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To understand the strange and complex imagery in the book of Revelation, we need to understand how eighteenth-century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg understood scripture. Everything is multilayered, with spiritual meanings or “correspondences” behind every concept.
It’s also important to understand what Swedenborg means by judgment. He talks about judgment as a process of transition, where we go from one spiritual state to another, and while it may not be fun at the time, ultimately it can be a good thing.
In this episode, host Curtis Childs explores Swedenborg’s spiritual writings about the inner meaning of the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation—and the powerful relevance it has to our lives right now.
The Secret Preparation
Change doesn’t just happen—there’s always preparation.
The subject now treated of in this fourth chapter [of Revelation] is the arrangement of all things, especially in the heavens, before judgment . . . It should be known that before any change takes place everything is pre-arranged and prepared for the future event; for all things are foreseen by the Lord, and according to this foresight are disposed and provided for. (Apocalypse Explained §258)
The last judgment represented in chapter 4 of the book of Revelation is all about preparing humanity for the next stage in its spiritual journey.
It begins when John (the author of the book of Revelation) is taken up to heaven and sees a door, which represents a state of being open to higher truths. After passing through the door, he is in a room with a person sitting on a throne, who represents the Lord as the one who will pass judgment. The figure was surrounded by a rainbow “in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:3), which stands for the divine love and wisdom to be used in making that judgment. Even the colors of the clothing that God wears in this part of the vision have a correspondence.
Judgment feels like a loaded term, but God’s judgment is good and fair. It’s not about punishment, it’s about being set on the correct path.
Lamps and the Sea
The next few verses depict groups that surround the Lord, and we learn they’re there to help the church through the coming change. Every detail, down to their clothing, supports this understanding.
Surrounding God on the main throne is a series of twenty-four elders, also on thrones, who represent all of the people and ideas in the higher heavens. Heaven was being prepared for the coming changes in the world. At the same time, this process also takes place in our hearts and minds anytime we face a change in our own lives.
Next, John sees thunder and lightning coming from the throne, with seven lamps of fire burning in front of it. The thunder and lightning represent personal enlightenment and learning—a new understanding that comes from God. The lamps of fire represent a love for seeing the truth that enables goodness in our lives. All of this will help us create a new level of heaven that is higher than the lower heaven that is represented by the sea of glass.The sea of glass, which John sees as the floor of the room, can also be thought of as a spiritual state where the true facts we know allow us to perceive heavenly love and wisdom.
There are also living creatures in the room, which represent divine providence and heavenly love protecting our minds while we go through a chaotic or confusing change. And, on a more global level, heaven itself needs protection during the creation of a new spiritual age:
By the four [living creatures], which are cherubim, is meant the Lord’s divine providence, lest the former heavens should suffer harm by the remarkable change about to take place, and that afterwards everything might be done according to order . . . (Apocalypse Explained §258)
Doesn’t Look Like a House . . .
Those living creatures aren’t just sitting around—they’re worshipping, nonstop. In fact, it’s not only the living creatures; the elders are also bowing down to the Lord. This is because they are humble enough to realize that all wisdom and protection comes from the Lord.
Acknowledgment of the Lord as the source of all goodness and truth, and therefore of all understanding, wisdom, and happiness . . . is not possible except in people who are in a humble state. When we are humble, we are removed from our own self-centeredness. (Apocalypse Explained §291)
This gratitude and humility shows an important lesson even for life today—the best way to worship is by doing good in the world.
Need a moment to absorb all that? This meditation takes you through all the images discussed in this chapter of Revelation, giving you a chance to reflect on your own reaction to each one.
In the wrap-up, Curtis reminds us that however strange the imagery may seem, this part of Revelation is describing a very immediate, tangible process. The takeaway is hope—even when things seem chaotic or hopeless, we can trust that there’s an intelligence behind them guiding us to a heavenly ending.
- How will we recognize our loved ones when we are in the afterlife? What “age” do we present ourselves in spirit?
- Since we are going to heaven are we going to see everything, even the throne room?
- Are the father, son, and holy spirit present or symbolic entities in the throne room?
- Is this earth plane for a conditioning of our spirit . . . to gain maturity?
- How many levels of heaven are there? If someone goes deeper into his/her heaven does he feel a greater degree of love there?
Related Swedenborg and Life Videos
Previous episodes about the book of Revelation: “The Four Strangest Creatures in Revelation”; “Revelation: Vision of a God-Centered Life”; “The Meaning of the Book of Revelation: 7 Churches”
“The Last Judgment”
“Who was Swedenborg? What should I read?”
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About Swedenborg and Life
In a lighthearted and interactive live 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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