For Lord’s Day May 27, 2012:
This Lord’s Day evening we will hear Jesus say to the thief next to Him on the cross, “Verily (truly) … Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise”. In union with Christ by faith (looking to Jesus and asking to be with Him in His Kingdom), we go immediately to a blissful place upon our death. We leave this world of sin and misery behind us. And we go into a more glorious communion with Christ, face-to-face with our blessed Redeemer.
These thoughts have me thinking again of Psalm 16:11: “ … in thy presence is fullness of joy …”. This verse proclaims something we no doubt experience as we approach God in personal and family worship. And what we especially experience as we come together as God’s spiritual temple and Christ’s body in Sabbath worship in the heavenlies on the Lord’s Day. But we will experience this joy so much more when we leave this earth and immediately enter paradise: God’s most direct comfortable presence.
This is why Paul, who actually got an unusual glimpse of paradise first hand (2 Corinthians 12:4) couldn’t wait to go back there: “… having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” (Philippians 1:23).
To be with Christ in the presence of the Holy Father, even waiting for our resurrected bodies on the Last Day, is far better than being here, beloved. To be next to Christ in His flesh, is far better than slowly dying here in our own corrupted flesh. In God’s presence is fullness of joy, and the closer we get to His glory, the better off we are. It makes me think of what one of my daughters spontaneously proclaimed in family worship one evening around the dinner table a while back after we talked about what heaven would be like: “I can’t wait to go to heaven!” Amen, sister, says Paul.
Let us consider God’s attributes to excite our expectations for Paradise on the Hill of the Lord. The Westminster Confession, chapter 2, and the Shorter Catechism Q&A 4, guide us in contemplating some of God’s attributes that should make us look forward to being closer to Him in heaven in a way we can’t fully enjoy here. I encourage you to meditate on His attributes to prepare for worship, and heaven:
God is: Glorious. A Spirit. Living. Perfect. Pure. Invisible. Immense. Almighty. Free. Gracious. Merciful. Long-suffering. Abundant. Forgiving. Transcendent. Blessed. Sovereign. Autonomously self-existing. Wise. Powerful. Holy. Just. Good. True. And God is all of His attributes infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably! As well, God is all of His attributes absolutely: all at once. He has and always will be all these things, and more. Remember, we will be in God’s presence basking in His wonderful attributes by our union with Jesus, Who is Himself the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. All things are to Him, through Him, and for Him. So He says to the thief, you will be in paradise today, because you will be “with Me”.
Let us indeed “Be preoccupied with paradise”, beloved. Our heavenly home where Christ prepares a place for you and me. For as Paul knows (now firsthand once again and this time forever), it is far better to be with Christ! As this comes up in relation to WLC Q&A 85 this Lord’s Day evening, we can rest assured that for the Christian, death is no longer a punishment, but a glorious transition. Death for us is God’s loving deliverance. We need not fear death as Christians, but look forward to it when we learn our Christ-ordained mission is finished and He is ready to immediately let us rest in fullness of joy: His own heavenly presence!