<< MATTHEW XVI: Spiritual Meaning >>
1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
1-4. See Chapter XII., 38-40. R. 598.
By the sign which they asked from heaven is here also understood testification, that they might be persuaded and believe that the Lord was the Son of God, although miracles were performed which they did not call signs.. The reason why the Lord then spoke of evening and of morning is, because by evening and by morning is signified the advent of the Lord, and in the present case,, when the church with the Jews was devastated, those who were then in a state of serenity because they knew not the Lord, and lived securely in falses from evil, this, is the evening. But when they knew Him, and by reason of falses from evil in which they were, denied Him and assaulted Him, this state is signified by the morning when it is tempestuous. E. 706.
4 See Chapter XII., 39. Life 79.
See Chapter XII., 39. R. 134.
See Chapter XII., 39. T. 314.
See Chapter XII., 39, 40. E. 538.
1 Again we find the adversaries of Jesus present, and at their daringly evil work of tempting him. And if we look within our own hearts, and into our own experience, shall we not find too many of these subtle foes of the Lord’s love and truth? The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven. We have already considered a similar instance of this (xii. 38). It was there shown that a sign is some wonder that acts directly upon the, understanding, whereas a miracle is a wonder that acts directly upon the will; and that Jesus refused a sign, because it is contrary to divine order, and would be most injurious to man to carry absolute conviction to his intellect by any evidence that would leave his heart unchanged and that, therefore, no sign is given but the sign of the prophet Jonas, because this is a sign of regeneration, which is the only real confirmation of the Lord’s truth to the mind. The additional particulars in the present narrative are very interesting. The former demand was made by the scribes and Pharisees; this is by the Pharisees with the Sadducees. And as the Sadducees, though less hypocritical, were more material and infidel, so the present indicates a tempting of the Lord from a more determined negation of his truth, while requiring a sign that mightconvince them against their will. While there is this difference, there is an important addition, which is contained in the 2d and 3d verses.
2-4, He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. The reason our Lord expressed himself thus was, because evening and morning signify his coming. And so the Lord says to the Pharisees, ye can discern, the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? The church being then devastated, a superficial serenity prevailed, because its members lived securely in all evil life, concealed by false persuasions; this was their evening, when the weather was fair and the sky red. But when they had come to know the Lord, but denied and persecuted him, then was their morning, when the sky was red and lowering. This is true of the individual in corresponding states. While he lives without God in the world, he has that kind of serenity which arises from the absence of concern for eternal life and of spiritual temptation; but when, having come to the saving knowledge of the Lord, the false and evil principles of the natural mind rise in opposition to him, then does the horizon become red and lowering charged with the elements of an impending storm. If he endures the shock, it will clear his moral atmosphere, and make his day bright and heavenly, but if, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, he will not see the signs of the times – signs of his own state – then will he harden himself in a state of guilt, and become like the hypocrites whom the Lord accuses of wilful blindness. The final consequence may be that solemn one here recorded: and he left them, and departed. Beware lest this departure be for ever.
5, 6. When the disciples were come over to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread, then Jesus said to them, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. We forget to take bread when we neglect to provide ourselves with the spiritual good by which the soul is fed. It is because we do not sufficiently hunger after the true bread that we forget to take it when we pass over to the other side; for the disciples were now in Canaan, the type of the church and heaven. It is then we are told to “take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” because it is then we are most liable to be tempted to accept the false for the true bread, and to admit it into our hearts. It is then, therefore, that we are to beware of this leaven.
6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
6, 12. Leaven manifestly means false teaching. A. 7906.
7 But the disciples did not understand what the Lord meant. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. The Lord intended to direct their minds to something higher than they themselves were yet prepared to perceive. He therefore proceeds to remind them that although they had forgotten to take bread, he did not require to warn them against taking of the bread of the Pharisees. Had they forgotten the two miracles of the loaves and fishes, with which the Lord had fed so many thousands, and how many baskets they took up? He who had done these wonders could supply the bread which they had forgotten, without the necessity of taking of the leaven of the Pharisees. Then understood they that he did not bid them beware of the leaven, but the doctrine of the Pharisees, of which leaven was the symbol. And what is the lesson it teaches us? That the Lord warns us against false doctrine, of which we are to beware, especially when our moral goodness is not present to our minds as a safeguard. But even then, if we call to remembrance the manifestation of the divine mercy, in giving us spiritual good in all fulness, then the Lord, speaking to us through the remains of good stored up within, at once enlightens and comforts us. The whole of this relation shows that divine language is expressed in the natural world according to the correspondence which exists between natural and spiritual things.
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
13-17. See Chapter II., 15. A. 2798.
13, 16-18. The Lord said that He would build His church upon this rock, namely, upon the truth and confession that He is the Son of God, for rock signifies-truth, and also the Lord as to Divine truth, wherefore the church is not with one who does not confess this truth that He is the Son of God. Therefore it was said that this is the first of faith in Jesus Christ, and is thus faith in its origin. T. 342.
