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'Soul Carried to Heaven,' by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a 19th-century French traditionalist.

The Writings offer a tremendous amount of material on angels. The book "Heaven and Hell" offers detailed discussions as it describes heaven; "Conjugial Love" has much to say about marriage and romantic love in heaven; "Divine Love and Wisdom" offers insight into how angels in their nature reflect the nature of the Lord. So we'll offer some basics here and recommend those books to those who want more detail.

(References: Divine Love and Wisdom 231; Divine Providence 60)

Basically, the Writings say that if people in this life open themselves to the Lord, follow the Lord's teachings and let the Lord change their selfish desires into generous loves, they will go to heaven as angels after they die. If they don't, and instead embrace their selfishness, they will go to hell as evil spirits. The Writings also say that this is the only source of angels and evil spirits - they were all once people. There is no separately created race of angels, no fallen angel Lucifer who is now the Devil; that belief is based solely on a few lines of misinterpreted scripture.

This makes sense if you look at it logically. If the Lord could create beings that would live in love and harmony with him with no possibility of evil, why would He have bothered with us? Why not just make more of them? The fact is, such beings would not have any choice in their actions, making them no better than animals. And ultimately, if they were purely good then they would really just be extensions of the Lord, so in loving them He would be loving Himself. The reverse is true of the idea of Satan or "the" Devil. The Lord creates us from love so that he can love us, bring us to heaven and make us happy. For Satan to exist, the Lord would have had to create him, and it would be contrary to His essence to create something that was not intended for heaven, for joy, and for union with the Lord.

So angels were once people, who got to be angels by embracing the idea of being good and followed the Lord's teachings as best they could. The Writings make it clear these people can come from anywhere, from any religious background. Some churches may have doctrine that is closer to the truth than others, but the point of any religion is for people to desire to be good and try to be good using the tools they have.

When those people die, they go first to a place called the "world of spirits." There everyone who has recently died can learn about the Lord and spiritual life and prepare for heaven. There also, people's inner affections start showing on the surface; those who are ultimately evil start losing the ability to cover it up, and the love starts shining through for those who are ultimately good. As this continues and as people learn more, they naturally start congregating with others who have similar loves. This way evil people eventually take themselves to hell, where they can be with others who share their evil. Good people, on the other hand, can be prepared for heaven.

Two important things have to happen for us to truly enter fully into heaven. First, the Lord will push aside our remaining evil desires, so they cannot hurt us or tempt us anymore; angels are in a marvelous state of peace, with no active evil to trouble them. Second, we will each be led by the Lord to the perfect married partner, the one whose soul matches ours, the one we can love blissfully to eternity. All angels are married, because the marriage of a man and a woman represents the marriage of love and wisdom in the Lord, and also the marriage of the desire for good and understanding of truth in each of us. Because of this, we can only fully receive and return the Lord's love as married partners, and heaven is suffused with the sphere of marriage and the love of marriage.

The angelic couples will find their way to communities of other angels whose loves match their own, people with whom they can share the deepest friendships imaginable. They will have houses which reflect the character of their loves, and will be given work to do that springs from their loves and fills them with joy. Beyond that, their lives are much as life might be in this world, though free of sickness and aging and boredom and conflict. They have bodies that are human in form - no wings! - but a beauty in face and form that reflects the good loves they have inside. They eat and drink and laugh and sleep and have parties and games; all filled with the delight of mutual love.

The Writings tell us the work angels do is varied far beyond what we can imagine, though they only describe a few aspects. Among other things, angels care for people in this life, passing on to them true ideas and desires for good from the Lord. They also teach those in the World of Spirits, greet those who have just died, raise those who died as children, keep order in hell and do many other things.

We would finally note that there are three degrees of angelic life, based on the loves people embraced in this life. The first, lowest heaven, called the "natural heaven," is filled by those who are in the love of service. Angels there love to do what's right because they know it is right. The second, middle heaven, called the spiritual heaven, is filled by those who are in the love of the neighbor. Angels there love to engage their minds with spiritual questions to gain an ever-deeper understanding of how to be loving to one another. The third, highest heaven, known as celestial, is filled with those who are in love of the Lord Himself. From that love they have such innocence that they look like children, and they instantly perceive what is true, in all its variety, from the light of that love.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 228, 454, 1802, 2551, 2572 [3-4], 5470, 6872 [2-3], 8747, 9503, 9814 [2], 10604 [2-4]; Conjugial Love 44 [6-10], 52; Divine Love and Wisdom 19, 63, 71, 115, 116, 202, Divine Love and Wisdom 321, 322, 334; Heaven and Hell 75, 133, 266, 267, 304, 311, 415; The Apocalypse Revealed 818)

