Who Are the Angels and How Do They Live?

Can Angels and Spirits Talk to People on Earth?

What About Them Angels?

Angels have become firmly embedded in our popular culture. They appear in countless movies, television shows, books, and websites. But can we really know anything about them? Do we even know for sure that angels exist?

Anyone who doesn’t want to believe in angels can reject them as fantasies and illusions. But for those who are open to the possibility of their existence, there is plenty of information available. Some of the best information is found in Emanuel Swedenborg’s popular book Heaven and Hell, published over 250 years ago.

Swedenborg tells us that angels were originally born as people on earth who lived out their lives here. In heaven, they live in human communities where they have husbands, wives, friends, jobs, homes, hobbies, and everything else we have here on earth . . . only better! Imagine what earth would be like if everyone cared about everyone else, and spent their lives doing good things for other people. That would be heaven!

Can angels talk to people on earth? Yes! But this is something God grants us when God sees that we need it for some reason.

Angels: Aliens or Earthlings?

Who are the angels, and where do they come from?

In traditional Christian lore, angels are higher beings who are separate creations of God, and who have inhabited heaven since it was first created. Based on visions of celestial beings seen by the ancient prophets, they are usually pictured as looking like humans with wings.

In recent centuries that view of angels has begun to fade—in part because of the reports of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) in his most popular book, Heaven and Hell. Swedenborg tells us that angels are not alien beings at all. They are human beings just like you and me who have lived out their lives on earth and then gone on to live in heaven.

Angels are not some higher order of being. Twice in the Bible when the apostle John was about to worship the angel who was speaking to him, the angel forbade him, making himself equal to John, the prophets, and all those who obey God (Revelation 19:10, 22:9). And though there are visions of winged beings in the Bible, they are never identified as angels. In fact, when angels appear in the Bible, they are identified as people. (See, for example, Daniel 9:21; Judges 13:6; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12.) Also, in Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word “angel” simply means “messenger.”

All of this leads to the conclusion that angels are not some higher order of being created separately by God. They are people who have lived loving, thoughtful, and useful lives on earth, and are now living in heaven. The ones God sent to talk to people on earth were called “messengers.” The name stuck, and was brought into English as our word “angels.”

The Scenery of the Spiritual World

If angels are just ordinary people who have gone on to live in heaven, what’s heaven like? Do angels sit on clouds playing harps for all of eternity? Now that would be tedious. Even harpists need a break now and then!

In fact, heaven is not as different from earth as many people think. As poets through the ages have sensed, a tree, a cloud, the sun, the moon, the stars, a deer, a spider all express human states of mind and heart. In other words, they express spiritual realities in a material form. What we see around us on earth is a reflection of what exists in heaven.

Because of this, the scenery in the spiritual world looks very much like the scenery in the material world. There are mountains, hills, streams, lakes, oceans, trees, plants, fish, birds, animals, and yes, towns and cities just as there are here on earth. In short, everything that exists in the material world exists in the spiritual world also.

Angels live in tents, houses, mansions, or palaces, all according to their spiritual state. They can take a walk in the woods, swim in the river, or play a game of tennis at the local tennis courts. They can go to the theater, attend an outdoor concert, or host a party. It is all very familiar from scenes and experiences on earth.

Except . . . it’s different. In heaven, everything is brighter, more colorful, more beautiful, and more alive than the corresponding things here on earth. That’s because spiritual reality responds quickly and fully to the state of the human heart and mind. In heaven, everything we see around us reflects what we are thinking and feeling within us.

Imagine the scenery that would correspond to the spirits of the most warm, loving, thoughtful, and kind people you know, and you will be imagining the scenery of heaven.

Everyday Life in Heaven

Just as the scenery around us in heaven is very familiar, but more beautiful, so is the daily life of the angels. They live in towns and cities, each by their households, each in their neighborhoods. Some live apart in remote areas, while others live surrounded by a sea of humanity in densely populated cities.

Every angel also has an occupation and daily work. That work is just as varied as the different jobs and careers here on earth—in fact, far more so. There are teachers and scholars, greeters and guides for newly arrived people, parents for infants and children who have died and gone to heaven, governors and town officials, spiritual health care workers, and yes, even prison guards to keep evil spirits from breaking out and harming innocent people. There are also artisans, craftspeople, and other types of workers. Every occupation here on earth has a corresponding occupation in heaven.

One difference in heaven, though, is that everyone works because they love their work, not because they have to work. In heaven, all the necessities of life are provided. This is often done through the hands of other angels and spirits. Angels willingly contribute without thinking about their own needs, and those needs are freely fulfilled by everyone around them, and by God.

Of course, angels don’t work all day and all night. That would be just as fatiguing there as it would be here. When angels’ daily work is done, they have plenty of free time for relaxation, recreation, reading, study, or whatever serves to refresh their minds and bodies. One common schedule is to do the daily work in the morning, and have the afternoon and evening free for other activities.

There are also regular meals with delicious food and drink. And what is wonderful, the food is made of God’s love, and the drink is made of God’s wisdom. So angels’ meals refresh both their bodies and their spirits at the same time.

Angels do sleep. After a day full of intense activity, they need that down time for rejuvenation just as we do on earth. It never gets fully dark in heaven, but there is a time of twilight when angels retire to their homes and beds.

Angel Calling?

These days it is popular for people to “contact their angels.”

Can angels really talk to us? The short answer is yes.

We humans have both physical senses and spiritual senses. Under ordinary circumstances, as long as we are living in our physical body our physical senses are open and our spiritual senses are closed. When we die and leave our physical body behind, we will continue living in our spiritual body (see 1 Corinthians 15:44). Our spiritual senses will then be opened, and we will see the angels and spirits of those who have died before us, as well as all the scenery of the spiritual world.

However, it is possible for our spiritual senses to be opened while we are still living in the physical body.

