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

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.

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

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.”

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

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.

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

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.

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

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?”

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

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

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

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?


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

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

'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'...

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...

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

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

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

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...

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:

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

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 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



The Veil was Torn in Two


By New Christian Bible Study Staff

Photo by Rezha-fahlevi from Pexels

When Jesus died on the cross, there was an earthquake. Rocks were split. The centurion and his soldiers who had carried out the crucifixion orders were afraid.

In the heart of the temple, in the "holy of holies", in the very heart of Jerusalem, the sacred veil tore, from top to bottom.

The veil, "rent in twain"...

The veils in the tabernacle and later in the temple were important. They're described in great detail in Exodus and in 1 Kings. In Arcana Coelestia 2576, it says that, "Rational truths are a kind of veil or clothing to spiritual truths.... The veil represented the nearest and inmost appearances of rational good and truth....

And now, as Jesus dies on the cross, the veil tears. What does this mean?

Here's how Swedenborg describes the symbolism of this:

"...that once all appearances had been dispelled, the Lord entered into the Divine Itself, and at the same time He opened a means of access to the Divine Itself through His Human that had been made Divine." (Arcana Coelestia 2576)

Think about four watershed spiritual events:

1) The creation of the physical universe. (Current best guess: 13.8 billion years ago). Genesis 1:1-10

2) The beginning of life. (On earth, between 3.5 and 4.5 billion years ago.) Genesis 1:11-25

3) The beginning of spiritually conscious human beings. (Reasonable guess: 100,000 years ago). Genesis 1:26-31

4) The incarnation and resurrection of the Lord God Jesus Christ (2000 years ago).

God's love and wisdom have been flowing into the universe for a long time. Where you might expect entropy, instead we see a universe that seems to favor life and intelligence. Think what a fulfilling moment it must have been when God could tell that human minds were now responding to Him, after all that outpouring.

But the free response-ability has tragedy baked in, because we can also choose not to respond, and to go the opposite way.

As we humans grew more "sophisticated", God used new channels to reach us, notably prophets and spiritual leaders, and later the written word. And in those channels, from the earliest times, there are already prophecies that the Lord would one day come into the world in human form.

Why did He need to do that? He must have foreseen that people would need to have that human level of connection, in order for enough good and truth to exist for us to make the decisions that open us to salvation.

Let's go back to Swedenborg's description:

"... once all appearances had been dispelled the Lord entered into the Divine Itself..."

Throughout the Lord's life on earth, there was the appearance that he was a man, like us. He had a human body. He could be tired and hungry. He could be tempted (though unlike us, he always won). In his spiritual life, there were times when he felt keenly the appearance of his human separate from his Divine essence. At other times, that appearance thinned, and he felt his divinity more powerfully. As he grew up, and was baptized, and began his ministry, he must have been growing more and more fully aware of what was going on inside him -- the glorification of the human part of him. With the death of his body on the cross, the bodily human-ness was no longer in the way. That appearance was dispelled. A new connection was fully forged between the Divine and the human.

And then, there's the second part of Swedenborg's statement:

"at the same time He opened a means of access to the Divine Itself through His Human that had been made Divine."

The veil was torn. The old religion, which had placed ritual above real good, and where God was invisible, separated from human knowledge by a veil -- was torn. New light could reach people, through the new teachings of the Lord. We could respond to a God who, in His Divine Human, we now could understand and approach and love more deeply.

The Bible


Isaiah 53:8

Study the Inner Meaning


8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Isaiah 53      

By Rev. John H. Smithson

THE EXPLANATION of Isaiah Chapter 53

(Note: Rev. Smithson's translation of the Isaiah text is appended below the explanation.)

1. WHO has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed?

2. For He shall grow up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root from a dry ground: He has no form, nor honour, that we should regard Him; nor beauty, that we should desire Him.

