Whether your life is hellish or heavenly depends, not upon your location or your circumstances, but entirely upon the faith in your heart and the god on which you depend. If your heart clings to Jesus Christ and abides in Him, then your life is heavenly and divine, already now in your body here on earth. But if your heart fears, loves, and trusts in gods other than Christ, then your life is a hellish and damnable “living death,” which can only go from bad to worse.
It’s not that your body of flesh and blood is problematic or a prison; neither is it the material world of God’s good creation that imprisons you. Rather, it is your sin and death, idolatry, and unbelief that drive you into fear and dread and sheer despair. Thus do you perceive even your God-given vocations and your holy stations in life to be burdensome, tedious, and irksome, painful and unfair. And as such, it seems to you that God the Lord is not the Sun that warms and lights you, but a cruel and demanding taskmaster, your judge, jury, and executioner. So, too, you do not love and serve your neighbor, but you hate him, despise and resent him, hurt and take advantage of him.
How, then, shall you ever be able to escape from such a hellish prison? How shall you learn to worship the Lord your God in reverent fear, love, and trust, instead of trying (vainly) to run away from Him in dreadful terror? How shall you break out of that maddening downward spiral, in which you’re always fleeing but never able to evade the threat of death and eternal punishment?
How shall you cling to Christ Jesus in faith, hope, and love, and so rest yourself in Him? How shall you rise with Him, and live in Him, and abide with Him in the bosom of His God and Father?
As impossible as all of this appears to be, rejoice, give thanks, and sing! For all of this has been accomplished for you, and it is freely given to you here and now, by your Savior, Jesus Christ.
He is not far away or far above you, but He has brought you to God in Himself, even as He draws near to you with God. He has done so by His Incarnation, by His Holy Cross and Passion, by His bodily Resurrection from the dead, and by His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father in His own human flesh. And He continues to do so by way of His Church and Ministry of the Gospel.
He has entered into the Holy of Holies made without hands, eternal in the heavens, as your great and merciful High Priest, as your Anchor behind the Veil. There He lives and abides in the presence of God in flesh and blood like your own, even as He feeds your body and soul with His Body and Blood here at His Altar in His Church. So it is that, where and what and who He is, you are also, by His divine grace, through faith in His Gospel. God and man, heaven and earth are no longer far apart and separated from one another, divided by sin and death, but they are perfectly reconciled and united in the Body of Christ Jesus. You find your heavenly life in Him, therefore.
True, there is a right and wrong way to lay hold of Him on earth, as demonstrated in the contrast between Mary Magdalene and Thomas in the stories of the Resurrection. Ironically, it was faithful Mary Magdalene who attempted to lay hold of Him in an earthly way at first, from which she was dissuaded when He pointed out that He was ascending to His God and Father; whereas doubting Thomas was given to lay hold of Christ Jesus in the sacred wounds of His Cross and Passion, that is to say, within His means of grace — the Word and Flesh and Blood of His Gospel — which Thomas and the other Apostles were then sent to preach and administer in His Name and stead.
Here, then, first of all, even in the midst of your doubts and fears, in spite of your sins and failings, the Lord Jesus lays hold of you in His mercy, with the grace and peace of His forgiveness, by the preaching of His Gospel, and by the administration of the Fruits of His Sacrifice upon the Cross.
That is how and why it is that, already here and now in your mortal body of flesh and blood, you live a heavenly life in the presence of God. In and through Christ Jesus, your High Priest, you worship God in His Temple, in the midst of His Jerusalem, His Church on earth as it is in heaven.
Christ Jesus Himself is the Incense and the Prayer of His Body and Bride, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. So is He also your Incense, your Prayer, and your Worship, whereby your body, soul, and spirit are received by your true God and Father in perfect peace and love and joy.
Likewise are you given to receive the same Lord Jesus Christ into your body of flesh and blood, and to live and abide in Him by faith in His Word as you go about your callings here on earth.
The truth remains that He is not far from you. Lo, He is with you always, even to the close of the age, and even to the ends of the earth. As you go about your life, therefore, be not far from Him.
Do not attempt to live your life on earth apart from the Gifts Christ freely gives to you here in the midst of His Jerusalem — the Gifts of His Gospel in Word and Sacrament — whereby He bestows the Gift of the Holy Spirit whom He promised from the Father, which He has first of all received for you in His own crucified and risen Body (in your stead and on your behalf).
As He does indeed pour out His Spirit generously upon you here and now, know that He Himself abides with you and lives in you, in order that you should live and abide with Him, both now and forever, in the glorious presence of the Holy Triune God.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.