None of the souls who come into the other life know what heaven or heavenly joy is. Most think it is a joy they can enter into regardless of how they have lived. Even those who hated their neighbor and indulged in a life of adultery believe this, entirely unaware that heaven is love—a love both mutual and chaste—and that heavenly joy is the happiness welling up from love.
Several times I have talked to spirits newly arrived from the world about the conditions of eternal life. “It’s important for you to know who the Lord of the realm is, what his style of government is like, and what the form of government is,” I pointed out. “On earth, the first thing you have to do on entering another country is to learn the identity and character of the monarch, the nature of the government, and other information about the country. How much more so in this realm, where you’ll live forever? “The Lord alone rules not just heaven but the whole universe,”I said. “Whoever rules the one rules the other. “The kingdom in which you now find yourself is the Lord’s.
The laws of this kingdom are eternal truths, all founded on this solitary law: you are to love the Lord above all and your neighbor as yourself. Not only this, in fact, but if you want to be like angels, you’ll have to love your neighbor more than yourselves.” To all this they had no answer, because during bodily life they had heard something similar but had not believed it. They were astounded to hear that in heaven people can and do love their neighbor more than themselves (although they had heard that they should love their neighbor as themselves).
“Everything good in the next life expands without limit,” I told them. “Life bounded by the body is such that we can’t progress any farther than loving our neighbor as ourselves, because we’re wrapped up in bodily concerns. But when these concerns have been laid aside, love grows purer and purer until at last it is angelic. Angelic love is to love one’s neighbor more than oneself.
“That this kind of love is possible you could have known from the love between certain married partners who would prefer death to seeing their spouse injured. You could have known it from the love parents have for their children: a mother would rather starve than see her baby go hungry. And this is true even among birds and animals.
“You could have known it from true friendship in people who risk danger for the sake of their friends. You could even have known it from polite friendship—the pretense that tries to pass for real friendship—in which we offer the better portions to those in our good graces and bear selflessness on our lips (though not in our hearts).
“Last, you could have known it from the nature of love, which is such that its joy is to serve others, not for one’s own sake but for the other person’s.”
But these things were incomprehensible to those who loved themselves more than others and to those who had been money-grubbing during physical life. Least understanding of all were the misers.
from Secrets of Heaven, volume 1, Sections 547, 548