What Is the Spiritual Paradise?
GUSTAVO was raised in a small city in Brazil.* Since childhood he had been taught that good people go to heaven after death. He knew nothing about God’s purpose that faithful mankind would some day enjoy perfect life in an earthly paradise. (Revelation 21:3, 4) And there was something else he did not know. He did not realize that even now, he could be in a spiritual paradise.
Have you ever heard of that spiritual paradise? Do you know what it is and what is required to be a part of it? Anyone who wants to be truly happy needs to know about that paradise.
Locating the Spiritual Paradise
To say that even today a person can live in a paradise may sound unrealistic. This world is hardly a paradise. There are too many people who experience what an ancient Hebrew king described: “Look! the tears of those being oppressed, but they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, so that they had no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1) Hundreds of millions suffer under corrupt political, religious, and economic systems, and they have no relief, no “comforter.” Many others struggle to pay their bills, raise their children, and do the myriad other things needed to keep going. These too would likely welcome a comforter, someone to ease the burden just a little. For all of them, life is far from paradisaic.
Where, then, is the spiritual paradise? Well, the English word “paradise” is related to Greek, Persian, and Hebrew words that all carry the thought of a park or garden, a peaceful, refreshing place. The Bible promises that some day the earth will be a physical paradise, a gardenlike home for a sinless human race. (Psalm 37:10, 11) With this in mind, we see that a spiritual paradise is an environment that is pleasing to the eyes and soothing to the nerves, allowing one to enjoy peace with one’s fellowman and with God. Today, as Gustavo found, such a paradise exists, and it embraces a growing number of people.
At the age of 12, Gustavo decided that he wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest. With his parents’ approval, he entered a religious seminary. There he became involved in music, theater, and politics, which were promoted by the church to attract youths. He knew that a priest was supposed to devote himself to the people and that he could not get married. Yet, some of the priests and seminarians that Gustavo knew were engaged in immoral practices. In such an atmosphere, Gustavo soon began to drink heavily. Clearly, he had not yet found a spiritual paradise.
One day, Gustavo read a Bible tract that spoke about an earthly paradise. It made him think about the purpose of life. He says: “I started to read the Bible frequently, but I did not understand it. I did not even see that God had a name.” He left the seminary and approached Jehovah’s Witnesses, seeking help to understand the Bible. Thereafter, he made quick progress and soon dedicated his life to God. Gustavo was learning about the spiritual paradise.
A People for God’s Name
Gustavo learned that God’s name, Jehovah, is not a mere point of interest for a Bible student. (Exodus 6:3) It is a vital part of true worship. Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) Speaking of Gentiles who became Christians, the disciple James said: “God . . . turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) In the first century, the “people for his name” was the Christian congregation. Is there a people for God’s name today? Yes, and Gustavo came to realize that Jehovah’s Witnesses are that people.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are active in 235 lands and territories. They number over six million ministers, and another eight million interested ones have attended their meetings. Widely known for their public ministry, they fulfill Jesus’ words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) Why, though, did Gustavo feel that he had found a spiritual paradise in association with Jehovah’s Witnesses? He says: “I compared what I had seen in the world and especially in the seminary with what I found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. The great difference is the love among the Witnesses.”
Others have made similar comments about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Miriam, a young Brazilian woman, said: “I did not know how to be happy, not even in my family. The first time I saw love in action was among Jehovah’s Witnesses.” A man named Christian said: “I occasionally dabbled in spiritism, but religion was not important to me. I valued more my social position and my work as an engineer. Still, when my wife began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I saw a difference in her. I was also impressed by the joy and the zeal of the Christian women who visited her.” Why do people say such things about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
What Is the Spiritual Paradise?
One thing that makes Jehovah’s Witnesses stand out is their appreciation for Bible knowledge. They believe that the Bible is true and that it is God’s Word. Hence, they are not satisfied merely to know the basics of their religion. They have an ongoing program of personal study and Bible reading. The longer a person associates with Jehovah’s Witnesses, the more he learns about God and His will as revealed in the Bible.
Such knowledge frees Jehovah’s Witnesses from things that rob people of happiness, such as superstitions and harmful ideas. Jesus said: “The truth will set you free,” and Jehovah’s Witnesses find this to be so. (John 8:32) Fernando, who at one time practiced spiritism, says: “Learning about everlasting life was an enormous relief. I was afraid that either my parents or I might die.” Truth freed Fernando from his fear of the spirit world and the so-called afterlife.
In the Bible, knowledge of God is closely associated with paradise. The prophet Isaiah said: “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.”—Isaiah 11:9.
Of course, knowledge by itself is not enough to bring the peace foretold by Isaiah. A person has to act on what he learns. Fernando made this comment: “When a person cultivates the fruits of the spirit, he contributes to the spiritual paradise.” Fernando was referring to words of the apostle Paul, who called the good qualities that a Christian should cultivate “the fruitage of the spirit.” He listed them as “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:22, 23.
