Commentary

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles

By Joe David

The Last Supper, an 1896 work by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret.

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles

The Lord left his apostles with instructions and with great gifts. The instructions are listed in several distinct places, but the the gifts are more scattered, both in the four gospels and in the book of Acts later, being given as the apostles needed them.

First, about the apostles... just to clarify, here I'm referring to "the disciples" as including anyone who has followed along to hear the Lord, and "the apostles" to mean the twelve men that the Lord recruited specifically, as listed in Matthew 10, Mark 3, and Luke 6.

Who were the apostles? From the lists in Matthew and Mark, which are the same, we have: Simon (Peter), James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew (Peter’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew (the publican), Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, (as is Matthew, so they are brothers, too), Thaddeus, (also known as Libbeus), Simon the Canaanite (also called Simon the Zealot), and Judas Iscariot. Bartholomew is almost undoubtedly another name for Nathaniel, see John 1. The list in Luke includes another Judas, "Judas the brother of James" and doesn’t have Thaddeus.

The stories of how they were individually chosen differ, especially in the gospel of John, but that these twelve were appointed by the Lord is clear. A point of interest is that - other than Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot they are all from towns around the sea of Galilee - and perhaps those two are as well. These twelve have their names inscribed on the twelve foundations of the walls of the holy city New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:14 in which there are also the twelve gates. These men were chosen to represent all the different states of the natural human being that can be receptive of the Lord. They are from Galilee because Galilee represents that natural state of the human mind. The number twelve in the Word represents all possible states of mankind.

What is indicated here is that all people, everywhere, can be saved or regenerated if they repent and turn to the Lord in their lives. No one is "outside" of His reach. We are born natural, everyone is, but we are so formed that our minds can be raised to what is higher, called spiritual for our conceptions of Divine truth, or Celestial for our perceptions of Divine good. But we all start in a natural state and can only move upward by listening to the Lord’s teachings in His Word, and following Him as those Apostles did.

Not all of our natural states are states of good; they can be selfish, domineering, and cruel. But the Lord said that He came "not to save the just but to call sinners to repentance". Perhaps this is why Simon the Canaanite and Judas were two that He called. Simon is little known, but in some places in the Word, "Canaan signifies an external worship without a true internal worship". (See Arcana Coelestia 1060). Can the Lord work with that - with external worship that's internally barren? Yes, as a starting point. And, even Judas, who betrayed the Lord so terribly, we are told, repented of his betrayal of the Lord. (Matthew 27:3-5)

The Lord's Instructions to the Apostles

The two most comprehensive sets of instructions are in Luke 10:1-17 where seventy Disciples are sent out two by two, apparently to a specified list of cities that Jesus intends to visit, and then in Matthew 20:1-19 where the chosen twelve Apostles are sent out to all Israel. Later, as recorded in different epistles, the Apostles go out further, through a wide region.

The basic instructions were to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near, that all should be led to repent of their sins, and that all who wish should be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles should not take any money or extra clothing along, and they were to depend entirely on the Lord’s providence with no doubt that they shall be welcomed, fed, and sheltered. If they were welcomed, they should stay and preach the good news about the risen Lord and His teachings, and if they were not, they should shake from their feet the dust of that place and go on to a place where they were welcome. See Matthew 10, 28, Mark 13, 16, Luke 9, 10:24.

There are several assurances for the twelve. The Lord has told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit is sent to strengthen them, and in John 20 where the ten are gathered it is said that He breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit". Also, in his long talk with them in John 14, 15, 16) He assures them that his crucifixion and death are necessary to his mission and they should even rejoice that it is coming. He shows them from scripture that it has all been prophesied from long ago, (see Mark 4:34) and that what seems to them a tragedy, is truly His glorification and the end of the work He came to do. They, His twelve, are in the same steam of providence and will be protected. "Don’t be anxious," He tells them, "I will put into your mouths what you are to say, I will bring into your memories the incidents to tell to the people".