VERSE 1. ln this chapter, from beginning to end, the subject treated of is concerning the Lord's temptations, thus concerning the state in which He was when He fought with the hells; for temptations are nothing else but combats against the hells. This state of temptations is here described by "bearing our sicknesses and sorrows", by being "bruised for our iniquities", etc. He is also here called "the Arm of Jehovah", by which is signified the Divine Power. That by being "bruised and wounded for our transgressions", etc., is signified a state of temptation, is evident, for on such occasion there are griefs, straitnesses, and desperations of mind, which thus torment. Such things are induced by the hells, for, in temptations, they assault the love itself of him against whom they fight; the love of everyone is the inmost principle of his life. The Lord's love was the love of saving the human race, which love was the esse of His life; for the Divine [principle] in Himself was that Love. This is also described in another place in Isaiah, where the Lord's combats are treated of, in these words:

"He said, Surely they are My people; therefore He became a Saviour, to them. In all their straitness He had straitness; on account of His love and His pity He redeemed them, and carried them all the days of eternity." (Isaiah 63:8, 9)

That the Lord, when he was in the world, endured such temptations, is briefly described in the Evangelists, but more fully in the Prophets, and especially in the Psalms of David. It is only said in the Evangelists that "He was led away into the wilderness, and afterwards tempted by the devil", and that "He was there forty clays, and with the beasts"; (Mark 1:12, 13; Matthew 4:1) but that He was in temptations, that is, in combats with the hells, from first childhood even to the end of His life in the world, He did not reveal; according to these words in Isaiah:

"He was oppressed [or sustained exaction], yet He opened not His mouth", etc. His last temptation was in Gethsemane; [Matthew 24:7; Mark 14:33-34] and afterwards the passion of the cross, by which He fully subdued the hells, as He Himself teaches in John:

"Father, deliver Me from this hour; but for this [cause] came I to this hour. Father, glorify Your name. There came forth a voice from heaven, [saying] I have both glorified it, and will glorify it. Then said Jesus, Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:27, 28, 31)

The "prince of this world" is the devil, thus the whole hell; to "glorify" is to make the Human [principle] Divine. The reason why mention is made only of "the temptation after forty days in the wilderness" is, because "forty days" signify and involve temptations to the full, thus of several years, as may be seen in Arcana Coelestia 8098, 9437; the "wilderness" signifies hell, and the "beasts" with which He there fought, the diabolical crew. Arcana Coelestia 9937.

To whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed? -The Humanity of the Lord is called in the Word "the Arm of Jehovah." Several causes exist why God could not redeem mankind, that is, deliver them from damnation and hell, by any other process than that of assuming the Humanity. For redemption consisted in reducing the hells into subjection, and bringing the heavens into an orderly and arrangement, and afterwards renewing the church on earth; and there was no other possible means by which the Omnipotence of God could effect these purposes than by assuming the Humanity, just as there is no possibility for a man to work without hands and arms; therefore, in the Word, the Humanity is called "the Arm of Jehovah." (Isaiah 40:10; 53:1)

In like manner it is impossible for anyone to enter into a fortified city, and destroy the temples of its idols, unless he be furnished with mediate powers suited to such a design. It is also evident from the Word, that God, by means of His Humanity, was omnipotent in the accomplishment of that divine work; for God, who is in inmost, and thus in purest principles, could not possibly by any other means descend to ultimate or lowest principles, in which the hells are, and in which mankind were at that time; comparatively as the soul cannot act without a body, or as it is impossible to conquer enemies while they remain out of sight, or while they cannot be approached and attacked with some kind of weapons, such as spears, shields, or guns. For God to have effected redemption without assuming the Humanity, would have been as impossible as for Europeans to subdue the Indies without soldiers and shipping; or as it is impossible to make trees grow by heat and light alone, without air for their transmission, and unless earth be formed for their production; yea, it would have been as impossible as for a man to catch fish by casting nets in to the air instead of the water, For Jehovah, as He is in Himself cannot by all His Omnipotence approach any devil in hell, or any devil on earth, so as to curb his fury, and subdue his violence, unless He be in ultimate as He is in first principles; and He is in ultimates in His Humanity. Therefore, in the Word, He is called "the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." True Christian Religion 84.

