This belief among church people is also the cause of their belief that no one will arrive in heaven or hell before the time of the Last Judgment, which they have come to believe will be a time when everything they can see perishes and new things come into being, when souls will return into their bodies and then begin once more to live as people because of this reunion. This faith implies the other, about angels having been created in the beginning, for it is not possible to believe that heaven and hell come from the human race when you believe that no one is going to get there until the end of the world.
So to convince people that this is not the case, I have been allowed to associate with angels and to talk with people in hell for several years now, sometimes constantly from morning until evening, and so to learn about heaven and about hell. The purpose of all this is that church people should remain no longer in their mistaken beliefs about a resurrection on Judgment Day and about the state of their souls in the meanwhile, or about angels and the devil. Because this faith is a mistaken one, it brings darkness with it; and for people who think about such things on the basis of their own intellect, it leads to doubt and eventually to denial. They are actually saying in their hearts, “How can such a vast heaven and so many stars be destroyed and disappear, along with the sun and the moon? How can stars that are larger than the earth fall on the earth? How can bodies that have been eaten by worms and destroyed by decay and scattered to the four winds be reunited to their souls? Where have these souls been in the meanwhile, and what have they been like without any of the senses they had in their bodies?”
There are many other questions like these, which do not accord with belief because they are incomprehensible, and for many people they are destroying any belief in a life after death, in heaven and hell, and along with these the rest of the contents of the faith of the church. This destruction can be observed in people who say, “Who has come back from heaven and told us that it exists, or from hell, to say that it exists? What is this business about people being tortured by fire to eternity? What is this Judgment Day? Haven’t we been waiting for it for centuries, all in vain?” along with any number of other things that imply a denial of everything.
Many people who are particularly skilled in worldly affairs think like this; so to prevent them from further disturbing and misleading people of simple faith and simple heart and bringing on a hellish darkness concerning God, heaven, eternal life, and the other matters that follow from them, the deeper reaches of my spirit have been opened by the Lord, enabling me to talk after their death with all the people I have ever known during their physical lives. I have talked with some for days, with some for months, and with some for a year. I have talked with so many others that it would be no exaggeration to talk in terms of a hundred thousand, many in heaven and many in hell. I have talked with some just two days after their deaths and told them that now their funerals and burial rites were being performed so that they could be interred; to which they have responded that it was a good thing they had cast off what had served them as a body for their functions in our world, wanting me to say that they were not dead at all. They were just as alive and just as human as ever, having simply crossed over from one world to another. They were not aware of having lost anything, since they were just as much in a body as before, enjoyed volition and understanding just as before, and had thoughts and affections, sensation, and desires similar to the ones they had in our world.
Many people who have just died, when they have discovered that they are living persons just as they were before, and in a similar state (for our first state after death is like the one we were in on earth, although this changes gradually for us either toward heaven or toward hell), have been moved by a newfound joy at still being alive. They have said they would not have believed it. They were absolutely amazed that they had been in such ignorance and blindness about the state of life after death, all the more so that this is true of people within the church, who could be in more light about such matters than all the rest of the whole world. Now for the first time they were seeing the reason for this blindness and ignorance, namely, that their outward concerns, their concerns for worldly and bodily matters, preoccupied and filled their minds so completely that they could not be raised into heaven’s light and look into ecclesiastical subjects beyond the formalities of doctrine. When bodily and worldly matters are loved as much as they are today, nothing flows in from them but darkness when the mind tries to press further.
from Heaven and Hell, Section 312