Spiritual Meaning of REVELATION 1:1
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AR 1. What the spiritual sense is, has been hitherto unknown. That there is such a sense in every particular of the Word, and that without it, the Word in many places cannot be understood, has been shown in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scripture (Sacred n. 5-26). This sense does not appear in the literal sense, for it is in it as the soul in its body. It is known that there is the spiritual and the natural, and that the spiritual flows into the natural, and presents itself to be seen and felt in the forms which fall under the sight and touch, and that the spiritual, without such forms, is not perceived otherwise than as affection and thought, or as love and wisdom which are of the mind. That affection and thought, or love whose property it is to be affected, and wisdom whose property it is to think, are spiritual, is acknowledged. That these two faculties of the soul present themselves in the body in forms which are called the organs of sense and motion, is known; also, that they make one, and such a one as that when the mind thinks, the mouth in an instant speaks, and when the mind wills, the body in an instant acts; hence it is evident, that there is a perfect union of things spiritual and natural with man. It is similar in each and everything in the world; there is in them the spiritual, which is the inmost of the cause, and there is the natural, which is its effect, and these two make one; and the spiritual does not appear in the natural, because it is in it as the soul in the body, and as the inmost of the cause in the effect, as was said before. It is similar with the Word; that this in its bosom is spiritual, because it is Divine, can be denied by no one; but as the spiritual does not appear in the sense of the letter, which is natural, therefore the spiritual sense has been hitherto unknown; nor could it have been known before genuine truths were revealed by the Lord, for that sense is in these. For this reason the Apocalypse has not been understood before. But lest there should be doubt that such things are within it, the particulars must be explained, and demonstrated by similar passages elsewhere in the Word. The explanation and demonstration now follow.

AR 2. Verse 1. The revelation of Jesus Christ, signifies predications from the Lord concerning Himself and His church, what the latter will be in its end, and what it will be afterwards, as well in the heavens as upon earth. By "the revelation of Jesus Christ" are signified all predictions, which because they are from the Lord, are called the Revelation of Jesus Christ; that they relate to the Lord and His church, will appear from the explanations. In the Apocalypse it does not treat of the successive states of the church, still less of the successive states of kingdoms, as some have hitherto believed, but there from beginning to end it treats of the last state of the church in the heavens and on the earth; and then concerning the Last Judgment; and after this of the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem. That this New Church is the end of this work, is evident, wherefore those things which precede refer to the state of the church, as to its quality just before it. But in what series these are treated of, may be seen from the contents of each chapter; and more distinctly from the explanation of each particular verse.

AR 3. Which God gave unto Him to show unto His servants, signifies for those who are in faith from charity, or in truths of wisdom from the good of love. By "showing" is signified to manifest, and by "servants" are here signified those who are in faith from charity; to them these things are manifested, because they understand and receive them. By servants, in the spiritual sense, are meant those who are in truths; and because truths are from good, by servants are meant those who are in truths from good, thus also, those who are in wisdom from love, because wisdom is of truth, and love is of good; also those who are in faith derived from charity, because faith also is of truth and charity is of good; and as the genuine spiritual sense is abstracted from person, therefore in it by servants are signified truths. Now as truths are serviceable to good by teaching it, therefore, in general, and properly, by servant, in the Word, is meant what is serviceable, or he or that which serves; in this sense not only the prophets are called the servants of God, but also the Lord as to His Human; that the prophets are called the servants of God is evident from the following passages:--

Jehovah hath sent unto you all His servants the prophets (Jer. 25:4).

He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).

He set before you by the hand of His servants the prophets (Dan. 9:10);

And Moses is called "The servant of Jehovah" (Mal. 4:4).

The reason is that by a prophet in the spiritual sense is meant the truth of doctrine, as explained below. And because the Lord was the Divine truth itself, which also is the Word, and from this was Himself called the Prophet; and served in the world, and serves all to eternity by teaching, therefore, He also, in many places, is called the servant of Jehovah; as in the following passages:--

He shall see of the labor of His soul, and shall be satisfied; by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many (Isa. 53:11).

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, He shall be extolled and exalted and be lifted up greatly (Isa. 52:13).

Behold, my servant, on whom I lean, mine elect, In whom my soul hath good pleasure, I have put my Spirit upon Him (Isa. 42:1, 19);

this is spoken of the Lord: in like manner David is called a servant, where, by him, the Lord is meant; as in the following passages:--

And I Jehovah will be their God, and My servant David a prince in the midst of them (Ezek. 34:24).

My servant, David, shall be king over them, that there may be one shepherd to them all (Ezek. 37:24).

I will protect this city to preserve it, for My sake and My servant David‘s (Isa. 37:35; Psalms 78:70-72; 89:3, 4, 20).

That by David in these places is meant the Lord, may be seen in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (L n. 43, 44). The Lord Himself says the same of Himself:--

Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be first let him be your servant, as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-44; Luke 22:27; Luke 12:37).

