Children in Life after Death
The contents of this page are from a lecture by the Lord's New Church minister, the late Rev. Philip Odhner. It was inspired by the book, "Heaven and Hell". There is a chapter titled “Little Children in Heaven ,” (numbers 329-345), which we urge you to read.
The love of infants is a most powerful love. Every parent knows this from experience. There is scarcely one parent in a thousand who has not felt utterly possessed by the tender innocence and affection of their little ones. The sun rises and sets in the welfare and progress of their helpless babies. Nor is there any true parent who would not give their all, even to life itself, so their children might live. And everyone, whether a parent or not, knows the power of that love from the rousing of their own inmost feelings in the presence of little children, and from the universal condemnation of all those who would deliberately harm a child.
For millions the love of their children brings the first mature realization of what it means to love others more than one’s self. And from that love there flows forth with them a genuine love of society and of the human race. The love of infants is, as it were, the fountainhead of the love of the neighbor. The nations of the earth are soon brought back to a realization of this fact, if they should ever forget it; for the continuation and the welfare of the nation depends entirely upon the strength and exercise of the love of infants within it.
What is it in a little child to move so strongly the hearts of men? It is not just because a little child appears to be one’s own that one loves it; for there are millions who have never had children of their own who yet love them with all their hearts. It is the innocence of a child that causes them to love and be loved. This innocence is the willingness to be led, the willingness to be instructed, to be raised up out of ignorance and helplessness, to be led to what is good and true, to what is just and fair. Every man born into the world is so conditioned that his existence depends upon this innocence, so much so that, if there were with him no willingness to be led, he would perish. And what is wonderful is that every sincere and genuine thought and affection which comes into existence with man during his whole life takes its origin from that same innocence in which we are providentially placed during infancy and childhood. That willingness to be led is what leads us to learn, to become wise, to seek the true and the good of life, to seek God and to live according to His will. There is not one good thing in any man or woman that does not have its rise in us from that deeply implanted innocence.
The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the God of heaven and earth, said to His disciples, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily, I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:16.) The Lord said this because the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of what is good and true, and all that is good and true in us is from that little child, the innocence which God gives to us in infancy. When that same innocence matures in us, and fills us with the desire to be led by the Lord, the kingdom of God is in us, and we are in it.
What happens after death to those who die as children?
Will we see and recognize them after our own death?
There can be no parent who has lost a child who does not ask this question in his heart. To have one’s child die from accident or from disease is a suffering beyond the use of words to describe. For those who know nothing of the answer to this question it is not merely a personal loss from the apparent severing of that tender love, nor is it merely the sense of futility from the apparent end of all one’s labor and care. It goes deeper than this, involving one’s faith in God, that harm and death can overtake and destroy that in which there is nothing but good and life. It is therefore of importance to our faith as well as to our wounded hearts that we should ask what becomes of those who die as children. And perhaps in our searching into this question many other things of the Providence of God for the good of our spirits may be revealed to us.
That little children do not perish at death, and that we shall see them again is taught both in the Old and New Testaments. When the servants of King David questioned him that he should weep while his son was ailing and cease to weep when his son died, David replied,
“While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (II Samuel, 12: 22, 23.)
"I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." Here briefly is expressed the innate perception of man that he will again see those whom he has loved.
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus Christ said,
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 18:10.)
And again, “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18: 14.)
In the revelation of the spiritual world given to us by the Lord through His servant Emanuel Swedenborg, these general teachings of the Old and New Testaments about the survival of those who die in infancy are immeasurably infilled and extended, so that we may know what takes place with them after death. The Lord opened the spiritual eyes of Swedenborg so that he could see and talk with spirits and angels as man with man, and among the wonderful things which he wrote about the spiritual world are many that concern the lot of those who die in infancy. It is from his testimony that we give answers to the questions listed at the beginning of this lecture. In general his testimony is that all who die in infancy and childhood are raised into heaven immediately after their death; that they are cared for there with such love and tender instruction that they mature rapidly into angelic men and women, and take their places in the societies of heaven, each according to his genius, and according to the function or use for which he has been created in the Divine Providence of the Lord.
Does baptism on earth affect their lot after death?
Do they all go to heaven?
These two questions must be asked together, since their answer is one and the same. Many people from a misunderstanding of the Lord’s teachings about baptism have been led to believe that if their child should die unbaptised it would be forever condemned and could not enter into heaven. Those who hold this view no doubt hold it in all sincerity, and if this is so we should not in any way deride their efforts to live according to their religion. Nevertheless it should be known that nothing could be further from the truth than that the Lord could withhold eternal life and eternal happiness from any of His children for the want of an external sacrament, no matter how holy that sacrament might be.
