logo
search site

REFLECTION: Paradise Opened

Three New Testament References…..

 

 

 

Visitors to the New Forest often enjoy calling in at Mottisfont Abbey where they can stroll through the walled rose-gardens. The fragrance of hundreds of roses fills the air, while the melodious song of myriad birds punctuates the stillness – along the restful humming of numberless bees. One can wander along the garden paths, pausing occasionally to savour the fragrance and drink in the beauty of the scene. To many, the tranquility resembles paradise.

 

 

Paradise is an oriental word which was first used by the historian Xenophon to describe the parks of Persian kings and nobles. The word passed into Greek as paradeisos which, literally, means “a wall around” and thus refers to a protected walled-garden. Paradeisos is found a number of times in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) including Genesis 2:8 where we read that the LORD God planted a paradeisos eastward in Eden. This is an interesting reference because it takes us back to before the Fall, to before the time that sin invaded our planet.

 

 

THE ORIGINAL PARADISE

In our English Bibles, the word paradise occurs three times in the New Testament. Before considering these verses, we ought to remember the reference in the Septuagint to Eden, the original Paradise. As we know from Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden in which they had lived on account of their disobedience. Genesis 3:24 describes how angelic beings were placed outside the garden with a flaming sword which rotated constantly to prevent anyone from approaching the tree of life. Very early in Scripture, therefore, Paradise was closed to the human race because of sin.

 

The first New Testament reference to consider is recorded in Luke 23:43 where the Lord Jesus spoke to the dying thief and said, “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise”. The poor condemned man had previously, along with his companion, railed on the Lord Jesus. A change, however, came over him as he watched and listened to the suffering Saviour beside him. He finally admitted that the two guilty ones were justly condemned but Christ had done nothing amiss. Broken and contrite he turned to the Saviour beside him and pleaded, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” (Lk.23:42). It was this request that elicited the response, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Lk.23:43).

 

What a wonderful promise! The man was suffering intensely. Pain racked his body as he hung suspended above the earth under the blazing sun. The heat, the noise, the words of mockery, the hatred, the blasphemy … all would soon be over! It was as though the Lord Jesus was saying to him, “I will take you out of here to be with Me. I will take you into the bliss and peace of paradise today!”

 

What a message of hope this is for those who have none! All who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ can share this wondrous prospect. One day He will take us away from all our pain and suffering and from the sin, unrest, and blasphemy that surround us daily. He will take us to a place of safety and tranquillity — behind those secure walls. We shall enter into the fulness of God’s peace which surpasses our understanding (cf. Phil.4:7). What an incomparable future awaits the child of God!

 

The second occurrence of paradise is found in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul wrote there about “a man in Christ” (clearly himself) who had been “caught up to the third heaven” where he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (v.2,4). God, in His wisdom, has seen fit to withhold their meaning from us – perhaps because they are beyond the grasp of our finite minds. But one day all believers will be “caught up” like Paul, at the coming of the Lord. When that happens and we enter paradise, then we will understand the things that Paul was not allowed to share with us — wonderful though they were!

 

 

NO LONGER EXCLUDED

The final reference to paradise is found in Revelation 2:7: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” This reference to the tree of life takes us back in thought to the opening chapters of the Bible. Genesis 2:9 describes “the tree of life” which was located “in the midst of the garden”. In Revelation 2 we discover the tree of life again. This time it is to be found in another garden. The tree which had once grown in Eden is now found flourishing “in the midst of the paradise of God” (v.7). The connection is unavoidable. In Eden, the tree of life was “in the midst of the garden”; here in paradise it again occupies a central position. The difference, however, is that it is no longer a forbidden tree. The “overcomer” is invited to draw near and partake of its fruit — which is not seasonal like so many of our earthly fruits. The tree is nourished by the river of life and yields “twelve manner of fruits” corresponding to the months of the year (Rev.22:2). There is a boundless supply! Endless life is thus nourished in paradise. It is not good people who look forward to its tranquility but repentant and forgiven people, those like the dying thief.

 

We can enjoy foretastes of paradise now, but paradise itself transcends all that we can know down here. Life is found in Christ alone and will continue with Him, in paradise, for ever. Truly, the believer’s prospects are out of this world!