The Bible


John 20:19-31 : Christ Appears to the Disciples in an Upper Room, and Doubting Thomas


Study the Inner Meaning

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 96, 2397, 2628, 2724, 2798, 2921, 3006, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 12, 81, 343, 520, 618, 839, 962

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 32, 120

Divine Love and Wisdom 383

Divine Providence 230, 324

The Lord 19, 20, 35, 41, 51

Faith 10

Heaven and Hell 287, 461

True Christian Religion 140, 146, 153, 188, 298, 303, 337, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 286

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 53, 102, 130, 183, 254, 365, 419, ...

Canons of the New Church 39, 43

Divine Wisdom 6

Miracles and Signs 18

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 5, 14, 64

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

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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.

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Two Meetings in Jerusalem after the Resurrection      

By Joe David

The risen Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room. 22.4.2010: Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Emilio Romagna, Italy.

Late on the first Easter Sunday, after the Lord had risen from the sepulcher, ten of the disciples gathered for the evening in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem (John 20). They were afraid and probably confused. Since their leader had been crucified by the Roman power, as organized by their own Jewish leaders, they feared that now his followers might also be hunted down and punished. They closed and locked the doors. Were any of the women there? The story does not say, but Peter and John were, who saw and talked with the angels that morning, and the stories of the women were known. Some time must have been spent wondering and perhaps arguing - was He really alive? How could they know it was really Him? This kind of thing, coming back to life after you’re dead, this doesn’t happen in this real world, there must be some mistake!

Then two of the followers, not of the twelve, but the two that had gone to the village of Emmaus, came in, excited and bursting with their news. They had seen Him! They had walked with Him for seven miles and He had told them wondrous things! They had only recognized Him when He broke bread and ate with them. "Don’t doubt us, it really was Jesus!"

And then as they all talked and argued, there He was, standing with them in the room. "Peace be unto you," He said, and He showed them His hands and feet and His side, where he was wounded. He calmed them, and told them that just as he had come down to mankind, so they must go out and teach to all people all the true things that He had taught in the years He was with them.

It was these truths about how to live one’s life that were saving, not the disciples themselves. These saving truths have the power to remit or retain sins, because they were from the Lord, the disciples only transmitted them from the Lord to those who would listen and take them to heart. Then He breathed on them - representing His holy spirit - so that they would not only want to pass these truths on to people, but would also be given the words to say whenever the times came. And then He was gone again.

Thomas was not there that night. We don’t know why. And Thomas, when he heard the story, just could not swallow it. "Except I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe", he said. (John 20:25.)

The next verse tells us that the next Sunday they gathered again, and that Thomas was present this time. As before, the Lord was suddenly there, saying again, "Peace be unto you", and then directly to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger… and reach hither thy hand… and be not faithless but believing". Now Thomas's response was, "my Lord and my God". It seems as if the Lord came this time just to convince Thomas, because it was Thomas who needed Him.

I think He does work this way. I am reminded of another story, from the gospel of Mark (Mark 9:17-27) where a father comes to Jesus with a young son who is possessed by a devil, and asks Jesus to cure him, and is asked in turn: "Do you believe I can do this?" In Mark 9:24 the father responds. Crying out, he said with tears, "I believe, help thou my unbelief."

I think many people have this conflict between lingering doubts and a desire to have the doubts taken away. If we carry on and make our decisions in life as if the doubts were indeed gone, then indeed they will lose their strength and actually will be gone.

These are the only details given of these two meetings in Jerusalem. Chronologically the next post-Easter stories are the ones that take place in Galilee.

John does go on to say at the end of his gospel "...many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God...." (John 20:30-31). Perhaps there were more post-Easter stories that weren't written down, but the ones we do have are strong. For the disciples who were involved, there was an unstoppable impact from the life and teachings of the Lord, and His crucifixion, and physical death, and now - in these stories - His resurrection. Hearing the Lord's charges to them, these Galilean fishermen and their colleagues launch out into the wide world, and work to achieve the Great Commission, enduring hardships and persecution, and succeeding - probably beyond their wildest dreams!

