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The biblical book of Revelation is confusing to many, but it made sense to eighteenth-century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. Join hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose as they explore his book on the subject, Apocalypse Revealed.
Jonathan had kidney stones some time ago and experienced unbelievable pain, but when it was over, he felt like going through it had brought him closer to God. Throughout all of that he knew that God was with him.
Curtis has struggled with depression for years, and he often credits that struggle with inspiring his real interest in Swedenborg. As he realized that he couldn’t win arguments with his own mind, he came to see his own powerlessness and found that God’s love enters through that suffering.
Swedenborg Book Club
In Apocalypse Revealed, Swedenborg went verse by verse through the book of Revelation to explain the complex spiritual realities that are illustrated therein.
While the word apocalypse is typically associated with the end of the world, it’s used here as a technical term referring to the book of Revelation.
But since what happens in the book of Revelation is so strange, and its meaning is less than obvious, how are we to get a better understanding of its relevance for us today? Well, a headline for Apocalypse Revealed might go a little something like this:
“Yes, the book of Revelation has an inner meaning, but it’s not what you think!”
So what’s inside?
After giving a summary of the doctrines of both Catholicism and Protestantism, Swedenborg proceeds to his exegesis of the book of Revelation, just as he had begun to do seven years earlier in Apocalypse Explained.
In the introductory paragraph of the author’s preface to Apocalypse Revealed, Swedenborg captures the essence of what the book sets out to do:
There are many who have sweated to explain the book of Revelation, but as the spiritual meaning of the Word has not been known until now, they couldn’t see the mysteries that lie concealed in it, for the spiritual meaning alone discloses these; on this account expositors have conjectured various things, and most of them have applied the things that are in it to the states of empires, intermingling also some things about
ecclesiastical affairs. But the book of Revelation, like the whole Word, in its spiritual meaning does not in the least treat of worldly things, but of heavenly things, therefore not of empires and kingdoms, but of heaven and the church.
To get a sense of the scope of the material, we’ll take a look at three relevant passages.
Here I may add the following account. In this earthly world we have two kinds of speech because we have two kinds of thought, outer and inner. That is, we can speak from our inner thought and at the same time from our outer thought, and we can speak from our outer thought but not from our inner—even contrary to it. This is why we can practice pretense, flattery, and hypocrisy. In the spiritual world, though, we do not have two kinds of speech. Rather, we have just one. There we say what we think. If we do not, then our voice is harsh and grates on the ear. Still, we can keep silent; and in this way we can avoid making the thoughts of our minds public. This is why when hypocrites find themselves in the company of the wise they either leave or slip away into some corner of the room, make themselves inconspicuous, and sit in silence.(Apocalypse Revealed §294)
Swedenborg’s understanding here reveals that honesty is important in the afterlife. It shows us, too, that while we may not be able to control our thoughts, we can control how we react to our thoughts.
Only those undergo temptations there who have lived a good life in the world according to their religion, wherein were falsities of doctrine in which they believed. For by temptations falsities are shaken off, truths are implanted, and thus they are prepared for heaven; for all those who shall come into heaven must be in truths; wherefore so long as they are in falsities they cannot come into heaven. . . . The reason why they are let into temptations in the spiritual world after the life in the body, is, that they could not be tempted in the world on account of the falsities of religion in which they were, and which were everywhere dominant.(Apocalypse Explained §474)
Lies and inaccuracy just don’t work in the spiritual world. This means that even though we may have been led astray in some way here on earth, we can go through trials in the afterlife and as a consequence have the opportunity not only to learn truths but to be devoted to them.
Before proving from the Word that “purple and scarlet” signify goods and truths from a celestial origin, something shall be said about such goods and truths. The Divine good that proceeds from the Lord is united with His Divine truth, as the heat of the sun with its light in the time of spring. But the angels who are recipients of the Divine good and Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, are distinguished into celestial and spiritual. Those who receive the Divine good more than the Divine truth of the Lord are called celestial angels, because these constitute the kingdom of the Lord which is called the celestial kingdom. But the angels who receive the Lord’s Divine truth more than His Divine good are called spiritual angels, because of these consists the Lord’s spiritual kingdom. It is therefore evident that goods and truths are of a twofold origin—from a celestial origin and a spiritual origin. Those goods and truths that are from a celestial origin are the goods and truths of love to the Lord; whereas those goods and truths that are from a spiritual origin are the goods and truths of love towards the neighbour. The difference is like that between what is higher and what is lower, or between what is interior and what is exterior; consequently, as between those things that are in a higher or interior degree, and those that are in a lower or exterior.(Apocalypse Explained §1042)
Like much of Swedenborg’s work, even his deep dive into the Bible reveals more about the fundamental mechanics of life—in this case, that goods and truths are from both spiritual and heavenly origins.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- There are so many scriptures that emphasize judgment. How is it that Swedenborg states that we are not punished for choices made in life?
- In a video from a couple years ago, Curtis gave examples of why we aren’t in the end times. Does he believe we are now?
- Does Swedenborg talk about how the Catholic Church is connected to Babylon in the book of Revelation?
At the beginning of the episode, we asked you to think of ways in which you’ve been freed from mental bondage. Here’s what viewers had to say:
- I was set free from mental bondage when I could admit to myself I was gay. – Josta356
- Loss of my younger brother back in June then my mom day after Thanksgiving taught me to cry again! – mike shiflett
- I remember being out of work for something like 6 months and that brought me way back to God. I’m doing well now. – Aaron B
- Went to jail and mother passed away and had to completely surrender to survive that trial, that’s what it took to get me to fully surrender and I’ve had a freedom I never had before that incident. – Mrs Dawn
- Life threatening illness that led to kidney transplant… The journey of overcoming the ultimate fear of death helped me live authentically & fully! Purpose in the pain. – Divine Alchemy Consulting
- When I left a difficult relationship because out of the experience I realized I was at least 50% of the problem and it was a nice push to growing up spiritual and such a great spiritual ‘side effect’. – Jeff Wood
- When I was 15…my older sister was murdered by her ex boyfriend. My mom was divorced and I had to be a man at 15, such a hard time but I made it. – Lee Laing
- Surviving domestic violence and sexual assault. Turning to the Lord saved me. – Sat Sang
- Dealing with bouts of insomnia has made me overcome anxiety and fear by turning to God during long sleepless night. – Kendall M.
- Surviving violence as a child. – Virginia Solan
- Cancer – Main lesson was to ASK God for the “first” opinion. Ask – Seek – Knock and then the hardest part: Wait. – Milehigh Scribs
- Went through a rough time (a few years) at work and was gifted a change (out of the blue) and I’ve been so thankful ever since. – Jon Childs
- I had been angry about everything in my life and unhappy. Then industrial accident where I lost movement in my legs and was paralyzed for over a year. – Bonnie Bowers
- Having to leave my first church as an adult…but finding God in the aftermath even stronger than before. – Edie Sneath
- Taking care of someone – 17 hours a day for two years no breaks. Either breaks you or allows you to grow. I felt like I was being tested. – Eriekial Ho
- Brief period of homelessness woke me up to the fact that my problems were surmountable and needed to be, quickly. – Erik RA
- Husband of 40 yrs, love of my life, diagnosed with rare cancer, died 10 mo. Later, I do BELIEVE in my grief, My husband Dean ironically brought me to Swedenborg. – Elizabeth Johnson
- Mental bondage describes perfectly my state throughout 2015. I was finally freed from a career that had run its course, and the expansiveness that followed, and continues still, is mind-blowing. – Carl Godlove
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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