Matthew 27:54



54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.



The Veil was Torn in Two

За New Christian Bible Study Staff

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When Jesus died on the cross, there was an earthquake. Rocks were split. The centurion and his soldiers who had carried out the crucifixion orders were afraid.

In the heart of the temple, in the "holy of holies", in the very heart of Jerusalem, the sacred veil tore, from top to bottom.

The veil, "rent in twain"...

The veils in the tabernacle and later in the temple were important. They're described in great detail in Exodus and in 1 Kings. In Arcana Coelestia 2576, it says that, "Rational truths are a kind of veil or clothing to spiritual truths.... The veil represented the nearest and inmost appearances of rational good and truth....

And now, as Jesus dies on the cross, the veil tears. What does this mean?

Here's how Swedenborg describes the symbolism of this:

"...that once all appearances had been dispelled, the Lord entered into the Divine Itself, and at the same time He opened a means of access to the Divine Itself through His Human that had been made Divine." (Arcana Coelestia 2576)

Think about four watershed spiritual events:

1) The creation of the physical universe. (Current best guess: 13.8 billion years ago). Genesis 1:1-10

2) The beginning of life. (On earth, between 3.5 and 4.5 billion years ago.) Genesis 1:11-25

3) The beginning of spiritually conscious human beings. (Reasonable guess: 100,000 years ago). Genesis 1:26-31

4) The incarnation and resurrection of the Lord God Jesus Christ (2000 years ago).

God's love and wisdom have been flowing into the universe for a long time. Where you might expect entropy, instead we see a universe that seems to favor life and intelligence. Think what a fulfilling moment it must have been when God could tell that human minds were now responding to Him, after all that outpouring.

But the free response-ability has tragedy baked in, because we can also choose not to respond, and to go the opposite way.

As we humans grew more "sophisticated", God used new channels to reach us, notably prophets and spiritual leaders, and later the written word. And in those channels, from the earliest times, there are already prophecies that the Lord would one day come into the world in human form.

Why did He need to do that? He must have foreseen that people would need to have that human level of connection, in order for enough good and truth to exist for us to make the decisions that open us to salvation.

Let's go back to Swedenborg's description:

"... once all appearances had been dispelled the Lord entered into the Divine Itself..."

Throughout the Lord's life on earth, there was the appearance that he was a man, like us. He had a human body. He could be tired and hungry. He could be tempted (though unlike us, he always won). In his spiritual life, there were times when he felt keenly the appearance of his human separate from his Divine essence. At other times, that appearance thinned, and he felt his divinity more powerfully. As he grew up, and was baptized, and began his ministry, he must have been growing more and more fully aware of what was going on inside him -- the glorification of the human part of him. With the death of his body on the cross, the bodily human-ness was no longer in the way. That appearance was dispelled. A new connection was fully forged between the Divine and the human.

And then, there's the second part of Swedenborg's statement:

"at the same time He opened a means of access to the Divine Itself through His Human that had been made Divine."

The veil was torn. The old religion, which had placed ritual above real good, and where God was invisible, separated from human knowledge by a veil -- was torn. New light could reach people, through the new teachings of the Lord. We could respond to a God who, in His Divine Human, we now could understand and approach and love more deeply.

З творів Сведенборга


Arcana Coelestia #2576

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2576. 'Behold, it is for you a covering of the eyes for all who are with you' means that rational truths are like a covering or garment for spiritual truths. This is clear from the meaning of 'a covering', to be dealt with immediately below, and from the meaning of 'the eyes' as things of the understanding, as is evident from very many places in the Word, and also from the meaning of 'seeing' as understanding, 2150, 2325. Anyone may see that each detail in this verse holds arcana within it which cannot be brought to light except by some interior sense - such as the detail that it is said 'he gave a thousand pieces of silver to her brother' not 'to her husband'; or the details that it was 'a covering of the eyes', and that it was 'for her and all who were with her', also 'with all'; or the detail 'so she was vindicated'. Many historical inferences might indeed be drawn from the sense of the letter, but none of these would have anything spiritual in them, still less anything Divine. Such is the nature of the Word.

