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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From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #513

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513. Verse 9. And there died the third part of the creatures in the sea having souls, signifies that in consequence every living knowledge [scientificum] in the natural man perished. This is evident from the signification of "dying," as being to perish spiritually, that is, in respect to the life of heaven; also from the signification of the "third part," as being all (see above, n. 506; also from the signification of the "creatures in the sea" (or fishes), as being knowledges [scientifica] (of which presently); also from the signification of "having souls," as being to be alive; consequently "there died the third part of the creatures in the sea having souls" signifies that in consequence every living knowledge perished. A living knowledge means a knowledge that derives life from spiritual affection; for that affection gives life to truths, and thus gives life to knowledges, for knowledges are containants of spiritual truths (see above, n. 506, 507, 511).

(References: Revelation 8:9; The Apocalypse Explained 506, 506-507, 511)


[2] "The creatures of the sea" (or fishes) signify knowledges, because the "sea" signifies the natural man, and thus "fishes in the sea" signify the knowledges themselves that are in the natural man. This signification of "fishes" also is from correspondence, for the spirits that are not in spiritual truths, but only in natural truths, which are knowledges, appear in the spiritual world in seas, and when viewed by those who are above, as fishes; for the thoughts that spring from the knowledges with such present that appearance. For all the ideas of the thought of angels and spirits are turned into various representatives outside of them; when turned into such things as are of the vegetable kingdom they are turned into trees and shrubs of various kinds; and when into such things as are of the animal kingdom they are turned into land animals and flying things of various kinds; when the ideas of the angels of heaven are turned into land animals they are turned into lambs, sheep, goats, bullocks, horses, mules, and other like animals; but when into flying things they are turned into turtle doves, pigeons, and various kinds of beautiful birds. But the ideas of thought of those who are natural and who think from mere knowledges are turned into the forms of fishes. Consequently in the seas various kinds of fishes appear, and this it has often been granted me to see.

[3] It is from this that in the Word "fishes" signify knowledges, as in the following passages. In Isaiah:

At My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers into a wilderness; their fish shall rot because there is no water, and shall die of thirst (Isaiah 50:2).

"The rebuke of Jehovah" means the ruin of the church, which takes place when there is no knowledge of truth and good, that is, no living knowledge, because there is no perception; "dry up the sea" signifies to deprive the natural man of true knowledges [scientifica], and thus of natural life from the spiritual; "to make the rivers into a wilderness" signifies a similar deprivation in the rational man whence there is no intelligence; "their fish shall rot because there is no water, and shall die of thirst," signifies that there is no longer any living knowledge [scientificum], because there is no truth, "fish" meaning knowledge, "water" truth, and "to rot" meaning to perish in respect to spiritual life.

[4] The like that is here said of the sea, that "a third part of it became blood, and thence the third part of the creatures in it died," is said also of Egypt, that its river and all its waters became blood, and consequently the fish died, in Moses:

Moses said to Pharaoh that the waters of the river should be turned into blood, and that consequently the fish should die, and the river should stink, and that the Egyptians would loathe to drink the waters of the river; and this was also done in respect to all the water in Egypt (Exodus 7:17-25).

It is said of this in David:

He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish (Psalms 105:29).

The like was done in Egypt, because "Egypt" signifies the natural man in respect to its knowledge [scientificum], or the knowledge belonging to the natural man; "the river of Egypt" signifies intelligence acquired by means of knowledges; "the river becoming blood" signifies intelligence from mere falsities; "the fish dying" signifies that true knowledges were destroyed by falsities, for knowledges live by truths but are destroyed by falsities, for the reason that all spiritual truth is living, and from it is all the life, or as it were the soul, in the knowledges; therefore without spiritual truth knowledge is dead.

[5] In Ezekiel:

I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great whale that lieth in the midst of his rivers, that hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made myself. Therefore I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, that all the fish of thy rivers may stick unto thy scales. And I will abandon thee in the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers (2 Ezekiel 29:3-5).

