Heaven and Hell

There are two elements that constitute our spiritual life: love and faith. Love constitutes the life of our will and faith constitutes the life of our understanding. A love of what is good and a consequent faith in what is true make up the life of heaven, and a love of what is evil and a consequent faith in what is false make up the life of hell.

Love for the Lord and love for one’s neighbor constitute heaven. Faith, too, constitutes heaven, but only to the extent that we lead our lives according to it. Further, since both love and the faith that goes with it come from the Lord, we can see that the Lord himself constitutes heaven.

For each of us, heaven is within us to the extent that we accept love and faith from the Lord; and if we accept love and faith from the Lord while we are living in this world, we enter heaven after death.

The people who accept heaven from the Lord are the ones who have heaven within themselves, because heaven is within us. This is what the Lord teaches us:

They will not say, “See, the kingdom of God is here!” or “See, it is there!” Behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

The heaven that is within us is in our inner self. It is present in our willing and thinking from love and faith. As a result it is also present in our outer self, in which we act and speak from love and faith. Heaven is not, however, present in our outer self apart from our inner self; after all, every hypocrite can do and say good things without willing and thinking good things.

When we arrive in the other life, which happens immediately after death, others can see whether heaven is within us, though this is not visible while we are living in this world. You see, what shows in this world is our outer self, not our inner self, while in the other life our inner self appears because then we are living as spirits.

Eternal happiness, which is also called heavenly joy, is given to people who live and walk in a love for the Lord that comes from the Lord and a faith in him that comes from him. This love and faith have heavenly joy within them. If we have heaven within ourselves we come into heavenly joy after death; until then it lies hidden in our inner self.

There is in heaven a sharing of everything that is good. The peace, intelligence, wisdom, and happiness of all are shared with every individual there, though the individuals’ capacity for it is determined by the amount of love and faith they have accepted from the Lord. This shows how much peace, intelligence, wisdom, and happiness there is in heaven.

Just as love for the Lord and love for our neighbor constitute a life of heaven for us, so love for ourselves and love for the world, when they are in control, constitute a life of hell for us, because these latter loves are the opposites of the former. So people whose love for themselves and love for the world are in control are incapable of accepting anything from heaven. What they accept comes from hell. Whatever we love and whatever we believe comes either from heaven or from hell.

People in whom love for themselves and love for the world are in control do not realize what heaven and heavenly happiness are. They cannot believe that happiness can be found in any kind of love other than self-love and love for the world. Yet the fact is that we feel the happiness of heaven to the extent that we put these loves aside as our goals. After these loves have been put aside, the happiness that follows is so great that it is beyond human comprehension.

Our life cannot be changed after death. It retains the nature it had, because the nature of our spirit depends entirely on what our love is like, and a hellish love cannot be transformed into a heavenly one, because they are opposites. This is the meaning of what Abraham said to the rich man in hell:

“Between you and us there is a great gulf, so that those who want to cross over to you cannot, and neither can those from there cross over to us” (Luke 16:26).

This shows that people who enter hell stay there to eternity and people who enter heaven stay there to eternity.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 230-239


We are created in such a way that as far as our inner being is concerned we cannot die. This is because we can believe in God and can also love God; so we can be joined to God by faith and love, and to be joined to God is to live forever.

Everyone who is born has this “inner being.” Our outer being is our inner being’s means of carrying out the intentions of its faith and love.

The inner being is what we call “the spirit,” and the outer being is what we call “the body.” The outer being, called the body, is adapted to functioning in an earthly world. It is cast off when we die. But the inner being, called the spirit, is adapted to functioning in a spiritual world. It does not die. If we have been a good person in this world, our inner being is then a good spirit and an angel; if we have been an evil person in this world, our inner being is then an evil spirit.