3. He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

Verses 3-5. A Man of sorrows [or pains]; - our sicknesses He has borne; - and by His wounds we are healed [or healing is given to us]. By "sicknesses" and "diseases" are meant spiritual diseases, which are evils destroying the life of the will of Good, and falsities destroying the life of the understanding of Truth, that is, destroying the spiritual life, which is the life of Faith and Charity. Natural "diseases" also correspond to such spiritual diseases; for every disease in the human race is from this cause, because from sin; every "disease" also corresponds to its own evil. The reason is, because the whole of the life of man is from the spiritual world; wherefore if his spiritual life sickens, evil is hence derived into his natural life, which there becomes a disease. Because diseases represented the iniquities and the evils of the spiritual life, therefore by the "diseases" which the Lord healed is signified deliverance from various kinds of the evil and the false which infested the church and the human race, and which would have brought upon them spiritual death; for divine miracles are distinguished from others by this, that they involve and regard states of the church and of the heavenly kingdom; on this account it was that the miracles of the Lord chiefly consisted in healing diseases. This is understood by the Lord's words to the disciples sent by John:

"Go and show John those things which you do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor hear the Gospel." (Matthew 11:4, 5)

Hence it is so often said that "the Lord healed all disease and all sickness among the people." (Matthew 4:23; 9:35, and in many other passages.) Arcana Coelestia 8364.

4. Surely our sicknesses He has borne; and our sorrows, He has carried them: yet we considered Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Verses 4, 6, 11. These words are said of the Lord; and the reason why "bearing iniquity" denotes to remove falsities and evils, or sins, with those who are in Good, is, because the Lord was represented by "Aaron", and all the work of salvation by his "office" or "priesthood." Hence it is said of "Aaron", who, as stated, represented the Lord, that "he bore the iniquity of the holy things." (Exodus 28:38)

That it is said of the Lord, that "He bore iniquities and sins for the human race", is known in the church; but still it is unknown what is understood by "bearing iniquities and sins." It is believed by some that it denotes that He took upon Himself the sins of the human race, and suffered Himself to be condemned even to the death of the cross; and that thus, because damnation for sins was cast upon Him, mortals are liberated from damnation; also that damnation was taken away by the Lord, through the fulfilling of the law, since the law would have damned everyone who did not fulfil it. But, by "bearing iniquity", are not meant those things, since every man's deeds remain with him after death, and then he is judged, according to their quality, either to life or to death; and therefore they cannot be taken away by transfer to another, who bears them. Hence it is evident that, by "bearing iniquities", something else is meant, but what is meant may be manifest from the "bearing" itself of iniquities or of sins by the Lord; for the Lord bears those things when He fights for man against the hells, for man, of himself, cannot fight against them, but the Lord alone does this, also continually for every man, with a difference according to the reception of Divine Good and Truth. The Lord, when He was in the world, fought against all the hells, and altogether subdued them; hence, also, He was made "Justice"; thus He redeemed from damnation those who receive Divine Good and Truth from Himself. Unless this had been effected by the Lord, no flesh could have been saved; for the hells are continually with man, and have dominion over him so far as the Lord does not remove them; and He so far removes them as man desists from evils. He who once conquers the hells, conquers them to eternity; and that this might be effected by the Lord, He made His Human Divine. He, therefore, who alone fights for man against the hells, or, what is the same thing, against evils and falsities, for these are from the hells, - He is said to "bear sins"; for He alone sustains that burden. The reason why, by "bearing sins", is also signified the removal of evils and falsities from those who are in Good, is, because this is a consequence: for so far as the hells are removed from man, so far evils and falsities are removed, for the latter and the former, as was said, are from the hells. Evils and falsities are sins and iniquities; how the case herein is, see what was shown above, Arcana Coelestia 9715, 9809, where the "merit" and "justice" of the Lord, and also "the subjugation of the hells" by Him, are treated of. Arcana Coelestia 9937.

5. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His wounds we are healed.

6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way: and Jehovah has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.

Verse 5. These things are predicated of the Lord, who is evidently treated of in this chapter, and thereby are described the temptations which He underwent in the world, in order that He might subdue the hells, and reduce all things there and in the heavens to order. Those grievous temptations are understood by His being "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities", and by "the chastisement of our peace being upon Him"; salvation thereby is signified by being "healed by His wounds", or by "healing being given to us by His wounds.

