Lk 23:43 – Jesus answered him, “I tell you [thief on the cross] the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
2Co 12:4 – …[Paul] was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
Rv 2:7 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
As we first look at these, it would appear three different places are being called paradise. Let’s investigate each one. In a previous post, we saw that prior to Christ’s resurrection, everyone went to Sheol. Was Christ calling the part of Sheol for the righteous, paradise? If that is the case, then this would be the only place in Scripture where Sheol is called Paradise.
King David referred to Sheol differently. Even knowing he would one day go to the portion for the righteous, he referred to it as a place like the following:
- Of captivity
- Where worship at temple cannot occur
- Where joys of life cannot be experienced
There was an expectation of future joy after death, but that would occur only after their resurrection. After Babylonian captivity, some Jewish sects did teach of experiencing Gan Eden after death. Yet, most taught this would occur after their resurrection.
Christ would have known the correct time of Gan Eden, or Paradise, so he would not have used it inappropriately.
So, how do we make sense of three different places being called ‘paradise’? Well, what do all of these references have in common? It would seem that in all cases, Jesus Christ, himself, is present. He was in the Garden of Eden; he was in Sheol when the thief on the cross went to Sheol; he is in Heaven today; and we who accept him by faith will be with him in his Millennial Kingdom and in the New Earth. It would seem, then, that paradise is wherever he is. He could tell the thief he would be in Paradise because Christs would be with him in Sheol. This was the only time it could be called Paradise as this was the first time happiness and joy entered there. Christ is today in Heaven, and so it would be correct for Paul to state he went to Paradise. And, in the future, Christ will be a part of the New Heaven and Earth when the Tree of Life will once again be available as John stated in Revelation.
It seems appropriate that Paradise is wherever Christ is. He is the one that brings hope and joy. Paradise is associated with praise, and praise is void without Christ being the subject of it.
Now, if that is the case, how does this play a key role in the transition of Christ’s followers going from being in Sheol after death to being in Heaven in Christ’s presence after death? Stay tuned for our next post.
Heaven & Hell
Heaven Prior to Christ's First Coming