13, 14. The next subject that occurs in this chapter is one of the most interesting and important that occurs in the whole of the New Testament history – Peter’s famous confession of the Lord. Jesus, we find, goes to Caesarea Philippi, one of the most northern ports of Palestine; and as he approaches the borders, he asks his disciples, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? The Lord thus led his disciples to reflect and decide on the great question, as to who the Lord was that had come into the world; and the first question was to ascertain what men thought of him. These were not men of the, world generally, but men of the Jewish church; for their opinions respecting the Son of man were such as only the members of the church would form. Some thought the Lord to be John the Baptist, some Isaiah, others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. None, it appears, acknowledged Jesus to be what he really was. Many thought him to be a prophet, but none thought him to be the prophet. Some thought him to be the forerunner of the Messiah, but none thought him to be the Messiah himself, although it is doubtful whether those who thought Jesus to be John the Baptist thought John to be the Elias who was for to come. Spiritually understood, a prophet signifies doctrine from the Word, and John the Baptist signifies the Word itself – that is, the Word as existing in the church, but not the Word, or the very divine truth itself, which was made flesh. Every one of these opinions, even the highest, made Jesus human and finite. Another remarkable fact in all these opinions respecting Jesus is this: all those persons whom they supposed the Lord to be, were men who had once lived on the earth. Jesus they therefore believed to be one of those holy men raised from the dead. They were of those therefore, who sought the living among the dead, as indeed, all do who seek or place Jesus among finite beings as one of them; for all finite beings are in themselves dead, having no life in them but what they derive every moment from God who is the only being who has life in himself. And Jesus was and is that being, for he said, “As the Father hath life in himself so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” All these opinions of Christ, therefore, were and are of the earth earthly.
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
14-19. Inasmuch as truth from good which is from the Lord is the first of the church, and that principle was signified by Peter, therefore these things were said by the Lord to Peter, and they were then said when he acknowledged the Lord to be the Messiah or Christ, and to be the Son of the living God, for without this acknowledgment truth is not truth, for truth derives its origin, essence, and life from good, and good is from the Lord. That the gates of hell shall not prevail against it signifies that falses derived from evil, which are from the hells, shall not dare to rise up against those of the church who are in truths of good from the Lord. By the gates of hell are signified all the hells, in all of which there are gates through which falses from evil exhale and rise up. By the keys of heaven is signified introduction into heaven to all those who are in truths, derived from good from the Lord. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou Shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, signifies that heaven is opened by the Lord to those who are in truthc from good from Him, and that it is shut to those . who are not. E. 820.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
15, 16. By a rock the Lord is signified as to His Divine truth. This is the truth upon which the Lord builds His church, and Peter then represented that truth. R. 768.
15-19- They who press the sense of the letter think that these things were said of Peter, and that so great power was given to him, although they are fully aware that Peter was a very simple man, and that he by no means exercised such power, and that to exercise it is contrary to the Divine. The internal sense of those words is, that faith itself in the Lord, which is with those only who are in love to the Lord and in charity toward the neighbour, has that power, and yet not faith, but the Lord from Whom faith is. By Peter there that faith is meant, and every where else in the Word. Upon this the church is built, and against it the gates of hell do not prevail This faith has the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. It shuts heaven, lest evil and falsities should enter in, and opens heaven for goods and truths.
Preface, A. 2760.
By the rock upon which the church will be built, and consequently by Peter is signified the faith of charity. A. 4368.
By the keys is signified the Lord’s omnipotence over heaven and hell. R. 174.
By Peter is not understood Peter as an individual, but Divine truth from the Lord. E. 411.
By Peter is meant in the spiritual sense, truth derived from good which is from the Lord, thus faith derived from charity, and by the keys given to him is signified power over evils and falsities. These things were said of Peter when he acknowledged the Divinity of the Lord in His Humanity, by which is also understood that power is given to all who acknowledge the same, and who are from Him in the good of charity and thence in the truths of faith. E. 209.
15-20. It is plainly manifest from the Lord’s words themselves, that he did not give a particle of power to Peter, for the Lord says, Upon this rock will I build my church. By a rock the Lord is signified as to His Divine truth. R. 768.
15, 16. Well then might Jesus turn from all these conjectures and inquire of the disciples, But whom say ye that I am? And now comes the true and ever-memorable answer. Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Let us see the true and full import of this confession. The acknowledgment of Jesus as the Christ was literally the acknowledgment of him as the Messiah – the Saviour whose coming into the world had been the theme of prophecy from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Malachi. And whatever had been foretold of the Messiah, either as to his character or work, was included in that acknowledgment. Spiritually, the Christ is expressive of the Lord’s character as the Essential Divine Truth, by whom the world was created, and by whom, as the Incarnate Word, it was to be redeemed. The confession of him as the Son of the living God is the acknowledgment of him as having been the begotten of God, as the child born into the world by the virgin Mary. And this acknowledgement of his Divine paternity is, properly considered, the acknowledgment of his being God, and, of course, the supreme and only God, as to his divine nature, and the true and only Son of God as to his human nature. For there can be no God but one, and that which is begotten of God must, so far as derived from him, be divine, and one with himself. But the Lord, as born of a human mother, was, of course, so far as he partook of her nature, merely human that is, finite. His internal man or soul, as being from the Divine Father, was divine or infinite; but the external or body, as being from the human mother, was human or finite. Now, this merely human part was gradually glorified, and this glorification was completed by the passion of the cross; and when the Lord rose from the dead, he rose in a humanity wholly and purely divine. This is the humanity that is, in the complete and exclusive sense, the Son of God. And Jesus became the Son of God by glorification, as we become sons of God by regeneration, by being born of God. Jesus was begotten of God when be came into the world, and he was born of God when he went out of the world. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. He then ceased entirely, and for ever, to be the son of Mary, and was solely and purely the Son of the living God. Not, of course, that he was, according to the crude and erroneous notion, a distinct divine person from the Father, but that his humanity was divine, and one with his eternal divinity, as the body is one with the soul. The writer of the Hebrews seems to have had a clear view of this great truth when he spoke of Jesus, as represented by Melchisedec, being “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (vii. 3); for the Lord was himself the Father as to his divine nature. He had no mother, for he entirely ceased to be the son of Mary as to his human nature; and in himself he has neither beginning of days nor end of life; for he is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, who is, and who was, and who is to come the Almighty. Such is the great truth confessed by Peter – the truth of Christianity, which comprehends in itself the whole of salvation, as the design and result of the incarnation.
