A Paradise of Joy for All Mankind
1. (a) How did an evildoer who died alongside Jesus start to exercise faith? (b) What hope did Jesus give the evildoer, emphasizing what quality of God? (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4)
ACCORDING to Luke’s account, Jesus’ last conversation before he died was with an evildoer fastened to a stake beside him. This evildoer even rebuked his fellow robber for abusing Jesus. Evidently he had begun to exercise faith in Jesus.
“And he went on to say: ‘Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him: ‘Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43)
What a marvelous promise to the dying man! God’s mercy could reach out even to this vile criminal, comforting him with the hope of life in the glorious paradise to come.
2. Illustrate how real one’s hope of paradise can become. (Hebrews 6:18)
2 God’s compassion and mercy can indeed extend to embrace persons who have been far removed from doing his will. The following is a modern-day example:
In western Japan, a teen-ager was sentenced to death for committing a double murder. During the years that he was awaiting execution, he came in touch with the Bible and its “good news,” studied and accepted the Kingdom message, and was baptized in the prison. Guards were amazed to see his beastly disposition change to one of love, joy and peacefulness. He studied Braille and transcribed a number of Bible textbooks to help blind persons outside the prison in their study. He wrote many letters to people outside, encouraging them in the Christian faith. On the morning of his execution, a missionary accompanied him to the gallows. The young man recognized that he must now satisfy justice, giving ‘life for life,’ but he could express himself: ‘Today I feel strongly confident in Jehovah, and in the ransom sacrifice and the resurrection hope.’ After a Scripture reading, song and prayer, he walked calmly to his execution, his face clearly reflecting the strong hope in his heart. His parting words were: ‘For a little while I will sleep, and if it be Jehovah’s will I shall meet you all in paradise.’
3. What marvelous hope is there for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:22)
3 Like the evildoer who died with Jesus, this young man could express faith in God’s mercy and loving-kindness. Is such faith well founded? Yes, for the Bible encourages all mankind to “have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) What a marvelous prospect! The masses of dead mankind, the good and the bad, are to be raised out of gravedom, and have opportunity to qualify for everlasting life in the restored paradise on earth. But this earthly paradise is to be merely the reflection of an even grander paradise.
A GLORIOUS SPIRITUAL PARADISE
4. In the first century what then-future paradise did the apostle Paul see in a vision?
4 The apostle Paul relates that in a vision “he was caught away into paradise and heard unutterable words.” What is that “paradise”? Not some stage of a physical heavens, but a spiritual paradise that would at some future date bring joy to God’s people right here on this earth.—2 Corinthians 12:1-4.
5. (a) What events led up to the entry of Jehovah’s servants into the spiritual paradise? (b) What conditions prevail there? (Isaiah 11:6-9)
5 Jehovah established this spiritual paradise in his own due time. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, sincere Bible students became aware that many of the practices and teachings of Christendom’s churches stemmed from ancient Babylon’s religion, and not from the Bible. They began to expose false teachings such as the inherent immortality of the soul, hellfire torment and the Trinity, and to restore the Bible teachings on Jesus’ ransom, the resurrection and God’s kingdom. From 1879, they have continuously published the Watchtower magazine as a champion of Bible truth. For more than thirty years, on the basis of Bible chronology, they pointed forward to 1914 as significant in Bible prophecy. And when 1914 came, World War I broke out, to be followed by other troubles, marking “a beginning of pangs of distress,” just as Jesus had foretold. During that period, the world’s religious leaders reviled and heaped “hatred” upon Jehovah’s faithful witnesses, but by 1919 these had broken clear of all bondage to the world empire of false religion—“Babylon the Great.” (Matthew 24:3-9; Revelation 17:5) They pressed forward on a “Way of Holiness,” into the spiritual paradise of which the prophet wrote long ago:
“And the very ones redeemed by Jehovah will return. . . ; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.”—Isaiah 35:8-10.
6. (a) Who are first ushered into this spiritual paradise? (b) What class next makes its appearance? (Isaiah 2:2-4)
6 The prophecies have much to say about the glories of this spiritual paradise. First, the remaining ones of Jesus’ “little flock” of anointed followers have been ushered into this paradisaic condition. (Luke 12:32) But after telling about the selection of these 144,000 spiritual Israelites, the Revelation to John describes others who are privileged to enter this beauteous paradise:
“And, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne [of Jehovah] and before the Lamb [the once-sacrificed but now glorified Jesus], dressed in white robes.” (Revelation 7:1-4, 9)
Right here on this earth, the “great crowd” join the remaining ones of the “little flock” in an approved condition in the spiritual paradise.
7. To what extent has the spiritual paradise expanded? (Isaiah 60:22)
7 The “great crowd” is very much in evidence today! When the remaining ones of the “little flock” emerged from World War I persecutions, they numbered but a few thousand, located in a handful of the major countries of Christendom. But on March 27, 1975, when Jehovah’s Witnesses assembled in more than 38,000 congregations in 210 countries and territories throughout the earth, to celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal in commemoration of Jesus’ death, the total attendance was 4,925,643 persons. Truly, the spiritual paradise has now expanded to global proportions!
