Welcome to Paradise

Welcome to Paradise

Daily Reading: (Luke 23:43):

“Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).   

Knowledge of Heaven is important. Access to Heaven or accessing the blessings that are already yours in Christ is even better. I know this might come as a shock to you, but since you spiritually died which happened the moment you first believed in Jesus, the Kingdom is now yours. Paul would say in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Now that you know that you have already died spiritually what happens when you die physically on earth too?

Heaven on Earth is the believer’s ultimate destination. So, let’s take a minute to imagine what Heaven will be like. What are some things you envision in your mind that Heaven will be like? Streets of gold, pearly gates, reunited with loved ones, a beautiful river running through the center, the tree of life, the throne of God. If you have spent any time reading the book of Revelation, these are some of the images that probably came to your mind. Even though we are given grand images of Heaven, we still have a long way to go in imagining what Heaven will be like one day.

It is interesting to learn that Jesus talks about being in “Paradise” instead of just saying Heaven when talking to one of the criminals on the cross.

To begin with, I want to go to the scene right before Jesus’ death. “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence” (Luke 23:40)?

What sentence could these criminals be under? They are under the sentence of death. They are dying a criminal’s death and so was Jesus. We can find it hard to connect with the criminals on the cross that day, but Paul would write to the Romans that the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). Anyone who has sinned “has fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23), and so we all are given the same sentence as those criminals on the cross that day, the death sentence. There are two options for us, which are displayed by the actions of the two criminals. One criminal mocked the salvation of the Lord. “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” He rejected the very grace of God while the other recognized his need for a Savior. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41)?

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And because of this Romans 6:23 becomes this criminal’s reality: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The first criminal rejected the very grace of God while the other recognized his need for a Savior. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). The point is that since God is righteous and just, our sins needed to be punished. Only the perfect spotless Lamb of God could be offered for the atonement of our sins. He died so that we might be given His life, but we must receive the free gift of salvation that He offers to us to be saved.

The keyword is “gift”. A gift cannot be earned because if it was earned it would be a wage, the criminal didn’t deserve such great a gift, that is how grace works. Jesus was on the cross for both criminals that day, He went to the cross for you and I so that we might receive the gift of everlasting life. 

So, some might expect to hear Jesus say, I’ll see you on the other side in heaven my son- but He doesn’t He says something different.

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).“Paradise”/Paradeisos: a park, an Eden.

Have you ever seen that show Extreme Home Makeover? It used to be hosted by a guy named Ty Pennington who would send a family on a mini-vacation so when they returned home they would be surprised when their home would be completely redone and it would look amazing and so much better.

So, when you die, if you are in Christ, you go to Paradise, Eden Park. Jesus is there and so are your loved ones and all the saints who went before us. So, Paradise is Heaven where Jesus is at. It is perfect and there is no suffering or sin there, it will be incredibly wonderful and yet it is still different from what we will experience as our wedding gift when Heaven comes down to a new Earth.

The Bible tells us when we enter into this new Heaven and Earth and the grand thing about it is all saints over all of the time will enter it together at the same time.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). I like to think of it in much the same way as a family would on the Extreme Home Makeover Show that is sent to a fantastic place because their home is being specially prepared for them. So, Peter and Paul haven’t been relaxing in the new Heaven and Earth for some 2,000 years, they are in Paradise because we still have our wedding feast in Heaven to come and then our wonderful gift of Heaven on Earth.

“Paradise” is used is in Revelation 2:7 and it is the location of the tree of life. This makes sense as “paradise” means a park-like setting: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 22 talks about Eden/paradise restored.

This is a huge clue because Revelation 2:7 tells us specifically that “the tree of life, is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). What this means is that we are given a partial picture of what Paradise is like now, because Revelation 22 talks about Eden being restored and mentions the tree of life (which is already created) and some other things already existing in Paradise (God being there). However, some of the other things mentioned seem like they are yet to come after the old earth passes away, such as there being no more night and the curse removed. Our loved ones in Paradise aren’t experiencing night, they are in the presence of God’s light. The effects of the curse are not present in Paradise, but we still experience them on Earth. Eden restored is mentioned after Heaven comes to earth (yet to happen) in Revelation 21. So, some of these things are still to come.