By "peace", therefore is meant heaven and life eternal, which is given to those who are conjoined with Him; for the human race could, by no means, have been saved, unless the Lord had reduced all things in the heavens and in the hells to order, and at the same time had glorified His Humanity, which things were accomplished by means of temptations admitted in His Humanity. Apocalypse Explained 365.

7. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth: as a lamb that is brought to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.

Verse 7. To be "oppressed" [or to suffer exaction] signifies temptations; to be "afflicted", their grievousness; "not to open His mouth" signifies patience. Apocalypse Explained 813.

8. From distress and from judgment He was taken: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was the stroke upon Him.

Verse 8. He was cut off out of the land of the living, etc. - It is not possible that there can be more than one single Fountain of Life from which the life of all things is derived, and it is not possible that any life can exist, which is truly life, except by faith in the Lord, who is real essential Life itself; nor can faith exist, in which is life, except from Him, consequently except He be in it; wherefore, in the Word, the Lord alone is called "living", and is named "the Living Jehovah." (Jeremiah 5:2; 12:16; 16:14, 15; 23:7; Ezekiel 5:11)

"Living for ever." (Daniel 4:34; Revelation 4:10; 5:14; 10:6)

A "Fountain of Life." (Psalm 36:8, 9)

A "Fountain of living waters." (Jeremiah 17:13)

Wherefore heaven, which lives by or from Him, is called "the land of the living." (Isaiah 38:11; 53:8; Ezekiel 26:20; 32:23-27, 32; Psalm 27:13; 142:5)

And they are called "living" who are in faith in the Lord, as in David:

"Who holds our soul amongst the living." (Psalm 66:9)

And they who are in faith are said to be in "the Book of Lives"; (Psalm 69:28) and in "the Book of Life." (Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:15)

Wherefore also they are said to be made to "live" who receive faith in Him. (Hosea 6:2; Psalm 85:6)

On the contrary, they who are not in faith are called "dead", as in Isaiah:

"The dead shall not live, the deceased shall not rise, because You have visited and destroyed them"; (Isaiah 26:14)

where the "dead" signify those who are puffed up with self-love, and to "rise" signifies to enter into life. They are also said to be "thrust through" [confossi]. (Ezekiel 32:23-31)

And hell is called "death." (Isaiah 25:8; 28:15)

They are also called "dead" by the Lord. [Matthew 4:16; John 5:25; 8:21, 24, 51, 52) Arcana Coelestia 290.

9. That He might give the impious to their sepulchre, and the rich in their deaths; although He had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in His mouth.

Verse 9. The whole of this chapter treats concerning the Lord, and here concerning His victories over the hells. By "the impious, whom He should give to their sepulchre", are understood the evil who should be cast down into hell, which is manifestly called a "sepulchre" by reason of those who are there being spiritually dead; by "the rich, whom He should give ill their deaths", are understood those of the church who are in falsities from evil, who are called "rich" by reason of the knowledges of Truth and of Good which they have from the Word; falsities from evil are signified by "deaths", inasmuch as they who are in them are spiritually dead. Apocalypse Explained 659.

He had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in His mouth. - In the Word "violence" is mentioned when holy things are violated by profaning them. Thus in Ezekiel:

"They shall eat their bread in anxiety, and drink their waters in desolation, that the land may be devastated of its fulness, because of the violence of all them that dwell therein"; (Ezekiel 12:19) the "bread" which they shall eat with anxiety are the celestial things, the "waters" which they shall drink in desolation are the spiritual things, to which "violence" had been offered, or which they bad profaned.

Again, in Jonah:

"Let every one be converted from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands"; (Jonah 3:8)

where an "evil way" is predicated of falsities which are of the understanding, and "violence" of the evils which are of the will.

Again, in Isaiah:

"He had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in His mouth"; (Isaiah 53:9) where "violence" is said of those things which are of the will, and "deceit in the mouth" of those things which are of the understanding. Arcana Coelestia 623.

10. Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He has made Him infirm: [saying] If You should make His soul guilt, He shall see [His] seed, He shall prolong [His] days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper by His hand.

