Given a choice, would you rather keep living or go to heaven right now? Either way I’d probably say that I disagree with you.
The minority response is to go to heaven now, which I usually find to be motivated by a desire for personal relief—from hard times or the pressure of responsibilities. I suggest that a better option might be a vacation or a simpler life.
Everyone wants to escape now and then, but wanting to go to heaven to get out of earth seems contrary to what Jesus told us to pray: that the rule of heaven might come to earth.
Jesus Himself prayed that we would come to heaven someday so we could see Him in all His glory, but FIRST that we would stay. Longing for heaven is one thing. Neglecting the call of Jesus to stay so that the world may believe that He is the Son of God is entirely different.
The majority preference is to keep living, which I also find problematic. I was talking to some people about this yesterday. The most common reason they gave for wanting to be alive and not dead fell along the lines of wanting to accomplish something or just to enjoy life. I understand. I wear a hat that says, “Life is good.”
But even if life is good, isn’t heaven still much, much better? The people I was talking to agreed, but said that you only get to live life for a little while and that heaven will be forever. I took that to mean that if I had you in a kung-fu grip, you would not want to get out due to the fact that you spend most of your life free of kung-fu grips. You might as well try to enjoy it for a little while.
Choosing to stay on earth in order to enjoy yourself or accomplish something is primarily about your gain. I am not about to say that personal gain is inherently bad. But following their line of thinking, I am just saying that if you are going to live primarily for your own gain, you should rather die than live. I am confident that you will consciously enjoy heaven even more than if your wildest dreams came true on earth.
This all seems irrelevant because we don’t actually get to choose, but I bring it up because Paul was rambling a little in one of his letters about whether or not he wanted to "depart" or "remain." At least he recognized that “to depart and be with Christ is better by far." I would not hold it against Paul had he chosen to go. He was old and had been beaten quite a bit.
But even he decided that he wanted to keep living. The difference between Paul and most of us is that it was not his gain that motivated him: "But it is more necessary for YOU that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of YOU for YOUR progress and joy in the faith."
In terms of personal gain, Paul’s life pretty much sucked (see 2 Corinthians 11). But the more you read Paul, the more you see that his life had nothing to do with personal gain and everything to do with "the progress of the Gospel."
It turns out that if you are obsessed with the Gospel, you actually find joy in suffering and privilege in responsibility, not to mention a deep affection for everyone who shares your obsession. It also seems that living for others is the only sensible way to live. Whatever else we hope to enjoy or accomplish turns out to be a false lead, a regretful pursuit.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."