Pastor P. J. Daniel Thiruvananthapuram Faculty India Bible College and Seminary Kumbanad
“Paradise” is a charming word to all, irrespective of religion and culture. The etymology of Paradise is from the Greek word ‘paradeisos’ means ‘garden’, ‘pleasure grounds’, ‘orchard’ etc. This very word is used in the Septuagint for the ‘garden of Eden’. The Hebrew word ‘pardace’ is translated in Song of Songs 4:13 and Ecclesiastes 2:5 as Orchard, and in Nehemiah 2:8 as king’s forest. To sum up, Paradise is a place of pleasure, serene and contentment.
We have three direct references of “Paradise” in the Scripture. First one is in Luke 23:43, where Jesus told to one of the malefactors crucified with him “today thou shall be with me in paradise” There is another reference of Paradise in 2 Corinthians 12: 2, 3 where the third heaven is considered as ‘paradise’. The third reference is in the Book of Revelation 2:7, where the victors are promised ‘the fruit of the tree of life’ which is in the ‘paradise of God’.
There is another metaphorical usage of Paradise in Luke 16: 22 as “Abraham’s bosom”. ‘Being in the bosom of another’ means ‘one next to him’ at that time. John 13:23 reflects the same meaning. It is also an idiom of close relationship (2 Samuel 12:3; John 1:18). The Jews, during the time of Jesus, reckoned Paradise as Abraham’s bosom. They considered that they are so closely associated with Abraham, their fore father. This was the place where the old Testament Saints rested after their expiration. Jesus and the penitent thief reached this paradise after their death. Luke 23:43. Whereas, the souls of the wicked are being filled in the place of tormenting. It can be reflected from the story of ‘Lazarus and rich man’ narrated by Jesus Christ himself.
There are different views and conceptions about Paradises in other religions too. According to the Islamic Books Tafsir and Hadith there are seven paradises, which are: 1) Dar al-Salam (Abode of peace), 2) Dar al-jalal (Abode of Glory), 3 ) Jannatul Mava (Garden of Refuge), 4) Jannatul Khuld (Garden of Eternity), 5) Jannatul Adan (Garden of Eden), 6) Jannatul Firdous (Garden of Paradise), 7) Jannatul Naeem (Garden of Bliss or delight). These are the seven Paradises mentioned in the above two Islamic books.
According to Hindu Puranas there are seven higher worlds, which can be compared with the seven Paradises of the other religions. 1) Satyaloka: the abode of Brahma. 2) Tapaloka: the place of second-greatest sages. 3) Janaloka: the world of the life-long celibates. 4) Maharloka: A place for those who voluntarily go through a period of celibacy. 5) Savarloka: a group of planets that are home to lesser deities and pious beings. 6) Bhuvarloka: the atmosphere of the earth; home to ghosts and spirits. 7) Bhurloka: the earth and other planets with similar at tributes.
So, it was a common conception in most of the major religions about seven Paradises. As I have noted above, we see only three direct references of Paradises in the Bible. But we see the term “EDEN” which is translated in the Septuagint as Paradise. Pr. K. E. Abraham, the founder President of Indian Pentecostal Church of God had done a tremendous work on this regard and had written a book “The Seven Paradise”. This book gives us a profound reflection on this topic. I may give an extract from his book for our understanding on this topic.
1. The heavenly Paradise: This is the dwelling place of God, where God is being praised by myriads of heavenly angels. (Psalms 148: 4; 102: 25; 103: 22). This is the precise Paradise of God. It is the ancient heaven where God rides upon the heavens of heavens (Psalms 68: 33)
2. The original Earthly Paradise: Many believe that the earth was created in six days. But it does not say so. If the earth was created in six days, when was water created? When was air created? It was already in existence. But God created heaven and earth in the beginning with all its perfection (Genesis 1: 1; Deuteronomy 32:4; Ecclesiastes 3: 11). But this earth became without form and void (Genesis 1:2). God has never created this earth in chaos (Isaiah 45: 18). Due to some scrupulous reason the earth became chaotic. Then God renewed and reconditioned it during these six days.
The Hebrew word for ‘create’ is “BARA” which denotes ‘to call out from nothing’. This is the word used in Genesis 1: 1. But in describing the six-day creation the verb ‘make’ is used. The Hebrew word is “ASAH” means “to make a substance from the existed materials”. From these etymological terms it is clear that the earth was not created in six days, but a perfect earth was created and existed before the Adamite earth, which was the original earthly Paradise.
