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 Revealed #915

Apocalypse Revealed (Rogers translation)

Study this Passage

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915. 21:20 The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. This symbolizes all of the doctrines of the New Church from the Word's literal sense in their order, with those who turn directly to the Lord and live in accordance with the Ten Commandments by refraining from evils as being sins; for they and no others possess a doctrine of love toward God and love for the neighbor, which are the two foundations of religion.

The twelve foundations of the wall symbolize all the doctrines of the New Jerusalem from the literal sense of the Word, as may be seen in nos. 902, 914 above. Precious stones in general symbolize all the truths in the doctrine of the New Jerusalem from the Word with the spiritual sense shining through, as may be seen in nos. 231, 540, 726, 911, 914 above. Each of the stones here symbolizes some particular truth with the spiritual meaning thus shining through. That the Word's literal sense in respect to its doctrines corresponds to precious stones of every kind may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Regarding the Sacred Scripture, nos.43-45.

(References: Genesis 49:23-24; Matthew 7:24-25; Revelation 21:19; Teachings about the Sacred Scripture 43-45)


[2] Two colors in general that shine through in precious stones are the color red and the color white. The rest of the colors, such as green, yellow, blue, and many others, are composites of these, modified by shades of gray. The color red symbolizes the goodness of love, and the color white symbolizes the truth of wisdom. The color red symbolizes the goodness of love because it takes its origin from the fire of the sun, and the fire of the sun in the spiritual world is, in its essence, the Lord's Divine love, thus the goodness of love. And the color white symbolizes the truth of wisdom because it takes its origin from the light that emanates from the fire of that sun, and that emanating light is, in its essence, Divine wisdom, thus the truth of wisdom. Shades of gray take their origin from that fire and light shaded, which is ignorance.

[3] However, to explain in detail just what good and just what truth is symbolized by each stone would be too lengthy a task. Nevertheless, to learn what good and truth each stone symbolizes in this list, see the exposition of chapter 7:above, Revelation 7 5-8, nos. 349-361, where the subject was the twelve tribes of Israel. For each stone here has the same symbolism as each tribe named there, since the twelve tribes described there likewise symbolize all the goods and truths of the church and its doctrine in their order. Consequently we are also told in this chapter, verse 14, that on these twelve foundations were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and the twelve apostles symbolize all of the doctrines regarding the Lord and living in accordance with His commandments (no. 903).

The twelve stones here also have the same symbolism as the twelve precious stones in the breastpiece of Aaron, called the Urim and Thummim, as described in Exodus 28:15-21, which we explained one by one in Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven), 9856-9882 with the difference that the stones there had on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, while these have on them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

[4] That the foundations were laid with precious stones is something we are also told in Isaiah:

O you afflicted one..., behold, I will lay your stones with antimony. I will set your foundations in sapphires..., and your gates in carbuncle stones... All your children have been taught by Jehovah... (Isaiah 54:11-13)

The afflicted one means a church to be established by the Lord among gentiles.

In Isaiah as well:

...thus said the Lord Jehovih: ."..I will lay in Zion a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation... I will make judgment the rule, and justice the plumb line...." (Isaiah 28:16-17)

(References: Isaiah 23:16-17, 54:11-12, 54:13)


[5] Since every doctrinal truth from the Word is founded on an acknowledgment of the Lord, therefore the Lord is called the Stone of Israel in Genesis 49:24, and the cornerstone which the builders rejected in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11. That the cornerstone is a foundation stone is clear from Jeremiah 51:26.

In many places in the Word the Lord is also called a rock. Thus He meant Himself by the rock when He said, "On this rock I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18-19). The rock symbolizes the Lord in respect to the Divine truth in the Word.

Everything connected with the church and its doctrine relates to these two points, that one must turn directly to the Lord, and that one must live in accordance with the Ten Commandments by refraining from evils as sins. Thus everything connected with the doctrine relates to love toward God and love for the neighbor, something that will be seen in The Doctrines of the New Jerusalem Regarding Charity, where these precepts will be expounded in turn.

(References: Luke 6:47-48, 20:17-18; Matthew 7:24, Matthew 7:26; Revelation 21:19-20)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 231, 876

Conjugial Love 119

True Christian Religion 197

Other New Christian Commentary

Rock 1

Sardonyx 1

Twelve precious stones in the foundation of the new Jerusalem 1

Twelve tribes of Israel 1


Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation.


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