Spiritual Meaning of

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A cup is often mentioned in the Word, and by it in the genuine sense is signified spiritual truth, that is, the truth of faith which is from the good of charity the same as by wine; and in the opposite sense is signified the falsity by which comes evil, and also falsity from evil. That a cup signifies the same as wine is because a cup is what contains, and wine is what is contained, and hence they constitute one thing, and therefore the one is meant by the other.

[3] That such is the signification of cup in' the Word, is plain from the following passages:--

Jehovah, Thou wilt set in order a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou wilt make fat my head with oil; my cup will run over (Ps. 23:5);

to set in' order a table and anoint the head with oil denotes being gifted with the good of charity and love; my cup will run over denotes that the natural is thence filled with spiritual truth and good. Again:--

What shall I render unto Jehovah? I will take the cup of salvations, and call upon the name of Jehovah (Ps. 116:12, 13);

to take the cup of salvations denotes the appropriation of the goods of faith.

[4] In Mark:--

Whosoever shall give you drink in a cup of water in My name, because ye are Christ's, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward (Mark 9:41);

to give drink in a cup of water in My name denotes instructing in the truths of faith from a little charity.

[5] In Matthew:--

Presently, taking the cup, and giving thanks, He gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood, that of the New Testament (Matthew 26:27, 28; Mark 14:23, 24; Luke 22:20).

It is said the cup and not the wine, because wine is predicated of the spiritual church, but blood of the celestial church, although both of these signify holy truth proceeding from the Lord; but in the spiritual church the holy of faith from charity toward the neighbor, and in the celestial church the holy of charity from love to the Lord. The spiritual church is distinguished from the celestial in this, that the former is in charity toward the neighbor, while the latter is in love to the Lord; and the Holy Supper was instituted to represent and signify the Lord's love toward the whole human race, and the reciprocal love of man toward Him.

[6] As by cup was signified that which contained, and by wine that which was contained, consequently by cup man's external, and by wine his internal, therefore the Lord said:--

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but the inner parts are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, and the outside will also become clean (Matt. 23:25, 26; Luke 11:39);

by a cup here also is meant in the internal sense the truth of faith, to cultivate which without its good is to cleanse the outside of the cup, especially when the interiors are full of hypocrisy, deceit, hatred, revenge, and cruelty; for then the truth of faith is only in the external man, and nothing at all of it is in the internal; and to cultivate and to become imbued with the good of faith causes truths to be conjoined with good in the interior man, in which case even fallacies are accepted as truths, as is signified by cleansing first the inside of the cup, and the outside will also become clean.

[7] Likewise in Mark:--

Many other things there are which the Pharisees and the Jews have received to hold, as the baptizings of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and couches. Forsaking the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the baptisms of pots and cups; and many other like things ye do. Ye renounce the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition (Mark 7:4, 8, 9).

[8] That by cup is signified in the opposite sense that falsity from which is evil, and also the falsity which is from evil, is evident from the following passages:--

Thus hath said Jehovah the God of Israel unto me, Take this cup of wine of anger from My hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee to drink it. And they shall drink, and reel to and fro, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. Therefore I took the cup from Jehovah's hand, and made all the nations to drink unto whom Jehovah had sent me (Jer. 25:15-17, 28);

the cup of wine of anger denotes the falsity by which is evil. The reason why the falsity by which is evil is signified, is that as wine intoxicates and makes insane, so does falsity, spiritual intoxication being nothing else than insanity brought on by reasonings about what is to be believed, when nothing is believed that is not apprehended; hence come falsities, and from falsities evils (AC 1072); and therefore it is said that they shall drink, and reel to and fro, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send. The sword is falsity fighting against truth (AC 2799, 4499).

[9] In the book of Lamentations:--

Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz; the cup shall pass through unto thee also; thou shalt he drunken and shalt be uncovered (Lamentations 4:21);

to be drunken from the cup, denotes to be insane from falsities, and to be uncovered, or naked, without shame, the evil thence derived (AC 213, 214).