Verse 10. The subject here treated of is also concerning the Lord, and His temptations, by which He subjugated the hells. The increasing grievousness of His temptations is described by "Jehovah's being willing [or pleased] to bruise Him", and by "making Him infirm", find the most grievous of all, which was the passion of the cross, is signified by "making His soul guilt"; by which is understood the last temptation whereby He fully subjugated the hells, and fully glorified His Human, whence comes redemption. The Divine Truth which afterwards proceeds from His Divine Human, and the salvation of all who receive Divine Truth, from Him, is signified by "He shall see [His] seed"; the eternal duration thereof is understood by "He shall prolong [His] days", -to "prolong", when predicated of the Lord, signifying eternal duration, and "days" states of light, which are states of illustration of all by Divine Truth. That this is from His Divine, for the salvation of mankind, is signified by "the will [or pleasure] of Jehovah shall prosper by His hand." Apocalypse Explained 768.

Verses 10, 11. These things are said of the Lord, who is treated of in the whole of this chapter. The temptations of the Lord, which were most grievous, because against the hells, are described by "Jehovah's being willing [or pleased] to bruise Him", and by "making Him infirm"; for by temptations the loves of the proprium are broken, thus the Lady is bruised and weakened. "If You should make His soul guilt", signifies if He undergo temptations even unto death. "He shall see [His] seed", signifies that Divine Truth shall proceed from Him; "seed" denoting Truth, and, where it is predicated of the Lord, Divine Truth. "He shall prolong [His] days", signifies Divine Good, which shall also proceed from Him; "long", and thence to "prolong", being predicated of Good, see above, n. 629; and "days" denoting states. "And the will [or pleasure] of Jehovah shall prosper by His hand", signifies that thus all and every thing in the heavens and in the earths shall be kept in divine order. "Of the travail of His soul", signifies by temptations; "He shall see [the fruit], and be satisfied", denotes glorification. These things are understood by those words in the supreme sense, in which the Lord is treated of; but in the respective sense by the same words is described the salvation of the human race, for which the Lord fought from Divine Love. It is said, "If You should make His soul guilt", as if it were a matter of doubt whether He should so make it; but this involves the same as what the Lord Himself says in John:

"I lay down My soul, and I take it again; no one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This precept I have received from My Father." (John 10:17, 18)

The arcanum which lies hid in these words, no one can see but he who knows the nature of the temptations by which man is regenerated; for therein man is preserved in his liberty, from which it appears to him as if he fought from himself; yea, in temptations his spiritual liberty is stronger than out of them, for it is more interior; unless man by virtue thereof fought in temptations, he could not be made spiritual; for all liberty is of love, wherefore man then fights from the love of Truth and thence from the love of eternal life: thus and no otherwise is the internal opened and man regenerated. From these few observations it may in some degree be seen what these words of the Lord involve, that is, that He fought from His own liberty, and at last laid down His soul, in order that He might do all things from His own proper power, and thence might become righteousness, from Himself which He could not have become except by virtue of His liberty; hence it is said, "I lay down My soul of Myself'; I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This commandment I have received of My Father." They who are unacquainted with this arcanum, interpret these words like the Arians, saying that the Lord was not the actual, but the adopted Son of God, thus that lie was adopted because He was willing to lay down His soul, or undergo the death of the cross; not knowing that those words involve that the Lord, by virtue of His own proper power, fought from His Human against the hells, and overcame them, and by virtue of the same power glorified His Human, that is, united it to the essential Divine in Himself, and thereby made it Divine, which, without being left to Himself in absolute liberty as to the Human, could not possibly have been accomplished. From these considerations it is now evident why it is said in Isaiah, "If You should make His soul guilt." Apocalypse Explained 900.