From Swedenborg's Works


Apocalypse Explained #519

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)      

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519. And the name of the star is called Wormwood.- That this signifies truth mingled with the falsity of evil, is evident from the signification of name, as denoting the quality of a state, and the quality of a thing; see above (n. 148); and from the signification of a star, here, of the great star burning as it were a lamp, as denoting the truth of the Word falsified by proprium-love; and from the signification of wormwood, as denoting truth mingled with the falsity of evil. Wormwood has this signification from its bitterness, and bitterness arises from the mixing of that which is sweet with that which is not sweet and opposite. Bitterness, therefore, such as that of wormwood and gall, denotes, in the spiritual sense, truth mingled with falsity which is the opposite of truth, and is the falsity of evil. For relish and taste signify the affection of knowing and becoming wise, hence that which is savoury signifies what is delightful and pleasant belonging to wisdom; and delicacies, because they are savoury, signify the truth of wisdom. That this is from correspondence, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 3502, 3536, 3589, 4791-4805). That wormwood, and also gall, from their bitterness, signify truth mingled with the falsity of evil, is evident also from that which follows in this verse; for it is said that "many men died of the waters because they were made bitter." This signifies that all such perished as to spiritual life, by means of truths falsified. For truths make the spiritual life of man, but falsities of evil extinguish it; and when truths are mingled with falsities of evil they are no longer truths, but truths falsified; and truths falsified are in themselves falsities. There were falsities of such a kind with the Jewish nation, while the falsities which existed amongst the upright Gentiles, were of another kind; the latter falsities are signified by vinegar, but the former, by gall and wine mingled with myrrh, in the Evangelists.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3502, 3536, 3589, 4791-4805; Revelation 8:11; The Apocalypse Explained 148)

[2] And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, They gave Jesus vinegar to drink mingled with gall; but he would not drink. When they had crucified Him, "one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink" (Matthew xxvii. [33,] 34, 48; Mark xv. 23, 36).

"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now consummated, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar; and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is consummated" (John xix. 28, 29).

Every circumstance related in the Evangelists concerning the passion of the Lord, signifies, in the spiritual sense, the state of the church at that time with respect to the Lord and the Word. For the Lord was the Word, because He was the Divine Truth; and as the Jews had treated the Word, or the Divine Truth, so they treated the Lord concerning which fact see above (n. 64, 195). Their giving to the Lord vinegar mingled with gall, which was also called wine mingled with myrrh, signified the quality of the Divine Truth from the Word with the Jewish nation, namely, that it was mingled with the falsity of evil, and thus altogether falsified and adulterated, therefore He would not drink it. But their afterwards giving to the Lord vinegar in a sponge, and placing hyssop about it, signified the quality of falsity among the upright Gentiles, which was falsity arising from ignorance of the truth, in which there was something good and useful; as this falsity is accepted by the Lord, He therefore drank that [which corresponded to it]. The hyssop which they placed about it, signified the purification thereof; the Lord's saying, "I thirst," signified Divine spiritual thirst, which is of Divine Truth and Good in the church, by which mankind are saved. Concerning the quality of the falsity of evil with the Jewish nation and that of the falsity of ignorance with the upright Gentiles, in which was good, see the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem (n. 21).

(References: John 19:28-30, John 20:28-30; Mark 15:23, 15:36; Matthew 27:33-34, Matthew 27:34, 27:38, Matthew 27:48; The Apocalypse Explained 64, The Apocalypse Explained 195; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 21)

[3] The same is signified by gall and vinegar in David:

"They gave me gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them; and let their reward be a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake" (Psalm lxix. 21-23).

