Apocalypse Explained #239

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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239. And blind and naked. That this signifies that they are without the understanding of truth, and without the understanding and the will of good, is evident from the signification of blind, as being those who are without the understanding of truth, as will be explained in what follows; and from the signification of naked, as being those who are destitute of the will of good, thus also of the understanding thereof, which will also be explained presently. That those who hold the doctrine of faith alone and of justification thereby are without the understanding of truth is evident from this, that faith alone, or faith without charity, resides wholly in the memory, and nothing of it in the understanding; therefore they remove the understanding from the things of faith, saying that such things are to be believed, and that the understanding has nothing to do with them; thus they can say whatever they will, be it ever so false, provided they know how to adduce something in confirmation thereof from the sense of the letter of the Word, of the spiritual sense of which they are ignorant. In this lies concealed something similar to the statute of the Popes, that everyone should depend on their utterances; thus persuading the people that they know and see all things, although they see nothing. Those therefore who do not see, that is, who do not understand, the things that they believe, are meant by the blind. It is also a consequence of this, that they cannot perfect the life by means of the things that must belong to faith; for the way of access to the life of man is through the understanding, and by no other way can man become spiritual. All in heaven see truths with the understanding, and thus receive them; but what they do not see with the understanding, they do not accept; and if any one say to them that they must have faith, although they neither see nor understand, they turn away, saying, How can this be? What I see or understand, that I believe; but what I do not see nor understand, that I cannot believe; possibly they are falsities, which may destroy spiritual life.

(References: Ezekiel 1:5-6; Revelation 3:17)


[2] That those who hold the doctrine of faith alone, and of justification thereby, are destitute of the understanding of good, because they are without the will of good, is evident from this, that they know nothing at all of charity towards the neighbour, and consequently nothing of good; for all spiritual good is from charity, and there is no good without it; therefore those who separate faith from charity, and assert that charity does not contribute anything to salvation, but that faith alone does, are entirely ignorant of what good is, because they are ignorant of what charity is, although spiritual good, with its affection, which is called charity, constitutes the very spiritual life of man, but not faith without it. Hence it is plain, that those who are in the doctrine of faith alone, are destitute of the understanding of good. The reason why this is the result of their being without the will of good is because they call themselves just, or justified, when they have faith, and by being justified, they understand that they are not liable to condemnation for any thing which they think and will, because they are reconciled to God; therefore they believe, because it follows from connection with their principle, that the evil may be saved equally with the good, if they only receive faith, although it should be in the last hours of their life.

The secret things of this doctrine consist in this, that they speak of progressive degrees of justification, arising not from anything of man's life, or from the affection of his charity, but from faith alone in the reconciliation of God the Father by the Son; this faith they call confidence, or trust, and saving faith itself. They do not know that there can be nothing of spiritual life, therein unless there be charity; that which is interiorly perceived, or appears, in the confidence which they profess, has nothing in it derived from spiritual affection, but springs from natural thought about the joy of deliverance from damnation.

[3] Besides, those who are ignorant of the good of charity have no will of good, and those who know nothing of this good, know nothing concerning evil, for good discovers evil; therefore neither can such persons explore themselves, nor see their own evils, and thus flee from, and be averse to them. Hence they relax all restraint on their thought and their will, only taking heed not to do evil, from the fear of the laws, of the loss of reputation, of honour, gain and life. This is why, when such persons become spirits, and those fears are removed, they associate themselves with devils; for they think and will as they do, because they had so thought in the world; for it is the spirit in man which thinks; the case, however, is different with those who have lived the life of charity.

(References: Exodus 25:22)


[4] Moreover, those who believe themselves to be justified by faith alone, imagine that they are to be led by God, and do good thence. They say that all good is from God, and nothing from man; and that otherwise good would be merit-seeking; they do not know that there ought to be reception on man's part, and that reception is not possible if man does not attend to his thoughts and intentions, and thence to his deeds, and then desists from evils and does good, this being the case when he looks to the truths he has derived from the Word, and lives according to them. And, indeed, unless this takes place there is no reciprocation on his part, and hence no reformation: and in such case, of what use are all the precepts of the Lord in the Word? That a man can do this, is also from the Lord; for such power is given to every man from His Divine presence and His desire to be received. In a word, unless a man receives in his understanding and will, or in his thought and affection, or, what is the same, in his faith and love, there can be no reception on his part, consequently no conjunction with the Lord. Every one may know that the Lord is continually present with good, and desirous to be received, but that where all restraint on the thoughts is cast off, He cannot flow in: He can only do so where the thoughts and intentions of lust are restrained by means of truths from the Word.

