The Afterlife

"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46

The Bible really doesn't tell us much about the afterlife, but it does say that there is one. Basically all we know is that the good and bad will be separated(Matthew 13:30), and that for the good it will be like paradise(Luke 23:43) and for the wicked it will be torture where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth(Matthew 13:42). That covers the general sense of things, but what does that actually look like? What should we expect?

Since the Bible doesn't give us much detail on the subject, we take the opportunity to read and research other books by people who claim to have some experience with the subject. As a church, we believe the definitive book is “Heaven and Hell” written by Emmanuel Swedenborg(if you're interested, I suggest starting with the abridged version of it titled “Afterlife” edited by Don Rose. We have a few copies of it for sale or lend at the church, or you can buy it online from the Swedenborg Centre, go to Online Bookstore/Main Catalogue/Related Books).

The picture painted is one where the afterlife isn't as different as some would have you believe. There will be some differences to be sure, but we don't morph into some whisp of air, or float around on clouds playing harps spending every moment worshiping God. Those ideas don't really sound like paradise, do they?

We come from the point of view that if this life is some sort of training for the next, then there must be some fundamental similarities. Remember all those hours you spent learning to drive? You spent hours driving, but under the condition that a licensed driver was along with you to help you out. All that practice was done was for the eventuality that you would be driving on your own. In the end, the amount of time you spent practicing was a lot shorter than the number of hours you'd spend driving the rest of your life.

In a similar way, we believe our life here is practice for a life after death that will be similar to our experiences here. In this life we learn what we love to do, and that same love will carry over into our next life. Now, that's not to say that you'll spend your eternity on a golf course. Sure, everybody needs and gets a break, but to be happy forever you'll need to be doing something that you love that is useful to other people. Think about how satisfying those days are when you've got everything in the world to do, and you get it done! Exhausting, but very satisfying. Now, remember those teachings about loving others more than self? You'll be doing things you enjoy that are helpful to other people. There is a reason why we're taught to love others: because it is practice for the next life.

Not to mention we are supposed to learn how to be good people. The Bible states that the afterlife differs in that the good and bad are separated, versus during this life they are mixed together to an extent. Yet even in this life they tend to separate. I mean really, how many ax murderers or drug dealers do you hang out with? Bird of a feather flock together, right? However, here, a murderer can inflict his evil on the good. In the afterlife? Not so much. They have their place and they do not leave it.

Ultimately, we believe that the life after death is one where we spend it doing the things we love. If we love ourselves and doing evil things, we spend our time in hell with other people who love themselves and doing evil things. If we love others and doing good things, we end up spending time with good people in heaven. In either case, the blessing of heaven is the same as the curse of hell: we are with people just like ourselves.

 

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Salvation - It Is About Who You Are