PARADISE, HEAVEN OR SOMEPLACE ELSE?

LUKE 23:42-43 (Amplified Bible):

[42] Then he [the criminal] said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory!

[43] And He [JESUS] answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.

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I first began THE WORD DETECTIVE study on Paradise, Heaven, Or Someplace Else, actually, by reading and enjoying reading various EPITAPHS (Inscriptions of Tombstones).

I know you might be thinking, “You actually got inspiration from reading notices of DEATH?”  Well, no, I receive inspiration from reading daily in Scripture, prompted by Holy Spirit to write on a theme, topic, subject from God’s Word.

That said, I thought I would SHARE one Epitaph I enjoyed reading [see Footnote [i] ]:

“Here lies the body of old man Peas,

Buried beneath the flowers & trees.

But Peas ain’t here, just the pod,

Peas shelled out & went to God.”

PARADISE REGAINED –

In reading the two previous verses in Luke one morning, some questions came to my mind:

Are heaven and paradise the same thing?  Did the criminal on the cross next to Jesus go to heaven or paradise?

JESUS told the church at Ephesus,

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~ NAS).

So apparently, PARADISE is where God is at, because it is called the “Paradise of God.” 

JESUS told the robber, He would be with him in Paradise that very day.  The words in Luke 23:43, is taken as a great source of COMFORT & HOPE by most Christian believers. Many say, this is clear proof that we go to HEAVEN when we die.

Church Doctrine of Heaven Exposed

One of the most misunderstood doctrines within the Bible is the Doctrine of Heaven. There are a lot of false myths about Heaven and it’s easy to get caught up in them if we’re not careful.

The Bible tells us that we are going to spend an eternity there, so it made sense to me to investigate the place where we are going to LIVE FOREVER & FOREVER.

So what is up with HEAVEN & PARADISE…are they the same?

The word “Paradise” is a transliteration of the Greek word, “paradeisos”.  It is a word used only three times in the New Testament.  Also, the context of each of the three uses is different from the others, by three different authors.

As far as the original meaning of the word PARADISE:

  • (Persian) A grand park or hunting preserve, enclosed, protected, well cared for, but sealed off or contained.
  • A pleasure garden.
  • A grove or park.
  • (“Later” [?] Jews) The part of Hades set aside of the souls of the righteous until the resurrection [Also known as the Bosom of Abraham].
  • Heaven (possibly including multiple levels of “heaven” – sky or atmosphere, outer space/universe, God’s abode).

In 2 Corinthians 12:4, it appears to parallel or point to, the term “third heaven” in verse 2.

Since God is apparently immediately present there, this seems to be a reference to what is considered “HEAVEN”.

However, since the passage refers to Paul’s vision, it is difficult to relate directly to JESUS’ statement made in Luke 23:43.

In Revelation 2:7, this is given as the LOCATION of the “tree of life” – again, what we typically believe as an attribute of “HEAVEN”.

In this case, the word is modified with a prepositional phrase– “of God” — to set apart it from any other paradises.

Now in Luke 23:42-43, the meaning is somewhat more cloudy at first reading.  First of all, we have to understand JESUS’ destination after death on the Cross–did JESUS descend into Hell/Hades, and if so, how long did He remain there?  In other words, does “PARADISE” refer to an understanding of Hades as a “holding area” for the dead?  Or, would was He speaking in a sense outside of space and time, actually referring to HEAVEN?

Now THE STUDY gets really down to the ‘nitty gritty’ !

Teaching the Bible to others for over 30 years, in addition to my own study notes, I have utilized many available sources in helping me understand the application of God’s Word.

This study was no different [See Footnotes & Credits]. 

Here is one example pertaining to the bible verse in Luke 23:43 [The NET Bible Notes]

Note, #4 – sn.  In the NT, paradise is mentioned three times. Here it refers to the abode of the righteous dead.

In Rev. 2:7, the restoration of Edenic paradise predicted in Isaiah 51:3, Ezek. 36:35.

Sheol/Hades/Paradise:  IN THE BEGINNING…

Because of the CURSE of sin, all mankind faces the reality of physical death–100% Guaranteed (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12).

NONE can evade it by their own power, nor can any man or woman escape SHEOL/HADES/DEATH on their own.

While PARADISE is NOT now a part of Sheol/Hades, I wanted to mention here, that it was located in Sheol/Hades at one time.

hades-lk-16-simple

Before the death, burial, AND resurrection of Jesus Christ, everybody who died went to Sheol/Hades, which at the time was divided into TWO compartments.  One was a place of TORMENT (“Tartarus”) and the other place of BLESSING, referred to as Abraham’s Bosom–Paradise (Luke 16:22-25).

