The Bible

 

Matthew 27:50-54 : The veil was torn

Study the Inner Meaning

        

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 27      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 27.

When Morning Comes

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1. And when it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death;

2. And binding Him, they led [Him] away, and delivered Him up to Pontius Pilate the governor.

3. Then Judas, who betrayed Him, seeing that He was condemned, being remorseful, returned the thirty [pieces of] silver to the chief priests and the elders,

4. Saying, “I have sinned, in that I have delivered up innocent blood.” But they said, “What [is it] to us? Thou shalt see.”

5. And throwing down the [pieces of] silver in the temple, he departed, and going away hanged himself.
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The old will must die, but a new understanding can be raised up

The crowing of the rooster announces the end of the night; but it also heralds the dawning of a new day — a time of spiritual awakening. This is contained in the first words of the next episode: “When morning came….” (27:1).

In each of our lives, “morning” represents a state of clarity in which we “wake up” and see truth clearly — especially the truth about ourselves. At the end of the previous episode, Peter awoke to the reality of his unfaithfulness, and wept bitterly. In this next episode, something similar happens for Judas. When Jesus is captured, bound and carried away to Pilate, Judas awakens to the reality of what he has done. Conscience-stricken, he says, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (27:4). Deeply remorseful, but spiritually awakened, he tries to assuage his guilt by returning the thirty pieces of silver — the “blood-money” the religious leaders paid Judas for agreeing to deliver Jesus to them.

The religious leaders, however, reject Judas’ offer. “What is this?” they say (27:4). They have no interest in taking back the money in exchange for Jesus’ release. For them, the real issue is not the money, but rather their concern about Jesus’ rising influence with the people. This has to be stopped. They therefore reject Judas’ offer.

Fully aware of his betrayal, Judas is overcome with despair. While Peter weeps bitterly, Judas goes much further. Feeling utterly devastated, Judas casts the thirty pieces of silver on the floor of the temple, and goes off to hang himself (27:5). The contrast between Peter’s bitter weeping and Judas’ suicidal death represents the difference between the old understanding (the false beliefs that we held) and the old will (the evil desires that generate false beliefs). Also referred to as “the old man,” evil desires must be completely expelled; they cannot be converted into good desires. This is why Judas, who in this episode represents our inherited evil nature, must die. 1

Peter, on the other hand, represents an aspect of our intellect. Even though it may reason falsely, if it can be separated from the evil will, it can be reformed. Therefore, we read that although Peter “wept bitterly,” he did not end his life. This is because the intellect (represented by Peter in this case) can receive truth and be reformed. And a new will can be built in a new understanding. For each of us, the death of the old will (Judas) and the building of a new understanding (Peter) is the morning of a new day. 2

Hope for All

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6. And the chief priests taking the [pieces] of silver said, “It is not permitted to cast them into the offertory, since it is the price of blood.”

7. And taking counsel, they bought with them the field of the potter, for a sepulcher for sojourners.

8. Therefore that field was called Field of Blood to this day.

9. Then was fulfilled what was declared through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty [pieces] of silver, the price of Him who was honored, whom they of the sons of Israel honored;

10. And gave them for the field of the potter, as the Lord directed me.”
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Seen spiritually, Judas’ dark and terrible fate also has a bright side. Just as his rejection of the thirty pieces of silver represents the rejection of an inordinate love of worldly things, his suicide represents the rejection of an inordinate love of oneself: it is the rejection of arrogant pride, self-aggrandizing ambition, and the meritorious feeling that we are sufficient unto ourselves without the help of God. These two evils, called “the love of the world” and the “love of self,” include all other evils. However, when love of the world is properly subordinated, we receive a genuine love for the neighbor. And when the love of self is properly subordinated, we receive a genuine love for the Lord. 3

While we do not mean to imply that Judas’ tragic death is a good thing in itself, its representation of what must die in each of us teaches an important lesson. Despair teaches us how much we need God. Desperation leads us to the acknowledgment that we can do nothing without His power. Sorrow, guilt, and shame can be signs that we do indeed have something left of conscience and are therefore redeemable. True remorse opens the way for redemption and reformation.

Humility, then, is a blessed quality. As it is written in the psalms, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The Lord is forgiveness itself; and we know that His forgiveness is always available, flowing in immediately to the extent that we recognize evils in ourselves, turn from them, and strive to do good. We are fortunate to live in an age when such clear teachings about the Lord’s forgiveness — and how to receive it — are available.

But it was not so at the time of Jesus’ advent. Evil spirits were widespread and eager to take possession of whomever they could. They had already filled Judas with the spirit of betrayal. And although he comes into an awareness of what he has done, he does not realize he has been a mere agent through whom hell has worked its diabolical schemes. It is one thing to accept responsibility for what we have done. This is a sign of emotional and spiritual health. But it is something else to become so immersed in guilt feelings that we feel irredeemable, unforgivable, and beyond hope. 4

Therefore, it is essential to believe that whatever we have done, however much we have sinned, there is still hope. We may at times feel as though we are beyond redemption, but the truth is that we are loved by God, and born for a specific purpose. There is implanted in every human soul the capacity to believe in God and an ability to live according to His commandments — divine gifts which are always preserved and never taken away. We can, of course, keep these gifts deeply buried, and practically extinguish them, but they are always there like the embers of a dying fire awaiting the inspiring and life-giving breath of God.

Apparently, the religious leaders seem to have misgivings about accepting the thirty pieces of silver that Judas has thrown on the floor. “It is not lawful to put them in the treasury,” they say, “because they are the price of blood” (27:6). So instead of putting the silver in the temple treasury, they purchase a location called, the “Potter’s Field” to use as a burial place for strangers. Their decision to purchase the field is a direct fulfillment of the prophecy, “And they took thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced … and gave them for the potter’s field” (27:10; Jeremiah 32:6-9).

Is it possible that these religious leaders know and understand that the thirty pieces of silver is “blood money”? If so, it is an indication that even in the greediest and most selfish human beings there is something decent and humane, deeply hidden perhaps, but nevertheless there. There is a lesson in this for us as well. No matter how far we have strayed, we can always return. There is hope for all. 5

Utterly Alone

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11. And Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked Him, saying, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” And Jesus declared to him, “Thou sayest.”

12. And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

13. Then says Pilate to Him, “Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee?”

14. And He did not answer him to one saying, so that the governor marveled greatly.

15. And at [the] festival the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whom they willed.

16. And they had then a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas.

17. When therefore they were gathered, Pilate said unto them, “Whom do you will [that] I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ?”

18. For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him up.

19. And when he was seated on the tribunal, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just [One], for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”

20. But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds, that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

21. And the governor answering said to them, “Which of the two do you will that I release to you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

22. Pilate says to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus that is called Christ?” They all say to him, “Let Him be crucified.”

23. And the governor declared, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out exceedingly, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

24. And Pilate, seeing that he profits nothing, but more of an uproar was made, taking water he washed off [his] hands opposite the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just [Man]; you shall see.”

25. And all the people answering said, “His blood [be] upon us, and upon our children.”

26. Then released he Barabbas to them, but delivered Jesus up, when he had whipped [Him], to be crucified.
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As this next episode begins, Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. The religious leaders have done all they can to make it appear that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy. But Roman law does not allow them to pronounce or carry out the death penalty. Therefore this will have to be a civil matter, to be decided by the civil government. In this case the crime cannot be for blasphemy — that is a religious offense; it must be for treason, which is a civil offense. The Roman government will be able to make this charge because Jesus has been called “King of the Jews,” thereby challenging Caesar’s supremacy.

Therefore, Pilate’s question, unlike Caiaphas’, is not, “Are You the Christ, the Son of God?” (26:63), but rather, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (27:11). In both cases, whether accused of blasphemy by the religious leaders or treason by political leaders, Jesus gives similar answers: “You said” (26:63) and “You say” (27:11). Modern translators, in order to make this response understandable have added the words “It is as” to Jesus’ response. So it is written, “It is as you said,” and “It is as you say.” But the original statement can be understood to mean “You have said it!” 6

The emphasis falls on the word “you.” However it is translated, Jesus’ answer challenges each of us as well. Who indeed is Jesus? Each of us must decide for ourselves. What do you say? Is He the Son of God? Is He the king and ruler of our inner lives? Pilate is not willing to make a decision about this. Instead, he urges Jesus to defend Himself. “Do you not hear how many things they testify against You?” he says to Jesus (27:13). But Jesus chooses to remain silent: He answers him “not one word” (27:14).

Afraid to have the blood of an innocent man on his hands, Pilate decides to let the multitude make the decision for him. He is able to do so because there is a Passover custom in which one prisoner is released each year, and the people can choose which prisoner they wish to set free. Pilate, therefore, presents both Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd, saying “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?” (27:18).

Barabbas was a well-known criminal — a “notorious prisoner” — a robber and a murderer (27:16). It would seem, therefore, that Jesus would be the obvious choice of the crowd, the one to be released. After all, the two men are complete opposites: Barabbas is a murderer and Jesus is a life-giver. If the crowd decides to release Jesus, Pilate will have an easy way out of his dilemma. Therefore, Pilate is banking on the idea that the crowd will easily discern between good (Jesus) and evil (Barabbas) and set Jesus free. Ordinarily, this would be an easy choice for those who have eyes to see.

It should be remembered, however, that this is no ordinary crowd. These people have been strongly influenced by the religious leaders whom they respect and fear. These religious leaders represent the false teachings and selfish desires that make us unable to freely choose the good. It is these false teachings and selfish desires that persuade the multitudes [in us] to free Barabbas and “destroy Jesus” (27:20). This is precisely what happens. When Pilate asks, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” the multitudes cry out, “Barabbas!” (27:21).

This unexpected response puts Pilate in a difficult situation. His wife has already cautioned Him, regarding Jesus’ innocence: “Have nothing to do with that just Man,” she has told him, “for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him” (27:19). Pilate’s wife represents the remnant of conscience still remaining in each of us — conscience that still strives to get through, even in a dream. The question is, however, “Will Pilate listen?”

The difficult decision is now in Pilate’s hands. On one side is his wife’s warning; on the other is the cry of the crowd. Pilate must decide what he must do with Jesus. Even though his wife has strongly cautioned him, he is not yet ready to accept her advice, or make a strong decision for himself. Instead, he spinelessly turns to the crowd a second time and asks, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (27:22). If he expects them to change their mind, he is quite wrong. Still under the powerful influence of the religious leaders, they shout out again, “Let Him be crucified” (27:22).

Pilate believes that he can do nothing more. The multitude has made its decision for him, and he weakly acquiesces. Wishing to absolve himself of any wrong-doing, he takes water, washes his hands before the multitude, and says, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (27:24). And the people answer, “Let His blood be on us and our children” (27:25).

What has turned the multitudes away from Jesus? He has loved them, healed them and worked miracles among them for three years. Why are they choosing to crucify Him now? Where are the lepers that He has made whole, the lame that He has made to walk, the deaf that He has made to hear, and the blind that He has made to see? Where are the sick people He has made well, the hungry people He has fed, and the demon-possessed that He has set free? Where are they now? And if they are among the multitude, why are they not speaking up?

The answer is clear. Even as Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, and all the disciples forsook Him, the multitudes turn against Him. In the end, Jesus stands utterly, absolutely alone. No one defends Him; no one speaks for Him. In the closing words of His final parable, Jesus said, “I was in prison and you came to Me.” But no one came to be with Him. As it was written in Isaiah, prophesying this moment in Jesus’ life, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me…. I looked but there was no one to help” (Isaiah 63:3, 5).

This may seem unbelievable to us today. But that was the hellish state of the world that Jesus was born into. And that is why it was necessary for God to come into the world at that time to redeem fallen humanity — even if it meant being beaten, scourged, and crucified. Pilate, it seemed, was initially reluctant to crucify Him, but he was too weak to stand against the crowd.

In this regard, Pilate represents each of us whenever we refuse to hear the still, small, voice of conscience. Instead, we find ourselves swayed by the angry crowd of inner accusers shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him.” Whenever the mob mentality in us overrules the inner voice of love and reason, Barabbas is set free and Jesus is crucified. And so, we read that Pilate “released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified” (27:26).

King of the Jews

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27. Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the Praetorium, gathered against Him the whole band [of soldiers].

28. And stripping Him, they put around Him a scarlet mantle.

29. And braiding a crown of thorns, they put [it] on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and kneeling before Him, mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

30. And spitting upon Him, they took the reed, and struck [Him] on His head.

31. And when they had mocked Him, they took the mantle off Him, and put His own garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify [Him].

32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to take His cross.

33. And when they were come to a place called Golgotha, which is called Place of a Skull,

34. They gave Him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall, and when He had tasted, He was not willing to drink.

35. And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting a lot, that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the prophet, They divided My garments among them, and upon My vesture they cast a lot.

36. And sitting [down], they kept [watch over] Him there;

37. And set over His head His charge written, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”

38. Then were two robbers crucified with Him, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

39. And they that went by blasphemed Him, moving their heads,

40. And saying, “[Thou] that undoest the temple, and in three days buildest [it], save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, step down from the cross.”

41. And likewise also the chief priests, mocking with the scribes and elders, said,

42. “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him step down now from the cross, and we will believe Him.

43. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, I am the Son of God.”

44. And for the same thing the robbers also, who were crucified with Him, reproached Him.
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Jesus’ alleged offense is labeled “treason” for it is claimed that He calls Himself the “King of the Jews.” If true, this would be a crime against the state whose king is the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus. It is a crime punishable by death. The Roman soldiers now proceed to beat and taunt Jesus, cruelly mocking Him by dressing Him up like a king, putting a scarlet robe on His body, and a crown of thorns on His head. They also place a reed (probably a stick) in His hand instead of a royal scepter.

Then, bowing down before Jesus, they say sarcastically, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (27:29). On top of their mockery, they add contempt and abuse, spitting on Him and striking Him on the head with the scepter they now use as a club. When they are finished with their cruel sport, “they put His own clothes back on Him, and lead Him away to be crucified” (27:31).

Jesus has undergone grueling, torturous suffering at the hands of the soldiers. He is now being led away to be crucified. While prisoners are ordinarily compelled to carry the upright beam of the cross upon their backs, Jesus has been so scourged and beaten that His frail body lacks the power to do so. Therefore a man named Simon, a stranger who just happens to be in town at that time, is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross (27:32). The theme of Jesus’ utter loneliness, with no one to help, continues. A stranger carries His cross.

Finally they come to the place where Jesus is to be crucified, “a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of the Skull” (27:33). The translated phrase speaks volumes to us as we imagine a world that has lost all sight of reason. The human mind, without reason or compassion, is no better than the lifeless skull that contains it. Today, the place called Golgotha still stands on the outskirts of Jerusalem, an imposing cliff of unyielding rock. And in the rock one can see with unmistakable and chilling accuracy the shape of a skull — two hollow eyes, a hole where there should be a nose, and a menacing mouth with no lips, or teeth or tongue. This is Golgotha: an ominous symbol of life without religion, and religion without God.

It is there, at Golgotha that they give Him “sour wine mingled with gall” — a fitting representative of a world gone sour. In place of the sweet wine of pure truth, there is the sour wine of falsified religion. Therefore, Jesus refuses to drink it (27:34). It is at this point that they crucify Jesus and put a sign over His head, writing down the mocking accusation, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37).

The crucifixion, however, does not end the taunting and mockery. Even those who pass by say, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (27:40). And they add, derisively, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save” (27:42). “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him” (27:42-44).

Coming down from the cross was not Jesus’ purpose. Saving His body was not His goal. In the previous chapter, when one of His disciples tried to defend Him, Jesus told him to put down his sword. God did not come to earth to save Himself, or to fight physical enemies. Rather He came to fight the hosts of hell through a frail and finite human body — a body that could feel physical pain, and a mind that could be assaulted by evil. This is the plan all along, and He has accepted it. Therefore, He will not come down. Instead, with unflinching courage He chooses to suffer to the bitter end the agony and the humiliation of the cross. Even the robbers who are being crucified with Jesus insult and revile Him (27:44).

