O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. –Psalm 30:3
Dear members and friends,
In the Old Testament, sheol is the Hebrew word that is often translated as “grave,” “hell,” or “pit.” To the ancients Israelites Sheol meant a place of exile with no life and no return. Interestingly, sheol is a noun that originated from another Hebrew word – shaal – which is a verb meaning “to ask or to enquire.” My reflection is that it might have been such a fearful thing to the ancient Israelites to be questioned by God, enough to make the noun form of the word hold a negative meaning. Another very interesting matter is that there is no mention of heaven as a paradisal spiritual realm or hell as an eternal punishment in the Old Testament.
To a degree, people seem to be confused about the issues regarding heaven and hell. In my understanding, this might have been caused by the almost two millennia-long effort of the Christian Church of teaching and portraying heaven as a reward and hell as a punishment by God. However, God does not execute either reward or punishment. According to Swedenborg, heaven and hell are not places where you go after death, but spiritual realms that are formed as you live your life on earth. Heaven or hell is formed within oneself in accordance with the pleasures and delights that one consciously chooses to indulge one’s mind. If one behaves selflessly or in such a way as to serve or benefit others as well as oneself, one might be forming a heaven within. On the other hand, if one indulges in acts which are selfish and harmful to others, one might be forming a hell within. The essential difference between the one who is forming heaven and the one who is forming hell is that the former would have a life fulfilment, contentment, and inner joy, while the latter would live a life of doubt, hatred, and delusion.
The experience of heaven or hell is not by divine judgement, but by our own conscious choice!
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee