Will There Ever Be a Real Paradise?
“TRULY I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” These words, uttered nearly 2,000 years ago, show that man’s interest in Paradise is not new. People have been talking about it for a long time.
However, this promise was spoken on what might have seemed a most unpropitious occasion to someone who perhaps would appear to be an unlikely candidate for living in Paradise. The speaker was Jesus Christ. He was slowly and painfully dying as he spoke, impaled on a stake in the Roman manner. The one he spoke to was a convicted criminal, also dying on a stake.
Was this promise of Paradise mere wishful thinking? Or could it be that one day there will exist a real paradise that will cover the earth? Well, consider some facts.
A Potential Paradise
Our tour of Micronesia has revealed three outstanding things. First, the earth has the physical potential to be a paradise. In spite of the depredations and mistakes of men, these islands are still truly beautiful. And while the beauty of a tropical island is something special, beauty itself is earth wide. From the majesty of snowcapped mountains to the splendor of green rolling valleys, from the special serenity of the Arctic tundra to the lush tropical jungles, there is so much beauty in the earth that the heart swells in appreciation! Under the right conditions, it could all be a paradise.
We also see evidence that the earth has a built-in healing power, so that it can cure the scars left by men. In the Truk lagoon, for example, the grim hulks of sunken warships are being colonized and even made beautiful by strange and wonderful forms of sea life. Worldwide, when pollution of air, water and land cease, natural processes of restoration bring amazing transformations.
Finally, for the most part it is man who is ruining his surroundings. Whether by pollution, by crime and violence, by despoiling the land for material wealth, or because of military rivalry between world powers, it is man who is gradually destroying his environment. And this is true not only in the Pacific but all around the world.
A Question of Government
Hence, if a real paradise is to exist, it is man who has to change. His wrong tendencies must be controlled and his constructive abilities must be directed into the right channels. This sounds as though it should be a job for government, but the problem is that no government has been able to stop man’s gradual ruining of the earth.
In view of this, it is interesting that Jesus’ promise of paradise was in answer to a comment about government. The criminal impaled alongside him had noticed this sign above Jesus’ head: “This is the king of the Jews.” So he said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” It was in answer to this that Jesus promised: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:38-43.
Can Jesus as a king accomplish something no other ruler can? Can he make all the earth a real paradise? Yes, because Jesus’ kingship is heavenly, not earthly. And it is backed up by God’s own power.
If we consider Jesus’ own nature, we can better appreciate this. The Bible says that by means of him God created the earth and all life on it. (Prov. 8:22-31; Col. 1:15-17) Hence, Jesus fully understands its ecology. He knows how to use its resources properly. When on earth, he actually demonstrated control of natural forces by calming a windstorm and by telling his followers how to get a full catch of fish after they had labored all night without results. (Mark 4:35-41; John 21:4-8) Surely, under the rule of such a king, men will not be harmed by typhoons, earthquakes or volcanoes, and all living things will be in proper balance.
Humans themselves will also be taught to live together in peace. Regarding what God will accomplish by means of Jesus’ kingship, the Scriptures state: “He will certainly render judgment among many peoples, and set matters straight respecting mighty nations far away. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Mic. 4:3, 4) Under such a rule, earth’s beauty will no longer be scarred by wars.
Will It Really Happen?
‘But wait a minute,’ you might say. ‘Jesus died shortly after making his promise of Paradise.’ That is true, and this would seem to have ended any hope that these wonderful promises would be fulfilled.
However, something marvelous happened on the third day after Jesus’ death. Jehovah God raised him to life again. Amazing though it may sound, this is a well-attested fact of history. Some 500 people saw him alive again. (1 Cor. 15:3-22) Thus, the hope of a paradise under Christ’s rulership became realizable. His promise to the dying criminal could actually be fulfilled.—Acts 17:31.
Since that momentous event, things have moved inexorably toward the time when Jesus will have full authority over the day-to-day affairs of this earth. (Dan. 2:44) It can be proved that the present dangerous world conditions are evidence that we are living very close to that time.a Hence, in fulfillment of prophecy, the “good news of the kingdom” by Christ is being preached in all lands of the earth, including these Pacific islands. (Matt. 24:14) Many, although now living in what may appear to be paradise, look to a real paradise earth wide in the future. They rest their hopes for this in God’s kingdom through Christ.
