Swedenborg and the Two Witnesses
October 25, 2015 § Leave a comment
For sometime I have been fascinated by the idea that Swedenborg was not just an observer of spiritual events, but also participant in them. I suspect that he was more than just participant. His experiences, his encounters with various angels, spirits, and devils; his instructing them were also a means by which Lord accomplished the Last Judgment, His Second Coming, and the formation of the New Church in heaven.
The memorable experience Swedenborg had and recorded in THE APOCALYPSE REVEALED 531 is significant. I confess that I don’t what that significance is. I would have thought that his experience would have been related to the Last Judgment, but it is not, since the Last Judgment had been completed 8 years earlier.
The chronology this experience is fascinating. Let us begin with a portion of the 11th chapter of the book of Revelation, which was written sometime before 100 AD.
3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, dressed in sackcloth.” 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5And if anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouth and consumes their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, in this way he must be killed. 6These have the authority to shut the sky, so that ⌊it does not rain⌋ during the days of their prophecy. And they have authority over the waters, to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with every plague as often as they wish.
7And when they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war with them and will conquer them and will kill them. 8And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is called symbolically Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9And those from peoples and tribes and languages and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and they will not allow their dead bodies to be placed in a tomb. 10And those who live on the earth will rejoice over them, and will celebrate and will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who live on the earth.
11And after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here,” and they went up into heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 12And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here,” and they went up into heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13And at that hour a great earthquake took place, and a tenth of the city collapsed, and seven thousand ⌊people⌋ were killed by the earthquake, and the rest became terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly!
The Lexham English Bible. 2012 (W. H. Harris, III, E. Ritzema, R. Brannan, D. Mangum, J. Dunham, J. A. Reimer & M. Wierenga, Ed.) (Re 11:3–14). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
The Last Judgment was completed by the end of 1757, see THE LAST JUDGMENT 45.
Late in 1758 Swedenborg began writing an explanation of the spiritual meaning of the book of Revelation, titled THE APOCALYPSE EXPLAINED. He wrote the rough draft and the final draft almost simultaneously. Both stop in the middle of the explanation for Rev. 19: 10. (See explanation of U 135 on page 488-489 of SCRIBE of HEAVEN: Swedenborg’s Life, Work, and Impact, edited by Jonathan S. Rose, Stuart Shotwell, and Mary Lou Bertucci, Published by the Swedenborg Foundation, copyright 2005).
The experience recorded in APOCALYPSE REVEALED 531 had not yet happened. Perhaps, just a thought, this is one reason the work could not be completed.
Sometime between December 3, 1764 (the date of SD 6107) and April 29, 1765 (the date of SD 6110) Swedenborg made a brief note about a spiritual experience he had had.
THE TWO PROPHETS IN REVELATION XI.
A remarkable change took place in the spiritual world. There was a gathering of persons, consisting for the most part of those who were in faith alone, both above, and at the side, and beneath me; and the power of flowing into my brain was granted them. Thereupon, I became so that I was not able to raise my head, and this for three and a half days; and it seemed to those who were in the city, which they had called Jerusalem, as if I were dead in the street. They looked, and rejoiced; but afterwards, that city, and all who were of that faith alone, were dissolved, and the inhabitants dispatched to their own places. (Spiritual Diary 6108; Buss)
This appears to be about the time that Swedenborg was writing his explanation of the spiritual meaning of the 11 chapter of the book Revelation for the book (APOCALYPSE REVEALED, which would be published in 1766.
According to Hyde’s Bibliography, on October 1, 1764 Swedenborg wrote to Beyer saying that he was sending early portions of THE APOCALYPSE REVEALED which had just been printed. And on April 8, 1765 that the printing had been completed. (See Hyde’s Bibliography, number 2195.)
Here is the full account of Swedenborg’s experience. It is interesting to note the parallels with Rev. chapter 11.
To this I will append the following account:
I was suddenly seized with an almost fatal illness. My whole head was weighed down. A toxic smoke emanated from the Jerusalem called Sodom and Egypt. I was half-dead with the fierce pain. I awaited the end. In that state I lay in my bed for three and a half days. Thus was my spirit afflicted, and because of it my body.
And then I heard about me voices saying, “Look, there he lies dead in our city’s street, the one who preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and Christ alone, a man.” And they asked some of the clergy whether they ought to bury him.
The clerics said, “No. Let him lie there for people to see.”
The people went to and fro, scoffing.
In truth this happened to me when I was expounding this chapter of the book of Revelation.
I heard then the sober words of the people scoffing, especially the following:
“How can one repent apart from faith? How can Christ, a man, be worshiped as God? Since we are saved by grace apart from any merit of our own, what need do we have then of anything but simply a faith that God the Father sent His Son to take away the condemnation of the Law, to impute His Son’s merit to us and thus justify us in His sight, to absolve us of our sins through His emissary the priest, and to grant us then the Holy Spirit to bring about any goodness in us? Does this not accord with Scripture, and also with reason?”
At that the crowd standing around applauded.
 I heard this, but could not reply, because I lay almost dead. But after three and a half days my spirit recovered, and in the spirit I went from the street into the city and said again, “Repent and believe in Christ, and your sins will be forgiven you and you will be saved. If you don’t, you will perish. Didn’t the Lord Himself preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and for people to believe in Him? Didn’t He command His disciples to preach this, too? The dogma attending your faith – is it not followed by a lack of concern over the way you live?”
But they said, “What nonsense are you prattling on about? Did not the Son make satisfaction? Did the Father not impute this to us and justify those of us who believe it? We are led, therefore, by the spirit of grace. What then is sin in us? What then does death have to do with us? Do you not comprehend this gospel, you preacher of sin and repentance?”
