Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: The Judgment
We have three of the Lord's parables in this lesson. The first is about ten virgins who were going to a wedding. The second is about three stewards who received money to trade with. The third is about sheep and goats. All three tell us about what happens when people die, and that it makes a great difference whether they have led good lives or bad lives. For when people die, the Lord judges them according to the life they have lived here. The good go to heaven, the evil to hell.
But this judgment does not always take place directly after death; that is to say, on the day of their resurrection. Those who have become thoroughly good while on earth, and have known and loved the truths of heaven and the church, are judged at once to heaven. Others who have been at heart thoroughly bad, although they pretended to be good, are at once judged to hell. But most people stay for some length of time, for several days, several weeks, several months, or several years - none longer than thirty years - in the world of spirits until they are judged to heaven or to hell. It takes time to prepare the good for heaven, for often they have faults, or mistaken ideas about religion, which must first be corrected.
This is the way it has been since the year 1757. It was different before that year. Nearly all the people who lived from the time that our Lord was in the world, until 1757, continued to live in the world of spirits, which is between heaven and hell, until that year, when the great Last judgment was held.
In some places the good lived together, in other places the wicked lived together, in others again the good and evil were mixed. For the most part the wicked were the ones who had the most beautiful houses and palaces, and were the rulers. They had magnificent churches, and conducted worship in them, but they did not believe in the worship, but carried it on so as to be respected by the good and be able to rule over them. Some of the good were kept in "the lower earth," a region in the lower parts of the world of spirits, where are the ways that lead to hell, and where they were surrounded and often troubled and persecuted by the wicked. But the Lord kept them in mind and watched over them. Their condition was just like that of the children of Israel when these lived in the land of Goshen, in the midst of Egypt, where they suffered hard things; yet the Lord remembered them and finally carried them away.
Not only Christians, but also Jews and Mohammedans and idolaters, remained in the vast world of spirits until the Last Judgment. The most wicked and hypocritical of them lived on mountains, and through their pretended goodness deceived even some of the angels of the lower heavens. They seemed to themselves to be in heaven, but it was not a true but a false heaven.
All this went on until "the Son of Man came with His holy angels." Then the sheep, that is, the good, were separated from the wicked, the goats, and the good were raised into heaven and the wicked cast into hell. The beautiful mountains where the wicked had been living were shaken by earthquakes. The great cities they had built there went to pieces. The magnificent cathedrals and palaces, and their rich treasure chambers were all destroyed. And what do you suppose became of that great extent of mountain country where they had lived? It was given in possession to the good who had lived in the lower earth, and who were led forth by the Lord. Just as the land of Canaan, which had been inhabited by the seven idolatrous nations, was given to the children of Israel to live in, so the false or former heaven passed away, and the Lord formed the new heaven.
It took an entire year to execute this Last Judgment in 1757. Swedenborg saw it taking place, and he has written about it in several of his works, especially in the one entitled On the Last Judgment and on Babylon Destroyed, which you will want to read some time. In his Spiritual Diary he gives outline pictures of scenes at the time of the Last Judgment.
The Lord actually appeared among the angels in the spiritual world at the time. You may be sure that the good people were made very happy indeed by the judgment. As happy as the children of Israel, and indeed much happier than they, when, after their slavery in Egypt, and after their forty years' wanderings in the wilderness, they entered the land of Canaan and came into possession of it.
What caused the judgment after seventeen hundred years? It was the coming of the Lord, for when He comes then people can no longer pretend. He is the Truth and the Light, which sees through everything, and exposes everything, so that people appear just as they really are.
You will remember that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world the second time, not in person, but as the truth of His Word. He revealed the truth about Himself, about the Word, about the other life, about the Church, about the life people must lead here, and these revelations of Divine truth constitute the heavenly Doctrines of the New Church, which the Lord taught Swedenborg to write out and publish in books in the world. Without this revelation, which came to people in the spiritual world as well as to people in the natural world, the Last Judgment could not have been executed, for the Lord judges people by means of the Truth. And, therefore, some of the revelations were made before the Last Judgment.
Perhaps you will ask whether, if there was a judgment at the Second Coming of the Lord, there was one at His First Coming?
Yes. All the people who had lived since the time of the flood were judged by the Lord at the time that He was in the world. There was a general judgment then, and the Lord spoke of it, when He said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31) "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18)
There will never again be such a general judgment. For now and forever people are judged soon after they enter the other world by the death of the material body.