The invisible battle

Jesus is on the cross now, rejected by everyone and suffering alone. He has been rejected by the religious establishment, the civil government, the multitudes, the disciples, and even by the two robbers who hang beside Him on the cross. Indeed, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

But what about the angels? Surely, they would never reject, despise, or abandon the Lord. Angels, however, like all people, are still human, and still have their weaknesses. Although their capacity to understand truth and do good is vast, they are, after all, not divine. Therefore, as Jesus comes into the extremity of temptation, He is assaulted not only by the most wicked and infernal hells but is also challenged by the angels. These temptations are the inmost of all for they involve a most subtle attack on our deepest loves and desires. In Jesus’ case, it is His ardent love for the salvation of the human race, a love that will not compel anyone. Such is the nature of the divine love itself, and such is the nature of Jesus’ final temptation on the cross. 7

The word “temptation” is normally understood to mean an “allurement” or an “enticement,” the urge to say or do something wrong. But there is a much deeper form of temptation which involves not so much the temptation to say or do evil, but rather the temptation to doubt that the truth we think is really true, and the good we do really matters. As this deeper form of temptation continues, it leads to despair, and finally to the thought that our lives have been wasted, and that nothing we do has any significance. There is no particular “urge to do evil,” but rather a much more subtle urge to simply give up on everything and everyone, including our loved ones, our life’s purpose, and even ourselves. Life seems altogether bleak and hopeless, and all of our efforts seem meaningless.

If questions and doubts like this were being injected by the hells, they would have been much easier to overcome. But coming from friends, and especially from angels, who mean well, they would be much more difficult to combat. We saw something of this earlier, when Peter rebuked the Lord for even considering the possibility that He would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die. But Jesus told Peter that His suffering and death in Jerusalem could not be avoided, and that Peter should be mindful of the things of God, not the things of men (16:21-23). Now, as Jesus hangs on the cross, much to the great sorrow of the angels, they come into great despair about the future of the human race, wondering if humanity can ever be saved through the mere gift of freedom. “Oh, Lord,” they perhaps cried out, “Take unto Yourself Your great power and reign. You must do something! It can’t end like this. There is so much more work to be done. Please, don’t give up like this.” 8

This is one of the most difficult forms of temptation. It occurs when those closest to us suggest that we come down from our highest principles. As it is written in the psalms, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if an enemy were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, and my close friend” (Psalm 55:12-13).

The pressure is on now — even more than in Gethsemane — and it is coming from all sides. The disciples want Him to come down from the cross to set up an earthly kingdom. The people who pass by say that He should come down from the cross to demonstrate that He is truly the Son of God. The religious leaders taunt Him to come down from the cross, saying “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself.” And now, even the angels, urge Him to come down from the cross, and end the anguish.

What no one can see, not even the angels, is that Jesus is not giving up. He is fighting an invisible battle against the subtlest and most diabolical of all the hells. And it will be a fight to the finish. Throughout this mighty battle, it is important to remember that the nature Jesus took on is human, and therefore subject to temptation. None of us likes to suffer, and none of us would choose to endure the agony of crucifixion, especially if it appears to be a useless endeavor. Similarly, none of us would want to see our loved ones choosing lives that lead to misery and destruction. It is only natural to want to stop them, to use whatever power and control we have to direct them onto a different course. Now imagine this in Jesus’ case. He knows that the human understanding cannot be compelled to believe truth, nor can the human heart be compelled to love good. This is the way He designed the universe, knowing that our very humanity consists in being free to understand and love the things which proceed from God, without compulsion. 9

In this regard, we should also consider the onslaughts of the hells that are attacking Jesus, endeavoring with all their fury to stir up bitter thoughts and emotions. Like all of us, Jesus must have been tempted to vindicate Himself and prove His innocence. But He chooses to remain silent. Like all of us He must have been tempted to fight back, to retaliate, to punish those who were so cruelly abusing Him. But He does nothing of the sort. Instead He hangs there, silently, without a word of complaint, fighting inner combats more painful than the the pain caused by the iron spikes that are piercing His hands and feet. Regardless of the pain, both external and internal, Jesus remains steadfast in His mission. He will fight against hell, even as it unleashes its full fury against Him, until He has expelled every last evil from His inherited humanity. As a result, the fullness of God’s Divinity would be made manifest in Him. And He will not come down until that mission is accomplished. 10

Jesus’ Last Words on the Cross

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45. And from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a great voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” That is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
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My God, My God

Although this chapter begins with the words, “When morning came,” it is perhaps the shortest morning in the history of time. For darkness comes quickly, and by noon “there is “darkness over all the earth” (27:45). This darkness continues for three more hours until Jesus cries out in a loud voice “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (27:46).

In His human nature, Jesus’ sense of being utterly alone, and without support of any kind, is now complete. Not only does He feel abandoned by the disciples, then by the multitudes, and even by the angels, but He now feels abandoned by God. The Hebrew scriptures capture this feeling exquisitely. As it is written, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me? Why are You so far from My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1). “I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, who are cut off from your care…. Why, O Lord, do You reject me and hide Your face from me? I am in despair … the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:4-5, 14, 18). 11

In His weakened human condition, Jesus’ sense of abandonment has reached its lowest point; the desire to give up is overwhelming. As never before, Jesus has to summon up everything that He has within Him in order to rise above the desperate thoughts and feelings that are inundating Him. In the midst of it all, He has to have confidence that humanity can be saved, and that this can be done without compulsion. He has to have confidence that He is not abandoned and that His inmost love for the salvation of the human race (which He calls “the Father”) is still present. He has to have comfidence that although He feels totally abandoned by God, this is not the case. In brief, Jesus’ desperate sense of hopelessness and abandonment will need to be overcome by an inmost sense that God would never abandon Him. This teaching, in fact, was at the heart of Jesus’ entire ministry. Now would be the chance to prove it — not through a miracle, but through faith in God’s goodness and the courage to remain unbroken in spirit, even till His last breath. 12

This is a lesson for each of us as well. There are times in each of our lives when we might feel alone, abandoned, and separated from God. At such times, thoughts like these might arise in our minds:

O God, I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me.

I have believed in You and I have lived according to your Word.

And now, here I am, going through this agonizing experience.

I feel myself sinking.

Where are You? Where are Your wonders?

Why have you abandoned me?

Jesus’ last words on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” convey a powerful message about faith during times of utter despair. Although Jesus might feel that God has abandoned Him, Jesus has not abandoned God. Out of the depths of His distress, Jesus calls upon the Lord, crying out, “My God, My God.”

The reality of Jesus’ suffering

It has been suggested that Jesus was not in despair at all; instead, when He uttered that plaintive cry, He was merely quoting the opening words of the twenty-second psalm which begins with the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” The psalm gives key details about Jesus’ excruciating suffering on the cross, but also goes on to describe the inspired outcome of His prayer. As it is written, “The Lord has not despised or rejected the afflicted…. When he cried out to Him, He heard” (Psalm 22:24). And the next psalm begins with the immortal words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

It may be that Jesus was indeed quoting the twenty-second psalm, but this does not mean that His suffering was not real. In fact, the intensity of His suffering is exactly the point. By taking on our fallen humanity, Jesus was able to meet and conquer every physical and spiritual torment that a human being might undergo, including the final, and most piercing torment of all — the feeling that one has been abandoned by God. As a finite human being, like all of us, Jesus had to go through this agony Himself to show us that it could be done. He had to feel utterly alone and abandoned, weak and powerless, entirely on His own so that He could demonstrate that no matter what happens, no matter how furiously we are assailed by the hells, God is still with us.

Like Jesus, we also experience times that may feel like crucifixion. These are the times when we must fight against evil desires and false thoughts as if we are fighting from ourselves while acknowledging that all the power to do so is from the Lord alone. Prayer, of course, is an essential part of this combat because it connects us to the power of God. But prayer alone, even the most fervent prayer, will not chase away the evil desires and false thoughts that arise within us. Therefore, we must do this as if from ourselves, summoning up every last bit of strength and courage. The more we are assailed, the deeper we must go, remaining faithful in times of doubt, resilient in the face of adversity, and determined when feeling despair. The more we do this, fighting as if from ourselves, while believing that the Lord is fighting for us, the more will goodness and truth flowing in from the Lord sustain us and become our own. No matter how often we stumble, no matter how often we fall, if we get up and keep going, in love and faith, we will gradually develop a new nature, a new character, a new will. We will become the people God intends us to be. 13

No matter what happens to us, no matter how strongly we are assailed by doubts and despairs, we must cling to the truth that there is a God who loves us and is supporting us throughout our every trial. This is a God who will never abandon us — a God who will suffer anything for us, even the agony of the cross, to show us how to live, even in the face of death. But we must do our part; we must fight with the strength of Samson who, with his last breath, tore down the pillars of the Philistines; we must fight even as Jesus fought, against all that is evil and false within us, so that we may be born again as children of God. We must never surrender. 14

When Jesus was in the wilderness, the devil tempted Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus refused. Again, the devil tempted Jesus to bow down and worship him. Again, Jesus refused. And now, as Jesus concludes His earthly ministry, He is again tempted to come down — this time from the cross. Again, He refused. No one — no living person, no devil of hell, and no angel of heaven — could convince Jesus to come down from the cross or abandon His all-important mission. He remained steadfast and unwavering in His firm resolve to fulfill the purpose for which He came: to subdue the hells and, thereby, make it possible for people to be saved. And because He was fighting for the salvation of the entire human race, and doing this from pure love, He was inmostly aware that He could not help but be victorious. 15

Glorification: The Other Side of Temptation

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47. And some standing there, hearing [it], said, “This [Man] calls for Elijah.”

48. And straightway one of them running, and taking a sponge, and filling [it] with vinegar, and placing [it] on a reed, gave Him to drink.

49. But the rest said, “Let be, let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”

50. And Jesus, again crying with a great voice, let [forth] the spirit.
---

This kind of faith is invincible, indestructible, and supreme. Jesus was indeed assaulted in His infirm humanity and brought into states of severe mental anguish. But He continually drew upon those more interior resources — especially that inmost confidence that whoever fights from pure love will prevail. The crueler and more ferocious the onslaughts, the deeper He went, continuously accessing the divine love within Him and drawing it into His finite humanity. In so doing, through combat after combat, He progressively glorified His humanity until He become one with His Divine Soul — the “Father” within Him. Jesus’ passion on the cross, the last of a long series of fearsome battles with hell, was the culmination of this process. As He defeated the last of the hells, and ended the combat, He “cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit” (27:50). 16

The combat was fierce; but the result was glorious. It is similar for each of us. To the extent that we call upon the Lord, use the truth that we know, access His love, and then fight valiantly — while giving all the glory and all the credit to God — we advance a little more on the spiritual journey, as humbler, wiser, and more loving human beings.

It is a process that continues throughout our lifetime in this world and into the next, for none of us can be perfected in a moment. It is through combats of temptation, in fact, that we develop our spirits. So, although temptations may seem like dreaded foes, and unwelcome experiences, the Lord arranges the circumstances of our life perfectly so that every temptation becomes an opportunity to take the next step on our spiritual path. Whenever we meet these temptations with faith and courage, we develop, we grow, and we become spiritually mature. Each time we turn aside from evil, good flows in and takes its place. Each time we refuse to think or say what is false, truth flows in and takes its place. Each time we oppose the urge to criticize, or blame, or find fault, heavenly thoughts and emotions flow in, and take their place. 17

This process was the same for Jesus, but on a much different level. As He fought against and subdued every form of evil His humanity gradually became fully aligned with His divinity. It was as though a substance (His divinity) was being poured into a vessel (His humanity), gradually molding that vessel into a form of perfection until both the vessel and the substance became one. To put it another way, Jesus filled His mind (the finite vessel) with sacred scripture until His humanity become a perfect vessel for the reception of the divine love. In the beginning, the Divine was made human; but in the end, the human was made Divine. 18

Through a lifetime of undergoing temptations, expelling evils, and drawing upon the Divine love within Him, Jesus Christ became much more than the incarnation of God in a weak and fragile human body that died upon the cross. Rather, He became the living God in a new and glorified Humanity — the Divine Human that we can know, approach, and love. 19

This process, through which Jesus gradually filled Himself with divinity, until every cell was fully Divine — including every thought and every emotion — is called “glorification.” It is because of the glorification process that God can now be with us in a Divine natural form. This means that we no longer have to worship an infinite, unknowable, invisible God. Instead, we can worship a visible God — Jesus in His glorified humanity. 20

Jesus’ struggles and victories, up to and including His glorification, have several benefits. While a complete enumeration of those benefits is beyond human understanding, two of them are especially significant. First, in combating and subduing the hells, Jesus has made it possible for each of us to learn the truth and thereby be regenerated. The hells can no longer overwhelm us as long as we turn to the Lord in His Word and live according to the truths therein. Secondly, in glorifying His Humanity, Jesus has made the invisible Creator of the universe visible. Because of this, humanity now and forever has a fuller and more accurate idea of God. Instead of a distant, unknowable, intangible Deity, He became a Divinely Human God — a God who fights for us and shows us how to conquer. Although infinitely loving and wise, and beyond human understanding, the Creator of the universe, could now be seen as a visible God — the Lord Jesus Christ — whom we can know, and love, and follow. 21

Acknowledging Jesus’ Divinity

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51. And behold, the veil of the temple was ripped in two, from the top to the bottom; and the earth was shaken; and the rocks were ripped [open];

52. And the sepulchers were opened, and many bodies of [the] holy [ones] that slumbered arose,

53. And coming out of the sepulchers after His resurrection, entered into the holy city, and appeared to many.

54. And the centurion, and they that were with him, keeping [watch over] Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and those things that were done, feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

55. And many women were there, beholding from afar off, who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him,

56. Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

57. And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, whose name was Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus.

58. He coming to Pilate asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered the body to be given up.

59. And Joseph, taking the body, wrapped it in a clean cloth,

60. And put it in his new sepulcher, which he had hewn in the rock; and rolling a great stone onto the door of the sepulcher, he went away.

61. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
---

At the peak of the crucifixion, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (27:51). The veil of the temple was a beautifully decorated curtain that separated the holy place from the “holy of holies” — the sacred room where the Ten Commandments were kept. The tearing in two of the veil, revealing the “holy of holies,” signifies that the Ten Commandments were once again visible. Even as God had now become visible in Jesus, the Ten Commandments, covered over for so long, now became visible for all to see. The parting of the veil, then, represents a new and clearer understanding of those sacred precepts.

We read also that “the earth quaked and the rocks were split” (27:51). This signifies a profound re-orientation in what we consider good (the earth quaking) and what we consider true (the rocks splitting). When this happens, and we discover a new way to live, we come up from our previous lives, and start a new life. Therefore, it is written that when the earth shook and the rocks split, “the graves were opened.” 22

This represents our resurrection from natural life (concerned primarily with one’s self) to spiritual life (concerned primarily with love for God and others). During this time, our buried affections and tender feelings begin to resurface; they are “raised,” as it were, out of their graves. As it is written, “And many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” As we emerge from our “graves” of selfishness and from our deep “sleep,” we become more sensitive to spiritual values, more aware of the needs of others, and eager to be of service. In other words, we are becoming alive and awake to spiritual reality. In this higher state of consciousness, we see the Ten Commandments as central to our lives — no longer concealed by a curtain. Jesus’ words from a previous episode take on new meaning: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

Finally, as we emerge from the graves of selfish concern, especially after having been asleep to spiritual values for many years, we “go into the holy city.” This represents our re-awakened desire to go to the Word (the “holy city”) and eagerly learn about the truths that lead to eternal life. When earth-shaking, rock-splitting miracles like these are taking place within us, we become like the witnesses at the foot of the cross who cry out, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (27:54). The answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” (16:15) becomes clear: He is God in human form.

The beginning of a new spirituality

The miracles that took place during Jesus’ crucifixion — darkness at noon, the earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, the tearing of the veil in the temple, people coming out of their graves — stunned the crowd. From this point onwards, no one blasphemed or taunted Jesus. His crucifixion was no longer a scornful, derisive, mockery. Rather, it became transformed into a scene of sacred awe. Something truly miraculous had happened; suddenly, the same crowd that wanted to see Him crucified now began to openly acknowledge His divinity. This is accompanied by a re-awakening of love among the multitudes — represented by the “many women” who are taking notice. As it is written, “And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were looking on from afar” (27:55).

Whenever we weather the storms of temptation, and make it through upheavals of life, we come into a fuller appreciation of Jesus’ divinity. We are like the witnesses who said, “This was the Son of God.” At the same time, our love for Jesus re-emerges — just as the women who had been holding their distance now reappear. At such times, we acknowledge that He alone has brought us through our troubles. This is represented by the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons who have all returned to minister to Jesus (27:56). These women represent the re-awakened affections in us that are drawn to Jesus, acknowledging His divinity.

Along with these re-emerging affections, represented by the three women, comes the desire to live by the truth that Jesus teaches. This is represented in the next episode when “a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph” (27:57), comes forward. The phrase “a rich man” signifies one who knows many truths. The problem with the religious leaders who sought to destroy Jesus is not that they did not have truth. In fact, they were “rich” with truth. But they had perverted and destroyed the truth by using it in the service of their own self-interest. That religious establishment, therefore, had come to an end, and a new a new one was being raised up to take its place. The coming forward of the three women, and now Joseph of Arimathea, represents the beginning of this new spirituality.

