In 1 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul wrote, “And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (verses 2,3). In this passage, “paradise” is obviously synonymous with “heaven.” The fact that Paul refers to no earthly “paradise” is even more clear from the fact he associates being “caught up” to “heaven” with being “caught up” to “paradise.”
And according to Revelation 2:7, the “tree of life” is said to be “in the midst of the paradise of God,” whereas in Revelation 21:1–3, 10 and Revelation 22:1–5 the tree of life is related with the new earth, the New Jerusalem, the river of life, and the throne of God.
There can be no doubt that the New Testament usage of paradeisos makes it synonymous with “heaven.” The Garden of Eden was “paradise” on earth (Genesis 1). And when Eden will be restored to this world, earth will once more become the new paradeisos (Revelation 21:5).
Do People Ascend to Paradise at Death?
Some claim that Paradise is a “temporary holding place” that the saints go to at death and remain there till the Resurrection of the dead. These wrongly base their belief on the following verse: “And Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke23:43).
But upon careful examination of this verse, we find that the comma between the words “you” and “today” was inserted by the translators. The commas in this verse were not in the original manuscripts. The original Greek text, which had neither punctuation nor word division, reads literally: “truly to-you I-say today with-me you-will-be in the paradise.”
Obviously, in placing the comma before the word “today,” the translators were guided by the unscriptural popular belief that the dead enter into their rewards at death. But neither Jesus nor the writers of the New Testament believed or taught such a doctrine (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:11). To place the comma before the word “today” makes Christ contradict what He and the New Testament writers have plainly stated elsewhere.
The Scriptures themselves require that the comma be placed after the word “today,” not before it. Why? Because the Bible states that until the second coming of Christ, the dead will sleep or rest in their graves, not in paradise (John 11:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:5, 16). For more on the state of the dead:
What Did Christ Say to the Thief on the Cross?
“Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” The great question the thief was thinking of at the moment was not when he would reach paradise, but whether he would get there at all. Jesus’ simple statement assured him that, however undeserving he may be and however impossible it may appear for Jesus—dying the death of a criminal—to fulfill such a promise, the thief will most certainly be there.
And the proof that Jesus did not go to heaven on Crucifixion Day comes from the Savior’s own lips. Three days later, on Sunday morning (Resurrection Day), Jesus declared to Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17). Thus, Jesus’ own words cleared all confusion about this verse.
In His service,