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

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 2      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 2.

After Jesus is Born

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1. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from the east into 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. But having heard, Herod the king was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

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

5. And they said unto him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet:

6. ‘And thou Bethlehem, [of] the land of Judah, art by no means the least among the governors of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall shepherd My people Israel.’”

7. Then Herod, privately calling the Magi, precisely inquired of them at what time the star appeared.

8. And sending them to Bethlehem, he said, “Go and search earnestly for the little Child; and when you have found [Him], report to me, so that I also may come and worship Him.”

9. And when they had heard the king they went [out]; and behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came [and] stood over where the little Child was.

10. And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11. And coming into the house, they found the little Child with Mary His mother, and falling [down] they worshiped Him; and opening their treasures, they offered to Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

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

13. And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Arise and take the little Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the little Child to destroy Him.”

14. And when he arose, he took the little 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 declared by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”

16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the Magi, was exceedingly wrathful, and sent out and slew all the boys that were in Bethlehem, and in all her borders , from two years and under, according to the time which he had precisely inquired of the Magi.

17. Then was fulfilled what was declared by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

18. “A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation, and weeping, and much howling, Rachel weeping [for] her children; and she was not willing to be comforted, because they are not.”

19. And when Herod was dead, behold, the angel of the Lord, in a dream appears to Joseph in Egypt,

20. Saying, “Arise, take the little Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the soul of the little Child.”
---

Joseph’s struggle within himself — as to whether or not to accept Mary and the child — represents the spiritual battle which each of us must undergo in the course of our regeneration. It is one thing to receive the Lord in the understanding (represented by Joseph), but quite another to allow Him to order the things of our will — represented by the angel telling Joseph to take Mary as his wife. This is the fiercer battle which now begins “after Jesus is born.”

The antagonist is Herod, the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. Comfortable and secure in his role as the supreme ruler of the land, Herod is deeply troubled by the report of the Wise Men who say, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Spiritually seen, Herod, as king of Israel, represents total self-absorption, our corrupt hereditary will, setting itself up as the ruler of our lives. This is our state after fourteen generations of captivity in Babylon — a state in which we are governed by our basest emotions: greed, control, anger, fear, hatred and jealousy. We can be sure that whenever we find ourselves in a state like this, Herod is sitting comfortably and securely on his throne. He is a tyrannical ruler, easily threatened, but not easily dethroned. His motivating force is to destroy the Lord in us — even at His birth — rather than relinquish his control over us.

God knows that we need divine protection from the wrath of Herod who represents our selfish desire to control. God therefore speaks to Joseph (as He does to us) in a dream, saying “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and remain there until I bring you word; for Herod is about to seek the young Child to destroy Him” (2:13).

Egypt, at that time, was a world center for education and learning. Medicine, mathematics, poetry and many other fields of study were flourishing. So Jesus’ flight into Egypt represents the need that all of us have for basic education, not just the standard three “R’s,” (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) but the fourth “R” as well — the basics of religion.

Religious truth, especially the most basic, can help defend us against the onslaughts of Herod — the despot of our lower nature, a fierce tyrant who strives to murder everything that is true in us, even in its most innocent beginning. This is represented by Herod’s massacre of the male children in and around Bethlehem: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem, and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (2:16; emphasis added).

The name “Bethlehem,” comes from two Hebrew words: “Beth” meaning “house” and “lechem” meaning “bread.” Therefore, Bethlehem means “House of Bread” — a place of spiritual nourishment. In the context of this episode, Herod’s destruction of all the male children of Bethlehem, two years old and under, represents how evil inclinations can destroy our earliest impulses to learn truth. These earliest desires to acquire knowledge of truth are symbolized by the male babies of Bethlehem. Whenever we fall into states of cynicism and skepticism, refusing to learn or trust the simple teachings of the Word, whenever we find ourselves without desire to seek the truth, and whenever the distractions of the world lure us away from the quest for wisdom, we can know that “Herod” has risen up in our hearts. A massacre has begun. “Herod in us” is striving to murder the innocent and tender qualities that have been born in our heavenly Bethlehem.

But if we flee to and remain in Egypt (as Jesus does), we will be protected. It is the place where our instruction begins. This is a temporary, but essential part of our spiritual development; temporary because we must eventually return to the land of Canaan where the truth will be applied to our lives; and essential, because these basic, natural truths are the only means by which we can be prepared to receive the higher insights that will eventually flow in from above. 1

For most of us, the period of our instruction in basic truths can last for many years, well into adolescence and beyond. In fact, it never really ends. Throughout our lives we will continue to acquire knowledge, both worldly and spiritual. We will, as it were, “go down into Egypt.” And, as we do so, learning truth and putting it into our lives, we will begin to see how the literal teachings of scripture “open up” like parting clouds, revealing more and more of the interior truths they contain.

In Jesus’ own case, this process of acquiring basic truth was much more rapid. Although Matthew does not tell us how long Jesus remained in Egypt, we can safely assume He was still quite young when He left, for an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the soul of the young Child’s are dead” (2:20; emphasis added).

Growing up in Nazareth

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21. And he arose, [and] took the little Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22. And hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea instead of his father Herod, he feared to go thither; but being warned in a dream, he departed into the parts of Galilee.

23. And coming, He dwelt in a city called Nazareth, so that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene.
---

Eventually, Joseph, Mary, and the young Child decide to return to Judea. This represents the next step in our spiritual journey. Once we have learned the simple, basic, most literal truths of the Word (sojourning in Egypt), it is time to return to Judea. It is time to be further instructed, and to see what is more interiorly concealed within the letter of the Word. This is a necessary step in every person’s spiritual development. The letter of the Word serves as a literal history of people and places; it is an introduction to basic truth. It does not, however, reveal the full details of our spiritual journey, or provide the kind of discernment we need for the refinement of our souls. Not yet, but that will surely come when we are ready to receive further instruction.

