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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 43:23

Numbers 6:26

Psalms 22:17, 84:4

Word/Phrase Explanations

'A week' signifies state, and 'the seventh week,' a holy state. The ancients understood 'a week' to mean any period divided into seven, whether days,...

In a general sense, doors in the Bible represent the initial desires for good and concepts of truth that introduce people to new levels of...

A disciple in Matthew 10:41 signifies charity and at the same time, faith from the Lord. It disciple signifies the truth of life, and a...

It would be simple to think that when the Bible mentions "Jews" it is simply talking about the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the...

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

In ordinary life, we tend to think of "peace" as essentially "a lack of conflict." As a nation, if we're not at war, it's a...

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

'Washing of the hands' was an ancient declaration of innocence, and signifies purification from evils and falsities, as in Psalms 73:13 and Matthew 27:24.

'Side' signifies good or spiritual love.

Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

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 are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

'To forgive seven times' signifies forgiving at all times.

'To hold fast' signifies permanence in a state of good of love and faith up to the visitation.

'Twelve' and 'twenty-four' signify everything, and refer to truths.

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...

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...

'To put' has reference to order, arrangement, application, and influx.

The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

The hand in the Bible represents power, which is easy to understand, so to reach out or stretch out the hand means to exercise power,...

To "answer" generally indicates a state of spiritual receptivity. Ultimately this means being receptive to the Lord, who is constantly trying to pour true ideas...

The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

The Bible often speaks of signs and miracles as things that convinced people of the Lord's leading. Swedenborg divides the two, identifying "signs" as things...

If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

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

son of god
The Lord, in some places, calls Himself 'the son of God,' at other times, 'the son of man (ἄνθρωπος).' This is always according to the...

The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

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.

 Compare the Easter Story in 4 Gospels
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Crucifixion Prophecies Fulfilled
Jesus could have saved Himself from the cross, but then He would not have been able to show us with the great miracle of His resurrection that the death of the body is not the end of life. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Level 3, for ages 8-9.
Religion Lesson | Ages 8 - 9

 Death and Resurrection
There is an old saying that no one can get out of this world alive! We must all die, and, sad as that eventuality may seem at the time, the only way we can make sense of it is by believing the Lord's words: those who believe in Him can never die. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

Article | Ages over 18

 Easter Diorama
Color and assemble a diorama showing Mary looking into the tomb and seeing the two angels. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Easter Morning
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 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

 Easter Representation
Make a miniature garden scene to illustrate the Easter story in the gospel of John.
Project | Ages over 7

 Family Worship: Mary Magdalene Sees the Lord
Read the story in the gospel of John (20:1-16) about Mary Magdalene seeing the Lord. Use the discussion questions to talk about this story. 
Religion Lesson | All Ages

 Finding the Lord
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 For Reflection: Doubting Thomas
Think about the development of your faith and how it might relate to the disciple, Thomas.
Activity | Ages over 15

 For Reflection: Joy Comes in the Morning
Activity | Ages over 15

 Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the Garden
A picture of Mary Magdalene meeting the risen Lord, with native spring plants of the Holy Land 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

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

 Jesus' Words on the Cross
Jesus made seven statements from the cross. Discover how New Church teachings give insight into Jesus' message.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Looking into the Tomb
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary Magdalene and the Risen Lord
This talk focuses on Mary Magdalene being the first person to see the Risen Lord in the garden on Easter morning. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary Magdalene in the Garden
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Mary Magdalene Sees the Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Peace Be with You
Heavenly peace transcends every idea of earthly happiness.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Adults: Joy Comes in the Morning
Activity | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Teens: Joy Comes in the Morning
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Questions Asked by God
Article | Ages over 15

 Quotes: I Am with You Always
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Joy Comes in the Morning
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

An in-depth look at the internal meaning or representation of Mary Magdalene and her recognition of the Risen Lord. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Remembering the Lord’s Resurrection
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Resurrection and Glorification
When Jesus rose He left the tomb empty. Through overcoming temptations He had glorified His body, or made it Divine.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Easter Story in John
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Easter Surprise
Surprise! Surprise! The Lord was alive and standing in front of Mary.
Story | Ages 4 - 6

 The First Easter
On the morning of the first easter, the Lord showed us that life goes on forever and that we never really die. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Introductory Level, for ages 5-6.
Religion Lesson | Ages 5 - 6

