The Bible


Matthew 2 : Two Stories of Christmas


Study the Inner Meaning

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 113, 117, 1171, 1462, 1502, 1540, 2135, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 503, 526, 913

Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 72, 242, 324, 422, 433, 448, 449, ...

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 2, 41

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 14, 31, ...

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 4:19, 22

Numbers 23:22, 24:17

Joshua 5:14

2 Samuel 2

1 Kings 11:40

1 Chronicles 2

Psalms 72:10, 78:71

Isaiah 11:1, 40:11, 60:6

Jeremiah 26:21, 31:15

Hosea 11:1

Jonah 4:6

Micah 5:1, 2

Word/Phrase Explanations

There is a strong relationship between Ephrath and Bethlehem in the Bible; they might be two different names for the same town, or it’s possible...

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...

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...

'Stars' signify the knowledge of truth and good. 'Stars' are frequently mentioned in the Word, and always signify goods and truths, but in an opposite...

Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

The Bible often talks of people being "troubled." The internal meaning is pretty straightforward; it indicates a state of spiritual turmoil, usually due to the...

chief priests
'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:18, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications 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...

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...

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...

the least
'Tittle' or 'the least' in the Word represents heavenly things.

The idea of "least" is not addressed directly in Swedenborg, but a central idea is relatively clear from several references to Matthew 25:40: And the...

"Rulers" or "governors" in the Bible represent the most basic, most essential true ideas that guide us in life, ideas that spring directly from the...

'The learned,' or 'wise,' who 'shall shine as the stars,' are people who are in good.

In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

went before
To "go before" in the Bible means either to lead or to prepare, depending on context. When it is said of the Lord or things...

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...

Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

'Worship,' as in Revelation 13:12, signifies acknowledging something to be sacred in the church.

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

'Treasure,' as in Matthew 13:44, signifies divine truth in the Word.

The gift which Abraham gave to the sons of the concubines which he had, as in Genesis 25:6, signifies lots in the Lord's spiritual kingdom....

and frankincense
'Perfumes, ointment, and frankincense,' as in Revelation 18:13, signify spiritual aspects of worship.

Frankincense was one of the three gifts presented by the wise men, sometimes called the magi, to Jesus. The three gifts - gold, frankincense, and...

and myrrh
In Genesis 37:25, 'spices, resin, and myrrh' signify interior natural truths joined to good in the natural level. Among the ancients, they used things with...

In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

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...

"Angels" in the Bible represent qualities of the Lord himself, or a variety of things that come directly from the Lord. On a lower level...

It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

The meaning of "to seek" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but there is a bit of nuance: Swedenborg tells us that in most cases...

'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

When the Lord said that all things which were written concerning him were fulfilled, he meant that all things were fulfilled in their inmost sense.

Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

Generally speaking things that are seen as lower physically in the Bible represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases this...

'Weeping and wailing,' as in Revelation 18:15, signifies grief of the soul and heart, and so it has reference to the understanding and the will.

Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

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

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.

 Adoration of the Wise Men
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Adoration of the Wise Men
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Angels in the Christmas Story
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Behold, the Star
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Childhood of Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Star
Gives directions for assembling four large triangles into a beautiful star. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Correspondences of Gold
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that mention gold. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Fall Down and Worship Him
Think about your day tomorrow, and prioritize your various activities by thinking about what the Lord wants you to do.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Five Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flee to Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt Silhouette
"Cut out the pieces to show the silhouettes of Mary and Joseph taking the young Child to Egypt, then assemble on a large piece of blue paper and add stars by using glitter or small star stickers. "
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Following the Star
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Follow the Star Dramatization
This simple dramatization of the story of the wise men following the star to find the baby Lord includes a script and an illustration of Mary, Joseph, and the young Child.
Activity | Ages 3 - 7

 Gifts for the Lord
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Gifts of the Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Star Still Shines
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Joy in the Coming of Our Lord
Like the star that led the wise men, the truth will lead us to the Lord and make us happy. But the real joy in our lives will be when we come to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Lacing Star
Print this star onto card stock, punch holes around the edge, then use yarn with sparkly (metallic) strands to “sew” around the edge of the star to make it sparkle.
Project | Ages 4 - 8

 Making Christmas Star Cookies
Ideas for decorating rolled cookies cut in the shape of stars. 
Project | Ages over 7

 Memory Verse: The Guiding Star
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Pop-up Crèche Card for Christmas
A lovely project to color and assemble. Designed by Eudora Sellner Walsh.
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Guiding Star
Teachings from the Lord's Word for Christmas about the guiding star.
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Using Our Talents
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Show and Tell the Gifts of the Wise Men
Read about the three gifts in Matthew 2. Then show everyone some gold, frankincense and myrrh. Discuss ways we can give these symbolic gifts to the Lord.
Activity | All Ages

 Signs at Christmas
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Star of Wonder
Four ways to picture the star in the dark of night.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Star Out of Jacob
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Star Out of Jacob with Quote
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Story of the Wise Men Scene Boxes
Paint four sides of a box to show 4 different scenes from the story of the wise men.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Story of the Wisemen Stained Glass Windows
Make stained glass windows depicting the star of wonder, the three wise men following the star or the wise men presenting their gifts before the Lord.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Strange Gifts
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Christmas Star
As we think about stars at Christmas time, let us invite the Lord into our hearts and minds so that His Christmas star will light the way to heaven for us.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Flight into Egypt
Angels came to Joseph in a dream to help protect the baby Lord. Angels can help protect us too. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Level 1, for ages 6-7.
Religion Lesson | Ages 6 - 7

 The Gold of the Wisemen
Gold stands for loving the Lord. This was the first gift that the wise men gave the Lord because it is essential for worshiping the Lord. You can give the Lord the gift of spiritual gold - the gift of love. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Guiding Star [salt crystal star]
Paint a beautiful guiding star and then use salt crystals on wet paint to make a starry sky for the background.
Project | Ages over 7

