“Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 (NIV)
Can you imagine anything further from the mind of this man? He feels he is already in hell, and he fears that the worst is still to come. He’s absolutely hopeless and powerless, and in the middle of all his pain and guilt, Christ says, “Paradise… today!”
To paraphrase C. H. Spurgeon, this man had breakfast with the devil, but he met Christ before noon, and then he had supper with the Savior.
The thief probably thought Christ’s kingdom would come sometime in the distant future. He says, “Remember me,” but Jesus is saying to him, “You don’t need to worry about me remembering you, we’re going to be there today—you and me!”
For the Christian believer, death does not lead to unconsciousness, or to a long process of preparation. Death is an immediate translation into the joys of life at the right hand of God. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Christian, heaven is much nearer than you think. C. S. Lewis pictures this in a beautiful way in the Chronicles of Narnia books where the children slip into a glorious world that is just on the other side of the wardrobe.
Everything that is burdening you and consuming you now is like breath on a window on a cold day. When you’ve been in the presence of Christ for a thousand years, you’ll be saying, “Why was I so worried about that?”
Do you see the hope that is found in the nearness of heaven?