Noble's 'Appeal': IV. The Last Judgment.:
C. An Intermediate World and State the specific Scene of all General and Particular Judgments.
the specific argument of the preceding part of this section,— That the Last Judgment was to be performed in the spiritual world, because there is evidence that, though the last, it is not the first General Judgment on the natives of this globe, and that all former General Judgments have been performed in that world,—will be strongly corroborated if it can be shown, in what specific region of the spiritual world such an operation could be performed; and that the existence of such a region, and of the execution in it of at least one former General Judgment, is no new invention, but, though of late lost sight of, was well known, and generally acknowledged, through all Christian antiquity. Into this subject, then, we will enter here; which will afford an opportunity fully to explain the views of the New Church, both with respect to the judgment performed on resuscitated men collectively at the close of the dispensations under which they had lived, and on resuscitated men individually at the close of this mortal life.
We will first notice the necessity for such an intermediate world and state, and the Scripture-proof of its existence, and we will then advert to the knowledge anciently possessed on the subject, with various particulars respecting it.
I. We are, first, to notice the necessity for such an intermediate world and state, and the Scripture-proof of its existence.
Where, then, could any General Judgment be performed, but in some common receptacle, open to every spirit the moment he quits the body, and which, without being, itself, either heaven or hell, constitutes a world between both, and may serve as an introduction to either ? Where, indeed, can any individual of the human race receive his judgment, either to heaven or to hell, but in some intermediate region, distinct both from the one and from the other ?
The Roman Catholics, it is well known, hold a kind of intermediate state, which they call purgatory. This they feign to be a place of severe torment, designed for purifying the souls of the good from the defilements adhering to the fleshly nature; and in which, it is pretended, they are liable to remain for thousands of years, unless delivered through the efficacy of the prayers of the saints and the papal indulgences, which are purchased by the credulous for that purpose. Upon a certain fact has thus been founded an extravagant fiction: hence Protestants have, for the most part, rejected the doctrine of an intermediate state altogether, discarding the truth along with the perversion. As observed by the accomplished Dr. T. Burnet, in his work, quoted in Sect. III., On the State of the Dead, "the reformed divines, to avoid the terrors of purgatory, have entirely taken away the intermediate state; as we are too apt, in avoiding one folly, to run into another." "It is very well known," he continues, "that the Roman purgatory is adapted to the humours of the people and the gains of the priest: but why should these phantasms fright us away from the search of truth, and the opinions of the ancients, concerning the hitherto unfulfilled state of misery and happiness, before the day of judgment?" Why, indeed! when it is an unquestionable fact, that the belief of an intermediate state of departed spirits, and of a world appropriated to their reception, was universal among Christians, as shall be shown presently, long before the Romish purgatory was ever thought of. Is it not then the extreme of rashness to abolish the belief of an intermediate state, because, under the reign of Romish corruption, it had been changed into purgatory? And is it not the extreme of injustice to charge the illustrious Swedenborg, as some of his opponents have done with reviving the Romish purgatory, because he restores the older Christian and Scriptural doctrine of an intermediate state ?
To avoid confusion it may here be necessary to observe, that most Christians admit the doctrine of an intermediate state in one sense, meaning by it the state of the soul, after death, before it is reunited to the body; whence they also call it the separate state; But, not looking for any resurrection of the body, we mean by the phrase, the state of man after death, before he is received into heaven or plunged into hell: consequently, our idea of it supposes an intermediate spiritual world, or region of the spiritual world at large, as being, in that state, the scene of his existence; which also results from our idea, that the spirit, separate from the body of clay, is not a mere vapour or puff of breath, but has a substantial body of its own, though, as consisting of spiritual and not of material substance, it is not perceptible to the senses of men in this world.
Our idea of this intermediate world is, that it is situated in the middle between heaven and hell. To those who are in it, heaven appears above, over their heads, and hell beneath, under their feet. Hence the common forms of speaking of heaven and hell as being respectively above and below, which are completely void of meaning in reference to the natural world, are perfectly true in regard to the appearances of things in the spiritual world; and from knowledge respecting this, either intuitively perceived or traditionally retained, all such forms of speech derive their origin. Into this intermediate world, then, every one, we conceive, first enters after death, and makes a longer or a shorter stay in it, according to the conformity between his internal and his external state; though, from the moment of his leaving the body, his final doom is fixed irreversibly. Since the Last Judgment, this stay in the intermediate world is in no case very extensively protracted: but prior thereto, the case was different, and many even remained there during the whole period that intervened between one General Judgment and another. Thus a General Judgment consists in the removal of the wicked from the stations they had there acquired to their abodes in hell; and in the elevation to heaven of certain of the good, who had been reserved, in the mean time, in places of safety, but who could not be taken up into heaven, till the wicked, who occupied the intermediate sphere, had been thence removed.
These three propositions then,—1. That there is such an intermediate region of the spiritual world; 2. That at the time of the Judgment the wicked are removed from the stations they had there usurped; and, 3. That the good, having been previously reserved in places of safety, are then elevated into heaven;—may be clearly proved by the testimony of the Scriptures.