[5] That the Lord is continually present with good, and desires to be received, He Himself teaches in the following words of this chapter, where He says,

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (ver. 20).

To open the door, denotes reception on man's part as just stated. The Lord teaches the same also in other parts of the Word, as in John:

"He that loveth me keepeth my words, and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my words" (xiv. 23, 24).

In Matthew:

"He that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the Word and understandeth it, which beareth and bringeth forth fruit" (xiii. 23).

In Mark:

"These are they which received the seed into good ground, such as hear the Word and receive it, and bring forth fruit" (iv. 20).

Because it is reception on man's part that conjoins him with the Lord, and thus makes him spiritual, therefore, when the Lord uttered those things, He cried, saying,

"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. xiii. 9; Mark iv. 9; Luke viii. 8).

(References: John 14:23-24; Luke 8:8; Mark 4:9, 4:20; Matthew 13:9, 13:23; Revelation 3:20)


[6] That the blind signify those who have no understanding of truth, and that the naked signify those who have no understanding of good, because they are not in the will thereof, is evident from many passages in the Word; of which I desire to adduce a few, as a means also of showing that the Word internally is spiritual, but that in the letter it is natural, consequently that the sense of the letter, which is natural, has a spiritual sense treasured up within it.

That the blind signify those who have no understanding of truth is clear from the following passages. In Isaiah:

"Then in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness" (xxix. 18).

In this passage, the re-establishment of the church is treated of: and by the deaf who shall hear the words of the book, are understood those who are willing to obey truths, and therefore to live in the practice of good, but cannot because they have not the Word. And by the blind, whose eyes shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness, are meant those who have not the understanding of truth because they are in ignorance, and that they shall then understand. That the deaf and the blind are not meant literally is evident.

(References: Isaiah 29:18)


[7] Again:

"Behold, your God will come to vengeance; he will come to the retribution of God, and will save you; then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened; waters shall break out in the desert, and rivers in the plain of the desert" (xxxv. 4-6).

These things are spoken of the Lord's advent, to show that at that time those who believe in Him will be saved. That those who are destitute of the understanding of truth shall then understand is signified by the eyes of the blind being opened; and that those who have not the perception and will of good, shall then obey and live in good, is signified by the ears of the deaf being opened. It is therefore said that waters shall break out in the desert, and rivers in the plain of the desert: desert signifies where there is no good, because there is no truth; and waters signify truths, and rivers intelligence from truths.

(References: Isaiah 35:4-6)


[8] Again:

"I will give thee for a covenant to the people, for a light of the nations; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the bound from the prison. I am Jehovah; that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another". (xlii. 6-8).

These things also are said of the Lord, and the establishment of a church from Him among the nations. That those who were before in ignorance should then understand truths is signified by the blind eyes which the Lord should open; and that they should be led out from ignorance and from falsities is meant by His bringing the bound out of prison. That the Divine himself would assume the Human is meant by, I am Jehovah; that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another.

(References: Isaiah 42:6-8)


[9] Again:

"I will lead the blind into a way which they have not known; I will lead them into paths which they have not known; I will make their darkness light" (xlii. 16).

The blind here also denote those who are without any understanding of truth; the truths and goods of truth which they should receive are signified by their being led into a way, and into paths which they have not known; the dissipation of the falsity of ignorance, and enlightenment, are signified by I will make their darkness light.

(References: Isaiah 42:16)


[10] Again:

"I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; every one that is called by my name I have created, I have formed, yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people who have eyes, and the deaf who have ears" (xliii. 5-8).

The establishment of the church by the Lord among the nations is here treated of. To bring seed from the east, the west, the north, and the south denotes all of whatever religion they be; for the east and west signify respectively where the good of love is clear and obscure; and the north and the south, where the truth of faith is in obscurity and in brightness. Here those who are in obscurity from ignorance are meant, for it is said, "Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth:" those are called sons who receive truths, and those who receive good, daughters; from far, and "from the ends of the earth," signify those who are remote from the truths and goods of the church. That all will be received and reformed by the Lord who acknowledge Him, is signified by I have created, I have formed, I have made every one that is called by my name. These then are those who are meant by the blind who have eyes, and by the deaf who have ears.

(References: Isaiah 43:5-8)


[11] Again:

"We look for light, but behold darkness; in thick darkness we walk, we grope for the wall as the blind, and we grope as they that have no eyes, we stumble in the noon-day as in twilight, among the living we are as dead" (lix. 9, 10).

