Opening Up the Way Back to Paradise
“[Jesus] said to him: ‘Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.’”—LUKE 23:43.
1, 2. (a) What does “paradise” mean, and like what must the garden of Eden have been? (b) How is the Hebrew word for “garden” translated in the Christian Greek Scriptures?
THE human family got its start in Paradise. Concerning the creation of man, we read in the first book of the Holy Scriptures: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul. Further, Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden, toward the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:7, 8) The name “Eden” means “Pleasure,” and thus the garden of Eden was a spacious park of pleasure, with many and varied beautiful features.
2 The word “paradise” is taken from the Greek language, and in that language it means a parklike garden. The Greek word used to translate the Hebrew noun gan, meaning “garden,” is pa·raʹdei·sos. The Scriptures from Matthew to Revelation were written in the Greek language, and this Greek word was used in recording the utterances of the Lord Jesus Christ when he was suffering the penalty of death on a torture stake at Calvary on Nisan 14 of the year 33 C.E.
Jesus’ Paradise Promise to an Evildoer
3. (a) What did a sympathetic evildoer ask of Jesus? (b) The evildoer’s request showed what regarding his belief about Jesus?
3 At that time, two evildoers were impaled alongside Jesus. One of them had stopped speaking abusively to Jesus in the manner that the second robber impaled on the other side of Jesus continued to do. The sympathetic evildoer turned and said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom,” thus expressing faith that Jesus, though hung alongside him, was in line for a future kingdom. (Luke 23:42; Mark 15:32) How that must have touched the heart of the Lord Jesus! That friendly criminal believed that Jesus Christ was innocent and that he did not deserve such a severe penalty as impalement in public disgrace. (Luke 23:41) He showed by his request that he believed that Jesus would be resurrected from the dead and would come into a kingdom. The evildoer also showed faith that he himself could have a resurrection and that Jesus would be the One to call him forth from the dead and favor him with renewed life on earth.
4. How did Jesus answer the evildoer’s request, indicating what?
4 When Jesus said to him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise,” he pointed to a resurrection of that sympathetic evildoer. That must have been a real consolation to the criminal who showed faith. For that man’s resurrection to take place, Jesus had to be resurrected first. Then, exercising his God-given resurrection power, Jesus would call back this evildoer from the dead on the day of the resurrection of the world of mankind.—Luke 23:43; John 5:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Hebrews 9:15.
5, 6. (a) What did Governor Pontius Pilate have written above the impaled Jesus? (b) Likely in what language did Jesus speak to the evildoer?
5 In what language did Jesus give that promise? Several were in use there at the time. This is shown by the words that Governor Pontius Pilate caused to be written above the head of the impaled Jesus Christ, identifying him for all passersby to read. The account at John 19:19, 20 says: “Pilate wrote a title also and put it on the torture stake. It was written: ‘Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.’ Therefore many of the Jews read this title, because the place where Jesus was impaled was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, in Greek.”
6 By his birth in Bethlehem to his virgin mother, Mary, Jesus was born a Jew, or a Hebrew. Accordingly, in his preaching for three and a half years in the land of his birth, he evidently preached in the current Jewish language, or Hebrew. Hence, when he made reassuring remarks to the sympathetic evildoer, he likely spoke in Hebrew. So he would have used the Hebrew word gan when referring to Paradise—the word found at Genesis 2:8. There, the Greek Septuagint version of the Sacred Scriptures employs the word pa·raʹdei·sos when translating the original word gan.
7. How was Jesus glorified when he was resurrected?
7 Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the third day following his impalement, or on Nisan 16 of the Hebrew calendar. Forty days later he returned to heaven, his original home, only now in a more exalted state. (Acts 5:30, 31; Philippians 2:9) He was now clothed with immortality, a quality shared with his heavenly Father. Jehovah God had been the sole Possessor of immortality until the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on that Sunday, Nisan 16.—Romans 6:9; 1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
The Ransom Opens Up the Way
8. What was Jehovah’s original purpose regarding the earth, and what shows that he sticks to that purpose?
8 All of these were steps in God’s purpose to have the entire earth clothed with paradisaic beauty, yes, to become a global paradise. (Genesis 1:28; Isaiah 55:10, 11) At 1 Corinthians 15:45, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as “the last Adam.” This indicates that God has held on to his original purpose with regard to the earth and that someone will fulfill the purpose that the first Adam failed to carry out.
