The 3rd State of the Life After Death

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, Dec. 4, 2011

Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal:  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20,21)

Heaven is our true home. Once we have completed our earthly life, our attachment to the world of nature ends. Our time on this earth, in relation to the time we will spend in the spiritual world, is a mere blink of an eye. Why then do we spend so much of our time laying up earthly treasure for ourselves? Would not our time be far better spent preparing for the eternity which is to follow in the spiritual world? This is the message that the Lord came on earth to bring to us:  that we must not set our hearts on the things of this world, but instead set our sights on the spiritual world, and use our time in this world to prepare wisely for the life to come.

Today’s sermon is the last in a series of three that describe the spiritual journey that takes place when the natural body dies and the spirit is set free. Today we will focus on how new spirits are given instruction and preparation for entering heaven, and how they find their eternal, spiritual home once their questions have been answered.

We know from the Lord’s many parables that the Lord wanted people to know that there was life after death where the good would be rewarded and the evil suffer. He used simple, comforting ideas for simple times and simple people.

We will briefly review the definitions of several important terms used in this series. The “spiritual world” means the whole spiritual universe, including heaven, hell, and the world of spirits. The “world of spirits” always refers to that part of the spiritual world which lies between heaven and hell and which is the place where all people go first when their natural bodies die. The word “spirit” means anyone living anywhere in the spiritual world, although it is most frequently used to refer to someone who is still living in the world of spirits. Finally, an “angel” is a particular kind of spirit, specifically a spirit who has been through all the states of introduction and has chosen heaven.

In the first sermon of this series, we learned that the first state, or state of exteriors, is one of introduction and welcome. It is provided so that each person who enters the spiritual world will have a chance to become accustomed to the fact of the death of the natural body and the eternal life of the spirit. Eventually every spirit feels a desire to find his true spiritual home, and when this happens, he is ready to enter into the second state, the state of his interiors. But since his true spiritual home will be a reflection of his true spiritual state, that internal state must be revealed. In the second sermon of this series we saw how all the external habits and defenses are removed layer by layer until nothing remains but the spirit’s true internal loves, the essential character. The spirit no longer cares what anyone thinks of him, and does exactly as he pleases. For an evil spirit, the second state is his last. Once evil has taken over the heart and mind, there can be no further instruction or preparation.

However, the good spirits rejoice because their good intentions now instantly become acts of kindness. As they find themselves able to do more and more, they become more and more interested in understanding what is happening to them. The evils that do not agree with their ruling love drop away after some effort and pain. As the falsities of life in the world are taken away, new truths are given to take their place, and the heaven-bound spirit enters into the state of preparation, the state where he is led from the world of spirits to his eternal, spiritual home. This final part of the journey is the topic of today’s sermon.

The 3rd state begins when those who are headed for heaven are taken to special places set aside for this use. We are told that the places of instruction are oriented east and west, with the best and the most innocent spirits in the east, for that is nearest to where the Lord dwells.

Children who die as infants are first placed with angel mothers who care tenderly for them.  Once they have grown enough to begin schooling, they are brought to these heavens of instruction near the Lord where they begin their formal education.  As they get older, they move westward and join others who entered the spiritual world as older children and youths, and receive instruction appropriate to their age – even including field trips to various parts of the world of spirits!  Behind them in the western parts are the places where those who died in adult age and who were in the affection of truth from the good of life are instructed.

Further to the west behind these are those who were obedient, moral Mohammedans in the world. These are in heaven because in their life they acknowledged one Divine and the Lord as the true prophet. When these eventually stop venerating the man Mohammed and begin to think of the principles of their Religion they are then able to approach the Lord and worship Him and acknowledge His Divinity. They are then introduced into the Christian religion.

Behind these, tending toward the north, are places of instruction for various peoples from the world who have lived a good life according to their own religion and thereby formed some kind of conscience.

All these people who have tried their best to live a good life in the world, no matter what their civilization or culture, are easily led to acknowledge the Lord because they have lived according to the heartfelt belief that God is not invisible, but that He is in the Human form. We are told that the greater part of heaven is made up of such people who hold a simple, honest faith in God-Man. (HH 514:e).