After the death of the body, our spirit has a human form that is visible in the spiritual world, just as it had a human form that was visible in this world. Our spirit enjoys the abilities to see, hear, speak, and have sensations, just as it did in this world, and is endowed with every faculty of thinking, willing, and doing, just as it was in this world. In a word, we are human beings in absolutely every respect, except that we are not clothed with the dense body we wore in this world. That we leave behind when we die, and we never put it back on.

This continuation of our life is what is meant by “the resurrection.” The reason people believe that they will not be resurrected until the Last Judgment, when the whole visible world is allegedly going to perish, is that they have not understood the Word. It is also because sense-oriented people locate life in the body and believe that unless their bodies are revived it will be all over for them.

Our life after death is the life of our love and our faith, so the kind of love and faith we have when we live in this world determines the kind of life that will be ours to eternity. It is a life of hell for people who have loved themselves and the world above all, but it is a life of heaven for people who have loved God above all and their neighbor as themselves. The latter are the ones who have faith; the former do not.

The life of heaven is what is called “eternal life.” The life of hell is what is called “spiritual death.”

The Word tells us that we live after death. It says, for example, that God is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22:32); that Lazarus was carried up into heaven after his death, but the rich man was cast down into hell (Luke 16:22, 23, and following); that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are in heaven (Matthew 8:11; 22:31, 32; Luke 20:37, 38); and that Jesus said to the thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

from New Jerusalem, Sections 223-228

The Holy Supper

The Holy Supper was instituted by the Lord so that through it the church would be joined to heaven and to himself. Therefore it is the holiest form of worship.

However, people who do not know anything about the inner or spiritual meaning of the Word do not grasp how the Holy Supper accomplishes this joining together, because their thoughts do not go beyond the Word’s outward meaning, which is its literal meaning. It is from the Word’s inner or spiritual meaning that we know what is meant by the body and the blood, the bread and the wine, and eating.

In the spiritual meaning, the Lord’s body or flesh, like the bread, is the goodness of love, and the Lord’s blood, like the wine, is the goodness of faith, while eating is our making these kinds of goodness our own and becoming joined to the Lord by them. This is how the angels who are with us when we are taking the Holy Supper understand it, because they perceive everything spiritually. Therefore holy love and holy faith flow into us from the angels—that is, through heaven from the Lord—at that time, and this brings about the partnership.

We can see from this that when we take the bread, which is the body, we are joined to the Lord through the goodness of love for him that comes from him; and that when we take the wine, which is the blood, we are joined to the Lord through the goodness of faith in him that comes from him.

It is important to know, however, that this being joined to the Lord through the sacrament of the Supper occurs only for people who are devoted to the goodness of love for the Lord and faith in the Lord that come from the Lord. For such people this joining together takes place through the Holy Supper; for others there is no joining together, but the Lord is nonetheless present with them.

Furthermore, the Holy Supper includes and encompasses all the worship of God instituted in the Israelite church. In fact, the burnt offerings and sacrifices that were central to the worship of that church were collectively referred to as “bread.” The Holy Supper, then, also serves as the culmination of all those practices.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 210-214


Baptism was instituted as a sign that an individual belongs to the church and as a reminder that she or he needs to be regenerated. The washing of baptism is actually the spiritual washing that is regeneration.

All our regeneration is carried out by the Lord, by means of truths that belong to religious faith and by a life in accord with those truths. This means that baptism is a witness that an individual belongs to the church and is capable of being regenerated, because it is in the church that the Lord, who regenerates us, is acknowledged; and it is there that we find the Word, which contains the truths of religious faith that are required for our regeneration.

The Lord teaches us this in John: “Unless you have been born of water and the spirit you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Water,” spiritually understood, is truth for our faith that is drawn from the Word, “the spirit” is a life in accord with that truth, and “being born” is being regenerated as a result of both.

Since everyone who is being regenerated also undergoes crises of the spirit, which are spiritual battles against evil and falsity, the waters of baptism also mean spiritual crises.

Since baptism serves as a sign and a reminder of all this, we can be baptized as infants or, if not then, as adults.

