The promise of a future paradise applies not just to heaven but also to Earth. Christ’s kingdom will be a kingdom in heaven and on Earth. That is why Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in Earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10). This future kingdom will be full of perfection and peace – it will restore the perfect paradise Adam had lost.
There are three verses in the New Testament that use the word “paradise” – Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7. According to Strong’s Greek concordance, Paradise is translated from the Greek word “paradeisos" meaning enclosure, garden, or park. The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, uses the same word for paradise when describing the Garden of Eden. This helps us equate the word paradise with the state of perfection.
In Luke 23:42-43, Jesus is hanging on the cross being insulted by one of the two prisoners hanging next to him. The second prisoner defends Jesus and afterwards says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responds, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.” The original New Testament did not have any punctuation; therefore, all punctuation has been added by the translators. Jesus was probably saying, “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise.” We think this makes the most sense for Jesus was dead in the grave for parts of three days before he was resurrected. He was not in paradise that evening.
In 2 Corinthians 12:4, Paul states that a man “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” Was this man really taken to heaven? We would answer – no. Again, paradise here is referring to Christ’s future kingdom, and the man was given a vision or prophecy of this future age of paradise.
In Revelation 2:7 the verse says, “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.” This is a promise to those who are part of the body of Christ. The Bible promises that faithful believers in Christ will have a heavenly reward, and the heavenly reward includes reigning with Christ (1 Peter 1:4; Revelation 2:10 & 20:6).
How do we reconcile the fact that paradise was promised to a condemned man, seen in a vision by Paul, and promised as a heavenly reward to the Church? Simply put, paradise is referring to Christ’s kingdom. The condemned man is promised the resurrection of the unjust (Acts 24:15) – a resurrection here on Earth in Christ’s kingdom (Isaiah 35). Paul saw the future heavenly and earthly kingdom. Finally, the overcoming, faithful believers in Christ are also promised to be in this future kingdom – the heavenly resurrection of the righteous.