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New Church Perspective
is an online magazine with essays and other content published weekly. Our features are from a variety of writers dealing with a variety of topics, all celebrating the understanding and application of New Church ideas. For a list of past features by category or title, visit our archive.

Entries in life after death (12)


Utterly Enchanted

There are parts of the Bible that seem no longer relevant in modern life. This week Helen demonstrates a way of taking the information we have from Swedenborg's Writings and making applicable connections about those passages. -Editor.

Sometimes in his Writings, Swedenborg tells us of a person who lived in the past. It usually makes me stop and think about being alive hundreds, or maybe thousands, of years from now, like in the line from the hymn, Amazing Grace, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years…” As I turn back to the page, Swedenborg is telling me something about the state of the person from the past.

One such example is Cicero (Jan 3, 106 BC – Dec 7, 46 BC). Because he lived in ancient Rome, he would not have known about the Word unless he came in contact with some Jewish traders. He certainly learned about it when he went into the next life, though, because Swedenborg relates the following about him,

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Why Read the Word/Bible? 

Reading the Word can be confusing, but this week Helen offers a way of reading it to enjoy the mystery and the pieces to be puzzled over and put together in an effort to understand our loving creator. -Editor.

Many of us love mysteries and knowing something deeper is meant, then trying to ferret out what the meaning is. An example for those who are older is 'Rosebud' in the movie, Citizen Kane, or, for middle aged people, the symbolism and powers of the ‘Ark’ in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A movie fraught with symbolism is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In it a man and woman are inexplicably lured to a volcano-like mountain in Wyoming. In its time this movie was spellbinding to the public, and when the meaning was finally revealed, it turned out that extra-terrestrial beings were trying to talk with people on earth.

It’s easy to place God into that story, because he is an extra-terrestrial being communicating with people here on the Earth, or at least trying to. He did for many thousands of years in pre-history, but failure in the lines of communication kept occurring and eventually they became fully blocked. Way back when, his wisdom showed that he needed to come here on the Earth and talk with people directly. But before he could do that, he symbolically represented that he was going to do it, which helped hold open the lines for the centuries between the Fall of Adam and his birth here on Earth.

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My Spiritual World 

Sometimes the stories in the Bible can feel inapplicable, and even when we have access to the inner meanings behind them they take work to relate to. Here Susan uses the teachings of the New Church to find the humour, interest, and applicability in the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. -Editor.

Emanuel Swedenborg explained that laughter is a spiritual (as opposed to celestial) indicator. Reading Arcana Coelestia made parts of the New Testament funny to me, so ‘celestial’ is not me. I will not find myself sitting at the popular kids’ table in the afterlife. I will be snickering along with the other yahoos in the second heaven (I hope).

Martha (Luke 10:38-42) represents the spiritual realm while her sister Mary represents the celestial. Technically, they are the spiritual and celestial of the natural, but I will leave out the details and concentrate on how endearingly hilarious Martha is.

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The Death of the Fear of Death

Erica vividly describes the path of her life. She shares a delicate awareness gained firsthand - the resolution to an abiding question - what is death, and must I fear it? -Editor.

As a child, while most little girls were learning how to tie their shoes and walk to school by themselves, I was busy working on a more distressing task: figuring out what happens when we die. I developed the awareness very early that I would not exist forever in my current form. I was young, healthy and growing, without ever knowing anyone who died, so this existential question was slightly unexpected. I cannot identify the exact moment I was hit by this painful and terrorizing realization (and it truly felt like a blow), but I can remember staying up countless nights, trying to determine the answer. What would happen after my body ceased to exist? When the sun blew out, how could I ever come back to life if there was no habitable planet for me? What did infinity and forever look like, and how was it possible that my whole life was just a small blip on the radar screen of eternity?

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What Art has to do with Faith 

Ayisha reflects on how the tenets of the New Church have yet to be fully embodied in forms of art. She ponders how these images may augment our experience of God. What are we waiting for? -Editor.

There's an idea out there that heaven is dull. In fact, I can quote someone on it: “I dunno. Heaven just always seems kinda boring to me. Like, who'd wanna go there?”

It's an understandable view, given traditional interpretations of heaven. Take a person with a Christian-ish background, who has a good work ethic and a general zest for life. If their view of heaven is an expectation that they will be sexless, living to eternity playing a harp on a cloud, with a pair of wings that excludes them from small human luxuries like tree-climbing and sleeping on their backs, then it would be no wonder if their desire for heaven were only an obedient one. They feel they ought to want to go to heaven, but they may dread it in reality.

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Do You Think the World Will End in Your Lifetime? Part 2

In part two (part one may be found here) Judah looks at the bible for evidence of the resurrection being either an absolutely material event, as Millennialists would have it, or a spiritual reality apart from time and space. Judah finds confirmation of the latter, supported by Swedenborg's vision of a concrete spiritual world. -Editor

Why celebrate New Church Day? What makes the New Church different from any other Christian group? I could compare New Church ideas and practices with a variety of other faith traditions in an effort to explain why it is unique, but you’re probably familiar with the results of such a comparison: the New Church believes in a one-person rather than a three-person God; it teaches a life of repentance; it proclaims that heaven’s gates are open to all good people everywhere, whatever their race, their culture, or their religion. But instead of broadly pointing out the teachings that set apart (or at least define) the New Church, I would like to follow up my previous article on the end of the world by contrasting a New Church view of human resurrection with that of Dispensational Premillennialism. I hope this little study gives you a small but specific sense of how an approach shaped by New Church teachings can revitalize Biblical study—and transform the prospect of death into a balanced hope for an afterlife that is at once concrete and spiritual, at once present and future, and entirely grounded in a personal approach to Jesus Christ in sacred scripture.

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