People who have been baptized should be aware that baptism itself does not give them either faith or salvation but it does bear witness that they will receive faith and be saved if they are regenerated.

We can therefore conclude what is meant by the Lord’s words in Mark: “Those who believe and are baptized will be saved; but those who do not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). The one who believes is the one who acknowledges the Lord and accepts divine truths from him through the Word; and the one who is baptized is the one whom the Lord regenerates by these means.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 202-208


Anyone who does not begin to live a spiritual life—that is, who is not born anew by means of the Lord—cannot come into heaven. This is what the Lord tells us in John: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

We are born by our parents into an earthly life, but not into a spiritual life. A spiritual life is loving the Lord above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and doing so by following the precepts of faith that the Lord has taught us in the Word. In contrast, an earthly life is loving ourselves and the world more than we love our neighbor, and in fact more than we love God himself.

We are all born from our parents with the evils of love for ourselves and for the world. Every evil that has become part of someone’s nature as a result of habitual indulgence is passed on to his or her progeny. Therefore we receive accumulated evil passed down from our parents, grandparents, and ancestors in a long chain going back into the past. The evil we derive from them has over time become so great that all our intrinsic characteristics are nothing but evil.

This continuous accumulation can be broken and changed only by a life of faith and caring from the Lord.

We constantly tend toward and lapse into what we have received by heredity, so we ourselves reinforce this evil in ourselves and also add even more to it.

These evils are absolutely opposed to a spiritual life. They destroy it. So unless we get from the Lord a new life, a spiritual life—unless, then, we are conceived anew, born anew, and raised anew (that is, created anew)—we are damned, because we want nothing and think about nothing but loving ourselves and the world, just as the people in hell do.

We cannot be regenerated unless we know the kinds of teachings that lead us to a new life, a spiritual life. What we must be taught in order to gain a new, spiritual life are the truths that we need to believe and the good things we need to do—the truths that need to become part of our faith and the good actions that need to become part of our caring.

There is no way any of us can know these on our own, because all we take in is what strikes our senses. From this input we gain the light that is called earthly, which makes it possible for us to see only what has to do with the world and with ourselves. It shows us nothing that has to do with heaven or with God. This we must learn from revelation.

It is only from revelation, for example, that we learn that the Lord who is God from eternity came into the world to save the human race; that he has all power in heaven and on earth; that everything that has to do with faith and caring, that is, all truth and goodness, comes from him; that there is a heaven and a hell; and that we are going to live forever—in heaven if we have led a life of goodness and in hell if we have led a life of evil.

These and much more are matters of faith that we need to know if we are to be regenerated, since if we know them we can think about them, then intend them, and finally do them, thereby having a new life.

For example, if we do not know that the Lord is the Savior of the human race we cannot have faith in him, love him, and therefore do what is good for his sake. If we do not know that everything good comes from him we cannot think that our salvation comes from him, let alone want it to be that way; so we cannot live from him. If we do not know that there is a hell and a heaven and an eternal life we can have no thought whatever about heavenly life, nor can we devote ourselves to receiving it. It is much the same in regard to the other points just mentioned.

Each of us has an inner self and an outer self. The inner self is called our spiritual self and the outer self is called our earthly self. If we are to be regenerated, each of these needs to be regenerated.

If we have not been regenerated, then our outer or earthly self is in control and our inner self is its servant; while if we have been regenerated our inner or spiritual self is in control and our outer self is its servant. So we can see that the proper order of life in us is inverted from birth—what ought to be in control is serving and what ought to serve is in control. This order has to be reversed if we are to be saved; and the only way this reversal can be realized is through our being regenerated by the Lord.

The following may illustrate what it means to say that the inner self is in control and the outer self is serving, or the reverse. If we make pleasure and money and our own pride our highest good, if we take delight in hatred and vengeance, and if we inwardly collect reasons in support of these attitudes, then our outer self is in control and our inner self is its servant.

