Mention is often made in the Word of “the righteous,” of “righteousness,” and of “to be made righteous;” but what is specifically signified by these expressions is not yet known.
The reason why it is not known is that hitherto it has been unknown that every expression in the Word signifies such things as belong to the internal church and to heaven, thus to the internal man (for the internal of the church, and heaven, are in the internal man), and also that these interior things in the Word differ from the exterior things which are of the letter, as spiritual things differ from natural, or as heavenly things differ from earthly — the difference of which is so great that to the natural man there scarcely appears any likeness — although there is full agreement. As this has been unknown, it could not be known what is signified in the Word, in its spiritual and celestial senses, by “the righteous,” by “righteousness,” and by “to be made righteous.”
It is believed by the heads of the church that he is righteous, and has been made righteous, who is acquainted with the truths of faith from the doctrine of the church and from the Word, and consequently is in the trust and confidence that he is saved through the Lord’s righteousness, and that the Lord has acquired righteousness by fulfilling all things of the Law, and that He acquired merit because He endured the cross, and thereby made atonement for and redeemed man. Through this faith alone a man is believed to be made righteous; and it is believed further that such are they who are called in the Word “the righteous.”
Yet it is not these who are called “righteous” in the Word; but those who from the Lord are in the good of charity toward the neighbor; for the Lord alone is righteous, because He alone is righteousness. Therefore a man is righteous, and has been made righteous, insofar as he receives good from the Lord, that is, insofar, and according to the way, in which he has in him what belongs to the Lord. The Lord was made righteousness through His having by His own power made His Human Divine. This Divine, with the man who receives it, is the Lord’s righteousness with him, and is the very good of charity toward the neighbor; for the Lord is in the good of love, and through it in the truth of faith, because the Lord is Divine love itself.
The good of charity toward the neighbor is exterior good, which is signified by “the righteous;” and the good of love to the Lord is interior good, which is signified by “the innocent”… That the good of love toward the neighbor from the Lord is “the righteous” in the proper sense, can be seen from the passages in the Word where mention is made of “the righteous,” of “righteousness,” and of “to be made righteous;” as in Matthew:
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, When saw we Thee a hungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? When saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? But the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, Insomuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me. And the righteous shall go into eternal life (Matt. 25:37-40, 46)
those are here called “the righteous” who have performed the goods of charity toward the neighbor, which are here recounted. And that the goods of charity are the Lord with them is said openly: “insomuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” These are also called “the sheep,” for by “sheep” are signified those who from the Lord are in the good of charity; whereas by “the goats” which are on the left hand, and are condemned, are signified those who are in faith separate from charity. The same are signified by “the righteous” in another passage in Matthew:
The angels shall go forth, and shall sever the evil from the midst of the righteous (Matt. 13:49)
and in Luke:
Thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14).
From this it is evident what is signified by,
The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in heaven (Matt. 13:43)
namely, that they are in the good of love from the Lord; for the Lord is the sun in the other life, and that which is from the Lord as the sun there is the good of love. Hence the Lord is called “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). In Daniel:
The intelligent shall shine as the brightness of the expanse, and they that make many righteous as the stars for ever and ever (Dan. 12:3)
“the intelligent” denote those who are in the truth and good of faith; and “they that make many righteous” denote those who lead to the good of charity through the truth and the good of faith; “to shine forth as the stars” denotes to be in the intelligence of truth and the wisdom of good, consequently in eternal happiness; for the “stars” denote the knowledges of truth and good, from which are intelligence and wisdom.
“The righteous” is thus described in David:
Jehovah upholdeth the righteous; the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth. Every day the righteous showeth mercy, and lendeth. The righteous shall possess the land. The mouth of the righteous meditateth wisdom, and his tongue speaketh judgment; the law of his God is in his heart (Ps. 37:17, 21, 26, 29-31)
these things are goods of charity, which belong to “the righteous.” The church knows that these goods of charity are from the Lord, insomuch that they are the Lord’s in the man. “The righteous” is also described in Ezekiel 18:5-9, 21; 33:15-20.
From all this it can be seen what is signified by “the righteous,” and by “righteousness,” in the following passages of Matthew:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6).
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward (Matt. 10:41).
Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye see, but have not seen them (Matt. 13:17).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye build the sepulchers of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous; upon you shall come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel (Matt. 23:29, 35)”the prophets” denote those who teach the truths and goods of faith, and in the abstract sense, the doctrines of faith; and “the righteous” denote those who live a life of charity, and in the abstract sense the good of charity. (That Abel, who is called “righteous,” represented the good of charity.)