A new gathering place for those who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
With the death of Jesus, another gathering place was opened, and that is Paradise. Of course, Jesus talked about Abraham’s bosom, but when he was on the cross he clearly said to the criminal: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23, 43)
That is, the first person to get to Paradise was a criminal. And this, unlike Sheol, is a new meeting place for those who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. And that is a completely different dimension.
To sum it up, we are basically talking about four different places, which are sometimes not always correctly identified in translations:
Sheol as a place of expectation for unjust souls
Hell as a place of eternal, unchanging damnation
Bosom of Abraham as a place of contemplation of righteous souls, until the death of Jesus
Paradise as a place of eternal bliss and contemplation
Is there a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament paradise?
The Old Testament speaks of a paradise from which Adam and Eve were expelled. The Bible does not mention whether Jesus spoke of the same paradise on the cross. We don’t really know what the paradise really meant spiritually, because we perceive that Adam and Eve were only in physical paradise. This place, this New Testament paradise, is a spiritual realm because the body of Jesus laid in the tomb and he was a spirit. He was a spirit in Sheol, and he was also a spirit in Paradise.
The first paradise spoken of in connection with Adam and Eve was based on a physical connection with God. Territorially, it is sometimes connected with the country of the first human settlement – Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. We do not have precisely revealed in Scripture in what specific connection the physical connection with God took place, but paradise may have been an explicit place on Earth like Mesopotamia, but the essence of paradise did not lie in what place it was, what animals lived there or what plants grew there. Basically, we can say that it didn’t matter if the paradise was in Mesopotamia or some other place.
Paradise could be anywhere in the world if God’s spiritual realm merged with our physical nature. By saying that, paradise is not limited to any physical circle, but is determined by the spiritual circle. And so, we can say that we can experience paradise here o Earth too. Why? Because we are simply in the presence of God and in the presence of his word, the truth of his word, the truth of his spirit, and the rule of his love and his mercy is above us. This is paradise.
Within this understanding, in fact, in the biblical expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, we do not have to think about moving from place to place, about the physical expulsion from Paradise to this Earth, but we can rather talk about the loss of physical connection with our Creator.
So what paradise was Jesus talking about?
Since the death of Jesus, all people have gathered only in hell or paradise.
The Lord Jesus spoke just about the spiritual paradise we have mentioned. He was talking about a spiritual place, he did not say that we would meet in Mesopotamia, but that we would meet in some spiritual realm, i.e. a place where we can be already sure that we are with God, that we no longer have to worry about where we would go and what would happen to us. This is a paradise in the soul, when you have peace with God, you are composed, you know where you are going and to whom you belong. This is the relationship with God, this is the realm where God is king in your life and He creates that sphere of grace in your life.
Since the death of Jesus, we have all gathered either in hell or in paradise. According to some theologians, when the Jews rejected Jesus, the Bosom of Abraham has closed, and salvation through faith in the Law ceased to apply because Saint Paul made it clear that no one would be justified by the Law. And it’s been true ever since. Spiritual things become valid when they are uttered, when they are believed, when they are proclaimed, and so on. God used Paul to do that. God used Paul for something, he used other people for something else, he may have used ordinary people, but also us, our neighbors etc. Sometimes we don’t even know that God used us or someone around us to say certain things, because God never does anything he doesn’t announce through his servants. That’s what is written.
Paradise – the land of winners
“Blessed are those who die in the faith in Lord Jesus Christ, because they shall no more be judged.”
However, we say that this is a place of contemplation. Why or what are people waiting for in paradise? There is a joyful anticipation in paradise, there is bliss, there is no doubt that someone will be expelled from there, it is already a place of victory, it is a land of winners who “have won for the blood of the Lamb and for the word of their testimony.”