Apocalypse Explained #899

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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899. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth. That this signifies the resurrection into life everlasting of those who had, so far, lived a life of charity, and will so live hereafter, is evident from the signification of the dead in the Lord, as denoting those who rise again into life everlasting, of which we shall speak presently; and from the signification of the dead and those who die from henceforth, as denoting the resurrection of those who had, so far, lived a life of charity, and who will so live hereafter. For these things are said of those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus; and these are such as live according to the Lord's precepts in the Word, and acknowledge His Divine; that is, such as live a life of charity from the Lord; as may be seen above (n. 894, 895).

[2] The reason why it is said, "from henceforth" is, that those who have lived that life heretofore, and who live it hereafter are meant. They were reserved by the Lord beneath the heavens, and protected from infestation by the hells until the Last Judgment, on the accomplishment of which they were raised up out of their places, and taken up into heaven. The reason why this was not done before is, that previously the hells prevailed, and there was a preponderance on their part; but afterwards the heavens prevailed, and so there was a preponderance on their part. For by the Last Judgment all things, both in the hells and in the heavens, were brought into a state of order. If, therefore, these had been raised up before, they would not have been able to resist the power with which the hells prevailed over the heavens. That they were raised up, it was granted me to see. For from the lower earth, where they were reserved by the Lord, I saw large bodies of them rising up and being elevated, and also translated into heavenly societies. This took place after the Last Judgment, which is treated of in a small work on the Last Judgment. A similar event took place after the former Judgment which was accomplished by the Lord when He was in the world. This is also treated of in the same work.

This mystery is what is meant by the resurrection of those who had previously lived a life of charity. This also is meant by these words in John:

"Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (12:31, 32)

and this was represented by this,

that many of the saints who slept were raised up; "and going forth from their sepulchres, after the Lord's resurrection, entered into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matthew 27:52, 53).

But we shall speak further upon this subject, when the first and second resurrection are treated of in the following parts of the Apocalypse.

[3] That by blessed are the dead which die, are also meant those who are to rise again to life hereafter, being such as live a life of charity, is evident from its being said, "from henceforth"; also "the dead which die"; therefore, "from henceforth" has reference not only to those who are such since the Last Judgment, but also to those who were such before it took place, and who are treated of above.

The reason that death signifies resurrection, and that therefore the dead signify those who rise again to life everlasting is, that death signifies hell, and consequently evils and falsities; and these must die, in order that a man may receive spiritual life. For before these are dead and extinct, a man does not possess spiritual life, which is what is meant in the Word by life, life eternal, and resurrection. Therefore by dying, here and elsewhere in the Word, is meant the extinction of a man's own life, which, regarded in itself, consists of nothing but evils and the falsities therefrom. And because on this life becoming extinct, spiritual life enters in its place, therefore the dead in the Lord signify those who have been made spiritual by the Lord.

[4] Moreover, in the spiritual sense, by dying, resurrection is meant; because the angels, who are in the spiritual sense of the Word, know nothing of the natural death which takes place with men who die, but only of spiritual death which takes place with those who, by means of temptations, are being regenerated by the Lord, and with whom evils and the falsities therefrom, are subdued and put to death.

Natural death, also, is nothing else but resurrection; for when the body dies, a man rises as to his spirit; and thus death is only a continuation of his life. For by death man passes from a life in the natural world to a life in the spiritual world, with this difference only, that the life in the natural world is an exterior and somewhat imperfect life, whereas life in the spiritual world is an interior and more perfect life; but still both are to appearance alike, as is evident from the things heard and seen that are related in the work concerning Heaven and Hell.

[5] From all this it is evident, that by death is signified both spiritual death, which is damnation, and also resurrection to life, which is salvation. That by death is signified damnation, may be seen above (n. 186, 383, 427, 694). That by death is signified resurrection to life everlasting and also salvation, is evident from the following passages. Thus in John:

"Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die" (11:25, 26).