[2] As regards rational truths being like a covering or garment for spiritual truths, the position is that the inmost parts of man's being belong to his soul, while the more exterior belong to his body. Man's inmost parts consist in goods and truths from which the soul has its life, or else the soul would not be a soul. Those which are more exterior however derive their life from the soul, and each one of them is like a body, or what amounts to the same, a covering or garment. This becomes clear in particular from the things that are seen in the next life, for example, from angels when these are presented to view. The interior parts of their beings shine from their faces, while the exterior are represented both in their bodies and in the clothes they are wearing, so completely that anyone there may recognize the character of those angels simply from the clothes they are wearing; for every angel consists of real substance and so is an essence given outward form. It is similar in the case of angels who have been seen and whose faces and clothing are described in the Word, such as those seen in the Lord's tomb, Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5; and the twenty-four elders around the throne, Revelation 4:4; and others. Nor does this apply only to angels but also to everything else, even inanimate objects, mentioned in the Word. Their exteriors are a covering or garment as with the Ark of the Covenant and the tent surrounding it. 'The Ark' there, which was inmost, represented the Lord Himself, for the Testimony belonged there, while 'the tent' outside of it represented the Lord's kingdom. Every single one of 'the coverings' there, that is, the veils and screens, represented the exterior celestial and spiritual things within the Lord's kingdom, that is to say, within the three heavens. This becomes clear from the plan of it that was shown to Moses on Mount Sinai, Exodus 25:9; 26:30. It was this that gave it its holiness, not the gold and silver and the carvings that were in it.

[3] Since the matter of rational truths being like a covering or garment to spiritual truths is being discussed here, and since in Moses a description of the Tent is given - of its coverings or of its screens, and also of its veils in front of places of entry - let an explanation be given, for the sake of illustration, of what specifically was meant by the veils. (But what was meant by the enveloping covers will in the Lord's Divine mercy be stated elsewhere.) The Tabernacle had three veils, the first, which made a division between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies; the second, which is called a screen serving as a door into the tent; the third, which is called a screen serving as a gate into the court.

[4] The first of these, the veil itself, which was a screen in front of the Ark, is referred to in Moses,

You shall make a veil of violet and purple and twice-dyed scarlet and fine-twined linen. The work of a designer, 1 you shall make it with cherubs on it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of shittim, overlaid with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold; [they shall stand] on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil under the clasps. And you shall bring in, within the veil, the Ark of the Testimony, and the veil shall divide for you the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Exodus 26:31-34; 36:35-36.

This veil represented the most immediate and inmost appearances of rational good and truth, which occur among the angels of the third heaven. These appearances are described by the violet, purple, twice-dyed scarlet, and fine-twined linen, the red of which represented the goods that belong to love, and the white its truths. Also, the gold and silver with which the pillars were overlaid, and of which the hooks and bases were made had a similar representation. As regards colours being representative, see 1042, 1043, 1053, 1624; and as regards 'gold' meaning the good of love, 113, 1551, 1552, and 'silver' truth, 1551, 2048.

[5] This shows what is meant by the veil of the temple being torn in two, Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45 - namely that once all appearances had been dispelled the Lord entered into the Divine Itself, and at the same time He opened a means of access to the Divine Itself through His Human that had been made Divine.

[6] The second veil, or screen serving as a door to the tent, is referred to in Moses as follows,

You shall make a screen for a door of the tent, of violet and purple and twice-dyed scarlet and fine-twined linen, the work of an embroiderer. And you shall make for the screen five pillars of shittim and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold; and you shall cast for them five bases of bronze. Exodus 26:36-37; 36:37-38

This screen represented the appearances of good and truth which are lower and more exterior than those mentioned already; that is, they are the middle appearances that belong to the rational, which occur among the angels of the second heaven. The description given to these appearances is virtually the same, the difference being that this screen had five pillars and five bases, by which number is meant something relatively small, for these appearances are not so unified or heavenly as the appearances belonging to the inmost or third heaven. Regarding the number 'five' meaning that which is small, see 649, 1686. And because these appearances look to natural things, it was commanded that the bases should be cast of bronze; for bronze represented and meant natural good, 425, 1551.

