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online, based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
30 The Effects of the Last Judgment
Redemption by Divine Truth
The Lord said, "I came not to judge the world but to save the world." In the eyes of the Lord, a judgment is permitted for the sake of the salvation of spirits and men. The purpose and aim of the Last Judgment was the salvation of souls seemingly lost, and the formation of these into new heavens where their progress into more abundant spiritual life would no longer be arrested. To accomplish this the Lord made His promised second advent, not in person as when He was born on earth, but "in Divine truth which is the Word" in the Heavenly Doctrine which is seen as the internal sense of the Sacred Scriptures.1 It was this Divine truth which caused the Last Judgment in the spiritual world at the consummation of the Christian age; even as the Lord had said of anyone who rejects Him: "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). This "word" of the Lord took new form in "a revelation from His mouth or from the Word," as doctrine for the New Church written through Emanuel Swedenborg as the inspired agent.2
This Divinely revealed doctrine contains "the universal theology of the New Heaven and the New Church" (TCR, subtitle). In its teachings the Lord could be seen in His Divine Human as the one God of heaven and earth, one in essence and in person. It was this new vision of the Lord as Savior, that could lift the good spirits of the "lower earth," whether Christians or gentiles, out of their state of ignorance, free them from their entanglements in false persuasions and from the weight of a spurious conscience; introduce them into a state of instruction by spiritual ideas; and form them into communities to carry on spiritual uses. To them the Lord came, not as a judge, but as a deliverer; or as that Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which would lead them into all truth.
In the spiritual world this change of state was usually seen as a migration of the redeemed spirits from the lower earth into some mountainous plain or hill country formerly occupied by the evil spirits of the false heavens which had met their judgment. The ordering of these good spirits after the Last Judgment was at first according to nations and corresponding heavenly affections. Such societies undergo various fermentations to rid them of alien spirits. This is sometimes effected by the society assuming a human form and appearing as one man; the meaning being that its members assume a common use, and that all who cannot cooperate in that common use are rejected.3 Afterwards these good spirits form societies that are most distinct according to their particular kind and species of affections of good and truth. For all spirits, as soon as their vastation is completed, are led by designated ways to the interior societies which correspond exactly to their lives; and they cannot then, as formerly, turn aside and form artificial groups or societies in other places.4
The New Heaven
This allocation into new heavens happened, after the Last Judgment, to "all who since the Lord's advent and up to this time had lived a life of faith and charity."5 It involved not only those who had been liberated from the lower earth but also angels of the Christian era who had been reserved in heaven for centuries. The New Heaven was "distinct from the ancient heavens," which constituted "higher expanses," being of different genius. Those higher expanses consisted of celestial angels, mostly from the Most Ancient Church, and spiritual angels, mostly from the Ancient Church; while the lowest expanse, organized in 1757, contained angels who had been in "the good of faith" according to the doctrine of their church.6 Yet this lowest expanse, as appears from other teachings, is also of three degrees, or of three heavens which are represented as expanses one above another. For "each heaven founded by the Lord after the consummation of each church is made triplicate." And the New Heaven will therefore contain celestial and spiritual as well as natural angels.7
In the widest sense, the New Heaven is said to be formed of "both Christians and gentiles; but as to the greatest part from the infants of all [races] in the whole world, who had died [as infants] since the time of the Lord. For these latter have all been received by the Lord, educated in heaven and instructed by angels, and thereafter preserved, so that they, together with the rest, might constitute the New Heaven."8
In a more restricted sense, the New Heaven is said to be formed from Christians, and also from "all the infants of Christians" who have been imbued with the two essentials of Christian faith and life.9 The Christian heavens are distinct from those composed from gentiles, although there is an influx as of light from the Christian heavens, and thus a communication with those of other religions.10 The Christian heavens are said to constitute the provinces of the heart and the lungs in the Grand Man of heaven, and from them the light of the Word goes forth to other heavens. And it is from this new Christian heaven that the holy Jerusalem, that is, the New Church upon earth, will descend.11 Yet in a general sense the entire New Heaven, containing spirits from many religions, is consociated with the New Christian Heaven, since this New Heaven contains only spirits who have lived since the beginning of the Christian era, and is based on faith in the Lord's Divine Human and the knowledge of His advent, and thus has a unanimous quality. That there is a distinction is clear. For "infants and children born outside of the Christian Church are introduced by other means than baptism into the heaven designated for their religion, after reception of faith in the Lord, but they are not mixed with those who are in the Christian heaven."12
Gradual Formation of the New Heaven