11. Of the travail of His soul He shall see [the fruit], and be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.

Verse 11. These things are also spoken concerning the Lord, who is manifestly treated of in the whole of this chapter, and indeed concerning His Divine Human. His combats with the hells, and subjugation of them, is signified by "the labour [or travail] of His soul", and by "His bearing their iniquities." By bearing their iniquities is not understood that He transferred them into Himself, but that He admitted into Himself the evils which are from the hells in order that He might subdue them; this, therefore, is what is understood by "bearing iniquity." The consequent salvation of those who are in spiritual faith, which is the faith of charity, is understood by its being said, "By His knowledge shall My righteous [or just] Servant justify many"; "knowledge" signifying Divine Truth, and thence Divine Wisdom and Intelligence; and "many" signifying all who receive, for "many", in the Word, is predicated of Truths, as "great" is of Good, and hence "many" denote all who are in Truths from Good from the Lord. The reason why it is said that "He justifies them" is, because to "justify" signifies to save from Divine Good, whence also He is called "just"; and inasmuch as the Lord performed and effected those things from His Divine Human, He is called the "Servant of Jehovah"; hence it is evident that Jehovah calls His Divine Human His " Servant", from its being subservient and efficient. Apocalypse Explained 409.

By His knowledge shall My righteous [or just] Servant justify many. - That the Human of the Lord was a " Servant" before it was Divine is evident from many passages in the Prophets; the reason is, because the Human appertaining to the Lord was nothing else before He had put it off and made it Divine. The Human which appertained to Him was from the mother, consequently it was infirm, having with it an hereditary principle from the mother, which He overcame by temptation-combats, find entirely expelled, insomuch that nothing remained of the infirm and hereditary principle derived from the mother; yea, at last nothing which was from the mother remained, so that He totally put off everything maternal, to such a degree as to be no longer her son, according to what He Himself says in Mark:

"They said unto Jesus, Behold, Your mother and Your brethren without seek You. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother and My brethren? And looking round upon them who sat about Him, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, he is My brother, My sister, and My mother", (Mark 3:32-35; Matthew 12:46-49; Luke 8:20, 21)

And when He put off this Humanity, He put on the Divine Humanity, by virtue whereof He called Himself the "Son of Man", as He frequently does in the Word of the New Testament, and also the "Son of God"; and by the "Son of Man" is signified the essential Truth, and by the "Son of God" the essential Good which appertained to His Human Essence when made Divine; the former state was that of the Lord's humiliation, but the latter of His glorification, concerning which, see above, n. 1999. In the former state, that is, that of humiliation, when He had yet an infirm Humanity appertaining to Him, He adored Jehovah as one distinct from Himself, and indeed as a "Servant", for the Humanity is nothing else in respect to the Divinity, wherefore also, in the Word, "Servant" is predicated of the Humanity, as in Isaiah 42:1, 19 (see the Exposition); and in Isaiah 53:11:

"By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many"; in the whole of which chapter the state of the Lord's humiliation is treated of. Arcana Coelestia 2159.

12. Therefore will I divide to Him [a portion] among the many, that with the mighty He may divide the spoil: because He poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Verse 12. To "divide the spoil", when said of the Lord, is to give [to the faithful] a possession in the heavenly kingdom; for by the "spoil" are signified those who are snatched away and delivered by the Lord; hence by "dividing the spoil" is signified distribution, namely, amongst those who are in heaven, which is the same as their possession [or inheritance] in the Lord's kingdom. That "rapine", "spoil", and "prey" are predicated of the Lord in the Word, is from the fact that He snatches away and delivers the good, as is evident from various passages, as from "Gen. 49:9:

"Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you art gone up"; by which is signified that by the Lord is deliverance from hell by the celestial [principle]. (See Arcana Coelestia 6368)


"Like as the lion roars, even the young lion, over his prey, so shall Jehovah of Hosts descend to fight for the mountain of Zion." (Isaiah 31:4)

That to "eat the prey or the spoil" is [in a good sense] to appropriate to one's self the Goods which have been snatched away from evils, is evident from the prophetic declaration of Balaam in Moses:

"Behold, the people shall rise up as an old lion, and shall lift up himself as a young lion; he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey." (Numbers 23:24)

From these words it is evident that "rapine", "spoil", and "prey" is the snatching away, and the deliverance of the good by the Lord. Arcana Coelestia 6442, 6443. See also above, Chapter 5:29, 30; 31:4, the Exposition.

