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Arcana Coelestia #9372

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)

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9372. And He said unto Moses. That this signifies that which concerns the Word in general, is evident from the representation of Moses, as being the Word (of which below); and from the signification of “He said,” as involving those things which follow in this chapter, thus those which concern the Word (see n. 9370). (That Moses represents the Word, can be seen from what has been often shown before about Moses, as from the preface to Genesis 18; and n. 4859, 5922, 6723, 6752, 6771, 6827, 7010, 7014, 7089, 7382, 8601, 8760, 8787, 8805.) Here Moses represents the Word in general, because it is said of him in what follows, that he alone should come near unto Jehovah (verse 2); and also that, being called unto out of the midst of the cloud, he entered into it, and went up the mount (verses 16-18).

(References: Exodus 24:16, 24:18)


[2] In the Word there are many who represent the Lord in respect to truth Divine, or in respect to the Word; but chief among them are Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist. That Moses does so, can be seen in the explications just cited above; that so do Elijah and Elisha, can be seen in the preface to Genesis 18; and n. 2762, 5247; and that John the Baptist does so is evident from the fact that he was “Elias who was to come.” He who does not know that John the Baptist represented the Lord as to the Word, cannot know what all those things infold and signify which are said about him in the New Testament; and therefore in order that this secret may stand open, and that at the same time it may appear that Elias, and also Moses, who were seen when the Lord was transfigured, signified the Word, some things may here be quoted which are spoken about John the Baptist; as in Matthew:

After the messengers of John had departed, Jesus began to speak concerning John, saying, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed shaken by the wind? But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft things are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, even more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send Mine angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee. Verily I say unto you, Among those who are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist; nevertheless he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye are willing to believe, he is Elias who was to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:7-15; and also Luke 7:24-28).

No one can know how these things are to be understood, unless he knows that this John represented the Lord as to the Word, and unless he also knows from the internal sense what is signified by “the wilderness” in which he was, also what by “a reed shaken by the wind,” and likewise by “soft raiment in kings’ houses;” and further what is signified by his being “more than a prophet,” and by “none among those who are born of women being greater than he, and nevertheless he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he,” and lastly by his being “Elias.” For without a deeper sense, all these words are uttered merely from some comparison, and not from anything of weight.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2135)


[3] But it is very different when by John is understood the Lord as to the Word, or the Word representatively. Then by “the wilderness of Judea in which John was” is signified the state in which the Word was at the time when the Lord came into the world, namely, that it was “in the wilderness,” that is, it was in obscurity so great that the Lord was not at all acknowledged, neither was anything known about His heavenly kingdom; when yet all the prophets prophesied about Him, and about His kingdom, that it was to endure forever. (That “a wilderness” denotes such obscurity, see n. 2708, 4736, 7313.) For this reason the Word is compared to “a reed shaken by the wind” when it is explained at pleasure; for in the internal sense “a reed” denotes truth in the ultimate, such as is the Word in the letter.

[4] That the Word in the ultimate, or in the letter, is crude and obscure in the sight of men; but that in the internal sense it is soft and shining, is signified by their “not seeing a man clothed in soft raiment, for behold those who wear soft things are in kings’ houses.” That such things are signified by these words, is plain from the signification of “raiment,” or “garments,” as being truths (n. 2132, 2576, 4545, 4763, 5248, 6914, 6918, 9093); and for this reason the angels appear clothed in garments soft and shining according to the truths from good with them (n. 5248, 5319, 5954, 9212, 9216). The same is evident from the signification of “kings’ houses,” as being the abodes of the angels, and in the universal sense, the heavens; for “houses” are so called from good (n. 2233, 2234, 3128, 3652, 3720, 4622, 4982, 7836, 7891, 7996, 7997); and “kings,” from truth (n. 1672, 2015, 2069, 3009, 4575, 4581, 4966, 5044, 6148). Therefore by virtue of their reception of truth from the Lord, the angels are called “sons of the kingdom,” “sons of the king,” and also “kings.”