 The Innocence of Love
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Come into the World
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 Lord Comes into the World (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord Comes into the World (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord Comes into the World (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Murder of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt
Within each one of us the Lord’s wonderful Providence keeps what is most important safe from harm. In time, this protection makes it possible for us to prepare ourselves to become angels in heaven.
Worship Talk | Ages 15 - 17

 The Slaughter of the Innocents
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Star of Bethlehem
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Three Gifts of the Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Visit of the Wise Men
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 Visit of the Wise Men (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Visit of the Wise Men (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Visit of the Wise Men (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wise Men
Two project ideas for picturing the wise men.  
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 The Wise Men
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Wise Men
The wise men brought gifts to the baby Lord. How are we to search for the Lord? What gifts should we bring Him?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

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

 The Wise Men
A story for young children with color illustrations.
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Wisemen Diorama
Print this project onto thick paper (such as cover stock). Then color the wise men, the camels, and the background scene of Bethlehem and assemble a diorama with the wise men looking at the star. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wisemen Present Gifts
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wisemen Rejoice to See the Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wise Men Worship the Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Initial Letters
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Kings from the East
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?
Lesson and activities comparing what the Lord wills to what He permits so that people can be free to make heavenly or hellish choices in their lives.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 Why the Lord Was Taken into Egypt
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wise Men Follow the Star
At the time of the Lord’s birth a beautiful star appeared in the night sky. It was a star of heavenly light and only people whose spiritual eyes had been opened could see it. Far away from Bethlehem, in the land to the east, this special star was seen by some wise men. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 2, for ages 7-8.
Religion Lesson | Ages 7 - 8

 Wise Men from the East
Presents a dramatic word-picture of the wise men's journey and a message for us all: If you wish to be wise, and to be made happy with an exceeding great joy, follow the Lord's star.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wisemen See Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Wisemen's Gift Ornaments
Make ornaments for your tree by printing pictures of wise men's gifts on stiff paper (such as cover stock). Then color the gifts, cut them out, and display on your tree.
Project | Ages up to 10



Two Stories of Christmas      

By Rev. Peter M. Buss Sr.

Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, by William Brassey Hole

There are two stories of Christmas. We usually blend them into one chronological account, but they are very distinct. One appears in the Gospel of Matthew, 1:18-25, 2:1-23, and the other in Luke 2: 6-20.

Matthew tells the story from Joseph’s point of view. The angel appears to him, telling him not to fear to take Mary as his wife, even though she is expecting a Child. He names the child. The wise men appear, and then Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt, and told to return when Herod died.

Luke is Mary’s story - in fact, she alone could have recounted these things to Luke. The story of Zacharias and Elisabeth; Mary’s visit to Elisabeth; the birth of John; the angel appearing to Mary, the birth of Jesus, and the tale of the shepherds all speak of Mary’s part in this event.

There are remarkably consistent differences in the accounts. In the Matthew story the angel always appears in a dream, and he gives commands. “Do not be afraid to take to yourself Mary your wife.” “Call His name Jesus.” “Do not return to Herod” was the command to the wise men. “Arise, take the young child and Mary his mother, and flee into Egypt.” “Return, for they are dead who sought the young Child’s life.” Specific commands, which Joseph and the wise men obeyed.

In the Luke story the angel is actually seen, and carries on conversations with both Zacharias and Mary. An angel choir appears to the shepherds. What is surprising is that no actual commands are given. Zacharias is told that his prayer will be answered, and he will have a son. Mary is told she will be with child of the Holy Spirit, and she willingly accepts it. The shepherds are told the tidings of great joy, but it is they who say, one to another, “Let us now go, even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Another amazing difference is the presence of Herod and his people in Matthew. He is shown in his wickedness and deceit, pretending to wish to worship Jesus while plotting to kill Him. He uses his counselors, none of whom are interested in the actual birth of the Christ, though they now know that a star has heralded His birth. Then there is the terrible story of Herod’s murder of the little ones around Bethlehem.

None of this appears in Luke. There is just a glancing reference: “There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea......” What a different tone, therefore, appears in Luke. It is one of peace and rejoicing, of wonder and gratitude, spoken from the heart by Zacharias, by Mary, and by Simeon. By contrast, Matthew tells of Joseph’s sadness and thought of putting Mary away privately, of Herod’s treachery and the sin of infanticide. And Matthew tells also how futile were Herod’s efforts, for the angel of the Lord provided that Joseph brought the infant Lord safely out of his reach.

So what are these two stories telling us about our lives, here, today? They speak of how the Lord is born in our minds and hearts. Let us leave Zacharias and Elisabeth and John out of this sermon. John represents repentance, and his birth precedes the birth of Jesus. But after we have repented of our sins, then the Lord Himself comes to be born in us. That birth is the implanting within us of charity - the ability to love others unselfishly. It is this birth which makes us into angels, which puts the stamp of eternal love in our hearts, which causes us to be “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

When charity begins to become felt in us we respond in two distinct ways. Matthew tells how our understanding reacts to His coming. Luke speaks of how His birth receives a response in the new will which the Lord is creating in us.

Joseph seems to represent the good of truth. He was a carpenter, working with tools of iron on wood to shape it, and his very act pictures the efforts of the human understanding, taking the truths of revelation and working to apply them to a life of goodness.

Joseph at first feared that Mary had been unfaithful to him, and that the child was conceived of a man. When we have done the deeds of repentance, and the Lord begins to create this wonderful, heavenly love inside of us, we too will doubt. How can I, a person who has been selfish up to date, how can I feel these tender, loving thoughts towards others? How can I be moved to do kind deeds with no thought of reward? I must be deceiving myself. This is just human-born selfishness under another guise.

But an angel of the Lord told Joseph that this birth was unique in all of history. The angel represents an insight from within, the presence of the Lord within the truths that we have learned, which gives us assurance that indeed unselfish love can be ours. The Word has promised that it will be so. Don’t doubt it. You can be a truly loving, unselfish, caring person. And when you feel this love inside of you, call it by its proper name. Call it “Jesus,” which means, “Jehovah is the Savior.” Realize that this is salvation come into your heart.

