The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine #1

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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In Revelation we read:

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. The city had a great, high wall, which had twelve gates, and twelve angels on the gates, and the names inscribed, which are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, on which were the twelve names of the apostles of the Lamb. The city lay square, its length the same as its breadth. And he measured the city with a rod, making twelve thousand furlongs; and its length and its breadth and its height were equal. And he measured its wall as a hundred and forty-four cubits, by the measure of a man, which is that of an angel. Its wall was of jasper, but the city itself pure gold, like pure glass; and the foundations of the wall were of every precious stone. The twelve gates were twelve pearls; and the street of the city pure gold like transparent glass. The glory of God gave it light, and its lantern was the Lamb. The nations which have been saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring to it their glory and honour. Revelation 21:1-2, 12-24.

Anyone reading these words can only understand them in their literal sense. That is, that the sky and the earth will perish, and a new heaven will come into existence; the holy city Jerusalem will come down upon a new earth, and will agree in its measurements with the description. But the angels understand these words quite differently. They understand spiritually what human beings understand naturally. The real meaning is what the angels understand, and that is the internal or spiritual sense of the Word.

A new heaven and a new earth means, in the internal or spiritual sense understood by angels, a new church both in the heavens and on earth. (I shall speak about the church in both places later on.) The city of Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven means its heavenly teaching. Its length, breadth and height, which are equal means everything good and true in its teaching taken as a whole. Its wall means the truths which protect it. The measurement of the wall, which was a hundred and forty-four cubits, by the measure of a man, which is that of an angel, means all the truths that protect it taken together, and what they are like. The twelve gates made of pearls mean the truths which lead into it, and the twelve angels on the gates likewise. The foundations of the wall which were of every precious stone mean the items of knowledge on which that teaching is based. The twelve tribes of Israel mean everything belonging to the church in general and in particular; likewise the twelve apostles. The gold like pure glass, of which the city and its street are made, mean the good of love which makes the teaching with its truths shine through. The nations who are saved, and the kings of the earth who will bring to it glory and honour, mean all the people in the church who possess good and truth. God and the Lamb mean the Lord as regards His Divinity and His Divine Humanity.

Such is the spiritual sense of the Word; the natural or literal sense serves as its foundation. But still the two senses, the spiritual and the natural, make one by their correspondence. There is not room here to show that all these statements contain that spiritual meaning; that is not the purpose of this book. But they can be seen demonstrated in my ARCANA CAELESTIA.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.