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 #431

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

Study this Passage

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431. We have so far shown that twelve signifies all things, and that it is used of truths from good; we shall now show that the twelve tribes signify all things of the church, and each tribe some universal and essential of the church. As a representative church was to be established with the sons of Jacob, it was therefore provided by the Lord that his sons should be twelve in number, and that significative names should be given to them, in order that the twelve tribes descended from them, and distinguished by the same names, might signify everything pertaining to that church which they represented, and each tribe some universal and essential of it. What therefore each tribe signified and represented will be explained in what follows. And because all things of the church have reference to truths from good, therefore also the twelve tribes signify truths from good in their whole extent. The reason why they were called tribes was, that the two words used in the original or Hebrew tongue to express tribes, signify a sceptre, and a staff, and by a sceptre is signified the Divine Truth as to sovereignty, and by a staff, the Divine Truth as to power.

(References: Numbers 1:5-15; Revelation 7:4)


[2] In consequence of this derivation and signification, it was commanded, when the people were murmuring against Moses and Aaron, on account of their authority and power over them, that the princes of all the tribes should place their staves in the tabernacle of the congregation, and in the midst of them the staff of Levi upon which the name of Aaron was written, and which yielded almonds (Num. xvii. 3-8). Staves, as was said, have the same signification as tribes, and by the staff of Levi, on which the name of Aaron was written, is signified the same as by the tribe of Levi and as by Aaron as the high-priest, namely the good of charity towards the neighbour and the good of love to the Lord. The tribe of Levi signifies the good of charity, and Aaron the priest, the good of love; therefore that staff was placed in the midst, and yielded almonds. To be placed in the midst signifies that all things are thence (see above, n. 313), and almonds signify the goods of life.

(References: Numbers 17:2-8, Numbers 17:3-8; The Apocalypse Explained 313)


[3] Because the twelve tribes signified all things of the church, or truths from good in their whole extent, therefore the breastplate of Aaron, called the Urim and Thummim, was composed of twelve precious stones, on which were the names of the twelve tribes, or the twelve sons of Israel (Exod. xxviii. 15-30; xxxix. 8-21, 29). It is well known that responses from heaven were given by means of it, but the origin of this has not yet been revealed; it shall therefore be stated. All light in the angelic heaven proceeds from the Lord as the Sun, consequently that light in its essence is Divine Truth, and it is the source of all the intelligence and wisdom of angels, and also of men, in things spiritual. This light in heaven is modified into various colours, according to the truths from good that are received. For this reason colours in the Word from correspondence signify truths from good; therefore also responses were given by means of a brilliant lustre from the colours of the stones which were in the Urim and Thummim, and at the same time either by a living voice, or by a tacit perception corresponding to that brilliant lustre. It is therefore evident, that the twelve tribes, whose names were engraved, have a similar signification. But see what has been stated and shown upon this subject in the Arcana Coelestia, namely, that colours in heaven are from the light there, and that they are modifications and variations of it according to reception (n. 1042, 1043, 1053, 1624, 3993, 4530, 4742, 4922); thus, that they are appearances of truth from good, and signify such things as relate to intelligence and wisdom (n. 4530, 4677, 4922, 9466). That colours, in proportion as they arise from red, signify good, and in proportion as they are from white, truth (n. 9476). That in general stones signify truths (n. 643, 1298, 3720, 6426, 8609, 10,376). That precious stones signify truths from good, thus, that twelve precious stones signify all truths from good in heaven and in the church (n. 9863, 9865, 9868, 9873, 9905). That the breast-plate of judgment which was upon the ephod, and was called the Urim and Thummim, signifies in general truths shining forth from Divine Good (n. 9823). That Urim denotes fire shining, and Thummim brilliant lustre, in the angelic tongue, but in the Hebrew tongue integrity (n. 9905). That, therefore, the Urim and Thummim from correspondence signify the brilliancy of Divine Truth from Divine Good in ultimates (n. 9905). That responses were thence given by the variations of light from the precious stones, and at the same time either by a living voice or by tacit perception (n. 3862). That the names of the twelve tribes were engraved thereon, because they signified all the Divine truths of heaven and the church (n. 3858, 6335, 6640, 9863, 9865, 9873, 9874, 9905); besides further particulars (n. 9863, 9864, 9866, 9891, 9895).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 643, 1042-1043, 1053, 1298, 1624, 3720, 3858, 3862, Arcana Coelestia 3993, 4530, Arcana Coelestia 4742, 4922, Arcana Coelestia 6335, Arcana Coelestia 6426, 6640, Arcana Coelestia 8609, 9467, 9823, Arcana Coelestia 9863-9864, 9863, 9865, 9868, 9873, 9873-9874, 9891, 9895, 9905, Arcana Coelestia 10376; Exodus 28:15-30, Exodus 39:8-21, 39:29)


