A Paradise Home Ahead
1-3. (a) Why is it not reasonable to suppose that man will be allowed to abuse the earth until it becomes a lifeless sphere? (b) Can man, by observing creation and by his own reasoning, discover why things are as they are, and what God’s purpose is? (Job 28:12-14, 28) (c) Where can we go to get an understanding of God and his purpose? (d) Is it reasonable to believe that God gave the Bible as a record of his thoughts and ways?
MORE and more the complaint is being heard throughout the world that ‘man is turning the earth into a vast garbage dump.’ Is that actually going to happen?
2 In spite of all the damage caused by human greed and violence, this planet is still filled with beauty—lush valleys, snowcapped mountains, plunging waterfalls, palm-lined beaches and a grand variety of plant and animal life. Are we to imagine that the Maker of all of this will permit mankind to mismanage and misuse earth’s resources until this splendid planet becomes a lifeless sphere? Sound reasoning says No. What, then, does God have in mind for our earth? The material, visible, created things may tell us something about earth’s Maker but they cannot tell us all we need to know. They cannot tell us what God’s purposes are for the future. What, or who, then, can tell us?
3 In order to know, we need some revelation from the Maker himself. So that humans need not be in darkness regarding his purpose, the Almighty God, Jehovah, has provided a revelation in written form. It is found in the Bible. True, men wrote that book. But they acknowledged that what they recorded was not their own wisdom. One of the Bible writers, King David, declared: “The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2) Surely it was no difficult thing for the Designer of the human brain to activate the mental processes of men in a way that enabled them to write down His thoughts. The Bible being the only ancient book even making the claim of having been inspired by earth’s Creator, Jehovah God, no other source can give us any idea about what he has in mind for the earth and man upon it.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
JESUS’ PROMISE OF PARADISE
4. What outstanding man pointed to a grand future for humankind, and why should his words be believed?
4 Words stated over nineteen centuries ago by an inspired man to a criminal clearly point to a grand future. That inspired man was Jesus, who is widely recognized as a prophet and one of the greatest teachers that ever lived. The Bible identifies him as the promised Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, who existed as a spirit person before his being born a human. (Matthew 16:13-16; Luke 1:30-33; Philippians 2:5-7) To the evildoer Jesus Christ said: “You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43.
5, 6. (a) What has caused Jesus’ words at Luke 23:43 to be understood differently by various persons? (b) What gives us guidance as to how Jesus’ words to the evildoer are to be understood?
5 This promise of Jesus Christ has been variously understood by Bible readers. Many Bible translations quote Jesus as saying: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Common Bible) In view of the punctuation, a person might conclude that the evildoer would be with Jesus in a paradise that very day. It should be noted, however, that little or no punctuation appears in the original Greek text. This makes it necessary for the translator to choose the placement of punctuation. Hence the words may also be punctuated to read: ‘Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.’ The thought thus conveyed points to the evildoer’s being with Jesus in Paradise at some future time.
6 This understanding of Jesus’ words harmonizes with the rest of the Bible. That day, upon dying, Jesus did not go to heaven or to some intermediate place. He was dead in Hades,a gravedom, for three days (or parts thereof).—Matthew 27:62-66; Acts 2:24, 27.
7. (a) How did the people understand the word “paradise” at the time Jesus Christ made his promise to the evildoer? (b) How can we prove that the man to whom Jesus spoke had no idea of going to a heavenly paradise?
7 Moreover, the evildoer would have understood Jesus’ reference to “paradise” in harmony with the then current usage. And what was that? A paradise was a garden or park. The man was not a disciple of Jesus and so had no idea about a heavenly paradise. The books of the Bible available at that time did not hold forth to believers the opportunity of living in the spirit realm with God. It was not until the coming of Jesus Christ that attention was drawn to the hope of life in the invisible heavens. (2 Timothy 1:10) Though Jesus’ disciples heard him talking about the “kingdom of the heavens,” even they did not grasp fully just what was meant. (Matthew 13:24, 31, 33) Later, they asked the resurrected Jesus Christ: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6; compare the apostles’ earlier words to Jesus at John 16:17, 18.) So they still thought in terms of the earth, expecting that Jesus would establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. Since Jesus’ own disciples did not fully comprehend heavenly things at that time, how, then, could the evildoer possibly imagine that Jesus was speaking about something other than an earthly paradise?
8. How was Jesus’ promise to the evildoer in harmony with the Hebrew Scriptures, with which the Jews were generally acquainted?
8 Jesus’ promise to the evildoer is in agreement with statements in the Bible that the earth was made for a purpose. God “did not create it simply for nothing, [but] formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18; Psalm 104:5) It would be unreasonable to suppose that God, having spent centuries in preparing the earth with such care, would destroy it or leave it a waste just because some people did not appreciate it. Really, the earth itself has the potential for being a most delightful place to live.
PARADISE-LIKE “NEW EARTH” FORETOLD
9-11. (a) Had the Jews had any experience with what virtually amounted to an earthly paradise? When? (b) How did Moses describe the land of Palestine as a delightful place to live?
