Paradise on Earth
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the unusual concept that they will never die. Rather they will be of the group of humans that will live forever in paradise on this earth. The concept of never dying is what attracts many to become Jehovah's Witnesses and is the main message preached. The majority of religions believe that mankind’s destiny is to die and go to heaven.
This article discusses:
- Does Paradise refer to heaven or earth?
- Where is the resurrection hope?
- Does the bible indicate this planet will remain forever?
- Scientific reality
The phrase ‘paradise earth’ never appears in the bible, neither is resurrection into an earthly paradise specifically discussed. The word paradise is used only four times in the New World Translation of the Bible and each passage discussing a location refers to heaven. (Song of Solomon 4:13; Luke 23:39-43; 2 Corinthians 12:1-7; Revelation 2:5-7)
Revelation 2:7 “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations: To him that conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
The Watchtower identifies this as heaven. Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p.576 states “it seems evident that “the paradise of God” in this case is a heavenly one.”
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 “I know a man in union with Christ who, fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught away as such to the third heaven. 3 Yes, I know such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows— 4 that he was caught away into paradise and heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak.”
The only occasion that the Watchtower claims the word paradise refers to the earth is at Luke 23:42-43 which says:
“And he went on to say: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” And he said to him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.””
It is generally accepted that Luke refers to heaven. There is nothing to indicate otherwise and the Watchtower is unable to present any strong reason for why Jesus was referring to the earth. Jews and Muslims generally believe paradise to be heavenly. It is sometimes described as the abode of the righteous when they die until the end of this present world.
2 Enoch 8:1-6 "And those men took me thence, and led me up on to the third heaven, and placed me there; and I looked downwards, and saw the produce of these places, such as has never been known for goodness. 2And I saw all the sweet-flowering trees and beheld their fruits, which were sweet-smelling, and all the foods borne by them bubbling with fragrant exhalation. 3And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides it is in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits. 4Its root is in the garden at the earth’s end. 5And paradise is between corruptibility and incorruptibility. 6And two springs come out which send forth honey and milk, and their springs send forth oil and wine, and they separate into four parts, and go round with quiet course, and go down into the PARADISE OF EDEN, between corruptibility and incorruptibility."
Testament of Abraham 20 “For Death deceived Abraham, and he took his right hand, and straightway his soul adhered to the hand of Death. And immediately the archangel Michael came with a multitude of angels and took up his precious soul in his hands in a divinely woven linen cloth, and they tended the body of the just Abraham with divine ointments and perfumes until the third day after his death, and buried him in the land of promise, the oak of Mamre, but the angels received his precious soul, and ascended into heaven, singing the hymn of "thrice holy" to the Lord the God of all, and they set it there to worship the God and Father. And after great praise and glory had been given to the Lord, and Abraham bowed down to worship, there came the undefiled voice of the God and Father saying thus, Take therefore my friend Abraham into Paradise, where are the tabernacles of my righteous ones, and the abodes of my saints Isaac and Jacob in his bosom, where there is no trouble, nor grief, nor sighing, but peace and rejoicing and life unending.”
Elijah De Vidas in a medieval text titled The Beginning of Wisdom states;
“And if he merits reward on the level of spirit, he will enjoy Paradise. If he merits reward on the level of super-soul, he will be privileged to ascend to the upper realm of Paradise.”
The bible never promises an earthly resurrection. The Old Testament does not specify a resurrection or define the afterlife and throughout the New Testament the resurrection referred to is always heavenly. For instance:
Matthew 6:20-21 “Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 5:11-12 “Happy are YOU when people reproach YOU and persecute YOU and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against YOU for my sake. 12 Rejoice and leap for joy, since YOUR reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to YOU.
Neither the bible nor Apostolic Fathers discussed "two hopes", there was but one hope for Christs followers and that hope is consistently stated to be a resurrection as spiritual beings to heaven.
Ephesians 4:4 “One body there is, and one spirit, even as YOU were called in the one hope to which YOU were called”
1 Corinthians 12:13 “For truly by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit.”
Even the men of old, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob believed they were going to heaven.