We can know this from the Bible. Physical eyes cannot see spiritual things. So whenever people in the Bible saw angels or saw visions of heaven, they were seeing them with their spiritual eyes, not their physical eyes. Most of them were not aware of this. But in the book of Revelation John often says that he was “in the spirit” and that “heaven was opened” to him. In other words, what he described in that book, he saw and heard with his spiritual senses.

Now, the people of Bible times were not made any differently than we are today. So if it was possible for them to talk to angels, it is possible for us also. And many people today have had the experience of receiving messages from spiritual beings.

The Veil that Separates

Then why don’t we see and hear angels all the time?

First of all, it would be very distracting! Personally, I need my attention right here in the material world most of the time just to make sure the hammer hits the nail (not my thumb) and the car stays on the road (not in the ditch). If angels were talking to us all the time, we’d never get anything done!

But more seriously, one of the reasons angels and spirits don’t talk to us so much these days is that many people either deny their existence or have serious doubts. And some people simply have no interest in anything beyond this material world with its activities, relationships, and pleasures. To protect our spiritual freedom, God keeps us unaware of the angels and spirits around us if we don’t believe in them or don’t want anything to do with them.

Who’s on the other end?

There is another reason God usually keeps our spiritual senses closed.

It would be nice if angels were the only spiritual beings out there. But as we know from the Bible and from human experience through the ages, if there are angels, there are also devils—otherwise known as evil spirits. And while angels want to help us on our journey toward heaven, evil spirits love nothing more than misleading us, tripping us up, and sending us stumbling down toward hell.

That’s why seeking angel encounters can be a risky business. We don’t have any phone book for heaven. If we “place a call” to the spiritual world, it’s hard to know who will pick up on the other end. We might get lucky and get a real angel. Or we might get an evil spirit pretending to be an angel—which they are perfectly capable of doing (see 2 Corinthians 11:14; Matthew 24:24). Evil spirits will tell us whatever we want to hear—all mixed in with a lot of false and misleading “information” about spiritual reality.

There are hundreds, even thousands of people making statements and writing books based on what angels and spirits have told them. All of them believe they have the real, honest-to-goodness truth. And many of them contradict each other. The fallacy is thinking that just because we’re being contacted by someone in the spiritual world, that means they must know the truth, and are telling the truth.

Spirits are just people who have passed on to the other life. Entering the spiritual world does not automatically fill us with all knowledge. In particular, people who cling to false ideas here will continue to cling to them after they die.

What it amounts to is this: We shouldn’t automatically believe everything that comes from angels and spirits any more than we should uncritically believe everything we hear on the street. No matter where a piece of information comes from, it’s best to use our thinking mind to evaluate it. And if something seems fishy, there’s a good chance that it is fishy—even if an “angel” told us.

Does this mean we should avoid all contact with the spiritual world? Not at all. If God sees fit to send us an angel at some key turning point in our lives, we can accept it with gladness, and let the angel do his or her healing work in our lives.

Further, according to Swedenborg, angels do not wish to teach us things about heaven. Why? Because they don’t want to take away our freedom to think and believe as we wish. So if we have a real angel encounter, it is likely to be an “inspirational video,” not an instructional one. And we can all use a little inspiration from time to time!

Heaven picks up where earth leaves off

Heaven is the human community that we choose and build when we love to do good and useful things for other people. If we love God and our fellow human beings, and devote our lives to serving them in our own unique way using our own unique skills and talents, we are building a life of heaven for ourselves and for those around us even while we are living here on earth. That life of heaven simply continues after we die, only in a nicer neighborhood.

Depending on our life choices here on earth, we will each be sorted into our own place after death. That place will be in a community of people who share similar loves, beliefs, and interests—and we will live the life we love with those people to eternity.

Perhaps you think this might get boring.

But consider the life of a devoted scientist or a dedicated teacher. Does either of them ever run out of new things to discover or new joys in sharing knowledge and understanding with others?

Remember, God is infinite, while we humans are finite. No matter how much spiritual progress we have made, no matter how much we have learned, no matter how deeply we have loved, if our sights are set on God there will always be infinitely more.

Every morning when we wake up in heaven there will be new love, new learning, and new things to accomplish awaiting us. And that will keep us excited and invigorated in the activities and discoveries of each new day forever.

This article is © 2013 by Lee Woofenden

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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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37 comments on “Who Are the Angels and How Do They Live?
  1. jahnosecret says:

    I agree that opening up to the sprit world can be a risky business, and the ‘wish fulfilment’ messages so many people crave leave them wide open to manipulation. On the other hand, my own experience is littered with mistakes through naiveté and impure intention and it seemed I had to learn the hard way.
    As always, a well constructed and thought-provoking article, thanks for that. Peace.

  2. I’m really looking forward to a new life where I’m not bombarded with worldly distractions that keep me from facing toward The Lord for my love and light. Hopefully my repentance has been sincere enough to deserve the right to serve all of my new peers in the New World. I am dedicated to become totally aware of .his love in my heart and taking His prompts through His angels to live a heavenly life NOW so I can be useful as an angel myself. This is far more exciting than my former belief in reincarnation. It is also Biblical and makes so much sense.

  3. Sophia says:

    This article is so interesting and beautiful, as is all of yours I’ve read so far. I hope I can be an angel in a community close to God, and of course I hope my family and friends will be there as well. 🙂 I know this may sound paranoid but I hope what you write is true!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Sophia,

      If you live as if it’s true, and strive toward becoming an angel while you are still here on earth, then it is my belief that you will experience it for yourself all in good time! And even if it’s not true, if you live a life of love, caring, and service toward your fellow human beings—which is what makes us into angels—you will have a much better and happier life here on earth, regardless of what, if anything, comes next.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Hello I always have this question in my mind,When my husband pass away it was very painful to me and still missing him very much every day where the angels where whern I was suffering so much?Do you know?Please answer me and thank you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I’m very sorry to hear about the death of your husband. Losing someone we love is one of the most difficult and painful experiences we go through. Though I do believe the angels are with you, they cannot take away the pain and grief of separation. They can only help you from within to move through it. But you still have to take those difficult steps yourself.

