Heaven and Hell

There are two elements that constitute our spiritual life: love and faith. Love constitutes the life of our will and faith constitutes the life of our understanding. A love of what is good and a consequent faith in what is true make up the life of heaven, and a love of what is evil and a consequent faith in what is false make up the life of hell.

Love for the Lord and love for one’s neighbor constitute heaven. Faith, too, constitutes heaven, but only to the extent that we lead our lives according to it. Further, since both love and the faith that goes with it come from the Lord, we can see that the Lord himself constitutes heaven.

For each of us, heaven is within us to the extent that we accept love and faith from the Lord; and if we accept love and faith from the Lord while we are living in this world, we enter heaven after death.

The people who accept heaven from the Lord are the ones who have heaven within themselves, because heaven is within us. This is what the Lord teaches us:

They will not say, “See, the kingdom of God is here!” or “See, it is there!” Behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

The heaven that is within us is in our inner self. It is present in our willing and thinking from love and faith. As a result it is also present in our outer self, in which we act and speak from love and faith. Heaven is not, however, present in our outer self apart from our inner self; after all, every hypocrite can do and say good things without willing and thinking good things.

When we arrive in the other life, which happens immediately after death, others can see whether heaven is within us, though this is not visible while we are living in this world. You see, what shows in this world is our outer self, not our inner self, while in the other life our inner self appears because then we are living as spirits.

Eternal happiness, which is also called heavenly joy, is given to people who live and walk in a love for the Lord that comes from the Lord and a faith in him that comes from him. This love and faith have heavenly joy within them. If we have heaven within ourselves we come into heavenly joy after death; until then it lies hidden in our inner self.

There is in heaven a sharing of everything that is good. The peace, intelligence, wisdom, and happiness of all are shared with every individual there, though the individuals’ capacity for it is determined by the amount of love and faith they have accepted from the Lord. This shows how much peace, intelligence, wisdom, and happiness there is in heaven.

Just as love for the Lord and love for our neighbor constitute a life of heaven for us, so love for ourselves and love for the world, when they are in control, constitute a life of hell for us, because these latter loves are the opposites of the former. So people whose love for themselves and love for the world are in control are incapable of accepting anything from heaven. What they accept comes from hell. Whatever we love and whatever we believe comes either from heaven or from hell.

People in whom love for themselves and love for the world are in control do not realize what heaven and heavenly happiness are. They cannot believe that happiness can be found in any kind of love other than self-love and love for the world. Yet the fact is that we feel the happiness of heaven to the extent that we put these loves aside as our goals. After these loves have been put aside, the happiness that follows is so great that it is beyond human comprehension.

Our life cannot be changed after death. It retains the nature it had, because the nature of our spirit depends entirely on what our love is like, and a hellish love cannot be transformed into a heavenly one, because they are opposites. This is the meaning of what Abraham said to the rich man in hell:

“Between you and us there is a great gulf, so that those who want to cross over to you cannot, and neither can those from there cross over to us” (Luke 16:26).

This shows that people who enter hell stay there to eternity and people who enter heaven stay there to eternity.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 230-239

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