(Photo: Harvest Ministries)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
In his final words to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul essentially laid down the principles that really mattered to him and said the desire of his heart was to finish his race with joy (see Acts 19:24). It was an emotional good-bye, and Paul left, sailing on to Caesarea. When he arrived there he stayed with the evangelist Philip, where he encountered the prophet Agabus. Agabus tied his own hands and feet with Paul's belt and warned him, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles' " (Acts 21:11). In other words, "Don't go. Danger is waiting."
Paul responded and said, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (verse 13).
Now, what kind of a statement is that? That is the statement of a man who has been to heaven (see 2 Corinthians 12:2). Paul left this earth, went into the presence of God, and was called back to the earth again. That is why Paul was able to say that he had "a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23).
If you had been to heaven, it would change everything about you. It would change the way you see everything and the way you respond to everything. And certainly, it would change the way you view death.
I don't think that Paul had a death wish, but I do think he recognized that what was waiting for him on the other side was far better than what he was experiencing. The same can be true for you and me.