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
16 See Chapter III., 17. Can., Page 50.
16-18. The church which is in Divine truths from the Lord prevails over the hells, and it is this concerning which the Lord said to Peter (Verse 18). The Lord said this, after Peter had confessed that Christ was the Son of the living God. This truth is there meant by a rock, for by rock everywhere in the Word is meant the Lord as to Divine truth. T. 224.
By rock is meant the Lord as to Divine truth, and also Divine truth from the Lord. That this truth is the primary or chief of all, and like a diadem upon the head and a sceptre in the hand of the body of Christ, is evident from the Lord’s saying that upon that rock He would build His church, and the gates of hell should not prevail against it. T. 379.
By Peter here, in like manner as by David, is signified in the supreme sense, the Divine truth proceeding from the Divine good of the Lord, and, in the internal sense, all truth from good derived from the Lord. The same is also signified by rock in the Word. E. 206.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
17 With the ancients flesh and blood signified the human proprium, because the human consists of flesh and blood. A. 4735.
See Chapter V., 45, 48. A. 8328.
Flesh stands for the proprium of man. A. 8409.
There is appertaining to man the voluntary proprium and the intellectual proprium. His voluntary proprium is evil, and his intellectual proprium is the false thence derived, the former, namely the voluntary proprium is signified by the flesh of man, and the intellectual proprium by the blood of that flesh. A. 10283.
By flesh is signified what is proper to anyone (man’s own) which in itself is evil. R. 748.
See Chapter V., 16. E. 254.
The correspondence of the will is in general with the flesh, and the correspondence of the understanding is with the blood. Hence it is that the voluntary proprium of man in the Word is understood by flesh, and the intellectual proprium by blood. E.329.
By flesh is signified the voluntary proprium of man, which viewed in itself is evil. E. 1082.
17-19 et seq. Faith becomes faith in man when he obeys and does the precepts. When man does the precepts, or obeys them, then they enter the will or the man
himself, and become faith. This faith, which is obedience, is also signified by Peter, when he is named Simon, and the faith which is the affection of truth, when he is named Simon son of Jonah. E. 443.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which, is in heaven. The Lord here teaches that this great truth cannot be seen and acknowledged by mere human wisdom grounded in the human will. Flesh and blood – the will and wisdom of man – cannot reveal this truth to any human soul; and hence it is that mere human reason cannot see the divinity of the Lord’s humanity, but can only see Jesus as the son of Mary, and sometimes even as the son of Joseph. The perception of this truth must come from God out of heaven, entering as divine light through the interior of the human soul. And, indeed, its true and spiritual acknowledgement comes in mostly, not from the light, but from the love of God, not from divine light in the intellect, but from divine love in the heart. This love in the will of the inner man, in our heart of hearts, is the Father in heaven, by whom alone it is revealed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is to us the Christ as the Divine truth in our understanding. He is to us the Son of God as the Divine good in our wills. And the interior knowledge of this makes us blessed, for it has in it all the blessings of redemption and salvation.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
18 The gates of hell not prevailing, means that the hells durst not go forth and destroy the truths of faith. A. 10483.
18, 19. What is meant by power belonging to truth from good, scarcely any one can know who is in the world, but it is known to those in the other life, thus by revelation thence. They who are in truth from good, that is in faith from charity, are in power by truth from good. In this power are all the angels, and so in the Word angels are called powers, for they are in the power of restraining evil spirits, even one angel a thousand together. They exercise their power chiefly with man in defending him at times against many hells, and this in a thousand and thousand ways. This power they have by the truth of faith from the good of charity, but as they have their faith from the Lord, therefore it is the Lord alone who is their power. This power which they have by faith from the Lord, is meant by the Lord’s words to Peter. A. 6344.
That all power is in the truths which are of faith from the Lord, is plain from the Lord’s words to Peter, where by Peter is signified faith, and by rock in the Word is signified faith, and by key is meant power. A. 8304.
It is also plain to everyone who thinks from sound reason, that the power of opening heaven and of shutting hell for the good, and of opening hell and shutting heaven for the evil, belongs to the Lord alone, “and that it is given to faith is, because faith is from the Lord, thus. also the Lord’s, that is, the Lord Himself is in it. All power in the other life is also by the truth of faith from good. He who thinks from reason may also conclude that the Lord’s church was not built upon any man, thus not upon Peter, but upon the Lord Himself, thus upon faith in Him. A. 8581.