Inhabitants of Paradise
Jesus’ teachings show us the kind of people who will live in Paradise under his government. First, he emphasized that persons who would gain such life must truly love God. “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind.” (Luke 10:25-27) A community of people with such love of God would obey all his commands. They would not be drunkards or immoral; neither would they selfishly ruin God’s creation, the earth, for material gain.
Further, Jesus said to his followers: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) Jesus sacrificed his human life out of love for mankind—for people of all races, nations and tongues. He taught his followers to put the interests of others ahead of their own. Worldwide there are already millions of persons who are sincerely endeavoring to do this. In a community of people with this quality, crime, thoughtless noise pollution and similar problems would soon become things of the past. Even poverty would not last long if everyone showed unselfish interest in others.
‘But,’ you might feel, ‘there is always a serpent in paradise. However successful Christ’s kingdom is, someone will come along and spoil things.’ Well, that may be true of man’s reforming efforts. But we are talking about the accomplishments of God’s heavenly government with Christ as king. No one will spoil the Paradise that this will bring about.
First, remember that God can change people. Saul of Tarsus was a violent opposer of Christianity. But when he accepted the truth of the Christian message, his personality changed dramatically, and he became the Christian apostle Paul. Similar changes are taking place today.—Acts 22:1-11; Col. 3:9-14; 1 Thess. 2:5-12.
One elderly man in Nauru, for example, was greatly grieved at losing his three children due to malnutrition during the Japanese occupation of his island in World War II. Can you imagine how he felt toward the Japanese? However, he studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and when learning about God’s kingdom through Christ, his attitude changed. When a Japanese tourist recently was stranded, he offered him refuge in his home. He said he has had no thought of retaliation in his heart since studying the Bible.
God’s kingdom is changing the personalities of people all around the world. Violent men are becoming peaceful. Criminals are becoming law-abiding. Bitter or disillusioned folk are finding comfort and joy. Moreover, people of all sorts—some located in physically beautiful surroundings, and others in poor and squalid neighborhoods—are experiencing what even now has been described as a spiritual paradise.
How so? Because of their association with true Christians, persons who put Jehovah God first in their lives and enjoy his blessing, persons who look to Jesus Christ as earth’s new king and who are known because they speak freely to others about God’s kingdom and have love among themselves. Regardless of their physical surroundings, they know the “peace of God that excels all thought.” (Phil. 4:7; Eph. 4:20-32) Just think what life on earth will be like when it is transformed into a physical paradise and populated by such people!
‘But not everyone will change,’ you may object. That is true. However, life on earth under God’s kingdom is only for those who will change. God will “bring to ruin those [who insist on] ruining the earth.” The Bible emphatically says: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Ps. 37:10, 11; Rev. 11:18) What happiness these meek ones will have!
A Real Hope
But they would not be completely happy if they and their loved ones still got sick and died, would they? It is therefore noteworthy that when Jesus was on earth, he healed all kinds of sickness, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. (Matt. 8:28-32; 11:2-5; John 11:43, 44) In casting out demons by means of God’s spirit, Jesus showed that he is more powerful than wicked spirit forces. Hence, in that paradise there will be no need to fear such things as witchcraft and demonism. And in healing the sick and raising the dead, Jesus demonstrated clearly that it is God’s purpose for him, as earth’s new king, to relieve mankind forever of sickness and death.—Isa. 25:8.
Thus the criminal who died with Jesus will see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be ‘with him in Paradise.’ Of course, if he wishes to stay in Paradise, he will have to change his course of conduct to conform to Jehovah’s ways.
So, then, do you really want to enjoy life in Paradise? You can. And you do not have to come from the other side of the world to these tropical islands in order to do so. Soon, both physically and spiritually, Paradise will cover the earth. In the meantime, regardless of where you live, you can enjoy the spiritual paradise that exists even now.
Why not read the Bible and see these things for yourself? Jehovah’s Witnesses will be delighted to help you to do this. Prove to yourself that this hope is realistic. See what God wants you to do in order to inherit it. Then you will be a witness of the fulfillment of the remarkable promise: “God . . . will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3, 4) At that time, all the earth will be a real paradise.
a See the chapter “Is ‘the End of the World’ Near?” in the book Happiness—How to Find It, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.