This the Lord says, because by servant and minister is meant one who serves and ministers by teaching, and abstractly from person, the Divine truth, which was Himself. Since, therefore, by servant is meant he who teaches Divine truth, it is evident that by servants in this place in the Apocalypse are meant those who are in truths from good, or in faith from charity, because these can teach from the Lord, that is, the Lord can teach and minister through them. In this sense they are called servants in Matthew:--

In the consummation of the age, who is the faithful and prudent servant, whom his Lord shall set over His household, to give them their food in its season; blessed is that servant whom the Lord when He cometh, shall find so doing (Matthew 24:45-46).

And in Luke:--

Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh, shall find watching: verily, I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to recline, and shall Himself come near and minister unto them (Luke 12:37).

In heaven all are called servants of the Lord who are in His spiritual kingdom; but they who are in His celestial kingdom are called ministers; the reason is, that they who are in His spiritual kingdom, are in wisdom from Divine truth; and they who are in His celestial kingdom are in love from Divine good; and good ministers and truth serves. But in the opposite sense, by servants are meant those who serve the devil; these are in a state of servitude itself; but they who serve the Lord are in a state of liberty; as the Lord also teaches (John 8:32-36).

AR 4. Things which must shortly come to pass, signifies that they will certainly be, lest the church perish. By coming to pass shortly, is not meant that the things which are foretold in the Apocalypse, will happen immediately and speedily, but certainly; and that unless they do happen the church must perish. In the Divine idea, and thence in the spiritual sense, there is no time, but instead of time there is state; and because shortly relates to time, by it is signified certainly, and that it will come to pass before its time, for the Apocalypse was given in the first century, and since that seventeen centuries have now elapsed, from which it is evident, that by shortly is signified that which corresponds to it, and that is, certainly. The like is also involved in these words of the Lord:--

Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened (Matt. 24:22);

by which also is meant that unless the church should come to an end before its time, it would altogether perish; in that chapter the consummation of the age and the Lord‘s coming are treated of; and by the consummation of the age is meant the last state of the old church, and by the Lord’s coming, the first state of the New Church. It was said that in the Divine idea there is not time, but the presence of all things past and future; wherefore it is said in David:--

A thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday (Ps. 90:4);

and again:--

I will declare the decree, Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee (Ps. 2:7).

"This day" is the presence of the Lord‘s advent. Thence also it is, that an entire period is called day in the Word, and its first state the dawning and the morning, and the last evening and night.

AR 5. And He signified, sending by, His angel to His servant John, signifies the things which are revealed from the Lord through heaven to those who are in the good of life from charity and its faith. By "He signified, sending by His angel," in the spiritual sense, is meant the things which are revealed from heaven, or through heaven by the Lord: for by "angel" in the Word is everywhere meant the angelic heaven, and in the supreme sense the Lord Himself; the reason is, that no angel ever speaks with man separate from heaven; for there is such a conjunction there of each with all, that everyone speaks from the communion, although the angel is not conscious of it. For heaven in the sight of the Lord is as one man, whose soul is the Lord Himself; wherefore the Lord speaks with man through heaven, as man does from his soul through his body with another; and this is done in conjunction with all and each of the things of his mind, in the midst of which are the things which he speaks. But this arcanum cannot be unfolded in a few words. It is partly unfolded in The Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom. Hence it is evident, that by "an angel" is signified heaven, and in the supreme sense the Lord. The reason why by "angel" the Lord is meant in the supreme sense, is, because heaven is not heaven from the things proper to the angels, but from the Divine of the Lord, from which is derived their love and wisdom, yea, their life. Hence it is that the Lord Himself is called "Angel" in the Word. From these things it is manifest that the angel did not speak from himself with John; but the Lord by means of heaven through him. By these words is meant, that they were revealed to those who are in the good of life from charity and its faith, because these are meant by "John." For by the" twelve disciples" or "apostles" of the Lord, are meant all who are of the church in truths from good; and in the abstract sense, all things of the church; and by "Peter," all who are in faith, and, abstractly, faith itself; by "James," they who are in charity, and, abstractly, charity itself; by "John," they who are in the good of life from charity and its faith, and, abstractly the good of life itself therefrom. That these things are meant by "John," "James" and "Peter" in the Word of the evangelists, (HD n. 122). Since the good of life from charity and its faith makes the church, therefore through the apostle John were revealed the arcana concerning the state of the church which are contained in his visions. That by all the names of persons and places in the Word are signified things of heaven and the church, is shown in many places in the Arcana Coelestia. From these things it may appear, that by "He signified, sending by His angel to His servant John," is meant in the spiritual sense, what is revealed by the Lord through heaven to those who are in the good of life from charity and its faith; for charity through faith operates good, and not charity by itself, nor faith by itself.

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