Infinity and Eternity

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

This is single light soap bubble photograph taken under macro photography with Canon 6D and Tokina 100 f/2.8 Macro lens.

The word “finite” means that something has limits or boundaries. It comes from the same root word as finish, as in the finish line in a race. When something is finite it means that if you go on far enough, you will come to an end. If there is no end, then it’s not finite; it’s “infinite”.

Similarly, The word “eternal” means unbounded by time.

We can almost, but not quite, imagine something that is infinite and eternal. To think of something that is really really big, or that takes a really long time, isn’t quite accurate, because we really need to think of something that transcends physical size and duration. But it’s at least a start, in stretching our minds to consider what the nature of God could be.

Here we have a physical universe. It must have come from something. Plus, we have these glimpses that there are spiritual realities, too. Mathematics suggests that there are more “dimensions” needed to help make sense of the physical world. These things are at least suggestive that God exists.

In New Christian theology, there is an infinite, eternal God. He is Divine Love, which is the wellspring of everything, and Divine Wisdom, which gives form to that love. He is unbounded by space or time.

That conception might make God seem distant and impersonal, but logically, that doesn’t need to be the case. An infinite God is “big enough”, capable enough to be both creating and sustaining the universe AND flowing into each one of us in ways attuned to our ability to receive his influx. A God who has the perspective of eternity also has the ability within that to operate in our lives, in our time, even if we can’t perceive it.

These concepts are at the limits of many kinds of thought – science, philosophy, mathematics, and religion. There IS an underlying harmony of those disciplines, but it’s hard to see sometimes, particularly because we can be blocked by preconceptions and because we’re operating with finite minds, wrestling with things that we can only really see appearances of. (References: True Christian Religion 27

Are We Judged by God?

The Lord by His life on earth taught us how to prepare for heaven. He showed us how to cooperate with Him to do the work of changing our character from one that is selfish, self centered, inconsiderate and fearful (living in a hellish way) to one that is kind, giving, generous and confident in the Lord (living in a heavenly way). This is a process and it takes time – a lifetime. As we make choices to turn away from selfish and merely worldly gratification and in turn make choices that are based on the truth, and inspired by generosity and kindness, we develop a desire or will for what is good. It is that will or dominant love within us that determines our place after the death of this body. If we primarily love what is kind, good, and true we will find our happiness in heaven where we can continue to live this way with others of a like mind and heart. If we primarily love what is selfish, hateful and deceitful we will actually find heaven an uncomfortable place, and instead find a place in hell where we can continue to live this way with others of like mind and heart. We therefore essentially judge ourselves – or choose our own eternity.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:46-48)

How Does One Burn In Hell?

For one thing, there is no physical fire in Hell because it is not a physical realm. So this is a question for physics as much as it is a question for theology.

What does it really mean to “burn” in hell?

First of all, we should consider what damns a person in the first place? Cruelty, hatred, avarice, revenge, adultery, deceit, hypocrisy and impiety can all do us in. These “evils” are all derived from the love of self.

Everything an individual thinks and does is ruled by their intentions – that is what one ultimately seeks and loves. We often describe a person’s excitement as getting all fired-up. Perhaps hell is a realm where an evil person is consumed by the “flames” of his or her own self-love.

Anger is often described as a “smoldering” from within. It usually is ignited by some frustration, whereby something important to us is thwarted or foiled. Those with evil leanings often smolder when others do not do their bidding and promote their personal goals and self-interests. Inwardly, such individuals harbor a burning hatred for others.

Therefore, hell would be a “place” where evil souls go and are eternally frustrated by not being able to dominate over others or hurt others. Does not such a punishment fit the crime? How would justice be better served?

The idea that God would burn people in a culinary fire, and miraculously keep them alive to have their flesh cooked to an eternity is barbaric, and, contradicts the idea that God is Infinite Love and Infinite Wisdom.

Even on earth, we mortals have the sense to create a system of justice whereby the punishment fits the crime. Is God less rational and fair than we are?

Goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment.

Heaven and Hell are psychoscapes. That is, not existing in time or space, they are reflections of the qualities of our hearts and minds. The Lord’s heavenly kingdom is a kingdom of mutual love. Those who put themselves first cannot endure such a realm and seek to remove themselves from God’s influence, where they can worship themselves.