They who are in the external sense of the Word, separate from the internal, thus who are separated from the true doctrine of the church, persuade themselves that :such power from the Lord was given to Peter, and also to the rest of the disciples of the Lord. Hence that infernal heresy, that it is in human power to let into heaven and to shut out from heaven whomsoever it pleases. A. 9410.
The Divine truth which is meant by the rock upon which the Lord will build His church, is what Peter then confessed, which was, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. By the keys of the kingdom of heaven is meant that the Lord has power over heaven and earth. R. 798.
The Lord is also called a rock in many places in the Word, wherefore He meant Himself by the rock. R. 915.
It appears from the letter, as if that power was given to Peter, when nevertheless no power was given to Peter, but it was so said to him, because Peter signified truth derived from good which is from the Lord, and which has all power. E.9.
The reason why they are called keys is because all the hells are shut up and only opened when evil spirits are cast in thither, and when any are taken out from there, as is the case when evils increase with men. The openings which are then made are called gates, and because they are called gates mention is made of keys, by which on that account is signified the power of opening and shutting. E. 86.
The reason why heaven is opened to those who are in the faith of charity, and shut to those who are not, is because they who are in faith derived from charity are in Divine truth from the Lord, and to Divine truth from the Lord belongs all power. E. 206.
18 et seq. By Peter in the Word is meant the truth of the faith of the church from the good of charity, the same being meant by a rock, which is named together with Peter. It is not meant that any power was given to Peter, but that it is given to truth which is from good. J. 57.
19 See Chapter XL, 27. A. 10067.
By Peter in this passage is meant faith from the Lord, thus the Lord as to faith, which has that power. A. 10089.
By keys the power of opening and shutting is signified. The Lord’s power is not only over heaven, but also over hell, for hell is kept in order and connection by oppositions against heaven, and therefore He who governs the one necessarily governs the other, otherwise man could not have been saved. R. 62.
By these words is not understood that the disciples and Peter should have that power, but the Lord alone.
E. 333. That a key signifies opening is from appearance in the spiritual world, for in that world there are houses and chambers, also doors by which they enter, and locks and keys by which they are opened, and they all signify such things as are in man. E. 536.
18 This blessing is not, however, left to be inferred. I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church. We need not dwell upon the mistaken notions and false applications of this declaration of the Lord to Peter, or rather to Simon Barjona, for here Simon’s name was changed to Peter. It was as Simon that he made the confession, but it was as Peter that be became the foundation of the church, and the keeper of the keys of the kingdom and is therefore expressive of faith as grounded in the affection of truth in the will. Jona, which literally means a dove, signifies the principle of spiritual love or charity; so that the name Simon, son of Jona, is name was changed to Peter in consequence of the confession he made of the Lord as the Son of God; for Peter, literally a rock, signifies the truth. As Simon is expressive of faith in the will, Peter is expressive of that clear perception of truth in the understanding which gives to faith the evidence of intellectual sight. When from the heart we have made confession of the Lord as the Son of God – as God in his humanity – this great truth becomes in the mind the sure foundation, the chief corner-stone, on which all the principles of the church rest. Peter represents faith as well as truth; and, indeed the one implies the other, for truth has no actual existence in the mind except as the truth of faith. Thus the spiritual sense teaches, that what the Lord addressed literally to Peter is spiritually applicable to all whom Peter represented – to those who confess the Lord from the heart, and trust in him with the confidence of a true and living faith. Abstractly, it is applicable to the principle of truth and the grace of faith themselves, so that it is upon them in the heart and mind of the believer, and not upon him personally, that the gifts are Conferred. The heart’s confession of the Lord as the Son of God develops itself into a living faith in his truth in the understanding, and this change in our state is analogous to the change of Simon’s name to Peter, and the change of Jacob’s name to Israel, by a further development of the spiritual principle, and advance in the spiritual life. When from being Simon we become Peter, the truth of Jesus becomes the rock on which he builds his church; for he, as the eternal truth revealed to and dwelling in a sincere faith, is that on which all Christian graces and virtues repose as on a foundation. These graces and virtues constitute the church in the human mind. And when we have the true foundation of the church within us, then do we receive the divine assurance – and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Jesus came into the world to overcome – hell and hold it in subjection. And when he himself is the foundation, how can the power of hell prevail against the building that is reared and that rests upon it? This assurance implies, that the powers of hell make the attempt to overthrow the church in the mind of the Christian disciple. Of this the Lord’s disciples, and Peter in particular, had sufficient experience after this assurance was given; but they found, with the exception of one who never had this foundation in himself, that the Lord’s strength was sufficient to enable them to overcome the greatest assaults of the enemy. And such will be the experience of every Christian who carefully preserves the same sure and tried stone as the foundation of his hopes.
