Exploring the Heavenly City (small group Bible study)

Exploring-the-heavenly-city-tnThe New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine is a brief introduction/overview to New Church teachings. The work, The Heavenly City, is a translation/paraphrase of this much loved work. Check it out for individual study, with a friend or a group and explore how you can let God in.

Click on a week, below, to see an outline for weekly study.

Week one: our inner structure


Paragraphs 11-46

“Everything in the universe that is in harmony with the divine plan relates to goodness and truth. Goodness and truth come from the divine, which is the source of everything.” (Heavenly City 11)

"Motivation is the reservoir and ground for all our good qualities, and understanding is the reservoir and ground for all our true ideas. The goodness and truth in us are nowhere else." (Heavenly City 29)

“When we do good things and have true ideas, we have motivation and understanding. But when we do harmful things and have false ideas, we do not have motivation and understanding. Instead of motivation we have desire, and instead of understanding we have knowledge.” (Heavenly City 33)

“The more we love the Lord and other people, the more we are in tune with our inner spiritual part. Our thinking and motivation come from it, and so do our speech and actions. But the more we are absorbed in selfishness and materialism, the more we are in tune with our inner material part. Our thinking and motivation come from it, and so do our speech and actions.” (Heavenly City 42)

Discussion questions

  • Where do you see ‘goodness and truth’ in this physical world we live in? What does this mean to you in your life? In your inner world?
  • Describe a time in your life when you felt in tune with the inner spiritual part of yourself. What events surrounded this time? Do you have any insights on how to cultivate this ‘in tune’ experience?
  • What are some good habits or actions you do fairly easily now, but had to put extra thought into your motivation when you began the habit? What was that experience like?


This week ask yourself "Is this a negative impulse I'm acting on or a positive motivation?"

Week two: our different loves


Paragraphs 54-105

"All our enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness come from our primary love, and are in harmony with it. Whatever we love, we think of as enjoyable, because that is the way it feels to us…Whatever we do not enjoy we think of as bad." (Heavenly City 58)

“When we love goodness, we are loving the Lord, since the Lord is the source of goodness: he does good things, and he is goodness.” (Heavenly City 90)

“If we do good things for people just because we want to do what is good, and if we do things honestly and fairly just because we want to be honest and fair, we love other people, and we are showing kindness.” (Heavenly City 103)

Discussion questions

  • What activity in your life do you feel you get ‘lost’ in? When time becomes absent this can be an indicator of something you really love.
  • Think of the people you love. What qualities of theirs do you love? What do you think might be qualities others might say they love about you?
  • What are you impressions of ‘charity’ or ‘loving the neighbor’ from earlier in your life? After reading these paragraphs, what is your understanding of the meaning of these words?


This week hold the two words ‘honestly’ and ‘justly’ in mind. When faced with choices on how to act, ask yourself “Is this response filled with honesty and justice?"

Week three: our spiritual life


Paragraphs 108-157

"Faith is a love for truth that we have from wanting the truth just because it is true. Wanting the truth because it is true is what spirituality actually is. It is detached from materialistic thinking." (Heavenly City 112)

“So you can see that a life of religious devotion without a life of kindness is not a spiritual life, which we must have if we want to worship the divine.” (Heavenly City 124)

“Only into a humble heart can the Divine flow; because so far as you are in humility, so far are you removed from self, and thus from the love of self.” (New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 129)

“Real joy, which comes from loving to do good things without wanting to be repaid, is the reward that lasts forever.” (Heavenly City 156)

Discussion questions

  • What people in the world can you think of who have lived a ‘life of kindness’? Anyone in your own life? What would it look like for you to live in this way?
  • What does a ‘humble heart’ mean to you?
  • What does humility mean to you? Describe healthy and unhealthy aspects of ‘humility.’
  • How do you define faith? Charity? How do these relate to one another? Does this section redefine these words for you? How so?
  • How has your faith shown up in your life? Have you ever had periods of doubt?


Meditate on a ‘humble heart.’ When you feel a part of you stirred with anger, despair, fear, just breathe. Open to what it would mean to have a humble heart in this moment. Invite the Divine to flow in.

