Apocalypse Explained (Tansley) n. 960

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960. Go, pour out the vials of the anger of God into the earth. That this signifies the state of the devastated church, is evident from the signification of the vials of the anger of God, as denoting the evils and falsities that have devastated the church, for the vials of the anger of God have a similar signification to that of the plagues in the preceding chapter (xv. 6), where it is said, that seven angels went out from the temple having seven plagues; and by the plagues there are signified evils and the falsities therefrom, and falsities and the evils therefrom that have devastated the church, as may be seen above (n. 949); similar things are signified by the anger of God; for the anger of God is said of the evils and falsities that devastate the goods and truths of the church, and from the signification of earth, as denoting the church (concerning which see n. 29, 304, 417, 697, 741, 752, 876).

The reason why by pouring out those vials into the earth is signified the state of the church thus effected is, that the vastations of the church in the Word are attributed to God, consequently, that they flow forth from heaven, although nothing of them is from God, but from man only. Still, however, it is so said in the sense of the letter of the Word because it appears to be so to men; and because that sense is the ultimate, therefore it consists of appearances.

[2] The reason why they are called vials is, that vials are vessels and vessels signify the same as their contents, as chalices, bowls, cups, with the wine or other liquor in them; and as the censers (acerrae et thuribula) for the incense, and several other vessels. The reason is, that the sense of the letter of the Word is the ultimate sense of Divine truth, and, therefore, consists of ultimates that are in nature; for ultimates are those things upon which interior or higher things are built and founded. That vials, chalices, cups, bowls, and dishes are mentioned for their contents, and therefore have a similar signification, is evident from the Word, for there they signify falsities from hell, and the drunkenness or insanity therefrom. They also signify temptations, and also truths from the Lord and the wisdom therefrom. That they signify falsities from hell, and insanity therefrom, is evident from the following passages.

In Jeremiah:

"Jehovah said, Take this cup of the wine of the anger of Jehovah out of my hand, and make all nations drink to which I send thee, that they may drink and stagger, and be mad, by reason of the sword. When they refuse to take the cup out of thine hand to drink, thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith Jehovah Zebaoth, drinking ye shall surely drink" (xxv. 15, 16, 28).

By the cup of wine here also is signified falsity from hell; by drinking is signified to appropriate to themselves; by being mad is signified to be spiritually insane, which takes place when falsity is called truth, and truth falsity. By the nations that shall drink are signified the evil, and, in the abstract sense, evils; for many nations that were to drink are there enumerated. But still those nations are not meant, but the evils signified by them; and it is evils that drink, that is, appropriate to themselves falsities. That the cup of wine signifies falsity, is also evident from its being said, that they may be mad by reason of the sword; for by sword is signified falsity destroying truth.

[3] In the same:

"A golden cup is Babel in the hand of Jehovah, making drunk the whole earth; the nations have drunk of her wine, therefore are the nations mad" (h. 7).

By the golden cup is signified falsity destroying good; by Babel is signified dominion by means of the holy things of the church over heaven, and over the souls of men, from which dominion profane falsities are derived; by making the earth drunk is signified to infatuate the church, so that any truth is no longer seen. Wine signifies such a falsity.

[4] In Ezekiel:

"Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister, therefore will I give her cup into thine hand. Thus saith the Lord Jehovih, Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup, deep and broad; thou shalt be for laughter and derision, ample to be taken; with drunkenness and sadness shalt thou be filled, with the cup of devastation and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria, which thou shalt drink and press out: and thou shalt break the sherds thereof" (xxiii. 31-34).

These things are said concerning Jerusalem, by which is signified the celestial church as to doctrine; and by Samaria there, which is the sister, is signified the spiritual church, also as to doctrine. For the Jewish nation represented the Lord's celestial kingdom; and the Israelitish nation His spiritual kingdom. But in this case by Jerusalem and Samaria is signified the church devastated as to all good and truth. The full devastation of the church with the Jewish nation is described by the cup of the sister deep and broad; and by their being filled with drunkenness and sadness; also by drinking the cup, pressing it out, and breaking the sherds thereof. It is called a cup of devastation and desolation, because devastation is said of good, and desolation of truth.

[5] In Zechariah:

"Behold I make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about" (xii. 2).

In Habakkuk:

"Thou shalt be satiated with ignominy for glory: drink thou also, that thy foreskin may be uncovered. The cup of Jehovah shall pass about to thee, that a shameful vomit may be upon thy glory" (ii. 16).

Cup denotes falsified truth, which in itself is falsity; and of which a shameful vomiting is said. Wherefore it is said, "upon thy glory," glory signifying the Divine truth in the Word.

In Lamentations:

"Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, the cup shall also pass over to thee, thou shalt be made drunken and shalt be uncovered" (iv. 21).

Here also the cup has a similar signification.

[6] In David:

"Jehovah shall rain upon the impious, snares, fire, and brimstone, and a wind of storms; the portion of their cup" (Ps. xi. 6).


"There is a cup in the hand of Jehovah, and he hath mixed it with wine, he hath filled it with mixture, and poured out thence; but the dregs thereof all the impious of the earth shall suck out and drink them" (Ps. lxxv. 9).

By snares, fire, and brimstone are signified falsities and evils seducing, and by a wind of storms is signified the vehement assault of truth. These things are called the portion of a cup, because a cup, as containing, signifies them. By mixing and filling with mixture, is signified, to falsity truth and profane it.