Such individuals are eternally thwarted by the self-interests of others, who also constantly seek their own prominence in all things. In such an infernal society, happiness can never be attained. This is what is meant by, “burning in hell.”

Does this make sense to you?

Posted on October 21, 2008by thegodguy


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Chapter XVI. The Limbus Retained After Death


THIS diagram illustrates the limbus surrounding the whole spirit of man after death and serving as a cutaneous envelop to hold the spirit securely in form to eternity.

F is the gross material body now rejected, the spirit being separated from it and risen into conscious life in the spiritual world.

The natural or external memory of man in the world is seated in the limbus the extreme ultimate of the natural mind. This memory consisting of the states impressed upon the limbus during life in the world, remains after death but is quiescent.

If this diagram be taken to represent the whole angelic heaven, E is their aggregate limbus. Extending the view, E represents the limbus of the spirits of this earth and all earths in the universe regenerate or unregenerate.

Previous: Chapter XV. The Limbus. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XVII. All the Degrees in Trines.


Heaven Is Not A Retirement Destination

I recall an episode of The Twilight Zone TV series where a man of suspicious character is killed and suddenly finds himself regaining consciousness in the hereafter. He is greeted by a host, who has been given the special responsibility to see that all the dead man’s needs are taken care of. Everything works out perfectly—too perfectly. The dead man wins at everything he does.

After awhile, having everything go his way actually starts driving him crazy. He begs his host not to have everything rigged so that he always wins. Finally, he tells his host that he doesn’t deserve to be in such a perfect world and pleads to be taken to that “other” place. It is then, that he is informed that he is in that other place.

I am not implying that in hell one is waited on hand and foot, just that happiness cannot be obtained from such a one-sided scenario. Heavenly happiness must be something else.

We rarely contemplate what eternal happiness might actually consist of. Heaven is certainly the continuation of life in a more perfect realm. But how is life perfected and what constitutes living in blessedness to eternity? The answer to that question is in plain sight to all of us and simply involves a little reflection on what the dynamics of life already reveals. If we contemplate the bio-complexity of our anatomy, it becomes quite apparent that it is ordered and arranged according to mutual interrelatedness and interdependence. Organic unity (relational holism) comes from the harmony of shared utility. Individual cells serve the needs of the entire body and the body serves all the needs of the cells.

The same dynamics hold true for human society. The “glue” and quality of a nation, region, city, or small community is based on the quality of services and talents that are shared among its individuals. So the same divine patterning principle is being expressed by both bio-diversity and human diversity. Life is service. Life cannot be separated from duty.

This is why we often hear stories about people who die soon after retirement. These deaths often seem premature to us and puzzling. But staying engaged and useful to others seems to have real health benefits. The human mind falls apart if its energies are not engaged in challenging new activity (the devil’s workshop). So if life essentially consists of reciprocal utility, happiness in heaven must allow for such a sharing of talents to increase, intensify, and perfect itself through eternity. This is the exaltation of love.

Ironically, what makes hell a hell is work, and, what makes heaven a heaven is also work. But those in heaven do so for the love of serving others, while those in hell—who for selfish reasons will not work unless there is immediate personal profit—end up only being able to perform lowly menial tasks within God’s economic system of love.

Happiness is not one-sided or self-centered. In fact, our individuality finds itself the more we are in useful service to others. And this increases in heaven because our inner potentials are locked up in our spirit. The spirit is not material and therefore not limited within the constraints of space and time. So, our spirit’s inner potential can be continuously opened throughout eternity, as we strive towards greater usefulness. How else would a God of love create the universe?

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A Sermon by Rev. Grant H. Odhner

Preached in Oak Arbor, Michigan March 17, 1991

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains … ” (Psalm 121:1).

Mountains have always inspired people with awe. Who has walked among mountains and not been aware, at some time, of his own insignificance?

Mountains give us a means of appreciating relative sizes and forces, distances and times. We feel small next to them. The creative efforts of human beings seem puny by contrast. We can dramatically alter many landscapes can level hills, redirect rivers, fill swamps, cover miles of green with pavement and skyscraper but mountains are remarkably resistant to human manipulation. They defy taming. There is also something timeless about them. They stand unchanged for ages. They silently proclaim a time before we were, and a time after we will be gone.

