THE WORD ‘PARADISE’ IN THE BIBLE
The word “paradise” is to be found three times only in the Bible, all being in the New Testament. It is a word that has been transferred to the English language direct from the Greek language in which the New Testament was written. The three occurrences are:
(1) “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) (2) “Caught up into paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:4) (3) “The tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7)
The Hebrew language (in which the Old Testament was written) had an equivalent word - pardes - and this also occurs three times in the Old Testament. The important thing to remember is that, when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into a Greek version (known as the Septuagint), the translators used the word “paradise” for each of these occurrences. They are:
(a) “Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest (paradise)” (Nehemiah 2:6) (b) “I made me gardens and orchards (paradises) and I planted trees in them” (Ecclesiastes 2:5) (c) “Thy plants are an orchard (paradise) of pomegranates….with all trees of frankincense” (Song of Solomon 4:13-14)
It is evident from these latter three passages that a paradise is an extensive tract of land in which many trees have been planted. It is significant, therefore, that the same Greek translators also referred to the garden of Eden as a paradise, in which “the Lord made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9). It was in these idyllic surroundings that Adam and Eve lived, enjoying open communion with the angels of God. Their presence there lasted until they foolishly disobeyed the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The divine punishment for this disobedient act was a sentence of death and, to prevent them from eating of “the tree of life in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 2:9), they were banished from this paradise (Genesis 3:22-24). Thus began the long history of sin and death in the earth with its consequent estrangement from God, which still remains the case today..
A PROMISE CONCERNING PARADISE
However, as we can see from quotation (3) above, a promise is held out to those who overcome to “eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God”- a direct reference to the events in the garden of Eden we have been describing. This, in a book of symbol, is representative of the bestowal of eternal life upon those deserving of it in the sight of God. So God does intend to remedy the ills brought about by Adam, and has purposed that such a remedy - a salvation from death - is only to be realised through Jesus Christ.
“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
What this involves can be discovered by referring to quotation (2) above. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Thou shalt be WITH ME in paradise”, and this was in direct response to the request of the thief for Jesus to remember him “when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Thus, when Jesus comes again it will be to set up his kingdom (“at his appearing and his kingdom” - 2 Timothy 4:1), or to restore paradise in the earth. This is referred to by the Apostles as “restoring again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6), and the prophet Isaiah, speaking prophetically of this time, said,
“The Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden (Greek, paradise) of the Lord” (Isaiah 51:3)
THE GOSPEL’S CALL TO PARADISE
The purpose of the gospel is to call men and women to live for ever in this paradise, which is the kingdom of God restored in the land of Israel bringing blessings to all peoples of the earth (Micah 1:1-4; Psalm 72). Isaiah chapter 61 refers to this work of preaching (as can be seen by comparing Luke 4:16-21), the result of which will be that those who accept the gospel, are baptised into Christ and accepted by him in the day of his return to the earth, will constitute the figurative trees in the paradise of God. They shall “be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (verses 1-3 - see also Jeremiah 17:7-8). This symbol is taken up in the book of symbol (Revelation) in which it is shown that those who constitute “the tree (or wood) of life”, will be the immortal benefactors in the kingdom of God, dispensing spiritual cures to the nations of the earth (22:1-2), until ultimately “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14:21), and God will “be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
OUR OPPORTUNITY TO REGAIN PARADISE
When we look at quotation (2) we find that the apostle Paul was privileged to have a vision and a revelation of this coming time of glory on the earth. He said that what he saw and heard was “unspeakable”, not possible for a man to utter. Truly, the mind of man is incapable of formulating such a plan for an eternal time of “joy and gladness” (Isaiah 51:3), and it behoves us to turn to the word of God which alone is able to enlighten us in these matters. Paradise has been lost by the foolishness and disobedience of man and can only be regained by those who seek to walk in obedience to the divine commands. That opportunity is ours today - tomorrow may be too late!