      Perhaps it would help to know a little more about what your husband went through after he died, and where he might be now. For more on this, please see the article, What Happens To Us When We Die?

      Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  5. Tony says:

    hi lee

    you said that god planned for us to become angels does that mean if we hadn’t fallen and stayed in our ideal state from the beginning we would have eventually become said angels?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Tony,

      It’s a hypothetical question, since we did fall. However, yes, if we humans had remained in the “very good” state in which God originally created us, we would go to heaven, not hell. It is because we chose not to remain in a very good state that hell became an option. And even now, it is only when we actively choose selfishness and greed over love and understanding that we go to heaven rather than hell. The difference is that since the Fall represented by the expulsion from the Garden of Eden in the Bible (brought about by Adam and Eve’s disobedience), we come “pre-loaded” with tendencies toward selfishness and greed, which we must face and overcome. So the choice between good and evil is thrust upon us in a different way than it was faced by the ancient people represented by Adam and Eve before they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

  6. Mary says:

    Hello Lee, what would you advise people think when facing challenges and tough times? Thank you.

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Lee!

    I have been reading Heaven and Hell myself to gain a deeper understanding. However, I am having trouble understanding the structure of heaven. Well, less the actual structure and more the purpose of it.

    Swedenborg had written that Heaven as a whole is divided into the celestial, spiritual and natural part, depending on how deep one perceives the love and wisdom of God. On top of that he wrote that the communities are based on our own good and made up of people who think similarly. He also stated that those with more wisdom are placed in the center of those communities and those communities that have a deeper understanding and perception of good are higher and more central and as such closer to God.

    This… strikes me as rather odd. This struture feels limiting and more akin to a prison where people are puppets of God.

    First, I thought that Heaven would finally be the place where we reach universal understanding and are unified. This is the case, as Swedenborg mentions that we are all connected through love and remote communication, seeing as something that is not connected would cease its existence.
    However, one can not leave their community without feelings of deprivation. As such, one is technically cut off from the vast majority of other being apart from remote communication. In fact, our pool might even be smaller than in this world. Sure, I may not have a perfect understanding with most of them, but even the worst among my friends can bring be joy.

    Also, wouldn’t that structure technically mean that God is partial? This can not be, for the Bible states that God has no partiality.

    Second, the structure seems like it is structurally enforced. What if you community is based in a landscape you dislike, but you are the only one? You can not leave it, but staying is also a deprivation. Or what if you are the only one in a community who has a certain interest, despite all being very similar in our perception of good?
    Will such things as preferences, hobbies and other opinions washed away so that only our perception of good remains? Wouldn’t it be then exactly what God wants to avoid? Having mere lifeless puppets? A lot of things are I do are a huge part of who I am and how I perceive things. Stripping those away would mean to remove ‘me’.
    Or do those things become inconsequential because we are filled with the love of God? Wouldn’t that be the equivalent of God pumping morphine into us so we can not focus anymore?

    And if those communities in fact reflect interests, wouldn’t the community be very specific with alarmingly few people?

    As for the location, what if one wants to go out and explore? Wouldn’t leaving mean a feeling of deprivation? What if one would go to another community to learn? Isn’t learning an eternal process? Yet due to this structure we are limited to staying who we became at the point of death.

    I am sure I am missing a whole lot here, but to me Heaven sounds like a labour camp.
    Obviously, I know this to be untrue, as a loving God would not limit us, but I have a hard time understanding Swedenborgs description of Heaven as a place of divine love and good where we do not feel limited, regardless of preferred hobbies, activities and interests.

    I hope you can help.

    Cheers 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Hi Alex,

      Kudos to you for going right to the source!

      But my, oh my, you do have a lot of worries! 😛 So the first thing I would say is, Relax! 🙂 Everything in heaven flows according to what we love. There is no coercion there. No one is a puppet. We are free to do the things we want to do, and go to the places we want to go to. Swedenborg traveled to many different parts of the spiritual world, often accompanied by spirits from our earth who were also interested in traveling.

      Swedenborg assures us that when we die and leave this world behind, the only thing we leave behind is our physical body, because it is of no further use to us. (We have a much better spiritual body in the spiritual world.) We take with us everything that makes us the person we are: everything we think, love, want, like, dislike, are skilled at, enjoy, know, have learned, and so on, right down to the smallest detail of our personality and character. We are exactly the same person as we were here on earth. What happens in our second stage after death (see “What Happens To Us When We Die?”) is that any external masks we may have put on here on earth that don’t reflect who we truly are inside are stripped away, so that we become both inwardly and outwardly exactly the person we truly are.

      That is the person we are in heaven. Nothing is taken away that is a real part of who we are as a person. Not even the smallest little idiosyncratic quirk. In fact, if anything our uniqueness as a person will be enhanced in heaven, because there will be no external confining social forces suppressing the full expression of who we truly are.

      That is the person we will live as in heaven. In heaven, the full uniqueness and character of every individual angel adds up to create an almost infinitely complex and beautiful whole.

      Your interests and the things you do are an integral part of who you are. And though some of them may be changed into their spiritual equivalents, they are still your particular, idiosyncratic likes, skills, hobbies, enjoyments, and so on. And considering that everyone who lives on this earth eventually goes on to the spiritual world—and many, if not most to heaven—it is assured that if you shared those likes and interests with anyone at all here on earth, there will also be people in heaven who share those likes and interests with you.