The Possessor of the Original earth was the Arch Angel Lucifer, who was usually known as “Morning star” (Job. 38: 4-7) God created the earth as a lovely planet and was given to Lucifer and his angels as their abode. The prophet Ezekiel describes the glory of this Lucifer and his supremacy in an allegorical expression in Chapter 28: 11 – 17). Ezekiel states here that ‘he was in EDEN, the garden of God. No way, this is the heavenly Paradise where God dwells. Lucifer was filled with pride and haughtiness and revolted against God. He says “I will ascend to heaven, which also denotes that he is not in Heaven. Because of his pride and haughtiness he lost his authority, possession and became Satan. His sin also affected the earth, and the earth became without form and void (Genesis 1:1)
3. Adamic Earthly Paradise: God renewed this chaotic earth within six days made it suitable for inhabitation. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. He was given dominion to rule over the earth, to work in the garden and to guard the garden. But Satan deceived them and forfeited their dominion.
4. The Paradise in Hades (Abraham’s bosom): This is the fourth Paradise, which is situated in the hades or in the underworld. Before the resurrection of Jesus Christ all the righteous saints of the Old Testament went down to this Paradise (Abraham’s bosom), where, they were held as captives by the devil, because Devil had the power of death (Hebrews 2: 14, 15, Luke 12:4). This Paradise is assumed to be in the underworld. When Patriarch Jacob lamented over his beloved son Joseph, he said that He would go down in to the Sheol unto his son mourning (Genesis 37:35). From this statement it is presumed that Sheol or Hades is somewhere down in the underworld, where all the saints of the Old Testament had taken rest (Daniel 12: 13; Luke 16:25). When Christ died, His body went to the grave and His soul to this paradise. In His resurrection He went down to this paradise with power and liberated those righteous captives taking them to heaven with Him when ascended on high. (Psalms 68: 18; Matthew 12: 40; Ephesians 4: 8-10) Now when a Christian dies he is no longer held captive by Devil, because Christ has now the keys (authority) of Hades and death with him (Revelation 1: 18). Presently, Paradise (Abraham’s bosom) under the earth is kept empty. But the torment department of Hades is being filled every day with the wicked until the great day of white throne judgment (Revelation 20: 11 – 15)
5. The heavenly Paradise (The third heaven) 2 Corinthians 12: 2-3: As we have seen above, the Devil has no authority over the New Testament Saints, and cannot hold them as captive any more. When a believer dies his body goes in the grave and his soul goes to the heavenly Paradise right after his death, to be with the Lord, which is the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12: 1-4) There are so many Bible references corroborate this fact (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1: 21-24; Hebrews 12: 22-24). We know that when Paul was persecuted and put to death in Lystra, his body was cast in the garbage outside the city (Acts 14: 19 -20), but his soul went to the third heaven, which is the heavenly Paradise (2 Corinthians 12: 1-4). From this incident it is assumed that when a Christian dies, his soul mounts up to the heavenly Paradise. In the case of Paul He came back to life, returning from the heavenly Paradise. After he experienced the serenity and contentment of heavenly Paradise, he considers it is far better than living in this world (Philippians 1: 21-23).
6. The Millennial Earthly Paradise: This is the sixth Paradise, which will be the millennial Kingdom. Jesus and all his saints will reign with him in this Kingdom. This will be a literal Kingdom. Daniel the Prophet had seen this Kingdom in his visions. The four Kingdoms, Babylon, Mede-Persia, Greek and Roman were literal Kingdoms. Then the fifth Kingdom of Messiah will also be a literal kingdom. Seven promises were given to the Virgin Mary by the Angel Gabriel. Four of them were fulfilled and other three are yet to be fulfilled. (Luke 1:31 -33). Unless Jesus takes up the throne of David, the remaining three promises will not be fulfilled.
During this millennial period, Satan will be chained and cast into the bottomless pit for thousand years. The curse of the earth will be ended. There will be no more sickness, no more poverty, and no more crime. The animal world and humanity will dwell in peace. The crops and cultivation will be in abundance. Justice and righteousness will be flowing like an ocean. It will be a time of joy and tremendous happiness.
7. The New earthly Paradise, which is the New Jerusalem. This is the seventh Paradise. After the Millennium, the earth will be renovated. New Heaven and New earth will be commenced. New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and settle on earth. This is the Tabernacle of God with man. This will be the eternal dwelling place of God and Man.
New Jerusalem is the anticipation and the aspiration of the saints all through the ages. All the saints of the past expected and looked forward for this heavenly city. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were looking forward to this city with foundation, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11: 9, 10).