We know that since the CROSS, the souls of those who die “in Christ” do not go to Sheol/Hades (See 1 Cor. 15:19, 20, 51-57).

After the RESURRECTION and the ASCENSION of JESUS, PARADISE was moved to HEAVEN.  The area for the RIGHTEOUS (Paradise) was emptied out.

The BELIEVER goes directly to HEAVEN–

From the New Testament teaching, we can find that the new location of PARADISE is in heaven.

Tree of Life Location –

In the first PARADISE, The Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life was located in the “center of the garden (Gen. 2:8, 9).  

After Adam and Eve’s SIN, disobedience to God’s Word, God “drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim and flaming sword which turned every way, to keep and guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

I can imagine that the Great Flood, no doubt, geographically speaking, the GARDEN PARADISE was destroyed…but NOT lost!

PARADISE REGAINED…

Revelation 22:1-3 Amplified Bible:

1353073853“THEN HE showed me the river whose waters give life, sparkling like crystal, flowing out from the throne of the Lamb.  

Through the middle of the broadway of the city; also, on either side of the river was the TREE OF LIFE…

There shall no longer exist there anything that is accursed…”

In PARADISE REGAINED, the Tree of Life is “on either side of the river” where “the leaves are used for the healing and the restoration of the nations.”

JESUS Words Spoken On The CROSS…

In the gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus responding to the religious leaders of His day. And when asked if He would give them a miracle or sign, that He was the Promised One, Jesus said,  “No sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet JONAH” (Matt. 12:39 b.).

The Given CLUE (verse 40): 

“For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

He was saying that He would spend the time between His DEATH & RESURRECTION in Sheol/Hades (“in the heart of the earth”).  

We know that JESUS went into the depths, the heart, the center of the earth (Ephesians 4:9) for three days and nights while His body lay in the grave (Matt. 12:40).

The Lord Jesus told the repentant criminal that He would join him in PARADISE that same day.  This tells us the PARADISE was located in Sheol/Hades at that time.  I believe this evidence given, in God’s Word, was the same place referred to as Abraham’s Bosom in Luke 16.

However, AFTER Jesus rose from the grave, He ascended to the Father, taking the saints who were in Abraham’s Bosom to HEAVEN with Him.

He took “captivity captive”–including the thief on the cross–with Him.

Ephesians 4:8-10:

“Therefore it is said,  When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes]  and He bestowed gifts on men.

[But He ascended?]  Now what can this, He ascended mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?

He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).”

That PARADISE was moved to HEAVEN (2 Corinthians 12:3-4) –

JESUS’ WORK COMPLETED…

With Jesus’ work now completed…FINISHED, the believers who had previously been confined in Sheol/Hades, are now taken to HEAVEN to wait in God’s presence until the time of their resurrected bodies to enter His Kingdom on Earth.

Sheol/Hades: The Present Location of the Unrighteous Dead –

HADES refers to a place of temporary torment; referred to as the immediate, or present HELL.

What I mean by this is, that at the time of DEATH, the souls of the LOST–the unbelievers–the unrighteous– that don’t confess Jesus is the Son of the living God–God incarnate, go directly to HADES to suffer in torment until the Great White Throne Judgement; where they will be resurrected and cast into the Lake of Fire–“This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13,14; 21:8).  

The souls of ALL the lost who have already died and presently there, and… those who die now in their sins, immediately go there to join them.

The Simplicity of the Three Crosses –

One criminal’s REPENTANCE and acceptance of JESUS as his Savior went to PARADISE that day and then to HEAVEN.

The other criminal’s soul was delivered Sheol/Hades–the place of torment.

Three Crosses: Rejection, Repentance, Redemption:

The REPENTANT CRIMINAL didn’t have a degree in Theology.

He didn’t have the opportunity at this place in time to clean up his life (he couldn’t if he tried!).

He didn’t have time to “work his way to Heaven/Paradise (and he couldn’t if he did have the opportunity).

He didn’t have to offer a long and detailed “prayer of Salvation”.  There wasn’t a counselor at the foot of his cross telling him to “repeat after me.”

He simply TRUSTED in JESUS and CRIED out loud for Him to SAVE HIM!!  His life was changed because of what JESUS was doing on the Cross right next to him!

Both criminals made choices that day on Mt. Calvary:

  • REJECTION/HADES/JUDGEMENT.
  • REPENTANCE/REDEMPTION/PARADISE (Heaven). 

