PARADISE OR ETERNAL LIFE?
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Who wouldn’t want to go to Paradise? The memory of the Garden of Eden is still in the human consciousness and we long to return to the wonderful environment where all is love, joy, peace, and beauty.
However, the emphasis of the New Testament is not on the return of man to Paradise (which we call Heaven) but on the gaining of eternal life. Our goal is not a change of location but a transformation of personality. There may be no greater need in Christian thinking than that concerning the goal of salvation.
Table of Contents
How Our Transformation Will Affect Our Life in Paradise
PARADISE OR ETERNAL LIFE?
The Use of the Terms Heaven and Paradise
“Heaven” may be the most frequently used word in the Christian vocabulary. But when Christians say “Heaven”, they mean Paradise. This Paradise at one time was on the earth in the country of Eden. It is believed that the term Paradise is of Iranian origin and means “a garden with a wall.” We desire to go to the beautiful garden of God where the Lord Jesus and the Father are—and perhaps some of our loved ones.
One of the most revealing studies of the Bible one could make would be of the use of the term “Heaven.” Two problems are encountered immediately. Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek language differentiates between the physical heaven above us and the spiritual heaven, the abode of spirits. We must tell from the context which heaven is meant. The word translated “heaven” is often plural. For example, examining the Greek text of the Lord’s prayer we find, “Our Father who are in the heavens.” Not in heaven but in the heavens.
In the beginning God created the heaven [the heavens] and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
The word “heaven,” in the preceding verse, is plural and refers to the sky.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep the windows of heaven [the heavens] were opened. (Genesis 7:11)
The word “heaven” in the preceding is plural and refers to the sky.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: (Genesis 14:19)
The word “heaven” is plural and probably refers to the sky.
And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven [the heavens] the second time, (Genesis 22:15)
The word “heaven” is plural and may refer to the spiritual Heaven but probably to the sky.
Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven [the heavens] standing on his right hand and on his left. (II Chronicles 18:18)
Micaiah probably was seeing into the spiritual Heaven at this point.
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:2)
Actually “the kingdom of the heavens.”
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; (Acts 1:10)
Looked steadfastly “into the heaven.” Probably the sky.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2)
“Out of the heaven.” We know the Holy Spirit came from the spiritual Heaven. But since there was a sound, the reference may be merely to that which came from above them.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1)
“A new heaven.” This is in parallel with Genesis 1:1 and may refer to a new sky, a new firmament.
These are but a few examples that suggest that our thinking needs to be revised concerning what we mean by “heaven.” A little reflection will reveal that we are thinking of Paradise, not primarily of the spiritual heaven or heavens, or the sky per se.
As we search the Scriptures we will discover there is no emphasis in either the Old Testament or the New on dying and going to the spiritual Heaven. Eternal residence in the spiritual Heaven is never emphasized as being the goal of our salvation. Until we understand clearly that our goal is not eternal residence in the spiritual Heaven or heavens, we will have only a dim concept of the Kingdom of God.
The New Testament has very little to say about what happens to the Christian when he or she dies. The emphasis of the New Testament is on the Day of the Lord and the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
The common idea of mansions in Heaven comes from an incorrect translation of John 14:2. It may be true that the change of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to a gospel of residence in the spiritual heavens after we die originated after the death of the Apostles and reflects the beliefs of various other religions or the philosophy of Gnosticism. We have an extensive Christian mythology built around “mansions in Heaven,” no part of which can be found in the Scriptures.
When the spiritual heavens are mentioned in the Bible, we find both good and evil in them. Also, the description does not portray an environment we would choose. For example:
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (II Corinthians 12:4)
Paul had a very desirable experience in Paradise in the third heaven. But look what else is in the spiritual heaven:
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. (Revelation 12:3)
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [heavenly] places. (Ephesians 6:12)
The environment of the spiritual heavens is not that which we ordinarily associate with “Heaven.”
