Spiritual Meaning of REVELATION 6:8
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AR 320. Verse 8. And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, signifies the understanding of the Word destroyed both as to good and as to truth "A horse" signifies the understanding of the Word (n. 298), and "pale" signifies no vitality. In the Word, this want of vitality is predicated of those who are not in goods of life from truths of doctrine; for the Word, in the sense of the letter, is not understood without doctrine, and doctrine is not perceived without a life according to it; the reason is, because a life according to doctrine which is from the Word, opens the spiritual mind, when light flows into it from heaven and enlightens and gives to perceive. That this is the case, he does not know who knows truths of doctrine, and yet does not live according to them. The reason why "the fourth animal" showed "a pale horse," was, because that animal was like "a flying eagle," and by it was signified the Divine truth of the Word as to knowledges and understanding there from (n. 244). Therefore he showed that with those who were now seen there were no knowledges of good and truth from the Word, nor any understanding of them, and such in the spiritual world appear pale, like those who are without life.

AR 321. And his name that sat upon him was Death, and hell followed with him, signifies the extinction of spiritual life, and thence damnation. By "death" is here signified spiritual death, which is the extinction of spiritual life; and by "hell" is signified damnation, which follows that death. Every man, indeed, has from creation, and therefore from birth, spiritual life, but that life is extinguished when he denies God, the holiness of the Word, and eternal life; it is extinguished in the will, but remains in the understanding, or rather in the faculty of understanding. By this man is distinguished from beasts. As "death" signifies the extinction of spiritual life, and "hell" damnation thence, therefore "death and bell" in some passages are named together; as in these:--

I will redeem them from the hand of hell, I will liberate them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O hell, I will be thy destruction (Hos. 13:14).

The cords of death encompassed me; the cords of hell encompassed me; the snares of death prevented me (Ps. 18:4, 5; 116:3).

Like sheep they are laid in hell; death shall feed on them, hell is their habitation, but God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell (Ps. 49:14, 15).

I have the keys of hell and death (Apoc. 1:18).

AR 322. And power was given them over the fourth part of the earth to kill, signifies the destruction of all the good of the church. Since by "death" is meant the extinction of man’s spiritual life, and by "hell" damnation, it follows that "to kill" here means to destroy the life of man‘s soul; the life of the soul is spiritual life; " a fourth part of the earth" signifies all the good of the church; "the earth" is the church (n. 285). That "a fourth part" is all good, cannot be known by anyone, unless he knows what numbers in the Word signify. The numbers "two" and "four" in the Word, are predicated of goods, and signify them; and the numbers "three" and "six" are predicated of truths, and signify them; thus "a fourth part," or simply "a fourth," signifies all good, and "a third part," or simply "a third," signifies all truth; therefore "to kill a fourth part of the earth," here signifies to destroy all the good of the church. That "power was not given to him that sat upon the pale horse to kill a fourth part of the habitable earth," is evident. Besides, "four" in the Word signifies the conjunction of good and truth. That "four" has these significations, may indeed be confirmed from the Word; as by "the four animals or cherubim," (Ezekiel 1, 3, 10; Apocalypse 4). By "the four chariots between the two mountains of brass" (Zechariah 6). By "the four horns" (Zechariah 1:18); and by "the four horns of the altar" (Exodus 27:1-8; Apocalypse 9:13). By "the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth" (Apocalypse 7:1; Matthew 24:31); as also by "visiting the iniquity upon the thirds and fourths" (Numbers 14:18), and in other places by "the third and fourth generation." By these, and by many other passages in the Word, I say, it can be confirmed that "four" is predicated of goods, and signifies them, and also the conjunction of good and truth; but since this would not appear without a prolix explanation of these passages, it is sufficient to mention, that nothing else is meant in heaven by "four" and by "a fourth part."

AR 323. With sword and with hunger, and with death, and by the beasts of the earth, signifies by falsities of doctrine, by evils of life, by the love of the proprium, and by lusts. That by "a sword" is signified truth combating against evils and falsities, and destroying them, and in the opposite sense, falsity combating against goods and truths, and destroying them, may be seen in (n. 52, 108, 117). Here therefore, by "sword," because the destruction of all the goods in the church is treated of, are signified falsities of doctrine. That "hunger" signifies evils of life, will be confirmed below. The reason why "death" signifies the love of man’s proprium, is, because "death" signifies the extinction of spiritual life, and thence natural life separated from spiritual life (n. 321), and this life is the life of the love of man‘s proprium; for from it man loves nothing but himself and the world, and thence also he loves all kinds of evils, which, from the love of that life, are delightful to him. That "beasts of the earth" signify lusts from that love, will be seen below (n. 567). Here something shall be said concerning the signification of "hunger."

(1.) "Hunger" signifies deprivation and rejection of the knowledges of truth and good arising from evils of life.

(2.) It also signifies ignorance of the knowledges of truth and good arising from a deficiency thereof in the church.

(3.) And it signifies likewise a desire to know and understand them.

(1.) That "hunger" signifies the deprivation and rejection of the knowledges of truth and good, arising from evils of life, and thence evils of life, may appear from the following passages:--

They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their carcass shall be food for the birds of the heavens, and for the beasts of the earth (Jer. 16:4).

These two things shall come unto thee, devastation and breaking, and the famine and the sword (Isa. 51:19).

Behold, I will visit upon them; the young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine (Jer. 11:22).

Give his sons to famine, and make them to flow down at the hand of the sword; that the men may be killed by death (Jer. 18:21).

I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs that cannot be eaten, they are so evil, and I will pursue them with the sword, famine, and pestilence (Jer. 29:17, 18).

I will send among them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, till they be consumed from off the land (Jer. 24:10).

I proclaim liberty for you, to the sword, to the famine, and to the pestilence, and I will give you for a commotion to all nations (Jer. 34:17).

Because thou hast polluted My sanctuary, a third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed, and a third part shall fall by the sword, when I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for destruction (Ezek. 5:11, 12, 16, 17).

The sword without, and the pestilence and famine within (Ezek. 7:15). For all the evil abominations they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence (Ezek. 6:11, 12).

I will send My four evil judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, the famine, and the evil beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast (Ezek. 14:13, 15, 21; Jer. 14:12, 13, 15, 16; 13:13, 14, 16-18, 22; 44:12, 13, 17; Matt. 24:7, 8; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11).

The "sword," "famine," "pestilence," and "beast," in those passages, have a signification similar to that of "the sword," "hunger," "death," and "the beasts of the earth," here mentioned; for in the Word there is a spiritual sense in every single expression, in which sense "a sword" is the destruction of spiritual life by falsities; "hunger," the destruction of spiritual life by evils; "beasts of the earth," the destruction of spiritual life by cupidities of falsity and evil; and "pestilence" and "death" signify plenary consumption, and this damnation.

(2.) That "hunger" signifies ignorance of the knowledges of truth and good arising from a deficiency of such knowledges in the church, is also evident from various passages in the Word (Isaiah 5:13; 8:19-22; Lamentations 2:19; 5:8-10; Amos 8:11-14; Job 5:17, 20).

(3.) That "famine" or hunger signifies the desire of knowing and understanding the truths and goods of the church, is plain from the following: (Isaiah 8:21; 32:6; 49:10; 58:6, 7; 1 Samuel 2:4, 5; Psalms 33:18, 19; 34:9, 10; 37:18, 19; 107:8, 9, 35-37; 146:7; Matt. 5:6; 25:35, 37, 44; Luke 1:53; John 6:35).

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