What Happens To Us When We Die?

The Magical Mystery Tour

In our modern materialistic age, people sometimes claim that there is no real information about the spiritual world.

That’s not true! There is a huge amount of information available about the spiritual world.

One of the clearest and most extensive sources of information on the afterlife was first published over 250 years ago: Heaven and Hell, by Emanuel Swedenborg. It offers a guided tour of heaven, hell, and our journey to one or the other after death.

Here’s a short version of that journey:

  • Once we lose consciousness in this world, everything is warm and peaceful, because we are attended at death by the wisest and most loving angels.
  • We then go on to a life much like we had here on earth—so much so that we may not even realize we have died.
  • Sooner or later, our true inner self comes out, and is visible for all to see. We can no longer pretend to be someone we aren’t. It is now clear whether we’re headed for heaven or for hell.
  • If we’re headed toward heaven, angels teach us what heaven is like before we actually travel to our own eternal home there.

Who says no one has come back to tell us?

Have you ever heard this one? “We don’t know anything about the afterlife because no one has ever come back to tell us about it.”

Either the people who say this haven’t been paying attention, or they simply don’t want to believe in an afterlife.

Some people used to think that Emanuel Swedenborg was the big exception to that old saying. Then we all found out back in 1975, when Raymond Moody published his book Life After Life, that thousands of people have had the experience of dying and coming back to tell about it. Many of them give vivid descriptions of what it was like to die and enter the spiritual world. And though every story is different, there are common threads running through them all. By now, so many books have been published with descriptions of near-death experiences that there’s really no excuse to keep on repeating that old canard about “no one has ever come back to tell us about it.”

Of course, skeptics say that all those people were just hallucinating because their brains were low on oxygen . . . and so on, and so forth. For those who don’t want to believe, there will always be ways not to believe. Jesus himself said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from death” (Luke 16:31).

Yes, it’s possible for people to harden their minds against the afterlife so much that they’ll reject and explain away all the evidence pointing to its existence. That is part of our human freedom in spiritual matters, which God always protects for us.

But if you are open to the possibility of an afterlife, there is plenty of information out there. In fact, over 250 years ago the scientist, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) published a detailed tour guide of the spiritual world based on extensive personal experience. What you’ll find in this article is just a small taste of the rich smorgasbord of knowledge about heaven, hell, and the world of spirits that you’ll find in his most popular book: Heaven and Hell.

For now, we’ll just look at what it is like to die, and what steps we then take on our journey toward heaven . . . or toward that other place.

The World of Spirits:
Grand Central Station of the Spiritual World

Some people believe in purgatory, where we pay for our sins before going on to heaven. There is no such place, says Swedenborg.

Instead, there is a halfway station that Swedenborg calls “the world of spirits.” It is called this because it is so vast as to be a world all its own, and it is made up entirely of the spirits of people who have recently died. This is where we get sorted out and routed to our eternal home in a process that may take minutes, days, weeks, months, or years—but at most a few decades.

The world of spirits looks and feels almost exactly like earth. In fact, it looks so much like earth that it is very common for people who have died to think they have not died at all, but are still living in the material world. There are even cities and towns there that match the cities and towns of this earth.

However, even though there is the appearance of permanent human dwellings in the world of spirits, it is by nature a temporary place for everyone living there. It is where we go right after our death because most of us are not quite ready for heaven or hell when we first die. We must go through a period of transition to prepare ourselves for our permanent home.

That period of transition comes in three stages—though the third is only for those who are headed for heaven. Let’s take a closer look at the process of dying and the three stages after death as described by Swedenborg.

What is it Like to Die?

Like most who describe their experiences of dying, Swedenborg says that once we lose consciousness in this world, death is a very peaceful experience. That’s because we are attended on the other side by the most loving and wise angels, who keep us enveloped in a peacefulness and a loving warmth that goes beyond anything we have ever experienced before.

At first we simply sense the angels’ thoughts and feel their love in our minds. But soon our spiritual eyes are opened, and we say goodbye to those warm, heavenly angels and begin our journey into the spiritual world. We are guided by lower angels—first more intellectual ones who answer our questions, then more pragmatic ones who guide us to our (temporary) homes and activities in the world of spirits.

Our First Stage After Death:
The Stage of Outward Life

At that point, we settle into a life very much like the one we had lived on earth. Why? Because that’s where our mind and heart are—and in the spiritual world, our thoughts and feelings determine our surroundings.

In fact, we may or may not even realize that we have died. Perhaps the experience of dying now seems to us like a particularly vivid dream. But everything around us looks pretty much the same, so we put it out of our mind and go about our daily business. We get up and go to work, go home, eat, relax in front of the TV or at the computer, and head to bed when we’re tired.

Maybe it will seem strange to us that we are no longer with the people we had been with here on earth. But it is amazing how the human mind can convince itself of things. And if we have not believed in an afterlife, we will probably convince ourselves that we are still living on earth.

If we have believed in an afterlife, though, we will accept the news when those first angels who guided us through the process of dying tell us that we have died and are now spirits. We then naturally want to see what the spiritual world is like. And of course, we want to see our family members and friends who have died before us.

We do have an opportunity to see and talk with everyone we had known who has gone on to the spiritual world. Just thinking about them brings them close to us—though at first we will probably experience this as their visiting us or our going to visit them in their homes. If we have been married and our spouse had died, we get back together and resume our life together. And of course, we can see children, parents, grandparents, and other friends and relatives who have died.

This existence similar to our life in the world continues for a longer or shorter time, depending on how strongly we cling to our former material existence.

Sooner or later, though, things begin to change.

Our Second Stage After Death:
The Stage of Inward Life

As long as we are living here on earth, we can think and feel one way, but say and do something else. We can hate someone’s guts, but treat them politely. Or we can love them and tell them that we don’t.

During our second stage after death we lose this ability to pretend to be one kind of person when we are different inside. Step by step, any outer masks that we had worn on earth, any false external personas, melt away from us, and our true self is exposed.

By the time we have gone through this second stage after death, we will always say exactly what we think, and we will always express our real feelings about the people and things around us. We may still be able to stop ourselves from saying or doing anything at all. But we can no longer lie, and we can no longer pretend we love what we hate and vice versa.

This is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops” (Luke 12:2–3).

No one in heaven or in hell is allowed to speak and do what they do not think and feel. Any external politeness we have adopted without the internal kindness and consideration that it corresponds to will be stripped away. On the other hand, any external gruffness that conceals a heart of gold will also be stripped away.

By the time we are finished with this stage, each one of us will be a case of “what you see is what you get.” Even our physical appearance will change so that our very features express our inner character. That is why angels appear so beautiful, while devils appear so hideous.

Our Third Stage After Death:
The Stage of Learning

For people who are heading to hell, there is no third stage. They are so full of themselves that they do not believe anyone can teach them anything. So they reject any attempts of angels and good spirits to teach them. Once their inner selves have been fully revealed and they are just the same outwardly as they are inwardly, they rush down to their final homes in hell because that is where they most want to be. Hellish spirits prefer the company of other hellish spirits.

For those heading to heaven, though, there is a third stage. This is where we learn the ways of heaven before we actually go there.

It’s like going to live in a foreign land. Before we go there, it is a good idea to learn the local language and customs so that we’ll be able to get along in our new home.

The fact of the matter is that the churches here on earth have done a poor job of training people about heaven and what it is like. That’s because they have not known much about it—and what they have “known” is mostly mistaken. On the other side of the coin, most people have been so busy just getting along in this world that they haven’t taken advantage of the information that is available about heaven and how to live there. As a result, few people arriving from earth have any real knowledge about the ways of heaven.

So if our heart is good, after we have become outwardly exactly what we are like inwardly, we are taught by angels all the basics that we need to know about what makes heaven, and what we need to do to live there. There is no need to learn any new language because everyone in the spiritual world speaks the same spiritual language. But there is a need to learn such things as the fact that heavenly joy is not sitting on a throne being fanned by scantily clad beauties and having handsome waiters serving us peeled grapes . . . but that real heavenly joy is the joy of serving others, and the satisfaction of doing God’s will.

Of course, we will continue learning more and more about God and heaven to all eternity. But by the time we have gone through this third stage after death, we have the fundamental understanding we need to move into our homes in heaven.

Heading Toward Heaven

Once we are prepared in this way, we see a path open up before us. We eagerly follow it for a longer or shorter distance until we arrive at our own community and our own home in heaven. There, we are greeted with warmth and enthusiasm by those already living there. We instantly feel that we have known them all our lives, and that this is our true home.

And of course, by this time we will have found our true spiritual partner, if we hadn’t already on earth. We will continue living with him or her in a full and rich marriage relationship that becomes closer and deeper to all eternity.

Do we stop learning and growing? Not at all! Are there no more difficult tasks to accomplish? Certainly not! We will still use all of our human capabilities to the fullest, and we will always be challenged to do greater things. But we will do them willingly and with great energy, because these will be the things we love to do, and we will be doing them with the people we love most.

This article is © 2013 by Lee Woofenden

For more on the afterlife, see:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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41 comments on “What Happens To Us When We Die?
  1. Richard Neer says:

    Hello Lee,

    From Swedenborg:

    This new thing should be added to these observations: that these two are not even separated by the death of one, since the spirit of the deceased husband or wife continues to live with the husband or wife who is not yet deceased. And this continues until the other one’s death, when they meet again and reunite themselves and love each other more tenderly than before because they are in the spiritual world. Love in Marriage, no. 321

    I see this as a contradiction to one passing into the ‘World of Spirits’ immediately upon death. You’ve said, as has Swedenborg, that upon death the soul enters the World of Spirits and can find there (or call upon) previously deceased friends and loved ones to visit with simply by thinking of them. And, that the soul remains there for a period of time, possibly many years, before getting ‘sorted’ and guided onto its final destination. And there, in that place, is where the surviving spouse will reunite with the first, upon their own death.

