St. Paul writes: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23).
Paul’s desire to depart and be with Christ is a desire all Christians share. We have a desire to depart because this sinful world is dominated by the devil and His evil forces. In this world, we often do not fit in and have a desire to depart and be with our Savior in heaven. Our prayer is the prayer Jesus taught us in the Seventh Petition: “Deliver us from evil.” And to that Luther adds what this means: “We pray in this petition, as the sum of all, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor; and at last, when the hour of death shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”
Our Lord has ascended into heaven. And we want to be with Him where, as St John writes, “God Himself will be with them…. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Jesus has ascended to heaven and we have the certain hope of joining Him one day. Our hope is certain not because of our own righteousness, but rather because of Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus earned that righteousness for us when He took all our sins and the sins of all people on Himself and went to the cross where God punished Him in our place. And now in Him we have the forgiveness of all our sins—forgiveness that we can claim as a free gift by faith alone.
When we join Jesus in heaven, our prayer “Deliver us from evil” will be fully resolved. And Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven. For He has told us so in His Word: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-4).
Jesus has ascended to heaven, yet we are still with Him by faith. St. Paul writes: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Reverend Ronald Pederson
King of Grace Lutheran Church