"Pharaoh" has a similar signification as "Egypt," for the king and the people have a similar signification, namely, the natural man and knowledge therein; therefore he is called "a great whale;" "whale (or sea-monster)" signifying knowledge in general; therefore it is said that "he shall be drawn out of the river," and that then "the fish shall stick to his scales," which signifies that all intelligence is to perish, and that knowledge (scientia) which will take its place will be in the sensual man without life. In the sensual man, which is the lowest natural, standing out nearest to the world, there are fallacies and falsities therefrom, and this is signified by "the fish sticking to the scales" of the whale. That the natural man and the knowledge therein will be without life from any intelligence is signified by "I will abandon thee in the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers." That such things would come to pass because the natural man attributes all intelligence to itself, is signified by "that hath said, My river is mine own, I have made myself," "river" meaning intelligence.

[6] In Moses:

The sons of Israel said in the wilderness, We remember the fish that we did eat in Egypt freely, and the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic; now our soul is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes. Afterwards there went forth a wind from Jehovah, and snatched quails from the sea, and let them fall over the camp. But because of this lust Jehovah smote the people with a very great plague; consequently the name of that place was called the Graves of Lust (Numbers 11:5, 6, 31, 33, 34).

This signified that the sons of Israel were averse from things spiritual and hungered after natural things; indeed, they were not spiritual but merely natural, only representing a spiritual church by external things. That they were averse from spiritual things is signified by "our soul is dried up, there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes," "manna" signifying spiritual food, which is knowledge (scientia), intelligence, and wisdom. That they hungered after natural things is signified by "their lusting after the fish in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic," all which signify such things as belong to the lowest natural, that is, the sensual-corporeal man; and because they rejected things spiritual, and coveted merely natural things instead, "they were smitten with a great plague, and the name given to the place was the Graves of Lust."

(References: Numbers 11:4-6, 11:5-6, 11:33-34)


[7] In Ezekiel:

He said to me, These waters go forth toward the eastern boundary, and go down into the plain and come towards the sea, being sent forth into the sea that the waters may be healed; whence it comes to pass that every living soul that creeps, whithersoever the brooks come, shall live; whence there is exceeding much fish. Therefore it shall come to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; with the spreading of nets are they there; their fish shall be according to their kind, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places and the marshes thereof which are not healed shall be given to salt (Ezekiel 47:8-11).

This treats of the house of God, which signifies heaven and the church; and "the waters that go forth out of the house of God towards the east" signify Divine truth reforming and regenerating; the "plain" and the "sea" into which the waters go down, signify the ultimate things of heaven and the church, which with the men of the church are the things that belong to the natural and sensual man, the "plain" signifying the interior things thereof, and the "sea" the exterior things thereof; that both cognitions from the Word and confirming knowledges receive spiritual life through this Divine truth is signified by "the waters of the sea are healed thereby," and by "every soul that creepeth shall live," and by "there shall be exceeding much fish;" that there are in consequence true and living knowledges of every kind is signified by "their fish shall be according to their kind, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many." Those who are reformed, and thence become intelligent, are meant by "the fishers from En-gedi even to En-eglaim." Those who cannot be reformed because they are in the falsities of evil are signified by "the miry places and marshes that are not healed, but are given to salt." Everyone can see that this does not mean that fishes are multiplied by the waters going forth out of the house of God, but that "fishes" mean such things in man as can be reformed, since "the house of God" means heaven and the church, and the "waters going forth therefrom" mean Divine truth reforming.

(References: Ezekiel 47:1)


[8] In the Word here and there mention is made of "the beast of the earth," "the fowl of heaven," and "the fish of the sea," and he who does not know that the "beast of the earth" (or of the field) means man's voluntary faculty, "the fowl of heaven" his intellectual faculty, and "the fish of the sea" his knowing faculty, cannot know at all the meaning of these passages, as in the following. In Hosea:

Jehovah hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. Therefore the land shall mourn, and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish, among the beasts of the field, and among the fowl of the heavens; and also the fishes of the sea shall be gathered up (Hosea 4:1, 3).

In Zephaniah:

I will consume man and beast, I will consume the fowl of the heavens, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked (Zephaniah 1:3).

In Ezekiel:

In the day that Gog shall come upon the land of Israel, there shall be a great earthquake over the land of Israel, and the fishes of the sea, and the fowl of the heavens, and the beast of the field, shall quake before Me (Ezekiel 38:18-20).