Here is a listing of the chapters and verses in John where such things are said: John 14:1-3, 10, 16-18, 26-28, 15:11, 16, 26-27, 16:7, 13-15, 22, 26-27, 33. Or simply read the three chapters and pick out your favorites.

A marvelous gift is mentioned in Matthew 10:13, "But blessed are your eyes for they see and blessed are your ears, for they hear…".

In the book of Acts, the Lord vividly shows the apostles that when they speak in their Galileen dialect every listener will hear their words as his own language in his ears; not gibberish, but Arabic to the Arabs, Greek to the Greeks, and Latin to the Romans.

When Peter starts to preach to a gathering of sympathetic Jews he speaks clearly and unafraid, saying that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and that people should worship Him openly and repent of how they might have felt earlier. Peter’s talk in Acts 3 and 4 is a bold and powerful one. No more hiding behind locked doors.

The early history of the Christian church shows just how well all this worked out. You know what? The Apostles preached to the peoples in the Near East 2000 years ago, and their preaching is just as relevant today as it was then: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Being at hand has nothing to do with the date or the state of political history in the world, it has to do with the inside of your mind. The Lord is just as close to you now as He was then, and He never turns away, though we might turn away from him. Remember that He said "behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears and opens the door He will come right in." This hasn’t changed nor will it ever change, but He leaves us in freedom to ignore His knocking, if that is what we want. We have to make the choice, but He is always ready if we choose to open the door.

The Bible

Revelation 21:14

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

← Revelation 21:13    Full Chapter    Revelation 21:15 →

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Apocalypse Revealed 902, 903


Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 648, 3272, 3858, 6419, 9643, 10132

Apocalypse Revealed 79, 876, 915

Sacred Scripture 43

True Christian Religion 217

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 1


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 39, 100, 257, 430, 431

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


Word/Phrase Explanations

Wall
In Lamentations 2:8-9, 'wall,' 'rampart,' 'gates,' and 'bars' signify doctrines.

City
In the ancient world cities were very nearly nations unto themselves – they existed within walls, with their own laws and customs, generally centered on...

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

Foundations
The foundations of a wall signify the knowledges of truth, whereupon doctrinals are founded.

names
It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

Lamb
'A lamb' signifies the good of the innocence of infancy. 'A lamb' signifies the Lord regarding His divine humanity. The lamb,' as in Revelation 8:11,...

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.


 All Things New
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 A “Most Precious” Revelation
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 A New Heaven and a New Earth
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Angel Shows John the Holy Jerusalem
Color picture of Revelation 21:2
Picture | Ages up to 14

 Cut-Out Model of Holy City
This is a lovely model of the city designed by Leon Rhodes which could be suspended in the air. 
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 He Showed Me That Great City
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Holy City Candle Holder
Color a picture of the holy city to place in front of a candle or in a window. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 How Big Is the Holy City?
Looking at the mathematical dimensions of the Holy City, New Jerusalem makes it clear that the dimensions are spiritual rather than natural.
Activity | Ages 7 - 17

 I Saw a New Heaven (sheet music)
Song | Ages 4 - 14

 John Seeing the Holy City Diorama
Use pipe cleaners and a shoebox to make this diorama of John seeing the Holy City.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 John Sees the Holy City
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 John’s Vision on the Isle of Patmos
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Leaves for Healing of the Nations
Activity | Ages over 15

 Make a Golden Word Cover or Mat
Make a golden covering or mat for the Lord's Word. Let it remind you of how much the Lord loves you and wants to help you see and understand the truths of the Word in all their beauty.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Make Your Own Picture of a Beautiful Bride
When seen as a bride, the Holy City symbolizes our loving response to the Lord and the truths which He gives us. This project invites you to picture a beautiful bride!
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Making All Things New
As we develop a clearer understanding of the Lord's Word, we will be able to make better use of His wondrous truths to renew our lives. Is there a teaching about the Lord, eternal life, marriage, the spiritual meaning of the Word, or true love of the neighbor that could help you reinvigorate some aspect of your life?
Activity | Ages over 15

