Paradise is not a common word in scripture. Jesus uses it in the book of Revelation, saying, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7). Primarily it means a park, a garden – and Adam was put out of the first paradise to stop him eating of the tree of life.
There is not the slightest indication that paradise means heaven. John’s Gospel states, “no one has ascended to heaven” (3:13). In Luke 23 we read of the promise of Jesus to the repentant thief beside him on the cross that you “will be with me in paradise” (verse 43). Too many miss the point of the thief’s request, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” (verse 42).
What a tremendous testimony of the thief’s belief in the future that lay before Jesus. We presume he had been a follower but had gone astray. To the disciples, all seemed lost after what had happened, but not to the thief. Suddenly he had a perception of tremendous faith. Surely this was the reason Jesus made the promise, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise” (verse 43). You will have noticed that we put the comma after the word “today” – which then makes sense of what Jesus said. (There are no commas in the original Greek.)
Those who think paradise means heaven ignore what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene when she met him on resurrection morn, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). The death of Jesus was real, for three days he had ceased to exist! Let us have the faith of the thief on the cross – despite the times in our lives when we have failed in one way or another. Proverbs 10 encourages us to think positively, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely” (verse 9). “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (verse 11). “The wise lay up knowledge” (verse 14). “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life” (verse 17). Our daily reading of God’s word is an essential reminder and re-enforcement of God’s instructions so that we keep on the path to paradise.