Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Giselle:
If we don’t have children while alive, will we be able to have children in the afterlife?
Thanks for the good question, Giselle! It is one that lies heavy on the hearts of many women and men who wish for children, but do not have them for reasons that are often beyond their control. Some are able to adopt children and satisfy their longing to be parents in that way. For others, it is a dream that is never fulfilled during their lifetime on earth.
For those who wish for children but never have them here on earth, does this mean they have missed their opportunity, and will never have children, even in the afterlife?
I have good news, and I have bad news.
First the bad news:
No children are born in heaven. If you long for children who carry your genes and are your own flesh and blood, then your only opportunity is to have children here on earth.
Now for the good news:
Even if you don’t have children on earth, that doesn’t mean you can never be a parent and raise children.
Every day, tens of thousands of children die all around the world. That’s millions of children every year, year after year.
Every single one of those children needs parents in the afterlife.
You see, children who die don’t just automatically become angels. They must still grow up in heaven. And that means they need parents to raise them.
All children are born on earth
First, let’s deal with the bad news.
All human beings and angels get their start in the physical world. All the angels in heaven were once flesh-and-blood people, who then died and went to heaven. Some died as children, some died as adults. But all of them had at least a brief life in a physical body.
Think about it. Why would God have created this incredibly vast and complex physical universe if it weren’t required for God’s plan of creating a heaven of angels? Something about starting out with a physical body in a material universe must have been necessary for God’s plan, or there wouldn’t be a material universe.
Exactly why it is necessary to live in a physical body first is a complex philosophical and spiritual question. Here is a simple version of one of the reasons:
Just as the human body needs a skin to hold it together and protect it from many things in the world around it, so the human spirit needs to have lived in a body to give itself the boundaries and fixity required to keep its integrity. Otherwise it would gush out, melt away, and dissipate into the spiritual environment.
You see, the spiritual environment is far more fluid and alive than the physical environment here in the material world. In the spiritual world, thoughts, ideas, feelings, knowledge, and everything else can easily flow into one another. If there weren’t something to provide a boundary, everything would melt together into a sort of spiritual soup in which everyone’s spirit was dissolved. We would lose our distinct character and identity, and would blend into one another rather than being able to have relationships with one another—and with God—as unique individuals.
But God created us especially to be in loving relationships with one another and with God.
So God provided for us to start out with a physical body that would give our spirit something like a “skin” that would keep us distinct as unique individuals rather than just flowing and merging into one another in the spiritual world.
Okay, that’s enough philosophy talk!
The main point is, all babies are born here in the material universe.
If you’re intent on having your own children that are of your own flesh and blood, and carry your heredity, then earth is the place to do it! And unfortunately, if for whatever reason you are unable to have children here on earth, you will not have the opportunity to bear your own children in heaven.
The beauty of adoption
And yet . . . there are so many children who need good and loving parents!
People who adopt children here on earth are doing a tremendous service not only for the children, but for God. That’s because God tenderly loves all children, and wants them all to experience the love of parents who will raise them to be good, thoughtful, and loving adults—and future angels.
If you are unable to have your own children, but you want children and are able to adopt, I greatly encourage you to do so.
There are many orphaned children who would thrive on your love, your teaching, and your example. And every child has the potential to become an angel in heaven. By raising children here on earth, whether or not they are your own biological children, you are helping to provide angels for God’s kingdom in heaven.
Yes, adopting children can be a challenge. But it is a challenge that is worth it if you feel called to be a parent and raise children in a good and loving home. And please consider the possibility of being a foster or adoptive parent to an older child or teenager. Many are waiting and longing to have parents to love and be loved by.
Now let’s move on to becoming a parent in heaven.
Children who die don’t automatically become angels
Traditional artwork depicting angels as little cherubs with wings might give the impression that babies and children who die become angels immediately, and stay forever little just as they were when they died.
But according to Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), who spent many years exploring the spiritual world while still living in his physical body, that’s not how it works.
Yes, children who die are still children after they die. But they don’t stay that way forever. Swedenborg wrote:
Children who die are still children in the other life. They have the same kind of childlike mind, the same innocence in their ignorance, the same total delicateness—they are only in the rudiments of becoming angels; for children are not angels in being but only angels in becoming. Everyone who leaves this world stays in the same state of life—a baby is in the state of a baby, a child in the state of a child, an adolescent or adult or senior in the state of an adolescent, an adult, or a senior. However, this state eventually changes. (Heaven and Hell #330)
The only thing that changes about us right after we die is that we are no longer in our physical body. Our mind is still the same. We have the same thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and character that we had here on earth. So if we die as a baby, child, or teen, we will still be a baby, child, or teen when we arrive in the spiritual world immediately after death. We will even have a spiritual body that looks and feels just like our previous physical one.
Of course, our life does change in many ways because we are no longer with the parents, teachers, and friends that we had here on earth. We are in the spiritual world rather than in the physical world. On the positive side, this means that if we were living with poverty, disease, war, or abuse, we will no longer have to suffer those things. Every child in heaven is provided all the love and care she or he needs to thrive.
But we are still ourselves. That means that if we die as a child, we still have to grow up in heaven before we become angels.
For more on children in the afterlife, see the article, Where are my Children who have Died? Will I Ever See Them Again?
Children who die need angel parents to raise them
Because babies, children, and teens are still babies, children, and teens after they die, they need parents to raise them just as they do on earth. Swedenborg wrote:
As soon as children are reawakened (which happens immediately after their death), they are taken to heaven and given to female angels who had loved children tenderly during their physical lives and had loved God as well. Since in this world they had loved all children with a kind of maternal tenderness, they accept these new ones as their own, and the children love them as their mothers as though this were inborn in them. Each such angel has as many children as her spiritual maternal nature wants. (Heaven and Hell #332)
Keep in mind that this was written in the eighteenth century, when gender roles were much more clearly defined than they are in the Western world today. These days, even in heaven I suspect that men are more involved in child-raising than they were in the 1700s when Swedenborg wrote Heaven and Hell. And yet, even today women and mothers provide the lion’s share of the everyday care of babies and children.
Given that there are tens of thousands of children dying every day, and millions every year, Swedenborg’s statement that every angel who wants to care for children “has as many children as her spiritual maternal nature wants” almost sounds like an understatement. I can imagine new adult arrivals in heaven being greeted with this celestial billboard:
Angel Parents Needed!
Please Sign Up Here!
So fear not.
If you long for children, but for whatever reason do not have them here on earth, there will be plenty of opportunity to love, care for, and raise children when you arrive in heaven. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that every child you raise in heaven will become one of God’s angels, adding to the richness of the heavenly community. As Jesus said:
Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)
This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.
For further reading:
- Where are my Children who have Died? Will I Ever See Them Again?
- How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?
- The Afterlife: It’s Not as Different as you Think!
- What Happens To Us When We Die?