Here also the blind denote those who are without the understanding of truths; darkness and thick darkness denote falsities; to stumble at noonday as in twilight denotes to err in falsities, although they may be in light from the Word.

(References: Isaiah 59:9-10)


[12] Again:

"His watchmen are all blind; they are shepherds who know not to understand" (lvi. 10, 11).

Here also the blind denote those who do not understand truths, although they have the Word. That such are signified by the blind is evident; for it is said they know not, and know not to understand.

(References: Isaiah 56:10-11)


[13] In Jeremiah:

"Behold, I bring them from the land of the north, the blind and the lame amongst them; with tears they shall come, and with prayers I will bring them; I will lead them to fountains of waters in the way of right" (xxxi. 8, 9).

Here by the land of the north, is denoted where the falsity of ignorance prevails; those who are in it are called blind; their being led to fountains of waters in the way of right, denotes their being led into truths.

(References: Jeremiah 31:8-9)


[14] In Lamentations:

"Jehovah hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof, for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests; they have wandered in the streets as the blind, they are polluted with blood, the things which they cannot, they touch with their garments" (iv. 11, 13, 14).

Zion here denotes the church; by the fire which is said to devour her foundations is meant the love of self, which will disperse all the knowledges (cognitiones) of truth; the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, signify the perversities of those who teach truths and goods: and that consequently they understand nothing of truth is signified by their wandering in the streets as the blind. The blood with which they are polluted, denotes the falsification of truth and the adulteration of good in the Word: the profanation of good, and of truth therefrom, by evils and falsities, is meant by the things which they cannot, they touch with their garments.

(References: Lamentations 4:11, 4:13-14)


[15] In Zechariah:

"In that day I will smite every horse with astonishment, and the horseman with madness: I will smite every horse of the peoples with blindness" (xii. 4).

Horse signifies the Intellectual, and a horseman, one who is intelligent; hence it is evident what is signified by smiting every horse with astonishment, and every horse of the people with blindness, also the horseman with madness. (That a horse signifies the Intellectual, may be seen in the small work, The White Horse, n. 1-6.)

(References: The White Horse 1-6; Zechariah 12:4)


[16] In David:

"Jehovah looseth the bound, Jehovah openeth the blind eyes" (Ps. cxlvi. 7, 8).

Those are called bound who are in falsities and desire to be loosed from them; the blind are those who are consequently without the understanding of truth; to open their eyes is to make them to understand.

(References: Psalms 146:7-8)


[17] In John:

"Esaias said, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart" (xii. 39, 40).

That to blind their eyes that they should not see with their eyes, denotes not to understand truths, is evident.

(References: John 12:39-40, 12:40)


[18] Again:

"Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not might see; and that they who see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth" (ix. 39-41).

By those who do not see are meant those who are outside the church, and do not know truths because they have not the Word, thus the Gentiles; but by those who see are meant those who are within the church, and have the Word, thus the Jews; concerning the latter it is said that they should be made blind, but concerning the former, that they should see. The reason why their sin remains is because they said that they are not blind, but that they see; for they were in the church where the Word is, and yet were not willing to see and acknowledge truths, thus neither the Lord. This is why the Scribes and Pharisees with the Jews are called by the Lord

"blind leaders of the blind" (Matt. xv. 14; Luke vi. 39); also "blind guides, fools and blind" (Matt. xxiii. 16, 17, 19, 24).

(References: John 9:39-41; Luke 6:39; Matthew 15:14, Matthew 23:16-17, 23:19, 23:24)


[19] In John:

Jesus "saw a man which was blind from birth. He said to the disciples, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, be spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way, therefore, and washed, and came seeing" (ix. 1, 5-7).

No one can understand why the Lord thus acted, unless he knows the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; in which sense, by the man who was blind from his birth, are meant those who are born out of the church, and hence can knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor be instructed from the Word. By the clay which the Lord made from the spittle on the ground is signified reformation by means of truths from the sense of the letter of the Word. The ground denotes the church where the Word is; the clay the ultimate Divine, forming. To anoint the eyes of the blind with clay denotes to impart thereby the understanding of truth; the pool of Siloam also signifies the Word in the letter, to be washed therein denotes to be purified from falsities and evils. That these things are meant in the above passage has been hitherto hidden. (That ground signifies the church, may be seen, Arcana Coelestia, n. 566, 10,570: that clay signifies good from which is truth, thus good forming, see n. 1300, 6669; that the pool of Siloam signifies the Word in the sense of the letter is evident in Isaiah viii. 6; and in general the pools that were in Jerusalem, Isaiah xxii. 9, 11.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 566, 1300, Arcana Coelestia 6669, Arcana Coelestia 10570; Isaiah 8:6, 22:9, 22:11; John 9:1, 9:5-7)


[20] In Mark:

Jesus "cometh to Bethsaida; where they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly" (viii. 22-27).

