598. When man has passed through temptations he is as to his internal man in heaven, while by means of the external man he is in the world; thus by means of temptations there is a conjunction of heaven and the world effected in man; and then the Lord in him rules his world from heaven according to order. The contrary takes place if man remains natural; he is then eager to rule heaven from the world. Such does everyone become who is in the love of ruling from the love of self. If interiorly examined, such a man believes in himself only and not in God; and after death he believes him to be God who can exercise dominion over others. Such madness prevails in hell, and it even proceeds to such a length that some call themselves God the Father, some God the Son, some God the Holy Spirit, and among the Jews some call themselves the Messiah. This shows clearly what man becomes after death if the natural man is not regenerated, and therefore to what length his fantasies would carry him if a New Church, in which genuine truths are taught, had not been established by the Lord. This is what is meant by these words of the Lord:
In the consummation of the age [that is, at the end of the present church], there shall be such affliction as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be; and except those days be shortened, no flesh would be saved (Matt. 24:21, 22).