    This puzzles me. As we continue here on Earth, the soul of our departed spouse is supposedly experiencing this arena, your “Grand Central Station”, so to speak. If re-acquainting with one’s deceased spouse really can’t occur until after the survivor’s death, then the first paragraph above seems a contradiction in stating the first’s spirit stays with the survivor until their death. If that were the case, when does all the re-acquainting happen for the first soul with all others before it?

    Also, wouldn’t that also be a bit awkward for the remaining spouse should he or she find love again during their remaining life?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Good questions.

      It helps to understand that even while we are living here on earth, our spirit is associated with one or another community in the spiritual world, even though we are not usually visible there to its regular inhabitants.

      So when Swedenborg says that the spirit of the deceased partner remains with the spirit of the one still living on earth, this does not mean that the deceased partner remains somehow earthbound until the other partner dies. Rather, it means that the spirits of the two are still connected to one another in the spiritual world, even if there is not an actual visible and tangible presence. It’s more like a feeling of still being together the other person in spirit even though they are physically absent.

      Then, when the surviving partner dies, and he or she becomes fully conscious and present in the spiritual world, the two meet again, and resume their in-person relationship, as Swedenborg states.

      I say that we are not usually visible in the spiritual world while still living on earth. However, occasionally, when people living on earth are deep in thought on spiritual subjects, they will appear to other spirits in the spiritual community that they are associated with. They will seem to be walking along deep in thought, but will vanish if anyone tries to talk to them. This suggests to me that those who have left behind a husband or wife may occasionally catch fleeting glimpses of their spouse in the spiritual world, but will not be able to touch or interact with them until the other spouse, too, has died.

      Is all of this difficult for the one who has died, also? I think for most people it probably is. But life isn’t always easy, even after we’ve died.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Love in Marriage #321 is in the context of Swedenborg’s statement at the beginning of the section that “Those who have lived together in real married love do not want to marry again, unless for reasons not connected with married love.” So the general idea is that people who have found and formed a relationship of genuine, spiritually based marriage love will not want to remarry–so that situation wouldn’t arise.

      Of course, even Swedenborg recognizes that it’s more complicated than that. As he says, some people do remarry for pragmatic reasons. And others simply don’t do well being single–which seems especially so for men.

      If a person who feels a genuine spiritual connection with a deceased spouse does remarry for social and pragmatic reasons, it’s likely that the second marriage will dissolve after death.

      If he or she does form a marriage in which there is real love, though, the situation could get complicated. For more on this, see the article:
      If You’ve been Married More than Once, Which One will you be With in the Afterlife?

  2. Hiroyuki-Kei says:

    Hello Lee,
    i’ve read some of your old articles and let me tell you they’re very appealing to me.
    I mean, somewhere in my heart a hope rose that i can see my god in afterlife.
    Now what i understand that no matter from which religion you belong, if you do not find your god in what most of people believes then you may experience your god from your own..RIGHT?
    Let’s say for example, im christian but i didnt find my god in jesus what my parents or neighbours taught me to, instead i find my god in something, lets say an animal or an illustration or a person or a fictional thing. It doesnt matter how you define god as long as you have the love and faith…isnt it? Correct me if im wrong.
    It would be more clear if i explain you a bit. In Japan, some people including me belongs to shintoism but we never portraited god/goddess from our religion’s. Instead we worship our own favourite fictional characters(anime) as god/goddess.
    Now i know it’s funny to a lot of people but this is the fact.
    So, i want to know will our fictional characters come to life when we go to afterlife, will we stay with them there forever?
    Im eager to know the fact.
    Thank You, Lee.
    Im looking forward to your answer.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Hiroyuki-Kei,

      The important thing from my perspective is whether the being you picture as god or goddess leads you to live a good and virtuous life with your fellow human beings and in your community.

      As you say, we humans have many different views of God. I am a Christian, so I see Jesus as God. As I’ve said in other articles, I believe that all who worship God are worshiping the same God, which I believe is the Lord God Jesus Christ.

      However, I understand that many people of other religions and cultures see it differently. The question we will be asked after we die is not what God we worshiped, but whether we loved our fellow human beings and took care of their needs. See Matthew 25:31-46.

      About seeing your particular gods/goddesses in heaven, I do think that is possible. However, over time, if you truly want to know God, I believe you will see your god/goddess as a particular expression of the one God of heaven and earth. So I believe that the particular god/goddess is likely to fade in comparison with the presence of the great God of the universe that you will then feel.