 The Joy of Seeing the Risen Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord and Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Appears to His Disciples
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Appears to the Disciples
Color the picture of the disciples and then insert the Lord through a slit in the page into their midst.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Appears to the Disciples
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord as Comforter
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord's Message to Thomas
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Miracle of Easter
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Prince of Peace
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Resurrection
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Resurrection
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 Resurrection (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Resurrection (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Resurrection (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 There You Will See Him
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Uses of Doubt
Doubt is not a weakness or failure of faith. It is a powerful tool in the Lord's hands.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

What was the purpose of - the Lord's resurrection from the dead by His own power - the greatest of all miracles? What was the Divine Plan and what is the promised victory for our own lives? 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18



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


Divine Providence #324

Divine Providence (Dole translation)      

Study this Passage

Go to section / 340  

← Previous   Next →

324. Since this also shows us that divine providence is a predestination only to heaven and that it cannot be changed into anything else, I need to show at this point that the ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race, and I need to do so in the order just proposed.

(a) Everyone is created to live forever. In parts 3 and 4 of Divine Love and Wisdom, I explained that we have three levels of life called earthly, spiritual, and heavenly, and that these levels are active in each one of us. I also noted that there is only one level of life in animals, a level like the lowest level in us, the one called earthly. It then follows that unlike animals, we can have our life so lifted toward the Lord that we enter a state in which we can discern things that come from divine wisdom and intend things that come from divine love, and in this way can accept something divine. If we can accept what is divine to the extent that we see and sense it within ourselves, then we must necessarily be able to be united to the Lord and to live forever because of this union.

[2] What would the Lord have been doing with all this creating of a universe if he had not made images and likenesses of himself with whom he could share his divine nature? Otherwise, it would only have been making something so that it existed and did not exist, or so that it happened and did not happen, and doing this only so that he could simply watch its permutations from far away, watch its ceaseless changes like something happening on a stage. What divine purpose would there be in all these changes unless they were serving subjects who would accept something divine more intimately, who would see and sense it? Since Divinity has inexhaustible splendor, would it simply keep it all to itself? Could it keep it all to itself? Love wants to share what it has with others, to give to others all that it can. What about divine love, then, which is infinite? Can it first give and then take back? Would this not be giving something that was bound to perish--that was intrinsically nothing, since it would become nothing when it perished? There is no real "is" involved in that. Divinity, though, gives what truly is, or what does not cease to be. This is what is eternal.

[3] To enable us to live forever, what is mortal is taken from us. That mortal part is our material body, which is taken from us by death. This lays bare what is immortal about us, which is our mind, and we then become spirits in human form. Our mind is that kind of spirit.

The sages and wise ones of old saw that our mind could not die. They asked how a spirit or a mind could die when it could be wise. Hardly anyone nowadays knows the ancients' deeper concept of the matter, but it was a concept from heaven that resulted in their general sense that God is wisdom itself, that we share in that wisdom, and that God is immortal or eternal.

[4] There is also something I can say from experience, because I have been allowed to talk with angels. I have talked with some who lived many centuries ago, with some from before the Flood and some from after it, with some from the time of the Lord, with one of his apostles, and with many who lived in subsequent centuries. They all looked like people in the prime of life and told me that the only thing they knew about death was that it was damnation.

When people who have lived good lives get to heaven, they all enter the young adulthood of their earthly lives and keep it forever, even though they had been old and debilitated in the world. Women, even women who had become old and frail in the world, return to the flower of youth and beauty.

[5] We can see from the Word that we live forever after death, in passages where life in heaven is called eternal life. See, for example, Matthew 19:29; Matthew 25:46; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; Luke 18:30; John 3:15-16, 36; John 5:24-25, 39; John 6:27, 40, 68; John 12:50. Or it is simply called "life," as in Matthew 18:8-9; John 5:40; John 20:31. The Lord told the disciples, "Because I am alive, you will also live" (John 14:19), and he said of the resurrection that God is God of the living and not God of the dead, and that they could no longer die (Luke 20:36, 38).

[6] (b) Everyone is created to live forever in a blessed state. This is a corollary, since the One who wants us to live forever wants us to live in a blessed state as well. Otherwise, what would eternal life be? Love always wants what is good for others. Parents' love wants what is good for their children; a groom's or husband's love wants what is good for his bride or wife; our love in friendship wants what is good for our friends; so why not divine love? Further, what is goodness if it is not pleasing, and as for divine good, what is it if it is not eternal bliss? We call things good because of the pleasure or blessedness they provide. We do refer to things that we are given or own as "good," but unless they give us pleasure, it is a barren kind of goodness that is not really good at all. We can see, then, that eternal life is eternal blessedness as well.