Meanwhile, as the divine narrative continues, Joseph is “warned by God in a dream” that it is not yet time to return to their home. Though Herod is dead, his son is still in power. And so Mary, Joseph, and the young Child turn aside into the region of Galilee, into a city called Nazareth. This is yet another step on the journey of spiritual development. In the language of sacred scripture, it could be called, “growing up in Nazareth.

But what does it mean to “grow up in Nazareth”?

Nazareth of Galilee was a primitive region populated mostly by farmers, fishermen and uneducated tradespeople who knew very little about theology or the laws of the temple.

Unlike the well-educated (but misguided) religious leaders in Judea, the people of Galilee were not part of the religious establishment of the time. Although they had a strong belief in God, they were not familiar with the main doctrines taught by the religious leaders or the traditions of the temple authorities. And yet, a simple belief in God is often better than a more complicated belief system based on human reason rather than divine revelation. In this regard, the “learned world” often looks down upon people who believe in simplicity that there is a God, and that God is good. 2

The simple, hard-working, good people of Nazareth, therefore, symbolize the humility and simplicity we need to believe in God and live according to His teachings. It is remarkable that almost all the early disciples came from Galilee. It was not their theological training that made them receptive to the teachings of Jesus — for they had very little. In fact, it might be said that it was the absence of theological training — or to be more precise, the absence of false and misleading theology — that made them receptive to Jesus’ words. 3

Galilee, then, and the city of Nazareth which was in the region of Galilee, represent the simplicity of heart and the goodness of life that can receive God openly without skepticism or negativity. Because their religious principles are simple and uncomplicated — love God, love your neighbor — these people can receive Jesus’ teachings readily and with joy. All this is contained in the scriptural statement that Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, in the “land of the Gentiles.” 4 These words speak about a state in us “where Jesus grows up” — a state in which we are willing to receive basic truths simply, uncritically, and with joy.

As we shall see later in the narrative, the fact that Jesus grows up in Nazareth, in the land of the Gentiles, will be held against Him. The religious leaders will regard Him as poor and uneducated, untrained in their religious tenets, and therefore incapable of understanding or conveying spiritual truth to anyone. And yet, as this episode closes, we learn that His growing up in Nazareth is the fulfillment of prophecy, for we read, “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’” (2:23).

As we reflect on this miraculous moment in the early life of Jesus, it becomes evident that those simple, most basic truths we learn (Egypt) must be protected in a place of simple trust and unalloyed faith (Nazareth of Galilee). This is a necessary stage in which early truths from the letter of the Word can deepen and develop. It is why we feel a natural desire to protect the innocence of children from corrupting influences — Herod, and the son of Herod. And it is the same with each of us as we learn new truth from the letter of the Word, and allow it to grow up within us in a state of simple faith.

Footnotes:

1. Arcana Coelestia 1462:6: “That the Lord when an infant was brought into Egypt, signified the same that is here signified by Abram [instruction in truths from the letter of the Word]; and it took place for the additional reason that He might fulfill all the things that had been represented concerning Him. In the inmost sense the migration of Jacob and his sons into Egypt represented the first instruction of the Lord in knowledges from the Word.” See also Apocalypse Explained 654.

2. Apocalypse Explained 447:5: “Galilee signifies the establishment of the church with the Gentiles who are in the good of life and who receive truths.”

3. Arcana Coelestia 4760:4: “It is well-known that the learned have less belief than the simple in a life after death, and that in general they see Divine truths less clearly than the simple do. The reason is that they consult facts, of which they possess a greater abundance than others, with a negative attitude, and by this destroy in themselves any insight gained from a higher or more interior position. Once this has been destroyed they no longer see anything in the light of heaven but in the light of the world; for facts exist in the light of the world, and if they are not lit up by the light of heaven they bring darkness, however different it may seem to be to them. This was why the simple believed in the Lord but not the scribes and Pharisees, who were the learned in that nation.”

4. Apocalypse Explained 730: “Gentiles signify those who are in ignorance of truth, and yet are in the good of life according to their religious principle, from which they have a desire for truths.”

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

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

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 503, 526, 913

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

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

Bible Word Meanings

bethlehem
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...

wise
At its heart, wisdom is love's imperative desire to take form. That's a tricky statement, but think of it this way: If you love someone,...

jews
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...

seen
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...

star
'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...

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

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

heard
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...

troubled
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.

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

christ
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...

said
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...

written
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.

least
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...

governor
"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...

go
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...

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

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...

rejoiced
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...

joy
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...

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

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

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

gifts
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
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...

myrrh
Myrrh is a perfume and medicine made from the resin from a genus of thorn trees. In the Word, is represents our early knowledges about...

own
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...

way
These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

angel
"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...

arise
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...

seek
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
'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

fulfilled
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.

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

under
In the Bible, things that are lower down, or under, physically, generally represent things that are lower or more external spiritually. In some cases, the...

mourning
'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
when Galilee is mentioned in the Bible, it's referring to the "gentiles", to the spiritual states of people who were not in the Jewish church....

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

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Resources for parents and teachers

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


 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

 Stars
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

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 2

     

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 2.

After Jesus is Born

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1. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from the east into 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. But having heard, Herod the king was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

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

5. And they said unto him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet:

6. ‘And thou Bethlehem, [of] the land of Judah, art by no means the least among the governors of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall shepherd My people Israel.’”

7. Then Herod, privately calling the Magi, precisely inquired of them at what time the star appeared.

8. And sending them to Bethlehem, he said, “Go and search earnestly for the little Child; and when you have found [Him], report to me, so that I also may come and worship Him.”

9. And when they had heard the king they went [out]; and behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came [and] stood over where the little Child was.

10. And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11. And coming into the house, they found the little Child with Mary His mother, and falling [down] they worshiped Him; and opening their treasures, they offered to Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

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

13. And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Arise and take the little Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the little Child to destroy Him.”

14. And when he arose, he took the little 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 declared by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”

16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the Magi, was exceedingly wrathful, and sent out and slew all the boys that were in Bethlehem, and in all her borders , from two years and under, according to the time which he had precisely inquired of the Magi.

