17. 'Himself the First-born from the dead' signifies that He also is Divine Good Itself. No one as yet knows what is 'the First-born from the dead'; and what it signifies was debated by. the ancients. It was known to them that by 'the first-born' is signified what is first and primary, out of which is everything of a Church; and it has been believed by many that it was truth in doctrine and faith, but by a few that it was truth in act and deed, which is the good of life. That the latter truth is what is first and primary of a Church, and thence is understood in the proper sense by 'the first-born', will be seen. But first something will be said about the opinion of those who have believed that truth in doctrine and faith is what is the first and primary thing of a Church, thus 'the first-born'. They have believed this because it is learned first, and because a Church becomes a Church by means of truth, but still not before truth becomes of the life. Before this it is merely in the thought and in the memory of the understanding, and not in the act of the will; and truth that is not truth in act or deed is not living. It is merely like a tree running all to branches and leaves without fruit, and like knowledge without application to use. It is also like the foundation upon which a house is being built for residence. These things are first in time, but are not first in end; and things first in end are primary. For residence in a house is first in end, and first in time is the foundation. Again use is first in end, and knowledge first in time. Likewise the first in end when a tree is planted is the fruit, but the branches and leaves are first in time.  It is similar with the understanding which is formed first with a man, but on account of the end that the man should do that which he sees with the understanding; otherwise the understanding is like a preacher who teaches well but lives wickedly. Besides, every truth is sown in the internal man and takes root in the external; and unless therefore the sown truth takes root in the external man, which comes about through the doing [thereof], it becomes like a tree placed not in the ground but on top of it, which instantly withers in the scorching heat of the sun. The man who has been practising truths (veritas) takes this root with him after death, but not the man who had known and acknowledged them only by faith. Now because many of the ancients made what is first in time first in end, and that end is primary, they therefore said that 'the first-born' signified truth in a Church from doctrine and faith, being unaware that it is apparently, but not actually, the first-born.  But all those who have made truth in doctrine and faith the primary thing have been condemned, because there is nothing of deed or work, or nothing of life, in that truth. Cain, who was the first-born of Adam and Eve, was condemned for that reason: that by him is signified truth in doctrine and faith, may be seen in ANGELIC WISDOM CONCERNING DIVINE PROVIDENCE (n. 242). For that reason also Reuben, who was the first-born of Jacob, was condemned by his father (Gen. xlix 3, 4), and the birthright (primogenitura) was taken away from him (1 Chron. v 1). That by 'Reuben' in the spiritual sense is understood truth in doctrine and faith will be seen in the following [pages]. By 'the first-born of Egypt' who were all smitten, because condemned, in the spiritual sense is understood nothing else than truth in doctrine and faith separated from the good of life, which truth in itself is dead. By the 'goats' in Daniel [viii] and Matthew [xxv] are understood no others than those who are in a faith separated from life, concerning whom [see] in THE DOCTRINE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM CONCERNING FAITH (n. 61-68). That those who were in a faith separate from life have been rejected and condemned about the time of the last judgment, may be seen in A CONTINUATION CONCERNING THE LAST JUDGMENT (n. 16 seq.).  From these few things it can be established that truth in doctrine and faith is not the first-born of a Church, but truth in act or work, which is the good of life; for the Church is not with a man until truth becomes of the life, and when truth becomes of the life, then it is good. In fact the thought and memory of the understanding does not inflow into the will, and by means of the will into act, but the will inflows into the thought and memory of the understanding, and does [the deed]; and what proceeds out of the will by means of the understanding proceeds out of the affection that is of the love by means of the thought that is of the understanding, and all this is called good and enters the life. The Lord therefore says:-
He who does the truth, does it in God John iii 21.
 Since John used to represent the good of life, and Peter the truth of faith (see above, n. 5), therefore:-
John leaned on the Lord's breast, and followed Jesus, but not Peter John xxi 18-23.
The Lord therefore said of John that he would 'tarry till He came' (vers. 22, 23), thus to this very day, which is the Lord's coming. Therefore likewise the good of life is now being taught by the Lord for those who will be of His New Church, which is the New Jerusalem. To sum it all up, that is 'the first-born' which the truth first produces out of good, thus what the understanding produces out of the will; because truth is of the understanding and good is of the will. This 'first', because it is as the seed out of which the rest of the things proceed, is the primary.  In the case of the Lord, He is 'Himself the First-born from the dead' because He is also, as to His Human, the Truth Itself united to the Divine Good, from Whom all men live, who in themselves are dead. The like is understood in David:-
I will make Him the First-born, high above the kings of the earth Ps. lxxxix 27 [H.B. 28].
'This [is said] concerning the Lord's Human. It is on this account that Israel is termed 'the first-born' (Exod. iv 22, 23). By 'Israel' is understood truth in act, and by 'Jacob' truth in doctrine; and since no Church is produced out of the latter truth alone, Jacob was therefore named Israel. In the supreme sense, however, by 'Israel' is understood the Lord.  Because of this representation of 'the first-born', all the first-born [of men] and all the firsthings [of beasts] (omnes primogeniti et omnia primogenita)* used to be sanctified to Jehovah (Exod. xiii 2, 12; xxii 29, 30 [H.B. 28, 29]). Because of the representation of 'the first-born' the Levites were adopted instead of all the first-born in the Israelitish Church, and it is stated that in that way they were Jehovah's (Num. iii 12, 13, 40-46; xviii 15-18). Indeed by 'Levi' is signified truth in act, which is the good of life, and the priesthood was therefore given to his posterity. Concerning this fact [see] in the following [pages] . On account of this also a double portion of an inheritance was given to the first-born, and he was called 'the beginning (principium) of strength' (Deut. xxi 15-17).  The first-born signifies what is primary of the Church, because in the Word spiritual births are signified by natural births, and then what first brings these to pass with a man Is understood by his 'first-born'; for the Church is not with him until a truth of doctrine conceived in the internal man is born in the external. * See AE 865:2.