For those who believe in God, mountains have always provided not only a humbling perspective on humanity, but also an awesome perspective on the infinity and eternity of our Creator. Do mountains seem immense and unchanging to us? Yet, sang the Psalmist:

[Yehowah] looks at the earth and it trembles; He touches the hills and they smoke (Psalm 104:32, emphasis added).

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord (Psalm 97:5).

Mountains indeed seem ancient to us. Yet the prophets declared:

He looked … and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills bowed. His ways are everlasting! (Hab. 3:6, emphasis added).

Before the mountains were brought forth or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psalm 90:2).

The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from you (Isaiah 54:10).

Mountains and hills have been symbols through the ages of what is Divine, unchanging, eternal. In the Word they bring to our attention these qualities about the Lord, either by contrast, as in the passages we just read, or directly, as in our text:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains from whence comes my help. My help is from the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth (Psalm 121:1,2).

Here the mountains are the Lord. This Psalm is about the Lord’s perpetual watchfulness, guidance, protection. He is pictured as a watchman, who neither “slumbers nor sleeps” (vv. 3-5). He guards us constantly, by day and by night (v. 6). The Psalm ends:

The Lord shall preserve your going out and coming in, from this time forth, and even for evermore (v. 8).

“For evermore.” To eternity!

Our subject today is lifting our thought to the Lord, who is eternal life lifting “our eyes to the mountains.”

The Word tells us many things that we cannot know from mere sense experience, among them that our life is eternal. Our senses teach us that all things around us pass away. All living forms gradually grow old, their metabolism slows, they decompose. Even land formations and seas change and cease. Planets and suns grow cold or explode. Perhaps we can see that energy is conserved and conclude from experience that energy might be eternal. But this says nothing of individual human minds.

In our day-to-day lives we generally don’t sense life as eternal. We face the tasks at hand; we set goals that affect the foreseeable future next week, next month, in rare cases next year. For most of us life is busy and preoccupying. The needs of the body are relentless: food, clothing, shelter, sufficient comfort. The needs of the mind are ever with us too. More than ever before perhaps, we are aware of all sorts of things that we see as important for our proper maintenance and betterment. We have all sorts of goals and ambitions for our own mental well- being and for our children’s. This makes life very busy, and leaves little time for reflection on what is eternal.

When we ask the question, “What is eternal about our lives?,” we can think of “eternal” in two ways: we can think of it as a matter of what is timeless, or we can think of it as a matter of what is enduring through time, of what lasts.

Properly speaking, eternity is not a matter of time. It is not just an infinite amount of time. Eternity is as much this moment as it is a millenium (see TCR 31). The Lord, who is the eternal, has no beginning and no end; everything is present to Him, as the Psalmist suggested: “a thousand years in [His] sight are like yesterday when it is past” ( Psalm 90:4).

Time belongs to nature. We have time because physical matter defines distances, and movement across distances marks times. As the earth spins, it marks out regular periods of dark and light. As it moves around the sun, it marks our seasons and years.

Of course, the Lord does act in time. How else could He touch us and lead us? He is in all time, but apart from time, and in all space, apart from space (see TCR 31). He is not bounded by them or defined by them.

Certainly, for us eternity involves time. We have our beginning in time, we live in time, and we come to appreciate the Lord’s constancy and wisdom through time. It is impossible for us to envision the unbounded nature of the Divine without thinking of endless time (see TCR 31; AC 1382, 4204).

Still, we can all become aware that there is something beyond fixed time. It is a common observation that when we are engrossed in something, our sense of time vanishes. A minute can seem like an hour. We discover that what we thought had been an hour was actually two or three. The same is true when we are with someone we love for example, lost in conversation. Time becomes irrelevant! At that moment we have no other belief than that we will know and love that person two thousand years from now!

