This week in our review of the Book of Mormon we’ll review chapters 36 to 40 of Alma, but look at chapter 40 where Alma teaches on a spirit realm between death and the resurrection. Here we again see the concept of a spirit paradise where the righteous dead go to await the resurrection, which we saw at 2 Nephi 9. When we look at the scriptures, we see two additional instances of where a paradise exists. First, we see that the Garden of Eden is a paradise and second, during the millennial age that is also known as a paradise. The three paradises that we see here are all linked to the presence of Yehovah-Yeshua, God the Son. Further, we’ll link the concept of paradise with our theme of threes and to the Heaven and the Realm of the Son to see who can be expected to receive this paradisiacal existence in eternity.
The Garden of Eden
The first paradise mentioned in the scriptures is the Garden of Eden. Here we find the presence of God, a place where there was no death, no enmity in the animal kingdom, no sin as Adam and Eve where in a state of innocence, Adam and Eve ate the seeds of plants, and the Garden was watered with a morning mist and a river that ran through it.
When we look at Genesis chapter 2, we see Yehovah execute the physical creation of the earth including Adam and Eve, and that physical Adam and Eve were in Yehovah's presence.
A Spirit Realm
A second paradise that we see in the scriptures is a place where the spirits of the righteous dead go before the resurrection. This concept is presented and expanded in the Book of Mormon at 2 Nephi 9 and here in chapter 40. The primary concept that we see of those who go to paradise in the spirit realm are the righteous. We can do a rhetorical analysis of the Book of Mormon of the word righteous to get an idea who qualifies for this paradisiacal spirit realm. Here are our key scriptures.
1. Lehi admonishes Laman to be like a river, continually running into fountain of righteousness, 1 Ne. 2:9.
2. if no sin, then no righteousness, if no righteousness, then no happiness, 2 Ne. 2:13.
3. law of Moses is sanctified unto Nephites for righteousness, Jacob 4:5.
4. whosoever dies in sins shall die spiritual death, as to things pertaining to righteousness, Alma 12:16.
5. judge righteously and you shall have righteous judgment, Alma 41:14.
The first thing we have to remember when reading the Book of Mormon is that the Book of Mormon presupposes that the peoples in the Book of Mormon had the Law Code that God gave to Israel, which was contained in the Brass Plates and further, that Israel’s Law Code established righteousness. So when we see Lehi admonish Laman to be righteous, we must consider that statement within the context of the Law. The next concept – 2 Nephi 2:13 - we see is that righteousness is connected to sin, and Israel’s Law Code defined what sin is, we again see a connection between righteousness and Israel’s Law Code. When we look at Jacob 4:5, we see a connection with the sacrificial system – law of Moses – and righteousness. Since the sacrificial system is integral to Israel’s Law Code and the reconciliation of sin, we have to again link righteousness with Israel’s Law Code. We see these same linkages with Alma 12:16 and 41:14.
When we consider Yehovah-Yeshua’s presence and this spirit paradise, we see Yeshua reference this concept while hanging on the cross and then speaking to a thief who is also being crucified, saying – Today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
A key restorative feature of the earth’s millennial age is a new Paradise: “A Spirit from on high shall be poured out on us; the desert shall become productive land and lands now productive be reckoned as brushwood” (Isaiah 32:15). “I will open up streams in barren hill country, springs in the midst of the plains; I will turn the desert into lakes, parched lands into fountains of water. I will bring cedars and acacias, myrtles and oleasters in the wilderness; I will place cypresses, elms and box trees in the steppes” (Isaiah 41:18–19); “The wolf and the lamb will graze alike, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; as for the serpent, dust shall be its food” (Isaiah 65:25).
The millennial age will be joyous: “Jehovah is comforting Zion, bringing solace to all her ruins; he is making her wilderness like Eden, her desert as the garden of Jehovah. Joyful rejoicing takes place there, thanksgiving with the voice of song” (Isaiah 51:3). Harmony will prevail among men and beasts (Isaiah 11:6–9).
Jehovah’s coming, however, won’t happen by chance or because God is bound by a timetable. What occasions that event—and what qualifies people to inherit Paradise—is their ascent to the spiritual levels of Zion/Jerusalem and beyond and their physical preparation in gathering from exile to receive their God. Until his people attain Paradise as a covenant blessing—a blessing stemming from their keeping the law of his covenant—Jehovah cannot come. While those who imagine otherwise will be disappointed, those who use the trials that precede Jehovah’s coming as a means of purifying and sanctifying their lives may qualify for that glorious age.
We see here in Dr. Gileadi’s commentary of Isaiah that the earth will be transformed into a paradisiacal state during the Millennium and will include those people who reached the spiritual level of Zion/Jerusalem. Furthermore, those who Zion/Jerusalem are united under a collective covenant that we see in the Sinai Covenant, who are God’s covenant people.
On Yehovah-Yeshua’s precense during His Millennial reign, Dr. Gileadi comments,
In the pattern of patriarchs and prophets of old—with whom God walked and talked—only persons who qualify on account of their exceeding righteousness “dwell in the presence of Jehovah” (Isaiah 23:18). For those who prove loyal to him through the vicissitudes that overtake the world in its most evil hour, his glorious coming will prove an immense relief: “Your sun shall set no more, nor your moon wane. To you Jehovah will be an endless light when your days of mourning are fulfilled” (Isaiah 60:20). Arid lands will change to a paradisiacal state, so much that “the glory of Jehovah and the splendor of our God they shall see [there]” (Isaiah 35:1–2). The earth will transform at his presence: “The splendor of Lebanon shall become yours—cypresses, pines, and firs together—to beautify the site of my sanctuary, to make glorious the place of my feet” (Isaiah 60:13). Peoples will come from afar to pay him homage: “My house shall be known as a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). Those who serve him at all costs, he blesses accordingly: “‘As the new heavens and the new earth which I make shall endure before me,’ says Jehovah, ‘so shall your offspring and name endure. And New Moon after New Moon, Sabbath after Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me’” (Isaiah 66:22–23).
Our summary now looks like this.
Paradise as a Relative Comparison
The concept of paradise is use in the scriptures as a relative comparison when we look at the theme of threes.
Heaven, Realm of the Son, and the Presence of God the Son
We can now summarize these concepts of Paradise when we look at Israel’s Tabernacle as a representation of Heaven on Earth. Israel’s Tabernacle had three divisions, each representing a realm in Heaven – the Outer Court, the Inner Court/Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Moreover, when we look at the Holy Place, we see the presence of Yehovah-Yeshua, God the Son represented in the menorah, which is a seven-branch lampstand indicating His seven attributes.