Which CHOICE have you made?  You don’t have to be nailed to a cross when making a decision for Christ Jesus. You can make it right where you are.  Remember, your choice is for an ETERNITY.

stock-photo-cross-with-a-man-kneel-in-prayer-on-a-beach-at-sunset-138903485

 


 

Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i] :  EPITAPH from Vernon Caruthers Sermons About Heaven.

Commentary Credits:

Bible Hermeneutics Stack Exchange (PARADISE); Hell, Sheol, Hades, Paradise and the Grave – Berean Bible Society; What did Jesus mean by Paradise?  www.bible-uk.com

Photo Credits:

Google Image Search; Photo Pin.

 

JESUS Is More Than An Image!

“Who Is JESUS, Really?”

[15] “[Now] He is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He us the firstborn of all creation.  [16] For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.  [17] And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together” (Colossians 1:15-17 AMP).

A Child’s Answer:

A Sunday School Class teacher once came up from behind a little girl busy drawing a picture.  She couldn’t make “heads or tails” of what the picture was revealing, so she asked the simple question:

“I can’t quite make out sweetie, the picture your drawing.  Could you give me a hint?”

And without looking up from her drawing she said,

“I’m drawing a picture of Jesus.”

Taken back by the little girls answer, the teacher said in a soft but authoritative voice,

“No one has seen Jesus, so you can’t really know what He looks like.”

“Really”, said the young girl.  Without a pause and her head still down, she went on to say,  “Well, after I finish coloring my picture, they will know what God looks like then!”

How Many Times Do We Color Our Own Images Of God?

People have seen Hollywood’s images of Jesus and famous artist renditions of Jesus, and with the replicas hanging on our walls.  We base those images on who we think He ought to look like; when we see His face in eternity.  We do this rather than what He is really like.

How many times do we make Jesus out to be something that He really isn’t?  Many people throughout our nation say that they love Jesus, but have no real idea who JESUS is!  So my question to you who are reading this blog today is this…WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?

I  am amazed at the answers to that specific question:  “Who is JESUS to you?”  Some people think he was a “great teacher”, a moral example, and some think that he was a prophet.  In fact, JESUS Himself asked this same question to His disciples,  [13] “Who do people say the Son of Man is?  [14] And they answered,   Some say…   [15] He said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am?  [16] Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (Matthew 16:13-16 AMP).

But most people won’t answer the question, tending to deflect as if they were running for some political office.  They talk about what a good person they are.  Tell you what church they are a member of or talk about all the deeds they’ve accomplished and charity work they have performed in the community.

Some people will tell you that when they turned nineteen years old, they spent 2 1/2 years on their churches appointed mission field.   Sometimes I feel like acting like a judge in the courtroom.  I feel like saying,  “OBJECTION–just answer the question.  “Who is JESUS to you?”

The Apostle Paul answers this exact same question to the Church at Colossae.

Epaphras went to Paul while he was in prison in Rome asking for help in the newly established church.  So Paul wrote this letter not only remind the Colossians, but also to us in the church today who JESUS is.

JESUS IN HIS RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CREATION:

I need to clear up a little language first.  I found it interesting to know Paul wrote this letter to warn the church of the false teaching about JESUS.  It’s interesting because many false teachers today use this very same verse 15 to support their false teaching about JESUS.

The Mormon Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses misuse Colossians 1:15 in making it say what it doesn’t say; to support their false doctrines, that JESUS isn’t God.  Their explanation and use of the Word of God is WRONG!

Here’s what the verse means:  Just as the invisible Father is God, so is the Son who came to earth, a visible flesh; God incarnate.  The Amplified Bible uses “exact likeness”, while the NIV, NASB and the KJV use the English word “image.”

Greek Word “eikon”

The Greek Word “eikon”:

The Greek word was used to describe a STAMP, specifically used in displaying the image of Caesar on documents and other articles.  People in the Roman Empire knew when they saw the stamp, it was from Caesar personally from the “image stamp”.

In other words, JESUS is the exact representation, the exact likeness of God.  Is it something we can ever understand fully?  No.  If we could, we would be saying that are “little brains” are big enough to contain the thoughts of God Himself.

No matter how smart you think you are–Scripture says your thoughts are not His thoughts–your ways are not His ways.  You and I will never completely figure God out!

Verse 15 also tells us…“JESUS is the firstborn of every creature.”

Those same false teachers of our day say…‘that proves that JESUS was created’.  They say that because they don’t know their Scriptures.

FIRSTBORN can mean one of two things:

It can mean born chronologically, like our daughter Karen.  Karen is our firstborn child because she was born before Kristin and Kevin.  That is not the sense here.  Even though JESUS was born of a virgin, that’s not where He began.

John 1:1 says,  “In the beginning [before all time] was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God  Himself.”