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; (Revelation 7:9)
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Revelation 15:2)
Are you truly looking forward with joy to standing on a sea of glass with a harp in your hand? The Paradise we think of, the children among the beautiful flowers, the trees, mountains, rivers, harmless animals, freedom from dread, sickness, pain, death, is not mentioned in the New Testament until we come to the new heaven and earth.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
There are mentions of Paradise in the Old Testament.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:19-22)
Notice that in the Old Testament accounts and in Revelation chapter 21, Paradise is found on the earth. Paradise, the garden of God, originally was on the earth. We know from what Paul said that Paradise in the present hour is in the third heaven. But Paradise was created to be on the earth and will return to the earth with the coming of the Lord Jesus and His Church.
Current Christian preaching stresses that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save us from Hell and to admit us to Paradise (which we call “Heaven”). Nowhere in the New Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ presented as being our deliverer from Hell—nowhere! There most certainly is a Hell! But escape from Hell is not emphasized in the Gospel accounts.
However, we could infer from Paul’s being caught up to Paradise that Christ came to bring us to Paradise. Also, there is the following passage:
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
This verse often is used to show the possibility of a deathbed conversion. But the Lord Jesus did not bring the thief into the Kingdom of God or eternal life, which are the hope of the Gospel, but into Paradise.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
However, no conscientious student of the Scriptures, after reviewing the text, could claim that escape from Hell or admission to Paradise is the primary emphasis of the four Gospel accounts or the Epistles of the Apostles. It appears that Christian preachers need to go back to the Bible, particularly to the Book of Acts, and find out what they are supposed to be preaching.
If escape from Hell and admission to Heaven are not the principal theme of the New Testament, then exactly what is? After the description of Christ as Savior and Lord, there are three emphases in the New Testament that bear on our personal salvation. The three are interrelated. They are:
- Our transformation into a new creation in the moral image of Christ, including the forgiveness of our sins.
- The pursuit of eternal life, including the redemption of our physical body.
- Our entrance into the Kingdom of God.
Our discussion will deal mainly with our transformation and our pursuit of eternal life. Our entrance into the Kingdom of God is associated so closely with our transformation and our gaining of eternal life that a separate examination may not be necessary.
After we think about our transformation and our pursuit of eternal life, which are in actuality the manner in which we enter the Kingdom of God, we will have a look at how our diligence in grasping transformation and eternal life will affect our life in Paradise. This, after all, is the great question: will our life as an individual in Paradise be significantly affected by our perseverance in grasping the mark God has set before us? Will the overcomer and the nonovercomer both receive substantially the same reward?
There is no more important question in the day in which we are living, because countless multitudes of believers are living careless Christian lives, being under the impression that they are saved by grace and that all saved people will experience destinies so similar that there is no need to be overly concerned about pressing toward the rest of God, the fullness of God.
If one is to receive a twenty-story mansion, and the other a three-story mansion, who cares? (Carnal Christians would care in that day for they experience jealousy today concerning material riches!) Why not seek enjoyment in the present world? After all, we have our ticket to Paradise, so why go to the trouble of taking up our cross, denying ourselves, and following the Master? Why wait in the Lord’s prison, hungering and thirsting, denying ourselves the desires of our heart and soul, when we can reach forth and take what we want without breaking too many laws? If we are saved by unconditional grace, and all saved people receive approximately the same reward, why should we surrender our Isaacs? God is love, and if He brings us to Paradise, our new environment will be so much better than anything we have ever experienced that extreme diligence in pursuing God’s will in order to walk around with a crown on our head may not appear to be worth the effort.
So we will proceed to discuss our transformation into the moral image of the Lord and our pursuit of the fullness of eternal life. Then we will point out some of the differences in destinies between those who followed Christ with a perfect heart, and those who did not.
Our Transformation into a New Creation in the Moral Image of Christ
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (II Corinthians 5:17,18)
“All things are become new.”
The result of the new covenant, the Christian covenant, is a new personality. Because the new personality has been formed from the death of our adamic nature and the creation of Christ in us, the new personality is righteous, holy, and obedient in behavior.