9. What did Jesus provide to open up the way back to Paradise?
9 According to Paul, Jesus provided “a corresponding ransom.” (1 Timothy 2:6) Jesus Christ himself had said: “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” This made it possible for those exercising faith in Jesus Christ to gain everlasting life.—Matthew 20:28; John 3:16.
10. (a) What did God determine with regard to a limited number of favored humans? (b) When did the selecting of the “little flock” begin, and by whom?
10 When Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection from the dead, he could present the merit of his ransom sacrifice to God in behalf of the human family. However, it was the purpose of his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, to take out of the nations of the earth “a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) According to Revelation 7:4 and Re 14:1-4, these are to number merely 144,000 individuals, the “little flock,” called to God’s heavenly Kingdom. (Luke 12:32) The selecting of these especially favored ones of Jehovah God began with the selection of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 10:2-4; Acts 1:23-26) Jesus said to the foundation members of his congregation: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) These would spearhead the work of proclaiming the coming global Paradise under Kingdom rule.
The Dueness of the Kingdom
11. When was the Messianic Kingdom due to be set up?
11 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we today continue to offer up prayer to Jehovah for His Kingdom to come. (Matthew 6:9, 10; John 14:13, 14) The Messianic Kingdom was due to be set up at the end of “the appointed times of the nations.” (Luke 21:24) Those Gentile Times were fulfilled by the year 1914.*
12. What took place in 1914 in harmony with Jesus’ prophecy of remarkable things that would signalize his invisible presence?
12 That year was marked by the first world war of human history. This was in line with Jesus’ prophecy about the remarkable things that would signalize his invisible presence in Kingdom power over the earth. His disciples had asked him the question: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” In reply Jesus said: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress. And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:3, 7, 8, 14; Mark 13:10.
13. (a) In what respect is the preaching of God’s Kingdom good news? (b) How long have prayers for God’s Kingdom to come been offered up, and did his witnesses on earth never get tired of offering these prayers?
13 This good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom is now being preached in over 200 lands, and endeavors are being made to extend it into further territories. It is news, not of a world government yet to come, but of a kingdom now in power, one already ruling. That Kingdom was established in 1914. It set the stage for the answer to the prayer that Jesus outlined more than 1,900 years ago. That prayer has been offered up to the Founder of that Kingdom ever since the one who was to be the King of that government taught his disciples to pray for it. So the Author of that Kingdom has been hearing the request for it for a very long time. He has been pleased to hear the prayer offered to him by his witnesses on earth during all that time, for it demonstrated that they held to their faith in the coming of that Kingdom. They did not get tired of offering up that prayer to the “Father in the heavens,” as if it had become something stale to them.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
14. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses persist in preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom?
14 While Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and declare that the Kingdom was established in the heavens in 1914, they persist in preaching this good news of the Kingdom. They do so because that established Kingdom has not taken over exclusive control of the earth but has permitted the kingdoms of this world to keep on exercising their power and authority over all the tribes and races of mankind. (Romans 13:1) It must therefore come in a full sense, that is, to the degree that it is the exclusive government holding sway over all the earth.—Daniel 2:44.
15. What has been going on since Pentecost 33 C.E. that is on a grander scale than when Israel’s kings were anointed?
15 Although designated as King of that Kingdom, Jesus does not rule alone. Jehovah God has appointed 144,000 followers of his royal Son to be joint heirs in the Messianic Kingdom of God. (Daniel 7:27) Just as ancient Israel’s kings were anointed with holy anointing oil by the high priest, so since the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah has had the 144,000 joint heirs of Jesus Christ anointed with His holy spirit, begetting them to spirit life in the heavens with the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”—Revelation 19:16; compare 1 Kings 1:39.
Paradise to Be Restored by “the Last Adam”
16. What was the outlook for the Kingdom at Jesus’ impalement, but why had he not been a proclaimer of erroneous news?
16 At the impalement of Jesus in 33 C.E., it hardly looked possible that he could have a kingdom at all. But in his preaching of the Kingdom of God, he had not been a proclaimer of erroneous news. On the third day after his impalement, the Founder of the Kingdom made sure that the disciples of Jesus would not be offering up prayer for a government that was not possible. Jehovah resurrected the One who was to represent Him in the prayed-for Kingdom and clothed him with immortality.