[4] Since in truths from good, or in good by means of truths there is all power, therefore the names of the twelve tribes were also engraved upon the two onyx stones six upon each, and they were placed upon the two shoulders of the ephod worn by Aaron (Exod. xxviii. 9-14; xxxix. 6, 7). By this the power of Divine Truth from Divine Good was signified and so the power which those possess, who receive Divine Truth in the good of love. For by the onyx stones, truths from the good of love were signified; the shoulders, signified power, and the twelve tribes all who are in truths from good. That there is all power in Divine Truth from Divine Good, and that those who receive it, possess that power, may be seen above (n. 209, 333); and in Heaven and Hell (n. 228-233). That shoulders signify power of every kind, see Arcana Coelestia (n. 4931-4937, 9836).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4931-4937, Arcana Coelestia 9836; Exodus 28:9-14, Exodus 39:6-7; Heaven and Hell 228-233; The Apocalypse Explained 209, The Apocalypse Explained 333)


[5] That tribes signify all things of the church is evident from the following passages.

In Matthew:

"Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and glory" (xxiv. 30).

And in the Apocalypse:

"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall wail because of Him" (i. 7).

These words signify, that at the end of the church the Lord will reveal Himself in the Word by means of the internal sense, that all who are in truths from good will acknowledge Him, and that also those who are in falsities from evil will see Him (see above, n. 37-39). By all the tribes of the earth wailing, is signified that all truths from good will perish, and that falsities from evil will take their place, the tribes of the earth denoting all who are of the church, and also all things of the church.

(References: Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7; The Apocalypse Explained 37-39)


[6] In Matthew:

"Jesus said" to His disciples, "Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (xix. 28).

And in Luke:

"Ye shall eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (xxii. 30).

These words cannot be understood unless the meaning of apostles, thrones, and the tribes of Israel be known from the spiritual sense. Who cannot see that the apostles are not to be judges, but the Lord alone? For every man is judged according to his life, and no one knows the lives of all men, but the Lord alone, and the apostles did not know the life even of one. But the twelve apostles in the spiritual sense, signify all truths from good, sitting upon thrones signifies judgment, and the twelve tribes of Israel signify all who are of the church. These words therefore signify that the Lord will judge everyone from Divine Truth, and according to its reception in good.

(References: Luke 22:30; Matthew 19:28)


[7] This signification of the apostles, and of the tribes of Israel, is very clear from these words in the Apocalypse.

The new Jerusalem "had a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and above the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. And the wall had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (xxi. 12, 14).

The New Jerusalem, does not mean any new Jerusalem, neither do its wall and gates mean a wall and gates, nor do the twelve tribes and apostles mean twelve tribes and apostles. That things entirely different are signified by each expression, is evident from this fact alone, that the New Jerusalem means a church new in doctrine; therefore angels, tribes, and apostles, signify such things as belong to that new church, all of which have reference to truth and good, and their conjunction, consequently to truths from good. But these things may be seen explained in the following pages; they are also concisely set forth in the work on The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem.

(References: Revelation 21:12, 21:14; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 1)


[8] In David:

"Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together; whither the tribes go up, the tribes of Jah, the testimony of Israel, to confess to the name of Jehovah" (Psalm cxxii. 3, 4).

Here also, by Jerusalem is signified the church as to doctrine, which is said to be built as a city that is compact together, when all its doctrines agree and harmonize one with another, and when they mutually point to the Lord and to love towards Him from Him, as their beginning and their end. It is said to be built as a city, because a city signifies doctrine. The truths of doctrine which point to the Lord are signified by the tribes, the tribes of Jah, for tribes signify truths, and the tribes of Jah, truths from good, and these are from the Lord; worship therefrom is signified by confessing to the name of Jehovah.

(References: Psalms 122:3-4)


[9] Since Israel signifies the church which is in truths from good, therefore in the Word Israel is called "the tribes of the inheritance" (Isaiah lxiii. 17; Jer. x. 16; li. 19; Psalm lxxiv. 2). And because Egypt signifies scientific truths in the natural man, upon which truths from good are founded, these being the truths of the spiritual man, therefore Egypt is called "the corner-stone of the tribes" (Isaiah xix. 13); the corner-stone signifies the foundation (as may be seen above, n. 417:12). And since by the land of Canaan is signified the church, and by the twelve tribes all things of the church, and by each tribe something which is a universal and an essential of the church, therefore that land was divided amongst the tribes (Num. xxvi. 5-56; xxxiv. 17-28; Joshua xv. seq.). This is also clear from what is said in Ezekiel, where a new earth is the subject, by which is signified a new church to be established by the Lord; how it will be distributed for an inheritance, according to the twelve tribes of Israel, is foretold and described (xlvii. 13, 20); and these tribes are also recounted by name (xlviii. 1 to end). That it is not meant that the twelve tribes of Israel should inherit the earth, nor that any tribe there named should do so, is very evident; for eleven of the tribes were dispersed, and everywhere intermingled with the Gentiles and yet the particular quarter of the earth that should be inherited by Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Isaachar, Zebulun, and Gad is stated. From this it is plain, that by the earth or land is there meant the church; by the twelve tribes are meant all things of the church, and by each of the tribes is signified some universal and essential of the church.