17. Then was fulfilled what was declared by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

18. “A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation, and weeping, and much howling, Rachel weeping [for] her children; and she was not willing to be comforted, because they are not.”

19. And when Herod was dead, behold, the angel of the Lord, in a dream appears to Joseph in Egypt,

20. Saying, “Arise, take the little Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the soul of the little Child.”
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Joseph’s struggle within himself — as to whether or not to accept Mary and the child — represents the spiritual battle which each of us must undergo in the course of our regeneration. It is one thing to receive the Lord in the understanding (represented by Joseph), but quite another to allow Him to order the things of our will — represented by the angel telling Joseph to take Mary as his wife. This is the fiercer battle which now begins “after Jesus is born.”

The antagonist is Herod, the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. Comfortable and secure in his role as the supreme ruler of the land, Herod is deeply troubled by the report of the Wise Men who say, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Spiritually seen, Herod, as king of Israel, represents total self-absorption, our corrupt hereditary will, setting itself up as the ruler of our lives. This is our state after fourteen generations of captivity in Babylon — a state in which we are governed by our basest emotions: greed, control, anger, fear, hatred and jealousy. We can be sure that whenever we find ourselves in a state like this, Herod is sitting comfortably and securely on his throne. He is a tyrannical ruler, easily threatened, but not easily dethroned. His motivating force is to destroy the Lord in us — even at His birth — rather than relinquish his control over us.

God knows that we need divine protection from the wrath of Herod who represents our selfish desire to control. God therefore speaks to Joseph (as He does to us) in a dream, saying “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and remain there until I bring you word; for Herod is about to seek the young Child to destroy Him” (2:13).

Egypt, at that time, was a world center for education and learning. Medicine, mathematics, poetry and many other fields of study were flourishing. So Jesus’ flight into Egypt represents the need that all of us have for basic education, not just the standard three “R’s,” (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) but the fourth “R” as well — the basics of religion.

Religious truth, especially the most basic, can help defend us against the onslaughts of Herod — the despot of our lower nature, a fierce tyrant who strives to murder everything that is true in us, even in its most innocent beginning. This is represented by Herod’s massacre of the male children in and around Bethlehem: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem, and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (2:16; emphasis added).

The name “Bethlehem,” comes from two Hebrew words: “Beth” meaning “house” and “lechem” meaning “bread.” Therefore, Bethlehem means “House of Bread” — a place of spiritual nourishment. In the context of this episode, Herod’s destruction of all the male children of Bethlehem, two years old and under, represents how evil inclinations can destroy our earliest impulses to learn truth. These earliest desires to acquire knowledge of truth are symbolized by the male babies of Bethlehem. Whenever we fall into states of cynicism and skepticism, refusing to learn or trust the simple teachings of the Word, whenever we find ourselves without desire to seek the truth, and whenever the distractions of the world lure us away from the quest for wisdom, we can know that “Herod” has risen up in our hearts. A massacre has begun. “Herod in us” is striving to murder the innocent and tender qualities that have been born in our heavenly Bethlehem.

But if we flee to and remain in Egypt (as Jesus does), we will be protected. It is the place where our instruction begins. This is a temporary, but essential part of our spiritual development; temporary because we must eventually return to the land of Canaan where the truth will be applied to our lives; and essential, because these basic, natural truths are the only means by which we can be prepared to receive the higher insights that will eventually flow in from above. 1

For most of us, the period of our instruction in basic truths can last for many years, well into adolescence and beyond. In fact, it never really ends. Throughout our lives we will continue to acquire knowledge, both worldly and spiritual. We will, as it were, “go down into Egypt.” And, as we do so, learning truth and putting it into our lives, we will begin to see how the literal teachings of scripture “open up” like parting clouds, revealing more and more of the interior truths they contain.

In Jesus’ own case, this process of acquiring basic truth was much more rapid. Although Matthew does not tell us how long Jesus remained in Egypt, we can safely assume He was still quite young when He left, for an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the soul of the young Child’s are dead” (2:20; emphasis added).

Growing up in Nazareth

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21. And he arose, [and] took the little Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22. And hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea instead of his father Herod, he feared to go thither; but being warned in a dream, he departed into the parts of Galilee.

23. And coming, He dwelt in a city called Nazareth, so that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene.
---

Eventually, Joseph, Mary, and the young Child decide to return to Judea. This represents the next step in our spiritual journey. Once we have learned the simple, basic, most literal truths of the Word (sojourning in Egypt), it is time to return to Judea. It is time to be further instructed, and to see what is more interiorly concealed within the letter of the Word. This is a necessary step in every person’s spiritual development. The letter of the Word serves as a literal history of people and places; it is an introduction to basic truth. It does not, however, reveal the full details of our spiritual journey, or provide the kind of discernment we need for the refinement of our souls. Not yet, but that will surely come when we are ready to receive further instruction.

Meanwhile, as the divine narrative continues, Joseph is “warned by God in a dream” that it is not yet time to return to their home. Though Herod is dead, his son is still in power. And so Mary, Joseph, and the young Child turn aside into the region of Galilee, into a city called Nazareth. This is yet another step on the journey of spiritual development. In the language of sacred scripture, it could be called, “growing up in Nazareth.

But what does it mean to “grow up in Nazareth”?

Nazareth of Galilee was a primitive region populated mostly by farmers, fishermen and uneducated tradespeople who knew very little about theology or the laws of the temple.

Unlike the well-educated (but misguided) religious leaders in Judea, the people of Galilee were not part of the religious establishment of the time. Although they had a strong belief in God, they were not familiar with the main doctrines taught by the religious leaders or the traditions of the temple authorities. And yet, a simple belief in God is often better than a more complicated belief system based on human reason rather than divine revelation. In this regard, the “learned world” often looks down upon people who believe in simplicity that there is a God, and that God is good. 2

The simple, hard-working, good people of Nazareth, therefore, symbolize the humility and simplicity we need to believe in God and live according to His teachings. It is remarkable that almost all the early disciples came from Galilee. It was not their theological training that made them receptive to the teachings of Jesus — for they had very little. In fact, it might be said that it was the absence of theological training — or to be more precise, the absence of false and misleading theology — that made them receptive to Jesus’ words. 3

Galilee, then, and the city of Nazareth which was in the region of Galilee, represent the simplicity of heart and the goodness of life that can receive God openly without skepticism or negativity. Because their religious principles are simple and uncomplicated — love God, love your neighbor — these people can receive Jesus’ teachings readily and with joy. All this is contained in the scriptural statement that Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, in the “land of the Gentiles.” 4 These words speak about a state in us “where Jesus grows up” — a state in which we are willing to receive basic truths simply, uncritically, and with joy.

