, it will overcome and subdue any evil that threatens to attack it.

It should be noted that although Peter refers to Jesus as the Son of the living God, he does not say that Jesus is God Himself. For the time being, this is enough. In fact, Jesus is more than satisfied with Peter’s answer. He tells him that this initial understanding will open the door to even deeper truths, for it is the key to the kingdom of heaven: “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (16:19).

While this passage has been traditionally understood to mean that Peter will literally be able to open and close the gates of heaven, the meaning is much higher. It’s not about Peter standing at the “pearly gates” deciding whether or not to admit us to heaven. Rather, it’s about the spiritual truths that are given to us in the Word of the Lord. Whenever these truths are taken into the mind, loved, and lived, they become “keys” that close the door to hell — allowing nothing evil or false to enter our mind, and open the door to heaven, allowing all that is good and true to flow in. Whatever is damaging to our spirit will be “bound”; and whatever is life-promoting for our spirit will be “loosed.” And the “key of keys,” the rock of truth upon which all other truth stand, is the confession that Jesus is “the Son of the living God.” 8

The Way of the Cross

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21. From then Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22. And Peter, taking Him, began to rebuke Him, saying, “Pity Thyself Lord; this shall not be to Thee.”

23. But turning, He said to Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense to Me, because thou art not wise in the things that are of God, but those that are of men.”

24. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wills to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

25. For whoever wills to save his soul, shall lose it, but whoever shall lose his soul for My sake, shall find it.

26. For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

27. For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then shall He render to everyone according to his doing.

28. Amen I say to you, There are some standing here, who shall not taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
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Jesus has been steadily preparing His disciples for the inevitable temptations they will undergo. In this next episode, He begins to speak openly about His own temptations and the suffering that He Himself is about to endure. As it is written, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things . . . and be killed . . . and raised again the third day” (16:21).

Peter does not take it well. Although He is the first of the disciples to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity, he cannot bear the thought of His crucifixion. So he cries out, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You” (16:22).

Like the other disciples, Peter cherishes the hope that Jesus will soon become their great champion and lead them to victory over all their natural enemies. They have been looking forward to the day when He will set Himself up as their rightful king, the long awaited Messiah who will deliver His people and be the ruler of all nations. They may have been familiar with the prophecy recorded in Daniel: “I was watching, and one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven . . . to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away” (Daniel 7:13-14).

It is easy to imagine that Peter might be thinking in terms of earthly rather than heavenly rewards. It would be natural for him to have great expectations about this new and glorious kingdom, with Jesus as King. At the very least, it would be the end of Roman rule, and a new beginning for his people. There might even be a special place for Peter in the new administration!

But this is to misunderstand the true purpose of Jesus’ life on earth. The real goal of Jesus’ mission is to conquer and subdue spiritual enemies, not natural ones. After all, the gospel begins with the prophecy, “He will save His people from their sins” — not from their physical oppressors (1:21).

This is a new and different kind of salvation, very different from what had been expected of a Messiah. This kind of salvation could only be accomplished through Jesus’ experiencing combats against every evil that could ever assail humanity. To deny the necessity of this process, to think that there is some other, easier way, is to deny the very purpose of the Lord’s advent. So, when Peter said to Jesus, “This shall not happen to you, Lord,” it was tantamount to a repudiation of this essential process. Therefore, Jesus responds to Peter’s denial with these words: “Get behind Me, Satan. You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (16:23).

It is natural to prefer the easy way. But without spiritual trials and combats there is no spiritual growth. This is sometimes referred to as, “The Way of the Cross.” In fact, the cross would be the only way; spiritual temptation would be inevitable, both for Jesus and His followers. Therefore, Jesus adds these words, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (16:24-26).

However unpleasant or unwelcome this news may be, this is precisely what the disciples need to hear at this point in their spiritual development. Jesus makes it abundantly clear to them that temptation will be inevitable, and that it must not be avoided. Peter, we should remember, has taken the first step in becoming truly Christian. He has confessed that Jesus is the Son of the living God. But if he is to make this confession of faith a living reality, he must, from now on, strive for heavenly rewards, not earthly ones. He must even be willing to lay down his life “for whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (16:25).

Jesus then adds a great promise: “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (16:27). It will be tough going to be sure, and it will even involve the willingness to give up one’s life. But a great reward is promised, and they will not have to wait long either: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (16:28).

To the disciples, who understand these words literally, Jesus seems to be saying that He is about to set up His physical kingdom, and that it will happen during their lifetime. In other words, before they die, or even “taste of death,” Jesus will establish His new kingdom.

But Jesus is speaking about something much more interior. He is speaking about how the heavenly kingdom is established in each of us in each of our lifetimes.