Week four: our spiritual development


Paragraphs 159-195

“When we are living in kindness and faith, we regret our faults every day. We think about our bad traits, admit them, avoid acting on them, and ask the Lord for help. When we are on our own, we are always falling down. But the Lord always puts us back on our feet and leads us toward what is good.” (Heavenly City 163)

"Just saying we are sorry without acting on it is not regretting our faults. Saying we are sorry does not mean we have given up our faults—only showing our regret in our lives does." (Heavenly City 165)

“We cannot be reborn unless we know about this new, spiritual life. We need to know the true things we should believe, which relate to faith, and the good things we should do, which relate to kindness.” (Heavenly City 177)

"Inner struggles help our good traits and true ideas to get control over our bad traits and false ideas. They strengthen the truth in us and unite it with our good parts." (Heavenly City 194)

Discussion questions

  • Which are more important to pay attention to, our actions or our motivations? Can the two be separated?
  • What are actions we can do to show others how truly sorry we are for a fault? To show the Lord?
  • Has there been a struggle in your life that was painful during it, but afterward left you stronger? What was that experience like then? Looking back now?


This week spend time in prayer. When you notice parts of yourself that are unhealthy/hurtful. Stop. Pray to the Lord for help and notice how your prayer effects your actions.

Week five: Christian observances


Paragraphs 202-214

“When we are reborn, we always go through inner struggles, which are spiritual fights against our bad traits and false ideas.” (Heavenly City 205)

“The holy supper only unites us with the Lord when we have in us the goodness of loving and believing in the Lord, which comes from him. When we have this, the holy supper does unite us with him. When we do not, he is there with us but we are not united with him.” (Heavenly City 213)

Discussion questions

  • How do you view baptism? What does rebirth mean to you? How is this similar or different from what your friends/family think about rebirth and baptism?
  • Have you ever taken holy supper/communion? What is your understanding of the usefulness of this practice? How does this reading impact your view?


Spend time reading about baptism in the New Testament (John 3:1-17 and Matthew 28:19-20). What does it seem the Lord is calling us to in baptism? How does that speak to you in your life today?

Week six: life after death


Paragraph 223-239

“We are created so that our inner self cannot die. We can believe in and love God, so we can be united with God through faith and love. To be united with God is to live forever.” (Heavenly City 223)

"Each one of us has heaven in us to the extent that we accept love and faith from the Lord. If we accept heaven from the Lord while we live in the world, we will go to heaven when we die. When we accept heaven from the Lord, we have heaven in our selves, since heaven is actually inside people." (Heavenly City 232-233)

“If we love and believe in the Lord, and our love and belief come from him, we have eternal happiness, which is also called heavenly joy. This kind of love and faith has heavenly joy in it, and we come into this joy after death if we have heaven in us. In heaven, everything good is shared. Everyone’s peace, understanding, wisdom, and happiness are shared with everyone else—though how each of us accepts it depends on how we accept love and faith from the Lord. So you can see how much peace, understanding, wisdom, and happiness there is in heaven!” (Heavenly City 236)

Discussion questions

  • What is your current view on life after death? What are some of your most pressing questions?
  • What does eternity mean to you? Does it bring comfort or anxiety?
  • What is your view of heaven and hell?
  • What are moments of your life when you've experienced heaven? Hell?


What does it mean to have “heaven within you?” Hold your answer in your heart throughout your week. Notice times when you see heaven in others, too.

Week seven: facets of religion


Paragraphs 241-325

“People who are not Christian, but accept one God and live by some type of kindness towards other people according to their religion, share a common bond with Christians. No one who believes in God and lives a good life is condemned. So you can see that the Lord’s religion is everywhere in the whole world, even if it is particularly where people accept the Lord and have the Bible.” (Heavenly City 244)

"The Word is what God has revealed" (New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 251).

“The Bible is what the Lord has revealed” (Heavenly City 251)

"The sense of the letter of the Word is changed instantly with the angels into the spiritual sense, because a correspondence exists between every single thing in the natural world and every single thing in the spiritual world." (see New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 259 and Secrets of Heaven 5648:2)

Discussion questions

  • Where do you see the ‘Lord’s Church’ throughout the whole world?
  • Do you resonate with this ecumenical view? How does it challenge your outlook?
  • What does the ‘Word’ mean to you? What does it mean for it to be ‘known’?
  • How does this affect your view of the afterlife?


This week make a point to read the Lord's Word each day, even if it's just a brief verse. Quiet your mind and listen to what God is telling you in your reading


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Daily Inspiration

"If someone possesses humility they are able to accept good from the Lord, since in that case they have been parted from self-love and the evils which stand in the way of accepting it."

Arcana Coelestia 5957