The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. (I Corinthians 15:47,48)
Every covenant of God from the beginning of time has had as its goal the creating of men and women in the moral image of God. Each succeeding covenant presents increased demands on our behavior and each succeeding covenant offers more Divine provisions (grace) to enable us to meet those increased demands and make the necessary changes in our personality.
The new covenant, as is true of all other Divine covenants, has as its goal our change into the moral image of Christ and our union with the Father through the Lord Jesus. The demands on our personality are total. The available grace far exceeds the provisions of any other covenant. No other covenant is able to transform our adamic nature into the Nature of Christ.
It is supremely ironic that in our day the Divine grace issued under the new covenant is understood to be a waiving of the demand for change into God’s image, instead of what grace actually is—the Divine provision to make such change possible! It is taught that we enter Paradise by grace (which we define as “unconditional forgiveness”). But what about God’s desire for righteous children? Will Adam and Eve return to the garden and eat of the tree of life even though there has been no change in their personality?
The two dimensions of the new covenant. There are two great dimensions of the new covenant. One dimension is that of forgiveness. The other dimension is that of transformation into Christ’s moral image (and later His external image if we pursue Christ throughout our discipleship).
The forgiveness aspect of our redemption was accomplished on the cross of Calvary. When we receive Christ and then walk in Him, we are always in a state of forgiveness. We are without condemnation. However, our forgiveness is not unconditional. It depends on our walking in the light of God’s will. We automatically are candidates for admission to Paradise when we die if we are walking in the light of God’s will. But residence in Paradise is not the scriptural goal of man’s salvation.
The transformation aspect is another matter. To be transformed into Christ’s image and to be brought into untroubled union with God through Christ requires the destruction of our adamic nature—all of it, the good and the bad!—and the creation and refinement of Christ’s Nature in our personality. Included also is the eternal dwelling of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit in our personality.
In our day the forgiveness aspect of the new covenant is wrongly expanded until it becomes the covenant. “Grace” is defined as an alternative to righteous behavior. Grace has been made a synonym of forgiveness, the idea being that God has forgiven Gentiles so they may enter Paradise apart from a change in their behavior. This is totally unscriptural.
When one examines the nature of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:10-12) it can be seen that the major feature of the covenant is the writing of God’s laws in our mind and heart, which indicates the creating of righteous behavior in our personality, while forgiveness is added as a provision that keeps us holy while the required change is taking place.
By no means is forgiveness the central provision of the new covenant even though it is preached as such in our time.
There are several major types in the Old Testament of our progress from initial salvation to the fullness of God. For example, the seven feasts of the Lord can be studied in Leviticus chapter 23. The first four feasts, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost symbolize the spiritual graces that give us the authority and power to enter the Kingdom of God.
It is the last three feasts, the Blowing of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Tabernacles, that symbolize our actual entrance into the Kingdom of God. They portray the method God uses to transform our personality. We enter the Kingdom of God only as our personality is transformed. There is no worldliness, lust, or self-seeking in the Kingdom of God. Any part of our personality that persists in the love of the world, fleshly lusts, or personal ambition is not of the Kingdom of God.
We can see from the above that there is a difference between the goal of entering Paradise and the goal of entering the Kingdom of God. Adam and Eve were in Paradise but not in the Kingdom of God. Paradise is a garden of delight. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God, the doing of God’s will in the earth. The Gospel of Christ concerns the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
Any person who receives Christ and abides in Him is assured of entering Paradise when he or she dies. But this is not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God can be entered only by personal transformation. Notice this fact in the following passage:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
It is not that those who do such things shall not enter Paradise but those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. The thief on the cross was admitted to Paradise because of his confession of the kingship of Christ. But the Kingdom of God can be inherited only as we become free from the works of the flesh. The Lord Jesus did not come preaching Paradise but the Kingdom of God. No parable of the Lord had to do with entering Paradise, only with the Kingdom of Heaven, of God.
The reason we must be born again of Christ is so we may enter the Kingdom, not Paradise!
Now, let us see what the last three of the seven feasts of the Lord have to say concerning our inheriting the Kingdom of God, which is the same as saying the transformation of our personality—for that is what the Kingdom is.