Hebrews 11:13-16 “In faith all these died, although they did not get the [fulfillment of the] promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. 14 For those who say such things give evidence that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. 15 And yet, if they had indeed kept remembering that [place] from which they had gone forth, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they are reaching out for a better [place], that is, one belonging to heaven. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.”
Matthew 8:11 “But I tell YOU that many from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens.”
Luke 16:22 “Now in course of time the beggar died and he was carried off by the angels to the bosom [position] of Abraham.”
Earth remains forever?
The Watchtower uses several lines of reasoning to support the idea that people will live forever on earth.
- Forever scriptures
- Jewish restoration prophecies
- Jesus Statements
None of these concepts prove the earth will continue forever.
God told Adam he will die in the day of eating from the tree of good and bad. The Watchtower says this implies that Adam wouldn’t die if he didn’t eat the fruit.
“Not all of God’s living creation is eternal. We know that plants, even long-lived trees, eventually die. (1 Pet. 1:24) And there is no Biblical evidence that God purposed for individual animals to live forever. Yet it was different with humans. God held out to our first parents the prospect of never dying. By obedience they could have hoped to live eternally. (Gen. 2:17)” Watchtower 1974 Jun 15 p.376
A non statement should not be used to formulate doctrine. A conclusion can not be drawn from something that God did not say. If Adam had been faithful God may have had any number of plans for Adam, none of which are touched upon in Genesis. If all other aspects of earthly creation tend to decay and death it makes as much sense to conclude that human’s earthly existence is also temporary.
The main support for the Watchtower doctrine that mankind will live forever on earth are a handful of Old Testament Scriptures that say the earth will reside to time indefinite or forever. These do not mean the earth will not end as forever can be used figuratively in the bible. Many Scriptures say the earth will be destroyed.
The following Scriptures that say that the earth will last to time indefinite or forever are all from just two Bible books, Psalms and Ecclesiastes, both devoted to poetry.
Psalm 37:29 “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, And they will reside forever upon it.” (see also Psalm 104:5; Psalm 78:69; Psalm 104:5; Ecclesiastes 1:2-4)
Being from the poetic books these are not taken as literal, nor refer to Jesus' kingdom rule. As the Watchtower admits, the accepted meaning is that they refer to the Israelites inheriting the Promised Land.
“‘E´rets can refer to a distinct region or to the territory of a nation, such as “the land of Shinar” or “the land of Egypt.”—Genesis 10:10, 11; 21:21; Psalm 78:12; Jeremiah 25:20. So Psalm 37:11, 29 might indicate that the Israelites could have been and should have been permanent occupants of the Promised Land. In accord with God’s covenant with Abraham, they could have remained in that territory that God gave them, with generation after generation enjoying his blessings there.” Watchtower 1986 Jan 1 p.31
Forever and time indefinite can be figurative and come to an end, such as at 1 Kings 1:31
“Then Bath-she´ba bowed low with her face to the earth and prostrated herself to the king and said: “Let my lord King David live to time indefinite!””
Likewise the false prophet is not literally tormented forever.
Revelation 20:10 “And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet [already were]; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Jewish restoration prophecies
Isaiah and Ezekiel contain texts describing perfect living conditions. One such text regularly referred to is Isaiah 65:17-25
“17 For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart…. No more will there come to be a suckling a few days old from that place, neither an old man that does not fulfill his days; for one will die as a mere boy, although a hundred years of age; and as for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him. 21 And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. 23 They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the blessed ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them."
These texts are understood to be prophecies of the Jewish deliverance from Babylon, even by the Watchtower Society.
“The initial fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17-19 involved the ancient Jews who, as Isaiah accurately predicted, did return to their homeland, where they reestablished pure worship.” Watchtower 2000 Apr 15 p.10
Isaiah states that there will continue to be children and these blessed Jews will fulfil their days, grow old and die, not that people will live forever on earth as the Watchtower generally claims this scripture implies.
Jesus’ Earth Quotes
It was only on one occasion that Jesus discusses the earth. There are two statements, and these are often used by Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘proof’ that the righteous will live forever on earth, yet these do not state that the earth will last forever or that people will live on it.
The first statement from Jesus is at Matthew 5:5:
“Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.”
