What do you think of when you hear the word, Paradise?
Do you think of a tropical beach, lounging around in a swinging hammock, drinking a smoothie and listening to the waves crash the shore?
Or do you think of heaven?
Most Christians think of Paradise as a place in heaven where we will go once we die. This is because when Jesus was on the cross, one of the criminals dying on a cross beside Him called Jesus "Lord" and asked him to remember him. Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
This gives us a named place, a hope for the promise of an afterlife, and the promise that those of us who believe in Him will be with Jesus.
But paradise is even more. Because Jesus told the desciples, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3)
This made me think that Paradise was not yet created until Jesus passed away and went to prepare it. But it doesn't say that. A house can be present, but not prepared to receive guests. I realized something new this morning in my devotions. Paradise already existed. Follow these scriptures with me to see the link.
"To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
Where is the tree of life? Here it says in Paradise. What else does the Bible say about Paradise?
"Such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 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." (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
Okay, we know that the tree of life is in the middle of Paradise and that Paradise is the third level of heaven. It's a spiritual place and it is where we go to be with Jesus when we die.
Now, let's look at what Genesis says about the tree of life from the very beginning. "So He [God] drove out the man [after man sinned]: and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24)
Eden is not a physical place on earth. The tree of life is in Eden. If the tree of life is in the middle of Paradise, then Eden has to be in Paradise, and we know that Paradise is the third level of heaven.
The tree of life is guarded by cherubin, we know that these are angels. It is also guarded by a flaming sword which turned every way. What is this flaming sword?
"For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
Why is the Word sharper than any two-edged sword? Because the Word is the sword.
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:17)
God not only has angels guarding the tree of life, but He guards it with His Word, the flaming sword. That is why the Bible is given to us in mysteries. It is power we have to be seasoned to receive it, prepared, ready, mature. Understanding only comes from God, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.
"These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Corinthians 2:13)
We know that the tree of life is true salvation. In Genesis, man is forbidden to eat from the tree of life. He wasn't ready. God had not prepared man. It was a test of obedience. In Revelations 2:7 and 22:14 men who believe in Jesus and overcome the ways of the world are given the right to eat of the tree of life.
"Bessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." (Revelations 22:14)
How do we become blessed to receive the tree of life? There is only one way.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
The Bible gives us the answers to these mysteries by linking scripture together from the first book of Genesis to the last book of Revelation.
"I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." (Revelation 22:13)