      Basically, heaven is an awful lot like earth, only better. And heavenly communities consist of just as many people as make up the various sizes of communities here on earth, from small towns to big cities. Depending on your preferences, you’ll live where there are plenty of people around, some of whom you’ll be closer to than others because some of them share more of your loves and interests than others.

      Once again, it is our own loves, interests, and character that determine everything about our life in heaven. God doesn’t impose anything on us, nor does God take away from us anything that makes us the person we are. Rather, God provides a community in heaven in which we will feel fully at home because it will reflect who we are, and the types of relationships we have built for ourselves here on earth.

      If, as Swedenborg says, most people in heaven don’t travel, it’s not because they aren’t allowed to, but because they enjoy their own communities so much that they have little interest in traveling. But as I said earlier, those who do have an interest in traveling are free to do so.

      Further, as Swedenborg describes it, people who travel commonly bring a whole community of people with them on their travels, so that they are traveling as a group. I like to think of it as being like a blood cell traveling through the circulatory system of the body, each blood cell consisting of a whole group of people. So traveling does not necessarily mean leaving our own community behind. It can be like a whole tour group from a particular town visiting another part of the country or of the world together, and sharing the experience with their closest friends.

      About the structure of heaven, it’s best not to get too mechanical in our thinking about it. The closest equivalent, Swedenborg says, is the human body—which is a living, organic thing. Similarly, the structure of heaven is not a static, limiting thing but rather a living, organic being in which the unique life of every individual within it adds to the living, dynamic nature of the whole.

      As far as our community and surroundings, they will reflect the person we are quite perfectly, because our surroundings in heaven are created by God to reflect our inner self and character, and that of the people around us. There is no possibility that we would be stuck in a community with nobody who shares our loves and interests, because that’s just not how the spiritual world works. We gravitate toward people who do share our loves and interests, and these are the people we live with and interact with each day.

      Also, we gravitate toward a position within our community that reflects the type of person we are. Just as organizations here on earth tend to have the most inspired and driven personalities at their center, and less inspired and driven people working more toward the periphery, so it is in the communities in the spiritual world. There’s nothing mechanical about it. It’s all based on exactly the person each one of us is.

      I could keep going, but I hope this is enough to assuage some of your concerns. Meanwhile, here are a few more articles that might help:

  8. Richard Neer says:

    Hi Lee,

    I thought I would jump in here with a couple of questions….

    If, upon death, the afterlife stages strip away “outward” masks to reveal one’s true “inner” self, what happens to those who have blissfully, if not ignorantly, donned outer masks and walked through this life in a facade yet are happy, loving, caring individuals who have developed a successful, fulfilling life on this plane, relationships they cherish, and skills/traits they’ve honed to be used here?

    If many of those things are based upon “outer” mask wearing, then what life and enjoyments do they get to look forward to when having those same things removed from their life in the after-world due to them not being consistent representations of their true self? What if those things make up the only life they know and are accustomed to?

    Many of us certainly try to live our lives here based upon our :”inner” self, but often times we don “outer” masks to adapt and roll with life’s changes, perhaps acquiesce to lessen the burden of preference upon a given situation or relationship, and try to live up to others’ expectations. And, we often are successful in our attempts. We do these things willingly and, over time, accept our lives as they are and can be truly happy living them. But, even if we are unhappy on the inside at times, it’s the outside life that we have grown accustomed to and appreciate our interaction with.

    Yet, if our lives are not truthfully based upon our true self, then what life do we know and could expect to experience after death when everything about our current life, our developed likes/dislikes, our interests, our successes, is merely based upon living a lie, even if unintentionally?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      Great question!

      In response, I would say that it’s best not to create in our minds an overly great dichotomy between our inner self and our outer self. If we have adapted ourselves to others outwardly because we actually care about them, love them, and want to serve them and give them happiness, then our very adaptation to their character and needs is driven by, and therefore an expression of, our true inner self.

      What happens in the second stage after death is not the stripping away of our entire outer self, but rather any parts of it that are at odds with our inner self. When our outer self is acting at the behest of our inner self in order to carry out its loves and desires, then even if the outer self may express some things that are not what we would express within our own home and with our own husband or wife, family, and closest friends, then our outer self is still reflecting our inner self because it is carrying out the will of our inner self.

      In other words, it’s more complicated than our outer self always being a perfect reflection of our inner self. Rather, our outer self is always carrying out what our inner self wishes it to carry out, and therefore always reflects our own motivations and desires rather than the motivations and desires of others. Even in the spiritual world, we do have both an inner self and an outer self.

      I know this may sound as if we can dissemble after all, and is perhaps more confusing than helpful. The difference is that in the spiritual world we cannot put on a false front; rather, our external words and actions always reflect our inner thoughts and motivations even if they may be adapted to the particular situation in which we are.

      Perhaps a couple of examples might help:

      Some angels’ jobs involve being “prison guards” in hell. Their function is to monitor the evil spirits in hell and keep them from getting completely out of control. So if one evil spirit is punishing another evil spirit for something he or she has done, the angel guards prevent the one doing the punishing from punishing beyond what the offense warrants.

      Now, in carrying out that job, the angel will sometimes have to exert the spiritual equivalent of force in order to suppress the evil desires of the evil spirits in hell from getting out of bounds. And that force may involve fear and pain inflicted upon evil spirits who are attempting to go beyond allowed limits of malevolence. The fear and pain thus inflicted does not really reflect what that angel desires for the evil spirits he or she is charged with guarding. But since fear and pain are the only things evil spirits understand and respect, it is necessary for the angel guard to inflict them in order to prevent a greater evil from taking place. So although the angel is motivated only by mercy toward the evil spirits he or she is guarding, that mercy may have to express itself in the inflicting of fear and pain on those evil spirits in order to prevent them from damaging one another more than is warranted by the particular evil actions of the evil spirits on the receiving end—and also, of course, to prevent them from breaking out of hell and victimizing good and innocent spirits living outside of hell. The outward actions of the angel guard therefore reflect pragmatically the inner loves and motives of the angel, even if they must be expressed in ways that the angel would prefer not to express them if it were possible to accomplish the necessary goals in any other way.