As we shall see later in the narrative, the fact that Jesus grows up in Nazareth, in the land of the Gentiles, will be held against Him. The religious leaders will regard Him as poor and uneducated, untrained in their religious tenets, and therefore incapable of understanding or conveying spiritual truth to anyone. And yet, as this episode closes, we learn that His growing up in Nazareth is the fulfillment of prophecy, for we read, “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’” (2:23).

As we reflect on this miraculous moment in the early life of Jesus, it becomes evident that those simple, most basic truths we learn (Egypt) must be protected in a place of simple trust and unalloyed faith (Nazareth of Galilee). This is a necessary stage in which early truths from the letter of the Word can deepen and develop. It is why we feel a natural desire to protect the innocence of children from corrupting influences — Herod, and the son of Herod. And it is the same with each of us as we learn new truth from the letter of the Word, and allow it to grow up within us in a state of simple faith.

Footnotes:

1Arcana Coelestia 1462:6: “That the Lord when an infant was brought into Egypt, signified the same that is here signified by Abram [instruction in truths from the letter of the Word]; and it took place for the additional reason that He might fulfill all the things that had been represented concerning Him. In the inmost sense the migration of Jacob and his sons into Egypt represented the first instruction of the Lord in knowledges from the Word.” See also Apocalypse Explained 654.

2Apocalypse Explained 447:5: “Galilee signifies the establishment of the church with the Gentiles who are in the good of life and who receive truths.”

3Arcana Coelestia 4760:4: “It is well-known that the learned have less belief than the simple in a life after death, and that in general they see Divine truths less clearly than the simple do. The reason is that they consult facts, of which they possess a greater abundance than others, with a negative attitude, and by this destroy in themselves any insight gained from a higher or more interior position. Once this has been destroyed they no longer see anything in the light of heaven but in the light of the world; for facts exist in the light of the world, and if they are not lit up by the light of heaven they bring darkness, however different it may seem to be to them. This was why the simple believed in the Lord but not the scribes and Pharisees, who were the learned in that nation.”

4Apocalypse Explained 730: “Gentiles signify those who are in ignorance of truth, and yet are in the good of life according to their religious principle, from which they have a desire for truths.”

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #695

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695. And to give reward to His 1 servants, the prophets and the saints, signifies heaven to those who are in the truths of doctrine and in a life according to them. This is evident from the signification of "giving reward," as being salvation, and thus heaven; also from the signification of "His servants the prophets," as being those who are in the truths of doctrine, for those are called "servants of the Lord" who are in truths, because truths are serviceable for bringing forth, confirming, and preserving good, and whatever serves good serves the Lord, since every good is from the Lord. Those are called "prophets" who teach doctrine, thus in an abstract sense they signify doctrine. (That those are called "servants of God" who are in truths see above, n. 6, 409; and "prophets" who teach doctrine, and in an abstract sense doctrines, n. 624.) The above is evident also from the signification of "saints" as being those who are in the truths of doctrine from the Word and in a life according to them (see above, n. 204. From this it is clear that "to give reward to His servants, the prophets and saints," signifies heaven to those who are in the truths of doctrine and in a life according to them.

(References: Revelation 11:18; The Apocalypse Explained 6, The Apocalypse Explained 204, The Apocalypse Explained 409, The Apocalypse Explained 624)


[2] That "reward" signifies salvation, and thus heaven, can be seen without amplification and explanation; but as few know what is properly meant by "reward" it shall be told. "Reward" means properly that delight, blessedness, and happiness that is in the love or affection of good and truth. This love or affection has in itself all joy of heart, which is called heavenly joy, and also heaven; and for the reason that the Lord is in that love or affection, and with the Lord is heaven; consequently such joy, or such delight, blessedness, and happiness, is what is properly meant by the "reward" that those will receive who do good and speak truth from the love or affection of good and truth, thus from the Lord, and in no wise from themselves; and as they do this from the Lord and not from themselves it is not a reward of merit but a reward of grace. This shows that whoever knows what heavenly joy is also knows what reward is. (What heavenly joy is in its essence can be seen in the work on Heaven and Hell 395-414.) This, therefore, is what is meant by the "reward" that those have who are in truths from good. But the "reward" that those have who are in falsities from evil is joy or delight, good fortune, and happiness in the world, but hell after their departure out of the world.

[3] From these few words the signification of "reward" in the following passages can be seen. In Isaiah:

Behold the Lord Jehovih cometh in strength; behold His reward is with Him, and the wages of His work are with 2 Him (Isaiah 40:10).

In the same:

Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh, and the wages of His work are with 3 Him (Isaiah 62:11).

And in Revelation:

Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to each one as his work shall be (Revelation 22:12).

"Behold the Lord Jehovih cometh in strength," and "Behold thy salvation cometh," and "Behold He cometh quickly," signify the first and second coming of the Lord. "His reward is with Him" signifies heaven and all things belonging to it, as above, since where the Lord is, there heaven is, for heaven is not heaven from the angels there, but from the Lord with the angels. That heaven will be received in the measure of the love and affection of good and truth from the Lord is meant by "the wages of His work are before Him," and by "He will give to each one as his work shall be." No other work is meant by the "work" for which heaven is given as a reward than work from the love or affection of good and truth, for from that must be every work with man from which is heaven. For a work derives its all from love or affection, just as the effect derives its all from the effecting cause, therefore such as the love or affection is, such is the work. Thence it may be clear what is meant by "the work according to which it shall be given to everyone," and what is meant by "the wages of work."