The Lord is the perfect teacher, and He accommodates all lessons to the particular needs of each of the good spirits. Each spirit is taught by those who are best able to communicate with him.

Children who have grown up in heaven are instructed by angels from the interior heavens. Those who died as adults, and who are in a sphere of simple obedience, are instructed by angels of the lowest heaven. Those who belonged to various religious denominations in the world are instructed by angels who at one time belonged to those denominations. Even the heathen are taught by others of their own kind who have accepted Christianity in heaven.

During the state of preparation, the good spirits are instructed in all kinds of spiritual truths. The wonderful thing is that these truths no longer need to be couched in appearances as they are in the letter of the Word, no longer limited by natural comprehension. They are taught by the angels themselves in such a way as to be perfectly accommodated to the state of the good spirits, and the good spirits in turn learn them with delight and without any effort whatsoever. The truths that the spirits hear are no longer abstractions of limited interest to their life. They hear only things that speak directly to their particular loves and affections in such a way that they enter directly into their life.

Naturally, we are all curious as to what those truths may be. What wondrous secrets are being told! Do we have any hint at all as to the nature of this heavenly wisdom? We are told that all the knowledges about heaven are derived from and can be learned from the Word and from the doctrine of the Church that is drawn from the Word. However, while we are still in the world we cannot receive truth on this level unless the interiors of our mind are open to heaven. We are in heaven as to our interiors when we both acknowledge the Divine and act justly and honestly for the reason that we ought to act so because it is commanded in the Word by the Lord.

If a casual acquaintance comes up at a party and tries to initiate a discussion about the various schools of thought within the development of quantum mechanics, most of us would literally not know what to think. We do not have the tools, the knowledge, to hold up our end of the conversation. Without a knowledge of the principles of quantum mechanics, we cannot think about it or form valid opinions. Therefore it is not surprising that the Heavenly Doctrines should teach that, “without a knowledge of spiritual things, man cannot think spiritually” (HH 512:3). And since angels must think spiritually, it is essential that they be given the tools, the knowledges, to think about their new life in heaven, and to take a useful part in it.  That also means that we’re going to have to wait to get there before we have the tools and thus the ability to understand what the angels are teaching.  If we were allowed to listen to one of these angelic classes, we would hear words, but comprehend nothing because of the limitations imposed on our thinking by the natural body and the need to be connected to the natural world by means of the senses and the sensual degree of the mind.

As we age, most of us suffer from some degree of memory loss.  This may cause some concern when we hear about all the learning about high spiritual stuff that’s ahead of us.  But remember, the problem we have with our memory is related to the aging of the cells in the brain.  In the spiritual world, we’ll be in a spiritual body which will not suffer from these limitations.  We take our complete memory with us into the spiritual world, not the natural organ of memory. 

All instruction in heaven is from doctrine drawn from the Word. Knowledges are not committed to memory, but to life. This is because the memory of spirits is in their life, for they receive and gather everything that is in accord with their life. And everything that is gathered into their living memory is taken for the sake of the use which it may perform.

Since the good spirits are no longer hampered by earthly restraints and they love what they are learning, the instruction goes very quickly. The students are interested in every subject because it relates directly to their future use in the spiritual world. The angel teachers have a perception of the states and needs of their students and so are able to adapt their teaching to the needs of the spirits perfectly. The students never tire or get bored, and because the truths are taken directly into the life, there is no need for them to study. We must also remember that they are not being taught in any language of the world, but in the angelic tongue, a language of pure ideas that connects one mind directly to another, and so yet another barrier to understanding is removed.

The subject of when married couples come together in this process is complex and lengthy, better suited to a separate study. But speaking generally we can say that husbands and wives are first reunited in the First State while in the world of spirits. If they find that they can continue together, they then go through the various states together. If they cannot continue together because of a difference in their internal states, they separate (the Writings are silent about how many separate and how many stay together). At some point (which will vary according to the spiritual state of each) as they proceed through the various states they discover a partner with whom they can live to eternity in heaven. They then complete their preparation through the third state together.

