CITIES >> Doctrines of Faith>> Spiritual and Celestial Things of Faith
Opposite sense >> Heresies

ci1ty In the ancient time the members of each family of a nation lived together and formed what was called a city. Living thus apart from others, each family developed its own  kind of life based upon its own understanding of the laws of life. When the inhabitants of a city were mentioned in those days, the spiritual thought was of a special development of character and use, while the city itself suggested the principles on which that life was based and by which it was defended. (AC 2451, 4478; AR 194, 712)

In heaven also the angels live in societies according to the varieties of their reception of Divine truth and their application of it in uses. These societies are like so many states and cities. A city therefore means to the angels, as it meant to the wise ancients, the principles of truth which give stability and form to some heavenly use. (AE 223, 652; HH 50, 184; CL 17) If we now recall passages from the Bible where cities are mentioned, you will see that they stand for true principles or doctrines which support and defend good life and uses, or false doctrines which excuse evil life.

When we read of the Israelites destroying the cities of their enemies, we shall think of the overthrow of false principles by the power of Divine truth. "O LORD, thou art my God; . . . thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For thou hast made of a city a heap; of a defended city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city, it shall never be built.

Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee." (Isa. xxv. 1-3; AE 223; AC 402; AR 194) When we read of the strength of Jerusalem, we shall think of the power of Divine principles of truth to support and defend and guide a heavenly life. "In that day shall this song be' sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth truth may enter in." (Isa. xxvi. 1, 2; AE 223; AR 194; AC 2851)

In that beautiful Psalm of the redeemed we read: "They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. . . . And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation." (Ps. cvii. 4, 7) To find no city is to be without true doctrine by which to live; we receive it from the Lord. (AE 223, 730) "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." (Ps. cxxvii. 1) We saw in the first clause a lesson of our inability to gain for ourselves the love of heavenly use; we are equally unable without the Lord to preserve our understanding of true principles of life. (PP) Remember the parable of the talents, and how their lord gave to the faithful servants authority over ten cities and five cities. (Luke xix. 12-19) It tells of the gain of heavenly intelligence by the faithful use of the faculties entrusted to us. (AR 194, 606; AE 223, 675; AC 5297) "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. v. 14,16) How plainly the city on a hill is a symbol of true principles taught from love of good life! (AE 223, 405)

We can now read with still greater pleasure other verses about "the city of God " (Ps. xlvi. 4), seeing still more clearly that it is a symbol of the doctrines of a true church from the Lord's Word, guiding and defending the Lord's people in good life. "Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth." (Zech. viii. 3; PP) "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together." (Ps, cxxii. 3; AR 880; D. Lord 64; TCR 782) "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. . . . Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell [or number] the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following." (Ps. xlviii. 2, 12, 13) It is an appeal to love the interior truths of the church, and the external truths which defend it from falsities; for they will endure to eternity. (AE 453, 850)

And now we do not need to be told the meaning of the holy city seen by John. "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. . . . And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates. . . . And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. . . And the , twelve gates were twelve pearls: . . and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Rev. xxi. 10-27) It is a promise of a new church founded upon true doctrines from the Word, safe in the knowledge of the Divine protection, and living in golden ways of love. (AR 194, 879-925; AE 223, 1305-1334; NJHD 1; TCR 781-784; AC 8988)


0019That by the "city that was built" is signified all the doctrinal and heretical teaching that came from that heresy, is evident from every passage of the Word in which the name of any city occurs; for in none of them does it ever mean a city, but always something doctrinal or else heretical. The angels are altogether ignorant of what a city is, and of the name of any city; since they neither have nor can have any idea of a city, in consequence of their ideas being spiritual and celestial, as was shown above. They perceive only what a city and its name signify. Thus by the "holy city" which is also called the "holy Jerusalem" nothing else is meant than the kingdom of the Lord in general, or in each individual in particular in whom is that kingdom. The "city" and "mountain of Zion" also are similarly understood; the latter denoting the celestial of faith, and the former its spiritual.

[2] The celestial and spiritual itself is also described by "cities" "palaces" "houses" "walls" "foundations of walls" "ramparts" "gates" "bars" and the "temple" in the midst; as in Ezekiel 48; in Revelation 21:15 to the end, where it is also called the Holy Jerusalem, verses 2, 10; and in Jeremiah 31:38. In David it is called "the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High" (Ps. 46:4); in Ezekiel, "the city, Jehovah there" (Ezek. 48:35), and of which it is written in Isaiah:

The sons of the stranger shall build thy walls, all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet, and they shall call thee the city of Jehovah, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 60:10, 14).