19 With this power of resisting the gates of hell there is also given to the Christian the power of opening the gates of heaven. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt find on earth shall be found in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. As there is a connection and series in the internal sense, we may see it here. Evil resides in the natural mind, which is meant by earth in the Word; and indeed, evil constitutes hell; so that the natural mind, in its unregenerate state, is a miniature, hell, the image of the greater. In the natural mind are the gates by which evil enters from the world and the kingdom of darkness, and by which it goes out to assault the good of the kingdom we have received from God. These are the gates of hell in our own minds that assail the church when it has been built upon the Rock of Ages. And it is when, by successful combat against evil, we have shut these gates of hell in the natural mind, that we can use the keys of the kingdom to open the gates of heaven in the spiritual mind; for the shutting of the one is the opening of the other. The keys of heaven are not actually given to us till we have resisted evil and shut the gates of hell. It is by the natural truths, precepts, and laws of the Word, and indeed, by those truths that say, “Thou shalt not,” that we resist and overcome evil, and so close the gates of hell. But it is by the spiritual truths of the Word, and those laws that say, “Thou shalt love the Lord above all things, and thy neighbour as thyself” that we are enabled to open the gate of heaven. Repentance shuts the gates of hell; holiness opens the gate of heaven. These spiritual and eternal truths are the keys of the kingdom, and they are given to us when we have faithfully employed the prohibitory laws of the letter of the Word in resisting evil. The keys of the kingdom were given to bind and to loose. This mode of expression is a Hebraism for prohibiting and allowing, as authority and power are meant by having the keys. In the spiritual sense, binding and loosing are expressive of very important acts in the regenerate life. By earth and heaven, as we have already seen, we are to understand the natural and the spiritual mind, or the internal and the external man. To bind on earth is to restrain and control the evil lusts of the natural mind, and to loose on earth is to give liberty and free action to its good affections. We are to bring our bad thoughts and affections under subjection to the authority of divine truth; and by the power of the same divine truth we are to deliver our good thoughts and affections that are imprisoned and oppressed. For in the natural mind, in its unregenerate state, evil rules and good serves – the natural rules the spiritual, the temporal the eternal. Thus the state of man is inverted, and regeneration restores it to order, which consists in the lower serving the higher. The keys of the kingdom give us the power of binding the evil and loosing the good, giving dominion to the good, and reducing the evil to subjection. Whatsoever is bound and loosed on earth is also bound and loosed in heaven. One of the grand features of regeneration consists in the spiritual and natural minds being brought into harmony and unity, and this is effected by bringing the natural into correspondence with the spiritual, the earthly into harmony with the heavenly. In man the spiritual mind acts and the natural mind re-acts. In his unregenerate state the natural re-acts against the spiritual, and so overcomes or neutralizes its action; when regenerated, the natural re-acts in obedience to and in harmony with the spiritual. Whatever, therefore, is bound and loosed in the natural mind is bound and loosed in the spiritual mind. Not that evil ever actually gains admission into the spiritual mind, but the effect is the same as if it did – for every unrepented evil in the natural mind turns into evil the good that flows into it from the spiritual mind. But when the evil is bound in the natural mind, the effect is that it no longer perverts the good that flows into it, so that what is bound on earth becomes bound in heaven. On the other hand, the good affections and thoughts in the natural mind, being loosed from bondage, become loosed and free in the spiritual mind also; for good can flow into the natural affections and thoughts, and act through them, so as to come forth, as it ever desires to do, in words of truth and works of goodness. This may be seen by the analogy between the less and the greater. We know that no one can enter heaven unless he is made heavenly while he lives upon earth. Only those persons who have fought the good fight, and have bound the evil and liberated the good in themselves, can ascend into heaven. In like manner, only those things that we have loosed and bound on earth will be loosed and bound in heaven; for our works follow us. No evil can be bound, no good can be loosed, in the other world, that is not first loosed or bound in this. So is it in our own heaven and earth As men are made angelic on earth before they become angels in heaven, so our thoughts and affections must be made angelic in the natural mind before they can exist as such in the spiritual mind. As there is not an angel in heaven who was not once an angelic man upon earth, so there is not an angelic principle in the spiritual mind that was not first an angelic principle in the natural mind. That is first which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual. When we speak of a work being done on earth before it is done in heaven, or in the natural mind before it is done in the spiritual, we mean that it has no positive and permanent existence in the higher till it is done in the lower. No work is complete till it comes into its ultimate state. The reason our Lord came into the world and assumed a natural humanity was, that he might operate from first by last principles, and so accomplish the work of redemption. And having while on earth bound hell itself, and loosed mankind from spiritual bondage, and glorified his humanity, he ascended far above all heavens. And now he has the keys of hell and of death; and he it is who opens, and no man can shut; and who shuts, and no man can open. He it is therefore who binds and looses in us, and to whom belongs the glory.
20 When Jesus had delivered and expounded this great truth of his kingdom to his followers, when he had been acknowledged by them openly in his true character, and had delivered to them the keys of his kingdom, Then charged he of his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. The time was not yet come for the full preaching of this truth to the world. But there is a sense in which it applies to us also. This injunction is to be understood in a way to that which he gave to some when cured of their diseases – to tell no man that he had done it – that this truth could not yet be received rightly and profitably by the natural man – meant by the men without – the Lord’s humanity being not yet glorified to that degree which corresponded with the degree of life and receptivity in which they were. The disciples afford an example of this themselves, on the very subject which the Lord next introduces to them; for although it seems evidently to have made an impression upon them, and was several times repeated to them, they had so entirely forgotten it that even its fulfilment failed to bring it to their remembrance. Yet there were reasons for this truth being made known at this time to the disciples themselves.