Our mind with its loves, affections, and thoughts is actually not in time; it too is “in time, apart from time.” We become so accustomed to disciplining our enjoyments and our thinking to a timetable that this can be hard to see, but it’s so. The mind knows no time! It grows and changes through time, but it always remains unbound by it. Our bodies grow old and wrinkles appear, our functions slow and become less vibrant, but our minds’ capacities for growth remain. Our capacity to love and empathize and understand what is important in life actually increases, provided we allow the Lord to regenerate us.

We have a common perception, especially about those whom we know well and love (e.g. spouses, children, friends), that they do not die with the body. The Lord implants in all people the perception that life is eternal. It’s not that He wishes to subtly persuade us to believe in the afterlife against our will. Rather, the perception simply results from the fact, which cannot be hidden, that unique human beings cannot die.

We are able, then, to sense that our life is eternal not with our physical senses but with our spiritual senses. The only requisite is that we have some idea, however scanty, about eternal life (which doubtless exists in every culture). And, of course, we must also reflect.

If we attend to our mental life, and withdraw our minds from the demands of the moment from bodily needs, from worldly cares, from concern about appointments and deadlines, from considerations of our age, the time of day, the time of year, our physical location then we can notice the timeless quality of our loves and thoughts, and of our deeper relationships with others. We can especially notice this when we reflect on what delights us, engages us, motivates us, sustains us. More particularly, we become aware of what is eternal, by lifting our thoughts to the things of heaven, lifting our “eyes unto the mountains.”

“Mountains” in the Word stand for heaven, as well as for the Lord. To be in heaven is to be in the Lord and in the eternal. In the spiritual world, when a newcomer looks toward some heaven and approaches, he sees mountains. The communities there actually appear to be in the mountains (see TCR 336; AE 405:5; e.g. CL 75:2,76,77).

Heaven is called “eternal life” in the Word. It is the place where one will live forever and not die. In a sense, life in heaven is no more eternal than life here. Angels’ lives are finite and limited, like ours. They are still bound by certain constraints of their world; they still change and grow and learn in finite steps that follow one after another. Day follows upon day with them as with us. There is a reality that appears just like our time (see HH 163; TCR 29).

An important difference is that in heaven life is not forced to take place within a fixed material universe, with its physical laws. There life unfolds according to the loves, strivings, and activities of the spirit. The laws in operation there are the laws of the mind. There time does not determine the course of the body’s changes; the state of mind does. The body stays as young and vibrant as the mental outlook. All things there are governed by considerations of states of mind.

For example, in heaven when an angel feels really inspired to serve the neighbor, it’s morning time, and he has a full day ahead of him. Time bows to his state of mind. He never has the frustration of feeling inspired at midnight when he can’t act on the inspiration. When an angel wishes to do something for another (the Lord willing), he never has the frustration of being fifty miles away; distance bows to his state of mind. When an angel begins to feel mentally tired and needs refreshment, it’s afternoon. (He can leave his active duties and find recreation.) When he begins to feel dull and in need of new inspiration, it’s evening. He is then in his home; he is removed from people (both spacially and mentally), where he can reflect on himself and rededicate himself to the Lord.

The spiritual world is this way in all respects: space and time follow mental states. All those in a given community experience a similar progression. The Lord gathers their states into a common flow and sequence that suits all.

So heaven is called “eternal life,” because there we will enjoy greater freedom from rigid, earthly time. Our bodies will never grow old and die. We will live a truly spiritual life, in which we can love and serve others more deeply and fully, in which we can enjoy a fuller sense of being in the Lord’s life and blessings. This is what He longs for.

It is vital that we think about eternal life! Our lives are filled with so many things. We can become so unmindful of what is important and lasting! We can forget to seek out that state of mind in which time is not a factor, in which the only thing that matters is our attitude and our goals, and what’s in our heart. These things alone are timeless; they alone have a lasting impact on our future. Reflecting that our life is eternal enables us to live for something larger than the moment. It enables us to live as spiritual and not worldly beings.

Consider the picture offered in our text of looking toward the mountains. Mountains offer us perspective. We cannot appreciate distances apart from contrast. If we look at the sky and set our gaze, even at a hundred miles, we are struck with little awe, for (unless there are clouds or an airplane) there is nothing that gives us a sense of that great distance. That distance might as well be a mile as a hundred miles. But when we look up at a mountain, or out from a mountain, the case is different. Then the distance before us becomes meaningful. We can trace this distance with our eye tree by tree, over farm, river, town. We can feel this distance. Sometimes we can sense the space before us palpably as a tingling in our stomach!

Similarly, eternal things, the things of heaven, give us a spiritual perspective that we can’t otherwise have. Without reflecting on what is eternal, we have no means of seeing the relative importance and value of what we are loving, thinking, or doing right now. We have no way of seeing genuine progress, or detecting how far afield we are straying. In fact, without reflecting on eternal life we have no true freedom! because the sense that our life is eternal is what gives real significance to our choices (see DP 73:6f; TCR 498).

A moment’s reflection on eternal life can lift us from the tangled forests of our natural lives, and place us on a mountain from which we can survey what is below. We can find quiet above the pressures of the moment, above the desires of our old will. We can feel new breezes of life. We can experience the Lord His enduring presence, His everlasting love, His awesome power, His timeless peace.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains

From whence comes my help.

My help is from the Lord,

Who made the heaven and the earth.


Lessons: Psalm 121; Luke 12:16-40; DP 59

Divine Providence 59

It has not been known before this that the Divine Providence in all its proceedings with a human being regards his eternal state. It can regard nothing else, because the Divine is Infinite and Eternal, and the Infinite and Eternal, that is, the Divine, is not in time, and hence all future things are present to Him. And because this is the nature of the Divine, it follows that the eternal is in all things that it does, in general and in particular. Those, however, who think from time and space have difficulty in perceiving this, not only because they love temporal things, but also because they think from what is present in the world and not from what is present in heaven, for this to them is as far away as the end of the earth. When, however, those who are in the Divine think from what is present, they think also from what is eternal, because they think from the Lord. They say to themselves, “What is that which is not eternal? Is not the temporal comparatively as nothing, and does it not also become nothing when it comes to an end? It is not so with what is eternal; that alone is, because its being (esse) has no end.” To think thus while thinking from what is present is to think at the same time from what is eternal; and when a person so thinks, and at the same time so lives, then the Divine Proceeding with him, that is, the Divine Providence, regards in all its progress the state of his eternal life in heaven, and leads him to that state. It will be seen in what follows that the Divine regards what is eternal in all people, the wicked as well as the good.



by Rev. Douglas M. Taylor

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

For centuries there has been but one standard interpretation of this teaching given by the Lord. It has been regarded as an unassailable proof that the Lord taught that there was no such thing as a married couple in heaven, that angels are not characterized or distinguished by sexes, that consequently all marriages are dissolved at death, and are never to be resumed in the other life. This is the way that people have thought when thinking from the doctrine of their church, though many, when thinking from common perception or common sense, have expressed belief in the idea that they will be re-united with their married partners. When thinking in this way, they invariably, and rightly, think of the partner as remaining of the same gender as he or she was while on earth. The notion that men in the other life are anything else but men, or women anything else but women, mercifully does not then enter their heads. Nor does the doctrine that prevails in the Christian world concerning our text come into the thought while one is thinking from common perception.

It is good that this is so, that common perception prevails over the common doctrine, because few things destroy a marriage of love truly conjugial more readily than does the notion that there is to be no marriage lasting into eternity. The teaching on this point ought to be clear, and indeed it is; for we are definitely taught that unless there is in the mind an idea of what is eternal in marriage, that is, an eternal companionship, the woman becomes less than a wife, and the man something less than a husband, and conjugial love perishes (see SD 6110:16, CL 216).

Yet the error of supposing that there are no married partners in heaven, while very serious, is nonetheless understandable. If once it is supposed, as is often done, that a human being is a human being from his body rather than from his mind or spirit, then it is fatally easy to fall further into error, the error of thinking that with bodily differences erased by death, those in the other world will be neither male nor female. If, further, it is thought that the married state is something less than perfect, a kind of natural permission for the sake of the propagation of the human race on earth – if, in other words, marriage is held to be inferior to the state of celibacy, as has been taught for centuries and is still being taught – then it is only to be expected that people would believe that angels would certainly not have anything to do with marriage. Such false and twisted ideas concerning life’s most precious jewel, a marriage of love truly conjugial, such falsities act like a pair of distorting spectacles before the eyes of many who read in the Word that the Lord said: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (text). Such false assumptions distort the vision of many readers of these words, causing them to see things there that were never written.