BEHOLD THE EARTHLY PARADISE!
8. What will the earthly paradise reflect? (Revelation 21:2, 3)
8 Just as the ark and its passengers survived the flood of Noah’s day, so the spiritual paradise and those dwelling in it will survive the “great tribulation” and emerge into a pollution-free earth. What glories will then unfold on earth! The surviving “great crowd” will have work to do in ‘subduing the earth’ and transforming it into a place of loveliness that reflects all the splendor of the spiritual paradise concerning which Isaiah wrote:
“The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. . . . There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1, 2)
The breathtaking beauty of that global paradise will truly extol the magnificent Creator of heaven and earth!
9. What kind of kingship will be exercised over paradise, and through whom? (Psalm 72:12)
9 In that paradise earth, human voices will also join in praising Jehovah and magnifying his kingship:
“About the glory of your kingship they will talk, and about your mightiness they will speak, to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts and the glory of the splendor of his kingship.” (Psalm 145:10-13)
Remember, there is to be a thousand-year kingship, exercised by Jehovah through his Son, Christ Jesus, for the blessing of all races and national groups of mankind. It will be a reign of peace. All programs started for the uplifting of mankind will be carried through to grand success. Greed and corruption will be replaced by unselfishness and love. No longer will rulers cater to the rich and suppress the poor and needy, for God’s prophet exclaims: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself; and [here on earth] as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself.” (Isaiah 32:1) Under the one world rulership, that will be a paradise indeed!
10 What a joy to know that the dead will “come to life” to share in that paradise! (John 11:25) The last chapter of Revelation describes for us the sum total of Jehovah’s provision that he makes through Jesus Christ for imparting life to these and all others of mankind at that time. It is as “a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” This symbolic river flows down the broad way of the heavenly city, “New Jerusalem,” where the glorified Jesus and his 144,000 associate “kings” reside.
“And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1, 2)
Thus, people on earth will enjoy the curative application of Christ’s sacrifice to remove their sins and to heal them of all their sicknesses and imperfections. Concerning Christ’s Kingdom rule it is written:
“He must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 15:25, 26)
In the paradise earth, death due to inheritance from Adam’s sin will “be no more”!—Revelation 21:4.
LIFE IN A DEATHLESS PARADISE
11 Death-dealing scourges, such as cancer, heart disease and old age, will vanish due to the application of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. ‘But how about accidental death?’ someone may ask. Even this will disappear, for the earthly paradise will be patterned after the heavenly, where “harm” and “ruin” are unknown. (Isaiah 11:9) Man’s spirituality will guard him against taking foolhardy risks. Perfect man will no more make misjudgments than does the mountain goat that leaps unerringly from rock to rock on the face of a cliff. Also, in the case of unforeseen danger, God’s angels will no doubt provide physical protection, even as they now have a “command” to guard God’s people in their place of spiritual security.—Psalm 91:11.
12. To what extent will earth be populated? (Matthew 22:30)
12 Someone else may ask, ‘If people do not die off, will the earth not become overpopulated?’ Well, back in 1970 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that the earth could produce food enough for more than forty times its present population! It is only due to the shortcomings of man-rule that people are now starving. The earth is able to support a much larger human family than it does today, and that would include all the resurrected dead. Further, God’s original command to man was to “fill the earth and subdue it,” not to overflow on it to the point of discomfort. When you ask someone to fill a bucket, you do not expect him to leave the faucet running until the entire house is flooded out. Likewise, it can be expected that Jehovah will terminate human reproduction on this earth in his own time and way, and without grieving perfect mankind.—Genesis 1:28.
13. Why will life everlasting never become boring? (Psalm 145:16)
13 ‘But will not everlasting life become boring?’ another may say. That could never be! With brains restored to perfection, and bodies to the vigor of perpetual youth, mankind will have zest for exploring the limitless marvels of creation. There will always be new things to discover, new avenues for creative talent, opportunities for self-expression and for sharing with one’s fellowman all the joys of an earth made glorious. And after Jehovah’s ‘rest day’ has ended, what new creations may he not bring forth to delight his creatures?
14. For what outstanding reason will eternal life be a constant delight? (Psalm 37:3, 4)
14 Above all, how exhilarating it will be to keep drinking at the fountain of “the greatly diversified wisdom of God,” and to receive continually the abundant riches of his love and wisdom! (Ephesians 3:10) Jesus, who enjoyed a long prehuman association with Jehovah, said of himself, “I live because of the Father.” As a happy, restored family under God’s sovereignty, the billions of mankind, including even former evildoers, will also “live” because of Jehovah’s marvelous provision. Their continued ‘taking in of knowledge’ of Him will mean their enjoyment of the very fullness of life for all eternity to come!—John 6:57; 17:3.
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Jesus extended hope of paradise even to a dying criminal
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Jehovah’s provisions for eternal life are like a refreshing river among fruitful trees