What the Bible says about... Who Is Saved?      

By Rev. John Odhner

There is a common tendency with people to make negative judgments about other people. In high schools, this tendency shows itself in cliques. A few popular kids get into a group, and gradually begin to think that they are better than others because they are better liked. Kids who aren't "in" may become objects of pity, or contempt, or even of cruel jokes. In one way or another the clique passes subtle judgment on the others as being a lower class of human beings.

The same tendency to look down on others shows itself in various religions. Some religious groups become so self-centered that they believe no one of a different faith can go to heaven. When taken to an extreme, this kind of attitude is far more cruel than the snobbish teenage cliques.

The teachings of the Bible are quite a contrast to this. To begin with, God's Word tells us that we should not label people as "saved" or "sinner." Jesus said,

"Judge not, that you be not condemned. Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1, 3)

The disciple James put it this way: "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 4:1)

When the Lord was on earth, a judging attitude was prevalent among the leaders of the church. Many thought that when the Messiah came, He would save Jews, and not others. When Jesus did come, they condemned Him for associating with non-Jews and Jews alike.

Jesus discouraged this kind of attitude. Once He was speaking with some people who "trusted in themselves" that they were saved and others were not. He asked them to consider two prayers: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men," and "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Jesus praised the man who thought he was a sinner. (Luke 18:9-14)

It's better to think of yourself as a sinner than to think you are saved.

You may remember the parable of the good Samaritan, too, who stopped to help the wounded man by the roadside. Even though this Samaritan was of the "wrong" faith (from the Jewish point of view), Jesus said that the Samaritan should be loved as a neighbor, because he was a good man. In fact, He said that a person who wants eternal life should be like this Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), even though the Samaritan was neither Christian nor Jewish. Jesus saw - and sees - what is in a person's heart, not just what church one belongs to.

The Bible states clearly that it is the way a person lives, not just what he believes, that determines whether he goes to heaven or not. Jesus said, "Not every one who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Again, "He shall reward every one according to his works." (Matthew 16:27)

"Those who have done good," He says, will go "to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:29)

Since a person's life, not just his faith, determines his eternal lot, Jesus foretold that many Christians would not be saved, because they had lived an evil life.

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 27:22-23, Luke 13:25-27)

One reason why a non-Christian can be saved, is that he can love his neighbor. Anyone who genuinely loves his neighbor also loves Christ, although he may not realize it. Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you have ministered to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40)

Faith in Jesus, without love to the neighbor is meaningless.

"Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Genuine love, on the other hand, is a sign that a person knows the Lord in his heart, regardless of the religion he professes outwardly.

"Love believes all things." (1 Corinthians 13:7)

"He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God." (3 John 1:11)

"Let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. God is love, and anyone who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:7-11)


Some Christian churches teach this: Only Christians are saved.

What the Bible actually says (and what the New Christian Church teaches): Good people from all religions are saved.

Some references from teachings for the New Christian Church : Heaven and Hell 318-328, Divine Providence 326

Used with the permission of John Odhner, the author of this very useful site:

The Bible


Matthew 25:40

King James Version         

Study the Inner Meaning

← Previous    Full Chapter    Next →

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Matthew 25      

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Matthew 25 and the previous chapter, Matthew 24, are the only two chapters in the four gospels for which Swedenborg offered verse by verse explanations. It's great that we have these, because we get some assurance that the methods that he used in his exegesis of Genesis, Exodus, and Revelation can also be applied to the gospels.

The commentary on Matthew 25 is divided into chunks associated with explanations of chapters in Genesis, in the middle of "Arcana Coelestia". For chapter 25, it starts in Arcana Coelestia 4635-4638. Here's an excerpt from no. 4636:

* * * *

"The Lord used this parable to describe His own coming. This is clear from every detail in it as well as from the final sentence where He says, 'Watch therefore, for you do not know the day, nor the hour, in which the Son of Man will be coming' - words similar to those used in Chapter 24.... It has been shown already that His coming is the close of the age or the final period of the Church."