Even the Watchtower does not say that this applies to the Other Sheep. Most Witnesses are unaware of their own teaching on this Scripture. The Watchtower doctrine is that the "mild-tempered ones" referred to in this passage are Jesus and the 144,000, and the earth is their inheritance.
“The anointed members of the Christian congregation are spoken of as having a heavenly inheritance, sharing Jesus’ inheritance as his “brothers.” (Eph 1:14; Col 1:12; 1Pe 1:4, 5) This includes the earth.—Mt 5:5.” Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1 p.1201
At Matthew 6:10 Jesus went on to recite the Lord’s Prayer stating;
“Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”
The Lord’s Prayer does not state that the earth is to last forever or be lived on. In fact this Scripture contradicts Watchtower doctrine, as it indicates God’s will was already done in heaven when Jesus made this statement.
The earth will end
Both the Old and New Testament state the earth will end, sometimes saying that the old earth will be replaced with a new earth.
Psalms 102:25-26 “Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth itself, And the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They themselves will perish, but you yourself will keep standing; And just like a garment they will all of them wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will finish their turn.”
Isaiah 51:6 “Raise YOUR eyes to the heavens themselves, and look at the earth beneath. For the very heavens must be dispersed in fragments just like smoke, and like a garment the earth itself will wear out, and its inhabitants themselves will die like a mere gnat. But as for my salvation, it will prove to be even to time indefinite, and my own righteousness will not be shattered.”
Isaiah 65:17-18 “For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. 18 But exult, YOU people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating.”
Matthew 24:34-35 “Truly I say to YOU that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.”
2 Corinthians 5:1 “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens.”
Hebrews 1:10-12 “You at [the] beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are [the] works of your hands. 11 They themselves will perish, but you yourself are to remain continually; and just like an outer garment they will all grow old, 12 and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as an outer garment; and they will be changed, but you are the same, and your years will never run out.”
2 Peter 3:10-13 “Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered. [BURNED UP] 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought YOU to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, 12 awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which [the] heavens being on fire will be dissolved and [the] elements being intensely hot will melt! 13 But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”
Revelation 21:1-2 “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. 2 I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
The Watchtower claims that these scriptures should not be taken literally. Why believe poetic Promised Land prophecy is to be taken literally, but Scriptures saying the earth will end must be taken figuratively?
Will the earth exist forever? Of course this is impossible. Scientifically it is an undisputed fact that the earth will end. Just as wood turns to energy and disintegrates in a fire, over time the sun will be consumed of all matter. Additionally, the earth’s core temperature is cooling. The time will come when this leads to the magnetic fields ceasing and the earth loosing its atmosphere. This is what happened to Mars, and will lead to the earth no longer being able to support life.
The Fundamentalist answer to this is that ‘with God all things are possible’. If God says the earth will stay forever, he will make sure it does. God has the power to refuel the sun or reheat the earth’s core. Though this is possible, this sort of argument allows anyone to believe anything. This view also contradicts one of the apparent proofs for a God, the structured order in the universe. If the universe is mathematically perfect as Jehovah’s Witnesses state, God is going against his order of things to change the destiny of the sun. In fact, if with God all things really are possible, why did he create things in such a way that the sun is dying . Why not just create the universe in such a way as to last forever.
The Bible agrees with science when it states at Isaiah 51:6 that “like a garment the earth itself will wear out”. We are told God will create a new earth. The bible does not clarify God’s plan for this new earth so speculation is pointless.
Reviewing the Bible in its entirety does not prove humans will live forever on this earth. No scripture says mankind will be resurrected onto earth and the bible only discusses a heavenly resurrection. Use of the word paradise generally refers to heaven and even reference to the Great Crowd places them in heaven. (See Great Crowd)
The doctrine that Jehovah's Witnesses will never die but survive Armageddon to live forever on paradise earth is core to present Watchtower teaching. For over a century Watchtower followers have thought they will not die. Several generations of people expecting to live forever are now dead. While most people accept death as a certainty and prepare for old age, children raised as Jehovah's Witnesses do not prepare themselves for old age emotionally or financially. They wait as Watchtower promises go unfulfilled decade upon decade. Proverbs 13 shows that life should be built on wisdom and warns in verse 12:
“Expectation postponed is making the heart sick”