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
21 See Chapter XII., 40. A. 2788.
See Chapter XII., 40. E. 532.
21-23. The truth is that the Lord admitted temptations into Himself, in order that He might expel thence all that was merely human, and this until nothing but the Divine remained. That the Lord admitted temptations into Himself, even the last, which was that of the cross, may be evident from the words of the Lord Himself in Matthew. A. 2816.
By Peter is also signified faith separate from charity, which in itself is not faith. E. 820.
22, 23. The reason why the Lord spake these words to Peter is because Peter, in the representative senser signified faith, and as faith is of truth and also of the false, as in the present case, therefore Peter is called! Satan, for Satan stands for the hell whence falses arise. E. 740.
21 From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. This was one of the means by which his purpose in coming into the world was to be effected, yet the Lord now only began to show it to those who were to be the instruments of preaching Christ and him crucified, yea, rather, risen again. This shows that it formed no part of their first preaching of the gospel. Their commission then was to preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and to heal the sick and cleanse lepers. The preaching of the gospel in the fulness of its spirituality and glory was yet to come. Jesus only now “began” to show unto them the mystery of the cross, and through this the majesty and glory of his kingdom. Gradually, and wisely, and tenderly, as they were able to bear it, did the Lord unfold unto them the mysteries of his kingdom. Through Peter they had confessed the grand truth that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and they were now prepared to hear, though not yet to understand, the ultimate means of his glorification. In all this we see the progressive unfolding of the Christian principle in the mind of every true Christian, the history of the disciples being the history of every true follower of the Lord. When a truth is once received and acknowledged, it begins to unfold itself. The great truth of the Lord’s being the Christ, when once received, must work itself out into a practical principle. Between the reception and the realization of this truth stands the cross – first as an offence to the intellect, and then of terror to the heart, but finally to become an object in which to glory, as the symbol of the gate of life.
In directing the disciples to look forward to the cross, Jesus told them he must go to Jerusalem, out of which it cannot be that a prophet perish. Jerusalem represented the church. The Lord went up to the holy city, not to provoke the hostility of the Jewish priesthood, but to represent his entering into the interior states of good and truth, which were the necessary parts of his glorification. The opposition which there assailed him was the inevitable result of that awful perversion of the sanctities of religion which then had desecrated the holiest place. Jerusalem – or, rather, the elders, chief priests and scribes of the church there – represented also the perverse religious element in our own minds, – the old life, with its lusts, errors, and prejudices, that opposes itself to the Lord’s new life in the soul, especially to the humiliating means by which it is to be perfected, and against which the natural mind revolts. The Lord indeed, directs his disciples to look beyond these means to the glorious end, when he should be raised again the third day. But at this stage the disciple cannot look to the end; he does not relish it, and he cannot comprehend it. He questions what the rising from the dead can mean. He cannot see Christ’s glory as an end, so long as he cannot see his suffering and death as means. He understands nothing of these things. They are hid from him. Yet it is necessary that the disciple should bear them, that they may be laid up in his mind as knowledge, to be brought forth when the time comes for him to realize them as truth.
22 We now see how it was that Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. Peter here, as is usual, represents faith, but it is intellectual faith, and so far faith alone, and therefore a false faith. The offence of the cross is one of universal experience in the early stages of the Christian life. The cross is repugnant to our unrenewed nature; and the old man, yet unsubdued, casts his malign influence over our new faith, and darkens our confession of Christ with a denial of his sufferings, and therefore of the true glory that hes beyond them.
23 The Lord therefore turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. The Lord turned to Peter, to bring the direct light and full force of his truth to bear upon him, to disclose to him the depth and malignity of the error he had expressed, and, calling the apostle by the name of Satan, commanded him to get behind him, as an offence unto him. The gravity of Peter’s error is evident from the severity of the Saviour’s language. Yet this is to be understood of the sentiment rather than of the man. It is evident from Peter’s speech to his Divine Master, that he knew nothing of the true nature of the Lord’s redemption. He was a fitter type of the disciple who has yet learnt nothing of the true nature of the cross of Christ in himself. The Lord called Peter Satan, to indicate the origin and character of man’s offence at the cross. Satan is the name which is applied to designate the spirits of darkness who are in false principles, and to express the root of false persuasions in our own minds. Peter still represents faith, but a false faith – faith alone; which practically, deprecates the passion of the cross. This was the Lord’s final victory over all the powers of darkness, and at the same time the full union of his humanity with his divinity. This being unknown to those who are in the faith of what is false, our Lord said further to Peter, “Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
24 The temptation of the Lord is a type of the temptation of the faithful, wherefore the Lord says that whosoever would follow Him must take up his cross. A. 7166.
See Chapter X., 38. Life 99.
See Chapter X., 38. R. 639.
To deny one’s self is to reject the evils which are from the proprium. E. 122.
That to go after the Lord and to follow Him is to deny self, is evident. For a man to deny himself, is not to be led of himself but of the Lord. He denies himself who is averse from evils and shuns them because they are sins. E. 864.
See Chapter X., 38. E. 893.
