Apocalypse Explained #239

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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239. And blind and naked, signifies that they are without the understanding of truth, and without the understanding and will of good. This is evident from the signification of "blind," as being those who are without the understanding of truth (of which presently); and from the signification of "naked," as being those who are without the will of good, and thus without the understanding of it (of which presently). That those who are in the doctrine of faith alone and of justification by faith are without the understanding of truth, can be seen from this, that faith alone, or faith apart from charity, has its seat altogether in the memory, with nothing of it in the understanding; those, therefore, who are in it withdraw the understanding from matters of faith, saying that these must be believed, and that the understanding has nothing to do with matters of faith; thus they can say whatsoever they wish, even if most false, provided they know how to adduce something in proof of it from the sense of the letter of the Word, the spiritual sense of which they know nothing about; in this there lurks something like the decree of the popes, which is that all should hang on their mouth; thus persuading the people that they know and see, when yet they see nothing. Those, therefore, who do not see, that is, understand the things they believe, are "blind." And in consequence of this also they are unable to perfect the life by means of the things pertaining to faith; for the understanding is the way to man's life; by no other way can man become spiritual. All who are in heaven see truths with the understanding, and thus receive them; but what they do not see with the understanding they do not receive; and if anyone says to them that they must have faith, although they do not see or understand, they turn away, saying, "How can this be? I believe what I see or understand; but I am unable to believe what I do not see or understand; such things may be falsities that destroy spiritual life."

[2] That those who are in the doctrine of faith alone and justification by faith are without the understanding of good, because they are without the will of good, can be seen from this, that they know nothing whatever about charity towards the neighbor, consequently nothing about good; for all spiritual good is from charity, and there is nothing without charity; consequently those who separate faith from charity, saying that charity contributes nothing to salvation, but only faith, are altogether ignorant of what good is because they are ignorant of what charity is, and yet spiritual good and the affection of it that is called charity is the spiritual life of man, and without it there is no faith. From this it is clear that such are without the understanding of good. And this is in consequence of their being without the will of good, for the reason that they declare themselves to be righteous [just] or to have been made righteous [justified] when they have faith; and by "justified" they mean not to be condemned on account of anything that they think and will, since they have been reconciled to God; consequently they believe, because it follows by connection with their principle, that the evil equally with the good are saved if only they receive faith, even if this should be in the last hours of life. The mysteries of this doctrine consist in this, that they speak of progressive steps of justification that are not from anything of man's life, or from his affection of charity, but are from mere faith in the reconciliation of God the Father through the Son, which faith they call confidence or trust, and saving faith itself; not knowing that where there is nothing of charity there can be nothing of spiritual life. That which is interiorly perceived or is manifest in their confidence, still has nothing in it derived from spiritual affection, but only from natural thought about happiness or about escape from damnation.

[3] Moreover, those who know nothing about the good of charity have no will of good, and those who know nothing about this good know nothing about evil, for good discloses evil, consequently such persons cannot examine themselves, see their evils, and thus shun them and reject them. They therefore relax all restraints on their thought and their will, only being careful on account of the laws, the loss of fame, of honor, of gain, and of life, to avoid evil doings. And for this reason when such persons become spirits and these fears are taken away from them, they associate themselves with devils, for they think and will as devils do, because they so thought in the world; for it is the spirit in man that thinks. But it is otherwise with those who have lived a life of charity.

[4] Again, those who believe that they have been justified by faith alone, are of the opinion that they are led by God, and therefore that what they do is good, saying, that all good is from God, and nothing from man, and that otherwise good would be meritorious. They do not know that there ought to be reception on man's part, and that reception is not possible unless man gives heed to his thoughts and intentions, and thence to his deeds; and then refrains from evils and does good, which is done when he has regard for the truths that he knows from the Word, and lives according to them. Unless man does this, there is nothing reciprocal, and therefore no reformation: and of what other use are the precepts of the Lord in the Word? That man is able to do this is also from the Lord, for every man has this faculty from the Lord's Divine presence, and His will that there be reception. In a word, unless man receives in the understanding and will, that is, in the thought and affection, or what is the same, in faith and love, there is no reception on his part, consequently no conjunction with the Lord. Everyone knows that the Lord is continually present with good, and desires to be received, but He cannot flow in when all restraints on the thoughts are cast off; He can flow in only when the thoughts and intentions which are from lust are held in check by truths from the Word.