In Job:

Ask the beasts and they shall teach thee, or the fowl of heaven and they shall tell thee, or the shrub of the earth and it shall teach thee, and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who doth not know by all these things that the hand of Jehovah doeth this? (Job 12:7-9).

In these passages "the beast of the field" means man's voluntary faculty, "the fowl of heaven" his intellectual faculty, and "the fish of the sea" his knowing faculty; otherwise how could it be said "the beasts shall teach thee, the fowl of heaven shall tell thee, and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee, that the hand of Jehovah doeth this"? Also it is said, "Who doth not know by all these things?"

[9] Likewise in David:

Thou madest him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, the flock and all herds, the beasts of the fields, the fowl of heaven, and the fish of the sea, whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas (Psalms 8:6-8).

This is said of the Lord and His dominion. That He has dominion over angels in the heavens and over men on the earth is known from the Word, for He says that unto Him "all power in heaven and in earth has been given" (Matthew 28:18); but that dominion was given to Him over animals, fowl, and fishes, is not a matter of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the Word, where each and every thing has reference to heaven and the church. It is therefore evident that "flock and herds, the beasts of the fields, the fowl of heaven, and the fish of the sea," mean such things as belong to heaven with angels and to the church with man, "the flock and the herds" signifying, in general, things spiritual and natural, the "flock" things spiritual, and "herds" things natural that are with man, or that belong to the spiritual mind and to the natural mind with him. "The beasts of the fields" signify things voluntary, which belong to the affections; "the fowl of heaven" signify things intellectual, which belong to the thoughts; and "the fishes of the sea" signify knowledges (scientifica) which belong to the natural man.

[10] Like things are signified by these words in the first chapter of Genesis:

And God said, We will make man in Our image, after Our likeness; that he may have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of heaven, and over every animal that creepeth upon the earth (verses 26, 28).

This chapter treats in the internal spiritual sense of the establishment of the Most Ancient Church, thus of the new creation or regeneration of the men of that church. That it was given to them to perceive all things of their affection which belong to the will, and to see all things of their thought which belong to the understanding, and to so rule over them as not to wander away into the lusts of evil and into falsities, is meant by "that he may have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of heaven, and every animal of the earth;" and man has dominion over these things when the Lord has dominion over man, for man of himself does not have dominion over anything in himself. "The fish of the sea, the fowl of heaven, and the beast of the field," have this signification because of their correspondence. The correspondences of the interior things of man with these things stand forth so as to be clearly seen in the spiritual world; for there beasts of every kind, and birds, and fishes in the seas, are seen, which nevertheless are nothing else than the ideas of thought that flow forth from affections, and these are presented under such forms because they are correspondences.

(References: Genesis 1:26, 1:28)


[11] Because "fishes" signify the knowledges and cognitions belonging to the natural man that serve the spiritual man as means for becoming wise, so "fishers" mean in the Word those who are merely in knowledges, also those who are acquiring knowledges for themselves, also those who teach others and by means of knowledges reform them. The works of such are meant by "the casting and spreading of nets," as in the following passages. In Isaiah:

The fishers shall moan, and all they that cast the hook into the river shall mourn, and they that spread the net upon the faces of the waters shall languish (Isaiah 19:8).

"The fishers that cast the hook into the river and they that spread the net" mean those who wish to acquire for themselves knowledges and through these intelligence, here that they are unable to do this because there are no knowledges of truth anywhere.

[12] In Jeremiah:

I will bring back the sons of Israel again upon their land; I will send to many fishers who shall fish them; then I will send to many hunters, who shall hunt them from upon every mountain and from upon every hill, and out of the clefts of the cliffs (Jeremiah 16:15, 16).

"To send to fishers who shall fish them, and to hunters who shall hunt them," means to call together and establish the church with those who are in natural good and in spiritual good, as may be seen above n. 405.

(References: Jeremiah 16:15-16; The Apocalypse Explained 405)


[13] In Habakkuk:

Wherefore dost Thou make man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping thing that hath no ruler? Let him draw up all with the hook, and gather him into his net. Shall he therefore empty his net, and not pity to slay the nations continually? (Mark 1:14, 15, 17).