For example, it is not said there, nor anywhere else in the Word, that there are no married partners in heaven. It is said that after death they are like “the angels of God in heaven.” It is not said that the angels are a race apart from the human race, or that they live in a state of celibacy. That is an unwarranted assumption made unthinkingly for hundreds of years. Yet this is nowhere stated. The text does not say that there is no such thing as the state of marriage in the other life. For all joys from first to last, we are frequently taught and reminded in the Writings, are gathered into conjugial love; it is the container of all other delights. So it is that all in heaven are in the married state, and that in the Word heaven is actually compared to a marriage (see Matt. 22:2).

If married couples, while living together on earth, have begun to receive from the Lord a spiritual love of marriage, i.e. conjugial love, and if they have continued steadfastly in it and in the Lord’s commandments until the end of their days on earth, then their marriage will be resumed in the other world. They enter into heaven married. It is not necessary for them to marry or be given in marriage, for they are as the angels of God in heaven. But if a married couple, believing in the eternity of marriage and having love truly conjugial as their ideal, nevertheless find in the other life that there is a hitherto unsuspected internal dissimilarity that separates them, they will each be provided with a suitable partner with whom they may live as married partners in heaven. But note: it is not that they married or were given in marriage in heaven. The suitable partner is provided on the basis of the person’s ruling love, on the basis of the love that he or she attained while on earth. The partner has to be suitable to our degree of regeneration, for regeneration and acquiring conjugial love walk hand in hand. So the criterion is the same; it is our life on earth that determines the nature and quality of our married state in the other life. The marriage takes place before we come into heaven or it does not take place at all. “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (text).

This leads us to consider another kind of marriage that is also to be understood by the Lord’s words on this occasion. What the Lord was referring to inmostly was the marriage that has to take place in every human mind: the marriage or wedding of the will to the understanding. The mind consists of two parts, the will or affectional side, and the understanding or thinking side. The will is made up of affections or feelings, while the understanding is made up of thoughts and reasonings. The whole effort of our life on earth should be to make these two – the will side of the mind and the understanding – to act as one, to be no longer two but one flesh. This is done when we act according to what we believe and understand to be good and true. The understanding is first instructed in what is good and true, and then begins the struggle to bring the will into line with this new vision of heavenly life. What the understanding sees as the true and good way of life, the will must learn to love and live. Or, as the Writings express it, the doctrine of life in the understanding must become the life of doctrine in the will. In this way, when every deed matches our creed, our mind is united and at peace. One part is no longer battling with the other; the will and understanding work together in conjunction. They are wedded together, married to eternity.

It was this kind of marriage to which the Lord was primarily referring when He said that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” This marriage of good and truth, of will and understanding, of deed and creed, must take place in this life or it will never take place. In the resurrection it will be too late. After death, the will and the understanding do not many nor are they given in marriage. They must be united in this life.

But why did not the Lord explain this to the Sadducees when they tried to trap Him with their question about marriage in the afterlife? Why did not the Lord explain plainly that there is certainly a heavenly marriage, though it differs from an earthly one? Why did He allow the Christian Church, founded upon the words of His Gospel, to remain in such obscurity with regard to marriage? Could He not have given (at that time) the unambiguous explanation He has now given in the Writings?

No. That would have been worse than useless. The Lord in His infinite wisdom and mercy could perceive that mankind in general was incapable at that time of seeing such interior truths. Even the disciples, who were allowed to see more than the multitude, were unable to see the heavenly meaning of the parable of the sower, and needed to have it explained to them (see Luke 8:9). There were many things that they could not bear, including the doctrine about the spiritual marriage of good and truth, and the idea of a happy marriage to eternity. This was simply over the heads of the disciples.

Still less could the bodily-minded Sadducees have grasped even an introductory idea of a spiritual marriage. They were renowned for their complete denial of the afterlife. Concerning the nature of such people, we read: “When a man is such that he does not believe that he will live after death, he also disbelieves that there is anything internal which is spiritual and celestial; and such are those who live in mere lusts, because they live a mere life of the body and of the world, especially those who are immersed in loathsome avarice” (AC 1201).