That such an intermediate state and world are supposed through the whole of the Old Testament, is generally acknowledged by men of learning; though, forgetting that the writers of those books were guided by inspiration, it is but too common to imagine that they herein only followed their prejudices, and wrote in compliance with the vulgar belief of the Jewish nation. However, explain it away as they may, learned men are constrained to acknowledge, that the Hebrew word Sheol does not properly mean hell (in the common sense of that word), as it is translated in some passages of the English Bible, nor yet merely the grave, as it is translated in others, hut that it means the place and state of the dead, or the abode and state of departed spirits, on their first leaving the body, and prior to their receiving their final judgment.
The same idea, also, it is universally known, was attached (with some varieties) by the ancients in general, whether Jews, Christians, or heathens, to the Greek word Hades, the proper meaning of which is, the unseen world. This term often occurs in the New Testament, where it is always translated hell: but as, according to the observation of the ancient father called St. Augustine, it there appears to be commonly used to signify the abode and state hereafter of the wicked, I do not mention this as a proof of an intermediate world and state. In the New-Testament use of the word, it seems usually to signify what we now call hell; but in its common use among the Greek writers in general, it certainly signified the state and abode of departed spirits in general, and, among Jews and Christians, their state prior to the Last Judgment, in a region distinct both from hell and heaven.
But if the New-Testament use of the word Hades does not prove the existence of an intermediate state, that part of Scripture contains many other statements which place it beyond dispute. For instance: We find John speaking (Rev. vi. 9, 10, 11.) of certain "souls" that he "saw under the altar" importuning the Lord to accomplish the judgment; which is a plain allusion to a state which was neither hell nor heaven, and out of which those who were in it, though good, could not be taken, and elevated into heaven, till the judgment was performed, which, therefore, they were desirous should be effected; thus we here have positive proof of the first and third of our propositions just above stated. And the same book (which treats, nearly throughout, either of the Last Judgment itself or of the preparations for it, and not of natural and historical events, a continued series of which the commentators have vainly, each in his own way, endeavoured to find in it; this book) supplies us with proof of our second proposition equally decisive. We read in ch. xii. of war being seen in heaven, and a great dragon being thence cast out into the earth; and in ch. xx. we are informed, that an angel came down from heaven, and laid hold of the dragon, and cast him from the earth into the bottomless pit. Now, where could this heaven and earth be, but in the intermediate region of the spiritual world? Can we suppose that the dragon could have intruded into the heaven inhabited by angels, so as to make a war necessary to expel him? Even if we admit the common notion to be true,—that the present inhabitants of the infernal regions were once inmates of heaven, and were thence ejected after a battle waged within the blissful seats; yet the wildest fancy that ever revelled in such themes never dreamed of any more such wars and fallings of angels than one; and that one is believed to have occurred before the beginning of the world, not, as this is described, at the time of the Last Judgment, and forming, in fact, a part of it. Here then we have plain evidence of the truth of our first and second propositions: we have a clear notice of an intermediate state and world, and of the removal of the wicked from the station they there occupied at the time of the Last Judgment.
Many other testimonies to the same effect might be brought from the Apocalypse: for though that book is written throughout in language evidently symbolic, it represents events which occurred at, and preparatory to, the last judgment; and the scene of most of those events is evidently neither in heaven nor in hell, but in a world between both. But it is not from the Apocalypse alone that these truths may be confirmed; for though it is in this book only that we find a circumstantial account of the judgment attending the Lord's second advent, other books of the New Testament afford, as is shown above, plain notices respecting the judgment performed by the Lord at his first advent: and some of the circumstances attending this former judgment,—such as prove clearly all our three propositions,— are distinctly described. For example: It is an article of the Apostles' Creed, that the Lord Jesus Christ, after his crucifixion, "descended into hell;" where that the term hell, which in Greek is hades, does not mean the place of punishment, but the intermediate state, is generally admitted; though how he so descended, with what he did there, is so little understood, that many of the moderns would be glad to get rid of the article altogether.
A brief examination of this seemingly mysterious circumstance will throw considerable light on our present subject.
The passages of the New Testament most relied upon by the ancients for the proof of the doctrine of the Lord's descent into hades are three. "Now that he ascended," says the Apostle, (Eph. iv. 9.) "what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?"— where the phrase, to descend into the lower parts of the earth, is the same as is sometimes used in the Old Testament (See Ps. lxiii. 9.) to describe the state of the spirit after death. Though this text, I have little doubt, was rightly applied by the ancients, the next is generally thought to be more conclusive. It is the application by Peter of a passage in the Psalms: David, he says, "seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption." * But though these passages speak of the Lord's descent to hades, or the intermediate state and world, they do not disclose what he did there; this deficiency, however, is supplied by the third, which also, I have no doubt, was rightly applied by the ancients to this subject, though some of the moderns have had recourse to the most far-fetched glosses to explain its evident meaning away. "Christ," says the Apostle Peter,+ "being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit; by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison:"—"where," says Bishop Pearson, # "the Spirit seems to be the soul of Christ, and the spirits in prison the souls of them that were in hell." And what spirits, specifically, these were, the Apostle explicitly states; for he adds, $ "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water." In these seemingly mysterious words we certainly have an explicit notice of two great judgments,—both of that performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and of that accomplished at the period of the flood; which, we are at the same time informed, was not entirely a final one, but consisted in placing those upon whom it was executed in a separate region of the spiritual world, here called being in prison, to be finally disposed of at the Lord's coming into the world. This final disposal of them was accomplished, we are instructed, by the Lord's going to preach to them; by which we are not to understand such a preaching as that which he orally practised on earth, but the outpouring of the sphere of his Divine Truth, which, we have already seen, is the medium by which all his works of judgment are accomplished, and which could not be given in such power as to effect the complete separation between the wicked and the good in the spiritual world, and thus to execute the final judgment on them, till the glorification of the Lord's Human Nature was effected. The descent of the sphere of the Lord's Divine Truth into the lower parts of the spiritual world, in sufficient power to accomplish these mighty works, is then what in reality is meant by his descent into hell, or hades.