 Memory Verse: The Holy City
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: The Tree of Life and the Crystal River
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 New Church Day
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 New Church Day: A New Revelation
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

 New Church Day: Something New
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

 New Jerusalem and Its Precious Stones
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Open the Pearl Gate and See an Angel
This project illustrates the concept that each gate of the city is made of a single pearl and guarded by an angel. 
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Overview of Five Parables of Heaven Levels A, B, C Ages 3-14
Overview of the Youth Journey Program Five Parables of Heaven featuring the parables of the Sower, Pearl of Great Price, Wise and Foolish Virgins, Workers in the Vineyard and The Great Supper. For ages 3-14, Levels A, B and C.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 14

 Prepared as a Bride
If the marriage of the Lamb is to come, we much know the Lord as one God.
Worship Talk | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Holy City
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Tree of Life and the Crystal River
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Representation: City Prepared as a Bride
Use a doll and beautiful white fabrics to set up a representation of the holy city as a bride.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Revealed Out of Heaven
Lesson and activities looking at the history of revelation, and the new teachings from the Lord in Heavenly Doctrine.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 Teaching the Way to Heaven
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Beauty of the New Church
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Coming of the New Church
Prophecies helped prepare people for the Lord’s birth on earth, and prophecies would also help prepare the way for His second coming. The Lord called His disciple, John, to serve as a revelator, opening his spiritual eyes and telling him: “Write the things which you have seen...and the things which will take place after this” (Revelation 1:17-19). Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 6, for ages 11-12.
Religion Lesson | Ages 11 - 12

 The Gates of the City
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Golden Street
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Great City the Holy Jerusalem
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Holy City
Color picture of the Holy City, New Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God.
Picture | Ages up to 14

 The Holy City
The Holy City in Revelation is a picture of what our lives can be like when we live in the radiant light of the three-fold Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Holy City 1
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 Holy City 2
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 Holy City (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

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

 The Holy City (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Holy City Crossword Puzzle
This crossword puzzle about the Holy City gives clues and helpful Bible references to find the answers.
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 The Holy City Descending
What John saw on the isle of Patmos was a vision foretelling the establishment of a new church.
Worship Talk | Ages over 15

 The Holy City New Jerusalem
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

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

 The Holy City, New Jerusalem
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Holy City Prepared As a Bride
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Judgment and the Holy City
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 Judgment and the Holy City
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Judgment and the Holy City (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Judgment and the Holy City (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Judgment and the Holy City (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Lord Jesus Christ Reigns
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Meaning of the Tree of Life
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The New Jerusalem Descends
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Tree of Life (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Tree of Life (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Tree of Life (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 Twelve Gates, Twelve Truths
List 12 pearls of truth that could interest someone into the New Church.
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Walled Model of the Holy City
This project was designed by Kent Cooper and includes the surrounding wall with its 12 pearl gates and the golden city inside. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Why a “New Church”?
Article | Ages 15 - 17

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #100

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

Study this Passage

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100. And hath explored them that say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. That this signifies falsities also so far as they can be searched out, is evident from the signification of exploring, as being to inquire into and search out; and from the signification of apostles, as being those who teach the truths of the church, and, apart from persons, the truths themselves that are taught (concerning which we shall speak in what follows); and from the signification of not being apostles and being found liars, as being not truths but falsities; for a lie and liar signify what is false (see Arcana Coelestia, n. 8908, 9248). From these and the preceding considerations it is evident, that by these words: "I know that thou canst not bear them that are evil, and hast explored them that say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars," is signified, that they reject evils, and also falsities, so far as they can be searched out. For in the things written to this church, those are treated of who are in the knowledges (cognitiones) of truth and good, thus in the knowledges (cognitiones) of such things as pertain to heaven and the church (as may be seen above, n. 93); therefore it is here first said concerning them, that they reject evils, and falsities also so far as they can be searched out; for it concerns those who are in the knowledges (cognitiones) of the holy things of the church, first to know in general what good and truth are, and also what evil and falsity; for upon this knowledge (cognitio) all other knowledges (cognitiones) are founded. (For this reason The Doctrine Of the New Jerusalem first of all treats concerning good and truth, n. 11-27, from which also it is clear what evil and falsity are.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 8908, Arcana Coelestia 9248; Revelation 2:2; The Apocalypse Explained 93; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 11-27)