25 See Chapter X., 34. A. 8159.
24-26. See Chapter X., 39. R. 556.
See Chapter X., 28. E. 750.
25 By life or soul is meant the life of man’s proprium. Life 99. See Chapter X., 39. R. 639.
26 See Chapter X., 28. A. 7021.
That worldly blessing is nothing in comparison with heavenly blessing, which is eternal, the Lord teaches. Nevertheless the man who is in worldly and earthly things does not apprehend this saying, for worldly and earthly things suffocate and cause it not even to be believed that there is eternal life. A. 8939.
By redemption also the angels understand vindication from evils and liberation from falsities. Redemption means deliverance from condemnation. E. 328.
24 How appropriate and instructive is the address which the Lord next delivers to his disciples! If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Peter had deprecated his Master’s suffering the death of the cross: the Lord now tells his disciples that if they would come after him, they must themselves endure it. This strikes at the very root of our offence at his cross. We are offended at the idea of Jesus suffering, because we ourselves are unwilling to suffer. As the Lord himself was to suffer many things, so we are to deny ourselves, and take up our cross; for we must, like him, resist and subdue evil, as the means of acquiring goodness. We must also follow him, by living according to his truth and after his example. We are to deny ourselves by resisting self-love; we are to take up our cross by crucifying the lusts of the flesh; and are to follow the Lord by forsaking all, and devoting ourselves to his service. The duty of taking up our cross involves the bearing it even to the death of our corrupt selfhood.
25 The Lord therefore proceeds to say, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. The seeming paradox contains a very plain and momentous truth. Love is life. The life of the natural mind is the love of self and the world; the life of the spiritual mind is the love of the Lord and the neighbour. It is not, therefore, the same life that we save and lose, nor that we lose and find. He that saves the life of selfish and worldly love loses the life of love to the Lord and the neighbour; but whosoever for the Lord’s sake loses his carnal and worldly life gains spiritual and eternal life. These two lives are present in the mind of every disciple in the early period of the regenerate life. Were it not so, there would be no conflict; for all conflict is between opposite loves, thus between opposite lives. It is the carnal life and the spiritual life that contend with each other. The contest continues till one is overcome, and one yields up the dominion to the other, when that which conquers becomes the animating principle of the whole mind and life. Our Lord speaks in the same way respecting himself. Of his own life he says, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (John x. 18). That which he laid down was not the same life that he took again. The life he laid down was that which he inherited from his human mother, and the life he took up was that which he inherited from his Divine Father, and which became the life of his whole humanity by glorification, completed in his resurrection.
26 The Lord brings out his meaning and his lesson more fully in what he now says. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Truly the soul, or the life (for the word is the same), is more precious to a man than the whole world, and nothing would he take for it in exchange. If a man will not give his natural life for the world, how much less should he be disposed to give spiritual and eternal life in exchange for it. If spiritual life is as much superior to natural life as natural life is to the whole world, how ready should we be to lay down the natural, that we may take up the spiritual, which is also eternal. The life, to be laid down is self-love, and the world that profits nothing is the love of the world; thus the two constitute the whole natural man.
27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
27 Deeds stand for the good which proceeds from charity, and the things which are of charity are also called fruits of faith. A. 2349.
It is manifest that works are what save man, and what condemn man. A. 3934.
Since by a kingdom was represented the Divine truth, therefore the throne upon which kings sat when they judged was called a throne of glory in the prophets. Glory, in the supreme sense, is the Lord as to the Divine truth, thus it is the Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord. A. 5922.
By works here are not meant works as they appear in the external form, but such as they are in internal form, namely, such as is the charity contained in them. Angels regard works in no other way. A. 6073.
Man is of a quality such as is the quality of the life of his charity, but not such as is that of the life of his piety without that of his charity. Hence the life of charity abides with man to eternity. A. 8256.
See Chapter V., 20. A. 9282.
It is evident how it is to be understood, that everyone is to receive judgment in the other life according to his actions or his works, namely that it is to be according to those things which are of the heart, and thence of the life. A. 9293.
As all judgment is from truth, therefore it is said that it is given to the Lord to do judgment because He is the Son of Man. The Son of Man is the Divine truth. A. 9807.
To enter into His glory is to be united to the Divine good which was in Him, thus to Jehovah or His Father. A. 10053.
By works are meant all things appertaining to man, since all things of man which are in his will and understanding, are in his works, for from those principles man does work. A. 10331.
See Chapter VII., 21-23. H. 471.
The Lord is called the Son of Man when judgment is treated of. L. 25.
See Chapter V., 19, 20. Life 2.
There is with man from the Lord this ability to -reciprocate and to do in his turn, and thus to bear his part in what is mutual, he is therefore to render an account of his works, and to be recompensed according to them. See John v. 29 : Revelation xiv. 13, etc. If there were with man no power to reciprocate, there would be no imputation. Life 105.
See Chapter VII., 19, 20. P. 128.
That the Lord will execute judgment from His Divine Human because He is the Word, is evident from this passage. R. 273.
It is known that the externals which appear before men derive their essence, soul, and life from the internals which do not appear before men, but which do appear before the Lord and before the angels. The latter and the former, or the externals and the internals taken together are works ; good works if the internals are in love and faith and the externals act and speak from them, but evil works if the internals are not in love and faith and the externals act and speak from them. If the externals act and speak as if from love and faith, those works are either hypocritical or meritorious. R. 641.