[7] The third veil, or screen serving as a gate into the court, is referred to in Moses as follows,

The screen for a gate of the court shall be twenty cubits [long], of violet and purple and twice-dyed scarlet and fine-twined linen, the work of an embroiderer; the pillars of it shall be four and the bases of these four. All the pillars of the surrounding court shall be fastened with silver; their hooks shall be of silver but their bases of bronze. Exodus 27:16-17; 38:18-19

This screen represented the still lower and more exterior appearances of good and truth, which are the lowest appearances belonging to the rational, and which occur among the angels of the first heaven. Because these appearances correspond to those that are more interior the description given to them is also much the same, the differences being that the pillars were not overlaid with gold but were fastened together with silver, while the hooks were made of silver - all of which mean rational truths such as have their origin immediately in factual knowledge - and the bases were made of bronze which mean natural goods. All these considerations show that there was nothing in the Tent which was not representative of the celestial and spiritual things of the Lord's kingdom; that is, they show that all those things were made so as to provide every type or imprint of the celestial and spiritual things that exist in the three heavens. And they also show that the coverings or screens meant things which, like a body or clothing, surround or are outside of that which is inmost.

[8] In addition to all this, the fact that coverings, screens, and a garment or clothes mean relatively lower truths becomes clear from many places in the Word, as in Ezekiel,

Fine linen with embroidered work from Egypt was your sail, violet and purple from the islands of Elishah was your covering. 2 Ezekiel 27:7.

This refers to 'Tyre', which means interior cognitions of celestial and spiritual things, and therefore those who possess those cognitions, 1201. 'Embroidered work from Egypt' stands for factual knowledge - 'Egypt' meaning factual knowledge, 1164, 1165, 1186, 1462. 'Violet and purple from the islands of Elishah as a covering' stands for forms of ritual corresponding to internal worship, 1156.

[9] In the same prophet,

All the princes of the sea will step down from upon their thrones, and will remove their robes and will strip off their embroidered clothes. They will clothe themselves with tremblings; they will sit on the ground. Ezekiel 26:16.

This too refers to 'Tyre'. 'Robes' and 'embroidered clothes' stand for cognitions formed out of factual knowledge, and so stand for lower truths.

[10] In the same prophet,

I clothed you with embroidered cloth and shod you with badger, and I swathed you in fine linen and covered you with silk, and I adorned you with adornments and put bracelets on your hands and a chain on your neck. You took some of your garments and made for yourself gaily-decked high places and committed whoredom on them. You took your embroidered clothes and covered them. Ezekiel 16:10-11, 16, 18.

This describes 'Jerusalem', which is the spiritual Church, as it had been in early times and as it was subsequently when perverted. Its lower spiritual things and its matters of doctrine are the embroidered clothes, fine linen, and silk.

[11] In Isaiah,

The Lord, Jehovah Zebaoth, is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah the whole staff of bread and staff of water. At that time a man will take hold of his brother, of his father's house, [saying,] You have clothing, you will be leader for us. On that day he will speak out, saying, I will not be a binder up; and in my house there is neither bread nor clothing. You shall not make me leader of the people. The Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion. And on that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, and of the networks, and of the crescents, and of the necklaces, and of the chainlets, and of the bracts; 3 and the tiaras, and the garters, and the sashes, and the perfume boxes, 4 and the earrings; the rings, and the nose-jewels, the changes of clothes, and the robes, and the veils, and the pin-cases, and the mirrors, and the muslin, and the turbans, and the mantles. Isaiah 3:1, 6-7, 17-24.

'Jerusalem' stands for the spiritual Church, 'Judah' for the celestial Church, 'the staff of bread and the staff of water which will be taken away' for good and truth. 'The clothing which the leader will have' stands for the truths that make up doctrine. The various articles of clothing and adornments that are listed belonging to the daughters of Zion mean every single genus and species of good and truth which were to be taken away from them. Unless each item that is mentioned meant some specific detail of the Church they would not be part of the Word, every expression of which has what is Divine within it. 'The daughters of Zion' who are said to possess all these articles means those things that constitute the Church; see 2362.

[12] In the same prophet,

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion, put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; no more may there come in to you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Isaiah 52:1-2.

'Zion' stands for the celestial Church, 'Jerusalem' for the spiritual, 'beautiful garments' for the sacred things of faith. In the same prophet,

Their webs do not become clothing, neither are they covered in their works. Their works are works of iniquity. Isaiah 59:6.

'Webs' stands for made-up truths which do not become clothing. 'Clothing' stands for exterior truths of doctrine and worship, hence the statement 'neither are they covered in their works'.

[13] In the same prophet,

I will greatly rejoice in Jehovah, my soul will exult in my God, for He will clothe me with the clothes of salvation, with the robe of righteousness has He covered me. Isaiah 61:10.