Hear what is written in “Heaven and Hell” on this subject.
"It is the faith of certain ones that only infants who are born within the Church come into heaven, but not those who are born outside of the Church. They say the reason is that infants born within the Church have been baptized, and through baptism have been initiated into the faith of the Church. But they do not know that no one has heaven or faith through baptism. For baptism is only for a sign and memorial that man must be regenerated, and that he is able to be regenerated who is born within the Church, since there is the Word, where are Divine truths through which is regeneration, and there the Lord is known, from whom is regeneration. Let them know, therefore, that every infant, wherever he has been born, whether within the Church or outside of it, whether from pious parents or from impious parents, when he dies is received by the Lord and educated in heaven, and according to Divine order is taught and imbued with affections of good, and through these with cognitions of truth; and then as he is perfected in intelligence and wisdom is introduced into heaven and becomes an angel.”
(Heaven and Hell 329.)
Baptism is a most useful and holy sacrament. But its use is not that in itself it brings salvation. Its use is that it acts as a sign of a man’s acknowledgment that he can be saved through the truth of the Church out of the Word, and as a memorial that he must be regenerated through that truth. For this reason any man who believes in the truth of any church should be baptized into that church, as a sign and memorial that he can and must be regenerated through that truth. But the baptism itself does not do the regenerating or the saving. It is but a useful sign. A life according to the truth alone regenerates a man. Infants neither know the truth nor yet had opportunity to live according to it. An infant is therefore neither saved by baptism nor condemned by its omission. If an infant is baptized, the immediate effect is upon the parents, who at that time solemnly swear to introduce the child into the knowledge and worship of the Lord according to the teachings of their church. Such a representative act also strengthens sphere of those in the spiritual world who are of the faith and life of that church around the infant. For this reason it is useful for those who wholeheartedly believe in the teachings of their church to have their children baptized into it.
The waters of baptism represent the truths of faith by which a man is regenerated. Water in the Bible everywhere signifies such truth. It is for this reason that the Lord said,
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16.)
Every infant is guiltless in the eyes of God and every infant is raised into heaven in the mercy of God. There he is instructed in the saving truths of faith and is introduced into a regenerate life in accordance with them.
Do they grow up and become adults?
In the spiritual world every one has a spiritual body which reflects in every way the state of his mind. When a little child dies and is brought to consciousness in the other life, he at first is an infant both in body and mind as before. Everyone is at first in the same state of life and in the same appearance as to face and body as he was at the time of death in this world. An infant is an infant, a child a child, a youth is a youth, and an old man is an old man. A little child immediately after death is therefore the same as it was here. But he does not remain a little child. As he is instructed and grows in intelligence and wisdom, he matures, and from being a child becomes an angel. The growth of a child in the spiritual world thus appears in every way the same as the growth of a child on this earth. The only difference is that a child in the spiritual world matures more rapidly. He learns to walk and to speak more rapidly than is possible on the earth, and lie acquires intelligence and wisdom more rapidly. The reason for this is that he is not there encumbered with the material body, and also that the communication of thought and affection in the spiritual world is easier.
The growth of little children in heaven as to their minds, in the acquisition of wisdom and intelligence, is eternal, never coming to an end. Their growth in body, their maturity as to their physical appearance, continues until they are such as men and women on the earth are in the flower of youth. There the maturing of the body stops, the reason being that that state of body is the most perfect, and most perfectly represents the perpetually renewed strength and vigor of their minds. Those who die in old age on the other hand continually grow younger in the spiritual world, the youth of their spirits continually fashioning their spiritual bodies to that state which most perfectly expresses itself, until they also come into the flower of youth as to their spiritual bodies. This is a wonderful thing, and yet it can be perceived as true even in this life, in that the spirits of many never grow old, and their spiritual youth often shines forth in their expressions right through their worn and wrinkled material bodies
Who takes care of little children after their death?
Of this we read as follows in "Heaven and Hell,"
"As soon as infants are resuscitated, which takes place immediately after their death, they are carried into heaven, and are given over to angels who are of the feminine sex, who in the life of their body had tenderly loved infants, and at the same time had loved God. They, because in the world they had loved all infants out of a tenderness as if maternal, receive them as if their own; and the infants out of their implanted nature love them as if they were their own mothers. There are as many infants with each one as she desires from spiritual storge (love of infants.)" (Heaven and Hell 332.)
