Spiritual Meaning of REVELATION 7:4
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AR 348. Verse 4. And I heard the number of them which were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, signifies all who acknowledge the Lord to be the God of heaven and earth, and are in truths of doctrine from the good of love from Him through the Word. That these are signified by "a hundred and forty and four thousand out of the twelve tribes of Israel," is, because "the twelve tribes of Israel" signify the church from those who are in good and truth from the Lord, and acknowledge Him as the God of heaven and earth. By the number "one hundred and forty-four thousand," all these are meant; for by this number the same is signified as by twelve, since it arises by multiplying "twelve" into "twelve," and then by multiplying it by "one hundred" and by "one thousand"; and any number whatever multiplied into itself, and then by "ten," "one hundred," or "one thousand," has a like signification as the original number; therefore the number "one hundred and forty-four thousand" signifies the same as "one hundred and forty-four," and this the same as "twelve," because "twelve" multiplied by "twelve" make "one hundred and forty-four"; so likewise "the twelve thousand sealed out of each tribe," being multiplied by "twelve," make "one hundred and forty-four thousand." The number "twelve" signifies all, and is predicated of truths from good, because "twelve" is the product of "three" and "four" multiplied by each other, and the number "three" signifies everything as to truth, and the number "four" everything as to good; hence "twelve," in this instance, signifies everything as to truth from the good of love. That all numbers signify the adjuncts of things, determining their quality or quantity, may appear manifest from numbers in the Apocalypse, which, were they without some specific signification, would yield no sense whatever in many places. From what has been said it may be seen, that by "one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed," and by "twelve thousand out of each tribe," is not to be understood that so many were sealed and elected out of the tribes of Israel, but all who are in the truths of doctrine from the good of love from the Lord. This is what is signified in general by "the twelve tribes of Israel," and also by "the Lord‘s twelve apostles"; but, in particular, some truth from good is signified by each tribe, and by each apostle. But the signification of each particular tribe shall be explained presently. Since the twelve tribes signify all the truths of doctrine from the good of love from the Lord, they also signify all things of the church; on which account the twelve tribes of Israel represented the church, as did also the twelve apostles. As "twelve" is predicated of the truths and goods of the church, therefore the New Jerusalem, by which is meant the Lord’s New Church, is described by the number twelve in every particular, as that:--

The length and breath of the city was twelve thousand furlongs; that the wall thereof was one hundred and forty-four cubits (Apoc. 21:16).

One hundred and forty-four is twelve multiplied by twelve. That there were twelve gates; and the gates were of twelve pearls; that over the gates there were twelve angels; and the names written of the twelve tribes of Israel; that the wall had twelve foundations; and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; and they consisted of twelve precious stones; as also that the tree of life was there, bearing twelve fruits according to the twelve months (Apoc. 21:21). Concerning all these particulars, see chapters 21 and 22. From such as are here treated of the New Heaven is formed, and the New Church is forming by the Lord; for they are the same who are mentioned in chapter 14, where it is written of them:--

And I saw, and, behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand. And they sung a new song before the throne, and no one could learn that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth, for they are virgins, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (Apoc. 14:1, 3, 4).

Because "the twelve tribes" signify the Lord‘s church as to all its truths and goods, therefore the number "twelve" became a number of the church, and was used in its holy ceremonies and solemnities, as:--

In the breast-plate of judgment, in which were the Urim and Thummim, there were twelve precious stones (Exod. 28:21).

That twelve loaves of faces were put upon the table in the tabernacle (Lev. 24:5, 6).

That Moses built an altar below Mount Sinai, and erected twelve pillars (Exod. 24:4).

That twelve men were sent to explore the land of Canaan (Deut. 1:23).

That twelve men brought twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan (Josh. 4:1-9, 20).

That twelve princes at the dedication of the altar brought twelve chargers of silver, twelve bowls of silver, twelve censers of gold, twelve oxen, twelve rams, twelve lambs, and twelve he-goats (Num. 7:84, 87).

That Elijah took twelve stones, and built an altar (1 Kings 18:31, 32).

That Elijah found Elisha ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and himself among the twelve, and that then he cast his mantle upon him (1 Kings 19:19).

That Solomon placed twelve oxen under the brazen sea (1 Kings 7:25, 44).

That he made a throne, and twelve lions standing at the steps of it (1 Kings 10:19, 20).

That on the head of the woman who was clothed with the sun there was a crown of twelve stars (Apoc. 12:1).

From what has been said it may now be evident, that by "one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, twelve thousand out of each tribe," are not meant so many in number of the Jews and Israelites, but all who are of the New Christian Heaven, and the New Church, who will be in truths of doctrine from the good of love through the word from the Lord.

AR 349. Sealed out of every tribe of Israel, signifies the Lord’s heaven and church from them. By a "tribe" is signified religion as to the good of life, and by "every tribe" is signified the church as to every good of love and as to every truth from that good, from which is the good of life; for there are two things which make the church, the good of love and the truth of doctrine; the marriage of these is the church. The twelve tribes of Israel represented, and thence signified the church as to that marriage, and each tribe some universal truth of good or good of truth therein. But what each tribe signifies has not hitherto been revealed to anyone, nor could it be revealed, lest, by an ill-connected explanation, the sanctity which lies concealed in their several conjunctions into one, should be profaned, for their signification is determined by their conjunction. They have one signification in the series in which they are named according to their nativities (Genesis 29:31-35; 30:1-24; 35:18;) where the series of them is as follows:--Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, Benjamin. They have another signification in the series in which they are mentioned when they came to Egypt, which is as follows:--

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Gad, Asher, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali (Gen. 46:8-24).

Another, in the series in which they are blessed by their father Israel, which is this:--

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin (Gen. 49:1-28).

Another, in the series in which they are blessed by Moses, which is:--

Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph, Ephraim, Manasseh, Zebulon, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher (Deut. 33:6-29).

Here Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned, and not Simeon and Issachar. Another, in the series in which they encamped and journeyed, which was this:--

The tribe of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon to the east; the tribe of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad to the south; the tribe of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin to the west; the tribe of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali to the north; and the tribe of Levi in the middle (Num. 2:1-34).

Another, in the series in which they are mentioned in other places; as (Genesis 35:23-26; Numbers 1:5-16; 7:1-89; 13:4-15; 26:5-57; 34:17-28; Deuteronomy 27:2, 13; Ezekiel 48:1-35); and in Joshua 15-19. So, therefore, when "Balaam saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes," he said:--

How good are thy tabernacle, O Jacob, and thy habitations, O Israel (Num. 24:1-4).

In the breastplate of judgment, which was the Urim and Thummim, wherein were twelve precious stones, according to the names of the sons of Israel (Exodus 28:15-21), the signification of the tribes in their series was determined by the interrogation, to which they returned an answer. But what they signify in the series in which they are here mentioned in the Apocalypse, this being different also, shall be explained presently. That "tribes" signify religion, and "the twelve tribes" the church as to all things relating to it, is, because "tribe" and "sceptre," in the Hebrew language, are one word, and "the sceptre" is the kingdom, and the Lord‘s kingdom is heaven and the church.

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