Every one’s life remains with him after death. The works according to which it will be rendered to everyone, are the life, because the life does the works, and they are according to the life. M. 524.
Because all judgment is executed from truth, therefore it is said that it is given to the Lord to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. E. 63.
Because works or deeds in the Word signify specifically those things which proceed from the love or will of man, therefore it is often said in the Word that man shall be judged and rewarded according to his works, where by works are not understood such as they are in the external form, but in the internal. E. 98.
Father signifies the Divine good and angels Divine truth. E. 200.
See Chapter V., 19. E. 250.
See Chapter V., 1-48 (Whole chapter). E. 785.
Everyone shall be judged according to his works, that is according to his life. E. 875.
See Chapter VII., 19-21. T. 376.
See Chapter V., 11-12. T. 440.
See Chapter III., 8. T. 483.
That there is an imputation of good and evil which is what is meant where imputation is mentioned in the Word, is evident from innumerable passages therein, but that everyone may be certain that there is no other imputation some passages from the Word shall be presented. John v. 29 : Revelation xx. 12, 13 ; xxii. 12 : Hosea iv. 9 ; Zechariah i. 6, etc. T. 643.
That every one’s life remains with him after death is known in the church from the Word, and from these things there. See also Revelation xx. 12, 13 : Romans ii. 6 : 2 Corinthians v. 10. B. 110.
That the Son shall come in the glory of His Father and shall reward everyone according to his works.
D. P., Page 37.
27, 28. That the Lord reigns. See Luke xvi. 16: Mark i. 14, 15 : John iii. 35. R. 839.
See Chapter III., 2. T. 113.
27 A powerful reason for laying down the life of self-love, and rejecting the love of the world, is the certainty of final judgment. For the Son Of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. A general judgment is no doubt meant in these words, but not such as is generally expected. The words are commonly understood to refer to the end of the world, when all the dead shall be raised, and judged to heaven or hell. This notion is derived from a misunderstanding of the Scriptures, which nowhere teach that the world shall have an end, nor that the bodies of the dead shall be raised, nor that this world is the scene of the judgment. All judgment takes place in the spiritual world, upon the souls which have passed out of the natural world, and are still in the intermediate state, and at the end of the church, which is meant by the end of the age. We need not, however, take up the subject of the judgment in the eternal world, in which all are judged according to their works, but will consider the Lords words in their purely spiritual sense, as being applicable to the regenerate. The Lord introduces the subject of his coming to judgment, to teach us that when we have taken up our cross, and resisted the life of selfish and worldly loves, and have placed above them the love of God and the neighbour, the Lord will come as a judge, to effect a separation between the evil and the good, and assign each a place according to its character. The Son of man is the Lord as the Divine truth, which is the principle that judges; for the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, because he is the Son of man (John v. 21, 27). Yet the Lord never judges from truth alone, separate from love; therefore he is to come in the glory of his Father, or of his own divine love, and of angels, which are the truths of the Word and of heaven. These come to the man who successfully resists evil, and give the reward of righteousness and peace for the labours of self-denial which he has performed.
28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
28 It is from the Lord’s being called a king, that heaven and the church are called His kingdom, and that His coming into the world is called the gospel of the kingdom. L. 42.
Heaven and the church are called His kingdom. R. 664. See Chapter III., 2. E. 376.
28 The Lord concludes by giving this promise: Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. That coming could not be at the end of the world. The declaration must be spiritually understood. The Lord is, in regard to the general church, speaking prophetically of the last times, which are the last states of religion, both as to purity of doctrine and life. In John xxi. 22 we read that Jesus said to Peter, respecting John, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” and we read that a saying went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. Did John tarry till the Lord came? Those did whom John represented. This, therefore, was spoken of John in his representative character, as the Lord had previously spoken to Peter as a representative man. The beloved apostle represented the principle of love, but of practical love, which is charity, and he therefore represented, also, those who are in this love, and continue in it to the end. Those who should not see death till they had seen the Son of man coming in his kingdom are those whom John represented. The Lord’s meaning is, that amidst the general corruption, when even faith itself should perish, some remains of love and charity should survive, till the time of his second coming, to form the rudiment of a new dispensation. It is persons of this character, also, that see the Son of man coming in his kingdom; for they who are in charity see the truth and acknowledge it, and the Lord’s truth is the Son of man; and the Son of man comes in his kingdom when his truth is admitted into the mind, and entrusted with the government of the will and understanding. In the particular application of the Lord’s words they relate to the regenerate, to whom the Lord comes as a Judge and a Saviour. Love and charity are the principles in the minds of the regenerate which see the Son of man coming in his kingdom; and the Lord provides that some of these shall be preserved in every mind, and shall not taste of death till they see the coming of the Son of man. It is through these that the Lord at his second coming enters into the mind, and it is among these that he sets up his kingdom.
AUTHOR: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (COMPILED BY ROBERT S. FISCHER AND LOUIS G. HOECK 1906)
COMMENTARY AUTHOR: WILLIAM BRUCE (1866)
PICTURES: JAMES TISSOT Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum