Paradise Now and Then
by Burk Parsons
The movie Paradise Now is the 2005 Golden Globe winner for best foreign-language film. Although I have not yet seen the film, I have been intrigued by the film’s title since it’s release. The story follows two Palestinian childhood friends who were recruits for Islamic suicide attacks in Tel Aviv, Israel. The story focuses on what would be their last days together. The film’s title appropriately points out one of the more conspicuous mantras of Muslims whose appetite for paradise is manifested by means of destruction. They want paradise now, and some will do everything in their power to help usher in Mohammed’s promised paradise on earth. For the Muslim, paradise comes at the expense of the death of many, for the Christian it comes at the expense of the death of one (Rom. 5:15).
Jesus promised paradise to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), and He has promised paradise to us (Rev. 2:7). Just as the thief recognized his destitute condition, so we cannot enter paradise until we first recognize that we cannot enter it by our own power. Our problem is twofold: First, because we have such a low estimation of how destitute we are, we have too high an estimation of our own strength in attaining paradise. Second, because we have such a high regard for this life, we have a low expectation of paradise; thus, we do not do not long for the promised paradise as we should. John Calvin said it this way: “Whatever glory we must subtract from the sinful love of life, we may add to the desire of a better world…. It should be the purpose of believers, then, when they estimate this mortal life, that they understand that, as it is, it is nothing but misery. For only then will they try diligently and with increasing cheerfulness and readiness to meditate on the future eternal life.”
Christ has inaugurated His ministry of regaining paradise, and He will continue in that ministry at the right hand of the Father until He returns and establishes the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21). Our paradise now is the spiritual reality that we are already glorified and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:20), and our paradise to come is physical reality wherein the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes as we worship Him coram Deo.