Persian loanword for "an area enclosed by a wall" or "garden." Its three uses in the Hebrew Bible ( Neh 2:8 ; Eccl 2:5 ; Sol 4:13 ) retain this meaning. The Septuagint uses the Greek paradeisos [paravdeiso"] for the garden of Eden in Genesis (called the "garden of God" in Isa 51:3 ; and Ezek 28:13 ).
The intertestamental literature completes the transition of the word to a religious term. Human history will culminate in a divine paradise. Since Israel had no immediate access to the garden at history's origin or conclusion, paradise, sometimes called Abraham's Bosom, was associated with the realm of the righteous dead awaiting the resurrection of the body.
The New Testament understands paradise in terms of its Jewish heritage. In Luke 23:43 Jesus promises the penitent thief: "Today you will be with me in paradise." The intermediate state was transformed by Jesus' emphasis on being with him "today." No longer is paradise just an anticipatory condition awaiting the messianic presence at the end of the age. Those who die in faith will "be with Christ" ( Php 1:23 ). The dead in Christ will not experience life diminished, but life enhanced, as Jesus' words to Martha in John 11:23-26 imply.
According to Revelation 2:7, the overcoming church will eat from the tree of life in the eschatological garden. Sin and death through redemption are now cast out of human experience. The way is open for the faithful to return to the garden of God. Paradise is the Christian's final home.
Paul's glimpse of paradise ( 2 Cor 12:4 ) likely refers to the intermediate state. If so, it is one source of Paul's confidence that Christ is present among the righteous dead, even though he does not relish the unnatural state of death ( 2 Cor 5:1-10 ). Yet it is quite possible that the dead in Christ more clearly see the paradise at history's conclusion than do earth-bound believers. Thus, Paul tells the Thessalonians that it is a matter of small consequence if one dies in the Lord or is still alive at the second coming ( 1 Thess 4:13-18 ). Christ's presence pervades both the intermediate state and the final kingdom.
Luke L. Keefer, Jr.
Bibliography. V. R. Gordon, ISBE, 3:660-61; J. Jeremias, TDNT, 5:765-73.
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