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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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Persian loanword for "an area enclosed by a wall" or "garden." Its three uses in the Hebrew Bible (Nehemiah 2:8 ; Ecclesiastes 2:5 ; Song of Solomon 4:13 ) retain this meaning. The Septuagint uses the Greek paradeisos [ Isaiah 51:3 ; and Ezekiel 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" ( Philippians 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 Corinthians 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 Corinthians 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 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ). Christ's presence pervades both the intermediate state and the final kingdom.

Luke L. Keefer, Jr.

See also Abraham's Bosom ; Intermediate State

Bibliography . V. R. Gordon, ISBE, 3:660-61; J. Jeremias, TDNT, 5:765-73.

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Paradise'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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