Maybe paradise isn’t the right word to use to describe this topic. Maybe “Better” is the word I am looking for. It seems like I continuously see posts and articles and hear of sermons and pastors who are telling people what they can do to make things, “Better.” If you just believe, your life will be better. If you just read your Bible more, things will get better. If you just prayed more, your marriage will get better. If you just gave more money to the church, your finances, your car or house will get better.
Here’s the bottom line….
Jesus never said any of the stuff that happens to you here on Earth will get better, period. There is just not a verse, nor a passage that can be properly referenced to show that Jesus said that you should have a better life as a result of something that you do here. Even if that act is a result of your faith. I think it is very practical to assume that we can assume better living though prudent faithful lives, but there just is no guaranty.
You may live the most faithful, obedient, worshipful life ever lived by a mortal and still suffer the most terrible atrocities known to mankind. Do you know why? Because your life is supposed to point to Jesus Christ and His work, not yours.
Paul spoke very clearly about this on a few occasions. The book of Romans has a couple of the best examples I can think of:
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance proven character; and proven character hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
He is very clear here that hope is the focus. We are going to go through tribulations, but they strengthen our spirit and lead us to hope. And because that hope is a result of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, it does not disappoint. The next time Paul speaks about hardship is Romans is chapter 9:
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37
This is the proof that tribulation, pain, suffering or whatever other ailment is not because of a lack of faith. And those ailments cannot separate you from God. We conquer the horrible things that happen in life through that hope that is promised in eternity. That hope is not about a better day tomorrow. The passage that reminds me most of the promise of Jesus is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The thorn that was in Paul’s flesh has been debated for centuries. No-one will ever agree if the thorn was some sort of spiritual torment or a physical condition like blindness or malaria that plagued him for life. What we do know, and what is important, is that God allowed this to happen to keep Paul humble and on task. God was clear to Paul that he could continue his mission and not focus on his troubles because the grace that had been afforded him was enough to motivate him. Paul understood that he would be perfected through his pain and that he would continue with his mission for the case of Jesus Christ.
Here is a funny twist to the thief who died on the cross next to Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him when he went into His kingdom. This profession of faith prompted Jesus to tell the man, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” He never told the guy that he would magically remove him from the cross or take away his suffering in a moment. This guy was guilty and was going to suffer for his earthly sins. He promised him hope in eternity. Secondly, Jesus said that he would be in Paradise. The word translated from the Greek Παραδείσῳ, is “Garden.” How interesting that Adam lived in harmony, walking through the Garden with God before sin entered the world. Now, this man is promised to be with Jesus in the Garden, or in community with Him forever.
Stop believing these prosperity preachers. Stop thinking there is something you can do or pray that will make everything, “Better.” It is good to pray and we all want to be comfortable, but, do not lose sight of the promise. We are sinners that deserve nothing and were purchased by Christ. We are not built to receive some sort of short living prosperity while we are here. We are promised so much more, the hope of eternity. We are promised to be with him in Paradise.