Copyright © 1993 by Lee Woofenden. All Rights Reserved.


The New Sky and the New Land and What "The New Jerusalem" Means

1 It says in the book of Revelation:

I saw a new sky and a new land. The first sky and the first land had disappeared. . . . Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of the sky like a bride ready for her husband. . . .

The city had a huge, high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates. The names of Israel's twelve tribes were written on the gates. . . . The city's wall had twelve foundations, with the names of the Lamb's twelve apostles on them. . . .

The city had a square layout: its length was the same as its width. The city was measured with a measuring rod and found to be 12,000 stadia [1,379 miles]: its length, width, and height were equal. Its wall was measured to be 144 cubits [ 216 feet] by human standards of measurement, which an angel was using.

The wall was made of jasper, but the city was pure gold, like pure glass. The foundations of the city's wall were made out of every kind of precious stone. . . . The twelve gates were twelve pearls . . . and the city's highway was pure go ld, like transparent glass. . . .

God's radiance gave light to the city, and its lamp was the Lamb. . . . The nations that have been rescued will walk toward its light, and the world's kings will bring their magnificence and dignity to it. (Revelation 21: 1, 2, 12-24)

When we read this passage, we understand it only literally. According to this interpretation, the sky and land we see now are going to disappear. Then a new sky will come into existence, and the holy city Jerusalem will come down onto a new land. This cit y will have the dimensions given in the description.

But angels have a completely different way of understanding all of this. Every detail that we interpret on a physical level, they interpret on a spiritual level. The angels' way of understanding it is what it symbolizes: it is the Bible's inner, spiri tual meaning.

Here is what the details of this passage mean according to the angels' inner, spiritual understanding of it:

"A new sky and a new land" refer to a new religion in heaven and on earth. (I will say more later about this religion on both levels.)

"The city Jerusalem coming down from God out of the sky" means this religion's philosophy from heaven.

"Its length, width, and height," which were equal, refer to all the good qualities and true ideas in this philosophy, seen as a whole.

"The city's wall" means the true ideas that protect it.

The measurement of its wall, "144 cubits by human standards of measurement which an angel was using," refers to all this protecting truth seen as a whole and what it is like.

The "twelve gates" made out of pearls mean the true ideas that bring people into the religion. The "twelve angels at the gates" mean the same thing.

The wall's foundations, "made out of every kind of precious stone," mean the concepts this religious philosophy is based on.

"Israel's twelve tribes" mean everything about the religion, seen as a whole and in all its different aspects. The "twelve apostles" mean the same thing.

The "gold like pure glass" that the city and its highway were made of means the good qualities that come from love, which make the true ideas in this philosophy shine through.

"The nations that have been rescued" and "the world's kings" who will "bring their magnificence and dignity to it" refer to all religious people who do good things and have true ideas.

"God" and "the Lamb" refer to the Lord as the divine itself and as the divine human.

This is what the Bible's spiritual meaning is like. The physical-level meaning, which is the literal meaning, serves as a basis for it. These two meanings, the physical and the spiritual, work together through correspondences.[1]

This is not the place to show that all these details have this kind of spiritual meaning that is not the purpose of this book. But it is shown in Secrets from Heaven (Arcana Coelestia).


[1] In Swedenborg's books, "correspondence" is the living relationship between things on two different levels of reality usually the spiritual and the physical. You can think of it as the way spiritual things manifest themselves on the physical level.


2 Before we begin on the religious philosophy of the New Jerusalem, I will say something about the new sky and the new land.

My booklet The Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed shows what is meant by the first sky and the first land that disappeared. After they disappeared--in other words, after the Last Judgment occurred--the Lord created (that is, gathered together) a new heaven.[2] This new heaven was made up of everyone who had lived a life of faith and kindness, from the time of the Lord's coming right up to the present. Only these people are microcosms of heaven's arrangement.

All the relationships and interactions in heaven develop in harmony with heaven's arrangement, which is a pattern of divine truth from divine goodness coming from the Lord. We mesh with this pattern in our spirit by living according to divine truth.

From this we can get an idea of who makes up the new heaven, and what it is like: it is completely harmonious. When we live a life of faith and kindness, we love other people as much as we love ourselves, and we unite with them through love. This goes both ways; it is mutual. In the spiritual world, love is union. When everyone loves one another, there is harmony among many people, even among the countless people associated with one another according to heaven's arrangement. We become like one person, since nothing separates or divides us; everything unites us and helps us to work together.


[2] Since Latin uses the same word for both "sky" and "heaven," Swedenborg may not have felt the need to explain that the sky corresponds to heaven.


