Spiritual Meaning of REVELATION 20:12
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AR 866. Verse 12.And I saw the dead small and great standing before God, signifies all who had died from the earth, and were now among those who were in the world of spirits, of whatever condition and quality, gathered together by the Lord for judgment. By "the dead" are signified all who had departed from the earth, or who were dead as to the body, concerning whom more will be said below; by "small and great" are signified of every condition and quality (n. 604); by "standing before God," that is, before Him who sat upon the throne, is signified to be present and gathered together to judgment. By "the dead" in the Word the same thing is signified as by deaths, and "deaths" signify various things; for "death" not only signifies the extinction of natural life or decease, but also the extinction of spiritual life, which is damnation; by "death" is also signified the extinction of the loves of the body or the lusts of the flesh, after which there is a renewal of life; in like manner by "death" is signified resurrection, because man rises again immediately after death; by "death" is also signified neglect, non-acknowledgment, and rejection by the world, but in the most general sense by "death" the same is signified as by "the Devil," wherefore also the Devil is called "death," and by "the Devil" is meant hell where they are who are called devils, hence also by "death" the evil of the will is meant which causes man to be a devil. "Death" is used in this last sense in the next verse, where it is said that "death and hell gave up their dead," and that "they were cast into the lake of fire." From these things it may appear who are meant by "the dead" in the variety of senses; here are signified all those who had departed out of the world, or who had died from the earth, and were then in the world of spirits. It is said in the world of spirits, because all come into that world immediately after their decease, and are there prepared, the good for heaven, and the evil for hell; and some stay there only a month or a year, and others from ten to thirty years; and they to whom it was granted to make as it were heavens to themselves, several centuries; but at this day not longer than twenty years. There is there a vast multitude, and societies there as in the heavens and in the hells, concerning this world see above (n. 784, 791). Upon those who were in that world, the Last Judgment was executed, and not upon those who were in heaven, nor upon those who were in hell; for they who were in heaven were saved before, and they who were in hell were condemned before. From these considerations it may be seen, how much they are deceived who believe that the Last Judgment is to take place upon earth, and that then men are to rise again as to their bodies, for all who have lived from the first creation of the world are together in the spiritual world; and all are clothed with a spiritual body, which before the eyes of those who are spiritual appear as men in a similar form, just as they who are in the natural world appear before the eyes of those who are natural.

AR 867. And the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life, signifies that the interiors of the minds of them all were laid open, and by the influx of light and heat from heaven their quality was seen and perceived, as to the affections which are of the love or will, and thence as to the thoughts which are of faith or of the understanding, as well the evil as the good. By "books" are not meant books, but the interiors of the minds of those who are judged, by "the books," the interiors of the minds of those who are evil, and are judged to death, and by "the book of life" such as are good, and are judged to life. They are called "books," because in the interiors of the mind of everyone are inscribed all the things that he thought, intended, spoke, and did in the world from the will or the love, and thence from the understanding or faith; all these things are inscribed on the life of everyone, with so much exactness that not one of them is wanting. The quality of all these things appears to the life, when spiritual light, which is wisdom from the Lord, and spiritual heat, which is love from the Lord, flow in through heaven. Spiritual light discloses the thoughts which are of the understanding and faith, and spiritual heat discloses the affections which are of the will and love; and spiritual light together with spiritual heat disclose the intentions and endeavors. That this is the case, I do not say that the rational man can see from the light of his own understanding; but he can if he will, provided he be willing to understand that there is given spiritual light which enlightens the understanding, and spiritual heat which enkindles the will.

AR 868. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works, signifies that all were judged according to their internal life in externals. By "the dead" are signified all who died from the earth, and were then in the world of spirits, as above (n. 866). "Out of those things which were written in the books," signifies out of the interiors of everyone’s mind then laid open, as above (n. 867); "according to their works," signifies, according to the internal life of everyone in externals. That this is signified by "works" in the Word, may be seen above (n. 72, 76, 94, 141, 641); to which I will further add, that there are works of the mind and works of the body, both of them at once internal and external. The works of the mind are intentions and endeavors, and the works of the body are words and actions; each of these proceed from the internal life of man, which is of his will or love. Whatsoever does not close in works, either internal which relate to the mind, or external which relate to the body, are not in the life of man, for they inflow from the world of spirits but are not received, therefore they are like images that strike the eyes, or as odors that affect the nostrils, from which a man turns away his face. But more may be seen on this subject in the places cited above, where also some passages are adduced from the Word to prove that man is judged according to his works; to which may be added the following from Paul:--

In the day of anger and revelation of the just judgment of God; who will render to everyone according to his deeds (Rom. 2:5, 6).

For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or evil (2 Cor. 5:10).

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info