- The Blowing of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24) speaks of the Lord of Hosts going to war against the sin in His Church, and then against the sin throughout His entire creation.
- The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) portrays the forgiveness of our sin, and then, by means of the scapegoat, the removal of our sin.
- The feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34) reveals God’s ultimate intention, which is that Christ (and God in Christ) may become the Center and Circumference of the whole creation of God, beginning with the victorious saints.
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10)
Assuming you have received the Lord Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, this is how your personal transformation (which is the new covenant) will occur. This is how you will enter the Kingdom of God.
- The Lord Jesus will declare war against His enemies in your personality.
- The Lord Jesus, having forgiven your sins through the atonement made by the shedding of His blood on the cross of Calvary, will guide you until every one of His enemies in you have been put beneath His feet.
- The Lord Jesus will nourish your personality with His own body and blood until all that was born of Adam has been crucified and all that is of God has been created in you.
- The Lord Jesus and the Father will come to you and make Their eternal abode in your personality.
We have written several books and booklets dealing with the manner in which the feasts of the Lord apply to our Christian discipleship. This additional material can be downloaded for free from: http://www.wor.org/book.
We would like to focus the present discussion on the goal of our salvation, that is, our personal transformation into Christ’s image, as being above and beyond the simple entrance into Paradise upon our physical death.
The Day of Atonement. Regarding our transformation from Adam to Christ, let us look more closely at the Day of Atonement, found in Leviticus chapter 16.
Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat: (Leviticus 16:15)
The sprinkling of the blood of the slain goat upon and before the Mercy Seat portrays the sprinkling of Christ’s blood before the Altar of God in Heaven for the forgiveness of our sins. The forgiveness of our sins authorizes us to begin the process of transformation that results in the forming of the Kingdom of God in us.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12)
And now we come to the scapegoat:
And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: (Leviticus 16:21)
The confession of sins and laying them on the head of the living goat, and the sending away of the living goat into the wilderness, show clearly that our redemption includes the removal of sin from our personality.
The feasts of the Lord are always proclaimed “in their seasons.”
These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. (Leviticus 23:4)
We believe that this is the season for the Day of Atonement, that it has begun now for the Church of Christ, and that it will extend throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age. The closer we are to the Lord today, the more we shall experience the dealings of the Holy Spirit as He begins to lead us in warfare against the worldliness, lust, and self-will in our personality.
It is our conviction that only those who have cooperated fully with the Holy Spirit in the removal of sin from their personality are eligible to be raised as part of the royal priesthood when the Lord appears. Why is this? It is because those who are raised when the Lord appears will be raised from the dead and then be glorified by being clothed with a body from Heaven. They will have a body like the Lord Jesus. They will then be able to enter the Paradise of God in a body of flesh and bone, just as is true of the Lord Jesus.
No human being can ever be raised from the dead and clothed with a body like that of the Lord Jesus while there is worldliness, lust, and rebellion in his or her personality. Only those who overcome, through Christ, the world, Satan, and their self-will are authorized to eat of the tree of life that is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). The cherubim are still guarding the tree!
There is massive theological confusion concerning the role of Divine grace. No person ever will receive a glorified body on the basis of forgiveness. The purpose of grace is to enable us to press forward to the resurrection. If we rely on grace to forgive us without undergoing the process of personal transformation, then no glorified body has been created before God’s throne. We will be found naked in the day of resurrection.
We gain entrance to the Holy of Holies when we receive the Lord Jesus so that God can hear our prayers. This is the wonderful grace of God to us. But in no manner can any individual enter the Kingdom of God by forgiveness. Paradise, yes; but not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
Hopefully the reader will search the Scriptures to see if we are accurate and not wait until he or she dies and discover when it is too late that we stated the truth.
It may be true that many pastors and teachers know the strictness of God’s salvation but do not preach and teach the truth. They are afraid they will lose their followers. This being the case, we urge you to not rely blindly on your spiritual leader to tell you the truth concerning your salvation. Put today’s apostles to the test (Revelation 2:2)!