The children are thus introduced into an angelic family, and are raised and educated by their angelic mothers as if by their very own. Nor is there any lack there of suitable homes, each adapted to the genius and nature of the children which they receive into their midst. These angelic families are in the societies of the celestial angels, who excel all others in the perfection of wisdom.
We might suppose that what is related about these angelic mothers and their children, the state of perfection into which they are raised, is like a pleasant day dream - just the imaginings of one who would like to suppose the most pleasant kind of lot for those who have passed on. But if we could only see beyond the fallacious appearances of this life, beyond the apparent miseries that beset little children in so many lands arid in so many homes at this day; - if we could see beyond these things into the spiritual surroundings of those little children who do not die, but who live on and mature in this world, we would perceive that their spirits receive the same angelic care and love, that God guards and protects their innocence in every way so that their eternal good might not come to any harm. Even as the little children that die are so wonderfully cared for and loved, so also it is literally true that these same angels are present with our little ones on this earth to guard and protect their innocence from all harm. It is written,
"In heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven"? (Matthew 18: 10.)
As the little children increase in intelligence and wisdom they are instructed in the truth about their parents. They are told that the Lord alone is their Father, and that the Church is their mother. This same truth should be told to little children as they mature in this life. For they are not our children. The Lord has indeed used us in giving them birth, but their life is not our life, since we have no life to give, but it is God’s life. He alone is their Father. And if we see clearly we can see that neither is their spiritual body provided by any earthly mother, but by the faith of their religion, whatever it may be. True parents are those who come to see this fact, and who instruct their children in the truth that God is their Father, and their Church their spiritual mother.
Those whose children have died will see them again and live with them again. Yea they will live with them to eternity, if their loves are similar, that is, if they have a common love of God and the neighbor. But the natural relationship of parent and child will there dissolve into the spiritual relationship of brothers and sisters, even as takes place on earth when children grow to be adult.
How are little children educated in heaven?
Swedenborg relates that those who die as little children are first educated by their angelic mothers, even as takes place here under the ideal circumstances. As they mature they are given into the charge of the spiritual angels, whose function it is to instruct them in the truths of faith. There are schools and universities there which they attend, where their minds are perfected in knowledge and understanding.
In the beginning they are wholly in the sphere of angels, but as they mature they are successively let down out of the sphere of heaven into the world of spirits, where all those who have died as adults first live before they enter the societies of heaven. Here they come as it were into their own right and reason, and along with all others there begin to discover their own proper place in the vast organization of societies of heaven. This is done under the guidance of the Lord, but at the same time under the appearance that the spirits guide themselves and choose for themselves. They go to that society which they think to be of similar genius as themselves. If from their living there they find that they are compatible as to love and faith, there they remain. If they find they are riot of similar love and faith, they take their leave and are led further till they find their own place in which they can be happy to eternity.
The education of children in heaven, as all education there, is primarily and essentially one of the affections. There is no such thing in the spiritual world as the cramming of the memory with facts that have no relation to love and to life. In this world, because of the material purposes of our civilization, there is the necessity for a child’s mind to be filled with tons of dead subject matter which is of no use whatsoever to the development of his spirit. The native genius of a child is often not educated at all; it merely survives, and often is so buried by standards and veneers that it is not recognizable even to the man himself. This is the cause of so many dislocated personalities, of so many people never finding their place in life, and thus of never coming into a realization of their spiritual use in relation to other men. This kind of education is likened in the Writings of Swedenborg to the combing of a child’s hair till the blood runs. It is the result of the effort of a materialistic world to force its little ones into the cruel pattern of a world which is opposed in every way to the tender forms into which the Lord creates the inmost infantile minds of men.
It is of course necessary that children learn those things which will enable them to fill a useful part in the functions of this natural world. The problem of how to give them such worldly knowledge as is necessary and at the same time not crush but cultivate their innocence, which is the mainspring of the development of their spirits, is the essential problem to be faced in education at all times.
Many educators at this day recognize and strive against the foolhardiness of an education which is aimed to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse, and they are bringing about many reforms in the methods of modern education, designed to bring forth the latent talents of their pupils. But it is not the methods of education alone which can change its character. It is the ends, the purposes of the education. As long as the materialistic philosophy prevails with a people, as long as its heart is set primarily upon selfish and worldly ends, there can be no real cure of its educational efforts. The end perverts the methods, no matter how good the latter may be. And a materialistic end is one that is contrary to the Divinely endowed spirit of man.