However, a voice was heard from heaven then, saying, “What is the faith of an impenitent person but a lifeless one? The end is coming. The end is coming upon you so unconcerned, so blameless in your own eyes, so justified in that faith of yours, you who are devils.”
Then suddenly a chasm opened at the center of that city and widened, and one after another their houses fell and were swallowed up. And shortly water bubbled up from that broad gulf and flooded the devastated land.
 When they were thus covered with water and seemingly drowned, I wished to know their fate at the bottom, and I was told from heaven, “You will see and hear it.”
And before my eyes then the water vanished – the water in which they were seemingly drowned, because bodies of water in the spiritual world are correspondent forms, which appear therefore around people who are caught up in falsities – and I saw them then in the sandy bottom. There were heaps of piled up stones there, and the people were running among them, lamenting the fact that they had been cast down from their great city. They kept crying out and bawling, “Why has this happened to us? Thanks to our faith in the world, are we not pure, just, and godly?”
And others cried, “Has our faith not cleansed us, purified us, justified and sanctified us?”
And still others, “Has our faith not made us such that in the sight of God the Father we appear, seem, and are regarded as clean, pure, just and godly, and declared to be so in the eyes of angels? Have we not been reconciled, restored to favor, and atoned for, and so freed, washed and cleansed of any sins? Has Christ not taken away the condemnation of the Law? Why, then, have we been cast down here as though condemned?
“A brazen preacher of sin told us in our great city, ‘Believe in Christ and repent.’ Have we not believed in Christ, since we believed in His merit? And have we not repented, since we confessed ourselves sinners? Why, then, has this befallen us?”
 At that they then heard from one side a voice speaking to them. “Are you aware of any sin gripping you? Have you ever examined yourselves? Have you as a result refrained from any evil as being a sin against God? Anyone who does not, remains caught up in it. Is not sin the devil? You are therefore the kind of people about whom the Lord says,
Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ (Luke 13:26, 27)
“And also the kind of people spoken of in Matthew 7:22, 23.
“Go, therefore, each to his own place. You will see caves opening into caverns. Go in, and there each of you will be given his own work to do, and food then commensurate with the work. If you don’t want to go in, still hunger will drive you to.”
 After that a voice from heaven addressed some people above ground who were outside that great city – people also mentioned in Revelation 11:13 – saying loudly, “Beware! Beware of allying yourselves with people like that. Can you not understand that evils called sins and iniquities render a person unclean and impure? How can a person be cleansed and purified of those evils except by actual repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? Actual repentance is to examine oneself, to recognize and acknowledge one’s sins, to make oneself guilty of them, to confess them before the Lord, to implore His aid and power in resisting them, and so to refrain from them and lead a new life, doing all this as though of oneself. Do this once or twice a year when you go to Holy Communion; and afterward, when the sins of which you have made yourself guilty recur, say to yourselves, ‘We refuse to do them because they are sins against God.’ That is actual repentance.
 “Who cannot understand that someone who does not examine himself and see his sins, remains caught up in them? For every evil is delightful from one’s birth, inasmuch as it is delightful to take revenge, to be licentious sexually, to prey on others, to blaspheme, and most of all to dominate others from a love of self. Does delight not cause these to go unseen? And if by chance someone says they are sins, does not the delight you find in them cause you to excuse them, even to persuade you and by false arguments convince you that they are not sins, so that you remain caught up in them and go on doing them, afterward even more than before? And this until you do not know what sin is, indeed whether there is any such thing as sin.
“It is different with someone who repents actually. His evils that he recognizes and acknowledges, he calls sins, and therefore he begins to refrain from them and to be averse to them, and to feel the delight he had felt in them as undelightful. Moreover, to the extent that he does this, to the same extent he sees and loves goods, and finally feels delight in them, a delight which is one of heaven. In a word, to the extent someone casts the devil behind him, to the same extent he is adopted by the Lord and taught, led, withheld from evils by Him and kept in goods. This is the way, the only way, from hell to heaven.”
 Surprisingly, it is a fact that the Protestant Reformed have a certain deep-seated resistance, opposition and aversion to actual repentance, which is so great that they cannot compel themselves to examine themselves and see their sins and confess them before God. It is as though a kind of horror besets them when they go to do it.
I have asked many of them in the spiritual world about this, and they have all said that it is beyond their power.
When they are told that Roman Catholics still do it, namely that they examine themselves and openly confess their sins to a monk, they are quite surprised, saying that the Protestant Reformed cannot do this in secret to God, even though they are likewise enjoined to do it before they take Holy Supper. Some of them there also inquired into why this was, and they found that faith alone produced in them such a state of impenitence and such a disposition.
They were then given to see, moreover, that Roman Catholics who worship the Christ and do not call on their saints, and who do not worship their so-called Vicar of Christ or any of his keepers of the keys, are saved.
 After that I heard what sounded like thunder and a voice speaking from heaven, saying, “We are astonished. Tell the company of the Protestant Reformed, ‘Believe in the Christ and repent and you will be saved.'”
So I said that, and also added, “Is not Baptism a sacrament of repentance and thus an initiation into the church? What else do the sponsors promise for the one being baptized than to renounce the devil and his works?
“Is not Holy Supper a sacrament of repentance and thus an initiation into heaven? Are the communicants not told to thoroughly repent before they approach?
“Any catechism containing the universal doctrine of the Christian Church, is it not a document teaching repentance? Does it not say there in reference to the six commandments of the second table that you must not do this or that evil, and say that you must do this or that good?
“You may know from this that to the extent someone refrains from evil, to the same extent he loves good; and that before then you do not know what good is, nor even what evil is.” (APOCALYPSE REVEALED 531; Rogers).