On three significant occasions in the N.T. the word Paradise appears, and on each occasion it leaves us with the wish that a little more could have been said about it. Here are the references.
“He said, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’ And He said to the [repentant thief], ‘Truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in Paradise.'” (Luke 23:42-43)
“I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven . . . . and I know that this man was caught up into Paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows.” (2 Cor.12:2-3)
“To him who overcomes I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.” (To the Church at Ephesus. Rev.2:7)
In the previous chapter we took a look at the symbolism contained in the Tree of Life. It is now time to think about a real country where the Tree of Life may be found, which our Lord said was Paradise. What is Paradise? What does the word mean? At first sight one may easily be led into thinking that it is a Greek word consisting of two parts, PARA – DEISOS, para being a preposition. But this is not so. The word comes over from the Hebrew PARDES, which is found in just three places in the O.T. It will be instructive to stop for a moment to look at these, so that we may trace the origin of the word.
“[Nehemiah said to the King,] ‘Let a letter be sent to Asaph, the keeper of the King’s Forest, that he may give me timber to make beams.'” (Neh.2:8, where PARDES is translated King’s Forest.)
“[Solomon said] I made myself Gardens and Parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.” (Eccl.2:5, where PARDES is translated Parks)
“A Garden locked is my sister, my bride, a Garden locked, a fountain sealed. Your shoots are an Orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices – a Garden Fountain, a well of Living Water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.” (Song of Sol.4:12-15, where PARDES is translated Orchard.)
In these references we are immediately drawn to think of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. Even the poetic imagery of the Song has this flavour. And so we should not be surprised to find the Septuagint using PARADEISOS to translate these. But the LXX goes even further. It uses PARADEISOS to translate “Garden” in Genesis 2 & 3, and numerous other places in the O.T. This is why the word comes over into the N.T. in this form. However, all the O.T. references speak of earthly gardens, whereas in the N.T. all three references refer toheavenly settings.
The first time PARADEISOS occurs in any Greek literature is in Xenophon’s writings, where it is used of the great parks and gardens of Persian Kings, which were enclosed by walls or fences. Xenophon lived about 430 – 354 B.C. But the LXX was begun about a century later in Alexandria, about 280 B.C.
So much for the history surrounding the word PARADEISOS. Sorry it has been a rather lengthy prologue, but I felt it necessary to provide evidence before attempting to understand the verses in the N.T., especially as it relates to the Holy City, the Water of Life, and the Tree of Life. One thing seems certain. The various gardens of the O.T. times were always enclosed. Now this is important, because there is also evidence that the Garden of Eden was enclosed. Our reason for this assertion is that when Adam and Eve were driven forth from the Garden, the Lord placed Cherubim at the eastern side to guard the way to the Tree of Life. There would have been no point in placing Cherubim there unless it happened to be the only entrance to the Garden, otherwise anyone could have walked into the Garden elsewhere. This is important in our study because we have already seen that the City had walls, with angels guarding the Gates.
The logic behind the various references in Revelation is as follows. The River of the Water of Life flowed within the City walls. The Tree of Life was planted on either side of this River. And from Rev.2:7 we learn that the Tree of Life was within Paradise. Hence Paradise was also contained within the City. There is therefore a mixture here of symbolism and reality. Because the City is composed of living beings, they clearly need a place to dwell, not on the earth, but in a higher dimension, and the word Paradise is the best description of the land, or country, in which they live. We are told that the early patriarchs “desired a better country, that is a heavenly one.”(Heb.11:16) Abraham was promised the land of Canaan, but his eyes were upon the “City which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb.11:10) So even from the earliest days of recorded history, the Lord had made known to His elect the presence of a heavenly country, which was “far better”, and to which their eyes of faith were continually directed.
This is the country which our Lord promised to the repentant thief on the cross, saying that He would be there with him. Some have thought the Lord meant it would be that very day, but the punctuation is incorrect in the A.V. The thief asked to be remembered when the Lord came into His Kingdom. But the Lord said in effect, “No, I am saying to you today, not then”. That day the Lord descended into Hades, and it was not until His resurrection that the thief would have known the truth of the Lord’s promise. He would have been among the number of “the saints who had fallen asleep, and who were raised and came out of their tombs after His resurrection, and went into the Holy City, and were seen by many.” (Matt.27:52-53)
Now what about Paul’s experience? Are we to equate the third heaven with paradise? This is a matter about which there is no authoritative answer. The Greek text doesn’t give any clue. It could be that Paul had two such heavenly experiences, examples of what he called his “abundance of revelations,” (2 Cor.12:7) We cannot even make a definitive statement about the “third heaven”, because the Jews spoke about seven heavens, and the Bible gives no firm clue as to the “three heavens” mentioned here. We may draw upon Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3, where he speaks about “the heavens which were”, and the “heavens which are now”, and the “new heavens and new earth” which would make the “third heaven” a chronological statement. On the other hand, the Bible also gives some warrant to the first heaven being the aerial heavens surrounding the earth, the second heaven being the astronomical heavens beyond the earth, and the third heaven being the invisible realm in which God dwells.
