That which makes Heaven superlatively attractive to the heart of the saint is not that Heaven is a place where we should be delivered from all sorrow and suffering, nor is it that Heaven is the place where we shall meet again those we loved in the Lord, nor is it that Heaven is the place of golden streets and pearly gates and jasper walls – no; blessed as these things are, Heaven without Christ would not be Heaven. It is Christ the heart of the believer longs for and pants after – “Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee” (Psalm 73:25). And the most amazing thing is that Heaven will not be Heaven to Christ in the highest sense until His redeemed are gathered around Him. It is His saints that His heart longs for. To come again and “receive us unto Himself” is the joyous expectation set before Him. Not until He sees of the travail of His soul will He be fully satisfied.
These are thoughts suggested and confirmed by the words of the Lord Jesus to the dying thief. “Lord, remember me” had been his cry. And what was the response? Note it carefully. Had Christ merely said, “Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be in Paradise,” that would have set at rest the fears of the thief. Yes, but it did not satisfy the Savior. That upon which His heart was set was the fact that that very day a soul saved by His precious blood should be with Him in Paradise!
We say again, this is the climax of grace and the sum of Christian blessing. Said the apostle, “I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). And again, he wrote, “Absent from the body” – free from all pain and care? No. “Absent from the body” – translated to glory? No. “Absent from the body … present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). So, too, with Christ. Said He, “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;” yet when He adds, “I will come again” He does not say “And conduct you unto the Father’s House,” or “I will take you to the Place I have prepared for you,” but “I will come again and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:2,3). To be “forever with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is the goal of all our hopes; to have us forever with Himself is that to which He looks forward with eager and gladsome expectation. Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise!
As the deer pants for the water brooks,So pants my soul for You, O God.