What these words involve can be understood only from the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; if this is not understood, nothing can be seen but the transaction itself, and the thought concerning it will, perhaps, be entirely from the senses: but all things which the Lord spoke and did in the world contained spiritual things in order, from highest to ultimates, thus fully, as do also all the miracles and the descriptions of them. The blind whom the Lord restored to sight signified the spiritually blind, who are those who do not know and understand truths. The reason why the blind man here mentioned was led out of the town of Bethsaida was, because Bethsaida signified damnation on account of non-reception of the Lord; the spitting on his eyes has a similar signification with the making clay of spittle, mentioned above; the Lord afterward touching his eyes, signifies that He enlightened him from the Divine; hence it is that the blind man first saw men as trees, walking; by which is signified a general and obscure perception of truth from the sense of the letter. By trees also are signified knowledges, and by walking is signified living. By his seeing every man clearly after the Lord put His hands on him again is signified that, after instruction and enlightenment from the Lord, he understood truths; this meaning is contained in these words, and is perceived by the angels.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 519, Arcana Coelestia 1794, 2722, 2972, Arcana Coelestia 7692, 8417, 8420; Luke 10:13; Mark 8:22-27, 8:22-25; Matthew 11:21; The Apocalypse Explained 79, 97)


[21] (That Bethsaida signifies damnation on account of non-reception of the Lord is evident in Matt. xi. 21, and in Luke x. 13; that touch signifies communication and transfer, but here enlightenment, because the eyes were touched, may be seen above, n. 79. That trees signify knowledges, see in Arcana Coelestia, n. 2722, 2972, 7692: that to walk signifies to live, see n. 519, 1794, 8417, 8420; and above, n. 97.)

Moreover, by all the blind whom the Lord restored to sight, are meant those who are in ignorance, and yet receive Him, and are enlightened by the Word from Him; and in general all the miracles of the Lord signified things that concern heaven and the church, that is spiritual things; for this reason His miracles were divine; for it is divine to act from primaries, and to manifest those things in ultimates. From these considerations it is clear what is signified by the blind whom the Lord restored to sight (concerning whom see Matt. ix. 27-31; xii. 22; xx. 29 to end; xxi. 14; Mark x. 46 to end; Luke vii. 21, 22; xviii. 35 to end).

(References: Luke 7:21-23, Luke 10:13, 18:35-43; Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 9:27-31, Matthew 11:21, 12:22, Matthew 20:29-34, 21:14)


[22] Because by the blind are signified those who have not the knowledges of truth, and consequently do not understand truth, it was amongst the laws and statutes given to the sons of Israel, that the blind of the sons of Aaron and of the Levites should not draw near to offer the bread of his God, that is, to offer sacrifice (Levit. xxi. 18; Deut. xv. 21); also that what was blind should not be offered (Levit. xxii. 22; Deut. xv. 21); similarly that they should not put a stumbling-block before the blind (Levit. xix. 14); that he who made the blind to go astray from the way should be cursed (Deut. xxvii 18). The reason why these laws were enacted was that the church instituted amongst the Jews was a representative church, in which all the observances represented spiritual things, because they corresponded to them. Therefore also the following curse is pronounced upon those who do not keep the commandments:

"If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all his commandments, Jehovah shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart. And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness" (Deut. xxviii. 15, 28, 29).

By these words is also meant that those will be smitten with spiritual blindness and astonishment who do not obey the voice of the Lord, in doing the things which He has commanded in the Word. Spiritual blindness of the eyes, and spiritual astonishment of the heart denote no understanding of truth, and no will of good; to grope at noonday is to be of such a character in the church, where the light of truth is given by the Word. (That noonday signifies where truth is in light may be seen, Arcana Coelestia, n. 9642; and in the work, Heaven and Hell, n. 148, 149, 151.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 9642; Deuteronomy 15:21, 27:18, 28:15, 28:28-29; Heaven and Hell 148-149, 151; John 12:40; Leviticus 19:14, 21:18, 22:22; Mark 8:22-25; Revelation 3:17)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 226, 242, 243

Other New Christian Commentary

Blind 1

Bethsaida 1

Horseman 1

Pool of Siloam 1

Siloam 1

Spittle 1

The Requirement of Faith 1

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 The Man Born Blind
In what way might a person who bases their thinking only on the material world be "blind?" Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." Explore ways in which revealed truth gives spiritual sight.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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