If, though, we perceive it as a good thing and a pleasure to have thoughts and intentions that are benevolent, honest, and fair, and to have our words and deeds reflect these same qualities outwardly, then our inner self is in control and our outer self is its servant.

First the inner self and then the outer is regenerated by the Lord; and the outer is regenerated by means of the inner. The inner self is regenerated by thinking about what is involved in faith and caring, and the outer is regenerated by a life in accord with this.

That is the meaning of the Lord’s words: “Unless you have been born of water and the spirit you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Water,” spiritually understood, is the truth that belongs to religious faith, and “the spirit” is a life according to that truth.

When we have been regenerated, our inner self is in heaven and is an angel among the angels we are going to live with after we die. Then we will truly be able to live the life of heaven, love the Lord, love our neighbor, have an understanding of truth, be skilled in goodness, and feel the bliss that all these bring.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 173-182

Repentance and the Forgiveness of Sins

If we want to be saved, we must confess our sins and repent.

Confessing sins is to recognize things that are evil, see them within ourselves, acknowledge them, accept that we are at fault, and condemn ourselves because of them. When this is done in the presence of God, it is confessing our sins.

After we have confessed our sins in this way and have prayed for forgiveness with a humble heart, repenting is to stop doing them and to lead a new life that follows the principles of caring and faith.

If all we do is make a blanket acknowledgment that we are sinners and declare ourselves guilty of all evils but without examining ourselves—that is, seeing our own particular evils—we are making some kind of confession, but not a confession that leads to repentance. Since we do not know what our evils are, we live the same way afterward as before.

If we are leading a life of caring and faith we repent every day. We reflect on the evils in ourselves, acknowledge them, take precautions against them, and pray to the Lord for help. You see, on our own we are constantly falling down, but the Lord is constantly raising us up and leading us toward goodness. This is our state if we devote our lives to doing good. If we spend our lives doing evil, then too we are constantly falling down and the Lord is constantly lifting us up, but the result is only that we are steered away from falling into those most serious evils to which we instinctively tend with all our might.

If we are practicing self-examination in order to repent, it is important that we examine our thoughts and the intentions of our will, and note what we would do if we could get away with it—that is, if we had no fear of the law or of losing our reputation, our job, or our wealth. Our evils live in our will; that is the source of all the evil things we do physically. Therefore if we do not search out evils in our thoughts and our will, we will be unable to repent, because afterward we will have the same thoughts and intentions as we had before; and intending evils is the same as doing them. This therefore is what self-examination entails.

Saying that we repent but not changing the way we live is no repentance at all. Our sins are not forgiven when we say we repent; they are forgiven when we change our lives. Our sins are of course constantly being forgiven by the Lord, because he is mercy itself. Nevertheless, despite what we may think about how our sins are forgiven, they actually still cling to us and are not put aside from us unless we live by the precepts of true faith. As we live by these precepts our sins are put aside, and as our sins are put aside they are forgiven.

People believe that when our sins are forgiven they are washed away or rinsed off the way dirt is rinsed off with water. However, our sins are not washed away; they are just put aside. That is, we are held back from doing them when we are kept focused by the Lord on doing what is good; and when we are focused on doing good it seems as though our sins are gone and therefore as though they have been washed away. Further, the more we have been reformed, the more capable we are of focusing on doing what is good; how we are reformed will be explained in the treatment of regeneration that follows [Sections 173–186]. If we think that our sins are forgiven in any other way, we are sadly mistaken.

Some signs that our sins have been forgiven (that is, put aside) are the following: we sense a pleasure in worshiping God for God’s sake and in helping our neighbor for our neighbor’s sake, which means in doing good for its own sake and in speaking truth for its own sake. We do not want credit for our caring or our faith. We reject and turn our backs on evils like enmity, hatred, vindictiveness, adultery, and even the very thoughts that go along with intentions in such directions.