Can you see why associating with a community of individuals who strive to cultivate such qualities would indeed be like being in paradise? The spiritual paradise foretold by the prophet Zephaniah would exist among such people. He said: “They will do no unrighteousness, nor speak a lie, nor will there be found in their mouths a tricky tongue; for they themselves will feed and actually lie stretched out, and there will be no one making them tremble.”—Zephaniah 3:13.
The Vital Role of Love
You may have noticed that the first of the fruits of the spirit mentioned by Paul is love. This is a quality that the Bible speaks much about. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) True, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not perfect. They sometimes have personal problems among themselves just as Jesus’ apostles did. But they truly love one another, and they pray for the support of holy spirit as they cultivate this quality.
As a result, their fellowship is unique. There is no tribalism or divisive nationalism among them. In fact, many Witnesses who found themselves in the midst of ethnic cleansing and racial genocide during the closing years of the 20th century protected one another even at the risk of their own lives. Although coming “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” they enjoy a unity that is difficult to comprehend until you experience it.—Revelation 7:9.
Paradise Among Those Who Do God’s Will
There is no place in the spiritual paradise for greed, immorality, and selfishness. Christians are told: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) When we live clean, moral lives and do God’s will in other ways, we help build the spiritual paradise and we contribute to our own happiness. Carla found this to be true. She says: “My father taught me to work hard to become financially independent. But although my university studies gave me a sense of security, I missed the family unity and the security that only knowledge from God’s Word can give us.”
Of course, enjoying the spiritual paradise does not remove the physical problems of life. Christians still get sick. The nation they live in might get embroiled in civil strife. Many endure poverty. Still, having a close relationship with Jehovah God—which is a crucial part of the spiritual paradise—means that we can look to him for support. Indeed, he invites us to ‘throw our burdens upon him,’ and many can testify to the wonderful way he has supported them in the most difficult situations. (Psalm 55:22; 86:16, 17) God promises to be with his worshipers even in “the valley of deep shadow.” (Psalm 23:4) Confidence in God’s readiness to support us helps to preserve our “peace of God that excels all thought,” which is a key to the spiritual paradise.—Philippians 4:7.
Contributing to the Spiritual Paradise
Most people enjoy visiting a park or garden. They like to walk through it or perhaps sit on a bench and enjoy the surroundings. In a similar way, many enjoy associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They find the fellowship refreshing, peaceful, and restorative. However, a beautiful garden needs to be tended if it is to continue to be paradisaic. Similarly, the spiritual paradise exists in this very nonparadisaic world only because Jehovah’s Witnesses cultivate it, and God blesses their efforts. How, then, can one make a meaningful contribution to that paradise?
First, you need to associate with a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, study the Bible with them, and acquire the Bible knowledge that is the basis of the spiritual paradise. Carla noted: “There is no spiritual paradise without spiritual food.” This includes reading God’s Word regularly and thinking about what you read. The knowledge acquired will draw you closer to Jehovah God, and you will come to love him. You will also learn to talk to him in prayer and ask for his guidance and for his spirit to support you as you do his will. Jesus told us to persist in prayer. (Luke 11:9-13) The apostle Paul said: “Pray incessantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The privilege of speaking to God in prayer with the absolute confidence that he hears you is an important part of the spiritual paradise.
As time goes by, your life will be changed for the better by what you learn, and eventually you will want to talk to others about it. Then you will be able to obey Jesus’ command: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:16) Sharing with others the knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ and extolling the great love these have shown to mankind brings much happiness.
The time is coming when all the earth will be a physical paradise—a gardenlike place free of pollution and a fitting home for faithful mankind. The existence of the spiritual paradise in these “critical times hard to deal with” is an evidence of the power of God and a token of what he can and will accomplish in the future.—2 Timothy 3:1.
Even now, those enjoying the spiritual paradise experience a spiritual fulfillment of Isaiah 49:10: “They will not go hungry, neither will they go thirsty, nor will parching heat or sun strike them. For the One who is having pity upon them will lead them, and by the springs of water he will conduct them.” José will testify to the truth of that. He dreamed of becoming a famous musician, but he found more satisfaction in serving God with the Christian congregation. He says: “Now I enjoy a meaningful life. I feel secure within the Christian brotherhood, and I know Jehovah as a loving Father whom we can trust.” The happiness of José—and of millions of others like him—is thus well described at Psalm 64:10: “The righteous one will rejoice in Jehovah and will indeed take refuge in him.” What a fine description of the spiritual paradise!
Individuals mentioned are real people, but some names have been changed.
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While enjoying the spiritual paradise, help to expand it!