Joseph obeyed the angel. We need to believe that charity can be ours, and unite ourselves to the innocent love for the truth (which is what Mary represents).

Then, when this beautiful charity blossoms in our hearts, new truths come to herald that birth. The wise men had studied the Word, knew that a star would appear when the Christ was born, and took a long journey to find Him. The truths they represent, learned because we are moved to study and reflect on His Word, are the ones that tell us how to live the life of love. They are conscious truths, and they spur us to action.

The wise men gave three gifts to Jesus, and for two thousand years they were the last people on earth to know why these gifts, and no others, were suitable. For there are only three things we can give to the Lord, only three things we can withhold. Myrrh represents obedience; frankincense, love to others; and gold, love to the Lord Himself. We can withhold these from the Lord and He cannot make us give them to Him. When moved by charity, we plan to offer Him the only gifts which we can possibly give - the offerings of a grateful heart to obey, to love His children, and to love Him.

But the Matthew story contains Herod also. Within each of us there is a powerful love of self, and all sorts of false and horrible thoughts are tied to it. Through this love the hells seek to kill our unselfish instincts. They use deceit, they even use the truths of the Word (as Herod did when seeking to know where Christ should be born). For much of our lives we have given a fairly free rein to our selfish impulses. They don’t relinquish their kingship over us without a struggle. The story of Herod speaks of the plots of the hells to destroy our love for others, and of how the Lord protects us. When we obey the commands of His Word our love grows, quietly and secretly, in a safe place where Herod cannot find it.

So we come to the gospel of Luke. Why is Herod not mentioned there? It is in the Lord’s amazing mercy that there are times when selfishness seems to be a distant memory. We know it’s there - “In the days of Herod the King,” Luke says. We know that battles lie ahead, but there are moments when we see the joy of life, and these feelings give us an inner reason to fight for heaven. When you first fall in love, you feel only unselfish love for that person. At times you read the Word, and feel in its pages the certainty of the Lord’s love, and its promise of a heaven, a life of charity, just for you!

Selfishness seems far off. You know it will come back, but right now you know that there is a life beyond selfishness. There truly is a greater love that leaves self behind, and at times, at oh-so-precious times, you are allowed to feel it. The Lord touches our hearts, and the best image of that is Christmas night in the stable in Bethlehem.

In our peaceful states there is Mary, the innocent affection for truth. We often call it idealism. It is a deep-seated conviction about the highest ideals in life. We see deeply into the Word, see the values it teaches, we want a value system that will last for all time. We want the Lord to be our God, the God of our hearts and minds. In our innocent times we just don’t question these things, we long for them. Mary, betrothed, and longing for marriage, represents this innocent love, longing to experience the full heavenly marriage of good and truth, to make ideals work.

Mary went to Bethlehem, for that little town represents new truth, the truth of the internal sense of the Word. To go from Galilee to Bethlehem is to go upward, into the deeper regions of our minds, and experience that love which is the birth of the Lord in us. It is to feel, in the living waters of the Word, that we do love others, and this love is “God with us.”

Yet the inn at Bethlehem had no room for the infant Jesus. Many spiritual truths in our minds have languished, and lost their meaning. Other needs have crowded them out, even falsified them. There are many places in our minds where we know the truth, but that knowledge is full of earthly concerns which take the joy, the wonder out of it.

In His mercy the Lord prepares other places in our minds. The spiritual manger stands for lower truths, simple ideals long held precious. For example, you have truths in your minds about how to care for infants and how to teach little children about the Word and how to care for the needs of the elderly or those who are hurting. You understand these truths. A manger, where horses feed, represents such an understanding.

And you have simple, innocent ideas in your minds also which are, as it were, wrapped around charity. These truths tell you that certain things hurt others, that certain things, said with gentleness, touch their hearts. These truths tell you when to deal gently with others, and when to be firm but loving at the same time. They are simple ideas from the Word, first truths, which keep charity warm in your heart. “....and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger.”

How beautiful is the story of the shepherds. They too represent interior truths, long held, which through the night of our selfish lives have kept us turning towards good values. They kept watch over our spiritual flock, our valuable feelings, even though we have often been selfish and uncaring. These values are called forth, and respond with joy when love is born in our hearts.

The story of Luke is one of a free response to the Lord and His creation of heaven in our minds. It is full of joy. Zacharias prophesied, with a heart full of gratitude. Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. Simeon gave thanks because he had seen the Lord’s salvation, prepared for all people. The shepherds returned, praising God for all that they had seen.

When you feel heartfelt gratitude in your lives because of a special love the Lord has granted you, - why then, stop, stand still, lift up your heart and rejoice in that moment. And know this: that if you persist in following Him, that special love will become your heaven. It will be a love born of no human father. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, and that holy love growing in you is indeed born of God.

Two stories of Christmas. Both so beautiful. The Lord gave each to us that we may see with our understandings, and feel in our hearts the wonder of this holy birth. They are secret stories, scarce felt because of the noisy pressures of worldly life, but revealed in all their wonder for the New Church. The spiritual Joseph and wise men are conscious, understood truths which are obeyed, and bring deep joy to the human mind. The spiritual Mary and Bethlehem and the manger and the swaddling cloths and the shepherds represent affections for deep ideals, and for practical ideas. These find inner happiness and peace when He comes to us.

For the greatest event in human history was the birth on earth of God Himself. And the greatest event in anyone’s life is when there is born to you the love from God that will never die. This is truly the spirit of Christmas.