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2233-2234, 7996-7997)


[5] That the Word is more than any doctrine in the world, and more than any truth in the world, is signified by “what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet;” and by, “there hath not arisen among those who are born of women a greater than John the Baptist;” for in the internal sense “a prophet” denotes doctrine (n. 2534, 7269); and “those who are born,” or are the sons, “of women” denote truths (n. 489, 491, 533, 1147, 2623, 2803, 2813, 3704, 4257).

[6] That in the internal sense, or such as it is in heaven, the Word is in a degree above the Word in the external sense, or such as it is in the world, and such as John the Baptist taught, is signified by, “he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he;” for as perceived in heaven the Word is of wisdom so great that it transcends all human apprehension. That the prophecies about the Lord and His coming, and that the representatives of the Lord and of His kingdom, ceased when the Lord came into the world, is signified by, “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” That the Word was represented by John, as by Elijah, is signified by his being “Elias who is to come.”

[7] The same is signified by these words in Matthew:

The disciples asked Jesus, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? He answered and said, Elias must needs first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias hath come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they wished. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them. And they understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13).

That “Elias hath come, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they wished” signifies that the Word has indeed taught them that the Lord is to come, but that still they did not wish to comprehend, interpreting it in favor of the rule of self, and thus extinguishing what is Divine in it. That they would do the same with the truth Divine itself, is signified by “even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them.” (That “the Son of man” denotes the Lord as to truth Divine, see n. 2803, 2813, 3704)

[8] From all this it is now evident what is meant by the prophecy about John in Malachi:

Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh (Malachi 4:5).

Moreover, the Word in the ultimate, or such as it is in the external form in which it appears before man in the world, is described by the “clothing” and “food” of John the Baptist, in Matthew:

John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, had His clothing of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:1, 4).

In like manner it is described by Elijah in the second book of Kings:

He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins (2 Kings 1:8).

By “clothing,” or a “garment,” when said of the Word, is signified truth Divine there in the ultimate form; by “camel’s hair” are signified memory-truths such as appear there before a man in the world; by the “leathern girdle” is signified the external bond connecting and keeping in order all the interior things; by “food” is signified spiritual nourishment from the knowledges of truth and of good out of the Word; by “locusts” are signified ultimate or most general truths; and by “wild honey” their pleasantness.

[9] That such things are signified by “clothing” and “food” has its origin in the representatives of the other life, where all appear clothed according to truths from good, and where food also is represented according to the desires of acquiring knowledge and growing wise. From this it is that “clothing,” or a “garment,” denotes truth (as may be seen from the citations above; and that “food” or “meat” denotes spiritual nourishment, n. 3114, 4459, 4792, 5147, 5293, 5340, 5342, 5576, 5579, 5915, 8562, 9003; that “a girdle” denotes a bond which gathers up and holds together interior things, n. 9341; that “leather” denotes what is external, n. 3540; and thus “a leathern girdle” denotes an external bond; that “hairs” denote ultimate or most general truths, n. 3301, 5569-5573; that “a camel” denotes memory-knowledge in general, n. 3048, 3071, 3143, 3145, 4156; that “a locust” denotes nourishing truth in the extremes, n. 7643; and that “honey” denotes the pleasantness thereof, n. 5620, 6857, 8056). It is called “wild honey,” or “honey of the field,” because by “a field” is signified the church (n. 2971, 3317, 3766, 7502, 7571, 9139, 9295). He who does not know that such things are signified, cannot possibly know why Elijah and John were so clothed. And yet that these things signified something peculiar to these prophets, can be thought by everyone who thinks well about the Word.

[10] Because John the Baptist represented the Lord as to the Word, therefore also when he spoke of the Lord, who was the Word itself, he said of himself that he was “not Elias, nor the prophet,” and that he was “not worthy to loose the latchet of the Lord’s shoe,” as in John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. The Jews from Jerusalem, priests and Levites, asked John who he was. And he confessed, and denied not, I am not the Christ. Therefore they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? But he said, I am not. Art thou the prophet? He answered, No. They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet. They said therefore, Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? He answered, I baptize with water; in the midst of you standeth one whom ye know not; He it is who is to come after me, who was before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. When he saw Jesus, he said, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man who was before me; for he was before me (John 1:1, 14, 19-30).