* Acts ii. 31. + 1 Pet. iii. 18, 19. # In his learned and laborious Exposition of the Creed. $ Ver. 20.
It may tend to elucidate this subject if we remark, that when Peter thus speaks of the Lord's going and preaching to the spirits in prison, he evidently means to apply and interpret those passages in the Prophets, in which, among the redeeming acts of the Lord at his coming into the world, the deliverance of prisoners is mentioned. There can indeed be no doubt that the Apostle had particularly in view these words of Isaiah,* which are applied to himself by the Lord: + "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God." Now though this passage, which explicitly speaks of preaching and proclaiming to them that are in prison, refers, in its spiritual sense, to the spiritual deliverance from the bondage of error which was introduced by the gospel, it is obviously applied by the Apostle, in its literal sense, to the liberation of those in the spiritual world who were reserved in the lower parts of that world till the coming of the Lord. The same prophet speaks elsewhere of the Lord as coming "to bring out the prisoners from prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." # So he affirms again, that he shall "say unto the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves."$ All which, and various similar passages in the Prophets and Psalms, the Apostle evidently had in his eye, when he spoke of the Lord as going to preach to the spirits in prison.
* Ch. lx. 1, 2. + Luke iv. 18. # Ch. xlii. 7. $ xlix. 9.
Here we have further proof from the New Testament of all our three propositions,—1. of the existence of an intermediate state and world, and 2. of the removal of the wicked from the stations they had obtained there, with, 3. the consequent elevation into heaven of the good, who had been in the mean time reserved in a place of safety.
II. We will now, in the second place, advert, as proposed, to the knowledge anciently possessed on the subject of an intermediate world and state; with various particulars respecting it.
First, then, I will here offer evidence to prove, That the doctrine of the New Church respecting an intermediate world and state, which is the first receptacle of man after death, and out of a certain region of which the good were taken and elevated to heaven by the Lord at the time of his first advent, is in agreement with the doctrine of primitive Christianity. I will, Secondly, endeavour to evince, That the deliverance of the good who were thus reserved at the time of the Lord's coming, or in consequence of the Lord's then going and preaching to the spirits in prison, with the final dismissal to hell of the wicked, is what is specifically meant by those texts which speak of the dead as coming out of their graves, and which are erroneously applied in favour of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. In the Third place, I will endeavour to show, That the Last Judgment predicted in the Gospels and in the Revelation was to be attended with similar circumstances. And, Lastly, I will conclude with a summary statement of the views of the New Church respecting the judgment that takes place upon man, individually after death.
1. We are, in the first place, to prove, That the doctrine of the New Church in regard to the existence of an intermediate region and world, which is the first receptacle of man after death, and out of a certain region of which the good were taken and elevated to heaven by the Lord at the time of his first advent, is in agreement with the doctrine of primitive Christianity.
That the early Christians entertained views to this effect, though mixed with some obscurity and error, is abundantly evident from the following passages from the Greek and Latin Fathers; which I translate from the copious store of extracts from their writings adduced by the learned Bishop Pearson in the notes to his "Exposition of the Creed," under the article "He descended into hell."
It will be necessary to recollect, as intimated above, that by the place called hades, which is commonly translated hell, the ancients did not mean the place of eternal punishment, but the common receptacle of departed spirits, not including heaven, or the proper mansions of the blest; nor, strictly speaking, hell, considered as the place of punishment; though sometimes, rather inconsistently with their own views, they used the term with such latitude as to include the latter.
Irenseus says, "As the Lord went into the midst of the shadow of death, where the souls of the dead were,—it is manifest that the souls of his disciples also, for whose sakes the Lord wrought these works, will go into an invisible place provided for them by God." * "Clemens Alexandrinus," says Pearson, "was so clearly of that opinion, that he thought the soul of Christ preached salvation to the souls in hell [hades].+ And Tertullian proves that the Inferi [a Latin name for hades] are a cavity in the earth, where the souls of dead men are, because the soul of Christ went thither:" he says, "that Christ our God did not ascend to the higher parts of heaven until he had first descended to the lower parts of the earth, and communicated himself to the patriarchs and prophets, who were there reserved."$ —"His body being laid in the grave, his Divinity, with his human soul, descended to hell, and called forth from their places there the souls of the saints."$ "Chrysostom," says Pearson, "in his Tractate proving that Christ is God, makes this exposition of Isaiah xlv. 2, 'I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron, and I will open the treasures of darkness, the hidden riches of secret places will I shew thee.' It is hades," says Chrysostom, "that he so calls: for hades held holy souls, and possessed rich furniture, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being there; wherefore he
* 1. v. 26. + Strom. 1. vi. 6. # De Anima, c. 55. $ Gaudentius Brix. Tr. 10.