The establishment of the heavens from the Christian era and their final ordering into a complete form was a gradual process. The spirits who were taken up into heaven before the Last Judgment because they were in truths from good were signified in the Apocalypse by the "hundred and forty-four thousand" redeemed, who alone could sing the new song of the Lamb (Revelation 14) ,13 They had been regenerated while in the world and constituted the beginnings, or the nucleus, of the New Heaven.14 But it was not until a little before the Last Judgment that these angels began to be ordinated into an "internal" of the New Heaven. The external of that heaven came mainly from spirits who were in good but not in truth, and who had been concealed in various places, especially in the "lower earths." These were not incorporated into the New Heaven until after the Last Judgment.15 Swedenborg often records the elevation of these vast multitudes from the lower earths, and notes that this took place from the beginning of the year 1757, and that their elevation to constitute the New Heaven occurred especially "from the end of April and into the month of May."16
In 1757 Swedenborg observed that the New Heaven is not formed immediately, but when there is a sufficient number of good spirits.17 He explains also that the New Church on earth will grow "according to its increase in the world of spirits." Only those spirits receive the doctrine "who have been in a spiritual affection of truth; these only are conjoined to the heaven where that doctrine is, and they conjoin heaven to man. The number of these in the spiritual world now increases daily, therefore according to their increase does that church which is called the New Jerusalem increase on earth."18 "The falsities of the former church must first be removed" before truths can be received so as to remain. It is therefore of the Divine providence that the New Church "should at first be among a few," afterwards with more, and finally reach fullness, that is, "be provided among many, even until it grows to its appointed stature."19 The New Church doctrine "cannot be acknowledged and thus received except by those who are interiorly affected by truths," thus by such only as have "cultivated their intellectual faculty and have not destroyed it by the loves of self and the world."
In a letter to Dr. Beyer, written in 1766, Swedenborg states that "the New Heaven of Christians, out of which the New Jerusalem will descend from the Lord (Revelation 21:1, 2), is not yet fully completed."20 The next year he relates: "I daily see spirits and angels, from ten to twenty thousand, descending and ascending and being set in order." Later, in 1770, he comments that "the spheres of spiritual truths are as yet few, being only in the new heavens."21 But in April, 1771, he wrote Dr. Beyer that "the New Heaven from which the New Jerusalem will descend is now almost completed."22
By the "completion" of the New Heaven was meant, of course, only that it had become a functional whole, complete as to all the uses that are represented in a human form. And this near completion followed within a year of that memorable day, June 19, 1770, when the Lord sent forth His twelve apostles into various provinces of the spiritual world to proclaim the new gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ alone ruled over the two worlds and over the lives of men and angels.23
The New State of the World of Spirits
That the Lord had now subjugated the hells and ordered the heavens was indeed clear from the new state of the world of spirits. It is true that multitudes of evil spirits arrive there continually, and seek to form false heavens where they can exercise power. But as often their endeavors are frustrated by swift judgments, and each spirit is compelled to proceed in due course on paths which lead to the society of those who are in the same ruling love.24 There are also many spirits who are in falsities of faith who find themselves in lower earths and places of vastation until they can amend their lives and come into states more receptive of instruction by angelic tutors of their own religion. Most religions and denominations are still represented by societies in the world of spirits.25 Some spirits are led to explore the imaginary heavens where they think to find eternal bliss in various sensual pleasures; but these pleasures pall within a few days and they are glad to go away.26 As soon as spirits congregate in considerable numbers under false leaders, or with malicious intent, their societies are dissolved. No false or imaginary heaven is permitted to endure for more than a generation about twenty years.27 Spirits from the earth are now seldom able to remain in their first state, which is not unlike their life in the world, for more than a year, and with some it may last only for a few days or for some months. They then pass into the state of their internals and are separated, the good from the evil, generally within a period of ten to thirty years; although some are taken up into heaven or immersed into hell almost immediately after death.28
The reason the normal processes of judgment are now again operative in the world of spirits, and everyone is borne to his place in heaven or hell according to his life, is that the equilibrium between heaven and hell, which was at the point of perishing, is now restored, and the communication of heaven with men is no longer cut off.29 No man was ever born who could not be in free choice. But before the judgment spirits could not progress or advance according to that choice, but were arrested and detained. Even the happiness of the angels of heaven was diminished when the powers of evil had secured footholds in the lower heavens. And the doctrine states that "unless judgment were then executed, no man on earth would be saved, nor could any angel in the heavens remain in his state of safety."30 For man as to his spirit is in the world of spirits, and his spiritual freedom depends on the equilibrium there between heaven and hell.
