“You will show me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
This verse does not speak of believers going to heaven–at least, not directly. Yes, the path of life is truly the path to Life, with a capital L. Yes, the fullness of joy and the pleasures forevermore refer to the joys of heaven that are infinite in size (“fullness”) and infinite in time (“forevermore”). And yes, it is the presence of God that is the source of this infinite joy and pleasure. The real zinger is the reference to God’s right hand. According to Jesus, to sit at the right hand of a king is a prerogative reserved for One (Matthew 20:23). In other words, this joyful verse refers to the experience of One.
In the context of Psalm 16:11, that One is the “Holy One,” whom God raised from the dead before His flesh saw corruption (Psalm 16:10). According to Deuteronomy 33:8, this title “Holy One” refers to a priest, someone who has special access to God in His holy temple. Later in the Psalms, we see that this special One is both a King and a Priest, who sits at the right hand of God, and who will someday dominate all His enemies, including death (Psalm 110:1, 4; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Combined, these prophetic psalms refer to Jesus Christ, the Lord, who rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 12:2).
In Him, and in Him alone, individual believers will someday sit at the right hand of God (Revelation 3:21). The right hand is the prerogative of Jesus alone; but God be praised, every believer in Christ is united to Him forever! In fact, if we are true believers in Christ, we are so united to Him, and our future is so certain, that even now God “has raised us up together [with Christ], and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). No wonder Paul tells us, “If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1)! Even more, we should set our affections there, as Christ Himself set His affections in God (Colossians 3:2; Psalm 16:2). That is our future. Christ is our future. He is our feast and maintains our portion (Psalm 16:5).
Even more, for believers who have died, the right hand of God is both their future and their present condition, for as Paul says, “to be absent from the body” means “to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). And where is the Lord? At the right hand of His Father–with fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore. No wonder Paul said that death is gain, that “to depart, and to be with Christ . . . is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23)! To depart and be with Christ is to join Him at the right hand of God, a place that He alone deserves as the Holy One, but also a place to which He graciously invites us as our Savior. To Him and to His Father be the glory forever!