      However, Swedenborg does describe some people in heaven who still use images or representations of particular “deities,” or really, of particular virtues of God, to help them approach the God of the universe. So it is possible that you will see the figure of your god/goddess in heaven as a way to approach and be connected with God.

  3. Jenny says:

    Hi , I’ve recently come across your site and I am so grateful . I feel you have documented so much of what I have felt for years and of course much much more . I am so looking forward to delving deeper into your opinions .
    Sincerely
    Jenny

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jenny,

      It’s nice to have you here. I’m glad the articles here are speaking to you! If you have any questions as you read, please don’t hesitate to ask.

  4. Ashley says:

    How would Swedenborg explain the verses: To be absent from the body is to be present wither the lord by Saint Paul? I don’t see that anywhere in Swedenborgs wrightings.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ashley,

      I presume you’re talking about 2 Corinthians 5:8. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul is talking about our earthly body and our struggles here on earth, where we are separated from the Lord in the material world, compared to our spiritual body in the spiritual body where we will be present with the Lord.

      Swedenborg doesn’t comment specifically on these verses, except that he quotes 2 Corinthians 5:10 several times to show that Paul, like James, rejected faith without good works, and taught that we will be judged by what we have done, whether good or bad, and not just by what we believed.

  5. Ashley says:

    Paul say all of use will appear before the judgment seat of the lord. Does Swedenborg conferm this?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ashley,

      Not a literal judgment seat, of course. God does not actually sit on a throne. But yes, all of us will face our day of judgment figuratively, when, after we pass from this life, our true character and nature is brought to light, and we reap the rewards or the consequences of what we have one with our life here on earth.

  6. Ashley says:

    But yes, all of us will face our day of judgment figuratively, when, after we pass from this life, our true character and nature is brought to light, and we reap the rewards or the consequences of what we have one with our life here on earth.

    Do you mean how we treated or mistreated our fellow man?

  7. Mamta dias says:

    Dear Lee Hello! three weeks back I lost my mother, she got a heart attact. I still can’t believe that she is no more. Life without her is just impossible, I myself will become a mom soon she was so excited and was suppose to come to stay with me but unfortunately this happened. I just want to know if in any form I can see her or feel her or if she can see me. I feel desperate some time to talk to her. please help me how can I move further in my life. thanks

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mamta dias,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I’m very sorry to hear about the death of your mother, especially just before you yourself are about to become a mother. That is very hard.

      Though you may sometimes feel your mother present with you, and she will be able to have a sense of how you are doing, it’s best not to try to contact her. You must now move on with your own life, with her voice and love still within you, and build your own life on the foundation she built for you.

      For more specifically on your situation with a beloved parent dying, please see this article: “What Does it Mean When My Parents Die? Will I See Them Again?” I hope it will be helpful to you.

      Meanwhile, our prayers are with you as you grieve the loss of your mother, and as you welcome your child into the world.

  8. Valentina says:

    Hello Lee, I have been reading most of your articles, in one of them you said that when we die, we get a spiritual body that is as much real as this one, do you get exactly the same body, sex, ethnicity etc? What happens if your current body has proven to be problematic in the physical word and you don’t want it? Do you still get the same old body? Thanks

    • Lee says:

      Hi Valentina,

      That’s a somewhat tricky question to answer, because in the spiritual world your body reflects with full accuracy what’s in you mind and heart. So if your current physical body reflects your self-image and your actual character, it’s likely you’ll have a similar body in the spiritual world. But if your current physical body is very far from your image of yourself and your actual character, it’s likely that you’ll have a very different body in the spiritual world.

      For many, if not most people, their sex and ethnicity is a key part of their identity and their character. So I would say that in general, people will be the same sex and ethnicity in the spiritual world as they are here on earth.

      However, many, if not most people who have some sort of physical disability do not consider that to be an essential part of who they are, and would prefer to be without that disability. Ditto for people who are overweight, underweight, have a genetic disease, or simply a weak physical constitution that causes them to be sick a lot. These sorts of physical body characteristics that are not part of a person’s core identity, or that they could let go of without too much trouble, will not be part of that person’s spiritual body.

      Here are two articles that say more about your question:

      Beyond that, assuming we are headed to heaven, our spiritual body is in general better than our physical body. For one thing, it is made of spiritual substance rather than physical matter, so it is lighter and more fully responsive to our thoughts, feelings, and intentions than is our physical body here on earth. There is nothing about it that doesn’t fully express the person we are inside.

  9. Valentina says:

    Also, if a person commits suicide will God be mad at them?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Valentina,

      The issue isn’t really whether God will be mad at a person for committing suicide, but rather the forces that drove that person to suicide. God loves everyone, saint and sinner alike. But some people turn their backs on God and won’t accept God’s love.