Next, in Arcana Coelestia 4637, there's a strong clear attestation to the power and importance of the internal sense of the Word:

"Consequently anyone who does not know this cannot make anything else out of the Lord's parables than ordinary comparisons which hold nothing deeper within them, as with this particular parable concerning the ten virgins. He makes nothing more out of it if he does not know what 'virgins' means in the internal sense, and also what ten, five, lamps, vessels, oil, those who sell, a wedding feast, and every other detail mean. And the same is true with all other parables. As has been stated, the details mentioned by the Lord in them look, in the outward form they take, like ordinary comparisons, but in their internal form their nature is such that they fill the whole of heaven. This is because the internal sense is contained within every detail, and that sense is such that its spiritual and celestial content spreads like light and flame throughout the heavens in all directions. That sense is utterly superior to the sense of the letter, flowing from every phrase and every word, indeed from every tiny letter."

* * * *

(Swedenborg's exegesis of the chapter continues in 4662-4664, 4807-4810, 4954-4959, and 5063-5071. It's well worth the read!)

Also, we'll append the commentary on this chapter that Rev. John Clowes wrote back in the 1850's:

Verses 1, 2, 3, 4. That in the last time of the old church and the first of the now, they who are of the church will receive spiritual truths, and some will be in truths wherein is the good of love and charity, and some in truths wherein is no good of love and charity.

Verse 5. That by reason of delay, they will be sluggish in the things of the church, and will cherish doubt.

Verse 6. But that at the last time of the old church and the first of the new, there will be a change, for then will be the judgement, namely, acceptance and rejection.

Verses 7, 8. And then all will prepare themselves, and they who are in truths without the good of love and charity will be willing to have good communicated from others to their empty truths.

Verse 9. But this is impossible, since no good can then be communicated but the good of merit.

Verse 10. Wherefore the application is preposterous, because none can be received into heaven but those who are principled in good and thence in truth.

Verse 11. Nevertheless, they who are in truths without good, are willing to enter from faith alone without charity, and from works in which is no life of the Lord, but only the life of self.

Verse 12. But they are rejected, because they are not in any charity towards their neighbour, nor by it in conjunction with the Lord.

Verse 13. Therefore the life ought to be regulated according to the precepts of faith, because the time of acceptance, and the state, is unknown to man.

Verses 14, 15. For the Lord gives to all who are in the church the knowledges of truth and good from the Word, with the faculty of perceiving them.

Verses 16, 17, 18. And by these knowledges and this faculty, some procure to themselves much intelligence and wisdom, and others procure some, and others none.

Verses 19-23. Wherefore at the Lord's coming, they who had procured much intelligence and wisdom, and they who had procured some, are accepted of the Lord, and gifted by Him with dominion over all evils and falsities, and admitted to conjunction of life with Himsel{ign20}

Verses 24-31. But they who had procured none are then deprived of the truths which they had possessed in the memory only, and not in the life, and become principled in mere falsities separated from all good and truth.

Verses 24, 25. For not having joined charity to faith, they think harshly of the Divine Mercy, and act from mere natural fear, which obscures the knowledges of heavenly truth.

Verses 26, 27. Whereas they ought rather, by those knowledges, to have procured to themselves charity, and thus have attained conjunction of life with the Lord.

Verses 28, 29. Therefore those knowledges are taken away from them, and conferred on those who apply them to the reformation of their lives.

Verse 30. And they who have lived in faith alone without charity, are deprived of all the truths of faith, and all the goods of charity, having their lot with those who are in mere evils and falsities.

Verse 31. For when Divine Truth shall appear in its light, through the angelic heaven, then shall be the judgement.

Verse 32. And then shall the goods and evils of all be made manifest in the Light Divine, and there shall be a separation of what is good from what is evil, or of those who are in charity and thence in faith, from those who are in faith alone, and not in charity.

Verse 33. And this separation will be according to truths derived from good with the good, and according to falsities derived from evil with the evil, thus every one will be arranged according to his life.

Verse 34. Then shall they who are in charity and thence in faith be received amongst those in heaven who are in truth; derived from good.

Verses 35, 36. Since they are in the affection of good and truth, because proceeding from the Lord, and are averse from what is evil and false, because proceeding from themselves, and thus are in humiliation grounded in self-acknowledgment, and thence in all the offices of charity.

Verses 37, 38, 39. And yet if they had seen the Lord Himself in all the offices of charity, every one would have done them, but not from love to Him, but from fear, nor for the sake of Him, but for the sake of themselves.

Verse 40. Nevertheless the truth is that the Lord is present with those who are in the good of love and charity because He is in that good itself.

Verse 41. But they who are in faith and not in charity, will then avert themselves from all good and truth, and convert themselves to what is evil and false, and remain in the craving of infernal evil.

