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Don Stewart :: What Is Paradise?

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Don Stewart
Three times in the New Testament we are told of a place called paradise. What is this place? Is it another term for heaven, or does it refer to somewhere different?

Robber On The Cross

Jesus told the robber that was dying next to Him on the cross

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

The robber, that was next to Jesus on the cross, was promised that he would be immediately in God's presence with Jesus.

Paul In Third Heaven

Paul told the Corinthians that he was caught up in the third heaven, which he defines as paradise.

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows - was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

Therefore paradise means heaven - the special habitation of God.

Paradise Lost

The Book of Revelation also speaks of paradise.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).

The reference to the tree of life in Revelation speaks of the paradise that was lost in the Garden of Eden. It has been regained through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Part Of Hades?

Some believe that before the coming of Christ, paradise was a compartment in Hades, or the unseen realm of the dead. It was a region of bliss also known as Abraham's side, or bosom. This was a common belief among the Jews in Jesus' day. When the beggar Lazarus died, Jesus said he went to the same place as Abraham.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried (Luke 16:22).

It is argued that these righteous dead went to paradise, not heaven. When Christ ascended into heaven He took paradise, and all the inhabitants, with Him. The verse used to support this view is found in Ephesians.

Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to humanity." (Now this, "He ascended" - what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts - the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10).

Same Place

Others feel that paradise, Abraham's bosom, and heaven are three different descriptions of the same place. Abraham's soul seemed to go to heaven upon death. The writer to the Hebrews wrote the following concerning Abraham and the other heroes of the faith.

or he [Abraham] was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. . . . But as it is, they [the Old Testament saints] desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:10,16).

In Heaven

The psalmist seemed to imply that he would go to heaven upon death.

You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You (Psalm 73:24,25).

However, the information we have on this subject is not clear enough to make any final conclusion.

Summary

The word paradise is a synonym of heaven. The three times it is used in Scripture all refer to the presence of the Lord. Some feel paradise was a distinct place from God's presence during the Old Testament period. This however, is not necessarily the case.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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