      My sense, however, is that most suicides are driven by desperation and despair, not by any evil intentions on the part of the person who commits suicide. And yet, going to the spiritual world does not change who we are. So committing suicide won’t necessarily get us away from what caused our desperation and despair, which is often within ourselves. We may well still have to deal with the very same unresolved issues on the other side. That’s assuming the suicide wasn’t a result of terrible physical and emotional abuse by the people around us. In that case, the abuse will stop, and healing may be faster than for those who have inner demons driving them to suicide. Even those people will have better help on the other side than they got here. But they will still have to face and work through their inner issues.

      I should add that any brain chemistry issues that are distorting a person’s thoughts and emotions will also be taken away in the spiritual world, though there may be a transition period before the person is fully healed and able to move forward with full mental health.

      For more on suicide, see my article, “Does Suicide Work?

  10. Alex says:

    Hi Lee. I have a question that is sort of related to this topic.

    I have looked into Revelations and boy, that book is a bit of a headache. However, one topic really jumped out. Why the Jews? A lot of that book and the Bible in general seems to be giving Jews a preferred position. Why is New Jerusalem even Jerusalem? Why are the gates inscribed with the 12 tribes of Judah? Who are the 144000 and why are they all Jewish? And even broader, why are Jews the chosen nation? What does that mean? Will Jews be ruling over Gentiles in Heaven? Why the Jews first and then the Gentiles (see Romans)?

    I have to admit, this topic made me a bit sour. It contradicts that God shows to favouritism and yet there we have it. Are we to accept that whatever God chooses is just, even though our sense of justice says otherwise? It also contradicts Swedenborgs view of Heaven. Now, if I were to choose, I would choose the word of God. However, I also realize that there is a lot of things I do not get.

    So yes, why the Jews first and what does it mean to the Gentiles? Does God play favourite after all? I hope you have something to ease my troubles, for God has yet to answer.

    Alex

    • Lee says:

      Hi Alex,

      Great question!

      If we read the Bible literally, this certainly does make God out to be playing favorites by favoring the Jews over other people. And it is a very common belief among Jews to this day that they are God’s chosen people, favored over other nations by God, based on various statements to that effect in the Hebrew Bible. Many Christians believe the same thing, both about the Jews in former times and about the Christians from the time of Christ onward.

      However, if we read the Bible spiritually, the meaning is very different.

      In the spiritual meaning, “Jews” in a positive sense means people who are part of God’s universal church because they love the Lord and accept the Lord’s truth in their minds and hearts, and live by it. (It also has a more specific meaning that we don’t need to go into here.)

      In the Bible, “Jews” in a positive sense is used as a general term for the people who are part of God’s church. Keep in mind that the New Testament, including the book of Revelation, was written before Christianity had coalesced as a “church” of its own distinct from Judaism. The original twelve Apostles and their groups of believers thought of themselves as the true Jews, who accepted Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, or “Christ.”

      For example, when Revelation mentions “those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9), it is not using “Jews” to mean the Jewish people as we think of them today, but rather to mean the true “Jews” as understood by the early Apostles: those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, it considers the real Jews to be the community of people whom we today would call the first Christians. By contrast, the phrase “those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” refers to the people whom we think of as the ancient Jews, but whom the early Apostles considered to be a synagogue of Satan precisely because they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.

      This is the general basis on which “the Jews” in a positive sense in the Bible’s spiritual meaning refers to everyone who is part of the Lord’s church. That church is not a human, institutional church, but rather is the sum total of all people who love God, believe in God’s teachings, and live by God’s commandments.

      This is a huge subject, and I’ve only scratched the surface here. But I hope this gives you some sense of why “the Jews” assume such a prominent, favored place in the text of the Bible.

      • Alex says:

        Yes, that makes more sense. Thank you, Lee.

        Something also came to mind. In Luke 24:47 – “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” it says ‘beginning at Jerusalem’. This could explain what is meant with ‘Jews first, then Gentiles’. It is less of a ranking and maybe more of a chronological order. After all, Jesus was born in that region, so naturally the Gospel would be preached there first.

        Connecting with the above, maybe I read the word ‘chosen’ wrongly. Maybe it means that the Christ was chosen to be of the seed of David and thus a Jew and that chosen merely means to be an example to others? Again, in chronological order, the Jews did it first and now it is our turn to do so. The Bible, in that sense, is a guide book with the Jews serving as an example so that we may understand it better.

        Do you think there is any merit to that line of thought?

        Alex

        • Lee says:

          Hi Alex,

          Good thoughts. Yes, this makes sense to me as well.

          There are many layers to it—too many to get into at the moment.

          However, another layer is that at any given time in history there is a “church” (or community of believers) on earth that represents the closest approximation of God’s true church that is possible on earth at that point in time, considering the overall spiritual level of humanity during that time period.

