The accounts of the Lord's resurrection, which are given in the Gospels, are not to be considered as a series of natural images serving to suggest to the mind a series of spiritual truths, with, which the events themselves are arbitrarily, though ingeniously connected ; but they actually are representative effects, and therefore necessarily connected with their spiritual causes. They are not conventional symbols, which are made to stand for spiritual ideas, but they are outbirths of spiritual states of mind, which they signify and represent, and from which they cannot be disconnected, without losing their reality, and becoming mere fictions, or shadows of the imagination. In the views of Swedenborg, correspondency is the relationship between a cause in the mind and an effect which is presented to the senses. Taking this rule as our guide, we will endeavour to interpret the facts which immediately preceded and accompanied the Lord's resurrection, as they are given in the Gospel according to Matthew. But before we attempt this, it is important for the reader to understand, and never for a moment to lose sight of this truth, that the Lord Jesus Christ was in Himself never any other than the Lord Jehovah; that crucified, dead, and buried, considered essentially, He was as much Jehovah as at His resurrection and ascension, and as when He said to Philip, "He who seeth Me seeth the Father;" notwithstanding that He appeared to those who did not really, because they did not spiritually, see Him, as another being, with distinct consciousness, and with finite powers of will, intellect, and bodily life. As He was Jehovah, He was the inmost ground of the life of every one, and was therefore omnipresent in every one, with the whole of His Divine Love and Wisdom, or with the whole of His Divine Life. As He, therefore, who has ears to hear cannot fail to hear the Divine Truth itself, in all that the Lord Jesus Christ has uttered, even in those parts where the most marked distinction is made between the Father and the Son, even so will he see, if he have eyes to see, the same Lord Jehovah, as much in His crucifixion, death, and burial, as in His glorification and ascension. But then he must hear with spiritual ears, he must see with spiritual eyes. Let the following example show how this may be done.
The narrative begins by saying that it was "in the end of the Sabbath;" so that we have first of all to, consider and determine what is signified by the Sabbath, and what by the end of it; or, what could have been, and therefore what still continues to be the spiritual cause, of which "the end of the Sabbath " was, and is, the effect. For we must bear in mind that time and the divisions of time, are natural effects representing their spiritual causes, and that their spiritual causes are the various states of the human intellect, which embody forth the intentions and propensities of the will. For time as well as space are the representative effects of mental states; time and its progressions, of states of the intellect; space and its extension, of states of the will; and therefore natural events in space and time correspond to the states of the church in man; or, all nature, that is, the natural world with its objects in space, and their changes in time, is a theatre which represents the Lord's spiritual kingdom of mental state. What then could have been that Sabbath during which the Lord was dead and buried ? The question can only be satisfactorily answered by knowing the spiritual cause of which His death and burial were the representative effects. To crucify the Lord signifies to deny Him ; in other words, the spiritual denial of Him was represented in the natural crucifixion. To deny Him is not to acknowledge Him to be the Divine Truth, and the Divine Truth is the manifested form of the Divine Goodness or Jehovah. But the denial is not confined to a denial of the intellect, to which the Divine Truth is manifested, but is a consequence of the rejection of the Divine Truth by the will; for the Lord said, " the Light is come into the world," that is, spiritually, the Divine Truth is manifested to the intellect of the natural man, "but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil;" and their deeds were evil, because they had rejected all charity and mutual kindness and forbearance from their wills, and therefore the darkness of falsehood was more delightful to them than the light of the Divine Truth. The death of the Lord was a representative effect of the total extinction and annihilation on their parts of His life in them, and His burial was a representative effect of the concurrence of the intellect in confirming that extinction.
Now during the Jewish Sabbath He lay dead and buried, and early in the morning of the Christian Sabbath He rose again, and His resurrection was the representative effect of such a change in the church, that is, in the love and faith of His true disciples, that from being natural, in preferring themselves and the world to the Lord and their neighbour, they became, by admitting a heavenly light to influence their minds, spiritual. Now the spiritual Sabbath, or the Sabbath of the regenerated, is a holy state of peace, and heavenly rest from worldly anxieties and troubles, in consequence of the Lord's Presence being perceived, communicating to man a perfect confidence in His Providence, and resignation to His Will. The Sabbath of His death and burial must therefore represent a contrary, or natural state of the will and intellect, in which evil is preferred to goodness, and falsehood to truth; for it is this state which interiorly crucifies, kills, and buries the Lord. The end then of this Sabbath signifies the consummation of this natural state in the minds of all those, to whom the Lord rises again in the course of their regeneration.
