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.