      Another example:

      The angels of the highest heavens go naked in their own communities. This is an expression of their full innocence and openness with the other people in their communities, who share a similar innocence and openness with them.

      However, when they travel outside of their own communities, especially to lower heavens, they are clothed along the way in order to adapt themselves to the lower heavens where there is not such full innocence. This happens, among other reasons, because they do love and care about angels of the lower heavens, and do not want to cause any discomfort or offense. So the very act of being clothed, even though it doesn’t perfectly reflect their inner innocence, is also an expression of their compassionate love for other angels who are in a different state of mind and heart. So the act of being clothed reflects their inner self in that it is a matter of love and care for the angels of lower heavens that they are visiting.

      Another way of saying all of this is that angels are able to most fully express their inner self outwardly only when they are in their own communities. When they are interacting with angels of other communities, they must put on an outer self that, while not untrue to their inner self, does not fully reflect it, but reflects it only as much as is possible while traveling to a “foreign” community, which does not fully share and reflect their true inner self.

      An example of this here on earth would be traveling to a foreign land and politely eating the food and drink offered to us by our hosts even if it really isn’t to our liking. We do so because it is a matter of politeness and love for our hosts, and appreciation for their sincere desire to give us the best food they have to offer, according to their own culture’s accounting of the finest foods and drinks.

      So even our experience and ability here on earth of putting on an outer self that is not a full reflection of our inner self still has its usefulness in heaven. Angels, too, are able to adapt their outward demeanor and expression to that of the people they are interacting with, not in order to put on a false front and fool those people into thinking they’re something they are not, but rather as a matter of love and mercy in adapting their words, actions, and even appearance to the people they are interacting with in order to accomplish the inner purposes of their own heart and mind.

      But this, also, is why angels prefer to be in their own communities, and always return there whenever their work in “foreign parts” is over. In their own communities, they can feel most fully themselves, and can fully express their true inner self in a way that they can’t when they are traveling abroad. That is where their outer self fully expresses their inner self. And that is why they breathe easiest there, and always return there as to their own home.

  9. Alex says:

    Hi Lee. Thank you for taking the time.

    I have downloaded the PDF that talks about Swedenborgs view on the afterlife from the Swedenborg Foundation website. I was so eager to learn that I somehow managed to clear it out in a day. It basically said what you have said and it put the majority of my concerns to rest.
    In fact, it even gave me insight in some thoughts and feelings I have been having but could not explain. It was a very good read.

    However, I want to touch on a particular point. These doubt I gained from misunderstanding, it served a great purpose. Because of it, I gained a great insight of my current way of thinking. I found some traces for fears and selfish thinking that I was unaware of.
    But even more, it truly shocked me to find out how much my inner workings have changed ever since I decided to open myself to Divine truth. When I first interpreted it falsely, my immediate reaction was that if Heaven is truly that unjust and limiting, that I wish to have no part in it. Obviously, Heaven can not be unjust, for it is the works of the Lord we are talking about. But this is where I understood just how much unity, equality and community matters to me. A sense of justice and what is wrong and right without having studied it. This realization was momentous.

    This goes in line with something I discovered for myself not too long ago, before finding a confirmation in Swedenborgs teachings. Everything material I do, every situation, every single thought always carries a lesson or deeper spiritual meaning, leading to personal growth.
    Whether it is a simple game or a situation in life. I search for a Divine and spiritual meaning in everything. Though material things may be temporary, the deeper meaning derived from them is meant for eternity.

    I am truly happy that this misunderstanding happened. My doubts have been building up the more I found out, until most of them were crushed in one swift strike. Regardless whether what Swedenborg wrote is true or not, I took away a personal lesson that is irreplaceable.

    And yet, there is still a long way to go on this journey, but the way ahead was made clearer than ever and I happy to continue. There is always more to learn.

    Thanks again for reading and for maintaining this site, Lee 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Hi Alex,

      You are most welcome. This is what I enjoy doing.

      And I do believe that everything in us, even our doubts, fears, and selfish impulses, has a part to play in our journey of spiritual growth and rebirth.

      We must start from where we are, not from some theoretical place we wish we were. And where we are at the start of our spiritual journey is usually a rather self-absorbed, doubt-filled, and fearful place once we strip away our learned arsenal of external social politeness and political correctness. Recognizing what is truly driving us inside, regardless of the outward appearances, is a valuable insight. Until we realize where we really are as a person, we cannot travel from there to a better place.

      And when we do start that journey, we travel from where we are, and must take one step after another—complete with various false starts, wrong turns, and doublings-back—in order to reach our hoped-for destination. And everywhere along the way, our true current inner self tends to show itself, warts and all, reminding us of the work and the travel we still have ahead of us on this spiritual journey that never ends.

      And yet, as you say, those selfish impulses, doubts, and fears also lead us to many new spiritual insights about ourselves and the world (both material and spiritual) in which we live, and often drive us along on our spiritual journey. Along these lines, you might be interested in this article: “Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: ‘The Virtue of Selfishness,’” and the articles linked at the end of it.

  10. Ashley says:

    Lee, how can we know what our true inner self is I do love and have empathy for Suffering people and pray for them. But I still sin on occasion. I wish I didn’t but I still do. I wish I could love like Christ loved.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ashley,

      None of us is able to love the way Christ did. At least, not to the full extend that Christ did. Jesus gave us the ideal of perfection and the example of his life, but he also recognized that all of us ordinary mortals are sinners who need to repent and be born again—which is not an instantaneous event, but a lifelong process.