The case is similar with the twelve tribes named in this chapter of the Apocalypse, where it is said that twelve thousand were sealed and saved out of every tribe. That by twelve thousand are there signified all persons and all things may be seen in the preceding article; but what universal essential of the church is signified by each tribe will be hereafter explained.

(References: Ezekiel 47:13, 47:13-20, 47:20, 48; Isaiah 19:13, 63:17; Jeremiah 10:16, 51:19; Joshua 15:1; Numbers 26:5-56, 34:17-28; Psalms 74:2; The Apocalypse Explained 417)


[10] An almost similar statement is made in Moses concerning the church among the ancients, which existed before the Israelitish church.

"Remember the days of eternity, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of men, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel" (Deut. xxxii. 7, 8).

These things are said concerning the churches which preceded the church instituted among the sons of Israel, concerning which see the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem (n. 247). The Most Ancient Church which existed before the flood, and which was a celestial church, or a church in the good of love to the Lord, is meant by the days of eternity, when the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of men; for nations signify those who are in the good of love, see above (n. 331), and the sons of men, those who are in truths from good, see also above (n. 63, 151). The Ancient Church, which existed after the flood, and was a spiritual church, is meant by the years of many generations, when the Most High set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel; for peoples signify those who are in spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbour, see above (n. 331); and the number of the sons of Israel signifies the same as the twelve tribes, according to which the inheritances were distributed, as above in Ezekiel.

(References: Deuteronomy 32:7-8; The Apocalypse Explained 63, 151, The Apocalypse Explained 331; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 247)


[11] Two interior truths concerning the twelve tribes must here be noted. (i) That their arrangement represented the arrangement of the angelic societies in the heavens; and that therefore they represented all things of the church, for heaven and the church act as one. (ii) That the representation of heaven and of the church is determined according to the order in which they are named; and that the first name, or first tribe, is the index that determines those things that follow and consequently the things of heaven and of the church with variety.

(i) That the arrangement of the twelve tribes of Israel represented the arrangement of the angelic societies in the heavens, and consequently heaven, since heaven consists of angelic societies, is evident from this fact, that every tribe represented and thence signified some universal essential of the church, and that the twelve tribes taken together represented all things of the church, and that the church among the sons of Israel was a representative church; therefore the whole nation, distributed into twelve tribes, represented the church in its entirety, consequently heaven also, for the same goods and the same truths which make the church also make heaven, or those which make heaven also make the church, as may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 57).

(References: Heaven and Hell 57)


[12] The arrangement of the twelve tribes of Israel, according to the arrangement of the angelic societies of heaven, consequently according to the form of heaven, is evident in their encampments, as described by Moses. To the east were encamped the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; to the south, the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad; to the west, the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; and to the north, the tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali; and the tribe of Levi in the midst of the camp; they also went forward in the same order (Num. ii. 1 to the end). He who knows who those are that dwell in the eastern quarter in heaven, and their quality, and who those are that dwell in the southern, western, and northern quarters, and their quality, and knows at the same time who those are that are signified by each tribe, may know the interior reason why the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun encamped towards the east; why the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad encamped towards the south, and so forth. We shall, for the sake of illustration, speak here only of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, who were encamped towards the east. By the tribe of Judah is signified the good of love to the Lord, by the tribe of Issachar, the truth of that good, and by the tribe of Zebulun, the marriage of good and truth, which is also called the celestial marriage. All those also, who dwell in the eastern quarter in heaven, are in the good of love to the Lord and in truths from that good, and are therefore in the celestial marriage. The rest of the tribes are to be understood in a similar manner. That all in heaven have their habitation, according to their quality, in the four quarters, and that the quarters there are not like the quarters in our solar world, may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 141-153).

(References: Heaven and Hell 141-153; Numbers 2)


[13] Because the encampments of the sons of Israel represented the arrangement of angelic societies in heaven, therefore Balaam, when he saw their encampments, saw in spirit as it were heaven, and prophesied and blessed them. Concerning this it is said in Moses,

"And Balaam set his faces towards the wilderness and when he lifted up his eyes, and saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, the spirit of God came upon him. And he took up his parable, and said, How goodly are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, thy dwelling-places, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river" (Num. xxiv. 1-6).