In contrast, some signs that our sins have not been forgiven (that is, put aside) are the following: we worship God but not for God’s sake, we help our neighbor but not for our neighbor’s sake, which means that we do not do good for its own sake or speak truth for its own sake but for self-serving and worldly reasons. We want credit for what we do. We do not find evils like enmity, hatred, vindictiveness, and adultery at all distasteful, and entertain these evils in our thoughts with a complete lack of restraint.

When we repent in a state of freedom, it works; when we repent under duress, it does not. The following are states of duress: a state of sickness, a state of mental depression because of misfortune, a state in which death seems imminent, as well as any state of fear that robs us of the use of reason. Sometimes people who are evil and are in a state of duress do things that are good and make promises to repent, but when they find themselves in a state of freedom they return to their old life of evil. It is different for people who are good.

After we have examined ourselves, acknowledged our sins, and repented of them, we must for the rest of our lives remain constant in our devotion to doing what is good. If instead we backslide into our former evil life and embrace it again, then we commit profanation because we are then joining evil and goodness together. This makes our latter state worse than our former one, according to the Lord’s words:

When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it wanders through dry places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, “I will go back to my house, the house I left.” When the spirit comes and finds the house empty, swept, and decorated for it, then it goes and recruits seven other spirits worse than itself, and they come in and live there, and the latter times of that person become worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43, 44, 45)

from New Jerusalem, Sections 159-169


A conscience forms in us on the basis of whatever religious tradition we follow, depending on how deeply we internalize that tradition.

For people in the [Christian] church, their conscience is shaped either by truths [they themselves have drawn] from the Word that have become part of their faith or else by things based on the Word that they have been taught by others, depending on the extent to which they have taken these to heart. As we come to know and believe truths and comprehend them in our own way, when we will them and do them, then our conscience comes into being. Taking them to heart is taking them into our will, because our will is what we refer to as our heart.

That is why people who have a conscience say from the heart whatever they say, and do from the heart whatever they do. They also have a mind that is not divided, because what they do is consistent with what they understand and believe to be true and good.

People who are more enlightened than others concerning the truths of their faith, and who are more perceptive than others, are equipped to have a better conscience than people who are less enlightened and are less perceptive.

A genuinely spiritual life is a matter of having a true conscience, because in it our faith is joined to our caring. In that case, we see following our conscience as following the principles of our spiritual life, and going against our conscience as going against the principles of our spiritual life. As a result, when we act in accord with our conscience we feel calm and peaceful and have an inner sense of well-being, but when we go against our conscience we feel disturbed and pained. This pain is what people refer to as “pangs of conscience.”

People can have a conscience that is focused on what is good, and they can have a conscience that is focused on what is right. A conscience that is focused on what is good is a conscience that resides in our inner self; a conscience that is focused on what is right is a conscience that resides in our outer self. If we are driven from within to live by the precepts of faith, we have a conscience that is focused on what is good; if we are driven by outward considerations to live by civil and moral laws, we have a conscience that is focused on what is right. People who have a conscience that is focused on what is good also have a conscience that is focused on what is right.

People who have only a conscience that is focused on what is right nevertheless have the capacity to develop a conscience that is focused on what is good, and they do so when they are taught about it.

The type of conscience that is found in people whose lives are devoted to caring about their neighbor is a conscience focused on truth, because it is formed through the faith they have in the truth. The type of conscience that is found in people whose lives are devoted to love for the Lord, though, is a conscience focused on goodness, because it is formed through the love they have for the truth. The conscience the latter people have is of a higher kind and is called a perception of the truth that arises from goodness.

People who have a conscience focused on truth are part of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom; people who have the higher conscience, the one called perception, are part of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.

Some examples may help to show what conscience is. Suppose you have another’s goods without the other knowing it and can therefore profit from them with no fear of the law or of loss of position or reputation. If you nevertheless return the goods to the other because the goods are not yours, you are someone who has a conscience; you are doing a good thing because it is good, and doing the right thing because it is right. Or suppose you are offered a government position but you know that someone else who also wants that position would be of greater benefit to your country than you would. If you let the other person have the position for the good of your country, you are someone who has a good conscience. A similar principle would apply in many other situations.

