And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:42-43 NASB)
As Jesus was hanging on the cross dying, he had criminals hanging on crosses on either side of him. One was angry at Jesus and yelled at him. The other was repentant of his sins and wanted to be forgiven for his wrongdoing. Jesus forgave the second, promising that he would be in paradise with Christ that day.
Each day God gives me in this life, I have a choice. Do I want to be with Him or not. It really is that simple...and the choice is mine. After Jesus rose from the dead, gave all his followers a mission - to go and make disciples of all nations. Then he promised to be with us as we fulfilled that mission. He would send His Spirit to help.
Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us. He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 HCSB)
His Spirit is a down payment? What does that mean? Let's try another translation.
[He] gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 1:22 NASB)
This translation calls it a "pledge." God is making us some kind of promise with pledge or down payment. What is the promise?
...guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV)
When we choose to join God, we become citizens of heaven. We receive His Spirit as a down payment...a pledge...guaranteeing what is to come. We get a little taste of paradise right here on earth until we can enjoy it all in heaven. In the meantime, we get to bring a little piece of His Kingdom here on earth just as it is in heaven. We get to live, and bring to others, a piece of paradise today.