[5] That the Lord is continually present with good, and desires to be received, He teaches in the following words of this chapter, where he says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone will hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20). "Opening the door" is reception on man's part, as has just been said. The Lord teaches the same elsewhere in 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 (John 14:23-24).

In Matthew:

He that is sown in the good earth, this is he that heareth the Word and understandeth it, who beareth fruit and bringeth forth (Matthew 13:23).

In Mark:

Those are they that were sown upon the good ground, such as hear the Word and receive, and bear fruit (Mark 4:20).

As it is reception by man that conjoins him to the Lord, and thus makes him spiritual, so when the Lord said these things He cried saying:

He that hath ears to hear let him hear (Matthew 13:9; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8).

[6] That "the blind" signify those who are in no understanding of truth, and that "the naked" signify those who are in no understanding of good, because they are in no will of good, is evident from many passages in the Word, which I will here cite, so also that it can be seen that the Word in its bosom is spiritual, while in the letter it is natural, consequently that the sense of the letter of the Word, which is natural, has a spiritual sense treasured up within it. That "the blind" signify those who are in no understanding of truth, is clear from the following passages in Isaiah:

And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of thick darkness, and out of darkness (Isaiah 29:18).

In this passage, the restoration of the church is treated of, and "the deaf who shall hear the words of the book" mean those who are willing to obey truths, and thus to live a life of good, but are not able because they have not the Word, and "the blind whose eyes shall see in thick darkness, and in darkness," means that those who are in no understanding of truth because in ignorance, are then to understand. It plainly does not refer to the deaf and blind.

[7] In the same:

Behold your God will come for vengeance, for the retribution of God will He come, 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 wilderness, and rivers in the plain of the desert (Isaiah 35:4-6).

These things are said of the Lord's coming, that then those will be saved who believe in Him. That those who are in no understanding of truth will then understand, is signified by "the eyes of the blind shall be opened;" and that those who are in no perception and will of good shall then obey and live in good, is signified by "the ears of the deaf shall be opened;" therefore it is said "waters shall break out in the wilderness, and rivers in the plain of the desert;" "wilderness" signifying where there is no good because there is no truth, "waters" truths, and "rivers" intelligence derived from truths.

[8] In the same:

I will give thee for a covenant to the people, for a light of the nations, to open the blind eyes, to lead forth him that is bound out of prison. I am Jehovah; that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another (Isaiah 42:6-8).

These things also are said of the Lord, and of the establishment of a church by Him among the Gentiles. That those who before have been in ignorance are then to understand truths is signified by "the blind eyes which He will open;" and that they are to be led out of ignorance and falsities is signified by "He will bring him that is bound out of prison." That the Divine Itself would assume a human is meant by "I am Jehovah; that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another."

[9] In the same:

I will cause the blind to go in a way that they have not known; I will lead them into paths that they have not known; I will make their darkness light (Isaiah 42:16).

Here also "the blind" are those who are in no understanding of truth; the truths and goods of truth that they are to receive are signified by "they will be caused to go a way and into paths that they have not known;" the dispersion of the falsity of ignorance and illustration are signified by "I will make their darkness light."

[10] In the same:

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 end of the earth; everyone that is called by My name. I have created him; I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears (Isaiah 43:5-8).

These things also are said of the establishment by the Lord of a church among the Gentiles; "to bring seed from the east, the west, the north, and the south," means all of whatsoever religion; for "east" and "west" signify where the good of love is clear and obscure; and "north" and "south" where the truth of faith is in obscurity and where it is in clearness. Here those who are in obscurity from ignorance are meant, for it is said, "Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the end of the earth;" those who receive truths are called "sons" and those who receive goods are called "daughters;" "from far," and "from the end 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, have formed, and have made everyone called by My name." These are here meant by "the blind who have eyes," and by "the deaf who have ears."

