This paper sets out to establish the context of the Last Judgment—not just what it was, but why it was, and why it was when it was, and what it was supposed to accomplish. These things are essential to our understanding of the subtle nature of its manifestation in the natural world. Rising and falling spiritual fortunes are a cyclical reality of the human experience, and the Last Judgment of 1757 was a predictable event in an undulating chain of spiritual readjustments since the fall of the Most Ancient Church. Keys to understanding the natural expression of the spiritual Last Judgment are the incremental increases in human freedom and the evolution of human consciousness in conjunction with these changes. This new consciousness is contagious, and is slowly spreading still, manifesting itself in many of the radical developments of the modern era: Developments in modern history, politics, literature, the arts, religion, philosophy, education, and most particularly the natural sciences, can all be interpreted as either an extension of, or a reaction to, the continuing descent of the New Jerusalem into human minds. The restoration of spirituality to science is the ultimate expression of this New Jerusalem come down to earth.
Out of the variety of worldviews that existed in the eighteenth century, naturalism is the one that is specifically cited in the Heavenly Doctrines. Passages containing concepts related to a number of worldviews can be found in the Doctrines, and deism (the idea of a Grand Mechanic who wound up the clockwork universe) is particularly relevant since it was a very popular worldview among some intellectuals during Swedenborg’s lifetime. Despite its existence in public writing since at least 1682, the term for deism is, surprisingly, not used in the Heavenly Doctrines. 5 So the explicit use of the terms for naturalism in both narrative and expository passages in the Heavenly Doctrines is significant. This leads to several important questions which this paper will answer: does “naturalism” in the Heavenly Doctrines refer to the same thing that philosophers today call “naturalism”? Is it the same thing as “materialism”? Are there any significant differences between naturalism and atheism?
This study traces two intersection points of the Last Judgment and plurality-of-worlds teachings within the New Church canon—the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). At the first, Swedenborg used the concept of the plurality of worlds to develop a new perspective on the Last Judgment. At the second, the Swedenborgian perspective of the Last Judgment raises questions about Swedenborgian information about life on other worlds. At both of these intersections, the only material we have to work with is what Swedenborg left us.
Emanuel Swedenborg was an eighteenth-century scientist and philosopher before he was called to his use as a theological revelator. His background in science allowed him to draw on this knowledge to illustrate divine truths. Swedenborg states in  that “the Divine is everywhere” so this author investigates what analogies Swedenborg may have used if he had a stronger background in mathematics.
In this paper I will be concerned primarily with one of the 1758 books—the one whose title, translated into English, is The Last Judgment and Babylon Destroyed. (I will refer to this book as LJ.) In this small volume Swedenborg calmly makes the amazing claim that the event that all Christianity had been awaiting for centuries, the cataclysmic, world-ending last judgment, had been totally misunderstood. Throughout all of his theological works he had consistently stressed the fact, which for him was repeatedly verified by his own (spiritual) senses, that the spiritual realm is real and substantial. The natural world, by comparison, is if anything less real than the spiritual, and the deeper meaning conveyed in sacred scripture pertains to that more real realm of spirit. Thus the biblical prophecies of a last judgment, in order to be correctly understood, must be understood in the spiritual sense rather than the literal natural sense.