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Heaven and angels – the New Church perspective
Heaven and angels – the New Church perspective
Life after death
At some point, your body will die but the essence of who you are lives on. Death is merely a transition of the spirit between different states of being. When the body stops working, the soul is no longer anchored to the natural world. So where does it go? The soul, that is to say, our true nature beyond our physical form, awakens in the world of spirits and continues the journey that was begun on earth. After death, we find ourselves in a place which looks very similar to earth but is far more beautiful. We are still ourselves, we’re reunited with those we Love, and we complete our personal development, choosing a home in the location most appropriate within the spiritual world.
The spiritual world
The spiritual world is made up of three places: heaven, hell, and a transitional place between the two called ‘the world of spirits’. The New Church teaches that, besides being places, heaven and hell are essentially states of being. We construct our spiritual states according to the way we live. Leading a life of kindness and goodwill builds heaven in our hearts, whereas doing evil creates hell inside of us. The condition which predominates while we live on earth becomes the foundation for our eternal state.
The world of spirits is where the final choices are made concerning where we will live. In this decision, the key factor is what Swedenborg calls our ‘ruling loves’. Our spiritual home is structured according to what we love most — it is also the place where we’ll be happiest. If our ruling love is self-serving and hurtful, the most appropriate place for us is in hell. If it’s a love which is selfless and good, our home will be located within an area of heaven.
Once in heaven, people become angels. Angels are not a superior race of beings, but rather humans who have developed into their highest selves. Much like a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the earthly state is a preparation for life as an angel in heaven. To become an angel, reject self-centered longings, do what is good, and love God.
When Swedenborg teaches about heaven, it is inseparable from teaching about a community which revolves around useful service. True happiness is not possible unless it is in accordance with being of use to others. In heaven, each angel has a specific function which aligns itself with the whole. Like the human body, heaven is a reflection of the divine form. Once in the spiritual world, we surround ourselves with individuals who share the same priorities. We form societies around a mutual love and thus find our perfect place in heaven. Each heavenly community fulfills a task which serves the whole, much like organs in the body.
“They who dwell in heaven are continually advancing to the springtime of life and to a spring more and more delightful and happy the more thousands of years they live; and this to eternity, with increase according to the progress and degrees of love, charity, and faith… In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young. Those who have lived in love to the Lord and in charity towards the neighbor become of such beautiful form in the other life.” (Heaven and Hell 414)
Is there an afterlife?
You will never die.
Your body will die, but you are more than your body. You are spirit and you are life from God, created to live forever. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) We are all created for a unique place in heaven. “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
When someone we love dies, even those who live a full life in this world and pass away in old age, we grieve for the loss of them. We cherish our memories and honor what impact for good they had in the world. For some who find it difficult to believe in the afterlife, it can be a very sad time, presuming that the departed have dissipated out of existence, never to be seen again. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Since we were created by an eternal God, we actually can sense deep within ourselves that we will never die. Many people instinctively know that there is life after death, not because they desire it to be so, but because deep within, at the core of their being, they sense it. This perception is built right into us. Can you get in touch with it? I know that I have little doubt about the reality of the afterlife. I feel it. I sense it. I have experienced so many glimpses of it, or have been so miraculously touched by it that I cannot doubt. I can have some question as to where I might end up, but I do not question that the other world is real. Perhaps you have that sense too. Swedenborg put it this way, “I have seen, I have heard, I have felt.” (Arcana Caelestia 68)
A lot of people have seen, heard, felt. Studies have been done on countless individuals all over the world who have had a near-death experience. It has been estimated that millions upon millions have had some sort of contact with an afterlife when close to death themselves. Skeptics may call this experience wishful thinking. But people of all faiths, even no faith, have reported the same things again and again and again, both young and old, of every culture and background. They wake up happy, healthy, and whole. They see relatives and friends. They experience a beautiful light. Those who have been clinically dead for a longer time see cities of light, beautiful countryside, angels. What is very interesting is that most of what is reported by those who have had the near-death experience was also reported by Emanuel Swedenborg of his experiences some two hundred years before scientists discovered such a thing. This too is reflected again and again in the Bible as Jesus assures us that we live on.
But concerning the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what was spoken to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Matthew 22:31-32
This post first appeared on "My Voice" Weblog By Miss LaToya Lawrence | Me, My, please read the originial post: here