[11] In the same:

Hoping 1 for light, but we behold darkness; in thick darkness we walk, we grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as they that have no eyes, we stumble in the noonday as in twilight, among the living we are as dead (Isaiah 59:9, 10).

Here likewise "the blind" stand for those who are in no understanding of truth; "darkness" and "thick darkness" mean falsities; "to stumble in the noonday as in twilight" is to go astray in falsities, although able to be in light from the Word.

[12] In the same:

His watchmen are all blind; and they are shepherds who know not to understand (Isaiah 56:10, 11).

Here again "the blind" stand for those who do not understand truths, although they have the Word; "the blind" evidently signify such, for it is said "they know not" and "know not to understand."

[13] In Jeremiah:

I bring them from the land of the north, among them the blind and the lame; with weeping they shall come, and with prayers I will bring them; I will lead them to the fountains of waters in the way of straightness (Jeremiah 31:8, 9).

"The land of the north" is where the falsity of ignorance prevails; those who are in it are called "blind;" that these are to be led to truths is meant by "I will lead them to fountains of waters in the way of straightness."

[14] In Lamentations:

Jehovah hath kindled a fire in Zion, which hath devoured the foundation's thereof, because of the sins of her prophets, the iniquities of her priests; they have wandered as blind men in the streets, they were polluted with blood, the things that they cannot, they touch with their garments (Lamentations 4:11, 13, 14).

"Zion" is the church; the "fire that will devour her foundations" is the love of self which will disperse all the knowledges of truth; the sins of the prophets," and "the iniquities of the priests," are the perversions of those who teach what is true and good; that they will on this account understand nothing of truth is signified by their "wandering as blind men in the streets." The "blood with which they were polluted" is the falsification of the truth and the adulteration of the good in the Word; the profanation of good and of truth therefrom by evils and falsities is meant by "the things that they cannot, they touch with their garments."

[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 (Zechariah 12:4). "Horse" signifies the intellectual "horseman" one that is intelligent. This makes clear what is signified by "smiting every horse with astonishment," "every horse of the peoples with blindness," "the horseman with madness." (That "horse" signifies the intellectual, in The small work on The White Horse 1-6.)

[16] In David:

Jehovah looseth the bound, Jehovah openeth [the eyes of] the blind (Psalms 146:7-8).

Those are called "bound" who are in falsities and long to be loosed from them; "the blind" are those who on this account are not in the understanding of truth; "to open their eyes" is to make them understand.

[17] In John:

Isaiah said, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they may not see with their eyes and understand with the heart (John 12:39-40).

"To blind the eyes that they may not see with their eyes" signifies evidently not to understand truths.

[18] In the same:

Jesus said, For judgment came I unto this world, that they who see not may see, and that they who see may become blind. They said, Are we blind then? Jesus said, If ye were blind ye would not have sin; but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth (John 9:39-41).

"They who see not" mean those who are outside of the church and do not know truths because they have not the Word, thus the Gentiles; but "they who see" mean those who are within the church and have the Word, thus the Jews; of these it is said that "they shall become blind;" but of the former, that "they shall see." It is said that "their sin remaineth" because they say that they are not blind but see, for the reason that they are in the church where the Word is, and yet are not willing to see and acknowledge truths, nor, consequently, the Lord. On this account the Scribes and Pharisees among the Jews were called by the Lord:

Blind guides of the blind (Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39).

Also blind guides, fools, and foolish (Matthew 23:16-17, 19, 24).

[19] In John:

Jesus seeth a man blind from birth. He said to the disciples, while I am in the world I am the light of the world. When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said, Go and wash thee in the pool of Siloam. He went away therefore and washed himself, and came seeing (John 9:1, 5-7).