From these words it is plain that when John spoke about the Lord Himself, who was Truth Divine itself, or the Word, he said that he himself was not anything, because the shadow disappears when the light itself appears, that is, the representative disappears when the original itself makes its appearance. (That the representatives had in view holy things, and the Lord Himself, and not at all the person that represented, see n. 665, 1097, 1361, 3147, 3881, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4292, 4307, 4444, 4500, 6304, 7048, 7439, 8588, 8788, 8806.) One who does not know that representatives vanish like shadows at the presence of light, cannot know why John denied that he was Elias and the prophet.

[11] From all this it can now be seen what is signified by Moses and Elias, who were seen in glory, and who spoke with the Lord when transfigured, of His departure which He should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:29-31); namely, that they signified the Word (“Moses” the historic Word, and “Elias” the prophetic Word), which in the internal sense throughout treats of the Lord, of His coming into the world, and of His departure out of the world; and therefore it is said that “Moses and Elias were seen in glory,” for “glory” denotes the internal sense of the Word, and the “cloud” its external sense (see the preface to Genesis 18, and n. 5922, 8427).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2135; Exodus 24:1-2)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 9374, 9378, 9379, 9382, 9386, 9429, 9504, 9779, 9806, 9828, 9954, 10027, 10090, 10215, 10251, 10337, 10355, 10375, 10396, 10397, 10400, 10432, 10450, 10460, 10468, 10528, 10549, 10551, 10635, 10636, 10641, 10690


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 19, 64, 66, 83, 130, 355, 375, 701, 710, 735, 746

Other New Christian Commentary

John the Baptist 1

Elijah 1

Leathern girdle, the, which john the Baptist wore 1

Locusts 1

Raiment 1

Reed shaken with the wind 1

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.


 John the Baptist
Compare the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus Christ. What do the births of these men mean in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Lord's Baptism: Matthew
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


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

The Bible

John 1:19-30

English: King James Version

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Full Chapter   John 2 →

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

Full Chapter   John 2 →

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From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1748, 2534, 2708, 3704, 3994, 4727, 5323, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 378

The Lord 15, 37

True Christian Religion 689, 690, 825

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 283


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 314, 778, 805

An Invitation to the New Church 5

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 14, 88

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


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Deuteronomy 18:15, 18

Isaiah 40:3, 45:4, 5, 53:7, 11

Zechariah 3:9

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Resources for parents and teachers

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


 Baptism and Discipleship
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Like Genesis, the Gospel of John begins with creation. While Genesis describes the creation of natural light, John describes a second creation into spiritual light.
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From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #3147

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)

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3147. And water to wash his feet. That this signifies purification there, is evident from the signification of “water for washing,” or of washing with water, as being to purify (concerning which presently); and from the signification of “feet,” as being natural things, or what is the same, the things in the natural man (see n. 2162). In the representative church it was customary to wash the feet with water, and thereby to signify that the unclean things of the natural man were washed away. The unclean things of the natural man are all those things which are of the love of self and of the love of the world; and when these unclean things have been washed away, then goods and truths flow in, for it is solely these unclean things that hinder the influx of good and truth from the Lord.

[2] For good is continually flowing in from the Lord, but when it comes through the internal or spiritual man to his external or natural man, it is there either perverted, turned back, or suffocated. But when the things which are of the love of self and of the love of the world are removed, then good is received there and is made fruitful; for then man practices the works of charity. This is evident from many considerations; as when in misfortune, distress, and sickness, the things that belong to the external or natural man are merely lulled, the man forthwith begins to think piously and to will what is good, and also to practice works of piety insofar as he is able; but when the state is changed, there is a change also in all this.