[4] Likewise in Isaiah:

I Jehovah love judgment, I will give the reward of their work in truth, and will make with them a covenant of eternity (Isaiah 61:8).

The "judgment that Jehovah loves" signifies truth in faith, in affection, and in act, for man has judgment from truth, both when he thinks and desires truth, and when he speaks truth and acts according to it; and as this is what is signified by "judgment," therefore it is said "I will give the reward of their work in truth," that is, heaven according to the faith of truth and the affection of it in act; and as from this is conjunction with the Lord, from whom reward comes, therefore it is added, "I will make with them a covenant of eternity," "covenant" signifying in the Word conjunction by love, and "a covenant of eternity" conjunction by the love of good and truth, for that love conjoins, since it is of the Lord Himself and proceeds from Him.

[5] That loving good and truth for the sake of good and truth is reward, for the reason that the Lord and heaven are in that love, can also be seen from the following passages. In Matthew:

Do not ye your alms before men; to be seen by them, for otherwise ye have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. When thou doest alms sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men; verily I say to you they have their reward. But thou, when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thine alms may be in secret; then thy Father who seeth in secret will reward thee openly. And when thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men; verily I say unto you, they have their reward; but when thou prayest enter into thy chamber, and shutting thy door pray to thy Father who is in secret; then thy Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:1-6).

"Alms" in the most general sense signifies every good that man wills and does, and "to pray" signifies in the same sense every truth that man thinks and speaks. Those who do these two things "to be seen," that is, that they may be manifest, do good and speak truth for the sake of self and the world, that is, for the sake of glory, which is the delight of self-love that the world affords. Because delight in glory is the reward of such it is said "they have their reward;" but this delight in glory, which in the world seems to them like heaven, is changed after death into hell. But those who do good and speak truth, not for the sake of self and the world but for the sake of good itself and truth itself, are meant by those who "do alms in secret," and who "pray in secret," for they act and pray from love or affection, thus from the Lord; this, therefore, is loving good and truth for the sake of good and truth; and of such it is said that "the Father in the heavens will reward them openly." Thus "reward" is to be in goods and truths from love or affection, which is the same as being in them from the Lord, since in these is heaven and every blessedness and happiness of heaven.

[6] In Luke:

When thou makest a dinner or a supper call not the rich, lest haply they should call thee in turn; and a recompense be made to thee; but call the poor; then shalt thou be blessed, for they have not wherewith to recompense thee; for it shall be recompensed thee in the resurrection of the dead (Luke 14:12-14).

"To make a dinner and a supper and to call to them" has a similar signification as giving to eat and drink, or bread and wine, namely, doing good to the neighbor, and teaching truth, and being thus consociated in love; so those who do this for the purpose of being recompensed do it not for the sake of good and truth, thus not from the Lord, but for the sake of self and the world, thus from hell; while those who do this not for the purpose of being recompensed, do it for its own sake, that is, for the sake of good and truth, and those who do it for the sake of good and truth do it from good and truth, thus from the Lord, from whom are good and truth with man. The heavenly blessedness that is in such deeds and thence from them is "reward" and is meant by "it shall be recompensed thee in the resurrection of the dead."

[7] In the same:

Rather love your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again; then shall your reward be much, and ye shall be sons of the Most High (Luke 6:35).

This has a similar signification as the previous passage, namely, that good is not to be done for the sake of recompense, that is, for the sake of self and the world, thus not for the sake of reputation, glory, honor, and gain, but for the Lord's sake, that is, for the sake of good itself and truth itself which are with such from the Lord, thus in which the Lord is. "To love enemies and do good to them" means here, in the nearest sense, to love the Gentiles and do good to them, which is to be done by teaching them truth and leading them by it to good; for the Jewish nation called their own people brethren and friends, but the Gentiles they called adversaries and enemies. "To lend" signifies to communicate goods and truths of doctrine from the Word; "to hope for nothing again" signifies, not for the sake of anything of self and of the world, but for the sake of good and truth; "then shall your reward be much" signifies that then they shall have heaven with its blessedness and delights; "and ye shall be sons of the Most High" signifies because they do these things not from self but from the Lord; for he who does good and teaches truth from the Lord is the Lord's son, but not he who does good from self, which is what everyone does who looks to honor and gain as his end.

[8] In Matthew:

He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold [water] only in the name of a disciple, he shall not lose his reward (Matthew 10:41, 42).

How these words of the Lord are to be understood no one can see except from their internal or spiritual sense; for who can know what is meant by "receiving a prophet's reward" and "a righteous man's reward," and by "receiving a prophet and a righteous man in the name of a prophet and a righteous man;" also what is meant by the "reward" that he will receive who "shall give to drink unto one of the little ones a cup of cold [water] only, in the name of a disciple"? Without the internal spiritual sense, who can see that these words mean that everyone shall receive heaven and its joy in the measure of his affection of truth and good, and in the measure of his obedience?

(References: Matthew 10:41-42)


[9] This meaning becomes evident when it is seen that "prophet" means the truth of doctrine, "righteous man" the good of love, and "disciple" the truth and good of the Word and of the church, and that "in their name" means for the sake of these, and according to their quality with those who do and teach them; also that "reward" means heaven, as has been said above, namely, that everyone has heaven in the measure of his affection of truth and good, and according to its quality and quantity; for on these affections all things of heaven are inscribed, since no one can have these affections except from the Lord, for it is the Divine proceeding from the Lord in which and from which is heaven.

[10] "To give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold [water] only in the name of a disciple" means to do good and teach truth from obedience, for "water" signifies the truth in affection, and "cold [water]" truth in obedience, for obedience alone is a natural, not a spiritual, affection, and is therefore comparatively cold; and a "disciple" in whose name or for whose sake it is "given to drink" signifies the truth and good of the Word and of the church. (That "a prophet" signifies the truth of doctrine can be seen above, n. 624); that "a righteous man" signifies the good of love, n. 204; that a "disciple" signifies the truth and good of the Word and of the church, n. 100, 122; and that "name" signifies the quality of a thing and 4 state, n. 102, 135, 148, 676.)

