Unification News for January and February 2001

Divine Principle Chapter 5 Part 4

In his very thoughtful Dreams: God's Forgotten Language, California's Father John Sanford, an Episcopalian priest and Jungian counselor, tells of a remarkable dream his worried father had after a series of illnesses and at an age when he knew death could not be far off. He reported it to his wife, who later recorded it. In the dream the father goes through different scenes from his life and

"Finally he sees himself lying on a couch back in the living room. I (Mrs. Sanford) am descending the stairs and the doctor is in the room. The doctor says "Oh he's gone." Then, as the others fade in the dream, he sees the clock on the mantelpiece; the hands have been moving, but now they stop; as they stop, a window opens behind the mantelpiece clock and a bright light shines through. The opening widens into a door and the light becomes a brilliant path. He (Mr. Sanford) walks out on the path of light and disappears."

To the author, the son of the dreamer, the meaning of the dream is clear. It is saying that having passed through the many phases of his life, time has now run out for the elder Sanford (the hands on the clock have stopped). However, this event is not the end, but the beginning of something else. On the other side of earthly time, a new dimension of life is opening up. The dream reassures Sanford's father that he will proceed into another world, one beyond space and time.

The idea that human beings survive physical death has been expressed in so many places that it is foolhardy to ignore it. In a number of Plato's dialogues, for example The Republic and Phaedo, we encounter this master thinker's idea that after death the soul continues to exist in another realm. Dante, the greatest poet in Italian history, devoted his three part epic, The Divine Comedy, to describing his travels through the spiritual realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. While we don't know how firm Shakespeare's convictions were, we do find him depicting Hamlet conversing with the revengeful spirit of his murdered father. And in the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth century Swedish scientist and mystic, we find voluminous records and thoughtful analysis of his experiences with the spirit world and its residents.

Nor should we overlook the Bible. Both Isaiah (26:19) and Daniel (12:2) write of their expectation of life after death, while both Jesus (Lk 9:30-31) and Paul (Acts 26:13-26) are reported as encountering non-physical beings. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians Paul goes to some length to describe the characteristics of the "spiritual body" in which the Apostle asserts that believers will be resurrected. (1 Cor. 15:35-50).

What is it like?

As was explained in the Principle of Creation, Divine Principle unequivocally affirms the continuation of life after physical death. Since God is eternal, He created His counterpart—His children—to exist eternally also.

The question is what will be our experience on the "other side". Although within the Roman Catholic tradition the dichotomy between heaven and hell is muted by the concept of purgatory, the historic position of the Christian faith is that the alternatives facing one upon his death are only these two: heaven or hell.

If one has followed God and accepted His son, eternal salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven is promised. If on the other hand one has strayed from the path, the torments of hell will be his. In ages past the horrors depicted in such pronouncements as a famous sermon preached by Colonial America's Jonathan Edwards’, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, have been sufficient to cow even the most intrepid into trembling obedience to the Law. The eternal terrors of the regions below, we have been told, are hardly to be taken lightly.

For Divine Principle, such expectations are the product of an incomplete religious awareness. The spirit world is not simply limited to heaven and hell but is differentiated according to many levels. One's position after death determined by his spiritual attainment during life. In contrast to traditional notions of heaven as a reward and hell as an imposed punishment, one's position in the after-life is a natural result of the quality of one's life on earth.

The Principle would firmly agree with Oxford University's John Macquarrie, who, in writing on the subject of heaven, argues sensibly for an organic connection between the stages of one's life before and after death:

"Heaven is not a reward that gets added on to the life of faith, hope and love, but it is simply the end of that life, that is to say, the working out of the life that is oriented by these principles. Understood in this way...the symbol (heaven) stands for fullness of being."

Religious Evolution

Just as the religious evolution of humanity may be thought of as proceeding through three stages, so may the spiritual growth of any person. Accordingly, Divine Principle asserts spirit persons at the different levels may be distinguished.

A person who has grown through the formation stage of resurrection may be said to have become a form spirit. After his physical death, he would live at the form spirit level of the spirit world. Similarly, we may use the terms of life spirit and divine spirit to describe those persons who have grown through the growth and completion stages, respectively, on earth. At the growth stage in the spirit world one enters the region called Paradise, while at the completion stage he enters the Kingdom of Heaven.

Traditionally, those of the Christian faith have understood Heaven and Paradise to be the same. Divine Principle, however points to a distinction. The Kingdom of Heaven emerges as the dwelling place for those who have fulfilled the purpose of God's creation.

Although Jesus came as the Messiah to fulfill this ideal and foster the salvation of humanity, he was prevented by the crucifixion from doing so. Therefore, since the three blessings and the Kingdom were not realized on earth, we may understand that the Kingdom of Heaven in the spirit world remains vacant. Jesus and his followers remain in Paradise, the region in the spirit world equivalent to the growth stage of resurrection. Their own resurrection to the Kingdom of Heaven is to take place through the ministry of the Second Advent.

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