Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Why didn’t Jesus say today you will be with me in Heaven? Did you ever wonder about that? Is there a difference between Paradise and Heaven?

Was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. (II Corinthians 12:4)

Was the Apostle Paul caught up to Heaven? The spirit world is an unbelievably large area. All of the dead are there, from the beginning of the history of the world. In the spirit world, there is a city. We can call it Heaven, Mount Zion, the new Jerusalem. It is the same city that one day will come down through the new sky and be installed for eternity upon the new earth.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

The above is a description of what we mean by “Heaven.” Notice that the emphasis is on salvation, not Paradise. The spirit of every true Christian already is in Heaven, in the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

Do you see anything about Paradise in the above description of Heaven? Neither do I. Yet, there cannot be another place called “Paradise,” as far as I know. I have read somewhere that “Paradise” is a Persian word meaning “garden.” It makes one think of the garden in Eden. I believe Eden was in the region of the Persian Gulf.

So mankind was created in a garden. Perhaps that is why we enjoy flowers. Much of what we see described in Hebrews (above) was not evident in the garden in Eden. Yet, it cannot be true that there is a Paradise in the spirit world that is different from the Mount Zion described in the Book of Hebrews. Revelation states that the Tree of Life, which is Christ, is in the Paradise of God.

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. (Revelation 2:7)

And we know that the Tree of Life is within the walls of the heavenly Zion, the new Jerusalem.

Down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

So I do not believe there is any difference between Paradise and Heaven, between Paradise and the heavenly Jerusalem. If this is the case, why am I wasting everyone’s time discussing the difference between Heaven and Paradise? It is because Christian teaching maintains that we receive Christ so we can go to Heaven, although there is no passage in the Bible that states this. In actuality, we want to go to the garden, to Paradise.

But when the Bible describes the heavenly city, Mount Zion, it does not mention a garden. It talks about God, the Judge of all, about the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and about the Church of the Firstborn. No mention of a garden! What is going on here? What is going on is that we must revise our concept of the Christian salvation if we are to be true to the Scriptures.

It is perfectly understandable that we want to return to the garden in Eden — maybe not to every aspect, but at least to a place of beauty where we can worship God in peace. Is this what God wants for us? Yes it is. But there is something of importance that must take place first. We must be delivered from our sinful nature and self-will if it is going to be possible for us to worship God in a place of beauty and peace. Do you agree with that statement? One self-willed Christian would ruin Paradise for everyone.

Christian teaching has several ideas of how God is going to remove sin so we can enjoy Paradise. One is that when we die and go to Heaven, we will not sin any longer. What passage teaches that? The Bible teaches us rather that sin began in Heaven.

Another guess is that when Jesus returns, we will be delivered from sin instantly. What passage teaches that? The parable of the sower tells us that if Christians do not use their Kingdom talents, they will be driven into the outer darkness. It says nothing about their being delivered from their laziness and disobedience.

Another guess is that God cannot see our sins because of Christ. After we die and are in the new Jerusalem God, still cannot see our sins. What passage teaches that? The Bible states that sinners are outside the gates of the new Jerusalem.

Well, if there is to be no sin in the new world of righteousness, how will God solve that problem? The answer is found in the following passage:

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:41-43)

The passage above tells us about the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement. The spiritual fulfillment has begun in our day. As far as I can see, it will last as long as people have wills of their own, that is, throughout the eternal ages to come.

The Spirit of God, beginning with those closest to Jesus, is bringing into the light every imaginable form of rebellion against God — even to the point of demanding that every thought be brought into captivity to Christ. All of our love of the world must be removed from us. Whoever loves the world is the enemy of God. We are in the world, but not of the world. Because we are of Christ, the world will hate us.

We Americans have not often been severely persecuted for the Gospel. I believe we shall be in the future. We have been comfortable in the world, not recognizing that Satan has blinded us to his actions. Many of the presentations on television and the Internet are disgusting, morally nauseous. Yet Christians watch them. Christian children learn violence from their electronic games. Sexual excesses characterize American society, as does also the worship of money.

The type of attitude and behavior that identifies the fervent Christians, the patient cross-carrying obedience to Christ that is true of all genuine disciples, is not often found among us. Instead there is an abundance of foolishness. This is why we have not been subjected to fierce persecution. If the Christian people begin to renounce the sin of trusting in the world for security and pleasure, you will witness persecution in America.

Excessive sexual practices abound among Christian people. America is filled with sexual lust from the young people through to the senior citizens. The atmosphere is filled with spirits of lust. I do not know how many Christian people practice homosexual behavior or abort their children. Perhaps some do because of the preaching of lawless grace and escape-by-rapture. In many instances, the churches are not preaching righteous behavior, but grace as an alternative to godly behavior and to the commands of Christ and His Apostles.

It is no wonder the Muslims do not respect us. Although in their activism they do inhuman things, while shouting “Allah the merciful, the compassionate,” the average Muslim adheres to a moral code while the average Christian adheres to grace in place of a moral code.

Is the God of Heaven looking for moral behavior or for grace?

The greatest problem of all among us Christians is self-will. We have received Christ as our Savior but not as our Lord. We use grace as an excuse for disobeying Christ. Paul urged us to present our body as a living sacrifice that we might prove the will of God for ourselves. How many of today’s Christian people do that? Now look once again at God’s solution for the sins of Christian people:

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:41-43)

They will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. First, all that causes sin is removed from the Kingdom. Then, all who cling to sin. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Does that sound to you like the current teaching of “grace”? Have we not been greatly deceived?

The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Our goal in the present hour should be that we are counted among those who shine like the sun. Do you agree with this? This is infinitely better than merely going to Paradise in our adamic state.

The above program of reconciliation to God has begun. Those who have ears to hear the Spirit of God are confessing their sins and turning away from them with the help of Christ.

  • All worldliness must be confessed and renounced.
  • All moral filthiness must be confess and renounced, item by item.
  • All self-will, self-seeking, self-love must be confessed and renounced.
  • All idolatry, even the worship of our children, must be confessed and renounced.
  • All love of pleasure more than the love for God must be confessed and renounced.

I have been really emphasizing to the congregation that I serve that if we are to survive, and help others to survive, the coming moral and physical chaos that is approaching our nation, we must learn to live by the Life of the Lord Jesus.

  • We must submit every thought to Christ for His approval.
  • We must submit every word we speak to Christ for His approval.
  • We must submit every action we take to Christ for His approval.
  • We must talk to Jesus all day and night and listen for His response. He will be as close to us as we desire.

The Apostle Paul declared that He was living by the Life of Christ. Paul is our example in this. Does such a life seem extreme to you? It isn’t. It is what the New Testament presents as the new covenant. Living by the Life of the Lord Jesus appears extreme because we are so backslidden. We are comparing ourselves with the average churchgoer in our country. Our standard of discipleship is woefully below that of the New Testament.

Our country is in mortal danger today because of our sinning. God seems to be giving us a little space of time in which to repent. Meanwhile God’s messengers are inviting us to confess and renounce our sins.

It appears to me to be inevitable that a large portion of our population is going to be driven into the spirit world in the near future, because the things that are practiced today in America are not appropriate on an earth that belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and all its resources, the world and they who dwell therein.”

Because of sin, America shall become a third-rate nation, I sincerely believe. No nation of history has ever given itself to the lusts of the flesh and survived.

God is looking today for believers who will make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Him that He should not destroy our country totally. I have decided to be such a person, with the Lord’s help. How about you?

I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:30)

So we understand that going to Paradise is not the issue at hand. Rather, it is that of removing sin and rebellion from us. Until sin has been dealt with successfully, there can be no garden of righteousness, love, joy, and peace.

Jesus did not come from Heaven to bring us to Heaven. Jesus came from Heaven to reconcile us to God through His atoning blood. After we have been reconciled to God, then God can restore Paradise to the earth.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5:18,19)

(“Return to Paradise”, 3086-1, proofed 20211029)

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