      About your inner self, consider how you think and feel when you’re all by yourself, with no one else around. Unless you’ve completely deceived yourself about who you are, the way you think and feel at those times is your inner self. Your outer self, on the other hand, is the way you think, feel, speak, and act when you’re around people (not your spouse or your dearest friends) out in the community. That’s often different than how you think and feel and talk to yourself when you’re all alone.

      While we’re here on earth, it’s intentional on God’s part that our outer self does not always reflect our inner self. We’re still in the process of being reborn. Sometimes we need to “fake it until we make it,” as the saying goes. We have to train our inner self to be more like what we want it to be. Meanwhile, it’s best if we not “let it all hang out” when our inner self is in a negative state in need of rebirth and reformation.

      So don’t worry too much if you look inside yourself and don’t always like what you see. That’s what our lifetime here on earth is for. To see that unflattering picture of ourselves, and do the long, hard work required to make it into a better one.

  11. Richard Neer says:

    So, the highest heavens exist along the French Riviera and on the beaches of Negril, Jamaica? Well, no need to worry about lack of clothing where it’s warm and sunny all the time!!:-p

    The examples you provided do, indeed, offer circumstances wherein behavioral changes are required to interact with others in various communities due to respect, love and politeness. However, these changes are temporary and necessary to interact properly, not a developed ‘way of life’.

    Even the angel prison guards you mention are merely performing daily tasks against their core nature so, unless they are destined to do this unwelcome task 24/7/365, they would still return to the peaceful serenity of their community based upon their own inner self when not working. I don’t see this as quite the same.

    My questions related to those whose life circumstances have developed due to their outer masks, and who live their lives accepting, or perhaps even loving, their constant interaction scenarios with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones, not of those who are tasked with unpleasant requirements and thus must wear outer masks different form their true self in order to accommodate.

    Wouldn’t those individuals “lose” the life they’ve grown to know and love, having it replaced by a life governed by their core self, and therefore different (albeit, perceivably better)?

    If so, isn’t this what Alex was questioning above?

    • Alex says:

      Hey Richard. I recommend you take a look this PDF from the Swedenborg Foundation about Swedenborg’s view on the afterlife: http://www.swedenborg.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/SF_OurLifeAfterDeath.pdf (I hope posting links is allowed)

      It settled the concerns I mentioned above. It goes in great detail what losing that ‘outer layer’ would mean, should it really come to pass. I recommend reading it, even if you are not interested in the afterlife, as it offers a great insight into spiritual growth. At least it gave me a great insight 🙂

      Cheers.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Alex,

        Thanks for posting the link. If you keep reading in Heaven and Hell, you’ll come to the parts that the SF book Our Life After Death is extracted from. It’s straight out of the book!

      • Richard Neer says:

        Hi Alex,

        Thanks for the link!

        I, too, have been reading Heaven and Hell from which Our Life After Death is excerpted and expanded upon. I do see it as an easier read than Heaven and Hell which is a bit rougher at first. I doubt I’ll work my my through OLAD in a day like you did, but I will take time to soak it in.

        I thought my questions were along the same lines as, and supported, yours above when referencing what you perceived to be questionable or inconsistent workings of heaven and individual interactions, and how that which defines you as “you” is handled.

        I often feel that however long I may have in this world, there will never be enough time to ask all the questions, much less comprehend all the answers!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      Yes, the highest angels do live in a very beautiful, warm, and sunny place! 🙂

      Of course, those two examples were just examples. But the idea was to show that angels, too, can and do at times present an outward face and appearance that doesn’t fully reflect their inner self—and yet that is still driven by their inner self.

      In the case of the angel prison guards, it’s not just an “unwelcome task.” It’s their chosen career. And the very reason they choose such a career that to many people would indeed be an “unwelcome task”—if not a horrifying ordeal—is that their character and personality lends itself to such a job. Not everyone is cut out to be a prison guard. But for some people, it truly is what they’re cut out for, and they take pride and satisfaction in their work. So their work, too, is a reflection of their inner self and character, even if it requires them to put on a work face that is much tougher than the one they wear when they’re relaxing at home with their families and friends.

      About the rest, I guess I’m not sure why you think that interacting with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones necessarily means putting on a false mask. We are not islands unto ourselves; we are social creatures. And our life and character is formed in the context of all of our social interactions. Take us out of our social milieu and remove us from our web of relationships, and what, really, is left of our self and our life?

      Swedenborg describes how people who think they are islands unto themselves are apprised of the real situation in the spiritual world. They are temporarily cut off from all influence and interaction with others (which happens by internal as well as external routes)—and they instantly collapse in a heap on the ground and practically go into a coma. While they are in this state of being cut off from communication with others, they are unable to think or feel anything at all, beyond an awareness of their own state. This convinces them that we are not the source of our own thoughts and feelings, but rather that our thoughts and feelings exist within the matrix of our relationships with everyone around us, including the angels and spirits who are around us all the time even when we are living here in the material world.

      People who love the social whirl are just fine, as long as they actually do care about the people around them rather than just using them for their own pleasure and self-aggrandizement. Heaven itself is a community full of social interactions. It’s not a mere “mask” to engage in these social interactions. It is the pulse of human and angelic life.

  12. Alex says:

    Now that I think about it, there is certainly a reason for our outer mask to exist. As you mentioned, Lee, one should not let his inner self hang out while they are in process of being reborn.
    Then there are human rules and laws to consider.

    The point I want to touch on is that sometimes we need that mask to do the right thing. Just as a lie can save a life or avoid unnecessary trouble, so can a proper use of said mask make a difference. It can help to prevent or defuse a conflict that would arise if one were to speak his mind. One can use it to gain the trust of somebody who you know needs help but would not associate with you otherwise. It might also serve as protection so others would not be able to hurt or exploit you. Those are the examples I can think of right now.

