Have More Heaven on Earth with Jesus to Prepare to Leave Earth for Jesus
Let us meditate on what Jesus said to the thief next to Him on the cross, as recorded in Luke 23:43: “Verily … Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise”. 
In union with Christ by faith, we will go immediately to a blissful place upon our death. We will leave this world of sin and misery behind us, and enter into a more glorious communion with Christ, face-to-face with our blessed Redeemer.
But, beloved, we can go to the Celestial City even now, and more and more, as we spiritually fellowship with Christ while bearing our crosses for Him. Remember that our lives are already hidden in heaven with Christ, and we may fellowship with Him there upon directing our thoughts upward (Colossians 3:1-3).
Let Psalm 16:11, where David contemplates our resurrection in Christ, further motivate us to celebrate the benefit of our first resurrection (Revelation 20:5-6): “ … in thy presence is fullness of joy …”. This verse revels in the thought of partaking of the everlasting joy of the LORD that we will have more directly when we leave this earth and enter paradise – God’s most direct, comfortable presence. Such are the euphoric visions of The Revelation.
This immediate fellowship with God is why Paul, who actually got an unusual glimpse of paradise first hand (2 Corinthians 12:4) could not wait to go back there: “… having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” (Philippians 1:23). We need to walk by faith in this greater glory facing death, and we do not need to see it to believe it (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
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 corpses. In God’s presence is fullness of joy, and the closer we get to His glory, the better off we are. I think of what one of our daughters spontaneously proclaimed in family worship one evening around the dinner table as we talked about what heaven would be like: “I can’t wait to go to heaven!” Amen, sister, says Paul. But let us keep visiting our eternal home while Jesus continues to prepare it for us.
Let us consider God’s attributes to excite our expectation for Paradise on the Hill of the Lord as we wait upon Him here below. The Westminster Confession, chapter 2, and the Shorter Catechism Question and Answer 4, guide us in contemplating what God is like to help us look forward to being closer to Him in heaven, and even now: 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 in a closer communion of the glory of Christ 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 (upon your death), because you will be there “with Me”.
Beloved, let us indeed be preoccupied with paradise – our heavenly home, the eternal Sabbath heritage of Jacob our father. For as Paul knows again firsthand, it is far better to be with Christ! We might also think about the Westminster Larger Catechism Question and Answer 85 to rest assured that for the Christian, death is no longer a punishment, but a glorious transition. Christians may look forward to death 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! What’s more, we know that our deaths are precious in His sight for the same more immediate closeness with His saints (Psalm 116:15).
In the mean time, as we fellowship with Christ in the Spirit through His ordinary means of grace, we can have extraordinary experiences of our eternal life in this life, that is, of heaven on this earth. For such worship on earth in the Kingdom of God tastes of heaven’s first fruits. It is something the world knows nothing about; but you do and can, Christian, because even now, you have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
May you spend special time with Jesus today, and find as you leave from tabernacling with Him that you wear His glow on your face and are saying with a smile, “Indeed, how heavenly!” For Jesus says to you, “Today, you can be with me in Paradise”. While you are there visiting, look around and take mental pictures of its pleasures. For one day, there you will stay, in your flesh, in His presence, forevermore!
Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010. He is the adoring husband of Jennifer Van Leuven and a proud father of their four covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, and Isaac. He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.
 In honor of Jennifer Marie Van Leuven, who was called into Christ’s immediate glory yesterday (September 14, 2016).