Most human beings have trouble understanding what the word “ETERNITY” means. This is probably because they identify with their physical body and tend to think in terms of finite matter, space and time. But, when we think about it more deeply, we discover that we are more acquainted with eternity than we realize. In fact, unlike our physical body which is actual, our loves and beliefs are eternal. Hence, our states of mind and emotion reside in eternity. This is also probably why, when we fall into mental and emotional depression, we feel as if we are doomed forever. The material or physical world is actual and finite but the spiritual world is eternal; it is omnipresent. Our physical body is in a specific place and time but our mind and heart are in an eternal state.

Our physical body exists in the finite world of space, matter and time but our spiritual body, which consists of our loves and beliefs, subsists in the eternal world of spirit. We may have all read about “eternal salvation” and “eternal damnation” in the Bible, although we may have not quite understood what was meant by these Biblical terms. However, we may now clearly understand what they mean.

Most human beings become so absorbed with their temporal survival and physical circumstances on earth that they ignore their state of being. But we should be more concerned with the state of our loves and beliefs because this state is ETERNAL; it will last forever. Our physical body may die and disintegrate but our spiritual body of loves and beliefs will remain forever. And, if we reform our mind through repentance and regenerate our will through spiritual temptation, we will be saved eternally by the Lord and be able to enter the beautiful and delightful eternal states of Heaven. However, if we remain in self-love and self-intelligence, our eternal state will not be very pleasant.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7: 24-27

Everyone Can Be Reformed, and There Is No Such Thing as Predestination

Sound reason tells us that everyone is predestined to heaven and no one to hell. We are all born human, which means that we have the image of God within us. The image of God within us is our ability to discern what is true and to do what is good. Our ability to discern what is true comes from divine wisdom and our ability to do what is good comes from divine love. This ability is the image of God; it is enduring with everyone who is whole and is never erased. It is why we can become civic, moral individuals; and if we can become civic and moral individuals, we can become spiritual individuals, since civic and moral life is receptive of spiritual life. We are called civic individuals if we know and abide by the laws of the country we are living in. We are called moral individuals if we make habits and virtues of these laws and live by them for rational reasons.

[2] Next I need to say how civic and moral living is receptive of spiritual living. Live by these laws not only as civic and moral laws but also as divine laws and you will be a spiritual person.

There is hardly a nation so barbaric that it does not have laws forbidding murder, promiscuity with other people’s spouses, theft, perjury, and violation of others’ rights. Civic and moral individuals keep these laws in order to be or to seem to be good citizens; but if they do not regard them as divine laws as well, they are civic and moral individuals only on the earthly level. On the other hand, if they do regard them as divine laws, they become civic and moral spiritual individuals.

The difference is that in the latter instance they are not just good citizens of their earthly kingdom, they are good citizens of the kingdom of heaven as well; in the former instance they are good citizens of their earthly kingdom but not of the kingdom of heaven. It is the good they do that makes the difference. The good that worldly civic and moral individuals do is not intrinsically good because they themselves and the world are at its heart. The good that civic and moral spiritual individuals do is intrinsically good because the Lord and heaven are at its heart.

[3] This shows that since we are all born capable of becoming civic and moral individuals on the earthly level, we are also born capable of becoming civic and moral individuals on the spiritual level. All we have to do is acknowledge God and not do evils because they are against God, and do what is good because that is for God. Doing this enables the spirit to enter into our civic and moral acts, and they come to life. Otherwise there is no spirit in our acts, and they are not alive. This is why worldly people are called “dead” no matter how civic and moral their behavior is, while spiritual people are called “living.”

[4] Under the Lord’s divine providence, every nation has a religion, and the first principle of every religion is a recognition of the existence of God. Otherwise we cannot call it a religion. Every nation that lives by its religion–that is, that does not do evil because it is against its God — is given a spiritual element within its worldly life.

Imagine hearing non-Christians say that they do not want to do some evil thing because it is against their God. Is there anyone who would not say inwardly that these people are saved? Nothing else seems possible; that is what sound reason tells us. Conversely, suppose some Christian says, “One evil or another does not matter to me. What is this business about saying that it’s against God?” Is there anyone who would not say inwardly that this person is not saved? It seems impossible; that is what sound reason tells us.

