The Last Judgment #1

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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The Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed, Showing That at This Day All the Predictions of the Book of Revelation Have Been Fulfilled, Drawn from Things Heard and Seen

“Judgment Day” Does Not Mean the End of the World

1. If people have no knowledge of the Word’s spiritual meaning, 1 they cannot help but understand the Last Judgment to mean the end of everything visible to the eye in this world, since it says that at that time both heaven 2 and earth will pass away and that God will create a new heaven and a new earth. 3 They find further support for this interpretation in the fact that it says all people will then rise from their graves and that the good will then be separated from the evil, and so on [Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 20:11-15].

That, however, is what a literal reading of the Word says, because the literal meaning of the Word is earthly 4 and resides on the lowest level of the divine design 5 (though even there absolutely everything contains some spiritual meaning). As a result, people who understand the Word only in its literal meaning can be led to various conclusions, as has indeed happened throughout the Christian world 6 -resulting in any number of heresies, for each of which people find biblical support.

[2] Still, since no one has as yet realized that there is spiritual meaning throughout the Word and in every detail, or has even realized what spiritual meaning is, people who have held this opinion of the Last Judgment are to be forgiven. However, let them now know that the heavens we see above us are not going to pass away, and neither is this earth that we are living on. No, both of them are going to survive. And let them now know that the “new heaven” and “new earth” mean a new church 7 both in heaven and on earth. I speak of a new church in heaven since there is a church there just as there is on earth, because the Word and sermons exist in heaven as on earth and angels have a divine worship that is similar to ours. The difference, though, is that everything there is in a more perfected state because it exists in a spiritual world 8 rather than an earthly one. So all the people there are spiritual people and not earthly, the way they were in this world. On this subject, see my book about heaven, 9 especially where it discusses our union 10 with heaven through the Word (Heaven and Hell 303-310) and deals with divine worship in heaven (Heaven and Hell 221-227).


1. On Swedenborg’s use of the term “the Word” for the books of the Bible that have an inner meaning, see note 7 in New Jerusalem 1. On the continuous and connected spiritual meaning that he sees as existing within the literal meaning of these books, see Last Judgment 40-42; Secrets of Heaven 1-5; New Jerusalem 1, 252, 258-261; White Horse 9-12; Sacred Scripture 5-26; True Christianity 193-209. [LSW]

2. Swedenborg is not implying that heaven is visible to the physical eye. The word for heaven in biblical Hebrew (שָׁמַיִם [šāmayim]) and Greek (οὐρανός [ouranós]), as well as in Swedenborg’s original Latin (caelum), can mean either “sky” or “heaven,” and here his explanation of the term new heaven hinges on the ambiguity: “People . . . understand the Last Judgment to mean the end” of the physical sky, but instead it means, among other things, the end of a particular nonphysical heaven in the spiritual world, as initially described in Last Judgment 2 and in greater detail thereafter, especially in §§65-72. [LSW, SS]

3. Swedenborg refers here to Revelation 21:1. For related discussion, see note 3 in Last Judgment 15 below. [RS]

4. The Latin word here translated “earthly” is naturalis, traditionally translated “natural.” For more on the concept behind this word, see note 6 in New Jerusalem 1. [Editors]

5. The Latin here translated “of the divine design” is ordinis divini, literally, “of the divine order.” On this term, see note 1 in New Jerusalem 11. [Editors]

6. By “the Christian world” here (Latin orbe Christiano), Swedenborg means the predominantly Christian regions of the world, which in his day were Europe and its colonies, or in nongeographical terms, the world’s Christians themselves. [LSW, SS]

7. In this instance, as often elsewhere, Swedenborg is using the term “church” historically to mean the core religious approach of a given age or era through which heaven was connected with humankind, of which he asserts there have been five major instances, in the following sequence: the earliest (or “most ancient”) church, the early (or “ancient”) church, the Jewish church, the Christian church, and a new church represented by the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22. For more discussion, see note 3 in New Jerusalem 4. [JSR]

8. On the term “spiritual world,” which includes heaven, hell, and the intermediate “world of spirits,” see note 2 in New Jerusalem 22. [Editors]

9. The reference here is to Heaven and Hell, apparently composed and probably also published at a time earlier in 1758 than Last Judgment. On the order of composition of Swedenborg’s works of 1758, see the editors’ preface, pages 29-33. [GFD, SS]

10. The Latin word here translated “union” is conjunctio, traditionally translated “conjunction.” For more on Swedenborg’s use of this Latin term, see note 6 in New Jerusalem 2. [Editors]

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.