That he at that time saw the encampments of the sons of Israel according to the arrangement of the tribes stated above, is evident, for it is said that he set his faces towards the wilderness and saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes. And because he then saw the arrangement of heaven in them, therefore the spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied and said, "How goodly are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy habitations, O Israel!" Tabernacles and dwelling-places signify habitations, such as are in the heavens; tabernacles the habitations of those who are in the good of love, and dwelling-places, the habitations of those who are in truths from that good. The fructifications of good, and the multiplications of truth, and intelligence and wisdom therefrom, are signified by the words, "As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river." For all good, and all truth thence, flows according to the form of heaven, as may be seen from what is said in Heaven and Hell, where the form of heaven and the consociations and communications therein are treated of (n. 200-212).

(References: Heaven and Hell 200-212; Numbers 24:1-4, 24:1-6)


[14] (ii) That the representation of heaven and of the church is determined according to the order in which the tribes are named, and that the first name, or first tribe, is the index which determines all things that follow, consequently the things of heaven and of the church with variety. This interior truth can scarcely be comprehended by any one unless he be in a spiritual idea. Still it shall be briefly explained. For example, let the tribe of Judah be the first that is named. Because this tribe signifies the good of love, then from the good of love as their beginning the significations of the rest of the tribes which follow are determined, and this with variety according to the order in which they are named. For each of the tribes signifies some universal of the church, and a universal admits into itself specific varieties, thus a variety from the first [principle] from which it descends. Therefore, all things there in a series derive their spiritual sense specifically from the good of love, signified by the tribe of Judah. If the tribe of Reuben be first named by which truth in the light, and the understanding of truth are signified, the rest of the tribes which follow derive their significations therefrom and these harmonize and agree with the universal which each signifies. The case here may be compared with that of colours that appear tinged with the primary colour which diffuses itself into the other colours, and varies their appearance.

[15] From these things it is evident why responses were given upon every thing by means of the Urim and Thummim, for by means of the precious stones there was a brilliant lustre from the origin of colour from that stone upon which some tribe [was named], and from which the determination commenced. The colours also of those stones corresponded to the universals signified by the inscribed tribes. He who knows this, and at the same time what the universal is which each tribe signifies, may in some measure perceive, if he be in spiritual illustration, what the different tribes signify in their series, in agreement with which they are named in the Word; thus, what they signify, in the order in which the tribes were born which is as follows:- Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin (Gen. xxix. and xxx. and xxxv. 18); what they signify in the order in which they journeyed into Egypt, which is as follows:- "Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali" (Gen. xlvi. 9-21); what they signify in the order in which they were blessed by Israel their father, of which the following is the order: "Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin" (Gen. xlix.). The order in which they were blessed by Moses was different, being as follows: "Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph, Ephraim, Manasseh, Zebulun, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher" (Deut. xxxiii.); where Simeon and Issachar are omitted, and Ephraim and Manasseh substituted in their place. And he may know what is signified by those tribes in the series mentioned in other places, as in Gen. xxxv. 23-26; Num. i. 5-16; vii. 1 to end; xiii. 4-15; xxvi. 5-56; xxxiv. 17-28; Deut. xxvii. 12, 13; Joshua xv.-xix.; Ezekiel xlviii. 1 to end. That the twelve tribes have various significations according to the order in which they are named, and thus signify all things of heaven, with variety, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 3862, 3926, 3939, 4603, and following numbers, 6337, 6640, 10,335). But what they signify in the series, in which they are named in this chapter of the Apocalypse, will be shown below. The order according to which they are here named is this: Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin; Dan and Ephraim being passed by, or not named.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3862, 3926, 3939, Arcana Coelestia 4603, Arcana Coelestia 6337, Arcana Coelestia 6640, Arcana Coelestia 10335; Deuteronomy 27:12-13, Deuteronomy 33:1, 33:6-24; Exodus 28:9-30; Ezekiel 48; Genesis 29:1, 29:31-35, 30:1-24, 30:1, 35:18, 35:23-26, 46:9-21, 46:9-24, 49:1-28, 49:1; Joshua 15, 16:1, 17:1, 18:1, 19; Numbers 1:5, 1:5-15, Numbers 1:16, Numbers 7:1, 7, 13:4-15, Numbers 17:2-8, Numbers 26:5-56, Numbers 34:17-28; Revelation 7:4)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 433, 438, 454, 555, 573, 619, 625, 657, 717, 727, 803, 872

Other New Christian Commentary

Jah 1


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