What is Paradise?

Paradise

We have very little information about Paradise. We only find the word paradeisos in three passages in the Bible:

  • Luke 23:43, where Jesus tells the thief on the cross that he would Join Him in Paradise that day
  • 2 Corinthians 12:4, where Paul talks about a man who was ‘caught up’ into Paradise, or “the third Heaven.”
  • Revelation 2:7, where Jesus writes to the church in Ephesus.

Commentators differ greatly on Paradise, since we know so little. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone take a strong position on Paradise. It’s a secondary matter, and certainly not one worth disputing. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind when reading these three passages:

Luke 23:43

Jesus tells the thief that he would join Him in Paradise that day. Based on this passage, it would appear that Paradise was not the same as Heaven. We read in John 20 that Jesus told Mary, do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. That was on Sunday. If the thief joined Jesus in Paradise on Friday, that may mean that Jesus went to Paradise and not to Heaven.

2 Corinthians 12:4

Paul describes a man who was caught up into God’s presence. In v2 he writes, the third heaven and in v4 he writes, paradise. According to ancient Jewish thought, the third heaven is the place where God dwells. Based on this passage, we might believe that Paradise is Heaven.

Revelation 2:7

Jesus told the church in Ephesus that to the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. One would presume that this is the same Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden…which leads some (including some early church fathers) to believe that Eden was never on Earth, but is on some other plane of existence, like Heaven and Hell. There are three other verses about the Tree of Life in Revelation, showing that it is (or will be) located in the New Jerusalem, which will descend from Heaven to the New Earth.

Paradise: a Possible Synthesis

Is there some way to reconcile these passages? I believe so. First, paradeisos is a general word that provides a mental picture of a garden, or a safe, manicured, well-tended park. It could be used to describe any place that’s like that. Several passages in Proverbs talk about things being like this garden: wisdom, the fruit of the righteous, a longing fulfilled, and a soothing tongue. It’s possible that the three New Testament passages that mention Paradise are talking about different places that are all like this kind of safe, protected, beautiful garden. Next, it’s possible that the word was used to describe two different places. The first would be Heaven or, more literally, ‘the place where God is.’ The second would be a temporary place where the dead waited for Judgement Day. Jesus mentioned this in Luke 16, where He told of a rich man and Lazarus. This place was historically known as Hades, where the unrighteous dead would be in hell and the righteous dead would be in Abraham’s Bosom, believed to be Paradise. Some believe that this place was emptied at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. If that’s the case, the same word could have been used to describe both Hades and Heaven.

In the end, we’re left with a lot of conjecture. We don’t know if anyone is currently in Paradise, or what they would be doing if they were there. That’s okay. There are plenty of other passages that talk about where we’ll end up. Those who wish to be with God forever, and are willing to submit to Him, will be with Him forever in a beautiful, safe, amazing world. Those who want nothing to do with God, who are unwilling to submit to Him, will get their wish…they will be separated from Him forever.

I know which I’d prefer. Do you?

Where’s the Proof that Heaven Exists?

Bob wants to know why we humans believe that, after we die, we would be sent to a place based on what we did when we lived. He wants proof that Heaven and Hell exist.

We have no proof that Heaven or Hell exist, of course. We have some evidence, but not proof like “2 x 2 = 4” kind of proof. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t believe in Heaven and Hell, of course…only that we can’t prove they exist by scientific methods. After all, as the saying goes: you can’t weigh a chicken with a yardstick. How would one go about proving that Heaven or Hell exist? Certainly not by mere observation. We can only suggest that they may exist using logic.

Some suggest that we ourselves are evidence for Heaven and Hell. We seem to have a built-in understanding that justice exists…that complaining about the bad things that happen means something, as if things are not as they should be. This appears to be more than simple personal preference. Nobody says simply, “I don’t care for injustice,” as if injustice is merely less preferable than justice. It’s more of a sense of the way things “ought” to be. From where we do get this “ought”? If justice exists, rather than only mindless and meaningless life and death in an automatic world, then someone outside of the world must provide it. If the demand for justice is a universal human trait, doesn’t that imply that God exists, and that we understand that He SHOULD make things right? It seems a reasonable conclusion.