In heaven the education of children is altogether and entirely according to their inmost Divine endowments. The wisdom of the angels is such that they perceive the inmost quality of the affection of the children committed to their care. Their work is to lead forth that affection. Nothing is permitted to enter their instruction except that which appeals to the affection, and which can be received by it. This they are able to do because they themselves have no selfish or worldly ends. Their whole love is of that which is true and good in themselves and in others, and from this love they can see what is of truth and of good in their charges, and appeal to it in their instruction. In this also the nature of their world is of great assistance. We read, for example, that in the education of little girls wonderful things happen to their surroundings according to their reception and obedience to their instruction. They have beautiful little dresses, and if they disobey, spots appear in the dresses, or the dresses just disappear. This is according to the law of the spiritual World that all things of one’s environment represent the state of one’s mind, and change according to the change in one’s mind. Flowers disappear from their gardens, or appear wilted, if they have been lax in their work. And on the other hand all things brighten and live around them when again they return with affection to their duties.
We know from the development of the motion picture and television what a powerful effect they have come to have on the minds of children, both a good and a bad effect. The spiritual world is such that any scene, any idea may be presented before their eyes and ears. Such things are called there, representations, and these play a large part in the education of the children there. In the spiritual world there is a common perception of the relation between natural and spiritual things. There is in this world also to a limited extent. For example everyone knows that a smile on the face denotes gladness of the mind. But in the spiritual world there is this same common perception with regard to all things that surround them, not only as to facial expressions, but as to objects, colors, clothes, and the innumerable things that constitute their environment. Each and all of them have some significance as to the states of their minds, and the wisdom of the angels is from their knowledge of that significance. To impart this knowledge is easy there, where the environment reflects every change of the mind. In this life it is difficult, as our environment is relatively fixed and unalterable. This fact also lends to the perfection of the education of the affections in heaven.
Why do people die at different ages?
Some in childhood? Some in youth? And some in old age?
The question of why people die at different ages is at this day thought to have a merely natural answer. Chance, glandular excretions, accidental states of the body, are thought to be the things governing life after death in this world.
In the new revelation none of these things are given as the reasons, but purely spiritual things having to do with the uses of the spirit to itself and to others in this world and in the spiritual world:
"That they die as boys, youths, adults, old men is for the following causes: 1. On account of use in the world with men: 2. On account of use when he is in the world with spirits and angels, for man as to his interiors is with spirits, and he is there as long as he is in the world, into which all things there terminate: 3. On account of use in the world to himself, that he may be regenerated, or that he may be immited into his evils, lest they lie sleeping, and afterwards rush forth, which would be to his eternal destruction: 4. So also on account of use in the other life, then after death to eternity, for each one has his own places in the grand man, which will be in heaven, or his own places in hell out of the opposite. Where forces are lacking they are equilibrated; thither they are led out of the Divine Providence of the Lord; thus the Kingdom of the Lord is cared for, the salvation of which is universal Providence."
(Spiritual Diary 5003.)
The matter of the life and death of each individual is in the hands of the Divine Providence of the Lord, who governs all things according to the necessities of the salvation of the whole human race. This does not mean that God ordains from His Will that a certain man for example should be killed in an accident on a certain day, nor that He wills a war in order to kill off huge numbers of men. But it does mean that in His Divine Providence He permits and does not prevent such accidents and evils in order that the evils which produce them may come forth with men and he seen and removed. The salvation of the human race cannot be affected unless the evils of men are permitted to come forth and be known and shunned. It also means that no harm can come to the spirit of any man at his death, no matter how premature it may seem to be. The Lord in his Providence turns his natural death to the eternal advantage of himself and all others.
So also with those who live long in this life, apparently beyond the time of their usefulness. The reason they are permitted so to live is because the particular use they fill in the Divine scheme is necessary still for the men of this world, or the use which they perform in ultimating the spheres of the angels and spirits who are with them is necessary to those angels and spirits.
Some deaths are of God’s permission, others are of His will. In the Theological Writings of Swedenborg God is said to permit an evil, not as one willing it, but because He cannot avert it without harm to the end which is man’s salvation (See Divine Providence 234.) This is the distinction between God’s permitting a thing and His willing a thing. In general we may say that all disorderly deaths are of God’s permission and all natural or orderly deaths of His will. But whether of His permission or of His will they are all for the sake of some use, either to men in this world or to the man himself in his own spiritual development, or to the angels of heaven. The Providence of the Lord is such that nothing takes place except it may serve some use, some spiritual good for the eternal welfare of all men. This is true of all things, and most clearly so of that departure from this world and that entrance into the spiritual world which we know as death.
To read more on this go to Little Children in Heaven.
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