(References: Matthew 2; The Apocalypse Explained 706)

From Swedenborg's Works


Apocalypse Explained #706

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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706. Verse 1. And a great sign was seen in heaven, signifies Divine attestation respecting the coming church and the reception of its doctrine, and by whom it will be assaulted. This is evident from the signification of "a great sign in heaven," as being Divine manifestation and attestation; that it has reference to the church and the reception of its doctrine, and also to assault upon it, is evident from what follows, for the "woman" means the church, her "son a male" doctrine, and "the dragon and his angels" and afterwards "the beasts," mean those who will assault the church and its doctrine. This vision is called "a great sign" because a "sign" means Divine manifestation respecting things to come, and attestation, here respecting the coming church and its doctrine, and also the assault upon it by those who are meant by "the dragon" and "the beasts." This is called a "sign," because it manifests and attests. "Sign" and "wonder" are mentioned in many passages in the Word, "sign" meaning that which indicates, witnesses, and persuades respecting the subject of inquiry, and "wonder" meaning that which stirs up, strikes dumb, and fills with amazement; thus a sign moves the understanding and faith, but a wonder the will and its affection, for the will and its affection are what are stirred up, stricken dumb, and filled with amazement, while the understanding and its faith are what are persuaded and moved by indications and proofs.

(References: Revelation 12:1)

[2] That there is a difference between a sign and a wonder is evident from the fact that the Jews, although they had seen so many wonders performed by the Lord, still sought signs from Him; and also from the fact that the prodigies wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness are sometimes called "signs" and sometimes "wonders," and sometimes both. It is further evident from this, that in every particular of the Word there is a marriage of truth and good, and thus also of the understanding and will, for truth is of the understanding and good of the will, consequently "signs" there have reference to things pertaining to truth, and to faith and the understanding, and "wonders" to the things pertaining to good, and to affection and the will. Thence is clear the meaning of "signs" and of "wonders," where they are both mentioned in the Word, as in the following passages. In Moses:

I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:3).

In the same:

Jehovah gave signs and wonders great and evil upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his men 1 (Deuteronomy 6:22).

In the same:

Hath Jehovah tried to come to take to Him a nation out of the midst of a nation, by wonders, by signs, and by prodigies? (Deuteronomy 4:34)

In David:

They remembered not the day in which Jehovah set His signs in Egypt, and His prodigies in the field of Zoan (Psalms 78:42, 43).

In the same:

They set among them the words of their 2 signs and wonders in the land of Ham (Psalms 105:27).

In the same:

He sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh and all his servants (Psalms 135:9).

In Jeremiah:

Who hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and even to this day, both in Israel and in men, and hast led forth Thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt by signs and by wonders (Jeremiah 32:20, 21).

This shows that the prodigies wrought in Egypt, and afterwards among the sons of Israel, are called "signs and wonders," "signs" because they attested and persuaded, and "wonders" because they stirred up and filled with amazement; yet they agree in this, that the things that stir up and fill with amazement also attest and persuade, as those things that stir up the will also persuade the understanding, or as those things that move the affection also move the thought by persuading. Likewise in the Gospels:

In the consummation of the age there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, they shall show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22).

Here "great signs and wonders" have a like signification, namely, that they will attest and persuade, and that they will strike dumb and fill with amazement, which will cause a strong persuasion. Who are meant by "false Christs and false prophets," and who by "the elect," may be seen above (n. 624, 684).

(References: Jeremiah 32:20-21; Psalms 78:42-43; The Apocalypse Explained 624, The Apocalypse Explained 684)

[3] In Moses:

If there shall arise in the midst of thee a prophet or a dreamer of dreams who shall give thee a sign or a wonder, and if the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, thou shalt not obey (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

Here a "prophet" and a "dreamer of dreams," also "sign" and "wonder" are mentioned, because a "sign" has reference to a prophet, and a "wonder" to a dreamer of dreams, because a "prophet" means one who teaches truths, and in the abstract sense the doctrine of truth, and a "dreamer" means one who stirs up to doing, and in the abstract sense the stirring up from which a thing is done; this, too, pertains to a "wonder," and the former to a "sign;" for prophets were instructed by a living voice from the Lord, and "dreamers" by representatives exciting to doing, which flowed into the affection of the dreamer, and from that into the sight of the thought, for when a man dreams his natural understanding is laid asleep and his spiritual sight is opened, which draws its all from the affection. But in this passage the sight that draws its all from an evil affection is meant, for it treats of prophets who teach falsities and who dream vain things, for "other gods" mean the falsities and vain things that such heard and saw.

[4] That "signs" signify attestations which indicate and persuade to the belief that a thing is so, is evident from the following passages. In Moses:

If they will not believe thee nor hear the voice of the first sign, yet they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And if they will not believe these two signs nor hear thy voice, thou shalt take of the waters of the river and they shall become blood (Exodus 4:8, 9).

This is said of the wonders wrought by Moses, when the Lord appeared to him in the bush, which are called "signs" because they were to attest and persuade that Moses was sent to lead them out of Egypt; this is why it is three times said "that they may believe," and also "that they may hear his voice."

(References: Exodus 4:8-9)

[5] In the same:

Jehovah said unto Moses, How long will the people not believe in Me for all the signs which I have done in the midst of them? All the men that have seen My glory and the signs which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, they shall not see the land (Numbers 14:11, 22, 23).

These miracles, too, are called "signs," because mention is made of believing; for as has been said, miracles are called "signs" because they persuade and induce faith; and as signs did not induce faith with those who were unwilling on account of fear to enter into the land of Canaan, therefore it is said of them that "they should not see the land." "Signs" have a like signification in Exodus 4:17; and Jeremiah 10:1, 2.

(References: Exodus 10:1-2; Numbers 14:22-23)

[6] In the Gospels:

The Scribes and Pharisees said, Master, we would see a sign from Thee. But He answering, said, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, but no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the belly 3 of the earth (Matthew 12:38-40; Luke 11:16, 29, 30).

A "sign" plainly means attestation that they may be persuaded and believe that the Lord was the Messiah and the Son of God who was to come, for the miracles that the Lord wrought in abundance, and that they saw, were no signs to them, because miracles, as has been said above, are signs only with the good. "Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale," and this was taken for a "sign," because it signified the burial and resurrection of the Lord, thus the complete glorification of His Human, "three days and three nights" also signifying completeness.