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 100, 102, 122, 135, The Apocalypse Explained 148, The Apocalypse Explained 204, The Apocalypse Explained 624, The Apocalypse Explained 676)


[11] In Mark:

Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name, because ye are Christ's, verily I say unto you he shall not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).

This also means that those shall receive the delight of heaven who from affection hear, receive, and teach the truth because truth and the affection of it are from the Lord, thus for the Lord's sake, and accordingly for the truth's sake, since "because ye are Christ's" signifies for the sake of Divine truth proceeding from the Lord. (That "Christ" means the Lord in regard to Divine truth, and thus Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, may be seen above , n. 684, 685.)

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 684-685)


[12] In Zechariah:

The foundation of the house of Jehovah of Hosts hath been laid, the temple, that it may be built; for before these days there was no reward of man, nor reward of beast, and to him that went out and to him that came in there was no peace from the adversary. Now the seed of peace, the vine shall give its fruit, and the land shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew (Zechariah 8:9, 10, 12).

This was said of the New Church to be established by the Lord when the old had been laid waste; the New Church that is to be established is signified by "the house of Jehovah of Hosts" whose foundations have been laid, and by "the temple" that was to be built, "the house of Jehovah" signifying the church in respect to good, and "the temple" the church in respect to truth (see above, n. 220. That before this, no one had any spiritual affection of truth and good or any natural affection of truth and good is signified by "before these days there was no reward of man, nor reward of beast;" "man" signifying the spiritual affection of truth, and "beast" the natural affection of good, and "reward" heaven, which those have who are in the affections of truth and good. (That "man" signifies the spiritual affection of truth, and consequent intelligence, may be seen above, n. 280, 546, 547; and that "beast" signifies the natural affection, n. 650.)

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 220, 280, The Apocalypse Explained 546-547, The Apocalypse Explained 650; Zechariah 8:9-10)


[13] "To him that went out and to him that came in there was no peace from the adversary" signifies that heretofore they had been infested by hell in every state of life; "to go out and come in" signifying the state of life from beginning to end, "there was no peace" signifying infestation by evils and falsities therefrom, and "adversary" signifying hell, the source of evils and falsities. "The seed of peace" signifies the truth of heaven and the church, which is from the Lord; this is called "the seed of peace" because it defends from the hells and gives security. "The vine shall give fruit and the land produce" signifies that the spiritual affection of truth shall bring forth the good of charity, and the natural affection of good and truth shall bring forth the works of charity; "vine" signifying the church in respect to the spiritual affection of truth, "land" the church in respect to the natural affection of truth, "fruit" the good of charity, and "produce" the works of that good. "The heavens shall give dew" signifies that these things are from influx through heaven from the Lord.

[14] In John:

Lift up your eyes and behold the fields, that they are white already for harvest; and he that reapeth receiveth reward and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together (John 4:35, 36).

This, too, is said of a New Church from the Lord. That it is at hand is signified by "the fields that are white already for harvest;" those of that church who are in the spiritual affection of truth, and thence in heaven, are meant by "he that reapeth receiveth reward and gathereth fruit unto life eternal;" and the Lord Himself, from whom is that affection of truth, and heaven, is meant by "he that soweth may rejoice together with him that reapeth."

(References: John 4:35-36)


[15] In Jeremiah:

Rachel weeping for her sons, she refuseth to be comforted for her sons because they are not. But refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for there is reward for thy labor, for they shall return from the land of the enemy; and there is hope for thy latter end, for thy sons shall return to their own border (Jeremiah 31:15-17; Matthew 2:18).

This refers to the infant boys put to death in Bethlehem by command of Herod, as is evident from the passage cited in Matthew; but what this signifies has not heretofore been known. The signification is that when the Lord came into the world there was no spiritual truth remaining; for "Rachel" represented the internal spiritual church, and "Leah" the external natural church, "Bethlehem" the spiritual, and "the boys put to death" truth from that origin. That there was no spiritual truth any longer remaining is signified by "Rachel weeping for her sons, she refuseth to be comforted for her sons, because they are not."

[16] That henceforth there will be no grief on that account, because the Lord has been born, from whom there will be a New Church that will be in truths from spiritual affection, is signified by "refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for there is reward for thy labor," "His reward" signifying heaven for those who will be of that church from the spiritual affection of truth, and "labor" signifying the Lord's combats against the hells and the subjugation of the hells that a New Church may be established. That the New Church will be established in the place of the one that perished is signified by "they shall return from the land of the enemy, and there is hope for the latter end," also by "thy sons shall return to their own border;" "to return from the land of the enemy" signifying to be brought out of hell; "hope for the latter end" signifying the end of the former church and the beginning of the new, and "the sons shall return to their own border" signifying that spiritual truths will exist with those who will be of that New Church.

[17] In Isaiah:

I said, I have labored in vain, I have consumed my strength in emptiness and vanity; yet surely my judgment is with Jehovah, and the reward of my work with my God (Isaiah 49:4).

This, again, is said of the establishment of the New Church by the Lord. That it could not be established with the Jewish nation, because truths could not be received by that nation with any spiritual affection, is meant by "I said, I have labored in vain, I have consumed my strength in emptiness and vanity;" that still a spiritual church is being provided by the Lord, namely, among the Gentiles, is signified by "my judgment is with Jehovah, and the reward of my work is with my God;" "reward" here signifying the church that is in the spiritual affection of truth; and "labor and work" signifying the Lord's combat against the hells and their subjugation, by which the Lord restored the equilibrium between heaven and hell, in which man is able to receive truth and to become spiritual. (On this equilibrium see in the work Heaven and Hell 589-603, and in the small work Last Judgment 33, 34, 73, 74.)