'The clothes of salvation' stands for truths of faith, 'the robe of righteousness' for the good that flows from charity. In John,

You have a few names also in Sardis, who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who conquers will be clad in white garments. Revelation 3:4-5.

In the same book,

Blessed is he who is awake and keeps his garments, so that he may not walk naked. Revelation 16:15.

In the same book,

On the thrones I saw twenty-four elders seated, clad in white garments. Revelation 4:4.

Here it is evident that 'garments' do not mean garments but spiritual things, which are forms of truth.

[14] The same may be seen in what the Lord said when speaking about the close of the age. When He said that people were not to turn back and fetch their garments, Matthew 24:18; Mark 13:16, truths were meant by 'garments', see 2454, as they also are in His reference to the man who was not wearing a wedding garment, Matthew 22:11-12, and in His reference to John,

What did you go out to see. A man clad in fine garments? Those who wear fine garments are in kings' houses. Matthew 11:8; Luke 7:25.

This means that they did not care about the external things of doctrine and worship but about the internal, and this is why He adds,

What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. Matthew 11:9.

'A prophet' here stands for the external things of doctrine and worship.

[15] As 'clothes' meant truths of every kind the children of Israel were commanded when leaving Egypt to ask from their neighbour for gold and silver, and for clothes, and to place them on their children, Exodus 3:22; 12:35-36.

[16] They were also commanded not to wear clothes made from different kinds of stuff, or to wear mixed ones, Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:11; and were commanded to make tassels for the hems of their clothes, to put a violet cord there, and when they saw it were to recollect the commandments and carry them out, Numbers 15:38-40. In former times they also rent their clothes, as is evident in Joshua 7:6; Judges 11:35; 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2, 11-12; 3:31; 13:30-31; 15:32; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 5:7-8; 6:30; 22:11, 14, 19; Isaiah 36:22; 37:1. This action meant a zealous regard for doctrine and truth which had in a similar way been torn to shreds, and also a humble recognition that nothing existed with them, which is meant by the adornment of clothing.

[17] That veils, screens, garments, or clothes mean such things is also evident with the prophecy of Jacob, who by now was Israel,

He will bind his colt to the vine, and the foal of his ass to a choice vine. He will wash his clothing in wine, and his garment in the blood of grapes. Genesis 49:11.

What these words mean nobody can know except from the internal sense, that is to say, what is meant by 'a vine', 'a choice vine', 'a colt', 'the foal of an ass', 'wine', 'the blood of grapes', 'clothing', and 'garment'. That it is a reference to the Lord who in that prophecy is called 'Shiloh' is self-evident. The reference at this point is to Judah who represents the Lord's Divine celestial. 'The clothing he was to wash in wine' and 'the garment in the blood of grapes' mean His Rational and Natural which He was to make Divine.

[18] Similarly in Isaiah,

Who is this coming from Edom, with dyed clothes from Bozra, he that is glorious in his apparel, marching in the vast numbers of his strength? Why are you red as to your clothing, and your clothes like his that treads the winepress? And I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me. Their victory has been sprinkled on my clothes, and I have stained all my raiment. Isaiah 63:1-3.

Here also 'clothes' and 'raiment' stand for the Lord's Human which, by means of the conflicts brought about by temptations and by means of victories, He made Divine by His own power; hence the statement, 'I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me'. The reference to 'Isaac smelling the smell of Esau's clothes, and so blessing him' implies much the same, Genesis 27:27.

[19] The Holiness itself of the Lord's Divine Human was also a garment which was seen as light and as something dazzling white when He was transfigured, described in Matthew as follows,

When Jesus was transfigured His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became [white] as the light. Matthew 17:2.

In Luke,

When Jesus was praying the appearance of His face was altered; His clothing became dazzling white. Luke 9:29.

And in Mark,

When Jesus was transfigured His clothes became glistening, intensely white like snow, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Mark 9:3.

The sacred vestments worn by Aaron when he went inside the veil, which were made of linen, were similarly representative, Leviticus 16:2, 4, and so were the sacred vestments 'for glory and adornment' when he ministered, which are described in Exodus 28:2-end; 39:1-end. Not a detail of those vestments failed to be representative.


1. literally, of designing, but where this verse is explained Swedenborg translates of a designer; see 9669.

2. The Latin word used here is the same as that which in preceding quotations from the Word has been translated screen.

3. i.e. thin metal plates worn as jewelry

4. literally, houses of the soul

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