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In 1757 Emanuel Swedenborg set out to write a comprehensive commentary on the Apocalypse or Book of Revelation. Over the next two years he put together an incredibly comprehensive exegesis of every verse in the Book of Revelation right up to chapter 19:10. In some ways his approach was similar to the way he had written the Arcana Caelestia. But, somewhat mysteriously, before he had completed it he stopped without sending any of it for publication. He left the manuscript neatly written, as if for the press, and marked the word Londini on the title page and the date 1759. Later in 1766 he published a much shorter work entitled Apocalypse Revealed.

In 1785, thirteen years after Swedenborg's death, the London based Theosophical Society arranged for the manuscript of Apocalypsis Explicata, which had not yet been printed, to be brought over from Sweden. A decision was made by some members of the Society to print the manuscript at their own expense and one of the members, Henry Peckitt, had volume 2 in his possession when a fire broke out in his neighbourhood in Soho, London.

Soon after the fire started it spread to Henry’s house. When the firemen arrived they tried to save as much of the property as they could. Henry also tried to save many of his goods but he was forced to quickly leave the house. The following morning he returned to the ruins of his house to find what might have happened to the Apocalypsis Explicata manuscript. The fire, which had damaged at least 15 houses, destroyed a major portion of his extensive library and he could find no trace at all of the important Latin manuscript. However a neighbour from nearby Soho Square explained that he had picked up several volumes from the street the night before and taken them to his own house for safety. Henry found the missing manuscript almost undamaged at this neighbour’s house. A few evenings later when Henry attended the next meeting of the Theosophical Society he showed them the manuscript and said “There, the greatest treasure which I had in my house, is preserved in safety; and for the sake of that, I willingly submit to my great loss."

The opening commentary on the first words of the Book of Revelation begins with these words.

Many have expounded this prophetical book which is called the Apocalypse; but none of them have understood the internal or spiritual sense of the Word, therefore they have applied the particulars which it contains to the successive states of the church, which they have learnt from history; and in addition to this they have applied many things to civil affairs. Consequently such expositions are mostly conjectures, which can never appear in such light that they can be approved as truths; and therefore they are cast aside as mere opinions as soon as they are read. The reason why the current explanations of the Apocalypse are of this description is, as just observed, that their authors know nothing of the internal or spiritual sense of the Word; when, nevertheless, all things in the Apocalypse are written in a style similar to that of the prophetical parts of the Old Testament, and of the whole Word. And the Word is natural in the letter, but in its inner content spiritual; and consequently it contains a sense within. which does not appear at all in the letter. The nature of the difference between these two senses may be seen from what is said and shown in the small work concerning The White Horse, and in the Appendix there, taken from Arcana Coelestia. It is evident from these things that nothing contained either in the Apocalypse, or in the prophetical parts of the Old Testament can be understood, unless the spiritual sense be known, and particularly unless there be a revelation from heaven, where the whole Word is understood according to that sense. That this is the case will be proved by the explanation itself, which follows.