We always should obey the elders of our church and do all we can to assist them. God has not called us to instruct the elders! But our salvation is our individual responsibility and we are required by the Lord to determine from the Scriptures what God has said about our salvation.
Let us repeat what we have stated. The Day of Atonement has begun now and the praying saints will discover that the Holy Spirit is pointing out their sins and helping them to confess them and be delivered from them. Such confession and deliverance makes possible the growth of Christ in us.
The Pursuit of Eternal Life
Paradise and eternal life are not the same thing. The Lord Jesus and His Apostles came preaching eternal life. They never emphasized our going to dwell forever in the third heaven where the Paradise of God is located. How many times in the four Gospel accounts did the Lord Jesus stress eternal life? Many, many times.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Notice that the contrast is not between Hell and Heaven, but between perishing and eternal life. But aren’t these basically the same ideas? Not at all. Hell is God’s prison where He confines the wicked. Perishing has to do with our physical body.
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished [if there is no resurrection of the body]. (I Corinthians 15:18)
The Lord Jesus came so we might not remain a disembodied spirit after death, our flesh and bones returning to the dust of the earth from which they were taken, but might be reunited with our body now made wondrously alive by the Holy Spirit of God. But won’t all people eventually come forth from the grave? Yes, they will.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28,29)
But it appears that the bodies of the unsaved, even though they come forth from the ground, have never been touched with God’s Life. What will be the end of their bodies we do not know except that they shall not be renewed with the Life of God. Therefore the individual who has been raised from the dead apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, has perished as a person, having no hope of ever entering the Presence of God or His Kingdom. Whether his or her destiny after he or she is raised and judged is Hell, or the Lake of Fire, or the outer darkness, or to be a wandering star, only Christ will decide. The point is, the individual has perished.
Perishing has at least four undesirable features:
- The body will never be made alive by the Holy Spirit.
- The person will never again be able to experience the Presence and blessing of God (this is the worst of all consequences).
- God may not erase the painful memories of the individual who perishes as He will those who are received into His Kingdom.
- The person may be cast into the Lake of Fire or some other area of torment.
It must be kept in mind that the Lord Jesus did not come to earth to give people a pass from Hell to Paradise. The Lord Jesus came to forgive us and furnish us an opportunity to be transformed so we are acceptable to the Father. There is a world of difference between these two concepts.
Heaven (or the heavens), as we have said, includes all the areas of physical space and the areas of the spiritual realm. Eternal life, however, has to do with our entering the Life of God.
John 3:16 tells us that whoever will put his continuing trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will not perish as a person but will be received into the Life that fills the Godhead.
Perhaps what we have said to this point is not too surprising to the experienced saint. However, the serious problems residing in Christian thought are that eternal life is (1) eternal existence; (2) a gift that is given in its fullness upon our receiving Christ; and (3) a legal state that exists in our mind and the mind of God rather than what it truly is—a form of life, just as biologic life is a form of life.
“Receive Christ and you have eternal life.” In today’s preaching this means that when you die you will go to a mansion in Paradise to live forever among the angels. The truth is: Eternal life is not eternal existence. All spirits, righteous and wicked, will exist for eternity. We have only a firstfruits of eternal life upon our conversion to Christ, an “earnest,” a pledge of a fullness yet to come.
Eternal life is an actual, substantial life. It is the Life of God dwelling in us, not a legal state that can never be affected by our behavior. As the parable of the sower reveals to us (along with many other passages), we certainly can lose the initial Divine Life given to us when we received Christ. Anyone who has known a person who was filled with God’s Life, and then has fallen away, can tell you that his personality has changed in a visible manner. The glow of Divine Life has departed.
Eternal life has nothing whatever to do with dwelling in Paradise. Eternal life has to do with the life that is motivating our personality. Paradise, on the other hand, is the environment of God, our true home, a place of love, joy, peace, and indescribable beauty.
Can you see the difference between eternal life as our life force, and Paradise as the place where we dwell?
