Spiritual & Biblical Interpretations of Life

The Difference, Purpose, and Use of the Literal Sense and Internal Sense of the Word, and How Essential Knowledge of them Is In Understanding the Second Coming

What then does the Second Coming essentially consist of? This can only be understood when one has a feel for the divine nature of the Word, particularly for the meaning of both its internal and external sense, which we have discussed previously. The Second Coming of Christ is essentially the revealing of the internal sense of the Word. The internal sense is what gives the Word the power to conjoin heavenly wisdom to earth, and Jesus is the living Word. Jesus is the living Word because the Word is the manifestation of divine truth descended down from heaven, of which Jesus, the divine human, the one God, is the source. This is accomplished by descending degrees; that is, from the Lord to the celestial heaven, from the celestial heaven to the spiritual heaven, from the spiritual heaven to the natural heaven, and then to earth as the published Bible. Between each of these levels there are correspondences. When the Scripture reads in Mark, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory ” (Mark 13:26); and in Revelation: “And behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2); it does not literally mean that He will appear in a cloud. ‘Coming in clouds’ represents the literal sense of the Word, ‘coming in power and glory’ refers to the internal sense of the Word, and riding on a horse represesents the ability to understand the Word. Riding a horse represents this understanding because a horse is a sort of living vehicle that requires skill to harness its power. Similarly, an internal skill is required to engage the Word, and there comes an internal satsifaction and agency from doing so.
This interpretation of riding on clouds as the literal sense of the word may seem random to some readers. So, in this case, I will provide a quote that will show several examples of where ‘riding on clouds’ appears in scripture to serve as an example of how imagery motifs (correspondences) are repeated in the Bible. It is worth noting first, that, in general, the literal correspondent is always an image of the spiritual correspondent, and this image is usually repeated in many places throughout the Bible with some variations on the theme depending on the situation. In the case of clouds, the literal sense arises from the way clouds obscure the light from the sun and protect from its direct light. In general, the literal image has a comparatively pale meaning in relation to the internal. It is a lesser degree of the internal meaning, but it is also a container and protecter of the internal meaning. Neither can exist without the other. It is necessary that it be this way because the internal is sacred and in its pure light needs to be protected from abuse. This is similar to the purpose of parables in that parables are a simple story with a deeper, obscured meaning, and they are meant to seed the receiver for later harvest. The sacred nature of the internal is meant to be approached with deep respect and sincerity, so the literal protects it from those who would profane and abuse it. Through this mechanism, the Lord providentially guides people for their own protection until they are ready for an enlightened view. The following quote from Swedenborg lists several places in scripture where clouds appear with the same meaning as above. He also teaches in this quote how correspondents come from realities in heaven:
There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun who rideth in the heaven, and in magnificence upon the clouds’ (Deut. 33:26-27). ‘Sing unto God, praise His name; extol Him that rideth upon the clouds’ (Ps. 68:4). ‘Jehovah rideth upon a light cloud’ (Isa. 19:1). “To ride” signifies to instruct in Divine truths from the Word, for “a horse” signifies understanding of the Word (see Apocalypse Revealed, n. 298). Who does not see that God does not ride upon the clouds? Again: ‘God rode upon cherubs. He made His pavilion thick clouds of the heavens’ (Ps. 18:10, 11). ‘Jehovah bindeth up the waters in His clouds; Him spreadeth His cloud over His throne’ (Job 26:8, 9). ‘Give ye strength unto God; His strength is in the clouds’ (Ps. 68:34). ‘Jehovah will create over every dwelling of Mount Zion a cloud by day; for over all the glory shall be a covering’ (Isa. 4:5). The Word in the sense of the letter was also represented by the cloud in which Jehovah descended upon Mount Sinai, when He promulgated the law; the principles of the law that were then promulgated were the first fruits of the Word. As further proof, the following may also be added: In the spiritual world as well as in the natural world there are clouds, but from a different origin. In the spiritual world there are sometimes bright clouds over the angelic heavens, but dusky clouds over the hells. The bright clouds over the angelic heaven signify obscurity there arising from the literal sense of the Word; but when these clouds are dispersed, it signifies that they are in the clear light of the Word from the spiritual sense; while the dusky clouds over the hells signify the falsification and profanation of the Word. This signification of “clouds” in the spiritual world has its origin in the fact that the light which there goes forth from the Lord as a sun, signifies Divine truth; for which reason He is called “the Light” (John 1:9; 12:35).
In the big picture perspective, at the time of the Second Coming, the psuedo-heavens that had built up in the spiritual world were ‘clouds’ that obscured light from humanity on earth. In the centuries after Jesus began the Church, the Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim religions gradually declined and became bereft of real charity and falsified in doctrine. The psuedo-heavens in the spiritual world were led by the evil minded from each of these religions. In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, the spiritual state of humanity had reached a crisis point because of the decline and corruptions in the church. This time, in the Second Coming, His coming was accomplished by the opening up of the internal sense of the Word, which, as shown, is meant by His ‘riding in the clouds in power and glory.’ This opening up was a result of the great work of the Lord putting all of heaven and hell into divine order as He had done in the resurrection. He could not open the internal sense until He did because, even if He had, humanity would not have been able to receive it. Here is the reason people could not reiceive the internal of the Word until the time was ready: the life of the human mind, soul, and body are sustained continually by reception from the spiritual world, specifically from angels and spirits from the spiritual world that are present with us. We are not cognitive of this, but, without heaven in order, evil spirits would snatch away internal truths. Earth and heaven are in a symbiotic relationship. It is dangerous for humanity to receive divine truths unless the spiritual world is in order. Jesus performed the judgment in the spiritual world on the false heavens, and He also put all heaven and hell in order. When this was accomplished, the internal sense of the Word was then gradually introduced to humanity. With the removal of the dark cloud between heaven and earth and with equilibrium restored in the spiritual world, people could receive and retain understanding of the internal sense.

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  • Thank you Steve. That was helpful to see the use of the Old Testament for your examples. I want to study much more about this eventually. There is much written but I lack the time. I guess that means I need to change what I use my time for.


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