17. The first-born from the dead, signifies that He is the Divine Good itself. What "the first-born from the dead" means, no one as yet knows; and the ancients disputed what it signifies. They knew that by "the first-born" is signified what is first and primary, from which is the all of the church; and it was believed by many, that it was truth in doctrine and in faith; but by few, that it was truth in act and work, which is the good of life. That this is the first and primary of the church, and thence in the proper sense is meant by "the first-born," will be seen presently. But first something shall be said concerning the opinion of those who believed, that truth in doctrine and in faith is the first and primary of the church, thus the first-born. They believed this, because it is learned first, and because a church is a church by means of truth, though not before it is of the life. Previously it is only in the thought of the understanding, and in the memory, and not in the act of the will; and truth, which is not truth in act or work, does not live. It is only like a luxuriant tree having branches and leaves without fruit. And it is like knowledge without application to use; and like the foundation upon which a house is built in which one is to dwell. These things are first in time, but they are not first in end; and what are first in end are primary; for habitation in the house is the first in end, but the foundation is the first in time; use also is first in end, and knowledge is first in time; in like manner the first in end, when a tree is planted, is the fruit, but the first in time are the branches and leaves.
 With the understanding it is similar, which is formed in man first, but to the end that what a man sees with his understanding, he may do; otherwise the understanding is like a preacher, who teaches well, but lives wickedly. Moreover all truth is sown in the internal man, and rooted in the external; wherefore, unless the truth that is inseminated takes root in the external man, which is effected by doing, it becomes like a tree planted, not in the soil, but upon it, which immediately withers on exposure to the heat of the sun. The man who has done the truth, takes this root with him after death; but not the man who had only known and acknowledged it in faith. Now because many of the ancients made that which is first in time, the first also in end, that is, primary; therefore they said, that the first-born signified truth in doctrine and faith in the church; not knowing that this is the first-born apparently, but not actually.
 But all those who have made truth in doctrine and in faith the primary, are condemned, because there is nothing of deed or work, or nothing of life in that truth. Therefore Cain, who was the first-born of Adam and Eve, was condemned. That by him is signified truth in doctrine and in faith, may be seen in the Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Providence (n. 242). Therefore, also Reuben, who was the first-born of Jacob, was condemned by his father (Genesis 49:3-4), and his birthright was taken from him (1 Chron. 5:1). That by "Reuben" in the spiritual sense, is meant truth in doctrine and in faith, will be seen presently. By "the first-born of Egypt," who were all smitten, because condemned, nothing else is meant in the spiritual sense, than truth in doctrine and in faith separate from the good of life, which truth is in itself dead. By the "goats" in Daniel and in Matthew, no others are meant than those who are in faith separate from life, concerning whom see The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning Faith (n. 61-68). That those who were in faith separate from life, were rejected and condemned about the time of the Last Judgment, may be seen in The Continuation concerning the Last Judgment (n. 16, seq.).
 From these few things it may appear that truth in doctrine and in faith is not the first-born of the church; but truth in act or work, which is the good of life; for the church is not with man until the truth becomes of the life, and when the truth becomes of the life, then it is good; for the thought of the understanding, and the memory, do not flow into the will, and through the will into act; but the will flows into the thought of the understanding, and into the memory, and acts. And what proceeds from the will, through the understanding, proceeds from affection, which is of love, through the thought, which is of the understanding, and all this is called good, and it enters into the life; wherefore the Lord saith, that:
He who doeth the truth, doeth it in God (John 3:21).
 Because John represents the good of life, and Peter the truth of faith, as may be seen above (n. 5), therefore:
John leaned on the Lord's breast, and followed Jesus, but not Peter (John 21:18-21).
The Lord also said of John, that "he should tarry till He came" (verse 22-23); thus to this day, which is the Lord's coming; the good of life is therefore now taught by the Word for those who will be of His New Church, which is the New Jerusalem. In a summary, that is the first-born which the truth first produces from good, thus what the understanding produces from the will; because truth is of the understanding, and good is of the will: this first is primary, because it is as the seed from which the rest proceed. A
 As to the Lord He is the First-born from the dead, because He, as to His Human, is the truth itself united to the Divine good, from whom all men live, who in themselves are dead. The same is meant in David:
I will make Him the first-born higher than the kings of the earth (Ps. 89:27).
This is concerning the Lord's Human. Thence it is that Israel is called the first-born (Exod. 4:22, 23). By "Israel" is meant the truth in act, and by "Jacob" the truth in doctrine; and because there is no church from the latter alone, therefore Jacob was named Israel; but in the supreme sense by "Israel" is meant the Lord. On account of this representation of the "first-born," all the first-born and all the first fruits were sanctified to Jehovah (Exod. 13:2, 12; 22:28, 29).
 On account of this representation of the "first-born," the Levites were taken instead of all the first-born in the Israelitish church; and it is said that thereby they belonged to Jehovah (Num. 3:12, 13, 40-46; 18:15-18): for by "Levi" is signified truth in act, which is the good of life; and therefore the priesthood was given to his posterity, which will be treated of below. For the same reason a double portion of the inheritance was given to the first-born, and he was called "the beginning of strength" (Deut. 21:15-17).
 The "first-born" signifies the primary of the church, because in the Word by natural births, spiritual births are signified, and then what first produces them in man, is meant by his "first-born;" for there is no church with him, until the truth of doctrine conceived in the internal man is born in the external.