The Afterlife


Heaven and hell are not rewards or punishments distributed on judgement day but the present inner experience we freely choose. We may choose to enjoy peace and openness, or to close ourselves in fear. We can discover the highest joy of a loving life by giving to others, or the loneliness of self-centredness. Life is an opportunity for learning and spiritual growth. When we “die” we continue to live as we have done on earth, creating the heaven or hell of our choice in the next life.

As we choose between giving or taking, loving or hating, right or wrong, we participate in the creation of our own spiritual character. This spiritual self, or spirit, is who we really are, and this is what lives forever.

As Swedenborg taught: “They who have heaven within themselves, come into heaven.” Swedenborg was an eighteenth century scientist who, in later life, had his spiritual eyesight opened so that he was able to experience the world of the spirit over many years, while still living a useful earth life. His book Heaven and Hell is probably the most detailed description of the afterlife ever written.

This is a summary of what we learn from Swedenborg’s writings:

  • Life continues immediately after the death of the physical body.
  • People live as complete human beings after death.
  • The next world has three separate parts: heaven, hell and the intermediate world of the spirit.
  • A person’s place after death depends upon his life in the world.
  • God casts no one into hell – we find our own place with those who are like ourselves.
  • Every angel was once just an ordinary person on earth.
  • Children who die are tenderly cared for after death by female angels who have loved children during their physical lives and have also loved God.
  • Couples who truly love each other remain married after death. Others who have longed for an eternal partner meet and marry them after death. True love is a spiritual union of hearts, minds and bodies, not something merely carnal.
  • Heaven is not eternal rest – angels find happiness in worthwhile, useful activity.
  • Heaven is eternal and becomes more and more perfected as new people enter it.

Now we would like to invite you to comment on any of these points so that we may discuss them more fully, should you need more information.



Where the Land Meets the Sea


When I am walking the dogs, I am fortunate to be able to stand on the shore and contemplate the mystery of the sea. It embraces the whole earth, for it is continuous without interruption from the shores of the Arctic Circle to those of the Antarctic. Scientists tell us how essential the oceans are for life to exist on earth. The sea is very different to the land as it seems almost alive with its moods and rhythms. One moment it is dark and menacing, the next sky blue and calm. The security of the shore is the place where this ‘living’ creature interacts with us. We adapt to its tides. it reshapes our beaches and strews them with flotsam and jetsam from many miles away. We use it for travel, a source of food and pleasure.

This fascination with the sea is not just physical as there is a spiritual element to it too. We are so drawn to it, that homes in our country are valued more for their sea views. An explanation of this relationship is found in the concept that all things on earth correspond to spiritual realities. We are taught that the sea corresponds to facts. Its vastness reflects the vast number of facts available. This correspondence inspired Habbakuk to say, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Scientists are constantly adding to the number of facts available. From early childhood we are constantly gathering facts of all kinds from this intellectual ocean. The ones we learn and use are stored away in our memory. The Lord says that these individual facts are like the innumerable grains of sand which the sea deposits on the beach: (Psalm 139:17, 18), “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand…”

Many of them we cannot still recall. As we age the sands of memory seem to get washed further out each year. But all is not as it appears. The Writings of Swedenborg teach that every fact we have acquired is never really lost. Swedenborg wrote that when we die, “we even take with us our natural memory, since we retain everything we have heard, seen, read, learned, or thought in the world from earliest infancy to the very end of life. However, since the natural objects that reside in our memory cannot be reproduced in a spiritual world, they become dormant the way they do when we are not thinking about them. Even so, they can be reproduced when it so pleases the Lord.”

In Luke 12:15, the Lord warns us about relying on the abundance of our possessions. He not only means materials ones but also factual knowledge. Many world leaders illustrate how human egos use these for their own self-centred ends. We are all prone to do this.

The Lord teaches in the same passage that the crucial thing is to be rich towards God. In other words, material possessions or factual knowledge should not be used to bolster our egos but used to enable us to better love our neighbour as ourself.

As I stand on the beach and look out with wonder at the sea, I become aware of the vast number of facts available to mankind. I have used a very small percentage of them. When I look at the grains of sand at my feet, I am reminded how many different knowledges have been part of my life. Then I call the dogs, turn and return to living, using the small riches of knowledge that I still retain to try and be rich towards God.

With all good wishes, Rev. John Sutton