After the Last Judgment the prayers which are addressed to an impersonal God or to a Godhead of three persons, or prayers which are offered from a state of faith without charity, can no longer be heard, but are driven back like smoke before the wind.31 For the response to such prayers comes only from spirits cast down from heaven.
Revelation after the Judgment
Many teachings in the Writings declare that before the Last Judgment, when the hells had surged up and passed over the great interstice or "gulf" fixed between hell and heaven, so that they covered the world of spirits as it were like a dark cloud, "not any doctrine of the church could be conveyed by the Lord through heaven to the men of earth ... or be infused into man, without being falsified."32 "Not until after the Last Judgment was the spiritual sense of the Word revealed."33 "Interior truths were not revealed on earth until that separation" of the evil spirits from the good had been effected. After the judgment, "the reception of Divine truth and good became more universal, more interior, easier, and more distinct." The good in both worlds came into a better state for receiving truth and good from the Lord. After the "tangled veil of falsities" has been taken away by the judgment "man is led, in a freer and more spontaneous spirit, to discard falsities and to receive truths."34
It is therefore stated: "After the Last Judgment was accomplished there was then joy in heaven, and also a light in the world of spirits such as there was not before. ... A similar light also then arose with men in the world, from which they had new enlightenment." It is made very clear that this spiritual light is from the Word. "Immediate revelation is not granted to man except that which is given in the Word." And "the light in which are the angels of heaven who are from this earth is from the Lord by means of the Word."35
Nothing that men or spirits may do can prevent the Lord from inspiring the writing of a Word on earth; even as the most depraved condition of the Jewish Church did not prevent the Lord's descent as the Word made flesh. The writing and publishing of the Arcana Coelestia took place while the false heavens entirely shrouded the world of spirits and cut off communication between heaven and the church. But it was a Divine revelation which only the future New Church could receive. We have no evidence that any man before the judgment understood its teachings. In fact, it was not addressed as doctrine to the New Church, since there was then no New Church. Swedenborg therefore wrote, in 1763: "If anything had been revealed by the Lord either it would not have been understood, or, if understood, still it would not have been received; or if received, still, it would have been afterwards suffocated. . . . Hence it is that after the Last Judgment, and not before, revelations were made for the New Church. For since communication has been restored by the Last Judgment, man can be enlightened and reformed, that is, can understand the Divine truth of the Word, receive it when understood, and retain it when received."36
The light of truth came from the Word; but its sudden new spread was due to the New Jerusalem societies which now held a central position in the world of spirits. Human mediations were necessary. "For spiritual light," we are instructed, "does not pass through spaces as does the light of the world, but through the affections and perceptions of truth"; and it is from these affections and perceptions that there arise appearances of spaces in the spiritual world.37 Spiritual light is essential if human minds are to recognize truth, and it is given when men are introduced into societies of good spirits and angels. But light does not bring sight unless there are objects to be seen. And the objects of spiritual sight had to be provided for men by the Writings.