Verses 42, 43. Since they have never been in the affection of good and truth because proceeding from the Lord, nor averse from what is evil and false because proceeding from themselves, nor in humiliation grounded in self-acknowledgement, nor in any offices of charity thence derived.

Verse 44. And yet in the external form they have done those offices, but not from a principle of love to the Lord, but from fear, thus not for the sake of Him, but of themselves.

Verse 45. For they who are not in the affection of good and truth from the Lord, are not influenced by love to the Lord, but by self-love.

Verse 46. All such therefore will be everlastingly tormented by the concupiscences of evil, but they who are in the good of charity, will have life from that good, because it is from the Lord, who is the life itself.

From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1017, 2335, 2360, 2371, 2417, 3419, 3451, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 32

Conjugial Love 120

Doctrine of Life 2

Doctrine of Faith 68

Heaven and Hell 471

True Christian Religion 643

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 90

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 98, 250, 316, 394, 632, 746, 785, ...

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 33

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Proverbs 14:31, 19:17

Bible Word Meanings

To "answer" generally indicates a state of spiritual receptivity. Ultimately this means being receptive to the Lord, who is constantly trying to pour true ideas...

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...

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

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

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.

 Dramatize the Parable of Talents
Let children act out the story as you read the parable. Props may include silver “talents” and little sacks, a bathrobe for the master, and a pot of dirt to bury one of the talents.
Activity | Ages 4 - 6

 For Reflection: Becoming a Good and Faithful Servant
How can we work on becoming good and faithful servants of the Lord?
Activity | Ages over 15

 Friendships: Men and Women
Getting to know a variety of men or women helps us learn about the opposite sex and ultimately helps us learn what qualities we care about and will want in the person we marry.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 How to Love One Another
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Idealism and Realism in Love Truly Conjugial
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 I Was Hungry - Level A
A complete lesson on Feeding the 5000 with scripted discussion and multiple activities to choose from. Activities include a play, a fingerprint project, a coloring picture and a memory verse. Sample lesson from the Youth Journey Program Hands of Love Inherit the Kingdom, Level A, ages 3-6.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 I Was Hungry - Level B
A complete lesson on Feeding the 5000 with scripted discussion and multiple activities to choose from. Activities include a play, a folding paper project, a coloring picture and a memory verse. Sample lesson from the Youth Journey Program Hands of Love Inherit the Kingdom, Level B, ages 7-10.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 I Was Hungry - Level C
A complete lesson on Feeding the 5000 with scripted discussion and multiple activities to choose from. Activities include a video "Helping Others Helps God" to watch and discuss, an activity on three Biblical stories that involve food, and a "Read, Reflect, Respond" card to take home. Sample lesson from the Youth Journey Program Hands of Love Inherit the Kingdom, Level C, ages 11-14.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Memory Verse: Believe in Me
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Parable of the Talents
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Our Daily Work
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 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

 Overview of Hands of Love Levels A B C for ages 3-14
Overview of the Youth Journey Program Hands of Love Inherit the Kingdom, Levels A, B and C, for ages 3-14 for Sunday schools, camps, classrooms and families.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 14

 Prayers for Children: The Lord's Supper
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Prayers for Teens: Using Our Talents
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Quotes: Using Our Talents
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Serving the Lord Bookmark
Meditate on a verse from the Word and let it inspire you in a spiritual task. Cut out the color picture bookmark to keep or share.
Activity | Ages over 15

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

 The Parable of the Talents
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Parable of the Talents
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

 The Responsibility of the Lord's Servants
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Ten Virgins
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Widow Feeds Elijah - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: make a model of the Lord's bounty (mobius strip), put others first to win cooperative games, scripted story discussion, and a meditation and task on a verse from the Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 The Widow Feeds Elijah - Level D
Complete lesson with activity choices: a look at mistakes and habits, discussion about heaven and hell, scripted story discussion, and a meditation and task on a verse from the Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 15 - 17

 Trying to Entomb the Lord
This story teaches us that the Lord Jesus, who came to earth and touched us with His great love and wisdom, is more than just a man. He is our God, and He has all power. 
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Using Our Gifts from the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Using Our Talents
Use these 5 decorative "talents" to picture or write about ways you can use the abilities the Lord has given you.
Activity | Ages 8 - 12

 Using Our Talents
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 What Does the Parable of the Talents Mean?
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Works of Charity
Worship Talk | Ages over 18