This was said of the Chaldean nation wasting and destroying the church; and the Chaldean nation signifies the profanation of truth, and the vastation of the church. "To make men as the fishes of the sea, and as the creeping thing that hath no ruler," signifies to make man so natural that his knowledges (scientifica) are devoid of spiritual truth, and his delights are devoid of spiritual good; for in the natural man there are knowledges by which come thoughts, and delights by which come affections; and if the spiritual is not dominant over these, both thoughts and affections are wandering, and thus man is destitute of the intelligence that should lead and rule. That then every falsity and every evil has power to draw them over to their side, and thus wholly destroy them, is signified by "Let him draw out all with the hook, and gather into his net, and afterwards slay," "to draw out" meaning out of truth and good, "into his net" meaning into falsity and evil, and "to slay" meaning to destroy.

(References: Habakkuk 1:14-15, 1:17)


[14] In Amos:

The days will come in which they shall draw you out with hooks, and your posterity with fish hooks (Amos 4:2).

This signifies leading away and alienating from truths by means of acute reasonings from falsities and fallacies; it is said of those who abound in knowledges because they have the Word and the prophets; such are here meant by "the kine of Bashan in the mountain of Samaria."

[15] From this the meaning of "fishermen," "fishes" and "nets," so often mentioned in the New Testament, can be seen, as in the following passages:

Jesus saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. And He said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:18, 19: Mark 1:16, 17).

Jesus entered into Simon's boat and was teaching the multitude. After that He told Simon to let out his nets for a draught, and they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that the boats were filled, and in danger of sinking. And amazement seized them all, because of the draught of fishes; and He said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Luke 5:3-10).

In this also there is a spiritual sense, like that in the rest of the Word; the Lord's choosing these fishermen and saying that "they should become fishers of men," signified that they should gather to the church; "the nets which they let out, and in which they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that the ships were in danger of sinking," signified the reformation of the church through them, for "fishes" here signify the knowledges of truth and good by means of which reformation is effected, likewise the multitude of men who are to be reformed.

(References: Mark 1:16-17, 1:18; Matthew 4:18-19)


[16] The draught of fishes by the disciples after the Lord's resurrection has a like signification; it is thus described in John:

When Jesus manifested Himself to the disciples, who were fishing, He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. And they took so many that they were not able to draw the net for the multitude of fishes. When they descended upon the land they saw a fire built, and a little fish lying thereon, and bread. And Jesus gave them the bread, and the little fish likewise (John 21:2-13).

The Lord manifested Himself while they were fishing, because "to fish" signified to teach the knowledges of truth and good, and thus to reform. His commanding them "to cast the net on the right side of the boat" signified that all things should be from the good of love and charity, "the right side" signifying that good from which all things should come, for so far as knowledges are derived from good, so far they live and are multiplied. They said that "they had labored all the night and had taken nothing," which signified that from self or from one's own (proprium) nothing comes, but that all things are from the Lord; and the like was signified by the "fire" on which was the little fish, and by the "bread;" for the "bread" signified the Lord and the good of love from Him, and "the fish on the fire" the knowledge of truth from good, the "fish" the knowledge of truth, and the "fire" good. At that time there were no spiritual men, because the church was wholly vastated, but all were natural, and their reformation was represented by this fishing, and also by the fish on the fire. He who believes that the fish on the fire and the bread that were given to the disciples to eat were not significative of something higher is very much mistaken, for the least things done by the Lord and said by Him were significative of Divine celestial things, which become evident only through the spiritual sense. That this "fire of coals" and "fire" mean the good of love, and that "bread" means the Lord in relation to that good, has been shown above; and that a "fish" means the knowledge of truth and the knowing faculty of the natural man is clear from what has been said and shown in this article.

[17] It is also said by the Lord that:

The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a net cast into the sea bringing together every kind of fish, which when it was full they drew upon the beach, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be in the consummation of the age (Matthew 13:47-49).

The separation of the good and the evil is here likened to "a net cast into the sea bringing together every kind of fish," for the reason that "fishes" signify natural men in respect to knowledges and cognitions, and in "the consummation of the age," or at the time of the Last Judgment, such are separated from one another; for there are good natural men and bad natural men; and the separation of these in the spiritual world has the appearance of a net or drag-net cast into the sea, bringing together the fish, and drawing them to the shore, and this appearance is also from correspondence. This is why the Lord likens the kingdom of the heavens to "a net bringing together the fish." That the separation of the good from the evil presents this appearance it has been granted me to see.

[18] That natural men are signified by "fish" is clear from this miracle of the Lord:

Those who received the half-shekel came. Jesus said to Simon, The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tribute or toll? from their sons or from strangers? Peter said unto Him, From strangers. Jesus said unto him, Therefore are the sons free. But lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up, and open its mouth and thou shalt find a shekel; that take and give unto them for Me and thee (Matthew 17:24-27).

"To pay tribute and toll," signified to be subject and to serve, therefore tribute was imposed on strangers, who were not of the sons of Israel, as is evident from the histories of the Word. "The sons of Israel," with whom was the church, signified the spiritual, and "strangers" the natural; and 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.

[19] The Lord's glorification of His Human, even to its ultimate, which is called natural and sensual, is signified by the following:

Jesus, having appeared to the disciples, said, See My hands and My feet, that it is I myself; feel of Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye behold Me having. And He showed them the hands and feet. And He said unto them, Have ye here anything to eat? They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb. And He took it and did eat before them (Luke 24:38-43).

That the Lord glorified His Human even to its ultimate, which is called the natural and sensual, He made manifest by showing the hands and feet, and by the disciples feeling them, and by His saying that "a spirit hath not flesh and bones as He had;" and by His eating of the broiled fish and honeycomb. "Hands and feet" signify the ultimates of man, likewise "flesh and bones;" and "broiled fish" signifies the natural in respect to truth from good, and "honey" the natural in respect to the good from which is truth. Because these corresponded to the natural man, and thence signified it, they were eaten in the presence of the disciples; for a "fish," as has been shown in this article, signifies from correspondence the natural in respect to knowing [scientificum]; wherefore also "a fish" signifies in the Word knowledge and the knowing faculty [scientificum et cognitivum] which belong to the natural man, and a "broiled fish" signifies knowledge that is from natural good; but with the Lord it signifies the Divine natural in respect to truth from good (that "honey" signifies natural good may be seen in Arcana Coelestia, n (Arcana Coelestia 5620). 5 620, 6857, 10137, 10530). One who does not know that in each particular of the Word there is a spiritual sense, and that the sense of the letter, which is the natural sense, consists of correspondences with things spiritual, cannot know this arcanum, namely, why the Lord ate of the broiled fish and honeycomb in the presence of His disciples, nor why, as here, He gave broiled fish and bread to His disciples; and yet each and every thing that the Lord said and did was Divine, and these Divine things lie hidden in each thing written in the Word.

[20] From this the signification of "there died the third part of the creatures in the sea having souls" can now be seen, namely, that every living knowledge in the natural man perished; or, what is the same, that the natural man in respect to knowledges therein died. The natural man is said to be dead when it is not made alive from the spiritual man, that is, by influx out of heaven from the Lord through the spiritual man, for the Lord flows in through the spiritual man into the natural. When, therefore, no truth of heaven is any longer acknowledged, and no good of heaven affects man, the spiritual mind, which is called the spiritual man, is closed up, and the natural mind receives mere falsities from evil, and falsities from evil are spiritually dead, since truths from good are what are spiritually alive.

[21] It is said "the third part of the creatures," because "creatures" and "animals" signified in the Word the affections and thoughts therefrom in man; consequently they mean men themselves in respect to affections and thoughts. Such is the signification of "creatures" in Mark:

Jesus said to the disciples, Going into all the world, preach ye the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

Also above in Revelation:

And every creature that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and those that are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the strength, unto the ages of the ages (Revelation 5:13).

It is evident that here "every creature" means both angels and men, for it is said that "he heard them saying." (See above, n. 342-346, where this is explained.)

(References: Ezekiel 47:1; Matthew 4:18-19; The Apocalypse Explained 342-346)

  
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 Jesus' Final Words
After the crucifixion Jesus appeared to His disciples, offering reassurance of His continued presence and commissioning them to love and follow Him.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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