The establishment of that kingdom begins with a decision to make use of our God-given ability to raise our minds above the merely natural degree of our life so that we might understand the laws of spiritual reality. This ability, which is implanted in everyone from creation, enables us to open our spiritual eyes so that we may see and understand divine truth (the “Son of Man”) in our lifetime. Whenever we make use of this ability, raising our understanding above material concerns, we come into a new understanding. We see all things in the bright light of higher truth. It is this more interior sight that Jesus is speaking about when He says, “There are some standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (16:28). 9

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Footnotes:

1. In the words of an English nursery rhyme: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” 2. Arcana Coelestia 2493: “2493. I have spoken to angels about the memory of things of the past and about consequent anxiety concerning things of the future, and I have been informed that the more interior and perfect angels are the less do they care about things of the past or think about those of the future, and that this is also the origin of their happiness. They have said that the Lord provides them every moment with what to think, accompanied by blessing and happiness, and that this being so they have no cares and no worries. This also is what is meant in the internal sense by the manna being received ‘day by day’ from heaven, and by the ‘daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer.”

3. Divine Providence 129: “No one is reformed by miracles and signs, because they compel.” See also Arcana Coelestia 6472: “The Lord does not compel a person to receive what flows in from Himself; but leads in freedom; and so far as a person allows, He leads through freedom to good.”

4. Arcana Coelestia 1909:2: “People may see what kind of life they have if they will only search out their primary goals in life, and in respect to which all other goals are as nothing. If their primary goal is themselves and the world, let them know that their life is hellish; but if they have for their primary goal the good of the neighbor, the common good, the Lord’s kingdom, and especially the Lord Himself, let them know that their life is heavenly.”

5. Life 96-97: “It should be clearly understood that the Lord alone fights in a person against evils, and that it only appears to people as if they fought from themselves. The Lord wills that it should so appear, since without this appearance there could be no combat and consequently no reformation. This combat is not grievous, except for those who have relaxed all restraints upon their lusts, and who have deliberately indulged them…. For others, however, it is not grievous; let them resist evils in intention only once a week, or twice in a month, and they will perceive a change.”

6. Arcana Coelestia 7906:1-3: “The words, ‘No leaven shall be found in your houses” signifies that nothing whatever of falsity shall come near good, is evident from the signification of ‘leaven," as being falsity…. As further regards what is leavened and what is unleavened, be it known that the purification of truth from falsity with man cannot possibly exist without fermentation so called, that is, without the combat of falsity with truth and of truth with falsity…. In this sense is to be understood what the Lord teaches about leaven in Matthew: ‘The kingdom of the heavens is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened’…. Such combats as are signified by fermentations arise with man in the state previous to newness of life.”

7. Arcana Coelestia 8403: “People uninformed about human regeneration suppose that a person can be regenerated without temptation, and some that he has been regenerated after he has undergone a single temptation. But let it be known that no one can be regenerated without temptation, and that he suffers very many temptations, one following after another. The reason for this is that regeneration takes place to the end that the life of the old man may die and a new, heavenly life may be instilled. From this one may recognize that conflict is altogether inevitable; for the life of the old man stands its ground and refuses to be snuffed out, and the life of the new man cannot enter except where the life of the old has been snuffed out. From this it is evident that fierce conflict takes place between mutually hostile sides, since each is fighting for its life.”

8. True Christian Religion 342:3: “Everyone who wishes to be truly a Christian and to be saved by Christ, ought to believe that Jesus is the Son of the living God.”

9. Arcana Coelestia 10099:3: “The ancients knew that when people are withdrawn from the sensuous things that belong to the body, they are withdrawn or raised into the light of his spirit, thus into the light of heaven.” Conjugial Love 498: “If people were without the power to raise their understanding above the will’s love, they would not be human beings, but rather beasts, for the beast does not enjoy that power. Consequently, they would not be able to make any choices, or from choice to do what is good and right, and so could not be reformed, or led to heaven, or live to eternity.”

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From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Apocalypse Revealed 768

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Bible Word Meanings

disciples
When we read the Gospels and see Jesus addressing the disciples, we assume His words are meant for us as well. And indeed they are!...

tell
'To tell' signifies perceiving, because in the spiritual world, or in heaven, they do not need to tell what they think because they communicate every...

christ
Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

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.


 Being Like Peter
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Building the Lord’s Church
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Compare Joshua with Jesus
Complete a chart comparing Joshua and Jesus. Who were theys fighting? Where did they go? How did they show courage?
Activity | Ages 9 - 13

 Cornerstones
Project | Ages over 7

 Quotes: I Will Build My Church
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 The Charge to Peter
This sermon describes the meaning of the Lord's charge to Peter to feed and tend His flocks. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord Bless Thee
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Second Coming
While many anticipate the return of Jesus Christ to earth, the New Church teaches the Lord has already made His second coming in the teachings for the New Church.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Transfiguration
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14


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