          For a number of centuries prior to Christ, the Israelite or Jewish religion was that church. But at the time of Christ, a new church was begun that would take Judaism’s place as the focal point of God’s truth among human beings.

          My belief is that the Christian church that started at that time has reached its end, and yet another new church, symbolized by the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation, is now beginning on earth. For more on this, see: “Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

          However, having a leading church on earth does not mean that everyone else is left out in the cold. Rather, that church is supposed to be a light to the world, spreading God’s love, truth, and power to all of the peoples of the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean “converting” them, but rather being a continual source of light, inspiration, and love for the world.

          When the former Christian church ceased to be that key source of light, inspiration, and love in the world, it ceased to be God’s leading church on earth, just as the ancient Jewish religion ceased to be God’s leading church on earth when it ceased to be “a light to lighten the Gentiles.”

          Regardless of which community of believers on earth at any given time may represent the closest approximation to God’s divine truth and love, all people everywhere who love God (or some higher power or principle) in their own way, and live according to their beliefs as derived from that God or higher principle, will be saved and find their home in heaven once their time on this earth is complete.

  11. Alex says:

    Thank for the read. It is plenty to think about. However, I want to mention one thing. We see it as logical with our limited human mind. To be fair, God things with the same logic (or rather, we use His logic), but God still has far more information at His disposal. How can we be sure that our understanding is of the Spirit and not our own thoughts?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Alex,

      That is something each of us has to decide for ourselves. But when it comes to the afterlife, it does help that there are now thousands, if not millions of people who have briefly experienced the spiritual world and come back to tell about it. And though their stories do, of course, differ, the general pattern of their experiences very much supports what Swedenborg wrote about the afterlife over 250 years ago.

  12. Foster says:

    I have extremely low self esteem and suffer with sadness and depression. If I cant find healing in this life will god heal me in the age to come? I don’t want to suffer like this for all eternity. Please pray for me.

    Don’t worry I would never kill myself, because I know I would wind up in hell for all eternity if I took my own life.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      I’m glad to hear that you have no plans to kill yourself. That would cut short your ability to make progress in laying the foundation for your eternal life.

      In answer to your question, no one in heaven is sad and depressed in their regular, everyday life. Yes they may occasionally experience bouts of sadness when they temporarily fall away from their focus on love for God and the neighbor, and get too wrapped up in themselves. But those bouts are brief, and they soon rise back up emotionally to their normal happy and satisfied life loving and serving the people around them.

      So no, you won’t suffer like that to all eternity. The only way that could happen is if you choose to be self-centered and greedy, and do not develop your ability to love and serve your fellow human beings.

      And for those who suffer with sadness and depression that is the key to finding some happiness. I don’t know very much about you and your life. But commonly depression involves being heavily wrapped up in one’s own feelings, struggles, and suffering. The strongest antidote to that is to make sure you are doing something for other people on a regular basis, ideally every day. Thinking about the needs, happiness, and wellbeing of others, and actively contributing toward their wellbeing, helps to get us out of our focus on our own troubles, and gives us a positive outside focus.

      So my suggestion for you would be that even if it’s hard (nobody said it would be easy!), make sure you are devoting at least some of your time and energy to thinking about others and their wellbeing, and actively doing something for them. This might simply mean that when you do your job, you think about the benefits you are providing for people through the work that you do, and you focus on doing your work in such a way that it will be truly helpful to people. If you are not employed, and can’t get a job for one reason or another, you can still find volunteer opportunities, or just spent some time each day helping the people around you or doing good things around your community.

      For more along these lines, please see this two-part article:

      Even if you can’t entirely overcome your sadness and depression here on earth, if you make the effort to do some good for others each day, whether you feel like it or not, and you keep at it day after day and year after year, you will be building the foundation for a happy and fulfilled life in heaven, whether or not you achieve it here on earth.

  13. Foster says:

    So what do you think ghosts are? A lot of people have experienced some strange things they claim are hauntings.

    • Adam says:

      Hi Foster! I’ll let Lee address your ghost question, I’m curious as well.

      I just wondered how you were doing lately, how are you doing? Depression is a terrible disease that is not your fault. I’m wishing you much love that you are on your way to finding peace.

      Lee wrote a little bit ago that “The strongest antidote to that [*depression*] is to make sure you are doing something for other people on a regular basis, ideally every day.” I think he is really on to something. Its hard to feel bad when I am doing something kind for someone else. But it surely can be darn near impossible to think of other people when I’m down.

      So I, myself, start simple. My first step is to get out of my apartment. Its essential to go out into the world. Get some sunlight, move my legs. Then I head towards a large department store that see lots of foot traffic, like at the mall. Then it’s simple, as I walk in… I hold the door open for the next person. There is usually someone within several seconds behind me. I often get a genuine smile and a thank you. That tiny little spark of usefulness can really start a fire of happiness in my heart.