    In my eyes, this outer mask is just another tool in our worldly toolbox, much like our body. What matters is how one uses it and to what end. The focus should lie on the inner self though and to never forget who you really are.

    And after one is done in this world, they simply will not need it anymore, because conflict or exploit are of no relevance for those entering heaven. There we can let our inner self hang out and be accepted and loved for it.

    That is just my view on the matter after letting my mind race on this matter. Take it for what its worth. I hope it helps 🙂

    Cheers

  13. Richard Neer says:

    Hi Lee,

    It’s not that I think interacting with acquaintances, friends, and loved ones necessarily means putting on a false mask. I was questioning the aspect by which we try to live our lives as others desire of us, and attempt to meet the expectations of others with whom we interact throughout our lives. Though we may feel differently internally, at times, often we stay on course and make due with our “lot” in life, sometimes achieving merriment of the process along the way. Thus, our lives become results of, and are defined by, what our external masks portray.

    Let me be clear – I am not saying that this “life” as we know it is simply defined by falsities. For some it may be, but for those who live behind intentional falsehoods I have no problem understanding how the “stripping away” process leaves them with only what they truly are, good or bad. Maye I’m taking things too literally (again!) and that is simply my source of confusion.

    I was only questioning how the process would impact those whose lives ‘became’ what they externally portrayed despite what their true self defined, and that was the only life they knew by the time of their death. All relationships, achievements, skills, interests, etc. would potentially be stripped away to leave only what their true self defined, and thus would place them in a completely different and unfamiliar life in heaven.

    Sometimes I dwell on things WAY too much….. ;-p

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      It does depend greatly on whether we do this from a good heart or because we are basically empty and are merely living our lives vicariously through others, without really contributing anything ourselves.

      If the latter, there may not be much of our own self left by the time we are finished with our process of sorting out in the world of spirits after death. And it’s likely that we will end out in one of the milder levels of hell. Swedenborg describes such people there as standing stock still until someone else comes along, at which point they reanimate and carry on a conversation with that person, merely parroting or reflecting everything the person says. Or if they are of a worse sort, they use everything the other person says to ingratiate themselves and gain praise, favor, friendship, or whatever else they want from the other person. These people are of a hollow spirit themselves, because they have no interest in loving, caring for, or supporting anyone else, but only want others to come along and give them what they need to feel good.

      Those who engage in the social whirl from a good heart, though, are not empty like this. Their life may still be caught up with their friends and social relations, but they engage in that life with the thought to give others love, comfort, support, joy, or whatever they may need. And so they do it from love of the neighbor rather than solely from love of self, as do the ones who end out in hell.

      Does that help any?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rich,

      I should add that not all people are leaders. Many are followers. And that’s not a bad thing. If there were no followers, whom would the leaders have to lead? Living in someone else’s wake is not necessarily a bad thing if our reasons for following that person are that he or she is of good character, inspires us, and guides us on a good path so that we become a better and more loving person ourselves.

      Consider, in this life, that there are relatively few CEOs compared to middle management and line workers. Not everyone can be the person supplying the ideas and direction. There must be many people to carry out those ideas. And as long as the people lower down in the company hierarchy believe in the company and its products or services, and focus on doing a good job and adding their own particular skills and talents to the whole, they are good and needed in the company just as the CEO is. After all, the CEO is only one person, and can’t single-handedly do all of the tasks and functions that the company needs done.

      So if it’s just a matter of being a follower rather than a leader, that’s no problem. Ultimately we are all followers of God, no matter what our position in human society may be.

  14. Tori says:

    So heaven is pretty much the real world but happier?

    Does that mean there’s technology/phones/video games/social media/everything computer-related people like in heaven?

    Also, you say that we cannot lie in heaven… So, will situations like these happen?

    Person 1: Hey, how does my dress look?
    Person 2: It looks disgusting 🙂

    Sorry, I talk too much and I’m too curious for my own good.. ^-^’

    • Lee says:

      Hi Tori,

      Haha! Good one. 😀

      It’s not too likely that anyone in heaven would wear a disgusting dress. Unless they enjoy wearing disgusting dresses—and then they’d take it as a compliment! 😉

      But seriously, even in heaven it is possible just not to say anything. What you can’t do is say you think the dress is beautiful when you really don’t think so. And she’ll probably be able to tell from looking at your face that it’s not your cup of tea. But people in heaven are there because they’re less wrapped up in that sort of thing than they are in the quality of their relationships. So they’re not going to get all bent out of shape just because someone doesn’t like what they’re wearing. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

      And there’s no particular reason there wouldn’t be our modern technology in heaven. However, I’ll bet that what they’ve got up there is a lot better than what we’ve got down here. And some of our technology won’t be necessary anymore since, for example, in heaven all you have to do is think about someone and want to get together with them and assuming it’s mutual, you’ll immediately be with that person. So a lot of our technology whose purpose is to communicate with one another over distances, or travel distances to get together with one another, won’t be necessary. Still, for those who enjoy technology and machinery, there’s no reason they can’t go out for a drive in their heavenly Ferrari or even play a game of Qix in the original console version.

      Speaking of video games, technology, and spirituality, you might be interested in these articles:

  15. Alex says:

    Hi, Lee. Here is another question, although something different. From what I could gather, angelic being like Seraphim were mentioned and described in the Bible, particularly in Isiah 6, for example Isiah 6:2 where they were described as six-winged angels. I do not know, if there were other mentions. While yes, most of the passaged described angels as regular humans and changes are good that they are deceased humans, but all those texts about winged angels does have at least some origin in the Bible it seems.

    What is the purpose of those passages then? Could there be another echelon in heaven apart from deceased humans?

    Also, are Hebrew angelic beings mentioned in the scripture, be it the Bible or anything older? Or where do beings like Michael, Metatron and so forth come from?

