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PARADISE (Gr. paradeisos, park). A word of Persian origin, found only three times in Scripture (Luke.23.43; 2Cor.12.4; Rev.2.7), referring in each case to heaven. There was a similar word in the Hebrew OT, pardēs, translated “forest” or “orchard” or “park” (Neh.2.8; Eccl.2.5; Song.4.13). Scholars feel it was introduced into the Greek language very early and popularized by Xenophon.

The LXX uses the Greek word forty-six times, applying it to quite a wide category of places. It is used of the Adamic Eden (Gen.2.15; Gen.3.23) and of the well-watered plains of the Jordan that Lot viewed (Gen.13.10). Since it was used to describe gardens of beauty and splendor, one is not surprised to see the NT begin to use the term to refer to the place of spiritual bliss (Luke.23.43).

The exact location of paradise is uncertain. Paul uses it in 2Cor.12.4, identifying it with the third heaven. Sir.44.16 identifies paradise with heaven into which Enoch was translated. Christ’s single use of the term seems to establish its location best for the believer, for he uses it in reassuring the dying thief (Luke.23.43).

PARADISE (פַּרְדֵּס, H7236, παράδεισος, G4137, preserve, park, garden). The abode of the righteous dead.

In the OT.

The Heb. term occurs three times in the OT (Heb. text). It designates a forest from which Nehemiah sought wood (Neh 2:8); a garden or park with many trees, which the writer of Ecclesiastes found unsatisfying (Eccl 2:5); and fig., the bride in the Song of Solomon as “an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits” (Song of Solomon 4:13).

In the LXX.

The Gr. tr. of the OT uses parádeisos consistently in Genesis 2, 3 for the garden of Eden. It occurs also for “the Jordan valley [which] was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord” (Gen 13:10). Zion also seems like the garden of Eden in Joel prior to the judgments of the day of the Lord (Joel 2:3).

In the Apocrypha.

Although later Jewish tradition locates “Paradise” as an abode of the righteous dead in Hades, the apocryphal books do not. However, they do associate Gehenna and Paradise closely. “The furnace of hell [gehenna] shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight” (2 Esdras 7:36).

In later Jewish thought.

Stewart D. F. Salmond helpfully summarizes this material.

In the Rabbinical literature the term has various senses, and much is made of it. Sometimes it is the general abode of the righteous dead; sometimes the happy side of sheol; sometimes the home of the specially privileged few, the abode of those who have never seen death, the place where Messiah Himself waits for the time of His manifestation. Sometimes it is located in the distant East; sometimes it is identified with the third heaven; sometimes a distinction is drawn between a heavenly Paradise for the perfect and a terrestrial paradise for the imperfect. In later Judaism a complete topography of it was attempted; “Abraham’s bosom” was defined to be the place of highest honor in it; and strongly colored descriptions were given of its gates of rubies, its sixty myriads of angels, the 800,000 kinds of trees which flourished in it, and the way in which every one who entered it was renewed during the three night watches. (S. D. F. Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality, pp. 279, 280.)

The same writer observes that “There is the greatest possible difference, however, between the sparing and restrained employment of the word in the New Testament, and the inordinate use which fancy makes of it in the Apocryphal Gospels, especially the Gospel of Nicodemus” (p. 281).

In the NT.

The first of three uses refers to the abode of the righteous dead. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). In view of Christ’s descent into Hades and the NT emphasis on the Resurrection, some have taken “today” with the first phrase, rather than the second. The passage would read, “Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.” So Jesus would not teach conscious existence in paradise immediately after death in the intermediate state. However, the many other occurrences of the introductory formula, “Truly I say to you,” do not include any additional terms such as “today.” This type of interpretation would render meaningless the nearest example, where Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place” (Luke 21:32).

What meaning of “Paradise” did Jesus intend the thief to understand? Alford, following Grotius, suggested that Jesus spoke to the thief in terms of the Jewish belief in a portion of Hades for the righteous dead, but spoke with a fuller meaning knowing that the same day he would open paradise at God’s right hand. On this view Christ announced His triumph to the imprisoned spirits (1 Pet 3:18, 19) and some little time after on the same day was with the thief in the presence of God. A conscious existence between death and the resurrection is consistent with Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), as well as Paul’s teaching (2 Cor 5:1-8; Phil 1:23).

It is possible also to interpret 1 Peter 3:18, 19 as Noah’s time and Noah’s preaching to the wicked (v. 20), who in Peter’s day were in Hades. So Christ and the thief may have gone immediately to God’s presence that had always been the abode of God. Jesus, on this interpretation, did not endorse the later Jewish tradition that paradise was at any time a compartment of Hades.

The second NT reference to paradise appears in Paul’s reference to his visions and revelations (2 Cor 12:1-3). Whether in or out of the body he did not know, but he was caught up to the third heaven (v. 2) or to what is prob. parallel, paradise (v. 3). The Bible does not know of the seven heavens of the books of Enoch. Paul’s “third heaven” is prob. to be distinguished from the clouds, and the more distant stars, as the abode of God.

The third and last NT use of paradise occurs in the promise to the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:7). “To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Part of the Jewish hope was the restoration of the Edenic paradise (Isa 51:3; Ezek 36:35). The new Jerusalem in the new heavens and earth has on either side of the river of the water of life “the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2). Through Christ paradise is regained.

Doctrinal significance.

The three OT uses of “paradise” contribute little to the concept beyond a garden of delight. The three NT uses are also far from detailed and complete. At best, a scriptural doctrine of paradise must be stated with care.