      To go a little further… Do you have $5? A simple bouquet of flowers usually doesn’t cost any more than that, depending on where you go. It is a well known fact that elderly ladies love to receive flowers! All you have to explain to a nice stranger is that you hope they are having a good day and that you wanted to try to contribute to it in some small way. Get your flowers and try, say, the bus stop.

      Don’t ditch your therapist if you have one, but to put it in perspective my copay was $40, so that’s 8 people I could potentially make smile! And the cascade of joy will extend to those who witness your kindness.

      Last little tid bit I’ll share about what helps me… Music can be very powerful. Triumphant piano pieces work for me. Use headphones, breathe deep, relax. Try the pianist Doug Hammer who performs a song called Sunrise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_li_hMbk0sE

      If that sounds pleasing search out a pianist named Brian Crain, Song for Sienna. I love the horns that enter at the end. For something a little faster I’ve enjoyed Elijah Bossenbroek, A Song Simply Remixed.

      Best wishes. Good luck Foster.
      Adam

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      According to Swedenborg, some very materialistic and physical-minded spirits (people who have died and gone to the spiritual world) long to be back on earth in their physical body, so they continually attempt to reconnect with this world. I suspect they are the source of most hauntings. For the most part they are unable to actually interact with physical matter. I believe that when people see ghosts, it is rarely if ever with their physical eyes, but rather with their spiritual eyes, which can be opened up briefly even while we are still living here on earth.

      Poltergeist phenomena (spirits moving physical objects) are much rarer, but it does seem to be possible under certain circumstances.

      Eventually these spirits will move on from the world of spirits, where they can still have some direct contact with earth, to their final homes, almost always in hell. At that point those particular spirits can no longer “haunt” people on earth.

  14. Foster says:

    So my church teaches that in the next life we will have resurrected body’s, that are physical and un-corrupable. We won’t just be spirits flooting around. I’m guessing Swedenborg drew that same conclusion?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      It depends what you mean by “physical.” If you mean a physical body made out of physical matter and dwelling here in the physical universe, then no, that will not happen. Once we leave our physical body behind, we will never return to it, nor will we return to a future earth after some future Judgment Day.

      But if you mean that we will have a solid, substantial body that is just as real, touchable, and huggable as your physical body here on earth, then yes, that is true. It’s just that it will be made of spiritual substance and dwell in the spiritual world rather than being made of physical matter and dwelling in the physical world. And in fact, it will feel much more real to you than your physical body here on earth. Plus, for those of us who have put on a few decades beyond our youthful years, it will be in much better shape! 😀

      For more about this, see:

      Is Heaven Physical? Can Angels Play Tennis?

      There are a few more relevant articles linked from the end of this one, too.

  15. R. Smith says:

    … can those who have passed contact those that got left behind do you think? If they can visit anyone already passed… could they call the people still living? Do they even percieve someone is missing? I keep begging God and all the angels for help and to let me talk with him… even just for a few precious minutes… but all i seem to find is that each day left behind i hurt more because he isn’t there… why do they all let me suffer so much? It feels as if god is punishing me…

    • Lee says:

      Hi R,

      These days, most of the time people aren’t able to contact their loved ones who have passed on to the other world. I know that many people go to spirit mediums in an effort to make contact, but for the most part I don’t think that’s a very reliable method of communication with the dead. See: “What about Spiritualism? Is it a Good Idea to Contact Spirits?

      I know it’s hard. But most of us just have to struggle along here when we’ve lost someone we love.

      However, that doesn’t mean our departed loved ones don’t think about us and care about us. There is still a spiritual connection between people who are separated by death. And he is still with you in spirit, even if you don’t sense it. If your heart and mind are bound together with the heart and mind of another person, even death has no power to break that connection. Though he can’t talk to you, he can sense your spirit and your presence, and he does have a sense of how you are feeling within yourself. And I’m sure he is grieving along with you, and doing what he can to give you help from within, from the other side.

      As for feeling his presence, I would only suggest that you keep your mind and heart open to the possibility that he might make his presence known in some subtle way in a quiet moment. I have talked to people who had lost a husband or wife, and who had a strange experience that they were sure was their spouse sending them a subtle message. Often just seemingly silly little things, like feeling a breath on their cheek. And yet, they knew where it came from. At least, they felt it strongly, and were often afraid to tell anyone because they didn’t want their hope smashed by someone who pooh-poohed it. But I believe that those things are real. We just have to be open to them.

      Whether you’ll ever feel such a thing I can’t say. Only God knows. But I hope my words will help you to feel that he is still with you, even if you don’t see any evidence of it.