Because He poured out His soul unto death, etc. - That the Lord, during His abode in the world, passed through two states, called a state of exinanition and a state of glorification, is a Truth acknowledged in the church. The former state, or that of exinanition, is described in many passages in the Word, particularly in the Psalms of David, also in the Prophets, and more especially by Isaiah in the above passage. This same state was His state of humiliation before the Father, for He therein "prayed to the Father", and speaks of "doing His will", and ascribes all that He did or said to the Father. True Christian Religion 104.

And He made intercession for the transgressors. - There are four terms, namely, "mediation", "intercession", "atonement" [expiatio], and "propitiation", expressive of the grace of the One only GOD in His Humanity. God the Father can never be approached, nor can He come to any man, because He is infinite and dwells in His Esse, which is Jehovah, from which Esse, if He should come to a man, He would consume him or decompose him as fire does wood when it reduces it to ashes. This is evident from what He said to Moses, who desired to see Him:

"No man shall see Me, and live"; (Exodus 33:20) and the Lord says "No man has seen God at any time, except the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father"; (John 1:18; Matthew 11:27) also, that "No one has heard the voice of the Father, or seen His shape." (John 5:37)

It is written, indeed, that Moses "saw Jehovah face to face, and conversed with Him, as one man does with another"; but this was done by the medium of an angel, as was the case also with Abraham and Gideon. Now, since God the Father in Himself is such, therefore He was pleased to assume the Humanity, and in this Humanity to admit mankind to Himself, so as to hear them and converse with them; and this Humanity it is which is called the "Son of God", and which mediates, intercedes, propitiates, and atones [or expiates]. I will explain, therefore, what these four terms, predicated of the Humanity of God the Father, signify. "Mediation" signifies that the Humanity is the medium by which a man may come to God the Father, and God the Father to him, and thus be his Teacher and Guide unto salvation: therefore the "Son of God", by whom is meant the Humanity of God the Father, is called "Saviour", and on earth "Jesus", that is, Salvation. "Intercession" signifies perpetual mediation; for Love itself, the properties of which are mercy, clemency, and grace, perpetually intercedes, that is, mediates for those who do His commandments, and who are thus the objects of His divine love. "Atonement" signifies the removal of sins, into which a man would rush headlong were he to approach Jehovah unclothed with the Humanity. "Propitiation" signifies the operation of clemency and grace, to prevent a man from falling into damnation by sin, and, at the same time, to guard against the profanation of holiness; this was signified by the "propitiatory" or "mercy-seat" over the Ark in the Tabernacle. It is acknowledged that God spoke in His Word according to appearances, as when it is said "He is angry", that "He avenges", that "He tempts", that "He punishes", that "He casts into hell", that "He condemns", yea, that "He does evil"; when the truth is, that God is never angry with anyone, He never avenges, tempts, punishes, casts into hell, or condemns. Such things are as far from God as hell is from heaven, and infinitely farther. They are forms of speech, then, used only according to appearances; so, also, but in a different sense, are the terms "atonement", "propitiation", "intercession", and "mediation; for these are forms of speech expressive of the approach which is opened to God, and of the grace communicated from God by means of His Humanity, which terms being misunderstood, men have divided God into three, and upon that division have grounded all the doctrine of the church, and so falsified the Word. Hence has arisen "the abomination of desolation" foretold by the Lord in Daniel, and again in Matthew 24. True Christian Religion 135.


There are some within the church who believe that the Lord, by the passion of the cross, took away sins and satisfied the Father, and thus did the work of redemption; some, also, that He transferred upon Himself the sins of those who have faith in Him, that He carried them, and cast them in to "the depth of the sea", that is, into hell. It may, therefore, be expedient to say, first, what is meant by bearing or carrying iniquities; and afterwards, what is meant by taking them away.

By "bearing or carrying iniquities", nothing else is meant, but sustaining grievous temptations, also suffering the Jews to do with Him as they had done with the Word, and to treat Him in like manner, because He was the Word; for the church, which at that time was amongst the Jews, was altogether devastated. And it was devastated by this, that they perverted all things of the Word, insomuch that there was not any Truth remaining among them; wherefore neither did they acknowledge the Lord. This was meant and signified by all things of the Lord's passion. In like manner it was done with the prophets, because they represented the Lord as to the Word, and hence as to the church; and the Lord was the real Prophet Himself.