On this basis we can tell what people who have no conscience are like; we can identify them because they are the opposite. For example, if for the sake of profit they make something that is wrong look right or something that is evil seem good (or the reverse), they are people who have no conscience. They do not even know what conscience is, and if someone tells them what it is they do not believe it and some of them have no interest whatever in learning more.

That is what people are like who do everything for worldly and selfish reasons.

If we do not develop a conscience in this world we cannot develop one in the other life and therefore we cannot be saved. This is because in that case we do not have a level into which heaven can flow and through which it can work—that is, a way in which the Lord can act by means of heaven to lead us to himself. This is because our conscience is the level within us into which heaven flows; it serves as the part of us that receives heaven’s inflow.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 130-138


Many people think that a spiritual life, the kind of life that leads us to heaven, consists of piety, of outward holiness, and of renunciation of the world. In fact, though, piety without caring, outward holiness without inner holiness, and renunciation of the world without involvement in the world do not make our life spiritual. What does make our life spiritual is piety that comes from a caring heart, outward holiness that is a manifestation of inner holiness, and renunciation of the world that goes along with involvement in the world.

Piety is thinking and speaking reverently, giving ample time to prayer, having a humble attitude when we pray, attending church regularly and listening attentively to what is preached, observing the sacrament of the Supper several times a year, and performing the other ceremonial acts the church prescribes.

A life of caring, though, consists of having goodwill toward our neighbors and doing good things for them; basing all of our actions on what is right and fair, and what is good and true; and applying the same principles in all our responsibilities. In a word, a life of caring consists of being useful. This kind of life is the primary way to worship God; a life of piety is only secondary. This means that if we separate the one from the other, if we lead a pious life but not a caring life at the same time, we are not in fact worshiping God. We may be thinking about God, but this comes from ourselves and not from God, because we are constantly thinking about ourselves and not at all about our neighbor. If we do think about our neighbors, we regard them as worthless if they are not like us. Further, we are thinking of heaven as our reward, so our mind is preoccupied with self-love and taking credit. Being actively useful is something we either neglect or regard with contempt; and that is also how we treat our neighbors. Yet at the same time we believe there is nothing wrong with us.

This shows that a pious life apart from a caring life is not the spiritual life that is needed within our worship of God. Compare Matthew 6:7, 8.

Outward holiness is similar to the pious behavior just described (it consists primarily in seeing all worship of God as a matter of the sanctity we experience when we are in church); but this is not holy for us unless we are holy inwardly. This is because our inner nature determines our outer nature—the latter comes from the former the way our actions come from our spirit. This means that outward holiness apart from inner holiness is earthly and not spiritual, which is why it can be found just as readily in evil people as in good people. Furthermore, people whose worship is nothing but external are for the most part empty; that is, they have no knowledge of what is good or true, even though goodness and truth are holiness itself. Goodness and truth are what we are to know and believe and love because they come from the Divine and there is therefore something divine within them. To be inwardly holy, then, is to love what is good and true because it is good and true and to love what is right and honest because it is right and honest. The more we love these things for their own sakes, the more spiritual we become. Our devotion to God becomes more spiritual, too, because we become more and more eager to know what is good and what is true and to put them into practice. On the other hand, as our love for these things diminishes, we become more earthly, our devotion to God becomes more earthly, and we become less and less interested in knowing and doing these things.

We could compare outward worship apart from inner worship to having living breath without having a living heart, while outward worship prompted by inner worship is like living breath that is joined to a living heart.