9 It is of note that the concept of an earthly paradise was long known to Jesus’ fellow countrymen, the Israelites. When they moved into the Promised Land, it appeared to them as a paradise. Jehovah, through Moses, described it as far more beautiful and productive than even the rich Nile Valley where they had lived, saying:
10 “For the land to which you are going to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt out of which you came, where you used to sow your seed and you had to do irrigating with your foot, like a garden of vegetables. But the land to which you are crossing to take possession of it is a land of mountains and valley plains. Of the rain of the heavens it drinks water; a land that Jehovah your God is caring for. The eyes of Jehovah your God are constantly upon it, from the beginning of the year to the close of the year.”—Deuteronomy 11:10-12.
11 In an earlier description of the land Moses had said:
“Jehovah your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of torrent valleys of water, springs and watery deeps issuing forth in the valley plain and in the mountainous region, a land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil olives and honey, a land in which you will not eat bread with scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land the stones of which are iron and out of the mountains of which you will mine copper.”—Deuteronomy 8:7-9.
12. When the nation of Israel returned from exile, how did God provide there in the land of Judah “new heavens” and a “new earth”?
12 Through his prophet Isaiah, God foretold long in advance that the nation of Israel would be taken by their enemies into exile for disobedience. Then their formerly paradise-like land would become desolate. But with this prophecy God did not leave the nation without hope, for he said: “I am creating new heavens and a new earth; . . . I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation.” (Isaiah 65:17, 18) Here God was promising the restoration of Israel to the land of Judah, with Jerusalem again as capital. The “new heavens” would be, not new invisible heavens, but a governorship of the land of Judah in the hands of Zerubbabel of the tribe of Judah, a rulership over the land. The “new earth” was a repentant, cleansed, disciplined people brought back to their desolated land, which they began to cultivate and to beautify. They restored the worship of Jehovah God there and rebuilt the temple at Jerusalem.—Ezra 3:1, 2, 10.
13. What shows that God helped the restored Israelites in their efforts to bring about a paradise condition in their desolated land?
13 In their efforts to beautify the land of Judah to its former paradise-like state the Israelites received direct help from God, as indicated by Isaiah’s prophecy about their return. God promised: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron.” (Isaiah 35:1, 2) Similarly, the psalmist said that, when the nation would be obedient to God, “Jehovah, for his part, will give what is good, and our own land will give its yield.”—Psalm 85:12.
GLORIOUS “NEW EARTH” AHEAD
14. What assurance do we have that the prophecies about the “new earth” have even greater meaning to us today?
14 Does this prophecy about a “new earth” have anything to do with us today? Yes, it is a glimpse of what God will do for the whole earth. Centuries after Isaiah prophesied, the apostle Peter wrote to Christians scattered over the then-known earth, saying: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) This coming “new earth” society will therefore occupy a far larger area than that of ancient Judah.
15. What does the vision given to the apostle John reveal to us about the coming earthly paradise?
15 Moreover, the vision of the apostle John, recorded in the Bible book of Revelation, leaves no doubt that, in final fulfillment, the “new earth” society will inhabit the entire globe. The apostle John writes: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; . . . ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples.’” (Revelation 21:1-3) The expression “new heavens” has reference to God’s rule from heaven where his throne is located. (Matthew 5:34) In due time, mankind will practice the true worship of God exclusively, and God’s favor, help and protection will be with them. The “new heavens” will extend blessings to humankind on a beautified earth.—Psalm 115:16.
16, 17. (a) How does the book of Genesis show that God’s original purpose for man was everlasting life in a paradise? (b) How does God’s prophecy at Genesis 3:15 reveal that God did not abandon his purpose when Adam sinned?
16 That this fine destiny for the earth is what God purposes is shown by his dealings with the human race. According to the Bible, the first man, Adam, was told that it would be only for disobedience that he would die. Therefore, if he had remained obedient, he would never have died. (Genesis 2:17; 3:19) He would have continued to live and the paradise garden would have continued as the God-given home of perfect man. As Adam’s family grew they would gradually have spread the paradise into the land outside, under God’s direction.
17 After Adam’s sin, God gave indication to Adam’s offspring that he had not abandoned his purpose toward the earth. He promised to bring forth a “seed,” an offspring who would be a liberator of mankind. (Genesis 3:15) Having this purpose toward the human race, God let Adam have children. They could live with this promise as their hope.
18. (a) What later revelation showed that the promise of the “seed” would be of importance to mankind right here on earth? (b) Who would be the “seed,” and what authority would he have?