It is not long until they know enough to enter a heavenly society and begin their life of use. As a sign of their readiness, they are given angelic garments. These are described as being “glowing white as if made of fine linen” (HH 519). Thereafter they are taken to angelic guides who start them on their way to their own home society. The Heavenly Doctrines tell us that there are many paths in the spiritual world, but that the conjugial pair on way to their own society easily find their way, no matter how winding the path, or how many forks, because they are led by their own heart and guided by the Lord.

During journey, they may pass many beautiful societies, but they know in their heart that they are not their true home. Eventually, they come to a place which they recognize as their own, for every aspect the place corresponds with their own affections. The couple hears singing, a song that touches them deeply, and draws them near. As they approach, they begin to sing along and it feels right. They draw nearer, and the song becomes more familiar. Soon they find themselves in the midst of a heavenly choir, sharing in their song, in perfect harmony with their new society, singing a song of welcome, and they know that they have found their true home.

In summary, we can say that only good spirits enter the state of instruction to be prepared for heaven. All instruction in this state is provided by angels, and is perfectly accommodated to the states of the spirit. They are able to learn quickly because they is not limited by an earthly body or by an earthly language but are able to communicate in the spiritual language of ideas. Further, everything that is taught pertains to their own ruling love and the uses that they will perform, and therefore is received with delight.

The death of the natural body is something every one of us must face sooner or later. The purpose of the Lord’s first and second comings has been to give us the information we need to face death without fear. The Lord had tried to show, in many different ways, that everything that happens to a spirit after death is guided by concern and love for him. Everything possible is done to make him comfortable and lead him to a special place in heaven. The Lord Himself came on earth, suffered the temptation of the cross, raised Himself with His own power, and has come again in the spiritual sense of the Word to take away the fear of the grave and to give us ample warning of what we face and what we must do to prepare ourselves while we live in the natural world. The Lord has offered the gift of eternal life in heaven. Now it is up to us to receive His gift, and use it well.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1-4) AMEN.

First Lesson:  MAT 6:19-24

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; {20} but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. {22} The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. {23} But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! {24} No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Amen.

Second Lesson: HH 512:2, 3

THE THIRD STATE OF MAN AFTER DEATH, WHICH IS A STATE OF INSTRUCTION FOR THOSE WHO ENTER HEAVEN.

[2] Good spirits … are led from the second state into the third, which is the state of their preparation for heaven by means of instruction. For one can be prepared for heaven only by means of knowledges of good and truth, that is, only by means of instruction, since one can know what spiritual good and truth are, and what evil and falsity are, which are their opposites, only by being taught. One can learn in the world what civil and moral good and truth are, which are called justice and honesty, because there are civil laws in the world that teach what is just, and there is intercourse with others whereby man learns to live in accordance with moral laws, all of which have relation to what is honest and right. But spiritual good and truth are learned from heaven, not from the world. They can be learned from the Word and from the doctrine of the church that is drawn from the Word and yet unless man in respect to his interiors which belong to his mind is in heaven spiritual good and truth cannot flow into his life; and man is in heaven when he both acknowledges the Divine and acts justly and honestly for the reason that he ought so to act because it is commanded in the Word, This is living justly and honestly for the sake of the Divine, and not for the sake of self and the world, as ends.

[3] But no one can so act until he has been taught, for example, that there is a God, that there is a heaven and a hell, that there is a life after death, that God ought to be loved supremely, and the neighbor as oneself, and that what is taught in the Word, ought to be believed because the Word is Divine. Without a knowledge and acknowledgment of these things man is unable to think spiritually; and if he has no thought about them he does not will them; for what a man does not know he cannot think, and what he does not think he cannot will. So it is when man wills these things that heaven flows into his life, that is, the Lord through heaven, for the Lord flows into the will and through the will into the thought, and through both into the life, and the whole life of man is from these. All this makes clear that spiritual good and truth are learned not from the world but from heaven, and that one can be prepared for heaven only by means of instruction. Amen.