As for renunciation of the world, many believe that renouncing the world and living for the spirit and not for the flesh is a matter of casting aside worldly things (primarily wealth and status), going around in constant devout meditation concerning God, salvation, and eternal life, and spending our lives in prayer and in reading the Word and devotional literature, not to mention self-affliction. This, though, is not at all what renouncing the world means; it means loving God and loving our neighbor. We love God when we live by his commandments, and we love our neighbor when we do things that are useful. If we wish to receive the life of heaven, we must by all means live in this world and be involved in its responsibilities and dealings. A life withdrawn from worldly concerns is a life of thought and faith, and yet is completely separate from a life of love and caring. In that kind of life, having goodwill toward our neighbors and doing good things for them ceases altogether; and when our goodwill and our good actions come to an end, our spiritual life is like a house without a foundation that gradually sags into the ground, cracking and splitting, then leans to one side, and finally collapses.

From the Lord’s own words we can see that doing what is good is how we are to worship the Lord:

Everyone who hears my words and does them I will liken to a wise man who built his house on the rock; but anyone who hears my words and does not do them I will liken to a foolish man who built his house on the sand or on the ground without a foundation. (Matthew 7:24–27; Luke 6:47, 48, 49)

This now makes it possible for us to see that a pious life is effective and is accepted by the Lord only to the extent that a caring life is joined to it. The latter is primary and determines the nature of the former.

Likewise, outward holiness is effective and is accepted by the Lord only to the extent that it comes from inward holiness, because the nature of the latter determines the nature of the former.

And again, renunciation of the world is effective and is accepted by the Lord only to the extent that it takes place in the world, since we renounce the world when we lay aside our self-love and our love for the world and do what is right and honest in every office we hold, every item of business we transact, and everything we do, doing so from within and therefore from a heavenly source. This source is present within our life when we do what is good, honest, and right because doing so accords with divine laws.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 123-128


All freedom is a function of love, because what we love we do with a sense of freedom. Therefore all of our freedom is connected with our will, because whatever we love we also will to do; and since our love and our will constitute our life, freedom too constitutes our life. This can show us what freedom is, namely, that it is a reflection of our love and our will and therefore our life. That is why anything we do freely seems to us to have come from ourselves.

Doing evil freely seems to be a kind of freedom but it is actually slavery, since this freedom comes from our love for ourselves and our love for this world, and these loves come from hell. This kind of freedom actually turns into slavery after we die, since anyone who had this kind of freedom becomes a lowly slave in hell afterward.

In contrast, freely doing what is good is freedom itself because it comes from a love for the Lord and from a love for our neighbor, and these loves come from heaven. This freedom too stays with us after death and then becomes true freedom because anyone who has this kind of freedom is like one of the family in heaven. This is how the Lord expresses it: “Anyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not abide in the house forever, but the Son does abide forever. If the Son makes you free, you will be truly free” (John 8:34, 35, 36).

Since everything good comes from the Lord and everything evil from hell, it follows that it is freedom to be led by the Lord and it is slavery to be led by hell.

The purpose of our having the freedom to think what is evil and what is false and even to put them into practice (to the extent that the laws do not prevent it) is that it gives us the ability to be reformed. What is good and what is true need to be planted in our love and our will if they are to become part of our life, and there is no way this can happen unless we have the freedom to contemplate both what is evil and false and what is good and true. This freedom is given to each one of us by the Lord. When we are contemplating something that is good and true, then to the extent that we do not at the same time love what is evil and false the Lord plants that goodness and truth in our love and our will and therefore in our life, and in this way reforms us.

Anything that is planted within us while we are in a state of freedom becomes a permanent part of us; anything, though, that is planted under coercion does not last, because our will is not engaged; the will behind it is that of the person supplying the pressure.

That is also why worship in a state of freedom is pleasing to the Lord but forced worship is not. Worship in freedom is worship that comes from love; forced worship does not come from love.

No matter how similar they look on the surface, freedom to do good and freedom to do evil are as different and as remote from each other as heaven and hell. The freedom to do good comes from heaven and is called “heavenly freedom,” while the freedom to do evil comes from hell and is called “hellish freedom.” To the extent that we have the one freedom we do not have the other—no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We can also see from this that people who have hellish freedom see it as slavery and bondage if they are not allowed to will what is evil and think what is false whenever they feel like it, while people who have heavenly freedom loathe to will anything evil and to think anything false, and if they are forced to do so, it torments them.