calls them its treasures."—"For the salvation of the souls in hades, who had been waiting many ages for the opening of it, he went thither."* — "He went to the lower parts of the earth, that he might redeem the righteous from thence" + As the Godhead was to consummate all things according to the mystery of the passion, he went with his soul to the lower parts of the earth, to accomplish the salvation of those that had before fallen asleep, that is, of the holy patriarchs."—"Although the body of Moses did not appear on earth, we-no where read of his being in heavenly glory, till after the Lord, as a pledge of his own resurrection, had loosed the bonds of hell, and raised from thence the souls of the pious."#—"The saints who were kept in that place hoped for the loosing of their bonds at the coming of Christ. After his death, therefore, Christ descended thither. As the angel descended into the Babylonian furnace, to deliver the three children, so Christ descended to the furnace of hell, where the souls of the just were kept shut up. He broke open the prisons of the inferi, he wasted and spoiled them, delivering out of them the souls that were bound." $
Here then it is evident, as Pearson observes, that some of the ancient fathers "thought that Christ descended to that place of hades where the souls of all the faithful, from the death of the righteous Abel to the death of Christ, were detained; and there dissolving all the power by which they were detained below, translated them into a far more glorious place, and estated them in a condition far more happy in the heavens above."
Pearson however adds, that "others understood no translation of place, or alteration of condition there, conceiving that the souls of all men are detained below still, and shall not enter heaven till the general resurrection." To establish this assertion he quotes Justin. Martyr, Ireneeus, Tertullian, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa; but the passages cited do not clearly prove that those fathers believed none to have been taken out of hades at the Lord's descent thither, but only, that all who should die afterwards were to be reserved there till the final judgment.
* Euseb. Dem. lx. 8. + Cyril. Cat. iv. 8. # Amb. 1. iv. de Fide. $ Hieron. in Eccl. || Ep. ad Euod. 99, al. 164, $ 8.
But there were some who thought that the place in which the patriarchs and principal saints resided could not properly be called hell, nor was ever so named in the Scriptures: Thus Augustine says, "I do not see what benefit was conferred, by the Lord's descent into hell, on those righteous persons who were in Abraham's bosom; for they had never ceased to enjoy the beatific presence of his Divinity."|| These were of opinion, that the end of the Lord's descent into hell, was, to deliver "less purified souls," and "to translate them to a place of happiness and a glorious condition." Thus Augustine says again, "Let us hold fast the belief confirmed by the most sure authority, that Christ died according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and the third day rose again; and the other things which are written concerning him with most certainly attested truth. Among which is this: that he was present with those below, loosing for them those pains by which it was impossible for himself to be held; whence we rightly understand, that he loosed and delivered whom he would."* Again: "This that is written, Having loosed the pains of hell,+ it is not to be understood of all, but of some, whom he deemed worthy of such deliverance; that it may neither be thought, that he descended thither in vain, conferring no benefit on any who were kept there; nor that it follows thence that what the divine mercy and justiof granted to some, was bestowed on all."#: So Capreolus: "He, in his Humanity, deigned to visit the hidden depths of the inferi, terrifying those that had the power of death by the presence of his invincible majesty; and, to deliver whom he would, he commanded the gates of hell to be unlocked." $ — And Ambrose: "He, being free among the dead, having loosed the law of death, gave remission to those who were in hell." || But Cyril carries the matter very far indeed: "He spoiled all hades," says he, "and, opening the inevitable gates to the spirits of them that slept, he rose again, leaving hades desert, with none in it but the devil." @
Pearson informs us, further, that it was "the general opinion of the fathers," that "the preaching of the gospel to the dead," the proper idea of which we have seen above, "was the means by which that good was wrought for the souls below which was effected by his "death." Thus Irenaeus: "Therefore the Lord descended to the parts under the earth, preaching the good tidings of his coming to them also, and becoming remission of sins to those who believed on him. But all those believed on him who had hoped in him; that is, they who had foretold his coming and obeyed his requirements,—the righteous men, the prophets, and the patriarchs; whose sins he remitted, as he does ours."** Pearson gives extracts to the same effect from Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, and Jobius.