(References: Exodus 10:1-2, 14:17; Luke 11:29-30)

[7] In Matthew:

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, tempting, asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. He answering, said to them, When it is evening ye say, It will be fair weather, for the heaven is red. And in the morning, There will be storm today, for the heaven is red and gloomy. Ye hypocrites, ye know how to discern the face of heaven, but not the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous nation requireth a sign, but no sign shall be given unto it but the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matthew 16:1-4).

Here, too, the "sign" asked from heaven means attestation that they might be persuaded and might believe that the Lord was the Son of God, although miracles were wrought that they did not call signs. The Lord then spoke of evening and of morning because "evening and morning" signifies the Lord's coming; here it means when the church with the Jews was laid waste, who then had "fair weather," because they had no knowledge of the Lord, and lived securely in falsities from evil; this is the "evening;" but when they knew Him, and because of falsities from evils in which they were denied and assaulted Him, this is signified by "the morning when there is a storm." This is why the Lord said, "Ye hypocrites, ye know how to discern the face of heaven, but not the signs of the times," that is, the Lord's coming; and because they were "a wicked and adulterous nation," that is, one that adulterated the Word, He said that "no sign should be given unto them."

[8] So again in Mark:

The Pharisees began to dispute with Jesus, seeking of Him a sign from heaven; and He, sighing in His spirit, said, Why doth this generation seek a sign? Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation (Mark 8:11, 12).

That a "sign" here signifies attestation by which they might plainly know, acknowledge, and believe, that the Lord was the Messiah and Son of God whom they expected from the predictions in the prophets, is evident from this, that "sighing in spirit, He said, Why doth this generation seek a sign? Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation;" and this was because if this had been plainly revealed or told them from heaven, and if thus persuaded they had acknowledged and believed it, they would nevertheless have rejected it afterwards, and to reject after acknowledgment and faith is to profane, and the lot of profaners in hell is the worst of all.

(References: Mark 8:11-12)

[9] That for this reason plain attestation was not given them from heaven is evident from these words in John:

He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and should turn themselves, and I should heal them (John 12:40).

"To turn themselves and be healed" means here to profane, which is done when truths and goods are acknowledged, especially when the Lord is acknowledged and afterwards denied; so would it have been if the Jews had turned themselves and been healed by a sign. "To see with the eyes and understand with the heart" signifies to receive in the understanding and will, or in faith and love. From this it is clear that a "sign" signifies a plain testification. (On the lot of profaners see the New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, n. 172.)

[10] In John:

The disciples 4 said unto Jesus, What doest Thou for a sign, that we may see and believe Thee, what workest Thou? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not the bread out of heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread out of heaven; for the bread of God is He who cometh down out of heaven and giveth life unto the world (John 6:30-33).

Here also the disciples 4 desired a sign; that this signifies attestation that they might believe is clear from their saying, "That we may see and believe, what workest Thou?" They then spoke of "manna," and the Lord answered respecting "bread from heaven," because "bread" signifies all good and truth that nourishes the soul, and in the highest sense the Lord Himself, from whom is everything of doctrine and everything of spiritual nourishment, whereby he gave attestation that they might see and believe. Nevertheless attestation, that is, a sign from heaven, was given to the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, as can be seen from the Lord's transfiguration, for they then saw His glory, and heard a voice out of heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him" (Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; Matthew 17:5).

[11] In John:

When Jesus cast out of the temple them that sold therein, the Jews said, What sign showest Thou, that Thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, yet in three days I will raise it up (John 2:16, 18, 19).

Here evidently "to show a sign" signifies to give attestation by something wonderful, or by a voice out of heaven. But because such an attestation would have damned rather than saved them, as has been said just above, He answered them concerning "the temple," by which He meant His body, that this should be destroyed, that is, should die, and should rise again glorified on the third day. This too is what the Lord meant by "the sign of Jonah in the belly of the whale three days and three nights." (That "temple" in the highest sense signifies the Lord's body, see John 2:21.)

(References: John 2:18-19)

[12] In Luke:

The angels said to the shepherds, There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord; and this is a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger (Luke 2:11, 12, 16).

Since a "sign" means attestation that they might believe that the Savior of the world was born, it is said that "they should find Him lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes;" but that this was an attestation no one can know until it is known what is meant by a "manger" and by "swaddling clothes." "A manger" means the doctrine of truth from the Word, because "horses" signify the understanding of the Word (as can be seen from what has been shown above, n. 355, 364, and in the small work on The White Horse 2-4); and thus a manger, as a feeding place for horses, signifies the doctrine of truth from the Word. It is said in the seventh verse of the same chapter that this was done "because there was no place in the inn," an "inn" signifying a place of instruction. (This is the signification of "inn" also in Luke 10:34; 22:11; Mark 14:14; and elsewhere.)

Because this was the state with the Jews, who were then in mere falsities, through the adulteration of the Word, this was signified by "there was no place in the inn;" for if it had pleased the Lord He might have been born in a most splendid palace, and have been laid in a bed adorned with precious stones; but He would thus have been with such as were in no doctrine of truth, and there would have been no heavenly representation. He is also said to have been "wrapped in swaddling clothes," because "swaddling clothes" signify first truths, which are truths of innocence, and which are also truths of the Divine love; for "nakedness," in reference to a babe, signifies deprivation of truth. From this it is clear why it was said by the angels, "This is a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger."

(References: Luke 2:11-12; The Apocalypse Explained 355, 364)

[13] In the Gospels:

The disciples said to Jesus, What shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the consummation of the age? (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7)

"The coming of the Lord and the consummation of the age" signifies the beginning of the New Church and the end of the former church, "the coming of the Lord" the beginning of the New Church, and "the consummation of the age" the end of the old church, therefore in these chapters the Lord instructs His disciples respecting the successive vastation of the former church, and at its end the establishment of the New Church; but He instructs and teaches them by mere correspondences, which cannot be unfolded and made known except by means of the spiritual sense; and because the Lord spoke by correspondences, all of these were signs and thus attestations. Moreover, the Lord calls them "signs."

