The Way Home to Paradise
IN VIEW of the human yearning for Paradise and the attempts both large and small to recreate it, one would think that by now the earth would be a veritable paradise. But it is not.
Mankind, instead, has given priority to greed, which often rules at the expense of the environment and its diversity of living things. Believing that material wealth will win out, many people have lost all hope that this earth will ever be transformed into an Edenic paradise. Rather, they look to an afterlife in heaven as their only hope for Paradise. This view implies, first, that our human yearning for Eden will forever be frustrated and, second, that God has abandoned this planet to human folly and greed. Is this so? Just what does the future hold? And where will that future be?
Paradise—In Heaven or on Earth?
Nearly 2,000 years ago, when speaking to a repentant thief impaled beside him, Jesus Christ said: “You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Did Jesus mean that the thief would go to heaven with him? No.
The evildoer would not have even entertained that idea. Why not? Because he would probably have been familiar with passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, which existed in his day, such as the first part of Psalm 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth.” Jesus taught that same truth, declaring: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) This scripture harmonizes with what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, which states: “Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
The Bible teaches that God created the earth, not heaven, as home for the human family. His Word states that he “did not create [the earth] simply for nothing” but “formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) For how long? “He has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” (Psalm 104:5) Yes, “the earth is standing even to time indefinite.”—Ecclesiastes 1:4.
It is God’s purpose for the vast majority of those who serve him to make this earth their home forever. Note how God’s Word, the Bible, comments on this. Psalm 37:11 foretells: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” For how long? Psalm 37:29 says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” At that time the scripture will be realized that declares: “You [God] are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing,” that is, the desire that is in harmony with God’s will.—Psalm 145:16.
What about those who have no desire to do God’s will? Proverbs 2:21, 22 declares: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”
Soon now, God’s judgments will be executed against this wicked world. (Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) But God will preserve “a great crowd” of people through that coming destruction into a new world of his making.—Revelation 7:9-17.
Then, God will direct the joyful task that his human subjects will have of transforming the entire earth into a paradise home for mankind. The Bible promises: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. . . . For in the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain.”—Isaiah 35:1, 6.
In that expanding Paradise, there will be no more hunger, poverty, slums, homeless people, or crime-infested areas. “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth.” (Psalm 72:16) “The tree of the field must give its fruitage, and the land itself will give its yield.” (Ezekiel 34:27) “They will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating.” (Isaiah 65:21, 22) “They will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble.”—Micah 4:4.
Why Some Go to Heaven
Most people will probably acknowledge that they have a yearning for an earthly paradise. That is natural, for God never implanted in them a yearning for heaven; they cannot even conceive of what life in heaven is like. For example, in conversation with her Church of England minister, Pat, though a devoted church member, said: “I’ve never had any thoughts about going to heaven. I don’t want to go, and what would I do there anyway?”—Compare Psalm 115:16.
True, the Bible teaches that a limited number of humans, 144,000, do go to heaven. (Revelation 14:1, 4) It also explains why: “You made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 5:9, 10) Along with their King, Jesus Christ, these make up the “kingdom,” earth’s new heavenly government, for which Christians pray. This government will supervise the total rehabilitation of the earth and mankind.—Daniel 2:44; 2 Peter 3:13.
However, since the desire to live in heaven is not naturally present in humans, a unique operation of God’s spirit “bears witness” to the 144,000 so that they sense this special “upward call.” (Romans 8:16, 17; Philippians 3:14) Obviously, though, no such operation by holy spirit is needed for mankind in general because their eternal home is to be on a paradise earth.
A Spiritual Paradise Prepares the Way
How does one qualify for eternal life in Paradise on earth? “This means everlasting life,” Jesus said, “their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Linking peaceful human relations with a knowledge of God, Isaiah 11:9 states: “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”—Compare Isaiah 48:18.
This knowledge, of course, is not just head knowledge. It influences one’s personality and nurtures godly qualities, such as “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to cultivate these qualities, and thus, even now, they are blessed with a wholesome spiritual paradise.—Isaiah 65:13, 14.
What a contrast their spiritual condition is to that of the world, which plunges into more and more ungodliness and corruption! Soon, however, this wicked world will be destroyed by God. In the meantime, Jehovah’s Witnesses invite you to visit—yes, inspect—the spiritual paradise they enjoy. See for yourself that right now Jesus, the invisible heavenly King, is quietly leading future residents of that new world along the narrow way to the earthly Paradise and eternal life!—Matthew 7:13, 14; Revelation 7:17; 21:3, 4.
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Survivors of this world’s end will enjoy taking part in transforming the earth into a paradise