This is said concerning the Lord, and gall, vinegar, and thirst have a signification similar to that explained above. By their table becoming a snare before them, is signified error in regard to every truth of doctrine from the Word, for a table denotes all spiritual food, and spiritual food signifies every thing of doctrine from the Word. Their eyes being darkened that they should not see, signifies understanding of truth; their loins being made to shake, signifies the will of good, and its marriage, union with the understanding of truth; the same is also signified by loins in other parts of the Word.

(References: Psalms 69:21-23)

[4] So in Lamentations:

"He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunk with wormwood; therefore I said, My victory hath perished, and my hope from Jehovah; Remember mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall" (iii. 15, 18, 19).

This passage also treats of the Lord. That the Lord found nothing but falsities and falsified truths in the church, which was at that time with the Jews, is signified by, "He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunk with wormwood." Wormwood denotes the falsity of evil mingled with truths, thus that which is falsified. The combat of the Lord with the hells, and His despair that the Jewish nation would ever be brought to receive and acknowledge truths, is signified by, my victory hath perished, and my hope from Jehovah; Remember mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. For spirits who are in the falsities of evil and yet in truths from the sense of the letter of the Word, make a somewhat long resistance before they are subdued, and cast down into hell. The reason of this is, that by means of truths they have communication with heaven, and this communication and resulting conjunction must be broken off, and taken away, before they are cast down; this involves despair concerning victory, such as the Lord suffered upon the cross, when He said, "I thirst," and they gave Him vinegar.

(References: Lamentations 3:15, 3:18-19)

[5] In Jeremiah:

"Jehovah God hath cut us off, and given us water of gall to drink" (viii. 14).

And again:

"Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them waters of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the nations; and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them" (ix. 15, 16).

And again, in the same prophet:

"Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink waters of gall; for from the prophets of Jerusalem hypocrisy hath gone forth into all the land" (xxiii. 15).

These things are also said concerning the Jewish nation, which, in a thousand ways, perverted the Word, falsified its truth, and adulterated its good. Wormwood signifies the evil of falsity, and waters of gall, the falsity of evil, both being mixed with the truths and goods of the Word. That they were of themselves, and from the heart, in evils and falsities thence, is signified by Jehovah feeding them with wormwood, and making them drink waters of gall; for evil and falsity are attributed to Jehovah, that is to the Lord, although they are of man himself; the reason of which has been shown above in various places. By the hypocrisy which is gone forth into all the land from the prophets of Jerusalem, is signified such mingling of falsity and truth, because they spoke truths and taught falsities. They spoke truths when [they spoke] from the Word, and taught falsities when [they taught] from themselves and their own doctrine. Their destruction by means of the evils of falsity and the falsities of evil, is signified by, I will scatter them among the nations, and I will send a sword after them. To scatter among the nations, denotes to destroy by means of the evils of falsity, and to send a sword after them denotes to destroy by means of the falsities of evil. That nations signify evils, may be seen above (n. 175:14, 331); and that sword signifies the combat of truth against falsity, and, the combat of falsity against truth, and its destruction, may also be seen above (n. 131, 367).

(References: Jeremiah 8:14, 9:15-16, 23:15; The Apocalypse Explained 131, The Apocalypse Explained 175, The Apocalypse Explained 331, 367)

[6] So in Amos:

"Behold, Jehovah will smite the great house with sprinklings, and the little house with breaches. Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plough there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of justice into wormwood" (vi. 11, 12).

And in the same:

"They have turned judgment to wormwood, and thrust down justice to the earth" (v. 7).

Jehovah will smite the great house with sprinklings, and the little house with breaches, signifies much perversion and falsification of truth among the learned, and some with the unlearned, a great house signifying a learned man, and a little house, an unlearned man; sprinklings denote truths destroyed by falsities, and breaches, the same, but in a less degree. That there is no understanding of truth, and will of good where the falsity of evil is, is signified by, "Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plough there with oxen?" Horses running denote the understanding of truth, and ploughing with oxen denotes the will of good. That this is the result of their falsifying the truths and adulterating the goods of the Word, is signified by the words, "for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of justice into wormwood;" judgment signifying the truth of the Word, and the fruit of justice the good thereof.