These Sadducees were like that, and because their idea of marriage was manifestly restricted to the plane of the body, the concept of conjugial love, a love pure and clean above any other love of which mankind is capable, the concept of a spiritual kind of marriage, was quite beyond them. Even the Lord’s Divine wisdom itself on this subject would have been like thick darkness to their carnal minds. It was better, then, to let them think that there was no marriage in heaven than to have them defile the idea of a heavenly marriage with their gross, bodily ideas. For certain it is that there is no such thing in heaven as the kind of marriage the Sadducees had in mind. There is no such thing in heaven as marriage simply and solely for the sake of the propagation of physical offspring. The Lord’s words were literally true when applied to the Sadducees’ concept of marriage, and that is another reason for His speaking in the way He did.

In the work Heaven and Hell there is a passage explaining these words of the Lord with regard to marriage in the afterlife, in which it is said that while there are indeed married people in heaven, such marriages differ from those on earth. They differ principally in this, that there is no propagation of offspring. We read: “The procreation of offspring is another purpose of marriages on earth, but not of marriages in heaven, since in heaven the procreation of good and truth takes the place of the procreation of offspring …. In heaven marryings are spiritual, and cannot properly be called marryings, but conjunctions of minds from the conjunction of good and truth. But on earth there are marryings, because these are not of the spirit alone but also of the flesh” (HH 382b).

It should not be supposed from this, however, that in the other world the inhabitants are bodiless minds without shape or form. Let us recall the familiar teaching that there is a spiritual body as well as a natural body, and that when the natural body is put off by death, we live in the spiritual body, and this is an exact replica of the mind, a beautiful mind being represented or manifested by a beautiful spiritual body, a masculine mind being manifested in a male spiritual body, a feminine mind in a female spiritual body. So it is that in the heavens also the conjunction of minds resulting from the conjunction of good and truth descends into the body, the spiritual body, the only difference being that there is, in the nature of the case, no propagation of physical offspring, but instead the propagation of spiritual offspring, that is, of new affections and delights belonging to good and truth.

These and many other detailed teachings about marriages in heaven are given in the Writings, notably in the works Heaven and Hell and Conjugial Love, in both of which works a whole chapter is devoted to the subject. Besides this, there are sundry other references scattered throughout the Writings.

But to what purpose were such details with regard to a blissful marriage to eternity revealed? The answer has already been given in a general way. We have already seen the teaching of the Writings that unless there remains in the mind an idea of what is eternal with regard to marriage, that is, an eternal conjunction of minds, the woman is reduced to something less than a wife, the man becomes something less than a husband, and conjugial love perishes. It is of the utmost importance for the men and women of the New Church to understand this teaching and the implications of it, so that they can use it, because it is promised that to the New Jerusalem will be restored that precious jewel of life, conjugial love.

But this is not attained simply by being a member of a church organization. Conjugial love is given by the Lord according to His laws, according to His way of operation. It is received by mankind only in the proportion that what is contrary to conjugial love is shunned and rejected. And one of the forces most destructive of conjugial love in the world is the notion that there is no marriage in the afterlife, that marriage has nothing of eternity in it. Likewise, in a particular marriage, the failure to keep before the mind the ideal of a happy marriage continuing into eternity causes the loss of conjugial love in that marriage. To entertain constantly the idea that one’s married partner in this life is probably not going to be one’s conjugial partner in the spiritual world is to cause conjugial love to dry up in that particular marriage, leaving an inward coldness even if outwardly there is agreement.

Such is the teaching of the Writings, especially in the following passage: “The reason why those who are in love truly conjugial look to what is eternal is that there is eternity in that love; and its eternity is from the fact that this love with the wife and wisdom with the husband increase to eternity, and in their increase or progression married partners enter more and more deeply into the blessings of heaven, which their wisdom and its love at the same time store up within them. If therefore the idea of what is eternal were eradicated, or if in any case it were to escape from their minds, it would be as if they were cast down from heaven …. They are disunited as far as conjugial love is concerned, though not at the same time as to friendship, for this dwells in external things, but [conjugial love] in internals. It is the same in marriages on earth. There, when married partners tenderly love each other, they have what is eternal in their thoughts with regard to the covenant, and nothing at all of its end by death; and if they do think of this, they grieve, and yet in thought are comforted with the hope of its continuance after death” (CL 216a).