(References: The Last Judgment 33-34, 73-74)


[18] In David:

Behold, sons are a heritage of Jehovah, the fruit of the womb is a reward; as darts in the hand of the mighty so are the sons of youth; happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them, they shall not be ashamed when they shall speak with enemies in the gate (Psalms 127:3-5).

What is here signified by "sons," "fruit of the womb," "darts," "quiver," and "enemies in the gate," may be seen above n. 357; and that "reward" here also signifies the happiness that those have who are in heaven.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 357)


[19] In the Gospels:

Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say every evil word against you falsely for Christ's sake, rejoice and exult, for much is your reward in the heavens; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11, 12; Luke 6:22, 23).

This is said of those who fight and conquer in temptations induced by evils, that is, by hell; temptations are signified by "reviling," "persecuting," and "saying an evil word falsely for Christ's sake," for temptations are assaults and infestations of truth and good by falsities and evils; "Christ" means Divine truth from the Lord which is assaulted and on account of which they are infested. "Rejoice and exult, for much is your reward in the heavens," signifies heaven with its joy which those have who are in the spiritual affection of truth, for such only fight and conquer, since the Lord resists and conquers for the man in the combats of temptations, and He is in that affection; "for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you" signifies that previously the truths of doctrine with those who were in the spiritual affection of truth had in like manner been assaulted, for "prophets" in a sense abstracted from persons signify truths from the Word or from the Lord. From what has thus far been cited from the Word it can be seen that "reward" signifies heaven in respect to its blessedness, happiness, and delight, which those have who are in the spiritual affection of truth and good, and that the reward is that affection itself; for it is the same whether you say heaven or that affection, for heaven is in that affection and from it.

(References: Luke 6:22-23; Matthew 5:11-12)


[20] But those who speak truth and do good not from spiritual affection but from merely natural affection, and who think continually of heaven as a reward, were represented in the Israelitish church by "hired servants," respecting whom there were in that church many statutes, as:

That hired servants should not eat of the Passover (Exodus 12:43, 45);

That they should not eat of the holy things (Leviticus 22:10);

That the wages of a hired servant should not abide with anyone during the night until the morning (Leviticus 19:13);

That they should not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, either of thy brethren or of the sojourner that is in thy land and in thy gates; in his day thou shalt give him his hire, so that the sun may not go down upon it, lest he cry against thee unto Jehovah, and it be in thee a sin (Deuteronomy 24:14, 15).

In Malachi:

I will be against the oppressors of the hired servant in his wages, of the widow, and of the fatherless, and against them that turn aside the sojourner and fear not Me (Malachi 3:5);

and elsewhere. Hired servants were forbidden to eat of the Passover and of things sanctified because they represented those that are natural and not spiritual, and the spiritual are of the church, but not so the natural. To look to heaven as a reward on account of the good that is done is natural, for the natural considers good to be from itself, thus heaven to be a reward; and this makes good meritorious. But it is otherwise with the spiritual, which acknowledges good as being not from itself but from the Lord, and thus heaven to be not from any merit but from mercy. Nevertheless, as those signified by "hired servants" still do good, although not from a spiritual affection but from a natural affection, which is obedience, and then think of heaven as a reward, they are mentioned with the "poor," the "needy," the "sojourners," the "fatherless," and the "widows," because they are in spiritual poverty; for genuine truths are obscure to them, because light from heaven does not flow in through their spiritual man into the natural; this is why they are classed with those mentioned above, and it is commanded that "their reward shall be given them before the going down of the sun. " Moreover, such are in the lowest regions of the heavens, where they are servants, and are rewarded according to their works (see many things further in the New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, n. 150-158).

(References: Deuteronomy 24:14-15)


[21] But hired servants who do not think of reward in heaven but of reward in the world, thus who do good for the sake of gain, whether it be honors or wealth, thus who do good from the love of honor or wealth, thus, for the sake of self and the world, are infernal-natural. Such "hired servants" are meant in John:

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd layeth down his soul for the sheep. But a hired servant seeth the wolf and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, because he is a hired servant (John 10:11-13).

And in Jeremiah:

A very fair she-calf is Egypt; destruction cometh out of the north; her hired servants are like fattened calves, for they also are turned, they flee together, they stood not, for the day of their calamity is come upon them (Jeremiah 46:20, 21);

and elsewhere (Isaiah 16:14; 21:16).

(References: Jeremiah 46:20-21)


[22] Because in the Word "reward" signifies heaven, which those have who are in the spiritual love of truth and good, so in the contrary sense "reward" signifies hell, which those have who are in the love of falsity and evil. Such is the signification of "reward" in David:

He shall clothe himself with cursing as with his garment and it entereth into the midst of him as waters, and as oil among his bones. This is the reward of mine adversaries from Jehovah, and of them that speak evil against my soul (Psalms 109:18, 20).

By this in the spiritual sense the Lord is meant, for where David speaks of himself in the Psalms, in that sense the Lord is meant, David as a king representing the Lord, and thus signifying Him in relation to the Divine-spiritual, which is the Lord's royalty. "The reward of the Lord's adversaries, and of them that speak evil against His soul," is described as a hell from the love of falsity and evil, by this, that "he shall clothe himself with cursing as with his garment" and "it hath entered into the midst of him as waters, and as oil among his bones," these two expressions describing hell as received in externals and in internals, "to clothe himself with cursing as with a garment" describing the hell that is received in externals, and "cursing entering into the midst of him as waters, and as oil among his bones," describing the hell that is received in internals. It is said "as waters," and "as oil," because "waters" signify the falsities of faith, and "oil" the evils of the love, so the two expressions mean the love or affection of falsity and evil, which is hell, as can be seen also from this, that love imbibes all things that are in harmony with it, just as a sponge imbibes water and oil; for the love of evil is nourished by falsities, and the love of falsity is nourished by evils, and love being such, it is said that "cursing enters into the midst of him as waters, and as oil among his bones."