In Zechariah:

Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth; and the mountain of Zion, the mountain of holiness (Zech. 8:3),

where the "city of truth" or "Jerusalem" signifies the spiritual things of faith; and the "mountain of holiness" or "of Zion" the celestial things of faith. [3] As the celestial and spiritual things of faith are represented by a city, so also are all doctrinal things signified by the cities of Judah and of Israel, each of which when named has its own specific signification of something doctrinal, but what that is no one can know except from the internal sense. As doctrinal things are signified by "cities" so also are heresies, and in this case every particular city, according to its name, signifies some particular heretical opinion. At present we shall only show from the following passages of the Word, that in general a "city" signifies something doctrinal, or else heretical.

[4] Thus we read in Isaiah:

In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking with the lip of Canaan, and swearing to Jehovah Zebaoth; one shall be called the city Heres (Isa. 19:18),
where the subject treated of is the memory-knowledge [scientia] of spiritual and celestial things at the time of the Lord's advent. So again, when treating of the valley of vision, that is, of phantasy:
Thou art full of tumults, a tumultuous city, an exulting city (Isa. 22:2).
In Jeremiah, speaking of those who are "in the south" that is, in the light of truth, and who extinguish it:
The cities of the south have been shut up, and none shall open them (Jer. 13:19).
Jehovah hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion; therefore He maketh the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together. Her gates are sunk into the ground; He hath destroyed and broken her bars (Lam. 2:8-9),

where anyone may see that by a "wall" a "rampart" "gates" and "bars" doctrinal things only are meant.

[5] In like manner in Isaiah:

This song shall be sung in the land of Judah, We have a strong city; salvation will set the walls and the bulwark; open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth fidelities may enter in (Isa. 26:1-2).


I will exalt thee, I will confess to Thy name, for Thou hast made of a city a heap, of a defensed city a ruin; a palace of strangers shall not be built of the city forever. Therefore shall the strong people honor Thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear Thee (Isa. 25:1-3),

in which passage there is no reference to any particular city. In the prophecy of Balaam:

Edom shall be an inheritance, and out of Jacob shall one have dominion, and shall destroy the residue of the city (Num. 24:18-19)where it must be plain to everyone that "city" here does not mean a city. In Isaiah:

The city of emptiness is broken; every house is shut, that the cry over wine in the streets cannot enter (Isa. 24:10-11),

where the "city of emptiness" denotes emptinesses of doctrine; and "streets" signify here as elsewhere the things which belong to the city, whether falsities or truths. In John:

When the seventh angel poured out his vial, the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell (Rev. 16:17, 19).
That the "great city" denotes something heretical, and that the "cities of the nations" do so too, must be evident to everyone. It is also explained that the great city was the woman that John saw (Rev. 17:18); and that the woman denotes a church of that character has been shown before. [AC402]

Of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying. That this signifies as to the doctrinal things through which there is faith, is evident from the signification of "gate," as being entrance, thus that which introduces (in like manner as "door," see n. 2145, 2152, 2356, 2385); and from the signification of "city," as being the truth of faith (see n. 402, 2268, 2449, 2451, 2712). Cities in the Ancient Church were not like the cities of later times and of the present day, that is, assemblages and gatherings of people; but they were the dwelling together of separate families. The family of one parent constituted a city, as for instance the city of Nahor (to which Abraham's servant came when he was to betroth Rebekah to Isaac, Gen. 24:10) was Nahor's family which was there; and Shalem, the city of Shechem (to which Jacob came when he journeyed from Paddan-aram, Gen. 33:18; 34) was the family of Hamor and Shechem, which was there; and so with the other cities of that time.

[2] And as they had learned from the most ancient people that nations and families represented the heavenly societies, and thus the things of love and charity (n. 655, 1159), so when a "city" is mentioned instead of a family, and "people" instead of nation, truth is signified which is of faith. Hence also the "city of God" and the "holy city," in the genuine sense signify faith in the Lord; and as a walled town or city signified faith, the "gate" of the city signified doctrinal things, because these introduce to faith. This in the representative Jewish Church was also signified by the judges and the elders sitting in the gate of the city and judging there; as is plain from the historical parts of the Word; and also in Zechariah:

These are the words that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth with his companion, judge truth and the judgment of peace in your gates (Zech. 8:16).
Also in Amos:

Hate the evil and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate (Amos 5:15).

(That a "gate" also signifies the way of access to the rational mind, and that this mind is compared to a city, may be seen above, n. 2851.) [AC2943]

Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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