18 Later, this hope of a future paradise was strengthened by the revelation to Abraham that the “seed” would come through his line of descent and would ‘bless all families of the earth.’ (Genesis 22:18) About eight hundred years farther down the stream of time, God told King David of Jerusalem that his offspring would sit on the throne forever. (2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 16) Everything pointed to one son of David’s line, superior to all previous kings of that line. This would be the Messiah (meaning “anointed one”) who would occupy the throne of David forever. (Psalm 45:6, 7; Galatians 3:16) The apostle Paul applies this prophecy to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born on earth in the line of David. Paul says of him: “God is your throne forever,” that is, God is the foundation and support of Christ’s throne for all time to come.—Hebrews 1:8, 9.
19. How do the Psalms make it sure to us that the paradise brought about through Christ the “seed” will endure forever?
19 Throughout the Psalms, written over a period of centuries, reference is repeatedly made to God’s righteous rule over earth “to time indefinite” and “to time indefinite, even forever.” (Psalms 9:7, 8; 10:16, 17; 29:10; 145:21) All these prophecies find fulfillment in the rulership of Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead and exalted to the highest position next to himself. (Ephesians 1:20-22) That men will live forever in this paradise home, Psalm 37:29 reveals by declaring: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
BEFORE PARADISE, A CLEANSED EARTH
20. What example do we have to assure us that God will remove from the earth all elements that would be destructive of peace?
20 But the question arises, Just how will God ensure that there will be permanent peace on earth, so that the enjoyment of living will not be marred? Just as a man would begin the cleaning up of his house by ousting bad tenants, God purposes to make way for permanent peace on a renewed earth by cleansing it of bad elements. He did this for ancient Israel when he drove out the corrupt Canaanite nations who had been in possession of the land so that Israel could possess it in peace.—Leviticus 18:24-27.
21. Why, at the present time, is it impossible to have altogether righteous conditions, even though many people have that desire?
21 Today, many people would like to see peace and righteousness on earth. But the present system of things—dominated by powerful religious, political and commercial elements—has the people in a viselike grip. It is hard for people to do what is right. And the good news of God’s purpose toward the earth is opposed by the clergymen of the dominant religious systems, by growing atheism and by the news and propaganda channels. The Bible says that the nations walk “in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts.”—Ephesians 4:17, 18; compare John 3:19.
22. What does God promise to do in behalf of those who want to do what is right?
22 This system of things has covered the earth, as it were, with a blinding veil. But God promises to tear away that veil. Prophetically he said that he would destroy “the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.”—Isaiah 25:7, Revised Standard Version.
23. (a) Why does a war have to be fought to clean up the earth? (b) Who do not need to fear that war, and why not?
23 Jesus Christ, as heavenly King, will bring about the end of this system of things in what is called in the Bible “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14) Those persons seeking to do what is right need not fear that war, for it will be selective, getting rid of those who do harm to their fellowman and who do not want to serve God. Through their selfishness and greed these wicked ones are “ruining the earth,” hence they themselves must be brought to ruin.—Revelation 11:18; 2 Peter 2:9.
24. Why is there no other way to bring peace and happiness than by removing those greedy persons who persist in opposing their fellowman?
24 So God promises to do away with the system of things that oppresses people. Along with this, God purposes also to clean out those who persist in misleading, defrauding and oppressing their fellowman. (Psalms 72:4; 103:6) As long as such “tenants” remain in God’s earthly “house” there cannot be peace and happiness for those who sincerely want it. There is no other way. The price of a paradise is the removal of these greedy ones. The rule is: “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous one.” Says the proverb: “The righteous is the one rescued even from distress, and the wicked one comes in instead of him.” That is, the wicked one, who has been causing distress, receives retribution, bringing relief from distress for the righteous one.—Proverbs 21:18; 11:8.
25, 26. (a) To what does the Bible liken the cleanup of the earth? (b) What question arises as to the permanence of the cleansed earth?
25 This cleaning out of the present world system in which false religion, politics, commerce and materialism dominate will remove injustice and oppression. The Bible likens the agency used to a great windstorm: “Look! The windstorm of Jehovah, rage itself, will certainly go forth, even a whirling tempest. Upon the head of the wicked ones it will whirl itself. The anger of Jehovah will not turn back until he will have carried out and until he will have made the ideas of his heart come true. In the final part of the days you people will give your consideration to it with understanding.”—Jeremiah 23:19, 20.
26 God’s rule will then be undisputed in the earth. But will it bring in permanent happiness, without a reverting to disobedience and the ruin of paradise at a later time? The reason why its operation will be vastly superior to man-rule is a topic that deserves our attention next.
a For a full discussion of this word Hades, along with the corresponding Hebrew word Sheol, see the book Is This Life All There Is?, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 117 Adams Street, Brooklyn, New York 11201.
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Greek text of Luke 23:42, 43 from Vatican MS. 1209, with literal rendering, line for line, at the right
committed and he was saying Jesus
remember me whenever
you might come into the kingdom
of you and he said to
him Amen to you I am saying today,
with me you will be
in the paradise and
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Men of faith looked forward to a government of God, in heaven, that would rule the earth
[Picture on page 34]
God will clean out of the earth all who do harm
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In a cleansed earth there will be enduring happiness