Why the Lord did this no one understands unless he knows the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; in that sense, by "a man blind from birth" those are meant who are born outside of the church and who therefore could not know anything about the Lord, or be taught out of the Word. "The clay that the Lord made from spittle on the ground" signifies reformation by means of truths from the sense of the letter of the Word; "the ground" is the church where the Word is; "clay" is the ultimate Divine forming; "anointing the eyes of the blind with it" is to give thereby the understanding of truth; "the pool of Siloam" also signifies the Word in the letter; "to be washed there" is to be purified from falsities and evils. That this is what is meant by it has been hitherto concealed. (That "ground" signifies the church, see Arcana Coelestia 566, 10570; that "clay" signifies good from which is truth, thus good forming, n. 1300, 6669; that "the pool of Siloam" signifies the Word in the sense of the letter, is evident in Isaiah 8:6; and that "the pools" that were in Jerusalem in general signify this, Isaiah 22:9, 11)

[20] In Mark:

Jesus cometh to Bethsaida; where they bring to Him a blind man and beseech Him to touch him. And He took hold of the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and spitting on his eyes, He asked him if he saw aught. And looking up, he said, I see trees as men 2 walking. After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; then he was restored, and saw all clearly (Mark 8:22-27).

What these words involve cannot be known except from the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; he who does not understand this sees nothing except that these things were done, and his thought about it will perhaps be merely sensual; but all things that the Lord spoke and all things that He did in the world contained spiritual things in order from things highest to the ultimates, thus in fullness as do all miracles and the accounts of them. The "blind" whom the Lord restored to sight signified the spiritually blind, who are those that do not know and understand truths. The blind man here was "led out of the town" of Bethsaida, because "Bethsaida" signified damnation, on account of its not receiving the Lord; "spitting on his eyes" has the same signification as "making clay of the spittle," before; that He then touched his eyes signifies that he was illustrated from the Divine; then the blind man at first "saw trees as men walking," which signifies common and obscure perception of truth from the sense of the letter, "trees" signifying knowledges, and "to walk" signifying to live. "His seeing all clearly" after he was touched by the Lord, signifies that after instruction and illustration from the Lord he understood truths; this meaning is in these words and this meaning is perceived by the angels. (That the town "Bethsaida" signifies damnation on account of its not receiving the Lord, is clear from Matthew 11:21, and Luke 10:13; that "touch" signifies communication and transference, but here illustration, because the eyes were touched, see above, n. 79. That "trees" signify knowledges, see Arcana Coelestia 2722, 2972, 7692; that "to walk" signifies to live, see n. 519, 1794, 8417, 8420; and above, n. 97.)

[21] Moreover, by all "the blind" whom the Lord healed those were meant who are in ignorance, and who receive Him and are illustrated by Him through the Word; and in general all the Lord's miracles signify such things as are of heaven and the church, thus spiritual things; from this it is that His miracles were Divine, for it is Divine to act from firsts and to present these in ultimates. From this it is clear what was signified by "the blind" whom the Lord healed (about whom see Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22; 20:29-34; 21:14; Mark 10:46-52 to end; Luke 7:21-23; 18:35-43).

[22] As "the blind" signify those who are not in the knowledges of truth, and who therefore are not in any understanding of truth, therefore it was among the laws and statutes given to the sons of Israel:

That no one blind of the sons of Aaron or of the Levites should approach to offer the bread of his God, that is, to offer sacrifice (Leviticus 21:18).

Also that anything blind should not be offered (Leviticus 22:22; Deuteronomy 15:21).

Likewise that a stumbling-block should not be placed before one blind (Leviticus 19:14).

And that he should be cursed who made the blind to go astray from the way (Deuteronomy 27:18).

These laws were enacted because the church instituted among the sons of Israel was a representative church, in which all things represented spiritual things because they corresponded to them. Therefore also the following curse is pronounced upon those who do not keep the commandments, in Moses:

If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of thy God, to observe to do all His commandments. Jehovah shall smite thee with madness and blindness and astonishment of heart; that thou mayest grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in thick darkness (Deuteronomy 28:15, 28-29).

This also means that those shall be smitten with spiritual blindness and astonishment who do not hearken to the voice of the Lord by doing those things that He has commanded in the Word. Spiritual blindness of the eyes and spiritual astonishment of the heart mean no understanding of the truth and no will of good; "to grope at noonday" is to be such in the church, where the light of truth is given through the Word. (That "noonday" signifies where truth is in light, see Arcana Coelestia 9642; and in the work on Heaven and Hell 148, 149, 151.)


1. For "hoping" the Hebrew has "we hope."

2. For "trees as men" the Greek has "men as trees."

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.