There are two descriptions of persons in whom the Lord is spiritually crucified ; the one consists of those, who in the progress of their reformation see and lament His death, and who, by the presence of the Divine Truth in them, are enabled to explore the evils to which they are prone, and the falsities which obscure their intellects. These are represented by the women and the disciples to whom the Lord appeared at His resurrection. The others consist of those who rejoice, and delight in His crucifixion, His death and burial, because they delight in the evil and falsehood which spiritually destroy the Divine Truth in them, and these are imaged in the Priests and Scribes, who sealed the stone which closed up the sepulchre, and set a watch to guard it. To the latter description of persons the Lord did not appear at His resurrection, nor could He appear, because He did not spiritually rise by their regeneration, this having been the cause of the natural phenomenon; and therefore it is nowhere said that He appeared to the Jews, but only to His disciples, and no others were His disciples but those who from Him received both charity and faith. But to be interiorly receptive of these heavenly virtues, they must go to see, and even enter the sepulchre in which the Lord is buried; that is, spiritually, they must explore the evil and falsehood of their natural minds, by which the Divine Truth has been destroyed.
This, however, could only be done when it began to dawn towards the beginning of the week, for this commencement of the dawn signified the commencement of a new or spiritual state, in which the Lord rises in man, and begins to live. But the dawn was just appearing, because the commencement of the twilight was an effect, that corresponded to the first obscure presentation to their understandings of heavenly light, that light which, as it advanced, was to reveal the living form of the Divine Truth, no longer buried in the cave of their selfish and sensual desires and thoughts, but risen, and going before them into Galilee.
All these natural phenomena were, like every other appearance in nature, effects, which represented their spiritual causes in those to whom the dawn of the morning was accompanied by a new or spiritual state of mind, and in whom the beginning of the week represented the beginning of the Lord's spiritual resurrection.
The first who came to see the sepulchre were "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary," and they came together, because the hearts of both, though not with the same strength of affection, were turned to that Divine Form of Truth which had brought the Divine Goodness forth to view, and which was now about to rise and live in them. Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Lord is said to have cast seven devils, signified that interior or spiritual affection for the Divine Truth, which springs from repentance, and the other Mary, the exterior or natural affection. Their approach to the sepulchre was the sign or representative effect of their love to the Lord, and their grief that he should still lie buried in the death and darkness of the natural mind. But this new-born affection for the Divine Truth, this sorrow for its death, produced in the region of the senses, the whole scene of the garden and the cave, in which, the stone being not yet rolled away, they conceived the dead body of the Lord to be deposited. Next follows the effect of a still further change, manifested in the region of the senses by a great earthquake, and the appearance of an angel, who is called the angel of the Lord, descending and rolling away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and sitting upon it. And of what spiritual causes were these phenomena the natural effects? The earthquake was the representation of an interior change in the natural mind, in consequence of the Divine Truth in the heavens descending and spiritually rolling away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, that is, removing the falsities, which, being the appearances of truth confirmed, close up and darken the cave of the natural mind, in which cave, before this change, the Lord lies dead and buried. The whole of this phenomenon was a representative effect of corresponding changes in the minds of those who witnessed it. But the angel, when he had rolled away the stone, "sat upon it;" and the spiritual reason for this is, that the Lord, by the removal of the stone, had actually risen, and then natural truth, or the truth of the literal sense of the Word, is no longer falsified by being separated from its interior sense, but becomes the basis on which the living truth of the spiritual sense, which was represented by the angel of the Lord from heaven, rests. That spiritual Divine Truth, which reveals to man the resurrection of his Saviour, at the same time that it is the mediatory cause of that resurrection, is thus described. " His countenance was like lightning, and His raiment was white as snow;" and it was so represented in the region of the senses, because the bright light of interior truth, signified by the brightness of His countenance, reveals the tenderness of the Divine Love, and the doctrine of the Word in its spiritual sense, which was the cause for the appearance of His raiment, is not fallacious, like the doctrine of the literal sense, but pure and holy.
We cannot conclude this explanation, without calling attention to the remarkable fact, that though the women must have felt the earthquake, and have seen the angel descend from heaven, and roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre and sit upon itfor he tells them, when the guards became as dead with fear, that they had no occasion to be afraidthey yet did not see the Lord come out of the sepulchre; nay, more, the angel told them that He had actually risen, and gone before them into Galilee, though he had just before removed the stone which closed up the entrance of the cave. It is not anywhere said by either of the Evangelists, that the women or the disciples witnessed the resurrection of the Lord from the sepulchre itself.