Joseph goes directly to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus. Pilate, though weak and fearful, is not without common decency, even though it is so deeply buried that he could not prevent Jesus’ crucifixion. But things are changing now; the crucifixion has changed many things. We read, therefore, that “Pilate commanded the body to be given to him” (27:58). In the tender scene that follows, Joseph wraps the body in a clean cloth and lays it in a new tomb, hewn out of a rock. Then, after rolling a large stone against the door of the tomb, he departs. We are left with a final picture of Jesus wrapped in linen, and laid in a new tomb, with a large stone blocking the entrance. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are sitting nearby, opposite the tomb (27:59-61).

A practical application

There are dark times in our lives when the Word does not seem to be speaking to us. We may read the literal words, but we do not hear the Lord’s voice or feel His presence. There is no light in our darkness. Nevertheless, if we wait patiently, like the two Marys, and if we respectfully regard the literal teachings of the Word, like Joseph of Arimathea, something might arise. All we need to do at such times is meditate on a passage of scripture with the uses of life in mind. If we do this prayerfully, guided by faith in the Lord’s goodness, something might arise out of that “new tomb.” The Lord may come to us through His Word. 23

Sealing the Tomb

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62. And on the morrow, which is [the day] after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together to Pilate,

63. Saying, “Lord, we remember that the deceiver said, while He was yet living, After three days I will arise.

64. Order therefore that the tomb be secured until the third day, lest His disciples coming by night steal Him, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead; and the last error shall be worse than the first.”

65. And Pilate declared to them, “You have a guard; go, secure [it] as you know [how].”

66. And going they secured the tomb, sealing the stone, with the guard.
---

The previous episode ended with a description of the two Marys sitting opposite the tomb, watching and waiting. It suggests the way each of us can wait patiently for life to arise from the Lord’s Word. There is something in each of us, God-given, that seeks inspiration and guidance from the Lord’s Word, even when there seems to be no life there at the moment.

At the same time, however, there is another force that wants to keep the tomb well sealed so that nothing might arise. This force fears the light of truth and strives to keep things in darkness. It wants to silence the voice of God. This is represented in the next episode by the words of the religious leaders. Coming to Pilate, they say, “Sir, we remember while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, order that the tomb be made secure until the third day lest His disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from dead.’” (27:63-64).

Once again, we see a representation of the two opposing forces in us. On one side, there is the tender picture of Jesus being cared for by Joseph of Arimathea and watched over by the two Marys. This is a picture of our faith in the Word and our desire to be inspired by its teachings. On the other side, the religious leaders want to make sure that Jesus’ body remains entombed. For them, the worst possible thing that could happen is that Jesus’ disciples steal the body and spread a rumor that Jesus has risen. As they put it, “If His disciples tell the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ the last error shall be worse than the first” (27:64). This is the part of us that does not want to hear what the Word has to say, the part of us that prefers to remain in darkness, the part of us that is represented by the religious leaders who resent Jesus’ power and influence. Remembering Jesus’ promise that He would rise again in three days, they want to make sure it will not come to pass. Therefore, they ask Pilate to set a guard and secure the tomb. But Pilate is no longer willing to comply with their wishes. “You have a guard,” he says to the religious leaders. “Go your way and make it as secure as you know how” (27:65).

In response, the religious leaders “went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard” (27:66). There are places within the human spirit that are dead set against allowing Jesus to be a living influence in our lives. These are the places that “seal the stone and set the guard.”

The two Marys, on the other hand, represent those qualities within us that await Jesus’ promised return. It is the expectation of new life, even in the midst of what appears to be death. Whether we are speaking about the inner meaning of the Word rising up out of the letter, or Jesus rising up from the grave, it suggests that new life can arise within us. The religious authorities, however, want to keep Jesus out of sight — permanently. They want to make sure that the tomb is kept sealed.

A practical application

Jesus came to subdue the hells, not to destroy them. Through His victories in temptation He provided that the hells could no longer overpower and dominate people. But people can still choose to be led by their lower nature. In this way, the Lord preserves human freedom. In every moment we can choose to be led by our highest principles of goodness and truth or be led by base desires and self-centered thoughts. It is this very struggle between good and evil forces within each of us that is portrayed in this episode. Which side will prevail?

Footnotes:

1. Arcana Coelestia 18: “Before anyone can know what is true, and be affected with what is good … the old man [evil desires] must die.” See also Arcana Coelestia 2816: “The Lord admitted temptations into Himself in order that He might expel from Himself all that was merely human, and this until nothing but the Divine remained.”

2. Arcana Coelestia 5113: “After the truth is learned, the person is able to think it, and then to will it, and at last do it. This is how a new will is formed in a person in the intellectual part.” See also Arcana Coelestia 5072: “Those things which are subordinate to the intellectual part are represented by the butler of the king of Egypt, and those which are subordinate to the will part are represented by his baker; that the former [the intellectual part] are for a time retained, but the latter [the will part] cast out, is represented by the butler returning to his place, and the baker being hanged.”

3. Heaven and Hell 151: “Love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor make heaven, while love of self and love of the world make hell, because the two are opposite.”

4. New Jerusalem Its Heavenly Doctrine 196: “Assaults [of evil spirits] take place . . . by a continual drawing forth, and bringing to remembrance, of the evils which one has committed, and of the falsities which one has thought, thus by inundation of such things; and at the same time by an apparent shutting up of the interiors of the mind, and, consequently, of communication with heaven, by which the capacity of thinking from one’s own faith, and of willing from one’s own love, are intercepted. These things are effected by the evil spirits who are present with a person; and when they take place, they appear under the form of interior anxieties and pains of conscience; for they affect and torment a person’s spiritual life, because the person supposes that they proceed, not from evil spirits, but from one’s own interiors.” 5. In the novel, Les Miserables, Victor Hugo writes: “Is there not in every human soul … a first spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world, and immortal in the next, which good can fan, ignite, and make to glow with splendor, and which evil can never wholly extinguish?” (Chapter 21). While Swedenborg does not speak of a “divine spark” (because we do not have life from ourselves), he does say that the Lord implants “remains” within everyone. These are the tender affections of childhood that are with us throughout our life in the world. See Arcana Coelestia 530: “Remains are always preserved … otherwise there would be no conjunction of heaven with humanity.” Also, Arcana Coelestia 5128:5: “There are in every person goods and truths from the Lord stored up from infancy. In the Word, these goods and truths are called ‘remains.’”

6. The actual Greek is su legais (σὺ λέγεις). Other translators render this “Yes” (Living Bible); “So you say” (Good News Bible); “You say so” (New Revised Standard); “Yes, it is as you say” (New International Version), and “Thou sayest” (Kempton Version). 7. Arcana Coelestia 4295: “The angels are continually being perfected by the Lord, and yet can never to eternity be so far perfected that their wisdom and intelligence can be compared to the Divine wisdom and intelligence of the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 4295. “In the end the Lord fought with the angels themselves, nay, with the whole angelic heaven . . . in order that the universal heaven might be brought into order. He admitted into Himself temptations from the angels who, insofar as they were in what is their own, were so far not in good and truth. These temptations are the inmost of all, for they act solely into the ends, and with such subtlety as cannot possibly be noticed.”

8. See Revelation 11:17: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty … because You have taken Your great power and reigned.”

9. Divine Providence 136[3]: “The internal is so averse to compulsion by the external that it turns itself away. This is because the internal wishes to be in freedom, and loves freedom, for freedom belongs to a person’s love or life. Therefore, when freedom feels itself to be compelled it withdraws as it were within itself and turns itself away, and looks upon compulsion as its enemy…. Furthermore, compelled worship shuts in evils, which evils then lie hidden like fire in wood under ashes, which is continually kindling and spreading till it breaks out in flames.”

10. Arcana Coelestia 1607:3: “His Human Essence [was] united to His Divine Essence when He had overcome the devil and hell, that is, when by His own power and His own might He had expelled all evil, which alone disunites.”

11. Arcana Coelestia 840: “As long as temptation lasts, a person assumes that the Lord is not present. This is because the person is being harassed by evil spirits of the worst kind, so harassed in fact that sometimes the person has so great a feeling of hopelessness as scarcely to believe that God exists at all.”

12. True Christian Religion 126: “In temptation it looks as if a person is left to oneself, but it is not so, since God is most intimately present at the inmost level, secretly giving support. Therefore, when anyone is victorious in temptation, that person is most inwardly linked with God, and in this case, the Lord was most inwardly united with God His Father.” See also Arcana Coelestia 840: “In times of temptation the Lord is more present than a person can possibly believe.”

13. Arcana Coelestia 8179:2: “They who are in temptations usually slack their hands and rely solely on prayers, which they then ardently pour forth, not knowing that prayers will not avail, but that they must also fight against the falsities and evils which are being injected by the hells…. When people fight [against evil and falsity] as if from their own strength and yet believe that they do so in the Lord’s strength, goodness and truth flow in from the Lord and become their own. This gives them a new proprium [sense of self] … which is a new will.”

14. Arcana Coelestia 10182:6: “In the heavens all power is from the Divine truth that proceeds from the Lord’s Divine good. From this the angels have … the power to protect people by removing the hells from them, for one angel prevails against a thousand spirits from the hells. This cannot be apprehended by those who have the idea that truth and faith are merely thought. The fact is that thought from a person’s will produces all the strength of one’s body, and if it were inspired by the Lord through His Divine truth, a person would have the strength of Samson.”

15. Arcana Coelestia 1812: “While He lived in the world the Lord was in continual combats of temptations, and in continual victories, from a constant inmost confidence and faith that because He was fighting for the salvation of the whole human race from pure love, He could not but conquer.

16. Arcana Coelestia 4735: “The Lord’s passion was the last stage of His temptation, by which He fully glorified His humanity.”

17. “Suppose a linen handkerchief is the natural body which the Lord took on from the virgin Mary. If we pull out one thread of linen and then weave in a thread of gold along the warp, and do that over and over again, removing one thread of linen at a time and filling in with a thread of gold, then turn the handkerchief the other way and do the same with the woof, in the end we will have a handkerchief … but it will be all transformed into gold, without the size and shape perishing. The point is this: The Lord came into the world primarily to give us an image of a God that we can know and love and worship and see.” (Rev. Karl Alden, Doctrinal Papers, (Bryn Athyn: General Church Religion Lessons, 1951) p. 30. 18. True Christian Religion 73[3]: “God could not by His omnipotence have redeemed men unless He had become man; neither could He have made His human Divine unless that human had first been like the human of a babe, and then like that of a boy; and unless afterwards the human had formed itself into a receptacle and habitation, into which its Father might enter; which was done by His fulfilling all things in the Word, that is, all the laws of order therein; and so far as He accomplished this He united Himself to the Father, and the Father united Himself to Him.”

19. Arcana Coelestia 2551: “The Lord by degrees and from His own power, as He grew up, made Divine the human into which He was born. Thus, by means of the knowledge that He revealed to Himself, He perfected His rational, dispersed by successive steps its shadows, and introduced it into Divine light.”

20. True Christian Religion 109: “Before He came into the world, the Lord was certainly present with the people of the church, but through the mediation of angels as His representatives; however, since His coming He is present with the people of the church without any intermediary. For in the world He put on the Divine Natural too, in which He is present with human beings. The Lord’s glorification is the glorification of His Human, which He took upon Himself in the world; and the glorified Human of the Lord is the Divine Natural.”

21. True Christian Religion 126: “Glorification is the uniting of the Lord’s Human with the Divine of His Father. This was effected gradually, and was completed through the passion of the cross. For every person ought to draw near to God; and as far as a person does draw near, God on His part enters into that person. It is the same as with a temple, which first must be built, and this is done by human hands; afterwards it must be dedicated; and finally, prayer must be made for God to be present and there unite Himself with the church. The union itself [of the Lord’s Divine and human natures] was made complete through the passion of the cross, because that was the last temptation endured by the Lord in the world. It is by means of temptations that conjunction is effected.”

22. Apocalypse Explained 659:14: “To open the tombs and to cause the people to come up out of the tombs” signifies to be raised up out of falsities from evil, thus [to be raised up] from the dead. It also signifies [what happens when the Lord] imparts truths from good, thus life, which life is ‘the Spirit of God.’”

23. Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 78: “It is through the Word that the Lord is present with people and is conjoined to them, for the Lord is the Word, and as it were speaks with people in it…. The Lord is indeed present with people through the reading of the Word, but people are conjoined with the Lord through the understanding of truth from the Word.” See also Arcana Coelestia 9817: “The Lord flows in with people of the church chiefly through the Word.”

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2576, 2798, 2916, 4772, 8018, 9093, 9229, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 586

Doctrine of the Lord 12, 19

Heaven and Hell 312

True Christian Religion 342


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 204, 220, 223, 400, 532, 659, 812, ...

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 26:31

2 Chronicles 3:14

Isaiah 53:8

Ezekiel 37:12

Bible Word Meanings

Loud
In Revelation 5:2, 'a loud' or 'great voice' signifies divine truth from the Lord, in its power or virtue.

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

graves
A grave, as in Psalm 88:5, signifies hell. ‘To come forth out of the grave,’ as in John 5:29, signifies to come forth out of...

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

bodies
The body (Matt. 6:22), signifies the man (homo). "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree" (Deut. 21:23), signifies lest it should be...

saints
'Saints' mean people governed by truths from the Lord through the Word.

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

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

truly
There's a great deal of talk in Swedenborg about "truth" as a concept – it's how we learn the Lord's will, what we must seek...

son of god
Swedenborg offers different angles on the phrase "the Son of God," sometimes saying that it refers to the "divine human" and sometimes saying it refers...

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

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


What Happened Immediately After Jesus Was Crucified? - S&L Short Clips

Learn the symbolism of dramatic events that happened right after Jesus was crucified -- an earthquake, a veil torn in two, and people rising from the grave.

Resources for parents and teachers

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 Do We Try to Entomb the Lord?
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story or passage and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Easter Morning
The story of Easter morning teaches that the Lord Jesus, who came to earth and touched us with His great love and wisdom, is more than a man. He is our God.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 For Reflection: Points of View on the Lord's Crucifixion
Think about how different people might have felt about the Lord's crucifixion, considering the disciples, the chief priests, and others who may have witnessed or heard about it.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Jesus’s Trial and Crucifixion
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Let Him Be Crucified
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Pilate Questions Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Quotes: The Lord's Final Temptation
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Soldiers Guard the Tomb
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Crucifixion at Golgotha
Make a picture of the crosses to help remember the Lord’s victory over evil. He let Himself be crucified, resisted the hells, and then rose again on Easter morning.
Project | All Ages

 The Lord's Last Days on Earth
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 Miracle of Easter
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Trying to Entomb the Lord
This story teaches us that the Lord Jesus, who came to earth and touched us with His great love and wisdom, is more than just a man. He is our God, and He has all power. 
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 When the Lord Was Crucified
Make a wax-resist picture to show how the world went black when the Lord was crucified and then rejoiced when He rose on Easter morning.
Project | All Ages

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 27

     

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 27.

When Morning Comes

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1. And when it was morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death;

2. And binding Him, they led [Him] away, and delivered Him up to Pontius Pilate the governor.

3. Then Judas, who betrayed Him, seeing that He was condemned, being remorseful, returned the thirty [pieces of] silver to the chief priests and the elders,

4. Saying, “I have sinned, in that I have delivered up innocent blood.” But they said, “What [is it] to us? Thou shalt see.”

5. And throwing down the [pieces of] silver in the temple, he departed, and going away hanged himself.
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The old will must die, but a new understanding can be raised up

The crowing of the rooster announces the end of the night; but it also heralds the dawning of a new day — a time of spiritual awakening. This is contained in the first words of the next episode: “When morning came….” (27:1).

In each of our lives, “morning” represents a state of clarity in which we “wake up” and see truth clearly — especially the truth about ourselves. At the end of the previous episode, Peter awoke to the reality of his unfaithfulness, and wept bitterly. In this next episode, something similar happens for Judas. When Jesus is captured, bound and carried away to Pilate, Judas awakens to the reality of what he has done. Conscience-stricken, he says, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (27:4). Deeply remorseful, but spiritually awakened, he tries to assuage his guilt by returning the thirty pieces of silver — the “blood-money” the religious leaders paid Judas for agreeing to deliver Jesus to them.

The religious leaders, however, reject Judas’ offer. “What is this?” they say (27:4). They have no interest in taking back the money in exchange for Jesus’ release. For them, the real issue is not the money, but rather their concern about Jesus’ rising influence with the people. This has to be stopped. They therefore reject Judas’ offer.

Fully aware of his betrayal, Judas is overcome with despair. While Peter weeps bitterly, Judas goes much further. Feeling utterly devastated, Judas casts the thirty pieces of silver on the floor of the temple, and goes off to hang himself (27:5). The contrast between Peter’s bitter weeping and Judas’ suicidal death represents the difference between the old understanding (the false beliefs that we held) and the old will (the evil desires that generate false beliefs). Also referred to as “the old man,” evil desires must be completely expelled; they cannot be converted into good desires. This is why Judas, who in this episode represents our inherited evil nature, must die. 1

Peter, on the other hand, represents an aspect of our intellect. Even though it may reason falsely, if it can be separated from the evil will, it can be reformed. Therefore, we read that although Peter “wept bitterly,” he did not end his life. This is because the intellect (represented by Peter in this case) can receive truth and be reformed. And a new will can be built in a new understanding. For each of us, the death of the old will (Judas) and the building of a new understanding (Peter) is the morning of a new day. 2

Hope for All

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6. And the chief priests taking the [pieces] of silver said, “It is not permitted to cast them into the offertory, since it is the price of blood.”

7. And taking counsel, they bought with them the field of the potter, for a sepulcher for sojourners.

8. Therefore that field was called Field of Blood to this day.

9. Then was fulfilled what was declared through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty [pieces] of silver, the price of Him who was honored, whom they of the sons of Israel honored;

10. And gave them for the field of the potter, as the Lord directed me.”
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Seen spiritually, Judas’ dark and terrible fate also has a bright side. Just as his rejection of the thirty pieces of silver represents the rejection of an inordinate love of worldly things, his suicide represents the rejection of an inordinate love of oneself: it is the rejection of arrogant pride, self-aggrandizing ambition, and the meritorious feeling that we are sufficient unto ourselves without the help of God. These two evils, called “the love of the world” and the “love of self,” include all other evils. However, when love of the world is properly subordinated, we receive a genuine love for the neighbor. And when the love of self is properly subordinated, we receive a genuine love for the Lord. 3

While we do not mean to imply that Judas’ tragic death is a good thing in itself, its representation of what must die in each of us teaches an important lesson. Despair teaches us how much we need God. Desperation leads us to the acknowledgment that we can do nothing without His power. Sorrow, guilt, and shame can be signs that we do indeed have something left of conscience and are therefore redeemable. True remorse opens the way for redemption and reformation.

Humility, then, is a blessed quality. As it is written in the psalms, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The Lord is forgiveness itself; and we know that His forgiveness is always available, flowing in immediately to the extent that we recognize evils in ourselves, turn from them, and strive to do good. We are fortunate to live in an age when such clear teachings about the Lord’s forgiveness — and how to receive it — are available.

But it was not so at the time of Jesus’ advent. Evil spirits were widespread and eager to take possession of whomever they could. They had already filled Judas with the spirit of betrayal. And although he comes into an awareness of what he has done, he does not realize he has been a mere agent through whom hell has worked its diabolical schemes. It is one thing to accept responsibility for what we have done. This is a sign of emotional and spiritual health. But it is something else to become so immersed in guilt feelings that we feel irredeemable, unforgivable, and beyond hope. 4

Therefore, it is essential to believe that whatever we have done, however much we have sinned, there is still hope. We may at times feel as though we are beyond redemption, but the truth is that we are loved by God, and born for a specific purpose. There is implanted in every human soul the capacity to believe in God and an ability to live according to His commandments — divine gifts which are always preserved and never taken away. We can, of course, keep these gifts deeply buried, and practically extinguish them, but they are always there like the embers of a dying fire awaiting the inspiring and life-giving breath of God.

Apparently, the religious leaders seem to have misgivings about accepting the thirty pieces of silver that Judas has thrown on the floor. “It is not lawful to put them in the treasury,” they say, “because they are the price of blood” (27:6). So instead of putting the silver in the temple treasury, they purchase a location called, the “Potter’s Field” to use as a burial place for strangers. Their decision to purchase the field is a direct fulfillment of the prophecy, “And they took thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced … and gave them for the potter’s field” (27:10; Jeremiah 32:6-9).

Is it possible that these religious leaders know and understand that the thirty pieces of silver is “blood money”? If so, it is an indication that even in the greediest and most selfish human beings there is something decent and humane, deeply hidden perhaps, but nevertheless there. There is a lesson in this for us as well. No matter how far we have strayed, we can always return. There is hope for all. 5

Utterly Alone

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11. And Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked Him, saying, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” And Jesus declared to him, “Thou sayest.”

12. And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

13. Then says Pilate to Him, “Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee?”

14. And He did not answer him to one saying, so that the governor marveled greatly.

15. And at [the] festival the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whom they willed.

16. And they had then a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas.

17. When therefore they were gathered, Pilate said unto them, “Whom do you will [that] I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ?”

18. For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him up.

19. And when he was seated on the tribunal, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just [One], for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”

20. But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds, that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

21. And the governor answering said to them, “Which of the two do you will that I release to you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

22. Pilate says to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus that is called Christ?” They all say to him, “Let Him be crucified.”

23. And the governor declared, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out exceedingly, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

24. And Pilate, seeing that he profits nothing, but more of an uproar was made, taking water he washed off [his] hands opposite the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just [Man]; you shall see.”

25. And all the people answering said, “His blood [be] upon us, and upon our children.”

26. Then released he Barabbas to them, but delivered Jesus up, when he had whipped [Him], to be crucified.
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As this next episode begins, Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. The religious leaders have done all they can to make it appear that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy. But Roman law does not allow them to pronounce or carry out the death penalty. Therefore this will have to be a civil matter, to be decided by the civil government. In this case the crime cannot be for blasphemy — that is a religious offense; it must be for treason, which is a civil offense. The Roman government will be able to make this charge because Jesus has been called “King of the Jews,” thereby challenging Caesar’s supremacy.

Therefore, Pilate’s question, unlike Caiaphas’, is not, “Are You the Christ, the Son of God?” (26:63), but rather, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (27:11). In both cases, whether accused of blasphemy by the religious leaders or treason by political leaders, Jesus gives similar answers: “You said” (26:63) and “You say” (27:11). Modern translators, in order to make this response understandable have added the words “It is as” to Jesus’ response. So it is written, “It is as you said,” and “It is as you say.” But the original statement can be understood to mean “You have said it!” 6

The emphasis falls on the word “you.” However it is translated, Jesus’ answer challenges each of us as well. Who indeed is Jesus? Each of us must decide for ourselves. What do you say? Is He the Son of God? Is He the king and ruler of our inner lives? Pilate is not willing to make a decision about this. Instead, he urges Jesus to defend Himself. “Do you not hear how many things they testify against You?” he says to Jesus (27:13). But Jesus chooses to remain silent: He answers him “not one word” (27:14).

Afraid to have the blood of an innocent man on his hands, Pilate decides to let the multitude make the decision for him. He is able to do so because there is a Passover custom in which one prisoner is released each year, and the people can choose which prisoner they wish to set free. Pilate, therefore, presents both Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd, saying “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?” (27:18).

Barabbas was a well-known criminal — a “notorious prisoner” — a robber and a murderer (27:16). It would seem, therefore, that Jesus would be the obvious choice of the crowd, the one to be released. After all, the two men are complete opposites: Barabbas is a murderer and Jesus is a life-giver. If the crowd decides to release Jesus, Pilate will have an easy way out of his dilemma. Therefore, Pilate is banking on the idea that the crowd will easily discern between good (Jesus) and evil (Barabbas) and set Jesus free. Ordinarily, this would be an easy choice for those who have eyes to see.

It should be remembered, however, that this is no ordinary crowd. These people have been strongly influenced by the religious leaders whom they respect and fear. These religious leaders represent the false teachings and selfish desires that make us unable to freely choose the good. It is these false teachings and selfish desires that persuade the multitudes [in us] to free Barabbas and “destroy Jesus” (27:20). This is precisely what happens. When Pilate asks, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” the multitudes cry out, “Barabbas!” (27:21).

This unexpected response puts Pilate in a difficult situation. His wife has already cautioned Him, regarding Jesus’ innocence: “Have nothing to do with that just Man,” she has told him, “for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him” (27:19). Pilate’s wife represents the remnant of conscience still remaining in each of us — conscience that still strives to get through, even in a dream. The question is, however, “Will Pilate listen?”

The difficult decision is now in Pilate’s hands. On one side is his wife’s warning; on the other is the cry of the crowd. Pilate must decide what he must do with Jesus. Even though his wife has strongly cautioned him, he is not yet ready to accept her advice, or make a strong decision for himself. Instead, he spinelessly turns to the crowd a second time and asks, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (27:22). If he expects them to change their mind, he is quite wrong. Still under the powerful influence of the religious leaders, they shout out again, “Let Him be crucified” (27:22).

Pilate believes that he can do nothing more. The multitude has made its decision for him, and he weakly acquiesces. Wishing to absolve himself of any wrong-doing, he takes water, washes his hands before the multitude, and says, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (27:24). And the people answer, “Let His blood be on us and our children” (27:25).

What has turned the multitudes away from Jesus? He has loved them, healed them and worked miracles among them for three years. Why are they choosing to crucify Him now? Where are the lepers that He has made whole, the lame that He has made to walk, the deaf that He has made to hear, and the blind that He has made to see? Where are the sick people He has made well, the hungry people He has fed, and the demon-possessed that He has set free? Where are they now? And if they are among the multitude, why are they not speaking up?

The answer is clear. Even as Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him, and all the disciples forsook Him, the multitudes turn against Him. In the end, Jesus stands utterly, absolutely alone. No one defends Him; no one speaks for Him. In the closing words of His final parable, Jesus said, “I was in prison and you came to Me.” But no one came to be with Him. As it was written in Isaiah, prophesying this moment in Jesus’ life, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me…. I looked but there was no one to help” (Isaiah 63:3, 5).

This may seem unbelievable to us today. But that was the hellish state of the world that Jesus was born into. And that is why it was necessary for God to come into the world at that time to redeem fallen humanity — even if it meant being beaten, scourged, and crucified. Pilate, it seemed, was initially reluctant to crucify Him, but he was too weak to stand against the crowd.

In this regard, Pilate represents each of us whenever we refuse to hear the still, small, voice of conscience. Instead, we find ourselves swayed by the angry crowd of inner accusers shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him.” Whenever the mob mentality in us overrules the inner voice of love and reason, Barabbas is set free and Jesus is crucified. And so, we read that Pilate “released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified” (27:26).

King of the Jews

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27. Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the Praetorium, gathered against Him the whole band [of soldiers].

28. And stripping Him, they put around Him a scarlet mantle.

29. And braiding a crown of thorns, they put [it] on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and kneeling before Him, mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

30. And spitting upon Him, they took the reed, and struck [Him] on His head.

31. And when they had mocked Him, they took the mantle off Him, and put His own garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify [Him].

32. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to take His cross.

33. And when they were come to a place called Golgotha, which is called Place of a Skull,

34. They gave Him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall, and when He had tasted, He was not willing to drink.

35. And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting a lot, that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the prophet, They divided My garments among them, and upon My vesture they cast a lot.

36. And sitting [down], they kept [watch over] Him there;

37. And set over His head His charge written, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”

38. Then were two robbers crucified with Him, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

39. And they that went by blasphemed Him, moving their heads,

40. And saying, “[Thou] that undoest the temple, and in three days buildest [it], save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, step down from the cross.”

41. And likewise also the chief priests, mocking with the scribes and elders, said,

42. “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him step down now from the cross, and we will believe Him.

43. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, I am the Son of God.”

44. And for the same thing the robbers also, who were crucified with Him, reproached Him.
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Jesus’ alleged offense is labeled “treason” for it is claimed that He calls Himself the “King of the Jews.” If true, this would be a crime against the state whose king is the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus. It is a crime punishable by death. The Roman soldiers now proceed to beat and taunt Jesus, cruelly mocking Him by dressing Him up like a king, putting a scarlet robe on His body, and a crown of thorns on His head. They also place a reed (probably a stick) in His hand instead of a royal scepter.

Then, bowing down before Jesus, they say sarcastically, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (27:29). On top of their mockery, they add contempt and abuse, spitting on Him and striking Him on the head with the scepter they now use as a club. When they are finished with their cruel sport, “they put His own clothes back on Him, and lead Him away to be crucified” (27:31).

Jesus has undergone grueling, torturous suffering at the hands of the soldiers. He is now being led away to be crucified. While prisoners are ordinarily compelled to carry the upright beam of the cross upon their backs, Jesus has been so scourged and beaten that His frail body lacks the power to do so. Therefore a man named Simon, a stranger who just happens to be in town at that time, is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross (27:32). The theme of Jesus’ utter loneliness, with no one to help, continues. A stranger carries His cross.

Finally they come to the place where Jesus is to be crucified, “a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of the Skull” (27:33). The translated phrase speaks volumes to us as we imagine a world that has lost all sight of reason. The human mind, without reason or compassion, is no better than the lifeless skull that contains it. Today, the place called Golgotha still stands on the outskirts of Jerusalem, an imposing cliff of unyielding rock. And in the rock one can see with unmistakable and chilling accuracy the shape of a skull — two hollow eyes, a hole where there should be a nose, and a menacing mouth with no lips, or teeth or tongue. This is Golgotha: an ominous symbol of life without religion, and religion without God.

It is there, at Golgotha that they give Him “sour wine mingled with gall” — a fitting representative of a world gone sour. In place of the sweet wine of pure truth, there is the sour wine of falsified religion. Therefore, Jesus refuses to drink it (27:34). It is at this point that they crucify Jesus and put a sign over His head, writing down the mocking accusation, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37).

The crucifixion, however, does not end the taunting and mockery. Even those who pass by say, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (27:40). And they add, derisively, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save” (27:42). “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him” (27:42-44).

Coming down from the cross was not Jesus’ purpose. Saving His body was not His goal. In the previous chapter, when one of His disciples tried to defend Him, Jesus told him to put down his sword. God did not come to earth to save Himself, or to fight physical enemies. Rather He came to fight the hosts of hell through a frail and finite human body — a body that could feel physical pain, and a mind that could be assaulted by evil. This is the plan all along, and He has accepted it. Therefore, He will not come down. Instead, with unflinching courage He chooses to suffer to the bitter end the agony and the humiliation of the cross. Even the robbers who are being crucified with Jesus insult and revile Him (27:44).

The invisible battle

Jesus is on the cross now, rejected by everyone and suffering alone. He has been rejected by the religious establishment, the civil government, the multitudes, the disciples, and even by the two robbers who hang beside Him on the cross. Indeed, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

But what about the angels? Surely, they would never reject, despise, or abandon the Lord. Angels, however, like all people, are still human, and still have their weaknesses. Although their capacity to understand truth and do good is vast, they are, after all, not divine. Therefore, as Jesus comes into the extremity of temptation, He is assaulted not only by the most wicked and infernal hells but is also challenged by the angels. These temptations are the inmost of all for they involve a most subtle attack on our deepest loves and desires. In Jesus’ case, it is His ardent love for the salvation of the human race, a love that will not compel anyone. Such is the nature of the divine love itself, and such is the nature of Jesus’ final temptation on the cross. 7

The word “temptation” is normally understood to mean an “allurement” or an “enticement,” the urge to say or do something wrong. But there is a much deeper form of temptation which involves not so much the temptation to say or do evil, but rather the temptation to doubt that the truth we think is really true, and the good we do really matters. As this deeper form of temptation continues, it leads to despair, and finally to the thought that our lives have been wasted, and that nothing we do has any significance. There is no particular “urge to do evil,” but rather a much more subtle urge to simply give up on everything and everyone, including our loved ones, our life’s purpose, and even ourselves. Life seems altogether bleak and hopeless, and all of our efforts seem meaningless.

If questions and doubts like this were being injected by the hells, they would have been much easier to overcome. But coming from friends, and especially from angels, who mean well, they would be much more difficult to combat. We saw something of this earlier, when Peter rebuked the Lord for even considering the possibility that He would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die. But Jesus told Peter that His suffering and death in Jerusalem could not be avoided, and that Peter should be mindful of the things of God, not the things of men (16:21-23). Now, as Jesus hangs on the cross, much to the great sorrow of the angels, they come into great despair about the future of the human race, wondering if humanity can ever be saved through the mere gift of freedom. “Oh, Lord,” they perhaps cried out, “Take unto Yourself Your great power and reign. You must do something! It can’t end like this. There is so much more work to be done. Please, don’t give up like this.” 8

This is one of the most difficult forms of temptation. It occurs when those closest to us suggest that we come down from our highest principles. As it is written in the psalms, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if an enemy were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, and my close friend” (Psalm 55:12-13).