[7] In all these passages the devastation of truth and good by falsities and evils is attributed to Jehovah. For it is said that they should take the cup of the anger of Jehovah out of His hand, that Jehovah mixed it with wine, and filled it with mixture; it is also called a cup in the hand of Jehovah. But, nevertheless, it is to be understood, that nothing of devastation is from Jehovah, but that it is entirely from man. The reason it is so said is, that the natural man only sees that God is angry, and punishes, condemns, and casts into hell those who despise and blaspheme Him, that is, those who do not give Him glory. But to think in this way is natural; therefore in the sense of the letter of the Word, which is natural, it is so said.

[8] Similar elsewhere in the Apocalypse:

"He who worshipped the beast, shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God mixed pure in the cup of His wrath" (xiv. 10).

"Great Babylon came into remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the wrath of his anger" (xvi. 19).

"A woman having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and the uncleanness of whoredom" (xvii. 4).

"Double to her double, according to her works; in the cup in which she hath mingled, mingle to her double" (xviii. 6).

From these things it is evident what is signified by the seven vials of the angels, which they poured out into the earth, the sea, the rivers, the fountains of waters, the sun, upon the throne of the beast, the river Euphrates, and into the air, that is, that they denote states of devastation, which are thereby described.

[9] That a chalice or cup signifies temptations is evident from the following passages.

In the Evangelists:

Jesus said to the sons of Zebedee, "Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup which I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They said unto him, We are able. Then he said unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and with the baptism that I am baptized with, ye shall be baptized" (Matt. xx. 22, 23; Mark x. 38, 39).

But these passages may be seen explained above (n. 83).


"Jesus said to Peter, The cup which my Father gave me, shall I not drink it?" (John xviii. 11).

In Gethsemane, Jesus said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. xxvi. 39, 42, 44; Mark xiv. 36; Luke xxii. 42).

That in these passages a cup or chalice signifies temptations is evident. Also in Isaiah (li. 17, 22); where it is also called the cup of the anger of God, and the cup of trembling.

[10] Because a cup signifies the same as wine, and wine, in the good sense, signifies Divine truth, therefore also this is signified by cup in the following passages.

In the Evangelists:

Jesus, "taking the cup and giving thanks, gave it to his disciples, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood, that of the new covenant" (Matt. xxvi. 27, 28; Mark xiv. 23, 24; Luke xxii. 17, 18).

Because by the Lord's blood is signified the Divine truth proceeding from Him, and similarly by wine, consequently, by cup, therefore it is said, "This is my blood." And because the Lord's conjunction with the church is by means of Divine truth, therefore it is called, that of the New Testament or the New Covenant. That the Lord's blood signifies Divine truth may be seen (n. 328, 329, 476, 748); and that Covenant signifies conjunction (n. 701).

[11] In David:

"Jehovah is the portion of my part and my cup. Thou sustainest my lot" (Psalm xvi. 5).


"Thou settest before me a table in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup shall abound " (Ps. xxiii. 5).

In these passages cup is for Divine truth; and because cup has this signification it is also called the

"Cup of salvation" (Ps. cxvi. 13).

And the

"Cup of consolations" (Jer. xvi. 7).

[12] In Mark:

"Whosoever of you shall give a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye are Christ's, shall not lose his reward" (ix. 11).

By giving a cup of water to drink in my name, because they are Christ's, signifies to teach truth from the love of truth, thus from the Lord, also to do it. The love of truth for the sake of truth is meant by giving a cup of water in the name of the Lord. By Christ also is meant the Lord as to Divine truths.

[13] In the Evangelists:

"Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess; purge first the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also" (Matt. xxiii. 25, 26; Luke xi. 39).

The reason why the Lord mentioned the cup and platter is, that the thing containing signifies the same as what is contained; thus, the cup the same as wine, and the plate the same as meat. By wine is signified the truth of the Word and of doctrine; and by meat, the good of the Word and of doctrine.

The natural man or the natural mind is inwardly purified when falsities and evils are removed; but the contrary is the case when they are not removed. For as is the interior, such is the exterior, but not the contrary. For the interior flows into the exterior, and disposes it to agreement with itself, but not the reverse.

Continuation concerning the Second Precept:-

[14] Because by the name of God is meant what is from God, and which is God, and this is called Divine truth, and with us the Word; and since this is in itself Divine, and most holy, it is not to be profaned; and it is profaned when its sanctity is denied, as is the case when it is despised, rejected, and treated with contempt. When this is the case, then heaven is closed, and man is left to hell. For the Word is the only medium of conjunction of heaven with the church; therefore, when it is rejected from the heart, that conjunction is loosed; and then a man, because left to hell, no longer acknowledges any truth of the church.

There are two things by which heaven is shut to the men of the church. One is the denial of the Lord's Divine, and the other is the denial of the sanctity of the Word. The reason is, that the Lord's Divine is the all of heaven; and the Divine truth, which is the Word in the spiritual sense, constitutes heaven. It is therefore evident that he who denies the one or the other, denies the all of heaven, and that from which heaven is and exists; and that, consequently, he deprives himself of communication, and thence of conjunction, with heaven.

To profane the Word is the same as blaspheming the Holy Spirit; and this is remitted to no one. Wherefore, also, it is said in this precept, that he who profanes the name of God shall not be left unpunished.

This page is part of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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