[10] In Ezekiel:--

Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore I will give her cup into thy hand. Thus hath said the Lord Jehovih, Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup, which is deep and wide; thou shalt be for laughter and mockery, large for holding; thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of devastation and desolation, the cup of thy sister Samaria, thou shalt both drink and press out, and thou shalt pulverise the potsherds thereof (Ezek. 23:31-34);

said of Jerusalem, by which is signified what is spiritual of the celestial church. Cup here denotes falsity from evil; and because this vastates or destroys the church, it is called the cup of devastation and desolation. In Isaiah:--

Awake, awake, rise up, O Jerusalem, who hast drunk from the hand of Jehovah the cup of His' anger; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling (Isa. 51:17).

In Habakkuk:--

Drink thou also that thy foreskin be uncovered; the cup of Jehovah's right hand shall come round unto thee, that shameful vomit be upon thy glory (Habakkuk 2:16).

In David:--

In the hand of Jehovah there is a cup, and He hath mixed with wine, He hath filled with the mixture, and hath poured out therefrom; but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall suck them out, and drink them (Ps. 75:8).

[11] In these passages also a cup denotes insanity from falsities and the evils thence derived. It is called the cup of the anger of jehovah, and also of the right hand of Jehovah, for the reason that the Jewish nation, like the common people, believed evils and the punishment of evils and falsities to come from no other source than Jehovah, when yet they are from the man himself, and from the infernal crew with him. It is often stated in this way from the appearance and consequent belief; but the internal sense teaches how it should be understood, and what should be believed (AC 245, 592, 696, 1093, 1683, 1874, 1875, 2335, 2447, 3605, 3607, 3614).

[12] As a cup, like wine, signifies in the opposite sense the falsities through which come evils, and also falsities from evils, a cup signifies temptation also, because this takes place when falsity fights against truth, and consequently evil against good. A cup is used to express and describe temptation in the following passage Jesus prayed, saying, If Thou wilt that this cup pass from Me! nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done (Luke 22:42; Matt. 26:39, 42, 44; Mark 14:36); the cup here denotes temptation. Likewise in John:--

Jesus said to Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:11).

And also in Mark:--

Jesus said to James and John, Ye know not what ye ask; can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said, We can. But Jesus said to them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized with shall ye be baptized (Mark 10:38, 39; Matt. 20:22, 23).

From this it is evident that a cup is temptation, because temptation arises through evils combating by means of falsities against goods and truths; for baptism signifies regeneration, and because this is effected by means of spiritual combats, therefore by baptism is at the same time signified temptation.

[13] In the directly opposite sense a cup signifies falsity from evil with those who are profane, that is, who inwardly are in what is contrary to charity, and outwardly counterfeit holiness; in which sense it is used in Jeremiah:--

Babylon hath been a golden cup in Jehovah's hand, making the whole earth drunken; all nations have drunk of her wine, therefore the nations are mad (Jer. 51:7);

Babylon denotes those who are in external sanctity, and inwardly in what is profane (AC 1182, 1326); the falsity which they veil over with sanctity is the golden cup; making the whole earth drunken denotes that they lead those who are of the church (which is meant by the earth) into errors and insanities. The profane things which they hide under external sanctity are that they strive after nothing else than to be the greatest and wealthiest of all, and to be worshiped as gods, possessors of heaven and earth, by thus having dominion over the souls and bodies of men, and this by means of the Divine and holy things of which they make pretense. Hence as to the external man they appear like angels, but as to the internal they are devils.

[14] The like is said of Babylon in the Revelation The woman was arrayed in crimson and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness of her whoredom (Rev. 17:4). Again:--

Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become a habitation of demons. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the fury of her whoredom, and the kings of the earth have committed whoredom with her. I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Render Unto her as she rendered unto you, in the cup which she mingled, mingle to her double (Rev. 18:2-4, 6).


The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; remembrance of Babylon the great was made before God, to give to her the cup of the fury of God's anger (Rev. 16:19).


The third angel said with a great voice, If anyone worship the beast and his image, he shall drink of the wine of God's anger mingled unmixed in the cup of His anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone (Rev. 14:9, 10).

from AC 5120

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info