This state of humanity is the ultimate goal of creation, and the Lord is not to blame if only the people who get to heaven enjoy it. That is our own fault, as we shall shortly see.

[7] (c) This means that everyone is created to go to heaven. This is the ultimate goal of creation. The reason not everyone gets to heaven, though, is that people immerse themselves in pleasures of hell that are contrary to the blessedness of heaven. People who do not enjoy heaven's bliss cannot enter heaven because they cannot stand the place.

When we arrive in the spiritual world, no one is forbidden to come up to heaven, but if we enjoy the pleasures of hell, then as soon as we get to heaven our hearts pound, we struggle for breath, our life starts to ebb away, we are in pain, tortured, and we writhe like snakes next to a flame. This happens because opposites actively oppose each other.

[8] Even so, since we were born human, which provides us with the ability to think and intend and therefore to talk and act, we cannot actually die. Since we are unable to live with others unless their life pleasures are like ours, we are remanded to the company of such people. This means that if we have enjoyed the pleasures of evil, we are sent off to our own kind, as we are if we have enjoyed the pleasures of what is good. In fact, we are all allowed to enjoy the pleasure of our own evil, provided only that we do not make trouble for people who enjoy the pleasure of what is good. However, since evil cannot help but make trouble for the good because of its inherent hatred for everything good, we are sent away to keep us from doing actual harm and sent down to our places in hell, where our pleasure turns into displeasure.

[9] All this does not cancel the fact that by creation and therefore by birth we have the inherent possibility of getting to heaven. All the people who die in early childhood go to heaven. They are raised and taught there the way we are in this world. They absorb wisdom because of their desire for what is good and true, and they become angels. People who are raised and taught in this world could do the same, since what is in little children is also in them. On little children in the spiritual world, see Heaven and Hell 329-345 (published in London in 1758).

[10] The reason it is different for so many people in the world is that they love that first level of life called "earthly." They do not want to let go of it and become spiritual--left to itself, this earthly level of life has no love for anything but ourselves and the world. It stays glued to our physical senses, which take center stage in this world. In contrast, the spiritual level of life has an inherent love for the Lord and heaven and also for ourselves and the world. God and heaven come first, though, as primary and definitive, while our selves and the world come second, as tools or servants.

[11] (d) Divine love cannot do otherwise than intend this and divine wisdom cannot do otherwise than provide for this. In Divine Love and Wisdom, there is ample evidence that the divine essence is divine love and wisdom. I also explained in Divine Love and Wisdom 358-370 of that work that the Lord forms two vessels in every human embryo, one for divine love and one for divine wisdom. The vessel for divine love is for what will be our volition, and the vessel for divine wisdom is for what will be our discernment. This means that each of us has been given the inner ability to intend what is good and to discern what is true.

[12] Since the Lord has put these two human abilities in us at birth, and since the Lord is therefore within us in those abilities as his gifts, we can see that his divine love can intend only that we come into heaven and enjoy eternal blessedness there. We can also see that divine wisdom can provide only that this happen.

However, since the Lord's divine love wants us to feel that heaven's blessedness within us is our own, and since this cannot happen unless we feel absolutely as though we are doing our own thinking and intending, talking and acting, we can be led only in ways that follow the laws of the Lord's divine providence.

Go to section / 340  

← Previous   Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Divine Providence 340

   Parallel Passages:

The Last Judgment 26

Other New Christian Commentary
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.

 The Bodies of Spirits
The Old and New testaments give examples of people seeing angels in human form. These stories confirm that after resurrection a person will have a spiritual body like the natural body--but more perfect.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 What Is Hell Like?
The Lord constantly draws all people towards Himself. Those absorbed in self-love and evil tear themselves from Him and cast themselves into hell.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Where Did Evil Come from?
God created everything from Divine love by means of Divine wisdom. Evil begins in us when we know what is good and choose to turn away, believing we, and not God, are the source of goodness.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Why Do People Go to Hell?
God wants everyone to go to heaven, however He grants the freedom to choose hell, which is to love self and delight in evil.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

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