Here, certainly, though mixed with some misconceptions, we have the plain testimony of the early Christians to the great facts for which we are contending. Important truths, though variously apprehended, were evidently at the bottom of all the above ideas. If, on the one hand, it is not true, as many supposed, that all the good who had died from the beginning of the world remained in hades till taken thence by the Lord Jesus Christ, but, as Augustine judiciously
* Ep. 99, al. 164, 14. + Acts ii. 24, according to some copies. # Ibid. $ 5. $ Ep. ad Hisp. p. 49. || De Incarn. c. 5. @ Hom. Pasch. 7, t. v. par. 2, p. 91. ** Adv. Hoer.; iv. 45.
concludes, they who are described as being in Abraham's bosom were actually enjoying the beatific presence of God, or, in other words, were in heaven; and if, on the other hand, it is not true, as many likewise supposed, that all who were in hades, without exception, were taken into heaven by the Lord Jesus Christ; the genuine truth, of which these are exaggerations, nevertheless shines through them, and, adopting the sentiment which lies between the two extremes, we may safely conclude, that some, who could not be elevated to heaven before, were taken out of hades by the Lord at his first advent. And even the assertion of Cyril, that all were then delivered except the devil, is perfectly true, if we understand the word "devil" in its spiritual sense, as denoting, not a single fallen angel, but all, considered in one great aggregate, who are inwardly wicked. All such, at a general judgment, are not only not taken into heaven, but are plunged irrevocably into hell; but all who are not inwardly wicked, thus all who are inwardly good, are then taken out of the places in the spiritual world where they had in the mean time been reserved, and are elevated into heaven. Such a work was performed by the Lord at the judgment he executed at his first advent; and hence the fathers of the first ages so positively, and so unanimously, affirm, that he delivered from Hades whom he would,—that is, as we have seen it explained by Irenseus, all who were capable of believing on him, in consequence of having, while in the world, lived in faith and obedience.
I cannot help regarding this testimony of the ancient fathers as extremely valuable; for it surely must have a strong tendency to satisfy every candid mind, that the doctrine of the New Church upon this curious and important subject, is the doctrine of the Scriptures and of the true Christian religion. It is true, that modern divines reject these views of the primitive Christian writers, and strain to different meanings the texts upon which they are founded: but it is pf no small importance that we are able to show, that the views which modern Christians are so unwilling to receive, respecting the operations performed in the spiritual world—in fact, the accomplishment there of a general judgment—by the Lord at his first advent, are completely in agreement with the sentiments of the early Christians; and that, when our views are compared with those of the primitive times, even what in the latter was erroneous is seen only to have originated in the partial and too literal apprehension of certain general truths. (It might also be easy to show, and, in fact, it already in part appears from the above extracts, that the sentiments of the early Christians on the subject of Redemption were completely in agreement with ours. Instead of that unscriptural and artificial "scheme of redemption" so much in vogue at the present day, they viewed redemption as consisting in the subjugation, by the Lord, of hell, and the consequent deliverance of man from the power of the devil and though on this subject also they fell into some misconceptions, these, likewise, were only such as originated in the partial and too literal apprehension of general truths.)
2. We are, in the second place, to endeavour to evince, That the deliverance of the good who were thus reserved at the time of the Lord's coming, or in consequence of the Lord's going and preaching to the spirits in prison, with the final dismissal to hell of the wicked, is what is specifically meant by those texts, which speak of the dead as coming out of their graves, and which are erroneously applied in favour of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. I particularly mean John v. 28: "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation:" And Matt, xxvii. 52, 53: "And the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
The fathers, we have seen, following the language of Scripture, affirm, that the place out of which the Lord took the spirits that were bound, was under the earth, and in the lower parts of the earth. This phrase, though obviously untrue if used of the material earth, is taken from the arrangement of things in the spiritual world, and is agreeable to the appearances which there take place when a judgment is performed; for the intermediate place in which the spirit first appears after death, is spoken of in Scripture as the earth of that world; and under this are the places of security for those who are to be taken up to heaven at the judgment. This is evident from the remarkable passage, Rev. vi. 9, 10, 11, slightly noticed above. John the Revelator there says, "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ? And white robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." These souls are evidently those who are reserved in places of safety during the interval preceding the time of the judgment. They are described as being under the altar, which is the same thing as saying that they were under the earth, only the term altar, which of course is supposed to stand on the earth, is used as a symbol of the Lord's divine love, under the protection of which they were. These places of reservation being thus, to appearance, under the earth, they are called, in other passages of Scripture, graves. Indeed, the idea attached to the word graves in Scripture, in the literal sense, is not so much, as with us, from our mode of burial, that of a place to which the body is committed to be out of the way, or of a place of rejection, as of a place of preservation: thus the Jews had chambers hewn out of the rock for depositing their dead, the mouths of which were closed with a great stone; as in the case of the grave of Lazarus, and that of Joseph of Arimathea, in which the body of the Lord was laid. Such graves for the preservation of the dead body, afforded a suitable image of the places provided in the spiritual world, for the preservation of those who were to be transferred to their final homes at the time of judgment; wherefore, in the symbolic language of Scripture, these are called by the same name. Thus when the Lord says, "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation;" * the specific reference of the divine declaration is to the bringing out of the places of reservation in the spiritual world, at the judgment he was then about accomplishing of those who, like the souls under the altar, could not previously be elevated to heaven; and also of those who, from the former preparatory judgment in the days of Noah, were "reserved in chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day:" thus of those whom Peter calls "the spirits in prison," by whom he means spirits of both kinds. The voice of the Lord is evidently his Divine Truth; and as all his works of judgment are performed by the pouring forth, with increased power, of the sphere of his Divine Truth, therefore it is said, that this coming forth from these spiritual graves should be in consequence of hearing his voice.