As in Luke:

And there shall be fearful things, great signs from heaven. There shall be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in desperation, the sea and the waves roaring (Luke 21:11, 21:26).

In Matthew:

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man; and then shall all the tribes of the earth lament, and they shall see the Son of man coming In the clouds of heaven with power and glory (Matthew 24:30).

The signification in the spiritual sense of these and the other things contained in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew have been explained in the Arcana Coelestia, and of "the appearing of the sign of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven" in the work on Heaven and Hell 1), therefore further explanation is unnecessary.

(References: Luke 21:25)

[14] In Mark:

Jesus said unto the disciples, These signs shall follow them that believe, In My name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the infirm and they shall be well. And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them by signs following (Mark 16:17, 18, 20).

These were miracles, yet still they are called "signs" because they were attestations of the Divine power of the Lord who wrought them; therefore it is said, "The Lord working with them by those signs." If these had been applied to the evil they would have been called "wonders," for with the evil such things only fill with amazement and strike the mind, and still do not persuade to belief; but with the good it is otherwise, for with them the same things are attestations that persuade to belief, and therefore they are called "signs," and it is said "these signs shall follow them that believe." But how these signs can persuade to belief shall be briefly told. These miraculous signs, as that "they should cast out demons," "should speak with new tongues," "should take up serpents," "if they drank any deadly thing it should not hurt them," and "they should become well by the laying on of hands," were in their essence and in their origin spiritual, from which these flowed forth and came forth as effects; for they were correspondences that derived their all from the spiritual world by influx from the Lord. For instance, that "they should cast out demons in the name of the Lord" derived its effect from this, that the name of the Lord understood spiritually means everything of doctrine out of the Word from the Lord, and that "demons" mean falsities of every kind, and these are thus cast out, that is, taken away, by the doctrine out of the Word from the Lord; that "they should speak with new tongues" derives its effect from this, that "new tongues" mean doctrinals for the New Church; "they should take up serpents" was because "serpents" signify the hells in respect to malice, and thus they would be safe from infestation by it; "they would not be hurt if they drank any deadly thing" meant that they would not be contaminated by the malice of the hells; and "the infirm would become well by the laying on of hands" meant to be healed of spiritual diseases, which are called iniquities and sins, by communication and conjunction with heaven, thus with the Lord; the laying on of the hands of the disciples corresponding to communication and conjunction with the Lord, and thus to the removal of iniquities by His Divine power.

(References: Mark 16:17-18)

[15] In Isaiah:

Jehovah said unto Ahaz, Ask thee a sign of Jehovah, direct it into the deep, or lift it up on high. The Lord giveth you a sign, Behold, a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son, and shall call His name God-with-us (Isaiah 7:11, 14).

This was said to Ahaz king of Judah, because the king of Syria and the king of Israel made war against him, even to Jerusalem, and they also had on their side the tribe of Ephraim, and yet they did not prevail, for the reason that "the king of Syria" here represented the external or natural of the church, "the king of Israel" its internal or spiritual, and "Ephraim" its intellectual; but here these three, the natural, the spiritual, and the intellectual, perverted, and these wished to attack the doctrine of truth, signified by "the king of Judah" and by "Jerusalem," wherefore they did not succeed. Nevertheless, in order that Ahaz might be assured of the frustration of their attempt he was told "to ask a sign," that is, an attestation that he might be assured, and the choice was granted him whether it should be from heaven or from hell; this was signified by "direct it into the deep, or lift it up on high," for the king was evil. But because "Jerusalem," which signifies the doctrine of truth from the Word, was not to be destroyed by such before the Lord's coming, there was given him, as an attestation of this, a miraculous sign, namely, that "a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son, whose name shall be God-with-us." That this church would subsequently be destroyed is indicated further on in the same chapter.

(References: Isaiah 7:10-11)

[16] In the same:

This shall be a sign to thee from with Jehovah, behold, I will bring back the shadow of the steps which is gone down on the steps of Ahaz before the sun, ten steps backward, that the sun may return ten steps on the steps which it has gone down (Isaiah 38:7-8).

This sign was given to King Hezekiah as an attestation that the Lord would defend him and Jerusalem from the king of Assyria (as is said in the sixth verse of that chapter), Isaiah 38:6 that king signifying the perverted rational destroying all things of the church; therefore this sign represented also a New Church that was to be established by the Lord, but here that the time would be protracted beyond that indicated to Ahaz just above; "bringing back the shadow that had gone down on the steps of Ahaz before the sun" signifies a drawing back of the time before this should be done, "steps of Ahaz" signifying a time, here even until the coming of the Lord, and the "shadow" signifying the progress of time from the rising to the setting; that the shadow "should be drawn backwards ten degrees" signifies the prolongation of the time for many years still, "ten" signifying many, and the "sun" which should go back signifying the Lord's coming.

But this shall be further illustrated. The Lord's coming took place when the Jewish Church was at an end, that is, when there was no good or truth left in it; this is meant by "when iniquity was consummated," also by "the fullness of times," in which the Lord was to come. The entire period of the duration of the Jewish Church was represented by "the steps of Ahaz," its beginning by the first step there, which is when the sun is in its rising, and its end by the last when it is at its setting. This makes evident that by "the drawing back of the shadow" from the setting towards the rising means the prolongation of the time. This should take place "in the steps of Ahaz," because Ahaz was a wicked king, and profaned the holy things of the church, consequently if his successors had done the same, the end of that church would have quickly come; but as Hezekiah was an upright king the time was prolonged, for on that account the iniquity of that nation was not so soon to reach its consummation, that is, its end.

