Is Paradise and Heaven the same thing or are they the same place?
The Promised Land
When ancient Israel was on a journey to enter into the Promised Land, they didn’t believe God and were afraid to cross over, so God allowed that generation to pass away before the next generation would go in. The Promised Land is symbolic of heaven in the sense that there it is a land flowing with milk and honey and there is every good tree and fruit and much water. The only thing standing in their way was the pagans who lived there. By the way, these pagan people were not innocent victims of God’s taking their land by force and giving it to Israel. Many of these nations had detestable pagan religious practices that included drunken parties and giant orgy parties. The temple prostitutes would be part of their religious ceremonies, however some resorted to human sacrifice. When a temple prostitute had a baby, they would simply sacrifice their babies in the fire to honor their “gods,” and then go right back to their prostitution in the temple. These nations were so evil that they posed a threat of defiling Israel with the same pagan religions and intermarrying with a pagan people. Joshua had his hands full, but interestingly, Joshua and Jesus have essentially the same name. One is translated from Hebrew into English, the other from Greek into English. And there are strong parallels, as they both bring their people into the Promised Land, so before there was much about heaven or much about Paradise, first there was talk of the Promised Land.
Where are the Patriarchs?
When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all died in the faith, where did they go? Was it to heaven or was it to Paradise? What’s the difference? Are they one and the same? We know that these men and others like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, and the other Old Testament saints are not gone. Jesus said as much when saying that “he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (Luke 20:38), so “the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Luke 20:37). When Lazarus and the rich man died, the rich man was in torment, but Lazarus was said to be in “Abraham’s bosom,” which to the Jews was Paradise. For the Jews, they would consider “Abraham’s bosom” to be Paradise, or heaven. They didn’t think of them as separate places. When the thief on the cross cried out during his final moments of life, Jesus promised him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). That meant, right after death, the thief would be in Paradise. Jesus also said, “you will be with me in paradise,” so Jesus was with the thief, and isn’t anywhere Jesus is, heaven anyway?
Mount of Transfiguration
I believe that we can actually get a glimpse of God’s glory at the Transfiguration, and perhaps even a taste of heaven. When Jesus took James, John, and Peter with Him up to a high mountain top, all by themselves (Matt 17:1), it was probably because Jesus didn’t want anyone else to see His divine nature yet, until after His resurrection. When they reached the very top of the mountain, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him” (Matt 17:2-3). Then, “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified” (Matt 17:5-6). They had just witnessed the voice of God and previously, the Shekinah glory of Jesus Christ. You could call it the glory cloud that accompanies God, just as it did in the wilderness journeys with ancient Israel. That glory of Jesus Christ is just a taste of what heaven will be like when we see Him as He is, and at that point, I doubt very much that we’ll care whether that place is called heaven or Paradise.
The New Heaven and New Earth
Is Paradise and heaven the same? Remember, Jesus was with the thief on the cross in Paradise after He and the thief died, but again, isn’t anywhere Jesus is, heaven? Does it really matter anyway, because we’re getting a new heaven and a new earth anyway? The Apostle John writes that he “saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:1-2). Now instead of thinking people go up to heaven after they die, here, heaven comes down to earth, and most importantly, God is going to be with His people and He will be their God (Rev 21:3). At that time, we can forget about any more pain, suffering, sorrow, fear, hate, mourning, crying, and even death. There’s no place for them in the New Heaven, for Jesus has said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).
Paradise is still being used, even in the Book of Revelation, as a reference about heaven, where the Apostle John writes, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7), and we know that the “tree of life” is in the New Heaven (Rev 22:2, 14), so is heaven and Paradise the same thing, or are they in the same place? In the Bible, they’re used interchangeably, as if they are one and the same, so I don’t think there’s a difference, but even if there were, would it matter? Jesus is there! That’s what heaven is — it’s all about Him. Heaven isn’t so much a place as it is a Person, although it is a place, but we’ll worship the Person of Christ, not the place of heaven. Who could want anything more?
Read more about heaven here: What Does the Bible Say Heaven is Like?
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.