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  • Tony Mariot

What's the difference between heaven, paradise,and God's kingdom, according to the Bible?


Heaven

Heaven is most certainly a real place. The Bible very definitely speaks of heaven’s existence—and access to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ—but there are no verses that give us a geographical location. The short answer to this question is, “heaven is where God is.” The place referred to in this question is called the “third heaven” and “paradise” in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, where the apostle Paul tells of a living man who was “caught up” to heaven and was unable to describe it. There are distinctions with respect to the paradise designation. It refers to where Jesus wentimmediately upon His death. Paradise is where Abraham and others waited on the coming of the Messiah after their death. The Greek word translated “caught up” is also used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in describing the rapture, wherein believers will be caught up to be with the Lord.

Other verses indicating heaven to be “above the earth” are numerous. At the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let us go down” (Genesis 11:7) Heaven is described as “high above the earth” in Psalm 103:11, and the place from which the Lord “looks down” in Psalm 14:2. Jesus is described as having “ascended into heaven” and “descended from heaven” in John 3:13. In Acts 1:9–11 Jesus is described as being taken “up” into heaven, and when God takes John in a vision to heaven in Revelation 4:1, He says, “Come up here.” These passages have led to the conclusion that heaven is beyond the earth’s airspace and beyond the stars.

However, since God is spirit, “heaven” cannot signify a place remote from us which He inhabits. The Greek gods were thought of as spending most of their time far away from earth in sort of a celestial equivalent of the Bahamas, but the God of the Bible is not like this. He is always near us when we call on Him (James 4:8), and we are encouraged to “draw near” to Him (Hebrews 10:1, 22). Granted, the “heaven” where saints and angels dwell has to be thought of as a locality, because saints and angels, as God’s creatures, exist in space and time. But when the Creator is said to be “in heaven,” the thought is that He exists on a different plane from us, rather than in a different place.

That God in heaven is always near to His children on earth is something the Bible expresses throughout. The New Testament mentions heaven with considerable frequency. Yet, even with this frequency, detailed description of its location is limited to what Jesus stated..

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”. John 14:1-3

Perhaps God has intentionally covered its location in mystery, for it is more important for us to focus on the God of heaven than the description or location of His dwelling. It is more important to know the “why” and the “who” than the “where.” The New Testament focuses on the purpose of heaven and who is there instead of telling us exactly what it is like or where it is. Hell is a place of separation and punishment (Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Heaven, on the other hand, is a place of fellowship and eternal joy and, more importantly, worshipping around the throne of God.

Paradise and Hell in Proximity

Paradise was a place of blessing where the righteous went after death. The word paradise is usually used as a synonym for “the paradise of God in heaven” Revelation 2:7

When Jesus was dying on the cross and one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked Jesus for mercy, Jesus replied, “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. In this context. Jesus was to go to paradise to minister to everyone who died believing on the coming of the Messiah (Hebrews 11:3).

Everyone from Adam to Abraham and all those in between, everyone including the thief on the cross had to believe the Messiah would come, but they had to accept Jesus AS THE Messiah.

There has always been a separation of believers and unbelievers after death (Luke 16:19-31). The righteous have always gone to paradise; the wicked have always gone to hell. Both paradise and hell were “temporary holding places” until the day when Jesus the Christ rose from the dead. Matthew 27:51–53

The first resurrection is of believers who will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards based on meritorious service to Him. The second resurrection will be that of unbelievers who will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment of God. At that point, all will be sent to their eternal destination—the wicked to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15), and the righteous to a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21—22).

There are cases in which paradise can refer to the Garden of Eden, such in the Douay-Rheims translation of Genesis 3:8, which speaks of Adam and Eve hiding “amidst the trees of paradise.”

“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden”. Genesis 3:8

Gods Kingdom

The kingdom of God is referenced often in the gospels (Mark 1:15; 10:15; 15:43; Luke 17:20) and other places in the New Testament (Acts 28:31; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50). The kingdom of God is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven. The concept of the kingdom of God takes on various shades of meaning in different passages of Scripture.

Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Several passages of Scripture show that God is the undeniable Monarch of all creation: “The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.” Psalm 103:19.

King Nebuchadnezzar declared, “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom” (Daniel 4:3). Every authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1). So, in one sense, the kingdom of God incorporates everything that is.

More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority. Those who defy God’s authority and refuse to submit to Him are not part of the kingdom of God; in contrast, those who acknowledge the lordship of Christ and surrender to God’s rule in their hearts are part of the kingdom of God. In this sense, the kingdom of God is spiritual and tangible with a location—Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), and He preached that repentance is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17).

The kingdom of God can be equated with the sphere of salvation: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again". John 3:5–7

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind” 1 Corinthians 6:9

There is another sense in which the kingdom of God is used in Scripture: the literal rule of Christ on the earth during the millennium. Daniel said “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44; cf. 7:13–14), and many of the other prophets predicted the same thing (Obadiah 1:21; Habakkuk 2:14; Micah 4:2; Zechariah 14:9). This is in reference to the NEW EARTH that God will create.

“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. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God”. Revelation 21:1–3

Both spiritual and physical manifestations are connected; the kingdom of God has several aspects. The Lord is the Sovereign of the universe, and so in that sense His kingdom is universal (1 Timothy 6:15). At the same time, the kingdom of God involves repentance and the new birth, as God rules in the hearts of His children in this world in preparation for the next. The work begun on earth and will find its final consummation on a new earth as well.

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