In defense of the view that paradise was originally a portion of Hades, Louis Sperry Chafer argued that “An illustration of this belief is given by Christ in the account of the rich man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31). That it was removed from Hades to the presence of God, he taught was indicated by Ephesians 4:8-10 (Systematic Theology VII, 247, 248). The note on Hades at Luke 16 in the original Scofield Bible distinguished between Hades before the ascension of Christ (which had a compartment called paradise, or Abraham’s bosom) and Hades after the ascension. “The blessed dead were with Abraham, they were conscious and were comforted.” No change has occurred for unsaved dead, but paradise has been removed from Hades and “is now in the immediate presence of God.” It is believed that Ephesians 4:8-10 indicates the time of the change.

The “great gulf” between Lazarus and the rich man may represent the difference between sheol and heaven as well as two compartments of sheol. The context of the passage in Ephesians 4 on spiritual gifts may indicate only the incarnation and ascension of Christ, rather than a descent to Hades. Both views are possible and both views have scholarly advocates.

Interestingly, the revisers of the Scofield Bible significantly moderated the note on Hades at Luke 16. It now reads, “Some interpreters think that Ephesians 4:8-10 indicates that a change in the place of the departed believers occurred at the resurrection of Christ. All who are saved go at once into the presence of Christ (2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23).”

One could hope that this foreshadows a cessation of dispute on a subject where the evidence is so scanty as to forbid dogmatism. Charles Hodge wisely said, “There can, therefore, be no doubt that paradise is heaven....The Fathers made a distinction between paradise and heaven which is not found in Scriptures....Whether paradise and heaven are the same is a mere dispute about words...it is where Christ is....Whether any, in obedience to patristic usage, choose to call this paradise a department of hades, is a matter of no concern. All that the dying believer need know is that he goes to be with Christ” (Systematic Theology, III, 727, 728).


H. Alford, The Greek Testament (1872); S. D. F. Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality (1913); C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, III (reprint, 1946); H. K. McArthur, “Paradise,” ed. G. A. Buttrick, IDB, IV (1962), 655, 656; B. Ramm, Them He Glorified (1963); D. Moody, The Hope of Glory (1964).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(pardec; paradeisos):

1. Origin and Meaning:

2. Use in Jewish Literatare:

In the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature the word is extensively used in a spiritual and symbolia sense, signalizing the place of happiness to be inherited by the righteous in contrast to Gehenna, the place of punishment to which the wicked were to be assigned. In the later Jewish literature "Sheol" is represented as a place where preliminary rewards and punishments are bestowed previous to the final judgment (see Apocalyptic Literature; Eschatology of the Old Testament; and compare 2 Esdras 2:19; 8:52). But the representations in this literature are often vague and conflicting, some holding that there were 4 divisions in Sheol, one for those who were marryred for righteousness’ sake, one for sinners who on earth had paid the penalty for their sins, one for the just who had not suffered martyrdom, and one for sinners who had not been punished on earth (En 102:15). But among the Alexandrian Jews the view prevailed that the separation of the righteous from the wicked took place immediately after death (see The Wisdom of Solomon 3:14; 4:10; 5:5,17; Josephus, Ant, XVIII, i, 3; B J, II, viii, 14). This would seem to be the idea underlying the use of the word in the New Testament where it occurs only 3 times, and then in a sense remarkably free from sensuous suggestions.

3. Used by Christ:

Christ uses the word but once (Lu 23:43), when He said to the penitent thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (see Abraham’s BOSOM (compare HADES)). This was no time to choose words with dialectical precision. The consolation needed by the penitent thief suffering from thirst and agony and shame was such as was symbolized by the popular conception of paradise, which, as held by the Essenes, consisted of "habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain, or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathin of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean" (Josephus, BJ, II, viii, 11).

See Eschatology of the New Testament.

4. Other Forms and Uses:

Nowhere in His public teaching did Christ use the word "Paradise." He does indeed, when speaking in parables, employ the figure of the marriage supper, and of new wine, and elsewhere of Abraham’s bosom, and of houses not made by hands, eternal in the heavens; but all these references are in striking contrast to the prevailing sensuous representations of the times (see 2 Esdras 2:19; 8:52), and such as have been introduced into Mohammedan literature. Likewise Paul (2Co 12:4) speaks of having been "caught up into Paradise" where he "heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." See Eschatology of the New Testament. But in 2Co 12:2 this is referred to more vaguely as "the third heaven." In Re 2:7 it is said to the members of the church at Ephesus who should overcome, "I (will) give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God," where the Eden of Ge 2:8 is made the symbol of the abode of the righteous, more fully described without the words in the last chapter of the book. The reticence of the sacred writers respecting this subject is in striking contrast to the profuseness and crudity both of rabbinical writers before Christ and of apocryphal writers and Christian commentators at a later time. "Where the true Gospels are most reticent, the mythical are most exuberant" (Perowne). This is especially noticeable in the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Acta Philippi, the writings of Tertullian (De Idol. c. 13; De Anim. c. 55; Tertullian’s treatise De Paradiso is lost), Clement of Alexandria (Frag. 51), and John of Damascus (De Orthod. Fid., ii, 11). In modern literature the conception of Paradise is effectually sublimated and spiritualized in Faber’s familiar hymn:

"O Paradise, O Paradise,

I greatly long to see

The special place my dearest Lord

Is destining for me;

Where loyal hearts and true

Stand ever in the light,

All rapture thro’ and thro’,

In God’s most holy sight."


The articles in the great Dicts., especially Herzog, RE; HDB; Alger, Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life; Schodde, Book of Enoch; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. on Lu 23:43; Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality, 346 ff. For a good account of Jewish and patristic speculation on Paradise, see Professor Plumptre’s article in Smith’s D.B, II, 704 ff.