Both eternal life and Paradise were lost to Adam and Eve. Apparently Paradise was withdrawn immediately into the spiritual realm. The loss of Divine Life resulted in the physical death of Adam and Eve almost a thousand years later.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He came to restore eternal life to us. Paradise will follow in its time. But, as we shall see later, our true goal is to be transformed into a life-giving spirit. Then we can enjoy Paradise to the fullest. But to enter Paradise on the basis of forgiveness alone (if that is possible), without having experienced transformation into a new creation, would be to suffer inconceivable loss.
We desire a splendid environment. God desires transformed people who can maintain the splendor and beauty of Paradise. Does this make sense to you?
Saved people will dwell forever in Paradise on the earth. But the process of redemption is the transformation of the future rulers and citizens of Paradise.
Eternal life is not a gift that is handed to us in full measure upon our receiving Christ. Eternal life is an actual kind of life we receive in embryonic form and then must pursue every day of our discipleship.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (I Timothy 6:19)
The above two verses are addressed to saved people. They had received the initial portion of eternal life. Now they must pursue eternal life by their godly behavior. The only manner in which we can grow in eternal life is by practicing godly behavior.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:14)
The gate is small and the way is full of pressure that leads to life. Receiving Christ gives us access to the way, it does not bring to us the fullness of life unless we follow Christ closely throughout our lifetime on the earth. There is life and there is more abundant life.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Hebrews 3:14)
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)
Does the above teach that we receive unconditionally the fullness of eternal life when we first put our trust in Christ?
One of the ways in which our life in Paradise will be affected is that those who are transformed will possess flesh and bone bodies that have been clothed with a glorified body from the spiritual Heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ at the present time is in Paradise in a flesh and bone body.
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (Luke 24:39)
One of the great errors of current thinking is that every believer will receive, at the coming of the Lord, a body like that of the Lord Jesus—even though he or she has not lived a victorious Christian life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The concept is as follows. When we receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we begin a struggle. The result of our victory in the struggle is the redemption of our physical body. All the forces of darkness, including those resident in our personality, fight against our wrestling, our effort to grow in eternal life to the point we are competent and eligible for the adoption of our mortal body into the eternal Life of God.
Every day of our discipleship, death and life struggle for the mastery of our personality. Our body remains dead in sin while our born-again inner nature struggles against the darkness. The victorious saint is the one who keeps looking to the Lord for victory in the battle. The Apostle Paul presents the struggle and its outcome clearly.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
The resurrection to eternal life in the body must be attained! The next few verses show that Paul is thinking of the redemption of his mortal body:
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21)
The redemption of his mortal body was Paul’s goal.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11)
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)
Paul taught that the resurrection of our physical body is the purpose of our salvation.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (I Corinthians 15:19,20)
The resurrection of our physical body is our entrance into life.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22)
The resurrection of our physical body marks the destruction of the last enemy.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (I Corinthians 15:26)
The growth of Christ in us is the growth of the resurrection in us, for the Lord Jesus Himself is the resurrection. If we thus attain to the inner resurrection, then, when the Lord appears, we will be clothed externally with the fullness of God’s Glory.
It is the overcomer, the victorious saint, who is permitted to eat of the Tree of Life (who is Christ), and thus gain eternal life in the inner man in preparation for the donning of immortality in the outer man.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
Every time we overcome by denying ourselves, putting to death the desires of our flesh and soul, we are permitted to eat from the tree of life. Adam dies and Christ lives. Adam dies and Christ lives. Adam dies and Christ lives.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening [life-giving] spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (I Corinthians 15:42-49)
We attain to eternal life, which is the same as the resurrection from the dead, which is the same as Christ Himself (for He Himself is the Resurrection and the Life), by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. This is how we partake of the Tree of Life. As we put to death the deeds of our body, we are fed in the spiritual realm with the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.
Notice in the following verses the relationship between eating Christ’s flesh and blood, eternal life, and the resurrection from the dead.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:53-57)
If we are to attain to the fullness of eternal life in our inner man, we must follow the Spirit closely in putting to death the deeds of our body. As we pursue the life of victory over our sinful desires, we keep on eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood. As we keep on eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood, we are dwelling in Him. We find that just as Christ lives by the Life of the Father, so we now are living by the Life of Christ.