In John’s vision (Rev. 19), he sees Christ Jesus returning as Warrior-Messiah-King, and “the title by which He is called is The Word of God…and Lord of lords”  (Revelation 19:13, 16).

The Gospel of John goes on to say,  “And the Word became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us”  (John 1:14 AMP).  JESUS wasn’t first-born in the chronological sense.  He couldn’t because He was without beginning or endAs God, He is eternal.

JESUS was born in the other sense of the word–JESUS was born according to His rank.

He is above ALL of creation and He has ALL the rights, privileges and responsibilities of His Father.  To say that He is the Firstborn of all creation carries the exact same meaning when Scripture tells us JESUS is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He occupies the position of prominence.  And as God of very God, verse 16 tells us JESUS created ALL THINGS:

“For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.”

When you read the creation account in Genesis 1, JESUS was with God and JESUS was God as God created the heavens and the earth.  Nothing exists that JESUS didn’t create and nothing continues to exist that JESUS doesn’t sustain.

Atheists say “God is Dead!”

GOD is not dead, JESUS is not dead!  The only reason an atheist is able to say, “Jesus never existed”, is because JESUS is alive and well!

Verse 17 tells us that by ALL THINGS consisthold together:

“And He [JESUS] Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).”

If JESUS was to remove His sustaining hand from creation for one brief moment, everything would collapse and cease to exist.  His relationship to His creation is as our creator and our sustainer.

The Christmas Exchange–

Most of us know why we celebrate the Christmas season: To celebrate JESUS’ birth, the giving and receiving of gifts, the decorations, and the smells of Christmas.  But when it comes to the exchanging of gifts to the stores on the day after, that is a different story.  All the stores are a disaster; shopping cart after shopping cart full of things people are exchanging.  Clothes that don’t fit, the wrong color or style of choice.  People line up at the customer service desk trying to exchange things.  But let me cheer you up with the exchange JESUS made for you and me:

“And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross”  (Colossians 1:20 AMP).

Over 2000 years ago, JESUS exchanged His life for yours and mine.  But not only did He exchange His life for yours, He exchanged His death for yours.

Man’s Fall Into Sin–

“Therefore as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned”  (Romans 5:12).

We were all born into sin, sworn enemies of God according to His Word.  The only thing that man deserved was the total wrath of God.  Our relationship with our Creator was irreconcilable, sort of like divorce proceedings in America– by irreconcilable differences.  That was how things were on earth until JESUS paid the price to reconcile, to redeem us back into the relationship by His blood on the Cross.

The Two-fold Purpose of Reconciliation

“Yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] RECONCILED [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father’s] presence”  (Colossians 1:22 AMP).

1.  To take away your unrighteousness.

JESUS’ perfect sacrifice accomplishes that for you.  But of that was all there was, it still wouldn’t reconcile you to God.  It would just bring you back to neutral and take away His wrath.  His wrath would be gone, but you would still be empty, without eternal purpose, an interrupted relationship. 

2.  JESUS’ perfect life clothes you in righteousness. 

While His perfect sacrifice takes away your sins, His perfect life can clothe you in righteousness.

A PICTURE OF DIRTY LITTLE HOMELESS CHILDREN–

World War II Picture

I want you to visualize a picture of a dirty little homeless boy (or girl), living in filth and poverty out in the streets.  A servant of the king invites him off the streets and to come into the palace of the king.

In order that the boy to stand in the king’s presence, the boy must be washed of all the filth accumulated on the street.  But not only bathed, he must put on new clothes.

That’s the picture of what JESUS does for us in salvation.  He washes away all the dirtiness by His spilled blood–ALL of our sins– and gives us new clothes; He clothes us in His righteousness so we can stand reconciled before Him as our King.

Going Back to the Question, “Who is JESUS to you?”

JESUS SAVES you for a purpose; to die to the flesh and live for Him.  The question is, “do you know the real JESUS?”  Or…have you been dealing with a cheap imitation?

If you have never trusted JESUS as your Lord and Savior, then now is the time for you to come out of the streets of squalor.  Begin to make your calling and election sure and start serving Him where you are today.

If you know Jesus for sure, that He is your Savior, but have turned your back on His lordship, then turn back to Him today.  For when you do so, this is what JESUS will immediately do:

“…present you holy and faultless and irreproachable…  [23] [And this He will do] provided that you continue to stay with and in the faith [in Christ], well-grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope [which rests on and is inspired by] the glad tidings (the Gospel),  which you heard and which has been preached  [as being designed for and offered without restrictions] to every person under heaven…”     (Colossians 1:22b-23 AMP).