We’re born, we live, we die, and . . . then what? What happens after you die? First-hand experiences reported by eighteenth-century scientist and spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg reveal the answer.
An unconditionally loving welcome
In many stories of death experiences, people witness joyful welcomes and powerful feelings of love.
But it’s more than bright lights at the end of a tunnel. Heavenly angels will surround you with pure love.
In addition to the heavenly angels occupying the region of my heart, there were two angels sitting at my head. I perceived that this is so for everyone. . . .
All the while I remained at one with the heavenly angels, held in a fairly close embrace in the area around my heart, as I perceived and also felt in my pulse. . . .
They completely discounted all my misconceptions and falsities. It was not that they ridiculed them; they appeared not to care about them at all.Secrets of Heaven §§172, 176, 180
These angels are purely positive, no matter what you bring to them. They scare demons away, protecting you from everything that isn’t love.
Some people simply stay with the heavenly angels. However, not everyone is ready to be in the presence of that kind of love; for those people, a second set of angels come to help the person process what has happened.
These spiritual angels gradually unveil our spiritual senses. When Swedenborg experienced this, he said it was as if a covering was being taken off of his left eye, and after that he could truly see.
Once you’re ready, you’re reunited with friends, family members, and other loved ones who have already crossed over. For examples of how that works, check out the Swedenborg and Life episode “5 Reunions in the Afterlife.”
You will still be you, but the deeper you
When our bodies die, we’ll still have a body made of spiritual substance.
Almost all the people who arrive from this world are as astonished as they can be to find that they are alive and that they are just as human as ever, that they are seeing and hearing and talking, that their bodies are still endowed with the sense of touch, and that nothing at all has changed.Heaven and Hell §456
How can you still have a body after your heart stopped? Since we need bodies to exist as individuals, we’ll have spiritual bodies in the spiritual world.
At first, our spiritual body will look and feel like our earthly body. Everything looks and feels exactly the same as it did when we were living on earth, including ourselves. Even your thoughts and memories come with you when your heart stops beating.
You still want the same things and love the same way. You’ll still be you.
As time goes on, your deeper beliefs and feelings will start to emerge, and you’ll start to become more like your true self. Your spiritual face and body will reflect who you are in your heart.
People who were engaged in good affections had lovely faces, while people who were engaged in evil affections had ugly ones. Seen in its own right, our spirit is nothing but our affections, whose outward form is our face. . . .
The reason our faces change is that in the other life no one is allowed to pretend to affections they do not really have, so we cannot put on a face that is contrary to the love we are engaged in. We are all refined down to a state in which we say what we think and manifest in expression and act what we intend. This is why our faces all become forms and images of our affections.Heaven and Hell §457
You will be free to go wherever you want
God wants to bring us into heaven after we die, but he won’t sacrifice our freedom. Once we’re introduced to the spiritual world, we’ll move into communities that make sense for us based on what we care about.
As we find the communities that are closest to us, we may even find ourselves wanting to move from the loving angels who surrounded us when we first arrived.
When we are eager to part with the angels, they do not leave us but we disconnect from them. Angels love everyone and want nothing more than to be helpful to us, teach us, and take us up into heaven.Secrets of Heaven §315
If we choose to leave those angels, we’ll find ourselves in the company of other good spirits—that is, people who lived good lives, but also aren’t quite ready for heaven. We rotate through various communities until we find one that reflects and supports who we truly are. That’s our new beginning.
So if we don’t fit into heaven, are we bad people? No – we just need more time to learn and prepare before we’re ready to experience that kind of intense love. People who really want to go to heaven will be allowed to visit, but the white light and the heat may be so intense that they have to withdraw.
Some people will have the opportunity to test out different ideas of what heaven is like. But true heavenly joy can turn out to be different than expected. (And for even more on people’s different ideas of heaven, check out this episode: “How to Create Heaven on Earth.”)
A life review
Many near-death experiences include a “life review,” which shows you how you affected others without any judgment. The goal is just to help you understand what is and isn’t loving behavior. In the process, they also show you a path to forgiving yourself.
This can help us identify the parts of ourselves that don’t match up with the person we want to become. We need to know where we are to take steps to get where we want to be.
It’s not about adding up good deeds and bad deeds when a person dies. Rather, it’s a question of what your deeper goals and priorities were, and what that means for your path toward heaven.
Opportunities to learn and progress
God and heaven are inviting you to your highest potential and to a better beginning. But what if a person doesn’t want to go to heaven?
That may seem like a strange question. Who wouldn’t want to go to heaven? That question is tackled in this episode, “What is Hell Really Like?”
But for people who want them, there will always be opportunities to learn and grow – and the end result is pure joy.
And everything we do today is a step on a path we’ll be following for eternity.