[2] The reason why by apostles are signified those who teach the truths of the church is, that they are called apostles from the fact of their being sent to teach and to preach concerning the Lord and concerning, the bringing near of the kingdom of God by Him; thus the truths of the church, by which the Lord is known and the kingdom of God is brought near: the kingdom of God on earth is the church. It is therefore evident that by apostles, in the spiritual sense of the Word, are meant not the twelve apostles who were sent by the Lord to teach concerning Himself and His kingdom, but all those who are in the truth of the church, and, apart from persons, those truths in themselves. For in the Word it is customary to speak of persons; but those who are in its spiritual sense, as the are, think not at all of persons, but apart from them, therefore of things only. The reason of this also is, that it is material to think of persons, but spiritual to think without the idea of a person; as, for instance, wherever the disciples are named in the Word, and prophets, priests, kings, Jews, Israel, inhabitants of Zion and of Jerusalem, and so on.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 768, 1224, 1264, 1876, 1888, Arcana Coelestia 4310, 4442, 5095, 5225, Arcana Coelestia 6516, 8343, Arcana Coelestia 8985, 9007, Arcana Coelestia 10216, 10282, 10329, 10432)


[3] (The very names of persons and places are also changed into things with the angels, as may be seen, Arcana Coelestia, n. 768, 1224, 1264, 1876, 1888, 4310, 4442, 5225, 5095, 6516, 10,216, 10,282, 10,329, 10,432; and that the angels think apart from persons, n. 8343, 8985, 9007.) That the Lord's disciples were called apostles from the fact of their being sent to teach concerning Him and His kingdom, is clear in Luke:

Jesus sent His twelve disciples to preach the kingdom of God: and the apostles, when they returned, told him all that they had done; and He spake unto them of the kingdom of God (ix. 1, 2, 10, 11).

In the same:

"When it was day, Jesus called unto him his disciples; and of them be chose twelve, whom also he named apostles" (vi. 13).

In the same:

"I will send unto them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute" (xi. 49).

They are called prophets and apostles, because by prophets, just as by apostles, are meant those who are sent to teach truths; but by prophets those who are in the Old Testament, and by apostles those who are in the New. (That prophets, in the Word, signify those who teach truths, and, apart from persons, the truths themselves, may be seen, Arcana Coelestia, n. 2534.) Because the twelve apostles signify the truths themselves of the church, therefore it is said, in the Apocalypse:

"The wall" of the New Jerusalem "had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (xxi. 14).

(That by the New Jerusalem is meant the church as to doctrine, may be seen in the small work, The New Jerusalem and its Doctrine, n. 6: that by its wall are signified truths of doctrine for defence, see in the Arcana Coelestia, n. 6411); that by the foundations of the wall are signified the knowledges (cognitiones) of truth, upon which doctrine is founded, n. 9643; that by twelve are signified all truths in the aggregate, n. 577, 2089, 2129, 2130, 3272, 3858, 3913: hence it is clear why it is said that in the foundations of the wall were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 577, Arcana Coelestia 2089, 2129-2130, 2534, 3272, 3858, 3913, Arcana Coelestia 6419, Arcana Coelestia 9643; Luke 6:13, 9:1-2, 9:10-11, 11:49; Revelation 2:2, 21:14; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 6)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 94, 122, 204, 277, 325, 333, 472, 629, 695, 1179

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.


 Answering the Call to Discipleship
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Discipleship at Easter
The final events in Jesus' life unfolded quickly. The disciples responded to the changes in different ways. The twelve disciples picture qualities in us that follow the Lord. How do we respond when our faith is challenged?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Follow Me
Worship Talk | Ages over 18


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


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