17, 18. (a) What is the significance of Jesus’ being called “the last Adam”? (b) What do world events since 1914 indicate?
17 Jesus knew that the Creator of the first Paradise on earth would lay upon him the obligation to renew Paradise and to see to the populating of the global garden. At 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47, we read: “It is even so written: ‘The first man Adam became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. The first man is out of the earth and made of dust; the second man is out of heaven.” The second Adam came down from heaven and is the one whom Jehovah employs to reestablish Paradise here on earth. It was on this basis that the Lord Jesus said to the sympathetic evildoer: “You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) From this conversation it is again apparent that Paradise will be established on earth under the Kingdom of heaven in the hands of the glorified Jesus Christ, “the last Adam.”
18 World events since 1914 harmonize with the prophecies uttered by Jesus Christ and thus prove that Jesus has been in power since then. For over seven decades now, the people of this 20th-century generation living since 1914 have experienced the fulfillment of events listed in Jesus’ prophecy found in Matthew chapter 24. Therefore, this period of time is nearing its end, with the restoration of Paradise on earth close at hand.—Matthew 24:32-35; compare Psalm 90:10.
An Exciting New-World Era Just Ahead
19, 20. (a) After Armageddon, into what will Jehovah usher his lovers? (b) What will need to be done shortly after Armageddon?
19 It will be no boring, humdrum system of things into which Jehovah will introduce his lovers after he vindicates his universal sovereignty beyond all peradventure of a doubt at the battlefield of Armageddon. The oncoming era for the human family under the wholesome reign of the Messianic King, Jesus, the Son of God, will be a most exciting one indeed. Oh, how much there will need to be done of a beneficial kind! Any and all scars left on the face of the earth from the globe-encircling conflict between Jehovah’s heavenly armies and the marshaled forces of evil will be removed. No trace will be left.
20 But what of all the war equipment that the nations will leave behind? In view of the symbolic indication of the length of time it will take to dispose of the combustible parts of them, the quantity will be enormous. (Ezekiel 39:8-10) Armageddon survivors may be able to adapt the materials of any remaining war relics of the nations to useful purposes.—Isaiah 2:2-4.
21. Similar to the experience of the Flood survivors, what situation will confront Armageddon survivors, but with what major difference?
21 The blessed modern-day counterparts of Noah and his family as miraculous survivors of the global Deluge will confront an earthly situation similar to the one Noah’s family found. However, Satan the Devil and his demon forces will no longer plague the invisible heavens surrounding the earth but will have been put completely out of action for ten centuries. (Revelation 20:1-3) The Armageddon survivors will have the challenging task of subduing an earth that has passed through “the great day of God the Almighty,” confronting whatever effects this will have left upon this planet.—Revelation 16:14.
22. How will the Armageddon survivors react to the challenge of extending Paradise earth wide?
22 Relatively few in number, these survivors of the war of Armageddon ordinarily might be expected to be very intimidated when charged with the huge task of extending Paradise earth wide. But on the contrary, thrilled to the extreme, they will make a valiant and obedient start at it. They fully realize that this earth is God’s symbolic footstool, and they sincerely want to have this mundane sphere brought to a state of charm and beauty deserving of having his feet rest here.
23. What backing will the Armageddon survivors have as assurance that their work to restore Paradise will succeed?
23 It is happifying and encouraging to know that they will not be left alone and unaided after undertaking this joyful service in fulfillment of the divine charge regarding the earth. (Compare Isaiah 65:17, 21-24.) They will have the full, unlimited backing of the One who made the promise of Paradise restored and who said just before his ascension to heaven: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) He possesses that authority still, and he is able to fulfill his remarkable promise to the sympathetic evildoer, as we will see from the following article.
For details, see the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., pages 135-9. See also Ezekiel 21:27.
□ What does Jesus’ promise at Calvary assure for mankind and for one criminal?
□ What is basic to opening up the way back to Paradise?
□ What did the first Adam fail to do, but what will “the last Adam” accomplish?
□ After Armageddon, into what kind of system of things will Jehovah usher his lovers?
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The article “End of All Kingdoms in 1914” appeared in “The World Magazine” of August 30, 1914