In the New Testament, Jesus encourages people to think of the kingdom of heaven as something near, or at hand. Also, the “Beatitudes” show many blessings that are part of people’s experience of heaven as if they are available at any time, not just in some future afterlife. The many parables of what the kingdom of heaven is like all revolve around the idea that heaven is not just a place, but an inner experience.
This task is about making a conscious choice to enter into a heavenly state of mind.
Consider this hypothetical example from a friend of mine. “It’s late at night, and the kids are all in bed. I hear the baby crying in the next room and I know that my wife is exhausted. I decide to get up and calm the baby so that my wife can sleep. As I open the door and head down the hallway, treading quietly, my bare foot steps on something sharp. It’s a small metal matchbox car left in the middle of the hallway by one of the older children. As the pain shoots up my leg, I think, ‘Why is this bad thing happening while I’m in the middle of a good deed? It’s so unfair.’
“Then I realize that I was feeling meritorious about my kind-hearted attempt to let my wife sleep. I remember the teaching that the good I do is really the Lord’s good as I make myself available to His leading. I smile and continue down the hall to comfort the baby. I think, ‘Tomorrow, I will remind the older children to pick up toys after playing with them.’ Then, another thought flows in: ‘It could have been worse. Maybe this will prevent a more serious accident in the future.’ Then, another thought, a principle that ‘nothing ever happens, even if it is painful, unless the Lord can bring something good out of it—even in the case of my stepping on the little matchbox car.’”
My friend made the choice to shake off a negative reaction and, right then and there, enter into heavenly thoughts and feelings.
For most people there is tremendous inertia to react negatively. It’s the way we’ve been spiritually wired for millennia. Negative emotions are often right at the surface, “near” and “at hand.” It is also easy to justify negativity, either aiming it at others, “Those kids should know better!” or at oneself, “How could I be so stupid!”
But any situation like this can also be an opportunity to see the truth that heavenly thoughts and emotions are also right at the surface, “near” and “at hand.” It may not be as easy, but it is much more worthwhile.
Throughout the Word, the nearness and at-handness of heaven is symbolized by doors and gates, sometimes closed, other times open. The Lord even encourages us to think of Him as the door. “I am the door; anyone who enters in by Me shall be saved.” (John 10:9) Swedenborg explains that the internal meaning of “to enter in by the Lord” is “to approach Him, to acknowledge Him, to believe in Him, and to love Him.” (Apocalypse Explained 916)
In order to change your state, imagine heaven being right on the other side of a door or gate. Just open it and go right through. The keys are (1) recognizing the door, (2) recalling some basic spiritual principle that provides a heavenly perspective, and (3) praying to leave the negativity behind and to experience a positive, heavenly state.
Task #42 Entering Heaven
When you find yourself in a negative state, recall some basic spiritual principle. Turn to your higher power and pray to enter a heavenly state.
The essay for this task by Nathan Gladish
Additional quotations for reflection:
And Jacob was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Genesis 28:17
Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Psalm 24:7
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting. And His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:4,5
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them. And I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter. Psalm 118:19,20
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:1-3
There are in general two gates with each individual person. One gate is exposed towards hell and is open to evils and falsities from there. In that gate genii and spirits from hell are present. The other gate is exposed towards heaven and is open to goods and truths from there. In that gate angels are present. Secrets of Heaven 2851 – Swedenborg
There are two paths which lead into a person’s rational mind, a higher or internal path along which good and truth from the Lord enter in, and a lower or external path along which evil and falsity enter in surreptitiously from hell. In the middle is the rational mind towards which the two paths converge. From the goods and truths present there the rational mind is compared in the Word to a city and is actually called a city… having gates, and is described in various places as having enemies, that is, evil genii and spirits, besieging it and assaulting it, while angels from the Lord are defending it, that is, the Lord Himself is doing so. The spirits from hell, with their evils and falsities, can go no further than towards the lower or outer gate, and cannot pass at all into the city. If they were able to pass into the city, which is the rational mind, man would be completely done for. But when they reach the point, as it seems to them, that they have taken the city by storm, it is then closed. Secrets of Heaven 2851 – Swedenborg
The city had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. On no day will its gates ever be shut. Revelation 21:12, 21, 25
“The twelve gates” of the Holy City in the book of Revelation symbolize in sum the concepts of truth and goodness by which a person is introduced into the church… Each gate was of one pearl because all the concepts of truth and goodness symbolized by the gates and by pearls relate to a single concept, one that is their containing vessel, and that single concept is a concept of the Lord…
That the Lord is the true door by which one is to enter into the church and so into heaven, He Himself teaches in John: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9)
And that an acknowledgement and concept of Him is the true pearl is meant by these words of the Lord in Matthew: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one precious pearl, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45, 46)
The one precious pearl is an acknowledgment and concept of the Lord. Apocalypse Revealed 916 Swedenborg