The same thing is signified when it is said that "the graves were opened" when the Lord expired on the cross, and "many bodies of saints that slept came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many;" the meaning of which, it was observed above,+ we should be able to see, when we come to treat of the Last Judgment. The graves here are the places in the spiritual world, where such of the good as could not be elevated into heaven except by virtue of the power proceeding from the Lord's glorified Humanity, were previously reserved. These are called, not saints, but the bodies of saints, to carry on the figure of the opening of graves. Another reason why they are so called, is because while the greater part of the intermediate world is full of wicked spirits, as was the case at that time, the good, in comparison of these, who appear to themselves as the prevailing party, are regarded as dead; notwithstanding their "life is hid with Christ in God." In this deliverance, also, of those who were thus reserved in the lower parts of the spiritual world till the coming of the Lord—in this opening of spiritual graves—the prophecy of Daniel * respecting the awaking of those that slept in the dust of the earth, and other similar declarations of the Old Testament, had, doubtless, their most specific fulfilment.
3. From what has been shown in the two preceding articles, we may safely conclude, as we are in the third place to endeavour to show, That the Last Judgment of all predicted in the Gospels and in the Revelation, was to be attended with similar circumstances. Of these we will now offer a brief view, from Rev. xx., where they are summarily described.
From the former part of this prophetical book we find that those who were reserved in the lower parts of the spiritual world, and who are called+ the souls under the altar, were not the only servants of the Lord whose fidelity was approved: there was a superior class still of those who had passed into the spiritual world by death; who were taken, in fact, immediately to heaven. These are described # by the hundred and forty-four thousand seen standing with the Lamb on mount Sion; of whom it is said, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth: these were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits to God and the Lamb." They belong to the same class as those who are said by the Lord to be carried by angels, like Lazarus, to "Abraham's bosom," and of whom Augustine justly says, in the passage cited above, $ that "they had never ceased to enjoy the beatific presence of God." Those who were inwardly most deeply principled in wickedness and in the arts of delusion, though outwardly they had made profession of religion and lived in appearance like Christians (for none who are both inwardly and outwardly wicked and profane are tolerated out of hell for a moment), are represented || by the dragon and his angels who were seen as if in heaven, whence they were cast to the earth. Persons who were inwardly good, but not so strong in their faith and virtue as to bear to be exposed, without injury, to the sphere and arts of the wicked, and who therefore could not be taken up to heaven, till the wicked were removed from the intermediate region, are described as the souls under the altar; who, therefore, were desirous that the judgment should be performed. Accordingly, the twentieth chapter begins with stating, that "an angel came down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand:" which angel is a representative of the Lord as to the power he exercises by his Divine Truth; and by his descent from heaven is meant precisely the same kind of occurrence as we have
* Ch. xii. 2. + Ch. vi. 9. # Ch. xiv. $ P. 149. || Ch. xiii.
before seen is meant by the Lord's descent into hell or hades. For * be binds the devil and Satan, and casts him into the bottomless pit, for a thousand years; by which is meant, the removal of the worst class of wicked spirits who then ranged at large in the spiritual world, to allow the good who had been reserved in the lower parts of that world to be brought out and raised to heaven. This the Revelator proceeds to describe, by saying, + "And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded (smitten with the axe, or axed) for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." It is evident, from comparing the description of these with that of those before-mentioned as reserved under the altar, that they are the same persons. It is certain, then, that they did not now begin to live, for they were living before, though in a different state: but on their emerging from the places in which they were reserved, and coming into the full enjoyment of heavenly life and its delights, and into the perceptible sense of the Lord's presence and of their conjunction with him, they are said to live and reign with Christ. They are represented as slain and smitten with the axe, for the word of God and for the testimony which they held, or for the witness of Jesus, because they had been rejected and persecuted by the dragon and his crew, and because during the presence of the latter in the intermediate part of the spiritual world, they could not be taken up into heaven.
Many have been the conjectures which have been made respecting the thousand years here mentioned; and wild indeed have been the opinions which have sometimes been founded on them. In fact, even the most sober of the expositors have found it impossible to adapt this number to their received method of computing prophetic dates. Reckoning, as they do, in regard to all the other notices of time occurring in this book, a year for every day that is mentioned, they ought, in order to be consistent with themselves, to reckon three hundred and sixty thousand years for the period here described: but as this would be a most preposterous duration to assign to any state short of the final one, they generally abide by the exact number, and understand a thousand years to mean a thousand years, neither more nor less. But this, also, is a monstrous duration for a merely intermediate state of things, as the present is evidently described; especially when it is considered that these thousand years occur just in the middle of the day of judgment: for that the judgment had
* Ver. 2, 3. + Ver. 4, 5.
now commenced, and that the elevation to heaven of these holy saints formed a part of it, is certain, from the words with which the verse-begins: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them." Whether the usual mode of interpreting, prophetic dates, by allowing a year for a day, may or may not be-true in regard to those prophecies which refer, in their literal sense, to events to take place in the natural world, we will not stop to inquire; though it may be remarked that in the chief of these— Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks—as there is no mention either of days or years, weeks of years may be as well understood as weeks of days: but in a prophecy like this before us, which, even in its literal sense, refers to a transaction in the spiritual world, it is impossible to suppose that natural years can be intended. Natural years can belong only to the natural world: in the spiritual world, neither years, nor time at all, are known. Instead of time then, which belongs to the natural world, must be understood that which, in the spiritual world, answers thereto; and this is state; and instead of numbers, which also belong to natural things, must be understood that which answers to them in regard to spiritual things; and this is quality or nature. By the round number, a thousand years, then, is merely signified, the quality of the state which intervened between the elevation into heaven of those who were reserved in the lower parts of the spiritual world, or under the earth there, and the remaining stages of the last judgment; as also, the complete opposition and separation of state between those who thus lived and reigned with Christ, and those called the devil and Satan, who were bound in the abyss, or restrained from exercising any influence., during the same interval: and if we cannot separate the idea of time altogether from our natural conceptions, it may also mean, not any determinate portion of time, but, the interval, whether long or short, that was necessary for the performance of these transactions.
Next follows * an account of the loosing again of the devil, and the commotions excited in consequence: which represent the opening of the interiors of those who live as merely natural men, and form the most external class of the professing members of the church; upon which, they discover their before-concealed hatred against the true Church of the Lord and its sacred principles. Then,+ "the devil," it is said, "was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone;" which describes the final state of misery experienced in hell by the worst class of the wicked. Afterwards follows a solemn description of the judgment upon those who had not before been disposed of; that is, of those who neither belonged to the saints who were reserved in places of safety, nor to those called the devil and Satan. "I saw a
* Ver. 7, 8, 9. + Ver. 10.
great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them."* This describes the total change of state in the spiritual world in consequence of the removal of all who had been collected in the different parts of the intervening region from the stations which they previously occupied. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." + The dead, small and great, are the rest of those who had passed by death from the natural to the spiritual world, of all classes. By the books are signified the interiors of every one's mind and memory, in which all his actions and thoughts, notwithstanding they may have vanished from the exteriors of his mind, or may seem to be forgotten, remain as distinctly recorded, as if written in a book: the book of life is the interiors of the minds of the good, whose life is formed by the commandments of the Word of God. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged, every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." # By the sea which gave up its dead, is not meant the ocean which surrounds the land, but the state of those who live as merely natural men: for the sea, as being, according to appearance, the extreme boundary of the earth, is constantly mentioned in Scripture to denote what is merely natural and most external. By death and hell which gave up their dead, are meant the states of those who are inwardly wicked, and immersed in infernal lusts and false persuasions,—such as constitute spiritual death, and are the essence of hell; and by their being cast into the lake of fire, is meant the immersion of all in whom those states prevail in hell, and its torments. That death and hell cannot here signify either persons or places, must be obvious to every one.
As for the exposition adopted by those who apply this passage to the notion of the resurrection of the body, who pretend that the casting of death and hell into the lake of fire is only a symbolic way of saying that there shall no longer be any natural death nor any intermediate state of the soul; it is really too far-fetched, and destitute of all support whatever, to be worthy of a moment's consideration. Does not the lake of fire evidently denote a place and state of punishment ? But how could Death and Hades—mere ideal abstractions be subjects of punishment? If it be said, as they who maintain
* Ver. 11. + Ver. 12. # Ver. 13, 14, 15.
this opinion do say, that the casting of death and hell into the lake of fire only means, simply, their ceasing to exist; then the casting there of those who are not found written in the hook of life can only mean their ceasing to exist: and thus we shall be driven to the conclusion, that the wicked are annihilated. Indeed, there are many who affirm that this is all that is meant hy the phrase in this case also: and though this idea is unfounded, and almost obviously absurd, yet it is not incumbered with the inconsistency incurred by those who maintain, that to be cast into the lake of fire, in the case of Death and Hell, means an end to all existence; and in the case of those who are not found written in the book of life, an endless existence in a state of misery.
4. We are to conclude this branch of our inquiries with a summary statement of the views of the New Church respecting the judgment upon man, individually, after death.