[17] In the same:

Say to King Hezekiah, This shall be the sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year that which springeth up of itself, and in the second year that which groweth of its own accord; but in the third year sow ye, reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof (Isaiah 37:30).

This was said to King Hezekiah when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, made war against him, and spoke proudly of himself and insolently of God and of Israel; in consequence of which also one hundred and eighty 5 thousand were smitten in his camp, and he was himself killed by his sons. This was done because "Assyria" signifies the rational, and "the king of Assyria" the like, and "Judea" the celestial of the church, and "its king" the spiritual of the church; but here "the king of Assyria" signifies the perverted rational, which destroys by false reasonings all the celestial and spiritual things of the church, which are its goods and truths. And as "Judea and its king" signify the celestial and spiritual of the church which will be from the Lord when He comes into the world, therefore these things are said by which is described the regeneration of those who will be of that church. So the sign that the first year "they shall eat that which springeth up of itself" signifies celestial good that the Lord will implant in them; "in the second year that which groweth of its own accord," signifies the truth of that good which shall come from it; "to sow, to reap, to plant vineyards, and to eat the fruit thereof," signifies all the goods and truths that flow forth therefrom, "to sow and reap" signifying the implantation of good and its reception; "to plant vineyards" the implantation of truth and its reception; and "to eat the fruits thereof" the enjoyment of good and joyous things therefrom which the regenerate man has. These things are called "a sign" because they are attestations of a celestial church with those who are meant in the spiritual sense by "Judah," whose regeneration is effected by the Lord by the implantation of celestial good, afterwards by the implantation of spiritual good, which in its essence is the truth of celestial good, and finally by multiplication and fructification in the natural man.

[18] In the same:

Thus said Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel and his Former, They have asked Me signs respecting My sons, and respecting the work of My hands they command Me. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will make straight all his ways. He shall build My city, and he shall send forth My captivity, not for price nor reward (Isaiah 45:11, 13).

This also treats of the Lord's coming and of the establishment of a church by Him. The Lord is meant by "Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, and his Former," who is called "the Holy One of Israel" from Divine truth, and his "Former" from the establishment of the church by means of truth; and "Israel" means the church; therefore "His sons, respecting whom they asked signs," mean those who are in truths from the Lord, and "the work of His hands" means their formation, and the establishment of a church among them. "I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will make straight all His ways" signifies that Divine good and Divine truth are the Lord's, for "righteousness" is predicated in the Word of good, and "ways" signify truths that lead, here Divine truths, because they are predicated of the Lord; "he shall build My city, and he shall send forth My captivity" signifies that He will restore the doctrine of truth, and that He will deliver those who are in falsities from ignorance, "city" signifying the doctrine of truth, and "captivity" the falsities of ignorance in which the Gentiles were, and through which they were in spiritual captivity; "not for price nor reward" signifies freely given from Divine love.

[19] In the same:

Let them declare to you 6 the things that shall happen, declare ye the former things, that we may set our heart and may know the latter end of them; or make us to hear things to come, declare to us a sign for the future, that we may know that ye are gods (Isaiah 41:22, 23).

That to tell things past and to come belongs to the Lord alone, and not to any man or any spirit, is expressed by "declare a sign for the future, that we may know that ye are gods;" this concludes what precedes, therefore "to declare a sign" means to testify by persuading to believe.

(References: Isaiah 41:22-23)

[20] In Ezekiel:

Take to thee a pan of iron, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city; and thou shalt set thy faces against it, that it may be for a siege, and thou shalt lay siege to it; this shall be a sign to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 4:3).

These and the rest of the things in this chapter are representatives of the state of the church with the Jewish nation, signifying that they had no truth that was not falsified and adulterated, which in itself is falsity. Such truth is signified by "the pan of iron" that he should set for a wall between him and the city; and because this, like iron, is hard, shutting out and not admitting any genuine truth, it is said, "that it may be for a siege, and thou shalt lay siege to it;" that this sign should be a witness that the church is such is signified by "this shall be a sign to the house of Israel," "sign" meaning an attestation, and "house of Israel" the church.

[21] In David:

The adversary hath destroyed all things in the sanctuary; the adversaries have roared in the midst of Thy feast; they have set up their own signs for signs. We see not our signs; there is no more a prophet (Psalms 74:3, 4, 9).

"The adversary hath destroyed all things in the sanctuary" signifies that evil has destroyed the holy things of the church; "the adversaries have roared in the midst of Thy feast" signifies that falsities have destroyed all things of worship; "they have set up their own signs for signs" signifies that they have given attestation and persuaded by every means; "we see not our signs" signifies that no attestations of truth were accepted in the church; "there is no more a prophet" signifies no doctrine of truth.

(References: Psalms 74:3-4)

[22] In the same:

Jehovah make a sign with me for good, that they that hate me may see and be ashamed, because Thou, O Jehovah, hast helped me and comforted me (Psalms 86:17).

"To make a sign for good" signifies attestation that Jehovah will help and comfort him, as follows, for this is the good for which Jehovah makes a sign; and because a sign is an attestation of this it is said "that they that hate me may see and be ashamed."

[23] In the same:

God who setteth fast the mountains by His power is girded with might; He maketh the tumult of the seas to cease, the tumult of its waves and the noise of the peoples, that the dwellers in the uttermost parts may fear because of Thy signs (Psalms 65:6-8).