[23] Since in the contrary sense "reward" signifies hell in respect to the affection of falsity from evil, therefore the falsification of truth is here and there called in the Word "the reward of whoredom." As in Hosea:

Be not glad, O Israel, unto exultation like the nations, 5 for thou hast committed whoredom from under thy God; thou hast loved the reward of whoredom upon all corn-floors; the floor and the wine-vat shall not feed them 6 (Hosea 9:1, 2).

"To commit whoredom from under God" signifies to falsify the truths of the Word, and to apply the holy things of the church to idolatries; "to love the reward of whoredom" signifies the delight of falsifying and of falsity and of idolatry from infernal love; "upon all corn-floors" signifies all things of the Word and of doctrine from the Word, for "corn," of which bread is made, signifies all things that nourish spiritually, and "floor" signifies where these are gathered together, that is, the Word; "the floor and the wine-vat shall not feed them" signifies not to draw from the Word the good things of charity and love, that is, the things that will nourish the soul, for the "floor" here means the Word in respect to the goods of charity and the "wine-vat" the Word in respect to goods of love, the "vat" here meaning oil, for which as well as for wine there were vats; "and the new wine shall dissemble unto her" signifies that neither shall there be any truth of good; for "new wine," the same as "wine," signifies truth from the good of charity and love.

(References: Hosea 9:1-2)


[24] In Micah:

All the graven images of Samaria shall be beaten in pieces, and all the rewards of her whoredom shall be burned up with fire, and all their idols will I lay waste; for she hath brought them together from the reward of whoredom, therefore to the reward of whoredom shall they return; for this I will lament and howl, I will go stripped and naked (Micah 1:7, 8).

"Samaria" means the spiritual church in respect to the truths of doctrine, here in respect to the falsities of doctrine; for their "graven images" signify things falsified, which are from self-intelligence; "the rewards of her whoredom that shall be burned up with fire" signify the falsifications of truth from a love of falsity from evil and the consequent infernal delight; and as that love is from hell it is said that "they shall be burned up with fire," "fire" signifying love in both senses; "and all their idols will I lay waste" signifies the falsities that must be destroyed; "for she hath brought them together from the reward of whoredom" signifies from the love of falsity that is from evil and from the consequent infernal delight; "therefore to the reward of whoredom shall they return" signifies that all things of that church will be truths falsified, because they are thence; "for this I will lament and howl" signifies the grief of the angels of heaven and of the men of the church in whom the church is, and thus with them with whom the Lord is; "I will go stripped and naked" signifies mourning because of the vastation of all truth and good. That "graven images" and "idols" signify doctrinals from self-intelligence favoring the loves of self and of the world and the principles derived therefrom, thus the falsities of doctrine, of religion, and of worship, may be seen above (n. 587, 654).

(References: Micah 1:7-8; The Apocalypse Explained 587, The Apocalypse Explained 654)


[25] In Ezekiel:

Thou hast built thy eminent place at the head of every way, and thy exalted place in every street; and hast not been as a harlot to glory in reward; the adulterous woman received strangers instead of her husband; they give reward to all harlots, but thou hast given thy rewards to all thy lovers, and hast given them presents that they might come unto thee from every side in thy whoredoms. Thus the contrary is in thee from women in thy whoredoms, that they went not after thee to commit whoredom in giving a reward, and no reward has been given to thee, therefore thou hast been contrary (Ezekiel 16:31-34).

This chapter treats of the abominations of Jerusalem, that is, of the abominable things of the Jewish Church, in that it not only perverted and adulterated the goods of the Word, but also received falsities of religion and of worship from the idolatrous nations, and thereby adulterated the truths and goods of the Word, and confirmed these adulterations. What "building an eminent place at the head of every way, and making an exalted place in every street" signifies may be seen above n. 652. That "adulteries and whoredoms" signify in the Word the adulterations and falsifications of the truth and good of the church may be seen above (n. 141, 511); therefore "not to have been as a harlot to glory in reward" signifies not to have so falsified the truths of the Word from the delight of affection; "the adulterous woman received strangers instead of her husband" signifies the truths and goods of the Word perverted by the falsities of other nations; "they give reward to all harlots, but thou hast given thy rewards to all thy lovers and hast given them presents," signifies that they loved the falsities of religion and of the worship of other nations; a "reward or gift of whoredom" meaning the love of falsifying by means of the falsities of others; "that they might come unto thee from every side in thy whoredoms" signifies that falsities were searched for from every direction, whereby truth was falsified; "thus the contrary is in thee from women in thy whoredoms, that they went not after thee to commit whoredom in giving a reward, and no reward has been given to thee, therefore thou hast been contrary," signifies the delight of the love and affection of falsifying the truths of their church by the falsities of other religions, and of confirming such falsities, "the reward or gift of whoredoms" meaning the delight of the love and affection towards the falsities of other religions.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 141, The Apocalypse Explained 511, The Apocalypse Explained 652)


[26] From that which has been stated, what is meant spiritually by "reward" in both senses can now be seen; for that which affects with delight and joy is spiritual reward. For example, there are riches, possessions, honors, and gifts, by which a man is rewarded for well-doing; these are not "reward," spiritually understood, but the delights and joys which spring from these; much more is this true of the heavenly reward that the man of the church who lives well will have, which is the spiritual affection of truth, and intelligence and wisdom therefrom, which is the source of blessedness and happiness. Moreover, in heaven there is opulence and magnificence which results from the heavenly love as its correspondent, but yet in heaven it is not opulence and magnificence that are regarded as reward, but the spiritual from which they are. This, too, is what is meant by "the price of a work," and by "reward," which is in the Lord and from the Lord (Isaiah 40:10; 61:8; 62:11; Luke 6:35; 14:12-14; and elsewhere).

Footnotes:

1. Swedenborg in the heading corrected "His" into "Thy," but left it uncorrected immediately below and in 695.

2. The Hebrew has "beore," as found below in the explanation, and also in Arcana Coelestia 1793.

3. The Latin has "is" for "and."

4. The Latin has "For if" for "For so."

5. The Hebrew has "peoples."

6. The photolithograph omits "And the new wine shall dissemble unto her," but explains it in the text.

(References: Revelation 11:18)

  
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