    I am not second-guessing your article. Well, I am partially, because I do not like to fall victim to tunnel vision. I hope you can help. Cheers 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Hi Alex,

      It’s a good question, and deserves a more detailed answer than I can give in a comment. However, here are some basics:

      First, the Hebrew and Greek words for “angel” simply mean “messenger.” There is no particular warrant for reading the word as meaning any particular race or type of being. And when they appear in the Bible, they are described as being entirely human in form and behavior. For more on this, see: “What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?” So the whole idea that “angels” are a separate race has no real basis in the Bible. The Bible is talking about messengers from God.

      Meanwhile, the beings named seraphim and cherubim in the Hebrew Bible are not identified as “angels” in the text of the Bible. That comes from tradition. They are more likely figurative beings, since they are generally seen in prophetic visions rather than in a waking state, or even in a dream state—as the messengers (“angels”) of God are seen in the Bible narrative.

      Seraphim comes from a Hebrew word meaning fiery (poisonous) or winged serpents. It probably refers metaphorically to princes of heaven, seen not as literal figures, but as representative, symbolic figures, similar to a king being portrayed as a lion, when he is in fact a human being, not a lion.

      Cherubim, another common figure traditionally considered to be a type of angel, comes from a Hebrew word whose root origin and meaning is not entirely clear, but which may be derived from the winged horse motif. It generally functions as a guardian being in the Bible narrative. It, too, seems to be presented as more of a metaphorical, symbolic being than a literal one.

      So in general, it is a mistake to identify these other beings with the “angels” that appear in the Bible. Biblically, “angels” are messengers; seraphim are fiery and bright leaders; cherubim are guardians. Their names have to do with their functions and their character, not with their race. And even if they are representations of angels of heaven, they are symbolic, not literal, representations, like the lion as king, or the bear as a representation of Russians. Just as kings are not actually lions, Russians are not actually bears. So if these biblical beings represent actual beings, those beings are simply powerful human beings who have become angels, and whose qualities of character are described symbolically by the various animal body parts (heads, wings, horns, hooves, etc.) ascribed to them.

      I hope this helps.

      • Alex says:

        I understand. Those that appeared to others on earth are ‘angels’, messengers for God. Whereas Seraphim and Cherubim are not said messengers but something separate, be they a metaphor or something else. Going witht the theme, that the Bible has so many layers of different meaning, I am certain there is truth to them being a metaphor. I will read up on it and see whether there is more.

        However, to come back to the topic. There are a few passages I found that topic that I have some questions to.

        For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:30)
        The ‘as angels’ part could be read in two ways. One would be to say that they are the angels or it could be a translation. Now this does not concern me as much, because if you translate ‘angel’ as messenger, it says that they serve God as messengers. But not all deceased humans were messengers though. What would that passage mean then?

        But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
        To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
        (Hebrews 12:22-23)
        The ‘company of angels’ and ‘spirit of just men made perfect’, are they talking about the same, namely deceased humans? Or is there a distinction between both? They are separated by an ‘and’, which might mean that those are separate being. It could also just be another way of saying God and the angels. After all, 22 and 23 are very similar in what they describe.

        And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
        But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
        Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
        (Luke 20:34-36)
        You mentioned that if one does not find his/her soulmate on earth, we will do so in heaven and marry there. Yet this part says that there will be no marriage after the ressurrection. Am I misunderstanding something?
        Also, here again is a comparison to angels: ‘for they are equal unto the angels’. Usually, when you compare something, both are separate things and both exist, be it in reality of fiction. Is this just a translation error and infact it says that they will be angels or is this a comparison between two separate beings?

        Those are the passages I could find. There may be more, but I do not know where. At any rate, I will see if I can read on Seraphim and Cherubim. Can we expect an article on this topic, or should I ask if I find something I do not understand?

        Cheers 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Alex,

          Though perhaps I could have said it more clearly, my point was not so much that the “angels” (messengers) in the Bible are not angels. Presumably they are angels most of the time. Rather, my point was that “angels” in the Bible is not referring to some separate race of beings. Saying “God sent an angel” is not like saying “God sent a bear.” A bear is a separate type of being, whereas an “angel” is a messenger from God, usually, but not always, what we call an angel.

          It is because the messengers of God commonly were angels that the word “messenger” came also to mean “angel,” even in its biblical usage.

          But none of this says anything about what type of beings messengers/angels are. And as I covered in the article I linked for you earlier, the most solid conclusion from the various statements in the Bible about them is that they are human beings who lived on earth and then went on to live in the spiritual world as angels. And that is exactly what Swedenborg says they are.

          It’s hard to know what conception of spiritual beings the writer of the letter to the Hebrews had. And as I’ve pointed out in various articles here, the literal meaning of the Bible commonly speaks in terms of human conceptions of things rather than in terms of the actual spiritual and divine realities as they exist in themselves. However, I would interpret Hebrews 12:22–23 as employing a common Hebrew poetic and literary device in which the same person, object, or event is referred to two (or more) times using parallel words and phrases. So I would tend to interpret the “innumerable company of angels” as referring to the same thing as “the spirits of just men made perfect.”

          About Luke 20:34–36, please see the article, “How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?” It has a section that comments on that passage. In addition to what I said there, Swedenborg seems to interpret Luke 20:34–36 as referring to the act of getting married rather than the state of being married. And I think the wording of the Greek text can support that interpretation. It talks about their “marrying and being given in marriage.” And this, he says, is something that occurs before people find their final home in heaven, even if they get married in the afterlife rather than here. It is a married couple who then “goes to heaven,” meaning goes to their eternal home in heaven.

          However, if you want to discuss this more, I’d be happy to do so in the comments section on that article.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Alex,

          FYI, I just posted the first of three planned articles on Jesus’ words about marriage and the resurrection: “Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?” This article digs much more into the nitty-gritty of that passage than the article I previously linked for you on the topic of spiritual marriage and marriage in heaven.

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