This describes the Lord's Divine power through attestations that cause belief; but attestations that are signs are not that "He setteth fast the mountains, maketh the tumult of the seas and of its waves, and the noise of the people to cease," for these are not such signs as convince those who ascribe all things to nature; but the things meant in the spiritual sense, in which sense heaven and the church are treated of, are the signs that give attestation of the Lord's Divine power, for in that sense, the "mountains" that God setteth fast by His power mean the higher heavens, because the angels of those heavens dwell upon mountains; and in the abstract sense love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor are meant; these are what the Lord "girded with might, setteth fast by His power," that is, makes them to stand fast forever; that "mountains" have such a signification may be seen above n. 405; "the tumult of the seas" and "the tumult of the waves" mean the disputations and reasonings of those who are beneath the heavens, and who are natural and sensual; that "seas" signify the things of the natural man, thus those who are natural, therefore their tumults and waves signify disputations and reasonings, may be seen also above n. 342. "The noise of the peoples" mean contradictions from falsities, for "peoples" signify those who are in truths, and in the contrary sense those who are in falsities (see above, n. 175, 331, 625). "That the dwellers in the uttermost parts may fear because of Thy signs" signifies holy worship from faith in regard to Divine power with those who are in the ultimates of heaven and the church; that "to fear" means to worship the Lord from charity and faith may be seen above n. 696; and that "dwellers in the uttermost parts" mean those who are in the ultimates of heaven and the church, and are in the faith of charity there, is evident, since "the uttermost parts" mean the ultimates of heaven and the church. From this it is clear that "signs" here signify attestations respecting the Lord's Divine power.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 175, 331, 342, The Apocalypse Explained 405, The Apocalypse Explained 625, The Apocalypse Explained 696)

[24] In Jeremiah:

This shall be the sign unto you that I will visit upon you in this place, that ye may know that My words shall stand against you for evil. Behold, I give the king of Egypt into the hand of his adversaries and into the hand of them that seek his soul (Jeremiah 44:29, 30).

This treats of those of the church who have become natural, who are meant by those who sojourned in Egypt and returned therefrom. That such would be destroyed by evils and falsities is meant by "He will give the king of Egypt into the hand of his adversaries and into the hand of them that seek his soul," "adversaries" here meaning those who are in evils, and "them that seek the soul" those who are in falsities, thus in an abstract sense evils and falsities (that "Egypt" means the natural man see above, n. 654.

This is called a "sign," because it is an attestation that this will be done; therefore it is added, "that ye may know that my words shall stand against you for evil."

(References: Jeremiah 44:29-30; The Apocalypse Explained 654)

[25] That a "sign" means attestation of certainty is evident from the following passages. In Isaiah:

Hezekiah said, What is the sign that I am to go up into the house of Jehovah? (Isaiah 38:22)

In the book of Judges:

Gideon said to the angel of Jehovah, Show me a sign that it is thou that speakest to me; and the sign was, that when he touched with the staff the flesh and unleavened bread which Gideon had offered, a fire went up out of the rock and consumed them (Judges 6:17, 21).

In the first book of Samuel:

This shall be the sign unto thee that shall come upon thy two sons, in one day they shall die, both of them (1 Samuel 2:34).

If the Philistines say, Come up unto us, then will we go up, for Jehovah hath given them into our hand; this shall be the sign unto us (1 Samuel 14:10).

Nearly the same is signified by:

The signs of the covenant (Genesis 9:13; 17:11; Ezekiel 20:12, 20; and elsewhere);

namely, attestations respecting conjunction.

[26] Attestations are signified also by "signs" wrought by the evil that appeared like miracles, as in the following passages. In Isaiah:

Jehovah maketh void the signs of the liars, He rendereth the diviners mad, He turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge stupid (Isaiah 44:25).

In Jeremiah:

Jehovah hath said, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of the heavens; for the nations are dismayed at them. The statutes of the nations 7 are vanity (Jeremiah 10:2, 3).

In Revelation:

The beast coming up out of the earth did great signs, so that he even maketh fire to come down from heaven unto the earth before men, and seduceth them that worship 8 upon the earth, because of the signs that were given him to do (Revelation 13:13, 14).

They are the spirits of demons doing signs to go forth unto the kings of the earth, to gather them together unto the war of that great day (Revelation 16:14).

And again:

The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that did signs before him, by which he seduced them that had received the mark of the beast (Revelation 19:20).

But what is meant by "signs upon the hand and in the forehead" may be seen above n. 427. Again, the "signs" that were set upon mountains to gather the people together to war, to battle, and so on, signified indications to do the things commanded. As in Isaiah:

It shall be in that day that the root of Jesse, which standeth for an ensign of the peoples, the nations shall seek, and his rest shall be glory. When he shall lift up an ensign to the nations, and shall gather together the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah from the four winds of the earth (Isaiah 11:10-12).

In Jeremiah:

Set thee up signs, place for thee columns, set thine heart to the highway, the way thou mayest go (Jeremiah 31:21).

In the same:

Declare ye among the nations, and make to be heard, and lift up an ensign; Babylon is taken (Jeremiah 50:2).

Lift up an ensign against the walls of Babylon, keep the watch, set the watchmen. Lift up an ensign in the land, sound the trumpet among the nations (Jeremiah 51:12, 27);

and elsewhere, especially in the historical parts of the Word. From all these passages quoted from the Word it is clear that "a great sign seen in heaven" signifies Divine manifestation and attestation (as also in the third verse of this chapter, an (Revelation 12:3) d afterwards in chap. Revelation 15:1).


1.  The Hebrew has "house."

2.  The Hebrew has "His," as found in Apocalypse Revealed 598.

3.  The Greek has "heart," as also found in Arcana Coelestia 2798.

4.  The context would seem to show that we should read "The people."

5.  The Hebrew has "185, 000," as found in Arcana Coelestia 4236.

6. The Hebrew has "to us."

7. The Hebrew has "peoples."

8. The Greek has "dwell," as found in Arcana Coelestia 826; Apocalypse Revealed 600.


(References: Isaiah 7:10-11, Isaiah 38:6-8; Jeremiah 10:2-3; Luke 21:25; Revelation 12:13-14, 13:13-14; The Apocalypse Explained 427)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 705, 713, 815, 824, 1002

Resources for parents and teachers

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 Bread of Life
The miracle of multiplying five loaves to feed 5000 people symbolizes Jesus’ abundant Divine Love. People received “as much as they wanted” (John 6:11). How do we receive this abundance in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Hezekiah and Isaiah
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 Birth of the Lord
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

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