The same number from Conjugial Love goes on to give the experience of one couple in the spiritual world who sometimes believed that they would be eternal partners, but at other times lost this belief, the reason being that internally they were really dissimilar. When this became quite clear after death, they separated; but because they both believed in the eternity of marriage, each was provided with a partner who was internally similar.

So the conclusion is that it is the general denial of anything eternal in any marriage that destroys conjugial love. With regard to one’s own married partner in this life, the thought that he or she is internally dissimilar and will not be one’s eternal partner puts an end to any conjugial love in that particular marriage. However, if there remains the general acknowledgment that there is marriage in the heavens, a suitable partner can be provided in the other life; but under no circumstances can this be done if there is a confirmed denial of the eternity of conjugial love; for to deny this is to deny the inmost bliss of heaven.

The practical purpose for which the Lord has revealed so much about the nature of marriage in the heavens ought now to be clear. We are to hold steadfastly to the ideal of the eternity of marriage. We are to enter into our marriage with the conviction that it will last to eternity, and at all times we are to abhor the corroding thought that it will end at death. We are to act as if we know for certain that we are eternal partners, for only in this way can conjugial love, the container of all joys from first to last, be given by the Lord and preserved upon the earth. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 22:1-33; HH 382a&b, 383
Presented in Bryn Athyn October 30, 1994

Heaven and Hell

382 a&b. In the inmost heaven there is genuine marriage love because the angels there are in the marriage of good and truth, and also in innocence. The angels of the lower heavens are also in marriage love, but only so far as they are in innocence; for marriage love viewed in itself is a state of innocence; and this is why consorts who are in the marriage love enjoy heavenly delights together, which appear before their minds almost like the sports of innocence, as between little children; for everything delights their minds, since heaven with its joy flows into every particular of their lives. For the same reason marriage love is represented in heaven by the most beautiful objects. I have seen it represented by a maiden of indescribable beauty encompassed with a bright white cloud. It is said that the angels in heaven have all their beauty from marriage love. Affections and thought flowing from that love are represented by diamond-like auras with scintillations as if from carbuncles and rubies, which are attended by delights that affect the interiors of the mind. In a word, heaven itself is represented in marriage love because heaven with the angels is the conjunction of good and truth, and it is this conjunction that makes marriage love.

Marriages in heaven differ from marriages on the earth in that the procreation of offspring is another purpose of marriages on the earth, but not of marriages in heaven, since in heaven the procreation of good and truth takes the place of procreation of offspring. The former takes the place of the latter because marriage in heaven is a marriage of good and truth; and as in that marriage good and truth and their conjunction are loved above all things, so these are what are propagated by marriages in heaven. And because of this, in the Word births and generations signify spiritual births and generations, which are births and generations of good and truth; mother and father signify truth conjoined to good, which is what procreates; sons and daughters signify the truths and goods that are procreated; and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law conjunction of these, and so on. All this makes clear that marriages in heaven are not like marriages on earth. In heaven marryings are spiritual, and cannot properly be called marrying, but conjunctions of minds from the conjunction of good and truth. But on earth there are marryings because these are not of the spirit alone but also of the flesh. And as there are no marryings in heaven, consorts there are not called husband and wife, but from the angelic idea of the joining of two minds into one, each consort designates the other by a name signifying one’s own, mutually and reciprocally. This shows how the Lord’s words in regard to marrying and giving in marriage in Luke 20:35,36 are to be understood.

383. I have also been permitted to see how marriages are contracted in the heavens. As everywhere in heaven those who are alike are united and those who are unlike are separated, so every society in heaven consists of those who are alike. Like are brought to like not by themselves but by the Lord (see above, n. 41, 43, 44, seq.); and equally consort to consort whose minds can be joined into one are drawn together; and consequently at first sight they inmostly love each other and see themselves to be consorts, and enter into marriage. For this reason all marriages in heaven are from the Lord alone. They have also marriage feasts; and these are attended by many, but the festivities differ in different societies.