Paul said that in his trips into the heavenlies, he “heard unspeakable words which it is not permissible for a man to speak.” (2 Cor.12:4) According to the Lexicon, “unspeakable” words could either be those that were “inexpressible” due to their being “beyond human powers”, (perhaps similar to the languages given by the Holy Spirit called ‘speaking in tongues’), or some truth, although understood, had not to be revealed because it is too holy. Likewise, the Lexicon says about “not permissible,” that man has “no authority” to convey what he has heard. Paul must have had some fantastic experiences, but so also did John, and John was commanded to revealall that he saw and heard, (with the exception of the series called the “seven thunders.”) From this we learn that it is not always God’s intention to withhold the contents of revelation to humankind. Perhaps the prohibition given to Paul can best be understood from what followed in his discourse. Lest he become “exalted above measure” he was given the “thorn in the flesh”.
It is at this juncture that we should like to mention the wonderful experience of a lady by the name of Marietta Davies, of Berlin, New York. In 1848, unable to be aroused by doctors for nine days, this 25 year old Baptist woman finally awoke from her coma and proceeded to tell of an amazingly vivid and detailed dream in which she visited and returned from Heaven. Her dreams were recorded in a book as the “Visions of Marietta Davis”. In her dreams she was taken to what she described as “the third heaven” (in common with Sundar Singh, who had similar visions) and saw three distinct “paradise plains”, of inexpressible beauty and wonder, resplendent with every kind of plant, bush and tree, and having rivers of crystal clear water flowing through the plains, and many different species of animals and birds, all tame. Here and there were buildings of grandeur, which were more beautiful than any human architecture on earth.
In particular, Marietta Davis was taken to what she she called the “Infants’ Paradise”, that aspect of Heaven that receives deceased infants. She was told, “That which is nourished by each angel is a spirit whose being is just begun, and who, by reason of nature’s violated laws, has been separated prematurely from its infant form in the external world.” (With all the aborted babies of these more recent years, no doubt that “Infant Paradise” is brim full today.) She writes, “As we advanced, I perceived before me a vast and complicated structure, whose outer walls and towers appeared formed of marble, that was in appearance delicate as snow. This served as the foundation of a vast canopy like a dome, though far too extended to be expressed by the earthly architectural meaning of that term. We drew near the building, and I perceived that the dome was suspended over the vast circular space. “This,” said my guide, “is the place where all infants of every race from your globe are gathered for the instruction and support of their infant natures…” My guide explained, “Whenever an infant dies on earth, the guardian angel who bears up the spirit to the Lord of Peace, perceives its interior type of mind, and according to its type it is classed with others of like order of intelligence; and as the skilful gardener on earth in one floral division trains the various species of the lily, and in another compartment roses, and in another camellias or the honeysuckles; so here angelic wisdom classifies the infant spirits, and according to their variety of artistic, scientific, and social tendencies, assigns each to a home best adapted to the unfolding of its interior germs of life, into intellectual, artistic, or industrial harmony.””
Much more could be reproduced from her writings, but this brief taste will be sufficient for now. Marietta Davis concluded describing her dream, saying, “Patiently I await the hour I know is determined, when I shall go hence and enjoy the fruition of those realms of bliss, where my spirit obtained its assurance of joys. I will praise my Heavenly Father for my hope in Jesus, which is worth ten thousand worlds to me. And when I arrive in Paradise, free from mortality, I will praise Him with an undivided and pure heart, and with holy lips. There I will, in loud anthems, exalt the name of my Redeemer while Eternity endures.” She knew the actual day of her departure, just seven months from waking up from the coma. On the actual day she asked that family and friends could be with her to sing a hymn. She was singing with them at the first verse, but had departed quietly before the last verse. She had gone to the “Infants’ Paradise” where the Lord had promised she would have a great and fulfilling job to do with all the babies and young children.
We are reminded of that verse in 1 Cor.2:10, where Paul said, “Eye hasn’t seen, neither ear heard, neither has it entered man’s heart how many things God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to usthrough His Spirit.” Yes, that’s it! God has graciously revealed many things, not only to John in the Revelation, but also to others like Marietta Davis, Sundar Singh, General Booth of the Salvation Army, and John Bunyan. Peter prophesied on the day of Pentecost that it would happen, and through the centuries it has, when “young men have seen visions, and old men have dreamed dreams” and “sons and daughters have prophesied.”
I am also in that same favoured position, having received from our Lord a series of 14 visions connected with a higher dimensional land, which I wrote about in 1992, in a book entitled “Adventures in King’s Fountain.”  In the story which I wove around the visions, I showed how time travels differently to here on earth, exactly as C. S. Lewis showed in the Narnia books. These visions have affected us very deeply, and like the others who have received similarly, we also look forward with deep longing to that day when
We shall see His lovely face, some bright golden morning,
When the clouds have rifted, when the shades have flown.
Sorrow will be turned to joy, heartaches gone for ever,
No more night, only light, when we see His face.
(First verse of a hymn composed by Norman J. Clayton, in 1943)
Or as Bill and Gloria Gaither and Buddy Green have it in the chorus of their well known “Sojourner’s Song,” (words by Mark Lowry, 1990)
I don’t belong – and I’m going some day home
to my own native land,
I don’t belong and it seems like I hear
the sound of a “welcome home” band;
I don’t belong – I’m a foreigner here,
singing a sojourner’s song,
I’ve always known – this place ain’t home and I don’t belong.
 Nine Days in Heaven: The Vision of Marietta Davis, by Dennis and Nolene Prince
 Details concerning purchase of this book may be found at the end of this book.