I am the resurrection and the life, signifies that both resurrection and life are from Him, and no other. He that believeth in me, signifies, he that believes in His Divine, and that He is the very omnipotent and only God. And because no one can believe this but him who lives a life of charity, therefore this also is meant by believing in Him. Though he die, yet shall he live, signifies that though he dies naturally, still he shall rise again to life. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die, signifies that he who has been reformed, shall not die spiritually, that is, be damned, but shall rise again to life everlasting. It is evident, therefore, that by dying is not meant to die, but to rise again to life.

[6] In the same:

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that anyone may eat thereof, and not die (6:49, 50, 58).

By the manna which the sons of Jacob ate in the wilderness is meant, with respect to them, natural food, because they were natural. And by the bread which cometh down from heaven, is meant spiritual food, because from the Lord alone. And because it is from Him alone, by bread, in the highest sense, is meant Himself. Therefore He also says, "I am the Bread of life." For it is Divine good united with Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, from which the angels derive spiritual life, and also men. Wherefore by these words, in the spiritual sense, is meant, that those who nourish themselves only in a natural manner from the Word, are dead, that is damned, as were the sons of Jacob; this was also signified by their all dying in the wilderness. But that those who nourish themselves in a spiritual manner from the Word will not be subject to damnation, is meant by their not dying. It is evident, therefore, that dying is not meant, but resurrection to life; for death, if it is not death, is life.

[7] In the same:

"If anyone keep my Word, he shall never see death" (8:51).

By keeping the Lord's words, is signified to live according to the Lord's precepts. Not to see death, signifies not [to receive] damnation, but the life into which a man rises again, and enters, by death.

In the same:

Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, that he who heareth my Word, and believeth him who sent me, hath life eternal, and cometh not into judgment, but passeth from death unto life" (5:24).

By hearing the Word of the Lord, and believing Him who sent Him, are meant things similar to those above; for by the Father the Lord meant the Divine which was in Him from conception; thus, Himself. Not to come into judgment, signifies not to be condemned. To pass from death unto life signifies resurrection, and life in heaven. From death, signifies, not only from natural death into life everlasting, thus resurrection, but also from spiritual death - which is damnation - into life eternal; thus also resurrection; for the Word contains both a natural sense and a spiritual sense.

[8] In the same:

Jesus said, "As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will" (5:21).

By raising the dead and quickening them, is not only meant resurrection to life by natural death, but also by spiritual death. Resurrection to life takes place by reformation and regeneration, and these are effected by the removal and separation of evils, which condemn man, and which constitute spiritual death.

In the same:

Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, that the hour cometh when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live" (5:25).

By the dead here are signified those who have been in evils and the falsities therefrom, but have been freed from them by reformation. That these shall rise again, is meant by those words; for these are then no longer dead but alive, being those who hear the voice of the Son of God, thus who live according to His precepts.

Similarly in Luke:

That they shall be recompensed in the resurrection of the dead (14:14).

By the resurrection of the dead is meant, not only the resurrection of those who die naturally - for these rise again immediately after death - but also of those who die spiritually and are made alive by the Lord.

[9] In John:

Jesus said, "The hour cometh, in which all who are in the sepulchres, shall hear the voice" of the Son of God; "and shall go forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (5:28, 29).

These words do not mean that the sepulchres shall be opened, and all shall go forth at the day of the Last Judgment; but by the sepulchres which shall be opened, are meant the places in the lower earth, where those were reserved, and guarded by the Lord, who had previously lived a life of charity, and acknowledged the Lord's Divine, and who at the day of the Last Judgment, and after it, were raised up into heaven, according to what was shown above. These places are signified, in the spiritual sense, by sepulchres. That it is not meant that the graves in the earth are to be opened, and that they shall come forth from them at the day of the Last Judgment, is quite evident from this fact, that all men come into the spiritual world immediately after death, and there live in a human form as in the natural world; thus, that resurrection takes place with every one immediately after death - resurrection to life with those who have done goods, and resurrection to judgment with those who have done evils; as is evident from the things heard and seen, which are related in the work concerning Heaven and Hell.