The Lord's being "betrayed by Judas", therefore, signified that He was betrayed by the Jewish nation, amongst whom at that time the Word was, for Judas represented that nation. His being "seized and condemned by the chief priests and elders", signified that He was so treated by all that church. His being "beaten with rods, His face spit upon, being struck with fists, and smitten on His head with a reed", signified that it was so done by them with the Word, as to its Divine Truths, which all treat of the Lord.

By "crowning Him with thorns", was meant that they falsified and adulterated those Truths; by their "dividing His garments, and casting lots upon His coat", was understood that they dispersed all the Truths of the Word, but not its spiritual sense, which sense was signified by the Lord's "coat"; by their "crucifying Him", was understood that they destroyed and profaned the whole Word; by their "offering Him vinegar to drink", was signified that they offered Him merely things falsified and false, wherefore He did not drink it, and then said, "It is finished! By their "piercing His side", was meant that they absolutely extinguished all the Truth of the Word and all its Good; by His being "buried" was signified the rejection of the Human Principle remaining from the mother; and by His "rising again on the third day", was denoted His glorification. Similar things are signified by those things in the Prophets, and in David, where they are predicted. "Wherefore after that He was scourged and led forth, carrying the crown of thorns, and the purple garment put on by the soldiers, He said, Behold the Man!" (John 19:1-5)

This was said because by the "Man" was signified the church; for by the "Son of Man" is understood the Truth of the church, thus the Word. From these considerations it is now evident that, by "bearing iniquities", is meant to represent and effigy in Himself sins against the Divine Truths of the Word. That the Lord sustained and suffered such things as the Son of Man, and not as the Son of God, will be seen in what follows; for the "Son of Man" signifies the Lord as to the Word.

It may now be expedient to say something concerning what is meant by taking away sins. By "taking away sins", , the like is understood as by redeeming man and saving him, for the Lord came into the world that man might be saved; without His coming no mortal could have been reformed and regenerated, thus saved; but this can now be effected, since the Lord has taken away all power from the devil, that is, from hell, and has glorified His Human Principle, that, is, has united it to the Divine Principle of His Father. Unless these things had been effected, no man could have received any Divine Truth so as to abide with him, and still less any Divine Good; for the devil, who before had superior power, would have plucked them away from the heart. From these considerations it is evident that the Lord, by the passion of the cross, did not take away sins, but that He takes them away, that is, removes them with those who believe in Him, by living according to His precepts, as also the Lord teaches in Matthew:

"Do not suppose that I am come to dissolve the Law and the Prophets, Whosoever shall loosen the least of these precepts, and teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but he who does and teacheth, shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens." (Matthew 5:17, 19)

Everyone may see from reason alone, if he be in any illustration, that sins cannot be taken away from man, except by actual repentance, which consists in man seeing his sins, and imploring the Lord's aid, and desisting from them. To see, believe, and teach anything else, is not from the Word, neither is it from sound reason, but from lusts and a depraved will, which are the selfhood of man, by virtue whereof the understanding is infatuated. Doctrine of the Lord 15-17.

Isaiah Chapter 53.

1. WHO has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed?

2. For He shall grow up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root from a dry ground: He has no form, nor honour, that we should regard Him; nor beauty, that we should desire Him.

3. He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

4. Surely our sicknesses He has borne; and our sorrows, He has carried them: yet we considered Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His wounds we are healed.

6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way: and Jehovah has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.

7. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth: as a lamb that is brought to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.

8. From distress and from judgment He was taken: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was the stroke upon Him.

9. That He might give the impious to their sepulchre, and the rich in their deaths; although He had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in His mouth.

10. Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him; He has made Him infirm: [saying] If You should make His soul guilt, He shall see [His] seed, He shall prolong [His] days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper by His hand.

11.Of the travail of His soul He shall see [the fruit], and be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.

12. Therefore will I divide to Him [a portion] among the many, that with the mighty He may divide the spoil: because He poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 53

Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 290, 9937

Apocalypse Revealed 829

Doctrine of the Lord 6, 15

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 60

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 19

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

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Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Lamentations 3:54

Daniel 9:26

Matthew 26:24, 27:50

John 11:50

Acts 8:32

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