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Paradise of God

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

Good morning, listeners. It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God.

The lesson this morning is entitled, “Paradise of God.”

Let’s look at our study text in Revelation chapter two and verse seven. ‘He who has an ear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.’

How passionate are we about heaven? Or do you just settle for avoiding hell? How can we really get passionate about heaven now?

As we continue in this series regarding heaven and the hereafter, how can we really be passionate about being heaven bound? Well, the best answer is with having a genuine, growing, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Because, you see, having a passion for him grows our desire to be where he is. It is not just about relocation. It is about a relationship, about being with the Lord himself. Even if it is in a perfect place, it is first and foremost to be with the person of Christ, to be with the Godhead and then also to be in that perfect place.

Many years ago I lived in the state of Iowa where sometimes the winters can be rather brutal. And I was iced in in my own apartment. My door to my apartment which was the only way in and out had a metal frame to it and I was iced in and I got rather aggravated and, therefore, I decided to relocate to the state of Hawaii and I bought a one way ticket to the island of Kauai, which is referred to as the garden island. It is where they first filmed the first movie of Jurassic Park. Do you remember that? A beautiful place. And Kauai, of the Hawaiian island chain and for that matter all of the Hawaiian islands are about the closest place to paradise on this earth.
In the gospel of Luke chapter 23 and verse 43 Jesus told these words to one of the criminals, one of the malefactors, one of the evil doers on the cross being crucified next to him. Do you remember what he said? Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Of course, this criminal became repentant and put his faith in a dying King, tremendous faith for this man, this criminal who yet repented of all of his sin. He realized that he deserved what he was getting and put his faith in Christ the King, the King of the Jews. And, therefore, he died, but his spirit went to paradise as Jesus promised.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 and verse four, again, probably the apostle Paul tells us that he was caught up. Caught up where? To paradise. Here a vision, probably an out of the body experience. It says in 2 Corinthians 12:2 to the third heaven, to paradise, not a paradise on this earth, but heaven referred to as a paradise.

And then in our reading in Revelation chapter two and verse seven, to him who overcomes, that is by saving faith, I, that is Christ, God, deity in bodily form, will give the right—it is not our right, it is a God given right—to eat from the tree of life which is symbolic of eternal life, which is where? In the paradise of God. Paradise, what a wonderful thought.

The original Greek word of our English word paradise is paradosis which came form the Persian that means pleasure park garden of Persian royalty, fit for kings and queens and nobility of the royal court, a majestic place. Therefore, heaven is paradise, a pleasure park garden, like the perfect garden of Eden described in Genesis chapter two and verse eight. And it is meant for eternity for his, that is God’s, royalty, for us as adopted sons and daughters into the king’s family.   Now that should inspire our anticipation and desired participation in a special place called paradise only because of the person of Jesus Christ. And as we have received him personally by faith, put him on in baptism and persevere and are persevering in Christ Jesus.

Now one of the most frequently asked questions regarding heaven is something like this. Can departed believers in heaven see us now on earth? Well, let’s consider one of the possibilities by some. The gospel of Luke chapter 15 and verse seven where Jesus said, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” That is, they feel no need to repent.

But here, who exactly is rejoicing? Well, the answer is in the text farther down in Luke chapter 15 and verse 10 where Jesus said, “In the same way I tell you. There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Therefore, rejoicing by God himself. And evidently his holy angels who obviously can see us on earth. But how about the Hebrew letter, chapter 12 and verse one that reads like this. ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’

Let’s focus on the phrase we are surrounded by such a great witness, a great cloud of witnesses. Could that be including believers in heaven that can see us on earth now? One Christian commentator believes that this is so and he has written these words. And I quote. “All the saints of God cluster around the banisters of heaven and gaze with deepest concern upon us who are left here to run our race of faith. And since the grand stand of glory is filled with so many eager observers, we should lay aside every sin and look to Jesus to finish the race,” end of quote.

Well, maybe that is his interpretation. But the context and the content of this portion of the Hebrew letter are against this interpretation. And, listeners, we need to always understand that it is not what we want Scripture to say or not say, but what Scripture in context and content actually says, what it does say. The context of the immediately preceding entire 11th chapter, what is to us the 11th chapter—in the original this epistle or letter did not have it broken down into chapters and verses—but in what is to us the 11th chapter we find a role call, as it were, a listing of the great heroes of the faith of the past. And, therefore, the more straightforward reasonable reading of the phrase surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, points back to these same heroes of the faith, but not as spectators seeing us from heaven, but, instead, as inspiring examples, as godly faithful role models to aspire after, to spur us on in our race of faith to the finish line, all the way to the end of our race, our race of faith. That is why Hebrews chapter 12 and verse one begins with the word therefore. It is there for a reason going back to the prime examples of faith in this case. Also, in fact, the original Greek word translated witnesses is the origin of our English word martyr and means testifier. The heroes of the faith of chapter 11 are testifiers or witnesses. And their lives are a testimony to the perseverance of faith, examples to us to emulate, for us to follow.

And then also this thought. Why would God allow believers in heaven to see us on earth with so much sadness and sin? That would not make heaven paradise. However, some have indicated as a counter argument, well, God only allows believers in heaven to see the joyful aspects of this life, not the unhappy or the unjoyful or sin or sadness. And so certainly God could do this if he so chose to do so in his sovereignty.

But the final verdict on this issue is found in Deuteronomy chapter 29 and verse 29 which says, in part: The secret things belong to the Lord our God. But the things revealed belong to us and heaven—that is paradise found—is revealed and is real and is really only found in Christ Jesus. We cannot get to the place of paradise without the person of Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord persevering in him to the end.

Now part of our fascination with heaven is we really know little about what is there and what will be for us who are heaven bound, but we do know enough to anticipate paradise, even just the word paradise is not perplexing, but certainly should be something that just fills us with wonder, when paradise, when the secrets of paradise will become sight.

One thing is sure, believers already in heaven probably don’t see us on earth now, but God deeply desires for all of us who are listening to see them in paradise, to be reunited, all of God’s family together, the ultimate family reunion and eventually to see God, an amazing testimony of faith is found in the writing of the ancient patriarch, Job.

Look over to the book of Job chapter 19 beginning in verse 25, a tremendous declaration of faith by a patriarch that lived before Moses, probably even before Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel who had very little light in comparison to the light and the Scripture that we have now available to the saints. Listen to what he wrote, Job chapter 19 beginning in verse 25. ‘I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed and yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes, I and not another. How my heart yearns within me.’

What a tremendous declaration of faith according to his light. But the application for us today is: Do our hearts yearn for that day even with all that we know today about the Lord and about heaven as revealed to us in Scripture?
Years ago I went to Hawaii, a genuine garden placed in this earth, but after months on the island’s paradise, I actually got bored with just the brilliance of the seashore sunsets, unsatisfied with just the beach and the palms and the pineapples. Yes, it is a spectacular place. But without a meaningful person to share it with, even Hawaii became humdrum and common place eventually.

There is a great application here for us. Real paradise is when we are with God, with the Lord and with the myriads of angels and with millions if not billions of believers. Yes, in a perfect place, but only because of a perfect person. Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Are you in him? Do you know him? Do you know that your Redeemer lives and that you will see God? You can in paradise. Join with me and with all the saints and let’s be heaven bound in Christ Jesus our Savior.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

 




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33