But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.—Philippians 1:22–23
Have you ever been to a really beautiful place that stayed with you long after you returned home? Maybe you have a picture of it as your screensaver, and you just sit and gaze at it. You love that place.
That is how Paul felt about heaven. He longed for it. It’s why he could say, “For I am hard-pressed . . . , having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
Paul had already been to heaven at this point. At one time in his life—we don’t know when—he was killed and went to the third heaven. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 12 that he was “caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (verse 4).
Having experienced the sounds and sights of heaven, Paul was homesick. This doesn’t mean that Paul had a death wish. He just knew that when he died, it was ultimately a promotion.
When Paul said that he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” the word he used for depart is an interesting one. One way it is translated from Greek is “to strike the tent.” It’s the idea breaking camp. On more than one occasion, the Bible compares the human body to a tent. And one thing we know about tents is they are not meant to last forever. So why did Paul say this was far better? It’s because he was moving from a tent to a mansion.
When Christians die, they go straight to heaven, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The moment they take their last breath on earth, they take their first breath in heaven.