“And it causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or in their foreheads,” (Revelation 13:16)
For this discussion, I am using the text from the Bible commentary “Apocalypse Explained”, written by Emanuel Swedenborg. In this Bible commentary, each verse in the Book of Revelation is broken down and examined to find, open up the heavens and expose the spiritual meaning as the angels in heaven perceive it. For they have the exact same WORD in their spiritual realm as we do in our natural world, only the significance, implication or idea is always a spiritual meaning. For it is well known in our world that the WORD; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
So by implication and association, at it’s highest level Scripture is a direct revealed reflection of the spiritual essence of our creator. “whom having not seen, you love; in whom not yet seeing, but believing in Him you exult with unspeakable joy, and having been glorified,” (1 Peter 1:8).
Following this line of thought, by interpreting Scripture from a purely natural or worldly thought is OK, but we need to grow our vision higher. Scripture is not about us, it is all about God in the final analysis. He is the potter, we are the clay. Everything else is dung and ashes. So in the same token, every word in the Bible speaks to us of our heavenly Father
There is to be found a natural and worldly application of the WORD (Bible)
This brings us to a discussion of Revelation 13:16 and the idea of slaves and slavery. There are Old Testament laws and principles and New Testament principles regarding slaves and slavery. In the book of Philemon, Paul addresses Onesimus (Who was a slave at his conversion). I would suggest Paul is saying to Onesimus that to honor the Lord Jesus and His supreme sacrifice on the cross is to deny himself and to return that love back to his Lord, “..not my will, but thy will be done”. If he becomes a free man or not in his lifetime, only God knows. This is wisdom and practical truth to help us walk in this world according to kingdom principles. This is a natural or worldly application of the WORD.
So how do we reconcile and find a spiritual, heavenly meaning to be found in Revelation 13:16, for the concept of slaves?. Who are these people who are called free and bond?.
The Spiritual Meaning of Revelation 13:16
Do we just assume this verse is speaking only of all the known living people in the world? No, because that is only the natural worldly meaning. That is not how the angels in heaven read and perceive it.
By looking at the Swedenborg Bible commentary, each verse is given a reference heading number in order to expound on its spiritual meaning. (Emphasis mine)
“AE 836. (Rev 13:16) “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond”. That this signifies: Lower and higher 2) Wise and simple, both those who 3) Think from themselves and those who think from others, is evident from the signification of all, “small and great”, as denoting lower and higher, or more common and more eminent. And from the signification of rich and poor, as denoting the wise and simple. That those are called rich who possess much knowledge of good and truth, thus who are wise. That those are called poor who have not the knowledge of good and truth, because they have not the Word. The same is evident from the signification of “free and bond”, as denoting those who think from themselves and those who think from others. To think from themselves is to consider from themselves whether a thing is true or false, and so to choose the one and reject the other. For freedom is to think and live from the Lord, and bondage is to think and live from hell; that these are free.
That the Lord, by means of His Divine truth, makes them free, is declared in John 8:32-36;
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. They answered, “We are Abraham’s children! We have never been anyone’s slaves. How can you say we will be set free?” Jesus replied: I tell you for certain that anyone who sins is a slave of sin! And slaves don’t stay in the family forever, though the Son will always remain in the family. If the Son gives you freedom, you are free!”
The church when it is in faith from love from God is in a state of freedom. But, when it is in faith without love, it is in a state of bondage
That this is meant by the Lord’s words in John. From these considerations it follows, that by bondmen are meant those who do not think from themselves but from others (told how to think and act). They do not think with their own minds and discern whether a matter is true or not, but think as they told to think. That these kind are the bond when those who think from themselves are
What Do The Angels See in Revelation 13:16?
Because the WORD (Bible) they are seeing and reading is the supreme spiritual reflection of their Lord in TRUTH, to them, it is an unending source of beauty and delight!. They have an unfettered illumination of spiritual TRUTH and WISDOM. They have also been given the ability to see the contrast between light and darkness.
God Cannot Condone or Wink at Slavery -Ever!
Jesus Himself stated very clearly, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and new sight to the blind, to set at liberty those having been crushed,” (Luke 4:18).
Slavery only exists in Hell
The Kingdom of God in heaven and on earth exists and stands on the greatest document ever written, the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments. In a more general sense “the law”. It is the only part of our Bible that was written by the finger of Almighty God, it was that important. “and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” (Ephesians 2:20). The kingdom of heaven is built on love to God, and love to neighbor.
The spiritual meaning of slave and free has nothing to do with an institution of slavery
Spiritually it simply means one who has the ability to see, hear and comprehend TRUTH. And the other extreme means vagueness, error, and misapprehension of TRUTH. Because Jesus said, “The Truth will set you free“.The arrow from the bow has missed its mark! They have been led astray.
One is happy, joyous and free. One is sad, mean and in captivity. The LOVE of God says, “Come home, repent and turn the other way before it is too late. I Love you with an everlasting love”.
This is the spiritual and heavenly meaning of “free and bond”.