The case in regard to this important subject, as we understand it, is this. Before the Last Judgment, all who were both inwardly and outwardly good, were either raised immediately, or after a short stay in the intermediate world, to heaven, like Lazarus in the parable; or were reserved in places of safety, with the souls under the altar, where they were in a happy state, and all who were both inwardly and outwardly profane and wicked, were immediately plunged into hell, like the rich man at whose gate Lazarus sat. Upon these then, certainly, an individual judgment was immediately performed. But they who, though inwardly wicked, had outwardly lived in the observance of morality and in the profession of religion, though not from spiritual but merely natural motives, were allowed to remain till the time of the general judgment, in the intermediate region: as were also many simple good spirits, who were externally connected with the others, being imposed upon by their specious appearance and professions. This continuance of bad and good in the intermediate region of the spiritual world till the time of the judgment, is expressly affirmed by the Lord in his parable of the wheat and the tares. Yet in these cases also, an individual judgment was virtually performed on every one at his first entrance into the spiritual world; for from that moment every one was bound, as to his interiors, to his final abode either in heaven or hell: and into this he came as soon as his exterior state was put off and his internal state laid open by the process of the judgment: thus from the moment of the entrance of every one into the spiritual world, his lot was decided: it was no longer in his power to make any change in his interior state; and with this, finally, his exterior state would be made to agree; when he would actually enter into heaven or into hell. But now, as we believe, the Last Judgment has been accomplished: no other general judgment is ever to take place: in consequence, then, of the new arrangement which has thus been effected in the spiritual world, the individual judgment which is passed on every one, immediately on his entering the spiritual world, is now, in every case, speedily executed; and while numbers, as before, pass immediately, or nearly so, to heaven or hell, in no case is the stay in the intermediate state protracted to any very considerable extent. In the majority of cases, indeed, some stay in the intermediate world is absolutely necessary: and hence we see the necessity that such a world should exist. For who can look at the mixed characters which constitute the great bulk of mankind; who can observe how few of the worst are destitute of every thing that is good, and how few of the best are in any very considerable degree free from the frailties of degenerate nature; and can suppose that all of the one class are fit for no society but that of devils, and all of the other are completely prepared for the society of angels the moment they quit the body ? Do not the greatest part of mankind leave this world in a sort of intermediate state, neither entirely good nor utterly bad ? Where then can they resuscitate in the other life but in an intermediate world ? But though most who depart out of the world are in this mixed state, they nevertheless all belong to one or other of two entirely different classes. All are either inwardly good, though they have some imperfections not entirely surmounted in their external man; or are inwardly wicked, though they have in the external some appearances of good induced by habit and profession in society. In both cases, then, every thing in the external which does not agree with the love and faith, or no-faith, of the internal, is to be put off. This is effected by divine means provided for the purpose, in the intermediate state and world. But, as already observed, no one is now permitted to tarry there very long; and either heaven itself, or hell itself, is now speedily the portion of all.
I introduced the discussion in the present part of this section, on the necessity for an intermediate world and state, and on the Scripture-proof of its existence, with a quotation from the learned and intelligent Dr. T. Burnet, on the folly of Protestants in rejecting such a state, to avoid the Roman Catholic folly of purgatory. I will close the evidences now given, that the doctrine of the New Church on this subject, is in agreement with the doctrine of primitive Christianity, with an extract from a more recent author, whose works have but lately been introduced to the British public.
"The universal Christian world," says Dr. Jung-Stilling, in his Theory of Pneumatology, "from the very commencement, believed generally in an invisible world of spirits, which was divided into three different regions: heaven, or the place of blessedness—hell, or the place of torment—and then a third place, which the Bible calls hades, or the receptacle of the dead; in which, those souls which were not ripe for either destination, are fully made meet for that, to which they have most adapted themselves in this life."
After a statement of the ancient theory of the material universe, the author proceeds, "The Bible has nothing to ohject to the views adopted by the universal Christian Church; and the Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy of the schools, which then universally governed the reason of the learned, was also perfectly contented with them. And if here and there a clear-sighted individual, who thought for himself, found this or that point impossible, or some fervent Gnostic, on the other side, introduced still more impossibilities into this system of the universe and of spirits, it occasioned a paper war and a charge of heresy; but the principal ideas still continued to stand firmly and canouically in both churches—the eastern Greek, and the western Latin.——
"But ere long, particularly after the age of Constantine the Great, the clergy gradually forgot Christ's golden precept, 'Let the greatest among you be as the least, and him that will bear rule, let him be as a servant.' In opposition to this, they assumed increasing honours, and even strove for the universal government of the world. But having no worldly weapons, or at least very feeble ones, they forged themselves spiritual arms; and the invisible world presented them an inexhaustible armoury.—Hades, which had been hitherto, in itself, an abode devoid of suffering, unless the individual brought anguish and torment in his own bosom into it, was now transformed into a fiery furnace, in which every departed soul that had not rendered itself worthy of canonisation, must of necessity be purified, like gold and silver. Now this was a particularly potent means of bringing even the mightiest monarchs, with all their hosts, and every Christian nation, into obedience to the clergy: for the latter asserted, and it was universally believed, that they really had the keys of purgatory, and that by prayers and masses for the dead, for which they took care to be well paid, they were able to deliver the poor soul from it, and to assist it in the attainment of the bliss of heaven.—
"Here we arrive at the principal source of the most senseless and revolting superstition, which certainly deserves to be rooted out. But this is not to be accomplished by refusing to give credence to undeniable facts, but by stating the sacred truth in its genuine purity.
"The Christian system of the spiritual and material world, described above, stood for fifteen hundred years unshaken. [Copernicus, it is noticed, overturned the old system of the material world, and] Luther and his confederates accomplished a mighty revolution in religion. The Holy Scriptures again became the sole criterion of faith and conduct, and the clergy of the Protestant Church renounced all claim to the government of the invisible world: they extinguished the flames of purgatory, and enlarged the bounds of hell by adding hades to it. No middle state, or place of purification, was any longer believed in, but every departed soul entered immediately on its placa of destination, either heaven or hell. They carried this point too far: it was wrong to make a purgatory of hades; but it was also GOING TOO FAR TO DO AWAY WITH HADES TOGETHER WITH PURGATORY." *
* Translation by Jackson, 1834, pp. 11—18.