Since acting from freedom seems to us to come from ourselves, heavenly freedom can also be called “heavenly selfhood” and hellish freedom can be called “hellish selfhood.” Hellish selfhood is the sense of self into which we are born, and it is evil. Heavenly selfhood, though, is the sense of self into which we come as we are reformed, and it is good.

This shows us what freedom of choice is—namely, doing what is good by choice or intentionally; this is the freedom we have when we are being led by the Lord. We are led by the Lord when we love what is good and true because it is good and true.

We can tell what kind of freedom we have from the pleasure we feel when we are engaged in thought, speech, action, hearing, or seeing, because all the pleasure we feel is a reflection of what we love.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 141-147

Faith (Continued)

The assurance or trust which people say faith provides, and which they call a “truly saving faith,” is not a spiritual assurance or trust but an earthly one when it is based on faith alone. Spiritual assurance or trust derives its essence and life from good actions done out of love and not from the truth that belongs to religious faith apart from those good actions. The assurance provided by a faith separated from good actions is dead; therefore real assurance is not possible for us when we are leading evil lives. An assurance that we are saved because of the Lord’s merit with the Father no matter how we have lived is a long way from the truth as well.

All who have spiritual faith, though, have an assurance of being saved by the Lord, because they believe that the Lord came into the world to give eternal life to those who both believe and live by the principles that he taught. They know that he is the one who regenerates such people and prepares them for heaven, doing so all by himself without their help, out of pure mercy.

Believing what the Word or the church teaches and not living by it may look like faith, and some may even conjecture that they are saved by it; but the truth is that no one is saved by faith alone. Faith alone is a conviction one deliberately induces in oneself; therefore I need now to describe the nature of such self-induced convictions.

A self-induced conviction is when we believe and love the Word and the teachings of the church not for the sake of their truth or in order to live by them but for the sake of profit and respect and to be thought learned. As a result, when this is the kind of faith we have we are not focusing on the Lord or heaven but on ourselves and this world. People who aspire to worldly greatness and crave an abundance of material things express stronger conviction that what the church teaches is the truth than people who have no such aspirations or cravings. This is because for the ambitious the church’s teachings are only a means to their own ends, and the more they love those ends, the more they love—and trust—the means.

In reality, though, what determines the strength of their conviction at a given moment is how intensely their love for themselves and for the world is burning and how much that fire is affecting their conversation, preaching, and actions. During moments on fire they are completely convinced that what they are saying is true. When they are not feeling the fire of those loves, however, they believe very little—some have no belief at all. This shows that a self-induced conviction is a faith of the mouth and not of the heart, so it is really no faith at all.

People whose faith is self-induced do not know from any inner enlightenment whether what they are teaching is true or false, and as long as the crowd believes them, they do not care. In fact, they have no interest whatever in knowing the truth for its own sake. As a result, if they cannot obtain status or profit they abandon their faith (or at least if they can do so without putting their reputation in jeopardy), because self-induced conviction does not live deep within us. It remains on the outside, only in our memory, so we can call on it when we are teaching. This means that this type of faith vanishes after death, and so do the truths that go with it, because the only kind of faith that remains then is the kind that lives within us—that is, that has taken root in our doing of good and has therefore become part of our life.

The following passage in Matthew is about people whose faith is self-induced:

On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, haven’t we prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many great things in your name?” But then I will declare to them, “I do not know you, you workers of iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22, 23)

Then it says in Luke:

Then you begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.” (Luke 13:26, 27)

They are also described as the five foolish young women in Matthew who did not have oil for their lamps:

Later the other young women came along and said, “Lord, Lord, open up for us.” But he will answer and say, “I tell you truly, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:11, 12)

The oil [that should have been] in their lamps means the good actions from love [that should be] in our faith.

from New Jerusalem, Sections 115-119