Throughout his theological writings, Emanuel Swedenborg devotes more pages to discussing the inner, spiritual meaning of the Bible than to any other topic. In his short work "White Horse", first published in 1758, he provides the spiritual theory behind the verse-by-verse analysis found in his multivolume works "Secrets of Heaven" and "Revelation Unveiled".
"White Horse" begins with a short summary of the spiritual meaning of the White Horse described in Revelation 19:11. In form, what then follows is a series of statements about the inner meaning of the Bible with references to explanatory passages in "Secrets of Heaven". However, when read in sequence, those statements are also a concise summary of Swedenborg’s theology of biblical interpretation.
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THE WHITE HORSE mentioned in THE APOCALYPSE CHAPTER 19 In the Apocalypse of John the Word is thus described as to its spiritual or internal sense: I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and in justice He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire; and upon His head were many diadems; and He hath a name written that no one knew but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in the heavens followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen white and clean. And He hath upon His vesture and upon His thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (19:11-14, 16). No one can know what each of these expressions involves, except from the internal sense. It is manifest that every expression is in some respect representative and significative: as when it is said, that "heaven was opened;" that there was "a white horse;" that "there was One sitting upon him;" that "in justice He doth judge and make war;" that "His eyes were as a flame of fire;" that "on His head were many diadems;" that "He had a name that no man knew but He Himself;" that "He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood;" that "the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses;" that "they were clothed in fine linen white and clean;" and that "on vesture and on His thigh He had a name written." It is expressly said, that it is "the Word" which is here described, and the Lord who is the Word; for it is said, "His name is called the Word of God;" and afterwards, "He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." From the interpretation of each, expression it evidently appears, that the Word is here described as to its spiritual or internal sense. By "heaven being opened" is represented and signified, that the internal sense of the Word is seen in heaven, and thence by those in the world to whom heaven is opened. "The horse," which was white, represents and signifies the understanding of the Word as to its interiors; that this is the signification of "a white horse," will be shown presently. That "He that sat upon him" is the Lord as to the Word, thus the Word, is manifest, for it is said, "His name is called the Word of God;" who, from good, is called "faithful and judging in justice;" and from truth, is called "true, and who maketh war in justice;" for the Lord Himself is justice. "His eyes, as a flame of fire," signify the Divine truth, from the Divine good of His Divine love. "The many diadems upon His head," signify all the goods and truths of faith. "Having a name written that no one knew but He Himself," signifies that the quality of the Word in the internal sense is seen by no one but Himself, and those to whom He reveals it. "Clothed in a vesture dipped in blood," signifies the Word in the letter, to which violence has been offered. "The armies in the heavens which followed Him upon white horses," signify those who are in the understanding of the Word as to its interiors. "Clothed in fine linen, white and clean," signify the same persons in truth from good. "Upon His vesture and upon his thigh a name written" signifies truth and good, and their quality. From these particulars, and from those which precede and follow in that chapter, it is evident, that therein is predicted, that about the last time of the church the spiritual or internal sense of the Word would be opened; but what would come to pass at that time, is also described there (verses 17-21). That this is the signification of the words mentioned, it is unnecessary to prove in this place, as they are particularly explained in The Arcana Coelestia; where it is shown, That the Lord is the Word, because He is the Divine truth (n. 2533, 2803, 2884, 5272, 7835). That the Word is the Divine truth (n. 4692, 5075, 9987). That because the Lord is justice, therefore it is said, that "He who sat upon the horse in justice doth judge and make war;" and that the Lord is called "justice" for this reason, because of His own power He has saved the human race (n. 1813, 2025-2027, 9715, 9809, 10019, 10152). And that "justice" is the merit which belongs to the Lord alone (n. 9715, 9979). That "His eyes, as a flame of fire," signify the Divine truth from the Divine good of the Divine love, is, because "the eyes" signify the understanding and the truth of faith (n. 2701, 4403-4421, 4523-4534, 6923, 9051, 10569); and "a flame of fire" signifies the good of love (n. 934, 4906, 5215, 6314, 6832). That "the diadems which were upon His head" signify all the goods and truths of faith (n. 114, 3858, 6335, 6640, 9863, 9865, 9868, 9873, 9905). That "He hath a name written which no one knew but He Himself," signifies that the quality of the Word in the internal sense is seen by no one but Himself, and those to whom He reveals it, is because "a name" signifies the quality of a thing (n. 144, 145, 1754, 1896, 2009, 2724, 3006, 3237, 3421, 6674, 9310). That "clothed in a vesture dipped in blood," signifies the Word in the letter, to which violence has been offered, is because "a vesture" signifies truth because it clothes good (n. 1073, 2576, 5248, 5319, 5954, 9212, 9216, 9952, 10536); especially truth in the ultimates, thus the Word in the letter (n. 5248, 6918, 9158, 9212); and because "blood" signifies violence offered to truth by falsity (n. 374, 1005, 4735, 5476, 9127). That "the armies in heaven followed Him upon white horses," signify those who are in the understanding of the Word as to its interiors, is because "armies" signify those who are in the truths and goods of heaven and the church (n. 3448, 7236, 7988, 8019). And "a horse" signifies the understanding (n. 3217, 5321, 6125, 6400, 6531, 6534, 7024, 8146, 8318). And "white" signifies truth which is in the light of heaven, consequently interior truth (n. 3301, 3993, 4007, 5319). That "clothed in fine linen white and clean," signifies the same persons in truth from good, is because "fine linen," or "linen," signifies truth from a celestial origin, which is truth from good (n. 5319, 9469). That "a name written upon the vesture and upon the thigh," signifies truth and good, and their quality, is because "a vesture" signifies truth, and "a name" quality, as observed above, and "the thigh" signifies the good of love (n. 3021, 4277, 4280, 9961, 10485). "King of kings, and Lord of lords," is the Lord as to the Divine truth and as to the Divine good; the Lord is called "King" from the Divine truth (n. 3009, 5068, 6148). And He is called "Lord" from the Divine good (n. 4973, 9167, 9194). Hence it appears what is the quality of the Word in its spiritual or internal sense, and that there is no expression therein which does not signify something spiritual, that is, something of heaven and the church.
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