The hope and desire of the New Testament saints is also to this beautiful, splendid, magnificent and marvellous city of New Jerusalem. They suffer all the pains and perils for the cause of this Holy City. Our forefathers left their country, country men, relatives, and kith and kin for the sake of this New Jerusalem. They anticipated that all their pain and perils, tears and turmoil, sighs and sorrows will be extinguished when they get into this city. New Jerusalem is a city which is built in heaven and will be established on earth Jn. 14:1-3. Such a mansion was a promise to the disciples. There are many mansions in heaven; but Christ is building a new and special mansion for his bride the church. As in the case of King Solomon, though there were many palaces in Jerusalem, he built a new palace for his wife- the daughter of Pharaoh; Christ is building a new mansion for his saints 1kgs. 7:8; 2Cor.8:11. This is the Eternal paradise for the saints.
Our second thought is about heaven. The Greek word for heaven is ‘Ouranos’. In Genesis 1: 1, the word Ouranoia is used, which is a plural form. The Hebrew word is ‘shamayim, which is also a plural form. From which we realize that heaven is not singular, but plural. The Bible also points us about a third heaven (2 Corinthians 12: 2), which means heaven is more than one. Can we limit heaven with three? No, Never. Since God is infinite and His abode also is infinite. Heaven is a synonym of God. (Luke 16: 18; Mathew 19: 23 – 24). So, we cannot limit heaven into three.
Jesus said to his disciples: In my Father’s house are many mansions (John 14: 2). It literally means, the house of God has many stories or many levels. This usage significantly reveals that there are countless levels of heavens. The Hebrew Word shamayim means heights or elevations . It vividly speaks that heaven has various levels. The following references will confirm the fact. Deuteronomy 10: 14 and 1 Kings 8: 27. “Behold the heaven and heaven of heavens is the Lord’s…” “Behold the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee…” We see here the plural word “Shamayim”. So it can be translated as ‘heavens, heavens of heavens’. The New Testament also confirms this fact. “He that is descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens …” (Ephesians 4: 10). So, we cannot limit heaven into three. It is beyond our calculation and imagination.
Nehemiah denotes that these heavens are created by God “Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou has made heaven, the heaven of heavens…” (Neh. 9:6) If God has created all these heavens, we have a natural question, where was God’s abode before He created these heavens. Psalmist gives the answer. He was in the ancient heaven. “. . . to the one who rides the heavens, the ancient heavens”. God’s original dwelling place is this ancient heaven. Jesus has come down from that heaven and ascended to that very heaven. (John 3: 13, 31; Ephesians 4: 10) Since God is omnipresent He dwells everywhere. Thus we get a picture of heaven and heavens of heavens, and ancient heaven. So heaven is not limited in three heavens.
Thus we confront with innumerable heavens. We deal with some of the exposed heavens of the Scripture.
1. The firmament or the atmospheric heaven (Genesis 1:8)
This heaven is known as the first heaven. We see various spheres in the atmospheric heaven. The scientist Oliver Heaviside discovered that there are various spheres in the atmospheric heaven, which are as follows: Atmosphere, Troposphere, Stratosphere, Ozonosphere, Ionosphere, and Exosphere. These heavens will be perished and shall wax old like a garment (Psalms 102: 26). According to this verse, these spheres are getting wax old. Now we all know that the Ozone layer is depleting. The harmful Ultra violet rays emitted by the sun are filtered through this layer. But by the depletion of ozone layer, this harmful UV rays come directly on earth, which is so harmful to the life on earth.
2. The starry heaven
This is known as the second heaven. (Deuteronomy 17: 3; Jeremiah 8: 2; Mathew 24: 29). This is the abode of all stars and planets. There are innumerable solar systems and galaxies which reflects the glory of God (Psalms 19:1, 2)
3. The third heaven – Paradise (2 Corinthians 12: 2, 3)
This part of heaven is explained above in the fifth Paradise.
4. Heaven of Heavens (Deuteronomy 10: 14; Ephesians 4: 10)
We have discussed this elsewhere in this article. The term heavens of heavens, significantly emphasises the fact that there are multiple heavens.
5. Ancient Heavens (Psalms 68: 33)
This is the original dwelling place of God, where Christ is seated after his resurrection, above all heavens, even at the right hand of the Father.
Bible is a Jewel box with uncountable and inexhaustible treasures in it. If we open and go deeply, we find nuggets of precious jewels, which fascinate us marvellously. These thought will stimulate our soul to stand firm for our Lord. Our God has prepared and provided marvellous treasures for his saints, who are redeemed by the precious blood of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. So Let us stand firm for Him and for His Name.