A Sure Hope
NEARLY 2,000 years ago, Jesus, often called the greatest man who ever lived, was unjustly sentenced to death. While he hung on a torture stake, an evildoer hanging next to him said derisively: “You are the Christ, are you not? Save yourself and us.”
At that, another evildoer who was also being executed rebuked the man: “Do you not fear God at all, now that you are in the same judgment? And we, indeed, justly so, for we are receiving in full what we deserve for things we did; but this man did nothing out of the way.” Then he turned to Jesus and petitioned: “Remember me when you get into your kingdom.”
Jesus replied: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:39-43.
Jesus had a marvelous hope set before him. The apostle Paul noted the effect that this hope had upon Jesus, observing: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame.”—Hebrews 12:2.
Included in “the joy” set before Jesus was living with his Father again in heaven and eventually serving as Ruler of God’s Kingdom. Moreover, he would also have the joy of welcoming into heaven proven and trusted followers of his that would rule with him as kings over the earth. (John 14:2, 3; Philippians 2:7-11; Revelation 20:5, 6) What, then, did Jesus mean when he promised the repentant evildoer that he would be in Paradise?
What Hope for the Evildoer?
That man did not qualify to rule with Jesus in heaven. He is not included among those to whom Jesus said: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:28, 29) Yet, Jesus promised that the evildoer would be in Paradise with him. How will that promise be fulfilled?
The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were placed by Jehovah God in Paradise, a garden of pleasure called Eden. (Genesis 2:8, 15) Eden was on earth, and God purposed that the entire earth be a paradise. However, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were put out of their beautiful home. (Genesis 3:23, 24) But Jesus revealed that Paradise would be restored and that it would come to include the entire earth.
When the apostle Peter asked Jesus what reward he and his fellow apostles would receive for following him, Jesus promised: “In the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down upon his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also yourselves sit upon twelve thrones.” (Matthew 19:27, 28) Significantly, in Luke’s account of this conversation, instead of saying “in the re-creation,” Jesus is quoted as saying “in the coming system of things.”—Luke 18:28-30.
Thus, when Jesus Christ sits down in heaven upon his glorious throne, along with those who will rule with him, he will establish a righteous new system of things. (2 Timothy 2:11, 12; Revelation 5:10; 14:1, 3) By means of Christ’s heavenly rule, God’s original purpose for the entire earth to be a paradise will be fulfilled!
During this Kingdom rule, Jesus will fulfill his promise to the criminal who died alongside him. He will resurrect him, and that man will become an earthly subject of Jesus. Then the evildoer will be given an opportunity to meet God’s requirements and live forever under the rule of the Kingdom. Surely we can rejoice in the Bible-based prospect of living forever in Paradise on earth!
Life Can Have Meaning
Imagine the meaning that such a grand hope can give to our lives. It can help protect our minds from the disastrous results of negative thinking. That hope was likened by the apostle Paul to a vital piece of spiritual armor. He said that we must put “the hope of salvation” on “as a helmet.”—1 Thessalonians 5:8; Psalm 37:29; Revelation 21:3, 4.
That hope is life sustaining. In the coming Paradise, loneliness will give way to tears of joy as cherished loved ones are brought back to life by “the God who raises up the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) Then the frustration of physical frailty, pain, and immobility will be forgotten, for “the lame one will climb up just as a stag does.” A person’s ‘flesh will become fresher than in youth,’ and he will “return to the days of his youthful vigor.”—Isaiah 35:6; Job 33:25.
At that time, when “no resident will say: ‘I am sick,’” the despair of a lingering disease will be merely a fading memory. (Isaiah 33:24) The emptiness of chronic depression will be turned into “rejoicing to time indefinite.” (Isaiah 35:10) The hopelessness of a fatal illness will vanish along with death itself, mankind’s ancient enemy.—1 Corinthians 15:26.
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Keep the marvelous hope of God’s new world close in mind