[5] If this individual says, “I was born Christian, I was baptized, I have confessed the Lord, read the Word, and taken the Holy Supper,” does all this matter if this individual has a craving for murder and revenge, for adultery, surreptitious theft, perjury, lies, and all kinds of violence, and does not regard them as sins? Are people like this thinking about God or about some eternal life? Do they think that they exist? Surely sound reason tells us that people like this cannot be saved.

I make these statements about Christians because non-Christians pay more attention to God than Christians do, because their religion is in their life.

I need now to say more about this, though, in the following sequence.

1 The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race.

2 Consequently, under divine providence everyone can be saved; and everyone is saved who believes in God and lives a good life.

3 It is our own fault if we are not saved.

4 This means that everyone is predestined to heaven and no one to hell. The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race. I have explained in Heaven and Hell (published in London in 1758) and earlier in the present work [27] that heaven is made up solely of individuals who have been born as people on earth; and since these are the only inhabitants of heaven, it follows that the ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race. I explained in 27-45 above that this is the purpose of creation, but this will become even clearer from the following details. (a) Everyone is created to live forever. (b) Everyone is created to live forever in a blessed state. (c) This means that everyone is created to go to heaven. (d) Divine love cannot do otherwise than intend this and divine wisdom cannot do otherwise than provide for this.

Since this also shows us that divine providence is a predestination only to heaven and that it cannot be changed into anything else, I need to show at this point that the ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race, and I need to do so in the order just proposed.

(a) Everyone is created to live forever. In parts 3 and 4 of Divine Love and Wisdom, I explained that we have three levels of life called earthly [natural], spiritual, and heavenly [celestial], and that these levels are active in each one of us. I also noted that there is only one level of life in animals, a level like the lowest level in us, the one called earthly. It then follows that unlike animals, we can have our life so lifted toward the Lord that we enter a state in which we can discern things that come from divine wisdom and intend things that come from divine love, and in this way can accept something divine. If we can accept what is divine to the extent that we see and sense it within ourselves, then we must necessarily be able to be united to the Lord and to live forever because of this union.

[2] What would the Lord have been doing with all this creating of a universe if he had not made images and likenesses of himself with whom he could share his divine nature? Otherwise, it would only have been making something so that it existed and did not exist, or so that it happened and did not happen, and doing this only so that he could simply watch its permutations from far away, watch its ceaseless changes like something happening on a stage. What divine purpose would there be in all these changes unless they were serving subjects who would accept something divine more intimately, who would see and sense it? Since Divinity has inexhaustible splendor, would it simply keep it all to itself? Could it keep it all to itself? Love wants to share what it has with others, to give to others all that it can. What about divine love, then, which is infinite? Can it first give and then take back? Would this not be giving something that was bound to perish — that was intrinsically nothing, since it would become nothing when it perished? There is no real “is” involved in that. Divinity, though, gives what truly is, or what does not cease to be. This is what is eternal.

[3] To enable us to live forever, what is mortal is taken from us. That mortal part is our material body, which is taken from us by death. This lays bare what is immortal about us, which is our mind, and we then become spirits in human form. Our mind is that kind of spirit.

The sages and wise ones of old saw that our mind could not die. They asked how a spirit or a mind could die when it could be wise. Hardly anyone nowadays knows the ancients’ deeper concept of the matter, but it was a concept from heaven that resulted in their general sense that God is wisdom itself, that we share in that wisdom, and that God is immortal or eternal.

[4] There is also something I can say from experience, because I have been allowed to talk with angels. I have talked with some who lived many centuries ago, with some from before the Flood and some from after it, with some from the time of the Lord, with one of his apostles, and with many who lived in subsequent centuries. They all looked like people in the prime of life and told me that the only thing they knew about death was that it was damnation.

When people who have lived good lives get to heaven, they all enter the young adulthood of their earthly lives and keep it forever, even though they had been old and debilitated in the world. Women, even women who had become old and frail in the world, return to the flower of youth and beauty.

[5] We can see from the Word that we live forever after death, in passages where life in heaven is called eternal life. See, for example, Matthew 19:29; 25:46; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; 18:30; John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24, 25, 39; 6:27, 40, 68; 12:50. Or it is simply called “life,” as in Matthew 18:8, 9; John 5:40; 20:31. The Lord told the disciples, “Because I am alive, you will also live” (John 14:19), and he said of the resurrection that God is God of the living and not God of the dead, and that they could no longer die (Luke 20:36, 38).

6 Everyone is created to live forever in a blessed state. This is a corollary, since the One who wants us to live forever wants us to live in a blessed state as well. Otherwise, what would eternal life be? Love always wants what is good for others. Parents’ love wants what is good for their children; a groom’s or husband’s love wants what is good for his bride or wife; our love in friendship wants what is good for our friends; so why not divine love? Further, what is goodness if it is not pleasing, and as for divine good, what is it if it is not eternal bliss? We call things good because of the pleasure or blessedness they provide. We do refer to things that we are given or own as “good,” but unless they give us pleasure, it is a barren kind of goodness that is not really good at all. We can see, then, that eternal life is eternal blessedness as well.

This state of humanity is the ultimate goal of creation, and the Lord is not to blame if only the people who get to heaven enjoy it. That is our own fault, as we shall shortly see.

7 This means that everyone is created to go to heaven. This is the ultimate goal of creation. The reason not everyone gets to heaven, though, is that people immerse themselves in pleasures of hell that are contrary to the blessedness of heaven. People who do not enjoy heaven’s bliss cannot enter heaven because they cannot stand the place.

When we arrive in the spiritual world, no one is forbidden to come up to heaven, but if we enjoy the pleasures of hell, then as soon as we get to heaven our hearts pound, we struggle for breath, our life starts to ebb away, we are in pain, tortured, and we writhe like snakes next to a flame. This happens because opposites actively oppose each other.

[8] Even so, since we were born human, which provides us with the ability to think and intend and therefore to talk and act, we cannot actually die. Since we are unable to live with others unless their life pleasures are like ours, we are remanded to the company of such people. This means that if we have enjoyed the pleasures of evil, we are sent off to our own kind, as we are if we have enjoyed the pleasures of what is good. In fact, we are all allowed to enjoy the pleasure of our own evil, provided only that we do not make trouble for people who enjoy the pleasure of what is good. However, since evil cannot help but make trouble for the good because of its inherent hatred for everything good, we are sent away to keep us from doing actual harm and sent down to our places in hell, where our pleasure turns into displeasure.

[9] All this does not cancel the fact that by creation and therefore by birth we have the inherent possibility of getting to heaven. All the people who die in early childhood go to heaven. They are raised and taught there the way we are in this world. They absorb wisdom because of their desire for what is good and true, and they become angels. People who are raised and taught in this world could do the same, since what is in little children is also in them. On little children in the spiritual world, see Heaven and Hell 329-345 (published in London in 1758).

[10] The reason it is different for so many people in the world is that they love that first level of life called “earthly.” They do not want to let go of it and become spiritual — left to itself, this earthly level of life has no love for anything but ourselves and the world. It stays glued to our physical senses, which take center stage in this world. In contrast, the spiritual level of life has an inherent love for the Lord and heaven and also for ourselves and the world. God and heaven come first, though, as primary and definitive, while our selves and the world come second, as tools or servants.

11 Divine love cannot do otherwise than intend this and divine wisdom cannot do otherwise than provide for this. In Divine Love and Wisdom, there is ample evidence that the divine essence is divine love and wisdom. I also explained in 358-370 of that work that the Lord forms two vessels in every human embryo, one for divine love and one for divine wisdom. The vessel for divine love is for what will be our volition, and the vessel for divine wisdom is for what will be our discernment. This means that each of us has been given the inner ability to intend what is good and to discern what is true.

[12] Since the Lord has put these two human abilities in us at birth, and since the Lord is therefore within us in those abilities as his gifts, we can see that his divine love can intend only that we come into heaven and enjoy eternal blessedness there. We can also see that divine wisdom can provide only that this happen.

However, since the Lord’s divine love wants us to feel that heaven’s blessedness within us is our own, and since this cannot happen unless we feel absolutely as though we are doing our own thinking and intending, talking and acting, we can be led only in ways that follow the laws of the Lord’s divine providence. Emanuel Swedenborg [DP 322-324]