(References: Amos 5:7, 6:11-12)

[7] That the sons of Jacob, who were called Israelites and Jews were of such a character, is plainly declared by Moses in his song, in which they are thus described:

"Of their vine the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter; their wine (vinum) is the venom of dragons, and the cruel gall of asps" (Deut. xxxii. 32, 33).

A vine signifies the church, which is said to be of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah, because Sodom signifies every kind of evil arising from the love of self, and Gomorrah all the falsities of those evils. Grapes signify the goods of the church, and clusters, the truths of the church. That instead of the goods of the church, they had evils and falsities of the worst kind mingled with truths, is signified by their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter. Wine (vinum) signifies the truth and good of faith; that this is external in which there is evil from the interior, is signified by their wine is the venom of dragons, and the cruel gall of asps. That the sons of Jacob were of such a nature and quality, although the church was with them, may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem (n. 248).

(References: Deuteronomy 32:32-33; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 248)

[8] That gall and wormwood signify evil and falsity mingled with good and truth, is still further evident from these words in Moses:

"Lest there should be among you, man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart looketh back this day from Jehovah our God, to go and serve the gods of the nations; lest there be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood" (Deut. xxix. 18).

Here also, gall and wormwood signify the mingling of good and truth with evil and falsity, which is the case when other gods are worshipped with the heart, and Jehovah only with the lips; for then the external sounds like good, and appears like truth, but the internal is evil and falsity. And when the interiors are evils and falsities, and the exteriors goods and truths, then both are mingled together with the result that the good becomes gall, and the truth becomes wormwood. Similarly when man in his heart hates his neighbour, and denies the truths of the church, and yet outwardly shows charity towards his neighbour, and professes the truths of the church, then there is in him a root producing gall and wormwood, for the evils and falsities from the interior enter, and mingle with the goods and truths which he manifests in externals.

(References: Deuteronomy 29:18)

[9] So in Job:

"Though evil be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth; his bread in his bowels shall be changed, it is the gall of asps in the midst of him. He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again; God shall cast them out of his belly. He shall [suck] the venom of asps, the viper's tongue shall slay him" (xx. 12-16).

This is a description of the hypocrisy from which a man speaks things holy, and pretends to have good affections while inwardly he denies and blasphemes. His interior quality is described by his hiding evil under his tongue, and keeping it within his mouth; that consequently good is infected with evil, and cast out, is signified by "yet his bread in his bowels shall be changed, and the gall of asps in the midst of him," bread denoting the good of love, and in his bowels denoting interiorly, and the gall of asps, good mingled with evil. That similarly truth is cast out by falsity, is signified by he hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again; God shall cast them out of his belly. This falsity is meant by the gall of asps.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 20:12-16; Job 20:12-16)

[10] It must be observed, that good and evil, and the truth of good and the falsity of evil are mingled together, when evil and falsity are in man's spirit, but good and truth in his bodily actions and speech. For that which is in man's spirit, that is, what is interior, acts into that which is of the body, or exterior; for it inflows and causes the exterior, which appears to be good and true, to be bitter like gall and wormwood, although apparently sweet before men. And because the good and truth of man's mouth and speech are of such a quality, therefore after death, when he becomes a spirit, the good is separated from the evil, and the falsity from truth, and good and truth being thus taken away, man's spirit becomes entirely his own evil and falsity. But it must be observed, that the mingling of good and evil, and of truth and falsity, is not the profanation of good and truth, for only those who have first received truth and good in their heart and faith, and afterwards in heart and faith deny them, are guilty of profanation.

(References: John 19:28-30; Matthew 27:34, Matthew 27:38)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 515, 522, 653, 714

Other New Christian Commentary

Vinegar mingled with hyssop 1

Gall and wormwood 1

Vinegar 1

Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.