The year after the judgment Swedenborg, by Divine command, began to publish the doctrines for the New Church. Some volumes were so entitled: The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, in which he states that it is "for the New Church" (no. 7); The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Concerning the Lord, The Sacred Scripture, Life and Faith; A Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church; and "The Universal Theology of the New Church" subtitle of the True Christian Religion. Thus it is clear that the Writings were given for the establishment of the New Church, which may be considered as having been born in 1757. For "the Lord derives and produces a new church on earth through the new heaven by means of a revelation from His mouth or from His Word, and by inspiration."38
Descent of the Holy City
The New Church "descends" from the New Heaven just so far as men in the world are introduced into the spheres of faith of the New Heaven and see the truths of the Writings as a way of life, so that the Heavenly Doctrine is not only known and loved but is made a basis of thought and spiritual enlightenment. It is folly to cry, "Lo here!" or "Lo there!" whenever some contemporary writer or orator expresses a patronizing approval or gives voice to some sentiment which seems to harmonize with New Church truths, although interlarded with falsities; or to think that acts of social justice or generosity, or devotion to scientific truth, are signs of the descent of the New Church. The light of the New Heaven cannot permeate the former churches in some unconscious way to make them "new"! For falsities must be examined and renounced before the new faith can be received. The old and the new cannot dwell together, any more than an owl and a dove in the same nest; the conflict resulting would endanger our spiritual life.39
When and how the New Church would be established on earth Swedenborg was not allowed to know or predict, beyond hinting that there had to be Christian universities to prepare a new clergy free from the old errors, and that the gentiles would eventually be more receptive than those of the European world.40 But that the Writings were to be the means of its establishment is clear from one of his letters to Beyer:
"I am certain of this: that at the appearance of [the "Universal Theology of the New Heaven and the New Church"] the Lord our Savior will labor both mediately and immediately toward the establishment throughout the whole of Christendom of a new church based upon this theology" (Docu. 245BB, April 30, 1771).
Indeed, the New Church would become the "truly Christian Church." However its various organized bodies may grow, decrease, or be replaced by others, yet as the final dispensation it "will never undergo consummation," but will "endure to eternity"; being "foreseen from the creation of the world" as "the crown of the four antecedent churches."41
The State of the World after the Judgment
The dreaded "day of Jehovah" the universal judgment in the spiritual world came swiftly, was not discerned on earth, and was not accompanied by any convulsions of nature or any unusual or startling events of history. And Swedenborg the witness calmly warns us that "the state of the world hereafter will be quite similar to what it was before, for the great change which has taken place in the spiritual world does not induce any change in the natural world as to external form; so that after this there will be as before civil affairs, peacemakings, treaties, and wars as before." 42
Yet the crisis in the spiritual world has obviously had many indirect results in the natural realm, and the aftermath of judgment may be seen in every field of human life. The two centuries which have elapsed since 1757 have witnessed more rapid and revolutionary changes in men's thinking and manner of living than had occurred previously since the dawn of civilization. Even the surface of the earth bears the scars of human enterprise and testimonies to a new age for man. In a sense, that progress distantly reflects the changes in the world of spirits in a way which Swedenborg could not have foreseen, for he did not claim to predict natural events. The Last Judgment broke down the barriers which had arrested spiritual progress, and the Christian centers in the world of spirits recovered communication with all the nations and tribes there. On earth this is represented by the manner in which the impediments of space and time have been decreased through improved communications, due to discoveries and applications of new sources of mechanical power coal, gas, oil, electricity, chemical and nuclear energy. Steamships, trains, automobiles and air liners, space vehicles and artificial satellites, computers and nuclear devices, mass production of printed matter, obligatory education, the use of telegraph, telephone, radio, cinema, television and other media of public information all these things have contributed to bind the peoples of the earth into a mental community which approximates the conditions of the after-life.
Even the wars and revolutions of modern times take on new proportions and new meaning. The American, the French and the Russian Revolutions were symptoms of the new age no less than the Industrial Revolution and the scientific advances with their vast social adjustments which often tend to regiment people into more fixed educational and economic patterns. All over the world, suppressed and backward peoples, still chafing under their social, economic and religious bonds, have demanded self-determination under a new international charter. The natural minds of men seem to have been set free to challenge the past, and to dream of a future no longer confined even to the conquest of this little globe alone!
The Restoration of Spiritual Freedom
But how are men using their new freedom? The Last Judgment produced and ordered new hells as well as new heavens. Both are ready, when invited, to inflow and inspire human lives. Natural progress is only the by-product of the spiritual freedom now restored. It is therefore shown in the Writings that the real difference hereafter is in the state of the church. This will be similar in external form, but dissimilar inwardly. "To outward appearance" there will be divided churches as before, with the same doctrines, and the same religions among the gentiles. "But henceforth the man of the church will be in a freer state of thinking on matters of faith, that is, on spiritual things that relate to heaven; because spiritual liberty has been restored to him. . . . But man does not observe this change of state in himself since he does not reflect on it."43
The angels with whom Swedenborg conversed on this subject said that they do not know things to come, but do know that the man of the church now "can better perceive interior truths if he wills to perceive them, and thus can be made more internal if he wills it." They added that they had slender hope of the men of the Christian Church, but much of some nation far distant from the Christian world.44
Since Swedenborg's time many nations have indeed obtained freedom of speech and of the press and religious liberty, although in many other lands these freedoms are severely restricted. Such tolerance is apparently not the fruit of Christian charity as much as the result of a distrust of organized religion and a realization that one cannot claim liberty for one's self unless one grants it to others. The recent syncretist and "ecumenical" movements among Protestant sects seem to stem from an increasing indifference to any authoritarian revelation and to sectarian creeds, and from a desire to play a part in social improvement while avoiding the expense of local competition. Even in pagan lands there is a widespread tendency to substitute secular ideals for religious goals.