Kindness to Animals

Kindness to Animals

Kindness to Animals

Daily Reading: (Proverbs 12:10):

“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

This verse is not saying that a nonbeliever will always will treat animals worse than believers. The opposite can be true. A believer is capable of treating animals with cruelty, but the difference is the righteous have the ability to live from the new Christ-like nature they have been given. The Apostle Paul is clear, any ugliness that comes out of our lives, including unkindness to animals does not come from our new hearts and transformed minds (Romans 7:15-23). Rather, it comes from our flesh (Romans 7:18). We can be unkind to animals if we act as what we once were apart from Christ. So, the obvious statement here is that it is God’s desire that we would care for and look after animals that He has entrusted to us in our care.

A true believer has a compassionate nature. Even the life of a pet is treasured (Proverbs 12:10).

“Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

This is before sin entered the world. We have a clear look at the world as it should be, the world as it will be when God restores it, as heaven comes to earth, and we enter into the place Jesus has prepared just for us. Animals were not killed at this point. Animals were not mistreated and they did not attack or come against mankind.

Before sin entered the picture God gave us an awesome task as He placed animals in our rule/care (Genesis 1:28).

That means we were created to act out of love, or, we might say, to act out of concern; not to use and abuse, but to act for the well-being of the animals that we governed.

God cares for the needs of His animals, and this was God’s original calling for how we should do the same, and according to Proverbs 12:10 this is still the calling of the lives of the righteous. When you care for animals, you are living in the way God intended you to live.

God gave Adam rule over the creatures of the planet and then God set in His heart how he would do this by taking ownership over them (Genesis 2:19-20).

Genesis 2:19-20 says: “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.”

If you have ever been to an animal rescue shelter before you know there is a chance you might come home with one of God’s precious animals. Now if you see an animal and you name it, well that’s called game over. By naming the animal you have connected to the animal. You are linking yourself to it. You are saying indirectly, “I want this animal to come under my care.” That is how God wired us back from the beginning when God brought the animals to Adam so he would name them. In naming them, the animals were placed under his care and he took ownership of them.

Unfortunately, the relationship between man and animals unraveled with sin. Sin continues to damage relationships today. God created animals to be friendly to mankind, but we find that after the Flood the relationship is anything but.

Genesis 9:1-2: “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.”

The Flood marked the end of an age. The relationship between man and animals is now going to be dominated by fear and by a measure of force that God never intended to exercise man’s rule over animals. When Jesus came into the world He ushered in peace and when He ascended into heaven, He gave us His peace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). So now we must reject the world of fear, center our attention on Jesus, gaze upon His beauty and allow love to enter in-fear to be removed. Isaiah 26:3 says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”When you keep your mind on Jesus, His perfect love and peace will follow and bring you into a place of rest because you trust Him. So fear has entered and our relationship with animals has been strained but the dominion is still there and we can still chose to display love and care.

When we move from Genesis to Proverbs, sin had wreaked havoc not just on mankind but also on animals. With age comes arthritis, bad hips, cataracts, am I taking about people or animals? Both because sin affected all of creation. Even though animals can bite us, animals can attack us and even kill us, including our own pets -Proverbs 12:10 says:“The righteous care for the needs of their animals,we are called to carefully and loving care for them.

Our verse says: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” The Hebrew word that is used for care is “yada” it means to know, to learn from experience.

Pete our adopted dog recently had some medical problems. He developed vestibular disease which is fairly common in older dogs. When he has them it looks like he is having a seizure but he is not. If we carefully observe him, we can catch it before they come on, give him medicine and prevent it from happening. We have learned to look for signs and this is part of what I think it means to care for the needs of animals. It goes beyond food and bathing and walks. Even among the same species, each animal is unique and a little different and needs slightly different care. There is a blessing to be found in caring for others and for caring in God’s creation.

When we stop and take care of an animal in our care, it should remind us that we are under the care of the Great Shepherd who watches over and loves us and cares for us.