[3] These things were signified by the washings in the Ancient Church, and the same were represented in the Jewish Church, The reason why they were signified in the Ancient Church, but represented in the Jewish church, was that the man of the Ancient Church regarded the rite as a something external in worship, and did not believe that he was purified by that washing, but by the washing away of the impurities of the natural man, which as before said are the things which are of the love of self and of the world. But the man of the Jewish Church believed that he was purified by that washing; neither knowing nor desiring to know that the purification of the interiors was signified.

[4] That by “washing” is signified a cleansing from the impurities referred to, is evident in Isaiah:

Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil (Isaiah 1:16); where it is evident that to “wash themselves” means to make themselves pure and to put away evils. Again:

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, in the spirit of judgment and in the spirit of expurgation (Isaiah 4:4); where “washing away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purging the blood of Jerusalem,” denotes purifying from evils and falsities.

In Jeremiah:

O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall the thoughts of thine iniquity lodge within thee? (Jeremiah 4:14).

[5] In Ezekiel:

I washed thee with water, and I washed away thy bloods from upon thee, and anointed thee with oil (Jeremiah 16:9 [NCBSW: Ezekiel 16:9]); concerning Jerusalem, by which is there meant the Ancient Church; “washing with waters” denotes purifying from falsities; “washing away bloods” denotes purging from evils; “anointing with oil” denotes filling then with good.

In David:

Wash me from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalms 51:2, 7).

Here “being washed” plainly denotes being purified from evils and their falsities.

[6] These are the things that were signified by “washing” in the representative church; and it was commanded for the sake of the representation that when they had become unclean they should wash the skin, the hands, the feet, and also the garments, and should be cleansed; by all which things were signified those which are of the natural man. Lavers also, of brass, were placed outside the temple, namely, the brazen sea and the ten brazen lavers (1 Kings 7:23-39); and a laver of brass at which Aaron and his sons were to wash was placed between the tent of meeting and the altar; and thus outside the tent (Exodus 30:18-19, 21); by which also was signified that only external or natural things were to be purified; for unless these have been purified, that is, unless the things that are of the love of self and of the world have been removed, the internal things which are of love to the Lord and toward the neighbor cannot possibly flow in, as before said.

[7] For the better understanding of how these things are circumstanced, namely, that external things are to be purified, take as an example and illustration good works, or what is the same, the goods of charity which at this day are called the fruits of faith; these are external things, because they are the exercises of charity. Good works are evil works unless those things are removed which are of the love of self and of the world; for when works are done before these have been removed, they indeed appear good outwardly, but are inwardly evil; for they are done either for the sake of reputation, or for gain, or for the sake of one’s honor, or for recompense, thus they are either self-meritorious 1 or hypocritical; for that which is of the love of self and the world causes the works to be such. But when these evils are removed, the works then become good; and they are goods of charity; that is, in them there is not regard to self, to the world, to reputation, to recompense; thus they are neither self-meritorious nor hypocritical; for then celestial love and spiritual love flow in from the Lord into the works and cause them to be love and charity in act; and then the Lord through these loves also purifies the natural or external man, and disposes it into order, so as to receive correspondently the celestial and spiritual things that flow in.

[8] This is clearly evident from what the Lord taught when He washed the feet of the disciples, as we read in John:

Then cometh He to Simon Peter; and Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that hath been washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit; ye are clean already, but not all (John 13:4-17).

“He that hath been washed, needeth not save to wash his feet” signifies that he who has been reformed, has need only to be cleansed as to natural things, that is, has need that evils and falsities should be removed from them; and then all things are disposed into order by the influx of spiritual things from the Lord. Moreover to wash the feet was an office of charity, as meaning not to reflect on the evils of another; and it was also an office of humility, as meaning to cleanse another from evils as from impurities; as also is evident from the Lord’s words in the passage just quoted (verses 12-17; also Luke 7:37-38, 44, 46; John 11:2; 1 Samuel 25:41).

