NOT long ago I read how a group of children responded when they were asked what they would have to do to get into heaven. The majority gave answers that expressed such values as ``being good" or ``loving their friends." But one child put it rather bluntly: ``Die!" was his conclusion.
When we stop to think about it, however, many of us intuitively feel that death can't really be the way into heaven. It's hard to feel comfortable, after all, with considering death to be the beginning of eternal life. Christ Jesus' pronouncement in Matthew's Gospel ``The kingdom of heaven is at hand" indicates a heaven attainable without death as a prerequisite. This may come as a relief to you--as it did to me!
The following description of heaven is given in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. She writes: ``Heaven. Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul." Death is not the entrance fee for this heaven. Indeed, this spiritual understanding of heaven accords with the Biblical revelation that God is Spirit. Since God is the sole creator of all that is created, everything is truly made from His own substance, Spirit, and must be spiritual. Thus heaven must be spiritually formed and is not found in any kind of material location--even the most idyllic. The true man, created by God, is, in reality, already spiritual. He doesn't need to enter heaven at all. He is already there. Heaven is--in effect--the true man's permanent address!
However, we only have to watch the evening news or open our eyes on our daily rounds to realize that heaven is not our current human address! There's evidently a change required in order for us to recognize our real nature as the true, spiritual man and to find our abode in heaven. But in only one sense does death have anything to do with the needed transformation. The commonly accepted material view of existence needs progressively to ``die out of our thinking, in order to bring the true, spiritual harm ony that is heaven increasingly into our experience.
By this process we gain more and more of the spiritual recognition of man's being--your true identity and mine!--as the eternal evidence of Life, or God. By contrast, any theory that promotes the belief that death is inevitable--even as a threshold of good things to come--would keep our thoughts fixed in the wrong direction. Such theories do nothing to lift our thought to the recognition of Life as infinite, eternal Spirit, God. Rather, they have us mentally glued to those very material beliefs of life a nd death that would keep us out of heaven. Paul explained in his letter to the Romans, ``To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Gaining more of the true view of man as living in a present heaven takes active prayer! It also takes acting in obedience to what we learn of God through that prayer. Just as the children noted, this certainly includes ``being good" and ``loving our friends." In other words, growing in our spiritual-mindedness. In fact, expressing God's qualities--such as forgiveness, compassion, tenderness, strength--proportionately enlarges our current sense of heavenly being.
If lived conscientiously, obedience to spiritual imperatives such as these will increasingly lead us to experience the Christ--the spiritual understanding that impelled Jesus in his unselfed healing works. To the degree that we live such Christ-impelled love, we experience something of the eternal heaven of Spirit right here on earth! This true way ``into heaven is open to all--through living joy, living affection--never through death!