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #9503

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9503. 'And you shall put into the ark the Testimony' means Divine Truth, which is the Lord in heaven. This is clear from the meaning of 'the ark' as heaven, dealt with above; and from the meaning of 'the Testimony' as Divine Truth, thus the Lord in heaven, dealt with below. The reason why Divine Truth is the Lord in heaven is that the Lord is Goodness itself and Truth itself, for both emanate from Him and He Himself composes what emanates from Him. So it is that the Lord is heaven, for Divine Truth which emanates from Him and is received by the angels makes heaven. Consequently the more perfect the manner in which angels receive Divine Truth that comes from the Lord and accordingly receive the Lord, the more perfect the human forms they possess. Eventually they become so perfect that their beauty surpasses belief; anyone who sees them, as I have done, will be dumbfounded. For in their outward form angels are manifestations of heavenly love and charity, and that is the truly human form. The reason why angels possess human forms is that the Divine in heaven is the Lord, and those who receive Divine Truth within good from Him are images of Him.

(References: John 18:37)

[2] As regards the meaning of 'the Testimony', a distinction is drawn in the Word between laws, statutes, judgements, commandments, testimonies, words, commands, truths, and covenants, as may be recognized from a number of places, especially in David's Psalms 119, where all these terms occur, testimonies doing so in verses 2, 14, 31, Exodus 25:46, Exodus 25:59, Exodus 25:88, Exodus 25:99, Exodus 25:111, Exodus 25:119, Exodus 25:125, Exodus 25:138, Exodus 25:144, Exodus 25:168. A like distinction occurs elsewhere in the same author,

The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple; the commands of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes; the judgements of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether. Psalms 19:7-9.

The like occurs in Moses, at Deuteronomy 4:45; 6:17, 20; also in Jeremiah 44:23; and many times elsewhere. From all this it may be recognized that 'the Testimony' means Divine Truth, which testifies of the Lord, and so means the Word. For in the highest sense of the Word the only subject is the Lord, and this is why the internal sense testifies of Him, that is, contains teachings about Him and about the truths of faith and forms of the good of love which He is the source of. 'Testimony' is again used with this meaning in the Book of Revelation,

... those who had been killed on account of the Word of God and on account of the testimony which they had. Revelation 6:9.

And elsewhere,

They conquered the dragon by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. Revelation 12:11.

'The blood of the Lamb' is Divine Truth emanating from the Lord, Arcana Coelestia 7846, 7877, 9127, 9393, while 'the word of their testimony' is Divine Truth received by man. 'Testimony' is used with the same meaning at Revelation 12:17; 19:10.

(References: John 15:26-27; Psalms 119:95, 119:144, 119:138, 119:88, 119:46, 119:59, 119:168, 119:125, 119:111, 119:31, 119:119, 119:2, 119:99, 119:14, 119:129)

[3] The fact that Divine Truth emanating from the Lord is called 'the Testimony' because it testifies of the Lord is clear from the Lord's own words in John,

He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, that He testifies. He who receives His testimony has set his seal [to this], that God is truthful. John 3:31-33.

In the same gospel,

I am One who testifies of Myself; and He, the Father, who sent Me testifies of Me. John 8:18.

In the same gospel,

Search the Scriptures; and it is they that testify of Me. John 5:39.

And in the same gospel,

The Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, He will testify of Me. John 15:26, 27.

From all this it is clear that Divine Truth is called the Testimony because it testifies of the Lord. This Divine Truth is the Word, for as stated above, the only subject in the highest sense of the Word is the Lord; this is what makes the Word Divine and therefore what makes it holy. Furthermore the Ten Words or the Law which were declared from Mount Sinai, inscribed on two tablets [of stone], and stored in the ark, is what is here called the Testimony. For that Law means the Word or Divine Truth emanating from the Lord, in its entirety, see Arcana Coelestia 9416. It is evident from the Lord's own words to Pilate that He is the One from whom Divine Truth comes,

Pilate said, Are you a king? Jesus answered, You say [it, because] I am a King. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, that I may bear testimony to the truth. John 18:37.

'A king' in the internal sense means Divine Truth, see Arcana Coelestia 1672, 2015, 2069, 3009, 3670, 4581, 4966, 5044, 5068, 6148. This was why the Lord said, 'I am a King' and, 'For this I was born, that I may bear testimony to the truth', that is, that He Himself is Divine Truth. From all this it is now evident that 'the Testimony' in the ark means Divine Truth and so the Lord in heaven.

(References: Exodus 25:16; John 15:26-27)

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