And, everywhere, freedom for the good involves liberty for the evil, who may, for instance, abuse the freedom of the press by carrying on a flagrant propaganda for the crude philosophy that might is right and that there is no reckoning after death, no Divine law before which men need bow.
The obvious world struggle today is not between the New Church and the Old for the Heavenly Doctrine is known to few but between the various consummated churches (which still defend their ancient falsities even though they have lost their historic momentum) and the aggressive spirit of secular thinking which rests on faith in man's intellectual and growing scientific achievements. We see humanity in a mental and moral chaos, seething with issues of such vast dimensions that they are beyond any one mind to grasp issues involving the very destiny and survival of our race and of its precious institutions of marriage, church and state. Man, as never before, holds within his hands the means of his own destruction.
But the New Church sees that it is by balancing and ordering the forces of evil and falsity that the Lord procures, for the vast multitude of His church universal, a freedom and a power that turn all events into an ultimate good. The effect of the Writings on men in the world, so far, has been largely that of a ferment, hastening the judgment on many religious falsities, even though the Heavenly Doctrine in its organic whole has not been received.
Yet the New Church is provided as the appointed city of refuge for all good souls who thirst for the water of life.45 Within and beyond the conflicts of history, with their issues of natural justice, there lies a deeper spiritual justice which is not decided by prudence but through a correspondence with spiritual conflicts that are fought out in the world of spirits.46 It is well to remember, then, that what we witness in these days is the aftermath of the Last Judgment. We are experiencing the convulsive, prolonged birth-pangs of a new world which Providence destines to be, in its turn, the womb in which the New Church will some day be nurtured. And over that world the Lord God Jesus Christ doth reign.
1 TCR 3
2 Coro. 20
3 SD 5760; LJ post. 176
4 LJ post. 177
5 HD 2
6 HD 4
7 Coro. 16, 17, AR 876, 342, 363
8 HD 3. Italics added.
9 AR 486, 876, SD 5763
10 SD 5947
11 AR pref., 612, 876
12 TCR 729; cf 678
13 AE 430:17
14 AR 619, 623
15 AR 878
16 SD 5763, TCR 115
17 AE 397
18 AE 732
19 AR 547, AE 732
20 Docu. 230
21 Docu. 234, TCR 619:6
22 Docu. 245, BB
23 TCR 4, 108, 791
24 SD 5871ff, LJ post. 176ff
25 We conclude from this that the baptism of an infant or adult by a minister of the old Christian Church on earth does not enroll the man's spirit in the New Heaven, but into "societies and congregations" in the world of spirits "according to the quality of the Christianity in him or around him." (TCR 680 end) Similarly, John's Baptism did not introduce his converts into the Christian heaven, and they were therefore given a new baptism one "into the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:3-6, TCR 690 end, 691 end)
26 CL 4-9
27 AR 866
28 HH 426, 498, AR 866, SD 5361
29 AE 754:3, Can. Rdn ii, v; CLJ 11, HH 589ff, LJ 33f
30 Can. Rdn v:9
31 TCR 108, AE 277:9
32 Coro. 20
33 AR 804
34 AE 1217, Coro. 20, LJ 73, 74
35 CLJ 30, AE 1177, 351
36 CLJ 11, 12, AE 260 1/2
37 CLJ 14
38 Coro. 18, 20
38 BE 102f; TCR 619, 784
40 Docu. 234, LJ 74
41 Coro. 24, lii
42 LJ 73
43 LJ 73
44 LJ 74
45 Cp AE 641-643
46 DP 251f