(References: John 13:12-17)


[9] Everybody can see that washing himself does not purify anyone from evils and falsities, but only from the impurities that cling to him; nevertheless, as washing was among the rites commanded in the church, it follows that it involves something special, namely, spiritual washing, that is, purification from the uncleannesses which inwardly adhere to man. Therefore they who knew these things in that church, and thought about the purification of the heart, or the removal of the evils of the love of self and of the love of the world from the natural man, and who endeavored to effect this with all diligence, observed the rite of washing as external worship according to commandment; but those who did not know this and did not desire to know it, but thought that the mere rite of washing their garments, skin, hands, and feet, would purify them, and that provided they did these things they might be allowed to live in avarice, hatreds, revenge, unmercifulness, and cruelties, which are spiritual impurity, practiced this rite as an idolatrous one. Nevertheless they could represent by it, and by representation exhibit something of the church, whereby there might be some conjunction of heaven with man before the Lord’s advent; yet such conjunction as affected the man of the church little or not at all.

[10] The Jews and Israelites were such that they had no thought about the internal man, nor willingness to know anything about it; thus none at all concerning celestial and spiritual things, relating to the life after death. But yet lest all communication with heaven and thus with the Lord should perish, they were bound to external rites, whereby internal things were signified. All their captivities and plagues were in general for the end that external rites might be strictly observed for the sake of the representation.

Hence then it was that Moses washed Aaron and his sons with water at the door of the tent, that they might be sanctified (Exodus 29:4 40:12; Leviticus 8:6); that Aaron and his sons were to wash their hands and feet before they entered into the tent of meeting and came near to the altar to minister, that they might not die; and that this was to be to them a statute forever (Exodus 30:18-21; 40:30-31); that Aaron was to wash his flesh before he put on the garments of ministry (Leviticus 16:4, 24); that the Levites were to be purified by being sprinkled with the water of expiation; and that they were to cause a razor to pass over their flesh, and to wash their garments, and thus should be pure (Numbers 8:6-7); that whoever should eat the carcass even of a clean beast, or one that was torn, should wash his garments, and bathe himself in water; and if he did not wash himself and bathe his flesh, he should bear his iniquity (Leviticus 17:15-16); that whoever touched the bed of one affected with the flux, or who sat upon a vessel on which he had sat, and whoever touched his flesh, should wash his garments, and bathe himself with water, and should be unclean till the evening (Leviticus 15:5-7, 10; 15:10-12); that whoever let go the he-goat, as a scape-goat, should wash his flesh (Leviticus 16:26); that when a leprous person was cleansed, he was to wash his garments, shave off all his hair, and wash himself with water, and he should be clean (Leviticus 14:8-9); nay, that the very vessels which were made unclean by the touch of things unclean, should be passed through water, and should be unclean until evening (Leviticus 11:32). From these things it may be seen that no one was made clean or pure as to internal things by the rite of washing, but only represented one pure or spiritually clean, for the reason given above. That this is so, the Lord teaches plainly in Matthew (15:1-2, 20), and (Matthew 15:20) in Mark (7:1-23).

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Footnotes:

1. The words “merit,” “to merit,” and “meritorious,” are used by Swedenborg in a bad sense, meaning self-merit, etc., except when applied to the Lord. [Reviser.]

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(References: Exodus 40:30-32; Genesis 24:32; Matthew 15:1-20)


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Arcana Coelestia 3324, 3693, 3721, 3761, 3881, 3986, 4208, 4280, 4302, 4311, 4382, 4515, 4938, 5328, 5508, 5669, 6015, 6372, 6377, 6413, 6463, 6730, 6844, 6947, 7046, 7442, 7729, 7864, 8046, 8106, 8588, 8789, 8886, 8918, 9054, 9223, 9229, 9262, ...

Heaven and Hell 603

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 69, 71, 130, 163, 176, 240, 279, 365, 376, 405, 433, 443

Other New Christian Commentary

Good Works 1

Feet 1

Washing feet 1

Wash 1

Bloods 1

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 Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
In washing the disciples' feet Jesus showed His unconditional love for humankind. His example shows us leadership qualities to strive for.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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


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