3 Since the new heaven was formed out of everyone who had lived a life of faith and kindness, from the time the Lord lived on earth right up to the present, it is obvious that both Christians and non-Christians are part of it. But the greater part of it comes from all the children in the world who have died since the Lord's time. These children have all been welcomed by the Lord, brought up in heaven, taught by angels, and then kept safe so they could be a part of the new heaven with the rest. So we can imagine how big this heaven is.

4 We should realize that this new heaven is different from the ancient heaven that existed before the Lord's coming. However, these two heavens are arranged so that, together, they form one heaven. The new heaven is different from the ancient heaven bec ause people in the ancient religious era looked at things only from a perspective of love and kindness. They had never heard of any dogma of faith alone. That is why the ancient heaven forms a higher level and the new heaven forms a level below it.

Heaven is arranged in levels, one above the other. The angels in the highest level are called "heavenly angels." Most of them are from the very earliest religious era. They are called heavenly angels because of their heavenly love, which is love for t he Lord. The angels in the level below them are called "spiritual angels." Most of them are from the ancient religious era. They are called spiritual angels because of their spiritual love, which is kindness toward other people. Below them are angels who do good things from faith--ones who had lived by their faith, which means they lived according to their religious philosophy. "Living" means intending and doing.

All these heavens work together through the Lord's direct and indirect influence.

5 So far I have been talking about the new sky. Now I will say something about the new land.

A "new land" means a new religion on earth. When one religious era ends, the Lord begins a new one. The Lord makes sure there is always religion on earth, since religion is what brings the Lord and the human race together. It also brings heaven and th e world together. Through religion, we know about the Lord and we learn divine truth that brings us closer to him.

If we understand the Bible's spiritual meaning, we can see that a new land symbolizes a new religion. In this meaning, when some territory is mentioned in the Bible, it does not refer to the land itself, but to the human society that lives there, and that society's divine worship, since this is the spiritual side of a land.

Also, when the Bible talks about "the land" without naming any particular territory, it is talking about the land of Canaan. There has been religion in the land of Canaan since the very earliest times. Because of this, all the places in Canaan mention ed in the Bible, along with the surrounding regions, the mountains, and the rivers, came to represent and symbolize the deeper, spiritual levels of religion. Therefore, since "the land" means the land of Canaan in the Bible, it symbolizes religion, as I s aid before. The "new land" in this passage means the same thing. That is why it has become a Christian custom to say "the heavenly Canaan," meaning heaven.

6 I will also say a little about what Jerusalem refers to in the Bible's spiritual meaning.

"Jerusalem" means the religion's philosophy. It has this meaning because it was the one place in the entire land of Canaan that had the Temple and the altar, where the sacrifices took place--which means that divine worship took place in Jerusalem. Als o, that was where the three yearly festivals were celebrated, which every male in the land was required to attend. So in the spiritual meaning, Jerusalem refers to the religion's worship. This amounts to the same thing as saying that Jerusalem means the r eligion's philosophy, since our worship is dictated by our religious philosophy and practiced according to it.

It is called "the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of the sky" because in the Bible's spiritual meaning, towns and cities symbolize different philosophies. A "holy city" stands for a philosophy about divine truth, since divine truth is what the Bible calls holy.

It is called "_New_ Jerusalem" for the same reason the land is called new. As I just said, "the land" stands for a religion, and "Jerusalem" means this religion's philosophy.

It is described as "coming down from God out of the sky" because all divine truth comes out of heaven from God, and this religion gets its philosophy from divine truth.

Even though Jerusalem was seen as a city, it does not refer to an actual city. This is very clear from the way it was described:

Its height was the same as its length and width: 12,000 stadia [1,379 miles]. (verse 16)

The measurement of its wall, 144 cubits [216 feet], was made "by human standards of measurement, which an angel was using." (verse 17)

It was "like a bride ready for her husband." (verse 2)

And later, "The angel said, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.' And he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem." (verse 9)

The Bible calls religion the bride and wife of the Lord: his bride before they are united, and his wife after they have been united.

7 The religious philosophy explained in this book is also from heaven. It comes from the Bible's spiritual meaning, which is the same as the philosophy of the angels in heaven.

There is religion in heaven just as there is on earth, since they have the Bible there, and a religious philosophy that comes from the Bible. There are churches, and there is preaching in them. There are religious and political governments. The only d ifference between things in heaven and things on earth is that everything in heaven is at a higher stage of development; everything there is spiritual, and spiritual things are far more developed than material things.

From all this we can get an idea of what it means that the holy city, New Jerusalem, was seen coming down from God out of the sky.

Now we can start on the philosophy of the new religion. It is called a philosophy from heaven because it was revealed to me from heaven. This book was written especially to explain it.


Back to Contents