[10] These things were represented by,

The sepulchres were opened, and many bodies of the saints that slept, were raised, and going forth from their sepulchres, after the Lord's resurrection, entered into the holy city, and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:52, 53).

The sepulchres being then opened, and the saints who before were dead, going forth and entering into the holy city, and appearing to many, represented the resurrection of those who were reserved by the Lord in places under heaven until His coming into the world, and who, after His resurrection, were taken thence, and raised up into heaven. These things also took place and were seen by those who were in Jerusalem; but still they were representative of the resurrection of those of whom we are now, and have been speaking above. For as everything connected with the Lord's passion was representative - as the veil of the temple being rent in twain, the earth quaking, and the rocks being rent (Matthew 27:51) - so also is this, that they went forth from the opened graves. Therefore it is also said, that they entered into the holy city, and appeared there. For Zion, which is here meant by the holy city, still represented the heaven where the Lord reigns by means of His Divine truth (concerning this signification of Zion, see above, n. 850). Whereas that city, together with Jerusalem, was at that time rather profane than holy, therefore it is also called Egypt and Sodom in the Apocalypse (11:8). But it is also called holy on account of its representation, and consequent signification, in the Word.

[11] Resurrection from the dead, both in the natural and spiritual senses, was represented, and thence also signified, by the dead whom the Lord raised.

As by the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:11-44);

By the raising of the young man of Nain (Luke 7:11-18);

And by the raising of the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue (Mark 5:21 to end).

For all the miracles performed by the Lord, and also all the miracles described in the Word, involved the holy things of heaven and the church, and thence signified them. Hence those miracles were Divine, and were distinguished from miracles not Divine.

[12] Similar things are signified

By its being granted to the disciples to raise the dead (Matthew 10:8).

Regeneration, which also is resurrection from the dead, was represented by the vivification of the bones in Ezekiel (37:1-14). That by it regeneration was represented, is plainly evident from verses 11-14, where it is said,

"These bones are the whole house of Israel, wherefore prophesy and say unto them, Behold I am about to open your sepulchres, O my people, and I will bring you upon the land of Israel, that ye may know that I will put my spirit in you, that ye may live."

Here also it is said that the sepulchres shall be opened, by which also is signified resurrection to life. That to be buried, and burial signify resurrection, also regeneration, being the rejection of things unclean, may be seen above (n. 659).

[13] That natural death, which is a rejection of the unclean things of the body; and spiritual death, which is a removal of the unclean things of the spirit, signify resurrection, is evident also from the following passages in the Apocalypse, where the first and second death are treated of; these also are called the first resurrection and the second resurrection (2:11; 21:8).

So also in David:

"Precious in the eyes of Jehovah is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15).

That the death of the saints does not signify damnation, but the separation and removal of the unclean things of their spirit, thus regeneration and resurrection, is evident. As also in John:

Jesus said, "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remaineth alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit" (12:24).

The case is the same with a man, who must die as to the body in order that he may rise again, and as to his proprium, which is in itself infernal. For unless a man dies as to both of these he cannot have the life of heaven.

[14] Because men rise again after death, therefore the Lord was willing to suffer death and to rise again the third day; but for this reason, that He might put off everything human which He derived from the mother, and put on a Divine Human. For the whole human which the Lord took from the mother He rejected from Himself by temptations, and lastly by death; and by the putting on of a Human from the Divine itself, which was in Him, He glorified Himself, that is, made His Human Divine. This is why, in heaven, by His death and burial, are not meant death and burial, but the purification of His Human, and glorification. That this is the case, the Lord taught by the comparison with wheat falling into the earth, which must die, in order that it may bear fruit. The same is also involved in what the Lord said to Mary Magdalene:

"Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father" (John 20:17).

By ascending to His Father, is meant the unition of His Human with His Divine, the human from the mother being completely rejected.

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Translation by Isaiah Tansley. Many thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.