In addition to our cries for justice, we also seem to have a built-in hunger that this life can never fill. CS Lewis wrote about it this way:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

He’s not alone in this observation, of course. Others have written similar things over the years. I would suggest (without proof, certainly) that every desire we have is evidence that God exists, and that there is a life after this life, and that we can find justice and fulfillment there. We get thirsty, so we drink. The problem is that we get thirsty again. There’s no reason, on the surface, to think that our cravings for food and water and sex have anything to do with some supreme being outside the universe…but we also crave truth, and beauty, and knowledge, and self-fulfillment. None of those things can be tested scientifically, and there’s no strictly physical explanation for them. That’s why Jesus said that He would provide living water that would finally satisfy our thirst once and for all. It’s a metaphor, clearly…but the implication of the metaphor is that our ‘thirsts’ are something we can’t satisfy on our own. We need someone to provide that fulfillment, and Jesus is that someone. That also seems like a reasonable conclusion.

What do you think? Is it possible that hunger, thirst, our sex drive, loneliness, and our desire for beauty and self-actualization have their ultimate fulfillment in God?

As for why we believe there’s an afterlife, and why our actions here might affect it, I couldn’t say. Certainly I’ve seen no rational materialistic explanation for it. Maybe it’s because it’s true, and that God creates all of us with some rudimentary understanding that our actions have consequences, that justice will one day be done, and that all of our hungers might finally be fulfilled. I like the question.

Thanks for asking, Bob.

Is God Too Loving to Send Me to Hell?

Is Hell real? Why would God send people to Hell? How can I go to Heaven? Is the devil real?

Having a website is a big responsibility. Most of the time, most people don’t think twice about it…after all: they wonder why anybody at all would read their website. If they’re convinced that they’re not being read, they don’t have to think about what they write.

Being a web designer means knowing too much to think that way. Virtually everything I write will be found by somebody, read by somebody, and believed by somebody. As a Christian, that’s both a blessing and a warning.

I looked at the Official GodWords Traffic Stats this morning, and found that I’m #2 on Google (of 426,000) for this phrase:

is god too loving to send me to hell

I’m also #8 of 44 million sites listed by Yahoo…but before you hurt yourself patting me on the back, think about the process involved. Somebody wanted to know the answer to that question, and they wanted to know it badly enough to search the internet and ask strangers to give them that answer.

Because GodWords is highly-ranked for that search phrase, I get a lot of the traffic that comes from people searching that way. Because I get a lot of traffic that way, it’s important that I have a good answer for them…I need to know whether a loving God would send someone to Hell. If I give them the wrong answer, I would be leading them astray.

Do you have a website? Do you know what people are searching for, and why they come to your website? If not, maybe you should do a little digging. I’d be happy to help.

Would a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Is Hell real? Why would God send people to Hell? How can I go to Heaven? Is the devil real?

There are two common misconceptions about hell. The first is that a loving God wouldn’t let anyone go there, and the second is that God uses it to punish people. I think that both theories are actually attempts to diminish our view of God.

A loving God would indeed let people go to hell. You see, God decided that we should choose our own eternal destiny. Those who choose to spend eternity with Him will do so, and those who want nothing to do with Him will get their wish as well. Why would God allow those He loves to end up in hell? Let’s think clearly about it: what sort of God would force people to be with Him forever? Not a loving God, to be sure…sounds more like a criminal to me. Those who claim that God wouldn’t send anyone to hell turn Him into a cosmic kidnapper, holding us against our wills for eternity. How ironic: the belief that God is too loving to let us go to hell forces us to believe that God isn’t loving at all!

Hell isn’t for punishment, either…rather, the existence of hell is a sign of respect. If God thinks enough of you to let you choose your eternal destiny, He obviously thinks enough of you to make your decision stick. Only a capricious and cruel God would give us an imaginary choice. That’s not the God of the Bible, to be sure. My God gives you a real choice, not an imaginary or symbolic choice.

So, there it is…another view of hell. Personally, I’m grateful for hell. I don’t like the fact that many will end up there, but I appreciate the fact that it is our free will and our personal choice that makes its existence necessary. Those who wish to have nothing to do with God will be given what they ask for: a place without God. A truly loving God could truly do no less.

Of course, I would be remiss if I passed up this opportunity to encourage you to choose eternal life in heaven with God. Do your homework, ask a lot of questions, and don’t be afraid of the answers. I hope and pray that I’ll see you there!