      And if, as I believe, he is still with you, he does not want to see you suffer and grieve too much. He is hoping you will find some reason to live, something to focus your life on, something that can give you some happiness and a sense of purpose during the rest of your life here. If nothing else, then thinking of how you can prepare yourself to reunite with him by continuing to grow in heart and mind, in love and thoughtfulness, in becoming the best you that you can be while you’re still here on earth, may give you some reason to keep moving forward.

      I know it’s hard. And yet, I believe you’re still here for a reason. God has something in mind for you to accomplish during the rest of your life here. If you can gain a sense of what good thing you can accomplish both within yourself and in your community or your work, then maybe over time you’ll gain some peace, even if there is still a hole in your heart until it comes your time to reunite with him.

  16. Kitsune says:

    Can I ask for a clarification?

    First in the second stage of the afterlife, you say that all lies would be stripped away, then how can I know who am I truly? While I do get angry/annoyed to the point where I do want to hurt people at times but I never act upon them held back by reasoning alone. And I do say vague things at times just so I don’t hurt others too badly by my own words. Does that mean that I won’t be able to well change my words just so I don’t hurt people? Or something else? So thus if there I learn of my true nature and it doesn’t really correspond to the “nature” fit for heaven does that mean I cannot change?

    Second about the later parts of the afterlife about helping others and doing the works of God. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind the thought of helping others or working for that matter but what does it mean exactly? I know that I like the thought of playing adventure virtual games where you go out fight and explore, but I also like the thought of spending the day reading a nice book, or doing some strange things. Does this mean that I need to throw away an aspect of myself away? I mean I hate the thoughts of hell and eternal conflict, but I also don’t like the thought that to avoid hell I need to become someone I’m not.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Kitsune,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your good questions.

      In answer to your first question:

      The first thing to know is that we remain the same person after death as before. (See: “The Afterlife: It’s Not as Different as you Think!”) Only the superficial parts that don’t correspond to our true character are stripped away. So in the afterlife you (and everyone else) will know even more clearly than you do here who you truly are. Who you are will show not only in everything you say and do, but even in the appearance of your face and body.

      And who you are is not perfect. So you will likely still at times make mistakes and even say stupid things that annoy people. However, assuming you are headed for heaven, keep in mind that you and everyone else around you will be acting primarily from love and thoughtfulness. That means everyone gives everyone else the benefit of the doubt. So if you say something that’s a little too blunt to someone, instead of leading to a feud, it’s likely to lead to a heart-to-heart in which you and that person face squarely and hash out the issues between you.

      So no, you can’t lie once you’re past the second stage in the world of spirits. But that won’t matter as much as it does here because in heaven, people don’t think the worst of other people, and don’t use their words and actions against them. We’re all still very human there, but we’re also thoughtful, a little more willing than here to take constructive criticism constructively, and willing to work on our own inner and interpersonal issues. Everyone in heaven is still growing as a person.

      It is still possible in the spiritual world simply not to speak. More perceptive people will sense what you’re thinking anyway from your face and your general aura. But less perceptive people who might take it the wrong way will be less likely to look so deeply.

      About being able to change, our basic character as determined by our “primary love,” or the basic love that drives us as a person, does not change after death. However, as I said just above, we do continue to grow as a person in the direction determined by that primary love.

      Really, the biggest difference in the spiritual world is that you will be much more free to be who you truly are without having to regularly suppress your thoughts and feelings in order to accommodate yourself to people and social situations that don’t match your character and personality.

      In answer to your second question:

      You won’t have to become someone you’re not, regardless of whether you go to heaven or to hell. In both places, people are exactly who they are in feelings, thoughts, and actions.

      There is also plenty of time for R&R in heaven. Work days there seem to be shorter in general than they are here on earth. Many people apparently spend the morning working, and have the afternoon and evening free for recreation and relaxation. But that, I think, varies a lot just as it does here on earth, depending on the person and the occupation.

      Basically, don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to play your favorite games and to relax with a good book. God does not crack the whip over angel employees! 😉 Besides, whatever your job is there, you’ll do it because you love it. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be challenging and even hard at times. But you’ll throw yourself into it because it’s something you care about and want to accomplish.

      • Kitsune says:

        Thank you, one last thing, I have read about people who have memories of their past life, what are your thoughts on this?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Kitsune,

          You’re welcome.

          About remembering past lives, here’s the short version:

          People who experience “past life regression” are not calling up their own memories of a past life; rather they are experiencing the memories of the earthly lives of various spirits who are now living in the spiritual world.

          You see, in the spiritual world—which is the world our minds inhabit at a deeper level—it is very easy for the memories of one person (or “spirit”) to be transferred into the mind of another. This is what is happening when people “remember past lives.”

          For the long version, please go to my article, “The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation,” scroll down to the section titled, “What does Emanuel Swedenborg say about reincarnation?” (It’s a long article!), and read that and the next two sections of the article.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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