As Paul says, we now are experiencing the power of His resurrection and sharing His sufferings. As He is, so are we in this world (I John 4:17). He lived in self-denial and we must be willing to live in self-denial if we would be part of His resurrection.
Thus far we have discussed the attaining to the resurrection in our inner man. Now we shall consider the resurrection body. The resurrection body consists of two bodies: our flesh and bones, which will be raised from death at the coming of the Lord, and our house from Heaven.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (II Corinthians 5:1)
The “house not made with hands” is our robe of righteousness, the Glory of Christ that will clothe our raised flesh and bones in the Day of the Lord.
The critical understanding the present-day Christian churches need to possess is that our house from Heaven is created as a counterpart of the forming of Christ in us in the present hour. We are building a mansion in Heaven, so to speak. Our heavenly house, which now is before the throne of God in Heaven, reflects directly the decisions we make on the earth. As Paul says:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (II Corinthians 4:17)
The “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” that is produced by our faithful, godly response to our afflictions is our house from Heaven.
The meaning here is that today we are determining the nature of our resurrection from the dead. The day of resurrection will reveal what we have become through Christ. This is why the rewards in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are dependent on our overcoming, on our gaining victory over the forces of sin and self-will that fight against us continually as we press forward in order to attain to the first resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of the royal priesthood.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
When the Lord appears, the flesh and bones of the Apostle Paul will be raised from where he was martyred in Rome and will be clothed with a great mountain of fire and glory. He will resemble His Lord.
All the others who have attained the first resurrection will be raised and then clothed with a body that will directly reflect the decisions they have made during their discipleship. That which we have practiced in the body will be given to us in that day.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
The mark set before us is an inner nature transformed into the image of Christ by being infused with the Divine Nature of Christ, a transformed inner nature filled with the Presence of the Father and the Son, and all of this contained in a flesh-and-bone body that has been clothed with a house from Heaven that reveals in itself what we have become as we have lived by the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.
This is salvation and the fullness of eternal life. This is the first resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of the kingdom of priests who will govern the creation of God forever.
How Our Transformation Will Affect Our Life in Paradise
Paradise is a place of indescribable love, joy, peace, and beauty. Paradise was at one time on this earth in or near present-day Iraq. It was a garden containing all that people would ever desire, including the Presence of God Himself. God made man and put him in the garden, and this is where God intends for man to be—in a beautiful garden of delight on the earth.
But man at that time was not “man” as God intends man to be. The Lord Jesus is the first Man to appear on the earth as God wants man to be—in the moral image of God, capable of union with another, capable of limitless fruitfulness and limitless dominion. The garden was perfect but man was imperfect.
The garden will be brought back to earth with the coming of the Lord. But what about the people? The description of the new heaven and earth, given in the last two chapters of the Bible, portrays the new world of righteousness that is to come. The new Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb, the Kingdom of God, will come down out of the spiritual Heaven until it is visible in the sky and then descend to remain forever on a great and high mountain of the new earth. On the new earth will be nations of saved people who will be governed forever by the Bride of the Lamb, the royal priesthood, the Israel of God. The new Jerusalem will be the Throne of God now dwelling among saved mankind. All the earth will be a paradise where there is no more pain or death.
The glorified Church, the new Jerusalem, will be available to any of the people of the new world who wish to come and be refreshed with the Presence and Virtue of God in Christ in the saints.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
The saved nations from time to time will come to the new Jerusalem to be blessed by the Presence of Christ in His saints.
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16)
The Holy Spirit will issue as the River of Life from the Presence of God. The Tree of Life, which is God in Christ in the saints, will be available to the saved nations of the earth.
We see from this pattern that there are least in the Kingdom and greatest in the Kingdom. It is not just a matter of regaining Paradise. The question is, What will be our role in the new world? Will it really make a difference in our destiny whether or not we live the victorious Christian life, or is it sufficient to just enter Paradise by the skin of our teeth, so to speak?
We have already mentioned the resurrecting and glorifying of our body. It appears certain that the Lord Jesus will not clothe a worldly, sinful, disobedient personality with a body like His own. It is not impossible that when the Lord returns, only those members of His Church who have followed Him closely will receive back their bodies from death. If this is true, we may find some of God’s elect in Spirit-filled glorified flesh and bone bodies, ministering to (1) the nations of the earth, who still are flesh and blood, and also to (2) the remainder of the Church who are contained in the spirit realm. If this proves to be the case, then attaining the first resurrection from the dead is very desirable.
We have mentioned that the kind of house from Heaven that will clothe our resurrected flesh and bone will reveal in itself the good and the evil we have practiced. This is shown clearly, not only in II Corinthians 5:10 but also in the following:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)
We shall reap either corruption or eternal life in the day of resurrection, depending on the kind of “sowing” we have done throughout our lifetime. How would you enjoy being in Paradise in a corrupt state?
The Scripture mentions crowns and white raiment (clothing). The crowns portray the authority that will be given to the conquerors. We believe the raiment speaks of what will cover our resurrected flesh and bones in the Day of the Lord.
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12)
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (I Peter 5:4)
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
As for the robe of white raiment, the “house” created by the righteous behavior proceeding from Christ’s work and Presence in us:
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3:18)
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; (Revelation 7:9)
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [righteous deeds] of saints. (Revelation 19:8)
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)
We see from the above that there are crowns and robes to be gained. Of the inhabitants of Paradise, some will wear the crowns of Divine authority. Some will be robed in the white raiment of the priests of God. Whether we are crowned with authority and robed as a priest depends on our diligence in following Christ. These evidences of authority and power are not issued automatically because we have made a profession of faith in Christ, but are the result of the Divine program of redemption with which we have cooperated.
For those who overcome the demonic pressures and temptations of the last days, there are valuable attributes of character that are gained as through Christ we conquer the adversary.
- Courage is one such attribute. Christ’s courage is formed in us as we fight onward against every dread, every terror the enemy sets before us.
- Our faith in God is increased as we are forced to depend on the Lord in the midst of the evil and complexities in which we are attempting to serve the Lord.
- Stern, uncompromising, continual obedience to God no matter what He requires of us is one of the most valuable qualities of personality we can gain in our present struggle. Even the Lord Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered on the earth.
- Tribulation creates patience in us. Patience is a mark of perfection. The development of patience in us forms a door through which other people can enter the Presence of God. The gates of the new Jerusalem are pearl—that which is created by a patient response to irritations.
- Finally, the most valuable characteristic anyone can possess—closeness to God. The overcomers forever shall be pillars in the Temple of God and shall “go no more out.”
When we consider the above array of destinies, we can understand readily that it is not enough just to “live in a little cabin in the corner of gloryland.”
- There are thrones to be gained—the thrones currently occupied by wicked spirits who are corrupting the creation of God.
- There are crowns of life and righteousness; robes of dazzling whiteness that portray the righteous works of the individual.
- There is a body to be reclaimed from death and a clothing of that body with Divine glory and fire so it shines as a star forever.
- There are opportunities to serve God forever in His living Tabernacle.
- There are the joys of bringing forth healing and life for the saved peoples of the earth.
- There are qualities of character to be gained.
- There is the incomparable fulfillment of hearing the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
- But closeness to the Lord God of Heaven for eternity is a reward that surpasses all others.
No, our goal is not merely admittance to the garden of God. The rewards and treasures available to the victorious saint, the disciple who takes up his cross each day and follows the Master with a perfect heart of obedience and love, are well worth every effort we can possibly make.
Let us not walk in the ranks of those who are trying to see how close they can come to the Lake of Fire without toppling in. Let us seek more abundant life. Let us live so our Lord can joyfully give us the fullness of His Kingdom.
Many that are last in time will be enabled to press into the fullness of salvation, the Fullness of God.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
(“Paradise or Eternal Life?”, 3854-1, proofed 20190303)