The pressure is on now — even more than in Gethsemane — and it is coming from all sides. The disciples want Him to come down from the cross to set up an earthly kingdom. The people who pass by say that He should come down from the cross to demonstrate that He is truly the Son of God. The religious leaders taunt Him to come down from the cross, saying “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself.” And now, even the angels, urge Him to come down from the cross, and end the anguish.

What no one can see, not even the angels, is that Jesus is not giving up. He is fighting an invisible battle against the subtlest and most diabolical of all the hells. And it will be a fight to the finish. Throughout this mighty battle, it is important to remember that the nature Jesus took on is human, and therefore subject to temptation. None of us likes to suffer, and none of us would choose to endure the agony of crucifixion, especially if it appears to be a useless endeavor. Similarly, none of us would want to see our loved ones choosing lives that lead to misery and destruction. It is only natural to want to stop them, to use whatever power and control we have to direct them onto a different course. Now imagine this in Jesus’ case. He knows that the human understanding cannot be compelled to believe truth, nor can the human heart be compelled to love good. This is the way He designed the universe, knowing that our very humanity consists in being free to understand and love the things which proceed from God, without compulsion. 9

In this regard, we should also consider the onslaughts of the hells that are attacking Jesus, endeavoring with all their fury to stir up bitter thoughts and emotions. Like all of us, Jesus must have been tempted to vindicate Himself and prove His innocence. But He chooses to remain silent. Like all of us He must have been tempted to fight back, to retaliate, to punish those who were so cruelly abusing Him. But He does nothing of the sort. Instead He hangs there, silently, without a word of complaint, fighting inner combats more painful than the the pain caused by the iron spikes that are piercing His hands and feet. Regardless of the pain, both external and internal, Jesus remains steadfast in His mission. He will fight against hell, even as it unleashes its full fury against Him, until He has expelled every last evil from His inherited humanity. As a result, the fullness of God’s Divinity would be made manifest in Him. And He will not come down until that mission is accomplished. 10

Jesus’ Last Words on the Cross

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45. And from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

46. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a great voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” That is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
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My God, My God

Although this chapter begins with the words, “When morning came,” it is perhaps the shortest morning in the history of time. For darkness comes quickly, and by noon “there is “darkness over all the earth” (27:45). This darkness continues for three more hours until Jesus cries out in a loud voice “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (27:46).

In His human nature, Jesus’ sense of being utterly alone, and without support of any kind, is now complete. Not only does He feel abandoned by the disciples, then by the multitudes, and even by the angels, but He now feels abandoned by God. The Hebrew scriptures capture this feeling exquisitely. As it is written, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me? Why are You so far from My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1). “I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, who are cut off from your care…. Why, O Lord, do You reject me and hide Your face from me? I am in despair … the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:4-5, 14, 18). 11

In His weakened human condition, Jesus’ sense of abandonment has reached its lowest point; the desire to give up is overwhelming. As never before, Jesus has to summon up everything that He has within Him in order to rise above the desperate thoughts and feelings that are inundating Him. In the midst of it all, He has to have confidence that humanity can be saved, and that this can be done without compulsion. He has to have confidence that He is not abandoned and that His inmost love for the salvation of the human race (which He calls “the Father”) is still present. He has to have comfidence that although He feels totally abandoned by God, this is not the case. In brief, Jesus’ desperate sense of hopelessness and abandonment will need to be overcome by an inmost sense that God would never abandon Him. This teaching, in fact, was at the heart of Jesus’ entire ministry. Now would be the chance to prove it — not through a miracle, but through faith in God’s goodness and the courage to remain unbroken in spirit, even till His last breath. 12

This is a lesson for each of us as well. There are times in each of our lives when we might feel alone, abandoned, and separated from God. At such times, thoughts like these might arise in our minds:

O God, I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me.

I have believed in You and I have lived according to your Word.

And now, here I am, going through this agonizing experience.

I feel myself sinking.

Where are You? Where are Your wonders?

Why have you abandoned me?

Jesus’ last words on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” convey a powerful message about faith during times of utter despair. Although Jesus might feel that God has abandoned Him, Jesus has not abandoned God. Out of the depths of His distress, Jesus calls upon the Lord, crying out, “My God, My God.”

The reality of Jesus’ suffering

It has been suggested that Jesus was not in despair at all; instead, when He uttered that plaintive cry, He was merely quoting the opening words of the twenty-second psalm which begins with the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” The psalm gives key details about Jesus’ excruciating suffering on the cross, but also goes on to describe the inspired outcome of His prayer. As it is written, “The Lord has not despised or rejected the afflicted…. When he cried out to Him, He heard” (Psalm 22:24). And the next psalm begins with the immortal words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

It may be that Jesus was indeed quoting the twenty-second psalm, but this does not mean that His suffering was not real. In fact, the intensity of His suffering is exactly the point. By taking on our fallen humanity, Jesus was able to meet and conquer every physical and spiritual torment that a human being might undergo, including the final, and most piercing torment of all — the feeling that one has been abandoned by God. As a finite human being, like all of us, Jesus had to go through this agony Himself to show us that it could be done. He had to feel utterly alone and abandoned, weak and powerless, entirely on His own so that He could demonstrate that no matter what happens, no matter how furiously we are assailed by the hells, God is still with us.

Like Jesus, we also experience times that may feel like crucifixion. These are the times when we must fight against evil desires and false thoughts as if we are fighting from ourselves while acknowledging that all the power to do so is from the Lord alone. Prayer, of course, is an essential part of this combat because it connects us to the power of God. But prayer alone, even the most fervent prayer, will not chase away the evil desires and false thoughts that arise within us. Therefore, we must do this as if from ourselves, summoning up every last bit of strength and courage. The more we are assailed, the deeper we must go, remaining faithful in times of doubt, resilient in the face of adversity, and determined when feeling despair. The more we do this, fighting as if from ourselves, while believing that the Lord is fighting for us, the more will goodness and truth flowing in from the Lord sustain us and become our own. No matter how often we stumble, no matter how often we fall, if we get up and keep going, in love and faith, we will gradually develop a new nature, a new character, a new will. We will become the people God intends us to be. 13

No matter what happens to us, no matter how strongly we are assailed by doubts and despairs, we must cling to the truth that there is a God who loves us and is supporting us throughout our every trial. This is a God who will never abandon us — a God who will suffer anything for us, even the agony of the cross, to show us how to live, even in the face of death. But we must do our part; we must fight with the strength of Samson who, with his last breath, tore down the pillars of the Philistines; we must fight even as Jesus fought, against all that is evil and false within us, so that we may be born again as children of God. We must never surrender. 14

When Jesus was in the wilderness, the devil tempted Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus refused. Again, the devil tempted Jesus to bow down and worship him. Again, Jesus refused. And now, as Jesus concludes His earthly ministry, He is again tempted to come down — this time from the cross. Again, He refused. No one — no living person, no devil of hell, and no angel of heaven — could convince Jesus to come down from the cross or abandon His all-important mission. He remained steadfast and unwavering in His firm resolve to fulfill the purpose for which He came: to subdue the hells and, thereby, make it possible for people to be saved. And because He was fighting for the salvation of the entire human race, and doing this from pure love, He was inmostly aware that He could not help but be victorious. 15

Glorification: The Other Side of Temptation

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47. And some standing there, hearing [it], said, “This [Man] calls for Elijah.”

48. And straightway one of them running, and taking a sponge, and filling [it] with vinegar, and placing [it] on a reed, gave Him to drink.

49. But the rest said, “Let be, let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”

50. And Jesus, again crying with a great voice, let [forth] the spirit.
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This kind of faith is invincible, indestructible, and supreme. Jesus was indeed assaulted in His infirm humanity and brought into states of severe mental anguish. But He continually drew upon those more interior resources — especially that inmost confidence that whoever fights from pure love will prevail. The crueler and more ferocious the onslaughts, the deeper He went, continuously accessing the divine love within Him and drawing it into His finite humanity. In so doing, through combat after combat, He progressively glorified His humanity until He become one with His Divine Soul — the “Father” within Him. Jesus’ passion on the cross, the last of a long series of fearsome battles with hell, was the culmination of this process. As He defeated the last of the hells, and ended the combat, He “cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit” (27:50). 16

The combat was fierce; but the result was glorious. It is similar for each of us. To the extent that we call upon the Lord, use the truth that we know, access His love, and then fight valiantly — while giving all the glory and all the credit to God — we advance a little more on the spiritual journey, as humbler, wiser, and more loving human beings.

It is a process that continues throughout our lifetime in this world and into the next, for none of us can be perfected in a moment. It is through combats of temptation, in fact, that we develop our spirits. So, although temptations may seem like dreaded foes, and unwelcome experiences, the Lord arranges the circumstances of our life perfectly so that every temptation becomes an opportunity to take the next step on our spiritual path. Whenever we meet these temptations with faith and courage, we develop, we grow, and we become spiritually mature. Each time we turn aside from evil, good flows in and takes its place. Each time we refuse to think or say what is false, truth flows in and takes its place. Each time we oppose the urge to criticize, or blame, or find fault, heavenly thoughts and emotions flow in, and take their place. 17

This process was the same for Jesus, but on a much different level. As He fought against and subdued every form of evil His humanity gradually became fully aligned with His divinity. It was as though a substance (His divinity) was being poured into a vessel (His humanity), gradually molding that vessel into a form of perfection until both the vessel and the substance became one. To put it another way, Jesus filled His mind (the finite vessel) with sacred scripture until His humanity become a perfect vessel for the reception of the divine love. In the beginning, the Divine was made human; but in the end, the human was made Divine. 18

Through a lifetime of undergoing temptations, expelling evils, and drawing upon the Divine love within Him, Jesus Christ became much more than the incarnation of God in a weak and fragile human body that died upon the cross. Rather, He became the living God in a new and glorified Humanity — the Divine Human that we can know, approach, and love. 19

This process, through which Jesus gradually filled Himself with divinity, until every cell was fully Divine — including every thought and every emotion — is called “glorification.” It is because of the glorification process that God can now be with us in a Divine natural form. This means that we no longer have to worship an infinite, unknowable, invisible God. Instead, we can worship a visible God — Jesus in His glorified humanity. 20

Jesus’ struggles and victories, up to and including His glorification, have several benefits. While a complete enumeration of those benefits is beyond human understanding, two of them are especially significant. First, in combating and subduing the hells, Jesus has made it possible for each of us to learn the truth and thereby be regenerated. The hells can no longer overwhelm us as long as we turn to the Lord in His Word and live according to the truths therein. Secondly, in glorifying His Humanity, Jesus has made the invisible Creator of the universe visible. Because of this, humanity now and forever has a fuller and more accurate idea of God. Instead of a distant, unknowable, intangible Deity, He became a Divinely Human God — a God who fights for us and shows us how to conquer. Although infinitely loving and wise, and beyond human understanding, the Creator of the universe, could now be seen as a visible God — the Lord Jesus Christ — whom we can know, and love, and follow. 21

Acknowledging Jesus’ Divinity

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51. And behold, the veil of the temple was ripped in two, from the top to the bottom; and the earth was shaken; and the rocks were ripped [open];

52. And the sepulchers were opened, and many bodies of [the] holy [ones] that slumbered arose,

53. And coming out of the sepulchers after His resurrection, entered into the holy city, and appeared to many.

54. And the centurion, and they that were with him, keeping [watch over] Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and those things that were done, feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

55. And many women were there, beholding from afar off, who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him,

56. Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

57. And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, whose name was Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus.

58. He coming to Pilate asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered the body to be given up.

59. And Joseph, taking the body, wrapped it in a clean cloth,

60. And put it in his new sepulcher, which he had hewn in the rock; and rolling a great stone onto the door of the sepulcher, he went away.

61. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
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At the peak of the crucifixion, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (27:51). The veil of the temple was a beautifully decorated curtain that separated the holy place from the “holy of holies” — the sacred room where the Ten Commandments were kept. The tearing in two of the veil, revealing the “holy of holies,” signifies that the Ten Commandments were once again visible. Even as God had now become visible in Jesus, the Ten Commandments, covered over for so long, now became visible for all to see. The parting of the veil, then, represents a new and clearer understanding of those sacred precepts.

We read also that “the earth quaked and the rocks were split” (27:51). This signifies a profound re-orientation in what we consider good (the earth quaking) and what we consider true (the rocks splitting). When this happens, and we discover a new way to live, we come up from our previous lives, and start a new life. Therefore, it is written that when the earth shook and the rocks split, “the graves were opened.” 22

This represents our resurrection from natural life (concerned primarily with one’s self) to spiritual life (concerned primarily with love for God and others). During this time, our buried affections and tender feelings begin to resurface; they are “raised,” as it were, out of their graves. As it is written, “And many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” As we emerge from our “graves” of selfishness and from our deep “sleep,” we become more sensitive to spiritual values, more aware of the needs of others, and eager to be of service. In other words, we are becoming alive and awake to spiritual reality. In this higher state of consciousness, we see the Ten Commandments as central to our lives — no longer concealed by a curtain. Jesus’ words from a previous episode take on new meaning: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

Finally, as we emerge from the graves of selfish concern, especially after having been asleep to spiritual values for many years, we “go into the holy city.” This represents our re-awakened desire to go to the Word (the “holy city”) and eagerly learn about the truths that lead to eternal life. When earth-shaking, rock-splitting miracles like these are taking place within us, we become like the witnesses at the foot of the cross who cry out, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (27:54). The answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” (16:15) becomes clear: He is God in human form.

The beginning of a new spirituality

The miracles that took place during Jesus’ crucifixion — darkness at noon, the earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, the tearing of the veil in the temple, people coming out of their graves — stunned the crowd. From this point onwards, no one blasphemed or taunted Jesus. His crucifixion was no longer a scornful, derisive, mockery. Rather, it became transformed into a scene of sacred awe. Something truly miraculous had happened; suddenly, the same crowd that wanted to see Him crucified now began to openly acknowledge His divinity. This is accompanied by a re-awakening of love among the multitudes — represented by the “many women” who are taking notice. As it is written, “And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were looking on from afar” (27:55).

Whenever we weather the storms of temptation, and make it through upheavals of life, we come into a fuller appreciation of Jesus’ divinity. We are like the witnesses who said, “This was the Son of God.” At the same time, our love for Jesus re-emerges — just as the women who had been holding their distance now reappear. At such times, we acknowledge that He alone has brought us through our troubles. This is represented by the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons who have all returned to minister to Jesus (27:56). These women represent the re-awakened affections in us that are drawn to Jesus, acknowledging His divinity.

Along with these re-emerging affections, represented by the three women, comes the desire to live by the truth that Jesus teaches. This is represented in the next episode when “a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph” (27:57), comes forward. The phrase “a rich man” signifies one who knows many truths. The problem with the religious leaders who sought to destroy Jesus is not that they did not have truth. In fact, they were “rich” with truth. But they had perverted and destroyed the truth by using it in the service of their own self-interest. That religious establishment, therefore, had come to an end, and a new a new one was being raised up to take its place. The coming forward of the three women, and now Joseph of Arimathea, represents the beginning of this new spirituality.

Joseph goes directly to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus. Pilate, though weak and fearful, is not without common decency, even though it is so deeply buried that he could not prevent Jesus’ crucifixion. But things are changing now; the crucifixion has changed many things. We read, therefore, that “Pilate commanded the body to be given to him” (27:58). In the tender scene that follows, Joseph wraps the body in a clean cloth and lays it in a new tomb, hewn out of a rock. Then, after rolling a large stone against the door of the tomb, he departs. We are left with a final picture of Jesus wrapped in linen, and laid in a new tomb, with a large stone blocking the entrance. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are sitting nearby, opposite the tomb (27:59-61).

A practical application

There are dark times in our lives when the Word does not seem to be speaking to us. We may read the literal words, but we do not hear the Lord’s voice or feel His presence. There is no light in our darkness. Nevertheless, if we wait patiently, like the two Marys, and if we respectfully regard the literal teachings of the Word, like Joseph of Arimathea, something might arise. All we need to do at such times is meditate on a passage of scripture with the uses of life in mind. If we do this prayerfully, guided by faith in the Lord’s goodness, something might arise out of that “new tomb.” The Lord may come to us through His Word. 23

Sealing the Tomb

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62. And on the morrow, which is [the day] after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together to Pilate,

63. Saying, “Lord, we remember that the deceiver said, while He was yet living, After three days I will arise.

64. Order therefore that the tomb be secured until the third day, lest His disciples coming by night steal Him, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead; and the last error shall be worse than the first.”

65. And Pilate declared to them, “You have a guard; go, secure [it] as you know [how].”

66. And going they secured the tomb, sealing the stone, with the guard.
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The previous episode ended with a description of the two Marys sitting opposite the tomb, watching and waiting. It suggests the way each of us can wait patiently for life to arise from the Lord’s Word. There is something in each of us, God-given, that seeks inspiration and guidance from the Lord’s Word, even when there seems to be no life there at the moment.

At the same time, however, there is another force that wants to keep the tomb well sealed so that nothing might arise. This force fears the light of truth and strives to keep things in darkness. It wants to silence the voice of God. This is represented in the next episode by the words of the religious leaders. Coming to Pilate, they say, “Sir, we remember while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, order that the tomb be made secure until the third day lest His disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from dead.’” (27:63-64).

Once again, we see a representation of the two opposing forces in us. On one side, there is the tender picture of Jesus being cared for by Joseph of Arimathea and watched over by the two Marys. This is a picture of our faith in the Word and our desire to be inspired by its teachings. On the other side, the religious leaders want to make sure that Jesus’ body remains entombed. For them, the worst possible thing that could happen is that Jesus’ disciples steal the body and spread a rumor that Jesus has risen. As they put it, “If His disciples tell the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ the last error shall be worse than the first” (27:64). This is the part of us that does not want to hear what the Word has to say, the part of us that prefers to remain in darkness, the part of us that is represented by the religious leaders who resent Jesus’ power and influence. Remembering Jesus’ promise that He would rise again in three days, they want to make sure it will not come to pass. Therefore, they ask Pilate to set a guard and secure the tomb. But Pilate is no longer willing to comply with their wishes. “You have a guard,” he says to the religious leaders. “Go your way and make it as secure as you know how” (27:65).

In response, the religious leaders “went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard” (27:66). There are places within the human spirit that are dead set against allowing Jesus to be a living influence in our lives. These are the places that “seal the stone and set the guard.”

The two Marys, on the other hand, represent those qualities within us that await Jesus’ promised return. It is the expectation of new life, even in the midst of what appears to be death. Whether we are speaking about the inner meaning of the Word rising up out of the letter, or Jesus rising up from the grave, it suggests that new life can arise within us. The religious authorities, however, want to keep Jesus out of sight — permanently. They want to make sure that the tomb is kept sealed.

A practical application

Jesus came to subdue the hells, not to destroy them. Through His victories in temptation He provided that the hells could no longer overpower and dominate people. But people can still choose to be led by their lower nature. In this way, the Lord preserves human freedom. In every moment we can choose to be led by our highest principles of goodness and truth or be led by base desires and self-centered thoughts. It is this very struggle between good and evil forces within each of us that is portrayed in this episode. Which side will prevail?

Footnotes:

1Arcana Coelestia 18: “Before anyone can know what is true, and be affected with what is good … the old man [evil desires] must die.” See also Arcana Coelestia 2816: “The Lord admitted temptations into Himself in order that He might expel from Himself all that was merely human, and this until nothing but the Divine remained.”

2Arcana Coelestia 5113: “After the truth is learned, the person is able to think it, and then to will it, and at last do it. This is how a new will is formed in a person in the intellectual part.” See also Arcana Coelestia 5072: “Those things which are subordinate to the intellectual part are represented by the butler of the king of Egypt, and those which are subordinate to the will part are represented by his baker; that the former [the intellectual part] are for a time retained, but the latter [the will part] cast out, is represented by the butler returning to his place, and the baker being hanged.”

3Heaven and Hell 151: “Love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor make heaven, while love of self and love of the world make hell, because the two are opposite.”

4. New Jerusalem Its Heavenly Doctrine 196: “Assaults [of evil spirits] take place . . . by a continual drawing forth, and bringing to remembrance, of the evils which one has committed, and of the falsities which one has thought, thus by inundation of such things; and at the same time by an apparent shutting up of the interiors of the mind, and, consequently, of communication with heaven, by which the capacity of thinking from one’s own faith, and of willing from one’s own love, are intercepted. These things are effected by the evil spirits who are present with a person; and when they take place, they appear under the form of interior anxieties and pains of conscience; for they affect and torment a person’s spiritual life, because the person supposes that they proceed, not from evil spirits, but from one’s own interiors.”

5. In the novel, Les Miserables, Victor Hugo writes: “Is there not in every human soul … a first spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world, and immortal in the next, which good can fan, ignite, and make to glow with splendor, and which evil can never wholly extinguish?” (Chapter 21). While Swedenborg does not speak of a “divine spark” (because we do not have life from ourselves), he does say that the Lord implants “remains” within everyone. These are the tender affections of childhood that are with us throughout our life in the world. See Arcana Coelestia 530: “Remains are always preserved … otherwise there would be no conjunction of heaven with humanity.” Also, Arcana Coelestia 5128:5: “There are in every person goods and truths from the Lord stored up from infancy. In the Word, these goods and truths are called ‘remains.’”

6. The actual Greek is su legais (σὺ λέγεις). Other translators render this “Yes” (Living Bible); “So you say” (Good News Bible); “You say so” (New Revised Standard); “Yes, it is as you say” (New International Version), and “Thou sayest” (Kempton Version).

7Arcana Coelestia 4295: “The angels are continually being perfected by the Lord, and yet can never to eternity be so far perfected that their wisdom and intelligence can be compared to the Divine wisdom and intelligence of the Lord.” See also Arcana Coelestia 4295. “In the end the Lord fought with the angels themselves, nay, with the whole angelic heaven . . . in order that the universal heaven might be brought into order. He admitted into Himself temptations from the angels who, insofar as they were in what is their own, were so far not in good and truth. These temptations are the inmost of all, for they act solely into the ends, and with such subtlety as cannot possibly be noticed.”

8. See Revelation 11:17: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty … because You have taken Your great power and reigned.”

9Divine Providence 136[3]: “The internal is so averse to compulsion by the external that it turns itself away. This is because the internal wishes to be in freedom, and loves freedom, for freedom belongs to a person’s love or life. Therefore, when freedom feels itself to be compelled it withdraws as it were within itself and turns itself away, and looks upon compulsion as its enemy…. Furthermore, compelled worship shuts in evils, which evils then lie hidden like fire in wood under ashes, which is continually kindling and spreading till it breaks out in flames.”

10Arcana Coelestia 1607:3: “His Human Essence [was] united to His Divine Essence when He had overcome the devil and hell, that is, when by His own power and His own might He had expelled all evil, which alone disunites.”

11Arcana Coelestia 840: “As long as temptation lasts, a person assumes that the Lord is not present. This is because the person is being harassed by evil spirits of the worst kind, so harassed in fact that sometimes the person has so great a feeling of hopelessness as scarcely to believe that God exists at all.”

12True Christian Religion 126: “In temptation it looks as if a person is left to oneself, but it is not so, since God is most intimately present at the inmost level, secretly giving support. Therefore, when anyone is victorious in temptation, that person is most inwardly linked with God, and in this case, the Lord was most inwardly united with God His Father.” See also Arcana Coelestia 840: “In times of temptation the Lord is more present than a person can possibly believe.”

13Arcana Coelestia 8179:2: “They who are in temptations usually slack their hands and rely solely on prayers, which they then ardently pour forth, not knowing that prayers will not avail, but that they must also fight against the falsities and evils which are being injected by the hells…. When people fight [against evil and falsity] as if from their own strength and yet believe that they do so in the Lord’s strength, goodness and truth flow in from the Lord and become their own. This gives them a new proprium [sense of self] … which is a new will.”

14Arcana Coelestia 10182:6: “In the heavens all power is from the Divine truth that proceeds from the Lord’s Divine good. From this the angels have … the power to protect people by removing the hells from them, for one angel prevails against a thousand spirits from the hells. This cannot be apprehended by those who have the idea that truth and faith are merely thought. The fact is that thought from a person’s will produces all the strength of one’s body, and if it were inspired by the Lord through His Divine truth, a person would have the strength of Samson.”

15Arcana Coelestia 1812: “While He lived in the world the Lord was in continual combats of temptations, and in continual victories, from a constant inmost confidence and faith that because He was fighting for the salvation of the whole human race from pure love, He could not but conquer.

16Arcana Coelestia 4735: “The Lord’s passion was the last stage of His temptation, by which He fully glorified His humanity.”

17. “Suppose a linen handkerchief is the natural body which the Lord took on from the virgin Mary. If we pull out one thread of linen and then weave in a thread of gold along the warp, and do that over and over again, removing one thread of linen at a time and filling in with a thread of gold, then turn the handkerchief the other way and do the same with the woof, in the end we will have a handkerchief … but it will be all transformed into gold, without the size and shape perishing. The point is this: The Lord came into the world primarily to give us an image of a God that we can know and love and worship and see.” (Rev. Karl Alden, Doctrinal Papers, (Bryn Athyn: General Church Religion Lessons, 1951) p. 30.

18True Christian Religion 73[3]: “God could not by His omnipotence have redeemed men unless He had become man; neither could He have made His human Divine unless that human had first been like the human of a babe, and then like that of a boy; and unless afterwards the human had formed itself into a receptacle and habitation, into which its Father might enter; which was done by His fulfilling all things in the Word, that is, all the laws of order therein; and so far as He accomplished this He united Himself to the Father, and the Father united Himself to Him.”

19Arcana Coelestia 2551: “The Lord by degrees and from His own power, as He grew up, made Divine the human into which He was born. Thus, by means of the knowledge that He revealed to Himself, He perfected His rational, dispersed by successive steps its shadows, and introduced it into Divine light.”

20True Christian Religion 109: “Before He came into the world, the Lord was certainly present with the people of the church, but through the mediation of angels as His representatives; however, since His coming He is present with the people of the church without any intermediary. For in the world He put on the Divine Natural too, in which He is present with human beings. The Lord’s glorification is the glorification of His Human, which He took upon Himself in the world; and the glorified Human of the Lord is the Divine Natural.”

21True Christian Religion 126: “Glorification is the uniting of the Lord’s Human with the Divine of His Father. This was effected gradually, and was completed through the passion of the cross. For every person ought to draw near to God; and as far as a person does draw near, God on His part enters into that person. It is the same as with a temple, which first must be built, and this is done by human hands; afterwards it must be dedicated; and finally, prayer must be made for God to be present and there unite Himself with the church. The union itself [of the Lord’s Divine and human natures] was made complete through the passion of the cross, because that was the last temptation endured by the Lord in the world. It is by means of temptations that conjunction is effected.”

22Apocalypse Explained 659:14: “To open the tombs and to cause the people to come up out of the tombs” signifies to be raised up out of falsities from evil, thus [to be raised up] from the dead. It also signifies [what happens when the Lord] imparts truths from good, thus life, which life is ‘the Spirit of God.’”

23Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 78: “It is through the Word that the Lord is present with people and is conjoined to them, for the Lord is the Word, and as it were speaks with people in it…. The Lord is indeed present with people through the reading of the Word, but people are conjoined with the Lord through the understanding of truth from the Word.” See also Arcana Coelestia 9817: “The Lord flows in with people of the church chiefly through the Word.”

From Swedenborg's Works

 

True Christian Religion #73

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73. The next day some of the group who believed in predestination and imputation came to me and said: 'We feel as if we were tipsy, not with wine, but with the way that man talked yesterday. He talked about omnipotence and at the same time about order, drawing the conclusion that just as omnipotence is an attribute of God, so too is order; in fact he asserted that God Himself is order. He said that there are as many laws of order as there are truths in the Word, not merely thousands, but hundreds of millions; and that God is subject to His own laws in this respect, and man to his. What then is God's omnipotence, if it is restricted by laws? For in this way omnipotence loses all absolute power. Does not that give God less power than any king on earth who is a sovereign? He can turn the laws of justice upside down as easily as his hands; he can act with absolute power like Octavius 1 Augustus, or like Nero. Thinking about omnipotence restricted by laws has made us feel as if we were tipsy, and ready to faint if we do not get immediate help. Our faith has taught us to pray that God the Father should have mercy on us for the sake of His Son; and we believed that He could have mercy on whomever He chose, forgive the sins of any He pleased, and save whom He willed. We did not dare to detract in the slightest from His omnipotence. Therefore we regard confining God in any fetters of His own laws as sacrilege, seeing that it is a contradiction of His omnipotence.'

[2] At the conclusion of this speech we looked at each other, and I saw that they were perplexed. 'I will pray to the Lord,' I said, 'and bring you help from Him by shedding some light on the subject, but for now only by way of examples.'

'Almighty God,' I said, 'created the world out of order in Himself, that is to say, to be subject to the order in which He is present, and in accordance with which He controls it; and He has endowed the universe and every one of its parts with its own order. So man has his order, animals theirs, birds and fishes theirs, worms theirs; every tree, the very grass has its own order. To provide illustrative examples let me briefly suggest the following. The laws of order assigned to man are that he should acquire for himself truths from the Word, and think about them in a natural way, and, so far as he is able, rationally, thus equipping himself with a natural faith. The laws of order on God's side then are that He approaches the man, fills the truths with His Divine light, and so fills man's natural faith, which is merely factual knowledge and strongly held opinion, with the Divine essence. Thus, and only thus, does it become a saving faith.

'It is similar with charity; but let me briefly give some examples. God's laws prevent Him from forgiving anyone's sins, except to the extent that the person in accordance with his laws refrains from committing them. God cannot spiritually regenerate a person, except in so far as the person in accordance with his laws regenerates himself naturally. God is constantly striving to regenerate and so save people, but He cannot achieve this unless the person prepares himself to receive God, and so smooths the way and opens the door to Him. A bridegroom cannot enter the bedroom of a young woman who has not pledged herself to him; she locks the door and keeps the key herself inside. But when she takes the vows of marriage, she gives the bridegroom the key.

[3] 'God could not by His omnipotence have redeemed mankind, except by becoming a man. Nor could He have made His Human Divine, if His Human had not first been like that of a baby, then that of a child, and then formed itself into a container and dwelling into which His Father could enter. He did this by fulfilling everything in the Word, that is to say, all the laws of order it contains; and the more perfectly He did this, the more closely He united Himself with the Father and the Father united Himself with Him. These are merely a few illustrations which are offered, so that you can see that Divine omnipotence is subject to order; and His rule, which is called providence, is in accordance with order. It acts continually and for ever in accordance with the laws of His order; it cannot act contrary to them, nor can it change a tittle of them, because God is order together with all its laws.'

[4] At this speech a brilliance of golden light flooded in through the roof, and turned into cherubs flying through the air. A ruddy glow from them lit up the temples of some people, coming from the back of the head, but not at this stage from the forehead, for they were murmuring: 'We still do not know what omnipotence is.' 'That will be revealed,' I said, 'once what has been said so far has shed on your minds a little illumination.'

Footnotes:

1. The name of the first of the Roman Emperors before he took the title Augustus.

  
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THE FAITH OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW CHURCH 1-3 (i) THE WHOLE OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURE AND ALL THE DOCTRINES EXTRACTED FROM IT BY CHURCHES THROUGHOUT CHRISTENDOM TEACH THAT THERE IS A GOD AND HE IS ONE. 6-7 (ii) THERE IS A GENERAL FEELING EMANATING FROM GOD AND FLOWING INTO MEN'S SOULS THAT THERE IS A GOD, AND THAT HE IS ONE. 8 (iii) THAT IS WHY THERE IS NO NATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD POSSESSED OF RELIGION AND SOUND REASON WHICH DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE GOD AND THE FACT THAT HE IS ONE. 9-10 (iv) THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY NATIONS AND PEOPLES HAVE FORMED VARYING IDEAS OF THE NATURE OF THAT ONE GOD, AND CONTINUE TO DO SO. 11 (v) THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN LEAD THE HUMAN REASON, IF IT WISHES, TO GRASP AND DEDUCE THAT THERE IS A GOD AND THAT HE IS ONE. 12 (vi) IF THERE HAD NOT BEEN ONE GOD, THE UNIVERSE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN CREATED AND KEPT IN EXISTENCE. 13 (vii) ANY PERSON WHO DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE GOD IS EXCOMMUNICATED FROM THE CHURCH AND DAMNED. 14 (viii) THE CHURCH CANNOT HOLD TOGETHER AT ALL IN THE CASE OF A PERSON WHO ACKNOWLEDGES NOT ONE GOD, BUT SEVERAL. 15 (i) THE ONE GOD IS NAMED JEHOVAH FROM HIS BEING, THAT IS, FROM THE FACT THAT HE ALONE IS, [WAS] AND WILL BE, AND BECAUSE HE IS THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, ALPHA AND OMEGA. 19 (ii) THE ONE GOD IS SUBSTANCE ITSELF AND FORM ITSELF, AND ANGELS AND MEN ARE SUBSTANCES AND FORMS DERIVED FROM HIM; TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY ARE IN HIM AND HE IN THEM, SO FAR ARE THEY IMAGES AND LIKENESSES OF HIM. 20 (iii) THE DIVINE BEING IS BEING (ESSE) IN ITSELF, AND AT THE SAME TIME COMING-INTO-BEING (EXISTERE) IN ITSELF. 21-22 (iv) THE DIVINE BEING AND COMING-INTO-BEING IN ITSELF CANNOT GIVE RISE TO ANOTHER DIVINE WHICH IS BEING AND COMING-INTO-BEING IN ITSELF. CONSEQUENTLY ANOTHER GOD OF THE SAME ESSENCE IS IMPOSSIBLE. 23 (v) THE PLURALITY OF GODS IN ANCIENT TIMES, AS WELL AS TODAY, WAS ENTIRELY THE RESULT OF A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THE DIVINE BEING. 24 (i) GOD IS INFINITE, BECAUSE HE-IS AND COMES INTO BEING IN HIMSELF, AND EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS AND COMES INTO BEING FROM HIM. 28 (ii) GOD IS INFINITE, BECAUSE HE EXISTED BEFORE THE WORLD DID, AND THUS BEFORE SPACE AND TIME CAME INTO EXISTENCE. 29 (iii) SINCE THE MAKING OF THE WORLD GOD IS NON-SPATIALLY IN SPACE AND NON-TEMPORALLY IN TIME. 30 (iv) THE INFINITY OF GOD AS PREDICATED OF SPACE IS CALLED IMMENSITY, AND AS PREDICATED OF TIME IS CALLED ETERNITY. DESPITE THESE PREDICATIONS HIS IMMENSITY IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF SPACE AND HIS ETERNITY IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF TIME. 31 (v) THERE IS MUCH IN THE WORLD WHICH CAN ENABLE ENLIGHTENED REASON TO SEE THE INFINITY OF GOD THE CREATOR. 32 (vi) EVERY CREATED OBJECT IS FINITE, AND THE INFINITE IS CONTAINED IN FINITE OBJECTS AS IN RECEIVERS, AND IN HUMAN BEINGS AS IMAGES OF IT. 33-34 (i) GOD IS LOVE ITSELF AND WISDOM ITSELF, THESE TWO MAKING UP HIS ESSENCE. 37 (ii) GOD IS GOOD ITSELF AND TRUTH ITSELF, BECAUSE GOOD REFERS TO LOVE AND TRUTH TO WISDOM. 38 (iii) SINCE GOD IS LOVE ITSELF AND WISDOM ITSELF, HE IS LIFE ITSELF, OR LIFE IN ITSELF. 39-40 (iv) LOVE AND WISDOM ARE ONE IN GOD. 41-42 (v) THE ESSENCE OF LOVE IS LOVING OTHERS THAN ONESELF, WISHING TO BE ONE WITH THEM AND DEVOTING ONESELF TO THEIR HAPPINESS. 43-45 (vi) THESE PROPERTIES OF THE DIVINE LOVE WERE THE REASON THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED, AND ARE THE REASON IT IS PRESERVED IN EXISTENCE. 46-47 (i) OMNIPOTENCE, OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE ARE PROPERTIES OF THE DIVINE WISDOM RESULTING FROM THE DIVINE LOVE. 50-51 (ii) THE OMNIPOTENCE, OMNISCIENCE AND OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD CANNOT BE RECOGNISED EXCEPT THROUGH A KNOWLEDGE OF ORDER, AND THESE FACTS ABOUT ORDER: THAT GOD IS ORDER, AND THAT HE INTRODUCED ORDER INTO THE UNIVERSE AND ALL ITS PARTS SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH ITS CREATION. 52-55 (iii) GOD'S OMNIPOTENCE PROCEEDS AND WORKS IN THE UNIVERSE AND ALL ITS PARTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF HIS ORDER. 56-58 (iv) GOD IS OMNISCIENT, THAT IS, HE PERCEIVES, SEES AND KNOWS DOWN TO THE TINIEST DETAIL EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS ACCORDING TO ORDER; AND FROM THESE THINGS ALSO WHAT HAPPENS CONTRARY TO ORDER. 59-62 (v) GOD IS PRESENT EVERYWHERE FROM FIRST TO LAST IN HIS ORDER. 63-64 (vi) MAN WAS CREATED TO BE A FORM FOR DIVINE ORDER. 65-67 (vii) MAN HAS FROM DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE POWER AGAINST EVIL AND FALSITY, AND FROM DIVINE OMNISCIENCE WISDOM ABOUT GOOD AND TRUTH, AND FROM DIVINE OMNIPRESENCE IS IN GOD, TO THE EXTENT THAT HE LIVES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIVINE ORDER. 68-70 THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE 75-80 CHAPTER TWO 81-84 (ii) JEHOVAH GOD CAME DOWN AS THE DIVINE TRUTH, WHICH IS THE WORD, YET HE DID NOT SEPARATE THE DIVINE GOOD FROM IT. 85-88 (iii) HE TOOK UPON HIMSELF HUMAN FORM IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS DIVINE ORDER. 89-91 (iv) THE HUMAN BY WHICH HE BROUGHT HIMSELF INTO THE WORLD IS THE SON OF GOD. 92-94 (v) THE LORD BY ACTS OF REDEMPTION MADE HIMSELF RIGHTEOUSNESS. 95-96 (vi) BY THE SAME ACTS THE LORD UNITED HIMSELF WITH THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER WITH HIM. 97-100 (vii) THUS GOD BECAME MAN, AND MAN GOD, IN ONE PERSON. It follows that Jehovah God became man and man became God in one person as the consequence of all the previous propositions in this chapter, and particularly these two: Jehovah the Creator of the universe came down and took upon Himself 101-103 (viii) HIS PROGRESS TOWARDS UNION WAS HIS STATE OF EXINANITION, AND THE UNION ITSELF IS HIS STATE OF GLORIFICATION. 104-106 (ix) FROM THIS TIME ON NO ONE FROM CHRISTIAN COUNTRIES CAN COME INTO HEAVEN, UNLESS HE BELIEVES IN THE LORD GOD THE SAVIOUR, AND APPROACHES HIM ALONE. 107-108 ADDITIONAL NOTE 109 (i) THE REAL REDEMPTION WAS THE CONQUEST OF THE HELLS AND THE ORDERING OF THE HEAVENS, AND PREPARATION BY THIS MEANS FOR A NEW SPIRITUAL CHURCH. 115-117 (ii) BUT FOR THAT REDEMPTION NO PERSON COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, NOR COULD THE ANGELS HAVE REMAINED UNHARMED. 118-120 (iii) THE LORD THUS REDEEMED NOT ONLY MEN, BUT ALSO ANGELS. 121-122 (iv) REDEMPTION WAS AN ENTIRELY DIVINE DEED. 123 (v) THIS REDEMPTION COULD ONLY BE EFFECTED BY AN INCARNATE GOD. 124-125 (vi) THE PASSION ON THE CROSS WAS THE LAST TEMPTATION WHICH THE LORD UNDERWENT AS THE GREATEST PROPHET; THIS WAS THE MEANS BY WHICH HE GLORIFIED HIS HUMAN, THAT IS, UNITED IT WITH HIS FATHER'S DIVINE; SO THIS WAS NOT IN ITSELF THE REDEMPTION. 126-131 (vii) IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL ERROR ON THE PART OF THE CHURCH TO BELIEVE THAT THE PASSION ON THE CROSS WAS THE REAL ACT OF REDEMPTION. THAT ERROR, TOGETHER WITH THE ERRONEOUS BELIEF IN THREE DIVINE PERSONS EXISTING FROM ETERNITY, HAS SO PERVERTED THE WHOLE CHURCH THAT THERE IS NO REMAINDER OF 132-133 (i) THE HOLY SPIRIT IS DIVINE TRUTH, AND ALSO THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY WHICH PROCEEDS FROM THE ONE GOD, IN WHOM IS THE DIVINE TRINITY, AND SO FROM THE LORD GOD THE SAVIOUR. 139-141 (ii) THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY MEANT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE, GENERALLY SPEAKING, REFORMATION AND REGENERATION, WHICH LEAD TO RENEWAL, QUICKENING, SANCTIFICATION. AND JUSTIFICATION; AND THESE LEAD TO PURIFICATION FROM EVILS AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, AND ULTIMATELY TO SALVATION. 142-145 (iii) THE DIVINE POWER AND ACTIVITY MEANT BY THE SENDING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WITH THE CLERGY TAKES THE PARTICULAR FORM OF ENLIGHTENMENT AND INSTRUCTION. 146-148 (iv) THE LORD CONFERS THESE BENEFITS ON THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIM. 149-152 (v) THE LORD WORKS OF HIMSELF FROM THE FATHER, AND NOT THE REVERSE. 153-155 (vi) A PERSON'S SPIRIT IS HIS MIND, AND WHATEVER COMES FROM IT. 156-157 ADDITIONAL NOTE 158 (i) THERE IS A DIVINE TRINITY CONSISTING OF FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT. 164-165 (ii) THOSE THREE, FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, ARE THE THREE ESSENTIALS OF A SINGLE GOD, WHICH MAKE ONE AS SOUL, BODY AND ACTIVITY DO WITH A PERSON. 166-169 (iii) THIS TRINITY DID NOT EXIST BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, BUT IT WAS PROVIDED AND MADE AFTER THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, WHEN GOD BECAME INCARNATE, AND THEN WAS IN THE LORD GOD, THE REDEEMER AND SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST. 170-171 (iv) A TRINITY OF DIVINE PERSONS FROM ETERNITY, OR EXISTING BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, IMPLIES THINKING ABOUT A TRINITY OF GODS; AND THIS THOUGHT CANNOT BE BANISHED BY A VERBAL CONFESSION OF BELIEF IN ONE GOD. 172-173 (v) THE TRINITY OF PERSONS WAS UNKNOWN TO THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, BUT WAS THE INVENTION OF THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA, LEADING TO ITS INTRODUCTION INTO THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, AND THUS TO THE CHURCHES WHICH SPLIT FROM IT. 174-176 (vi) THE TRINITY AS DEFINED BY THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA AND BY ATHANASIUS CAUSED A FAITH TO ARISE WHICH HAS PERVERTED THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. 177-178 (vii) THIS IS THE SOURCE OF THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION AND THE AFFLICTION SUCH AS HAS NEVER BEEN NOR SHALL BE, BOTH OF WHICH THE LORD PREDICTED IN DANIEL, THE GOSPELS AND REVELATION. We read in Daniel: 179-181 (viii) FURTHER, UNLESS A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW CHURCH ARE FOUNDED BY THE LORD, NO FLESH CAN BE SAVED. 182 (ix) FROM A TRINITY OF PERSONS, EACH OF WHICH INDIVIDUALLY IS GOD, AS ASSERTED BY THE ATHANASIAN CREED, MANY ABSURD IDEAS OF VARIOUS KINDS HAVE ARISEN ABOUT GOD, WHICH ARE MERE FANCIES AND ABORTIONS. 183-184 CHAPTER FOUR 189-192 II. The Word contains a spiritual sense unknown up to the present. 193 (i) WHAT THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IS. 194 From the Lord there proceed, one after the other, the celestial Divine, the spiritual Divine and the natural Divine. The name 'celestial Divine' is given to whatever proceeds from His Divine love, and it is good. 195 (ii) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE IS PRESENT IN EVERY PART AND DETAIL OF THE WORD. 196-198 The Lord, when He was in the world, spoke by means of correspondences; so He spoke spiritually as well as naturally. This can be proved by His parables, the individual expressions of which contain a spiritual sense. Let us take as an example the parable of the ten virgins. He said: 199 (iii) IT IS THE SPIRITUAL SENSE WHICH MAKES THE WORD DIVINELY INSPIRED AND HOLY IN EVERY WORD. 200 (iv) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD HAS UP TO THE PRESENT BEEN UNKNOWN. 201-207 (v) THE SPIRITUAL SENSE OF THE WORD WILL IN FUTURE ONLY BE GRANTED TO THOSE WHO ARE IN POSSESSION OF GENUINE TRUTHS FROM THE LORD. 208 (vi) REMARKABLE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE WORD FROM ITS SPIRITUAL SENSE. 209 III. The literal sense of the Word is the basis, container and support of its spiritual and celestial senses. 210-213 IV. The Divine truth in the literal sense of the Word is in its fulness, holiness and power. 214-216 (i) THE TRUTHS OF THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD ARE MEANT BY THE PRECIOUS STONES FORMING THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE NEW JERUSALEM IN Revelation 21:17-21). 217 (ii) THE FORMS OF GOOD AND TRUTH IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD ARE MEANT BY THE URIM AND THUMMIM ON AARON'S EPHOD. 218 (iii) THE PRECIOUS STONES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, IN WHICH THE KING OF TYRE IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN, HAVE A SIMILAR MEANING. We read in Ezekiel: 219 (iv) TRUTHS AND DIFFERENT KINDS OF GOOD IN THEIR OUTERMOST FORMS, OF THE SORT FOUND IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, WERE REPRESENTED BY THE CURTAINS, VEILS AND POSTS OF THE TABERNACLE. 220 (v) LIKEWISE, THE EXTERNAL FEATURES OF THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM. 221 (vi) THE WORD IN ITS GLORY WAS REPRESENTED IN THE LORD AT HIS TRANSFIGURATION. 222 (vii) THE POWER OF THE WORD AT ITS OUTERMOST LEVEL WAS REPRESENTED BY THE NAZIRITES. 223 (viii) THE WORD'S POWER IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION. 224 V. The doctrine of the church is to be drawn from the literal sense of the Word and supported by it. 225 (i) THE WORD IS NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT DOCTRINE. 226-228 (ii) DOCTRINE IS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, AND PROVED BY MEANS OF IT. 229-230 (iii) THE GENUINE TRUTH IN THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, ON WHICH DOCTRINE IS BASED, IS NOT VISIBLE TO ANY BUT THOSE WHO ARE ENLIGHTENED BY THE LORD. 231-233 VI. The literal sense of the Word produces a link with the Lord and association with the angels. 234-239 VII. The Word is to be found in all the heavens and is the source of the angels' wisdom. 240-242 VIII. The church depends on the Word, and what the church is like in the case of each person depends on how he understands the Word. 243-247 IX. The details of the Word all contain a marriage of the Lord and the church, and so a marriage of good and truth. 248-253 X. Heresies can be extracted from the literal sense of the Word, but confirming them leads to damnation. 254-260 An example from nature may serve to illustrate this idea, that many things in the literal sense of the Word are appearances of truth, in which genuine truths are hidden; and that it is not injurious to think and to speak in simple terms according to the appearances of truth, but that it is 257 The reason why it is injurious to confirm the appearances of truth in the Word, thus leading to the creation of a fallacy and so the destruction of the Divine truth hidden within it, is precisely because every detail of the literal sense of the Word communicates with heaven. 258 It should furthermore be known that the literal sense is a protection to prevent the genuine truths hidden within being harmed. It acts as a protection because that sense can be twisted in different directions and explained as it is understood, without its internal being harmed or violated. 260 It should furthermore be known that the literal sense is a protection to prevent the genuine truths hidden within being harmed. It acts as a protection because that sense can be twisted in different directions and explained as it is understood, without its internal being harmed or violated. 260 XI. The Lord when in the world fulfilled everything in the Word, and thus became the Word, that is, Divine truth, even in its outermost form. 261-263 XII. Before the time of the Word which we have in the world to-day, there was another Word, now lost. 264-266 XIII. The Word also serves to enlighten those who are outside the church and do not possess the Word. 267-272 XIV. If the Word did not exist, no one would know of the existence of God, heaven and hell, and life after death, even less of the Lord. 273-276 The Ten Commandments were the height of holiness for the Israelite church. 283-286 The literal sense of the Ten Commandments contains general instructions on doctrine and life; but their spiritual and celestial senses contain universal instructions. 287-290 THE FIRST COMMANDMENT 291-296 THE SECOND COMMANDMENT 297-300 THE THIRD COMMANDMENT 301-304 THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT 305-308 THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 309-312 THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT 313-316 THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT 317-320 THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT 321-324 THE NINTH AND TENTH COMMANDMENTS 325-328 The Ten Commandments contain everything to do with love for God and everything to do with love towards the neighbour. 329-331 CHAPTER SIX. FAITH 336 I. Saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. 337-339 The reason why we must believe, that is, have faith in God the Saviour Jesus Christ is that it is faith in a visible God, in whom there is an invisible God; and faith in a visible God, who is man and at the same time God, enters into a person. 339 II. Faith in brief is this, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by the Lord. 340-342 The previous section (336-339) showed that saving faith is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ. But the question may be raised, what is the leading point of faith in Him? The answer is that it is acknowledgment that He is the Son of God. 342 III. A person acquires faith by approaching the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living by them. 343-348 The being of the faith of the new church is: (1) Complete faith in the Lord God, the Saviour Jesus Christ; (2) Trust, that a person who lives a good life and holds a proper belief is saved by Him. 344 Having given a summary of the things which go to make up spiritual faith, I shall now give too a summary of the things which go to make up purely natural faith. This is essentially a firm conviction which pretends to be faith, but is a conviction of falsity, known as heretical faith. 345-348 IV. The mass of truths, which cohere as it were in a bundle, raises the level of faith and brings it to perfection. 349-354 (i) It is evident that the truths of faith are capable of being multiplied to infinity from the wisdom of the angels in heaven being for ever increasing. The angels also say that there is never any limit to wisdom, and the only source of wisdom is from Divine truths analytically arranged by 350 (ii) The truths of faith are arranged into groupings, and thus, so to speak, into bundles, a fact that up to the present has been unknown. The reason for this ignorance is that the spiritual truths, out of which the whole of the Word is woven, have been rendered invisible, because of the 351 (iii) It follows from what has been said above that faith is brought to perfection in proportion to the volume and coherence of the truths. This is demonstrated in the case of everyone who assembles the reasons, and perceives the effectiveness of multiple groups, when they cohere as one. 352-353 (iv) However numerous the truths of faith are and however varied they appear, they are made one by the Lord, who is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or the church, the God of faith and light itself, truth and everlasting life. 354 (iv) However numerous the truths of faith are and however varied they appear, they are made one by the Lord, who is the Word, the God of heaven and earth, the God of all flesh, the God of the vineyard or the church, the God of faith and light itself, truth and everlasting life. 354 V. Faith without charity is no faith, and charity without faith is no charity, and both are lifeless unless the Lord gives them life. 355-361 (i) It was shown above in the third section (343-348) that a person can acquire faith for himself. This showed that faith is in its essence truth, and anyone can acquire truths from the Word; and that in so far as anyone acquires them for himself and loves them, so far does he begin to acquire 356 (ii) A person can acquire charity for himself. 357 (iii) A person can acquire for himself a life of faith and charity. 358 (iv) But still faith, charity or life in either of them is not in the least created by man, but only by the Lord. 359 I stated before that faith present in a person is to begin with natural, and as he comes closer to the Lord it becomes spiritual, and the same with charity. But no one yet knows the distinction between natural and spiritual faith and charity. 360-361 VI. The Lord, charity and faith make one, just as in a person life, will and understanding do; if they are separated, each of them is destroyed, like a pearl collapsing into dust. 362-367 (i) The Lord flows into every human being with all His Divine love, all His Divine wisdom, and so with all His Divine life. 364 (ii) The Lord flows in likewise in the case of every person with the whole essence of faith and charity. 365 (iii) How the influences flowing in from the Lord are received by the person depends upon his form. Form here means the person's state as regards his love together with his wisdom, in other words, as regards his affections for the various kinds of good of charity, and at the same time his 366 (iv) The person, however, who separates the Lord, charity and faith is not a form which can receive them, but rather one which destroys them. 367 VII. The Lord is charity and faith in the person, and the person is charity and faith in the Lord. 368-372 (i) It is being linked with God, which affords a person salvation and everlasting life. 369 (ii) A link is impossible with God the Father, but it is possible with the Lord, and through Him with God the Father. 370 (iii) The link with the Lord is reciprocal, so that the Lord is in the person, and he is in the Lord. 371 (iv) This reciprocal link between the Lord and man is created by means of charity and faith. 372 VIII. Charity and faith are present together in good deeds. 373-377 (i) Charity is having good will, and good deeds are doing good from a good will. 374 (ii) Charity and faith are merely unstable mental concepts unless, when possible, they are realised in deeds and come into existence together in them. 375-376 (iii) Charity alone does not produce good deeds, much less does faith alone, but charity and faith together do. 377 IX. There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. 378 IX. There is true faith, spurious faith and hypocritical faith. 378-381 (i) There is only one true faith, and this is in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ, and is possessed by those who believe Him to be the Son of God, the God of heaven and earth, and one with the Father. 379 (ii) Spurious faith is any faith which departs from the true and only faith, and is possessed by those who climb up another way and look upon the Lord not as God, but merely as a human being. 380 (iii) Hypocritical faith is no faith at all. 381 X. The wicked have no faith. 382-384 (i) The wicked have no faith because evil belongs to hell and faith to heaven. 383 (ii) All those in the Christian world have no faith who reject the Lord and the Word, although they live moral lives, and talk, teach and write rationally, even about faith. 384 I 394-396 (i) THE WILL AND THE UNDERSTANDING. 397 (ii) GOOD AND TRUTH. 398 (iii) LOVE IN GENERAL. 399 (iv) SELF-LOVE AND THE LOVE OF THE WORLD IN PARTICULAR. 400 (v) THE INTERNAL MAN AND THE EXTERNAL MAN. 401 (vi) THE PURELY NATURAL AND SENSUAL MAN. 402 II. When the three loves are duly subordinated, they increase a person's perfection; but when they are not, they corrupt and turn him upside down. 403-405 III. Every person taken singly is the neighbour who is to be loved, but he should be loved according to the quality of his good. 406-411 IV. Man collectively, which is one's community, great or small, and as a group of communities, which is one's country, is the neighbour who is to be loved. 412-414 V. The neighbour who is to be loved in a higher degree is the church, and in the highest degree the Lord's kingdom. 415-416 VI. The essence of loving the neighbour is not loving a person, but the good in him. 417-419 VII. Charity and good deeds are two different things, as are wishing well and doing good. 420-421 VIII. Real charity is dealing fairly and faithfully in whatever position, business or work one is engaged in, and with those with whom one comes into contact. 422-424 IX. The kindnesses of charity are giving to the poor and helping the needy, but with prudence. 425-428 X. Some charitable duties are public, some domestic and some private. 429-432 XI. Charitable recreations are lunches, dinners and parties. 433-434 XII. The first thing in charity is to banish evils, the second is to do good deeds which may be of use to the neighbour. 435-438 XIII. In the exercise of charity a person avoids attributing merit to deeds, so long as he believes that all good is from the Lord. 439-442 XIV. When a moral life is at the same time spiritual, this is charity. 443-445 XV. A bosom friendship contracted with a person without regard to his spiritual character is harmful after death. 446-449 XVI. Spurious charity, hypocritical charity and dead charity. 450-453 XVII. Bosom friendship between the wicked is implacable hatred between them. 454-455 XVIII. The linking of love to God and love towards the neighbour. 456-458 CHAPTER EIGHT 463-465 I. The fact that two trees, one of life and one of the knowledge of good and evil, were put in the Garden of Eden, means that man was given free will in spiritual matters. 466-469 II. Man is not life, but a receiver of life from God. 470-474 III. So long as a person lives in the world, he is kept midway between heaven and hell, and he is there in spiritual equilibrium. This is free will. 475-478 IV. The fact that evil is permitted, a state enjoyed by everyone's internal man, makes it obvious that man has free will in spiritual matters. 479-482 V. Without free will in spiritual matters the Word would not be of any use, nor in consequence would the church be. 483-484 VI. Without free will in spiritual matters man would have no means of establishing a mutual link with the Lord. The result would be not imputation, but complete predestination, which is a detestable doctrine. 485 Predestination is the offspring of the faith of the church at the present time, because it is the product of a belief in man's utter impotence and lack of choice in spiritual matters. 486-488 VII. But for free will in spiritual matters God would be responsible for evil, and thus there could be no imputation of charity and faith. 489-492 VIII. Anything spiritual to do with the church which enters freely and is freely accepted lasts, anything that does not, does not last. 493-496 IX. A person's will and understanding enjoy this free will; but wrong doing in both the spiritual and natural worlds is curbed by laws, since otherwise society in either world would cease to exist. 497-499 X. If people did not have free will in spiritual matters, everyone throughout the world could in the course of a single day have been brought to believe in the Lord. But this would be impossible, because what a person does not accept of his own free will does not last. 500-502 The question is asked today why miracles do not happen as they once did; for people think that if they took place, everyone would acknowledge them in his heart. The reason why miracles do not take place at the present time as they did formerly is that they compel and take away free will in 501 I. Repentance is the first stage in the development of the church in a person. 510-511 II. Contrition, which is said at the present time to precede faith and to be followed by the consolation of the Gospel, is not repentance. 512-515 III. A mere verbal confession that one is a sinner is not repentance. 516-519 IV. Man is born with a tendency to every kind of evil, and if he does not partially remove evils by repentance, he remains subject to them, and if so cannot be saved. 520-524 The saying goes that no one can keep the law completely, and this is even more difficult, because the person who breaks one of the Ten Commandments breaks them all. Yet this manner of speaking does not mean what it sounds like. 523-524 V. Recognition of sin and a person's self-examination are the beginnings of repentance. 525-527 VI. Real repentance is examining oneself, recognising and acknowledging one's sins, appealing to the Lord and beginning a new life. 528-531 VII. True repentance means not only examining what one does in one's life, but also what one intends in one's will to do. 532-534 VIII. Those too repent who do not examine themselves, but still refrain from evil actions because they are sins. This kind of repentance is practised by those who perform charitable deeds for religious reasons. 535-537 IX. Confession ought to be made before the Lord God the Saviour, and then prayer should be offered for help and the power to resist evils. 538-560 X. Real repentance is easy for those who have repented a number of times, but highly distasteful to those who have not. 561-563 XI. A person who has never repented, or looked into himself and examined himself, ends up not knowing what is the evil that damns him and what the good that saves him, 564-566 I. Unless a person is born again and as it were created anew, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 572-575 II. A new birth or creation can only be brought about by the Lord through charity and faith as the two means with the person's co-operation. 576-578 III. Since all have been redeemed, everyone can be regenerated, in each case depending on the person's state. 579-582 IV. The process of regeneration is on the model of a person's conception, gestation in the womb, birth and upbringing. 583-586 Many scholars have maintained that the development not only of trees but of all plants corresponds to human reproduction. So by way of an appendix I shall add a few remarks on this subject. 585 V. The first stage of re-birth is called reformation, a process affecting the understanding; the second stage is called regeneration, a process affecting the will and thus the understanding, 587-590 VI. The internal man must be reformed first, and the external by means of the internal; that is how a person is regenerated. 591-595 VII. When this happens, a struggle ensues between the internal and the external man, and the victor then controls the other. 596-600 VIII. When a person is regenerated, he acquires a new will and a new understanding. 601-606 IX. A person who is regenerate is in touch with the angels of heaven, one who is not with the spirits of hell. 607-610 X. In so far as a person is regenerated, so far are his sins removed; this removal is the forgiveness of sins. 611-614 XI. Regeneration is impossible without free will in spiritual matters. 615-617 XII. Regeneration is impossible without truths through which faith may be formed, and with which charity may link itself. 618-620 CHAPTER ELEVEN 626-627 II. Imputation as part of present-day faith is a double concept. There is imputation of Christ's merit and imputation of salvation as a result. 628-631 III. The idea of faith imputing the merit and righteousness of Christ the Redeemer sprang first from the decrees of the Council of Nicaea concerning three Divine Persons from eternity; and this faith has been accepted by the whole Christian world from that time to the present. 632-635 IV. Faith which imputes Christ's merit was unknown to the earlier, Apostolic church, and is nowhere to be understood in the Word. 636-639 V. It is impossible for Christ's merit and righteousness to be imputed. 640-642 VI. There is imputation but it is of good and evil, and at the same time of faith. 643-646 VII. The faith and concept of imputation in the new church cannot by any means be combined with the faith and concept of imputation current in the former church. If they are combined, there is such a clash and conflict that a person loses all trace of anything to do with the church. 647-649 VIII. The Lord imputes good to everyone and hell imputes evil to everyone, 650-653 IX. It is what faith combines with which is the deciding factor. If true faith combines with good, that is a decision for everlasting life; but if faith combines with evil, that is a decision for everlasting death. 654-657 X. One's thoughts are not imputed to anyone, only one's will. 658-660 CHAPTER TWELVE 667-669 II. The washing called baptism means spiritual washing, which is purification from evils and falsities, and so regeneration. 670-673 III. Baptism was instituted to take the place of circumcision, because the circumcision of the foreskin was a representation of the circumcision of the heart. The purpose of baptism was so that the internal church should take the place of the external, which in every detail prefigured the 674-676 IV. The first purpose of baptism is to be introduced to the Christian Church, and at the same time brought into the company of Christians in the spiritual world. 677-680 V. The second purpose of baptism is so that a Christian may get to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and follow him. 681-683 VI. The third purpose of baptism, which is its end in view, is a person's regeneration. 684-687 VII. By John's baptism the way was prepared for Jehovah the Lord to come down into the world and carry out redemption. 688-691 CHAPTER THIRTEEN. THE HOLY SUPPER. 698-701 II. A knowledge of correspondences allows us to know what is meant by the Lord's flesh and blood, much the same as by bread and wine. This is that the Lord's flesh and the bread mean the Divine good of His love and also all the good of charity; and the Lord's blood and the wine mean the Divine 702-710 Anyone who has received enlightenment from heaven can perceive for himself that flesh here does not mean flesh, neither does blood mean blood, but that both in the natural sense mean the passion on the cross, of which they are a memorial. 704-705 The reason why the Lord's blood means His Divine truth and that of the Word is that His flesh means in the spiritual sense the Divine good of love, and these two are made one in the Lord. 706 It is clearly established from the Lord's words that bread has much the same meaning as flesh: 707 WINE MEANS MUCH THE SAME AS BLOOD, AS IS PERFECTLY CLEAR FROM THE LORD'S WORDS: 708 III. By understanding this it is possible to grasp the fact that the Holy Supper contains everything to do with the church and heaven, both at the universal and at the particular level. 711-715 IV. The Lord is wholly present in the Holy Supper, and so is the whole of redemption. 716-718 V. The Lord is present and opens heaven to those who worthily approach the Holy Supper. He is also present to those who approach it unworthily, but He does not open heaven to them. Consequently just as baptism is being introduced to the church, so the Holy Supper is being introduced to heaven. 719-721 VI. The people who worthily approach the Holy Supper are those who have faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbour, so those who have been regenerated. 722-724 VII. Those who worthily approach the Holy Supper are in the Lord and the Lord is in them. Thus it is through the Holy Supper that they are linked with the Lord. 725-727 VIII. The Holy Supper for those who approach it worthily is a kind of guarantee and seal put on their adoption as sons of God. 728-730 CHAPTER FOURTEEN 753-756 II. The present time is the final period of the Christian church foretold and described by the Lord in the Gospels and Revelation. 757-759 III. This final period of the Christian church is absolute night, in which the previous churches ended. 760-763 IV. This night is followed by morning, and morning is the Lord's coming. 764-767 V. The Lord's coming does not mean His coming to destroy the sky we see and the earth where we live, and to create a new heaven and a new earth, as many people up to now have imagined through not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word. 768-771 VI. This, which is the Lord's second coming, is taking place in order that the wicked should be separated from the good, and those should be saved who believe in Him and have done so; and so that a new heaven of angels and a new church on earth should be formed from them. 772-775 VII. This, the Lord's second coming, is not in person, but in the Word, which is from Him and which He is. 776-778 VIII. This, the Lord's second coming, is taking place by means of a man, to whom He has shown Himself in person, and whom He has filled with His spirit, so that he may teach the doctrines of the new church which come from the Lord through the Word. 779-780 IX. This is the meaning of the new heaven and the new earth, and of the New Jerusalem coming down from there, as described in Revelation. 781-785 X. This new church is the crown of all the churches which have up to now existed upon earth. 786-791 SUPPLEMENT 792-795 Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin in the spiritual world. 796 As for Melanchthon, I was allowed to learn a lot about his fate his first coming into the spiritual world, and what it was later upon on, not only from angels, but from himself, for I spoke with him a number of times, though not as often or at as close range as with Luther. 797 On the subject of Calvin, I heard the following. (1) When he first arrived in the spiritual world, he did not believe he was anywhere but still in the world in which he was born. 798-799 The Dutch in the spiritual world. 800-805 The British in the spiritual world. 806-812 The Germans in the spiritual world. 813-816 The Roman Catholics in the spiritual world. 817-821 The Saints of the Roman Catholics in the spiritual world. 822-827 The Mohammedans in the spiritual world. 828-834 The Africans in the spiritual world; also something about other nations. 835-840 The Jews in the spiritual world. 841-845
From Swedenborg's Works

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True Christian Religion 89


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 The Creation: The First Four Days
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3


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